Poverty, Peace, and War – Father Pimen Vlad24 March 2022
Saints Cleopa and Paisie: Miracles, Charisms – Father Pimen Vlad27 March 2022
There is a lot of pain at this time. Christ suffered like no other. Why do we suffer? Why did Christ suffer? How should we approach pain? What do we do with pain? Why does it come?
The answers to these are found in this video. It is possible though, that for some, it will be difficult to understand the mystery of pain.
Enjoy! (after the clip you have the transcript)
In the moment that he got off the plane, that child was hit by a car. An Athonite Cell Joys from the Holy Mountain In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy Lord have mercy. Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. Amen. The Cross. What is the Cross? Let’s talk a little about the Cross. Because we are close to the Sunday of the Cross, and not only because of that, but because we are Christians, we are the followers of Christ, and the glory of Christ is His Cross. You see, in the moment that the Savior rose from the dead, the angel did not tell the myrrhbearers “Are you looking for Christ the Risen?” But says ” Are you looking for Christ the Crucified?” Meaning that the glory of God is His cross, His crucifixion. And you should know that each of us has to crucify ourselves, each one of us.
Now, you should know that when Christ says to crucify ourselves, and to take up our Cross, what is He referring to? To put ourselves on a piece of wood? Yes, that is possible, but when it will be asked. But the Cross is actually something else. The Cross includes all encompassing pain, and the perfect love of toil. The love of toil that is made perfect. And so, we have to cut off our will, because true pain comes from cutting off the will. And true pleasure comes from doing things according to one’s will. So brothers, we have to crucify ourselves through the cutting off of our will. This is our crucifixion, as Christ crucified Himself to cut off His will, meaning to take part in the sins of men. To communicate, to unite in a way, in an unspeakable way, because the Savior did not have sin to unite with the sins of men, to take them upon Himself and to wipe them clean. To erase them. That is what the Cross refers to. It refers to the assumption of pain to get rid of sin. Because, since sin is pleasure, being a distortion in our lives, and attractive force towards pleasures, towards existential places, towards states that are far from God, in the same way, pain brings us closer to God.
We need pain in order to get closer to God. It is true though that many of us are so darkened, that even through pain we cannot get closer to God. Even through pain we cannot get closer to God. But it is true that very few, saints even, get closer to God even through joy. This joy is something other than sinful pleasure. Understand? We actually get far from God based on our own free will. And all these growths of our own free will have to be cut, straightened out. So when we say in monasticism that we have to cut off our will, we are not saying that we should become a vegetable, meaning without a will. But to have a deified will, loving of others, and not of itself. This is what the cutting of one’s will refers to, the cutting of the sinful will, the will which gives pleasure, the pleasure which comes from passions. The fleshly pleasure. So the cutting of the will is done for love, and not to become a vegetable, an object, as I said. Even though sometimes there are situations in which we should mortify ourselves.
Meaning to not take action, and to bear the pain with humbleness, with patience, and so on. Because we do not know at that moment what’s best. And if we don’t know what to do for the best, the others doesn’t resist, the others do not accept us, or cannot bear our word, we simply mortify ourselves and have patience. This is a very loving will of ours towards others, a very loving sacrifice towards others, even if it looks like we are not doing anything at that moment, even if it looks like we are somewhat insensitive. But this insensitivity does not derive from the passion, the great passion of insensitivity, but derives from the fact that we are respecting the freedom of the other, and besides this, we are aware of the fact that we do not know how to manage the problem in that particular case.
This humility, this love, this loving sacrifice towards the others always aims the potentiation of our own will to love others. And not to become insensitive, even though it looks like that when we do not intervene for different reasons. I will give you an example here. I remember I was on a ferry leaving the Holy Mountain, and on the ferry, a gentleman was saying that someone in his family had died. The man was devastated on this subject. It was a very, very close relative. And all of us, we were trying to console him and so on, only one father, a spiritual one at that, wasn’t saying anything, he was standing one side, somewhat insensitive as I said. And we looked a little bit at that respective father, waiting somewhat for him to say a word. He did not say anything. We did not dare to say anything to that father because we knew that he was a spiritual man, and at the end, I asked him, “Father, Your holiness didn’t want to say anything to that brother?” And he said, “I was praying. I was praying for that person, because regardless of what you said now, it is in vain, a prayer is better for that man.” It is true in certain situations prayer helps a lot, but you should know that a word can help as well. But if you see that there are others who are saying things and you bring nothing more than inconvenience and nagging, it is better to pray. It is better to pray for others. Because of this, it is very important to be patient, a patience that has to be there until that person is back on their feet. Until they become aware of certain things. Until they realize a few things, until they can receive the word. Understand? This is very important. It is very, very important.
So, we will not correct something as soon as we think we should correct it. Let us stay on the Cross, in the stillness that the Cross of pain imposes on us. This is very important. Of course, the greatest pain is that of being away from God. It is the greatest pain because our most intense will is to be with God, and like God. Man is the image and likeness of God. Man is created in the image and likeness of God, as the Scripture says. And he has, in his spiritual DNA, man has this tendency towards an eternal personal perfection, this tendency towards theosis. This pain of the man who is far from God, can last years. This is not static, it is dynamic. Man, in time, advances towards God, and in time, this pain metamorphoses, it starts to give birth, to rebirth heaven. Meaning a great joy, beyond this immense pain of being away from God, of being in sin.
And here we see great saints in history, we see St. Silouan who lost grace and then fought many years to regain it. Or St. Isaac the Syrian, who, I don’t know if you know, St. Isaac the Syrian, went 32 years without comfort from God, and he cried continuously, he cried continuously for 32 years, to receive this comfort from God. And after 32 years, when St. Isaac would start praying, he would pray at night and would end his prayer in the morning when the sun rose. He was in ecstasy the whole night. He would start praying with the sun behind him, and would stop praying with the sun in front of him and come out of ecstasy. Understand? So this is how we should go through pain, of course, not at the measure of the saints, but everyone at their own measure, at the measure of the capacity of their vessel, and of course according to their sins.
Because beyond the personal ascesis that a person has to do, there are also the personal sins. And again, beyond the personal sins committed by each of us, we have to constrain ourselves to reestablish this equilibrium between pain, the pain that we have from the sacrifice that we do for God, and the pleasure caused by our sins, by our crooked wills. Now, you should know that there are many sins, you actually know this, but the pains can be categorized by different causes, I will give you a categorization of the causes of pains, of temptations, so that you may be able to take action, so that you may not become troubled, and so that you may not revolt before God. Because, brothers, this problem as I have said from the beginning, originates from the fact that our will is far from the will of God. Because of this we suffer.
The first cause of pain is sin. We are talking about a source of pleasure which holds man captive, about the passions which hold the mind captive on these great pleasure centers. And so, the person cannot escape from there and this of course, generates a pain, generates hardships. Brothers, do not think that you will ever get away with a sin or an injustice. You will not be able to escape, the analogous pain will come, according to the spiritual law. So the first cause of pain is sins. The sins which are not confessed, the sins which are not atoned through an analogous pain. So if man generates this pain through confession, through self-condemnation, through prayer, through fasting, and so on, then of course the pain that comes from the spiritual law will be much smaller. But anyway, the pain will come. You can be sure of that. The second cause of pain, are dam pains.
I have spoken about this before, a person makes a plan, advances on the road drawn out by the plan, on the strategy of that plan, but on this road, at one point, the man does not see it, but a precipice appears. The man does not know that there is a precipice there and, because of this, God, in order to stop the fall of that person into the depths before him, gives him a dam temptation, a dam hardship, in order to stop the plan from coming to fruition. That is why St. Paisios says, “When God closes a door, don’t break the doorknob.” Because we will repent after that. So it is very important, in the moment we see the roads are closing through superior force, through a force majeure, in more juridical terms, then we should not try to impose our will at any cost. Because it will not turn out well, we will repent afterwards.
Thirdly are the temptations, the pains of advancement. This happens when the person does not know how to proceed, he could proceed, but does not know how to proceed. Or he doesn’t want to proceed, or he finds himself in a thicket, and even though he has the capacity for a higher experience, the person does not know how to apply this experience and so God gives him a sorrow, a pain, in order to free him from pleasures, from the slime of pleasures he is glued in. And through this pain that God gave him, this advancement pain, the person advances towards a greater knowledge of God, and a greater knowledge of the heavenly reality. You should know. And of course, finally, there are the example temptations, the example pains. We see the holy martyrs, we see the Romanian saints from the prisons, and of course we see our Lord Jesus Christ who had the most pain possible, and for Him, His cross was complete, because He assumed, as I said in the beginning, all the sins of the world.
And of course, all these saints, Job being a famous case, all these saints did not have sins that would generate the spiritual law, but these pains were permitted by God so that they may be an example of patience, an example of courage, an example of virtue for us. Understand? Of course, all these causes of pains, these Crosses, are foolishness for this world as the Holy Apostle Paul says, but they are the wisdom of God for those who are saved. That is what the Holy Apostle Paul says. So, the person who is mastered by the sins, cannot conceive this great mystery of pain which makes the spiritual man free and saves him.
The worldly person cannot conceive that pain frees us from worldly pleasures and is salvific. It is very important for us to know the truth which is that pain is salvific, and we need to assume it. Because worldly people, to use the Scripture language, do not know this great mystery of the the salvific Cross, the salvific pain, because of this they make this desperate attempt to gain the joy of heaven here on earth. They want to gain this through earthly pleasures, through fleshly pleasures, which brings them through great dramas, to mental illnesses, to schizophrenia, to depression especially.
Why? Because the will of God is the maximization of human joy in eternity. And not here on earth. And in the moment that there is conflict between those wills, this leads to problems of the nervous system. This influences the nervous system of the person who is a worldly person, according the vocabulary of the Scripture, and if the nervous system does not resist, of course it will ‘skhizein’, meaning it will split. ‘Skhizein’ is the root word of schizophrenia, which is a mental illness as you know. And if somebody does not try to do the will of God, as I was saying, they will go through great dramas, and if they try to somehow avoid their Cross that God allows for their healing, then, paradoxically, the person makes his Cross even heavier.
Because they are not according to the will of God. Let me give you an example. During the Second World War, which unfortunately today is somewhat of a current affair, somebody wanted to save his son from going on the war front. Greece was a belligerent part, Greece was in the war, and a rich man didn’t want his son going on the war front so that he may not die, as he considered it. This rich man went to St. Paisios, and told him, “Father Paisios do something so that my son may not go to the war front, save him somehow, because I know you know people” and all this. And St. Paisios said, “If God wants your son to die, he will die. If God wants him to live, then he will live. Since he is enrolled in the army, in active duty, lets obey state authorities, because this is from God.
Because all authority is permitted by God, even if those in authority are sinful people, regardless, it is from God. It is from God, and of course if your son dies, he will die as a hero, he will die sacrificing himself for his country, giving his blood for his country, and so will have a good standing in heaven, will have great joy in heaven, and you here on this earth will delight in his grace.” Of course, the man did not listen to this, he tried to press St. Paisios once, twice, three times. The man did not believe what he was told. Annoyed and indignant, he tried to solve his own problem with money, with bribes, with all this, and eventually he succeeded to send his son to the United States. And when his son arrived, after the whole story of bribes, and knowing the right people, when he arrived in the United States, the moment he got off the plane, this child was hit by a car. And St. Paisios said, “Wouldn’t it have been better for him to have stayed in the country and have died like a hero, to have given his blood for others, and thus received the blessing of God? In this way he died as a dog, hit by a car, and his father lost all his money trying to save his son.”
So brothers, let’s not try to avoid our Cross if it is given by God because we will make it a lot heavier for ourselves. Of course this does not mean that we should put ourselves in temptation’s way, in harms way, we should not be reckless. But in the moment that God determines a certain thing, we should submit and be patient. We should be patient with hope and prayer in the respective thing. Now, why did God determine that no one should be here on earth without hardships meaning why should we all have hardships and distresses? Why? Very simple, because we have the tendency to forget that we are exiles here on earth, we have the tendency to forget that our home is not here, that here we have no continuing city as the Holy Apostle Paul says. We are not natives here, we are not citizens, we are travelers and sojourners like in a foreign country. We are strangers here on earth and we need to find our way back to our true homeland. Meaning in heaven. We are heavenly.
Regardless of how unbelievable it sounds, and regardless of any degradation we might find ourselves in at this time. Understand? We need to return to God. And because of this God leaves these Crosses, these pains, so that we may know that our place is not here. Now, what is the correct approach to pain, to taking up the Cross, as it is said in the Church? First of all, in order to have the correct optics, we need to know the truth. And what is the truth? The truth is the acute pain, the hardships that we feel, show first of all that there is an interior pain, that the problem is our own, and not of somebody else. If somebody grabs my arm and I am healthy, or I have an armor, this does not bother me. On the contrary, I could consider his gesture as a gesture of love.
Now, if he wants to commit an aggressive act against me, that is his business, God will judge this, but I should know, that when I have an unbearable pain it means that it is my problem. It is my interior pain because God is not helping me because of my sins. So I am to blame, not the other. Understand? This is very important. So we have to manage correctly, and not blame others for our problems thinking he did this, he is to blame, and so on. He is not at fault. You are at fault. We are at fault. Understand? The other God will judge. It is not our business. God did not make us judges over a nation. Well, whoever is a judge by trade, that is a different story. But I am speaking now from the spiritual perspective, for each one of us. I understand, for you it is hard now, but for another it was hard yesterday, or it will be tomorrow. Understand? And today God allows them to rest.
So, let’s not be envious of the wellbeing of others and wish that just because our goat died, the goat of the neighbor should die too so to speak. If he is able to rest, to take a breath, to put it that way, we must not think, why is he doing well and we are not. On the contrary, we should be happy for our brother, even if he is not a relative of ours. We should be happy for him and love him. Because tomorrow he may suffer even worse. Understand? This does not mean that if we love the other we will validate their actions. If their actions are sinful, we do not validate their sins. But we need to love. Including our enemies as our Savior said. Because the Lord’s command is to love our enemies. And once again, if someone commits a sin, the fact that we stop an aggression is a gesture of love towards the other, because we stop a great sin that they are doing that would encroach on his soul. Understand?
If you look at life you will see that for everyone it is hard. Or even very hard. So it is very important to be patient. And not only to be patient, but to gain strength for our patience, we need to confess. To confess and especially to look for help. And the help will come in the moment that we offer help, brothers. Help comes in the moment that we offer help. This is spiritual law. And think, look at yourselves, if you never helped anyone in your life, did anybody help you? I don’t think so. Because of this it is very important that we in turn help as well. Because in this way you won’t be alone anymore. We will no longer be alone, and we won’t be lifting up the Cross alone. Because then there will be several of us lifting up the Cross together. When there are several together, it will be a lot better. When there are two lifting up the same Cross, it won’t be two times better, but it will be a million times better, because then we are not alone. And of course, how do we lift up the Cross with the other?
We don’t need to talk a lot about the Cross, but it’s better to show that we are ready to make any sacrifices for them. We are ready to be next to him, to help him. To say, “Yes I am with you, I am helping you.” Meaning if he is sick, I go to him, I will stay with him, I will give him the greatest gift that I can give him, my time, my attention. Of course the other can be withstanding hardships, persecutions, and all these, and I can carry this burden with them, through a good word, through my presence, the greatest gift, I am repeating myself, is my time, is my presence. Now, regarding the lifting of the Cross, I will tell you something from daily life.
You should know that God will bless Romania very much for the help we are giving to the needy, meaning the refugees. The help that we give as a sacrifice. Especially since in the past our people had to suffer a lot because of the different regimes in Ukraine. You know this well. I don’t wish to give details, but we as a nation have suffered a lot on this subject. At Fântâna Albă and other places. And they took our territory and so on. And now God, when he sees that we are helping the people in need, from true love, even if some of these refugees may be even richer than us, God will give us His blessing. Let’s not think so much that they are richer than us, or that they have better cars than us, and so on. Nevertheless these people are horrified by the terror of the war. Of course, we will not validate sin, but we have to act with discernment, and to pick from the refugees those who truly need it. And those we do not destroy and do not mock the help that we give.
Because we need to help others who will appreciate it. Meaning if I help someone who doesn’t actually need help, there won’t be anything left for those who truly need help. And if I give a refugee a guesthouse, or food and board, and he destroys things there, I won’t be able to give to the next that will come. Understand? So there needs to be a little discernment. Discernment out of love. We do not do this from hate, but in order to give those resources, to give that charity to someone who truly needs it. On the other hand we should not say “Oh I am waiting endlessly for someone who needs it.” Let’s be serious. In the moment when somebody is not obviously aggressive, we give alms to that person. This is very important. Of course, this event of the refugees from Ukraine is a very unhappy event. But on the other hand it give us the opportunity to maybe think more about the needy in Romania. Maybe we will help our own. Understand? As you can see, a Cross opens up another Cross.
This is very important because it is necessary to love more, it is necessary to live more spiritually, it is necessary to understand others. and all these are only accomplished through the Cross, only through pain. Because if a person does not go through pain, he becomes, forgive me, unsensitive. Only pain lifts and ennobles a person. Meaning the Cross. Since we are already talking about pain, let’s not preach so much to people to take up their Cross. Let’s do that ourselves, by helping others. Let’s help them, not just sit on the sideline, saying that. Well, I am doing that now but I am doing it for your sake. Understand? I too help as much as I can you, and everyone who comes here, I tell them the word of God, and we, the whole cell, try to help everyone as much as we can. This is very important. When we help others, we appropriate their Cross, meaning, it starts to hurt us for others. Then we suffer together, and the suffering will be a lot lighter. Because I suffer for him, and this suffering for his sake brings me joy, rests me, lifts me, it bring me great love, it brings me a lot of grace.
All goodness comes from God. Because of this, it is very important to know that if hardships have befallen us, these hardships have only happened with God’s permission. And of course, we are all here, everyone with their own pains, on their own plane, with their own hardships. And if we look around, we will see God’s good plan in all these hardships through which He tries to unglue us from sins. God’s plan is in every suffering. You should always know that a pain puts out a greater sin. It puts out a greater sin. This is very important. I have told you this before. Understand? When we are aware that a pain originates from the will of God, that it is the will of God, at that time we should pray and have hope and patience.
Patience, prayer and hope! This is very important. Of course, many now believe that the Christian life is like other ways of living. You should know that it is not like that. The Christian life begins with repentance, with the fight against the passions, an entire ascetism. An entire interior Cross. Orthodoxy is the inner road towards Resurrection, through the Cross. And this ends, it is crowned with the crucifixion. Meaning it is crowned with total pain, but this total pain is swallowed by a complete victory over death, a complete and definitive victory, an overcoming of pain and of course, an overcoming of death which is pain by excellence. This is done of course, together with Christ. And then we will be united with Christ in eternity. You should know that this is a very concrete thing which brings a lot of joy and gives life, as the Holy Apostle Paul says, we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ, in God. Meaning we passed to the other side, hidden from this world here, and for the world of pains. We will be in heaven. Understand?
That is why we should not look at pain only from here on earth, looking down, and never think that it will all end here. Let’s move our thought to the next life, to eternity. Understand? Because if we are not always conscious of our eternity, then we will not be able to resist hardships, we will not be able to resist the Crosses. And, as I said, if someone refuses the Cross, the Cross will paradoxically become much heavier. Because avoiding hardships is only through Christ, through the law of Christ, through the commandments of the Church. Because the commandments of the Church, are not the commandments of a tyrant to his subordinates, they are the therapy, the healing of the human personality. If we do not follow this therapy, this therapeutic treatment, then we will weigh down our Cross until we will make it unbearable for ourselves. This is very important. Let us take care to take the necessary treatment, because if we do not take the necessary and correct treatment, we will no longer have the help of Christ, and we need the help of Christ to lift, we need the help of grace. Understand? You should know that you will not meet anyone that is saved who has not been a bearer of the Cross.
Because, the Cross, meaning hardship, detaches the person from earth and propels them to heaven, where our home is. Simon of Cyrene, who carried the Cross of the Lord, if you remember from the Gospel, is the model of these Cross bearers who suffer hardships and exterior privations. The Lord, if you remember well, was carrying His Cross, and then at one moment, He couldn’t anymore because of its weight, and He kneeled. And that’s when Simon of Cyrene came who helped Him and lifted the Cross. God allowed this, allowed this act, in order that He, in turn, will also help us lift up our Cross. Simon of Cyrene is an example for us. When we see that someone is enduring a hardship, in despair, let’s go and help him. Because we are making God indebted to us. God will be indebted to us to help us and He will lift our Cross, and we will see this lightening of our hardships. This is very imporant.
And since I brought up Simon of Cyrene, as a classic example of lifting up of the Cross, we also have the two thieves, the one crucified on the right, and the one on the left. The thief on the left remained stiff, his pain remained stiff, and he did not open up to God. Because he was still enslaved by the passions, by hatred, fiercely opposed to Christ who had not done anything wrong. While the thief on the right is the one who opened up to God, whose pain lifted him. Understand? So man never loses his freedom including in pain. So of course pain brings man closer to God, but if the man becomes fierce, then that poor man becomes a brute in his pain. And because of this, you should know that the nape of his neck will be crushed, as it is said, without remedy. Because of this man should always, in hardships, get closer to God, because if they don’t they will become very, very, cruel. On the other hand, do not think that, without the Cross, without being crucified, through a life of leisure, we will be able to become what we should be in Christ, meaning to be resurrected. We cannot be resurrected if we do not go through the Cross.
Because a life of ease leads to existential torment, it leads to hideousness, it leads to becoming grounded in the material. In the sense of becoming set in the material. Man does not find rest outside of God, because man is, by excellence, spirit. Man is, by excellence, soul. ‘Spirit’ is a western word, I prefer the word ‘soul’. Man is by excellence something immaterial, warm, loving, intelligent. Matter is not intelligent, it is not loving, and cannot have affection. Understand? Because of this let us choose pain that we may spiritualize ourselves. Let us have the courage to crucify ourselves. Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. Amen.
Online commemoration lists and donations
May the Lord help us!
Online Commemoration Lists and Donations
May the Lord help us!
If you have a bank card and wish to send commemoration lists and donations online using your card, and/or to support our philanthropic activity, including this site, please fill out the form below to make a small donation. The form is secure – we use Stripe for payment processing – a world leader in this field. We do not collect your personal data.
If you do not have a card, or do not wish to use it, visit the webpage for Online Donations and Commemoration Lists.
We will pray for your loved ones! (Please do not include inessential details like wishes, degree of kinship, introductions etc. JUST the name!)
Especially for recurring commemoration lists, we ask that you please keep them to under 20 names long. If you include a member of the family, we add “and for their families.”
Pomelnice online și donații
Dacă aveți un card și doriți să trimiteți pomelnice online și donații folosind cardul dumneavoastră, sau/și să susțineți activitatea noastră filantropică, inclusiv acest site, vă rugăm să introduceți datele necesare mai jos pentru a face o mică donație. Forma este sigură – procesatorul de carduri este Stripe – leader mondial în acest domeniu. Nu colectăm datele dvs. personale.
Dacă nu aveți card sau nu doriți să-l folosiți, accesați Pagina de donații și Pomelnice online .
Ne rugăm pentru cei dragi ai dumneavoastră! (vă rugăm nu introduceți detalii neesențiale precum dorințe, grade de rudenie, introduceri etc. Treceți DOAR numele!)
Mai ales pentru pomelnicele recurente, vă rugăm să păstrați pomelnicele sub 20 de nume. Dacă puneți un membru al familiei, noi adăugăm „și familiile lor”.
Dumnezeu să vă răsplătească dragostea!