False Spirituality or True Prayer?

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke (18:10-14)

For some strange reason people are now too busy for the church. They are too busy to hear the word of God, the word upon which the whole of western civilization was founded. Is it any surprise that the very foundations of western society and morality are crumbling before our very eyes? Is it any wonder that people are often miserable? In truth, they are not only too busy for the church. They are too busy for their salvation, and salvation means a living relationship with the Holy Trinity. That is real life.

The Monastic Fathers, Murdered at Sinai and Raipha--Commemorated on January 14/27

The Monastic Fathers, Murdered at Sinai and Raipha,asceticised at the monasteries and caves of Mount Sinai, where previously the Ten Commandments had been given through Moses; near to it also was the Raipha monastic wilderness (on the shores of the Red Sea). They suffered under the Saracens and under nomadic brigands from among the Arab tribes. The first massacre occurred in about the year 312. It was recorded by Ammon, an Egyptian monk, who witnessed the murder of the 40 holy fathers in Sinai. During this time the Arabs also killed 39 fathers at Raipha. The second period of the massacres occurred nearly an hundred years later, and was likewise recorded by an eye-witness who himself in the process miraculously escaped – the Monk Nilos the Faster (Comm. 12 November).

The Sinai and Raipha ascetics lived a particularly strict lifestyle: they spent the whole week in their cells at prayer, on Saturday they gathered for the all-night vigil, and on Sunday they communed the Holy Mysteries. Their only food was dates and water. Many of the wilderness ascetics were glorified by wonderworking – the elders Moses, Joseph and others. 

A Miracle on Christmas Eve

When Christmas Eve comes, how we wish for a miracle! And miracles really do happen. These two stories were found for us by Maria Saradzhishvili on the pages of Georgian periodicals. They are not only miraculous examples of God’s Providence in life, but portray the hearts of people filled with great nobility, self-sacrifice, and love. And of course, faith in God.

The first story. About an abortion that didn’t happen, a blind man, and a seeing heart.

This happened to a friend of mine a long time ago.

Nino moved to the city to study. She was seduced by a married man. She became pregnant, and the rest unfolded according to the usual pattern: The guilty party gave her money for an abortion. But Nino already loved her unborn child and rejected this idea. She well knew that her strict father and brothers would not forgive her this mistake, but returned home anyway to her village in her seventh month of pregnancy. New Year’s day came, and she hoped that this fairy-tale night might work a miracle, that her family would forgive her and forget everything.

A Spiritual Wall. St. Stefan of Dečani

Photo: decani.org On November 23/24, 2019,Visoki Dečani Monastery in the Serbian Autonomous Region of Kosovo and Metohija celebrated its patronal feast day, of St. Stefan of Dečani, the great medieval king and martyr who built the Monastery and whose incorrupt relics lie there today. Always an occasion marked with great joy and solemnity, this year was notable due to the larger than usual number of pilgrims who came from all over the Balkans and Europe to celebrate the life of this great saint of the Church of Christ. At the Divine Liturgy, the large katholikon, one of the largest in the Balkan peninsula, was overflowing with pilgrims and it is estimated that over 3,000 people came.

A Christian’s Entire Life Should be Divine Worship

One of Fr. Daniel Sysoev’s Last Interviews

Fr. Daniel Sysoev, formerly rector of the Church of the Apostle Thomas in Kantimerovskaya,was one of the most active missionaries of the Russian Orthodox Church. Late in the evening on November 19 he was shot by a Muslim fanatic, and the next day he died of his gunshot wounds. In this last interview of his life, he spoke of the urgent need for Christian piety. It is especially interesting that Fr. Daniel, who would soon be martyred, spoke of love for God as the love the martyrs had—which hints to us that he himself had that love.

How does the Orthodox Church understand piety? What is the essence of piety?

—Piety is the blessed worship of the Lord God. It is manifested in relations between man and God and between people. The apostle James said: “True piety is care for widows and orphans and to remain undefiled from the world” (cf. Jas. 1:27). A pious person honors God not only with prayers, prostrations, and sacred rites, but with his entire life. For example, you are recording an interview right now, and your interview should be a form of worship of the Lord God. If you do it for your own vainglory, it will be impiety, because you are reverencing an empty glory. Whatever a man lives for is what he turns out to be. Piety includes your way of life, and most importantly, a correct motivational system. Improperly motivated steps lead to improper deeds. This is very important to remember, because mistakes are often hidden in this small thing. People think that the main thing is to take action, and in the name of what—that’s not important. But everything is the opposite here. The sacrifice of an atheist is worth less in the eyes of God than the sacrifice of an Orthodox person, because you can sacrifice in the name of false ideas, become proud, and thereby destroy your soul, but an Orthodox Christian can humble himself, praise the Creator, and thereby be saved.