Archive for the ‘A Word from the Fathers/ Mothers’ Category


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Christ is risen! I’m delighted to be posting the first of Fr. John’s Sunday homilies on the spiritual teachings of Gerontissa Makrina. The book he references as the basis for the homilies is the recently translated Words of the Heart.

From the video description: Fr. John Palmer (of Holy Lady of Vladimir Mission, St. John’s, NL) delivers an introductory homily on the person of Gerontissa Makrina of Portaria, the first in a series of homilies on her life and spiritual teachings.

May we have her blessing!

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Recently I have been listening to this homily by Metropolitan Athanasius of Limmasol during my lunch breaks at work. It’s on the greatest of all virtues, discernment. As a social worker whose job is almost completely made up of listening to people I found the following portion of the elder’s homily particularly meaningful. And so, I decided to share his God-inspired words (starting at minute 31):

How is discernment born? Only a humble person can discern things… A proud person never… What is the reason?  Because a proud person always listens to his own thoughts and to whatever he himself believes to be right. [He] never [listens] to other people’s suggestions… Whereas, a humble person, may have specific thoughts on certain issues, but listens to his brothers, [listens] to what other people have to say. This can be seen everywhere: that indeed, a humble person is the [only] one who can truly obtain this liberty of discernment. He has no prejudice inside; he’s not prejudiced but totally free in advance and accepts his brother and listens carefully.

St. Sophronios says, referring to father-confessors: “When you accept someone for confession, be careful not to have any prejudice against him in advance so that God [will] send you information on what to say to him.” If you are prejudiced against him, then God’s will vanishes and your words are your own and you speak through your own prejudice. If, for example, someone comes to confess his sins and I think to myself, “This is a good boy, he could make a good priest perhaps I should talk to him and persuade him to become a priest” and I don’t remain free to see who this person is and what he is looking for, but I have formed an opinion inside me in advance, then certainly God is not going to reveal His own will but things will function in a human way. So, it’s very important for one not to be prejudiced in any way, namely to have a predetermined point of view.

This is very important particularly in our social life. Because unfortunately, conversation – which is the most important means of communication – is founded not so much on talking to other people as [it is] on listening to them. But in order for you to listen to other people, you have to be free and pure and let the person say exactly what he wants to say. In this way being a [blank slate] will allow you not only to see what the other person wants to say but also what he would have liked to have said. So, discernment is an offspring of humbleness. Only a humble person can discern things; a proud person is prejudiced. He’s stuck in his own predetermined point of view.

…A person who is prejudiced is not able to listen to God’s Word nor speak the word of God. And especially we, the shepherds of the Church, have to be very careful here, all of us fathers-confessors should not, beforehand, be prejudiced against our brothers but do as the Holy Scriptures say: “I will hear what the Lord God will say concerning me” (Psalm 84:9). In order for God to talk to us we need to be all ears and not be prejudiced. But even in families the father won’t be able to listen to his children if he’s prejudiced because whatever they might tell him, he will insist on imposing his own point of view. And the one spouse won’t listen to [his] partner because he will be stuck in his own thoughts and ideas. This doesn’t mean that we’ll be passive creatures without our own opinions. Of course we’ll have our own opinions but without passionately adhering to our own opinion. The saints were such free people that they offered respite to those who approached them. They [made] an environment of respite for all people. And a good spiritual father, a good father, a good spouse, and a good colleague is the one who offers respite to his brother.

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Sevsk Convent

A story about Abbess Magdalena of Sevsk Convent from Elder Macarius of Optina, by Fr. Leonid Kavelin, published by St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, pg. 281-282.

I read this story the other day and found it so funny I had to share!

During Magdalena’s Abbacy, one of her nuns was a great beauty.  Once during a church service she was noticed by a dashing bachelor hussar*, who decided to lure her out of the Convent, first by writing her letters, and then, as his regiment was very close to the Convent, by ordering his troops to perform military maneuvers in front of it.  The army band played loudly, and he displayed his skillful horsemanship and cavalry drills.  He gave no peace to the poor Convent.  At first the wise Abbess Magdalena pleaded with him by letter, but then, gathering a synaxis of eldresses, she made the following plan:

The terrified beauty wrote the hussar a letter of invitation for tea in the Abbess’ quarters, which he gladly accepted, already sensing his victory.  Without hesitation he entered the walls of the Convent, only to be locked in the Abbess’ quarters, where Abbess Magdalena instituted a trial, with the eldresses as the jury.  They demanded a sentence of death for the military hero, whereat she told him: “Now prepare yourself to die.”  At first the hussar thought it was a joke; but then, at her abbatial gesture, two dozen nuns entered with ropes and tied him hand and foot to a chair.  The Abbess asked them:”What kind of punishment does this man deserve for his shameless attacks against our Monastery?”  And all answered: “He is worthy of death!”  The poor hussar began to tremble with fear, the more so as the Abbess informed him that the gates were locked tight, and no earthly power could free him from them.  He began to repent of his light-mindedness and abased himself before the women, begging mercy from the Abbess and the nuns.  After frightening him to their satisfaction, they made him sign a document promising to leave their Monastery.  And the lesson worked, for the very next day the whole regiment left town, and the Convent received its long-awaited peace and tranquility.  After that, whenever Abbess Magdalena appeared in Optina, Elder Leonid would say: “Here comes the General!”

*A hussar was a member of a class of light cavalry, originating in Central Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries, originally Hungarian.

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It was a tradition in our home to go around the table at Thanksgiving and say one thing we’re thankful for.

I’m thankful for the sacrifice, example, and holy prayers of our monastics (but also my husband of 13 years – today).

“Thanks to monastics, prayer continues unceasing on earth, and the whole world profits, for through prayer the world continues to exist; but when prayer fails the world will perish.” -St. Silouan the Athonite (pp. 407-408 in his biography)

Happy Thanksgiving!

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On Mt. Athos

“The one who knows God will follow the Lord’s footsteps, bearing the cross of the Saviour. It is said, “The world is crucified to him and he to the world.” The Lord says, “He who loses his life will save it.” We can “lose our lives” in one of two ways. First, we can risk our lives just as the Lord did for us. Secondly, we can separate our lives from the customary things of this world. Bearing the cross means to separate our souls from the delights and pleasures of this life. If you do this, you will find your life again – resting in the hope of what is to come. Dying to ourselves means being content with the necessities of life. When we want more than these necessities it is easy to sin.”

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