Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Holy Mothers of the Three Hierarchs: Sts. Nonna, Emmelia and Anthousa

The Three Holy Mothers of the Three Hierarchs: Sts. Nonna, Emmelia and Anthousa - Commemorated the Sunday after the Feast of the Presentaton of Christ to the Temple (source)
  
In Greece, the feast of the Presentation of Christ to the Temple, due to the praise to the Theotokos of the feast, has become the day on which they celebrate Mother's Day. Related to this, and also based on the fact that January is the month in which the Three Great Hierarchs and Ecumenical Teachers are celebrated (Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom), the Sunday after the Feast of the Presentation of Christ has come to be the common feast of their mothers. Sts. Nonna, Emmelia and Anthousa are perfect examples of Christian motherhood, and one can see the great virtue in their lives, and especially through their children, the fruits of their labors and faith. Below I inclue their lives, and also hymns from the joint feast of these Three Holy Mothers. May they intercede for us all and help us!
  
Life of St. Nonna
Saint Nonna, the mother of St Gregory the Theologian (January 25, 389), was the daughter of Christians named Philotatos and Gorgonia, who raised her in Christian piety. St Nonna was also an aunt of St Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium (November 23).   St Nonna entered into marriage with Gregory of Arianzus (January 1), the rich landowner of an estate in the Arianzus and Nazianzos districts. The marriage was advantageous by earthly considerations, but grievous for the pious soul of Nonna. Her husband Gregory was a pagan, a follower of the sect of the Supremists (Hypsistarii), who venerated a supreme god and observed certain Jewish rituals, while at the same time they worshipped fire.   St Nonna prayed that her spouse would turn to the holy truth. St Nonna’s son, St Gregory the Theologian, wrote about this: “She could not bear this, being half united to God, because he who was part of her remained apart from God. She wanted a spiritual union in addition to the bodily union. Day and night she turned to God with fasting and many tears, entreating Him to grant salvation to her husband.”   Through the prayers of St Nonna, her husband Gregory had a vision in his sleep. “It seemed to my father,” writes St Gregory, “as though he was singing the following verse of David: ‘I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord’ (Ps. 121/122: 1). He had never done this before, though his wife had often offered her supplications and prayers for it.”   The Psalm was strange to him, but along with its words, the desire also came to him to go to church. When she heard about this, St Nonna told her husband that the vision would bring the greatest pleasure if it were fulfilled.   The elder Gregory went to the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea, where he made known his conversion to Christ. He was baptized, ordained presbyter, and then Bishop of Nazianzos devoting himself totally to the Church. At the same time as his consecration as bishop, his wife St Nonna was made a deaconness. With the same zeal with which she had raised her children, she now occupied herself in performing works of charity.   “She knew,” says St Gregory the Theologian, “one thing to be truly noble: to be pious and to know from where we have come and where we are going; and that there is one innate and trusty wealth: to use one’s substance on God and on the poor, especially the impoverished kin.   One woman may be distinguished for frugality, and another for piety, while she, difficult as it is to combine both qualities, excelled all others in both of them. In each she attained the height of perfection, and both were combined in her. She did not permit one duty to interfere with the other, but rather each supported the other.   What time and place of prayer ever eluded her? She was drawn to this each day before anything else, and she had complete faith that her prayers would be answered. Although greatly moved by the sorrows of strangers, she never yielded to grief to the extent that she allowed any sound of woe to escape her lips before the Eucharist, or a tear to fall from her eye, or for any trace of mourning to remain on a Feast day, though she repeatedly endured many sorrows. She subjected every human thing to God.   Her final years brought St Nonna many sorrows. In the year 368 her younger son Caesarios died, a young man of brilliant expectations; and in the following year, her daughter died. The brave old woman bore these losses submitting to the will of God.   In the year 370 Bishop Gregory, then already an old man, participated in the consecration of St Basil the Great as Bishop of Caesarea. St Nonna, who was somewhat younger than her husband, was also ready to enter into the next life, but through the prayers of her beloved son her time on earth was prolonged.   “My mother,” wrote her son, “ was always strong and vigorous, and free from sickness all her life, but then she became ill. Because of much distress... caused by her inability to eat, her life was in danger for many days, and no cure could be found. How then did God sustain her? He did not send down manna, as for Israel of old; He did not split open a rock, in order to provide water for the thirsty people; nor did He send food by ravens, as with Elias, nor did He feed her..., as He once fed Daniel, who felt hunger in the pit. But how?”   It seemed to her that I, her favorite son (not even in dreams did she prefer anyone else), had appeared to her suddenly by night with a basket of the whitest bread. Then I blessed these loaves with the Sign of the Cross, as is my custom, and I gave her to eat, and with this her strength increased.”St Nonna believed the vision was real. She became stronger, and more like her old self.   St Gregory visited her early the next morning and, as usual, asked what sort of night she had, and if she required anything. She replied, “My son, you have fed me and now you ask about my health. I am well.” At this moment her maids made signs to me that I should not contradict her, but to accept her words so that the actual truth should not distress her.”   Early in the year 374 the hundred-year-old St Gregory the Elder reposed. After this, St Nonna almost never emerged from the church. Soon after his death, she died at prayer in the temple on August 5, 374.    St Nonna was a model wife and mother, a remarkable woman who devoted her life to God and the Church without neglecting her other responsibilities. Because of her spiritual, social, and domestic concerns, St Nonna would be a most fitting patron for Orthodox women’s organizations.
(source)
  
Life of St. Emmelia
St Basil the Great’s mother St Emilia was the daughter of a martyr. On the Greek calendar, she is commemorated on May 30. St Basil’s father was also named Basil. He was a lawyer and renowned rhetorician, and lived at Caesarea.   Ten children were born to the elder Basil and Emilia: five sons and five daughters. Five of them were later numbered among the saints: Basil the Great; Macrina (July 19) was an exemplar of ascetic life, and exerted strong influence on the life and character of St Basil; Gregory, afterwards Bishop of Nyssa (January 10); Peter, Bishop of Sebaste (January 9); and Theosebia, a deaconess (January 10).
(source)
  
See here for a brief life of St. Anthousa, the Mother of St. John Chrysostom.
  
The Three Hierarchs, together with their Mothers (source)
  
Selected hymns from the Feast of the Three Holy Mothers, Sts. Nonna, Emmelia and Anthousa - Commemorated the Sunday after the Feast of the Presentation of Christ to the Temple

Prosomoia of the Stichera in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone.
What shall we call you, O Saints?
What shall we say of you, O Emmelia? The child-loving mother of wondrous children, the tender-loving woman of sacred works, for you bore the Great Basil, and also nursed Peter and Navkration, the bearer of Gregory of Nyssa, and Makrina who was enlightened by God, intercede, that our souls be saved.
  
How shall we call you, O divine Nonna? A mother of fervant prayer, like that of the Prophet Samuel, the sweetest spouse, as proclaimed by Gabriel? You sprouted the all-wise Gregory, and you watered Caesarios and Gorgonia with the springs of piety, and the waters of the faith, intercede, that our souls be saved.
  
How shall we now hymn Anthousa? As the spouse of Sekoundos, the Christian leader, the mother of John Chrysostom the wise. As a pillar of wisdom and chastity, and an example of motherly purity, fragrant flower of love, and unfading crown of glory, intercede, that our souls be saved.
   
Doxastikon of the Stichera in the Plagal of the Second Tone
A day of rejoicing has shined forth upon the Church of Christ, and She has put forth this common feast for the exaltation of the Christian people. Come, therefore, the ranks of the Orthodox, let us honor in hymns and God-inspired melodies, the memory of the Holy Mothers of the Three Glorious Hierarchs. For behold, Mariam who gave birth to God, offered to the Priest in the Temple her holy and most-sacred Fruit [Christ], becoming the prototype to Mothers. But these famed Mothers Emmelia, Nonna and Anthousa, bore fruit in prayer, and offered their tears to God for their faithful children, and nursed them on the milk of piety, and offered them up as pure, spotless and fitting sacrifices. Let us cry out to them: rejoice, O chaste Mothers, the God-sent examples for their children, sons and daughters, the hope of spouses, and the fervent intercessors for the faithful, and the speedy deliverers. Therefore, entreat Christ, we pray, on behalf of those who honor your all-pious and ever-blessed memory, and send down upon us all peace, and great mercy for our souls.
  
Idiomelon of the Litia in the First Tone
Rejoice in the Lord, O Church of Christ, at the divine memory today of the famed Mothers of the Three Hierarchs: Emmelia, Nonna and Anthousa. For these thrice-blessed ones sprouted their God-planted children, and watered them faithfully with the teaching and commandments of the Lord, and lived venerably, bearing this painful and fleeting life, proceeding then to the heavenly Fatherland, where they ceaselessly entreat on behalf of our souls.
  
Doxastikon of the Aposticha in the Second Tone
Today, we have been gathered to a table of spiritual rejoicing, for the common and light-bearing and all-glorious memory, of the Venerable Mothers of the Three Hierarchs: Emmelia, Nonna and Anthousa. Come, O lovers of feasts, and let us hymn their divine virtues, imitating their way [of life] in an exacting manner, their spousal faith, their nurturing of their children, and their God-pleasing manner, that the greatly merciful God might bear for us mercy, on that terrible and awesome day, of His Righteous [Judgment].
 
Apolytikion of the Saints in the First Tone. The Three Great Lights.
The three Holy Mothers of the Teachers let us honor, who bore the Hierarchs, and preached Christ, and watered them with the milk of piety, and nurtured them on the glorious faith, training them as trees. Emmelia the divine, and Nonna the thrice-blessed, and the chaste Anthousa, the astonishment of Lebanon. Come, the imitators of their struggles, let us gather together to offer hymns to them, as they intercede for us to the Trinity.
   
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone. You have appeared today.
The feast of the Mothers shines forth today, come, you who love feasts, let us praise them, crying out: Rejoice Emmelia, together with divine Nonna, and all-praised Anthousa.
  
Oikos
Behold now, the light-bearing day has dawned of the divine memory our Venerable Mothers. Come, you of godly mind, rejoice now, and hasten to honor them as is right with godly hymns, imitating their incomprehensible way of life, and their God-pleasing manner, and their virtues and struggles, their pains and sweats, for their entreated God with prayer, and supplication, and humility, and love, patience and chastity, and with every other virtue, especially chastity and brotherly love. Therefore, with fervor let us cry out: Rejoice Emmelia, together with divine Nonna, and all-praised Anthousa.
  
Synaxarion
On this day, the Sunday after the Presentation of our Lord and Savior and God, the Memory of the Holy Mothers of the Three Hierarchs: Emmelia, Nonna and Anthousa.
  
Verses
Let us honor the memory of the Holy Mothers
Emmelia, Nonna and Anthousa.
They entreat the Infant Forty-days-old, together with God's Mother.
  
Exaposteilarion in the Third Tone.
The heaven in the stars.
In the Temple the Priest met the Infant Christ, and in the House of God, let us all praise in hymns and odes the virtues of Emmelia, Nonna and Anthousa, as is right.
  
In the Praises, Sticheron Prosomoion in the First Tone.
The heavenly ranks.
Come, all the faithful, let us celebrate the memory of the Mothers of the Great Hierarchs, Holy Emmelia with joy, who bore Basil, Nonna who bore Gregory, and the chaste Anthousa who sprouted forth the Chrysostom.
  
Doxastikon of the Praises, in the Plagal of the First Tone
Let us sound the trumpet in the clarion of song, skipping festally, and let us rejoice in the Spirit, hymning in God-inspired hymns, the light-bearing memory of the Holy Mothers of the Three Hierarchs, and let us say to them in praise: Rejoice, you who raised Basil the Priest, and were the tender-loving mother of ten children, Emmelia, all-praised, the prototype of the family. Rejoice, the chaste spouse of the sacred Gregory, who bore the second Theologian, together with Caesarios and Gorgonia, Nonna, all-blessed. Rejoice, the most-chaste wife of Sekoundos, who sprouted John the Chrysostom, and educated him to be the rhetor of Lebanon, Anthousa, the divine adornment. But, O Mothers, you rejoiced in your sons and daughters like fruitful olive trees, and you kept your spousal faith, and struggled tirelessly to love your children and your brethren, and you transmitted to your children all the virtues faithfully. Intercede with the Savior, that those who celebrate your memory might be shown mercy upon their souls.
  
Megalynarion
Come O faithful, let us praise the sacred Mothers of the Great Hierarchs: Emmelia, Nonna, and the chaste Anthousa, crying out "Rejoice" to the godly ones in faith.
  
  
   
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

St. Seraphim Sobolev, the Wonderworker of Sofia (+1950)

St. Seraphim Sobolev, the Wonderworker of Sofia (+1950) (source)
  
From my mother's womb
Thou art my Protector
(Ps. 70:6).

The age-old enemy of our salvation, as if sensing in advance what a powerful and implacable adversary he would have in the person of Vladika Seraphim, tried to destroy him while still in his mother's womb. She had an extremely difficult and painful labor, and the doctors determined it would be necessary to operate-to extract the infant piece by piece in order to save the mother's life. At this moment she regained consciousness and, on learning of the doctor's decision, with an oath forbade her husband to permit the murder of her child. The next morning, at the first stroke of the church bell on December 1, 1881, she successfully gave birth without any outside help. When she saw the baby, she exclaimed, "Oh, what a serious mukhtar!" The infant was named Nicholas in honor of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, but his family sometimes called him "mukhtar," an apparently senseless word which he disliked terribly. Years later, Bishop Nestor of Manchuria visited Vladika Seraphim in Sofia. He presented him with a book of his memoirs, in which, in the chapter about his visit to Jerusalem, it said that the word mukhtar means "bishop" in Arabic. And so, not realizing it herself, his mother had foretold the destiny of her newborn child.

Nicholas was an excellent student and, after attending the local parish school, he entered the seminary. There, in the second to the last year, he decided to devote his life to God. With tears he began to pray fervently and made this vow to the Saviour, "My Saviour! Help me to write my compositions well, and I promise to be a monk and belong to Thee with every fibre of my being." From that time on, his compositions were always the best in the class.

When he finished seminary, his mother, considering his health too weak to study at the Academy, tried to arrange for him to become a priest. To this end it was necessary to find a fiancée. Loving his mother and never opposing her in anything, Nicholas submitted entirely to her will and even was silent about his vow to become a monk. Suspecting nothing, his mother began arranging a marriage for her son, and in one summer they visited several towns and villages in search of a suitable bride. But such was not God's will, and every time the matchmaking fell through, often in a completely incomprehensible way. Finally, in the middle of August, 1904, she said, "All our efforts concerning your marriage and setting you up as a priest have come to nothing. Now you arrange your own future."

"In that case," said Nicholas, "let's go to the cathedral, to our Mother, the Queen of Heaven, to her wonderworking Bogoliubsk Icon and ask the Mother of God to show me herself my life's path."

His mother readily agreed. It turned out that the wonderworking Icon had been taken back to the village Zimarova, where it was usually kept. However, on the way to the cathedral, they met a friend of Nicholas', Misha Smirnov, and Nicholas confided to him his predicament. "You were such a good student; surely it was not to become just a church reader. You should enroll in the Academy," said Misha. When Nicholas protested that it was already too late and that he was completely unprepared for the competitive examinations, Misha pointed out that because of renovations the entrance exams at the Petersburg Theological Academy had been postponed until the end of August. "You are a person of deep faith," said Misha emphatically. "Put your hope in God! The Saviour Himself will help you. Go without any preparation."

These unexpected words from the first person they met Nicholas took as the answer from the Most Pure Mother of God to his prayer, clearly and definitely pointing out to him his path in life. Meanwhile, he felt in his heart an unusual joy and, when he confided this to his mother, she said she also felt great joy and added, "It's obvious that this is God's will. It's obvious that this is your path." Nicholas then went to the seminary library and gathered a whole stack of books. In the ten days he had to prepare, he had time only to look at the chapter headings and flip through thousands of pages of hefty theological textbooks. From this, all that formed in his head was chaos.

His mother gave him her last money for the trip together with her blessing, and Nicholas set out for the Academy.

The written examinations began. The most difficult was the first written examination in logic, on the topic, "From a logical point of view, how does one explain that in philosophical arguments, to the very same question the argumentations of both sides can be diametrically opposed to one another." This difficult topic was given first with the purpose of immediately selecting the very best seminarians coming from all over Russia. Sighs were heard among the students. First one, then another, began rising from his seat, and gathering together his documents in order to return home. Nicholas began to pray fervently, "O Lord, give me understanding of what to write on such a difficult subject." In answer he heard an inner voice, "Do not write from a logical, but rather from a psychological point of view." He immediately began writing that from a logical point of view this was impossible to explain because the laws of logic are identical. And he developed his theme from a psychological approach, based on the words of the Saviour, "Out of the heart proceed your thoughts." That is why from the proud heart of Leo Tolstoy came false teaching, but the grace-filled heart of Fr. John of Kronstadt poured out truth. Nicholas was worried that he had taken liberties in changing the topic, but, to his great amazement and joy, he received for this composition a 4.5, which was the highest grade and stood out from among the multitude of twos and threes and even ones received by other students.

After this began the oral examinations. The first was on dogmatic theology. Only two days were given for preparation. Nicholas spent them in the attic of the Academy, leafing through the pages of thick textbooks. At midnight on the eve of the exam, he sat on the stairs leading to the attic and wept. During these two days, all he had managed to do was to convince himself that of the 150 question cards he knew only one: "The history of the dogma of the Holy Trinity," because he had answered it on an examination in seminary. With tears Nicholas prayed, "O Lord, my Saviour, Thou Who art merciful and all-powerful, make it so that tomorrow the question card, 'The history of the dogma of the Holy Trinity' will fall to me. Otherwise I will fail and go home with great sorrow and grieve my mother."

Before going to the examination the next morning, he went to the Academy church, where he made a prostration before the icon of the Saviour and repeated his request. Each student was tested for half an hour and more, and many of them answered very well because they had been preparing all summer. Nicholas was worried, and he prayed fervently to the Saviour. Finally, about three o'clock, came his turn. Trembling, he turned over his question card and read: "The history of the dogma of the Holy Trinity." The Lord had answered his prayer! Sobolev gave an excellent answer and received a grade of 4.75. His joy was boundless from the realization of the Saviour's divine help.

The next exam was in church history. There was twice as much textbook material on this subject as for dogmatics and there were 250 question cards. Looking through the questions, Nicholas was dismayed to see that he knew only one question well: "The history of the Arian heresy after the Nicaean Council." Just as he had done when preparing for dogmatics, on the eve of the examination in church history, he sat at the attic door and wept. And again he began to pray fervently that the Saviour once again grant him His divine help. "My Saviour, my Joy!" he said. "Thou Who art merciful, all-powerful, what is it to Thee to fulfill once more my request. Thou knowest that I know only one question and do not know the others. Please, let fall to me the question card, 'The history of the Arian heresy after the Nicaean Council.' Otherwise I will fail, return home and grieve my mother." Back in his room, Nicholas fell asleep in tears.

The next morning at the examination, suffering terribly from anxiety and the uncertainty of his fate, he could repeat only, "O Lord, help me. My Joy, my Provider, help me." When Nicholas was called to the examination table, hardly able to stand on his feet, he drew out and turned over his question card. What joy he felt when he read on it, "The history of the Arian heresy after the Nicean Council." He could barely contain his feeling of thankfulness toward the Saviour, Who had so miraculously revealed to him His protection a second time.

Sobolev answered so well that the professors decided to send a letter of thanks to the Riazan seminary for the brilliant student. And when he returned to his seat, the other students whispered, "At-a-boy, Riazaner!" For the rest of the examinations, Nicholas no longer dared to ask the Saviour's favor, but they also went well. And so, with the help of the Saviour, Vladika entered the Theological Academy without any preparation. When Nicholas was in the fourth year at the Academy, the inspector, Archimandrite Theophan, asked him point-blank if he intended to become a monk. Nicholas, in his humility considering himself unworthy of the monastic podvig, was tormented by this question, not knowing God's will regarding him. To solve his perplexity, he wrote a letter to Fr. John of Kronstadt, but he received no reply. He also asked Elder Anatole (Potapov) of Optina, but the Elder wrote that he could not answer his question without seeing Nicholas in person. When Nicholas received the letter from Fr. Anatole, he began to grieve even more; nowhere could he get a direct answer indicating God's will for him.

At this time he was reading the life of St. Seraphim of Sarov-the book lay open on his table. Weighed down by his quandary, Nicholas began pacing the room, when suddenly it dawned on him, "What little faith I have! Why, St. Seraphim of Sarov is alive right now. He is at the throne of the Holy Trinity. Right now he can resolve all problems and questions, if with faith we turn to him in our prayers. I will go this very moment to the table where St. Seraphim's biography is lying. I will turn to him as to a living person, I will fall on my knees and beg him to resolve my dilemma: Should I marry and become a priest, or should I become a monk?"

And Nicholas did just this. Making a prostration, with a prayer he opened the book and read: "A certain novice from the Glinsk Hermitage, wavering exceedingly concerning his vocation, came purposely to Sarov to ask the advice of Fr. Seraphim. Falling at the feet of the saint, he entreated him to resolve his tormenting life's question: Is it God's will for him and his brother, Nicholas to enter a monastery? The holy elder answered the novice, 'Save yourself and save your brother.' " Nicholas took these words of St. Seraphim as a divine revelation from God that he should become a monk, which was, in fact, his heart's desire. From this time he regarded monasticism not only as his life's path, commanded him by God, but also as the path of his brother Misha (who subsequently became the Archimandrite Sergius.)

When the time drew near for his tonsure, Nicholas was asked what name he would like to receive. He said that, inasmuch as a monk should renounce his own will from the very onset, he was willing to accept whatever name he was given. "Well, take care," said inspector Archimandrite Theophan, "that you not are not upset if you receive an ugly name." It later came out that they had decided to give Nicholas the name Dositheus. But it turned out otherwise. On the eve of the tonsure, the rector of the Academy, Bishop Sergius, who was supposed to tonsure him, went to have dinner with the merchant Rubakhin. Rubakhin's two young daughters began asking the rector what name he was going to give the new monk. On hearing that it was to be Dosi-theus, they pleaded that it be changed not only to another but to the very nicest name.

Returning home in the carriage, Bishop Sergius suddenly remembered that when he was present at the opening of St. Seraphim's relics, he had made a vow to this God-pleaser that if he became rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, the first student he tonsured he would name Seraphim. And he decided to call Nicholas by this name, in honor of the great Sarov God-pleaser. During the tonsure, when Nicholas heard, "Our brother Seraphim tonsures the hair of his head," he gave a start from amazement and was filled with great love and thankfulness to St. Seraphim, thinking, "He not only revealed to me God's will to become a monk, but he was pleased to take me under his grace-filled guidance."

Accepting monasticism, the newly-tonsured Seraphim gave himself over to strict fasting and unceasing prayer. Thus, from the day of his tonsure to his very death, Vladika did not eat meat. For many years he ate food only once a day.

Graduating near the top of his class, Fr. Seraphim taught for a year at a priest's college before being appointed assistant supervisor of the diocesan school in Kaluga. The pupils there loved Fr. Seraphim very much, especially the little ones in the first classes, who had to leave their parents for the first time and cried at being separated from their mothers. With his loving heart, Fr Seraphim immediately guessed the cause of the children's sorrow and comforted them. Every day, during free hours and particularly on holidays, he came to the younger classes and engaged them with soul-saving discussions, mainly from the lives of the saints. The children became very attached to the good and affectionate director who understood their hearts so well. He was their first friend and arbitrator, and also a tender mother. When, during free hours, Fr. Seraphim went through the corridors, students from different classes ran out, each trying to call him into his classroom. "Come to us, Batiushka, come to us!" they cried, vying for his attention. Fr. Seraphim tried to visit them all and uplift them with his talks. When, after two and a half years, Hieromonk Seraphim was transferred to Kostroma, the children's grief was indescribable. They wept scalding tears. On the day of his departure, some of them refused to eat, and they went again and again to him to bid farewell, at which time Fr. Seraphim gave as a keepsake and consolation little icons, crosses and whatever else was at hand.

While he was still in Kaluga, Vladika often went to the Optina Hermitage, where he visited the elders Anatole, Barsanuphy and Joseph. Fr. Anatole treated him with special love and was his father confessor.

In 1910, during Christmas vacation, Fr. Seraphim decided to go to his mother in the town of Permyshl. His mother was overjoyed by this but worried how she would feed her favorite son. She worried about his weak health and wanted very much to fatten him up, but he did not eat meat and it was impossible to find fish in town in winter. After praying fervently before an icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, she put on a sheepskin jacket and went out into the street. Soon a man came walking on the other side and she called to him, "Are you a fisherman?" "That I am. What of it?" "Well, in a few days my son, a monk, is coming to visit. He doesn't eat meat, only fish. So, go to the river and catch some fish for him, and I'll pay you as much as you want." "You think you can catch fish now, my dear woman? Why it's minus 25o C. The fish have all gone to the bottom." But Vladika's mother persisted. "My son will pray for you." The man finally consented. He went to the Oka River, where he spent about an hour breaking through the meter-thick ice. Then, crossing himself and praying as the woman had instructed him, he let down the net into the hole, saying, "O Lord, for the sake of Thy servant Fr. Seraphim, send a fish." No sooner had the net been lowered than something got caught in it, and the man pulled out an enormous silver bream which he took at once to Vladika's mother. Overjoyed, his mother offered him money, but he was adament in his refusal. "Come, come, my dear woman. I don't need anything. Why, this was a miraculous catch. Tell your son to pray for the servant of God, Peter." And he left.

In 1912, Hieromonk Seraphim was appointed rector of the seminary in Voronezh. At the time this seminary was in very shaky condition concerning discipline. Soon after his arrival, he had a talk with all the seminarians, and he noticed that the undisciplined pupils jeered at him without fear of reprisal. In the evening, the inspector brought to the rector a list of the troublemakers and offered to expel them immediately. Fr. Seraphim took the list and said he would handle the guilty ones himself. During his free time he began calling them one by one to his office; he talked with them affectionately, asked them questions and used persuasion. As a result, he elicited from them sincere tears of repentance and a promise to reform. Within a year Vladika had so transformed the seminary that it was judged by the Synod inspector to be the best in the country.

On October 1, 1920, on the holy day of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God, in the cathedral of Simferopol, Archimandrite Seraphim was consecrated a bishop. It was a great comfort for him that on that occasion, by God's inscrutable ways, the great Russian sacred treasure, the wonderworking Kursk-root Icon of the Mother of God "Of the Sign," was present in the cathedral.

Soon after this, to his sorrow, Vladika had to leave his native land. He was a short time in Constantinople before moving to Bulgaria where, in August 1921, he was appointed Director of Russian Orthodox monastic communities there.

Living in ceaseless ascetic endeavor, from abstinence and difficult living conditions, Vladika contracted tuberculosis. Despite his serious illness, he cared for his flock with true pastoral fervor. He served frequently and gave sermons three times a week, calling his flock to repentance, to grace-filled reformation and to the most basic virtue-Christian humility. Especially noteworthy were Vladika's sermons on Forgiveness Sunday, when, after his appeal, many people who had quarrelled with each other for years tearfully begged forgiveness of one another.

As an archpastor, Vladika Seraphim made the rounds of Russian parishes in the provinces, and visited the Russian schools. His talks and his warm, loving personality left a lasting, grace-filled impression everywhere. In difficult material conditions, Vladika cared also for poor and sick Russian people. For some he arranged free hospital treatment, others he placed in homes for invalids, for some he obtained pensions, some he fed at his place, and some he settled in his monastery. Nor did Vladika overlook the destitute Russian monks on Mt. Athos. He formed a committee for collecting help for them and in his sermons appealed to parishioners to donate to this holy work.

In 1934 Vladika was raised to the position of Archbishop. Spiritually gifted from his early years and constantly engaged in a fiery struggle with the passions, Vladika, while still a relatively young bishop, attained great spiritual heights. Several of his spiritual children have recorded cases of his clairvoyance, which manifested itself even at a long distances. For his angelic purity, Vladika received from the Lord the gift to perceive the most subtle deviations from Orthodox Christian truth. He watched over Orthodox Christian life and was its conscience, as it were. Where he observed irregularity, he uncompromisingly exposed it, not fearing to suffer for the truth. As a result, he produced some priceless theological works.

Vladika's major work was the refutation of the heresy of the Parisian theologian Archpriest Sergius Bulgakov, for which, in 1937, Vladika received a Master's Degree in theology. He was rushing to complete this work by a certain deadline when he became ill with a fever. He implored the Mother of God, to whose prayerful intercession he had resorted all his life, begging her to heal him. And what happened? Vladika's temperature immediately dropped and he was able to finish his work within the allotted time.

Vladika poured out all his love for the Saviour in his theological works, fervently defending the truths of Orthodoxy. "My books are my blood," he declared. And truly, he lay down his life for Christ in the struggle with heretics, sparing neither his strength nor broken health. Vladika constantly worked at night. This upset his brother, Archimandrite Sergius, as it did me, in view of his weak health. Knowing this, Vladika wrote secretly. In the evening he would lie down and, when everyone else had fallen asleep, he would get up and continue writing, taking advantage of the nighttime quiet, considering it his pastoral duty to defend the truth. It is not by chance that the Lord called Vladika to the next world on the day when the holy Church celebrates the triumph of Orthodoxy and its defenders.

In conclusion, I will say that before his very death, Vladika said to his spiritual children, "If I find boldness before the Lord, I will not leave you." And in fact, the night after the burial Vladika appeared in a dream to one of his spiritual sons, a monk, and said, "Why are you weeping? I have not died, I am alive!"

And we believe that in the abodes of paradise, "where all the righteous repose," he prays for us and we can turn to him with our sorrows as to a living person and he will always hear us and help us. Again, I will allow myself to remind you of the words, poured out from the loving heart of our Vladika, who lay down his life for his flock, entrusted to him by God, "I am not only your father, but also your own mother."

Let us forever preserve in our hearts these comforting words of our unforgettable archpastor. Amen.

Archimandrite Panteleimon (Staritsky) From "A Word in Remembrance," delivered on the first anniversary of Archbishop Seraphim's repose, 13/26 Feb. 1951.
  
["On February 3, 2016, the fifth plenary session of the Holy Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, held at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, the proposal to canonize Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev) was deliberated upon...The members of the Council unanimously voted for the glorification of Archbishop Seraphim, who has been venerated for many years in Bulgaria and Russia. Metropolitan Ilarion then read the Act of the Holy Council of Bishops announcing the canonization of Archbishop Seraphim among the host of saints.
The Council members then sang the exaltation to the newly-glorified saint." (source)]
  
St. Seraphim Sobolev (source)
  


Some Miracles Worked through the Prayers of Archbishop Seraphim after his Repose.

From the day of Archbishop Seraphim's repose (February 13/26, 1950), his sepulchre [in the crypt of the Russian Church of St. Nicholas in Sofia] has been an uninterrupted source of miracles. Just as during his life, so after his death, Vladika Seraphim mercifully continues to help people who resort to his prayerful intercession, not only from all over Bulgaria but also from abroad.

One unfortunate mother unexpectedly received help from Archbishop Seraphim before she even knew of him, when she was still an unbeliever. She was a teacher in a high school and lived with her only son in Silivna. In 1952, her son P. was serving in the army on the southern border of Bulgaria. The winter that year was very severe, snowy and cold. One day, when the young man was at his post, tired and frozen through, he fell into the snow and into a deep sleep. Just then there was a raid by a group of saboteurs who were trying to cross the border. Fortunately, the soldiers of P's detachment were able to beat them off and disarm them. But when they started looking for the sentry, they found him asleep at his post, arrested him and sent him to the military court in Sofia. Because of unfavorable political conditions at the time, the court, in order to give an example to other soldiers, passed the harshest sentence-execution! To petition for mercy was out of the question. The distraught mother could only ask that they give her the body of her son, that they not deprive her of the comfort of visiting his grave. She came to Sofia and every morning with dread phoned the prison to find out if the sentence had been carried out. In such hopeless waiting one night she dozed. Suddenly, there appeared to her a resplendent elder who said to her, "Suffering mother, come to me to the Russian church and I will help you!" Not waiting till dawn, while it was still dark, she ran to the church, thinking she must have seen the image of some saint whose miracle-working icon was in the church. When she went around to all the holy icons in the church and did not find such an image, she returned home in disappointment, deciding that it had all been a hallucination. But the following night this same elder again appeared to her and said, "You were in the Russian church, but did not come down to me. Come to me downstairs and I will help you." The astonished woman then understood that this was not a hallucination. Once more she went to the Russian church and asked if any miracle-working icons were kept in the church basement. Going downstairs, her eyes suddenly fell on the portrait of Archbishop Seraphim. She recognized in him the same handsome elder of her dream, who had promised to help her, and she began fervently to pray to him. After praying for a long time, all in tears, she came out of the sepulchre. Leaving the church, she unexpectedly met an old acquaintance whom she had not seen for a long time, a dear friend and fellow-student of her deceased husband. This man had become a prominent lawyer in Sofia. On learning of her misfortune, he immediately went with her to the Ministry of Defense to the chief military procurator. The procurator straightway got in touch by telephone with the current Ministry chairman, V. Chervenkovy, who agreed to repeal the death sentence, commuting it to life imprisonment. After a few months, with the very first amnesty, the young man was released!

His mother, up till that time an atheist, came to fervently believe in God. In gratitude to the Lord, she arranged in the courtyard of the Russian church a sumptuous meal and personally told everyone of the miraculous help she had received from Vladika Seraphim.

It is well known that students and school children in particular visit Vladika Seraphim's grave. They pray to him for successful exams and receive divine help which is manifested not only on the exams but also is reflected favorably in their souls.

One student, a second-year medical student, often visited Vladika Seraphim's sepulchre and prayed to him about his exams. The student was from an atheist family and was not even baptized. One day he again was praying there. When he had finished praying on his knees, he kissed the marble sepulchre and arose. And . . . suddenly he saw Archbishop Seraphim before him, as if alive. Vladika blessed him and said, "Be baptized and keep the fast!" Then he disappeared. The student was shaken to the depths of his soul by what had happened. He straightway summoned from the provinces his aunt, who was a believer, and asked her to be his godmother. He was baptized in the church of the Great Martyr Panteleimon in the old age home in Knjazhevo. After this remarkable experience, the student told everyone that even death could not shake his belief in the existence of life beyond the grave.

This is what a chorister from the Russian church, I.I., had to say: "One day I was praying in the sepulchre of Archbishop Seraphim. An elderly lady came in, apparently of the intelligentsia. She told me how, in 1988, a tumor had appeared in her mouth, which started to grow quickly. Soon she began speaking with difficulty and could not eat because it caused her such great pain. She turned for help to various doctors, one of whom, an oncologist, was a personal acquaintance. After an examination, he told her frankly that she had rapidly progressing cancer of the tongue, and that medicine was powerless to help her; the cancer had already spread to almost the whole inside of the mouth.

The unfortunate woman, while still in her native city of Plovdiv, had heard of the extraordinary cases of healing at the grave of Vladika Seraphim, and she began going every day to the Russian church and praying for a long time at his grave. On the sixth day she stood alone in the sepulchre. Suddenly she heard a voice, "Dip the candle you are holding into the vigil lamp above me and anoint the affected area." Overwhelmed with amazement and joy from this wonderful answer to her prayer, the sick woman did as she was told. To her great surprise, the intolerable pain stopped immediately. In the days that followed, she continued to anoint the sick place; the tumor gradually began to shrink and, after a week, disappeared completely! The sick woman went to her oncologist-acquaintance. After examining her, the astounded doctor asked her to tell him with what she had been treated and who had healed her. The woman recounted to him in detail all that had happened, whereupon the doctor declared that she had found the most effective means of treatment and joyfully exclaimed, "Glory to God and to holy Vladika Seraphim!"

The widow of a certain priest suffered very much because her daughter could not get married. She was told about Vladika Seraphim and she went with her daughter to his grave where they prayed fervently. When they came out, they met a young man, an acquaintance whom they had not seen for a long time. He was overjoyed at the meeting and, very soon after this, he married the daughter.

Life and miracles from Kratkoye Zhizneopisaniye Arkhiepiskopa Serafima (Soboleva), (A Brief Life of Archbishop Seraphim Sobolev), published as "A Gift of Orthodox Christians of Greece to their brothers in Christ of Russia"; Thessalonika 1991; translated by Mary Crockwell, and slightly abridged.
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, January 29, 2016

St. John (James) the Romanian, the Chozebite (+1960)

St. John (James) the Romanian, the Chozebite (+1960) (source)
  
St. John James the Chozebite (Ioan Iacov Hozevitul) is one of the most recent Romanian saints glorified by the Romanian Orthodox Church. He became a monk at Neamt Monastery and soon after his conversion he moved to the Holy Land where he lived near the downstream of the Jordan river and, toward the end of his life, in the wilderness of Hozeva. His devotion sets an example of a true life in Christ, especially for present-day Christians. The Church celebrates his feast day on August 5

Life

John was born on July 23, 1913 in Crainiceni—a village in Botosani county—as an only child to two very faithful peasants, Maxim and Katherine (Ecaterina). His baptism name was Elias (Ilie) but he would often be addressed as little Elliot by his close ones. His mother died six months after giving birth and two years after this sad event his father was killed in the war in the autumn of 1916. The child was placed into the care of his paternal grandmother, Mary (Maria) who taught him how to fast, pray and live in accordance with the teachings of the Church. Following the death of his grandmother in 1923, the child was entrusted to his uncle Alec (Alecu), a father of six, who became his guardian.
  
Elias attended primary school in his home village and from 1926 to 1932 he continued his schooling at the Mihail Kogalniceanu secondary school in Hotin county and at the Dimitrie Cantemir highschool in Cernauti, where he distinguished himself as the most studious pupil.
  
The Kingdom of God and the reclusion of the Desert Fathers had had an appeal to Elias since early childhood and in the summer of 1932 when his relatives suggested that he should study theology and become a priest, he declined their suggestion, convinced that God had higher expectations of him: ”No, I shall become a monk”, he told them. One year later, as he was doing field work, he prayed that God should show him what path to choose in life and he suddenly heard a voice from above that told him the answer to his inquiry, ”Monachism!”. In the summer of that same year, on a Sunday, having received the blessing of his confessor, he packed his religious booklets and the icon of the Theotokos from his parental home and, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, went to Neamt Monastery whose congregation professed him and alloted him chores in the library and in the sickroom of the establishment.
  
In 1934 he was conscripted in the 9th Infantry Regimen in Dorohoi county and one year later, after he had fuflilled his military obligations, he returned to Neamt and continued his noviciate.
  
Photograph of St. John the Romanian (source)
     
In 1936, on the Great and Holy Wednesday, rasophore Elias received the monastic tonsure from archimandrite and the future archbishop of Iasi, Valerius (Valerie) Moglan, and a new name—John—as is customary for newly tonsured monks. His godfather and spiritual advisor was the hieromonk Joachim (Ioachim) Spatarul, the abbot of the Pocrov skete and a most renown Moldavian monk.
  
Yearning for reclusion in the land where the Savior was born, suffered and rose from the dead, John set off for the Holy Land together with two other fellow-monks, Damascene (Damaschin) and Claudius (Claudie) in November of that same year. Having reverenced the holy sites, the Cross and the Holy Sepulchre, the three monks took shelter for the winter at St. Sabbas, a monastery situated in the wilderness of the Jordan valley near Bethleem. This is where John would spend the next ten years of his life, enduring many temptations, illnesses and troubles caused by men and demons. His first task at St. Sabbas was that of a paracliser. John had a great respect for the church building and the correct performance of sermons. He would make wafers, clean the precincts and ring the bell during sermons. He cultivated a feeling of love, mercy and humbleness toward everyone. He was also tasked with nursing the ill in the monastery’s sickroom, and he attended to all of their needs regardless of whether they were monks, beduins, Arabs or whether they had fallen ill or been injured in the war.
  
St. John in Neamt Monastery (source)
  
His confessor was Sabbas (Sava), a Macedonian who looked up to the Romanian monks who were abiding in the Holy Land. During the daytime John would go about his chores in the skete and the sickroom and at night he would shut himself in his cell and pray or read the Gospel and the writings of the Holy Fathers. Having learnt Greek, he translated many patristic writings which then he used to edify himself spiritually and those who sought him out for advice. He also had the gift of writing spiritual lyrics which he offered to the Romanian monks and pilgrims who came to the Holy Land to revere the Holy Sepulchre.
  
Between 1939 and 1940 he lived in a cave in the wilderness of Quran, near the dead sea. This is where he met his most faithful apprentice, Joanichios (Ioanichie) Paraiala. John’s daily meal consisted of biscuits and a few fruits. At night he would pray in secret, enduring many temptations. In 1940 he was sent to a concentration camp on Mount Olive and a year later after his release he returned to the monastery.
  
St. John in the Holy Land (source)
   
On May 13, 1947, at the recommendation of Archimandrite Victorin Ursache, the abbot of the Romanian Settlement in Jerusalem, and with the permission of the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, John was appointed deacon in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and later that year he would be ordained priest by Archbishop Irinarch. He was also charged with watching over the Romanian skete of St. John the Baptist, which had recently been established by the Romanian Patriarchate in the vicinity of the valley of the Jordan river.
  
During the five years of his abbotship John performed every sermon in Romanian on a daily basis. He also translated numerous teachings of the Holy Fathers and made them available for many Romanian monks and pilgrims. He wrote a considerable volume of religious lyrics, renovated the skete’s church building and the cells of the monks and reinforced the spirituality of the settlement by confessing and giving communion to as many Romanian pilgrims as he could. At night he would pray secretly in his cell or outdoors in the Jordan valley, trying to follow in the steps of St. Mary of Egypt. He wouldn’t eat anything during the daytime, preferring to work in the garden and at the improvement of the skete or to attend to the needs of the pilgrims, but whatever he did he would constantly pray in his mind and heart. In the evening he would perform the necessary sermons and receive pilgrims for confession and then withdraw for a few hours in a cave near the Jordan river wherein he would rest for a few hours before returning to the skete.
  
St. John the Hozevite (source)
  
His most faithful apprentices were Joanichios and a few elder Romanian nuns, Melania, Nathalia, Galinia, Cassiane and Magdalene, his spiritual daughters who were under his supervision. Due to his love for Christ, silence and prayer, John resigned from the abbotship of the skete at the end of 1952 and moved with his apprentice to the monastery of St George the Chozebite and in the summer of the following year they settled in a cave near by called The Cell of St Hannah, wherein tradition has it that St Hannah would withdraw to pray to God to enable her to conceive a child. This is where John and Joanichios would dwell for the next seven years, praying endlessly day and night, fasting, weeping in secret and contemplating God while enduring all sorts of temptations, insufficiencies, torments, struggles against demons and complete mutiny, all for the sake of Christ. He wouldn’t receive anyone into his cell, whose access was only by means of a ladder, preferring to communicate with his visitors through prayer, written letters and his apprentice.
    
On the most important feast and fast days, John and Joanichios would perform the Divine Liturgy in the paraclise of Saint Hannah’s Cell and receive communion, and then gratefully give thanks to God . In his free time he would sit in the light, at the entrance of his cave, where he would write spiritual lyrics and translate patristic teachings from Greek. His daily meal consisted of biscuits, olives and figs and a few cups of water. At night he would sleep a few hours on a plank with a stone for a pillow.
    
In 1960 his health deteriorated but he endured it bravely. Knowing that his end was near, he received communion for the last time on August 4. The next day at five in the morning he gave his soul to God. He was only 47 years old. Three days later he was entombed in the cave by the abbot of St George, Archmandrite Amphilochios (Amfilofie). John had known the date of his death, as evident by the fact that he had engraved it in the walls of the cavern. At one point during the funeral sermon, many small birds that John would throw bread to daily swarmed into the cave and flew over the heads of the attendants throughout the entire ceremony.
  
The holy, incorrupt Relic of St. John in the Monastery of Chozeva in the Holy Land (source)

Canonization

Twenty years later, on August 8, 1980, his remains were found incorrupt and emanating a pleasant scent, an indication that God had magnified him and numbered him among His saints as reward for his holy life. On August 15, the abbot of St George fashioned a cypress casket for his remains and processed it together with other archbishops of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and thousands of pilgrims who were attending the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, and placed the casket in St. Stepehen’s church, next to the casket containing the relics of St. George the Chozebite.
  
Since then, many Orthodox and even catholic pilgrims have come to venerate his relics and seek his help, and the requests of those of true genuine faith have always been honored.
  
John is reverenced by all Orthodox Christians, but even more so in Romania, Greece, Cyprus and the Holy Land. The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Romania, after carefully examining John’s holy life and relics, decided, in June, 1992, to list him among the rest of the saints as his holy eminence John James the Chozebite and put his feast day on August 5, the day of his death.
For his holy prayers, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on our souls.
(source)
     
St. John has also been canonized by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem (see here for more info).
  
St. John the Romanian, the Chozevite (source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

St. Ephraim the Syrian: "Love humility..."

St. Ephraim the Syrian, icon painted by Photi Kontouglou (source)
  
"Love humility and you will never fall into the devil's snare, for, soaring on humility's swift wings you will always remain above the enemy's snares."
-St. Ephraim the Syrian
  
(source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

St. Gregory the Theologian on the Eternal God

Jesus Christ, the God-man (source)
  
God always was, and always is, and always will be. Or rather, God always Is. For Was and Will be are fragments of our time, and of changeable nature, but He is Eternal Being. And this is the Name that He gives to Himself when giving the Oracle to Moses in the Mount. For in Himself He sums up and contains all Being, having neither beginning in the past nor end in the future; like some great Sea of Being, limitless and unbounded, transcending all conception of time and nature, only adumbrated [intimated] by the mind, and that very dimly and scantily.
-St. Gregory the Theologian
  
(source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

St. John Chrysostom on Human Reasoning

Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God (source)
  
Nothing makes one so dizzy as human reasoning, which sees everything from an earthly point of view, and does not allow illumination to come from above. Earthly reasoning is covered with mud. Therefore, we have need of streams from above, so that, when the mud has fallen away, whatever part of the reason is pure may be carried on high and may be thoroughly imbued with the lessons taught there. This takes place when we manifest both a well-disposed soul and an upright life.
-St. John Chrysostom
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Elder Ephraim of Arizona on the remembrance of God, and on good thoughts

St. Isidore of Pelusium, in prayer and contemplation of God (source)
  
Elder Ephraim of Arizona on the remembrance of God, and on good thoughts
It is not so easy for the demons to harm a person who keeps the constant remembrance of God in his soul. They can tempt him, but it is difficult for them to harm him. This is because he does not permit them to trip him up, for he is armed with the weapon of the constant remembrance of God. Whoever has his soul’s eyes open and sees God is not easily harmed by the enemies. The very spiritual men of old did not need spiritual books. They did not have such a great need to read many patristic books, because they constantly meditated upon things about God. Whatever they saw immediately gave them an opportunity to meditate upon something, to discover something unknown. All of creation was a university for them. Wherever they turned their eyes, they saw something to meditate upon—sometimes the providence of God, other times His wisdom; sometimes His judgment, other times His teachings, and so on. With the eyes of their soul they saw invisible things. Meditating upon them filled their hearts with spiritual knowledge.

We people of today—since we do not have the eyes of our soul open—do not have the ability to remain in the spiritual meditation. Even when we do see something, we need religious books to know something about God. The minds of these spiritual men were so strong that they could conceive thoughts and ideas with deep wisdom. Our minds are so weak that they can barely retain anything. The Fathers then were, for the most part, simple people; yet, they acquired full knowledge, because the Holy Spirit helped them understand the Scriptures.
The remembrance of God is an all-powerful weapon, a mighty suit of armor against Satan and the various sins. When the mind ceases to remember God and meditate upon divine things, man is overcome by negligence, indolence, forgetfulness, and then by evil desires!
If you see your mind rushing towards the world, know that your soul lacks divine consolation, which is why it turns to the world for consolation. 

When a person’s soul is warm towards God, he is enlightened and feels compunction, and it is impossible for his mind to incline towards the world at the same time. The soul inclines towards the world when it is not united, in a sense, with God. The mind is an area, a place. If God does not occupy it, then the enemy will occupy it. This place cannot remain empty, having neither God nor evil, sin, temptation, or the activity of Satan. The mind is like a mill that is turning. Whatever is thrown into the funnel, which leads to the millstones below, will come out as flour of that type. If you throw wheat in, you will get wheat flour. If you throw thorns in, you will get thorn flour—a harmful substance. The mill is always turning; the mind of man is always working—like a mill. Do you want to have good results? Put good material into the mill. Do you want to find compunction, tears, joy, peace, etc.? Put good thoughts into the mill of your mind—for example, thoughts about the soul, about the Judgment, the remembrance of death, and so on—and then you will get corresponding spiritual results! But if a person puts sinful thoughts into the mill of his mind, he will definitely have sin as a result. The material that will be given to the mind depends on the intentions of man. And these intentions will be either commended or censured. We should always strive to have salvific thoughts and beneficial images in our mind, so that we do not leave room for Satan to throw in his garbage—sinful thoughts and fantasies!
(source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!