Undue Concern over Others’ Problems

by Archpriest George Morelli Antiochian Archdiocese Ministry of Counseling.

There is a deep chasm between genuine and sincere concern for the
problems that beset others versus undue personal disturbance. One of
the major disaffirmative consequences of an undue concern for others’
problems is that we are not able to focus on fostering our own healthy
physical, psychological or spiritual functioning and wellbeing. This is
often accompanied by our own emotional distress. Furthermore, this then leads to being ineffective in giving others the help they may deservedly need and that we might want to give to them. Irish author, poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), put it this way: “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.”1

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“Can There Be Enough of Love?”

The Ministry at Special Department for Children in Mental Health Hospital @ St. Elisabeth Convent, Minsk, Belarus.


It is great, when you see your goal and know you are moving towards it gradually. It is rather difficult to talk
about work that has no tangible results or some obvious fruits.
However, against this background, you realize how important the faith in charitable nature of your work is, as well as love for every person and
hope that the Lord will help anytime. Few know that in the complex of a
Mental Health Hospital, which is located right behind the Convent’s
walls, there is a special department for children, where there are kids
with disabilities, different from those living in the residential institutions nursed by the Convent.

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A Psychology of Christianity

by Daniel Coburn

Introduction.

The following is a brief outline of a psychology of Christianity. More specifically, it focuses on presenting a psychological interpretation of some major themes in Christian theology, spirituality, and symbolism.

I want to share a few things before getting into the outline by way of introduction. First, the following is not meant to be a reductionistic interpretation that excludes other levels of interpretation. It is simply meant to highlight some of the psychological significance I see in major themes of Christianity. I approach this as an exploratory exercise seeking consilience, not a reductionistic exercise seeking exclusive or final answers. So the following outline is not meant to suggest Christianity is “nothing but” something in your head or to “explain away” other levels of interpretation.

Second, the following outline assumes that analytical conceptualizations which view psychology, theology, spirituality, and mysticism as discrete domains that are completely separate are misleading and wrong. Rather, the following outline is based on the assumption that psychology, theology, spirituality, and mysticism are distinct yet overlapping, which is why I seek to explore areas of consilience.

Third, I want to stress my primary concern is not with addressing questions of theological or philosophical metaphysics given my limited focus. Readers can each decide their own metaphysics for themselves.

Overall, this essay suggests there is a psychological story of development running through the biblical narrative that includes a major problem and its solution. Following the emergence of humanity’s advanced intelligence, we observe our traumatic fall into enhanced self-awareness with the new burdens and evils that accompanied this event as the major problem, while the psychology of Christ’s love and self-transcendence renewing humanity and recreating the cosmos as the full realization of its solution.

A Psychology of the Creation & the Fall

The stories of creation and the fall of humankind are mythological origins stories of the emergence of human nature and distinct features of human psychology. They are mythological because they narrate perennially relevant truths about our human condition that still apply to our lives and circumstances today. The creation story of Genesis One is a mythological origins story of the progressive emergence of advanced human intelligence, language, and meaning-making by which the known world was creatively formed into a meaningfully organized cosmos, mediated by the language-based power of the divine Word.

Psychologically, this cosmos-making activity occurs by creative acts of analytically “separating” and differentiating parts of the created world into distinct identities, while also synthetically naming and “binding together” similar parts into common identities, which are two constituent processes of meaning-making and world(view) creation from which an ordered cosmos is dynamically formed out of nonorder and nonlanguage by the power of the divine Word. Moreover, humans are made in the likeness of the divine Word, infused with the divine Breath, endowed with unique capacities and responsibilities for participating in creatively cultivating and caring for the world, developing its potentials for good as agents of the Word.

The story of the fall of humankind is a mythological origins story of the dawning of self-awareness and, in particular, the painful emergence of the dark sides of enhanced self-consciousness with its new burdens and consequences for humans beings. More specifically, it is about how enhanced self-consciousness gave humankind new insights into our existential conditions of nakedness, vulnerability, and mortality, as well as new ethical insights, capacities, and responsibilities as a consequence of possessing enhanced self-consciousness which enables new knowledge of good and evil.

In other words, the first major consequence of the fall of humanity is a new overwhelming and painful sense of self-awareness. As the story goes, Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened, they felt naked and ashamed, they were motivated to hide and cover themselves, they became acutely aware of their existential vulnerability and mortality, and they traumatically “fell” into an awareness of the harsh realities of history, suffering, and death. Enhanced self-consciousness also enabled the psychological development of a strengthened sense of a bounded individual ego-self, separate from non-ego realities, which introduced a new general sense of separation, disconnection, and isolation into the human psychological condition.

The second major consequence of the fall is the entrance of new knowledge of good and evil. But why is enhanced self-consciousness related with “consuming” new ethical knowledge of good and evil? Because by learning and knowing how “I” can be hurt and harmed as a result of enhanced self-consciousness, I know how others who are like me can be hurt and harmed, and I can use this ethical knowledge for good or evil based on my moral choices. As a result, the fall of humanity comes with new ethical knowledge, capacities, and responsibilities shared by human beings, which marks the loss of a prior state of innocence and the introduction of new existential and moral guilt. Subsequent biblical stories also highlight how new sins and evils corrupt the human world in various ways after the fall.

Hence why the biblical tradition teaches all humans are subsequently born into the same fallen nature of Adam and inherit the same legacy of our fallen humanity after this critical event. Which is to say that humans are born into the same human nature and inherit the same distinctive psychology and ethical capacities of human being.

Responding to the profound and devastating consequences of the fall of humanity is the central problem of the whole biblical narrative. Which raises the central question, how do we heal ourselves and our world from the legacy of the fall and overcome its harmful effects? Everything that follows in the biblical narrative with the coming of Christ and the final renewal of the world is about solving this essential problem.

A Psychology of the Christ & Satan

Christ and Satan are each representative figures of particular psychological, social, and ethical patterns of living in the world, which can manifest psychologically at the levels of “schema” types, “personality types,” and/or “archetypes.” The patterns of Christ and Satan represent contrary psychologies and ethics associated with absolute good and absolute evil that are respectively directed toward conflicting value-states and goal-states of Heaven and Hell. Their relationship is therefore characterized by ethical opposition, struggle, and conflict in which Christ is ultimately portrayed as the more powerful and victorious of the two ways of living.

The central conflict between Christ and Satan psychologically is a struggle for the self. On the one hand, the pattern of Satan is primarily organized around selfish, ego-centred pride combined with disregard for the wellbeing of others, which is understood to be a cause of various evils and a source of deep deception. The core lie and deception of this pattern of living is the central motivating belief that “I matter the most.” More specifically, the belief that I am the most valuable thing in existence, that I matter more than others, and that I am the most worthy object of the best of my love and devotion, which I should organize and orient my whole life around serving above all others and above all else.

On the other hand, the pattern of Christ is primarily organized around selfless, self-giving, self-sacrificing love oriented toward altruistically serving the wellbeing of others. Christ’s self-transcendence overcomes the narrower fixations of Satan’s prideful egoism by a greater, more encompassing and dynamic self primarily organized and motivated by love. Instead of placing himself above others, Christ descends downward in love and humility to serve others for the purpose of supporting the wellbeing and growth of all, which reveals Christ’s identity of love.

A Psychology of Christ’s Incarnation, Life, Suffering, Death & Resurrection

The victory of Christ’s love in the struggle for self is embodied and acted out by Christ in the whole journey of his incarnation, life, suffering, death, and resurrection. Through this journey, Christ is addressing and overcoming the problems of our fallen human nature. He is not offering a mere theoretical answer but is applying and embodying the solution to the problem through his whole way of living, while simultaneously modelling by example the Christian pathway of healing and transformation for others to follow.

In Christ’s incarnation and life, Christ fully identifies with humanity, descending from the highest heavenly place, “taking the very nature of a servant” who uses his power to love and care for others. Christ’s identification with humanity is taken to its most extreme end in his suffering and death. For a central issue of human living is how will I respond to my suffering and death? Will I attempt to avoid suffering and deny death, selfishly looking out for only myself and seeking my own comfort and preservation above all else? Or will I voluntarily accept life’s suffering and seek to love others in all circumstances, even in my suffering and death?

Christ’s answer is to fully identify with our human condition, accepting and responsibly bearing it all, even unto suffering and death. And by fully accepting the burden of humanity with unconditional love, Christ overcomes the powers of suffering, evil, and death to dominate and control humanity in fear. As a result, Christ transcends these powers and transforms human nature, showing a new way to be human defined by freedom and love.

Hence why Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I [ego] no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Our journey of transformation in Christ is dramatized in ritual acts of baptism where we identify ourselves with Christ, descending down into the waters in death and rising up from the waters to a new resurrected life. Psychologically, this is a journey of leaving behind our old personal ego-self for the purpose of embracing our new transpersonal self-in-Christ.

Through his journey, Christ overcomes the fallen nature and original psychology of Adam (humanity) by fully accepting and overcoming it through self-transcendence motivated by love, forming a new nature and new transformed humanity, which is the collective Body of Christ, guided and unified together by the same mind and ways of Christ. Thus, the old psychology of the “first Adam” is transformed by the greater psychology of the “second Adam” who is Christ. All who are “in Christ” and all who participate in the mind and embodying of Christ’s love are members of this renewed humanity, connected and unified together by the same life and love.

A Psychology of God

There are many theologies of God within Christianity and beyond Christianity in other religions. The following, however, is not primarily a theology of God but rather more of a focused and functional definition relevant to understanding a Christian psychology of God. Readers can decide on any other particulars of theology and metaphysics for themselves.

For the purposes of this outline, I would like to modestly suggest functionally defining God as reality. That God is the I Am-ness and realness of existence.

Usually I prefer avoiding using terms like “supernatural” when referring to God because these notions generally have a lot of misleading conceptual baggage attached to them. To clarify, God is not “supernatural” in the sense that God is separate from nature and reality. Rather, God is supernatural in the sense that God is super-nature and super-reality — the full unlimited superabundance of reality. Although theology is not the primary concern of this outline, it is worth pointing out that conceiving of God as anything separate from reality, other than reality, or less than reality are some of the most profound, misleading theological errors one could possibly make according to the understanding I am presenting.

Psychologically knowing and seeking God is therefore equivalent with knowing and seeking reality. These are two ways of saying the same thing. Likewise, seeking anything other than reality is a misdirected pursuit — traditionally known as idolatry — of devoting oneself to seeking anything less-than-reality or other-than-reality, which can include living by mistaken theological ideas about God or any other misconceptions about reality that limit one’s full engagement with reality. Moreover, seeking to know and love God with all of oneself is the same as seeking to know and love reality with all of oneself, which can require self-sacrifice and self-transcendence insofar as self-constructs are limiting and interfering with fully loving reality with one’s whole being.

The psychology of “theosis” (union with God) modelled by Christ, which is the true goal of Christian spirituality, involves overcoming the limited, isolated sense of a separate ego-self while gaining an expanded, open sense of one’s self-in-Christ motivated by love, which rediscovers a sense of loving connection, wholeness, and oneness with all reality, resulting in the healing and transformation of one’s self by fully identifying with Christ and reality.

A Psychology of Heaven & Hell

Heaven and Hell are representative models of ethical states of absolute good and absolute evil. Moreover, Heaven and Hell can be understood as macro heuristic models of ideal ethical states of existence that partly developed for guiding and motivating moral behaviours. The heuristic of Heaven developed for guiding “approach” behaviours motivated by seeking heavenly goods and rewards, while the heuristic of Hell developed for guiding “avoidance” behaviours motivated by fleeing hellish evils and punishments. Hence why it is taught to seek God and flee the Devil, to pursue heavenly rewards and avoid the punishments of Hell.

Interestingly, we use similar language of “place” and “states” to describe both fixed geographical locations and dynamic states of experience. I would suggest Heaven and Hell are not fixed geographies or static locations as sometimes imagined, but rather dynamic states of existence that emerge based on the quality of our ethical living.

With this perspective, the arrival of Kingdom of Heaven on earth proclaimed by Christ is about the progressive arrival of a dynamic state of existence that we may discover and participate in ourselves, here and now. Like a political kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven is an analogy for the sphere of influence organized and guided by the purposes of God as revealed in the example of Christ. We may discover the Kingdom of Heaven is among us, around us, and within us, right here and right now, as we each psychologically and socially align our way of living with the example of Christ’s love, sharing in Christ’s prayer that things may be “here on earth as in Heaven.”

A Psychology of Spiritual Conflict & Warfare

There are many foundational metaphors for modeling and understanding the nature of spirituality. Spiritual “warfare” and its variants are one common set of organizing metaphors in Christian theology and spirituality. It shows up in notions of spiritual battles, attacks, oppositions, strongholds, fighting, and struggling, in notions of heavenly hosts, armies, and legions, and in notions of how we struggle against spiritual forces, powers, principalities. And in the original historical contexts of the tradition, war was a regular feature of everyday life everyone could relate with.

Conflict models have been used in various schools of modern psychology and psychotherapy. Jeffrey Young’s following comments are an example of this in schema therapy: “Schema healing is the ultimate goal of schema therapy. Because a schema is a set of memories, emotions, bodily sensations, and cognitions, schema healing involves diminishing all of these… Schema healing requires willingness to face the schema and do battle with it. It demands discipline and frequent practice. [People] must systematically observe the schema and work everyday to change it. Unless it is corrected, the schema will perpetuate itself. Therapy is like waging war on the schema [emphasis added]. The therapist and the patient form an alliance in order to defeat the schema, with the goal of vanquishing it. The goal is usually an unrealizable ideal, however: Most schemas never completely heal, because we cannot eradicate the memories associated with them” (2006, 31–32).

Spiritual conflict and growth can likewise be understood at the psychological level in many similar ways. The overall goal of spiritual development in Christianity is overcoming one’s fallen, false self primarily organized around selfish pride and inflated egoism for the purpose of discovering and developing one’s self in Christ, which is one’s greater and truer identity organized by the power of love, and which is a source of profound healing and transformation.

A Psychology of Healing, Redemption & Hopes for Complete Future Renewal

A constellation of interrelated metaphors are used in Christian tradition and spirituality to describe the incredibly great changes and transformations that occur as we ourselves, individually and socially, become transformed by the psychology of Christ. These metaphors include redemption, freedom, liberation, victory, reconciliation, reunion, healing, justification, purification, regeneration, recreation, etc.

At the core is an understanding that we may experience our greatest change and transformation by embodying Christ’s love and learning to follow his example of self-transcendence, by which we may grow and discover a new identity organized by the psychology of Christ, which is the psychology of love, releasing us from our old identities and ways of living. This core understanding is also translated to the greatest possible scale of fulfilment, as the end of the Christian narrative of history is the recreation of a completely renewed cosmos, a vision of new heavens and new earth.

This teleological, goal-oriented, aspirational vision serves as an inspirational guide for our own journeys of discipleship as students of Christ. Understood psychologically, Christian discipleship is a journey of learning and adopting the schema and personality of Christ as one’s own true identity and way of living for the purpose of participating in bringing the state of heaven on earth. The hope is that as we transform ourselves, our relationships with one another, and our relationships with our world, the cosmos we live in will be progressively transformed into a state of peace, love, thriving, and flourishing, which is final Christian vision of a fully renewed world.

Daniel Coburn is completing his Masters degree in Social Work in Canada. He welcomes reader’s comments on this article: dcoburn88@gmail.com.

This article is re-published from Medium by the author’s permission.
c.f., https://medium.com/@daniellewis_25907/a-psychology-of-christianity-c3b2733e50f8

St. Silouan the Athonite: On Depression

by Fr. Vasile Tudora

The greatest plague of the 21st century is not AIDS, nor cancer, nor the H1N1 flu, but something that affects much more people in ways we can barely start to understand: depression. Reportedly one in ten Americans suffers from one or the other forms of this malady. The rates of anti-depressant usage in the United States are just as worrisome. A recent poll unveils that one in eight Americans is using them. Prozac, Zyprexa, Cymbalta are not strange alien names anymore, but familiar encounters in almost every American household. Even children approach the usage rates of adults. These are very high and paradoxical numbers in a country where all are free to enjoy “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Even in times of crisis, Americans have a better life than most countries in the world, in all respects. Just glance over to the life of the Christians in the Middle East, and you’ll realize the blessings we enjoy every day. Most of us have a job, a house, a car or two, enough food, education, equal opportunity, religious freedom to name just a few. Practically we shouldn’t be in want for anything; yet, every tenth person is longing for something, is missing something so bad, so important, that they cannot cope with this need on their own. This explains the usage of drugs; with them, the negative aspects of life can be more easily coped with. They are a crutch that helps people move along with their lives for a short while.

But a crutch is still a crutch; it can only take one so far. The depressed man needs a different cure, one that will take care of the root of his problems, will erase his desperation and offer him a new lease on life. A cure, however, cannot come without the understanding of the underlying disease. So, this begs a question: why is America depressed? What are we still missing in the abundance that surrounds us?

A short answer is: we miss God. We may think we miss something else, we can justify our depression by creating some imaginary needs, but at the end of the day, we miss Him. He has created us for a purpose: union with Him unto eternity. Losing sight of this, we lose it all and, in our shortsightedness, we keep longing for something we don’t know we have lost. It all goes back to who we are, what are we doing here and where we are going; it is back to the basics.

In the midst of the information revolution, the world wide web and the boom of technology, man still yearns for the same fundamental things: purpose and direction. The secular society can’t give him either. The purpose is temporary, ceasing to exist when life expires, and the directions one gets are so contradictory that they end up canceling themselves. So man is confused, lost and at the brink of despair. He is thirsty, but there is no well of life, he is hungry but there is no food for his eternal soul, he is lonely and he has no man.

So what to do? In an interview I recently read (you can find it here, it is very edifying), the Archimandrite Sophrony Sacharov, of blessed memory, at that time a younger monk, was asked by a visiting priest: “Fr. Sophrony, how will we be saved?” Fr. Sophrony prepared him a cup of tea, gave it to him, and told him, “Stand on the edge of the abyss of despair and when you feel that it is beyond your strength, break off and have a cup of tea.” Obviously this was a very odd answer, and the young priest was definitely confused. So off he went to St. Silouan the Athonite, who lived not far from there, and told him everything, asking for advice. Long story short, next day, St. Silouan came to the cell of Fr. Sophrony and the two started a conversation about salvation. The beautiful fruit of their conversation was an unforgettable phrase that I would like to also offer as the answer to our conversation today about depression: “Keep your mind in hell and despair not.”

At first glance, St. Silouan’s take on salvation is not less strange that Fr. Sophrony’s initial answer, but it actually makes great sense. In traditional Christianity, the difficulties of life, the hardships are assumed as part of our fallen existence. Our bodies and our minds suffer the torments, but this is nothing but a temporary stage. The ascetic Fathers considered them as tests on par with the athletic exercises, very useful in practicing and improving the powers of the soul like patience, kindness, hope, faith and so forth. We keep our mind in hell when we consciously assume the pain of living in a fallen world, when we learn from this passing agony to avoid the even greater torture of an eternity without Christ. But there is hope in this suffering because Christ himself has suffered them first and has opened for us a way out of despair, a way out of pain, a way out of death. Christ is the well of life, the bread of eternity, and the only Man we need.

So as Christians we keep our minds in hell and we despair not, but courageously give glory to God in all things, even in pain, hoping, always hoping, in our Savior, the only One who can take us out of the brink of despair and set us for a new life in Him. In Him we put our hope, in Him we find our purpose, and on Him we set our goal.

Through the intercessions of our Father among the Saints Silouan the Athonite, through the prayers of Fr. Sophrony of Essex, of all the ascetic Fathers and all the saints, O Lord of compassion and hope, have mercy on us and save us!

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Fr. Vasile Tudora is the Parish Priest at the Greek Orthodox Church of St. John the Baptist in Euless, Texas under the omophorion of Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver. Originally born in Bucharest, Romania he pursued first Medical Studies at the “Carol Davila” University of Medicine in Bucharest. Later he responded the call to priesthood and also pursued theological studies at the “Sfanta Mucenita Filoteea” Theological Institute. Due to his dual background, Fr. Vasile has a special interest in Christian Bioethics and writes articles on contemporary faith issues on his blog and various other blogs and newspapers in English and Romanian

The Healing Mission of the Church

By +Athanasios, Metropolitan of Limassol (EP).

[edited by Stavroforemonk Symeon of Syracuse (USA).]

The main mission of the Church is to heal a person. In other words, when a person becomes part of the Church [that person] is healed if he follows the therapeutic regime which aims to assist him to return to the natural state which God gave him when He had created him.

After the fall of our forefathers, our nature was corrupted. When man severed his relationship with the Lord, after disobeying His command, all his mental and physical capacities were immediately corrupted and perverted; his mind turned away from its unbreakable communication with the Lord, which was his natural state, towards the creation and matter, passions and sin. From that moment sickness and perversion entered man’s nature.

This is the reality of the fall, the sin of the forefathers, namely the hereditary sickness which passes on from one generation to another because we are natural descendents of our forefathers. Thus, each man has inherited this condition of spiritual sickness; the perversion of his nature. [Known as the “Ancestral Curse”]

Jesus Christ is called the ‘New Adam’, because He enters history at a certain point in time and accomplishes a mission. Christ’s mission was not so much to hand over the Gospel, namely His teachings, neither to give us a book called ‘Gospel’, but to give us Himself. In other words, just as we have inherited the sickness of our nature through the first Adam, Jesus offers us Himself, so that through the baptism we unite with Him, become one with Him, and then through the Holy Eucharist we acquire the capacity to unite with Him organically and ontologically (actually). This means that the actual unity with the Body and Blood of Jesus flows into our being, into our soul and our body. This is the reason why we become children of God and why the Church exists. The Church would have no reason to exist if it did not administer the holy mysteries, particularly the mystery of the Holy Eucharist.

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How Not to Despair

To a certain brother who had committed a sin, the devil appeared to him and said: “You’re not Christian”. The man replied “Regardless of who I am, at least I am better than you”. Satan then said: “I’m telling you, you will be going to hell”. To which, the brother replied: “You are neither my judge, nor my God”. Thus, Satan went away empty handed, while the brother showed sincere repentance before God and became worthy.

A brother who was overcome by grief asked a Geron (Elder): “What should I do? My thoughts are telling me that I wrongly rejected the world and that I won’t be saved.” The Elder replied: “Even if we never manage to enter the Promised Land, it is to our advantage to leave our bones in the desert, rather than to return to Egypt”.

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Another brother asked the same Elder: “Father, what does the prophet mean when he says ‘There is no salvation for him, by his God’? and the Elder said: “He is referring to the thoughts of desperation that are sown by demons in the mind of the man who has sinned, telling him: ‘There is no longer any salvation for you from God’, in their attempt to tumble him into a state of desperation. One must contradict these thoughts, by saying. “The Lord is my refuge, and He shall free my feet from the trap’”.

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One of the fathers narrated that outside Salonica there was a hermitage for nuns. One of the nuns, having being prompted by the common enemy, departed from the monastery and fell into prostitution, and remained in this vice for quite some time. Eventually, however, with the help of merciful God, she repented and returned to the monastery. And, upon reaching its gateway, she fell down, dead.
Her death was revealed to a saint, who saw the holy angels that came to take her soul, and the demons that followed behind them. In the dialogue that took place between them, the holy angels said that she had come back repented. The demons however argued that: “She had been subjugated by us for a long time, therefore she is rightfully ours. Besides, she didn’t even manage to enter the monastery, so how can you say that she had repented?” And the angels said: “From the moment God saw that her intention was bent towards this goal, He accepted her repentance; Repentance itself was of course within her power, because of the goal that she was set on, however, her life was within the power of the Lord of the universe.” With these words, the demons were put to shame and they departed. And the one who saw this revelation, is the one who is narrating it to those present.

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Abba Alonios said that, if a man wants, he can reach divine standards by the end of one day.

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A brother asked Abba Moses: “If someone beats his slave because of a mistake that he made, what will the slave say?”. The elder replied. “If he is a good slave, he will say ‘Spare me, for I was wrong’”. “Nothing else?” asked the brother. “Nothing else”, replied the elder, “because from the moment he acknowledges his error and admits he is wrong, his master will immediately show mercy”.

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A brother said to Abba Poemen: “If I commit a lamentable mistake, my thoughts devour me and accuse me of my fall”. The elder said: “If, at the time the person makes the mistake, he says “I have sinned”, the thought immediately ceases”.

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There was a young girl with the name Taesia, whose parents had died and she had remained an orphan. From that moment, she turned her house into a hostel for the Fathers of the Scete and for a long time she received them and offered them her hospitality. But when she had spent everything that she had, she began to feel the hardship. Then, certain perverted people approached her and lured her away from the straight path. And she began to live in sin, to the point that she ended up in prostitution.

When the fathers learnt of this, they were saddened very much, so they called Abba John Kolovos and said to him: “We have heard about our sister that she lives in sin. She, whenever she could, had shown love to us. Now it’s time for us to help her. So, you should take the trouble and go to her, and with the wisdom that God gave you, tend to correcting her.”
So the father went to her, and said to the old woman guarding the door: “Tell your mistress that I have come”. She drove him away, saying: “A long time ago, you devoured all of her fortune, and now she is poor.” The elder insisted: “Tell her, and she will see much good from me”. So the old woman went inside the house and reported to the young lady about the elder. On hearing this, she thought to herself: “These monks always travel around the Red Sea and they find pearls”. So she preened herself, sat on the bed and instructed the old woman: “Bring him here”.

When Abba John entered, he sat near her, and looking into her face, said to her: “What made you reject Jesus, so that you would end up in such a condition?” On hearing his words, she froze; and the elder bowed down his head and started to cry, full of bitterness. “Abba, why are you crying?” she asked him. He lifted up his head, but again turned it away, saying: “I can see Satan dancing in your countenance; how can I not cry?” “Is there repentance, Abba?” the girl asked. “Yes”, the elder replied. And she added: “Take me, wherever you think is best”. “Let’s go”, said the elder, and instantly she rose up and followed him. The elder noticed that she didn’t leave any instructions about her house and he wondered at this.

When approaching the desert, night fell. And the elder prepared for her a small pillow; he blessed it and told her to sleep there. Then he made one for himself a little further off, and after finishing his prayers, he also lay down to sleep.

At midnight he woke up and saw something like a path of light, which led off from the girl and ended in the sky, and he saw angels of God carrying up her soul. He rose up, approached her and nudged her with his leg. When he realized that she had passed away, he kneeled, with his face to the ground, and prayed to God. And he heard a voice saying to him that her one hour of repentance was more welcome than the repentance of many other people, whose repentance may last longer, but is lacking in fervor.


What is Prayer of the Intellect and of the Heart?

Remembrance of God demonstrates communion with Him and is therefore like prayer. Striving to invoke the holy Name of Christ continuously, through the prayer ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me’, is a constant renewal within us of the remembrance of God and communion with Him. This is why Saint Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that they should ‘Pray without ceasing’.

Through the remembrance of God and prayer, we reveal the true nobility of our nature, which stands at the threshold between the visible and invisible worlds and is that of a ‘deified animal’ [Saint Gregory the Theologian, Oration 38.11 (PG 36: 324)]. This nature transcends physical necessity, expands our existence as far as God and has a sense of freedom from those things which hold us prisoner on earth.

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