Monday, May 21, 2018

In Prayer: When the Holy Spirit Enters



Continuing with the teaching on Prayer by Elder Aimilianos: He has lead us from a dry struggle to silence, to a desire for the Holy Spirit and the awareness of the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven, waiting in anticipation of the Holy Spirit which seems to be nearby. Now he tells us about the entrance of the Holy Spirit into our prayer.

He writes,
The Holy Spirit begins to blow. It is the Holy Spirit who unites me to God, Who brings me into contact as regards His energies and I begin to have an inkling of what is happening. Then the Holy Spirit, Who is light, when He enters into me, reveals to me the depths of my heart.
We are unaware of what lingers in the depths of our hearts. So much of who we are lies hidden from us until the Holy Spirit enters.

He says,
When the Spirit comes close, He reveals to me, my beloved brethren, the blackness inside me, my sins, and I begin to have knowledge of myself. In physical silence, in spiritual silence, God begins to communicate with me by revealing what lingers in the depth of my soul.
 The Elder says it is “like a spotlight and illumines my heart.” ...I come to understand two things. God shows me through the entrance of the Holy Spirit that it is in the center of my soul, my heart, where I will be united with God. And second this is where the obstacles are that separate me from God. These are “ignorance and heedlessness”.

He says,
I neither remember Him nor know Him. Why? Because He is hidden by my passions...My heart is closed by my own passions; that’s what it means. What happens now is that I begin to learn what passion is and how I am controlled them. My ignorance is exposed and I now know why I have been repeating the prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.” I now know what it means in the Psalm that says “cleanse and make me whiter that snow.” I now can see what is the extent of the cleansing needed to be united with God in prayer. Now I really know I need His mercy. Now what is necessary for life in the Kingdom of Heaven is clear. I now know what passions are and all of them that are in me. I understand the needed battle that needs to take place to cleanse my heart. I now know how much I need His help.
The Elder says that now is the time “for us to see if we’ll accept or reject Him.” He also reminds us that up to this time we have only been playing a game with God.  Now the real struggle begins and if we accept Him we have the Holy Spirit to help us.

What do we have to do? He says we must be wary of our egotism that we have been hiding behind, we must accept this sinfulness that has been revealed.
I have to shatter my being...just as you use a nut-cracker to smash a nut and it makes a “crack” and splits open and you pick up the pieces, that’s what I have to do to my heart! So I can get out the rubbish and throw it away, so I can discover that what I am, what I have loved, what I have desired, what I have asked for in my prayer so far, all that is what Saint Paul calls refuse and I am called on to deny it. To understand that it is refuse, so I can be filled with God. 
He says that if feel that I really need to know God and need to clean out all the “rubbish,”  and that I will not deny God for the sake of myself and accept the challenge to clean up the mess, then I will find the first tears flowing from my eyes.

He says,
In my pain, I begin to cry out again: “My God, my God”. Now I’m saying “Come, Holy Spirit and cleanse me of my sin. Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, come and teach me in my ignorance, come abide in me, who am so bad, so full, and cleanse me of every stain. Take out whatever is inside me, so that you can come and dwell there”. Not I can say the prayer of the Spirit.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What comes after Silence in Prayer?



Silence comes gradually in prayer. This is our first stage in seeking a union with God. It is this silence where you are able to hear more than your heart beat. It is in silence that God can speak to us. In silence we come to know our soul and the life giving spirit that dwells within.

Elder Aimilianos says,
 I have to learn to be silent, that is, I have to learn to listen, I have to learn to wait, to await the voice of God. Within this silence, I’ll then be able to hear the beat of my heart, not the beat of my bodily heart, but I’ll feel my life-giving-Spirit, my hypostasis, which is none other than the Holy Spirit.
It is in silence that we can come to know and experience the Holy Spirit, the uncreated energies of God. It is in this silence of prayer that we begin to desire to acquire the Holy Spirit. We want to know what is the real meaning of the Holy Spirit. What we need is a revelation, Elder Aimilianos tells us, so we can understand the true meaning of the Holy Trinity revealed to us in Scripture. This is an experience that he says comes gradually.

He says,
The experience comes gradually, progress within our soul and God takes up His place within our being. And His steps and His voice mingle with our steps and our voice and then we become one with God.
This is all part of a long process that comes from our love of God, Our humbleness, our patience seeking and endurance in prayer. Eventually we develop this true desire for the Holy Spirit.

The Elder says,
We begin to desire the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, so that at some stage we can say:”Come and abide in us, Holy Spirit, and cleanse us from all stain” because our souls are full of stains, they fill our souls and there is nothing we ourselves can do about it
We want to be pure in heart so we can see God as Jesus promised us. Not in some future life but in our life right now. It is only in this way that we can do with certainty the will of God. With a soul cleansed of all stain we know His will for us and can begin to act as a loyal servant.

This stage of desiring the Holy Spirit is only a temporary stage. Once we realize that is is the acquiring of the Holy Spirit that is essential for us we still have not acquired it.

The Elder tells us,
We feel this anxious expectation, then we’ll progress and we’ll have that silent delight which we call the foretaste of the coming of the Spirit and awareness of the presence of God.
To be in communion with God we need to call for Him, we need to seek, we need to knock on His door as Scripture says. Then in silence with great anticipation we, in our complete humility, we realize that without the Holy Spirit we cannot understand, we cannot be cured of our blindness or the satins that block us from God. The Elder tells we must say, “Spirit, where are you for goodness’ sake. You teach me!”

Now we must wait in anticipation feeling that He is nearby.

The Divine Liturgy is a Gift of the Holy Spirit


The Divine Liturgy is truly a gift of the Holy Spirit to humanity. It is an initiation into the mysteries of the Spirit, a mode of the revelation of God and of all things heavenly. There is nothing in the Liturgy which is not revelatory of the Godhead and of the energies of the Holy Trinity.

Because we know and believe that God is our Father, we view the church, especially when we celebrate the Liturgy, as our true home. We come in and go out freely, we are happy to be here, we make the sign of the cross, we light our candles, we speak with our friends, and it is easy to see that the Orthodox feel that the church is their home… The Liturgy is our family our gathering, our house. And what a spacious house it is! Together with us are those who are absent, along with sinners, and with the wicked, and the dead, indeed, even those who are in hell, but who may yet remember something about God….

So we come to church, to our true home, and we are truly glad. This is the greatest privilege which a Christian can have. Here we experience the grace of God. We experience our salvation, the results of the redemptive work of our God, of Christ, the great “High Priest.”… Christ lives for us, he prays for us, and raises his hands to the heavenly Father… He has not ceased to urge our saints — and particularly His Mother of God — to intercede for us to the heavenly Father, for our hearts, for our sins, for our pains, for the disappointments of our life…. So don’t think that when we go to church, we are simply entering and exiting an ordinary building. Instead, we go up to, and make our entrance into, the Holy of Holies, into the heavens themselves…

When we enter church, then, we are traversing the distance from church to heaven… We see the bread and wine, but who among us does not believe they are Christ? We inhale the fragrance of wine and bread, but who among us does not believe this to be the body and blood of he Savior?…This is a sacrament. This is what a “mystery” of the church means…

Our liturgy is an exceeding great gift. No one is worthy of such greatness. No one can do anything without God. He alone makes these magnificent blessings real, and places them in our hands and hearts.

…And for this we say: Thank you, Lord our God, because you have brought down the ranks of angels and raised us up to heaven. We are found worthy to stand before the heavenly Father. What blessedness! What happiness!

But let each of us ponder how great and rich God has made us; how highly he has exalted us, dispite the fact that we are sinners! “Woe is me,” said Isaiah the prophet, for God himself has descended upon me, and I am afraid I will die. And this is what we should also say when we come to church. We should be afraid, but we should also rejoice. We should tremble, but our hearts should also leap for joy, because we are embracing God, and God is embracing us.

So we have come to church, to the Liturgy! Let nothing disturb the tranquility of your soul. God is present. Wherever we look, God is before us! If we don’t see Him, this doesn’t mean He isn’t there, but only that our eyes are not used to seeing Him…

With the eyes of our mind, let us see the king for whom we sinners opened the way, and let us say with the Psalmist: “Come let us worship and fall down before Him and cry to the Lord… for He is our God.” (Ps 94.6-7) Let us open the depths of our hearts to the Lord, who is present here with us, and let us advance more each and every day, so that we will be able to discover everything that God, our redeemer, has done for us.

Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra
An address give in Larnaca, Cyprus, 23 October 1988

Found it The Church at Prayer p67-72

Monday, April 9, 2018

Force of AI and Social Media

This is an important video to watch. Prof. Tufekci captures the essence of the massive new force being thrust on all of us via social media and tech giants like Facebook and Google. They are creating the data bases for machine intelligence to nurture our worst temptations just like the demons. It is the most significant force of our age which is just now being imposed upon us. We must take time to understand it and learn how to deal with it or our cultural values will continue to degrade to the lowest possible levels.  It is a force devoid of all spirituality. 
It’s not a long video but it will make you think. It is particularly pertenent with the current Facebook controversy under investigation.



https://www.ted.com/talks/zeynep_tufekci_we_re_building_a_dystopia_just_to_make_people_click_on_ads/up-next?language=en

Friday, March 2, 2018

Gregory Palamas on Noetic Prayer - Foundation of Orthodox Spirituality


Saint Gregory is one of the great heroes of the Orthodox faith. He stood against the logic of western scholastic thinking and defended the age old truth that man can know God through His energies. While the West rejected this reality in man and put all their faith in reason and philosophy, in the East knew that man can seek and have an intimate real experience in union with God's energies. This is commonly called noetic prayer. His teaching was confirmed in a council and is in agreement with the earlier Church Fathers.

Below are three videos that explain in simple terms ;what Saint Gregory taught.








Reference for this series of videos is the article by Metropolitan Hierotheos: Rationality & Mysticism

Monday, February 26, 2018

Why Do We Fast?


Fasting is an essential and important discipline for Orthodox Christians. We find the importance of fasting taught by Moses, the Prophets, Jesus Himself, His Apostles, Church Fathers, Church Canons, and reaffirmed in the recent Great Synod of the Church.

The reason it is so important is that it is an essential exercise to strengthen the soul, the will to do God’s will. 

Fasting is aimed at control of one of the most powerful bodily passions, hunger. What is it like when you hunger? We say we have hunger pangs. This pain in our stomach moves us to eat something. When we deny this pain or desire, what part of us is acting? It is our soul, our will. As we engage in this discipline out of our love for God and our intense desire to do His will, our soul becomes more capable of controlling the passions of the body that keep us from doing so. As we fast with faith and love of God we attract divine Grace that nurtures our soul and makes it stronger to do His will. Our connection with God is strengthened. In this way we become better able to overcome all the passions of our body, not just hunger.

This is why fasting is such an essential spiritual discipline.
In athletics, preparation is necessary to compete. Exercises are required to develop the muscles of the body. The same for the soul. Exercises are needed to develop the will of the soul to do God’s will. It must become strong enough to overcome evil forces and the temptations of our current day culture.

We are all fallen beings and find ourselves separated from God, struggling to regain our soul’s control over the body so we can live in union with Him. Our aim is to be reunited with God with eternal life in His Kingdom. To do so we must overcome our sinful nature and live according to His commandments. But we are like Paul who wonders why it is that he does what he does not want to do, and what he wants to do he does not do. He also says, using athletic analogies, that he must harden his body like a boxer to compete in the struggle he calls Spiritual warfare.

With our intense love of God, our desire to be untied with Him and to do His will, we are taught to fast regularly on Wednesdays and Fridays and participate in four fasting periods during the year.

It is important to see fasting as a positive effort in cooperation with God. It’s a proven means to bring us closer to Him when done out of our love for Him. If you make a commitment to follow the teachings of His Church you will experience how your soul is strengthened by this discipline.

Fasting cannot be seen as a virtue. It is the control of the passions that are virtues. Fasting is only a means necessary to develop virtues with the help of God’s Grace. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Watchfulness - Foundations of Orthodox Spirituality 3


Watchfulness is how the Church Fathers teach us to purify our heart so we can see God as Jesus told us. This is the third video in the series on the foundations of Orthodox spirituality.


Complete series