Bishop Alexander of the Russian Orthodox church
An introduction to the life and counsels of Elder Paisios the New of Mount Athos by Hieromonk Damascene
In the words of H. Middleton, author of the recently published Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit, Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, “perhaps more than any other contemporary elder, has captured the minds and hearts of Greek people” (H. Middleton, Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit: The Lives and Counsels of Contemporary Elders of Greece, Thessalonica, Greece: Protecting Veil Press, 2003, p. 129). Although not nearly as well known in the English-speaking world as in his homeland, this holy Elder also has much to say to contemporary spiritual seekers in the West. In his life and teachings, we can find a key by which to go deeper into the heart of the Orthodox Christian Faith.
As books published after his repose indicate, Elder Paisios was a man of lofty spiritual life. He received many heavenly visitations from our Lord Jesus Christ, His Most Holy Mother, and the saints; he was granted the gifts of clairvoyance and of miracle-working; he beheld the Uncreated Light in divine vision; and he was filled with God’s Grace to such an extent that he attained to deification (theosis).
There is no doubt that Elder Paisios’ impressive spiritual gifts and attainments have contributed to the widespread veneration of his memory in contemporary Greece. However, these gifts are not the only — or even the primary — reason he has come to be so greatly loved. For the main explanation as to why he is so loved by the people, we must look at the love which he had for the people. That love, borne aloft by the Grace of Christ, was seemingly limitless.
Elder Paisios poured out his heart in love for his fellow man. As his spiritual children have written, “His sanctified soul overflowed with divine love, and his face radiated Divine Grace” (Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Epistles, Souroti, Thessalonica, Greece: Holy Monastery of the Evangelist John the Theologian, 2002, p. 10). He suffered with people, listened to them, offered them hope, and prayed for them untiringly. He spent his nights in prayer and his entire days in relieving human pain and spreading divine consolation. He guided, consoled, healed, and gave rest to countless people who took shelter in him.
In his spiritual counsels, many of which have been recorded in writing, Elder Paisios tells us how we too can enter into the experience of such overflowing, Grace-filled love. The path he sets for us is indeed a hard and narrow one, for it is none other than the path that Christ has given us.
First of all, Elder Paisios tells us that, for love to blossom in the heart, we must pray with pain of heart. Once he was asked, “We pray, Elder, and our thoughts go here and there. Why?”
“Because it is prayer without pain!” replied the Elder. “To pray with the heart, we must hurt. Just as when we hit our hand or some other part of our body, our mind (nous) (“Nous: the highest faculty or power of the human soul, called by the Holy Fathers “the eye of the soul,” St. John Damascene, and “the spiritual nature of man,” St. Isaac the Syrian) is gathered to the point we are hurting, so also for the mind to gather in the heart, the heart must hurt.”
The Elder was then asked, “How can we preserve ourselves in this state when we don’t have some problem, some pain?”
He replied, “We should make the other’s pain our own!! We must love the other, must hurt for him, so that we can pray for him. We must come out little by little from our own self and begin to love, to hurt for other people as well, for our family first then for the large family of Adam, of God” (Athanasios Rakovalis, Talks with Father Paisios (Thessalonica, Greece: Orthodox Kypseli, 2000), pp. 123-24).
At another time the Elder said, “The more one hurts, the more divine consolation one receives, because otherwise it is not possible to stand the pain... God especially consoles those who hurt for others” (Ibid.,p. 124).
To his spiritual children the Elder wrote: “To some people your love will be expressed with joy and to others it will be expressed with your pain. You will consider everyone your brother or your sister, for we are all children of Eve (of the large family of Adam, of God). Then, in your prayer you will say: ‘My God, help those first who are in greater need, whether they are alive or reposed brothers in the Lord.’ At that point, you will share your heart with the whole world and you will have nothing but immense love, which is Christ” (Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Epistles, p. 50).
Secondly, Elder Paisios tells us that, if we are to grow in love toward our fellow man, we are to cut off those thoughts and feelings which are an offense against love: that is, judgments and resentments. He counseled that “We should never, even under the worst circumstances, allow a negative thought to penetrate our soul. The person, who, under all circumstances, is inclined to have positive thoughts, will always be a winner; his life will be a constant festivity, since it is constantly based on positive thinking” (Priestmonk Christodoulos Aggeloglou, Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain Mount Athos, Greece, 1998, p. 31).
One of Elder Paisios’ spiritual sons recalls, “Elder Paisios always urged us to think positively. Our positive thinking, however, should not be our ultimate aim; eventually our soul must be cleansed from our positive thoughts as well, and be left bare, having as its sole vestment Divine Grace granted to us through Holy Baptism. ‘This is our aim,’ he used to say, ‘to totally submit our mind to the Grace of God. The only thing Christ is asking from us is our humility. The rest is taken care of by His Grace.
“‘In the beginning, we should willingly try to develop positive thoughts, which will gradually lead us to the perfect good, God, to Whom belongs all glory, honor and worship. On the contrary, to us belongs only the humility of our conceited attitude’ ” (Ibid., p. 29).
Elder Paisios’ teachings on thoughts and inner watchfulness, drawn from his own profound experience in the spiritual life, are particularly crucial for us who have been formed by modern Western culture. Because he spent so much time listening to people (both monastic and lay) and helping them with their problems, Elder Paisios became acutely aware of the various spiritual diseases afflicting modern Western man. Above all, he recognized — and sought to treat — the most prevalent disease: rationalism. Although the modern rationalist worldview was born in Western Europe during the Enlightenment era, it has progressively been inundating the entire world, including Orthodox lands such as Greece. Therefore, when Elder Paisios speaks to the spiritual malady of rationalism in contemporary Greece, he is also speaking to our spiritual malady in America and the West.
Ultimately, the malady of modern rationalism comes down to one essential ingredient: trusting the conclusions of one’s logical mind. We of the modern West have been raised with an underlying assumption, summed up in the well-known phrase of Rene Descartes at the beginning of the Enlightenment era: “I think, therefore I am.” The worldview of modern rationalism, having lost an awareness of the immortal soul in man, leads us to believe that our thoughts are v/ho we are, and, conversely, that we are the sum total of our thoughts. Therefore, we automatically feel that we have to trust our thoughts, to take a stand for them, to defend them as we would our own flesh and blood.
This is the essential fallacy of the modern worldview. It is precisely by placing absolute trust in the formulations of the fallen human mind — rather than in divine revelation — that modern Western man has come to water down or abandon his once-cherished Christian Faith. We Orthodox Christians living in the West must act against this influence by refusing to accord outright trust to our thoughts.
Elder Paisios teaches: “The devil does not hunt after those who are lost; he hunts after those who are aware, those who are close to God. He takes from them trust in God and begins to afflict them with self-assurance, logic, thinking, criticism. Therefore we should not trust our logical minds. Never believe your thoughts.
“Live simply and without thinking too much, like a child with his father. Faith without too much thinking works wonders. The logical mind hinders the Grace of God and miracles. Practice patience without judging with the logical mind.”
Elsewhere Elder Paisius counseled: “We ought always to be careful and be in constant hesitation about whether things are really as we think. For when someone is constantly occupied with his thoughts and trusts in them, the devil will manage things in such a way that he will make the man evil, even if by nature he was good.
“The ancient fathers did not trust their thoughts at all, but even in the smallest things, when they had to give an answer, they addressed the matter in their prayer, joining to it fasting, in order in some way to ‘force’ Divine Grace to inform them what was the right answer according to God. And when they received the ‘information,’ they gave the answer.
“Today I observe that even with great matters, when someone asks, before he has even had the time to complete his question, we interrupt him and answer him. This shows that not only do we not seek enlightenment from the Grace of God, but we do not even judge with the reason God gave us. On the contrary, whatever our thoughts suggest to us, immediately, without hesitation, we trust it and consent to it, often with disastrous results.
“Almost all of us view thoughts as being something simple and natural, and that is why we naively trust them. However, we should neither trust them nor accept them.
“Thoughts are like airplanes flying in the air. If you ignore them, there is no problem. If you pay attention to them, you create an airport inside your head and permit them to land!” (Ibid., pp. 29-30, 48).
Nearly a decade has passed since the repose of Elder Paisios. In that time, several books by and about him have appeared not only in Greek but also in other languages, thus providing an opportunity for those outside of the Elder’s homeland to benefit from his life and counsels. Two books by the Elder’s spiritual children have now been published in English: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain by Priest-monk Christodoulos, and Talks with Father Paisios by Athanasios Rakovalis. Furthermore, the women’s monastery he helped to establish — the Holy Monastery of the Evangelist John the Theologian in Souroti, Greece — has now published English editions of all four books of the Elder’s writings: Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian, Elder Hadji-Georgis the Athonite, Athonite Fathers and Athonite Matters, and Epistles. The monastery is currently planning to publish English editions of all three books of the Elder’s discourses as well: With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man, Spiritual Wakefulness, and Spiritual Struggle.
From the books by and about Elder Paisios that are now available, we in the English-speaking world can become partakers of his deep store of spirituality and wisdom. Each line of his, coming from a heart overflowing with love for God and man, can rekindle our longings for closer communion with God and a more perfect love for our neighbor. Coming to know his beautiful soul as it expresses itself in words, we can come to love him as our father in the Faith. And since we believe that the souls of reposed righteous ones remain alive with our Lord Jesus Christ, we can learn from him as from one still alive, becoming, as it were, his posthumous disciples. In anticipation of his formal glorification by the Greek Orthodox Church, we can call upon him in prayer, asking him to help us on the path to Christ’s Kingdom.
As his spiritual daughters at the convent in Souroti have aptly written, “Elder Paisios gave himself completely to God, and God gave him to the whole world” (Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Epistles, p. 10). God gave him to each of us Orthodox Christians, and it is ours to receive that gift and make use of it for the salvation of our souls and the souls of our suffering fellow men.
From the new book, Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit: The Lives and Counsels of Contemporary Elders of Greece, by H. Middleton.
On July 25, 1924, the future Elder Paisios (Eznepidis) was born to pious parents in the town of Farasa, Cappadocia of Asia Minor. The family’s spiritual father, the priest-monk Arsenios (the now canonized St. Arsenios of Cappadocia), baptized the babe with his own name, prophesying his future profession as a monk. A week after the baptism (and barely a month after his birth) Arsenios was driven, along with his family, out of Asia Minor by the Turks. St. Arsenios guided his flock along their four-hundred-mile trek to Greece. After a number of stops along the way, Arsenios’ family finally ended up in the town of Konitsa in Epiros (northwestern Greece). St. Arsenios had reposed, as he had prophesied, forty days after their establishment in Greece, and he left as his spiritual heir the infant Arsenios.
The young Arsenios was wholly given over to God and spent his free time in the silence of nature, where he would pray for hours on end. Having completed his elementary education, he learned the trade of carpentry. He worked as a carpenter until his mandatory military service. He served in the army during the dangerous days of the end of World War II. Arsenios was brave and self-sacrificing, always desiring to put his own life at risk so as to spare his brother. He was particularly concerned about his fellow soldiers who had left wives and children to serve.
Having completed his obligation to his country, Arsenios received his discharge in 1949 and greatly desired to begin his monastic life on the Holy Mountain. Before being able to settle there, however, he had to fulfill his responsibility to his family, to look after his sisters, who were as yet unmarried. Having provided for his sisters’ future, he was free to begin his monastic vocation with a clean conscience. In 1950 he arrived on Mount Athos, where he learned his first lessons in the monastic way from the virtuous ascetic Fr. Kyril (the future abbot of Koutloumousiou Monastery); but he was unable to stay at his side as he had hoped, and so was sent to the Monastery of Esphigmenou. He was a novice there for four years, after which he was tonsured a monk in 1954 with the name Averkios. He was a conscientious monk, finding ways to both complete his obedience's (which required contact with others) and to preserve his silence, so as to progress in the art of prayer. He was always selfless in helping his brethren, unwilling to rest while others worked (though he may have already completed his own obedience's), as he loved his brothers greatly and without distinction. In addition to his ascetic struggles and the common life in the monastery, he was spiritually enriched through the reading of soul-profiting books. In particular, he read the Lives of the Saints, the Gerontikon, and especially the Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian.
Soon after his tonsure, Monk Averkios left Esphigmenou and joined the (then) idiorrhythmic brotherhood of Philotheou Monastery, where his uncle was a monk. He put himself under obedience to the virtuous Elder Symeon, who gave him the Small Schema in 1956, with the new name Paisios. Fr. Paisios dwelt deeply on the thought that his own spiritual failures and lack of love were the cause of his neighbor’s shortcomings, as well as of the world s ills. He harshly accused himself, pushing himself to greater self-denial and more fervent prayer for his soul and for the whole world. Furthermore, he cultivated the habit of always seeking the “good reason” for a potentially scandalous event and for people’s actions, and in this way he preserved himself from judging others. For example, pilgrims to Mount Athos had been scandalized by the strange behavior and stories told by a certain monk, and, when they met Elder Paisios, they asked him what was wrong with the monk. He warned them not to judge others, and that this monk was actually virtuous and was simply pretending to be a fool when visitors would come, so as to preserve his silence.
In 1958 Elder Paisios was asked to spend some time in and around his home village of Konitsa so as to support the faithful against the proselytism of Protestant groups. He greatly encouraged the faithful there, helping many people. Afterwards, in 1962, he left to visit Sinai where he stayed for two years. During this time he became beloved of the Bedouins, who benefitted both spiritually as well as materially from his presence. The Elder used the money he received from the sale of his carved wooden handicrafts to buy them food.
On his return to Mount Athos in 1964, Elder Paisios took up residence at the Skete of Iviron before moving to Katounakia at the southernmost tip of Mount Athos for a short stay in the desert there. The Elder’s failing health may have been part of the reason for his departure from the desert. In 1966, he was operated on and had part of his lungs removed. It was during this time of hospitalization that his long friendship with the then young sisterhood of St. John the Theologian in Souroti, just outside of Thessalonica, began. During his operation he greatly needed blood and it was then that a group of novices from the monastery donated blood to save him. Elder Paisios was most grateful, and after his recovery did whatever he could, materially and spiritually, to help them build their monastery.
In 1968 he spent time at the Monastery of Stavronikita helping with its spiritual as well as material renovation. While there he had the blessing of being in contact with the ascetic Elder Tychon who lived in the hermitage of the Holy Cross, near Stavronikita. Elder Paisios stayed by his side until his repose, serving him selflessly as his disciple. It was during this time that Elder Tychon clothed Fr. Paisios in the Great Schema. According to the wishes of the Elder, Fr. Paisios remained in his hermitage after his repose. He stayed there until 1979, when he moved on to his final home on the Holy Mountain, the hermitage Panagouda, which belongs to the Monastery of Koutloumousiou.
It was here at Panagouda that Elder Paisios’ fame as a God-bearing elder grew, drawing to him the sick and suffering people of God. He received them all day long, dedicating the night to God in prayer, vigil and spiritual struggle. His regime of prayer and asceticism left him with only two or three hours each night for rest. The self-abandon with which he served God and his fellow man, his strictness with himself, the austerity of his regime, and his sensitive nature made him increasingly prone to sickness. In addition to respiratory problems, in his later days he suffered from a serious hernia that made life very painful. When he was forced to leave the Holy Mountain for various reasons (often due to his illnesses), he would receive pilgrims for hours on end at the women’s monastery at Souroti, and the physical effort which this entailed in his weakened state caused him such pain that he would turn pale. He bore his suffering with much grace, however, confident that, as God knows what is best for us, it could not be otherwise. He would say that God is greatly touched when someone who is in great suffering does not complain, but rather uses his energy to pray for others.
In addition to his other illnesses he suffered from hemorrhaging which left him very weak. In his final weeks before leaving the Holy Mountain, he would often fall unconscious. On October 5, 1993 the Elder left his beloved Holy Mountain for the last time. Though he had planned on being off the mountain for just a few days, while in Thessalonica he was diagnosed with cancer that needed immediate treatment. After the operation he spent some time recovering in the hospital and was then transferred to the monastery at Souroti. Despite his critical state he received people, listening to their sorrow and counseling them.
After his operation, Elder Paisios had his heart set on returning to Mount Athos. His attempts to do so, however, were hindered by his failing health. His last days were full of suffering, but also of the joy of the martyrs. On July 11, 1994, he received Holy Communion for the last time. The next day, Elder Paisios gave his soul into God’s keeping. He was buried, according to his wishes, at the Monastery of St. John the Theologian in Souroti. Elder Paisios, perhaps more than any other contemporary elder, has captured the minds and hearts of Greek people. Many books of his counsels have been published, and the monastery at Souroti has undertaken a great work, organizing the Elder’s writings and counsels into impressive volumes befitting his memory. Thousands of pilgrims visit his grave each year, so as to receive his blessing.
By Elder Paisios the New of Mount Athos.
Editor’s Note: Below we present excerpts from a letter of Elder Paisios to the nuns of the Holy Monastery of the Evangelist John the Theologian in Souroti, Greece, written on the Feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple, November 21, 1975. These excerpts have been taken from the book Epistles by Elder Paisios (Souroti, 2002), which contains the entire letter. The explanatory footnotes are from the same book, written by the book’s editors.
“May the Holy Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple benefit us”
Glory to Thee, O Lord, Glory to Thee, O Holy One, Glory to Thee, O King...
I once again thank the Good God Who does not loathe me, His detestable child, but as an affectionate Father always provides His blessings for me, even more so on feast days like today, the day of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. All those who devote themselves to God, in imitation of the Panagia (Panagia: one of the names bestowed upon the Most Holy Mother of God by Greek Orthodox Christians. Literally, “All Holy.”) keep this day with particular reverence.
Today’s blessing I thought of sending to my Sisters, since I had nothing else to send, for brothers are obliged to send blessings to their sisters, especially when they are journeying. It is not important whether the blessing is great or small, because they appreciate more the brotherly concern and security they feel through this manifestation of love. With this thought I resolved to send these few spiritual “nuts.”
Naturally, if I had a good spiritual state, the blessings would be greater and of a better quality and they wouldn’t have those thick shells and small kernels, as you will see. You will notice that some of these are similar, yet they still differ slightly, as do walnuts from hazelnuts. Others are of the same kind, however, and since they are small, one must eat many of them, yet not in order to gorge oneself. Besides, the blessing is not meant for satiation.
I wish I had many to send you. Unfortunately, in this foreign land I have shown no spiritual progress, unlike other Fathers who have labored hard with philotimo (Philotimo, according to Elder Paisios, is the reverent distillation of goodness, the love shown by humble people, from which every trace of self has been filtered out. Their hearts are full of gratitude towards God and their fellow men, and out of spiritual sensitivity they try to repay the slightest good which others do to them) and were spiritually enriched. I have fulfilled the proverb: “A lazy young man is a poor old man.” Only now, of course, have I come to my senses, but what is the use? Now my physical strength has left me and I can no longer work. The only thing I am left with now is hope in the great mercy of God and, by your prayers, I hope to find mercy without charge.
I wish you with all my heart spiritual advancement and divine enlightenment, that from now on you may understand the things that, unfortunately, I only recently understood....
Discerning asceticism, together with humility and love, sanctify people very quickly, with less physical strain.
The more a person progresses in the spiritual life attending to himself, the wider the eyes of the soul open and the more clearly he discerns his mistakes and the many benefactions of God. Thus man is humbled and inwardly crushed, and then the Grace of God — divine enlightenment — comes naturally and he becomes more discerning.
God does not help the greatly sensitive and philotimo man to become conscious either of his sinfulness or of the many benefactions of God, so that the man will not despair. The more the man progresses, however, and gradually becomes stronger, the more God reveals to him. The same applies to the man with pride: God does not help him cut off his passions, so that the man will not become even prouder. When finally the man is disgusted with himself because of his constant falls, he becomes aware of his weakness and is humbled; then God’s Grace draws near him and helps him climb the spiritual stairs two at a time.
For this reason, we must not weigh the holiness of our fellow men with human scales, because only God, Who knows the hearts of men, has knowledge of their depths.
The thing that will move God more on the Day of Judgment is the work each one of us has done on his old man.
Greater worth has he who has acquired virtues through struggle than he who was born with inherent virtues and who therefore must double them so as to hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant...” (Matthew 25:21)
Certainly, we all have some discernment, but unfortunately most of us do not use it on ourselves but on our fellow men (so that we ourselves will not be ... discerned), and we contaminate it with criticism, condemnation, and the demand for others to correct themselves. We should, rather, demand this only from ourselves, who do not resolve to struggle fervently, cut off our passions, liberate our souls, and fly into Heaven.
Those who do not resolve to begin their struggle with philotimo, but spend their life in the “indefinite tense” will be constantly dazed and found to be both spiritually and physically ill. Finally, the gifts that God has given them and for which He will require an answer will be rendered useless.
The bright and discerning man not only makes use of the gifts the Good God has given him, as well as the kindness of others, for his spiritual progress, but also makes use of the injustices, contempt, etc., of his fellow men, which he attributes to the manslayer’s evilness. He is saddened by the frightful misery caused by the evil one in the same way that he feels grief for the wretchedness of his soul, and he asks for the mercy of God.
Self-accusation and self-criticism greatly help the scales fall from our soul’s eyes, so that we might see clearly.
Sensitive people must be very careful of self-accusation, because the devil tries to convert it into despair (through hypersensitivity). Self-accusation must always be accompanied by hope in God. When someone feels anxiety in this case, he must realize that the evil one has his tail in it.
When a person feels great pain for his sinfulness or his ungratefulness towards God, but hopes very much in God, he is greatly consoled by Him.
We should not despair when we struggle but see no progress, remaining continuously at zero. All people earn zeros with their human strength, some more and some less. Christ, seeing our small human effort, places the number one before our zeros, and thus they acquire value and we can detect some improvement. Thus, we must not despair, but hope in God.
We should only despair due to our ego and try as much as we can to extinguish it quickly before it extinguishes us. Those who struggle egotistically with fasting, vigils, etc., trouble themselves without any spiritual benefit, for they beat against the air (I Corinthians 9:26) and not the demons. Instead of driving away temptations, they receive more of them; as a result, they encounter many difficulties in their struggle (they feel as if strangled from stress). Those, however, who struggle hard, with great humility and great hope in God, feel that their hearts rejoice and their souls flutter.
Every single act of ours and every single virtue has need of humility, love and discernment, the latter being the salt of the virtues. This is why Christ tells us in the Gospel: “Every sacrifice shall be salted with salt” (Mark 9:49).
It is better for someone to eat a little twice a day and have more humility and a lighter stomach, than to eat once a day, have a full stomach and a head full of pride.
Discernment greatly aids the advent of inner peace in our soul. It contributes much to asceticism, for it nurtures the soul and body with more strength than material food can provide. When there is no inner peace, even the best food is poisoned by the ample gall that drips continuously and harms man both spiritually and physically.
Those who are sustained by the love of God often neglect material food, or, when they eat, are oblivious to the taste, for feeling the presence of God intensely, they are even then nurtured by the sweet blessing of His love.
The desire for good food is a trap of the evil one. Whoever does not get rid of this desire is caught by the enemy’s hook and is fried in his own fat by his burning flesh. On the contrary, the desire for spiritual nourishment takes the heart away from earthly things and raises the soul to Heaven, where it tastes the food of angels.
A double misfortune awaits those who do not restrain their hearts from material desires, which are unnecessary — not to mention carnal desires — and who do not gather their minds within their hearts so as to offer everything, along with their souls, to God, but instead leave them ungoverned.
When vigilance is absent, absent also are our minds from our heads (they are stolen by the devil), and we remain with our bodies alone, without our minds, like logs. Later, when we collect our minds, they are heavy-laden with trash, which the cunning devil uses as kindling wood to light the log of our flesh on fire. Then he mocks us, leaping for joy from wickedness.
In order for our minds not to wander, we must accustom them to suckling on the sweet name of Jesus inside our hearts, so as to make spiritual progress. For, when the mind is absent, it is as if the master of the house is absent, and that’s when the house becomes a wreck.
If our minds are not present at the hour of spiritual study, we receive no benefit, but simply dally about and tire ourselves in vain, since we cannot remember anything. It is like a printer who has his mind elsewhere and does not put ink in the machines, for then the printing press runs in vain, without printing anything.
Likewise, those who are mindful in spiritual study, but only so as to entertain themselves, without employing it for their spiritual progress, resemble farmers who are too bored to grab the plow and instead snatch a spot in the dense shade. There they read agricultural books continually and learn of many theories, but in practice they remain inactive and miserable.
Women also enjoy and find rest in reading and are able to be benefited more than men since they are lacking in much logic and have more faith. Unfortunately, however, few are those who are benefited and make progress. Most, when they lay hold of themselves, are in turn seized by the “funeral dirge,” and continually wail and complain, conducting microscopic spiritual tests on themselves, without first cutting off their weighty passions and later the minor ones, which, by the Grace of God, gradually vanish by themselves.
Although most women have great prerequisites for the spiritual life, they make little progress. They have less logic, a trait that is not harmful but rather beneficial in regards to faith, whereas men undermine their faith with their logic. While women possess love in their nature and can dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to God, men need work in order to make their hearts beat for God. When man’s heart does not work for God, he is in no way different from a stone statue.
Hence, we all have prerequisites for the spiritual life, both men and women. We have no excuse, for it is sufficient for us to want to utilize the abilities God has given us respectively, so that we might attain Paradise near Him — so that He may rejoice and that we, His children, may rejoice with Him.
Inasmuch as the Good God treats us with love and kindness and invites us to Paradise, so must we not treat our fellow men barbarously, setting our conscience at rest with the thought that we send souls to Paradise with our cruel ways.
Whoever behaves in a barbaric way, ostensibly to benefit souls spiritually, is worse than Diocletian, for Diocletian was an idolater and not a Christian.
Christ does not commend killing people with cruel behavior and sending souls to Paradise, but He wants us to help our fellow men so that we might all go to Paradise together. Those who endure martyrdom from Christians receive a greater reward than the Martyrs, if they suffer with joy and do not judge those who torture them, but are grateful to them for the recompense of their sins, or, if they were not blameworthy in their life, for the reward and crown they will receive from Christ.
When an impassioned person rebukes an egotist, then it is that the pistol strikes the flint and fires erupt. If, however, this indiscreet man reproves a sensitive person, he wounds him severely. He becomes like the violent man who uses a thick scrub brush to clean mucus from the eye of a baby.
Similarly, he who preaches the word of God egotistically and in a frenzy (from his passions) resembles the porcupine that transports grapes on its spikes in order to feed its children, but by moving about nervously it increasingly makes them bleed — especially if they are sensitive — instead of feeding them.
Those who have much discernment, have noble love and humility as well. They even sweeten bitter truth with their kindness and express it with much simplicity. They help more positively than do sweet words, just as bitter medicine is more beneficial than sweet syrups.
Inner love is evident to people because it sweetens the person externally and beautifies him with Divine Grace, which cannot be concealed due to its radiance.
The angel, as an angel, always spreads what he possesses — heavenly joy and delight. The demon, however, who is disguised as an angel, spreads unrest (what he possesses), or stimulates the heart carnally in order to deceive the soul with the pleasure of the flesh, ostensibly presenting it as spiritual and divine.
A humble man, even if inexperienced, is able to discern an angel of God from a demon, for he has spiritual purity and is related to the angel. The egotist and carnal man, on the other hand, besides being easily deceived by the cunning one, also infects others with deceitful-ness and carnality, damaging weak souls with his spiritual germs.
The graced man of God imparts Divine Grace, transforming carnal people and liberating them from the slavery of passions; and, in this way, he draws them near to God and they are saved.
Those who withdraw themselves from Christ are deprived of divine enlightenment, for like fools they forsake sun-drenched places so as to retire to the shade. Hence, it is natural for them to be cold and fall spiritually ill. God has endowed us all with gifts, but not all of us utilize them for the salvation of our souls and the salvation of our fellow men. Instead, most of us, most of the time, use them to the detriment of others and ourselves.
If a man who is gentle or dispassionate by nature is assisted by his character once in his spiritual progress, then he who is lively and short-tempered is benefited twice by the strength his character offers, provided that he directs it against his passions and the evil one.
Let those who were careless in their life in the world and acquired bad habits patiently accept the enemy’s war, without embracing evil desires. By struggling in this way they will be purified and enjoy the fate of the pure, who neither knew great sins, nor acquired bad habits, nor suffered great warfare from the devil.
Great care is required of us all so as not to accept the wily calls of the enemy (evil thoughts), that we not defile the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19), for then the Grace of God deserts us and we fall into darkness.
He who pays attention to and preserves his spiritual purity, preserves Divine Grace also, and always sees clearly. He turns even unclean things to his advantage, making them clean in his good spiritual factory. He turns useless paper into clean napkins, notebooks, etc. He transforms broken bronze into candlesticks and chandeliers, and gold into holy chalices. On the contrary, the man who assents to deceit and thinks deceptively, transforms good into evil, not unlike the factory that produces war supplies and that makes gold into bullets and cartridges for cannons, since for this purpose its machinery was constructed.
Hence, let us never consent to an evil thought; let us always energize the good if we wish to transform the evil factories of our hearts into good factories.
One should not struggle, however, with sick scholastic meticulousness and be choked by stress (fighting with thoughts), but should simplify his struggle and place his hope in Christ and not in himself. Christ is all love, kindness and consolation, and He never stifles man, but possesses an abundance of spiritual oxygen — divine consolation. Thorough spiritual work is one thing and sick meticulousness is another; the latter chokes with its inner anguish (due to thoughtless external strain) and afflicts the forehead with splitting headaches.
Neither should we pressure others with such scholastic pedantry, causing ourselves headaches in order only to persuade them, repeating the truth many times when they are ignorant of it, aware only of lies. (It is like winding a clock whose spring has come off its spindle.) There are also those who know the truth but adopt it in their own way in order to support their ideas. It is better to avoid such people so as not to tire oneself in vain and squander the great truths, for when the wall is built of clay (In earlier times, many homes were built with small rectangular clay bricks, which were left out in the sun to dry), plaster from lime will not take hold, but only a mixture made of clay and straw.
Those who are in a state of anger and agitation and hammer away at matters in order, ostensibly, to bring spiritual serenity and kindness to the world, resemble the strong and furious wind which strikes and threatens the sea with the foaming waves it creates, so as to finally deliver calm. Instead, however, it sinks ships both at sea and in the harbor.
We must not seek to supposedly bring calm to others when we ourselves lack internal serenity in our souls. Neither should we seek for external serenity from our spiritual father, if we don’t first reconcile internally with the person we have wounded or wronged (if the possibility of finding him exists). Nor should we use excuses in our confession, because these become a burden on our conscience.
We must not admonish the humble and sensitive man harshly, for he may take upon himself more blame than he deserves, and the fear is that he will break down.
We should insist on humbling the egotist and hard-headed not with words but with prayer and humility. For if we persist and he becomes enraged, we will become exhausted, perspire and feel distressed.
Oftentimes, inconsiderate behavior does worse damage than the seriously crazed behavior of those who crack heads, for, with their piercing words, the inconsiderate wound sensitive hearts, even often fatally injuring them (bringing souls to despair).
Worldly politeness is also very bad since it is hypocritical. Being fooled by it, people open up their hearts and ultimately waste their devotion on a worldly person who does not know what devotion means. (It is like giving golden liras to people who only know about bronze drachmas).
Neither should we pointlessly lose our time lecturing others spiritually, while they find enjoyment in worldly conversations, egotistically volunteering their opinions.
With those close to you, when there is no common subject for discussion, it is best to take care while conversing, for although the conversation begins as spiritual it ends up as womanly gossip. It is not enough that one loses one’s time, but through criticism one also loses ones soul. We have no right to judge anyone, nor situations. However, after our painful discussion, if we are able we should help the situation. Neither should we condemn the dead, for each and every soul is, fortunately, in the hands of God, and I believe we will find mercy.
What is necessary for every Orthodox Christian is to stimulate within the heterodox a blessed discomfort, 50 they might realize that they are in delusion and not falsely put their mind to rest, being deprived of the rich blessings of Orthodoxy in this life and the much greater and eternal blessings of God in the next.
He whom we must judge harshly, and have the right to do so, is our own evil self. If, in this life, we do not punish him on our own for the misdeeds he has done and do not cut off our evil desires, these deeds and desires will punish us eternally.
Consequently, it is not necessary for us to know when the Second Coming of the Lord will take place, for when someone dies he is judged according to his state when death finds him.
In former days, the Holy Fathers first withdrew into the desert, becoming themselves a desert void of their passions by struggling. Without plans or programs of their own, they left themselves in the hands of God, avoiding honors and power, even when they arrived at measures of sanctity — unless Mother Church had need of them. They did obedience to the will of God, and they glorified the name of God with their holy life. They became spiritual blood donors, for they had acquired good spiritual health in the desert with good spiritual food and vigilant patristic watchfulness.
In our day, however, many of us, who are unfortunately influenced by worldly love, which can make no spiritual pledge, supposedly venture to do good, to donate blood, but our blood is full of spiritual bacteria and we do more harm than good.
If, however, we were living patristically, we would all have spiritual health, which even all the heterodox would envy, leaving their sick delusions aside to be saved without preaching. Now, however, they are not moved by our Holy Patristic Tradition, for they want to see how we continue the Patristic Tradition, to see our true kinship with our Saints.
Unfortunately, in our day, words and books have multiplied and experiences have diminished, because the worldly spirit, which pursues all conveniences and avoids all bodily effort, influences people. Most of us find rest in much reading but little or no implementation. We simply marvel at the holy athletes of our Church without realizing how much they’ve labored, for we have not toiled so as to be able to understand their toil, to love them and to struggle out of philotimo in order to imitate them.
Those, however, who struggle with philotimo and do not give themselves rest, removing their egos from every one of their actions, help very positively. For only then are the souls in need of help given rest, and only then will their own souls find inner rest, in this life as well as in eternity.
Those who pursue power while being overpowered by passions, who pass off their personal interests as spiritual, and who resort to worldly authorities in order to solve their ecclesiastical problems are left abandoned by the Grace of God....
When someone tries to settle ecclesiastical matters in an Orthodox way, but his goal is to better establish himself, how can he be blessed by God?
Neither should anyone be impressed by those who settle ecclesiastical matters exceptionally well — even “orthodoxically” — if these same people are not well situated in the life of the Church, but rather trouble Her with imprudent excessiveness or frivolity.
The two extremes always weary Mother Church, as well as those who hold to them, because the two extremes as a rule stab one another... . In other words, it is as if the one extreme is held by a possessed man who is spiritually insolent (and feels contempt for everything), and the other extreme is held by a madman who is childishly zealous with narrow-mindedness. God forbid — these two ends could strike at one another continually and no one could find an “end to it all.”
Those who are able to bend these two extremes and make them unite, will be crowned by Christ with two imperishable crowns.
We should neither create problems in the Church nor magnify the minor human disorders that occur, so as not to create greater evil and make the wicked one rejoice.
He who is irritated about a minor disorder and abruptly rushes to ostensibly correct it (with vehemence and petulance) resembles the light-headed sacristan who sees a candle dripping and abruptly dashes to fix it, stumbling over people and candlesticks, and thus causing an even greater disorder during the Divine Service.
Unfortunately, in our day, there are many who weary Mother Church. Among these, those who are educated have grasped the dogma with their mind and not with the spirit of the Holy Fathers.
Others, who are unlearned, have grasped the dogma with their teeth, which explains why they grate their teeth when discussing ecclesiastical themes. Hence it is that they cause more serious harm to the Church than the enemies of our Orthodoxy.
There are people who justify their wickedness by examining others and not themselves, or by publicizing predicaments of the Church to the world — even things that should not be said in public — using as a pretext the “tell it unto the church” (Matthew 18:17) of the Gospel. Let them do this first for their small church, their family, or their brotherhood; if they think this is good, let them then disgrace Mother Church as well. Good children, I believe, never accuse their mothers. Unfortunately, however, many inconsiderate people offer a wealth of live ammunition to heretics, enabling Jehovah’s Witnesses and other heretics to seize Orthodox cities and villages and expand their missionary work.
It is well known to discerning spiritual fathers that this demonic practice (namely, deriding the clergy and the Church) has turned many people into Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is also known to the whole world that not even one Jehovah’s Witness has become Orthodox thanks to this un-Orthodox practice.
The Good God, on the other hand, endures us lovingly without ridiculing anyone, even though, as the Beholder of hearts, He knows our pitiful state well. The same thing applies to Saints who never insulted a sinful person in the presence of others, but with love, spiritual nobility, and in a hidden way, helped in the correction of the evil. We, notwithstanding the fact that we are sinners, do the opposite (like hypocrites).
Only a man possessed by a demon is justified to mock people in the presence of others and tell them about their past (inasmuch as the demon has rights, of course), in order to make weak souls falter. The unclean spirit, naturally, does not reveal people’s virtues, but only their weaknesses. Those who are liberated from their passions, however, since they no longer possess wickedness, correct the evil by their kindness. If sometimes they see a little uncleanness that is not easily cleaned, they cover it up with a plate, so that others who might see will not be disgusted by it. Those, on the contrary, who reinvestigate the rubbish, resemble scavengers…
An honest and straightforward person is neither he who speaks the truth to your face nor he who publicizes it, but rather he who has love, lives a true life, and speaks with discernment, when he should, saying the right word at the right time.
Those who admonish others without discernment are spiritually darkened and hardened and haplessly view people as lifeless logs. And, although they hack at them unmercifully, and the people suffer, they rejoice over the “rectangle” they’ve made out of their lifeless logs (cubism!).
Those who rush to play the role of the spiritual father, while still being filled with many spiritual toxins, resemble the unripe, sour quince fruit: no matter how much sugar one adds, sufficient sweetness cannot be produced, or if it is produced, it quickly turns sour. Sweet words and great truths have value when they come out of truthful mouths and find a place within good-intentioned souls and those great people who have pure minds.
The internal purity of the true man’s beautiful soul beautifies his external person as well, and the divine sweetness of God’s love sweetens even his countenance. The internal beauty of the soul, apart from spiritually beautifying and sanctifying man externally, with Divine Grace revealing him to others, also beautifies and sanctifies the ugly clothes the graced man of God wears.
Of greater worth is the blessed man who has changed internally and been sanctified also externally, than those who continually change externally (their clothes) but internally maintain the old man with his “antiquated” sins.
Of greater value is one word of a humble man who has spiritual experience, coming with pain from the bottom of his heart, than a whole array of learned words from a superficial man, coming with great speed from his learned tongue. His tongue does not enlighten souls for it is fleshly and not that fiery tongue of Holy Pentecost...
The elder said: It is not freedom when we say to people that everything is permitted. That is slavery. To improve one must have difficulties. Let's take an example. We have a little tree. We take care of it. We place a stake and tie it with a rope. Naturally we don't tie it with wire because that way we would injure it. With their method they would not constrain the tree; and it doesn't develop properly otherwise. And look at the child. We limit his freedom from the beginning. When he is first conceived the poor thing is limited in his mother's womb and remains there nine whole months. Later he is born and immediately they swaddle him in a blanket, they tie him up, as soon as he begins to grow they set a railing, etc. All of this is necessary for him to grow. It appears to take away freedom, but without these protective measures the child will die in the first moment.
The elder said: Freedom is good when the person can use it appropriately. Otherwise it is a disaster.
The elder said: Humility is acquired after struggles. When you know yourself you acquire humility, which become a (permanent) condition. Otherwise one can become humble for a moment, but your thought will say to you that you are something although in reality you're nothing. and you'll be deluded like that to the moment of death. If death finds you with the thought that you are nothing, then God will speak. If however your thought says at the hour of death that you are something and you don't understand it, all your effort goes to waste.
Spiritual love is superior to the love between natural brothers and sisters because one relates to another through Christ and not a common mother. Those who possess this pure (noble) love are full of kindness, because they have Christ inside them and the Godhead is depicted on their faces. Naturally, it is impossible for Christ’s love to enter within us unless we separate our self from our love, offer it to God and His images, and give ourselves to others without wanting them to commit themselves to us.
Those who suffer deeply for the salvation of the whole world and help in their own way (as strugglers) and humbly entrust themselves to the hands of God, feel the greatest joy in the world. Their life is a constant doxology, for they flutter about internally like angels, glorifying God day and night. Those, however, who neglect the salvation of their souls and try to find joy and rest in this vain life, are continually tortured and entangled in endless worldly machinery and live in hell in this life.
Those who have philotimo, because they move within the heavenly sphere of doxology, joyfully accept their trials as well as their blessings, and glorify God for them. Thus, they are continuously receiving God’s blessing from everything and are melting internally out of gratitude towards God, which they express in every spiritual way possible, like children of God.
Although the Good God gives us abundant blessings, acts always for our own good and has made everything to be of service to us and to be sacrificed for us, from plants to animals and birds, whether big or small, and even though God Himself sacrificed His life to redeem man, many of us remain indifferent and wound Him with our great ingratitude and insensitivity. And, all of this even though He has given us our conscience as an inheritance together with all His other blessings.
Conscience is the first law of God, which He deeply carved in the hearts of the First Created, and consequently, each one of us takes it as a “photocopy” from his parents when he is born. Those who have managed to sensitize their consciences through the daily study of themselves feel themselves estranged from this world; and, as a result, worldly people are dumfounded by their discerning behavior. Those, however, who do not examine their consciences are neither benefited by spiritual study nor by the advice of the Elders, nor are they even able to keep God’s commandments, since they quickly become insensitive.
Those who are sensitive and have philotimo, and who observe everything with precision, are usually wronged by the insensitive ones due to the constant concessions they make for them out of love. However, God’s love is always on their side. Oftentimes, they wrong themselves due to their hypersensitivity, overemphasizing their minor sins or bearing the burden of others’ faults; but once again, God comforts them with His heavenly kindness and, at the same time, strengthens them spiritually.
Those who wrong or wound sensitive people inwardly are not human.
Those who claim they are sensitive, loving, and discreet and endure the injustices of others, but say, “Let them receive theirs from God,” are fooled by the deceiver without realizing it, since this is a way to curse politely. In this life everyone takes exams in order to pass on to eternal life, Paradise. It is my feeling that this polite curse is below the spiritual passing mark.
Those who wrong others wrong themselves eternally; those who joyfully accept the injustice of others are entitled to an eternal reward with interest.
Naturally, every person will be paid by the boss for whom he worked. Those who work for Christ shall receive a hundredfold now in this time and, in the world to come, eternal life (Mark 10:30); and those who work for the dark boss will receive darkness even now.
Those who work for Christ but are prideful pollute their virtues, just as fried eggs are contaminated when bird’s droppings fall on them. They then can only be thrown in the trash along with the frying pan.
All those, however, who work humbly, acquire virtues and share their hidden experiences out of humility and love, are the greatest benefactors, because they give spiritual charity and positively help souls which are weak and unsound in the Faith. Those who throw even their own selves to the world, out of love, after having driven out the world from within them, fly into Heaven and are not caught by the world.
Love with external poverty greatly assists in acquiring the inner poverty of the passions. These two kinds of poverty make man rich in God’s kindness.
Good people do not keep evil in their hearts, but neither do they keep their kindness to themselves. For this reason, they do not possess elegant things and are not moved by the world’s beauties. In this, their fervent faith in God as well as their great love is made manifest.
There is no man more intelligent than the merciful one who gives away earthly, perishable things and buys imperishable, heavenly things. Likewise, there is no greater fool in the world than the greedy one who gathers things continually and yet is deprived continually, finally buying hell with his collected savings. Those, naturally, who are lost in material things are totally lost, for they have also lost Christ.
Sadness and stress always dominate the person who is dominated by material things, for sometimes he fears that people will take away his possessions, and other times he is afraid they will take away his soul. The miser, whose hand has become numb from squeezing it too hard, has also constricted his heart and turned it into stone. In order to be cured, he must visit destitute people and sympathize with them, so he will be forced to slowly open up his hand. Consequently, his stony heart will soften and become humane, and thus the gates of Paradise will also open for him.
Kindness softens and opens up the heart, as oil opens a rusty lock.
Those who come close to people in pain, naturally draw near to God, because God is always by the side of His children who are in pain.
God spiritually strengthens His children who have philotimo, who help their fellow men carry their crosses, and He relieves them from their own crosses (trials).
Those who think about the heavy crosses of the righteous, never worry about their own small trials, for, although they have made more mistakes in their life, they suffer less than the righteous.
Those who suffer trials unjustly imitate Christ; and those who face hardships due to their sins are blessed, because they are forgiven their sins in this life.
Those who do not co-suffer with those in pain, suffer from a fatal spiritual illness: mercilessness. Those who are annoyed by the moaning of sick people and react angrily because they cannot concentrate, suffer from many spiritual illnesses.
Those who truly love and struggle correctly, can also endure with love, sacrifice themselves, and give rest to their neighbor, who is Christ.
Those who wish others to provide for them but offer nothing in return, are constantly asking things from God without giving anything to Him, not even their sins (by repentance). Such people are completely estranged from God and deliver themselves of their own accord into the hands of the manslayer (the devil). Because they have only cultivated love for their own selves, it follows that great anguish will then develop in them and that they will suffer hell, in part, already in this life.
Those who do not put themselves in the place of their suffering fellow man are deserted by God, experience a terrible fall, and learn to feel pain. Those, on the other hand, who feel compassion, care for other people, and ignore their own selves, are protected by God and are looked after both by God and by men.
When someone gives his heart to God, then the mind of this man is also seized by the love of God. He is indifferent towards worldly things and continually thinks about the Heavenly Father, and being divinely in love, he glorifies his Creator day and night like an angel.
Merely the thought of God’s benevolent acts is enough to make the heart of a person who has philotimo break; yet even more so, when he thinks of his numerous sins and the great mercy of God.
Those who struggle and sense their sinfulness as well as God’s loving-kindness and who trust in His great mercy, elevate their souls to Paradise with great confidence and little physical effort, if they have good intentions.
People who struggle hard, with much devotion, and have reached the angelic state to a certain extent and are nurtured with celestial honey, nevertheless offer nothing significant to God compared with what He has offered us. For they eat honey while offering Him wax. They eat sweet fruits and offer God tree resin with the censer. Therefore, we do nothing and offer nothing to God, compared with His great loving-kindness. For, while the Good God produces beautiful fruit with our rubbish or even with manure, in order to feed us, we wretched people turn beautiful fruit into manure.
As the kindness of God renders everything useful for a good purpose, so too must we, His creatures, make good use of everything in order to be benefited and benefit others.
Kind people naturally derive benefit even from their fellow men’s failings, for they use them as a strong brake on themselves in order to take care not to be derailed. But those who are deceitful, unfortunately, are not benefited, not even by other people’s virtues, because they interpret them with their wily lexicon, being darkened by the gloom of the manslayer. They spiritually wrong themselves and others, and are always upset and continually upset others with their spiritual darkness; whereas, actual cloudy weather causes sadness only to people who suffer from grief.
Kindness is one of God’s many qualities; therefore, it always spreads joy, drives away the clouds, and opens up hearts like the spring sunshine which makes the earth blossom. It even warms up snakes and takes them out of their cold holes so they, too, can enjoy God’s kindness.
Ill-tempered people are always strangled by thoughts, and with their frozen hearts they freeze and choke afflicted people who have come to them for consolation. Good-tempered people, on the other hand, with their spiritual (noble) love, being contrite with pain, strangle demons, liberate souls, and spread divine consolation to their fellow men.
Fervent spiritual love renders sensitive people more sensitive, and makes insolent ones more insolent.
An orphan, especially if it has lost its mother, and even if it is a little porcupine, must be embraced with pain and fervent love, so as to first feel warmth, take courage, and open up its heart.
The fervent love of Christ nourishes more than any other material food and gives many calories to the soul and body. Oftentimes, it even cures incurable diseases without medication and brings rest to souls.
Those who do not sacrifice their physical health for the love of Christ, scorning their bodily rest, will not find spiritual rest, either in this life or in the next, eternal life.
Those who, out of pure love, sacrifice even their own lives to protect their fellow men, imitate Christ. These people are, of course, the greatest heroes, because even death trembles before them, since they defy death out of love. Thus, they triumph with immortality, and, taking the key to eternity out from beneath the gravestone, they proceed freely to eternal blessedness.
It is preferable for a sensitive person to be himself killed once, out of love, in order to protect his fellow man, than to cop out or back out and be constantly slaughtered by his conscience for the rest of his life.
Sacrifice for our fellow man conceals our great love for Christ. Those who have good intentions to give alms, but have nothing and on this account are afflicted, give charity with the blood of their hearts.
Those who want to be martyred for the love of Christ when martyrdom is not an option, can manifest this love that burns within them through bodily asceticism for the sake of the souls of the reposed which are burning, so that these souls will find a little rest.
Indifferent and merciless people, who think only of their own selves, insensitively satisfying themselves, simultaneously fill their hearts with much anguish. Within them works the little worm of a troubled conscience, and they are tormented already in this life. Merciful people, on the other hand, since they are always filling others with love, are always filled with the love of God and His abundant blessings…
The elder said: The monk will be unjustified if he does not move in the realm of general love. He struggles to go out from his small family and enters into the great family. God does not demand that the head of a household attain to this situation/ measure.
The elder said. Let us not bring the world and its customs, comforts and luxury, into the monastery,
The elder said: Let obedience not be with misery and like forced labor. The elder or eldress is not a Diokletianos who says no and don't. We owe them gratitude since they protect us. Not complaints and disobedience.
The elder said: As soon as the monk renounces and gives over his own to God and forgets them, then God must help them. Thus the monk leaves the small family and enters into the great family of Adam. He doesn't remember his own, nor prays particularly for them. I see in all people my parents, my brothers, my relations. I have ceased all communication. When I don't think of my own, then God will think of them.
The elder said: My greatest enemy is my name. Woe to the monk who gets a name, because he'll not have quiet, but the people will begin to shape various things, which are not the reality.
The elder said: Once two Catholics came here. They seemed to be good boys, architects. And they said to me that Orthodox monasticism doesn't produce anything, whereas theirs undertake great ministries. I explained to them that the mission of the monk is something else, different from the mission of the clergy in the world. I said, “If we destroy the lighthouse on the rocks, what will become of the ships? But the monks are the lighthouses.”
Hesychia (far from the world) very quickly brings inner stillness to the soul together with asceticism and unceasing prayer. Then man is no longer bothered by external disquietude, for in essence only his body is found on earth, while his mind is in Heaven.
In this state of being were found the Holy Fathers: incorporeal ones who differed from angels in almost nothing, for they too were found day and night residing in Heaven, noetically and unceasingly at prayer.
A heart, on the other hand, that is captured by the vain world maintains an unnourished soul and a darkened mind, and while the person appears to others to be a human being, he is in essence a spiritual monstrosity.
Vigil with prayer conveys health and life toward spiritual development, for it cleanses and sensitizes the mind, humbles the unruly flesh, and warms up the heart with love for God; and the soul receives Divine Grace.
Prayer during the night is much more beneficial than prayer during the day, just as nighttime rain is more favorable to plants than rain during the day.
Those who struggle during vigil prayerfully, yet are a little drowsy, greatly move God. This is not the case with those who are well rested and feel no drowsiness. Those who fall asleep in their stasidi (Stasidi, pl. stasidia: Church seat) are a thousand times better off than those who sleep in their bed. Nevertheless, we should not waste all our strength on futile things, which will become dust one day and then offer God our tiredness together with our yawning, like the sacrifice that Cain offered (Genesis 4:2-7). When tiredness is justified and we are sleepy, it is better for sleep to steal one or two minutes from us during the vigil and for our drowsiness to recede naturally, rather than to drive it away earlier with coffee. Oftentimes coffee agitates our nerves, especially if we are not calm by nature. It is preferable for someone to keep vigil fewer hours with pure prayer, rather than to hasten for the night to pass without any spiritual benefit and afterward spend the whole day prostrate like a corpse.
Pure prayer is greatly aided by withdrawal from the worldly bustle and large crowds of people. (If possible, it is even better to be completely alone.) When one feels alone, the soul moves about comfortably, the heart erupts with reverence before God and gradually its hard shell bursts and is removed. Thereafter, our heart is moved not only when we think of God, but also even when we hear or see His name written down. The heart leaps and kisses it with great devotion. The same happens, of course, with the name of Christ or the Panagia. Our soul is then internally sweetened.
It befits a monk to be alone and, when alone in his cell, to find rest most of all in his prayer. After all, this is why he is called a monk (The term “monk” derives from the word monachos, from the Greek word monos meaning “alone”) — to live alone with God and, instead of talking with people, to converse unceasingly with God. The more he avoids conversations with men, the more he is helped in his prayer and, consequently, by his prayer he helps others. Worldly conversations — even if you just listen to them — are spiritual parasites that obstruct unceasing prayer, especially at the outset of the ascetic life. Therefore, it is necessary to be careful as much in the beginning, so as to collect the mind, as at the later stages, so as to avoid falling into deception.
Patristic study helps a great deal, for the Holy Fathers interpret the Gospel with their evangelical life. Likewise, the examination of ourselves with regard to our sinfulness, our ingratitude, and the many benevolent acts of God is also helpful. All of this naturally brings humility and then, necessarily, the Grace of God. Spiritual study warms up the soul and, with philotimo, moves it to prayer and struggle. The study of ourselves conveys humility and the need for prayer and God’s mercy. For this reason, before we begin to count our komboskinia (Komboskini, pl. komboskinia: the black woolen rope with knots used by Orthodox Christians to count the number of times the Jesus Prayer is repeated.) (how many times we repeat the Jesus prayer), it is good first to count our numerous sins and the many benevolent acts of God.
At the hour of prayer, when our minds divert to filthy things, or if these things descend on us unwillingly, we must not start an argumentative war with the enemy. For, even if all of the world’s lawyers were to gather together, they would not be able to prevail upon one single little demon through argumentation, since only with contempt can someone drive away the demons and their blasphemous words. (Of course, the enemy will bark for a time and only then run off.) Man should not be upset about the blasphemies of the devil but only about his personal sins, and to hope in God’s boundless mercy; for where hope in God is absent, the devil’s tail is present.
In order to gather our mind in our heart at the hour of prayer, it is very helpful to hold our breath slightly, but not constantly, for the heart is harmed by this bodily contraction. The heart, of course, is not cleansed by this bodily contraction, but rather through a humble, philotimo sigh of repentance, originating from the depth of our heart. This sigh brings divine consolation, whereas physical contraction, when one pressures himself egotistically and without discernment, brings despair and anxiety.
When man struggles with hope, however, divine consolation comes and the soul intensely feels the caress of God’s love. Then, the heart is attracted by God and the komboskini is treated with joy due to divine fervor. In the beginning, of course, one needs to have persistence with philotimo and discernment until the spiritual oil is defrosted, in order for our soul to ignite and pray unceasingly.
Variety in vigil is very helpful. When one is alone, he may first do full prostrations, then small ones, and then say the Jesus Prayer sitting down or kneeling, and repeat this sequence depending on the time he has to offer. This method is very helpful for it creates spiritual liveliness and drives away the weariness of inaction through interspersed spiritual movements, prostrations. Moreover, it drives away sleepiness and brings spiritual lucidity during prayer.
Excessive work, with its fatigue and distraction, especially when it is done hastily, sets vigilance aside and irritates the soul. For, with the omission of the Jesus Prayer and our spiritual duties, the enemy seizes our spiritual fortresses, attacks both our flesh and our thoughts, and renders our spiritual and bodily strength useless. He cuts off our communication with God, and, consequently, our souls are taken captive by the passions.
On the contrary, work with discernment (especially for beginners), helps a great deal, for it brings double health to man and the blessing of God. For, besides the fact that the monk thereby provides those things necessary for himself, he can also offer blessings to others, and thus the name of God is glorified and his relatives who have reposed receive forgiveness. Spiritual nobility, of course, is essential for the monk; meaning, namely, that being young and healthy he gives blessings to others and does not live from the blessings of others. Spiritual nobility helps much, granting wings to the soul, and inner peace preserves the body with less food.
Handwork that is done with serenity and prayer is sanctified, and it sanctifies those who use the handmade articles. He, on the other hand, who does handwork in haste and nervousness, transmits this demonic condition to others as well. Hurried work done in distress is characteristic of very worldly people.
Internal and external peace, devoutness and unceasing prayer for the sanctification of his soul and his fellow men’s souls, who don’t have the opportunity to pray — these are traits that befit a monk.
If the specific handwork is noisy, soft and slow chant is very helpful, until the soul reaches the point of divine inattention, when it no longer hears the noise, or hears it only when it wishes, or, rather, when the mind (nous) descends from Heaven. Naturally, handwork should be simple so that the hands become used to working on their own without having need of the mind.
Much care is needed so as not to expend all our bodily strength on handwork. If we are careless, we won’t be able to carry out our spiritual duties, or we will do them, but without motivation, waiting impatiently for the final knot of our komboskini to arrive and for our prostrations — that spiritual ascesis which is most helpful of all — to come to an end.
In the bending of our knees, we humbly venerate God and entreat His mercy, for Him to forgive our sins; that is why they are called prostrations (In Greek, the word metanoia, which means repentance, literally, “change of mind,” is used also for the word “prostration.” Thus, the word for “prostration” indicates the spiritual condition of the soul, which is expressed by the physical movement of making a prostration). Prostrations made for ourselves or for our neighbor (living or reposed) are the most important “handwork” of all. It is “handwork” with endless toil, provided one has philotimo to labor in repentance. On the contrary, when we are lost in vacuous and insignificant things, in the end we lose our souls as well.
Many prostrations are usually made when our hearts leap with gratitude to God, for the soul expresses itself with the external flutter of prostrations that bring abundant Grace and bodily dispassion.
In the beginning, numerous prostrations remove even unnatural bellies and give man the possibility to climb the spiritual heights of virtues, just as he would, with great ease, climb the heights of mountains, without huffing and puffing.
If we do not struggle, however, we become stagnant or sluggish. If we at least have much humility, though, the hand of God will raise us to Heaven free of charge. If we don’t even have humility, God forbid, we will experience a great fall. If a person were to acquire spiritual health, it would be beneficial for him to struggle hard, with much humility, without examining or condemning others, but only himself.
Physically ill people, who cannot struggle, may struggle spiritually, with vigilance and unceasing prayer, in order to uproot the soul’s passions, and should constantly think of the Holy Passion of the Lord, that their pain might be sweetened, and that thus they might glorify God with patience in order to receive the martyrs crown.
At the hour of prayer, when other monks struggle with their rule of prayer (Rule of prayer: the individual prayer of a monk, consisting of a prescribed number of prostrations and the Jesus Prayer said using the prayer rope), if someone cannot do full prostrations, let him do small ones or at least say the Jesus Prayer and not fall asleep, unless he is ill or has an excuse. We should always examine ourselves to see if we are making excuses for ourselves or not, that we not become spiritually idle and the enemy take us by surprise; for he never sleeps but perpetually thinks how he can find an opportunity to greatly harm us.
Therefore, when sometimes we see ourselves spiritually numb and our hearts frozen, we should visit a true struggler in order to be re-invigorated, or a person in pain to force our hearts to feel pain, assist with love and be warmed by love, so as to thaw out.
The natural course of the monk is to first submit himself, be instructed, always struggle with great humility, and beseech the mercy of God with reverence. In this way, one gradually ascends Golgotha, is crucified and spiritually resurrected, and rejoices, glorifying God like the angels.
For all those, however, who live the spiritual life in a worldly way — in other words, all is Pascha, (Pascha, in Hebrew Peshah=Passover: In Old Testament times, this word referred to the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea to the Promised Land. In New Testament times, it refers to Christ’s passage from death to life at His Resurrection, and also refers to man’s passage from death to life and from earth to Heaven, which was made possible by the sacrificial Crucifixion and the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ), without first passing through Great Lent and the Crucifixion — it is impossible for them to resurrect spiritually, impossible for them to love Christ. They have not suffered so as to feel the pain of Christ for our salvation and be sweetened by the love of Christ, to become spiritually mad from divine love and absorbed in Heaven.
When man does not go through the natural course of spiritual life, namely Crucifixion — Resurrection, so as to experience Paschal spiritual states, heavenly ones, he is more miserable than worldly people. Worldly people can somewhat understand when someone speaks to them about divine love. Those, however, who set off for heavenly love and higher joys, by turning also toward worldly joys (those not considered sinful), remain half way down the road like Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:26). Consequently, their hearts are as insensitive as stone, so much as to be scandalized even by the words “divine love,” which they hear read from the books of the Church.
These people are in greater need of prayers so that God may work a miracle and transform their rocky hearts into human, spiritual ones, that they might fall in love with God; for only God “is able from these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matthew 3:9), as the Gospel says.
A soul that is still moved by the charm of the material world reveals that the vain world still lives within. This is why it is drawn toward creation and not the Creator, to clay and not to God. It is of no significance if this clay is clean and not a swamp of sins, because man is related to the Spirit of God and through his spirit he unites with God through prayer.
The undistracted nature of a hesychast’s (Hesychast: one who practices pure prayer and the guarding of the heart and mind. From the Greek word hesychia, which means stillness) life in the desert greatly assists prayer with its many prerequisites. Hesychia (stillness) in itself is a mystical prayer and greatly aids in prayer as the imperceptible breathing greatly aids man.
Prayer, combined with a curtailment of sleep, nourishes the soul — in addition to granting it spiritual alertness — and safeguards it, like a child in its mother’s embrace. The infant who runs with yearning to the embrace of its mother to breast-feed and is filled with her sweet love and affection is smarter than us adults when we avoid union with God through prayer, which we often consider drudgery.
There are, indeed, no people more blessed than those who have made contact with the heavenly station and are networked by devotion with God. Conversely, there are no men more miserable than those who have cut off their contact with God and now orbit the world and the stations of the world in bewilderment, that they might forget even slightly the great anguish of their disturbed lives.
Blessed are those who have Christ as their hearts’ axis and joyfully revolve around His Holy Name, noetically and unceasingly repeating “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.”
The elder said: In order for you to have time for prayer you must not concern yourself with things that other people can do. Let's take an example. A doctor should not be concerned with gauzes and bandages. A nurse can do that. The doctor will take care of the serious matters. He'll do the examinations and operations, etc. If he sit to put gauze he won't get to the serious work and then many who have need won't benefit. The same with you. Pray for your suffering parishioners (applied to the correspondent and two other priests) remember their names and note those who have greater need. It's better for you to know what pains each one. That way the prayer is better.
The elder said: Whether we pray for ourselves or for others, the prayer must be from the heart. The problems of others should become our problems. You have to prepare for prayer. Read a bit of the Gospel or the Gerontiko and then pray. It requires an attempt to take the mind to the divine space. Study is like a gift which God gives us to direct us to greater spirituality. With study the soul is warmed.
The elder said: Seek the ladder of discerning doxology and thanksgiving/ rejoicing of God. The great sin is joylessness.
The elder said: Some say that when a person prays he should have his mind on the icon or the words. No. Not on icon nor letters. Let him have his mind in his sinfulness, but with discernment. Many times the devil can cause trouble there too. He'll tell you that you are sinful, to make you despair. You should answer him abruptly: saying “What's that to you? When I want to say that I am a sinner I will and not when the devil wishes; because when the devil wishes he'll bring me to despair.
The elder said: The person should experience his sinfulness and have trust and hope in the mercy of God, because that way he'll be saved. That way the mind is recollected and experiences the prayer as a need. That way he begins to say: Lord Jesus Christ, come...,” and the heart gains rest.
The elder said: Stillness and freedom from worry help to recollect the person in prayer. On the other hand, distraction does not help because it scatters the mind.
God will not require the same of everybody. But you should know that the one who prays arrives at a condition in which he says the prayer even in sleep; not as in a dream but in reality.
Hearing the above saying of the elder someone said that those in the world don't have the possibility to reach such a state. And Father Paisios answered, “Do you suppose that I've attained it? Only I know people who have attained it.”
Addressing some people who lived in the world, Fr. Paisios said: You don't know much about mental prayer, except for that which you have read. Women should be attentive because they have sensitivity and love, whereas men love Christ with the reason. Women love with the heart and have demonstrated it when they crucified the Lord. Men apply the reason, noting how many Jews, Scribes and Pharisees, were at the crucifixion, how many soldiers, etc. and therefore locked themselves in the house, set the bolt firmly and waited to see what would happen. The women have the sensitivity and it's easy for their tears to come in the time when they pray and to think that they have arrived at the state which the fathers describe. It requires attention and caution.
The elder said: It's not only that we become accustomed to saying the prayer. The purpose is for the person to know himself and sense his sinfulness. If he only slapped someone, he's a sinner because he shouldn't have done it. We are all sinners. Consider what God did for us and what we do for God. After thinking of that, even if the heart is granite it will soften. Let's think a little logically. God could have made me a mule and given me into an undiscerning hand which would load me with 150 kilos of wood and beat me. Finally I would fall into a pit and the dogs would open my belly and those who pass by would cover their noses for the stink on the road. Just for that should I give thanks to God? I don't thank Him. God could have made me a snake or a scorpion. But His love made me a human being. God was sacrificed for me. With one drop of divine blood He washes away all the sins of the world. If a person thinks of all this; on one side the good work of God and on the other his own sinfulness and ingratitude, even if the heart were granite it would soften. And then he senses the mercy of God. The heart must gain rest with “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.” The prayer refreshes, not wearies. When we do not proceed in this manner, we acquire only the habit although the elder, the old self, remains within and we follow the way of delusion.
The elder said: A certain monk known to me happened to go with a group on an excursion. One of them didn't believe at all in God. Since he was a friend the others had brought him for all that he confessed that he didn't believe. When the others began to chat among themselves, the monk joined the unbeliever and with his own method cast out from within him the matter of unbelief — without the others noticing. The man himself did understand what had happened. A change took place in him and everyone appeared like rainbows. That person believed in God through the intercession on the monk.
The elder said: Often we see a person and we say a couple spiritual words to him and he takes a turn. Later we say, “Ah, I save someone.” I believe that the person who has the disposition and goodness within him, if he doesn't take the turn from us will take it from a bear or a fox or from anything else. Let us watch out for false evangelization.
The elder said concerning papa-Tychon: There was a little elder who had simplified his life. He had no housework. He was free from every convenience, because that which we call today convenience is in fact inconvenience. Convenience is for one to simplify one's life and to limit its to the essentials. Then the person is liberated.
The elder said: We much not compel others to follow the spiritual struggle. You can not compel him if he does not have the disposition. It is like what happens with food. If one is not disposed to eat and we give him food under compulsion, he will vomit it up.
The elder said: The world today has need of good confessors. Good spiritual fathers are few today and the few that remain have to do their work in a hurry because of the many who go to them. Like a good surgeon who does many interventions and is wearied by the results so as to not give all as he should. If there were good spiritual fathers, there would not be so many psychiatrists.
To a question of how a spiritual father should apply the canons in confession the elder answered: The spiritual father must see each person separately and act accordingly. for me the spiritual father who applies the canons without examining each situation individually is a criminal.
Father Paisios said: As a person becomes more spiritual, so much fewer rights does he has in this life. It is obligatory to be patient, to accept injustice, to accept evil words from others. A crooked stick (perverted person) who is distant from God has many rights: to strike and shout and act unrighteously. Our rights God keeps for the other life. Out of ignorance however we often seek our rights here. Let us not damage things at all. If they say anything to us, immediately we give them the right. And later we think we trust in God. That is a big joke. Human justice doesn't mean anything to a spiritual person. But it is a great concern for the perverted person.
The elder said: I often see a strange thing that occurs with religious people, reminding one of a vegetable market. There everybody shouts. One says, take oranges; another says take beets, and so forth, each in order to sell their own stuff. Something similar happens with Christians. Some say if you enter this association you'll be saved. If you go there you'll be saved. However, many people are not for here or there but for somewhere else., . A man of God can help. Help but not strangle. Now, let's imagine, I go to some army base to tell them various things about monasticism. I won't tell them lies. I'll tell them as it is. So what happens? Are all to become monks. That way naturally I cause trouble, because perhaps some of them will undertake monasticism and later will suffer and fail. I have to find the pure one to help him choose.
The elder spoke again on the same theme: Someone want to paint icons, has decide to become an icon painter, to make icons which will perform miracles; may it be. Another wants to become a married priest; it is my joy. One wants to be unmarried; let him be unmarried. One wants to be a monk? He should be helped accordingly. All do not fit in one basket. Some set the people to do things contrary to whatever they can do.
The elder said: It is not good for one to change spiritual fathers. Imagine a building which continually changes engineer and builder. It's not likely to turn out right.
The elder said: The spiritual father should be free and act accordingly. He should not follow somebody elses party line. (follow some line placed by others)
Father Paisios said: I don't give prescriptions at a distance. There is no long distance doctor. Only I give prayers.
The elder said: So much higher you throw a thing, with analogous power it will fall down and break in pieces. Often we see someone with a great fantasy of himself, but outwardly he doesn't suffer anything to be humbled. This is dangerous. He has arrived at interior pride and gives grades. May God protect him, he's one with Satan.
They asked the elder if there exist on the Holy Mountain those who have arrive at the love that sees all people as brothers, and he answered: There would have been many. Unfortunately there are few, few souls. We Athonites have suffered a great evil with the Calendar. This will destroy the Holy Mountain. It has destroyed the whole world. It has created the whole situation.
The elder said again: The world now is concerned with all the other matters except itself. I think that if one is concerned with oneself everything will fall in its canonical rhythm. And this we must do. The devil, you see, opens work, gives handiwork to each.
The elder said: When I put myself in order, I put in order a bit of the Church, whenever we can be of one mind. The Holy Spirit is One. Now people make many spirits. I can not understand.
The elder said: A person give flesh to his child. God gives the soul. When the child grows the parents cease to have authority. God gives to each person the guardian angel. He helps him throughout his whole life. Shouldn't we trust ourselves to God?
Someone asked if the elder all the people who came everyday with questions tired him. He answered: I'll tell you. When the discussion is spiritual it doesn't weary. It's bad when people ask altogether unreasonable questions. If they are illiterate and ask such things it will be alright. But there are “smart” people, students, and they ask you what relation the time has with the conscience of the person. In such cases I say, 'Here I have coffee and one or two aspirins. Sit a little and little by little we'll clear up your theme.
The elder said: When we have stillness there is a desert. The place is not a desert. In the desert I must make myself deserted of all my passions. When I adjust the desert to myself, I do not live in the desert. I must adjust myself to the desert. And in the world one can accomplish a lot. It's enough to try to do away with mistakes. If you have, for example, a faucet that leaks continually: drip, drip, drip — or an alarm clock that continually tick, tick, ticks, — you'll change it. One can do a lot.
The elder wrote concerning stillness. Outer stillness, with discerning asceticism, very quickly brings also interior stillness (the peace of the soul), which an essential preparation for delicate spiritual activity. For as much as one distances oneself from the world so much more is the world distanced from within you and worldly thoughts leave and the mind of a person is purified and he become a man of God.
The elder said: And by itself stillness is a mystical prayer and aids greatly in prayer, like the unceasing breath of a person.
The elder said: Stillness (far from the world) very quickly brings also interior stillness in the soul with ascesis and continual prayer. Then the person is not disturbed by exterior disquiet, because in essence only the body is found on earth but the mind is found in Heaven.
Theology is the word of God, which is apprehended by pure, humble and spiritually regenerated souls, and not the beautiful words of the mind, which are crafted with literary art and expressed by the legal or worldly spirit.
Just as a beautiful statue cannot talk, manufactured words are unable to speak to the soul of a man, except if the listeners are very worldly, and pleased simply by charming conversation.
Theology that is taught like a science usually examines things historically and, consequently, things are understood externally. Since patristic ascesis and inner experience are absent, this kind of theology is full of uncertainty and questions. For with the mind one cannot grasp the Divine Energies if he does not first practice ascesis and live the Divine Energies, that the Grace of God might be energized within him.
Whoever thinks that he can come to know the mysteries of God through external scientific theory, resembles the fool who wants to see Paradise with a telescope.
Those who struggle patristically become empirical theologians through the visitation of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. All those who have an external education, in addition to the internal enlightenment of the soul, may describe the divine mysteries and interpret them correctly, as did many Holy Fathers.
If, however, one does not become spiritually related to the Holy Fathers and wants to take up translating or writing, he will wrong both the Holy Fathers and himself, as well as the people, with his spiritual cloudiness.
Neither is it right for someone to theologize using someone else’s theology, because he will resemble an impotent man who adopts others’ children, presents them as his own and pretends to be the father of a large family. The Holy Fathers took the divine word or personal experiences from their hearts: the result of spiritual battles against evil and the fire of temptations, which they confessed humbly or, out of love, wrote down in order to help us. They never kept this love for themselves, acknowledging, likewise, that humility and all the divine gifts are of God.
Those who present the gifts of God as their own are the most insolent and most unjust in the world, for they wrong God and, even more, their own selves. In this way they cause themselves to be deprived of Divine Grace so that they won’t be judged as being more ungrateful and so that they won’t be destroyed due to their great vainglory.
Those who are grateful towards God for everything and constantly attend to themselves humbly and look after God’s creatures and creation with kindness, theologize and thus become the most faithful theologians, even if illiterate. They are like the illiterate shepherds who observe the weather in the countryside, day and night, and become good meteorologists.
Those who live simply, with kindness and good thoughts, and have acquired inner simplicity and purity, regard the supernatural very simply, as natural, for everything is simple to God. God does not use greater power for the supernatural and less for the natural, but the same power for everything. He Himself is very simple and His Son revealed it to us on earth with His holy simplicity.
When purity comes to man and simplicity with its fervent faith and devotion arrives as well, then the Holy Trinity takes up His abode within us. With this divine enlightenment one easily finds the keys to divine meanings, so as to interpret the Spirit of God in a very simple and natural way, without causing an intellectual headache.
Depending on the purity or guile that one possesses, analogous interpretations are made, and one is benefited or harmed accordingly. Oftentimes, one may cause harm due to one’s inexperience, even if acting with good intentions. For example, a person does not know that white wine also exists apart from red, and pours red paint into it to seemingly make it better, and in this way he poisons people. But even if he is not inexperienced or deceitful, but works only from human justice and logic, he will once again wrong the Spirit of God, and, as a result, harm himself and others.
With human logic and justice we also hear the complaints of the laborers of the first and third hour in the Gospel (Matthew 20:1-15), who believed that they were unjustly treated. God, however, the beholder of the hearts of men, with the subtlety of His divine justice, also rewarded the laborers of the eleventh hour for the anguish they suffered before finding work. God would have even given to the laborers of the eleventh hour a greater reward, out of His divine righteousness, full of mercy and love, because the poor ones suffered greatly in soul and were more fatigued than those who, for more hours, were exhausted physically. But we, wretched people that we are, cannot fit God’s divine justice into our limited minds, just as His infinite kindness cannot fit inside our limited love. Therefore, God’s love was limited to giving everyone the same agreed reward, so as not to scandalize more those who loved their self more than their fellow men. If He told them, “I am not doing you wrong; we agreed on this amount...” He meant, “I am a boss with noble love and divine justice which you cannot understand,” and not, “I am boss and I take no one into consideration.” For God is our Father and we are His children, and all people know of His fatherly love; He was crucified in order to redeem us and restore us to Paradise.
If we could go out of our self (the love for our self), we would also escape from the gravity of the earth and see everything in reality, with a divine eye, clearly and profoundly. That is why it is necessary for one to leave the world for the desert, struggle with humility, repentance and prayer, be deserted by his passions, remove his spiritual “rust” and turn into a good conductor in order to receive Divine Grace and become a true theologian.
If we don’t remove the rust from our spiritual cables, we will constantly be short-circuited, full of worldly theories, doubts and questions. Then we cease to theologize, being found in a condition of worldliness, but will speak historically, or examine things legally and mathematically. Namely, we will examine how many nails were used to crucify Christ and how many soldiers were present when He was crucified without proceeding to the essence of things: that Christ was crucified for our own sins, in order to redeem us, and suffered more than all of the Holy Martyrs put together. Although He helped the Martyrs with His divine power, He did not employ His divine power for Himself at all and suffered terrible pains out of love, having His two hands and His two legs pierced with nails. Whether they crucified His two legs with one or two nails has no importance, inasmuch as both were nailed and He suffered the pain and drank the vinegar, that He might sweeten us again in Paradise, eternally close to Him, as our Loving Father.
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