Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Prayer in the name of Jesus in Orthodox Christian tradition of Indian Church

The accusation of one close to you , just as you are making vey small steps in learning to live the faith in the life of the Church that the Church is full of hypocrites, those who are like the pharisees , those who follow rituals and traditions without knowing the person Jesus Christ, is a very painful and often traumatic event that leaves it's scar etched into one's very fibre a feeling of hoplessness.

It is during such a time that we seek support and a reassurance from others , from our family , from the Clergy and whatever we hold dear to tell us this is not the case . It is possible then to find the help we get lacking in conviction and tell tale signs to make us assume the accusation to be true .

However this is when we members of Church fail to grasp the very true eternal truth proclaimed and lived out by the Church Fathers that as individuals we are mere men with no strength on our own with nothing to our own merit , but precious to One , and our help is from Him and Him alone the very God who became man Jesus Christ - who art one of the Holy Trinity. It is to Him that we should turn for solace and indeed He surely loves us and will not leave us to lose hope and let us realize the lie that the evil one is using to bring us to despair .

The short prayers to turn the attention of their lives to God was used by the early Church fathers in Nitrea turning to the desert spending time in caves raising their hearts in prayer seeking His help. I believe that this tradition became part of the worshipping community coming together as Church the reason why in our Eucharist service we repeatedly hear the Church proclaiming Kuriyelaison - 'Lord Have Mercy'. Alternatively the Greek , Russian Church traditions adapted the cry for help of the blind man ' Lord Jesus Christ Son of God Have mercy upon me a sinner' become part of ceaseless personal prayer and witness the great saints like St. Seraphim of Sarov.

If we have such a great history of well troden and proven path in the Church then you and me need not feel discouraged but rather take the step the effort to ask of Him, ask of His help in prayer and perhaps be the instrument to turn our accuser too to not look at his brother's sins, the brother who knows his sins are too many . Let us be thankful edified by this prayer in the name of Jesus in Orthodox Church tradition of the Indian Church found in Moonu Noyambu prayer very similar to the prayer of closing on each Holy Qurbana.

"Jesus, Be our Helper
Jesus Be our Shelter
Jesus, strengthen us-
Jesus guard us
lJesus, remove thewicked from us
lJesus, absolve oursins and our evil deeds
Jesus, have mercyon the judgement day"

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spiritual Father in Orthodox Christianity -5

This article was shared by Dr. Roy Cherian at ICON . May it be edifying.
The Spiritual Father in Orthodox Christianity-- by Bishop Kallistos Ware ( Part 5)

In the Absence of a Starets And what is one to do, if he cannot find a spiritual father? He may turn, in the first place, to books. Writing in 5th-century Russia,St. Nil Sorsky laments the extreme scarcity of qualified spiritual directors; yet how much more frequent they must have been in his day than in ours!Search diligently, he urges, for a sure and trustworthy guide. "However, if such a teacher cannot be found, then the Holy Fathers order us to turn tothe Scriptures and listen to Our Lord Himself speaking." [31] Since the testimony of Scripture should not be isolated from the continuing witness ofthe Spirit in the life of the Church, the inquirer will also read the works of the Fathers, and above all the Philokalia. But there is an evident danger here. The starets adapts his guidance to the inward state of each; books offer the same advice to everyone. How is the beginner to discern whether or not a particular text is applicable to his own situation? Even if hecannot find a spiritual father in the full sense, he should at least try to find someone more experienced than himself, able to guide him in his reading.It is possible to learn also from visiting places where divine grace hasbeen exceptionally manifested and where prayer has been especially concentrated. Before taking a major decision, and in the absence of other guidance,many Orthodox Christians will goon pilgrimage to Jerusalem or Mount Athos,to some monastery or the tomb of a saint, where they will pray for enlightenment. This is the way in which I have reached the more difficult decisions in my life.

Thirdly, we can learn from religious communities with an established tradition of the spiritual life. In the absence of a personal teacher, the monastic environment can serve as guru; we can receive our formation from the ordered sequence of the daily program, with its periods of liturgical and silent prayer, with its balance of manual labor, study, and recreation. [32]This seems to have be en the chief way in which St. Seraphim of Sarov gained his spiritual training. A well-organized monastery embodies, in anaccessible and living form, the inherited wisdom of many starets. Not only monks,but those who come as visitors for a longer or shorter period, can be formed and guided by the experience of community life.It is indeed no coincidence that the kind of spiritual fatherhood that we have been describing emerged initially in 4th-century Egypt, not within thefully organized communities under St. Pachomius, but among the hermits andin the semi-eremitic milieu of Nitria and Scetis. In the former, spiritual direction was provided by Pachomius himself, by the superiors of each monastery, and by the heads of individual "houses" within the monastery. TheRule of St. Benedict also envisages the abbot as spiritual father, and thereis no provision for further development of a more "charismatic" type. Intime, of course, the coenobitic communities incorporated many of the traditions of spiritual fatherhood as developed among the hermits, but the need forthose traditions has always been less intensely felt in the coenobia,precisely because direction is provided by the corporate life pursued under theguidance of the Rule.

Finally, before we leave the subject of the absence of the starets, it is important to recognize the extreme flexibility in the relationship between starets and disciple. Some may see their spiritual father daily or even hourly, praying, eating, and working with him, perhaps sharing the same cell,as often happened in the Egyptian Desert. Others may see him only once a month or once a year; others, again, may visit a starets on but a single occasion in their entire life, yet this will be sufficient to set them on path. There are, furthermore, many different types of spiritual father;few will be wonder-workers like St. Seraphim of Sarov. There are numerous priests and laymen who, while lacking the more spectacular endowments of the startsi, are certainly able to provide others with the guidance that they require.Many people imagine that they cannot find a spiritual father, because they expect him to be of a particular type: they want a St. Seraphim, and so they close their eyes to the guides whom God is actually sending to them. Often their supposed problems are not so very complicated, and in reality they already know in their own heart what the answer is. But they do not like the answer, because it involves patient and sustained effort on their part:and so they look for a deus ex machina who, by a single miraculous word,will suddenly make everything easy. Such people need to be helped to an understanding of the true nature of spiritual direction.

Contemporary Examples In condusion, I wish briefly to recall two startsi of our own day, whom I have had the happiness of knowing personally. The first is FatherAmphilochios (+1970), abbot of the Monastery of St. John on the Island of Patmos, andspiritual father to a community of nuns which he had founded not far from the Monastery. What most distinguished his character was his gentleness,the warmth of his affection, and his sense of tranquil yet triumphant joy.Life in Christ, as he understood it, is not a heavy yoke, a burden to be carried' with resignation, but a personal relationship to be pursued with eagerness of heart. He was firmly opposed to all spiritual violence and cruelty.It was typical that, as he lay dying and took leave of the nuns under hiscare, he should urge the abbess not to be too severe on them: "They haveleft everything to come here, they must not be unhappy." [33] When I was to return from Patmos to England as a newly-ordained priest, he insisted thatthere was no need to be afraid of anything.My second example is Archbishop John (Maximovich), Russian bishop in Shanghai, in Western Europe, and finally in San Francisco (+1966). Little more than a dwarf in height, with tangled hair and beard, and with an impedimentin his speech, he possessed more than a touch of the "Fool in Christ." From the time of his profession as a monk, he did not lie down on a bed to sleep at night; he went on working and praying, snatching his sleep at oddmoments in the 24 hours. He wandered barefoot through the streets of Paris, and once he celebrated a memorial, service among the tram lines close to the port of Marseilles. Punctuality had little meaning for him. Baffled by hisunpredictable behavior, the more conventional among his flock sometimes judged him to be unsuited for the administrative work of a bishop. But with his total disregard of normal formalities he succeeded where others, relying on worldly influence and expertise, had failed entirelyas when, against allhope and in the teeth of the "quota" system, he secured the admission of thousands of homeless Russian refugees to the U.S.A. In private conversation he was very gentle, and he quickly won theconfidence of small children. Particularly striking was the intensity of his intercessory prayer. When possible, he liked to celebrate the Divine Liturgy daily, and the service often took twice or three times the normal space of time, such was the multitude of those whom he commemorated individually by name. As he prayed for them, they were never mere names on a lengthy list, but always persons. One story that I was told is typical. It was his custom each year to visit Holy Trinity Monastery at Jordanville, N.Y. As he left,after one such visit, a monk gave him a slip of paper with four names of those who were gravely ill. Archbishop John received thousands upon thousands ofsuch requests for prayer in the course of each year. On his return to the monastery some twelve months later, at once he beckoned to the monk, and much to the latter's surprise, from the depths of his cassock Archbishop John produced the identical slip of paper, now crumpled and tattered. "I have been praying for your friends," he said, "but two of them"he pointed to their names"are now dead and the other two have recovered." And so indeed itwas.Even at a distance he shared in the concerns of his spiritual children. One of them, superior of a small Orthodox monastery in Holland, was sitting one night in his room, unable to sleep from anxiety over the problems which faced him. About three o'dock in the morning, the telephone rang; it was Archbishop John, speaking from several hundred miles away. He had rung to say that it was time for the monk to go to bed.Such is the role of the spiritual father. As Varsanuphius expressed it, "I care for you more than you care for yourself."

1. On spiritual fatherhood in the Christian East, see the well-documented study by I. Hausherr, S. L., Direction Spintuelle en Orient d'Autrefois(Orientalia Christiana Analecta, 144: Rome 1955). An excellent portrait of agreat starets in 19th-century Russia is provided by J. B. Dunlop, StaretzAmvrosy: Model for Dostoevsky's Staretz Zossima (Belmont, Mass. 1972); comparealso I. de Beausobre, Macanus, Starets of Optina: Russian Letters ofDirection 18341860 (London, 1944). For the life and writings of a Russian starets in the present century, see Archimandrite Sofrony, The UndistortedImage.Staretz Silouan: 18661938 (London, 1958).
2. Apophthegmata Patrum, alphabetical collection (Migne, P.G., 65, pp.37-8).3. Les Apophtegemes des Pres du Desert, by J. C. Guy, S.jj. (Textes deSpiritualit Orientale, No. 1: Etiolles, 1968), pp. 112, 158.4. A. Elchaninov, The Diary of a Russian Priest, (London, 1967, p. 54).5. I use "charismatic" in the restricted sense customarily given to it bycontemporary writers. But if that word indicates one who has received thegifts or charismata of the Holy Spirit, then the ministerial priest, ordainedthrough the episcopal laying on of hands, is as genuinely a "charismatic"as one who speaks with tongues.6. The Life of St. Antony, chapters 87 and 81 (P.G. 26, 965A, and 957A.)7. Quoted in Igumen Chariton, The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology(London, 1966), p. 164. [Webmaster Note: I could not determine where thisfootnote appeared in the original article.]8. Apophthegmata Patrum, alphabetical collection, Theophilus theArchbishop, p. 2. In the Christian East, the Patriarch of Alexandria bears the title"Pope."9. Ibid., Antony p. 27.10. Ibid., Antony, p. 24.11. Compare Ignaty's contemporary, Bishop Theophan the Recluse (+l894) andSt. Tikhon of Zadonsk (+l753).12. Three of the great banes of the 20th century are shorthand, duplicatorsand photocopying machines. If chairmen of committees and those in seats ofauthority were forced to write out personally in longhand everything theywanted to communicate to others, no doubt they would choose their wordswith greater care.13. Evergetinos, Synagoge, 1, 20 (ed. Victor Matthaiou, I, Athens, 1957,pp. 168-9).14. Apophthegmata Patrum, alphabetical collection, Poemen, p. 8.15. For the importance of a spiritual father's prayers, see for exampleLes Apophtegmes des Peres du Dsert, tr. Guy, "srie des dits anonymes", P.160.16. The Book of Varsanuphius and John, edited by Sotirios Schoinas (Volos,1960), pp. 208, 39, 353, 110 and 23g. A critical edition of part of theGreek text, accompanied by an English translation, has been prepared by D. J.Chitty: Varsanuphius and John, Questions and Answers, (PatrologiaOrientalis, XXXI, 3, Paris, 1966). [Webmaster Note. This and many other finebookson spiritual direction are available from _St. Herman Press_(http://www.stherman.com/) .17. Apophthegmata Patrurn, alphabetical collection, Antony, p. 16.18. Ibid., John the Theban, p. 1.19. Mystic Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, tr. by A. J. Wensinck,(Amsterdam, 1923), p. 341.20. "_Conversation of St. Seraphim on the Aim of the Christian Life_(http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/wonderful.aspx) ," in A Wonderful Revelationto the World (Jordanville, N.Y., 1953), pp. 23-24.21. Apophthegmata Patrum, alphabetical collection, John Colobos, p. 1.22. Ibid., Mark the Disciple of Silvanus, pp. 1, 2.23. Ibid., Joseph of Panepho, p. 5.24. Ibid., Saio, p. 1. The geron subsequently returned the things to theirrightful owners.25. Les Apophtegmes des Peres du Desert, tr. Guy, "serie des ditsanonymes," p. 162. There is a parallel story in the alphabetical collection,Sisoes, p. 10; cf. Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 22).26. Fr. Andr Scrima, "La Tradition du Pre Spirituel dan l'Eglise d'Orient."Hermes, 1967, No. 4, p. 83.27. Apophthegmata Patrurn, alphabetical collection, Poemen, p. 174.28. Ibid., Isaac the Priest, p. 2.29. The Book of Varsanuphius and John, pp. 23, 51, 35.30. Quoted by Thomas Merton, Spiritual Direction and Meditation. (1960), p.12.31. "The Monastic Rule," in G. P. Fedotov, A Treasury of RussianSpirituality, (London, 1950) p.96.32. See Thomas Merton, op. cit., pp. 14-16, on the dangers of rigidmonastic discipline without proper spiritual direction.33. See I. Gorainoff, "Holy Men of Patmos", Sobornost (The Journal of theFellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius), Series 6, No. 5 (1972) pp. 341-4.From Cross Currents (Summer/Fall 1974), pp. 296-313.**************************************

Spiritual Father in Orthodox Christianity -4

This article was shared by Dr. Roy Cherian at ICON . May it be edifying.
The Spiritual Father in Orthodox Christianity-- by Bishop Kallistos Ware ( Part 4)

Obedience and Freedom

Such are by God's grace, the gifts of the starets. But what of the spiritual child? How does he contribute to the mutual relationship between fatherand son in God?Briefly, what he offers is his full and unquestioning obedience. As a classic example, there is the story in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers about the monk who was told to plant a dry stick in the sand and to water it daily. So distant was the spring from his cell that he had to leave in the evening to fetch the water and he only returned in the following morning. For three years he patiently fulfilled his Abba's command. At the end of this period, the stick suddenly put forth leaves and bore fruit. The Abba picked the fruit, took it to the church, and invited the monks to eat, saying,"Come and taste the fruit of obedience." [21] Another example of obedience is the monk Mark who was summoned by his Abba,while copying a manuscript, and so immediate was his response that he did not even complete the circle of the letter that he was writing. On another occasion, as they walked together, his Abba saw a small pig; testing Mark,he said, "Do you see that buffalo, my child?" "Yes, Father," replied Mark."And you see how powerful its horns are?" "Yes, Father", he answered once more without demur. [22] Abba Joseph of Panepho, following a similar policy,tested the obedience of his disciples by assigning ridiculous tasks tothem, and only if they complied would he then give them sensible commands.[23] Another geron instructed his disciple to steal things from the cells ofthe brethren; [24] yet another told his disciple (who had not been entirelytruthful with him) to throw his son into the furnace. [25]Such stories are likely to make a somewhat ambivalent impression on the modern reader. They seem to reduce the disciple to an infantile or sub-human level, depriving him of all power of judgment and moral choice. With indignation we ask: "Is this the 'glorious liberty of the children of God'?"(Rom.8:21)Three points must here be made. In the first place, the obedience offered by the spiritual son to his Abba is not forced but willing and voluntary. It is the task of the starets to take up our will into his will, but he can only do this if by our own free choice we place it in his hands. He does not break our will, but accepts it from us as a gift.

A submission that is forced and involuntary is obviously devoid of moral value; the starets asks of each one that he offer to God his heart, not his external actions.The voluntary nature of obedience is vividly emphasized in the ceremony ofthe tonsure at the Orthodox rite of monastic profession. The scissors areplaced upon the Book of the Gospels, and the novice must himself pick them up and give them to the abbot. The abbot immediately replaces them on the Book of the Gospels. Again the novice take the scissors, and again they are replaced. Only when the novice him the scissors for the third time does the abbot proceed to cut hair. Never there after will the monk have the right to say to the abbot or the brethren: "My personality is constricted andsuppressed here in the monastery; you have deprived me of my freedom". No one has taken away his freedom, for it was he himself who took up the scissors and placed them three times in the abbot's hand.But this voluntary offering of our freedom is obviously something that cannot be made once and for all, by a single gesture; There must be a continual offering, extending over-our whole life; our growth in Christ is, measuredprecisely by the increasing degree of our self-giving. Our freedom must be offered anew each day and each hour, in constantly varying ways; and this means that the relation between starets and disciple is not static but dynamic, not unchanging but infinitely diverse. Each day and each hour, under the guidance of his Abba, the disciple will face new situations, calling for a different response, a new kind of self-giving.In the second place, the relation between starets and spiritual child is not one- but two-sided. Just as the starets enables the disciples to see themselves as they truly are, so it is the disciples who reveal the starets to himself. In most instances, a man does not realize that he is called to be a starets until others come to him and insist on placing themselves under his guidance. This reciprocity continues throughout the relationship between the two.

The spiritual father does not possess an exhaustive program,neatly worked out in advance and imposed in the same manner upon everyone. Onthe contrary, if he is a true starets, he will have a different word fo reach; and since the word which he gives is on the deepest level, not his ownbut the Holy Spirit's, he does not know in advance what that word will be.The starets proceeds on the basis, not of abstract rules but of concrete human situations. He and his disciple enter each situation together; neither of them knowing before hand exactly what the outcome will be, but each waiting for the enlightenment of the Spirit. Each of them, the spiritual fatheras well as the disciple, must learn as he goes.The mutuality of their relationship is indicated by certain stories in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, where an unworthy Abba has a spiritual son far better than himself. The disciple, for example, detects his Abba in the sin of fornication, but pretends to have noticed nothing and remains under his charge; and so, through the patient humility of his new disciple, the spiritual father is brought eventually to repentance and a new life. In sucha case, it is not the spiritual father who helps the disciple, but the reverse. Obviously such a situation is far from the norm, but it indicates that the disciple is called to give as well as to receive.In reality, the relationship is not two-sided but triangular, for in addition to the starets and his disciple there is also a third partner, God. OurLord insisted that we should call no man "father," for we have only onefather, who is in Heaven (Matthew 13:8-10). The starets is not an infallible judge or a final court of appeal, but a fellow-servant of the living God;not a dictator, but a guide and companion on the way.

The only true"spiritual director," in the fullest sense of the word, is the Holy Spirit.This brings us to the third point. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition at its best, the spiritual father has always sought to avoid any kind of constraint and spiritual violence in his relations with his disciple. If, under the guidance of the Spirit, he speaks and acts with authority, it is with theauthority of humble love. The words of starets Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov express an essential aspect of spiritual fatherhood: "At some ideas you stand perplexed, especially at the sight of men's sin, uncertain whether to combat it by force or by humble love. Always decide, 'I will combat it by humble love.' If you make up your mind about that once and for all, you can conquer the whole world. Loving humility is a terrible force; it is the strongest of all things and there is nothing like it."Anxious to avoid all mechanical constraint, many spiritual fathers in the Christian East refused to provide their disciples with a rule of life, a set of external commands to be applied automatically. In the words of acontemporary Romanian monk, the starets is "not a legislator but a mystagogue."[26] He guides others, not by imposing rules, but by sharing his life with them. A monk told Abba Poemen, "Some brethren have come to live with me; do you want me to give them orders?" "No," said the Old Man. "But, Father,"the monk persisted, "they themselves want me to give them orders." "No",repeated Poemen, "be an example to them but not a lawgiver." [27] The samemoral emerges from the story of Isaac the Priest. As a young man, he remained first with Abba Kronios and then with Abba Theodore of Pherme; but neither of them told him what to do. Isaac complained to the other monks and theycame and remonstrated with Theodore. "If he wishes", Theodore repliedeventually, "let him do what he sees me doing." [28] When Varsanuphius was asked to supply a detailed rule of life, he refused, saying: "I do not want you tobe under the law, but under grace." And in other letters he wrote: "You know that we have never imposed chains upon anyone... Do not force men's freewill, but sow in hope, for our Lord did not compel anyone, but He preached the good news, and those who wished hearkened to Him." [29]Do not force men's free will. The task of the spiritual father is not to destroy a man's freedom, but to assist him to see the truth for himself; not to suppress a man's personality, but to enable him to discover himself, togrow to full maturity and to become what he really is. If on occasion thespiritual father requires an implicit and seemingly "blind" obedience fromhis disciple, this is never done as an end in itself, nor with a view to enslaving him. The purpose of this kind of shock treatment is simply to deliver the disciple from his false and illusory "self", so that he may enterinto true freedom. The spiritual father does not impose his own ideas and devotions, but he helps the disdple to find his own special vocation. In thewords of a 17th-century Benedictine, Dom Augustine Baker: "The director is not to teach his own way, nor indeed any determinate way of prayer, but to instruct his disciples how they may themselves find out the way proper forthem . . . In a word, he is only God's usher, and must lead souls in God'sway, and not his own." [30]In the last resort, what the spiritual father gives to his disciple is not a code of written or oral regulations, not a set of techniques for meditation, but a personal relationship. Within this personal relationship the Abba grows and changes as well as the disciple, for God is constantly guiding them both. He may on occasion provide his disciple with detailed verbal instructions, with precise answers to specific questions. On other occasions hemay fail to give any answer at all; either because he does not think that the question needs an answer, or because he himself does not yet know what the answer should be. But these answers or this failure to answerare always given the framework of a personal relationship. Many things cannot be said in words, but can be conveyed through a direct personal encounter.

(To be Continued....)