Father Ioan Guțu

127018_parintele-ioan-gutuFather Ioan Guțu was one of the most important Romanian praying Fathers who lived on Mount Athos. Born in 1906, in the Bessarabian* region of Soroca and reposed in the Lord on December 5, 1996, in his cell at the Holy Mountain, Fr. Ioan Guțu lived and died in complete humility.

Fr. Ioan Guțu left us a few words that can be looked upon as his true spiritual ”will”, according to which he himself worked his good deeds: “Let us love all good works equally; however, we should start with the fear of God and finish with our love for Him, which is the wreath of all good works. Prayer should lead the way in all our good works. More prayer, more humility, more love for God – will easily lead us to the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us pray for one another and hope that God will not leave us. That said, we need to be aware that we cannot acquire salvation without temptations, patience, and contrition.”

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Child-bearing Helps Mother Defeat Cancer and TB

The cases in which people win against difficult diseases such as cancer impress both by the way in which the afflicted ones manage not to be brought down by pain and despair, and by the way in which God works in their life and of those around them, for the healing of their body and soul. The case of Daniela Popa, from Bucharest, is a special one, since added to her cancer problem was tuberculosis; and in addition to all that, God blessed her with being a mother for the third time. Daniela and Richard Popa understood the meaning of these trials, received them with open hearts, and through faith and much prayer they managed to defeat them.

Left: Mrs. Daniela Popa and her son, Antonie

Daniela: I found out about my illness in May, 2005, when my husband Richard was away in Mount Athos. I started having high fever, which was growing higher by the day. When Richard came back from Mount Athos, I had a biopsy taken and the result was lymphocyte depleted Hodgkin lymphoma [Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer of the lymphatic system, where the lymphatic cells come to divide abnormally and spread outside the lymphatic system (editor’s note)].

How does the disease manifest itself?

D.: By fever, fatigue, sweat – I felt I lacked strength completely and my neck glands started to swell. At that point, the disease was in stage 2 and I decided to follow a naturist treatment. However, the treatment had no effect and the disease developed very fast; and in September, I got to stage 4. The fever was higher, my ganglions had grown bigger and I was itching all over my body. Continue reading

St. Ignatius and Pig Slaughter

St. Ignatius the Theophorus (“the God Bearer”) is celebrated on December 20. He is believed to have been the infant that Christ took in His arms and given as an example of humility to His Apostles (Matthew 18, 2:4). The name “God Bearer” comes from his testimony in one of his epistles, where he says that he “bears Christ in his heart”. Tradition says that Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch, the third in succession to the bishop’s see, the first one having been the Holy Apostle Peter, and the second one, Evodius, according to testimonies by Eusebius, Origen, and Jerome.

Because he did not want to renounce his faith in Christ, he was thrown into the arena and was torn to death by lions, around 110, during Trajan’s reign (98-117). Parts of his relics are found in the Bishopric in Galati, at the Darvari Skete in Bucharest, and at Tismana Monastery (all in Romania).

Unfortunately, what everyone retains today is solely the pig slaughtering. I don’t know what the origin of that custom is. Some researchers say that this ritual of pig stabbing wasn’t done for the purpose of feeding one’s family, since it reminded of the sacrifices to the gods, who would be “born” and would “die” again during the periods of renewal of the calendar. Which is why on Ignatius’ day, each member of the family would be marked with a cross out of the pig’s blood and it was said that it was good to see blood on that day… Continue reading

Knowledge vs. Living

Theology, such as it was understood and lived by the Spiritual Fathers, is not a system of religious knowledge, a collection of theoretical teachings or rational knowledge about God, but a direct experience and actual living of God’s work in one’s heart and life in the world. It is not a discourse-based science, a discussion about God, but a conversation WITH Him, which is done through prayer and in a state of complete cleanliness and abyss of humility. The God of the hermits is more living and real, and His presence is more intensely lived by them than those who speculate about God.

The question of God’s existence and work is not a speculative one, but one based on living, ascesis, and love. The measure of our partaking in the Lord is proportionate with our efforts to clean our passions off more and more and work upon our virtues ever more completely. And a person’s union with God is done in a state of ceaseless prayer and “supra-mindfulness”, in the midst of light and love. Which is why theology does not imply intelligence, but wisdom; neither does it imply a surplus of rationality, but a surplus of prayer.

Fr. Ioan C. Tesu

Excerpt from: http://www.crestinortodox.ro/credinta/prin-stiinta-spre-credinta-96167.html

The Inner Warfare

Unifying all of one’s spiritual tendencies into a single path provides one with great capability. But that is very difficult to achieve, as there are tendencies that will resist it. Therefore, an inner warfare starts off inside man, in order to defeat the disobedient [forces]. This is how Blondel describes that strategy:

“There is in man a multiplicity of tendencies, of appetites that are more or less concerted or divergent, a «poly-psychism» that has been likened to as a large «nation» governed by reason and will, in which one finds both submissive and disciplined citizens, and recalcitrant and dissident ones. What has been called ascesis and spiritual combat is nothing but the manifestation and method that can be applied in this inner «history», in this «militia hominis adversus et propter semet ipsum». (…) Because any definite and determined position will be countered (out of a spirit of contradiction) by the «party» of the displeased. (…) Any of our initial efforts is like a war declaration against the softness and shallowness of the living energies, which they, too, have an instinct of conservation and independence”. This awakens within us an “alien or hostile awareness and new wishes that rise against one’s will.” (L’Action, vol. II, pp. 194-196I).

The really tough fight starts only within those who have decided to lead a life that is more compliant with the godly commands.”

Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae, Note #1 re: “St. Maximus the Confessor” (Philokalia (III), Humanitas, Bucharest, 2004, p. 182) 

On the Beginners’ Spiritual Shortcomings

Propensity for Haughtiness

They are more readily inclined to give lessons, rather than to receive them. They condemn within their heart those who do not understand faith as they do and they manifest that condemnation – at first, secretly held in their hearts – through their words – and that is when you feel like you hear the Pharisee who thought he was worshipping God when he was vaunting himself for his own deeds, while despising the tax-payer. That sort of attitude is to please the devil. All of these things drive one’s soul to pride and haughtiness. They are of no use whatsoever to the beginners (on the contrary, they change whatever else they have good in them, into sins), as they cease bearing with one another and if anyone comes up to belittle their fellowman, that pleases them. They will see the straw in their brother’s eye yet will fail to notice the beam in their own eye; they will make a big deal out of the other’s minor deeds and will efface their own – greater – faults.

They don’t like confessor Fathers who do not praise them for their actions and don’t appreciate their good behaviour – because such spiritual sons’ sole pursuit is to be praised and commended in everything they do. Continue reading

The Happiness Diary (excerpts) – Fr. Nicolae Steinhardt

A friend is a person who helps you without placing a direct object of time, place, or manner after the verb.

It is not the political or economic system that is decisive, but the tone of the relations among people; whether goodwill reigns, or threat — the rest doesn’t matter. Continue reading