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

“On Europe’s Christian Heritage” – An Excerpt

By Alexandru Paleologu

[…] Huntington is what you call a politologist. […] I wouldn’t give any job to a politologist, because this is the type of person who thinks that they can philosophize without an entire philosophical basis. A politologist is a specialist who lacks width of vision and does not know how to connect things that only seem to be outside of his expertise.

Huntington’s idea – that the Carpathians could become a fracture line that will lead to inevitable conflicts (since the Western world stops at the Carpathian line, and beyond it, the Slavic-Orthodox one begins) starts from ignoring some actual facts. Only Russia, Bulgaria, and Serbia are Slavic-Orthodox. Greeks and Romanians are not Slavs. There is – it is true – a Slavic background among the Romanians, too, which it would be absurd to deny. Whoever denies it is just as passion-driven as the ones who at some point held that we were entirely Slavic. The Romanian people has some interesting “precedents”: the Cumans, the Pechenegs, the Slavs – in addition to its Latin background and perhaps, the Greek-Latin one, too.

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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)

How Can We Bear Witness, Today?

Father, how can we witness Christ nowadays?

– It’s very simple. Especially today, when Christ has so many adversaries. My dear ones, what we lack today is love for our neighbour – and THAT is our “homework”: “Do you say you love Me? Then give to the poor…” You know, it’s like Christ is telling us: “We will meet again, and it is I Who will ask you questions, and it will be more difficult for you then”.

And there’s no need for the world to know that I’m giving this shirt, for example, to someone; or a penny; or that I’m feeding a dog.

Let me tell you what happened to me once. Continue reading

What’s It Like in Hell?

Fr. Arsenie Papacioc

Well, my dear ones, they say that they showed the torments of Hell to this fellow, once. And when he was taken there, he saw this man who was ankle-deep in a pond of fire and was crying out terribly. And our man asked him: “Why do you cry out so?” And that one answered: “Because I’m in this pond forever!” He walked on… then he came across a man who was standing in a pond of fire up to his neck. Yet this one was rejoicing every now and then. He told our man: “I’m in fire much deeper than others, but I am glad to see that yet another member in my family has become a priest, and in 40 years’ time, they will take me out of here.”

You see? Psychologically speaking, those 40 years were just a limited time to him, not an eternity. That man was happy, because he had hope.

My dear brothers and sisters, upon the Last Judgement, we will be asked: “Why didn’t you love?” We will be judged because we have hated, because we have badmouthed, because we have killed.

So why don’t you fight [to be good]? Why don’t you want to ask for the Lord’s Grace? When you’re faced with all sorts of temptations, just call out to Christ: “Lord, Jesus Christ, Lord, Jesus Christ!” Don’t just live in a state of inertia, live out every moment of your lives! It’s difficult, but God will understand – He wants to help you. He’s following our every move because He loves us.

Let us love each other!

On Love and Poetry

What do you think about the trivialities that are proffered about and that some claim to be poetry? Do you think that this can be called poetry?

– No. I think that is the sign of an anomaly – I don’t know if an intellectual one, though. I’m afraid it is more serious than that. Ever since Freud, a mutation has been produced: sex has taken the place of mind. That is the saddest thing of all. You see, there used to be this decency about the Romanian people. You would not say certain words – they weren’t taboos but there was a certain modesty about them. Now, the word ”decency” has all but disappeared from our dictionaries. I have no preconceptions at all, but the way in which we conduct ourselves kills beauty. ”Our bodies are God’s temples”, said Apostle Paul. What do we do with them? We expose them like any other piece of flesh. It’s terrible. It is also terrible to see what has happened to the relationships between men and women. In my opinion, a crime has been done there. The thrill of the first meeting, the love, the anticipation of marriage – all that has disappeared. What is happening to us? We used to be a country of God-fearing peasantry. In the villages, these good habits are still maintained. People there are not haunted by the passion of the exposed flesh. They don’t use bad words and that is good. The Saviour is within us, He is the uncreated Light, and we nail Him to the Cross with every bad or dirty word we say. Continue reading

Teaching God

When we try to teach our children about God and we can’t seem to find the right words, let us not insist too much on explaining; rather, let ourselves be inspired by God and by the child’s very mind, because we will be able to help our children not only through our words about God, but also by simply dwelling in Him. One can talk about God without necessarily mentioning His name.

The best educational methods make it a point, above all, to teach children how to learn. There is a saying that goes: “Give your son a fish and he will eat fine today. But teach him how to use a fishing rod and he will eat well all his life.” It is in the same way that we should look upon our role as Christian parents and educators. Let us inspire our children the love for God, whilst showing them at the same time how to find out for themselves God’s will. If we teach children to love God and his Saints, then “all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

In the Christian families (especially in priests’ families), children suffer sometimes from what we might call an “indigestion”, because of an excessive talking about God and churchly matters. It is possible for these children to continue to listen to such conversations out of mere politeness, but we can see and feel that they are no longer interested in hearing people talk about God, that they’ve had enough of the topic. In school, during religion classes, when we notice great differences between children, depending on their ability and willingness to learn about God, we can cause them great spiritual harm if we don’t address every one of them according to his/her ability to understand. Let us try to inspire their interest but without forcing them. Each child may be more spiritually receptive in some moments than in others.

Mother Magdalena – excerpt from “Sfaturi pentru o educatie ortodoxă a copiilor de azi” (“Advice for an Orthodox Education of Today’s Children”)

Pride Stems from Humility

–          Father, what does it mean when they say that God tempts us through humility and charity, when we are humble and charitable?

–          It is not God who does that; but the enemy, the enemy is the one who tempts us. If we are charitable, well, after we have done anything virtuous, the enemy’s voice will follow, whispering into our hears: “Good…! you’ve done good!” That is what the psalm says: “Let them be ashamed and confounded… Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame that say, Aha, aha.”*.

St. Silouan says that it is very hard for man to learn how to keep the Grace, because as soon as one receives it, the tempter says: “Oh, wow…! you have received the Grace…! But why have you received it?… I think it’s because you are charitable and because you have fasted…!” – and so on and so forth. That is what goes on in one’s soul in such situations. Therefore, it is not God that does that. God allows the enemy to tempt us; therefore, after every little good deed that we have done, we’d better be sure that we will be tempted.

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Confessing before Father Paisie Olaru

I, too, met Father Paisie Olaru, during my pilgrimages to Sihăstria Monastery and the Sihla Skete, together with my schoolmates and above all, with regretted Father and Professor Constantin Galeriu, such a brilliant guide in searching and discovering spiritual treasures.

During my studies at the School of Theology in Bucharest, being advised by experts to read the sacred texts in their original language and in my effort to acquire as many languages as possible, at one point I got to an acute existential crisis, one that made me question the meaning of my life. Tired, confused, I decided to do a complete confession (starting with my childhood) before the worthiest Spiritual Father I have ever met, Father Paisie Olaru.

In one of my personal discussions with Father Archimandrite Nicodim Sachelarie, he said: “Father Paisie and Father Cleopa are true monks and great spiritual confessor fathers. Many others would do well to find something else to do.”

So I bought train tickets in Bucharest, to go to Moldavia. Although I rushed to catch the train, I missed it. Annoyed by the incident and full of impatience, I returned to the ticket desk and decided to take the next train that was leaving Bucharest, even if I had to tour around the entire Romania. So I took the next train, which followed the route Brasov – Ciceu – Onesti – Adjud – Bacău – Piatra-Neamt, then I took the bus. I walked all the way up from Agapia to Sihla. I had written down several letter-sized pages, in tiny handwriting, in order to make a confession that would be as detailed as possible before the holy man. Continue reading