Christians, always rejoice, for evil, death, sin, the devil and hell have been conquered by Christ. But when all of this is conquered, is there anyone in the world who can bring our joy to naught? You are the lord of this eternal rejoicing as long as you do not give in to sin. Joy burns in our hearts from His truth, love, resurrection, and from the Church and His saints. Joy burns in our hearts all because of sufferings for Him, mockings for Him, and death for Him, insofar as these sufferings write our names in heaven. There is no true joy on earth without the victory over death, but the victory over death does not exist without the Resurrection, and the Resurrection does not exist without Christ. The risen God-Man Christ, the founder of the Church, constantly pours out this joy into the hearts of His followers through the Holy Mysteries and good deeds. Our faith is fulfilled in this eternal joy, insofar as the joy of faith in Christ is the only true joy for human nature. Based on St. Justin Popovich In this photo, the Elder Ephraim is incensing in the middle of the crowd at Easter. Vatopaidi, 2015.
The greatest pain for any man is to lose his spiritual father. When the loss occurs unwillingly, then we trust that the Lord will protect both the disciple and the spiritual father from all harm. Here we see Elder Ephraim, the abbot of Vatopaidi, allowing himself to be arrested as he peacefully approached the awaiting policemen at the main entrance of the monastery, just before Christmas in 2011. He was sent to the infamous Korydallos Prison, but was freed three months later as a result of the public outcry over the grave injustice.
Help in finding a good spouse. Note: This text was written for women, but can equally be applied by men. First of all, pray about it. Our Lord and His holy Mother are the primary source of aid for such matters. Then ask yourself, can I see him as the father of my children? You should find that this narrows it down to perhaps one or two. Now, imagine him as an old man with a wrinkled face and stooped over. Would you want to be at this man’s side? If so, then indeed there something of God’s hand in this relationship. Next, observe him around girls or women with whom he is not interested in having a relationship, like a sister or feeble or old women. How does he behave around them? Here you will see his true character. Finally, make sure he is someone who is fighting to overcome his passions and to correct his defects, no matter how large or small they may be. Make sure he is someone who is a true Christian. Based on St. John Chrysostom, St. Paisios the Athonite, Father Dumitru Staniloae
The higher level man reaches in spiritual life, the lesser are his rights; Spiritually mature man doesn't have any rights. Based on St. Paisios the Athonite
The Creator and Ruler of the world called Himself meek and humble of heart. Therefore, to be a true Ruler of this world we must also be humble and meek in our hearts, with a deep respect for our neighbor and for all of creation. This photo shows the small port (arsanas) of Zographou Monastery.
For the whole array of passions, wrath and fear, cowardice and impudence, depression as well as pleasure, hatred, strife and merciless cruelty, envy as well as flattery, brutality together with brooding over injuries, they are all so many despotic masters... You really, really, really need to clean them up. Don't be afraid and do it! Okay, if you're afraid, be afraid and do it anyway! Based on St Gregory of Nyssa
Pride is the mother of all the passions and sins. If humility is characterised as the queen of the virtues, pride is the queen of passions. Pride is the greatest illness of the soul; the worst part being that one who suffers from this passion finds great difficulty in discerning it within. The principal therapy of pride is our own condecension, in other words constantly lowering ourselves, placing ourselves under our brother in every situation. In this photo, a pilgrim wanted to see what's happening at the procession of Blessing the Waters at Theophany, Vatopaidi 2015. He was (almost) the only one which succeeded to see from that area.
Rule #1 of programming: If a program works perfectly, the pleasure goes to users. If something is wrong, the programmer is to blame. This leads us to think about God who gives in the end justice for all. So, do not despair. In this photo, one of the chefs preparing the food for the Vatopaidi's refectory.
The purpose of our life on earth is not to attain worldly achievements, but rather to attain the eternal crowns of virtue which will magnify us eternally. Death is not something to be feared, rather a simple separation of the temporary body with the undying soul. In the afterlife, our soul will remember all of its existence on earth and will rejoice with the good acts and will suffer for the evil committed. For this reason, we must never ignore our consciences and carry out a transgression, no matter how small it may seem, so we can avoid an eternity of regret later on. Remember, our just Lord immediately forgives all sins and transgressions through an honest and clean confession to our spiritual father. Those who bravely confess their sins, take courage for you will become masters of eternity! All ye who fain from the burden of a clean confession, take heed for you will become a slave of an eternal failure. We must be victors over the civil war of our self-pleasures in this emptied world … and what is civil in a war anyway? In this photo a hermit monk bears a handle of the funeral bier of the recently deceased elder Ioakeim.
...But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Based on Luke 15:20-24
Each one of us has a saint who protects him with great care, even if we don't feel this in every moment. Based on St. George Karslidis In this photo two monks praying in the Chapel of St Gregory Palamas (Vatopaidi) having in their background the icons of St Gregory Palamas (right) and his elder - St. Nikodemus the Hesycast
Making Major Decisions It is a shame to cut down or destroy a tree recklessly, but as a result of a landslide, this tree was likely to fall and block the road, so the decision was made to cut it down. Besides, with its roots broken, it was likely to die soon anyway. The decision to cut down the tree was a responsible one. Making a major life decision should be done with careful consideration and with the utilization of the tools God has placed at our disposal. These tools may include: Prayer, asking God to guide us to do what is best; Consulting with someone trusted, according to the situation: a spiritual elder or priest, a parent or spouse, our employer, a friend; Fasting and other ascetic practices that reduce outer distractions and make us more open to discerning the will of God; Being attentive to the movements and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within our mind and heart.
You will not labour many years, son, in search of blessed inner peace, if in the beginning you surrender yourself with all your soul to indignities. After that, perhaps God will give you glory, but this will not harm you. Based on St. John of the Ladder In this photo, the Mitropolitan Panteleimon of Veria incensing the pilgrims at the feast of Theophany in the Katholikon (main church) of Vatopaidi.
People who work for Christ, but with pride, stink out their virtues with their pride. It’s like if you’re frying eggs and you get bird droppings in them. You have to throw the whole lot out, including the frying pan. That's why the monks seek always the humbleness. Based on St Paisios the Athonite In this photo is depicted the chef monk from the St George's Cell at Kolitsou, near Vatopaidi, preparing the grilled fish for the feast of St. George in an empty barrel which was used as stove.
If you want to go to sweet Paradise, you have to eat a lot of bitter things here, so that you’ve got your passport of trials to hand. Trust in God’s a continuous, mystical prayer that softly brings God’s powers to where they’re needed and when they’re needed. Based on St Paisios the Athonite In this photo are depicted two Monks from Vatopaidi outside in cold and among dense vegetation trying to collect olives from trees for the Monastery.
Don’t wind the clock too tightly or the spring may break. This is the way it is with children, as well; when they are starting to feel forced, let off on the pressure. Based on St. Paisios the Athonite In this photo a Vatopaidi monk adjusting the Church's main clock.The clock was received in the Monastery in 1805 from Vienna, althogh the clock is believed to date much earlier from around 1700-1750.
A person who strives for a long time but doesn’t see spiritual progress has pride and egotism. Spiritual progress is found where there is much humility. Based on St. Paisios the Athonite In this photo an old hermit from a cell near Vatopaidi venerates the Holy Relics of the Vatopaidi's Holy Founders: St Nikolaos, St. Athanasios and St. Antonios.
Why do we believe in Christ? The easy answer would be to say that He was revealed as Christ and Savior in the words of the Bible; but words are not enough. We believe in Christ because of the effect His deeds and words have had upon us and our world. The history of the past two thousand years bears witness to this profound effect on humanity, but more importantly we see this effect within us on a personal level as we seek to follow His commandments and live according to His words. As we put His words into practice and embrace, paradoxically, the way of His cross, His eternal joy and peace takes root in us until it finds its completion in the everlasting happiness of His Heavenly Kingdom. In the photo a heremit hieromonk during the Divine Leiturgy at Vatopaidi.
Why are children so happy? It is because children forget evil very easily. When someone sees things having good thoughts, he purifies himself and receives the Grace of God. When someone has bad thoughts, judges or deals injustly with others, he blocks the Grace of God from coming and is clobbered by the devil. Based on Saint Paisios the Athonite In this photo, two children from Romania in national costumes playing at Easter with semantrons.
How to overcome the war against yourself When someone wages war against you, take example of Crist's crucifixion. Don't fight fire with fire. It makes you look ridiculous. Instead make a little path in order to let the light of Christ's example and His teaching enter and then the darkness will go away by itself. One needs faith, courage and patience in order to accomplish this. But without a cross to bare, there is no resurrection. Based on St Porfyrios of Kavsokalivia In this photo is depicted the Metropolitan Amphilohios of Adrianoupoleos raising the Cross with his hands at the Divine Liturgy. Vatopaidi, the feast of the Holy Founders.
If God is slow in answering your request, or if you ask but do not promptly receive anything, do not be upset, for you are not wiser than God. And, in fact, the act of praying is already a small victory against your passions. Based upon St Isaac the Syrian A moment from the small entrance of Divine Liturgy at the Cell of the Mother of God's Nativity. The cell's occupant is hermit Elder Nektarios (on the left with candle).
Don’t neglect your prayers. Just as the body becomes weak when it’s deprived of food, so the soul, when it’s deprived of prayer, weakens and draws near to the death of the intellect. If the mind is free of the things of this world, it turns in on itself and from itself soars to God. Based on St. Gennadius of Constantinople, St. Basile the Great
‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’. ‘So it is with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body’ This symbolism finds its highest expression in the Saints, whose blessed state in heaven has been manifested to the world. For this reason, kolyva is blessed not only at memorials for the departed, but also in commemoration of saints. The photo shows a two monks from Vatopaidi making and decorating the koliva (boiled wheat which is used liturgically) for the feast of the St. Evdokimos. The colors are from natural ingredients such as cinnamon or flour and are edible.
The critical significance of death isn't the end of ones life. Mans immortal soul continues existing after death. The implication of death lies in the fact that afterwards the soul cannot help itself anymore to improve its existential state in front of God. Consequently, one's soul relies on the prayers and good acts of faith done towards the benefit of their name from the others which are still behind in man's earthly existence which is called "life". The Church has special prayers and services for the departed ones which portray church's global love for everyone as well as the acknowledgement that we all are alive. In this photo, a priest reads a prayer for the departed in front of the icon of Christ while blessing the koliva.
Happy is the man in whom there is love for God, for he bears God within himself. The one in whom there is love is with God, above all things. Whoever has love in himself does not fear. He never gets angry with anyone, nor does he exalt himself above anyone else. Whoever has love fulfills the will of God. In this photo a monk from Vatopaidi voices the ancient Easter greeting with 'Christ is risen!' to a child from Romania dressed in a traditional ethnic costume.
Our problems arent solved by contemplating them. The solution to all our problems is found through praying about them. In order to be powerful and effective, prayer must arise from within a pure heart. Oil and salt are seasonings for food; and tears and chastity give wings to prayer. In this photo Abbot Ephraim of Vatopaidi Monastery is depicted reading the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos in front of Her Miracle-working icon in the Holy Altar of the Katholikon of Vatopaidi.
According to the degree of which a man suffers undeserved shame from another in the name of Christ's truth, he will be rewarded thousands of times over and will be mysteriously glorified by countless crowds of men. True love is tried and tested through man's controversies. This photo depicts the end of a "photo session" at the Skete of St Andrew (Karyes) requested by the father Job (on the left, in wheelchair) from the Abbot Ephraim (right) who was present at the skete's main feast of St. Andrew.
There are things which one cannot explain but can only live. Every spiritual experience is an ultimate mistery. Failure is not to fall; Failure is to stay down and not get up again.
I will sing unto the Lord throughout my life, I will chant to my God for as long as I exist. May my words be sweet unto Him, and I will rejoice in the Lord. Truly remarkable is this mystery of earthly worhsip when contemplated with the eternal nature of mankind.
Many rich and powerful men would pay dearly to see the Lord or His Most Pure Mother; but God does not appear in riches, rather to the humble of heart. Transversely, the poorest of men can be humble and come to know God. It needs neither money nor reputation to come to know God, only humility. In this photo a candid moment from the reading of the Holy Gospel at service of the Holy Unction at Vatopaidi.
All warfare is based on deception and has as an ultimate purpose; the hate and death of the human soul. That's why in spiritual warfare never ever believe in your thoughts. Did you see a man who erred? He believed his thoughts. After that, if there is lack of repentance and spiritual guidance, internal hopelessness comes which cuts the human being to his core. It is his spiritual death. In this photo one of the brothers having a pensive moment before the common meal.
In the same way in which Son of God took up the human body as his vestment, we must also wear the grace of the Holy Spirit which is the illumination of the hypostatic light of Divinity in the human soul. In this photo, the Metropolitan Nicholas of Mediterranean Sea offers the Holy Gifts to a deacon before the great entrance of the Divine Liturgy. Chapel of Paramythia, Vatopaidi.
Contrast In order to abide in the love of God it is essential for anger and hate to attain their maximum intensity and directed against the sin that lives in me, against the evil active in me in me, not in my brother. In this photo a priest from Congo during the annual procession of St. Elias which journeys around the whole monastery.
It is impossible to know truth without God allowing us to experience trials. Those who don’t wish to endure these trials for the sake of truth will endure greater hardships from the sickness of their soul. Based on St. Isaac the Syrian, Abba Mark This photo shows Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Rodostolos (centre) together with a young student from the Athonite Academy (left) surrounded by fathers from Vatopaidi.
The Need for a Cross Many times we need to pass through sorrows. Many times we’re left alone in front of a trial. We must undertake a certain task by ourselves– not because the others necessarily dislike us, but because this is the way it is. Taken at the end of a harvest of potatoes, at which one monk stayed behind the others in order to gather the remaining potatoes.
Awe Before the Sacred The awe shown before the sacred is an expression of love and joy and not one of fear. The monks does not venerate the wood, paint or craftsmanship of the icons; rather their love and respect is directed towards the persons or sacred events depicted in the icons. In the candid photograph above, a monk from one of the other nineteen monasteries of Mount Athos expresses his love, gratitude and respect for the Mother of God. Depicted here is one of the miracle-working icons at Vatopaidi Monastery that helped him spiritually throughout his entire monastic life.
Eclipse Keep your mind in hell and do not despair. One of the Vatopaidi fathers during the services.
Perhaps it is a little bold what I'm saying but it is better to quarrel with God rather than with your spiritual father. If you are at odds with God, your spiritual father will reconcile you with Him. But if you are separated from your elder, who will reconcile with your spiritual guide?
After the Fire One of the greatest physical dangers for the monks and monasteries throughout the years has been conflagrations. The age of the buildings, the immense wooded areas which surround the monastic settlements and the numerous wood stoves provide a continuous threat. Similarly, the spiritual life of the monk is no exception. He is under continuous threat from the internal spiritual fires which are a part of his everyday life. The art of monasticism is to fight and ultimately overcome these fires within, constantly progressing towards the true light from above. This is why monks seek to maintain their serenity and peace, even during the most critical moments of their life.
God is pleased more in ones humility having been provoked by an unjust bout which he suffered rather than in ones pride which stems from a good thing which he accomplished. Moreover, He fills us with great joy if we keep our faith in Him and reject the sinister thoughts against the ones who unjustly wronged us. This photo is an emergency "identity card" shot for the Elder Silouan, a very poor hermit from Mount Athos, after he was looted by thieves which took all of his belongings (including his identity papers) leaving him only with his old work garment as pictured.
The most powerful weapon of the devil is desperation. He doesn't rejoice so much when we sin compared to when we despair. This is because the last and definitive victory of the devil is when he succeeds to put the soul into despair. That's why we must remember that God always has an open door, an open window for us. Always. All we have to do is keep on walking towards his countenance .