Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How to Recognize Vainglory

Often in our spiritual practice we find ourselves struggling.  We try and try but the effort seems so hard.  What is the problem?  Why do we often feel anxious that our efforts do not yield the results we seek?  Why does God seem distant and unreachable even when we try so hard?

Elder Paisios gives us some insight into this common problem.

He says,
We need to be careful in our spiritual life.  When spiritual people are affected by vainglory, they feel very little satisfaction, and they are left with a sense of emptiness in their heart.  There is no fulfillment, no rejoicing of the heart, and as their vanity increases, the emptiness inside makes them suffer even more.  Where there is anxiety and despair, there is a demonic spiritual life.  You should not feel anxiety over anything at all. Anxiety comes from the devil.  Wherever you see anxiety, you must know that the devil has been at work.  The devil will not go against the current.  If there is a predisposition, he will push in that direction in order to cause us trouble and deceive us.
When in the course of our spiritual struggle we feel anxiety we must know that we are not moving within the realm of God...
In other words, one should not strive with an unhealthy fastidiousness... Christ is full of love, kindness and consolation and He never stifles, but gives abundant oxygen and divine consolation.
So what do we do to avoid this condition. We must be kind to ourselves and accept that we are prone to make mistakes, to be tired. We need to have humility and set aside our self-proclaimed righteousness depending on our own efforts. 

Elder Paisios advises us to live the spiritual life not in our minds, but in our hearts. He says,
Never do a job without putting your trust in God with great humility, because otherwise you will agonize and you will tire your mind and soul. It is a lack of faith that hides behind anxiety, but pride can cause anxiety also.
If you cannot complete your required prayer rule, don't force yourself through your own efforts.  Relax and turn to God.  If it is because you are too tired to complete it, ask God's forgiveness and get some sleep. Then the next day arrange your schedule so that you will not be in this same condition again.  Entrust everything to God and God will guide you. 

The Elder tells us to keep the mind always close to God.  This applies to all situations where you are having difficulty in completing your task.  Trust in God and seek His help.

When we try through our own efforts and feel anxiety, this is the sign of vainglory.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Are The Rules of a Good LIfe Outwardly Imposed?

Saint Theophan raises this questions when he writes, "I think many people do not live as they should, because they think that rules about the worthwhile life are outwardly imposed, and, not springing from man's very nature."

The answer is that the relationship of the soul and the body is out of balance. The problem develops when the physical, carnal and sensual life of the body becomes our main focus.  We tend to seek the gratification only of our physical needs forgetting our spiritual needs.  We mix the basic needs we have for survival for the needs we have to reach for our spiritual needs - our salvation or union with God.  We try to fulfill our spiritual needs mistakenly by over gratification of physical demands. We are overtaken, as Saint Theophan explains, "by a one-sided relationship, which comes from a certain inner compulsion, which is found in it as a sort of instinct, creature-love, love for the body, the desire to maintain the comfort of the body and obtain all that is needed for it."

We find we are not free because we are always chasing after physical needs to satisfy those which are not physical; at the same time those around us are doing exactly the same thing.  The minds and spirits of these people are inevitably famished, if not completely deadened, stopped up, and immersed in sensuality.

Source: The Spiritual Life, p 45-48

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Why Are We Always Rushing?

Today it seems like everyone is in a hurry.  Each hour of the day is filled with appointments and we seem to aways a bit behind our planned schedule.  Why do we allow our life to be like this?  Why do we attempt to do so many things?  Why do we create a life that is nothing but busyness?

Elder Paisios says,
May God forgive me, but the world has become a huge madhouse! No one think of the next life anymore.  All they want is is more and more material goods. This is why they cannot find peace and run around constantly.
...If people lived eternally in this life, there would be no greater hell.  With the stress they have, if they lasted one hundred years like people did in Noah's time, their lives would be hell.
We read in Psalms, 
The years of our life are three-score and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone and we fly away. (Ps 90:10)
Its no wonder why so many have such difficulty in this life.  We try anything to escape.  We take magical vacations to false places like Disney World, or cruises on dream ships where all our passions are catered too, we escape to a movie house and immerse ourselves in fantasy, or read a novel, and so forth.  All the wile plotting to find ways to escape from this "hell" we find ourselves in.

The Orthodox Way of Life is they easiest way to escape this situation and live a live centered on God.

See: Ten Points for an Orthodox Way of Life 

Source: With Pain and Love for contemporary Man, p 169-170

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Laws that Falsely Bind Us

Do you feel that you are bound up by social norms? Do you find you schedule controlled by others?  Are you driven by some external force to unending busyness?  Do feel you have to dress in a certain way and adhere to certain social norms in your group?  Is there a part of you that feels like you can't act the way you really want too?  Do your Orthodox values and way of life seem to conflict with these other forces?

Marcarius the Great says,
The children of this age have become like wheat poured into the sieve of this earth, and then scattered among the inconstant dreams of this world, in the presence of the unending turmoil of earthly cares, desires and maze of material concepts. Satan shakes the souls, and with the sieve, that is, the earthly cares, scatters the entire sinful human race. ...The more the wheat in the sieve is shaken about, turned over and cast up, the more the prince of darkness takes over all people with their earthly cares: he shakes them, agitates them and alarms them, forcing them to flee to vain thoughts, unclean desires, earthly and worldly bonds.... The prince of this world disturbs every soul which is not born from God, and he disturbs human ideas, which are like what constantly being shaken in the sieve leading everyone into uncertainty, and ensnaring them with worldly seductions, pleasures of the flesh, terrors and confusions." (Homily 5:1,2)
Shaken in the Sieve of earthly cares, we must realize that the chains that seem to bind us are the very forces that are trying to keep you from a God pleasing life. Most of us  find ourselves caught up in a  life which is lived to satisfy the needs of a godless society that promotes a life based on pride and egoism.  We want to be accepted according to others norms and values.  The goals of others are impeding on our desire to live a life according to the Will of God.  Even the so called good deeds are no more than acts done to satisfy social norms and our own egos. 

Here is some advice from Saint Theophan the Recluse:
For you to shun everyone is, of course impossible; but refuse as much as possible to enter into this circle of worldly life.  When it does pull you against your will, act as if you were not there; look, but do not see; listen but do not hear.  Let what you see pass by your eyes, and what you hear pass by your ears.  Outwardly behave like everyone else, be straightforward and sincere; but guard your heart from sympathies and attractions.  The main thing is to guard your heart.
This is our challenge: to live a live according to Orthodox values while acting in a world which is not based on these values. This requires a strong faith nourished by the Orthodox way of Life

Source: The Spiritual Life p.39 - 44

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Prayer

We bless Thee, O most high God and Lord of mercy, Who art ever doing numberless great and inscrutable things for us––glorious and wonderful; Who grantest to us sleep for rest from our infirmities, and repose from the burdens of or much toiling flesh.  We thank Thee that Thou hast not destroyed us with our sins, but hast loved us forever; and though we are sunk in despair, Thou hast raised us up to glorify thy power.  Therefore, we implore Thine incomparable goodness: enlighten the eyes of our understanding and raise up our mind from the heavy sleep of indolence; open our mouth and fill it with Thy praise, that we may be able––without distraction––to sing and confess Thee, Who are God glorified in all and by all, the eternal Father, with Thine Only-begotten Son, and thine All-Holy and good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen

St. Basil the Great

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Our Routines Can Imprison Us

Have you heard this before? "I don't have time for prayer or to attend all the Church services?"  "Why should I visit a sick person in the hospital -- it is a long way off and what the purpose of it?"  "Help the poor? That is impossible.  They need to learn to hep themselves. What can I do for them?"

This is what we often hear from people who seem to have everything but still feel stressed in their daily life. We are filled with busyness.

Elder Paisios says,
When we see a person who has everything be stressed, anxious and sad, we must know that God is missing from his life.  In the end even wealth will make people suffer, because the material goods cannot really satisfy them.  I know wealthy people who have everything and are miserable... I told someone, "since you have some free time, do something spiritual; read one of the Hours of prayer, read a passage from the Gospel." "I cannot," he said. "Then," I told him, "try doing something good; go to a hospital to visit some sick person."  "Why should I go all the way there," he says, "What will become of it?"  "Go help some poor person in your neighborhood."  "No," he says, "that does not please me either." ...Do you know how many people like this there are in society? And these people suffer to the point that they lose their mind.  What a dreadful thing!  And if they happen to be independently wealthy and do not work, then they are the most vulnerable of all....
The comforts of life, our satisfaction with our current routine blocks us from activities that allow us to practice the virtues taught to us by Jesus Christ. We can become corrupted by our own comforts where we are unable to even consider doing the will of God  We drown ourselves in a world made up of our will and thoughts.  This is the worst kind of imprisonment.  These are the chains that we need to liberate ourselves from and learn how to liberate others as well.

Reference: with Pain and Love for Contemporary Life, p 168-169

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Living As We Were Created

Our nature is complex.  There is more than one part to our being.  Many of our problems that lead us to anxiety and discomfort are due to the fact that we are paying attention to only one part of our being.

Saint Theophan the Recluse says,
Human life is complex and multifaceted.  It has physical, mental and spiritual aspects.  Each has its own powers, needs and modes, and the exercise and satisfaction of them.  Only when all our powers are in motion and all our needs are satisfied does a man live.  But when only one small portion of his power is in motion, and only an small number of his needs are satisfied, this life is not life.... It is necessary for us to live as God created us, and when someone does not live this way, I may confidently say he does not live at all...
A good life is one where we give the same attention to our spiritual needs as we give to our physical and mental needs.  When we neglect this one part we do not live as we were created. We are then subject to anxiety and possible suffering.

Reference: The Spiritual Life, p 38

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why is Life So Stressful?

Today's life is full of stress.  What is it that makes it this way?  We seem to have all the comforts we could possibly imagine.  Even in the most well off people there is still this sense of anxiety and busyness.  Is it our worldly comforts that are the culprit?

Elder Paisios offers some thoughts on this subject. He is direct in saying, yes, it is these worldly pleasures that are at the root of the problem.

He says,
Worldly stress is the result of worldly happiness, of worldly pleasures and self-indulgence.  Educated externally and being full of anxiety, hundreds of people (even young children) are driven to psychoanalysis and psychiatrists.  New psychiatric hospitals are being built and young psychiatrists go on for post-graduate studies.  Many of them do not even believe in God or accept the existence of the soul.  How can these people help the human soul when they themselves are full of anxiety?  How can one feel truly comforted if he does not believe in God and in the true and eternal life after death?  When man grasps the deeper meaning of this true life, stress goes away, divine consolation comes and he is healed...
The answer to our anxiety is not drugs, alcohol, tranquilizers or psychiatric treatment.  It will not be cured by Yoga or some new age or eastern meditation practice.  The problem is that we have lost God as the center of our lives.  Once we make our love of God the primary focus of our lives and allow His grace to work though us, then no matter what circumstance we encounter in life we will be comforted and embraced in His love.  All anxiety disappears.  This is the aim of the Orthodox way of life––To put God first and seek the Holy Spirit.  The anxieties of modern life are only symptoms of our separation from God.

Saint Theophan the Recluse adds the following about anxiety:
Are you thinking of arranging your life on your own, through your own efforts and abilities, as if that was what you were told?  Take a look, and if this is indeed the case, rush to correct it.  With this attitude you will not get rid of your confusion....
Seek the help of your spiritual father, participate int he sacraments of the Church, follow the fasting guidelines, read holy Scripture daily, and have a firm rule of daily prayer.

Reference: With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man, p 167-168

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How to Develop Patience - Candy?

Patience is something most us us long for.  Too often we find ourselves upset because something does not happen how and when we want it to. But how can we develop greater patience?

Elder Paisios gave some good advice about how to develop patience to one of his followers.  When he was asked about how to acquire patience, he went into his cell and brought out a bag of candy.  

He gave to him and said: 
"Take two a day.  However, do not chew them. Be patient and wait until they melt in your mouth."

Do you see the wisdom he uses here?  He takes something so simple, eating candy, something that is an everyday thing, and turns it into a spiritual exercise. He makes the exercise simple and doable.  You too can find many of these opportunities in your daily life to help develop virtues such as patience.

Reference: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 144

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why Simplify Your Life?

Often we think how lucky people are who seem to have abundanant finacial resources and can enjoy all the latest gadgets, the finest cars and large beautiful homes in magnificent settings. As the old saying goes, "Beware of what you pray for."  The life style that leads to an abundance of material wealth frequently involves much more anxiety and a greater focus on worldly matters, distracting you from spiritual matters which in the end are the most important.

Elder Paisios advises,
These days, I stress simplicity to lay people too, because of many things they do are not necessary and they end up being consumed by Anxiety... I constantly scold them, "If you want to get rid of anxiety, simplify your lives!" That is how most divorces start.  People have to do too many things, too many obligations and they get dizzy.  Both parents work and abandon the children.  The result is fatigue and nervousness, which causes small issues to turn into large quarrels and then to automatic divorces; that's where they end up.  But if they simplified their lives, they would find rest and joy.  Stress is catastrophic.
After this advice he tells the story of an very wealthy man who told him he lived in "Paradise." He replied to him, "You live in Hell." Then he follows with the following story of a simple man who was most cheerful, praising God, full of humility and simplicity.  Even though he was very busy, this man came to see the Elder early in the morning to seek prayers for his family which consisted of his seven children and parents who all lived with him.
He spoke with great simplicity. "The room fits us all if we stand up, but if we lie down it is a bit tight.  Thank God, now we are constructing a shed to use as a kitchen and we are doing fine.  Father," he said "at least we have a roof over our head, while other people live in the open air."
The man was an ironer, He lived in Athens and had to leave everyday before dawn to arrive in Piraeus for work in a dry-cleaning shop.  He was suffering from varicose veins as a result of having to stand up all that time and his legs bothered him a lot, but his love for his family made him forget his pain and discomfort.  In fact, he pitied himself constantly for not having, as he said, an love in his heart, because he did not do any acts of Christian charity and praised his wife for being charitable.  Apparently, besides taking care of her children and her parents in-law, she would wash clothes of some elderly men in the neighborhood, tidy up their homes and even cook a little something, like soup, for them.   You could see divine grace depicted on the face of the good family man.  He had Christ in his heart and was full of joy, just like his one-room house was filled with heavenly bliss.  Compare this man with people who do not have Christ in their heart; they are filled with anxiety.  Take two of them and try to fit them in a house large enough for eleven people; they will not find a way to fit.
The key to simplicity in life is a Christian life where God is the focus of our life.  When God is the center of life, no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in we will be thankful and have joy in our heart.  But, this requires humility which usually goes in hand in hand with a simple life.

Resource: With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man, p 184

Thursday, November 18, 2010

When Is it OK to Lie?

We all know that lying is a sin. But how about when we lie for a good cause? Can we lie to save someone's life?

Elder Paisios give this advice,
It is a sin for someone to lie.  When he lies for a good cause, i.e. to save someone else, this is half a sin, because the lie is for the benefit of his fellow man and not for himself.  However it is also considered a sin; therefore, we should keep it in mind, and not fall into the habit of telling lies for insignificant things.
In our day-to-day world we are bombarded with advertisements trying to influence us.  Many of the claims are partial lies or half- truths intended to deceive us into thinking something other than what is the full truth.  This is also a form of lying that we are commonly caught up in.  Do we not often tell half-lies (a bit of embellishment) during our daily activities to make things seem better than they really are?  Lies of all kinds will do us harm unless we recognize the error in engaging in them.

Elder Paisios gives some advice to business owners.
There are good and bad merchants, honest and dishonest ones.  The honest ones tell the truth, use good materials and their prices are reasonable.  The others lie and make illicit profits.  At the beginning people ignore the honest merchant and his shop runs the risk to close down. Later on, though, God reveals the fraudulence of he dishonest ones and gives His blessing to the honest merchants.
In the end he is saying that we are rewarded by our truthfulness.  But in the short term we may be put at an disadvantage materially.  This is why there is so much lying in our day-to-day world and why we must struggle not to engage in such activity. Any sin can separate us from God.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Power of the Sacraments

How often we struggle in life and do not take advantage of the Sacraments of the Church that God gave to us to help us with these struggles.  All sacraments are the work of the Holy Spirit and are healing for those who are true believers.

Elder Paisios when approached by a person who was seeking help for a brother who was seriously ill gave the following advice: 
Tell him to go to Confession, receive Holy Communion and consciously join the Church; very soon he will feel better.
The Church has a great reservoir of spiritual powers in its Sacramental life.  We must remember to properly humble ourselves and participate in them regularly.  One that is avoided for dangerous reasons is the sacrament of Holy confession.  It is said by many to be among the most powerful of the sacraments.  Also when we attend Church we should always be prepared to receive Holy Communion.  It is for our healing, forgiveness of our sins, for eternal life with God.   

Does this mean that the Elder is telling us not to use doctors? Of course not!
He says,
I always indicate to people who suffer from physical illnesses and want to be cured to go to Christian Doctors.
You see he is not negating the use of the gifts of modern medicine or any other gifts God has give to us.  He is trying to encourage us to participate with faith in the greatest power of all, the Holy Spirit.

Reference: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 139

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How are Retarded Children Treated Spiritually?

According the Elder Paisios parents should have joy for their mentally challenged children.  Here is why.
Parents who have retarded children, must not feel sad for them, because their souls are already saved.  On the contrary, they must be happy, because their children, without making any efforts, have earned paradise.  What else can parents wish for their children?  If they face their child's defect in a spiritual way, they are also benefited and rewarded by God.

Reference: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 138 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Advice for Someone in Beginning of Spiritual LIfe

Frequently when we are beginning our spiritual journey we put emphasis on study.  Some strive to read all the books we can.  Beware, as this can be a mistake.  Spiritual growth comes from a keen understanding of ourselves.  Reading and studying often only postpones the work we need to do to know the causes of our own actions.  

Here is some advice from Elder Paisios,
When someone is in the beginning of his spiritual life, he should not study a lot, but instead watch himself and observe his thoughts.
This does require time for introspection and a mind that is not too busy.  This is why it is also important to begin a regular prayer life that includes a practice like praying the Jesus Prayer.  Of course, we need to know the details of our faith and the teachings of the Scripture.  But, in the end we need to know our own weaknesses, prejudices, and habits so we can consciously seek help to change our behaviors to live the virtues that Jesus taught us.

Reference: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 131

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Advice for a Married Couple

It is important for a  married couple to grow together in their spiritual life.  They should pray together and also have the same spiritual father who can guide them as a couple.

Here is the advice form Elder Paisios,
It is for the benefit of the married couple to have the same spiritual father.  He acts in the same way as the carpenter does, when he wants to join two pieces of wood.  He cuts off the knobs, so the two pieces become smooth and can be easily collated.
It is best for all the members of the family to have the same spiritual father, so he will know their problems and be able to give proper advice to each one of them.

Reference: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 130 - 131 

Friday, November 12, 2010

In Face of Injustice How Do We Explain Divine Justice?

The following is a story told by Elder Paisios about a man who was seeking to understand the nature of Divine Justice.  The man's elder sent him to observe life from a hidden place and here is what He saw.

First, he saw a rich man stop along the road where there was a spring for a rest.  He watched him take out his purse and count 100 gold coins.  But, when he got back on his horse he absentmindedly left his purse lying there.  Later, another man comes along and finds the purse and immediately takes off with it.  Next, a poor man comes and sits down in the same spot to eat some bread.  About this time the rich returns to retrieve his lost purse.  He finds the poor man there who knows nothing about the purse. Thinking the poor man was lying, the rich man beats him thinking he stole the purse. He beat him so badly that he died. But when he examines his pockets he does not find the purse.

The man sent to observe life turned to the Lord in prayer saying: "Lord, what is the meaning of this Will of yours? Please explain how Your Benevolence can tolerate such injustice?"  A angel of the Lord then answered him as follows:
"Of all the things you just witnessed, some were by God's concession, others were for education, and others had providential reasons.  He who lost the coins was the neighbor of the one who found them.  The latter had an orchard worth 100 gold coins.  Being greedy, the rich man forced him to sell it for only 50 coins.  The disadvantaged man turned to God in prayer and asked for God to take care of this injustice. Therefore his discovery of the purse with the 100 gold coins was God's providence which had responded to his prayer to give him his money back two fold."
"The poor man who was murdered unjustly also committed murder once in his life.  He had repented and afterwards lived a God pleasing life.  He constantly asked God to forgive him for the murder and to give him a death just like the one he had inflicted."
"Naturally, the Lord forgave him based on his repentance.  God was moved by his sincerity and his efforts to live a life according to His commandments and his desire to pay for his crime.  Thus the Lord granted him his wish and allowed  him to die a violent death and then took him into His bosom.
Finally, the greedy man who lost all his gold coins and then committed the murder would have a disastrous end due to his greed and love of money. God therefore allowed him to fall into the sin of murder so that his soul would be severely pained and he would seek to repent. The result was that this person did repent and abandoned all worldly pleasures and become a monk.
"Now in which of these cases did you find God to be unjust or cruel or insensitive?"
This is the nature of Divine Justice.  You must not concern yourself with in-depth examination of God's judgments, because He metes them out fairly, in the manner that He deems appropriate, when you on the other hand misconstrue them as injustices.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Key to Humility - Knowing our Weaknesses

One who is humble is one who can admit his mistakes.  Elder Paisios takes this one step further and says its even better to be aware of our weaknesses.

He says,
The one who realizes his mistakes, has already progressed half way.  However, it is also very important for him to sense his weaknesses.  It is much better to be aware of our own weaknesses, than to struggle very hard, while neglecting it.
Why is this so important?  Because when we know our weaknesses, then, we have a chance of avoiding our mistakes.  For example, if we have a problem with drinking too much, we can stay away from activities that encourage drinking.  If we are prone to become argumentative then we can avoid the friends or TV commentators that encourage this.  Once we know our weaknesses, we can arrange our life to avoid those situations where our weakness leads us to mistakes.

Reference: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 130

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why We Can't Get Rid of A Passion even When We Struggle Against It.

It is a common complaint that even when one struggles to rid themselves of a passion it just wont go away.  The more we struggle our passion seems to get more intense.  Why is this so?  Why does it not just disappear based on our efforts?

Elder Paisios has this to say,
We should know that when we strive to free ourselves from a passion and it doesn't go away, it is either because we have egoism and pride, or because we criticize and condemn our fellow workers.
Is it not true that the things we don't like in ourselves we condemn in others?  Do you see what this is doing to us?  As we judge others the standard for our own behavior increases and we sub-consciously justify our own condition with the failings of others.  We are put ourselves above others in our criticism of them.  As a result we develop even greater pride.  Then, when we think we are making progress, we may feel superior to others and criticize them even more.  Have you noticed how those who attend Church every Sunday tend to be the ones who criticism those who only come periodically?  Isn't it the recent convert that tends to have the most vocal criticism of those who are not Orthodox or even of his fellow Orthodox parishioners? Isn't the smoker who has just quit the most vocal about how nasty a habit it is and is the one who campaigns to stop others from smoking?  It is this judgmental orientation that makes our struggle so difficult.  We make a personal effort filled with pride.  As we exert our self-will the passion only gets stronger and more difficult to eliminate because of our pride.  

When we humble ourselves and seek forgiveness and help from God, we receive His grace which helps us overcome the passion we are attacking.

A final thought from the Elder,
You should struggle while you are young, because when you get older you can do nothing; older people get annoyed even at the draft coming through a keyhole.

Reference: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 127

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beware of Teaching Children Pride.

Most of us parents are very proud of our children.  We are continually reinforcing their accomplishments with praise and telling them how wonderful they are.  But is this heathy for them?  This is a question that surely will draw much discussion and differing viewpoints.

Here is what Elder Paisios has to say,
Many parents, thinking they dearly love their children, end up destroying them without realizing it.  For example, a mother, who excessively loves her daughter, tells her while holding her in her arms: "I have the best chid in the world."  Therefore, from a very young age (when a child is unable to realize it and react against it) the child acquires a haughty mind-set and believes she is a nice person.  As a result, she is unable to sense the lack of God's presence and his benevolent power in her life and of course, cannot learn to ask for Him.  Consequently, she develops a self-confidence as stiff as marble, which often never goes away, since, as the time goes by, it becomes very difficult to get rid of it.
The challenge of a parent is to help their child develop a healthy self-esteem which includes humility, while teaching them that all comes from God.  Truly, we are all God's children and everything we have and can do comes from Him.  It is important to remember to thank Him for the gifts He gives us and out ability to develop and apply them.  Pride develops when we think our accomplishments are all our doing or that we are inherently better than others.

How about the extreme emphasis on sports and it competitiveness?  A recent survey showed that those who participate in the major sports of baseball, basketball or football are more likely to cheat in school.  These activities which emphasize personal accomplishment independent of God can lead our children away from God making it more difficult for them in later life to repent and come closer to God.

We as parents have an awesome responsibly.  First we have to develop humility ourselves.

Elder Paisios says,
Parents must look after their spiritual life, because apart from themselves, they are also responsible for their children.  Of course, they have the excuse of having inherited their negative traits fromt ehir own parents; they have no excuse, however, for not trying to get rid of them, once they become aware of their existence.
Work continually on your own relationship with God and you will continually become a better parent.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Raising Christian Children

What are the demands on a Christian parent?  How are we to bring up our children as Christians? The main thing is to act like Christians ourselves.

Here is some wisdom from Elder Paisios.
Parents must live like true Christians and be careful of their behavior.  Children are like computers; since a very early age, they register in their minds everything they see, or hear happening in their homes.  If they see their father and mother quarreling, cursing and using bad language, they record everything in their mind's tape.  So, when they grow older, they start cursing and quarreling using their parents language.  They behave this way, without really wanting to, but because they have inherited the pathetic behavior of their parents. Later on, when they realize their mistakes, they find it difficult to correct them.
As a parent every action you take is important when you raise children.  It is not necessarily what you say but how you act that teaches them the Orthodox way of life.  It's essential to show them the virtues as well as the way to practice their faith  Parents should pray with their children, attend Church regularly, participate with them in the sacraments, especially Confession and Holy Communion.  A parent's habit becomes the child's habit.  This is the way to raise Christian children.

Reference: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 124

Saturday, November 6, 2010

How About Both Parents working?

Often we hear the idea of both parents working cast in moral terms.  Some say to be a good Christian the mother should stay home to care for the children because their primary responsibility is to provide a caring home.

Here is what Elder Paisios has to say,
Both the father and mother will be responsible for not looking after their children and taking care about their future.  Not only is it not considered a sin if both of them work to earn more money in order to be able to pay for their children's studies, or build a house for their daughter, but it is their duty to do so.  The parents, who do not look after their children, are not good parents and they will have to justify their actions to God.  Sin is to earn money out of self-interest and not to have trust in God's providence.
The important question to ask is what is the reason that both parents work.  It is out of self-interest, prestige, or the attraction of a luxury way of living, or is it out of a need to care for their children.  Caring for our children is an essential responsibility in the eyes of God.

Reference: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 124

Friday, November 5, 2010

How to pray for those we do not like

Elder Paisios in his deep wisdom shows us how to pray for those who we may think are even destroying the Church.
During the times of Patriarch Athenagora, some people went to the Elder and told him:
- Father, the actions of the Patriarch have made us very angry and we pray that he dies, so we may have our peace of mind.
The Elder replied:
- This is not right  I also pray for him; I ask God to take days off my own life and give the to our patriarch, so that he may have plenty of time to repent.
Our prayers should always basking for the spiritual benefit for ourselves and others.

Source: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 115

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Advice about Confession

We all know the importance of Confession, but yet so few take advantage of it.  Here Elder Paisios shows us why it is so important.
A young man went to see the Elder.  I arrived the moment he was ringing the bell, and waited behind him. After a while, Father Paisios opened the door and came to the fence.
- What's up, young man, what do you want? asked the Elder.
- Father, I would like to see you and get your advice on something.
- Have you gone to confession? Do you have a spiritual father?
- No, Father, I don't have a spiritual father and I haven't gone to confession.
- Well, then you better go to confession and then come to see me.
- Why can't I see you, Father?
-I will explain to you, so you can understand.  Your mind is confused and troubled by the sins you have fallen into; as a result, you cannot realize the situation you are in.  So, you will not be able to give me a clear picture of your problem.  However, if you confess your sins, your mind will clear up and you will see things very differently.
Note how he relates confession to a clearing of the mind.  So often we think of it as having our names taken off the list for breaking some kind of law.  Elder  Paisios is lifting this sacrament to its true value, one of clearing our mind so we can more clearly see God, receive His grace, follow His commandments and understand the spiritual nature of our life.

The story continues as the young man does not take heed of the Elder's advice.
Father, maybe I am confused and troubled and unable to tell you what exactly is wrong with me, but you yourself can understand the nature of my problem and tell me what to do.
- Listen, even if I can see with a certain clarity what is wrong with you, you still have the problem inside you.  Since your mind is troubled, you will neither understand, nor remember what I will say to you.  If you go to confession and you are tuned in the same spiritual frequency with us, then we will be ale to communicate.  So, go to a spiritual father for confession and I will wait for your visit.
Without the cleansing that comes with confession, all the counseling we receive will fall on deaf ears and without the right understanding. We also need to take responsibility for our troubles and be willing to take them to our spiritual father and to offer them to God seeking forgiveness and direction about how to change our lives. Only then will we be able to listen and do something with the advice we receive. In this way the Holy Spirit works to cleanse our mind.  It is only when the mind is cleared of our troubles are we able to be open to hear the wisdom of an Elder like Paisios.

Source: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 120

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Our Relationship with the Natural World

Elder Paisios had a special relationship with all of God's creation  He knew the birds, the plants and even the snakes.  It is said that he had the same relationship with nature as Adam and Eve had before the original Sin.

It is said:
When we see the birds, we think how nice they taste when cooked with rice; when the Elder saw a bird, he would run to bring some bread to feed it.  When we walk in a pathway, we stretch our hand left and right to cut a flower or some leaves from a tree and we end up breaking one of it branches out of carelessness.  When the Elder saw a broken branch, he made up a splint to tie it up.  One could see similar indications of his love for nature and the animals around the area he lived.
So often we forget that we are all part of God's Creation and even abuse the garden of life that has been provided for our benefit.  God does call us to be good stewards of all His Creation.  We don't worship it, but we should venerate it and care for it.

Source: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 118

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Advice from Elder Paisios on Who to Vote For.

Have you voted yet?  Here is some advice from the Elder Paisios.

When some people whent to visit the Elder just before an election they asked who they should vote for.  And he replied:
- Vote for the one you believe it is best; the one who loves God and our country
 They always gave the same reply:
- They are all the same, Father.
Then he added:
- Well, look here.  All olive trees are the same; all of them are affected by the same disease called dakos. However, some are affected 100% by it, others 80% and others 50%. Since we are in need of olive trees, we have to look for the ones that are affected the least.  When we go to vote, we should always bear in mind two things: a) how much the candidate loves God and is thus a conscious member of the Church, and b) how much he loves his country and look solely after its interests and not his own.  If someone uses another criterion to vote, he is acting out of self-interrests and is not behaving like a true Christian.  Later on, divine justice will allow him to pay for his mistake.
Source: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 123 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dealing with Disagreements with Church Hierarchy

Elder Paisios gives us advice about how to deal with the numerous disagreements differing groups express about the Ecumenical Patriarch or other Hierarchs of the Church.  Some even talk as if they want to split from the Church and some even have. 

Here is a story told about Elder Paisios
A group of monks from Mount Athos, who were somewhat sensitive, were thinking of stopping commemorating the name of Patriarch Demetrios during the service, because they claimed he had publicly expressed a positive attitude towards the Vatican.  They went to Father Paisios to express their unbending opinion on the matter, and were bombarding him with various arguments to support their decision to stop commemoration of the Patriarch. 
When they asked him for his opinion, he replied:
- What can I say?  I am also very disappointed with our prime minister. He has destroyed Greece by passing so many anti-church laws, even though the Greek constitution is written in the name of the Holy Trinity. I cannot bear this situation any more, and for this reason, I decided to leave Greece and Mount Athos and go to Sinai.
The monks replied:
- For God's sake, Father, don't do such a thing.  Don't leave because of the prime minister, for any day now he will fall and we will find our peace of mind.
The Elder told them smiling:
- You do the same thing just as you have advised me to do.  Be patient because it is not right to be detached from the Church of Christ.  We must pray to God to enlighten the officials of our Church to teach rightly the word of truth.
See, again, how the Elder so wisely handles correcting others? 

Source: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 114