Three Saint Hierarchs – Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus (the Theologian) and John Chrysostom (Golden Mouth)

Every year, on January 30th, the Orthodox Church celebrates the hierarchs Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus (Theologian) and John Chrysostom (Golden Chrysostom).

Even though each of these saints has his own day of feast [1], the need for this celebration arose as a result of a rather embarrassing dispute for the Christian community. Somewhere around the second half of the 11th century, there was a dispute, let’s call it “unjustified,” about the importance of these saints.

Some claimed that St. Basil the Great is more important than St. Gregory of Nazianzus and St. John Chrysostom, others that St. Gregory deserves this honor and finally the third group considered St. John as the most valuable.

The matter had become quite serious, that even hatred between members of these factions had occurred.

In this context, the Sinaxar[2] tells us that Metropolitan Ioan Mavropous (the last great Christian hymnographer) of the city of Evhaita had a vision in which the three saints appeared to him and told him that they were equal before God. Therefore, he was urged to establish a common feast for them, so that the preference dispute would cease. This vision, according to Tradition, took place during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Comnenus (1081-1118).

Each of these great teachers of the world had a profound theological education and made remarkable contributions to the thesaurus of Christian teaching[3], all three led an impeccable ascetic life, and also proved to be involved in helping those in need. But, in fact, all these dimensions of their personalities are the elements that make up the holy ministry. That’s why the feast of January 30 is called the feast of the “three hierarchs.”

St. Basil the Great – “The Hand That Works”

To express the uniqueness of each of the three great hierarchs in the Eastern Christian tradition, a phrase has been used that compares Saint Basil with the working hand, St. Gregory with the thinking mind, and John with the mouth that speaks.

St. Basil the Great came from a wealthy family who had the possibility to provide him with a very high education. This was the basis for the later transformation of Saint Basil, who, during his studies in Athens, came to be a very good friend of Saint Gregory of Nazianz.

This friendship has remained, until nowadays, a landmark in Christian history.

After an ascetic passage in Egypt and other places of great spiritual experience, Saint Basil became the author of the “Great Rules” and “Small Rules” on the life of the monks and, based on them, laid the foundations for monasteries.

His theological knowledge is highlighted in both the interpretations he has left us about the Genesis (Hexaimeron) and the Psalms, but especially in the theological treaty, which is dedicated to the Person of the Holy Spirit.

In addition, he is the author of one of the three variants of the Liturgy used today in the Orthodox cult and the famous ritual of exorcism, which is read on 1 January (Saint Basil’s day of celebration) and on special occasions.

St. Basil the Great became Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia and, as such, proved a great inclination toward the practical side of Christianity. Thus, he is the one who set up the first social work facilities, where protection and care for widows, abandoned and sick were offered. These settlements have remained in history under the name “Basiliada”.

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Thus, his qualities as a good organizer and founder of several monasteries and social work establishments brought him the “working hand” appellation.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus – “The mind that thinks”

In the history of Christianity, among the multitude of saints, ecclesiastical writers or theologians, only three received the appellation of the “theologian.” St. Gregory is one of them, and only this should clarify the origins of the phrase “the thinking mind.”

St. Gregory was born around 330 in a Christian family, his father being a bishop. This, coupled with the fact that his family was able to support him financially during his studies, helped Gregory deepen the Christian teaching in an extraordinary way.

This is how, after a period of fleeing the priesthood, due to the great responsibility of this ministry, he eventually became a priest at the Church of the Holy Resurrection in Constantinople. The situation he met in the imperial capital was far from being a favorable one.

The Macedonians (penvmatomahs), who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit, were majority. The only island of Orthodoxy was the church where St. Gregory was priest. But from the church pulpit, this great hierarch would make history.

“The 5 Theological Lectures” which he spoke remained a model of theological reasoning and overturned the situation in favor of those who claimed that the Holy Spirit is true God. This draws the attention of influential people from the imperial court, who intercede for him to become patriarch of Constantinople, being enthroned by Emperor Theodosius himself on November 27, in the year 380.

From this position, Saint Gregory was to participate at the working sessions of the Second Ecumenical Council (Constantinople, 381). Then, forced by the intrigues of some bishops with great influence in the court, and in order not to cause disorder among his followers, Saint Gregory left the patriarchal seat and retreated to Nazianzus where he dedicated himself to a life of intense prayer.

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St. John Chrysostom – the “mouth that speaks”

Also, in the case of this saint, the appellation is a fully deserved one. From no Christian writer or orator we have as many works as St. John Chrysostom left.

Like St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. John came from a family with financial possibilities. After being a widow at a very young age (about 20 years old), Antusa, his mother, renounced to remarry and devoted herself to educating her son.

The fruits of this endeavor did not cease to appear, and after a period when his mother instructed John, he attended the courses of the great orator Libanius and the philosopher Andragatis, whom he impressed with his rhetorical talent.

After several years of ascetic life, bishop Meletius of Antioch ordain Saint John deacon, and during the next six years, he wrote the famous treatise “On Priesthood,” considered one of the most beautiful descriptions of this Sacrament.

Afterwards, he is ordained priest with the mission of being a preacher, and for 12 years, he combats in his sermons the heretics and influences of Judaism on Christian life, which contributes to a significant extent in raising the level of Christian morality in the region.

His fame grew bigger and, in 397, the minister Eutropius interceded for him to become Patriarch of Constantinople in the vacant place following the death of Patriarch Nectarios.

Unfortunately, for St. John, the reality he faced from this position was a rather complicated one for a man who did not like to mimic morality. Thus, he entered into open conflict with Empress Eudoxia and Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria.

Through an elaborate intrigue, Theophilus manages to exile St. John, but he is recalled after a rebellion of believers who were asking for their shepherd and following an earthquake that was considered a divine sign.

However, after two months, Theophilus manages to convene a synod who deposed hands over St. John from the patriarchal dignity. Afterwards, it was decided for him to be exiled in Cucuz (Armenia). However, because John still had important friends, both in Constantinople and Antioch, he is relocated. He died while traveling from Cucuz to Pityus on September 14, 407, with the last words “Glory to God for All”!

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Apart from the sermons and the emblematic interpretations of the Gospel of Matthew and the 14 Epistles of the saint apostle Paul, St. John remains in Christian history for his exorcism ritual, but especially for the Liturgy ritual, which is the most commonly used in the Orthodox cult.

These three great personalities of Christian ascetic theology and life have remained in history as shining stars who can guide us through the turmoil of life. Although they had important positions within the hierarchy and church administration, they were people of profound Christian living. They had a visceral hatred for everything that is sinful, but they showed tremendous love for sinners.

As you can see, holiness is not gained only by isolation in the wilderness and living an ascetic life. It implies, first, the serving of others and the fight against immorality.

The three great hierarchs had these in common and, because of these, they suffered. Nevertheless, they continued to fight!

One of the important ideas that we should learn from this feast is that the difference between us, the ordinary people, and the great personalities of Christian history lies in the fact that the latter did what was right, regardless of the consequences.


[1] St. Basil the Great is celebrated on January 1, St. Gregory of Nazianzus on January 25, and St. John Chrysostom on November 13 and January 27.

[2] A collection of accounts of the most important events in the saints’ lives that are ordered according to the feast day of those saints.

[3] Because of their remarkable contribution to the deepening of Christian theology, they are considered patrons of theological schools and theologians.


Who is God?

If you have asked questions about God, it is good to know that you are not alone. If you have come to the conclusion that you have not understood much or do not know too much, you are not the only ones, as well.

Mystics of all religions, renowned philosophers and many ordinary individuals, all tried and failed to learn more about God, because it is simply impossible to encompass infinity with the limited human mind.

And yet, who is God?

God is the One with many names and the One with no name

Our information so far about God comes from two sources: what He has discovered to us through revelation and what we have deduced based on His manifestations in our lives.

The reasoning is simple: because He has created the whole world and it protects it, we have come to the conclusion that He is omnipotent.

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After that, we realized that He has nothing to gain from creating us and, nevertheless, he did it. More, He gave His Son to redeem us from sin[1]. From here, we infer that God is all-good.

From the fact that he knows our thoughts[2], all the laws of nature (which He put in place), all the creatures (because He created them) and because He knows the past, the present and the future (because He is outside time), we came to the conclusion that He is all-knowing.

And so on, this deductive process has continued over time, and it has come to assert that God possesses all the positive attributes to the highest degree: all-wise, omnipresent, etc.

But here’s the catch. None of our words is suitable to define God. Basically, the attributes we assign to Him are definitions. That is, ways to specify the boundaries of ideas, phenomena, beings and objects. However, God, because He is infinite[3], has no limits. Therefore, our definitions, that is, the human names we assign to Him, are not appropriate for Him.

Just because these names can not fully define Him, even if there are many, they are actually wrong, so, in reality, He has no name.

Therefore, the attributes we use to define, to name Him, are just references, ways of addressing.

However, we know some names, which God himself used, referring to Himself.

God is the One that is

The first divine name we encounter in the discussion between God and Moses, when God says He is “He that is.”[4] It is a very profound definition of God which expresses the fact that all that is found outside of communion with Him does not exist. Therefore, evil does not have its own existence, but it is a denomination of the lack of good, as darkness is a lack of light, or death means lack of life.

Holy Trinity = God

Other names of God have been told us by Christ. They are “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit.” But the Savior does not talk about one, but about three distinct Persons. It is not about three names of the same reality, or about three ways of manifesting it, but about three Persons. Hence, it follows that God and the Holy Trinity, consisting of these three Persons, are one and the same existence!

And now, things are getting very confused. Does God who is unique[5] and infinite consists in fact, of three Persons? In other words, can there be 3 infinities without limiting each other?

These things have begun to be elucidated since the fourth century, at the first two ecumenical councils in the years 325 and 381.

For more information, click here and here.

It required philosophical concepts, a lot of spiritual experience, and the confrontation of ideas from 468 participants in the synodic debates. The result – Christian teaching about the Holy Trinity.

In order to understand this teaching, some things need to be clarified first. So, as much as we try to avoid definitions, in this case we can not really get rid of them.

Terms of teaching about Holy Trinity

  • Being – is the common nature of the individuals of the same species (eg, deity, humanity);
  • Nature – the material of which a being or an object is constituted (eg human nature – body and soul);
  • Hypostasis – the subject, the individuality, the way of individual manifestation of a being. When we are dealing with a rational hypostasis, we are talking about a person.

Let’s get back! Orthodox Christian theology says that God is one in being and three in Persons. So, the each of three Persons of the Holy Trinity possess the divine being at once and in full.

This is done through interpenetration (perihoresis) so that the three Persons do not limit each other.

That is all for now! I know it’s too little, but if we were to get into the details, we should use whole books. However, the result would be the same as 1,700 years ago-human reasoning struggling to understand an impenetrable mystery.

God is love

All this thinking is a minimum necessary to understand something about God, but, in my opinion, is quite technical.

That is why, for me, the most useful characterization of God was left to us by the saint apostle John who said that “God is love”[6].

Beyond theological or philosophical thoughts, everything about God is explained and understood through love.

Love is the foundation of the union of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, it explains the creation of the world and the care of God for it, through it we understand the redemption of the world from sin by the Son and its sanctification by the Holy Spirit, also love is the purpose our communion with God in eternity.

Likewise, because we are created in the image of the Holy Trinity, love is our way of being. Whether it’s about love between parents and children, between brothers, between husband and wife, whether it’s about love for friends, for people in general, or for everything that is divine creation, it is love that explains and makes sense to our lives.

If we do not love, no matter how much we seem to have progressed in the understanding of God, the whole effort is worthless, because only when we love can we say that we have an authentic answer to the question “Who is God”?


[1] Gospel according to John, chapter 3, verse 16.

[2] I Corinthians, chapter 2, verse 11.

[3] If He was not infinite, He would not be God. Under these circumstances, we would have every right to ask ourselves if there is anyone else more powerful than God, who, eventually, created Him.

[4] Exodus, chapter 3, verse 14.

[5] God is unique because He is infinite. Reason tells us that there canot be more infinities without limiting each other, because, by limiting each other, they can not be considered infinite anymore.

[6] I John, chapter 4, verse 8.

On Miracles

There is a time when we start believing that we have seen them all, that we know them all, and therefore nothing could surprise us. But is it so?

God has come.

When we hear about extraordinary things, we raise skeptics from our eyebrows, but when we come to a turning point, we are willing to believe that we may also be beneficiaries of such an extraordinary event. And, then, barely whispered, a thought takes form: “What if …?”

But what are we exactly waiting for?

What Is a Miracle?

The miracle can be defined as a supernatural phenomenon, beyond the laws of nature, unable to be explained by them, which does not abolish them, but strengthens them. Miracles are considered only those supernatural events that are the result of a divine intervention that acts to fulfill a religious purpose.

The purpose of a miracle is not to make someone look “cool” or for the performer to earn money. The gift of doing miracles is one that must be put to the service of others so that they turn to God or reward their faith.

So miracles have, first, a spiritual purpose and are part of divine pedagogy. That is why they are meant to provoke what we know about the world[1] and the natural laws and give us the chance to anticipate how it will be in the “other world.”

How Can We Recognize a Miracle?

Over time, there have been many controversies about the reality or even the possibility of a miracle. Whether we are faithful or not, whether we live in the nanotechnology era or existed 2000 years ago, when we are told that a man has risen, chances are we become at least skeptical. And, however, such an event is at the heart of the Christian faith.

Do all who believe in the Resurrection of Jesus can be regarded as case studies for psychiatrists or are they normal people who have accepted such an event based on rational elements?

In other words, what are the criteria by which we can accept an event as a miracle?

Miracle is a paranormal, unexplained phenomenon.

If a miracle can be explained by scientific discoveries, even though they occur centuries after the miraculous event, it loses its character as a paranormal phenomenon. The Resurrection of Christ or the miraculous healings are considered miracles, precisely because science remained mute when it had to give explanations.

Holiness or the special spiritual life of the miracle’s performer

The Savior tells us very clearly that among us there are people who have special gifts[2], but which they use outside of communion with God. That is why Christ does not accept such individuals! Their deeds can be named anyway, but the Church cannot consider them as miracles.

The mental health of witnesses and the objectivity of those who report the miracle

It seems to be a clear, a common sense thing, but, too often, events considered miracles were “paranormal” only to those who were present and only to those who told the story further.

Whether we are talking about people with mental illnesses or easily influenced people who tell us “from the heart” that they “were blessed” to learn about miracles even from those who performed them, the possibilities of confusing a normal phenomenon with an extraordinary one are infinite.

Even if an event seems to meet all the criteria of a miracle, but we cannot rely on the testimonies of the performer or witnesses, it cannot be considered a miracle. It’s better for everyone!

If God wants to send us a message through such a means, He will surely find a way for us to understand what He meant to tell us. Moreover, He does not mind if we are skeptical regarding the signs He communicates us. Gideon’s case[3] is a very suggestive one.

So, let us not feel any remorse, if we are skeptical about certain events or miracles’ reports!

Who Can Benefit from Miracles?

The miracles are accessible to all with one condition – they have to be prepared to receive them. I say this because Christ performed many miracles, but not all who witnessed them were impressed. The Pharisees and priests from the temple even became very obstinate!

Therefore, if someone says she/he needs a miracle to believe, she/he might be surprised. Because, in fact, that person does not want a miracle, but a proof that can be replicated in a research laboratory.

But the miracle is not an experiment. It cannot be reproduced or understood. It is unique!

Therefore, we do not have to be very upset if it seems that we have not experienced a miracle until now. We may have benefited even many of them and not realize it. But, that doesn’t matter!

What really matters is to keep our minds and hearts open to such an extraordinary event!

Who knows?



[1] Saint Augustin, De Civitate Dei, 21, 8, 2.

[2] “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 7, verses 22-23).

[3] The Book of Judges, chapter 6, verses 36-39.

Providence or Destiny?

Probably, every one of us has heard at one point the phrase, “What is written for you, is going to happen to you!” or “That’s how it was his fate!” Then, we also have to cope with those who tell us that our lives are determined by planets, names, or numbers that, in one way or another, influence our evolution.

In the end, we get to wonder if we have any kind of contribution to what’s happening to us. Is the “script” of our life established in advance and we only have to interpret it, without deviating from any scene, from any replica?

Such thinking, from the perspective of Orthodox Christianity, is unacceptable!

People were created with free will to decide their own destiny

If we believe this, it would mean that our deeds are not ours but somebody else determines them. This other person is neither the Universe, nor the planets or anything else but God, who is the only being of infinite power[1]. That would mean that we would not be judged, in fact, for our deeds, but for His.

If we had the destiny established before we were born, we would not be responsible for our decisions. Somebody else set them up before, and we just put them into practice. After such a logic, even devils would be innocent for all the wrongs committed!

Such a vision of reality can be an Oscar winning scenario, but, for Orthodox Christians, it is nonsense.

God created us not from boredom, but from infinite love. This means that He wanted us to share eternal happiness, that is, to take part in the communion of love with the Holy Trinity.

That is why He created us in His image[2] – with reason, sentiments and free will. So, from the very beginning of our existence, we have the right and possibility to choose our destiny, our way in life, our future or whatever we would like to call it. Yes, we really have the power to decide for us!

In other words, we are neither robots scheduled to live a predetermined life nor are we someone else’s puppets. Of course, unless we decide this.

And, because God loves us infinitely, He hasn’t left us. He has always watched over us. He took care of us! This process of God taking care of the world is called Providence.

But if God had always cared for us, what about the misfortunes and sufferings in the world?

I think anyone knows, even without watching the news, that our lives are not just made of happy moments. Unfortunately, throughout the world, in every moment, so many horrors are happening that even the most sadistic serial killer would feel ridiculed.

But this cannot be attributed to God. God does not limit the free will of men or angels. Therefore, the evils happening in the world are, in fact, acts done outside communion with Him.

Evil does not exist in itself, but it is a lack of good, just as darkness is nothing but a lack of light. When people or angels (I mean the evil ones, the devils) turn their back to the light, they remain with the darkness.

Exactly the same thing happens when we abandon the way of good. You cannot live a “neutral” life, you can live it well or not.

Let’s say that each one educates her/his child as best she/he can and teaches her/him to do good. When the child reaches mature age, so she/he is 100% responsible, may be considered his/her parent guilty of his/her actions? Of course not! So, is our relationship with God!

If we, men, do evil to one another, how come is God’s fault?

Sure, we can say that He could watch over the innocent people or guard those who suffer from natural disasters. After all, if it is natural phenomena, He is the one who controls them, isn’t He?

That’s right, but it’s a little hard or rather “ostentatious” on our part to claim that we can know or understand the reasons why the various phenomena happen!

We only know that everything has a justified cause, that God loves us and that things happen in the best possible way for everyone.

If we understand these things and accept them, our lives make sense. If we do not believe that our life is a consequence of our free choices and that God does not watch over the whole world, then everything is pointless.

But, however reluctant we may be, we cannot fail to recognize that beyond all the misfortunes and sufferings in the world, there is “too much” order and “too much” equilibrium. Therefore, we cannot think that everything is determined by planets or by a random evolutionary process.

It is simply the intervention of a Being who is far superior to us, who takes care that we, the people, in our “wisdom”, do not ruin everything. It is God, Who, through His Providence, takes care of the whole universe.

I know! It’s not all we have to know, but it’s all we need to know! For now!

[1] If there were two infinite beings, this would be a nonsense, because the two beings would limit each other and would not be infinite.

[2] Genesis, chapter 1, verses 26-27.

On “Universe” or “Infinite Intelligence”

At every beginning of the year, everyone sets goals for the coming year. Whether one does this on the night of the year, with a glass of champagne in one’s hand, whether one is alone and meditating or discussing with his family, friends or collaborators, everything in the first part of the year is about goals.

There is nothing wrong with that! As matter of fact, I am one of the supporters of the planning and I consider that a list of objectives is like a kind of itinerary that helps us not to get lost during our lives.

In my opinion, they have to be clear, a little more above the present possibilities (to be challenging), they must have a time limit and, depending on the circumstances, an attached budget.

Then you have to make the necessary effort to meet them and do not get hurt in front of the obstacles.

But that’s me!

That is why I confess that I was intrigued by the way others establish their goals and how they think they will be fulfilled.

There are quite many books, not to mention many videos on, where the authors talk about the fulfillment of our wishes by “Universe”[1], “infinite intelligence”[2] or other such entities.

The principle is simple: you have to know very clearly what you want, write it on a piece of paper in a predetermined way. Wishes must be expressed at the present time as a form of gratitude, as if we had already received the things we want, but which we are supposed to receive.

In other words, in the present moment, you thank to the Universe for what you have already received (so it is about an action that happened in the past), but the action of getting what you thanked for will happen in the future[3]. Does it seems logical? … That’s what I was saying!

I say that I am intrigued by these beliefs, because the Christian perspective is different. It involves a clear intention, but also an effort on the part of the one who asks something along with the belief that God will help him achieve his goal.

The condition is that the fulfillment of one’s desire is beneficial for both, the persons who asks the favor and others, as well. (Now, do you understand why God did not fulfill your request, when you were only 12 years old, to drive your parents’ car?)

Indeed, Christianity also speaks of the faith that one has to have when she/he asks something from God. In this sense, Christ tells us very clearly: “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”[4]

But He does not tell us to thank for something we have not received, but just to believe that “we have received.” Why? Is not that similar with what those, who say the “Universe” or “infinite intelligence” fulfill their desires, speak of?

At first sight, it would seem so! There are, however, some details that could better clarify this matter!

The first of these refers to the guidance that Christ gave us in the Sermon on the Mountain: ” Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”[5]

So, God focuses primarily on our interest, which means eternal communion with Him, and not on our desires that often are not consistent with what is good for both, us and others.

In other words, what we need from the material perspective (food, clothing, dwelling etc.) is already in God’s attention. And we should pray, in particular, for what is useful to us in building up the soul.

Normally, that does not mean that we can not pray for anything else, but God first considers our spiritual needs and then the material needs[6].

Coming back, it means that when Christ tells us that we have to believe that the things we ask for we have already received, He firstly refers to spiritual matters and then to material matters. Indeed, the spiritual qualities we need to progress, we have all of them since birth. So, we can think that “we have received them”.

So, in fact, we ask God to find for us the best options to acknowledge and develop these qualities. Once we have achieved this, we will surely come up with results on the material realm, as well.

For additional information, click here.

This idea is very clearly exemplified in the Old Testament when God asked King Solomon what he wished, and he only required wisdom to be able to lead his people properly, and God gave him, besides wisdom, other gifts that had connection with the material part of life[7].

For Christians, there is no “Universe,” “infinite intelligence,” or other entity is waiting to fulfill our desires. For Christians there is only God! Because we believe there is no one out there except God!

Therefore, the terms “Universe” and “infinite intelligence” can only be accepted as names that some people use when referring to “God”.

It is He who helps us to fulfill our desires, as long as they are in our interest and those around us. For our part, He only requires faith.

No matter how intense our desires are, if we do not work for them to be fulfilled, they will not be fulfilled. When we act to fulfill them, God will help us.

For additional information, click here.

The writing down of our goals is only the first step, only the first action we take to reach our goals, which involves a certain degree of acknowledgement from our part. This is why this is recommended by management or self-help specialists.

However, from that moment on, we must constantly strive for the fulfillment of our goals. Over time, we will realize that, as we get closer to meeting our wishes.

We transform ourselves, we think differently, we have another daily routine, we have other concerns and we activate in a different environment than the original one.

In other words, we evolve! We become different people! And this has always been God’s plan for each of us!

[1] Niculina Gheorghiță, Bucuria de a trăi în și cu Dumnezeu, Studis, Iași, 2013.

[2] Napoleon Hill, De la idee la bani (Think and Grow Rich),  second edition, Editura Curtea Veche, București, 2013.

[3] The belief on which such practice is based on is that our desires are energetic vibrations that propagate in ether, and the “Universe” or “infinite intelligence” receives these vibrations and acts accordingly.

As soon as we have formulated our intentions, “the Universe” already ” gives orders in its kitchen” to prepare the ingredients for the fulfillment of our wishes.

There is a need for clarity in the way expressing our desires in order not to create confusion at the universal level and it is necessary that our objectives be formulated in the way I have spoken to you earlier. After that, we have to keep our firm conviction that we will get what we want with intensity.

The intensity of our desires is also important, because when two or more people want the same thing, the one who does this more intensely will receive what he has asked for.

[4] Gospel according to Mark, chapter 11, verses 24.

[5] Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 6, verses 31-34.

[6] God will not make us famous and will not give us a fancy car or nor will grant us that dream holiday, but will help us to acquire the qualities and mentality necessary to fulfill such desires as well.

So if you want to be world champions in a certain field, most likely this will not happen overnight. But you will be helped to continually gain the perseverance, discipline and other qualities that will help you fulfill your dream.

Once you get to the first stage of the podium, the cars and holidays will also come.

[7] The First Book of Kings, chapter 3, verses 5-14.

The Gathering of Saint John the Baptist

In the Romanian folklore there is conviction that St. John the Baptist is the “godfather” of Christ (because he was the one who baptized Him) and the one who helps the children not to die without being baptized. It is an original interpretation of the celebration established by the Church on January 7 and dedicated to the gathering of St. John.

But this feast was set up right after the day of the Epiphany, according to a Church principle that says the day after a royal feast is dedicated to those who were involved in the event of preceding holiday.

 Why is on 7 January the name’s day of those who bear Saint John the Baptist’s name?

Indeed, there are at least three important holidays related to the life and work of Saint John the Baptist: the Gathering of Saint John the Baptist (January 7), the Birth of St. John the Baptist (June 24) and the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (August 29),  not to mention the holidays concerning the findings of Saint John’s head.

Normally, the saints are celebrated on the day of their death, as the day they entered the eternal life. The only ones with special treatment are the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and St. John the Baptist whom Christ described “the greatest amongst those that are born of women.”[1]

If, in the case of the Virgin Mary, the motives are obvious with regard to St. John the Baptist one must emphasize the role he had in the history of salvation – to present Christ to the world.

To this mission, which he was very aware of, St. John practically devoted his whole life. All, his birth, the very austere life in the wilderness, the missionary activity and the guidance of his disciples, everything had as ultimate goal the announcing of Christ as the Savior of the world, when Son of God came to the Jordan River to be baptized.

The Activity of Saint John the Baptist and Its Importance to Our Salvation

The mission of St. John the Baptist was predicted by the ancient prophets[2], and it consisted of preparing the coming of the Savior[3] and making Him known to the world. This mission was necessary to increase the impact that the Savior’s work would have had on the world.

Jesus had to preach in the midst of human communities, where the tumult of daily life prevented people from thinking about spiritual life.

Moreover, after sending His message, Christ did not spend much time in the same town, because there were other communities which needed His teachings and many sick people who could use His healing power. Under these circumstances, it would have been difficult for those willing to become the first disciples of the Master of the world to ask for it.

Unlike this way of preaching, the activity of John the Baptist was one that took place in the wilderness, near the Jordan River.

There, he was lived a very austere life, characterized by prayer and an extraordinarily difficult lent. He was dressed in a camelhair coat and was girded with a leather belt, and his food consisted of locusts and wild honey[4].

In order for his message to be taken seriously, he could not begin his preaching earlier than the age of 30. Since Christ came to be baptized after having reached this age[5], we infer that John’s public activity began about 6 months before that of our Lord Jesus Christ[6].

Probably, in order to have a bigger audience, Saint John preached in a place where the Jordan River intersected with a main road and could be crossed. This explains how his message had a significant impact that attracted disciples[7], brought him into the attention of the priests from the Temple[8], and even managed to cause distress to the ruler of his time[9]. Evidently, this location provided Saint John the Baptist with enough water to baptize those who confessed their sins[10].

John’s baptism was one that anticipated the baptism that Christ would bring. Those who confessed their sins did not receive forgiveness, but only a visible sign of the fact that by virtuous life[11] they could receive that forgiveness when the world’s Redeemer would come.

Even though John announced the baptism with “Holy Spirit and fire”[12], and Christ, during discussion with the Pharisee Nicodemus, spoke of “the birth of water and of the Spirit”[13], there is no contradiction between these descriptions of the Sacrament of Initiation in the Christian Life.

The baptism Saint John spoke of took place on the Day of the Descent of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost), when, over the apostles, the Holy Spirit appeared unto them in the form of “tongues like as of fire”[14]. The baptism we see today in the Church was announced by Christ and has been practiced since the beginning of Christianity by the apostles[15] and their successors.

So, neither the austere life, nor the martyrdom he suffered as a result of the public condemnation of King Herod Antipas’ decadent morals, but the mission he accomplished brought to Saint John the Baptist the special honor the Savior and the Church gave to him.

For us, the twenty-first century people, dedicating our life to a single moment, be it crucial to the destiny of the whole world, is something that very few of us would be willing to do.

That is why St. John the Baptist remains one of the moral leaders of Christianity and a model of sacrificing one’s life for a unique purpose that is of paramount importance to all.


[1] Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 11, verse 11.

[2] Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 3; Malachi, chapter 3, verse 1.

[3] Gospel according to Luke, chapter 1, verse 17; Gospel according to John, chapter 1, verses 6-8.

[4] Gospel according to Mark, chapter 1, verse 6.

[5] Gospel according to Luke, chapter 3, verse 23.

[6] Between the moments of the conception of Saint John the Baptist and the Savior’s conception there is a difference of 6 months (Gospel according to Luke, chapter 1, verse 26). So, St. John the Baptist was 6 months older than our Lord Jesus Christ.

[7] Gospel according to John, chapter 1, verses 35-37.

[8] Gospel according to John, chapter 1, verses 19-27.

[9] Gospel according to Luke, chapter 3, verses 19-20.

[10] Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 3, verses 5-6.

[11] “And the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” He answereth and saith unto them, “He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.” Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, “what shall we do?” And he said unto them, “Exact no more than that which is appointed you.” And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, “And what shall we do?” And he said unto them: “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.” (Gospel according to Luke, chapter 3, verses 10-14).

[12] Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 3, verse 11; Gospel according to Luke, chapter 3, verse 16.

[13] Gospel according to John, chapter 3, verse 5.

[14] Acts, chapter 2, verses 1-3.

[15] Acts, chapter 8, verses 26-38; chapter 10, verses 44-48.

Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ or the Epiphany of the Holy Trinity

Most of the time, when we talk about the feast of the Epiphany[1], we refer to the consecration of water. However, this is only a part of the significance of this especially valuable holiday for Christianity.

At least two arguments support the importance of this celebration. The first one speaks about the ancient celebration of this holiday that can be traced somewhere in the second century of the Christian era. Another argument relates to the fact that it was, alongside the Resurrection, one of the important Feasts in the ancient Christian calendar.

Moreover, in the past, in order to make a clear distinction between Christianity and pagan religions that celebrated the increase of the day duration around the winter solstice, the Nativity of the Lord was celebrated together with His Baptism. Afterwards, the two holidays broke up.

The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus ​​Christ

Epiphany or the Baptism of the Lord is a feast set up to commemorate the baptism of Christ the Savior in the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist. The episode is mentioned by all four evangelists (Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 3, verses 13-17; Gospel according to Mark, chapter 1, verses 9-11; Gospel according to Luke, chapter 3, verses 21-22; Gospel according to John, chapter 1, verses 29-34), a sign that was an important one in the history of salvation.

From the Gospel according to John, one can deduce that role of Saint John the Baptist was a very precise one. He had the mission to prepare the coming of Christ and to present Him to the world. He knew very clearly what he had to do and acknowledged the importance of his two missions: to gather around him a prepared people (Gospel according to Luke, Chapter 1, verse 17) and to announce the Savior to the world (Gospel according to John, chapter 1, verses 6-8, 31).

In order to present Jesus to the world he needed a setting and an audience. The setting was not chosen by chance. It was a place from desert, far from the turmoil of everyday life of the cities, and situated near a flowing stream – the Jordan.

The Jews who came to John to listen to him and to be baptized with the “baptism of water” were those who wanted a spiritual change in their lives. They were dissatisfied with their own state of sinfulness. In other words, they were prepared to receive the baptism of “Holy Ghost and fire” (Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 3, verse 11) that Christ was about to bring!

Christ did not come to be baptized until he was 30 years old (Gospel according to Luke, chapter 3, verse 23), the age of maturity to the ancient Jews, which allowed Him to be taken seriously when he spoke in public.

From the moment he saw Christ, John recognized his inferiority toward Him: “But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, «Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.» Then he suffered him.” (Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 3, verses 14-15).

After Jesus was baptized and came out of the water, the Epiphany of the Holy Trinity took place, but only after Christ prayed for it – “that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened ” (Gospel according to Luke, chapter 3, verse 21).

The epiphany of the Holy Trinity was a very visible event: Christ came out of the water, the Holy Spirit, Who, in the form of a dove, descended upon Him, and the voice of the Father heard from heaven, which confirmed Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased ” (Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 3, verse 17).

After this moment, John had all the arguments that, in his turn, to fulfill the last part of his mission on earth, the presentation of the Savior of the world. The words by which he did so remained famous: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (Gospel according to John, chapter 1, verses 29, 36).

 Significance of the Epiphany

The Feast of Epiphany is very rich in symbols. On the one hand, we are talking about the beginning of the missionary activity of Christ, and on the other hand, Epiphany reminds us of the beginning of the restoration of the world.

The first category of symbols is related to God’s plan to heal the world, to cleanse it from sin. This is the purpose of the coming of Christ on earth as the Son of the human race, or of the Son of Man, that, by His sacrifice, He may restore the fallen nature of man. Basically, we are talking about beginning of the world’s recreation.

Therefore, if, at the beginning of the world’s creation, the entire Holy Trinity (Genesis, chapter 1, verses 1, 26) was present, as well, at the beginning of its restoration, God was present in Persons (Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 3, verses 16 -17).

Also, water is a vital element for life and for our cleansing. However, without the Holy Spirit, it has only a purely biological value. That is why, at the beginning of creation, the Holy Spirit is the One who moves upon the face of waters (Genesis, chapter 1, verse 2). The same happens at the moment of Christ’s baptism when the Holy Spirit descends above Jordan’s waters.

An interesting detail is that of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. If we recall, after the earth was purified by the flood water, Noah sent the dove to see if the waters were withdrawn from the face of the earth. He returned with an olive branch in his beak, a sign of reconciliation of God towards mankind.

The Epiphany, in its turn, epitomizes the reconciliation between God and man marked by the presence of the dove, this time, in the form of the incarnation of the Holy Spirit.

But, now, reconciliation comes as a result of prayer. The Holy Trinity was not made visible automatically, though God is always present in the life of the world, but His appearance was the result of prayer from the human race, represented by Christ (Gospel according to Luke, chapter 3, verse 21).

This explains why the ritual of water consecration during the Epiphany Day is placed at the end of the Liturgy. That means we must pray first and, then, the Holy Spirit descends and consecrates the water. Furthermore, consecration of water is not a distinct act but is a part of the process of the world’s restoration; therefore, it cannot be separated from the saving work of Christ.

This is represented in worship by the fact that consecration of water is not a stand-alone service (it does not have its own beginning or end) but takes place within the Liturgy, the service that revives the most important moments in Christ’s life and work of salvation of the world.

Such considerations may be an explanation for the fact that the great holy water (which is consecrated on the day of Epiphany) is given to those who, for various reasons, cannot receive the Sacrament of the Holy Communion.

In addition, it is superior to ordinary holy water and is used especially for consecration of objects used for cultic purposes, exorcisms, consecration of churches, spraying of sick people, or can be consumed on fasting days and on important holidays.

So, beyond the consecration of waters, Epiphany represents the appearance of the Holy Trinity at the beginning of the missionary activity of Jesus Christ. It marks the beginning of the world’s restoration and reminds us of the moments from the beginning of all creation. That is why its significance far outweighs the recent meaning of simple consecration of water, and derives from the profound symbolism this holiday has.

[1] The term “Epiphany” comes from Greek and consists of two words, from the prepositions „’επι” (epi) – “over” and the verb „φαίνω” (faino) – “shine, make visible”. Therefore, the literal translation of this term would be “the appearance over (the world, creation)” of the Holy Trinity.

The Spirit of Holidays

If it is December, then it is the hunting season for gifts. No Hollywood settings, no happy ending stories over the fiery winter background. Just nerves, fear that “you can not catch anything” and guilt that “you woke up too late.” Does that mean the “holiday spirit”? That’s what we’ve been waiting for a year?

I’ve seen this movie before. It is presented before holidays, especially near winter holidays. It starts with promotion of sales and continues with the buyers’ pursuit of shopping and competing up with others. Then the momentum is achieved and it goes on based on the principle of “Let’s buy this thing too! Just in case!”

The climax happens on Christmas Eve. Then the final assault takes place and the last shelf is emptied. Then, suspense! Until December 26, when the supermarkets open again. The epilogue is in the form of admissions for intestinal occlusions and food disposal.

If you are not a shop owner, you may agree that today’s holidays are no longer celebrations. They are more of a merchants’ heaven than finding of ourselves or connecting with the tranquility of old.

But the complicated thing is that you can not even escape this routine. No matter how brave you are, you can not hide in a cave and come out after it’s over. What would you tell your friends, colleagues at work or your acquaintances about what you have done during “holidays”?

So, every year, you have the same routine and you hope to get different results. Finally, you come to blame “those who invented the feasts” and ask yourself what the “spirit of holidays” is all about. I mean, can we talk about that? What does it mean? Because you do not understand it anyway!

Winter is a season of regeneration

Winter is a season that the old ones, in accordance with the rhythm of nature, used for resting of the year’s struggle. It was a period of softness, mugs of wine with spices, reading books and telling stories near the fire!

In this context, with winters as in movies and with time for meditation, surely the people of other times made various correlations between astronomical phenomena and those related to the life of nature.

After the moment of the winter solstice, the day begins to increase, and the night decreases its duration. That is why some cultures put this astronomical event in connection with the victory of light over darkness, good over evil or life over death.

Therefore, it was normal for these natural phenomena to be marked by the ancient people in a particular way. They always implied a strong emotional connection, being bound to the hope of a new beginning, of another chance. So, the spirit of holidays, for the people of old, was as real as possible and was fully lived.

Holidays have a symbolic function

The ancient ones believed that the world as we perceive it is not what it seems. Only in this way they could give meaning to life and saw it as a continuous preparation, for a different existence.

Whether they perceived or succeeded in demonstrating the reality of another world, they tried to devise certain ways of establishing connections between these two plans of existence.

That’s why they used symbols. It was a natural choice, because, besides the ability to gather energies and people around it, the symbol is also meant to link two notions from different realities[1].

And some of these symbols also embraced the shape of the feast days, which, in most religious traditions, are dedicated to spiritual growth.

When we talk about holidays, the first thing that comes to mind is physical rest. But from accentuating prayer, practicing rituals, or reading sacred texts, we deduce that the feast is firstly established for the soul and then for the flesh.

Its main purpose is the communion with Divinity, the return to origins, finding the purity that many of us lose throughout our lives. It is, after all, about finding the joy of living.

Holidays are times of joy

Therefore, holidays are, above all, a manifestation of joy, and this can not exist in solitude. So, it is necessary for the relationships with our relatives to be reestablished and new ones made. It is one of the reasons why the winter holidays are dedicated to the family. In the past, at this time of the year, there was always time for this networking. There was little work to be done, and everyone gathered at home. Then, everyone could meet with everyone.

In the village of my grandparents, at this time of year, there were traces of footprints on the snow. They led from one gate to another. Outside these paths, the snow was untouched. Relatives and neighbors, all were visiting each other in the serenity of winter and talking about how the things were. There was peace in nature and in souls.

It seemed to be a continuous celebration, because people had time for themselves and for others.

Holiday does not mean abandoning daily duties

However, we should not imagine the religious feast as a time of decadence. Although, a particular emphasis is placed on the spiritual side and insisting upon physical rest, the feast does not imply total abandonment of duties.

Christ was very trenchant with the Jews of His time who observed the Sabbath to the extreme: “And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath day, and said unto the people: «There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.»  The Lord then answered him, and said: «Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?» (The Gospel according to Luke, chapter 13, verses 14-15)

Similarly, the Old Testament expression “God rested” after the creation of the world (Genesis, chapter 2, verse 2) must also be interpreted in a similar manner. God does not need rest, so, obviously, this phrase was understood by theologians as marking the moment when the Creator allowed the laws of nature to function unhindered, thus establishing the first feast.

Feast – time of self-analysis

That is why the feast means order, quiet and the period in which you analyze the results of your work. God did this when He appreciated that all those created “were very good” (Genesis, chapter 1, verse 31).

Therefore, the feast can be considered to coincide with the time of the self-analysis, during which each of us should assess her/his progress. Without such analysis, there can be no evolution. For me, the point is to be better than at the time of the last analysis. Otherwise, I try to figure out what went wrong, in order not to repeat.

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Anyway, the feast means a new stage, the experience of a new beginning. This new “zero point” has the role of reminding me to keep what is good and not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Recovering the spirit of holidays

It is indeed a great difference between what the celebration meant for the people of old and what it means for us, the people of tablets and smart phones.

For the people of the past, the winter holidays had a special perfume … they represented the seal of the tranquility over the year’s work. Even if it was not a fabulous year and the storage house was not so full, before the Christmas table, everyone was feeling full. Food was not the purpose, but the pretext of the meeting.

I know it seems tedious to spend the holidays “in the family” or “with the gang”! You just want to get some rest on holidays, and your are not in the mood for crowds or mountains of dirty dishes. But over the years, you may be willing to give anything for such an atmosphere. It will give you the power to pull another year. And, then, another one! In other words, it will make life worth living.

Do not worry about cleaning, cooking or endless supply! Those who come to visit, come for you. They do not care about the food specialties, they do not care that the tablecloth has a spot, they do not care that the curtain is not ironed (of course, except for the mothers-in-law).

For them, the goodies are bonuses! They are only interested in the “atmosphere”! It will be the only thing who will stay in the hearts of everybody over the years! And if we have more of these memories, then we can say that we also have a genuine spirit of holidays!

If you do not succeed, do not despair! Go to the church, attend the ceremonies, and help the priest to bring a ray of hope to those in need. If you do not have anything to give, just stay with them. You’re going to feel like you’ve made them smile!

If you do so, you will not only have the best holiday story, but you will know that you have done the right thing. You helped others find an authentic answer to the question of whether the holiday spirit can be lived.

PS: Exercise to Revive the Spirit of Holidays in Three Steps:

1) Clean the cabinets and sort the clothes you do not wear anymore.

2) Take the packages to a non-governmental organization operating in the field of social work or to a church.

3) Smile! You just transformed someone’s day into a holiday!

[1] It is the fundamental distinction between sign and symbol. The sign establishes a relationship between two elements belonging to the same plan of existence (eg, 1 animal + 2 animals = 3 animals). In antithesis, the symbol links the elements belonging to different realities. The same sign “+” turns into the symbol of the Cross “†” when it reminds us of the saving sufferings of Christ.

About the Meaning of Life and Continuous Complaining

I like people! (That’s right, I do not watch TV!) I like to talk to them, listen to them, see how they enjoy … But like any man, I have my limits! I do not like after the third or fourth episode of wailing, on the same subject, to listen to them. It gives me a sense of helplessness!

As much as I try to encourage them, to squeeze my brains to find solutions, there are simply some who have a problem for each solution. That’s very daunting, even for me, which I like to consider myself an optimist.

The worse part is that, sometimes, I agree with them. Life seems, at some point, a long line of events, seemingly meaningless. And if you have a little time “to analyze the problem,” you start asking yourself some “easy” questions: “Why do we live? What’s the meaning of life? De we appear from a mere accident, as evolutionary biologists say, or lif is more than what happens to us? ”

For Christians, it is simpler to answer such questions, because they believe in the creation of the world by an Almighty Creator. Therefore, if we accept that we were created by an infinite Intelligence, then it means that our existence must also have a meaning. But which one? How can we find out the meaning of our life?

One of the profound passages of the Bible, which we usually overlook, was uttered by Christ when He asked His disciples to pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane even before He was caught. The words spoken by Him in those moments are a true map to the meaning of our existence: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 26, verse 41).

I know it is not one of the quotations full of “Asian” wisdom. But do not be disappointed! At first glance, it is very difficult to accept that such a text may contain fundamental truths for our existence. But it is the reality!

His message is very clear. What happens to us in life seems to be impossible to control, but we have total control over how we react to situations outside us.

Christ was to be arrested by the people at the temple, tortured, mocked, and then unjustly, to suffer one of the most painful and degrading deaths that they knew at that time in the Roman Empire. And He was perfectly aware of this.

The fact that He prays to God the Father to find a way to escape all these trials (the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 22, verse 42) shows that He was neither unconscious nor masochistic. He simply accepted what was happening to Him due to His love for man and all creation.

So He was the One who gave this sense to His existence!

Everything was possible, because in those trials He chose to go all the way, and not to give up Who He was. It was His Spirit that determined the body to pass through all these trials and the one who transformed reality through the Sacrifice.

It’s not a myth, it’s not a metaphor of some fishermen from two thousand years ago, it’s not an invention! Is the truth! And this truth has been lived by countless people throughout history and will, probably, be lived by many others until the end of the world.

Suffering, if you know how to overcome it, ennobles you and makes you rise above the moment. It helps you transform, evolve. It helps you to give another meaning to your life.

One of the best known examples in this regard is that of the survivors of the Nazi torture camps. Victor E. Frankl, the founder of the third Viennese school of psychotherapy – logotherapy, was one of them. During the time he was captive, it was subjected to the most terrible suffering man can cause to man.

His book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, is a tremendous testimony of suffering and a hymn dedicated to the meaning of life. Here, we find one of the most interesting statements about the purpose of life in general and of each of us in particular.

And such a testimony is worthy of consideration, because it comes from a man who, at one time, had all the reasons not to live. He did not know anything about his family, the manuscript he had worked on all his life before was lost, and he was locked in a Nazi camp.

There, in one of the most severe states of human degradation, he understood how powerful man is, because, even in suffering, he is the master of his destiny. He had no reason to be upset about the fate, the Universe, God, or the soldier who was oppressing him. This would not have helped him with anything! It would not have given him a new meaning of life in any way.

He chose to live! He chose to hope and do everything in his power to survive those horrors. He simply took every day as a new chance. And it worked!

Released from detention, He chose to do something useful with his life! So, he dedicated himself to helping those who were suffering. A truly noble act, which happened, because a man understood that only he and no one else could give meaning to his life!

But how do we make our lives meaningful or how do we discover the meanings of our existence?

Victor Frankl speaks about three ways:

1) to create, to do something;

2) to be in a relationship with someone;

3) by suffering.

We’ll start with the third way – suffering. You must realize it is not absolutely necessary. If we are not going through a dreadful situation, there is no point in causing this suffering. If we deliberately caused our suffering, we would be masochists!

If we go through a terrible suffering, we can give meaning to our lives by the way how we react to what is happening to us. With the help of God, we can rise above the suffering. We can transform ourselves! We can evolve!

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The second way to find the meaning of life is to cultivate relationships. If man isolates himself, his life is lost. Its existence makes sense only in communion with others. Whether we are talking about friends, relationships between parents and children or brothers, or about the closeness of lovers, all these experiences can be defined as love in its various forms.

It is love that, in one way or another, gives meaning to our lives. It has the power to give, to transform and to last. It has the power to make us eternal. By love we are exalted and we exalt the others. By love, we approach God.

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If we are not, however, able to do so, we can give meaning to our lives by the footprint we leave in the world – by what we do or by what we create. The great explorers, the inventors, the artists, the great people of the world who have transformed history – all of them have given their lives meanings that inspired generations. They are our heroes!

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So, our life has a meaning! And we are the ones who create it!

Now, let’s resume the words of Christ: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Watching refers to the awareness of our reality and identity. It is to understand who we are, what is our stage of evolution, what qualities, what defects we have and what we want in life. It also means to be mindful of what is happening around us and to understand the world we live in.

Prayer has always been the way man communicates directly with God. There, in the depths of our souls, this dialogue gives us strength because it invites God into our lives, and His presence strengthens us.

These two experiences, watchfulness and prayer, help us not to fall into temptation. It helps us to progress. It helps us transform the reality, giving it other meanings.

If we have this ability and understand that our souls shape the reality in which we live, then certainly we will not try to play the victim role and we will not seek to blame anyone for what happens to us. Simply, we will have the power to go further, for God will be with us!

Consequently, we do not have any reason to complain about what’s happening to us. Even if we suffer, we can exalt ourselves above our momentary condition. No matter how heavy the loss is, it is not insurmountable. Surely, others have gone through what we’re going through and moved on. Because they chose this!

If we constantly complain, we do not give an authentic meaning to our lives. We simply ask for attention because, most of the time, we mistaken attention with love. If we really want to have love, we must love first. That’s what God does! He loves us first, and we respond to His love (John’s First Epistle, chapter 4, verse 19).

Perhaps our sufferings (a broken fingernail, a super expensive garment that now we cannot afford for the moment, our favorite team losing a game etc.) don’t have the transforming power of the sufferings of the martyrs, of prisoners in concentration camps or even of prisoners in communist prisons.

Maybe we do not have the extraordinary capacities of those who have transformed the world or turned it into something better!

But we certainly have the ability to establish relationships, to love. We have the capacity to transform our lives and others into an authentic communion.

We have the power to give this meaning to our lives!

P.S. 1: I’m sure you have something to thank God for! Please make a list of the first 5 things of this kind and keep it closely! When you have the feeling that things do not work the way you want, look at this list! It helps! Enormously!

P.S. 2: Is it true that those who complain all the time experience a long row of misfortunes or is it just an appearance? What do you think?

Please write your thoughts in the comments section!

St. Nicholas, between gifts and rods

Now, it sounds funny to me. Very funny! But at the age when I thought the candy came straight from the store, it was not funny at all. Every time, in the Santa Nicholas’ Eve, in addition to the carefully placed gifts in a boot, I received, in the other boot, a rod, a carrot or onion (These last two items were part of my father’s personal touch!). This thing repeated so rigorously, year after year, that I came to believe that I had two boots, precisely because, in one, Santa Nicholas had to place his rods.

Therefore, I decided to unravel mysteries such as: “Why does Santa Nicholas come with gifts? And if he is such a positive character, why does he bring up the rods?” So, after many years and an impressive collection of rods of all shapes and sizes, I managed to get the answers I was looking for. Here’s what I found out!

St. Nicholas is, in fact, a mythological figure inspired by the great personality of Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Mira (Myra) in the Lichia Province (from today’s Turkey) in the first part of the fourth century. This saint was known in the Christian tradition, first of all, because of his generosity.

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It is said that, when he was a bishop of Mira, one evening, as he strolled through the city, the saint would have heard through the open window of a house a father who had three daughters and had no money to support his family. Therefore, he was planning to force the elder daughter to become a prostitute. To prevent this, on the second evening, Saint Nicholas threw a money bag in the yard of that family. When the father found that small fortune, he used it to marry the elder daughter and gave her the money as dowry.

The same happened to the second daughter. After that, the father of the girls wanted to know who the mysterious benefactor was and lurked out the window. When St. Nicholas threw the third money bag, the father ran after him and thanked him. Normally, despite the saint’s wish that his deed should not be publicly known, this wasn’t the case, and his example was followed by other Christians. They cast various gifts in the yards of the needy during the night. And so, a beautiful Christian tradition has emerged that has been preserved until today.

Okay, well, that explains why gifts are given in the boots during the night from December 5 to December 6. But that does not clarify in any way the mystery of the rods that children receive as a reward for their “goodness” over the year.

The answer is given to us, also, by all the Christian tradition that speaks of St. Nicholas as a very fiery defender of the true faith. On the occasion of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325, the teaching of faith concerning the Person of the Savior Jesus Christ was clarified, and the Arian heresy was repelled. During the debates, Saint Nicholas, angry with the naughty behavior of the heretic Arius, would have given him a slap.

Since such behavior is not worthy of a Christian, much less of a bishop, the other parents who took part in the sessions of the synod decided to depose St. Nicholas from the bishop’s rank. But during the night, many of the participants in the synod had a vision in which Christ and His mother, Virgin Mary, praised the saint’s deed and gave him back the Gospel and homophore as a sign of restoring the episcopal dignity. Based on this happening, it was concluded that Santa Nicholas can also bring other “gifts” in the form of rods, which can be used to straighten the least conformist ones.

So the fact that Saint Nicholas saved the father’s daughters from a decadent life has remained a model of Christian life that must be copied by each of us whenever we have the opportunity to do so. In the end, imitation of a saint’s way of life truly means honoring him.

Also, the fact that, in addition to gifts, rods have found their way through history to the present day, it tells us that we need to be careful about our attitude and correct it as often as possible. After all, we cannot always be right. So, it is good not to give anyone the opportunity to copy the other pattern of St. Nicholas’ behavior.

As you realize, such a response cannot compensate for all the anxieties caused by the childhood rods. But it does not matter anymore! Over them a layer of forgetfulness was laid like snowflakes enveloped with their white cloak the frozen ground of winter. But the joy of every morning of December 6th remains! And it made me realize that Santa Nicholas is not just for children, he comes for everyone. As long as we exist, we still have hidden, somewhere in our souls, glimpses of the joy of the past. And these sparks are too valuable not to be turn into fires!

So, go quickly and polish your boots! And if you know that Santa Nicholas cannot reach everyone, give him a hand and try to act on his behalf. At least this time! I have a feeling that Santa will not be upset and even reward you.

P.S .: Let Santa bring the rods, and if you cannot avoid such a mission, you can plant them and hang a label with the message “From Santa Nicholas”. Over the years, they will become fully-grown trees and the impact will be even stronger.

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