Lenten Advice

As we enter into the Lenten season, there are loads of articles and information to read to steer us in the direction of working out our Repentance.  This article was written as Pastoral advice for the ones who shepherd a flock of believers.  As I read the words Archpriest Andrei offered, I also noticed his commentary on today’s world and where we came from and am going to.
He gives us an edifying word on learning to cope in today’s ‘modern’ world especially during the Great Lent, though, not really just for Great lent, but for our day by day struggle through-out the year.  Maybe his words of encouragement may help us to understand that God and His Church come first!  Maybe his words of encouragement will help us to manage our day to day world as Orthodox Christians striving toward becoming more like Jesus our Christ.
Just maybe we can slow down and read and comprehend what he is telling us.  Then we can act!!
Lenten pastoral advice from Archpriest Andrei Tkachev, rector of the Church of the Resurrection, Moscow:
Not all believers, however many they may be, can fast exactly the same—because of their differences in age, health, lifestyle, and degree of participation in Church life. And the eras, one replacing another, impose their characteristic stamp upon the spiritual life, transforming one and the same spiritual labor not into a repetition of what was before, but into something completely unique and special.
Wherein lies the modern particularities of our Lenten podvig?
The first thing that jumps out at you is the time that the usual person spends on travel today. To get to work, and after work to get to church, and then to return home, you can’t just cross the street or go a few hundred feet, but you have to go on a long and familiar journey. It’s a grueling routine with city transportation, it’s a daily drain on strength and money. In the best case, it’s an hour to work, an hour from work to church, and an hour from the service home. Altogether, its three hours of this difficult and specific “work,” draining your remaining physical and mental strength.
Meanwhile, the Church guidelines don’t take such traveling into account. They’re based on a monastery, where from your cell to the place of your obedience is no distance at all, and from the place of your obedience to the church is a five-minute walk. From here, there’s the possibility to have several hours to gather strength for the long prayer labor in church. Rural life also assumes the proximity of house, church, and place of work. Here’s the field, here’s home, and now the sound of a nearby bell, calling to church. Also, the cenobitic life of a monastery assumes that, returning from the service, you will find food ready in the trapeza, although the most meager due to Lent, but ready all the same. But the secular pilgrim (most often a woman) has to, having arrived home, get to the stove and feed the household. As you can see, her podvig doubles, and even triples.
We cannot radically change the conditions of life, but we can change our attitude towards them. Here sensitivity and compassion are needed from spiritual fathers for “the little parishioner” who is fighting for his life, is exhausted from his messy life, and is trying to serve God. He doesn’t read everything, doesn’t make it through everything, doesn’t hear everything. And of what he does hear and read, he doesn’t understand everything. We need patience and condescension. Increased demands and the morose mien of an expert instructing the ignorant are unacceptable. We must understand that the enemy of morning prayer is the rush, and of evening prayer—fatigue. So, perhaps you have to learn the prayers and psalms by heart to pray from memory, leaning against the window in the metro car. We mustn’t rebuke someone for this kind of prayer, but rather, we should encourage and comfort him.
One more necessary comment about the eras with their peculiarities—it’s the shift of accent from food to information. The man of previous eras was healthier and hardier than our contemporaries. An empty stomach was necessary for him for the decrease of his biological activity. It was necessary to truly weaken, in order to restrain his wild passions. But modern man is, more often than not, sickly and utterly weak. He doesn’t suffer from an excess of physical strength, and he’s not moving mountains. He, on the contrary, wakes up tired and barely moves his feet throughout the day. On the other hand, he is overfed, stuffed with information pouring into his eyes and ears like tropical rain, which has made many like patients of a psychiatric clinic, who just sleep at home for some reason.
To turn off the television and not turn it on at least for the first week, the week of the Cross, and Holy Week would be much more useful than to check food labels: whether there’s dried milk, or something else non-fasting there. Music, gossip and idle chatter, TV shows, “hanging out” on your favorite sites—these things are more dangerous than a glass of milk, and require a stricter, or even more merciless attitude towards yourself.
Of course, I’m not saying you should go on an “information fast” and continue to eat whatever you want. Bodily restraint, as the fathers have said, is truly “the mother of all good things.” You have to dry out the belly and give alms, you have to practice reading the Holy Scriptures and kneeling. But we have to understand the peculiarities of the world in which we live, and not try, as St. Philaret of Moscow said, to turn our city into the Thebaid, and the nineteenth century into the fifth. And St. Philaret’s contemporary, no less miraculous in life and in thought, St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov), would repeat as a commandment the words: “Understand the times.”
An unsober, reason-less attitude towards life breeds mistakes with every step and discredits the very possibility of leading a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty (1 Tim. 2:2).
Thus, we mustn’t use the same measuring stick with everyone, but work it out with each person as an “isolated case.” It’s impossible to take into account the real commotion of cities, with their distances, and traveling, and fatigue. And we must remember that fasting and prayer are the mental work of the inner man, and that means, the enemy of this labor is an excess of information to an even greater degree than an excess of calories.
The rest is a matter of experience, for only the walking traveler masters the road, and not the one studying the map.
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“The kingdom of God is within you”

Image result for icon of st john of kronstadt

“Take the trouble to spend only one single day according to God’s commandments, and you will see yourself, you will feel by your own heart, how good it is to fulfill God’s will (and God’s will in relation to us is our life, our eternal blessedness). Love God with all your heart at least as much as you love your father, your mother, and your benefactors; value with all your strength His love and His benefits to you (go over them mentally in your heart, think how He gave you existence and with it all good things, how endlessly long He bears with your sins, how endlessly He forgives you them; for the sake of your hearty repentance, by virtue of the suffering and death upon the Cross of His only-begotten Son, what blessedness He has promised you in eternity, if you are faithful to Him); enumerate besides His mercies, which are endlessly great and manifold. Furthermore, love every man as yourself—that is, do not wish him anything that you would not wish for yourself; think, feel for him just as you would think and feel for your own self; do not wish to see in him anything that you do not wish to see in yourself; do not let your memory keep in it any evil caused to you by others, in the same way as you would wish that the evil done by yourself should be forgotten by others; do not intentionally imagine either in yourself or in another anything guilty or impure; believe others to be as well-intentioned as yourself, in general, if you do not see clearly that they are evilly disposed; do unto them as you would to yourself, or even do not do unto them as you would not do unto yourself, and then you will see what you will obtain in your heart—what peace, what blessedness! You will be in paradise before reaching it–that is, before the paradise in heaven you will be in the paradise on earth. “The kingdom of God is within you,” says the Lord. “He that dwelleth in love,” teaches the Apostle, “dwelleth in God and God in him.”

Saint John of Kronstadt

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The Divine Liturgy


The Divine Liturgy is truly a heavenly service upon earth, during which God Himself, in a particular, immediate, and most close manner, is present and dwells with men, being Himself the invisible Celebrant of the service, offering and being offered. There is nothing upon earth holier, higher, grander, more solemn, more life-giving than the Liturgy.

The temple, at this particular time, becomes an earthly heaven; those who officiate represent Christ Himself, the Angels, the Cherubim, Seraphim and Apostles. The Liturgy is the continually repeated solemnization of God’s love to mankind, and of His all-powerful mediation for the salvation of the whole world, and of every member separately: the marriage of the Lamb—the marriage of the King’s Son, in which the bride of the Son of God is—every faithful soul; and the Giver of the bride—the Holy Spirit.

With what prepared, pure, elevated souls it is therefore necessary to assist at the Liturgy, in order not to be amongst the number of those who, having no wedding garment, but a garment defiled by passions, were bound hand and foot, and cast out from the marriage feast into utter darkness. Whilst now, unfortunately, many do not even consider it necessary to assist at the Liturgy at all; others only go out of habit, and go away in the same state of mind as they came, without elevated thoughts, without a contrite heart, with an unrepentant soul, without the determination to amend.

Some stand in church irreverently, inattentively, without any concentration of mind, without any previous self-preparation at home by means of meditation and abstinence; and many manage to drink and eat more than they should before service.

When the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai the Hebrew people were ordered to previously prepare and cleanse themselves. In the Divine service we have not a lesser event than God’s descent upon Mount Sinai, but a greater one: here before us is the very face of God the Lawgiver.

When the Lord appeared to Moses upon Mount Horeb in the bush, he was ordered to put off his shoes from his feet; but here is a greater manifestation of God than upon Horeb; there was only the prototype, here is the Typifier Himself.

O, how we cling to earthly things! We do not even wish to devote one hour exclusively to God! Even during the Divine, most heavenly Liturgy we allow ourselves to think and dream of earthly things, and fill our souls with images and desires for earthly things, sometimes—alas!—even with impure images; when we ought to be praying ardently, to be assiduously meditating upon this great mystery, to be repenting of our sins, longing and praying to be cleansed, sanctified, enlightened, renewed, and strengthened in the Christian life, and in the fulfillment of Christ’s commandments; when we ought to be praying for the living and dead; for the Liturgy is a sacrifice of propitiation, thanksgiving, praise, and prayer.

Great is the Liturgy! In it remembrance is made, not of the life of any great man, but that of God Incarnate, Who suffered and died for us, Who rose again, ascended into heaven, and Who shall come again to judge the whole world!

+ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

Photo taken from: The Ascetic Experience

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The Rule of Fasting in the Orthodox Church

Discerning Thoughts ©

The Rule of Fasting in the Orthodox Church

By Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) of Platina

Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina.jpgIn answer to numerous requests from readers, the rule of fasting is given for each day of the year. Where no indication of fast is given, and during “fast-free weeks,” all foods may be eaten (except during Cheese-fare Week, when meat alone is forbidden every day). Where “fast day” is indicated alone, the fast is a strict one, with no meat, eggs, dairy products, fish, wine or oil to be eaten. Where, underneath “fast day,” is indicated “wine and oil allowed,” the fast is relaxed for the sake of a feast day or vigil, to allow eating of these foods. Where “fish, wine and oil allowed” is indicated, then all three of these foods may be eaten.

The rule of fasting, which is dependent on the Church’s cycle of feasts and fasts, is contained in the…

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What is repentance? [Excerpt from: Exomologetarion – A Manual of Confession]

How Everyone Should Prepare Before Confession

Discerning Thoughts ©

SOURCE: eBook (epub & mobi formats)

How Everyone Should Prepare Before Confession

1. What is repentance?

My brother sinner, this is the preparation you must undergo before you repent and go to confession. Know firstly that repentance, according to St. John of Damaskos, is a returning from the devil to God, which comes about through pain and ascesis. So you also, my beloved, if you wish to repent properly, must depart from the devil and from diabolical works and return to God and to the life proper to God. You must forsake sin, which is against nature, and return to virtue, which is according to nature. You must hate wickedness so much, that you say along with David: “Unrighteousness have I hated and abhorred” (Ps. 118:163), and instead, you must love the good and the commandments of the Lord so much, that you also say along with…

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The chore of fasting

Again and Again

ilijaThe Nativity Fast begins today. We think of fasting as being a chore; as something we have to do. And in a way, while we don’t have to fast, we should. For instance, last week when I sat down for my Thanksgiving meal I was starving, I didn’t fill up on anything before but waited for the main course. I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if I had spent all day filling up on other foods.

The difference here is that our preparation is for more than just one meal; for that matter, more than just one church holy day, the Lord’s Nativity. Let’s not forget those following it: His Circumcision, Baptism, His Presentation in the Temple, not to mention the ones connected  to those – St. John the Baptist, St. Stephen the Protomartyr……

It’s an entire liturgical cycle of salvific events. But whatever the case, the key…

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The Mystery of Communion


As a Priest I have become disturbed and distressed.  Why?  It is because of the lack of Orthodox Christians partaking of the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist during the Divine Liturgy!!  This lack of participation in receiving, weekly, the Divine Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, may just be what I observe in my own Parish; but it is sad.  It is sadder yet, if this is the case many times over in other Parishes as well.

I wrote this article awhile back and I am not sure where I can attribute some of the text to.  I believe some came from OrthodoxWiki and other sources, so please forgive me.

Holy Eucharist

The central place among the Sacraments of the Orthodox Church is held by the Holy Eucharist – the precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; which we ought to receive during the Divine Liturgy!

“The Divine Liturgy, what a splendor, indeed!  Man has been honored by God in such a way that He Himself came down to earth with His Angelic Orders, every time there is a Liturgy, in order to nurture man with His Most Holy Body and His Most Precious Blood!  For He has given us everything; is there anything physical or spiritual, perishable or everlasting that has not been offered to us?  None!  Is there anything superior to His Most Holy Body and Blood, which is given to us on a daily basis?  There is certainly not.  God has enabled man, who is of soil and dirt, to serve the Divine Liturgy.  So Priceless is the Divine Love that just a tiny drop exceeds any global, physical and secular love.”

From Experiences During the Divine Liturgy, by Protopresbyter Stephanos K. Anagnostopoulos.

Orthodoxy is the First Church. It is the living, unbroken continuation of the Faith as first given to the Apostles. This doesn’t mean that the Orthodox Churches have researched and attempted to re-create the Primitive Church. It means that we live, pray and preach continuously and consistently every day since the time of the Apostles.

Since we don’t believe in things like “development of doctrine,” Orthodox teaching has been carefully safeguarded and faithfully passed down through the centuries. Thus the Divine Liturgy has and always will be the same.

“Liturgy” comes from a Greek word that means “a common effort” and “divine”; and relates to the worship of God. So the Divine Liturgy is the common effort of Orthodox Christians to worship God. It is the primary public form of Orthodox Christian worship, wherein we celebrate the Eucharist — Holy Communion with God in Christ. The version of the Divine Liturgy celebrated on most Sundays is that of St. John Chrysostom, the 5th century Archbishop of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. We also use the slightly longer Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, the 4th century Archbishop of Caesarea, on 10 occasions each year; for instance, on the Sundays of Great Lent.

The Eucharist is the high point of the Divine Liturgy. During the Liturgy, the faithful call on the Holy Spirit to consecrate the bread and wine, making them by grace, the Body and Blood of Christ. Some other Christian traditions have tried to explain this. Orthodox Christians are content to accept this Sacrament as a mystery by faith.

The Savior Himself said, I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst… If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh (John 6:35,51). At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat: this is My Body, which is broken for you for the remission of sins.”. And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you: this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins.”  (Matt. 26:26-28; cf. Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13; 1 Cor. 11:23-30).

This institution of the Eucharist by our Lord, is the means whereby we become united with Christ and with each other as a Church, for, as St. Paul says, the goal of every Christian is to grow up in every way into Him Who is the head, into Christ, from Whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied – makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love (Eph. 4:15-16).

This is so, since Christ is the head of the Church, His body, and is Himself its Savior (Eph. 5:23), we become part of the Mystical Body of Christ by our communion of the Holy Eucharist. As St. Paul says: The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (1 Cor. 10:16-17).

The Holy Eucharist is called the “sacrament of sacraments” in the Orthodox tradition. It is also called the “sacrament of the Church.” The Eucharist is the center of the Church’s life. Everything in the Church leads to the Eucharist, and all things flow from it. It is the completion of all of the Church’s sacraments—the source and the goal of all of the Church’s doctrines and institutions.

Who here today, truly believes that the Bread and Wine changes into the Real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, during the Liturgy?

Who believes, when I read, just before Communion: “I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, Who didst come into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. Moreover, I believe that this is truly Thy most pure Body, and that this is truly Thine Own Precious Blood…

Who here, truly believes this, believes this by Faith?  This is the essence of our Orthodox Faith! 

Going back to the Saints of the Church; Here is what a couple of them had to say:

St. Ignatius of Antioch states,
“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God…They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).

Saint John of Kronstadt, in ‘My Life in Christ’, states;

“I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” So it is, Master: Thou art with us throughout all days; we are not a single day without Thee, and we cannot live without Thy presence near us! Thou art with us especially in the Sacrament of the Body and Blood. O, how truly and essentially art Thou present in the Holy Mysteries! Thou our Lord in every liturgy takest upon Thyself a vile body similar to ours in every respect save that of sin, and feedest us with Thy life-giving flesh. Through the Sacrament Thou art wholly with us, and Thy Flesh is united to our flesh, whilst Thy Spirit is united to our soul; and we feel this life-giving, most peaceful, most sweet union, we feel that by joining ourselves to Thee in the Holy Eucharist we become one spirit with Thee as it is said: “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” We become like Thee, good, meek and lowly, as Thou hast said of Thyself: “I am meek and lowly in heart.”

True, it is that often our evil and blind flesh, or the prince of this world, who dwells in our simple flesh, whispers to us that the Sacrament contains only bread and wine, and not the very Body and Blood of our Lord Himself, and sends sight, taste, and feeling as his crafty witnesses to this. But we do not allow ourselves to listen to these slanders and reason thus. To Thee, Lord, everything is possible: Thou createst the flesh of men, animals, fishes, birds, reptiles, of all creatures, is it possible that for Thyself, Thou “Who art everywhere, and fillest all things”, wilt not create flesh?  Not only this, Thou changest a dead substance into a living one–as, for instance, Moses’s rod into the serpent–and there is nothing impossible for Thee. Canst Thou not, therefore, create flesh for Thyself out of bread and wine, which are so near to our flesh, being used for food and drink, and thus being converted into our own flesh and blood? Thou dost not test our faith more than it can bear, for Thou dost not transubstantiate a lump of earth into Thy most-pure Body, but white bread, soft, clean, pleasant to the taste; and Thou doest not create Thy Blood from water, but from wine, called in Holy Scripture the blood of the grape, corresponding in color to that of blood, agreeable to the taste, and rejoicing the heart of man. Thou knowest our infirmity, the weakness of our faith, and therefore Thou condescendest to employ in the Sacrament of Thy Body and Blood the substances most suitable to them. Let us, therefore, firmly believe that under the form of bread and wine we communicate of the true Body and of the true Blood of our Lord; that in the mystery of Holy Communion, Jesus Christ Himself will dwell with us “always, even unto the end of the world.”


“The Lord might have made the whole world, heaven and earth, into His own body; or instead of creating the world, He might have created for Himself a temple for His body; and it is only on your account that He deigned to create to Himself a Body similar to your own, in order to save you, and having created the world from nothing, He has also created out of a small part of it His Body to give life to you, leaving the world to remain as He created it. O goodness and mercy of God! “We are members of His Body” through the communion of His life-giving Mysteries!”

St John of Kronstadt received the Holy Eucharist on a Daily basis.  This is how he started his day, with Christ!  The partaking of His Body and Blood, is that important to our physical, emotional, and spiritual welfare.

SO, where do you stand?  Do you believe?  If you truly do, then why do you not receive His Body and Life giving Blood, each and every Sunday?

If you do not believe and consider yourself an Orthodox Christian, then why are you here, in an Orthodox Church, attending the Divine Liturgy?  You hear me say most every week, you must give up the worldly goods and passions and come to Him who created you, God Almighty.

Faith is a hard thing…… but a necessity as Orthodox Christians.  Pray, continue to Pray, daily, and ask God to guide you to Him!  Partake, of His Body and Blood weekly!  Let Him offer Himself to you, to nourish you for your coming week.

Don’t go without HIM!!

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