In this email
Message from Fr Alexander — Forgive
Be the Bee and not the Fly — St Paisios of Mt Athos
Live stream information
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Saints and Feasts — 29th October–5th November
Offer of help
Forgiveness is hard. It is challenging. It is difficult.
… and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
The Christian life is a difficult one: if you want easy religion certainly don’t try Christianity. “Religions” tell you to do x, y and z and you are a “good religionist.” In this sense, Christianity is not a religion.
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) is the best short summary of Christian morality: read it and read it again—it’s quite short. In it the Lord tells us we have a higher standard even than the Jews: not only do not kill with your hands but do not kill in your heart—no “religion” goes to such a standard.
If I struggle with forgiving a person, or a group, I could start by offering myself to God: in prayer, standing before the icon of Christ who has forgiven much more filth and corruption in my own soul than anyone has done against me, I can say “Lord, I cannot forgive.” I could go on and say it as part of the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me: I cannot forgive.”
“I cannot forgive.” I could consider this and break it down, perhaps “Lord I do not want to forgive”? If this is the case, why do I not want to do it? Is it because it makes me feel better that I can ascribe blame for the situation I find myself in? Or because I do not want to take responsibility for my own part in causing it? Is it easier in placing it upon others than to repent on their behalf?
Perhaps this is not true, perhaps rather it is “Lord, I do not have the strength to forgive.” And this is true, I do not have within me the strength to forgive another person. Yet in my baptism it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) And I can use Christ within me to forgive another.
Forgiveness is no longer causing myself to suffer for someone else’s mistakes: it is no longer a burden I have to carry but I can see it disappear in the wind. It is also taking responsibility for the mistakes I have made in my life—no longer can I blame another person for the situation I find myself in, I am responsible for myself and my repentance. And the more I learn to forgive, the more I learn to become the human being whom the Lord wants me to become. This does not mean I must forget—I do not want to fall into the same traps again and again—yet I do not need to hold onto it because the Lord has not held onto it in me.
My dear brothers and sisters, friends, we must learn to be forgiving, we must learn to be different from the world and offer forgiveness: in this way we witness to our world the transformative action of God in our lives and the love by which God has loved us and offered himself for us.
Be the Bee and not the Fly
from St Paisios of Mt Athos
Some people tell me that they are scandalised because they see many things wrong in the Church. I tell them that if you ask a fly, “Are there any flowers in this area?” it will say, “I don’t know about flowers, but over there in that heap of rubbish you can find all the filth you want.” And it will go on to list all the unclean things it has been to.
Now, if you ask a honeybee, “Have you seen any unclean things in this area?” it will reply, “Unclean things? No, I have not seen any; the place here is full of the most fragrant flowers.” And it will go on to name all the flowers of the garden or the meadow.
You see, the fly only knows where the unclean things are, while the honeybee knows where the beautiful iris or hyacinth is.
As I have come to understand, some people resemble the honeybee and some resemble the fly. Those who resemble the fly seek to find evil in every circumstance and are preoccupied with it; they see no good anywhere. But those who resemble the honeybee only see the good in everything they see. The stupid person thinks stupidly and takes everything in the wrong way, whereas the person who has good thoughts, no matter what he sees, no matter what you tell him, maintains a positive and good thought.
— St Paisios of Mt Athos, ‘Good and Evil Thoughts,’ in ‘Spiritual Counsels III: Spiritual Struggle.’
As we move further into autumn worries are increasing on the possible increase in the spread of the disease. Yet there is a division: one side is accused of scare-mongering while the other of irresponsibility. The situation is becoming fractious and each side’s position is becoming more entrenched.
Our duty as Christians is to stand for truth and to bring about unity. But to stand for truth does not mean to ridicule nor deride those who are wrong, it is to act patiently, humbly, lovingly: in other words to be Christ-like. We do not shy away from the truth nor do we separate ourselves from others.
The Church has a clear position as given by our bishops: we are to obey the civil authorities on these matters. We follow the law while maintaining our Faith and thus provide a witness—a martyrdom—of the Gospel. And then, by trusting in the power of God and not our own, we may become an icon of unity and concord.
Would you like help? Advice? Support? Then let me know.
The Monastery of Saints Antony and Cuthbert, Shropshire, is live-streaming its services for all who are unable to go to their own churches. These are over YouTube and can be accessed here:
Usually Vespers on Saturday evenings at 5 pm and Matins and Liturgy on Sunday mornings from 7.30 am.
News of Future Services
We want to start to hold services together: things are difficult now but they remind us that we can do nothing by our own power. Only when we place our hope in the Lord—and not in our own skills, talents, ideas, imaginations—will we be able to build a house for the Lord.
Our Facebook Page, facebook.com/orthodoxeastleigh, too, has daily additions during the week as well as on feast days. Please do like and share our page and content so we may reach a wider group of people.
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Saints and Feasts
Thursday 29th October — Martyr Anastasia the Roman (3rd).
Friday 30th — Apostles Tertios, Mark, Ioustos and Artemas of the Seventy (1st). Holy Apostle Cleopas (1st). Martyr Avilda of Thornbury (?6th).
Saturday 31st — Apostles Stachys, Amplias, Urban, Narcissos, Apelles and Aristoboulos of the Seventy (1st).
Sunday 1st November — 21st after Pentecost. (Luke 5). Wonderworkers and Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian of Mesopotamia, and their mother St Theodoti (?3rd). St Cadfan of Bardsey (6th). St David the Ascetic of Evoia (16th).
Monday 2nd — Martyrs Akindynos, Pegasios, Aphthonios, Elpidophoros and Anempodistos of Persia (c 341–5).
Tuesday 3rd — Martyrs Acepsimas the Bishop, Joseph the Presbyter and Aithalas the Deacon of Persia (4th). Dedication of the Church of the Great-Martyr George in Lydda (4th). St Winifred of Treffynon (Holywell, N Wales, 7th).
Wednesday 4th — St Ioannikios the Great, Hermit on Mt Olympus (846).
Thursday 5th — Martyr Galaktion and his wife, Epistimi, at Emesa (3rd). Apostles Patrobos, Hermas, Linus, Gaius and Philologos of the Seventy (1st).
Can I help you?
I am here for you, you need only ask. Is there a way I can support your life of faith? Get in touch.
Can you help the mission?
Yes, absolutely. Offer yourselves to the Lord: pray! Make available to him all your talents and ask him how he would like you to use them — listen for his reply.
I ask your prayers for me.
With love in Christ