Orthodox America

  SPIRITUAL ADVICE from Father Nicholas

Q: How can one be saved from the passion of depression?

A: Depression is not a passion, it is a sin. It is the most grievous sin against God. You must pray. Do you know the prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian? "O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair..." This is how you can not despair: because Christ is risen. As Saint Paul says, Quench not the Spirit.

Q: What should I do? I have coldness toward prayer.

A: You must pray in the right way to get past this. It is better not to pray at all, if your heart and mind are stone. You should pray like Peter when he was drowning: cry out: "Lord, save me!'

Q: What is your advice for those who want to get married?

A: If you want to get married, you must love one another and respect one another ... You must not live like enemies of one pillow, but like friends.

Q: How in marriage can one have marital relations without passion?

A: You must ask that question of a married priest. I am a monk, I do not know about such things. The main thing is to live like the best of friends. To confide in one another. Let the wife confide everything to her husband, like to a girlfriend. And the husband should act in the same manner.

Q: I get irritable a lot. What should I do about it?

A: Restrain yourself. You must love ... that is the most important thing. It is said, "Attain the Spirit of peace, and a thousand people around you will be saved." Attain the grace of the Lord, and pray to the Lord, "Have mercy on me, a sinner." "O Queen of Heaven, save me." If you must correct others, do it meekly and with love. As Apostle Paul writes, Ye shall know them by their fruits: peace, longsuffering, love... Christ said, "Peace be unto you." You must be a good example. Live in a Christian way, like Christ said before He suffered: Take up thy cross and follow Me.

Q: How do you acquire the grace of God?

A: Pray and live in a Christian manner. Keep the commandments. Do not steal, tell the truth, do not speak evil... You know the commandments.

Q: But how do you pray?

A: Pray to God from all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind. Pray sincerely, don't just speak words: blah, blah, blah. Pray with all your heart. As if God is near, as if the Lord Jesus Christ is right beside you.

Q: Very often I come home late and I'm too tired to pray, and the prayers are just words.

A: It is not quantity that matters. You don't need to read an entire Vespers or Matins. Just say one prayer with all your heart: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner." Or, "O Heavenly Queen, save me." Or, "Holy Martyr (N) pray to God for us." :, Whenever you have a moment, pray these prayers -when you are washing the dishes or waiting for the bus -- whenever.

Q: What about practices like prostrations, are they necessary?

A: That is up to you. You are not obliged to do them. They help in prayer life, but, living in the world, you don't have to do them. Still, if you want to, you can, just a few. You can do three prostrations at the beginning of your prayers, and over time maybe add three at the end.

Q: Why is the monastic path higher?

A: Because monks dedicate their whole lives to God. They pray and read spiritual books. In a monastery there is no rushing around. There are no distractions. You think only about God.

Q: Is it OK to live in the world?

A: It depends upon you. People are free. God does not demand love. It depends upon you. He wants man by his own will to come to Him. Adam and Eve lost paradise by their will. Many monks are bad monks. It is better to live in the world than to be a bad monk, one who doesn't use his opportunity. There is the parable about the Great Judgment: There are two lines of people facing the great judgment throne where Christ sits. On one side, the righteous. On the other, the sinners. And do you know who are the chief sinners? Who are the first and foremost sent to hell? Bad monks and archbishops and bishops -- those who were unworthy of their rank and insulted their calling.

      A person cannot do everything. When the opportunity arises, do good deeds. Opportunities often arise. You can avoid saying an evil word when someone becomes angry at you, and when they upset you, do not be angry at them. Give to people. If you have no money, then give to them by avoiding an evil word.

Q: How can I become humble? I am very proud all the time, and I don't know what to do.

A: Do you know the story in the Gospels of the publican and the Pharisee? Pray like the publican: "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner," [Here Fr. Nicholas threw up his hands.] Don't pray like the Pharisee, "See how much I fast, how much I pray, how much I give to the poor... Pray like the publican, with all your heart. Read the poem, "God," by Derzhavin. If you read this poem you can't be proud, because you see in this poem the greatness of God." [Fr. Nicholas looked upwards.] God is so great and so powerful, the Creator of all things. You are tiny besides Him. True, you are made in His image at likeness, but this is Only like a spark of Him inside you. You cannot be proud.:

Q.' How should I live in the world?

A: Read the Lives of the saints -- Saint Barbara and Saint Gregory and Saint Alexandra. Do you know who Saint Alexandra was? Her husband w Emperor, and when he burned the Christians, she confessed that she was a Christian too, and he burned his own wife. Read the Lives of the saints see how they lived in the world. And read the Gospels, even two pages a day. Just make sure you read slowly.... Copy out parts if that is helpful. You can copy out what you read that you most need to apply in your life.

Q: Is it bad to eat sweets?

A: Eat in measure, there is nothing wrong with that. Nobody says you can't eat sweets. You are not going to eat cake instead of meat, are you? On fast days you cannot eat certain foods like meat; the rest is your business. Don't starve yourself, of course. Just eat what you need.

Q: What should I say if my friends are living together before marriage?

A: Say to them: That is not good .... If they ask why, say, You need to have God's blessing...

Q: How should I talk about the Faith with my non-Orthodox family?

A: Talk about the Faith with them, but don't fight Talk in a spirit of love. It is better just to be together than to fight about the Faith.

Q: How should I pray before and after meals if am visiting people who are not Orthodox?

A: Before meals just stand, cross yourself, say "Lord bless," and make the sign of the cross over the food. You don't need to hold things up. Afterwards do the same: stand, cross yourself and say, "Glory Thee, O Lord, thank you." You can pray for a long time at home. As the Lord said, Enter into thy closet.

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