Divine Liturgy in Hamzali on the feast of Saint Clement of Ohrid ( 09.08.2009 )
Today, on the feast day of Saint Panteleimon and Saint Clement of Ohrid, Metropolitan Nahum of Strumica celebrated Divine Liturgy in the monastery consecrated to the Holy Apostle Paul, the Holy Emperor Justinian I and Saint Clement of Ohrid in Hamzali. At the Liturgy the present faithful partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ.
Let Us Revere and Love our Teacher
For our Church there is one and only challenge and struggle till the end of the century: to preserve the Tradition of hesychasm in
– A spiritual father. If possible, an experienced guide. A man who has sufficiently purified and freed his heart from passions. An illumined mind.
– His mind freely goes in and out of the heart, unhindered and mournfully following the current of the Jesus prayer in it. Lord Jesus Christ...
– The demon cannot attack him directly from inside through passions, in a form of thoughts and feelings. The assault on him can take place only from outside, in a visible shape, most frequently through a man. The passions are not completely transformed and for them to be awakened there has to be a powerful challenge.
– Instead of a thought about a woman—a woman; instead of a thought about money—money; instead of a thought about glory—glory. Public enmity and hatred. God allows as much as a man can endure. The attack happens for spiritual perfection, not for a fall. The above is not in the least naïve and the danger of fall is real. Temptations that those who yet must purify their heart and to whom the assault happens from within, cannot understand.
One more sign?
– The ascetical practice of love as a unique transition from illumination to deification. But I tell you: Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who offend and persecute you. Passover.
– A spiritual child whose spiritual struggle is free and with consciousness. What does that mean? First, checking all thoughts, feelings, and desires only with the spiritual father. No parallel relationships. Second, proper confession. We purify our own heart, not somebody else’s. And third, intensive ascetical effort until the opening of the heart. It all happens within the frames of that: the lowest place and a servant to all. For, not a single voluntary ascetical feat, no matter how great, can purify the heart as essentially as unjust suffering, humiliation, an offensive word... can do it.
Primary and temporary aim?
– Significant elimination of vanity, pride, high opinion about ourselves, conceit—the basic passion with many names that holds our heart captured and closed to access of the mind in it.
– Revelation of the place of the heart and acquisition of the mind-and-heart prayer. Afterwards the man is free to act in love, although, for certain, not even his fellowmen will always understand him. The road becomes narrow. The vows and the obedience are subordinated to the personal concern for prayerful stillness, hesychia. The responsibility is great and the risk is nearly regularly inevitable. The Lives of the Saints. As regards the blessing from the Elder.
A true spiritual child?
– Follows his spiritual father through all the attacks on him, to the Cross itself.
A false spiritual child?
– Falls away from his spiritual father.
– He is scandalised on the account of the visible ways of attacks on the spiritual father. Not by having seen, but by having heard. The one that cannot manage to cause the spiritual father to stumble, avenges, causing downfall of the spiritual child. Otherwise, in accordance with the spiritual law, the first would have been sufficient to destroy everything else. His name is slanderer. Will he accuse himself! However, the evil seed needs a suitable soil to sprout: not following the three monastic rules, especially the first one, as well as a desire for worldly glory, which is what the disease is about, which is obvious.
The basic problem that the spiritual child faces during the period of purification of the heart from passions is not about whether the spiritual father makes certain mistakes, but whether the spiritual child loves his spiritual father. What were we to do if the tradition of spiritual life in the Orthodox Church depended merely on the holiness of the spiritual father—the apocalypse would have been historically past. If the spiritual father is holy, that is a very good thing; yet, the struggle is always personal. In general: the basic Christian problem in all the stages of spiritual development is not about whether our neighbour wrongs us, but whether we love him.
But before he takes that last step of falling away, the spiritual child must bear in mind these three spiritual and ascetical rules:
a) It is not recommendable for a spiritual child to leave his spiritual father before discovering the place of the heart and before bringing down the mind in thus opened heart, which means, before the gift of mind-and-heart prayer is acquired. The one who does that is in great danger never to go behind the curtain and the veil never to fall from his mind and heart. Yet, the one who has reached the stage of illumination of the mind or the ascetical mind-and-heart prayer is free to go away from his Elder or to stay with him, depending on whether or not he will provide his spiritual child with conditions for prayerful stillness. There is one more reason: the call of the Church. Still, the love between the Elder and the spiritual child remains.
b) If someone ventures, for reasons known to him that can even be reasonable from a certain point of view, to leave his spiritual father before discovering the place of the heart, he should not despair and should not lose hope. Only, he must start all over again. That is, it is necessary for him to find another experienced spiritual father under whose spiritual guidance he will unreservedly put himself, staying in humility and obedience and waiting for the God's gift of opening of the heart. He should know for certain that he has the blessing to take such a step both from God and from the spiritual father whom he leaves. The thing for which never and no one can have blessing, not even by an angel from heaven, is when someone with a closed heart and a non-illumined mind starts guiding himself spiritually and on top of this makes so bold as to guide others.
c) One should also consider the following: it is not the same thing someone to come to spend few days or a couple of months in a monastery and decide to leave, and someone to dwell in a monastery for a couple of years and then go away. Especially if he has become a rasophore monk or has been invested with the great schema and has started keeping strict monastic observance or has been ordained to some of the priestly ranks. For, the great schema and the priestly rank demand both inner spiritual and canonical coverage, which most often is absent. If the spiritual father has that boldness before God and has taken the responsibility upon himself, investing someone with the great schema, while the one is not even close to the mind-and-heart prayer; and moreover, he has ordained him a priest, whereas the one, apart from spiritual has as well absolute canonical obstacles to it—then that one commits a grievous sin and shows great pride and ingratitude separating himself from his spiritual father, through whom he has received the supreme gifts of God. First, he activates all the canonical and spiritual hindrances that undermine his monastic and priestly rank. Second, where will he find another spiritual father who with his greatness will cover all his imperfection? Only the spiritual father who has no canonical obstacles whatsoever for his priestly rank and whose mind invisibly worships God at the altar of his purified heart, can cover such one. No one else! For he is the only one who can endure the attack of the temptations correspondent to the sins of his spiritual child which he has covered. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
Furthermore, the experience of many centuries has shown that all who have abandoned their spiritual father nearly regularly tempt to guide themselves spiritually, which is exactly about what the disease is. In the best case, they seemingly put themselves under the wing of another spiritual father whom they, in actual fact, do not respect and with whom they do not have a proper personal relationship, while he, for his part, with the very act of accepting them, shows that he knows not what he does.
Those are the three spiritual and ascetical rules that are inescapably applicable to all, to you and to me. The gift of mind-and-heart prayer is not a magic act hidden under the veil of some kind of asceticism, but it is a gift of God received in a personal relationship with the spiritual father, especially if he is a bearer of that gift. That is the Tradition.
Do you have any sincerity left? Have a look into your heart! Compare its condition to what the Holy Fathers have written so far. Has the place of the heart been revealed to you, or not? Is the mind drawn prayerfully inside it by the manifestation of the grace, or is it not yet? Do you in the attempt to enter inside face a wall, darkness and perplexity? Have you checked it? It is not late. It is never late. Let it only be sincere.
What happens when one disobeys these counsels?!
– Separation from a spiritual father before the opening of the heart and the end of this process. Stumbling, falling and going back to the mud on the path, before reaching the first aim. An ontological failure.
Consequently, non-illumination of the mind and unfounded spiritual self-guidance. On the other hand, ignorance of hesychasm and inability to recognise true hesychasts. That is the reason why one does not leave behind oneself any trace of written or spoken tradition about the mind-and-heart prayer. All else can be read and learnt from a book, while the mind-and-heart prayer can only be lived and it can be spoken about from experience alone.
Gossip, condemnation, and self-justification. Feeding on misinformation and spreading it. For, the one that does not have a life of his own lives the life of the others. Odd, even sad, desire for public promotion. Wandering from place to place and self-affirmation throughout the world, only because of the ignorance of the place of the heart. Instead of theo-logy, techno-logy.
Inability for preserving or renewing and building a personal relationship. Since their not forgiving and criticism do not leave any space (to their closest ones), and so, at an actual meeting (in their presence) happens: not making distinction between the heretic and the sinner, between the sinner and the sin. Elitism. Zealotism. Neognosticism. Paranoia. Apocalyptic spirit. Already seen. And, already sad.
Greater consequences? God forbid! Therefore, it is good for us to know where we are. Remedy? Remember the height from which you have fallen and repent! In a lack of strength, man should at least constrain himself from the sin of public slander and condemnation. Elementary ascetical culture for those who aspire to spiritual aristocracy and engagement in heavenly politics. Hence, repentance. It is all my fault. Lord forgive me! I beg you all, forgive me! Lord Jesus Christ help us!...
Let us revere and love our Teacher. One day on the Holy Mountain, when Gregory was engrossed in prayer to God, suddenly in front of him stood a radiant man with mild features, St. John the Theologian, and meekly looking in his direction asked him: "Why do you, praying to God, every time ceaselessly repeat: enlighten my darkness, enlighten my darkness?" Gregory answered: "What else could I ask for except that: to become illumined and to apprehend how to perform His Holy will?" Then the Holy Evangelist told him: "By the will of the Sovereign Lady of all, the Mother of God, from now on I shall be with you at all times and in all ways."
(excerpt from the book Slovo od Eleusa by Metropolitan nahum of Strumica, published in 2001 by the Monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos Eleusa)