You Are Too Depressed. Sing!

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Tonight at the book club meeting we discussed Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica. This is one of the stories that came up, it’s a good one:

Once, two women came to me and brought a third who was dragging her leg. She could barely walk. She said that she had been to several doctors, but they were not able to say what was wrong with her. I told her that her nerves were weak. I also told her that mine was a worse case than hers! She said that her husband had left her. “Of course he has,” I said. “Who is going to take care of the children, who will prepare his meals for him when you are so depressed? You are not physically ill! You are too depressed. Sing! Sing and your husband will come back to you!” I told her that I was going to the church to read some prayers, and that I wanted her to go home by herself. She looked at me for a while and then practically ran to the car. The other two were amazed. “She is well,” I said, “and she no longer needs your help!”

Holy Friday: Vespers of the Unnailing

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The Epistle Reading for the Vespers of the Unnailing on Holy Friday
Brethren, the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For consider your call, brethren: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth: but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.”

When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
1 Corinthians 1:18-31; 2:1-2

With a Lying Kiss

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The law-transgressing Judas, O Lord, who dipped his hand with thee in the plate at supper, hath put forth his hands with iniquity to take silver; and he who calculated the price of the spice did not shrink from selling thee, O priceless One. And he who put forth his feet for the Master to wash, deceitfully kissed him to deliver him to law-breakers. Verily, he hath been cast away with his thirty pieces of silver, without beholding thy third day Resurrection, through which, have mercy upon us.

Judas the traitor, being deceitful, betrayed the Saviour Lord with a lying kiss; and he sold the Master of all like a slave to the transgressors of the law. But the Lamb of God followed like a sheep to the slaughter, who is the only Son of the most merciful Father.
-2nd & 3rd Stichera from the Vesperal Divine Liturgy on Holy Thursday, Tone 2

The Tomb of Carelessness

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Imitating Mary and Martha, O faithful, let us offer divine works to the Lord as they did, that He might come and raise our minds, which now lie dead in the tomb of carelessness, feeling no fear of God, and deprived of any living action. Behold, O Lord, Who of old didst raise Thy friend Lazarus by Thy coming. Give life to us also, O bountiful One, granting us Great Mercy.

-Stichera of the Presanctified Liturgy for the Sixth Wednesday in Tone 5

Freeing the Soul

I have been remiss with my Lenten posts this year. Here’s another gem from Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnika:

Elder Thaddeus

“We cannot be saved without fighting against the devil! We are descendants of our parents, from whom we have inherited all those negative traits that are not easy to get rid of. We must suffer heartache in order for our souls to be freed from these mental bonds. Our enemy attacks either directly or else indirectly, through other people. And so we fight – according to the Lord’s providence – and we gradually come to our senses. Without misfortune there is no prayer to God.”

Good Thoughts

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When we accept whatever happens to us with a good and positive thought, we are helped; while on the contrary, we are tormented and come apart at the seams emotionally and physically when negative and evil thoughts prevail. Once, years ago, we got on a truck, which had some boards for seats, in order to go from Ouranoupolis (Chalkidiki) to Thessaliniki. The truck’s interior was a mess; suitcases, orange crates, fish, empty and dirty fish crates being returned, students from the Athonias School, some sitting and some standing, monks, lay people… One layman came and sat next to me. He was a little stout, and because he was somewhat squeezed, he began to complain loudly, “What a state!…” A little further inside the truck stood a poor monk surrounded by crates so you could only see his head. In the meantime, as the truck bumped its way along the cart track, the monk had to remain standing and hold on to the wobbling crates to prevent them from falling on him. With all of this going on, the other fellow was complaining of being squeezed a little in his seating arrangements. So I told him, “How can you be complaining when you see what that monk is enduring?” So I asked the monk, “How are you managing, Father?” And with a smile he told me, “Geronda, it’s better here than hell!” One man was tormented, even though he was able to sit, while the other was content to stand, and be virtually buried under all those crates. And this was a two-hour drive, not just a short ride. The layman’s mind was on the comfort he would have had if he were riding a bus, while the monk was thinking of the suffering in hell, and was happy enough to ride in a filthy truck. He was thinking, “We are going to reach our destination in two hours and get out, while the poor people in hell will be tormented forever. After all, there it is hell, and not some unpleasant accommodations. Glory be to God, it is better here.”

From “Spiritual Struggle,” Volume Three of Spiritual Counsels, by Elder Paisios of Mount Athos

Vanity

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“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher;
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun?

. . .I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure”; but surely, this also was vanity. . ..

Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.
I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure,
For my heart rejoiced in all my labor;
And this was my reward from all my labor.
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
And on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun.

Pulling a little here and there from Ecclesiastes (1:2 – 2:11).

And today’s Gospel reading, Luke 12:16-21:

The Lord said this parable: “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” As he said these things, he cried out: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

For those of you who are not Orthodox, we have a cycle of readings for each Sunday (well, every day, actually) of the year. Some readings you can tell why they are read on a certain Sunday. I’m not sure why we read this parable today, but maybe we read it during the Nativity Fast as a reminder of what we are called to do during this time of year. So maybe by abstaining from worldly things, we can store up treasures in heaven, instead vain things here which will be useless to us in the next life.

A Sign of Manliness

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“For God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane; but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with a shaggy chest – a sign of strength and rule.”
-Clement of Alexandria

I’m still not sure how I feel about chest hair, but science says women are generally more attracted to men with facial hair, and tend to believe bearded men will be better fathers. So dear Clement is onto something, and once again the Church seems to know what is best for us. We should probably listen to her more often.

On Thoughts

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Elder Thaddeus

“Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture.
If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind,
then that is what our life is like.
If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live,
we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility. . .
Everything, both good and evil, comes from our thoughts.”

– Elder Thaddeus