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7. In Step With Sts. Patrick and Gregory of Tours

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There is a very interesting book from the same period of Abba Dorotheos (the sixth century) by St. Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks, which is all about the life at the court of that time and religious people. There are very many interesting lives of Saints in it, as well as the lives of the kings. The kings of that time were particularly unedifying spectacles. They were constantly poisoning each other. The women were even worse.... There was one Brunehild and her sister Fredegund. They were trying to get their sons and grandsons on the throne, and what they didn't do to get them there! They were dragging people by horse's tails and killing them off, and lying and cheating and fantastic things—very uninspiring. But this bishop, St. Gregory, was there and was writing a history of this people, writing in such a way that it actually comes out very inspiring. Behind everything there is a meaning. St. Gregory is constantly on the lookout for comets, earthquakes, and such things. When a king does something wrong, there is an earthquake nearby, or if he goes and kills a person or a whole village unjustly, then there is a famine: and St. Gregory always sees that God is looking out. There is always something spiritual whenever something happens—a comet is seen, the king dies, etc. There is always a connection between what happens in the world and the moral state of the people. Even when the moral state is very bad, all the constant earthquakes and famines and everything else remind us that it is the wrong way to behave, and inspire people to behave correctly. Next...

6. In Step With Sts. Patrick and Gregory of Tours

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The Holy Scriptures, the writings of the Holy Fathers, the examples of Saint's lives, the services of the Church—all these things have to do, not with worldliness in our daily life, but with conducting us to heaven. By looking above to these things, we are enabled to have zeal; that is, to see that there is something above this routine of worldliness, which is very boring, discouraging, and leads nowhere. But these higher things—these services, tales of people who have come back from the dead, Lives of Saints, writings of the Holy Fathers, Holy Scriptures, the interpretations of the Holy Fathers on passages of Scripture, which are very profound sometimes—these things always make us very zealous, if we have a spark of love for God within ourselves. We want ourselves to be living in such a state and to be going to heaven. But this zeal, by itself, must be of such a kind that it does not come just in a spurt and then eventually fade away. It must be of such a kind that it will last. This means the zeal must be tempered by something deeper, and that something deeper is what St. Seraphim calls determination; that is, zeal that is constant and keeps going—a sort of constant point for your whole life. It keeps you going even when you're discouraged, because you see that there is something above towards which you are striving, and which does not depend upon your moods or your opinions. It is something which must be your constant possession. It is your determination to get to heaven. And this determination, or rather this zeal which becomes determination, must be constant, so that it will not go up and down and burn out. Next...

Emily Dickinson

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Poems by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)


THESE are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two,
To take a backward look.
These are the days when skies put on
The old, old sophistries of June,--
A blue and gold mistake.
Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee,
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief,
Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,
And softly through the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf!
Oh, sacrament of summer days,
Oh, last communion in the haze,
Permit a child to join,
Thy sacred emblems to partake,
Thy consecrated bread to break,
Taste thine immortal wine!                  Next...


5. In Step With Sts. Patrick and Gregory of Tours

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Bishop Theophan the Recluse [+1894], when quoting some of the Holy Fathers, deliberately omitted many of the passages which dealt with the physical sides of prayer. He did this knowing that—even in his time, the 19th century—many people would take those physical aspects as the end and begin imitating without getting the essence. Therefore he just left those writings out of his published works. Now, however, many of them are being published in English and you can read how you are supposed to sit on a stool with your head down, etc. People begin to imitate; they begin to think "this is it! "—and it is a matter of fact that if you fast for a long time and do certain exercises, you begin to have all kinds of things happen to you. But that is not spiritual life. It is almost guaranteed, on the contrary, that it is the activity of demons. The spiritual life is much more serious, much more down-to-earth, and therefore that is not the place where you are supposed to find it first of all.

Usually one can spot people who are not serious and are imitating. We even have a story from the early history of our brotherhood.... In San Francisco there was one who got on fire with the idea of the Jesus Prayer. Next...

4. In Step With Sts. Patrick and Gregory of Tours

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This brings us to some of the practical considerations concerning the qualities needed for being spiritually creative and fruitful. There are a few important things which come to mind. One thing is that we must see things the way they are; that is, not go off blind, acting blindly without knowing what's going on in the world. We must be aware that there is such a thing as apostasy, that there are many different kinds of people who call themselves Christians, that they are acting in different ways and some of them are definitely in conflict with each other and with us, and that it can't be that all of them are right and are on the right path. We can see historically how many different kinds of errors, wrong views, wrong kinds of actions got mixed in with Christian faith. We see the frightful modern revolutionary movement; that is, the movement totally away from religion, aiming towards a great world empire of atheism, a foreshadowing of which is seen in Communism. This is not just among the unbelievers or among those who don't believe in the Orthodox way, but even among Orthodox people. We look around and see that many Orthodox people are simply, totally worldly and do not think about the higher side of their Faith. They take it for granted. "It's all automatic. That's what has been handed down. There's always a priest somewhere. If he's not in this town, he's in the next one. He has sacraments and Holy Communion. We just go to him and get what we need and that's all.... You go home and you're satisfied..." Next...

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