The Period of Decline

The Period of Decline by Archimandrite Dimitri (Egoroff)

About Archimandrite Dimitri

A little over 25 years ago (June 29, 1992), at the age of 84, Archimandrite Dimitri (Egoroff) reposed at the Our Lady of Kazan Skete in Santa Rosa. He was the last monk tonsured at the old Valaamo Monastery before it was closed during the Soviet period in Russia. Previous to this he was a secular student in the University of Moscow, however, his habit of reading a Bible became a pretext for his arrest and confinement in a prison camp. He suffered much there, yet having escaped he made his way to Finland and afterwards to the Monastery of Valaamo where he was received. Wishing to study theology he went to the St. Sergius Institute in Paris and later immigrated to America. It was during his stay in Paris that he was ordained to the holy priesthood. Having arrived in America he was called upon to serve in several areas north of San Francisco and settled in Santa Rosa where he founded a small monastic community for women, the Our Lady of Kazan Skete. According to those who knew him, he could be described as a tempered ascetic and something of a fool for Christ’s sake. So now we continue with a word from Fr. Dimitri:

The Period of Decline*

Humanity has entered a new epoch, that of decline and decadence. And although various movements of social and religious life loudly proclaim their striving for truth and the universal good, in actuality none of this is to be seen. The concerns of people are directed to the earth and to success in everything earthly. But the higher truth ordained by God has been almost abandoned.

The first step in humanities striving for everything earthly was made by the Renaissance . It revealed to people the alluring, captivating beauty of everything earthly. And people set out on this path, in the beginning in the West, while later Russia, also, entered onto this path. Purely earthly accomplishment and development of earthly culture became for Russia, too, the primary goal.

Our holy hierarch, Bishop Ignaty Brianchaninov, who lived over a hundred years ago, with his prophetic gaze beheld the sad picture of the universal decline and depicted it in his works. He saw the sources of this fatal occurrence and explained the deep causes of such a grievous situation. He understood that people had begun to be occupied primarily with the concerns of earthly happiness. And when a person is occupied primarily with the concerns of his earthly prosperity, he notes, then the soul grows coarse and from something immaterial becomes, as it were, material.

We have seen the fruits of such a false activity in the form of the wars and revolutions of this century. When monstrous cruelty has been revealed to the world. And we must realize, wars were wage by Christian people. Not only has life changed, but also people’s thinking. The pilgrims and first founders of the American state wanted life to be based on the principles of faith and piety. The Constitution was composed to preserve that life. But the present-day sages claim that faith and piety conflict with the Constitution , and for this reason abolished prayer in school, while all anti-Christian movements have support and great influence.

All this is accompanied by intensification of all possible enticing temptations, especially through the press; and all other means of influencing people are employed. The temptations conceal in themselves great danger. From the temptations millions of people are being harmed, especially from among the young generation.

“Woe unto the world because of temptations! For it must needs be that temptations come,” the Lord foretold. “The life according to God will become very difficult. It will become thus because it is impossible for a person living amidst and in the face of temptations not to be subjected to the influence of the temptations. As ice at the effect of heat on it loses its hardness and is transformed into the softest water, so also the heart full of good will, when subjected to the influence, especially the constant influence of enticing temptations, becomes weak and is changed.” “’Woe unto the world because of temptations! For it must needs be that temptations come.’ (Matt. 18:7) Both the coming of temptations is permitted by God, and the moral impoverishment because of temptations is permitted by God. Towards the end of the life of the world, temptations must intensify and multiply so much that ‘because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall dry up.’ (Matt. 24:12) ‘When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on earth?’” (Lk. 18:8) The general breakdown and collapse has touched the Church’s sphere, also. First of all we see the disappearance of true guides of religious life and, at the same time, the increase of all kinds of false teachers. And further we should cite St. Ignaty wise in God. “Our time resembles the last time,” he writes. “The salt is losing its savor—among the highest pastors of the Church there remains a weak, dark confused, wrong understanding according to the letter, the letter which kills the spiritual life in Christian society, destroys Christianity, which is deed and not the letter. It is sorrowful to see whom the sheep of Christ have been entrusted, or into whose hands they have fallen, to whom their guidance and salvation has been left. Wolves clothed in sheep’s skin have appeared and will be known by their works and fruits. But this is something permitted by God. Let those in Judea (i. e., the Church) flee to the mountains.” ** (to be continued)

*Originally published in the former newspaper of the Diocese of the West (OCA), “The Orthodox West”, Summer 1992, pp. 10-11, (no longer in publication). This is reprinted with the blessing of his Eminence Archbishop BENJAMIN

**This, which appears to very dark, perhaps needs some clarification. It was written in mid 19th century Russia. Although there was much good and a spiritual revival occurring, as the late Bishop Basil Rodzianko expressed it: “This was a reaction to the evil that was growing.” St. Ignaty was also aware of the persecution of the Optina Elders as the spiritual children of the Elder Leonid has written and asked for his intercession with Church authorities. So, although this writing still teaches us something today, it must first be understood in the original historical context in which it was written.
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Take Up Thy Cross

Take up Thy Cross
It was this week that we have celebrated the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on the Old Calendar. This is one of several feasts of the Lord with a reading appointed on the Sunday before and the Sunday after the day of the feast. For this feast on the Sunday before the motive of the suffering of our Lord on the Cross is disclosed to us: love. “For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son: that whosoever believeth in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.” (John 3:16)  On the feast day itself the event of the Cross is narrated in the Gospel reading as St. John the Theologain relates it. And on the Sunday after we are confronted with our responsibility. Our Lord said: “If any man will follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) It is this last that I will concentrate without speaking myself but referring to St. Innocent of Alaska and Metropolitan of Moscow. In his book “Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven”, he writes:

Let us look at the way by which we must follow Jesus Christ. He said, Whoever wishes to follow Me, (1) let him deny himself, (2) take up his cross, and (3) follow Me.
And so the first duty of a Christian, of a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ, is to deny oneself.
To deny oneself means to give up one’s bad habits; to root out of the heart all that ties us to the world; not to cherish bad desires and thoughts; to quench and suppress bad thoughts; to avoid occasions of sin; not to do or desire anything from self-love;, but to do everything out of love for God. To deny oneself means, according to the Apostle Paul, to be dead to sin and the world but alive to Christ.
The word cross means sufferings, sorrows, and adversities. There are external and internal crosses. To take up one’s cross means to accept and bear without murmuring everything unpleasant, painful, sad, difficult, and oppressive that may happen to us in our life. And therefore , whether anyone offends you, or laughs at you, or causes you weariness, sorrow, or annoyance; or you have done good to someone and, instead of thanking you, he rises up against you and even makes trouble; or you want to do good, but you are not given a chance; or some misfortune has happened, for example, either you are ill yourself, or your wife, or children; or with all your activities and untiring labors you are suffering from want and poverty, and are so hard up that you do not know how to make both ends meet; or besides that, you are in some difficulty–bear all this without malice, without murmuring, without criticism, without complaint, that is, without regarding yourself as offended and without expecting any earthly reward in return; but bear it all with love, with joy and firmness….
And if when you are bearing your cross according to the word and intention of the Lord a proud thought rises up within you, that you are not like other people but firm, pious, and better than your neighbors and companions, uproot such thoughts as far as possible, for they can destroy all your virtues.
It was said before that there are external and internal crosses, but so far we have spoken almost entirely about external crosses….
Internal crosses can be found at all times, and more easily than external ones. You have only to direct your attention to yourself and to examine your soul with a sense of penitence, and a thousand internal crosses will at once present themselves. For instance, consider: How did you come to be in this world? Do you live as you ought to live? And so on. Pay due attention to this, and you will see at first glance that, being the creation and the work of the Almighty God, you exist in this world solely, with all your actions, with all your life, and with all your being, to glorify His holy and great Name. But you not only fail to glorify Him, but on the contrary you offend and dishonor Him by your sinful life. Then recollect and consider: What awaits you on the other side of your grave? On which side will you be at the time of Christ’s dread judgment, on the left or the right? And if you reflect in this way, you will inevitably be alarmed and begin to be disquieted. And this will be the beginning of internal crosses….
And if you do not pay any attention to the troubles and inner sufferings that you feel from such thoughts, and firmly resolve to bear them without seeking consolation in anything earthly, but pray more fervently to the Lord for your salvation and surrender the whole of yourself to His will, then the Lord will begin to show and reveal to you the state of your soul as it really is, to introduce and nourish within you fear, affliction, and sorrow and thereby purify you more and more. (pp. 25-29)

Through the prayers of St. Innocent may our Lord Jesus Christ help to endure our crosses and attain eternal life in His kingdom. Amen.

Sermon on the Dormition

Sermon on the Dormition

On this day of the Dormition of our Lady Theotokos I would like to speak primarily about her place in the history of salvation and just make a few minor references to this feast.  The character of my words will be primarily apologetic.  Why is that so?  Because we, as Orthodox Christians in the Americas, find ourselves in an atmosphere in which we are challenged.  The Church in America is a Church in dispersion from its roots.  We are a minority among those who call themselves Christians, and engulfed by a multitude of philosophies and religious systems at odds with our Faith.  Our Faith is challenged.  It is unfortunate, yet not undeniable, that challenges to the Orthodox Faith are occurring not only from without but also sadly from within the Church.  Why?

There are truths that we Orthodox acknowledge about Mary, the Birth-giver of God, which may appear problematic to the fallen rational mind.  There are truths which some see as mythological and difficult to accept, such as her ever-virginity–that is, physically continuing a virgin before, during and after giving birth, her sinlessness, or her being the highest of all creation.  Today’s feast of the Dormition also gives us other examples: the apostles were miraculously brought to Jerusalem, and on the third day it was discovered that her body was translated to heaven.  These may indeed be difficult to accept when they are evaluated by the mind acting according to the human reason habitually used for the functions of life in this fallen world.  As the Apostle Paul says, “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned” (ICor, 2:14).  Yet the mind has the capability to be trained to act in another way, in a contemplative way, which leads to “direct apprehension of truth through grace” (Writings form the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart, p. 37), and it is “by faith that we have access to this grace” (Rom. 5:2). When the mind functions in this capacity it is in its natural place prior to the fall, which is the heart.  St. Ignatius Brianchaninov expresses this opinion: “The separation of mind and hear, and their opposition to one another, have resulted from our fall into sin”.  (The Arena, p.85)

But when we thus reflect upon the Theotokos, we must consider her in the context of Christology and the history of salvation.  This approach is summarized in the Anaphora prayer of St. Basil the Great.  In this masterpiece of liturgical prayer, he addresses God the Father:

When Thou didst create man by taking dust from the earth, and didst honor him with Thine own image, O God, Thou dist set him in a paradise of delight, promising him eternal life and the enjoyment of everlasting blessings in the observance of Thy commandments.  But when man disobeyed Thee, the true God Who had created him, and was deceived by the guild of the serpent, becoming subject to death through his own transgressions, Thou, O God, in Thy righteous judgment, didst send him forth from paradise into this world, returning him to the earth from which he was taken, yet providing for him the salvation of regeneration in Thy Christ Himself…He was God before the ages, yet he appeared on earth and lived among men, becoming incarnate of a holy Virgin; He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being likened to the body of our lowliness, that He might liken us to the image of His glory. (Service Books of the Orthodox Church, Vol. II pp.71-3)

This is the “mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations…which is Christ in you” (Col. 1:26-7).  We have indeed been chosen “in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).  Our salvation through the Incarnation of Christ has been foreordained by God even before our creation.  So then, what was the will and desire of God the Father for His human instrument of the Incarnation of Christ, the most significant woman in the history of the human race?  Isn’t it logical that He wanted her to be the highest of all creation, ever virgin–a virgin in conceiving, in giving birth, and after birth-giving and sinless?  And that at her funeral all the Apostles should be there; and that her body would not see corruption, but be translated to the heavenly mansions on the third day?  Is it possible for the almighty God Who brought all things out of non-existence into being to do this for the woman who would give birth to His Son?  It is not only possible but it is logical.  It is the logical phenomenon that God would effect.

Now I want to end with something of a little prayerful doxology: May our Lord Jesus Christ, “the true light Who enlightens and sanctifies every man that comes into the world” (cf. John 1:9), open the eyes of our minds to the comprehension of the truth He makes accessible to us in this world; so that acknowledging and worshiping Him as true God and true Man, we may, in an Orthodox manner, magnify her who gave birth to Him.   Amen.

“Call No Man Your Father”

“Call No Man Your Father”

This title should be familiar, it is  words spoken by our Lord as related by St. Mathew in his Gospel.  What follows here is a sermon on the epistle for this coming Sunday which I hope will help us Orthodox to understand our tradition of calling our priests “father”.

Beloved of God, rather than speaking about the Sunday Gospel of today I would like to concentrate on something else, I would like to concentrate on our epistle reading.  So let us today consider one particular verse, that is, the following words of the holy Apostle Paul:  “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel” (ICor. 4:15).

It is important for us to point out this verse and consider what message it conveys because the traditions of our holy Orthodox faith are sometimes challenged by those without the Church.  And these particular words of the Apostle Paul make a response to those who would critique us for calling our priests father.  This critique is based on the words of St. Matthew in his Gospel where he says: “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven” (Mat. 23:9).

On the surface there appears to be a contradiction, but these excerpts, as with the whole of the scripture—especially the New Testament—must be seen and interpreted within the life and tradition of the Church.  This is so, first of all, because the Christian faith and the Christian Church existed before the New Testament.  And it is the Church, with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit that, “produced” the New Testament and the New Testament did not produce the Church. As is known, the New Testament is comprised of 27 books. These books were selected by the Church, from a multitude of other similar books which were circulated under the name of Apostles.

From Church History we discover that the need of defining a specific Canon for the New Testament arose around the end of the 2nd century, when certain heretics tried to define their own Canon.  For this reason, various Fathers of the Church began referring to specific books which they considered divinely inspired.  This problem of the Canon of the New Testament was not solved until the second half of the 4th century, when the Church in the East accepted the opinion of Athanasius the Great, who in 367 for the first time in history, presented a complete list of books which he believed should be considered as divinely inspired. A little later on, in 397 the same books were made official in the West with the Synod of Carthage.

So the first thing we must realize is that the tradition of calling a priest a father is older than the collection of the books of the New Testament.  And those holy men of the Church who confirmed for us the books of the New Testament obviously had no problem with these words of St. Matthew and St. Paul which on the surface appear contradictory. So let us take a detailed look into this subject and consider both why we call a priest a father and what is the meaning of our Lord’s words recorded by St. Matthew.

The words in St. Matthew’s gospel must not be taken literally on the surface because if we were really to take this literally to an extreme we would need to find a new name for our parents. We would be prohibited from calling our male parent “father”.  This, of course, would be ridiculous.  But let us listen again to the words of the Apostle Paul: “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”  Saint Paul calls himself a father to the Corinthians.  This is how he describes the relationship he has with the Corinthians which is also the relationship of a priest to the laity of the Church.  And this is a living relationship which is expressed by the word father.  As a father begets a child, cares for the child and supplies its needs while growing up in this world, so too, does the priest do for his spiritual children.

We see this expressed in other places in the Scriptures so let us take some examples: In the book of Judges (17:10) a man named Micah from the mountains of Ephraim is spoken of.  And he invites a Levite traveler to live with him.  And he said to the Levite, “Dwell with me and be a father and priest to me.”  Again Elisha says to the prophet Elias: “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen.” (IIKings 2:12) This was shortly before they parted and Elias was taken up into heaven.  Likewise Elisha who then became the foremost prophet in Israel was referred to as father by the kings of Israel. For we see the King Joash used these same words for the Prophet Elisha, when he went to see the prophet while he was on his deathbed the king said to him, “O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.”(IIKings 13:14)

Therefore we should not doubt this tradition of our Church, that is, the tradition of calling a priest father.  But as for the words in St. Matthew, we must consider the context in which our Lord spoke. When he said these words our Lord was critiquing the Scribes and Pharisees for their pride and vain glory and He was warning His disciples not to fall into the same thing.  For many of the religious leaders in the time of our Lord prided themselves on their position and they were vainglorious, that is they loved the attention and praise of the people.  Our Lord, therefore, was critiquing this pride and vain glory. So then, when we Orthodox call a priest, “Father” we are not breaking this injunction of our Lord; yet let us look into ways in which this is broken so we can fully understand what our Lord is telling us.

First there is a sectarian spirit which often happens in the Church and this is something we must avoid.  It is like what happened in Corinth and which the Apostle Paul speaks against when he writes: Some of you are saying I am of Apollos or I am of Cephas or I am of Paul.  This is what was happening among the Corinthians.  The people were naming themselves by a man on earth, they were putting up one of the apostles as their living head here on earth, and this was dividing the Church, they were measuring themselves by one of the apostles and in their pride each was saying the one whom they followed was the best and this was making a schism in the body of Christ.  They were calling a man on earth their father. This also, is basically the same thing that has occurred with Roman Catholicism and the Papacy, they set up one single man as an absolute head over all of the Church—this has never been acceptable to Orthodoxy.  And what is perhaps even worse is that we see some of the protestant confessions naming themselves by a man, for instance Calvanists or Lutherans.  It is such that our Lord was speaking against when He said call no man your father upon earth. For us Orthodox to call many priests “a father” is not a problem but to call any one man “our father” is unacceptable.

There is one more point we must take into consideration which applies not only to this text but the whole of the Gospel of St. Matthew.  We learn from our tradition that St. Matthew wrote his Gospel in Aramaic and it was translated into Greek by the Apostle James the Brother of the Lord.  It is unfortunate that the Aramaic text is not extant.  Any Greek scholar on reading the Gospel of St. Matthew would recognize that Greek was not the writer’s (or translator’s) first language.  Especially with fine points of grammar this would naturally augment the possibility of an obscurity and so the possibility of variant meanings of certain texts.  Therefore we must remain within the tradition of the Church and accept how our Church interprets the scriptures.  The meaning of this text can also be: “Do not call (or designate) yourselves by any man as your father upon earth”.

So then, to call our priests, a father—a spiritual father—is acceptable to God, and we see this from the words of the Holy Apostle Paul we heard in today’s epistle which I will repeat again: “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”  And so let us keep our faith and hold fast to the traditions that we have received from our Church, because our Church is the holy and apostolic Church. By apostolic we mean we can trace the consecration of our bishops in a direct line back to the apostles of Christ.  Therefore we can say that Christ is the father and founder of our Church.  Not a man who picked up the Bible and interpreted it according to his own mind—for this is another error we see among many Protestants.  There are those that call themselves Bible churches, but their faith is built upon this man or that man who at some time or another interpreted the Bible according to his own mind.  Therefore a man is the founding father of their faith and not our Lord Jesus Christ.  In the final analysis they must admit a man is their father and not God.  But for us, by the apostolic succession of our bishops, we can confidently proclaim that our Lord Jesus Christ is the founder, and father, and head of our Church.  To Him be glory together with His Father Who is without beginning, and His All-holy good and life-creating Spirit, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages.  Amen.


The Elder Ephraim of Arizona: His contribution to North America

The Elder Ephraim of Arizona: His contribution to North America

The Elder Ephraim recently reached the age of ninety. He has not been functioning as an elder for more than a year because of health issues; and at his age and with his physical condition it is doubtful that he will again function in that capacity. As one who has become somewhat renowned, however, there has occasionally been controversy over him. Most of the spiritual children of his monasteries consider him to be a saint and one who has wrought a miraculous renewal among the Greek Orthodox in North America. This effect did not cease with the Greek faithful but spread elsewhere, as well.. Indeed, the lives of many have been touched and changed by the Elder. However, he has also been under attack at times, and negative opinions have been expressed concerning him—I do not want to approach this subject. But there is one aspect of the work he has accomplished that has been much on my mind recently and this is what I want to write about. I will introduce this topic with a question: What has Elder Ephraim done for monasticism in our land?
I recently celebrated the feast day of the Hermitage where I live. It is dedicated to St. Arsenius of Konevits. He was born in the ancient city of Novgorod in the mid fourteenth century. At the age of 20 he entered a monastery in that area and after 17 years a desire was born within him to go elsewhere. Where did he go? It was to the Holy Mountain.
This was made possible when some elders from the Holy Mountain came to Novgorod. He sought to get a blessing from his abbot to depart with them as they returned. However, the abbot did not want to give him a blessing because he thought that St. Arsenius was a good, obedient and humble monk, and this change was not necessary. But St. Arsenius persisted in asking for his blessing and finally the abbot conceded and let him go.

Upon his arrival at the Holy Mountain St. Arsenius discovered a treasure there. What was this treasure? It was the hesychast tradition of our Church. This was something that had been lacking where he had previously lived in Russia. It was about 1390 when he went to Athos and this was a generation after the great lights such as St. Gregory of Sinai, St. Gregory Palamas and St. Maximus Kapsokalivia had lived there. The hesychastic life which they promoted would have been flourishing there at that time. St. Arsenius immersed himself in this life and after several years on the Holy Mountain he returned to Russia, bringing this tradition with him. And this is exactly what the Elder Ephraim planted here in North America for those who choose monasticism.

Let us take a moment to look a little further into the hesychast tradition. To do this I would like to refer to someone who was a very pious fervent Orthodox man in Russian who lived in the nineteenth century. He fulfilled all of the external rules of the Church; together with his wife they read daily prayers in the morning and evening and also canons and akathists and read the Scriptures. His wife reposed at an early age and as he was handicapped he became a wandering pilgrim. At one point, like St. Arsenius, he experienced a thirst for a deeper spiritual life. you may have already realized that I am speaking about the anonymous Pilgrim in the popular book “The Way of a Pilgrim”.

One day in church he heard the words of the Apostle Paul “pray without ceasing”. He could not get these words out of his mind, he wondered: “How could this be accomplished?” So he sought to find an answer. He heard many sermons on prayer and sought out reputable churchmen whom he thought might be able to help him, but did not find an answer. Finally, while traveling by foot, he met an old monk who convinced him to come back to his monastery, and along the way, he solved his perplexities. As they walked this father began to speak:

Thank God, my dear brother, for having revealed to you this unappeasable desire for unceasing interior prayer. Recognize in it a call from God, and calm yourself….It has been granted you to understand that the heavenly light of unceasing interior prayer is attained neither by the wisdom of this world, nor by the mere outward desire for knowledge, but that on the contrary it is found in poverty of spirit and in active experience in simplicity of heart. That is why it is not surprising that you have been unable to hear anything about the essential work of prayer…The vain wisdom of the world compels them (that is, present day preachers) to apply the human standard to the divine. Many people reason quite the wrong way round about prayer, thinking that good actions and all sorts of preliminary measures render us capable of prayer. But quite the reverse is the case, it is prayer which bears fruit in good works and all the virtues….The Christian is bound to perform many good works, but before all else what he ought to do is to pray, for without prayer no other good work whatever can be accomplished. Without prayer he cannot find the way to the Lord, he cannot understand the truth, he cannot crucify the flesh with its passions and lusts, his heart cannot be enlightened with the light of Christ, he cannot be savingly united to God. None of those things can be effected unless they are preceded by constant prayer. I say ‘constant,’ for the perfection of prayer does not lie within our power….It is just to pray often, to pray always, which falls within our power as the means of attaining pure prayer, which is the mother of all spiritual blessings. (The Way of a Pilgrim, The Seabury Press 1965 pp.6-8)

After reaching the monastery the elder took the pilgrim to his room and continued:

The continuous interior Prayer of Jesus is a constant uninterrupted calling upon the divine Name of Jesus with the lips, in the spirit, in the heart; while forming a mental picture of his constant presence, and imploring His grace, during every occupation, at all times, in all places, even during sleep. The appeal is couched in these terms, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.’ One who accustoms himself to this appeal experiences as a result so deep a consolation and so great a need to offer the prayer always, that he can no longer live without it, and it will continue to voice itself within him of its own accord. (ibid. pp. 8-9)

The elder ended:

“Now do you understand what prayer without ceasing is?” (ibid. p. 9)

Our holy fathers speak of different stages of prayer. First there is oral prayer, then mental prayer, and then mental prayer on the heart level, all of which is the work of man. Afterwards one can experience mental prayer on the heart level which is something more because it is the action of God in which one participates. Finally this action can become firmly established within a man, and so become unceasing. This is where the hesychast tradition can lead one. But it requires an intense struggle and experienced guidance. So for those in America who have chosen monasticism and have the thirst for an intense struggle in prayer as St. Arsenius and the Pilgrim did the Elder Ephraim has brought them the Athonite Hesychast tradition. The value of this treasure is beyond appraisal. This is the unquestionable contribution of the Elder Ephraim to the Orthodox of North America.

The Orthodox Church and the Non-Chalcedonians: Part 2 Deification Pope Shenuda and Matthew the Poor

PART 2 Deification: Pope Shenuda vs. Matthew the Poor

There is one more issue to consider which is central to the Orthodox concept of salvation, and that is deification. I will relate what I have learned from an Orthodox priest who is a university professor. This father is fluent in Arabic and has studied the Chalcedonian/Non-Chalcedonian positions.

The Copts are presently divided over deification. On the one hand, there is Fr. Matta al-Miskeen (“Matthew the Poor”, 1919-2006) — the late spiritual father of the monastery of St. Macarius in Scetis, who emphatically taught deification (and that Communion is of the WHOLE Christ, divinity and humanity). On the other hand, you have the late Pope Shenouda (1923-2012, pope 1971-2012), who denied deification, called it a heresy, and even denied that the Church Fathers ever taught such a doctrine (he also denied that in Communion we partake of the whole Christ, and argued instead that we partake of His humanity alone)! The controversy between Pope Shenouda and Fr. Matta was very public.

From what I understand, Fr. Matta’s views are quite popular today among many Coptic monastics, clergy, and educated laymen, while others follow the late Pope Shenouda’s view. The present Pope Thawadros has not really taken a stance in this controversy, and there has been no conciliar decision on the subject.

For their stances on deification and related issues, Pope Shenouda and Fr. Matta drew on divergent sources. Pope Shenouda drew on the Coptic medieval tradition, in Arabic, which to a large degree suppressed deification. Fr. Matta drew directly on Greek Patristic sources available to him in translations into European languages and on modern Patristic scholarship, in which deification is, of course, prominently present.

This is certainly one significant difference between the Copts (at least those who follow Pope Shenouda) on the one hand and us, Chalcedonian Orthodox, on the other. There are other differences as well. For example, one of the consequences of “monophysitism” (or, to use the more “politically correct” term, “miaphysitism”) is that anti-Chalcedonian Christians (such as the Copts) also believe in ONE WILL in Christ (what we call “monotheletism”), a view rejected by St. Maximos the Confessor and the Sixth Ecumenical Council.

These issues brought up by the Father university professor should be given serious consideration by our Orthodox Church.

I would like to add a bit about Fr. Matthew the Poor since he has acquired a reputation in the English speaking world. He was renowned mentor for monastics and has written a book on prayer which has been translated into English and published in 2003 by St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary Press: Orthodox Prayer Life: The Interior Way. John Watson, in his article, “Abouna Matta El Meskeen Contemporary Desert Mystic” (see:, speaks of the success of this book. “In Arabic it was certainly a key text for Coptic monastic spirituality….It is perhaps not too much to say that his book on Orthodox Prayer has defined the prayer life of thousands of English language readers at the beginning of this century.” Watson continues to tell us of the foundation of Orthodox Prayer Life The interior Way:

The primary source of Orthodox Prayer Life: The Interior Way was a typed English-language text. Abouna Matta had packed the modest manuscript of only one hundred and twenty-two, doubled spaced, and typewritten pages into his bag. He did not open the English document because he was in a hurry to embark on the solitary life, which began for him in 1948:

“When I finally opened the manuscript of the English pilgrim and found that it contained sayings on prayer, my heart leap for joy. A wave of happiness and exhilaration overwhelmed me. How did God bring this treasure into my hand?”…

The typewritten text was the creation of a British pilgrim who had visited Jerusalem. For the rest of his life, Abouna Matta acknowledged the influence of the English-language writer and the central value of the small booklet, which he had received so long ago.

The Author of the text was Archimandrite Lazarus Moore. Again Watson continues to speak of the additional sources of Fr. Matthew the Poor’s book:

For the next fifty plus years Abouna Matta El Meskeen lived with the much-loved little text, translated and typed by Achimandrite Lazarus Moore. But in each decade of his monastic and ascetic life, the Coptic father of the Western desert expanded the primary Russian sources into a major commentary on classical Eastern Orthodox spirituality. Father Matthew had carefully classified and spiritually reshaped an extraordinary series of inspired texts from early Middle Eastern Christianity to nineteenth century Orthodox Russia.

I hope the point I am trying to emphasize is clear: The influence of the teachings of the Orthodox Church on the Coptic monk, Matthew the Poor. It is impossible to have such a thorough study of the Orthodox ascetic tradition such as he shows, and not be introduced to the Orthodox concept of deification. Abouna Matta El Meskeen was “a main” if not “the main” propagator of deification among the Coptic Christians—and as was mentioned earlier, his conflict with Pope Shenuda over this issue was quite public. And it seems clear that in order to take hold of the concept of deification he had to come to the Orthodox Church.

So then, what can we now conclude? Although from the Orthodox perspective, there are serious flaws over all, on the part of the Coptic Christians, specifically in reference to Christology/Soteriology they have been coming closer to us. But their coming closer to us, was a result of what they have learned from the Orthodox Church—they did not theologize on their own. So is it right to say: “We have believed the same thing all along” or that , “They are already Orthodox”?

All Saints

All Saints
I am taking a detour for one post before getting back to the continuation of the article concerning the Orthodox and the Coptic Christians. What follows is a sermon for the Sunday of “All Saints”.

On this Sunday which follows the feast of Pentecost we celebrate and venerate all the saints. This is because sainthood is the result of the grace of the Holy Spirit given on that day and which continues to be given in the Sacraments of the Church. So today we venerate all those who have reached a state of holiness. Sometimes, however, we may run into Christians who misunderstand our veneration of the saints and say that according to the Apostle Paul we are all saints. We are indeed all given grace and we are all called to be saints. When the Apostle Paul in his letters addresses the Christians in the various cities to which he writes he either calls them saints, or sometimes he says they are called to be saints. So let us take a brief look at this.

When he addresses the Christians as those called to be saints he reminds them of the gift that has been deposited within them, that is, the grace of the Holy Spirit, and the responsibility to nurture it. When he calls all the faithful saints he makes a distinction between those who have accepted the Christian faith and have been baptized and those of this world who have not received this grace. In this way he shows reverence for this grace given in Holy Baptism. This grace puts one in another class of people who are no longer “of this world”. (John 8:23)
So today I will talk a little about this one aspect of sainthood and that is to be “not of this world”. I will primarily refer to St. Ignatius Brianchaninov who has a chapter (Chapter 41) in his book “The Arena” on the meaning of the term “the world”.
St. Ignatius begins:

The word world has two special meanings in Holy Scripture. (1) It signifies all mankind in the following and similar passages of Scripture: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16-7) (“ The Arena” p. 166)

And concerning the second meaning he states:

(2) By the term world is meant those people who lead a sinful life opposed to the will of God, who live for time and not for eternity. Thus we must understand the word world in the following and similar passages: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (John 15:18-9) (p. 166)

St. Ignatius goes on to quote St. Theophylact of Bulgaria who thus defines world:

It is usual for Scripture to call the world the life of sinful people of carnal outlook living in it. That is why Christ said to His disciples: “Ye are not of the world”. They formed a part of the people living in the world, but as they did not live in sin, they did not belong to the world. (pp. 166-7)

In moving on, this now leads us to St. John the Theologian, who introduces us to yet another facet of the meaning of the term world. He writes: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” (I John 2:15-7)

For a more detailed explanation let us turn to St. Isaac of Syria as he is quoted by St. Ignatius in the same chapter I have already mentioned:

The world is the general term for all the passions. If a man has not first learned what the world is, he cannot understand by how many members he is detached from it and by how many he is tied to it. There are many who think themselves free from the world in their life because in two or three respects they refrain from it and have renounced contact with it. This is because they have not understood or perceived with discernment that they are dead to the world only in one or two members, while the rest of their members are living within the carnal mind and belong to the world. Therefore they are not even aware of their passions; and since they are not aware of them, they are not anxious to be cured of them. According to the research in spiritual science, the term world is used as a common name that embraces separate passions. When we wish to call the passions by a common name, we call them the world. But when we want to distinguish them by their separate names, we call them passions. Each passion is particular activity of the “elemental spirits of the world.” (Col. 2:8) Where the passions have ceased to act, there the elemental spirits of the world are inactive. The passions are the following: love of riches, desire for possessions, bodily pleasure from which comes sexual passion, love of honor which gives rise to envy, lust for power, arrogance and pride of position, the craving to adorn oneself with luxurious clothes and vain ornaments, the itch for human glory which is the source of rancor and resentment, and physical fear. Where these passions cease to be active, there the world is dead. In so far as some of these passions are forsaken, just so far does the ascetic live outside the world which to that extent is destroyed through being deprived of its parts. Someone has said of the saints that while alive they were dead; for though living in the flesh, they did not life for the flesh. See for which of these passions you are alive. Then you will know how far you are alive to the world, and how far you are dead to it. When you understand what the world is, then you will understand these distinctions, and how far you are tied to the world, and how far you are detached from it. In brief, the world is the carnal life and the carnal mind. (pp. 169-170)

The saints are those who have been victorious over the world as it has just been described. They overcame the world and shone with the grace of the Holy Spirit—this is our Orthodox understanding of who the saints are. So let me repeat that very first sentence with which I began: On this Sunday which follows the feast of Pentecost we celebrate and venerate all the saints. Through their prayers may our Lord Jesus Christ have mercy upon us. Amen.

The Orthodox Church and Non-Chalcedonians, Part One Christology/Ecccsiology

The Orthodox Church and Non-Chalcedonians


It was in March of 2013 that I wrote something on this subject. I mentioned how a subdeacon in the parish I attended in the mid 1970’s commented: “Now they say we have believed the same thing all along and so we should work towards a reunion.” Back then I thought it was great. I had no theological education other than reading a simple catechism book, and accepted it point blank. But over the years something changed. I became a monastic, and something changed. I did not formerly study theology, I had only read another catechetical type of book in my early monastic life. However, through living in a monastery, participation in the services, and reading the ascetic fathers something changed within. This cannot be put into words, or explained, but it became impossible for me to simply accept, “We have believed the same thing all along and so we should work towards a reunion.”

So what is it that motivates me to write on this subject again? It was near the end of Great Lent that there was the bombing of a Coptic church by terrorists in which around forty or so Coptic Christians died. The Orthodox Church did show sympathy, and in some parishes prayers were offered. This is praiseworthy, but it is regrettable that some Orthodox clergy have led their people to conclude that we believe the same thing, and that the Coptic Christians are already Orthodox. Therefore I will write again, and in a more simple way, both reconsider some topics in the former article, and approach some issues formerly unaddressed. In my weakness, through the prayers of St. John of Damascus whose icon I am presently looking at, I hope to accomplish my aim.

Where do I begin? At the place where this began. I will use as a foundation the few words I spoke to the small group at St. Arsenius Hermitage on St. Thomas Sunday and integrate it into an expanded article. Here is how I began that Sunday.

I feel a need to say something which is catechetical, since it is instructional. Recently there was a bombing in which Coptic Christians were killed in their church. Our Orthodox people have shown a lot of sympathy, and in some parishes, priests remembered these deceased during the services. All this is fine, but the problem that has occurred, is that the Coptic Christians were presented as though they are also Orthodox. We do have clergy in the Orthodox Church who believe this. And, I have been told, internet discussion concerning these killings, shows that a number of Orthodox are expressing this opinion. How can this be since the Coptic Christians have been separated from the Orthodox Church since the Fourth Ecumenical Council, in the fifth century?

Over the centuries they have been moving closer to us; in particular, with the dialogues between the Orthodox and Non-Chalcedonians, their Christology appears to be more refined. Indeed, an Orthodox priest who has had much communication with Coptic priests has recently shared with me the following concerning them:

The “One Nature” they confess is meant to emphasize the oneness of Christ’s person. It is St. Cyril’s “one Nature of the Logos Incarnate” which St.Cyril himself clarified, is actually speaking of two natures (“incarnate” implying an additional nature to the Divine). They now accept the Orthodoxy of the two natures ‘without division, without separation, without confusion, without commingling’ (indeed the Copts have inserted St. Leo’s formula into their liturgy in the confession of Christ before receiving communion—similar to ‘I believe, O Lord, and I confess…’). In one of our most recent dialogues, the Non-Chalcedonian bishops present upheld the Orthodoxy of Chalcedon and stated their understanding that it must be interpreted in the light of subsequent Ecumenical Councils which give it clarity.

Then he goes on to admit: “None of this is to say that this has always necessarily been the case. It is they who have moved theologically closer to us. We have not moved at all.”

It was, of course, at the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which dealt with Christology, that they separated from us, as they held a monophysite opinion in relation to the two natures of our Lord Jesus Christ. They recognized He was “from” two natures but no longer considered Him to be “of” two natures. They specially claim to be followers of St. Cyril of Alexandria, and they ardently cling to a phrase he used, that is, “the one nature of the incarnate Word (or Logos)” This was thought of as an expression of St. Cyril, but history has proved otherwise. It is well known that it was an expression of Apollinarian heretics who, in order to give credence to their beliefs, circulated a document under the name of St. Athanasius the Great. St. Cyril took this phrase which he thought belonged to St. Athanasius and sought to explain it in an acceptable manner. After his death it was discovered that this document was a product of the Appolinarians. In Orthodoxy we accept St. Cyril and understand his use of the above mentioned term; but we do not claim to be his followers. We follow the consensus of the whole of our Holy Fathers. This is what is implied when, in the Creed, we call the Church “catholic”. “Catholic” is a compound word, in Greek it is: “kata” which means according to, and “holos” which means wholeness. The idea is to be in accordance with the whole.

There are, however, many of both Chalcedonians and Non-Chalcedonians, who believe that all along through history, it was a language problem, a matter of semantics. However, St. John of Damascus knew their language, and he wrote against them. And if it was all along this language problem, then we would have to say that God made a mistake with the miracle He performed through the Great Martyr Euphemia at the Fourth Ecumenical council. In her coffin she held the Orthodox confession of faith in her hand. And the Non-Chalcedonian confession was at her feet.

Nevertheless, the Coptic Church has continued coming closer to us. Today they claim they are not monophysites and never were, but they are miaphysites. They do explain the two natures in Christ as the Orthodox do, but they say they are in a single united nature, thus they say they are miaphysites. But does two natures in a single united nature equal two natures in one Person? Of course not! Moreover a single united nature made up of two is a compound nature. St. John Damascus writes specifically against this (see the article of March) as did St. Agatho Pope of Rome in the document: “The Letter of Agatho and the Roman Synod of 125 Bishops” which is incorporated into the articles of the Sixth Ecumenical Council(1). Now I will pose a question before I move on to one more issue. If we were to accept them as an equally valid church and unite, do we repudiate the article of the Creed: “ONE holy, catholic and apostolic church”?

(1.) Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, we acknowledge to subsist of and in two substances unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably, the difference of the natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the proprieties of each nature being preserved and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not scattered or divided into two Persons, nor confused into one composite nature.—emphasis mine (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series, The Seven Ecumenical Councils, p. 340

Sermon at the Grave

Sermon at the Grave

Beloved of God, now that we stand before the grave of our Lord Jesus Christ it is as though we have before us the culmination of all His earthly sufferings: His submission to our human condition, the persecutions, the agony in Gethsemane, the mockery, scourging, crucifixion and now burial. What is the sum of all these? Divine love, they are all tokens of His love. In his Gospel the Apostle John the Theologians writes:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but so that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-7)

And in his first epistle he comments:

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (IJohn 4:9-10)

There is one word here that is of particular interest, that is, propitiation. The original Greek word is ilasmon. Although this term can be literally defined as propitiation, or an appeasing or—what is perhaps better—atonement; yet its etymology brings us to mercy. In using this word, St. John the Theologian, points us back to the mercy seat in the Old Testament tabernacle. This is because the word for mercy seat in the Greek is ilasterion. The mercy seat is the lid of the Ark of the Covenant whereupon the blood of the yearly atonement was sprinkled by the high priest.

The Apostle Paul writes of this in his letter to the Hebrews:

The first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people….But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (9:1-7,11-12)

The old Testament sacrifices prefigured the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ for us. The Apostle Paul calls Christ our Passover. In writing to the Corinthians he says, “Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us.” (ICor. 5:7) “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son” up to “our human condition, the persecutions, the agony in Gethsemane, the mockery, scourging, crucifixion and now burial.” His love for us is sacrificial, unconditional and infinite. How do we return this great love for us? Not by only venerated the grave with reverence but as our Lord said: “If ye love Me keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) To Him be glory, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Second Sunday of Lent: St. Gregory Palamas

St Gregory Palamas, whose memory we celebrate this day, is known as a great defender of Orthodoxy; and so he is commemorated in the Lenten cycle on the Sunday after the Sunday of Orthodoxy. He was born in 1296 and came from a very pious family of the ranks of nobility. He was well educated and excelled in his studies at the Imperial University. While in the world he had as spiritual father Theoleptus of Philadelphia who is among the authors found in the Philokalia. At the age of 20 St. Gregory left the world to become a monk on the Holy Mountain. Through his ascetic struggles he ascended to great spiritual heights and monastics especially revere him as a hesychast. We could say a hesychast is one who fulfills the words of the Psalmist: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psa. 45:10). The Elder Ephraim of Arizona has referred to him as the king of the hesychasts.

His commemoration comes up, as I have mentioned, on this Sunday which follows the Sunday of Orthodoxy because he was involved in a battle for Orthodoxy. And it was only nine years after his death that a council was held in Constantinople which canonized him and proclaimed him as “the greatest among the fathers of the Church” ( The Holy Fire, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, p. 292). In the liturgical service for him he is called a “divine instrument of wisdom” a “joyful trumpet of theology” and a “preacher of grace” (The Lenten Triodion, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, p.324). Where did he acquire this wisdom and theology so as to become a preacher of grace? Was it in is studies at the Imperial University? No, it was in the solitude and silence of his monastic cell, as the Psalmist says: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psa. 45:10).

But how is it that these words of the Psalmist can be fulfilled so that one becomes still and acquires knowledge of God? It is through ongoing repentance. Repentance in the Orthodox Church has various shades of meanings. The Greek word “metanoia” literally means a change of mind, implying what the holy Aposlte Paul wrote to the Romans: “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). The equivalent word in Slavonic is “pokayaniye “, it implies to be wretched to mourn and lament—to be filled with tears. So in conjunction with the disposition of one’s heart, and effort of free will, this “spirit of repentance” acts in varying degrees. In some people it acts temporarily according to the sins they have committed. There is confession, the resolve to change, remorse, and maybe some act of penance. However, in others this “spirit of repentance” acts systematically, remaining upon one, leading him from one degree of purification to another. Then, continuing on, this “spirit”—which is the action of the grace of God—leads a man from one degree of enlightenment to another.

Joseph the Hesychast in writing to a correspondent explains this process as follows:

The spiritual life is divided into three stages, and grace acts in a person accordingly. The first stage is called purification, during which the person is cleansed. What you now have is the grace of purification. This form of grace leads one to repentance. All the eagerness that you have for spiritual things is due to grace alone. Nothing is your own. It secretly acts upon everything. So when you exert yourself, this grace remains with you for a certain time. If a person progresses with noetic prayer, he receives another form of grace which is entirely different.

As we mentioned earlier this first form of grace is called, “perception of the action of grace,” and is the grace of purification. That is, one who prays feels the presence of divine energy within him.

The second form of grace is called the grace of illumination. During this stage, one receives the light of knowledge and is raised to the vision of God. This does not mean seeing lights, fantasies, and images, but it means clarity of the nous, clearness of thoughts, and depth of cognition. For this to occur, the person praying must have much stillness and an unerring guide.

The third stage—when grace overshadows—is the grace of perfection, truly a great gift. I shall not write about this now, since it is not necessary. (Monastic Wisdom, The letters of Joseph the Hesychast; St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, pp. 44-5)

In the silence and stillness of his monastic cell, St. Gregory attained to the grace of perfection. He was united to God in his heart, God was active and living within him, his mind received illumination through prayer of the heart, he was taught by God. He acquired the knowledge of truth which St. Gregory of Sinai defines as “direct apprehension of truth through grace” ((Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart, Faber and Faber, p. 37). And so, when—during his lifetime—the Orthodox Faith was challenged he came to the forefront of the battle.

It happened that in the late 1330’s a monk named Barlaam, who was a great scholar, came from Italy to Constantinople. He was born in southern Italy of Greek parentage yet raised Catholic. Although he returned to the Faith of his ancestors it appears that he did not change much other than the error of the filioque. He attacked the hesychast tradition of the Church, he considered knowledge of God a matter of intellectual reason and held the Catholic position that since God is unknowable it follows that the grace in which we can participate is created. In responding to his misconceptions, St. Gregory defended the Hesychast tradition of the Church, and—more precisely than any of the Fathers before him—made a clear distinction between the essence and energy of God both of which are uncreated. God is unknowable in His essence but He is communicated to us through His energy which is uncreated. We can participate in the uncreated divine energy, “Speaking of the divinization of the saints, St. Gregory writes: ‘This is why the saints are instruments of the Holy Spirit, having received the same energy as Him’” (The Lives of the Pillars of Orthodoxy, Holy Apostles Convent, p.253). The late Elder Joseph the Younger of Vatopedi Monastery on Athos expresses the experience of the saints as follows:

God is not contemplated at a distance, but dwells in the souls that have been purified, being apprehended through His uncreated Energies….

True believers ‘undergo’ this communion with God and experience the energies of divine influences organically, since in the whole of their being they bear—dwelling and abiding within them—the God in Whom they believe and Whom they worship. ‘For He says, “I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”’ (2Cor. 6:16) (Elder Joseph the Hesychast, The Great and Holy Monastery of Vatopedi, pp.203, 204)

I would like to conclude by quoting the ending of the letter of St. Gregory Palamas to the Nun Xenia:

Let us, then, in blessed poverty also fall down and weep before the Lord our God, so that we may wash away our former sins, make ourselves impervious to evil and, receiving the blessing of solace of the Comforter, may glorify Him and the unoriginate Father and the Only-begotten Son, now and always and throughout the ages. Amen. (Philokalia Volume 4, Faber and Faber, p. 322)