Catacomb Saints

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This book has been out of print for many years. I highly recommend it, considering it is so hard to find. I was lucky and received the hard-bound version as a gift.

Its content is timely. There are a lot of parallels with our modern American social atmosphere and the pre-post revolutionary Russian/Soviet one, especially considering the stance of militant atheism against religion.

Please download the book and give it a read. It is a PDF scan, so it is hard to search, but it means that it can be easily uploaded to a phone or tablet to read on the go. I am attaching the source site and the one I used for the easiest download.

God be with you.

Fr. Photios

Main Site

Good Download

Intent; Never give up!

“In the spiritual life we can do nothing worthy without repentance, but the Lord has much mercy on us because of our intentions. He who compels himself and holds on to repentance until the end, even if he sins is saved because he compelled himself, for the Lord promised this in the Gospel.” St. Mark the Ascetic

“Christians, have we understood the great responsibility that we have taken on before God through baptism? Have we come to know that we must conduct ourselves as children of God, that we must align our will with the will of God, that we must remain free from sin, that we must love God with all our hearts and always patiently await union with Him? Have we thought about the fact that our heart should be so filled with love that it should overflow to our neighbor? Do we have the feeling that we must become holy and perfect, children of God and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven? We must struggle for this, so that we may not be shown unworthy and rejected. Let none of us lose our boldness, nor neglect our duties, nor be afraid of the difficulties of spiritual struggle. For we have God as a helper, who strengthens us in the difficult path of virtue.” St. Nektarios of Aegina

“…but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” Mt. 10:22

My friends, God knows our hearts. He knows when we truly, deep down mean to do well but cannot. I tell people all the time: ” If you can, then you are commanded to do so. If you cannot then God -who is no ‘black and white’ genie- knows your heart, your intent, and is merciful. But if you certainly can, but will not, then the judgement is on you.

Addicts struggle with addiction their whole lives, and most of us who are addicted to sin struggle with the same sins forever. We cannot let the tenacity of the sin get us down. The fact that we are struglling is a good thing. We learn greatly by failure, the ups and downs, and it makes us stronger if we let it. God is there in those times, giving us the grace to become stronger through our weaknesses. And so we should never look at our failures as the end, as though we were completely doomed because of them. They are our cross, and they are what make us Christians.

Experience=Example

“As it is impossible to verbally describe the sweetness of honey to one who has never tasted honey, so the goodness of God cannot be clearly communicated by way of teaching if we ourselves are not able to penetrate into the goodness of the Lord by our own experience.”

St. Basil the Great, Conversations on the Psalms, 29

Yearning for Life

Now if we really yearn for eternal life, if we long to have the provider of immortality within ourselves, let us not abstain from the Eucharist like some of the more negligent, nor let us provide the devil in the depths of his cunning with a trap and a snare for us in the form of a pernicious kind of reverence. ‘Yes, indeed’, some might say. ‘But it is written: “Anyone who eats of the bread and drinks of the cup unworthily, eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” (Cf 1Cor. 11:29). I have examined myself and see that I am not worthy.’ But then when will you be worthy? My response would be: ‘When will you present yourself to Christ? If you are always going to be afraid of falling, you will never cease falling – “For who can discern his faults” as the holy Psalmist says (Ps.18:12 LXX) – and you will end up totally bereft of a share in saving sanctification.’ Make up your mind, then, to lead a more devout life in conformity with the law and so partake of the Eucharist in the conviction that it dispels not only death but even the diseases that are in us (cf. 1Cor. 11:30). For when Christ has come to be within us He lulls to sleep the law that rages in the members of flesh. He rekindles our reverence towards God, while simultaneously causing the passions to atrophy. He does not reckon our faults against us. Instead, He tends us as a doctor would his patients. For He binds up that which has been wounded, He raises that which has fallen, as a good shepherd who has laid down his life for his sheep. (cf. Ez 34:16; Jn 10:11)

+St. Cyrill of Alexandria, Commentary on John

Guilt Mt 8:28-9:1

It has been said by others that Christ was told to leave by the people who witnessed Christ’s casting out of the demons and into the swine because they were guilty. They were caught by the Messiah Himself herding animals that were considered unclean, and so rather than be joyful at the salvation of the two formerly possessed men, they were full of scorn and shame.

At the Divine Liturgy, we receive the life of Christ within us(John 6). The other services in the daily cycle all lead to and prepare us for that moment.

How often does shame and guilt keep people from life?  People will sin and inflict themselves with spiritual wounds yet will deny themselves the saving medicine at the Hospital for souls. The sin festers inside of us and slowly we avoid God. Like Adam and Eve, we hide ourselves when He lovingly calls us, instead of running to Him with open arms. St. Barsanouhphius of Optina spoke of this symptom of guilt and shame when he said “A sure sign of the deadening of the soul is evading church services. A person who has grown cold towards God, first of all begins to avoid going to church—in the beginning, he tries to arrive at the service a little late, and then he completely stops visiting God’s church.” They stop coming to Church, they stop receiving the Body and Blood, and they start to die.(Jn 6:53)

When a person really starts to die (spiritually), they begin to hate God. Everything and anything that has to do with piety and holiness, anything that reminds them of the Church -and their sinful state- becomes a target of their wrath. One is reminded of the image of the River of Fire. While God’s love (which shines on all) warms those who love Him and makes those who draw closer to Him more like Him, those who despise Him feel a burning, painful reminder of the love they have chosen to deny. The shame, guilt and regret they harbor inside becomes like tinder and makes the fire burn hotter.

If we look at society, we see this attempt to cover up guilt and shame in so many people. I forget the psychological term for it, but it is when someone tries to cover and hide their own faults by accusing others of the very thing that they themselves do. Cheaters claim everyone else is a cheater. Liars believe everyone is out to get them. Adulterers accuse their spouses of cheating and are possessive and manipulative. Theives count every penny spent by the Church. Hypercriticism is the M.O. of the guilty.

We see this in the Church too. (Remember, it is a refuge for sinners!) When people haven’t gone to confession or received the Mysteries (Sacraments) in a long time, they start to really lose their faculties. When the weight of their unconfessed sins bare down on them, they are taken to low, dark places.

Then in their eyes, nothing about the Church is good anymore. The Priest is so full of faults, he becomes the very example of ineptitude and scandal. His family is disgusting, the Sunday school teacher is horrible at their job, the chanting is annoying, the parishioner’s names are weird, the church grounds are too dirty, the icons are boring -along with the homily, the incense stinks, this guy is a jerk and that lady is a busybody, and everybody at church is a hypocrite.That’s why I don’t go to church anymore!

DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?

‘Hey, Christ? Great miracle and all, but -please leave.’

If I may add an important bit to this, sexual sins seem to me to be the greatest killer of teens and young adults. (Fornication, [any sexual act outside marriage] that is.) It is a soul-murderer that decimates many churches of all stripes. Much like St. Barsanouphius’ description above, they start to come less and less, until they are never seen again. Teens start having more problems with their parents regarding church and a life of piety, and then once the parents tire of fighting -the child is rarely seen again. It is almost a guarantee that a young adult who was raised more or less in the Church , where church-life was a norm in their family, when they suddenly start taking less and less interest in godly things and eventually fall away, some kind of sexual sin was involved.

And so what can be done? How can we rid ourselves of the guilt and shame that keeps us from moving toward Christ?

I think we can all agree that when we finally had enough and were broken in our hearts beyond measure, we finally went to confession, where we let it all out, and afterward were different people. We realized how horribly sick we were and saw our faults and how silly we were being. Life again has its rose colored tint.

This takes repentance, which is given by grace. The grace is always there, but it is up to us to do what is right. Christ comes into our midst every day. He comes in with miracles and signs for us who do not deserve them. Instead of running away and trying to hide, we need to embrace Him. We need to welcome Him into our homes and hearts.

If we have spent our lives really messing things up -and we have to admit that our current situation is all due to the decisions we have made- then we need to fix it. If we look at all that we have screwed up around us -maybe how we could have done more to keep our children in the Faith, or how we haven’t given to the Church or anyone needy when we could have- then the only way to fix it is to repent, to go the other way.

We cannot change what we have done, my brothers and sisters, but with God’s help, we can change what we will do. That has an effect that is powerful and can influence others as well. Who knows how many people in our Gospel reading, the people of the area Christ was visiting, would have come closer to God had He but been allowed to stay?

How different would history have been if Adam had run to God, accepting his fault and asking forgiveness instead of pointing his finger and blaming it on Him?

So let us run to Him. Let us stop worrying about the weight of our sins and our past; they don’t matter anymore. Embrace Him in repentance and go forward with the grace He has given us.

Guilt is not a part of Orthodoxy, but Repentance and Mercy are.

God be with you.

Don’t Mess with Sin

St. Mark the Ascetic of Sketis said: “Suppose that there are twelve shameful passions. Indulging in any one of them is equivalent to indulging in them all.

for:

“Sin is a blazing fire. The less fuel you give it, the faster it dies down: the more you feed it, the more it bums.” (From the Philokalia, “On the Spiritual Law”)

We who are addicts to sin, when we feel that we have made some progress towards a Christ-like life, must be careful. For one simple passion or sin can catch the others which were drying up and withering away back on fire. And from there we tend to leap head-on into despair and indulgence in sin. Ask any addict how dangerous it can be for them to treat situational triggers lightly, or to “just have one”. POOF! Like a dry forest bed, the spark causes a massive, raging fire to devour us.

And so we must always stand before the Lord, beating our breasts in humility like the Publican “God be gracious! Lord, have mercy! Lord, increase my faith!”