Father Ioan Guțu

127018_parintele-ioan-gutuFather Ioan Guțu was one of the most important Romanian praying Fathers who lived at 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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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 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

About Love

Excerpt from an interview with Hieromonk Savatie Baştovoi

I would also like to ask you, whilst remaining in the area of our discussion so far: what were those existential experiences that made you become a monk?

– Usually, people who have gone through atheism expect or think that one must have had some sentimental breakdown prior to going into monasticism as well as before any common conversion to Christianity. In reality, things are different. Usually, one assumes that he or she has had some disappointments [in love]. I have recently received a letter from a friend of mine, a poet who lives in Iaşi and with whom I used to go to the same literary club, who wrote to me: “You know, I, too, read the Holy Fathers, I like their writings; I go to church. I have also thought many times about taking the step you have – but you see, I still believe in love”. And I could not help smiling there, because… I believe in love, too; don’t I? And I believe even in the love between a man and a woman. But I have come to understand that the difference between the love poems I used to write – albeit very sincerely – and true love is like the difference between the dead Lazarus and the resurrected Lazarus. Continue reading

Everytime We Love, We Restrain the Other One

Hieromonk Savatie Baştovoi

What I mean by that is that type of suffocating love, where one “takes possession” of one’s fellowman, and which starts to “model” everyone else according to oneself. I think that we have all done such things: for instance, parents who love their children to the point where children, when they grow up, they don’t know how to escape from their parents’ tyranny – which isn’t true tyranny, but which can be perceived as such in the other one’s heart. Therefore, one first misunderstanding, one first “hazard” of love is that of us acting like people who actually know what real love is about and who therefore think they can – or even must – impose it to others.

Love – says Apostle Paul – bears all things, believes all things, forgives all things. Loves does not get puffed up, seeks not her own, does not vaunt itself; love never fails. So in order for us not to get lost in our own deformed understanding of love, the Apostle lists the signs of true love: that is, to be near the other one as if you were not. Love does not seek her own. Every time we love, we restrain the other one’s space.

That kind of love never bears fruit. But humility has always convinced one. It has even convinced tyrants, many times.

(A fragment from a lecture by Hieromonk Savatie Baştovoi – “On the Hazards of Love”. Arad, Romania, Dec. 13, 2007)

About Thoughts

A brother went to Abba Pimen once and told him:
– Abba, I have many thoughts and put myself in peril because of them.
The elder took him outside and told him:
– Stretch out your arm and keep the wind away.
The brother said:
– I cannot do that.
The elder told him:
– If you cannot do that, neither will you be able to stop thoughts from coming into your mind. But standing strong before them is another thing.

Apophtegms by the Holy Fathers of the Desert

The Need for Confession and the Eucharist

 By Fr. Ilarion Argatu                                     Those who have lived away from the Holy Church and have not confessed and taken the Eucharist for years on end will see that once they decide to come back to it, they have trouble standing in the church, because of the evil spirits who have now come to live inside them. Thus, during the Holy Liturgy, these people don’t feel well, they feel sick, they are weak to the point of fainting, some of them tremble, others fall to the ground and flap around, some bark, meow, bellow, or moo. The bad spirits that dwell in man do so.

If you had confessed and taken the Eucharist often, you wouldn’t have gone through this. That is what happens when you stay away from God for several years. Now that you come back to church, the devils set obstacles in your way and try to frighten you by this torment, so that you will give up and go home. You must have a strong will and stay. They are not allowed to kill you; they only torment you in an attempt to take you out of the church and make you give up attending it. After confessing – and taking the Eucharist – you will calm down and the nausea and trembling will disappear. The evil spirits have to leave you. Upon your next confession, you will not go through this or in any event, your troubles will be lesser. Then with every Eucharist, you will get better and better. Continue reading

About Abba Visarion

A man who was possessed by the demon came to the skete once and they prayed for him in church, but the demon wouldn’t come out, for it was a powerful one. And the clergy said: “What shall we do about this demon? Nobody can take him out, save for Abba Visarion. But if we ask him to do that, he won’t even show up in church. So let us do this: since the Abba comes in earlier than everyone else, let us ask the demonised man to sit on Abba’s place and when the Elder comes in, let us sit as if we are about to start our prayers and ask him: Wake up that brother, too, Abba!”

And they did so. When the Elder entered the church the following morning, they sat to pray and told him: “Abba, please be kind and wake up that brother, too.” And Abba Visarion turned and said to the man: “Wake up, get out!” and the demon left the man straight away, leaving him healed.  

Apophtegm by the Holy Fathers of the Desert

The Grapes

They brought a bunch of grapes to Abba Macarius once. However, although he liked grapes, the Abba refrained from eating it and sent it to a brother who was ill and who felt a great need to eat grapes. Upon seeing the grapes, that brother rejoiced but since he didn’t want to succumb to his lust, either, he sent them to another brother, whilst commenting that he felt no need to eat them. That third brother did the same and thus the grapes were passed down from hand to hand, without any of the brethern eating them. The last brother, unaware that the grapes were coming from Abba Macarius, gave them to him as a great gift. And upon recognising them, the Abba marvelled at his brethern’s restrain.

Palladius – “The Lausian History”