Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Is Holiness Practical Today?


By Monk Moses the Athonite

All the saints of our Church "ended their lives after a good struggle and keeping the faith".

The saints are good-conquering strugglers and undaunted confessors. They were visited by the Holy Spirit and graced. They were not just good, kind, noble, smiling, and ethical, but they were icons of Christ. They are the ones that remain always indissolubly united with Christ, who reveal to the world and lead people to Christ. The saints assure us that the gospel is feasible and practicable throughout the centuries and we can if we want strive to unite with Christ. The saints by accepting Christ in their lives unreservedly are made christ-like, and become christ-bearers and christ-seers. In this way they testify, confess, preach, and present everywhere and always Him. They cannot live without Christ. For them He is everything.

Quite often we are given various opportunities to confess Christ. Sometimes we do it promptly and pleasantly, sometimes with difficulty and sometimes out of fear or shame not at all. The true believer confesses Christ always fearlessly, because they keep living in repentance and humility. He feels weak, but trusts fully in Christ and is richly strengthened. He confesses Christ Who is in him. Sometimes it is hard to confess Christ even to those very near and dear to us. Then, according to the Gospel, they become "household enemies of this man". It happens that our own people do not understand us, but shouldn't we make an attempt to discreetly talk about Christ. Or sometimes we go to the opposite end. We talk to them so much about Christ, where in the end we fatigue them, sicken them, and repress them, so they do not even want to hear about Christ. We can never push or dominate or threaten anyone, and even more our own people, to follow Christ.

Christ is freedom and love. He invites, and requires no blackmail. We are called to inspire people to love Christ. When man is self-imprisoned by the mighty "ego", suffering from selfishness, individualism, egopathy and pride, it is difficult to love others, more so God. And thus he is unable to confess in front of people. Whoever does not confess, this means that they don't have love. Whoever does not love is self-sentenced to an icy loneliness, which will begin in this life and continue to eternity. The selfish egoist feels the love of God as fire, and cannot resist it, does not want it, is bothered by it, and it burns him.

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Today there are Christians who love the saints, study the lives of the saints, running to their feasts, lighting oil lamps to them, venerating their icons, building temples in their honor, as well as shrines, icons, lamps, bread, prosfora, boiled wheat and so on. There also exist those who do not love the saints, and I am not speaking about atheists, the impious and the irreligious, but those influenced by rationalism, from an intellectual modern theology, which considers all these things as sicknesses of non-theological popular piety. Unfortunately much of the Christian world has not fully realized the great value and importance of saints in our lives.

The reverence, piety and fervor of the faithful lovers of saints have not disappeared in our days. One can see and rejoice over houses full of icons, with an unwaning vigil lamp, unquenchable candle and censer; simple grandmothers speaking with tears about the wonderful presence of the saints in their lives, hoping in the intercessions of the saints and the Theotokos to save them and help them to enter into Paradise. The lovers of saints are those who seek also today real saints to be upheld and benefited. They do not create and imagine saints, nor follow those who play a god or false saints, but bow to true and genuine holiness. The lovers of saints are the finest of the congregation in the parishes. They continue the tradition, honor reverently the memories of our saints, are not easily scandalized by false saints and are not affected and ridden by ecclesiastical scandals, real or not. When found in difficult conditions, such as being under a totalitarian regime, they endure bravely, hopeful and victorious.

The saints always remain humble, because they have the certain conviction that what is good has been given from above, and are not their own spoils. So the saints can't boast about their gifts, being given by the Father of Lights. Our saints, in full consciousness of their gifts, give all glory, honor and worship to God the Gift-giver. When they are praised by people they praise the Source of all good, the All-Good God. The more God sees man humble himself, the more He blesses him and graces him, since always "to the humble He gives grace". A charismatic who uses his gifts to his own glory and gain, surely will soon lose it, and be exhibited miserably in the eyes of people he exploited. From this life he will be confused, bewildered and wretched and he will expect eternal hell.

There exists, my beloved, plenty of hidden holiness in our troubled times. Not only in life nameless, unknown, obscure monks in the deserts and monasteries, but also in the world. Spouses who endure the resignation and capricious prodigality of spouses - drunkards, night owls, worthless and indifferent. Who are not led to divorce, but endure and hope and pray and leave a good example for their children. The attitude of the mother teaches the children, she is an excellent example, an incitement to virtue. This course they will not ever forget in their lives. This heroic attitude can convert a violent husband and definitely give you the crown of patience for the long, and sometimes a life of, suffering. We have known such rare heroines of faith, who for many years lived a horrible secret and torment in silence, patience, prayer, tears, humility, trust and hope in God. How can God not grace such beautiful souls?

You see, holiness has many aspects. Those in the world will not be judged because they do not do a lot of prayer, though there are some who do more than monks. St. John Chrysostom said: the laity will be saved by almsgiving. Almsgiving shows a humble soul who knows how to love. In this wicked and challenging era, whoever is humbled, chaste, pure, honorable, honest, fair, righteous and prudent will have much in heaven.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

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