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Κυριακή, 2 Σεπτεμβρίου 2012

THROUGH THE PRAYERS OF OUR HOLY FATHERS...




We are pleased to announce the release of a new book of sermons by Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok containing examples of lives of ancient zealots of Orthodoxy. Father Andrew has been the spiritual father of St Elisabeth Convent and the Sisterhood in honour of the holy martyr Grand Princess Elisabeth for many years. Having received a blessing to preach God's Word, he used to give regular (at least once or twice a week) brief radio lectures about parables from the Gospel, stories from ancient Patericons and sayings of the Holy Fathers.

“If you have the chance to speak about Orthodoxy, you ought to speak regardless of who you are. I heard His Eminence Anthony of Sourozh say that, and I made up my mind to follow this advice. He says that if we have a chance to preach, and even if only one person hears it – praise the Lord! We should not hide from other people and say, “We do not need that,” because some sectarians will come and preach to those people instead, and we will be responsible before God for doing nothing.” That was what Fr Andrew Lemeshonok once said as he was answering a parishioner's question.

This book features over forty sermons said by Fr Andrew on the radio from September 2003 to February 2005. Total runtime amounts to seven and a half hours. It is the first time that these sermons are published as a book; however, they have already been released on CDs earlier. The Publishing House of St Elisabeth Convent plans to publish another book featuring sermons dedicated to the Holy Gospel. Fr Andrew said them in 2002-2003.

On Obedience

An Elder took a dry stick, palnted it on top of a hill and ordered John to water this dry stick daily with a bucketful of water till the stick grows fruit. The water well was far from that place, and one had to walk all day in order to bring water. Three years passed, and the stick grew leaves and fruit. The Elder took a fruit, brought it to the church, showed it to the brethren and said, “Come eat of the fruit of obedience.”

Obedience means our attention and trust in God. It means that by obeying our neighbour, we believe that we obey God Himself who gives us salvation.

Life is love. This love is reflected in submitting ourselves to our neighbours for the sake of Christ and for the sake of preserving peace. A disobedient person lost the paradise and the saving God's grace, which had satisfied all his needs in this world. Man chose being his own master, and this leads him to eternal loneliness.

We read in this story about St John the Dwarf that the novice did not sit around thinking that the dry stick would not reap fruit, he trusted his Elder and obeyed him without grudging. St John worked hard for three years, carrying the buckets and watering the stick. How much love and trust towards his Elder he had! He did not give up that seemingly useless, meaningless and hard work! He trusted his Elder, and the Lord did not put him to shame. The dry stick brought good fruit.

It often happens in our lives as well: when we feel that we cannot carry out our obedience, that it is too hard to bear, that we are exhausted, if we put a little more effort into it for God's sake, the Lord will help us to maintain peace inside and outside.

A person comes to confession and asks, “How can I change myself? I have got used to living like all other people.” Christ says, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mark 12:31). We have to renounce our self-love and our pride, we have to force ourselves into being patient and humble instead of living according to the laws of this world.

If we are looking for human truth, we will not find God's love. When we do what we want and ask others to hear and obey us, we face conflicts because our will and our desires collide with the wills and desires of the people around us. We have to humble ourselves down, yield, recall the humility of Christ, and then our 'old man' will be defeated.

All relationships in the Church are based on obedience. The Church obeys Christ like a bride obeys her bridegroom. The life of a Christian consists of obedience to God through his neighbour, be it in his family, or workplace, or the place where he studies. We are obedient when we are attentive, when we trust God and know that nothing prevents us from living with God except our opinionatedness and pride.

This is why we struggle with our sins and always have to force ourselves into being obedient. There cannot be genuine love in a family where there is no obedience. People cannot be creative at work if they condemn their boss and grudge at the working conditions. Everything will be bad and wrong, and people will find thousands of reasons in order to conceal their sin.

A humble and obedient person brings peace. If we trust God and believe that it is Him who puts us into this or that place, and that by serving our neighbour we serve Christ, then everything we do will not only bring good results but also help us grow in the Lord.

A poslushnik (novice. The Russian word derives from the word 'to obey') is not just someone who lives in a monastery and has his obedience there. Every Christian who comes to Christ and follows Him, hearing and obeying His blessing is a poslushnik.

The purpose of a poslushnik is to trample down on his own will, his own self and let Christ act. Christ lives in me... I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 4:13). In order to achieve this, one has to crucify his self with the passions and desires. We try to spend each day without sin, without hurting our neighbour, without turning away from God in the circumstances we have to face.

Without obedience, there can be no order and no fruit because everything is thought to belong to the person in question. A Christian who acquires, makes or builds something inside and outside of his soul, must give all glory to God and understand that whenever anything is a success, it is the Lord who gives him strength and inspiration, so the result is God's gift and God's blessing.

Abba John understood that the stick would come back to life, according to the word of the Elder. The fruit that this tree bore was the fruit of obedience, love and trust in God.

I would like to wish all of those who are seeking God in this world to gather the holy fruit of obedience. We can acquire this fruit every day by humbling down, by making efforts to overcome our pride.

We do not argue, we do not try to prove that we are right. We simply try to preserve peace in our hearts and to serve God and our neighbour.

June 6, 2004

A Peaceful Heart

Abba Isaac said, “I have never brought into my cell an unfriendly thought about my brother who had insulted me; likewise, I have always tried to make sure that my brother would never bring an unfriendly thought about me into his cell.”

The holy elders preserved the peace of Christ in their hearts. Saint Apostle Paul says, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18). This is because one thought or one word without peace distorts all the lifestyle of a person. When someone feels indignant, angry and grudging, he loses his connection to God and falls into sin. He goes spiritually blind and deaf, he can no longer see God's beauty in and around himself. The devil begins to manipulate such a person, and that person ruins both his own life and the lives of those who surround him.

The Lord comes to man and brings His love. It is with this love that man can heal his weak heart and cleanse his mind. One has to make a step towards God, open his heart for Him and let Him enter his life and his house. Then that enmity and indignance between us and our neighbours will disappear thanks to the love of Christ.

The Lord teaches us, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you” (Matthew 5:44). We are learning the love of Christ. The world does not accept this love, the world crucifies it because it has different values and priorities. When an individual encounters love in his life, he often feels as if the object of his love were his property. This is why when his feelings are left unanswered, he is jealous, his love turns into enmity, he is hateful because he cannot reach understanding. Sin makes attempts at justifying itself, and this is how the Old Testament attitudes are formed, “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (cf. Lev. 24:20).

We live in the era of the New Testament, though. We who have got to know Christ are learning to love just as Christ has loved us. We learn the love that the Lord gives us in the holy communion, the love with which the Lord sanctifies and purifies us through the Sacrament of Repentance, the love that we always draw in the church and thanks to which we are nurtured and grow into the measure of truth, where there is neither 'mine' or 'yours', everything belongs to God. Where there is no such thing as 'I want', but 'God willing'.

Therefore, let us not seek for human truth and require everyone to love and sympathise with us. Let us learn to love in spite of the fact that it may sometimes be very difficult to find enough strength to do that. Jesus Christ, who came into this world in order to teach man to love, to defeat the sin, to accept his neighbour and to treat him just as we want others to treat us, is with us.

A life based on the principle of love is a normal life for each Christian. If we look for the right decisions inside ourselves, we will go away from Christ, we will get lost in our our mental states, emotions, feelings, attitudes. Will we be able to see our neighbour then? This is why it is very important for us to overcome ourselves, turn to God and say, “O Lord, please take my life into Thy hands, teach me Thy justifications, give me reason, enlighten me and strengthen me on my way into the Heavenly Kingdom!” We do not need to run away and hide in the mountains or forests. All we need is to live the life the Lord gives us and to struggle for a peaceful heart.

We knock on the door of God's mercy every single day, when we begin each day with a prayer and end it with gratitude to God. We ask God's help for every day, for every hour, for everything we do. It is very important to preserve this peaceful heart, to preserve that life-giving connection with our Creator who leads us to salvation.

June 13, 2004


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