When I was visiting the site of St. John’s ascetic labors and Rila Monastery, it seemed as if I were on Mt. Athos, where everything breathes the mystery of Communion with God, the mystery of ascetic labors and the prayer of the heart.
Our faith and prayers to Christ come first, followed next by the practice of fasting. For us, the practice of fasting is inseparable from our faith and from praying to Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The Jesus prayer doesn’t replace man’s struggle with passions but complements it. Only after a person has cut off the first passion of willfulness will the Jesus prayer bear its worthy fruit.
The star led the Wise Men as far as Jerusalem and then disappeared for a while. After the high priests and scribes had pointed to Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Leader of Israel and the Magi left King Herod, the star reappeared and showed the Persian Magi the exact location of the house of the Christ Child and Mary.
We call the Holy Spirit “upon us and upon these gifts set forth” in order to accomplish the transfiguration of life, that life would acquire incorruptibility, that the gifts themselves and every man partaking of them would be transformed into a new creation, not subject to death—transformed into the Body of Christ.
Any tree not bearing good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. God does not need just the leaves of the virtues—external, empty piety. God needs the real fruit of repentance —hearing the word of God and fulfilling it.
The miraculous appearance of the icon of the Mother of God in the ninth century, during the era of iconoclastic dispute, was literally a confirmation “from above” of what had been pronounced at the Seventh Ecumenical Council on the veneration of icons.