What we have…

March 17, 2008

Consider this…

Moses, who spoke with God through the burning bush, who removed his sandals on the ever-holy ground… who led the captives out of Egypt, who ascended the Mount and saw what can only be described in our frail human terminology and way of thought as the ‘back side’ of God… then descended with the Commandments… Moses, who by the power of God, parted the sea and freed the captives from Pharaoh.

He did not have what we have.

David, the Prophet, the King, who wrote most of the Psalter from which we chant and sing, who understood repentance and was considered the apple of God’s eye — David who slew Goliath, being exalted from a young shepherd boy, to Israel’s greatest King…

He did not have what we have.

King Solomon, who excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom, who built the temple which held the Ark of the Covenant, who wrote the powerful Song of Songs and the Book of Ecclesiastes…

He did not have what we have.

John, the Baptist of the Lord, known to be the holiest man who walked the earth… who in shambles dared to touch the untouchable, in fear that he may be consumed as wheat to fire in touching God the Son! John who preached from the desert, sustaining himself only on honey on locusts, clothed in animal skins and very much dead to the world, who many believed to be the promised Messiah…

He did not have what we have.

Isaiah, the Fifth Evangelist, who saw the Lord seated high and lifted up in the year that King Uzziah died… Isaiah who felt contrition in a vision of the Lord, though he had seen the coming of divine worship, he still knew himself to be unclean. Isaiah, who was visited by the Seraphim with the burning coal, that glorious foreshadowing of the Divine Eucharist — the first to have heard “Behold, this has touched your lips…”

He did not have what we have.

Though these were undeniably holier than we, stop and consider — we have seen the fulfillment of the Promise. What Isaiah saw a foreshadowing of we have access to! Where Moses had to ascend in fear and trembling our God now descends! The path in which John preached to walk is manifest!

… How we must grieve the Lord, that we take our faith so casually.

How we must grieve Him that in the Old Testament, the days of waiting and expectation, there were those holy enough to look upon the Chalice with true, undeniable piety… reverence… Godly fear… and tears. How often we approach the Chalice with indifference, and hardened hearts, and mindlessly attend the Divine Liturgy which so many righteous died waiting for, without even knowing of it’s future revelation.

How would these Saints and righteous ones have approached the Chalice? How would they have stood within the beauty of the New Israel, God’s Church? In fear, in awe, in extreme piety and devotion, in ways that we would possibly never even come to understand… these Saints who lived before the God-man, before the Promise of Salvation had been completely made manifest, even as a Child to a Virgin. I must stop for a moment and consider Moses, how would he respond to that call, “with faith and with love come forward”? Would he be able to move at all? Would he tremble in fear, rejoice in tears and thanksgiving? That we can’t say for sure…

… but consider, if he and the others were to watch us in our stoicism, in our inattentiveness, and our hardness of heart, as we check our watches and shift our weight and worry for comfort… they would rend their garments, and sprinkle ashes on themselves. How easily we take it all for granted! We stand within the Church of Acts, of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the Church of Pentecost, of the radiant and victorious martyrs! The faith which established the universe is ours!

How much do we give, how much do we strive, how much do we hurt, how much do we show that we want it? Do you know the difference between a man and a Saint? Effort. God has revealed to us the Church and the Sacraments, and the power in which His grace can turn us from men into angels… we have so much more than the Old Testament Saints. We stand on holier ground, we are beyond compare richer, we have the complete fulfillment of prophecy and vision…

… but we simply, lack, the effort.

May God visit us during this time of struggle and preparation, that when the Royal Doors are once again opened, and the King of all is invisibly escorted in… we may remember our immense blessings. May we turn from pharasaical hypocrisy, false struggle, vanity, pride, selfishness, delusion, hardness of heart, and embrace humility, patience, understanding, and the wisdom which God offers to those who seek after it. May we take it upon ourselves to break ourselves from laxity and comfort, to free ourselves from the delusion of “freedom” and become a slave in Christ, that we may finally understand what freedom truly is…

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

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Anti-Humans

February 16, 2008

Between 1944-1945, Communism took over the Christian country of Romania. An experiment of terror was performed on the young generation, on students from the age of eighteen to twenty five. Among those students was a man who is alive today after surviving sixteen years in the anti-human communist prison system. His name is Father George Calciu. After His release from prison, he was exiled to America in 1984. Below follows part of an interview by Nun Nina from this year.(1998)

Nun Nina: This may be more difficult for you to talk about – I know a little bit about what happened there and the whole experiment of re-education that took place. Can you tell us about what happened?

Fr. George: Communism wanted to make a gap between the generations. The most dangerous category for them was the students, the young people. We had inherited a Christian education, family values, and basic Christian principles. The older generation was a generation that had to die, but this generation had to be transformed. So they tried to experiment in a very concentrated medium. They wanted to break the people, the whole country. Romania was not a primitive country. We were connected to European culture.

We believed in Christian values. Therefore, they wanted to do this special experiment with the young people, to create a gap between the children and the older generation, to make this generation of students a communist one. They wanted to build a new world – a communist world; a new man—the communist man and so on. Se the arrested the young people – the students – and put them in a special prison for this very experiment.
They took very distinct steps. The first was to destroy the personality of the youth. For example, the guards would come together with a group of young prisoners who had converted to communism in a cell where there were perhaps twenty young students and try to intimidate them. They would beat without mercy. They could even kill somebody. Generally they would kill one of them – the one who opposed them the most; the most important one. Generally he was a leader. They would beat him and even kill him. Thus, the terror began.

After that, they began to “unmask.” They wanted to force you to say: “I lied when I said, ‘I believe in God.’ I lied when I said, ‘I love my mother and my father.’ I lied when I said, ‘I love my country.’” So everyone was to deny every principle, every feeling he had. That is what it means to be “unmasked.” It was done in order to prove that we were the products of the bourgeois, and the bourgeois are the liars. We lie when we say we are virgin, we are Christian, and when we try and preserve our bodies for marriage.

They tried to say I was a prostitute, a young man that had connections with the all the girls. We would be tortured until we denied everything we believed before. So, that is what it means to be “unmasked.” It was done in order to prove that Christian principles we not principles, that we lied when we said we loved Jesus Christ, we loved God, mother, father, and so on. It was to show that I lied when I said that I was a chaste man, when I held the ideal of nation and family. Everything had to be done to destroy out souls! This is the second step.

After this came a declaration against everybody who was in touch with us, everybody who believed as we believed. I was to make a declaration against everybody who knew about my organization or my actions, to denounce everybody—even father, mother, sister. We were to sever completely any Christian connection and moral people.

The final step was to affirm that we had given up all the principles of our faith and any connection we had with it. With this we began to be “the new man,” “the communist man,” ready to torture, to embrace communism, to denounce everybody, ready to give information, and ready to blaspheme against God. This is the most difficult part, for under terror and torture one can say, “Yes, yes, yes.” But now, to have to act? It was very difficult.
It was during this third part that many of us tried to kill ourselves.
Nun Nina: This is when you tried to commit suicide?

Father George: Yes, this was the most difficult part. Thus was a new category of man built by communism. And we were forced to go with some of our former torturers into another cell and start doing to same thing. It was very difficult. It was a very devilish directive.

At this time we could not understand the mystical implications of this action. We are political prisoners and the communists wanted to learn everything about us—about our friends, our families—because the majority of the people were against them. They wanted to strike terror in them and in the country.

Only later did we understand that there were mystical implications. All these people were just instruments of the devil. After the actions had stopped, some of us understood. But, we were too involved with the political fight before we were in prison. Even if I and others protested against the introduction of materialism into the schools and the forbidding of the students to go to Church, I think the majority of our effort was being involved in the political fight. However, little by little, under the terror, the torture, and suffering, we understood that this political implication was just the surface. In fact, it was a fight between good and evil; between God and the devil.

When we understood that, we started praying even more than before. God sent us illumination. We understood it and we were aware of the nature of this fight. We understood that it was not [a name] was our enemy—it was the devil. He tried to destroy our soul. It was not just a political fight for someone’s struggle for power. They wanted to destroy our soul, our faith, our spiritual connection with our families. We understood this and we tried to resist. We were fighters—very strong, courageous, and faithful.
So there were four steps: the instillation of terror, the unmasking, the denouncement of other people, and, afterwards, the changing of our souls. These four steps were strictly thought out and planned. It could not be only in the images of the mind. They had long experiences of this in Russia and were now bringing it to Romania.

We had not right to work. They had no interest in our body. Our body was just an instrument through which to reach our soul. They interested in our faith, in the destruction of our souls.

There was no torture moral and physical that was not used. But you can pass through the tortures. The problem for us was the moral problem. To deny Faith, to deny everything, to say that all my life was only lies. To deny every Truth, the real Truth you believed before. To say now that it was not true, it was a lie. This was a problem for many, for we can pass through the tortures—or we can die. But, to survive, and to deny everything you believed in before, everything that was the cornerstone of your soul. This was our difficulty.

When you were tortured, after one or two hours of suffering, the pain would not be strong, but after denying God and knowing yourself to be a blasphemer—that was the pain that lasted. Spiritual pain is more difficult to bear than bodily pain.

Nun Nina: Where there moments when you thought you were going to lose your mind or go insane?

Father George: Yes

Nun Nina: What did you do? How did you even pray during those moments?

Father George: One cannot pray during those moments. But during the night, when everyone goes to bed, you gain your strength and find your repentance. You pray for this. It is not complicated. You say, “God forgive me!” It is enough for your soul to regain its strength and resist one more day… and one day more… and one day more. Not to die. Not to go crazy. Many of us went mad. But just to say, “Forgive me, God.” You knew very well that the next day you would again say something against God. But a few moments in the night, when you started to cry and to pray to God to forgive you and help you was very good.

Many times we were quite angry with God—if you exist why did you allow this? But there was one moment when the mercy of God would come upon you and you could say, “God forgive me; God help me.” It was enough to help you. For another day, another day, another day.

We were freed and we were very happy to be free, but we had a kind of nostalgia about the prison. And we could not explain it to others. They said we were crazy. How could you miss prison? Because in prison, we had the most spiritual life. We reached levels that we are not about to reach in this world. Isolated, anchored in Jesus Christ, we had joys and illuminations that this world cannot offer us. There are not words to express exactly the feeling we had there. Many times we were not happy at all, but there were moments of happiness there. When I took care of Constantine Oprisan in the cell, I was very happy. I was very happy because I felt his spirituality penetrating my soul. I learned from him to be good, to forgive, not to curse the torturer, not to consider anything of this world to be a treasure for you. Can you imagine—we were in a cell without windows, without air, humid, filthy—yet we had moments of happiness that we never reached in freedom.

Anti-Humans and the Re-Education Experiment is an article provided by Death to the World.

My prayer.

November 15, 2007

Oh that I was ever worth the suffering on the Cross…

The diadem of wicked thorns pressed wickedly into the head of the Son of man, the bitter sponge of which He tasted, the piercing spear, the mockery of those who looked upon the Christ as though He deserved to be crucified amongst thieves…

The spit upon His gentle face, the agony of hanging between life and death for hours, spikes driven into His hands and feet. O Son of God, betrayed insidiously with a betrayer’s kiss and sold for a slaves wages, how long will Your patience endure? With longsuffering You found the very ones who hung You on a cross worthy of salvation. By Your blood You see us not according to our iniquities, but according to Your infinite goodness. By our death and burial in the watery grave are we resurrected in Your likeness, leaving the world behind us, and the Cross before us.

You have given us a cross, grant O Lord that we may bear it as You did. You have shown us the path before us, grant O Lord that we may walk it with repentance. You have given us life, grant O Lord that it isn’t wasted in vain pursuits but according to Your glory. You have given us the eyes of faith, grant O Lord that we may never cheapen our vision with earthly things. You have given us our hearts, grant O Lord that they may become contrite and humble. You have given us a sound mind, grant O Lord that they’re not enticed by the delusions of the adversary. You have given us a new day, grant O Lord that we remember You always. You have given us truth, grant O Lord that our discernment is spiritual.

Teach me to hope, to believe, to pray, to forgive, to suffer, to learn. Open my eyes to wisdom, but not of that which is worldly knowing that it is foolishness of God, but to that which is profitable unto my soul. Open my heart to humility and patience, that like rain the virtues may nourish my spirit and provide fruits in abundance for the Kingdom. Grant, O Lord, that there is less of myself, and more of You.

Set my feet on the path before me and do not suffer me to fall into the snares of the devil. Grant, O Lord, that I may have patience and endurance for all which lies ahead of me, and when I sin, that my repentance may be sincere, heartfelt, and with tears — For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

“I do not feel good.”

November 13, 2007

I feel spiritually dead, the more I try to be a good person the more I fail, I just keep getting worse. I used to pray a lot but I can not even bring myself to do that anymore, I have asked God to make me a stronger person, to take up my burden, to do anything that would help me and I feel like my prayers have gone unanswered. I hate myself and am loosing hope. I am sorry for sounding so whiny but I really do not know what else to do.

Here’s a message someone had sent out, and I couldn’t help but try to reply to encourage and motivate him. Thinking back to times when I had felt just like this, and bearing in mind the jewels of wisdom from Saint Isaac the Syrian, I replied:

“His path has been trodden from the ages and from all generations by the cross and by death. How is it with you, that the afflictions on the path seem to you to be off the path? Do you not wish to follow the steps of the saints? Or have you plans for devising some way of your own, and of journeying therein without suffering.”

“The path of God is a daily cross. No one has ascended into Heaven by means of ease, for we know where the way of ease leads and how it ends.”

“In truth, without afflictions there is no life.”

“Know with certainty, therefore, that to stand is not within your power, nor does it pertain to your virtue, but it belongs to grace herself which carries you upon the palm of her hand, that you may not be alarmed.”

— St. Isaac the Syrian

“Friend, I know exactly how you feel. Divine services hardly take root because the heart feels like a slab of wood. You can hardly seem to pray because it seems like they don’t even escape the ceiling, and you’re speaking only to a silent room, even as your thoughts are running around in your head from lack of interest.

Thank God for this. With every hard temptation and struggle is a chance to become victorious in Christ the Lord.

You may not want to pray, but do it anyway. Prayer is askesis, exercise, and an infant isn’t born bench pressing 200 pounds. Through time and effort muscles develop and grow, through common labor they’re strengthened, through continued use they’re made strong. Prayer is the life of your soul, and until this spiritual exercise is stronger in you your spirituality is fleeting and scattered. This, coming from a man who can’t muster a single tear for his sins and loves life more than God. I condemn myself here, too, but I do know that the Fathers knew spirituality, and I wouldn’t lead you astray if I spoke boldly of what they’ve passed down to us who are unworthy.

“Prayer offered up at night possesses a great power, more so than the prayer of the day-time. Therefore all the righteous prayed during the night, while combating the heaviness of the body and the sweetness of sleep and repelling bodily nature.” — Saint Isaac the Syrian

See, there is power in vigilant prayer because they’re done while denying the self. How easy it is for us to mumble our evening prayers from the comfort of our beds and pillows. Where does great prayer come from? Labor and fasting. Fasting is the crown of all virtues. It’s a mental struggle for you to pray, but for the sake of God, do it that much more fervently, even if you don’t want to. This is strengthening you. Don’t mumble along, be attentive to what you’re praying, and offer to the Lord your presence of mind and spirit with the tiredness of your body and the hunger of your stomach. This is the way of the ascetics.

Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on ‘R’ and grant him all that profits his soul. May my weak and scattered prayers tonight be counted acceptable among theirs.

Ever the sinner, your friend in understanding,

Isaac

Don’t be dead inside. Die to the world, and die to yourself.”

This will be a good reminder for when times like that visit me again. It’s something, how barrenness of soul leads to good things, should we learn from it. Seeing the opportunity for spiritual growth in every circumstance is a gift we should all hope, strive, and pray for. How do we grow in patience without patience wearing thin? How do we understand long-suffering until we’ve triggered our anger? How can we appreciate light without darkness, or silence without the monotonous hustle and bustle? How do we expect to be vigilant without bearing in mind that the strongest steel comes from the hottest flame?

Anger, pain, frustration, noise, disappointments, letdowns, and other such things are golden opportunities to be victorious. It’s not enough to be thankful only when the harvest is plentiful, it’s not enough to love only those who love you, it’s not enough to forgive only those who humble themselves first and admit their faults — what’s the glory in that? Bare minimums are abominable. Struggle.

Then, your vision is refined, your faith is strengthened, and your vigilance is powerful, not simply because of your feeble stirrings, but the grace of God that you have opened your heart and soul to through them.

Glory to God in all things.