Κυριακή, 14 Απριλίου 2019

5th Sunday of Great Lent: Saint Mary of Egypt, "the most amazing story, which has taken place in our generation"...

 
Lucas Cleophas

From the Great Canon,
the Work of Saint Andrew of Crete,
heard in church during the service
at Wednesdaybefore the Sunday of Saint Mary of Egypt.

 


“It is good to hide the secret of a king,
but it is glorious to reveal
and preach the works of God” [Tobit 12: 7].
So said the Archangel Raphael to Tobit when he performed the wonderful healing of his blindness.
Actually, not to keep the secret of a king is perilous and a terrible risk, but to be silent about the works of God is a great loss for the soul.
And I [so says Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem ►],
in writing the life of Saint Mary of Egypt,
am afraid to hide the works of God by silence.
Remembering the misfortune threatened to the servant who hid his God-given talent in the earth. [Matth.25: 18-25];
I am bound to pass on the holy account that has reached me.
And let no one think [continues Saint Sophronius]
that I have had the audacity to write untruth or doubt this great marvel
—> may I never lie about Holy things!
If there do happen to be people who, after reading this record,
do not believe it, may the Lord have Mercy on them because,
reflecting on the weakness of human nature,
they consider impossible these wonderful things accomplished by Holy people.
But now we must begin to tell this most amazing story,
which has taken place in our generation.

 


There was a certain elder in one of the monasteries of Palestine, a priest of the Holy life and speech,
who from childhood had been brought up in monastic ways and customs.
This elder’s name was Zosimas.
He had been through the whole course of the ascetic life
and in everything he adhered to the rule once given to him
by his tutors as regard spiritual labours.
He had also added a good deal himself whilst labouring to subject his flesh to the will of the spirit.
And he had not failed in his aim.
He was so renowned for his spiritual life that many came to him from neighbouring monasteries
and some even from afar.
While doing all this, he never ceased to study the Divine Scriptures.
Whether resting, standing, working or eating food
[if the scraps he nibbled could be called food],
he incessantly and constantly had a single aim:
always to sing of God, and to practice the teaching of the Divine Scriptures.
Zosimas used to relate how, as soon as he was taken from his mother’s breast,
he was handed over to the monastery where he went through his training
as an ascetic till he reached the age of 53.
After that, he began to be tormented with the thought
that he was perfect in everything and needed no instruction from anyone,
saying to himself mentally,
“Is there a monk on earth who can be of use to me
and show me a kind of asceticism that I have not accomplished?
Is there a man to be found in the desert who has surpassed me?”

 


Thus thought the elder, when suddenly
an angel appeared to him and said:

“Zosimas, valiantly have you struggled, as far as this is within the power of man, valiantly have you gone through the ascetic course.
But there is no man who has attained perfection.
Before you lie unknown struggles greater than those you have already accomplished.
That you may know how many other ways lead to Salvation,
leave your native land like the renowned patriarch Abraham
and go to the monastery by the River Jordan“.

Zosimas did as he was told. he left the monastery in which he had lived from childhood
and went to the River Jordan.
At last he reached the community to which God had sent him.
Having knocked at the door of the monastery,
he told the monk who was the porter who he was;
and the porter told the abbot.
On being admitted to the abbot’s presence,
Zosimas made the usual monastic prostration and prayer.
Seeing that he was a monk the abbot asked:

“Where do you come from, my brother
and why have you come to us poor old men?”

Zosimas replied:

“There is no need to speak about where I have come from,
but I have come, father, seeking spiritual profit,
for I have heard great things about your skill in leading souls to God“.

“My brother“, the abbot said to him,
“Only God can heal the infirmity of the soul.
May He teach you and us His Divine ways and guide us.
But as it is the love of Christ that has moved you
to visit us poor old men, then stay with us,
if that is why you have come.
May the Good Shepherd Who laid down His life for our Salvation
fill us all with the Grace of the Holy Spirit“.

After this, Zosimas bowed to the abbot,
asked for his prayers and blessing, and stayed in the monastery.
There he saw elders proficient both in action and the contemplation of God,
aflame in spirit, working for the Lord.
They sang incessantly, they stood in prayer all night,
work was ever in their hands and Psalms on their lips.
Never an idle word was heard among them,
they know nothing about acquiring temporal goods or the cares of life.
But they had one desire —> to become in body like corpses.
Their constant food was the Word of God
and they sustained their bodies on bread and water,
as much as their love for God allowed them Seeing this,


 

Zosimas was greatly edified and
prepared for the struggle that lay before him.

Many days passed and the time drew near when all Christians fast and prepare themselves to worship the Divine Passion and Resurrection of Christ.
The monastery gates were kept always locked and only opened
when one of the community was sent out on some errand.
It was a desert place, not only unvisited by people of the world but even unknown to them.

There was a rule in that monastery which was the reason why God brought Zosimas there.
At the beginning of the Great Fast [on Forgiveness Sunday]
the priest celebrated the Divine Liturgy
and all partook of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
After the Holy Liturgy they went to the refectory
and would eat a little Lenten food.

Then all gathered in church, and after praying earnestly with prostrations,
the elders kissed one another and asked forgiveness.
And each made a prostration to the abbot
and asked his blessing and prayers for the struggle that lay before them.
After this, the gates of the monastery were thrown open, and singing,
“The Lord is my Light and my Saviour; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the Defender of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” [Psalm 26: 1]
and the rest of that Psalm, all went out into the desert and crossed the River Jordan.
Only one or two brothers were left in the monastery,
not to guard the property [for there was nothing to rob],
but so as not to leave the church without Divine Service.
Each took with him as much as he could or wanted in the way of food,
according to the needs of his body:
one would take a little bread, another some figs,
another dates or wheat soaked in water.
And some took nothing but their own body covered with rags and fed
when nature forced them to it on the plants that grew in the desert.

After crossing the Jordan, they all scattered far and wide in different directions.
And this was the rule of life they had, and which they all observed
—> neither to talk to one another, nor to know how each one lived and fasted.
If they did happen to catch sight of one another,
they went to another part of the country, living alone and always singing to God,
and at a definite time eating a very small quantity of food.
In this way they spent the whole of the fast
and used to return to the monastery
a week before the Resurrection of Christ, on Palm Sunday.
Each one returned having his own conscience as the witness of his labour
and no one asked another how he had spent his time in the desert.
Such were rules of the monastery.
Every one of them whilst in the desert struggled with himself
before the Judge of the struggle — God — not seeking to please men
and fast before the eyes of all.
For what is done for the sake of men, to win praise and honour,
is not only useless to the one who does it
but sometimes the cause of great punishment.

Zosimas did the same as all.
And he went far, far into the desert with a secret hope of finding
some father who might be living there and who might be able
to satisfy his thirst and longing.
And he wandered on tireless, as if hurrying on to some definite place.
He had already walked for 20 days and when the 6th hour came he stopped
and, turning to the East, he began to sing the sixth Hour
and recite the customary prayers.
He used to break his journey thus at fixed hours of the day to rest a little,
to chant Psalms standing and to pray on bent knees.

And as he sang thus without turning his eyes from the Heavens,
he suddenly saw to the right of the hillock
on which he stood the semblance of a human body.
At first he was confused thinking he beheld a vision of the devil,
and even started with fear.
But, having guarded himself with the sign of the Cross and banished all fear,
he turned his gaze in that direction and in Truth saw some form gliding southwards.
It was naked, the skin dark as if burned up by the heat of the sun;
the hair on its head was white as a fleece,
and not long, falling just below its neck.
Zosimas was so overjoyed at beholding a human form
that he ran after it in pursuit, but reform fled from him. He followed.
At length, when he was near enough to be heard, he shouted:

“Why do you run from an old man and a sinner?
Slave of the True God, wait for me, whoever you are,

in God’s name I tell you, for the love of God
for Whose sake you are living in the desert“.

 


“Forgive me for God’s sake,
but I cannot turn towards you and show you my face, Abba Zosimas.
For I am a woman and naked as you see
with the uncovered shame of my body.
But if you would like to fulfil one wish of a sinful woman, throw me your cloak so that I can cover my body and can turn to you and ask for your blessing“.

Here terror seized Zosimas, for he heard that she called him by name.
But he realized that she could not have done so
without knowing anything of him
if she had not had the power of spiritual insight.

 


He at once did as he was asked.
He took off his old, tattered cloak and threw it to her,
turning away as he did so.
She picked it up and was able to cover at least a part of her body.
The she turned to Zosimas and said:

“Why did you wish, Abba Zosimas, to see a sinful woman?
What do you wish to hear or learn from me,
you who have not shrunk from such great struggles?”

Zosimas threw himself on the ground and asked for her blessing.
She likewise bowed down before him.
And thus they lay on the ground prostrate asking for each other’s blessing.
And one word alone could be heard from both:
“Bless me!“.
After a long while the woman said to Zosimas:

“Abba Zosimas, it is you who must give blessing and pray.
You are dignified by the order of priesthood
and for many years you have been standing
before the Holy altar and offering the Sacrifice of the Divine Mysteries“.

This flung Zosimas into even greater terror. At length with tears he said to her:

“O mother, filled with the spirit, by your mode of life
it is evident that you live with God and have died to the world.
The Grace granted to you is apparent
—> for you have called me by name and recognized that I am a priest,
though you have never seen me before.
Grace is recognized not by one’s orders, but by Gifts of the Holy Spirit,
so give me your blessing for God’s sake, for I need your prayers“.

Then giving way before the wish of the elder the woman said:

“Blessed is God Who cares for the Salvation of men and their souls“.

Zosimas answered:

“Amen“.

And both rose to their feet. Then the woman asked the elder:

“Why have you come, man of God, to me who am so sinful?
Why do you wish to see a woman naked an devoid of every virtue?
Though I know one thing —> the Grace of the Holy Spirit
has brought you to render me a service in time.
Tell me, father, how are the Christian peoples living?
And the kings? How is the Church guided?”.

Zosimas said:

“By your prayers, mother, Christ has granted lasting peace to all.
But fulfil the unworthy petition of an old man
and pray for the whole world and for me who am a sinner,
so that my wanderings in the desert may not be fruitless“.

She answered:

“You who are a priest, Abba Zosimas,
it is you who must pray for me and for all —> for this is your calling.
But as we must all be obedient, I will gladly do what you ask“.

 


And with these words she turned to the East,
and raising her eyes to Heaven and stretching out her hands,
she began to pray in a whisper.
One could not hear separate words, so that Zosimas could not understand
anything that she said in her prayers.
Meanwhile he stood, according to his own word, all in a flutter,
looking at the ground without saying a word.
And he swore, calling God to witness,
that when at length he thought that her prayer was very long,
he took his eyes off the ground and saw
that she was raised about a forearm’s distance from the ground
and stood praying in the air.
When he saw this, even greater terror seized him
and he fell on the ground weeping and repeating may times,
“Lord have mercy“.

And whilst lying prostrate on the ground he was tempted by a thought:
Is it not a spirit, and perhaps her prayer is hypocrisy.

But at the very same moment the woman turned round,
raised the elder from the ground and said:
“Why do thought confuse you, Abba, and tempt you about me,
as if I were a spirit and a dissembler in prayer?
Know, Holy father, that I am only a sinful woman,
though I am guarded by Holy baptism.
And I am no spirit but earth and ashes, and flesh alone“.

And with these words she guarded herself with the sign of the Cross
on her forehead, eyes, mouth and breast, saying:
“May God defend us from the evil one and from his designs,
for fierce is his struggle against us“.

Hearing and seeing this, the elder fell to the ground
and embracing her feet, he said with tears:


 

“I beg you, by the Name of Christ our God,
Who was born of a Virgin,
for Whose sake you have stripped yourself,
for Whose sake you have exhausted your flesh,
do not hide from your slave,
who you are and whence and how you came
into this desert.
Tell me everything so that
the marvellous works of God may become known.
A hidden wisdom and a secret treasure
—> what profit is there in them?
Tell me all, I implore you.
For not out of vanity or for self-display will you speak
but to reveal the truth to me, an unworthy sinner.
I believe in God, for whom you live and whom you serve.
I believe that He led me into this desert so as to show me His ways in regard to you.
It is not in our power to resist the plans of God.
If it were not the will of God that you and your life would be known,
He would not have allowed be to see you
and would not have strengthened me to undertake this journey,
one like me who never before dared to leave his cell“.

Much more said Abba Zosimas. But the woman raised him and said:
“I am ashamed, Abba, to speak to you of my disgraceful life, forgive me for God’s sake!
But as you have already seen my naked body I shall likewise lay bare before you my work, so that you may know with what shame and obscenity my soul is filled.
I was not running away out of vanity, as you thought,
for what have I to be proud of —> I who was the chosen vessel of the devil?
But when I start my story you will run from me,
as from a snake, for your ears will not be able to bear the vileness of my actions.
But I shall tell you all without hiding anything,
only imploring you first of all to pray incessantly for me,
so that I may find Mercy on the day of Judgment“.

 


The elder wept and the woman began her Story:
“My native land, holy father, was Egypt.
Already during the lifetime of my parents, when I was twelve years old,
I renounced their love and went to Alexandria.
I am ashamed to recall how there I at first ruined my maidenhood
and then unrestrainedly and insatiably gave myself up to sensuality.
It is more becoming to speak of this briefly,
so that you may just know my passion and my lechery.
For about seventeen years, forgive me, I lived like that.
I was like a fire of public debauch.
And it was not for the sake of gain —> here I speak the pure truth.
Often when they wished to pay me, I refused the money.
I acted in this way so as to make as many men as possible to try to obtain me,
doing free of charge what gave me pleasure.
Do not think that I was rich and that was the reason why I did not take money.
I lived by begging, often by spinning flax,
but I had an insatiable desire and an irrepressible passion for lying in filth.
This was life to me. Every kind of abuse of nature I regarded as life.
That is how I lived.
Then one summer I saw a large crowd of Libyans and Egyptians running towards the sea. I asked one of them, ‘Where are these men hurrying to?’
He replied, ‘They are all going to Jerusalem
for the Exaltation of the Precious and Lifegiving Cross,
which takes place in a few days’.
I said to him, ‘Will they take me with them if I wish to go?’
‘No one will hinder you if you have money to pay for the journey and for food’.
And I said to him, ‘To tell you truth, I have no money, neither have I food.
But I shall go with them and shall go aboard.
And they shall feed me, whether they want to or not.
I have a body —> they shall take it instead of pay for the journey’.
I was suddenly filled with a desire to go, Abba,
to have more lovers who could satisfy my passion.
I told you, Abba Zosimas, not to force me to tell you of my disgrace.
God is my witness, I am afraid of defiling you and the very air with my words“.
Zosimas, weeping, replied to her:
“Speak on for God’s sake, mother,
speak and do not break the thread of such an edifying tale“.

 


And, resuming her story, she went on:
“That youth, on hearing my shameless words, laughed and went off.
While I, throwing away my spinning wheel,
ran off towards the sea in the direction which everyone seemed to be taking.
and seeing some young men standing on the shore, about ten or more of them,
full of vigour and alert in their movements,
I decided that they would do for my purpose
[it seemed that some of them were waiting for more travellers
whilst others had gone ashore].
Shamelessly, as usual, I mixed with the crowd, saying,
‘Take me with you to the place you are going to;
you will not find me superfluous’.
I also added a few more words calling forth general laughter.
Seeing my readiness to be shameless, they readily took me aboard the boat.
Those who were expected came also, and we set sail at once.

How shall I relate to you what happened after this?
Whose tongue can tell,
whose ears can take in all that took place on the boat during that voyage!
And to all this I frequently forced those miserable youths even against their own will.
There is no mentionable or unmentionable depravity of which I was not their teacher.
I am amazed, Abba, how the sea stood our licentiousness,
how the earth did not open its jaws, and how it was that hell did not swallow me alive,
when I had entangled in my net so many souls.
But I think God was seeking my repentance.
For He does not desire the death of a sinner
but magnanimously awaits his return to Him.
At last we arrived in Jerusalem.
I spent the days before the festival in the town,
living the save kind of life, perhaps even worse.
I was not content with the youths I had seduced at sea
and who had helped be to get to Jerusalem;
many others — citizens of the town and foreigners — I also seduced.

The holy day of the Exaltation of the Cross dawned
while I was still flying about — hunting for youths.
At daybreak I saw that everyone was hurrying to the church,
so I ran with the rest.
When the hour for the Holy Elevation approached,
I was trying to make my way in with the crowd
which was struggling to get through the church doors.
I ad at last squeezed through with great difficulty
almost to the entrance of the temple, from which the life-giving Tree of the Cross
was being shown to the people.


 

But when I trod on the doorstep which everyone passed, I was stopped by some force which prevented by entering.
Meanwhile I was brushed aside by the crowd
and found myself standing alone in the porch.
Thinking that this had happened because of my woman’s weakness,
I again began to work my way into the crowd,
trying to elbow myself forward.
But in vain I struggled.
Again my feet trod on the doorstep over which others were entering the church without encountering any obstacle.
I alone seemed to remain unaccepted by the church.
It was as if there was a detachment of soldiers standing there to oppose my entrance.
Once again I was excluded by the same mighty force and again I stood in the porch.

Having repeated my attempt three or four times,
at last I felt exhausted and had no more strength to push and to be puched,
so I went aside and stood in a corner of the porch.
And only then with great difficulty it began to dawn on me,
and I began to understand the reason
why I was prevented from being admitted to see the life-giving Cross.


 

The word of Salvation gently touched the eyes of my heart and revealed to me that
it was my unclean life which barred the entrance to me.
I began to weep and lament and beat my breast, and to sigh from the depths of my heart.
And so I stood weeping when I saw above me the icon of the most holy Mother of God.
And turning to Her my bodily and spiritual eyes I said:

‘O Lady, Mother of God, Who gave birth in the flesh to God the Word,
I know, O how well I know, that it is no honour or praise to You
when one so impure and depraved as I look up to Your icon, O ever-virgin,
Who didst keep Your body and soul in purity.
rightly do I inspire hatred and disgust before Your virginal purity.
But I have heard that God Who was born of You became man
on purpose to call sinners to repentance.
Then help me, for I have no other help.
Order the entrance of the church to be opened to me.
Allow me to see the venerable Tree on which He Who was born of You
suffered in the flesh and on which He shed His holy Blood
for the redemption of sinners an for me, unworthy as I am.
Be my faithful witness before Your Son
that I will never again defile my body by the impurity of fornication,
but as soon as I have seen the Tree of the Cross
I will renounce the world and its temptations
and will go wherever You wilt lead me’.

Thus I spoke and as if acquiring some hope in firm faith
and feeling some confidence in the Mercy of the Mother of God,
I left the place where I stood praying.
And I went again and mingled with the crowd
that was pushing its way into the temple.
And no one seemed to thwart me, no one hindered my entering the church.
I was possessed with trembling, and was almost in delirium.
Having got as far as the doors which I could not reach before
— as if the same force which had hindered me cleared the way for me —
I now entered without difficulty and found myself within the holy place.
And so it was I saw the life-giving Cross.
I saw too the Mysteries of God and how the Lord accepts repentance.
Throwing myself on the ground, I worshipped that holy earth and kissed it with trembling.
The I came out of the church and went to her who had promised to be my security,
to the place where I had sealed my vow.
And bending my knees before the Virgin Mother of God,
I addressed to her such words as these:

 


‘O loving Lady, You have shown me Your great love for all men.
Glory to God Who receives the repentance of sinners through You.
What more can I recollect or say, I who am so sinful?
It is time for me, O Lady to fulfil my vow, according to Your witness.
Now lead me by the hand along the path of repentance!’
And at these words I heard a voice from on high:

‘If you cross the Jordan you will find glorious rest’. Hearing this voice and having faith that it was for me, I cried to the Mother of God:
‘O Lady, Lady, do not forsake me!’
With these words I left the porch of the church and set off on my journey.|As I was leaving the church a stranger glanced at me and gave me three coins, saying:
‘Sister, take these’.
And, taking the money,
I bought three loaves and took them with me on my journey, as a blessed gift.
I asked the person who sold the bread: ‘Which is the way to the Jordan?’
I was directed to the city gate which led that way.
Running on I passed the gates and still weeping went on my journey.
Those I met I asked the way, and after walking for the rest of that day
[I think it was nine o’clock when I saw the Cross]


 

I at length reached at sunset the Church of Saint John the Baptist
which stood on the banks of the Jordan.
After praying in the temple, I went down to the Jordan and rinsed my face and hands in its holy waters.


 

I partook of the holy and life-giving Mysteries in the Church of the Forerunner and ate half of one of my loaves.
Then, after drinking some water from Jordan, I lay down and passed the night on the ground. In the morning I found a small boat and crossed to the opposite bank.
I again prayed to Our Lady to lead me whither she wished.
Then I found myself in this desert and since then up to this very day
I am estranged from all, keeping away from people
and running away from everyone.
And I live here clinging to my God Who saves all|
who turn to Him from faintheartedness and storms“.

Zosimas asked her:
“How many years have gone by since you began to live in this desert?“.

She replied:
“Forty-seven years have already gone by, I think, since I left the holy city“.

Zosimas asked:
“But what food do you find?“.

The woman said:
“I had two and a half loaves when I crossed the Jordan.
Soon they dried up and became hard as rock.
Eating a little I gradually finished them after a few years“.

Zosimas asked.
“Can it be that without getting ill you have lived so many years thus,
without suffering in any way from such a complete change?“.

The woman answered:
“You remind me, Zosimas, of what I dare not speak of.
For when I recall all the dangers which I overcame
and all the violent thoughts which confused me,
I am again afraid that they will take possession of me“.

Zosimas said:
“Do not hide from me anything;speak to me without concealing anything“.

And she said to him:
“Believe me, Abba, seventeen years I passed in this desert fighting wild beasts
—> mad desires and passions.
When I was about to partake of food,
I used to begin to regret the meat and fish which of which I had so much in Egypt.
I regretted also not having wine which I loved so much.
for I drank a lot of wine when I lived in the world, while here I had not even water.
I used to burn and succumb with thirst.
The mad desire for profligate songs also entered me and confused me greatly,
edging me on to sing satanic songs which I had learned once.
But when such desires entered me I struck myself on the breast
and reminded myself of the vow which I had made, when going into the desert.
In my thoughts I returned to the icon of the Mother of God which had received me
and to her I cried in prayer.
I implored her to chase away the thoughts to which my miserable soul was succumbing.
And after weeping for long and beating my breast I used to see light at last
which seemed to shine on me from everywhere.
And after the violent storm, lasting calm descended.

And how can I tell you about the thoughts which urged me on to fornication,
how can I express them to you, Abba?
A fire was kindled in my miserable heart
which seemed to burn me up completely
and to awake in me a thirst for embraces.
As soon as this craving came to me,
I flung myself on the earth and watered it with my tears,
as if I saw before me my witness, who had appeared to me in my disobedience
and who seemed to threaten punishment for the crime.
And I did not rise from the ground
[sometimes I lay thus prostrate for a day and a night]
until a calm and sweet light descended and enlightened me
and chased away the thoughts that possessed me.
But always I turned to the eyes of my mind to my Protectress,
asking Her to extend help to one who was sinking fast in the waves of the desert.
And I always had her as my Helper and the Accepter of my repentance.
And thus I lived for seventeen years amid constant dangers.
And since then even till now the Mother of God helps me in everything
and leads me as it were by the hand“.

Zosimas asked:
“Can it be that you did not need food and clothing?“.

She answered:


 

”After finishing the loaves I had, of which I spoke, for seventeen years I have fed on herbs and all that can be found in the desert.
The clothes I had when I crossed the Jordan became torn and worn out.
I suffered greatly from the cold and greatly from the extreme heat.
At times the sun burned me up and at other times I shivered from the frost and frequently falling to the ground I lay without breath and without motion.
I struggled with many afflictions and with terrible temptations.
But from that time till now the Power of God in numerous ways
had guarded my sinful soul and my humble body.
When I only reflect on the evils from which Our Lord has delivered me
I have imperishable food for hope of Salvation.
I am fed and clothed by the all-Powerful Word of God, the Lord of all.
For it is not by bread alone that man lives.
And those who have stripped off the rags of sin have no refuge,
hiding themselves in the clefts of the rocks [Job 24; Hebr.11: 38]”.

Hearing that she cited words Scripture, from Moses and Job,
Zosimas asked her:


 

“And so you have read the Psalms and other books?“.
She smiled at this and said to the elder:
“Believe me,
I have not seen a human face
ever since I crossed the Jordan,
except yours today.
I have not seen a beast or a living being ever since I came into the desert.
I never learned from books.
I have never even heard anyone who sang and read from them.
But the word of God which is alive and active,
by itself teaches a man knowledge.
And so this is the end of my tale.
But, as I asked you in the beginning,
so even now I implore you for the sake of the Incarnate word of God,
to pray to the Lord for me who am such a sinner“.

 


Thus concluding here tale she bowed down before him.
And with tears the elder exclaimed:
“Blessed is God Who creates the Great and Wondrous, the Glorious and Marvellous without end.
Blessed is God Who has shown me
how He rewards those who fear Him.
Truly, O Lord, You did not forsake
those who seek You!”.

And the woman,
not allowing the elder to bow down before her, said:
“I beg you, holy father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our God and Saviour,
tell no one what you have heard, until God delivers me of this earth.
And how depart in peace and again next year you shall see me, and I you,
if God will preserve us in His great Mercy.
But for God’s sake, do as I ask you.
Next year during Lent do not cross the Jordan,
as is your custom in the monastery“.

Zosimas was amazed to hear
that she know the rules of the monastery
and could only say:
“Glory to God Who bestows great Gifts on those who love Him“.

She continued:
“Remain, Abba, in the monastery.
And even if you wish to depart, you will not be to do so.
And at sunset of the Holy day of the Last super,
put some of the life-giving Body and Blood of Christ into a holy vessel
worthy to hold such Mysteries for me, and bring it.
And wait for me on the banks of the Jordan
adjoining the inhabited parts of the land,
so that I can come and partake of the life-giving Gifts.
For, since the time I communicated in the temple of the Forerunner
before crossing the Jordan even to this day
I have not approached the Holy Mysteries.
And I thirst for them with irrepressible love and longing.
And therefore I ask and implore you to grant me my wish,
bring me the life-giving Mysteries at the very hour
when Our Lord made His disciples partake of His Divine Supper.
Tell John the Abbot of the monastery where you live.
Look to yourself and to your brothers,
for there is much that needs correction.
Only do not say this now,
but when God guides you.
Pray for me!”.

With these words she vanished in the depths of the desert.
And Zosimas, falling down on his knees and bowing down to the ground
on which she had stood, sent up glory and thanks to God.
And, after wandering through the desert,
he returned to the monastery on the day all the brothers returned.

For the whole year he kept silent, not daring to tell anyone of what he had seen.
But in his should he pray to God to give him another chance of seeing the ascetic’s dear face.
And when at length the first Sunday of the Great Fast came,
all went out into the desert with the customary prayers
and the singing of Psalms.
Only Zosimas was held back by illness — he lay in a fever.
And then he remembered what the saint had said to him:
“And even if you wish to depart,
you will not be able to do so“.

Many days passed and at last recovering from his illness he remained in the monastery.
And when attain the monks returned and the day of the Last Supper dawned,
he did as he had been ordered. and placing some of the most pure Body and Blood
into a small chalice and putting
some gifts and dates and lentils soaked in water into a small basket,
he departed for the desert and reached the banks of the Jordan
and sat down to wait for the Saint.
He waited for a long while and then began to doubt.
Then raising his eyes to heaven, he began to pray:

“Grant me O Lord, to behold that which You has allowed be to behold once.
Do not let me depart in vain, being the burden of my sins“.

And then another thought struck him:
“And what is she does come?
There is no boat; how will she cross the Jordan
to come to me who am so unworthy?”.

And as he was pondering thus he saw the holy woman appear
and stand on the other side of the river.
Zosimas got up rejoicing and glorifying and thanking God.
And again the thought came to him that she could not cross the Jordan.


 

Then he saw that she made the sign of the Cross over
the waters of the Jordan
[and the night was a moonlight one, as he related afterwards]
and then she at once stepped on to the waters
and began walking across the surface towards him.
And when he wanted to prostrate himself,
she cried to him while still walking on the water:
“What are you doing, Abba, you are a priest
and carrying the Divine Gifts!“.
He obeyed her and on reaching the shore she said to the elder:
“Bless, father, bless me!“.
He answered her trembling,
for a state of confusion had overcome him at the sight of the miracle:


 

“Truly God did not lie when He promised that
when we purify ourselves we shall be like Him.
Glory to You, Christ our God,
Who has shown me through this Your slave
how far away I stand from perfection“.

Here the woman asked him to say the Creed and our Father.
He began, she finished the prayer and according to the custom of that time
gave him the kiss of Peace on the lips.


 

Having partaken of the Holy Mysteries,
she raised her hands to Heaven
and sighed with tears in her eyes, exclaiming:
“Now let You Your servant depart in Peace, O Lord,
according to Your word;
for my eyes have seen Your Salvation“.

Then she said to the elder:
“Forgive me, Abba, for asking you, but fulfil another wish of mine.
Go now to the monastery and let God’s Grace guard you. And next year come again to the same place where I first met you. Come for God’s sake, for you shall again see me, for such is the will of God“.

He said to her:
“From this day on I would like to follow you
and always see your holy face.
But now fulfil the one and only wish of an old man
and take a little of the food I have brought for you“.

And he showed her the basket,
while she just touched the lentils with the tips of her fingers
and taking three grains said that the Holy spirit guards
the substance of the soul unpolluted.
Then she said:

“Pray, for God’s sake pray for me
and remember a miserable wretch“.

Touching the Saint’s feet and asking for her prayers for the Church,
the kingdom and himself, he let her depart with tears,
while he went off sighing and sorrowful,
for he could not hope to vanquish the invincible.
Meanwhile she again made the sign of the Cross over the Jordan
and stepped on to the waters and crossed over as before.
And the elder returned filled with joy and terror,
accusing himself of not having asked the saint her name.
But he decided to do so next year.

And when another year had passed, he again went into the desert.
He reached the same spot but could see no sign of anyone.
So raising his eyes to heaven as before, he prayed:
“Show me, O Lord, Your pure treasure,
which You have concealed in the desert.
Show me, I pray You, the angel in the flesh,
of which the world is not worthy“.

Then on the opposite bank of the river,
her face turned towards the rising sun,
he saw the saint lying dead.
Her hands were crossed according to custom
and her face was turned to the East.
Running up he shed tears over the saint’s feet
and kissed them, not daring to touch anything else.

For a long time he wept.
Then reciting the appointed Psalms,
he said the burial prayers and thought to himself:
“Must I bury the body of a Saint?
Or will this be contrary to her wishes?”
And then he saw words traced on the ground by her head:
“Abba Zosimas, bury on this spot the body of humble Mary.
Return to dust that which is dust and pray to the Lord for me,
who departed in the month of Fermoutin of Egypt,
called April by the Romans, on the first day, on the very night of our Lord’s Passion,
after having partaken of the Divine Mysteries“.
[Saint Mary died in 522 A. D.]

Reading this the elder was glad to know the Saint’s name.
He understood too that as soon as she had partaken of the Divine Mysteries
on the shore of the Jordan she was at once transported to the place where she died.
The distance which Zosimas had taken twenty days to cover,
Mary had evidently traversed in an hour
and had at once surrendered her soul to God.
Then Zosimas thought:
“It is time to do as she wished.
But how am I to dig a grave with nothing in my hands?“.

 


And then he saw nearby a small piece of wood left by some traveller in the desert.
Picking it up he began to dig the ground.
But the earth was hard and dry and did not yield to the efforts of the elder.
He grew tired and covered with sweat.
He sighed from the depths of his soul
and lifting up his eyes he saw a big lion
standing close to the saint’s body and licking her feet.
At the sight of the lion he trembled with fear,
especially when he called to mind Mary’s words
that she had never seen wild beasts in the desert.
But guarding himself with the sign of the Cross,
the thought came to him that the Power of the one lying there would protect him and keep him unharmed.
Meanwhile the lion drew nearer to him, expressing affection by every movement.

Zosimas said to the lion:
“The Great One ordered that her body was to be buried.
But I am old and have not the strength to dig the grave
[for I have no spade and it would take too long to go and get one],
so can you carry out the work with your claws?
Then we can commit to the earth the mortal temple of the Saint“.
While he was still speaking
the lion with his front paws began to dig
a hole deep enough to bury the body.

 


Again the elder washed the feet of the saint with his tears and calling on her to pray for all, covered the body with earth in
the presence of the lion.
It was as it had been, naked and uncovered by anything but the tattered cloak which had been given to her by Zosimas
and with which Mary, turning away, had managed to cover part of her body.
Then both departed.
The lion went off into the depth of the desert like a lamb,
while Zosimas returned to the monastery glorifying and blessing Christ our Lord.
And on reaching the monastery he told all the brothers about everything
and all marvelled on hearing of God’s Miracles.
And with fear and love they kept the memory of the Saint.

Abbot John, as Saint Mary had previously told Abba Zosimas,
found a number of things wrong in the monastery and got rid of them with God’s help.
And Saint Zosimas died in the same monastery,
almost attaining the age of a hundred and passed to eternal life.
The monks kept this story without writing it down
and passed it on by word of mouth to one another.

But I [adds Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem] as soon as I heard it, wrote it down.
Perhaps someone else, better informed, has already written the life of the Saint,
but as far as I could, I have recorded everything, putting truth above all else.
May God Who works amazing Miracles and generously bestows Gifts
on those who turn to Him with faith, reward those
who seek Light for themselves in this story,
who hear, read and are zealous to write it,
and may He grant them the lot of blessed Mary
together with all who at different times have pleased God
by their pious thoughts and labours.

And let us also give Glory to God, the eternal King,
that He may grant us too His mercy in the day of Judgment
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom belongs
all Glory, Honour, Dominion and Adoration
with the Eternal Father and the Most Holy and Life-giving Spirit,
now and always, and thought all ages.
Amen.

Apolytikion Tn 8
“In you the image was preserved with exactness, O Mother;
for taking up your cross, you did follow Christ,
and by your deeds you did teach us to overlook the flesh,
for it passes away, but to attend to the soul since it is immortal.
Wherefore, O righteous Mary,
your spirit rejoices with the Angels”.
Mp3 » Apolyticion Saint Mary of Egypt

Kontakion Tn 4
” Having escaped the gloom of sin, O blest Mary,
and shining brightly with the light of repentance,
You did present your heart to Christ, O glorious one,
bringing Him His Holy and all-immaculate Mother
as a greatly merciful and most bold intercessor.
Hence, You have found the pardon of your sins
and with the Angles rejoice for evermore“.

 


The End and Glory Be to God!
Mp3 [english] »
Doxastikon – 5th Sunday of Lent; Mary of Egypt

Cf. The Great Canon,
the Work of Saint Andrew of Crete,
Internet Medieval Source Book,
a collection of public domain,
copy-permitted and electronically
available texts related
to Medieval and Byzantine History 


See also:

St. Mary of Egypt القديسة مريم المصرية
(5th Sunday of Great Lent) 
St. Mary of Egypt Convent, Uganda
Maria die Egiptenaar - Die verhaal van groot Egiptiese Heilige
St. Mary of Egypt Multi-Cultural Orthodox Christian Church - Kansas City, Missouri 

 

Παρασκευή, 12 Απριλίου 2019

“We are talking about worship. It has to go to my heart”: translations of Orthodox Christian liturgical texts in African local languages




OCMC Missionary Dr. Michael Colburn and his wife Lisa have been working for years on software that will help the Church translate Liturgical texts in the language of the people in the mission field. Please pray for them as the test and continue to develop this import technology that will help the Church reach more people with the Orthodox Faith. 
 
Orthodox Christian Mission Center

In the Orthodox Vineyard of Africa

During his 42 years of service in Africa, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Kenya has encouraged priests and laypeople to make translations of Orthodox Christian liturgical texts into their local languages. Regarding the need for translations in Africa, Fr. Evangelos Thiani, Liturgical Theology professor in Nairobi, recently said, “We are talking about worship. It has to go to my heart. When it is in Kikuyu [his mother-tongue] it comes to my heart. Translations are what bring our people into the knowledge of their own faith. But not only that, but also to participate more vividly and actively in the services.”
For this reason, Dr. Michael Colburn and his wife Lisa, OCMC mission specialists in linguistics and translation, have been working on tools to help translators understand the Greek source text, make accurate and understandable translations, and reduce the labor required to prepare liturgical books for publication. One such tool is a Liturgical Translator’s handbook for the Canons of Theophany. The handbook is especially written for translators who speak English as a foreign language. It provides the Greek source of the hymns for Theophany, model English translations, a discussion of each word or phrase in the hymns, and an analysis of the grammar of the words and syntax.


Holy liturgy in the Orthodox Church of Cameroon (from here). 
La Mission Orthodoxe du Cameroun

In January, with the blessing of His Eminence Makarios, Michael successfully tested features of the handbook in Nairobi, Kenya, at the Makarios III Patriarchal Seminary. Five senior seminarians created a series of translations for four troparia from the ninth ode for both canons of Theophany. The last translation was based on information in the handbook. Translations were made in three East African languages: Kikuyu, Kiswahili, and Luhya. Then five junior-year seminarians translated the new texts back into English, without seeing what the original Greek or the previous English translation said. Back-translations are a proven tool in testing Bible translations, but this is perhaps the first time the technique has been applied to liturgical translation. Michael worked with Fr. Raphael Kamau to analyze the results for the Kikuyu and Kiswahili translations, since Fr. Raphael knows both languages. The Luhya was analyzed based solely on the back-translations. The results of the testing are promising, and certain features of the handbook clearly improved the translations.
In February, Michael tested the features for the translator’s handbook at the St. Herman Orthodox Theological Seminary in Kodiak, Alaska, with students who speak native Alaskan languages. In April, he plans to conduct testing in South Korea, with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Ambrosios. The results of the testing will give Michael information to improve the handbook. Once this initial handbook is finished, it will be used as the pattern to create such handbooks for other liturgical texts.
In addition to work on the translator’s handbook, Michael maintains the Online Liturgical Workstation (olw.ocmc.org), a website that provides tools for researchers and translators. He and Lisa are also assisting the Church in Kenya in the development of a new Priest’s Service Book for use throughout Africa. The service book is being produced using OLW.
Please keep the Colburns in your prayers as they labor to provide tools to assist liturgical translators throughout the world, and consider supporting them financially as well.
Click below to see how you can follow and support their work:
http://www.ocmc.org/TheColburnFamily

 
See also

Ortodokse liturgiese gesange en verse in Afrikaans

The Akathist Hymn (a very concrete spiritual preparation for the Holy Week and Easter Services five Fridays in the Great Lent)


"Unto you, O Theotokos, invincible General, your City, in thanksgiving ascribes the victory for the deliverance from sufferings. And having your might unassailable, free us from all dangers, so that we may cry unto you: Rejoice, O Bride Ever-Virgin".
Icon from here
Click:

The Akathist Hymn (a very concrete spiritual preparation for the Holy Week and Easter Services five Fridays in the Great Lent)



Κυριακή, 7 Απριλίου 2019

Orthodox Church in Ethiopia, Sunday of Orthodoxy 2019...


Photos from the page of the Holy Archdiocese of Aksum, Ethiopia, Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, March 17, 2019.
The Holy Archdiocese of Aksum is a diocese under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria & all Africa. Its territory includes Orthodox Christians parishes located in nations of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somaliland, and Somalia.
The Archdiocese of Axum was established as an archdiocese by a Patriarchal and Synodal Decree (Source: Orthodox Wiki).







You can see also:

Sunday of the Orthodoxy (first Sunday of Great Lent): Who Christ is for us and how we worship Him?

Apostle Andrew, the Holy and All-Praised First-Called, & St. Frumentius the Apostle of Ethiopia (November 30)
 
 
 
 
  
All Saints of Africa, orthodox icon from South Africa (here)

 

Σάββατο, 6 Απριλίου 2019

4th Sunday of Great Lent: St John Climacus (of the Ladder), the Great Orthodox Teacher of 6th century from Sinai


4th Saturday of Great Lent: Memorial Saturday (OCA)
"Akathist 4th Stanza - St. Anthony Ichamara - Nyeri Deanery Most Holy Theotokos intercede for us..." ΚΕΝΥΑ (from here)
 
Saturday is the day which the Church has set aside for the commemoration of Orthodox Christians departed this life in the hope of resurrection and eternal life. Since the Divine Liturgy cannot be served on weekdays during Great Lent, the second, third, and fourth Saturdays of the Fast are appointed as Soul Saturdays when the departed are remembered at Liturgy.
In addition to the Liturgy, kollyva (wheat or rice cooked with honey and mixed with raisins, figs, nuts, sesame, etc.) is blessed in church on these Saturdays. The kollyva reminds us of the Lord’s words, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).The kollyva symbolizes the future resurrection of all the dead. As Saint Simeon of Thessalonica (September 15) says, man is also a seed which is planted in the ground after death, and will be raised up again by God’s power. Saint Paul also speaks of this (I Cor. 15:35-49).
It is also customary to give alms in memory of the dead. The angel who spoke to Cornelius testifies to the efficacy of almsgiving, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4).
Memorial services for the dead may be traced back to ancient times. Chapter 8 of the Apostolic Constitutions recommends memorial services with Psalms for the dead. It also contains a beautiful prayer for the departed, asking that their voluntary and involuntary sins be pardoned, that they be given rest with the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles in a place where sorrow, suffering, and sighing have fled away (Isaiah 35:10). 
Saint John Chrysostom mentions the service for the dead in one of his homilies on Philippians, and says that it was established by the Apostles. Saint Cyprian of Carthage (Letter 37) also speaks of our duty to remember the martyrs.
The holy Fathers also testify to the benefit of offering prayers, memorial services, Liturgies, and alms for the dead (Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Saint John of Damascus, etc.). Although both the righteous and those who have not repented and corrected themselves may receive benefit and consolation from the Church’s prayer, it has not been revealed to what extent the unrighteous receive this solace. It is not possible, however, to transfer a soul from a state of evil and condemnation to a state of holiness and blessedness through the Church’s prayer. Saint Basil the Great points out that the time for repentance and forgiveness of sins is during the present life, while the future life is a time for righteous judgment and retribution (Moralia 1). Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Gregory the Theologian, and other patristic writers concur with Saint Basil’s statement.
By praying for others, we bring benefit to them, and also to ourselves, because “God is not so unjust as to forget your work and the love which you showed for His sake in serving the saints...” (Heb. 6:10). 

4th Sunday of Great Lent: St John Climacus (of the Ladder) 
OCA
 
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to Saint John of the Ladder (Climacus), the author of the work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. The abbot of Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai (6th century) stands as a witness to the violent effort needed for entrance into God’s Kingdom (Mt.10: 12). The spiritual struggle of the Christian life is a real one, “not against flesh and blood, but against ... the rulers of the present darkness ... the hosts of wickedness in heavenly places ...” (Eph 6:12). Saint John encourages the faithful in their efforts for, according to the Lord, only “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt.24:13).

St. John of the Ladder (Climacus)
 
 
Click here
St. John Climacus is honored by the Church as a great ascetic and as the author of a remarkable work entitled, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, and therefore he has been named “Climacus,” or “of the Ladder.” There has been very little information preserved about his origin. Tradition tells us that he was born in around the year 570, and was the son of Sts. Xenophon and Maria, who are commemorated on January 26/February 28. St. John came to the monastery on Mt. Sinai at age sixteen. Abba Martyrius became his spiritual father and mentor. After four years of living on Mt. Sinai, John was tonsured a monk. One of the fathers present at his tonsure foretold that John would become a great luminary of Christ's Church. St. John labored in asceticism for nineteen years in obedience to his spiritual father. After the death of Abba Martyrius, St. John chose the life of reclusion, departing to a desert place called Thola, where he lived forty years in silence, fasting, prayer, and repentant tears. It is not by chance that St. John speaks so much of repentant tears in The Ladder. 
"As fire burns and destroys dead wood, so do pure tears cleanse all impurity, both inwardly and outwardly." His prayer was strong and effective—this can be seen in the following example of the great ascetic's life.
St. John had a disciple, Monk Moses. One day St. John sent his disciple to spread soil on the garden beds. As he was fulfilling his obedience, Monk Moses became weary from the fierce summer heat and reclined under the shade of a large cliff. St. John was in his cell at that moment, resting a bit after his labor of prayer. Suddenly a man of venerable countenance appeared and woke the ascetic, reproofing him: "John, why are you resting peacefully here while Moses is in danger?" St. John immediately arose and began praying for his disciple. When Moses returned that evening, the saint asked him if anything had happened to him that day. The monk answered, 
 "No, but I was in serious danger. A large rock broke off from a cliff under which I had fallen asleep at midday and nearly crushed me. Fortunately I was having a dream in which you were calling me, and I jumped up and ran; at that moment a huge rock fell with a crash upon that very place where I was…"
It is known from St. John's life that he ate what was allowed by the rule of fasting, but within measure. He did not go without sleep at night, although he never slept more than was needed to support his strength for ceaseless vigilance, and so as not to negatively affect his mind. "I did not fast beyond measure," he said of himself, "and I did not conduct intensified night vigil, nor did I sleep on the ground; but I humbled myself…, and the Lord speedily saved me." The following example of St. John's humility is notable. Gifted with a strong, sharp mind that was made wise by deep spiritual experience, he taught everyone who came to him and guided them to salvation. But when certain others out of jealousy accused him of loquaciousness, which they said sprung from vainglory, St. John took a vow of silence in order not to temp anyone, and remained thus for a year. His enviers admitted their error and begged the ascetic not to deprive them of his beneficial instruction.
To hide his ascetic labors from people, St. John would sometimes depart to a solitary cave, but fame of his holiness spread far beyond his enclosure, and people from all walks of life would come to him seeking a word of edification and salvation. When he was seventy-five years old, after forty years of ascetic labors in solitude, the saint was chosen to be abbot of Sinai. St. John Climacus ruled the holy monastery for four years. The Lord granted the saint many gifts of grace toward the end of his life, including clairvoyance and miracle-working. 

Saint John Climacus is seen standing at the foot of the ladder. With his left hand he directs our attention towards the ladder, while in his right hand he holds a scroll on which is written: "Ascend, ascend, Brethren."
 
During St. John's abbacy, another St. John, abbot of Raithu Monastery (commemorated on the Saturday of Cheesefare week) asked him to write the famous Ladder—instructions for the ascent to spiritual perfection. Knowing of the saint's wisdom and spiritual gifts, the abbot of Raithu asked on behalf of all the monks of his monastery for "true instruction for those who seek unwaveringly, and a kind of steadfast ladder that will take those who desire it to the Heavenly gates…" St. John, who had a humble opinion of himself, first balked at the task but then set about writing the treatise out of obedience to the request of the Raithu monks. He thus called the work, The Ladder, explaining his choice: "I have built a ladder of ascent… from earth to holiness… In honor of the thirty years of the Lord, I have built a ladder of thirty steps, which if we climb it to the age of the Lord, we will be righteous and safe from falls." The aim of this treatise was to teach us that the attainment of salvation requires difficult self-denial and intense ascetical labor. The Ladder first suggests the cleansing of sinful impurity, the uprooting of vices and passions of the "old man"; second, it shows the restoration of God's image in man. Although the book was written for monks, any Christian who lives in the world will find it a reliable guide on the ascent to God. Pillars of spiritual life such as St. Theodore the Studite, St. Sergius of Radonezh, St. Joseph of Volokolamsk, and others continually referred to The Ladder as the best book for soul-saving instruction. 

Sinai Monastery of st Catherine, monk climbs chapel, 1900-20 (from here)

The content of one of the steps of The Ladder (No. 22) discusses the labor of uprooting vainglory. St. John writes,
Like the sun, which shines on all alike, vainglory beams on every occupation. What I mean is this: I fast, and turn vainglorious. I stop fasting so that I will draw no attention to myself, and I become vainglorious over my prudence. I dress well or badly, and am vainglorious in either case. I talk or I remain silent, and each time I am defeated. No matter how I shed this prickly thing, a spike remains to stand up against me.
A vainglorious man is a believing idolater. Apparently honoring God, he actually is out to please not God but men. To be a showoff is to be vainglorious. The fast of such a man is unrewarded and his prayer futile, since he is practicing both to win praise. A vainglorious ascetic doubly cheats himself, wearying his body and getting no reward.…
The Lord frequently hides from us even the perfections we have obtained. But the man who praises us, or, rather, who misleads us, opens our eyes with his words and once our eyes are opened, our treasures vanish.
The flatterer is a servant of the devils, a teacher of pride, the destroyer of contrition, a ruiner of virtues, a perverse guide. The prophet says, Those who honor you deceive you (Isa. 3:12).
Men of high spirit endure offense nobly and willingly. But only the holy and the saintly can pass unscathed through praise.…
No one knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit within him (cf. 1 Cor. 2:11). Hence, those who want to praise us to our face should be ashamed and silent.
When you hear that your neighbor or your friend has denounced you behind your back or indeed in your presence, show him love and try to compliment him.
It is a great achievement to shrug the praise of men off one's soul. Greater still is to reject the praise of demons.
It is not the self-critical who reveals his humility (for does not everyone have somehow to put up with himself?). Rather it is the man who continues to love the person who has criticized him….
Our neighbor is moved by nothing so much as by a sincere and humble way of talking and of behaving. It is an example and a spur to others never to become proud. And there is nothing to equal the benefit of this….
The Lord often humbles the vainglorious by causing some dishonor to befall them. And indeed the first step in overcoming vainglory is to remain silent and to accept dishonor gladly. The middle stage is to restrain every act of vainglory while it is still in thought. The end—if one may talk of an end to an abyss—is to be able to accept humiliation before others without actually feeling it….
When those who praise us, or, rather, those who lead us astray, begin to exalt us, we should briefly remember the multitude of our sins, and in this way, we will discover that we do not deserve whatever is said or done in our honor.

This and other sayings that we can find in The Ladder serve as an example of that holy zeal for our salvation that is necessary to everyone who wishes live a pious life; and this written treatise, which is the fruit of abundant and subtle observation over his own soul along with very deep spiritual experience, is a great benefit and guide along the path of truth and goodness.
The steps of The Ladder are the ascent from strength to strength on the human path to perfection, which can only be attained gradually and not suddenly; for, in the words of the Savior, The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force (Mt. 11:12).

More on this topic: Sunday of st John Climacus