What is a merciful heart?
It is a heart on fire
for the whole of creation,
for the birds,
for the animals,
and for all that exists.
By the recollection of them
the eyes of a merciful person
pour forth tears in abundance.
By the strong and vehement mercy
that grips such a person’s heart,
and by such great compassion,
the heart is humbled
and one cannot bear to hear or to see
any injury or slight sorrow
in any in creation.
For this reason, such a person
offers up tearful prayer continually
even for irrational beasts,
for the enemies of the truth,
and for those who harm him,
that they be protected and receive mercy…
because of the great compassion
that burns without measure
in a heart that is
in the likeness of God.
St. Isaac the Syrian
Greek politicians flirting with the Greek Orthodox Church (the faith, the clergy and the symbols) is not a new phenomenon. Numerous politicians on our party political scene (with the exception of those on the Left) always flirted with the Christian beliefs of the Greeks, their spiritual leaders, and Orthodox semantics during election periods (and sometimes beyond).
On their part, many Greek bishops did not ignore these flirtatious advances. They cultivated political friendships, they offered electioneering support to the candidates and always tried to elicit a flash of publicity from the political system and a had a shot at getting up on the podium of power and “prestige”.
This is all well known. Charm on one hand and ecclesiastical “sins” on the other. All of us saw it and most of us remained silent at the ridiculousness of it all. While the “Right of the Lord” (which was mobilized by the cunningly stupid political game of the episcopate) could have possibly kept the Lord laughing, in that the image that was depicted, showed that, aside from magnanimity, in its gaiety the God of Christianity should also have plenty of humour…
This was until yesterday. Because more flirting today adds a new component, which pushes the boundaries and puts the risk index of the Church into the red zone. Golden Dawn’s extreme right wing attempt to usurp the faith, the cassock and its symbols (from the participation of their members in icon processions to the comical image of its skinhead MPs who make statements about “honour of Our Lady,” even their latest championship of the much loved elder of the Orthodox faithful , the late Fr. Paisios) is not the same as the earlier quaint charm of our whistle-stopping politicians across the party spectrum. It is just as hypocritical and insincere but its also adds something new: it comes from people who stand, in express terms, ideologically at the antithesis of Christian teaching. Golden Dawn is ideologically opposed to the Gospel words ”there is neither Jew nor Greek …” (Gal. 3.28). The outright rhetoric of hate bears no relation at all to the sermon of love and reconciliation. The ideology of racial supremacy, indicated by the Golden Dawn’s slogan “blood and honour” (inspired by Hitkler, in imitation of Blut und Boden) is the antithesis of what we find in the Old Testament where the patriarch Abraham is uprooted from his fatherland (Gen. 12.1), and counters the Christ of the New Testament who founds a new race and assembles His Church by breaking the bonds of family, blood and race (see, for example, Mark. 31-35 ˙ Mt. 8.11 and 8.22). And the primitive cult of fist-fighting also bears no relation to the ethos of “whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the left one also” (Mt 5,39 ˙ see also Rom. 12.17). To state that you are Christian, just to steal the votes of naive members of the Church is something we recognise from the past. However, to pretend to be a Christian, when your placement in public space is based on speech that is anti-Christ, is in another class and a dangerous phenomenon for the Church.
In terms of the Christian Faith, whatever contradicts the truth of Christ is the work of the devil, that is the one who divides, who wedges something between humans and the truth, in order to separate the former from the latter. Today, a political formation trying to do just that. Not to deliberately alienate the Christian faith – apparently Golden Dawn is not interested in the Christian faith, at all. However (and this applies to all those who care about the quality of our theological criteria) Golden Dawn propagates a demonic slander within the Church: that one be both a Christian and member of Golden Dawn
Church members have a duty to raise the alarm. A wolf has entered their flock…
[Not a great translation- but it was very idiomatic and translated quickly]
By Metropolitan Pavlos of Sisanios and Siatistis for Romfea.gr
I feel the need to say a couple of words knowing that they will annoy many. The reason for this is all that has happened around a vile cinematographic work.
Until recent events, objective criticism had decided that this was a work of dubious artistic value, a mediocrity.
The next piece of information we had was that the contributors to this work would seek conflict with the Church, but purely to promote the work and raise revenue.
Already some known people, always indignant with others and never themselves, asked what the Holy Synod would do about it.
The Synod did indeed consider the matter, they discussed it, they had information about the intentional conflict on the part of the play’s makers and decided to react with caution, without giving them their desired result.
However, there are always those who consider their opinion to be the correct one. Those who believe that every view different from their own is treacherous.
They forget that doing the right thing (good) has to be done in a good way in order for it to be good.
In the end, the pitiful makers of the work achieved their aim.
It was widely publicised. The real culprits were presented as victims. It was presented as art, this vulgarity of their inner world. They were placed under the protection of that famous lobby Tatsopoulos and Repousi and company [Translator: Left wing members of the Greek parliament known for their 'progressive' anti-Church stance] . Thus, the so the so-called defenders of Christ became the best publicists for a vulgar mediocrity.
Presenting something inartistic as art, the insignificant as significant, making mediocrities seem like grandeur, to purport to be actors playing characters when they are devoid of character and morals but are corrupters of morals and dignity and raised up these insignificant and sad little men to the heights.
Yes, I am angry with these false confessors and false heroes.
However, let’s get these things in order.
You could well ask me, “Weren’t you annoyed by that wretched work?” Of course I was, and very much so.
When you know who the Christ whom you love is, and you believe in Him and serve Him throughout your whole life you cannot help but be annoyed. You are annoyed at the denigration of man, by the incredible perversion of their soul, by their tragic repressions and their impairments.
You feel sorry for their cheapness, which they try to sell as art. However you know that your Christ as nothing at all to do with the contents of this work. That your Christ is NOT in danger from these pitiful little men, silly women and these manikins that insist that they are producing art.
Each person gives what he has and all these show what they have and who they are. They show their measure of quality for themselves and are riduculed.
If the hot-blooded had not publicised them, they would have gone on unnoticed.The only thing that this pitiful showwoman and her gang achieved was to confirm the prophecy of the Elder Symeon about Christ, ““Behold, this one is destined for the fall and rising of manyand for a sign which will be spoken against.” [Luke 2:34] Unfortunately for these, they are set for a fall.
The second thing I expect you to ask is, “But aren’t we meant to defend our faith, our insulted Christ?” Yes, but how?
The method these “militants” was condemned by the Lord Himself.
It is the method Peter used when he went to defend Christ with a sword. The same thing, then, is done by our contemporaries who are capable of destroying, beating and probably lynching these insulters, in the name of faith.
How tragic. Yet, how timely. Christ condemns their method. Christ could defend himself on His own, with his legions of Angels. He could throw down fire and burn them up. Do you doubt this? However, this is not His Spirit.
Christ isn’t endangered by these sad little men. He is not endangered by the shamelessness of atheists and the corrupted.
Faith is endangered by unrepentant Christians, by the absence of sanctification and the fragrance of grace amongst those who would be called believers.
It is endangered by the secularisation of the spiritual life of Christians who replaced holiness and martyrdom for faith – this is real “spiritual resistance” – with the lynching of unbelievers.
Doesn’t all this resemble something from the Inquisition or Islamicism or am I mistaken? We have left the weighty matters of the law and pursue what seems impressive and what is easy.
The response to blasphemy and mockery of faith is to replenish the fall of these wretched mockers with the abundance of our own love and our own holiness.
I want, however, to say a few words about the “professional” defenders of each obscenity made in the name of art.
With such defenders not only is obscenity remade, art wronged, but the spiritual poverty of these so-called progressives is also revealed.
The identification of obscenity with art does not honour those who try to do this. Freedom of speech includes blasphemy, profanity and filth.
Whether we like it or not the tongue always speaks from the abundance of the heart and so these people do not display their non-existent freedom, but their tragic quality and the contents of their hearts and ridicule themselves beyond their titles and their formulas.
No argument acquires substance and truth hidden behind the grandiose title of University Professor at a time when such an election happens through various kinds of guilds. Even more so, when some who are truly able are rejected because they did not belong to the right group, because they were rejected by the ideological Procrustes.
Vulgarity and obscenity is neither art, culture or civilised.
I left “Golden Dawn” which in reality is “black night” till last.
It is tragic that some “Christian militants” identified themselves with Golden Dawn in order to defend Christ.
The Christ that is persecuted by “Golden Dawn”, that is insulted and humiliated by them on a daily basis and does so in the person refugees, of immigrants even of children.
My beloved Christians, you have forgotten Christ’s words “for as you have done to one of these, the least of my brethren, you have done unto me.”
Isn’t a human being made on the image of Christ, whoever they are? Is an immigrant, a refugee not the least brother of Christ?
Is he not our neighbour according to the Parable of the Good Samaritan? According to Golden Dawn’s viewpoint when the Samaritan saw the wounded man he should have thrown him him amongst the refuse, and then he would be “good”.
Each embrace and caress of a Christian, even more so a priest, of the Golden Dawn indicates a horrifying confusion and mess and voiding of the faith.
No-one should play with things that aren’t for playing with [tranlator: alludes to a phrase from St. John Chrysostom]. The word of God has absolute and eternal authority.
The matter of refugees and the problems that a weak political leadership left to arise is one thing and the absolute value of the human person is another.
We cannot invalidate God’s truth in order to solve our problems. On the contrary, these problems arose because we replaced God’s Truth with our arrogance and our frivolity.
Let us attend! Let us stand with fear! [translator: quotes from the Liturgy] The way to unravel this is through the will of Christ and not through the arbitrary acts and human cunning!
Since making these comments the bishop has received obscene phone calls, threats of violence and even death threats from members of Golden Dawn.
His chancellor has answered them all with calmness and politeness, hearing the obscenities and abuse screamed down the phone about the bishop, Fr. Ephrem said “Who am I speaking with?” The caller refused to identify himself, whereupon the chancellor replied, “I’m afraid we’ll have to end this conversation, since by your own admission you are a nonexistent person.” source
On a chilly yet beautiful Autumn morning I set off for Cambridge to hear Russian Orthodox dissident and gulag survivor, Alexander Ogorodnikov speak at the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge for one of their community days. On this occasion hosted at Westminster College.
After a short prayer led by the Institute’s Chaplain, Fr. Alexander Tefft, and an introduction by Dr. David Frost, a softly spoken man, a bit nervous, got up to speak in a gentle but halting manner. This was Alexander Ogorodnikov. He spoke in Russian and is words were conveyed through a translator. These are my notes on his talk and heading and notes in square brackets mine alone.
“Today we are going to talk about the 20th Century a time of tribulation. St. John the Theologian said, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” This saying is applicable to our time and Christianity in general. The lesson that we should take away today is that we are should recognise God’s love, even when he appears not to be loving and forgiving – nevertheless we should recognise that he loves us.
As Tertullian once said, “Christians are made, not born”
A History of Religious Persecution
The 20th Century was a very difficult time and people started questioning Christianity as a whole. While in the 19th Century Europe was the cradle of Christianity, this no longer held true in the 20th Century. For example, we see fascism tried to substitute Christianity with its own religion. The Bolsheviks wanted to annihilate Christianity.
So after the Revolution the Bolsheviks declared a war on Christianity. It all started when Trotsky and Lunacharsky gave God the death sentence and decided that God should be shot and executed. This was taken quite seriously and was not just a joke, they really thought this should be done. [Alexander was referring to the "political tribunal for a trial of God" on 17/30 January 1923 in Moscow] . Their ultimate aim was to create a new man, Homo Sovieticus – The Soviet Man.
A great many clergy, priests, deacons, monks and nuns were killed by crucifixion, killing, shooting, drowning an all sorts of terrible ways. Monasteries were forcibly closed and desecrated. One of the things the Bolsheviks would do at this time was to bury people alive, priests, monks, nuns. Witnesses say that they could hear the singing of hymns and prayers – so much so it looked as if the earth was alive, it was moving and shifting simple from the amount of people buried alive.
Of course, this was not the first time Christians have been persecuted. We have Christian martyrs from the very beginning of Christianity, but this was quite different.
In the first 20 years of the 20th Century Russia gave up more martyrs than had ever been killed in the whole history of Christianity before that time. The Bolsheviks even laid down a deadline for exterminating Christianity and Christians in total. For example, they said that by 1935 the last Church will be closed and by 1936 the very word ‘God
The difference between these martyrs and the early Christian martyrs was that early Christian martyrs were persecuted and killed for their beliefs, because they believed in Christ. In Soviet times the martyrs were killed, persecuted and put in jail not as religious martyrs. These new martyrs and confessors were accused of political crimes or common crimes. They were treated as thieves and criminals, they were even denied the label of being seen as victims of religious persecution. They made people believe that they were common criminals, who did not have the right to be recognised as Christian martyrs.
While the persecutors called themselves atheist, in reality this war, this campaign was very religious. It was a religion. They were building a new cult of power. While it claimed to be rational it was irrational. It was a war against religion; its ultimate goal was to exterminate religion and everyone who believed in Christ.
This brought about a new term “Bezbozhniki” (Безбожники) which means the Godless. These were not just atheist, but anti-theist, God haters. This was their religion, that is, ardent belief against God. This word has some connotations in scripture [Hebrews 12:16]. They represented people who not only denied the existence of God, but people were fundamentalists who fanatically hated God and did everything they could against him. This was their new religion – fervent hatred for God.
Alexander referred to the Epistle of St. James and those who become the enemies of God [James 4:4]
They had their own religious rituals. They would take icons, holy books, religious artefacts, and take them in procession for public burnings in squares. People would bring these things to the open spaces for public burnings. This was more than just getting rid of holy icons. This would be their own festival where they would dance around it and celebrate. It was a ritual; a religious act.
The acts were not only opposed to icons and holy books as objects, but they were against the very power and energy of these icons, objects and holy books. They did everything in their power against it. In biblical terms we could call them possessed. It was a kind of satanic black mass.
They couldn’t come up with anything new, so they adopted the rituals of religion and inverted them, they turned them upside down and subverted them to their own aims.
They even established the cult of their own saints. For example the body of Lenin in the Kremlin was laid out and venerated like the relics of saints.
As an aside Alexander noted how there once was a problem with the plumbing at the Kremlin and the Lenin’s mausoleum was once inadvertently filled with sewage water, to which Patriarch Tikhon joked with the saying that “relics get what they deserved” – whereas real relics would get myrrh, whereas Lenin got what he got.
These anti-theists took part in processions, instead of icons they bore banners with anti-religious slogans. They carried effigies of priests and monks that they would then go and burn. This was a dark charge, or black attack on heaven. It wasn’t just an attack of words, but took te form of physical actions – for example they would shake their fists at heaven.
This is something that never happened before something that people had never experienced before.
For our generation this situation was the reality we were born into. This was the new reality and for us it was normal.
In my time Khrushchev made a public declaration that there would be an interview with the last priest who would publicly denounce God.
It is easy to do something drastic, brave, on the spur of the moment, but now this anti-religious state became quite normalised. It is difficult to rebel against it especially when it is the only thing you have known. People did not know anything different rather than this anti-religious state of affairs. This had lasted for 74 years. Your children and your grandchildren would only know this particular reality. The people who could remember how it was before the revolution had all died by now.
My generation did not feel the need to rebel against the Church. It really seemed to be a few old ladies who were no threat and they would soon die out anyway. When they died the Church would die too. Our generation thought that these were the last days of religion, the last days of the Church.
Of course, there were bishops, but they were not in the real world, they were in some sort of isolation. They were living in a parallel universe. Their function was decorative. It was as though their status did not have any true meaning or any real value. The general view is that these bishops were merely kept to be wheeled out when people visited from the West, to give the impression that the Church existed but was ignored.
Had someone told Alexander at the time that he would become a Christian one day, he would not only be offended, but would probably have said something offensive back.
All that was foretold in the Bible became real in the 20th Century, where the ”blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” [Tertullian] We all grew up on blood of martyrs
Our faith comes from hearing, but we had no chance to hear about our faith.
There were no books about faith. There were no people to talk too, and the old women in the Church refused to talk to us about faith, about Christianity, out of fear.
The Church at the time was silent.
Apostle Thomas would not believe unless he put his fingers in the wounds, yet “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe”
That’s why it’s difficult to talk about one’s search for God. It was not only difficult it was time consuming. It would bring you into conflict even with members of your own family. People knew if you became a Christian you would have to be ready to be in constant confrontation with everyone. You would eventually be expelled from your place of work or study and even your circle of friends.
It was a huge challenge for those who converted. It was a calling to live with and by the truth and no longer to lie to themselves. Alexander became a Christian when he was a student at the Institute of Cinematography through watching ”The Gospel According to Saint Matthew” by Passolini.
Struggle with Alexanders past of his education, his basic difficulty to understand what it means to be Christian.
On the one hand the Church was silent , helpless, ignored by the authorities
On the other hand the regime was totalitarianism. There were two different powers.
So it was very difficult to understand what it meant to be Church. There were services, liturgies, but once these were all over you would return to your normal life. Alexander knew this was a lie.
He was expelled from the Institute of Cinematography because he tried to make a film about young people’s religious search. The film was classified and banned.
They organised underground seminars about Christianity and what it means to be Christian. The first principle they had was that no-one should live a lie but live openly in truth. Ultimately, you either quit University or were expelled because it was true.
The main problem was how to learn about Christianity.
There were no spiritual fathers or spiritual leaders. However, God helped them and revealed to them how to be Christian. When Alexander entered Church and went to cross himself he felt that his arm was so heavy he could not lift it.
Finding the Church
Alexander eventually made his first pilgrimage Pskov-Pechory [Pskov-Caves] monastery, one of the few remaining monasteries in that period. It had survived because at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution it was in Estonia. The authorities had tried to close the monastery, but the brethren, all former soldiers, simply barricaded themselves in.
Alexander spent a night in the forest sleeping near the walls of the monastery. He woke up in the middle of the night because he felt disturbed and worried. He saw a young lady, wearing a long white, flowing dress walking towards him in the middle of the forest. He was worried about her. She started to come forward, while her garment moved in such a way that indicated walking – she did not actually appear to be on the ground. He could not see footsteps. Alexander was afraid and horrified by this vision. He fell to his knees and repeatedly made the sign of the cross over himself. Then he crossed the vision. The vision disintegrated in front of him, leaving an unpleasant smell and making a horrible sound. He was to smell that same smell again when priests exorcised people or places.
The next morning he went to Church for the liturgy and as he was crossing himself he felt a gaze upon him. The gaze was coming from the icon of the Holy Mandylion, the icon Made-without-hands. It was the first time that he realised that icons were not just paintings, but they had their own grace, warmth, energy. However, Alexander also felt a gaze from behind. It was a woman obviously gazing at him in a lustful manner. It was his first sense of temptation. Here was the loving, forgiving gaze from Christ on one side, and an unpleasant sexual look on the other. This icon of the Mandylion became his personal favourite icon. He would carry a version of it with him everywhere, except of course when he was imprisoned and in the Gulag.
He returned to Moscow and the next day he went to Church again. The Liturgy was being given by a Bishop, a Metropolitan. Alexander was so moved that he was crying. When they started to give people Holy Communion Alexander was drawn by some inexplicable power to the Holy Chalice. At the time he didn’t know that he should have confession first according to the Russian custom. As he approached the chalice he felt that the bishop not only gazed into his eyes, but into the very depths of his heart. He felt that this bishop knew everything about his life. This bishop knew his very soul. Later he learnt that this was in fact Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh.
This was his first experience of someone who would know and understand how to read his whole life. In this way he gradually came to know hidden sacred Russia.
Elders of the Church
The Elders or Startsii were the real power in the Church ??? They were more respected than other parts of the Church. The influence of the Startsii was immense in the Church. The Russian people would listen to their bishops but follow the Elders.
Alexander learnt about Elder Tavrion who lived in a hermitage (poustinia) near Riga. People came to him from all over the USSR to gain an answer to their problems. They didn’t need to see him individually, usually they found an answer through the sermons he gave.
Alexander wanted to know more about this person of Christ ???. So he took the train from Moscow to Riga, leaving quite early in the morning and arriving in time for the Liturgy.
However, while still in Moscow he was warned against seeing this Elder. He was told that he was dangerous. He was warned off him because he advocated frequent communion. Alexander was fascinated by the way he celebrated the Liturgy, it was joyful and radiant. He usually gave a sincere and heartfelt sermon. In this sermon he gave a few words on “how to pray” and spoke about the technique of prayer, Alexander felt that this addressed him, as he had gone there with that question in mind.
The service was over, Alexander felt his business there was over, his question was answered Alexander prepared to leave. However, Elder Tavrion called him over to the altar, he prayed a brief prayer and then made a prostration towards Alexander. Alexander was shocked but Elder Tavrion protested – “No, that’s what needs to be done.” When the Elder got back on his feet he gave Alexander an envelope containing a large sum of money. Alexander refused, but the Elder insisted, “Giving is a virtue”.
Then he went to the Pskov-Caves monastery for his first confession with Fr. Adrian. Even into his 90s this monk was robust and lively. He had become a monk because he personally came to know St. John of Kronstadt. The time for this first confession was quite late at night. Alexander lost track of time completely and while he confessed Fr. Adrian shed tears. Fr. Adrian did not ask questions just listened while Alexander spoke from his heart and told him his whole life. When confession was over Alexander slowly realised it was already morning, but despite staying up for most of the night he did not feel in the least tired. In fact, e felt full of energy and refreshed, he had been given a new lease of life, born again anew.
Everybody in the monastery, both monks and novices, suggested that his next confession should be with Fr. John Krestiankin.
Krestiankin had also been a prisoner and starets. He has since passed away but became well-known in the Soviet era. Fr. John Krestiankin became his spiritual father. He gave a wonderful leadership. Fr. John never refused him anything and nothing was prohibited. In his presence felt immersed in a lake of love always comforted. Alexander later realised that everything was brought about through Father John’s prayers.
Of course, the problem was that they were continually watched by the Soviet authorities.
At the Pskov-Pechory monastery Abbot Alypy sadly died (1975), and certain Gabriel was appointed by the authorities. The new abbot started to destroy all the heritage of the former abbot. He isolated the elders from the people, he expelled the strongest and most capable monks from the monastery. Until now the monastery had enjoyed great respect and was popular with ordinary people, it was Gabriel’s mission to destroy this. Alexander then went on to detail this Abbot’s immoral life. Going off to restaurants in Tallin with his entiurage and spending lots of money, being involved in drunken orgies and general debauchery. Gabriel was there until 1988 when he was made a bishop and moved on.
Alexander was amongst those who wrote letters to the Synod about his behaviour. There was even sacrilege in services held by him, but nothing was done. This was basically because the KGB wanted to destroy the popularity and the respect of the monastery.
This abbot expelled more than 70 of the most capable and strongest monks. Monks cells were bugged and this abbot would physically beat monks and pilgrims alike.
This meant that following Alexander’s release from the Gulag he could not get to see Fr. John Krestiankin because he was held at the monastery in isolation. He and his friends scaled the walls like thieves in the night to reach Fr. John.
Alexander explained that he simply related this to show that even within one Church there were those who did everything for Christ and at the same those who did everything against Him.
[To be continued with stories of miracles and God's presence in the Gulag]
For so is the will of God, that with well-doing, ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men (I Peter 2:15).
Brethren, it is difficult to argue with an atheist; it is difficult to talk with a madman; it is difficult to persuade an embittered man. It is difficult to convince an atheist, a madman or an embittered man with words. You will convince them more easily by deeds. They may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation (I Peter 2:12). Do good to those who wish to argue with you, and you will win the argument. One deed of compassion will bring the madman to his senses and will pacify the embittered man more quickly than many hours of conversation. If atheism, madness and bitterness stem from ignorance, that ignorance is like a rage which can quickly be restrained by good works. If you argue with an atheist in his own rabid manner, you strengthen the rage of atheism. If you converse with a madman by derision, the darkness of his madness is increased. If you think you will overcome an embittered man with anger, you will stir up a greater fire of bitterness. A meek and good deed is like water on a fire.
Always remember the holy apostles and their successful methods of behavior toward men. If an atheist provokes you, it is not the man that provokes you but the devil; for man is by nature religious. If a madman swears at you, it is not the man that swears at you but the devil; for man is by nature reasonable. If an embittered man persecutes you, it is not the man that persecutes you but the devil; for man is by nature good. The devil provokes you to lengthy arguments and unfruitful conversations, but he flees from good deeds. Do good in the name of Christ, and the devil will flee. Only then will you have dealings with men, with true men; pious, reasonable and good. Therefore, whatever you do, do it in the name of the Lord.
O All-good Lord, help us to do good and by good to conquer in Thy name. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
Prologue of Ohrid, June 30 entry: On the power and the efficacy of good works
The holy 40 days of Great Lent have come to an end! Now each of you sit and calculate the result — what was there in the beginning and what is there now? There was buying, so what are the gains? Is there at least a small profit? We have stepped into the arena: so, did we run, and having run, did we achieve what we expected? A struggle was announced: so, did we arm ourselves, did we fight, and having fought did we fall, or conquer? Attentive and vigilant fasters, having laboured with contrite and humbled hearts, upon looking back cannot but rejoice. However, for us, careless and flesh-pleasing, concerned only with fleshly comforts and things that please us, there is always only shame. But even this is lacking. Some take a beating but feel no pain, because they have a copper forehead and an iron neck.” – St. Theophan the Recluse