BENEFITS OF SPIRITUAL TRAINING
is not just mere information or mere fullness of religious knowl-
edge. Knowledge on its own is not enough. What would one benefit if he
knew all there is to know about virtues without applying it to his life?!
We read much and we hear much. But what matters is what we do.
each Holy Mass, we hear a chapter from the Bible, readings from the
Epistles of St Paul the Apostle, the Catholic Epistle and from the Acts of the
Apostles. We also hear the lives of the saints in the Synaxarium, then we
hear a sermon. If we attend the Vespers and the Matins, we will hear other
chapters from the Bible, adding to what we read at home and in spiritual
meetings ... But what is the effect of all that on our practical life? Are we
satisfied by knowledge? Or our concern is to turn this knowledge into life,
according to the saying of the Lord Jesus Christ, to Him is the glory: The
words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life (Jn 6:63). How could this
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Through spiritual training, knowledge is transformed into practice and the information into work.
We also notice that many go to church, confess and partake in Holy Communion and maybe serve also. But in spite of that, they have fixed weaknesses that are about to become part of their character, remaining with them for many years!! Why? ... Maybe because they did not give special attention to these weaknesses by training themselves on leaving them and observing the outcome of this training...
We say the same thing about many who repeat certain sins every time they go to Confession. They discovered these sins, knew about them and confessed them. But in spite of that continued in them. That is because they did not practically train themselves to leave these sins.
Here comes the importance of spiritual training: Where one comes into a practical confrontation with himself: Either to leave his sins behind or to acquire virtues or to grow spiritually...
He transforms the spiritual knowledge into life. He also transforms the spiritual longings into a spiritual life...
And in the practical training: he knows the reality of himself and from where does the mistake come to him, its causes and its sources. He then gets into the way of resisting, knowing the obstacles and how to overcome them. He does not stop at the point of knowledge and not even at the point of inner religious feeling.
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In training, one struggles with himself and with God...
listens to the rebuke of the Apostle Paul when he said: You have
not yet resisted to blood-shed, striving against sin (Heb 12:4). He resists him-
self and struggles. At the same time, he does not depend on his human hand
but he mixes the training with prayers, asking for help from above, accord-
ing to the Lords saying to us: Without me you can do nothing (Jn 15:5). In
all that, he puts himself and his training under the spiritual supervision of
an experienced, wise guide, because the Bible says: And lean not on your
own understanding (Prov 3:5).
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The Holy Bible also offers us examples of exercises.
St Paul the Apostle said: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need (Phil 4:12). And he also said: ...Those who by reason of use have their senses exercised (Heb 5:14).
GOD TRAINED HIS SAINTS
was said about Moses the Prophet: Now the man Moses was very hum-
ble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth (Num 12:3). Do you think he was born like that?! No, he even started his life of service very violent when he killed an Egyptian man and hid him in the sand (Ex 2:12). But God took him to the wilderness and trained him while working as a shepherd, to acquire gentleness, quietness and meekness during forty years till he reached this level ...
Do you think John the
Beloved started his life with the love that was
known about him till he said: God is love, and he who abides in love abides in
God, and God in him (1 Jn 4:16). No. But he and his brother James were
very stern, as they were brought up in the school of the firm John the Baptist who used to rebuke severely. (Mt 3:7-11). The Lord gave them the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder (Mk 3:17).
were also the two who, when a Samaritan village rejected the Sav-
iour, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem, they said to Him:
Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and
them, just as Elijah did? But the Lord rebuked them and said: You do not
know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy mens lives but to save them (Lk 9:52-56).
But the Lord trained the Son of Thunder so that John became a flame of love, unlike his beginning.
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The same thing with the saints. They did not reach their high levels of spirituality at once, but trained themselves.
They trained through strife and toil for a long time. So we should not take what has been written about their spiritual peaks as starting points!! And we do not begin with what they have achieved at the end of their struggle, but we progress.
+ St Arsanious the Great, at the beginning of his monastic life, always made mistakes in the way beans were to be sorted, and learnt the correct method from an illiterate Egyptian. He considered this a lesson and said: This is a slap on your cheek, Arsanious. And through training over long periods of time, he achieved his level of holiness.
One of the fathers saw in a vision St. Moses the Black being fed honey
by the angels. However, St. Moses did not reach the life of love, service, and humility at once, but St Isidore the Priest trained him gradually until he reached such a high level of holiness and endurance.
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Even in the field of service, the Lord also trained His Disciples...
He sent them for practical training and they returned and reported to Him the results of their services. They were rejoicing because the demons were subject to them in His name!! The Lord corrected this mistake and said to them: ...Do not rejoice in this... but rejoice rather because your names are written in heaven (Lk 10:17-20).
also trained them in another matter, and that was not to be concerned
about who is to become great among them; He said to them: Yet it shall not
be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your
servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave - just as
the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom
for many (Mt 20:26-28).
ADVICE IN TRAINING
we should not be satisfied by religious knowledge but let
us give more care to work, training ourselves to carry out the command-
The Lord, after giving the Sermon on the Mount, concluded by saying:
whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a
wise man who built his house on the rock... Now everyone who hears these sayings
of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the
sand (Mt 7:24-26). And so He concentrated on the importance of acting
according to what we hear. He also confirmed this by saying: Not everyone
who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom of heaven, but he who does
the will of My Father in heaven (Mt 7:21). And so the priest prays in the Litany
of the Gospel: May we be worthy of hearing and performing according to
Your Holy Gospels, through the prayers of Your saints.
Let us then train ourselves to act according to His commandments and the teaching of the Gospel.
INDICATIONS OF TRAINING
Spiritual training indicates
that one is watchful for the salvation of
his soul. He discovers his mistakes and weaknesses and trains himself to
You must then discover
your mistakes or the mistakes that others un-
cover for you, because without discovering your mistakes, you will never
be able to train yourself to avoid them as: Those who are well have no need of
a physician, but those who are sick (Mt 9:12). Do not be annoyed then with the
one who uncovers a defect in you but benefit from it by training yourself to
overcome this defect... But you too should try to inspect yourself well in the
light of Gods commandments to discover your weaknesses.
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Beware of self-justification and finding excuses for your mistakes.
The one who justifies
himself will always remain where he is without
any improvement because, in his eyes, his self is beautiful and without de-
fect!! As for the one who gives account of himself accurately, and never
makes excuses for himself , he will be able to overcome and confess his weak-
nesses before himself.
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are ashamed that others might reveal mistakes in you, there is
no doubt that you would not be ashamed in the same way from yourself!!
Sit with yourself and be totally honest. Try to touch the weak points that are in you which have been revealed through spiritual readings or from hearing particular sermons that you feel have touched your life.
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If you train yourself once a week, or even once a month, to resist one point of weakness, you would be able in one year to overcome twelve weak points. Be certain that sins are interrelated. So to be free from a specific sin could free you from many others.
It is the same when you train yourself for acquiring a specific virtue, it will lead you to acquire other virtues ... Virtues are also interrelated, like links in one chain.
I will give you here an example of the linking of virtues.
you trained yourself one day to remain in solitude. You will
find that you need to keep yourself busy during this solitude so you would
not get bored. You may turn to reading for sometime, then praying for an-
other time, or singing hymns, or memorizing psalms or parts of the Agpia
or verses from the Bible. May be that will invite you to contemplate on these
verses... And so you will find that training for solitude brings with it many
Or if one day you trained yourself to be silent, you will find yourself definitely in need to occupy your mind with something useful, so you would not ponder on what is unsuitable. And so silence will lead you to prayer or to contemplation or keeping yourself busy by reading... That is how one type of training brings forth many other types of training.
Be certain that when you start, the grace of God will definitely start with you:
will never leave you alone in your training, but He will work with
you, because you proved to be committed in your attitude towards life with
God. The Divine help will respond to this feeling. And if the devil tried to
fight you to break your training, the grace will support you to succeed. The
main thing is never to draw back, to slacken or become idle, but to be firm
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If you trained
yourself for acquiring a virtue, you must know that re-
maining firm in virtues is much more important than acquiring them.
It is easy to follow a specific virtue for one, two, three days or even a week... But what is important is to continue, till this virtue becomes a habit or part of your nature. That needs training for a long time until it is rooted in ones depth. And as Mar Isaac said, any planning that you dont remain steadfast in for long, will be fruitless...
That is because time and continuity are the practical measure to know the depth of the virtue in you. Time also gives you a chance to test the obstacles that hinder the training and the way to overcome them.
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Therefore, quick shifting from one type of training to another does not benefit spiritually.
Many try to reach perfection in a very short period of time. The result is achieving nothing...!! Or they put before themselves many types of training at the same time so they forget some of them or fail to concentrate on all of them. As for you, train yourself wisely and gradually in order to attain. Here, I place before you some remarks.
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+ Let the training be defined and clear.
Do not say, for example, I
will train myself on all fourteen aspects of
love, as St Paul the Apostle defines in 1 Corinthians 13, but be satisfied with
one aspect at a time and concentrate on it. Do not say I want to train myself
in the life of humility, gentleness or faith, while the details of each of these
words are not clear before you. So you end up doing nothing... But, for
example, say I want, in the life of humility, to train myself on one matter
only, that is not to praise myself. When you master that, you say: I want to
train myself not to seek the praising of people. When you master that, you
say: I will train myself on something else, that is when somebody praises
me, I immediately remember my sins and shortcomings. Then I convict my-
self from within.
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+ Let the training be within your ability, so you will be able to practically carry it out.
Sometimes one selects for
himself a type of training that is above the
level of his capability or his circumstances would not enable him to do it.
Or he may leap in his training to a high level where he would not be able to
continue or maintain it, and so it would make him gradually retreat.
For example, dont put for yourself a training for fasting that is more than what your health can endure. Or a training in silence that does not suit your work circumstances, your meetings or your family life. Or a training in prayer or in service that your time does not permit...
+ You can progress in training if you take one step at a time.
As with silence, it is hard to train yourself in it, when you live in a society where you have to communicate.
But you can progress and say: I will train myself to make my talk short. What needs a word I will not give a sentence and what needs a sentence I will not give a lecture. If my listener understood my intention, then there is no need to increase my words...
When you master that, you may say: I will not talk except when it is necessary. Then you may move to another type of training, which is to abstain from speaking loudly. And you will say: I will train myself in speaking with a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12). Then you will begin resisting mistakes of the tongue one by one...
+ Let your training be from the depth of your practical life.
The type of training that suits others might not suit you. As for your training, let it spring from resisting your personal mistakes, your spiritual shortcomings and what suits you in the life of virtue according to your spiritual ability. Your training should be in harmony with your internal and external circumstances.
A BOOK FOR TRAINING
+ Let there be a book especially for your training.
You write in it the type of training, a verse or a number of verses from the Bible to encourage you and motivate you in this specific type of training. Memorize these verses and repeat them continuously, so they become inscribed in your mind whenever you are being fought by something that is against your training. Remember also the stories of the saints who are virtuous role models for us in our own spiritual training.
+ If you fail at a time in your training, find out the reason so that you may avoid it in the future.
By doing that, you gain
spiritual experience in all your practices, learn
the wars of the enemy and the way to overcome them. Through such train-
ing, some became guides for others. It is like a mother who experienced life
then was able to give her daughter practical advice for her benefit.
+ Try to benefit from the occasional failure that you experience in your training.
Let that be a reason for your humility so that you would not become proud due to repeated success.
Let it also be a reason to have sympathy on the weak and the sinners. Let your falls become a subject for prostrations before the Lord, where you offer a contrite heart and an opportunity for prayers to be raised to God, asking Him to grant you strength and grace.
so, training in its visible picture is a struggle to reach purity of the
heart till it becomes worthy of God to dwell in it. But it is not just a mere
struggle, but a petition presented to God, asking for His intervention. But
are those who present their spiritual desires to God in a theo-
retical manner, in the form of heart-feelings or words in prayer. As for
the spiritual training, they are desires presented to God in a practical man-
It is a practical struggle
that cries to God asking Him to interfere and
grant victory to this struggle... God is the One who works in us both to will
and to work on behalf of His good pleasure ... It is the pleasure that His
name is being glorified in us whenever we succeed in our struggle and our
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