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Author Topic: Counsels from the Holy Mountain.  (Read 16104 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: February 01, 2010, 03:38:15 PM »

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Counsels from the Holy Mountain
Selected from the Letters and Homilies
of Elder Efraim.

Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise.

1 ).
Now in the springtime, when nature is wearing its most beautiful apparel, one feels inexpressible joy when this natural beauty is accompanied by a sublime spiritual state. Truly, our holy God has made all things in wisdom! [(cf. Ps. 103:26 (All quotes from the Old Testament are from the Septuagint )]. The soul cannot get enough of beholding the beauty of nature. Oh, if man would only lift his mind above thiw earthly realm to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the inconceivable beauty of paradise where the finite, earthly mind ceases to operate! If here in exile, in this accursed land of weeping, our holy God has given us so much beauty to enjoy, I wonder how much there will be in the place where God Himself dwells! Truly, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory and bliss.” (cf. Rom. 8:18 ). Theosis in the heavens, my child! There the Lord our God will remove every tear from our eyes, and do away with all sorrow and pain and sighing, for there the angelic way of life reins, and the only work is to chant hymns and spiritual odes! An eternal Sabbath is prepared for us where we shall live in joy with our Father, God, Who is waiting for us to be ready so that He may call us to Him forever! There every saved soul will live in an ocean of love, sweetness, joy, amazement, and wonder!


http://analogion.net/IeresMones/IM_AgAntwniou-AZ.htm

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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2010, 05:32:20 PM »

Beautiful.

I have not read the book but I have been meaning to.
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« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2010, 05:36:16 PM »

I'm reading it right now, and it is full of treasures.
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« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2010, 12:14:10 AM »

Beautiful.

I have not read the book but I have been meaning to.



When you get a chance, read it; I' m sure you'll like it.
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« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2010, 12:15:48 AM »

I'm reading it right now, and it is full of treasures.



It truly is; enjoy it!
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« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2010, 03:51:15 PM »

====================================================================================================================
Counsels from the Holy Mountain
Selected from the Letters and Homilies
of Elder Efraim.

Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise.


2.
A time will come, the hour will strike, the moment will arrive for these eyes to close and for the soul’s eyes to open. Then we shall see a new world, new beings, a new creation, a new life without end. Its title is: “Infinite Immortality,” the great homeland, incorruptible and everlasting—the heavenly Jerusalem, the mother of the firstborn, where redeemed souls, which have been washed of their impurity by the blood of the innocent Lamb, will dwell!
Who is able to express in words or with a pen the joy, the exaltation, the bliss of those blessed saved souls? Blessed are they who have died in the Lord, for the riches of God’s goodness awaits them. Blessed is he who wins the “lottery” for the heavenly festival, for riches that cannot be taken away, for the glory that God Himself has described: “sons of the Most High, children of God, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” Before the Passion, the Lord entreated His heavenly Father on behalf of His disciples and those who would believe through them: “Father, I desire that they also whom Thou hast given Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world.” (Jn. 17:24 ).
How great is Jesus’ love for us! He took on human nature and was hanged upon the Cross, giving us freedom and paying off our debt to His heavenly Father. And as a dear brother, He makes us worthy of jointly inheriting the infinite wealth of His heavenly Father! Oh, what love for us! Oh, how cold we are to Him! Oh, how ungrateful Iam towards my Benefactor! My God, my God, have pity on me, and do not condemn me as I deserve because of my deeds!

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« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2010, 04:08:44 PM »

====================================================================================================================
Counsels from the Holy Mountain
Selected from the Letters and Homilies
of Elder Efraim.

Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise.


3. Just as God has spiritually united us with an unbreakable bond, likewise may He count us worthy to be together in His heavenly kingdom, so that we may dine at the spiritual table and delight in His divine fare, united with the heavenly Father, in Whom the everlasting rivers of His divine waters flow. Oh, what a great calling! Oh, how rich are the fruits of transitory afflictions! The children of God will be adorned with heavenly garments; the divine features in their faces will appear radiant; they will enter into the paternal legacy—the eternal repose! They will go about those heavenly dwellings, and beholding those boundless riches, they will remain in ecstasy without realizing that eons are passing! Oh, what a great calling for man! But two distressing thoughts blemish this good meditation. The first one is that I shall not participate in all of this glorious blessedness—this is just a meditation now, but later it will take on flesh and bones, in other words, it will materialize. The second one is that people live their lives in ignorance of this great calling, and consequently this ignorance gives rise to separation from God, and spiritual death.
O my God, Lord of Sabaoth, enlighten the darkness of our hearts that we may see Thee, the true light, the blessed light that enlightens and gladdens the hearts of Thy friends. Enlighten us that we may follow Thee until the eternal rest.

*Ecstasy.
One experiences ecstasy when, with the synergy of grace, detaches his nous from reason and the surrounding environment and brings it back to the heart. Then, "through the heart the nous ascends to God",according to St. Gregory Palamas. During ecstasy, the nous is found in a different, spiritual realm. It is not a respite of the actions of the soul and nous, but a respite of physical actions, such as eating, sleeping, etc.

**Nous.
The English word that best conveys the meaning of the  Greek word "νους" is the word "mind". The Fathers use this term with several other meanings, too.

***Meditation.
The term "meditation", as used by the Holy Fathers, indicates a thoughful reflection or pondering upon a certain aspect of the faith, e.g., the Incarnation. God's mercy, the Crucifixion, the Tranfiguration, one's sinfulness, etc. This is quite different from what is known as "Eastern meditation", which is the use of various psychosomatic techniques intended to bring about self-identification with a "supreme being" (or so-called "deity"), an "impersonal reality", or even nothingness. On the other hand, for an Orthodox Christian, meditation brings about humility, gratitude, and love, and is a preparation for prayer, which is a personal experience of the one, true, living God.



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« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2010, 10:23:41 PM »

====================================================================================================================
Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise.

4.
Everything will pass and will end as if had never existed, whereas works done in God will remain with the soul that worked them so that the worker may reap eternal life from them. Blessed are the spiritual philosophers of God, who give away transient things and store up eternal things, so that when they depart, they will find their treasures in God’s treasury with accrued interest. Blessed are they who clean their hearts from the weeds of sin and cultivate the good seed, for the time will come for them to reap sheaves of eternal life! Blessed are they who sow tears with spiritual fasting, that is, always hungering and thirsting for good works, for they will reap eternal joy!

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« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2010, 11:18:45 PM »

On the topic of Elder Ephraim's writings, does anyone know when the translation of his book on Elder Joseph will be ready?
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« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2010, 10:13:05 PM »

On the topic of Elder Ephraim's writings, does anyone know when the translation of his book on Elder Joseph will be ready?


I sent an e-mail and I' m waiting for a response.

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« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2010, 10:22:46 PM »

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Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise.

5. In all circumstances have the noetic eye of the soul turned upwards, where help will come. Do not despair, whatever may happen. According to the trial, the way out follows. God never allows, or rather, He does not give a person a load beyond his strength. If men have the discernment to do this with animals, how much more does the good God, Who shed His All-holy Blood for man on the Cross! The truth is that Christians who endure temporary afflictions acquire through them future eternal joy and repose. We should never envy those who have constant joy and peace here on earth—rather we should pity them, for temporary joy will become for them an obstacle to the future life. God is merciful but also just—merciful in the present life, but after death a just Judge. It is not possible for Him to give afflicted Christians—that is, true Christians, not just Christians in name—eternal distress as well. But there He will give them constant joy, which no one will be able to take from them. God cannot cast a person from punishment to punishment. Therefore, rejoice instead of grieving, because God counted you worthy to suffer temporarily in order to give you eternal repose. Eternal joy is reserved only for suffering Christians. In the holy Gospel, the Lord says about the rich man and Lazarus: “Abraham said: Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.” (Lk. 16:25 ).
God never shows favoritism, but He acts according to righteous principles. If you glance through the lives of the saints, you will see continous trials, afflictions, and distress. This is how they passed their lives. No pleasure-lover will enter into the eternal habitation which is full of ineffable joy, but rather those who were afflicted and endured for God, for the sake of keeping His commandments. The Lord says, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”. (Jn. 16:33 ). This was said by the God Who came to the earth and labored and suffered throughout His life, and then finally, where did He end up? Hanging on the Cross as accursed, in order to throw down the barrier of the curse. Terrible anguish wrung the heart of the God-man, and He cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” The earth shook and the veil of the Temple was torn in the middle, as could be seen perceptibly. But also on the spiritual plane, the impregnable wall of the curse between God and man shook and utterly crumbled. And as Jesus expired, what had formerly been divided was united, and man became, not simply a friend of God, but God’s own kin; man received the grace of adoption into sonship: “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” (Rom. 8:17 ). For mankind gave the All-holy Virgin as a Mother to the Son, and Christ took flesh from Her pure blood. This deified human flesh sat at the right hand of God the Father. Henceforth, God was seen in the heavens and was worshipped also in human nature by the angels. Do you see where the human race has ascended? We shall become gods by grace! (cf. Jn. 10:34 ). But without afflictions, is anyone able to reach there? We shall be distressed, we shall be afflicted, but one day all will come to an end and will be forgotten; suddenly, the eternal Joy will open wide His tender arms and will call out, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden (with afflictions ), and I shall give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28 ). In each of your deeds and actions, whether in word or in thought, remember that God is present and He sees them and one day will judge them. From this saving meditation arises godly fear, which produces the greatest benefit: “I beheld the Lord ever before me, for He is at my right hand, that I might not be shaken,” (Ps. 15:8 ), said the Prophet David. “Thy law is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my paths”. (Ps. 15:8 ). It even produces humility. So humble-mindedness does not arise only from trials and tests but also from spiritual meditation and from realizing our weakness. One reflects on how weak man is, that he is not able to do good, even though it is sown within his nature. Evil, on the contrary, he does very easily, even though it is alien to him. Man wants to please God, but if the grace of God does not work together with him, the good he does is not good; and even if he wants to labor, if God does not help, his desire and labor are in vain. When a person considers his past—when he did not know God, how much he sinned—he feels contrition, humbles himself, weeps, seeks forgiveness, and reflects: “Even now, if the grace of God leaves me, I am capable of doing worse things.” Then a certain fear mingled with humility protects the soul as with a wall. This meditation is called awareness of man’s weakness, and it bears the fruits of humility and benefit, without toil and afflictions. Yes, trials come, but most of them are sent because of our pride. When someone is found in a state of humility, the trials will be fewer and light. But one must be ready, as a captain who expects a storm after the calm. When someone anticipates something, it does not seem strange to him when it comes, because he expected it. Thus one must always be prepared, so that when it comes he will not be distressed. But is it possible, my child, that we not experience distress? For it is from distress, from this affliction, that we shall inherit the eternal, unceasing good things which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has ptepared for those who love Him”? (1 Cor. 2:29 ).

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« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2010, 01:32:13 PM »

====================================================================================================================
Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise.

6.
Do not forget your goal, my child. Look into heaven and see the beauty that awaits us. What are the present, earthly things? Aren’t they but ashes and dust and a dream? Don’t we see that everything here is subject to decay? Whereas things above are everlasting, the kingdom of God is endless, and blessed is he who will dwell in it, for he will behold the glory of His divine face! My child, do not forget that we are in this world only temporarily and that our life dangles by a thread and that all the desirable things in the world are vain. So, whoever despises the vain things of the world—in other words, does not passionately desire them—will participate in the eternal good things. So, when we have this knowledge of the truth, naturally we shall turn the eyes of our soul at every moment towards the eternal life, towards the heavenly Jerusalem, where the choirs of angels chant godly canticles of ineffable sweetness and wisdom. Oh, my children, how much glory your souls will have when after death they ascend to the heavens and are numbered with the angels in heaven!

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« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2010, 12:04:57 AM »

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Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise.

7.
Let us glorify the risen Lord, Who counted us worthy to celebrate His holy Resurrection. Let us pray that He will also count us worthy to celebrate the eternal Sabbath in the heavens, in the new Jerusalem, in the eternal joy. “And no one will take this joy away from you (cf. Jn. 16:22 ). Indeed, my child, for earthly joy is followed by sorrows which can annihilate it, whereas heavenly joy is not, because it flows continuously as if from an inexhaustible and life-giving spring.
Let us compel ourselves in our Christian duties in order to be able to celebrate the eternal Pascha, close to our Christ and see Him face to face for our blessed enjoyment, without it being interrupted anymore by trials and despair.

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« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2010, 09:32:02 PM »

====================================================================================================================
Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise.

8.
  I sent you a letter in which I wrote a few things about the paradise; I hope this pleased you. Ah, if you could only see a little bit of paradise, if you could only hear for a few seconds the chanting of the sweet angels who shine with heavenly light and emit paradisiacal fragnance! Oh, what beauty! Unfortunately, we are in the dark about all these things. There everything shines with limitless bliss. And what does the throne of Christ tell you? Christ the Master sits upon a throne, and due to His light no one can discern His sacred and most sweet face. Oh, what sweetness and beauty! What is more beautiful than this? This is truly paradise: to behold the face of our Jesus! Glory to Thy Cross, O Lord, and to Thy Resurrection! O depth of the wisdom of God! O mysteries of the threesun Deity! Blessed is he who humbles himself like a child, obeying all commands with a guileless soul for the love of God! And woe to him who will hold on to his egotism, like me; how many divine gifts does he deprive himself of! My children, run with humility to reach the Lord Who humbled Himself for our sake—our sweetest, beloved Christ, the light of our poor souls. See what beauty awaits us! If you could only see how beautiful it is! You would disregard everything; you would even become like trash to be stepped on, just as long as you would not be deprived of everything that the sweet love of Jesus has prepared! These are the kinds of things my Elder used to tell me, and I am conveying them to you so that you may be sweetened. I am done—forgive me!

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« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2010, 08:10:57 PM »

====================================================================================================================
Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise.

9 .  I, however, am not fit for paradise, because my works notify me in advance that I am only fit for hell.
The Apostle Paul speaks to us about paradise very beautifully. He was caught up to the third heaven (vid. 1 Cor. 12:2 ) and to the beauty of the kingdom of heavenand cried out in ecstasy, “How lovely and exquisitely beautiful the kingdom of God is, which cannot be compared with any earthly beauty!” Paradise is so beautiful that the eye of man has never been able to see such beauty. Likewise, a human ear has never heard sweeter chanting, since in heaven angelic choirs chant incomparably sweeter than the most sweet-voiced nightingales!
The Apostle Paul goes on to say that man has never conceived what God has prepared in heaven, in paradise, for His children. Indeed, it is the truth that if we knew the spiritual pleasures of paradise, we would be patien in every situation in order to gain it. Whereas now, because of our ignorance, we do the opposite and thus go far away from it!
Oh, if we only knew what paradise is! The human mind is unable to conceive the magnitude of its beauty! There the choirs of angels and holy souls chant incessantly-an eternal Pascha! There, souls converse with exultation. They talk about how they passed this vain life and how much God helped them to escape hell and to repose in this blissfull place of God! They offer endless thanks to God for this tremendous mercy of His, that He gave them paradise!
What is paradise? It is a place full of unfading flowers, replete with divine aromas, the delight of angels, Paschal life, divine eros, ceaseless doxology of God, and an eternal life! So then, it is worth struggling for- but how insignificant our struggle is in light of this “fantastic,” so to speak, paradise!
Oh, paradise, how beautiful you are! Your beauty allures me and changes me into a different person. Why shouldn’t I endeavor and struggle properly to obtain you?
My God, our Lord, deliver us from accursed pride, so that guided by holy humility we may become inhabitants of sweetest paradise. Amen; so be it.

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« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2010, 01:24:11 AM »

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

1 .
May the love of our heavenly Father be with your souls, so that being invigorated by it you may bear the fruit of obedience to His life-giving commandments.
“Those who desire to live piously in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12 ). Since you follow the Savior Christ through your devotion to the angelic way of life, your greatest duty is to bear all suffering, whether it comes from nature, indolence, sins, or people. Since we desire to live a Christ-like life, we are obligated to submit to God’s will because all things come from God. And since they are from God-and thus are the divine will-the heavenly Father commands them. Shall we not obey? Shall we not cry out with the blessed Job, “As it seemed good to the Lord, so it has come to pass. Blessed be the name of the Lord”? (Job 1:21 ).
Through patience and thanksgiving to God, then, we show obedience to the divine will. Won’t the obedient one be counted worthy to acquire even here eternal life in himself? Yes, he will live unto the ages of ages! Therefore, let us struggle; let us make our souls keen by working them over the whetstone of patience, in order to carry out a work pleasing to God. Afflictions, illnesses, distresses, trials-none of these will separate us from the love of Christ. For we have already been taught that narrow and difficult is the way which leads those who walk along it into the life without sorrow. (vid. Mt. 7:14 ). Thorns and thistles are placed to the right and left along the way; therefore, we need much caution. Along the difficult way-that is, in the trial of sickness and so forth-the thorn of doubt, of impatience, of cowardice comes to rend the garment of the soul. What is needed, therefore, is to pull out this thorn through faith, hope, and patience, having Jesus Christ as a model. Throughout His life on earth He had many afflictions, and His all-holy soul was oppressed by many thorns, and so He exclaimed, “In your patience you will gain your souls.” (Lk. 21:19 ).
Through illnesses and through grievous things in general, God bestows gifts upon us as a Father; for He seeks ways to impart His holiness: “What son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are without discipline, you are illegitimate children and not sons” (Heb. 12:7-8 ). Oh! Whenever we suffer, then it becomes manifest that we are children of God. And who would not like to be a child of God? Therefore, if you want to be a child of God, endure the afflictions and trials sent by God with thanksgiving, faith, and hope. Even trials coming from people are really sent from God so that we may acquire tolerance, forbearance, compassion, and patience, for all these are divine characteristics, as the Lord says to us: “He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” (Mt.5:45 ). For this reason we are obliged to love all people. May no trace of hatred or evil be found in our souls, so that we may be called children of God. The sufferings of our whole life are not worthy to be compared with the inconceivable good things that God has prepared for those souls which carry their cross, whether it comes from the devil, other people, or one’s own nature. Because whatever passion or weakness may fight us, when we fight back against it, it causes us to be counted worthy of the blessing: “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life.” (Jas. 1:12 ). For this reason, my child, endure everything, for a crown is being woven invisibly for the head of each one of us. Winter is bitter, but paradise is sweet. Endure the frost of trials, that your feet may joyfully dance in heaven.

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« Reply #16 on: February 11, 2010, 11:50:06 PM »

===================================================================================================================
Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

2 .
Many things afflict us, my child, but blessed is he who passes through the grievous things of this present life with patience and thanksgiving. Yes, we ought to thank God, Who through such grievous things prepares our immortal soul to inherit the eternal blessings of the kingdom of heaven!”The Lord disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness”. (cf. Heb. 12:10 ). Through various afflictions He works in us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all! (cf. 2 Cor. 4:17 ).
For this reason it is neither necessary nor beneficial to be indignant when the Lord disciplines us. Rather, it is beneficial for everyone’s soul to have perfect obedience to the Physician of our souls and bodies, Who during various afflictions operates on the invisible wounds of the soul of each one of us, with the holy aim of giving us health- that is, the purification of the heart from vile passions. To such an omniscient spiritual Physician, we have the indispensable obligation to offer unceasing thanks by our actions, so that we do not grieve Him by any offence. All the saints passed their lives in afflictions and manifold sufferings, in spite of the fact that sin did not have any power over them to afflict them. Nevertheless, many times their life was a true martyrdom. Now, what justification will we give- we who have fallen into and occupy ourselves with many sins- to claim the right to pass our lives without afflictions and sufferings? Most certainly we are accountable for sin, and consequently we need the whip of the salvific discipline of  the Lord, that we may have the fortune of being saved into the kingdom of heaven, by grace of the mercies of our God Who loves mankind.

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« Reply #17 on: February 12, 2010, 10:47:40 PM »

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

3 .
Why are you sorrowful and glum while walking along the way of God? Those who have forgotten God, who have no hope in the living and eternal fountain of God, should grieve. But we, who believe in the living God and whose hopes depend upon Him, ought to rejoice that we have such a Father in the heavens, Who loves us more than all fathers and mothers and Who takes infinite care to render us worthy of Him. But, you say, we fall every moment! Yes, I do not deny it—but we know that our nature is from clay and that it desires the earth and seeks what is base, for “the mind of man is inclined to evil from his youth.” (cf. Gen. 8:21 ). And we see within us a law which seeks to capture our free will, to subjugate it and render it a slave of sin. (cf. Rom. 7:23 ). In all this, however, our good intention triumphs. God has given us spiritual weapons to fight against every satanic attack: the glorious banner of the cross of hope—living hope in Him Who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (cf. Heb. 13:5 )—hope in our Christ, who was hanged on the Cross, and all who look upon Him and hope in Him will not be put to shame. The all-immaculate Blood which was poured out on the Cross pardoned the sins of mankind and poured forth life. “Blessed is the man who hopes in Him.” (cf. Ps. 33:8 ).
Take courage, my child; this grief of yours will turn into joy. This grief produces great good for you; it surrounds you as with a breastplate of iron, so that the evil darts of attachment to earthly things do not tear your mind away from the concern for heavenly things and for your immortal soul. Grief will succeed joy, and joy, grief, just as night follows day. This is how the Father of lights has established the path of those who are being saved. Just have patience and hope: engrave these in the depths of your heart—with these, all adversities will be faced. Cling to our sweet Jesus; cry out to Him in your afflictions. Entrust to Him the care of grievous things and He will do good to you, as to Hannah, the mother of the Prophet Samuel, who out of extreme grief because of her barrenness, fell down before the Lord and poured out her soul as if beside herself. And her petition did not fail. [vid. 1 Kings (1 Sam. ) 1:1-18 ]. Who ever hoped in God and was put to shame? Of course, this does not mean blameworthy hope but active hope—that is, hope along with spiritual works according to our strength; otherwise, it is not hope but mockery. Save us from such deceitful hope, O God.

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« Reply #18 on: February 13, 2010, 09:23:40 PM »

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

4 .
  How much loss a person suffers when he forgets his sonship and does not reflect that he is disciplined as a child of God! Love imposes, on genuine parents, an absolute and indispensable duty to exercise discipline on their children. Therefore, since God is our Father, He disciplines His own children to educate them and make them partakers of His holiness. “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of His reproof.” (Prov. 3:11 ). So the Christians’ forgetfulness of their own Father, God, is a great evil; for when the paternal rod strikes them (sufferings, afflictions, trials, etc. ), they despair; ten thousand thoughts overcome them and their discipline becomes very toilsome, without any consolation. How beautifully the Apostle Paul says to us, “You have forgotten”, he says, “the exhortation which addresses you as sons.” (Heb. 12:5 ). We have forgotten, he says, the consoling counsel which God addresses to us as His children. The discipline of the Lord is inevitable towards His own children, whom He knows. God does not practice favoritism; God, being dispassionate and holy, is not overcome by unhealthy love—which many foolish parents practice on their children and which afterwards causes the destruction and eternal punishment of their loved ones. He does not overlook His beloved children’s misconduct and lack of discipline so that He would not upset them. No, a thousand times no! He is God, possessinhg genuine love towards His children. He will discipline them; He will admonish them; He will bind their freedom and will rebuke them in various ways in order to transform evil characters into His own holy characters, unto glory and praise in Christ Jesus. Even Christ, when He was on earth, the beloved Child of the Father, was tried in the discipline of the Lord; not that He, the sinless God, needed it, but for the salvation of man and for our admonition and example, so that we would follow His footsteps: “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou dost will; Thy will be done.” (Mt. 26:39, 6:10 ). How then will we justify ourselves, when our Christ, without having committed any sin—for He was God—went through such fearful sufferings? Reflect on the stupendous condescension of the infinite God: He became Man and suffered such a shameful Passion for the sake of us, the sinful, guilty and condemned; He was slapped in the face; they scourged Him, reviled Him, crucified Him; He died the most evil death: “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”! (Deut. 21:23, Gal. 3:13 ). He, as God, suffered so much for us sinners; what excuse do we have if we do not endure one trial out of love for Him, or at least for our sins?
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« Reply #19 on: February 16, 2010, 11:42:31 AM »

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

5 .
  In all circumstances have the noetic eye of the soul turned upwards, where help will come. Do not despair, whatever may happen. According to the trial, the way out follows. God never allows, or rather, He does not give a person a load beyond his strength. If men have the discernment to do this with animals, how much more does the good God, Who shed His All-holy Blood for man on the Cross! The truth is that Christians who endure temporary afflictions acquire through them future eternal joy and repose. We should never envy those who have constant joy and peace here on earth—rather we should pity them, for temporary joy will become for them an obstacle to the future life. God is merciful but also just—merciful in the present life, but after death a just Judge. It is not possible for Him to give afflicted Christians—that is, true Christians, not just Christians in name—eternal distress as well. But there He will give them constant joy, which no one will be able to take from them. God cannot cast a person from punishment to punishment. Therefore, rejoice instead of grieving, because God counted you worthy to suffer temporarily in order to give you eternal repose. Eternal joy is reserved only for suffering Christians. In the holy Gospel, the Lord says about the rich man and Lazarus: “Abraham said: Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.” (Lk. 16:25 ).
God never shows favoritism, but He acts according to righteous principles. If you glance through the lives of the saints, you will see continous trials, afflictions, and distress. This is how they passed their lives. No pleasure-lover will enter into the eternal habitation which is full of ineffable joy, but rather those who were afflicted and endured for God, for the sake of keeping His commandments. The Lord says, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”. (Jn. 16:33 ). This was said by the God Who came to the earth and labored and suffered throughout His life, and then finally, where did He end up? Hanging on the Cross as accursed, in order to throw down the barrier of the curse. Terrible anguish wrung the heart of the God-man, and He cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” The earth shook and the veil of the Temple was torn in the middle, as could be seen perceptibly. But also on the spiritual plane, the impregnable wall of the curse between God and man shook and utterly crumbled. And as Jesus expired, what had formerly been divided was united, and man became, not simply a friend of God, but God’s own kin; man received the grace of adoption into sonship: “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” (Rom. 8:17 ). For mankind gave the All-holy Virgin as a Mother to the Son, and Christ took flesh from Her pure blood. This deified human flesh sat at the right hand of God the Father. Henceforth, God was seen in the heavens and was worshipped also in human nature by the angels. Do you see where the human race has ascended? We shall become gods by grace! (cf. Jn. 10:34 ). But without afflictions, is anyone able to reach there? We shall be distressed, we shall be afflicted, but one day all will come to an end and will be forgotten; suddenly, the eternal Joy will open wide His tender arms and will call out, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden (with afflictions ), and I shall give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28 ). In each of your deeds and actions, whether in word or in thought, remember that God is present and He sees them and one day will judge them. From this saving meditation arises godly fear, which produces the greatest benefit: “I beheld the Lord ever before me, for He is at my right hand, that I might not be shaken,” (Ps. 15:8 ), said the Prophet David. “Thy law is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my paths”. (Ps. 15:8 ). It even produces humility. So humble-mindedness does not arise only from trials and tests but also from spiritual meditation and from realizing our weakness. One reflects on how weak man is, that he is not able to do good, even though it is sown within his nature. Evil, on the contrary, he does very easily, even though it is alien to him. Man wants to please God, but if the grace of God does not work together with him, the good he does is not good; and even if he wants to labor, if God does not help, his desire and labor are in vain. When a person considers his past—when he did not know God, how much he sinned—he feels contrition, humbles himself, weeps, seeks forgiveness, and reflects: “Even now, if the grace of God leaves me, I am capable of doing worse things.” Then a certain fear mingled with humility protects the soul as with a wall. This meditation is called awareness of man’s weakness, and it bears the fruits of humility and benefit, without toil and afflictions. Yes, trials come, but most of them are sent because of our pride. When someone is found in a state of humility, the trials will be fewer and light. But one must be ready, as a captain who expects a storm after the calm. When someone anticipates something, it does not seem strange to him when it comes, because he expected it. Thus one must always be prepared, so that when it comes he will not be distressed. But is it possible, my child, that we not experience distress? For it is from distress, from this affliction, that we shall inherit the eternal, unceasing good things which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has ptepared for those who love Him”? (1 Cor. 2:29 ).

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« Reply #20 on: February 16, 2010, 10:36:03 PM »

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

6 .
  Let us not forget, my child, that all the saints passed through this furnace of afflictions in different forms, each one according to the vocation to which he was called. If we take a look at the famous life and conduct of the Empress Saint Theophano, we shall see afflictions heaped up one after the other, throughout her life full of suffering. She suffered greatly; she endeavored in every way—through admonitions, prayers, tears, and examples—to reform her lawful spouse, the Emperor Leo the Wise, who was straying into sin. Her holy soul bore this cross throughout her life. And these sufferings, along with her good works, made her holy. This is how the life of man is mapped out on this earth; since he has fallen from immortality, he gathers the fruit which disobedience has brought forth. No matter how much he wants to, and no matter how much he strives to live without afflictions and thinks that he will reach this goal, he will not be able to achieve this, because the tempter is going to and fro on the earth and walking around it, (cf. Job 1:7 ), sifting everyone and watering them with the poison of afflictions as a result of the curse of the law. (cf. Gal. 3:10 ). Wherever you look, whomever you ask, all as with one mouth will confess that some thorn pricks them and they suffer. However, there are different kinds of affliction. Some are afflicted because they are not able to revel in illicit deeds; this is blameworthy affliction. Others are afflicted lawfully and for good reason; this is a natural outcome. But when there is also spiritual knowledge, then afflictions are engrafted into the one who endures patiently for his sanctification. This is precisely what happened with Saint Theophano as well; she suffered lawfully, because her spouse was unfaithful to her. But she, with spiritual knowledge, admonition, and a Christian example, enduring, weeping, and praying, placed all her trust in God. Because of all this, holiness was grafted onto what was lawful. For this reason, bear all these thinks; become holy through afflictions. Give thanks to God, Who disciplines you temporally in order to give you repose eternally! When I see or hear that someone lives without afflictions and prospers according to all his desires, I consider this to be abandonment by God! As for us, may God count us with the sufferers, so that He may write our name in the book of life, so that we not remain outside His divine bridal chamber. No matter how much we may suffer, one day all will come to an end and be forgotten; only deeds, whether evil or good, will remain to follow the soul to the tribunal, where it will hear the great verdict. This thought often moves me and I weep: what will I, the unworthy priest, speak in my defense at the judgment seat of Christ? Pray for me that I not be condemned.
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« Reply #21 on: February 17, 2010, 11:02:02 PM »

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7 .
  My beloved brother in Christ, may the grace of our Lady Theotokos preserve you from everything which would soil your dear little soul. Amen. “Tribulations and necessities have found me, Thy commandments are my meditation.” (Ps. 118:143 ). Afflictions succeed one another; we need patience. By meditating on the divine law, we are enlightened as to how to bear them, why they come, and what purpose they have. They come in order to teach us to become bearers of hardship, practiced fighters, followers of Him Who was crucified for us, brothers of all the Saints who walked the thorny road of the Cross: the martyrs by martyrdom, the monastics by ascesis, the faithful by keeping the holy commandments and through the various trials caused by the world, the devil, and the flesh. No one has ever been saved in comfort and without trials. Thus it follows that if we also bear trials, we should rejoice, for thus walked all those who were saved. And since we want to be saved, too, there is no other road but afflictions! Afflictions come in order to bring us closer to God, for afflictions grieve and oppress the heart, softening and humbling it. And when it is humbled, God looks upon it: “A heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise. (Ps. 50:17 ). “Upon whom shall I look, if not upon him who is humble and meek, and trembles at my words? (Is. 66:2 ). He who bears his sorrows with joy and knowledge will be freed from his sins and their penance. A spiritual character is also created in him: the person becomes merciful, humble, meek, etc. The one who does not have true knowledge of trials is distressed and grieved at a time when he should rejoice, for he walks the road of holy Golgotha and of the Saints. May the grace of God, which heals infirmities and makes up for deficiencies, help all of us to be patient in all things, that we be counted worthy of the kingdom of God. Amen.
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« Reply #22 on: February 18, 2010, 10:28:46 PM »

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8 .
  It is very consoling, my child, that each one of us will receive his reward based on how much he has labored for the love of Christ. It involves much labor to bear the burden of souls in the present era which is ruled by egotism and self will. Let us not lose our courage; for invisibly present is Jesus, Who will rebuke the stormy sea of trials and bring the calm of grace. Struggle upon the raging waves; call upon the only all-powerfull God: “Lord, Lord, look down from heaven and behold my trials and perfect my soul to do Thy will, for Thou art my God.” (cf. Ps. 79:15-16 ).
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« Reply #23 on: February 20, 2010, 12:31:02 AM »

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9 .
  Glory to the only wise God, Who knows how to extract the sweet out of the bitter and thus enrich our knowledge out of His boundless love toward us. He scourges us with afflictions and trials, so that He can draw us near Him; for He knows that through the sorrowful things of this present life, man remains near Him and is saved.
The comfortable life is very hazardous for eternal salvation. It is not the Spirit of God that dwells in those living in comfort, but rather the spirit of the devil, according to the saying of the Fathers. For this reason, in this life’s sorrows we need to have patient and thanksgiving, for God is well pleased with both of these virtues. May the Lord give us much patience in our life’s sorrows, so that in everything we may thank the Giver of good things Who provides for us.
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« Reply #24 on: February 21, 2010, 12:11:55 AM »

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10 .
   About the grief that torments you, I have told you many times that it is your cross which our Jesus has given to you so that you may become an imitator of Him and not be a stranger to His love. For whoever loves Him sincerely follows Him not only to Mount Tabor, where the glory of His divinity appeared (in other words, not only at the time of His visitation through His sweet grace and joy ), but follows Him also on the uphill climb to Golgotha and His Crucifixion (in other words, also in the absence of His grace and in sorrowful occurrences, which produce distress, pain, despair, perplexity, labor, and sweat). Precisely then is the inner man tested and it is revealed what he is: counterfeit or true, skilled or unskilled, captain or sailor. Precisely then are our intentions tested, and he who is courageous and patient is rewarded internally by the visitation of God through the increase of grace. In this manner, the Christian is trained in the spiritual struggle until he reaches the end and finds rest. Struggle philosophically; carry your cross with patience and joy until you bring it to the Place of the Skull, to the tomb, so that our Jesus may give you the resurrection! He who bears his cross for the love of Christ will be raised by the Lord on the last day. How long will our life be? The time of our death is unknown, whereas patience will be rewarded eternally. This cross of grief you are bearing has already given you very much, and how much more it will give you! And yet you do not see this, for God wisely hides it from you for your benefit. Entreat God continuously to give you patience, and thank Him with knowledge; then you will be able to endure ioyfully, awaiting your salvation through these afflictions.
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« Reply #25 on: February 21, 2010, 11:40:23 PM »

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11 .
  Man’s life is a martyrdom. Ever since we fell from true happiness we gather the fruit of disobedience: “Thorns and thistles will the earth bring forth to you” (Gen. 3:18 ) –the earth of the heart will, too. How will we know that we are exiles, if not through afflictions and torments? There is no person who does not have something that affkicts him. Pious Christians are afflicted, too, but in the depths of their souls they also have the hope that one day the many afflictions will result in blessed repose for them. Without afflictions and sufferings let no one expect repose in the life beyond the grave. That life is for those who have labored and were heavy-laden by the weight of this present life. Of course, the saints had much grace and spiritual strength, and they rejoiced in suffering. But we, and I first of all, suffer and sometimes our patience breaks. But glory be to God, Who enlightens us to repent and correct ourselves. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt. 26:41 ).
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« Reply #26 on: February 22, 2010, 11:26:54 PM »

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12 . 
  Concerning the sorrow which you have in your soul because of your sins, it is good and beneficial. Only when it leads you to despair, then it is clearly demonic. Immediately turn toward hope and say: “Since I repent for everything, I hope that everything I have done is forgiven. There is no sin which surpasses the compassion of God. However great the sins may be, when they come to repentance they are dissolved. Oh, the depth of the humility, forbearance, and compassion of the Lord!
May all those who are laden with a heavy sentence take courage, for there is a God Who does not consider whatever evil we may have done to Him. He forgives all sins, if only we sincerely repent. Endure the trials, my child, and it will turn out well for you. Patience—yes, patience: this will open the gates of paradise for us.

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« Reply #27 on: February 23, 2010, 10:14:01 PM »

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13 .
  In the tragic ordeal that my Elder went through, how tangibly he felt Christ! While to others the approach of death causes trembling and fear, he remained in the eros of Christ. What a wonder this is! “Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8 ).
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« Reply #28 on: February 24, 2010, 11:06:39 PM »

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14 .
  Affliction is an instrument, a tool, which God holds in His hand. He alone uses it as His infinite wisdom dictates. He uses it differently for each person, according to the need of each. Affliction in its various forms purifies and sanctifies the one who accepts it with wisdom and knowledge. That is, each affliction a Christian has is a divine visitation for his salvation, sent by the most sweet right hand of our heavenly Father, even though our nature dislikes such things, just as bitter medicines are unpleasant to the sick. Besides, if we had no afflictions, certainly we would have the fate of Lucifer. For he, at the height of glory and repose, forgot the greatness of God and his own puniness and weakness, and said, “I shall set my throne upon the clouds, and I shall be like the Highest.” (cf. Is. 14:13 ). After he thought these things, God cast him down; the former dawning star and most luminous angel became a demon, Satan, the devil, the filthiest of God’s creatures, not by nature—for God made everything very good—but by his own choice to be evil and rebellious. The devil sows within families grumbling, dislike, envy,obstinacy, etc., and thus in many families there is one person who will disturb their peace, serenity, and joy. This evil seed was not absent even from the midst of the sacred family of the Lord, which He had created on earth for the coming salvation—that is, in the midst of His sacred disciples: Judas Iscariot, a God-slaying seed!
The devil sows his seed in the midst of the wheat; even in the synodias of monastics such people exist. Not that the person himself is evil, but with his weaknesses of grumbling, envy, etc., he becomes an instrument of the devil that disturbs the peace and quiet of the others. All these things bear witness to the fact that we are exiles from our true fatherland and are now in the reformatories where the discipline of the Lord is practiced. And all who accept the discipline are led back into the heavenly paternal inheritance and recover their lost sonship, as ones worthy to receive God as their inheritance. But all who remain undisciplined, like me, and do not acknowledge the discipline, but instead through their works are shown to be illegitimate, are driven away and condemned as unworthy of the adoption to which the discipline of the Lord aimed. May our good God and Father count us worthy to be among the successful who have received adoption as sons, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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« Reply #29 on: February 25, 2010, 09:54:45 PM »

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15 . 
  My child, be patient in everything, for the reward is great. Do not look at the weight of afflictions, but consider the payment: your light afflictions reserve eternal glory for you in the heavens that far outweight them all. (cf. 2 Cor. 4:17 ). For this reason you should rejoice instead of grieving. Thank our good God in everything and do not let our enemy see you lose your patience, because then he will attack you even more in order to demolish the wall of patience completely.
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« Reply #30 on: February 26, 2010, 11:53:24 PM »

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16 .
  Concerning your question, whether or not your heartfelt sorrow and mourning are beneficial, I tell you that they are very beneficial, for they hold you back from sin, especially from the attachment and pleasure of the world, which are alien to God. Yes, but even here discernment is necessary, that sorrow and mourning are not done inordinately, for then they become harmful. Behold a sign: when you mourn reflecting on your old sins and the mourning becomes inordinate, it ends up in despair; and then you regard God as a merciless punisher, which is absurd. For He disciplines as a Father, and this is how the Christians understands it when he does not mourn inordinately. This is why discernment is most important, for it delivers us from excesses and deficiencies. When despair overcomes you, think about something else: If God commanded men to forgive the faults of their fellow men seventy times seven each day, how much more will an infinitely compassionate God forgive? Who has ever repented and not been saved? Who has ever said, “I have sinned” and was not forgiven? Who has fallen and sought help and was not raised up? Who has wept and was not comforted by God? “If you then,” says the Lord, “being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?” (Mt. 7:11 ). Our heavenly Father disciplines us, not to make us despair, but rather to make us repent and correct ourselves. When we misunderstand the meaning of discipline, we end up in despair. Under the sway of such an influence, it is impossible for the soul to be consoled. But when we retain a healthy understanding of the meaning of discipline and afflictions, much divine comfort follows. Behold, my child, under what circumstances mourning and grief are beneficial.
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« Reply #31 on: February 27, 2010, 11:39:55 PM »

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17 . 
  In this world, my child, people are divided into good and bad, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, noble and lowborn, smart and not so smart. All, however, have one thing in common: suffering. For without exception all people will suffer in their life. As the maxim says: “It is a wonder if anyone has been happy throughout his life”. So then, all people live in the kingdom of suffering. We know that suffering is something personal, which one must face alone. It is his cross, which he must carry, just as the Savior of the world, Jesus, carried His cross for our sake. So be at ease, my child, in the paternal hand, which at this time performs surgery on you by means of suffering, and be calm. Accept that God sends it to you, reconcile yourself with suffering, so that you will be able to face it. I know how difficult this is, but also how beneficial for your salvation. The saints rejoiced in their afflictions; let us at least accept ours with patience, and God will not forget even this miniscule, voluntary patient acceptance of His will, which is represented by suffering. My child, muster the powers of your soul when you suffer, and try to understand the purpose of suffering, through which God opens heaven for you. Do you think that He Who numbers the hairs of your head does not know the measure of your suffering? Yes, He knows it. Therefore be at rest, trusting in our heavenly Father. Do not grow weary; with our Christ’s help you will pass through everything, and will also become His heir in the boundless fortune of our common Father. Amen.
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« Reply #32 on: February 28, 2010, 10:26:41 PM »

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18 . 
  Are you able to enumerate the mercies of God? The sins of the worst person, before the compassion of God, are like a handful of sand in the ocean. There is no sin which overcomes the compassion of God. God may be portrayed as our mother: is it possible for the sin of a child to overcome his mother’s love? If a mother loves her child so much, how infinitely does God love us, Who clearly proved this by being crucified on the Cross? The Apostle Peter denied the Lord three times, yet through repentance he was restored. The great persecutor of Christians, the Apostle Paul, through repentance became the chief of the Apostles. Prostitutes, thieves, tax collectors, and innumerable other guilty people were sanctified by repentance. For this reason, cast away your distress and excessive remorse; be hopeful; take courage, and drive away every thought of despair.
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« Reply #33 on: March 01, 2010, 11:03:44 PM »

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19 .
  No matter how much we may suffer, the time will come when all will end and each one of us will be given repose in accordance with his labors. Are you afflicted? Are you in pain? Do you weep from the pressure of sorrowfull events? Are you weary? Take courage, for through such things the kingdom of God is acquired. But if you have it easy in everything and do not remember God, then grieve, for you are not walking the path that leads to God. Afflictions, sicknesses, and torments weary us continually so that we abhor this world and desire the world there, where Cherubim and Seraphim hymn God, where there is the real and true repose, the day without evening, the blessed light; while things here, in comparison with the eternal things, are dark and abominable. May our holy God grant us spiritual understanding, so that we always prefer the everlasting things, the highest good, our sweet God.
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« Reply #34 on: March 03, 2010, 12:56:31 AM »

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20 .
  Οh, how beneficently our God and Father intervenes by means of pain in the life of man, His child! If  man knew the spiritual benefit that pain brings, he would pray to bear all kinds of pain throughout his life in order to deposit spiritual “money”, the money of pain, in the bank of God, in the city above, and to receive the money of blessedness at the time when all souls will receive the wages for labors, pain, and afflictions.
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« Reply #35 on: March 03, 2010, 11:05:19 PM »

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21 .
  Have patience, my child, in the trial which the goodness of God is sending you for the greater benefit of your soul. You should rejoice, because this shows God’s concern for your greater spiritual progress, primarily in humility. Many times, man’s pride becomes a cause for God to give us a fatherly “slap” so that we walk more securely in humility. This is the best sign of how greatly God is concerned for our souls. So be patient, my child. This is also a cross; take it up for the love of the Lord. Resemble Him, so that He may give you His love; for He says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me”. (Jn. 14:21 ). One of His commandments is obedience until Golgotha, with the cross on our shoulder. Blessed is he who endures trials, for as one tried he will receive the crown of eternal life. (cf. Jas 1:12 ).
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« Reply #36 on: March 05, 2010, 01:31:10 AM »

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22 .
  We are disciplined that we may become worthy of the heavens. The heavenly Father disciplines us in every way in order to form a spiritual character within us, so that we may resemble our heavenly Father as His children. We must nurture in ourselves characteristics with clearly reflect that we are legitimate sons of God. Let us be distinguished in patience, in meeckness, in love, in brotherly affection, and so forth—characteristics of God’s children, who are about to inherit, along with Christ, the boundless spiritual riches of the heavenly Father. Be courageous, my child, in the struggle; through many tribulations we shall ascend to heaven. The path of our salvation is strewn with thorns, and we shall have pain and shed blood; but be patient. The blessed hour will come when all the pain and blood will inscribe our names in the book of life! Then we shall bless God, Who with unfathomable wisdom devised pain and affliction as a means of great salvation. Do not grow tired of crying out to Christ, if you want your mouth to be sanctified. As for the temptations which you see in your sleep, do not think about them, but disregard them, for they themselves do not have any substance. When you disregard them, they will not bother you.
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« Reply #37 on: March 05, 2010, 11:24:39 PM »

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On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

23 .
  My blessed child, may joy and peace be upon your dear little soul. Trials are always beneficial when we bear them patiently. When the trials have passed, they leave behind experience for the one tried by them, and fruit in proportion to the patience and skill which he showed in the struggle. Since there is no road which saves other than trials, what should we do? Have patience to the point of shedding blood. This is also how our fathers struggled, and they became holy. Trials befit us also in order that we be humbled—even though we are humble by nature—that is, we are made of earth and even our works are like rubbish and chaff. Do not forget, my child, what the sweet-scented mouth of Jesus said: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33 ). Therefore, whoever has Christ with him will also overcome the world of his passions. Do not let the magnitude of the trials terrify you, but be attentive lest the enemy craftily robs you with thoughts without your realizing it, lest you continue yielding to the point that evel thoughts coerce you. Anyway, the truth is one: most holy humility is the most salvific medicine. Be humble in everything, and without the least doubt you will by all means obtain perfect—or at least satisfactory—freedom from the passions.
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« Reply #38 on: March 06, 2010, 10:05:13 PM »

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

24 .
  I pray, my child, that you have peace in both soul and body, for what is more beautiful than peace of soul and health of body! Both make man’s life pleasant; in their absence, however, a harsh tempest rises and the little boat of one’s soul is tossed about in the midst of raging waves. How many prayers are offered then! But the Lord, when He was on earth, met a similar storm: “and He rebuked the wind and the sea and there was a great calm.” (cf. Mk. 4:39 ). Let us call on this peacemaking Lord and Master whenever spiritual storms overcome us, my child, and I believe that when we call on Him with faith, He will hasten to our aid and say, “Behold, I am here”.
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« Reply #39 on: March 07, 2010, 09:08:43 PM »

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

25 . 
   Blessed daughter…, the Lord be with you. I received your little letter; do not grieve so much, my child. Moderation is necessary in all things, for by weeping excessively you will get worse, because the nervous system does not endure great grief and distress. See to it that you be humble and careful, and that you not grieve the Eldress, but do whatever she tells you with faith, and you will miraculously see the hand of God caressing you! Do not stray off the straight path, so that you are not tormented by remorse. Make an effort, my good child, to correct yourself a little, cutting off your own will entirely, and be careful not to do things without a blessing,* but ask the Eldress for whatever you want. And if she does not allow some of the things you want, be patient, for it is then that your genuine love for Christ is demonstrated. For if our elders fulfill our every wish, then where is that virtue which is called cutting off of the will? Yes, my child, compel yourself. I know what you are suffering from and how much you suffer, but it takes patience. For even our Christ was patient, when we were sinning in front of Him and He was waiting for us to repent. I pray that our Panagia** may always console you and refresh your dear little soul. Amen.

*Blessing (ευλογία )
Βesides its usual meanings, a “blessing” can also mean the permission given by one’s spiritual father for a particular action.

**Panagia (Παναγία )
This title of the Virgin Mary means “the all-holy one.”
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« Reply #40 on: March 08, 2010, 10:03:45 PM »

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

26 .
   My blessed child, may the God of love be with you. Be patient in everything, for it is in this way that you will reap benefit from everything. Our Christ loves you, and for this reason He continually visits you so much. If He did not love you, He would have abandoned you and you would have been lost, whereas now you are alive and are struggling. It is irrelevant if you suffer temporally; consider and meditate on what is eternal, and this will relieve and refresh you in the burning heat of harsh trials. You are passing through the furnace that trfines those souls which have dedicated their lives to God. So take courage and rejoice, for through this your soul will be purified to receive the most pure Lord. Be humble and love everyone for the love of Christ, and in this way you will be saved. I leave you with the peace and love of God.
With fatherly love, Geronda.*

*Geronda (Γέρων )
A geronda (pronounced “yeh-ron-da” ) is a hieromonk, priest, or monk who, ideally, has reached dispassion by the grace of God. Thus, because of his own experience, he is able to lead his spiritual children to dispassion as well. In a broader sense, though, it is used as a respectful title for any spiritual father and any elderly hieromonk, priest, or monk.

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« Reply #41 on: March 09, 2010, 11:00:24 PM »

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

27 . 
  My blessed child, I pray that the Heavenly Father grants you discernment so that you can discern the truth from the devil’s lie. Concerning the first thought that you wrote about, I reply: Didn’t God declare that Job was blameless? Then why did He permit trials so severe that he reached such a difficult situation that he cursed the day of his birth? Nevertheless, all this was permitted in order to teach him, of course; for this is what the Lord usually does: first He tests and then He shows His love. The love of God is manifested not only when He caresses, but also when He slaps. If the Heavenly Father slaps us, He reveals through this that He loves us. If God did not consider us His children, He would not have sent us trials but would have abandoned us as we are: spiritually uneducated, without any solicitude. In the order world, the ones nearest the Lord will be those who have been educated in soul and wise in spiritual struggles. And because He loves us wretched ones and wants to honor us, He educate us spiritually here, in the University of Monasticism. But since we are inexperienced as to how Divine Providence works, we blame God, asking why He should send us trials, and thus we jeopardize our eternal happiness through our ignorance. Spiritual education consists of deliverance from the passions and especially from egotism. So, my child, let us struggle not to condemn; let us say, “Bless”*, and, “May it be blessed”. Let us have genuine love. And when do we have genuine love? When we do not condemn the others, but justify them.

*Bless (ευλογείτε, ευλόγησον )
Ιn addition to its regular meaning, this word is used by monastics also to mean: (1 )  “Forgive me”; (2 ) “Hello”; or (3 ) “Good-bye”.
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« Reply #42 on: March 10, 2010, 10:39:00 PM »

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

28 .
  Do not lose your courage, my child. The deprivations we bear are meant to prepare for us the eternal enjoyment of heaven! We knowingly deprive ourselves of the pleasurable things of this life for the love of our Christ. If we wanted to, we could enjoy them freely, but voluntarily we do not accept them so that we may be given the affectionate love of our exceedingly sweet Jesus. My daughter, we have an immortal and eternal Bridegroom, Who preserves the glory of virginity forever. We have been called to become angels, my beloved daughter, so shouldn’t we deprive ourselves of things pleasurable and sinful? Isn’t worth depriving ourselves of foul things for Jesus’ divine love? So struggle worthily of your calling with fortitude. The martyrs shed their blood for the love of our Christ, so can’t we resist one loathsome, counterfeit pleasure? Glorify God in your body and in your soul.
Struggle to the end.
Farewell, my daughter.
Your father.
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« Reply #43 on: March 11, 2010, 10:37:44 PM »

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

29 . 
  Here in this vain world, my child, we shall be afflicted, we shall be embittered, we shall feel pain. But all this is for a limited time; it is temporary—let us pray that God does not abandon us to an eternal degree and measure, for then we would not bear it. Whenever you are in pain and are afflicted, call to mind Him Who was Crucified and then you will find much relief. For who could gaze at the Crucified One and reflect on His Passion wich He suffered for us, and not find balm for his wounds, whether spiritual or physical? Look up, my child, there on Golgotha, there where the holy Lamb triumphed victoriously in order to wash the wounds of our sins and passions with His Blood. His compassion is great; never lose your confidence in Him Who was crucified for you. I pray that you pass Great Lent with flourishing health of both soul and body. Amen.
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« Reply #44 on: March 12, 2010, 09:57:43 PM »

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

30 .   
  A physician torments a sick person with operations, bitter medicines, amputation of body parts, etc., with the purpose, of course, of curing him and not of torturing him out of wickedness. Likewise God, as the Physician of our souls and bodies, heals us with all kinds of medicines, afflictions, and sufferings to give us our spiritual health, which is the greatest good that exists. But those who are indignant and do not bear it patiently—like me—lose the spiritual benefit and thus gain only pain. So since God saves us in such a miraculous way, we have the necessary obligation to thank Him unceasingly and to bless His All-holy Name. We should do so not only with our mouth, but primarily with our works, so that no deed of ours may offend God’s grandeur. For if we bless Him with our lips and revile Him with our works, then we are mocking Him. Let us make an effort not to grieve our Christ by any offense, so that the Holy Spirit may rest in our souls. Amen.

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« Reply #45 on: March 14, 2010, 12:52:37 AM »

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On Illness

1 The truth is that the illnesses, afflictions, and tribulations of Christians bring about the cleansing of their soul and the forgiveness of their sins. Every Christian has the sacred obligation to accept with a guileless and simple heart whatever kind of cross God has placed upon him, and to carry it up to glorious Golgotha. Sometimes he may fall to his knees under the toil and burden, but God will send another good Simon of Cyrene (vid. Mt. 27:32 )—that is, the grace of patience—who will lift the cross to Golgotha. When we visit a cemetery, we see a cross on every grave—some wooden, others stone, others iron, etc. Likewise, God gives a cross to every Christian soul. To one He gives an iron cross, to another a wooden cross, to another a stone cross; each person is given one as the wisdom of God deems best. The main purpose of the Lord is to save pur precious soul, regardless of whether or not it suffers in the process. He Himself provides us with the patience and enlightenment to be able to bear the cross to the end. The afflictions felt in illnesses are sent by the holy hand of our good God. The most effective medicine for spiritual health is bodily illness. Illnesses are the reveille for the soul that has become drowsy with the narcotic drink of ignorance, of forgetfulness of God. Illnesses force the soul that has become careless, because of its spiritually harmful physical health, to get back to the right way of life. “In affliction I remembered Thee” (Is. 26:16 ). “In my affliction Thou hast made me prosper” (Ps.4:1 ). “We must through many tribulations enter into life” (cf. Acts 14:22 ). “By your patience possess your souls” (Lk. 21:19 ). The slaps of pure love are absolutely never occasioned without a holy and saving purpose foreseen! The Lord tells us in the Holy Gospel that without the will of our heavenly Father, not even a sparrow falls dead, and that the very hairs of our head are numbered (cf.Mt.10:29-30 ). How assuring these words are that all our deeds, words, and thoughts are known to God, and that our afflictions occur with His knowledge, are from His providence, and aim at some salvific goal! What great corruption, both physical and spiritual, did mankind have before the coming of the Lord! Which medicine brought about spiritual rebirth to the souls of men? Was it not the gigantic Cross of our Lord Jesus? If the Lord had not died on the Cross, man could not have been saved in any other way. Jesus became a model for us by bearing His Cross. He showed thus that whoever wants to be saved must follow Him, endure the cross which the Lord will lay upon him according to his strength, ascend to Golgotha, be crucified together with Jesus, and then be glorified together with the Lord in the kingdom of God. When the soul sees that the glory and repose in the bliss of heaven are given in proportion to the cross it carried, it will regret that it did not carry a heavier cross in order to receive greater glory and repose. It will say, “The labor then lasted only a short time, whereas now I am deprived of eternal blessings! Even the Patriarch Abraham, when he sees blessings being distributed, will regret not having struggled more! One young girl was continuously sick with a nasty illness, which finally killed her. One night she appeared to her sister, who asked her, “How are you doing, my sister, in the place where you are”? And she answered, “What can I say, my sister? Christ gave me much glory and repose because of my illness. Oh, if only I could return to the earth to suffer a greater illness, so that I would receive more glory here!” If the Lord Himself—the omnipotent and sinless One—carried a cross for the sake of man, for his salvation, how much more so do we sinners, who sin every hour, need a cross for our salvation? “I made ready and was not troubled” (Ps.118:60 ), says the Prophet David. We must always be ready to endure without grumbling every trial that the holy hand of the Physician will send us. Since this trial comes from and is permitted by Him Who loves us boundlessly, the trial will absolutely never be for our harm, for after it is over we shall see its good result; we shall see God’s main purpose. The Lord Jesus, foreseeing the future trials of His followers, gave them support by saying, “By your patience possess your souls. He who endures to the end will be saved” (Lk. 21:19, Mt. 10:22 ). By enduring your illness with patience, you are also counted among the beloved children of God. Your burden will one day become your resurrection; your sorrows, joy; your patience, eternal life! Cry out with thankfulness to the Lord: “Blessed be the name of the Lord. As it seemed good to the Lord, so has it come to pass. Glory  to God for everything” (cf. Job 1:21 ). As you cry out like this, your soul will be filled with joy and peace, and at the same time you will strengthen yourself in patience. What is a Christian? What must he have? Certainly, he must have much patience in everything. The road that takes wayfarers to the city of paradise is completely strewn with thorns; those who travel along it will bleed. But the hope of enjoying paradise overcomes everything and provides the wayfarers with patience—as the forty holy martyrs said when they were thrown into the frozen lake: “Winter is bitter, but paradise is sweet; the frost is painful, but the enjoyment will be sweet”. May the all-good God also count us the lowly along with those who labor and are heavy-laden in order to give us eternal repose. Amen.
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« Reply #46 on: March 14, 2010, 10:01:12 PM »

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On Illness

2 .
 From the time our sweet Jesus lifted the life-giving wood of the precious Cross on His immaculate shoulders and was hanged upon it, from that time and throughout the ages, lifting the cross is continued by His followers in the form of various afflictions and trials, through which the Christian triumphs over the many forms of destructive self-love. Through Luke the Evangelist, the Savior stresses that “whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Lk. 14:27 ). And again: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Lk. 9:23 ). Abba Isaac, the hesychast philosopher, says, “Man changes at every moment.” Indeed, the dispositions of both the soul and body do not stop changing at any moment, sometimes bringing about distress, at other times pain, sometimes expectation of sad news, at other times an undefined disorder and distress of soul and body. All of these are due to either bodily or spiritual causes, which confirm God’s curse that burdened the race of man due to the disobedience of Adam and Eve. But the good Jesus, the Tree of life, on the one hand by His holy example, and on the other by His divine teachings, pours out the balsam of consolation upon the cross of afflictions along with many life-giving assurances that it is through many tribulations that we shall be able to enter His kingdom(cf. Acts 14:22 ). In the Old Testament, in the Book of Numbers, among other things, the following distinctive event is narrated: “When the Israelites had disobeyed God in the wilderness, as a punishment for their disobedience He sent serpents to them which bit and killed them. But God heard the prayer of Moses, who was fervently praying for this wrath to abate, and ordered him to make a bronze serpent and lift it up on the pole. And all who were bitten by the serpents were immediately healed when they looked at the bronze serpent” (cf. Num. 21:6-9 ). And in the Holy Gospel, our Jesus likened the elevation of the bronze serpent to His own life-giving elevation on the Cross by saying: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” (Jn.3:14 ). So sin—which is the meaning of the poisonous serpent—bites man, poisoning the entire being of his poor soul through culpable and passionate pleasure, which brings about the soul’s death and separation from God. But our Christ, the noetic bronze serpent, who was hanged on the life-giving wood of the precious Cross, through the lofty truths of the gospel, heals the souls that have been bitten by various sins, giving them a living hope of a life beyond comprehension. “O Death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory? (1 Cor. 15:55 ). The powers of your horrible tyranny were abolished, annihilated, enfeebled, and completely put to death by the death and resurrection of Jesus, our God, Who saves our souls. The heart is poisoned and darkened by pleasure and sensuality. Then, since it is darkened, it does the work of darkness, grieving the Holy Spirit Whom it had received through rebirth in the sacred baptismal font. Conversely, pain and affliction expel culpable sensuality from the heart. As it is cleansed by pain, it becomes capable of receiving the comforting Spirit. Once the good Comforter comes, He consoles, encourages, and enlightens the heart, and as a nurturer He gives it life with the divine teachings and the aids of joy and hope. So look upon the noetic bronze serpent, Jesus, Who heals through pain all souls that suffer from the bites of poisonous sin in its many forms. From the unshakeable truths derived from experience, it follows that pain and affliction are the most essential medicine for the soul which is ill with sin. At the same time, they are also excellent teachers for the spiritual uplifting of the soul which has sullied its beauty in sin and moral darkness and has thereby acquired morally evil habits. Pain, in the various meanings of the word, becomes the skillful cultivator that takes a sinful soul that is like a wild olive tree and grafts it onto o good olive tree. Sin hardens the heart of the sinner and renders him unfeeling; nothing moves him, because God, Who has feeling and sympathy for people, is missing. However, what does God do—He Who loves mankind, Who “came to seek and to save that which was lost”? (cf. Lk. 19:10 ). He draws up a plan of salvation through pain, and especially through illness, for the soul which has gone astray. You see, for example, a youth in his prime, puffed up because of his strength and behaving arrogantly, forgetting about God and his soul—then suddenly he lies prostrate on a bed of pain. Then, as a most experienced and skillful doctor, pain begins its surgery. First, it operates on the heart by removing its hardness little by little, and thus it softens the soul. He who was formerly hard of heart becomes soft and calm in his feelings. He commiserates with his fellow patients, and he who was formerly unsympathetic speaks with sympathy. And once his heart has been prepared through these and various other feelings brought about by the instructive rod of pain, then the ears of his previously deaf soul open, and he accepts, retains, and attentively listens to the word of truth, the gospel of salvation. Then he who was formerly indifferent to God and to his soul becomes zealous in reading various religious books and periodicals. He begins to recall his sinfulness with genuine contrition and feeling. Thus he learns to pray with compunction and soon becomes an eloquent preacher of the benefactions of the excellent doctor, pain, proclaiming that it alone cures the illness of being far from God. Pain cures not only the person who is far from God; it also heals souls that are healthy, but partially ill with a “sickness not unto death,” (Jn. 11:4 ), such as occasional indifference, criticism, self-love, cowardice, doubts, and so on. Pain exercises its activity even in the saints so that through their patience their glory may be increased. However, the saints often suffer also to give an example to others, as happened with long-suffering Job, St. Syncletiki, and so many other saints. When we have a beautiful piece of furniture and leave it unattended to for a period of time, we see that a layer of fine dust settles upon it. True—it is not ruined, but it has lost some of its shine and beauty. This also happens to a healthy soul when it does not have afflictions now and then. For example, indifference, if one does not attend to it in time, little by little without anyone realizing it, settles in the soul like dust on the furniture, and the soul loses its original zeal towards God. It does pray; it does fulfill its duties, but not as it should. But if pain comes, if affliction visits, then the wind blows and the flame—that is, the zeal to fulfill its duties to God—is kindled again. Just as it happens with indifference, so it happens also with every other illness of the soul. Pain is the divine medicine which the infinite wisdom of God devised for the ailing soul, and He uses it with absolute authority and no reserve so that through such an effective medicine, we may come to our senses and be watchful and vigilant in executing His holy will. Thus at the time of repayment we may receive, as a reward for vigilantly cleaving to His will, entrance into the eternal delight of the Lord, rejoicing and exulting in it together with those who have been called from all ages. There, together with the Lady Theotokos, the angels, and all the saints, we shall praise with endless, joyful hymns the blessed name of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, to Whom belong all glory, honor, and dominion unto the endless ages of ages.
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« Reply #47 on: March 15, 2010, 10:42:04 PM »

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On Illness

3 .
  God chastens and then heals; He raises up and casts down—who is able to withstand the will of the Lord? If God wills that we suffer, He has some salvific purpose in mind which we earthly ones are unable to foresee. Whereas patience, forbearance, and the humble acceptance of trials will always—yes, always—bring certain benefit later. My child, bear your cross, and know that all that we suffer is known to God, and as a true Father He tries in every way to form Jesus Christ within us (cf. Gal. 4:19 ). He wants us to suffer because He knows what He has prepared in the heavens for His suffering children. But if He did not send them afflictions, He would do them injustice, because they would be deprived of the ineffable blessings of heaven. The more we suffer, the more beautifully our crown of glory is woven! Never believe that you are possessed; never let any such thought deceive you. Such things happen to many monks when they become ill. This is how God has arranged things: when the body is ill, the soul follows accordingly, and when the soul suffers, the body also wastes away and sulks. The tempter was envious of you, my child, but let us be patient so that he may be foiled and God may be glorified. Who does not feel pain when he undergoes surgery, and who does not feel pain when he loses the grace of God and is swarmed by thousands of warped thoughts? This is how God’s wisdom has arranged things to bring about the soul’s correction. All things will pass, as well as the winter of our passions, and the sweet spring of health will blossom again, and you will rejoice and say, “It is good for me that Thou hast humbled me, that I may learn Thy statutes” (Ps. 118:71 ). As nature’s seasons—winter, spring, summer, and autumn—follow one another, likewise the spiritual seasons follow each other. One goes, another comes—and thus the soul becomes accustomed to all spiritual changes and becomes wise and experienced. This experience is grace, which supports the soul in times of terrible changes, so that from past trials it will know well that only patience and forbearance can provide a peaceful state and beneficial thoughts. In this manner, we emerge from trials with benefit, and we become wiser and more experienced.
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« Reply #48 on: March 16, 2010, 09:42:37 PM »

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On Illness

4 .
  My child, although much of your illness is due to disobedience, the love of God is evident in you. God loves you very much, which is why He chastens you. God is working out your precious salvation through the trials you are undergoing. He wants to lighten your burden and fill the vessel of your soul with the gift of the great hope of obtaining heaven and dwelling eternally near Christ, Whom you have ardently loved in this life! So what remains for you to do? Maintain utmost patience, exercise courage in the trial you are undergoing, and give boundless thanks to the excellent Guide of our souls, coupled also with grace-filled humility. My child, walk up the path to Golgotha with the cross you have been given by the greatly beneficent hand of Him Who loves and chastens you so that you may partake of His holiness.
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« Reply #49 on: March 17, 2010, 09:11:19 PM »

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On Illness

5 . 
   My child, I pray that the God of patience and consolation (Rom. 15:5 ) will strengthen you in your illness, which you have fallen into by the will of God. When I heard that you were seriously ill, I felt much pain for you and begged our Panagia to make you well, first in soul and then in body. My child, think of the holy martyrs—how much they endured for the love of our Christ! Therefore, you should also say to yourself, “Lowly one, patiently endure the torments of illness so that you may avoid the eternal torments of hell!” Those martyrs voluntarily submitted to the tortures of martyrdom, whereas you are in pain involuntarily. But even this is good; it will benefit you significantly—just bear the chastisement of the Lord with joy and thankfulness. Tell yourself these and other such things to strengthen yourself and to give yourself fortitude and consolation.
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« Reply #50 on: March 18, 2010, 10:06:35 PM »

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On Illness

6 . 
  Entrust your health to God. If your illness or the doctor imposes something on you, accept it with the hope that through it God will accomplish what He wants. Of course, our self-denial should not lead us to death (which would be suicide ), nor should we have so much attentive care that it leads to self-love, but we should walk the middle road—that is, in faith we should do what is prescribed so that it is not considered to be suicide. But as to whether or not we shall get well through the means we use, in faith we leave this up to God. My child, have patience in all your sufferings. Illnesses provide great benefit to the soul when we endure them, as long as we blame ourselves for them, since we suffer from them primarily on account of our sins, and especially on account of our pride of heart.
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« Reply #51 on: March 19, 2010, 09:20:07 PM »

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On Illness

7 . 
   I pray that you will always be healthy. But when you are ill, bear patiently the chastening of the Lord which is sent from His affectionate and immense heart. The chastening proceeding from such a heart will never be fruitless, harmful, or undiscerning. Rather, it chastens us for our own good, for the forgiveness of our sins, for our protection, and for eternal salvation! The heart that chastens us is the heart of God Himself, our heavenly Father. He sees all, especially the purpose of every act. He sees how you are suffering and are afflicted. Know that He will not try you beyond your strength. Through afflictions, He brings about the cleansing of your soul and its eternal salvation. “We glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance” (Rom. 5:3 ). As His children, God disciplines us so that His features may be formed in us. It is when children bear the features of their parents that their legitimacy shows. So this is the purpose of the Lord’s chastening. Your afflictions are salvific; always have hope and you will by no means be put to shame.
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« Reply #52 on: March 20, 2010, 08:54:52 PM »

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On Illness

8 . 
   Ignorance, my child, is known as the soul’s death. Ignorance does not enlighten a sick person; it does not say to him: “Your illness is the will of God, and you ought to pass through it with patience and thankfulness, so that you will not become a transgressor before God with your impatience!” To the enlightened Christian, however, knowledge of God’s will not only makes him bear everything with thankfulness, but also helps him acquire a strong spiritual constitution and at the same time obtain the refreshment of consolation. He reflects: “By undergoing these pains and afflictions I am doing God’s will, and this will bring about the forgiveness of my previous offences. By paying here the debt of my sentence, I shall receive my freedom there in the life to come, where I shall live eternally—whereas here, no matter how much suffering I may undergo, it is temporary and short-lived”. So my child, we need patience so as not to be condemned with the unrepentant world. Regardless of what might happen to us, through patience everything is put aright, and the inner man will find peace, bearing patiently what God has allowed. Bear your cross, and I shall bear mine, as we follow the heavenly Bridegroom, Christ, Who for us ungrateful sinners bore a Cross of disgrace. What do we bear that is equal in worth to such good things that we enjoy from God? If I were to enumerate the blessings of God and the ingratitude of man, I think my mind would stop; for how can the finite mind comprehend the infinite benefactions of God towards man?
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« Reply #53 on: March 21, 2010, 08:42:00 PM »

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On Illness

9 .
  May the God of patience and consolation (Rom. 15:5 ) grant you patience and His caress of consolation to strengthen you to continue the struggle. My child, do not look only at the present pains, but raise your eyes “as one weaned from his mother” (Ps. 130:3 ) and behold: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,” (Rom. 8:18 ), who long for the manifestation of our Christ. Do not measure only the pains, but philosophically consider the reward, for isn’t God just? God deprived you of the comfort of having healthy feet in order to count you worthy to celebrate the great resurrection of your soul “with a joyful step” (Paschal Canon, Ode Five ) there in the Jerusalem on high. Yes, indeed, all of Scripture proclaims this. My child, walk in Christ bearing in mind the eternal joy to come. Do not grow weary of contending; do not imagine that you are beating the air, for truly there is a fight going on as there was with Job. He patiently bore a martyrdom of a variety of pains, and his wife pushed him towards eternal death through her evil advice; whereas you are being advised through these pains to obtain eternal life. He sat on a dung heap, was covered with sores, and was ridiculed as a sinner, but you rest at home upon a bed and are considered to be a virtuous Christian. Do you see how inferior we are? Therefore, endure patiently and thank God Who gave you such a gift, so that He might make you, as a grateful servant, a heir of His boundless kingdom! Amen; so be it.
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« Reply #54 on: March 22, 2010, 07:18:35 AM »

Candy. All nice and sweet. One is better reading the Church Fathers of yesterday for True Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #55 on: March 22, 2010, 07:21:06 AM »

This book reads like the book written by Neale Donald Walsch "Conversations with God."
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« Reply #56 on: March 22, 2010, 09:47:23 PM »

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On Illness

10 .
  You say that your brother was hungry, thirsty, and so on when he was sick, and he blasphemed. You also said that your brother was committing a mortal sin. God, though, Who is very compassionate, wanted to bring him to a realization of his guilt so that he would repent, so He gave him this illness out of paternal love as a spiritual medication to cure his soul of its illness. If you had looked after your brother and offered him every bodily comfort, what pains would he have suffered for God to see and have pity on him? You should realize that the more he was tormented, the more his penalty was lightened! God gave him the illness and allowed the brethren to neglect their duty towards him so that his conscience would make him feel remorse and repent. He is like a patient who is given medicine by a doctor, but lacks the necessary patience. Thus, he curses and grumbles at the doctor, which only leads to his own demise.
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« Reply #57 on: March 23, 2010, 09:53:00 PM »

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On Illness

11 .
  When you are in pain, gather the powers of your soul and try to understand what heaven is trying to tell you in this trial of yours. If perhaps you cry from the pain, the tears will cleanse your vision, as it did to Job the much-suffering, and then you, too, will be able to say along with him, “now mine eye hath seen Thee” (Job 42:5 ).
Don’t forget that God sees you and watches you when you are in pain; He perceives even the beating of your heart. Consequently, He will not leave you without consolation and His fatherly protection. Naturally, the saints rejoiced in their afflictions; as for us, let us at least manage to accept affliction or pain patiently.
My child, pray within your heart, and the name of Jesus will become for you a comforting balm so that you can bear this trial of yours in a way which benefits you. You will greatly benefit from this trial if you submit yourself to it patiently. So again I say to you, with the almighty armor of prayer continually approach the omnipotent Lord more often, and you will come to know how He wondrously lifts the burden of pain and marvelously gives rest to sufferers.
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« Reply #58 on: March 24, 2010, 07:51:27 PM »

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On Illness

12 .
    Ι pray that you will get fully well. What can we do? The Lord chastens us so that we may have an eternal reward. Since we have no ascesis, the Lord gives us illnesses and afflictions to count it as ascesis for us so that we may have some small consolation when we are judged before Him. What can we do, my child? This is how God wants things: that we suffer here in order to find repose in the world to come. Everything here is transient; there, eternal. Winter is bitter, but paradise is sweet. Let our feet freeze here so that they may dance there eternally! Glory to Thee, O God.
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« Reply #59 on: March 25, 2010, 10:43:49 PM »

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On Illness

13 .
   My blessed child in Christ, I am praying that the great Physician of souls and bodies grant you your full health, in accordance with His holy will. There were holy men, my child, who were gravely ill, yet in their illness they healed others. Oh, how much God loved them! An exceptional sign of God’s love for a soul is when He saddles it with illnesses or afflictions. Pain of body or soul purifies, cleanses, and brightens the garment of the soul from every stain of sin. There was one holy monastic father who was always ill. It happened once that he was not ill for a period of time, and he complained, saying: “Ah, my God, why didst Thou forget me and not consider me worthy of Thy visitation?” This blessed man yearned for illnesses because he knew from his experience how much the soul benefits from them. Pain brings the unrepentant sinner to repentance, whereas for the righteous, it fortifies the strength of his soul and becomes a mighty wall around him so that he does not stray into sin. Just as a sick person gladly submits himself to the painful treatment of the doctor because he knows his aim, similarly we should endure with gratitude and knowledge all things that befall us involuntarily as sent from the kind hand of God for our salvation. “The athlete is tested by the stadium, the captain by the storm and tempest, the general by the battle, the magnanimous by misfortune, and the Christian by temptation,” says St. Basil the Great. Just as the earth becomes productive when the plow tills it deeply, likewise the soul becomes fruitful in virtues when pain and illness visit it frequently and intensely! The more pain and affliction a person has, the more beautiful his crown becomes. And if there are many and various pains that oppress him, then the crown of glory is adorned with many flowers and pearls. Gold has to pass through the furnace to become purified, and the soul of a Christian has to pass through the furnace of temptations to receive the seal of eternal glory in the royal treasury of Christ the King. If holy and blessed people passed through the furnace of pain and were benefited, how much more pain suits us and how much benefit we will derive from it when we endure it with knowledge and gratitude! It is when we see pain oppressing us, physically or spiritually, that we should consider that we are loved by God and that He has placed us in the ranks of His chosen. O blessed chastening of the Lord, I love you. But I am unworthy of such a gift, for I live in comfort and shall become a victim of the eternal fire. So, my child, I envy you because you are suffering and will obtain eternal repose! Your crown is decorated and beautified for your eternal glory! Endure for the Lord’s sake until the end. Bear your cross well lest you drop it, and you can be sure that you will be glorified with Christ eternally! Pray for me, too, lest I be shut out of paradise as one who does not practice what he preaches.
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« Reply #60 on: March 26, 2010, 08:09:37 PM »

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On Illness

14 . 
  My child, I pray that the good Comforter, the good and true Spirit, the Holy Spirit, will overshadow you, console you, and ignite in you the love of Christ. I pray with all my soul that our Christ will grant you your health. I see and know from my experience, my child, that if one suffers various afflictions, whether bodily or spiritual, and patiently endures them with knowledge, and thanks God, then God is definitely obliged to send consolation to refresh his soul. But if we do not endure pain and labor, God does not console—He does not give His grace. Do you see after you recover from pain how much the love of Christ ignites within you? Yes, it is the reward for your labor, your patience. If you didn’t have this illness, you wouldn’t have so much love and consolation. Do you see that when you recover, you feel like a child? This is a sign that God forgives your sins and that you are free from blame. All this is caused by the patience you have when you are ill. When God deigns for you to get well, then you will see in practice what I am telling you. The more one suffers, the more grace one is given. One monk was ill, and he had such a horrible disease that the brethren were disgusted by him and drove him away. He blamed himself by saying that he deserved such treatment. Because of his humility, God made him well. But afterwards, this holy monk kept saying, “Ah, my Christ, I was unworthy to suffer more for Thy love!” He knew from experience how much he gained during his illness. Therefore, do not grieve at all. Only thank our Christ, Who loves you so much that He has given you temporary afflictions here in order to give you everlasting joy there. When you are ill and unable to fulfill your spiritual duties with exactitude, do not be sad, because it is not a sin since your will does not exercise authority over your health. Nevertheless, a monk must compel himself. But if he is ill, it is not a sin not to fulfill his duties—God is just. Obedience with humility and thanksgiving to God replace the ascesis of fasting. Great is the benefit of self-reproach when one is unable to fast due to illness.
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« Reply #61 on: March 27, 2010, 07:25:01 PM »

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On Illness

15 .   
  I pray, my child, that a drop of the infinite patience of God may drip into your soul, where it will build a tower of patience so that you may find the unfailing treasure of eternal life. You wrote that at times when grace was afire, you asked our Christ to grant you illness or even something worse so that you could suffer out of love for Him. He did not overlook you but sent you an illness, as you had asked. So you have to be patient now, and you will learn discernment from experience, that is, not to seek things from God that we have not tried through experience. Therefore, we should always pray that the Lord’s will be done. Now pray like this: “My God, make me well, but let not my will be done, but Thine.” Like naϊve children, we often seek things that are not to our benefit. But God, as our Father, fulfills our requests in order to teach us through experience how we should pray to Him. Afterwards, though, we see that we did not pray properly, and we suffer. Nevertheless, God is forbearing and delivers us, so that the lesson of giving up our own will becomes deeply rooted within us. Moreover, at times when we suffer from our lack of discernment, God does not abandon us, but sends His grace and comforts us so that we may bear the burden. This is what is happening with you, my child. What you saw and felt was the grace of God, which nurses you until you grow in experience. The fact that God lets you suffer shows that you still need such chastening. Leave it all to God and say: “My God, I leave my illness in Your holy hands, and whenever You—Who love me so much—want to heal me, I will also want it then. I only ask Your infinite goodness that You not overlook me, but always give me the patience to bear this cross of mine, until Your will is done again.”
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« Reply #62 on: March 28, 2010, 08:45:26 PM »

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On Illness

16 .   
  I am sick with the flu and feel sharp pains in my appendix. I don’t know what will happen. In any case, glory to Thee, O God. God loves us and through involuntary pain seeks to count us worthy to participate in His most perfect blessings. Unfortunately, we – and I –do not love our soul in a spiritual way. If we loved it, we would endure trials of both soul and body without complaining, in order to attain the eternal blessings. Pain softens the heart and removes its hardness. As the heart is softened in this manner, the ground is prepared for the sowing of genuine repentance and correction. We who are cowardly in every affliction chase away, so to speak, the grace of God. When man is prospering, he cannot remember God, and if he remembers Him, it is only faintly. When affliction or pain approaches, he remembers Him vividly and with fervor. When sorrow oppresses him or when he expects tribulations, then he prays most ardently. And our holy God is pleased with this, just as a mother is pleased when her child seeks her with heartfelt pain, for in this she discerns love. No matter how man is tried, he always benefits when he shows the corresponding patience and gratitude during the trial. This is revealed at the end of the trial, when he sees the lightness of his soul, the clarity of his mind, and the sweetness that comes to his inner self. Let us pray to be granted knowledge and patience in life’s miseries, so that we may gain our salvation. Amen.
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« Reply #63 on: March 29, 2010, 10:59:00 PM »

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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

1.
  To fall and be injured is human, since—even if a man’s life lasted for only one day—his mind is inclined to evil from his youth (cf. Gen. 8:21 ). But to fall and remain fallen is not human. Repentance recreates man; it was given to us to cure the soul after baptism. If it did not exist, rarely would a person be saved. That is why, the virtue of repentance is unending as long as man is alive, for only the perfect do not err. My children, every time you see your thoughts reproaching you for some sin, immediately take the medicine: repent, weep, go to confession, and behold, you return to your former and better state.
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« Reply #64 on: March 30, 2010, 09:06:55 PM »

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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

2.
  After Judas the traitor dedicated himself to the Lord and became a partaker of grace, he performed miracles along with the rest of the Apostles, yet in the end he shipwrecked; whereas the thief who had done impious, evil, immoral deeds, by crying out for mercy, was granted repose in the calm haven of eternal bliss. The Jewish nation, which had received the promises of God and was called by Him special, chosen, and holy (vid. Ex. 19:5, 1 Pet. 2:9 ), was blinded and lost Him forever. The barbaric nations, on the other hand, which were like the harlot in their works, received the gospel and inherited what Israel had rejected: God. Therefore, away with despair and hopelessness! No matter how sinful we may be, we should always turn the eyes of our soul to God and entrust ourselves to Him as servants entrust themselves to the hands of their master. In this manner let our eyes be fixed on the Lord, always trusting in His mercy until He has mercy on us (Ps. 122:2 ).
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« Reply #65 on: March 31, 2010, 08:27:34 PM »

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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

3. 
  The fall of man into physical mortality and the consequences of exile and alienation from our good Heavenly Father, brought about the law of sin, which wars against the law of God (cf. Rom. 7:23 ). From his youth, man is subject to the law of sin as a tendency, as an inclination, and as wickedness (cf.Gen. 8:21 ). And this tendency towards evil—as an ancestral inheritance and as a mark, product, and remnant of the ancient severance from the fountain of happiness—naturally took on substantial proportions in human nature, thus drawing it to evil. Thereafter, it was only natural for grievous calamities to befall the children of Adam and Eve. The restoration to the sonship of old by means of the Lord Jesus’ death on the cross led to eternal salvation. However, this did not remove the law of sin existing within man: not that God was unable to—for just one drop of the awesome and holy blood of Jesus Christ could transform everything—but providentially He let it coexist in man so that by means of it He could not only instruct him, but also make manifest the intentions of each person. The Scriptures say that God did not permit Joshua the son of Nun to destroy all the surrounding idolatrous nations, but he left some so that through them He could teach the art of war to the sons of Israel
(vid. Josh. 17:13 ). So when this law of sin does not find a brave adversary (that is, one with good intentions and with the divine commandments and precepts as weapons ), then it vanquishes and captures the spiritual struggler; it strips him of his divine weapons and then drags him to the life of sin. From all these and many other things, we reach the truthful conclusion that all the distressing events and things in human nature are a consequence of its fall from its original immortality to mortality. Furthermore, we see that the salvific sacrifice of the God-man Jesus providentially did not remove the law of sin existing within man in order to instruct him, as well as for many other reasons pertaining to our salvation, so that by them He may make him a wise heir of His eternal blessings.
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« Reply #66 on: April 05, 2010, 07:33:15 PM »

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Christ is Risen!
 

Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

4. 
  “As I find you, I will judge you” (cf. Ez. 33:20 ). Behold, the value of a moment. Did He find you in repentance? Did He meet you in confession? Did He reach you saying “I have sinned against heaven and before you”? (Lk. 15:18 ). Did He approach you when you had tears of genuine repentance and self-reproach in your eyes? Behold, it is in one moment that God makes his decision. “The Lord is faithful in all His words” (Ps. 144:13 ). However, if He finds you otherwise, O man, then the eyes of your soul will open, and you will see what you have lost—but what is the use? If God condemns a person, repentance is futile; when the “fair” of life ends, words are pointless. It is all over! Oh, what a great mystery this is! O my God, my Sweet Jesus, open the eyes of my soul that I may see very clearly this great mystery of my eternal salvation, so that, helped by Thy grace, I may prepare provisions and not repent at the end of my life to no avail. As Thou dost see, I do absolutely nothing and am entirely leprous with passions. Grant me tears and complete repentance before the last hour comes, when I shall hear Thy voice, “Set thy house in order, for thou shalt die and not live” (Is. 38:1 ).
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« Reply #67 on: April 06, 2010, 09:33:48 PM »

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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

5 . 
  Repentance is endless. All the virtues, by the grace of God, may be perfected by man, but no one can perfect repentance, since we need repentance until our last breath, for we err in the twinkling of an eye. Therefore, repentance is interminable. Oh, how good God is! Justly will my fellow sinners be punished, for they have ignored the infinite compassion of the heavenly Father. Although we err as humans, we are sluggish to say, “I have sinned!” But how can we say this, since we (and I, above all ) are forgetful and lazy and proud, too—mighty obstacles on the road to humility! Christ showed this road to us through His Cross, but unfortunately we voluntarily turn a deaf ear to Him, to our great regret. Time flies, the years roll by, and we are drawing nearer and nearer to eternity. We see this, yet a mental numbness has bound us until we (and I, first ) are thrown into hell! My God, Who has delivered the human race from the enemy’s slavery, deliver us also from the future condemnation when You come to judge the world and render to each according to his works (cf. Rev. 22:12 ). Through your prayers, may I find mercy when my wretched soul is judged, for I am afraid to meet the fearsome Judge because my conscience reproaches me.
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« Reply #68 on: April 07, 2010, 08:30:13 PM »

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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

6 .
  Obedience, cutting off one’s will, self-reproach, and patience in general are what lay the foundations of the soul, while fervor and zeal preserve one’s tears. If you want to be zealous until the end of your life, diligently pursue constant tears. If you have such tears, do not be afraid; the zeal of yearning for your salvation will remain. Water normally quenches fire; the water of God, however, which streams from the eyes of the repentant, lights not a physical fire—as we know—but a divine fire burning up the enemy’s weeds!
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« Reply #69 on: April 08, 2010, 07:31:32 PM »

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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

7 .
  Let us sincerely repent; let us confess frankly and in detail. Let the tribunal of God and His decision preoccupy us continuously, and let us say, “I wonder, shall I be saved or shall I face the torments of hell?” Now is the time we must shed tears of repentance—in fact, constantly. Ah, how much we should be preoccupied by the question of how white and clean our soul is! We must purify it; otherwise, we shall be unable to present ourselves before Christ as we are now. Meditation on death should not escape us at all during our monastic routine.
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« Reply #70 on: April 09, 2010, 09:35:30 PM »

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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

8 . 
   How precious is the time of this life! Every minute has great worth, for within one minute we can think so many things, either good or evil. One godly thought raises us to heaven, and one diabolical thought lowers us to hell. So then, behold how valuable every minute in this present life is. Unfortunately, though, we do not think about this, and hours, days, and years pass with no profit—but is it merely with no profit? How much damage we have all suffered—and I, first—without realizing it! But some day, when our soul is about to depart from our body, we shall realize it. But, alas, it will be too late; there is no room for correction then. We must realize this now when we can still make a start. We should take advantage of the precious time of our life. Truly blessed is he who compels himself and makes a start, because some day he will become spiritually rich. It is never too late, for the Lord awaits each one of us to awaken so that He may give us work. He waits until the eleventh hour (cf. Mt. 20:6 ). He tries with every means to awaken us. I pray that all of us will awaken, light our lamps, and with a vigilant eye wait patiently for the Lord to come, so that we may enter the resplendent bridal chamber of eternal bliss, the festival of the bright angels, to chant with them the resurrectional canticles, which will elevate us from theoria to theoria and to divine ascents! Then—oh, then!—we shall fully realize what a great work it is to compel ourselves in everything and that our superiors did well to push us and grieve us, for we shall say, “Behold what we see now!” Then our thanks to God will have no limits. Then we shall really render thanks worthily to God!
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« Reply #71 on: April 10, 2010, 10:15:45 PM »

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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

9 .
  Let us not lose our time in vain. The kingdom of heaven belongs to those who force themselves (cf.Mt. 11:12 ). Bear in mind the departure of our souls, the final hour and moment of that difficult separation. Keep in mind how the demons seek to snatch the poor soul at this final hour and lead it to Hades. Oh, what grief! What pain of soul! How the soul sighs then! Alas, what a sorrowful situation it is in at that moment! How many promises a person will make to God that he will change his life, that he will walk the path of repentance and hardship, as long as he does not die! All of us shall reach this hour and encounter the above and much more, and we shall then promise much more earnestly that we shall take the path of repentance and spiritual warfare. Let us imagine that this has already happened and that God has heard our request. Now what is left for us to do? To fulfill our promises by showing true repentance and the struggle to correct our soul. Behold the appropriate time for repentance and spiritual warfare! Little by little the time of our life is cut short, and without even realizing it, we are led to the end and to the grave! A tribunal and a Judge await us, as well as entire books in which the deeds of each one of us are written. Who is able to escape these things? No one. We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ “naked and open” (Heb. 4:13 ) for each of us to give an account of his deeds, words, and thoughts. Let us bear in mind these and many more such things night and day, so that we may bring our souls to mourning and rears!
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« Reply #72 on: April 12, 2010, 12:36:13 AM »

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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

10 . 
   Sin, as a hook camouflaged with the suitable pleasure,
comes craftily as something sweet and charming to the tongue in order to attack the soul.
However, he who has been lured by the momentary pleasure and its comfort will find it more bitter than poison
and more destructive than a pestilent disease in his soul.
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« Reply #73 on: April 12, 2010, 08:21:00 PM »

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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

11 .
  No matter what happened with your parents, confession forgives and erases everything, my dear brother in the Lord. Recall how much the prodigal son sinned (vid. Lk. 16:19-31 ), and how much he grieved his father with his reckless life. But when he repented, at once his father’s arms opened and the past was wiped out as if it had never happened. So the cure for your sad parents has already occurred, for the change of your life to a spiritual life has rectified everything. Now that they are in the true life, they are informed by God about the change of your lifestyle and your repentance, for them. If, when we sin against our true Father, God, He forgives us no matter what we have done, how much more so will our parents be pleased, there in the true life, where they see things clearly. They know human weakness and how easily youth slips, and they are aware of the great master of evil, the devil, who was the cause for all the troubles. Instead, they will be thankful to you that through you they receive aid from God. Remain fully at peace, my brother. Walk the path of repentance with a peaceful mind, and do not let the past trouble you. “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Phil. 3:14 ), we should look to the goal of our salvation. As soon as man says, “I have sinned!” God forgives him immediately and overlooks his sins. How much did blessed Augustine grieve that holy mother of his! Nevertheless, what sanctity and eros of God he attained later! With repentance everything is corrected. There is nothing that overcomes the compassion of God. “He is merciful to the last and provides for the first; to this one He gives, and to that one He shows kindness” (Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom ). The love of God covers and corrects everything. No one is sinless except for one-God.
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« Reply #74 on: April 13, 2010, 09:07:00 PM »

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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

12 .
  [The Elder writes to one of his spiritual daughters in the world (“In the world” means not in a monastery. ]:
All that you suffered, my daughter, was because of your self-reliance. Didn’t I advise you to have humility and self-reproach? What did you trust in? don’t you know that if one boldly leans on a bamboo rod, it will break and pierce his hands? So what did you trust in? Don’t you know the saying: “Without Me you can do nothing”? (Jn. 15:5 ). Don’t you know that many Fathers fell by trusting in themselves? Humble yourself, blame yourself, weep, my daughter, wash your wedding garment. Your Bridegroom, Who is more beautiful than the sons of men, is calling you, is seeking you, and has prepared an abode for you in the heavens. The spiritual bridal chamber is extremely luxurious! Angels are serving; do not be sluggish. Arise; get some water and wash your wedding gown well, for you do not know when He will come. The time of death is unknown; it comes to us all. We do not know at what moment it will come. Repent. See how the harlot washed the immaculate feet of the Master. She shed tears more precious than myrrh, and they attracted God’s mercy and forgiveness. Then she heard, “Your sins are forgiven; go in peace” (Lk. 7:48,50 ). Repent, my daughter. Fall before the fearsome feet of the Master with mourning. Weep; cry out, “I have sinned, my Jesus. Accept me in repentance and save me. Overlook not my tears, O joy of the angels. Abhor me not, cast me not away. Thou Who hast bent the heavens by Thine ineffable abasement”. With these and many other such words importune Christ, resting assured that you will find His love three times as strong. Your repentance will give limitless joy to the angels, and exuberantly they will exclaim, “She stopped! She stopped! She stopped!” That is, she stopped short of falling. You were caught out of the flow, and now you are ascending again.
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« Reply #75 on: April 14, 2010, 09:40:29 PM »

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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

13 .
  Pray for me, my brother, so that the Lord may grant me repentance before I depart on the great journey from this world—for we were not created for this earth, but for heaven. There, God has prepared a place for His children who are obedient to Him in everything He tells them. On the contrary, for all who are deaf to His divine commandments, He has prepared a place of eternal imprisonment—may God keep us from going there. Now God cries out through the Holy Scriptures, the preachers, the spiritual father: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt.3:2 ). Unfortunately, though, those who think they are smart and strong turn a deaf ear to Him with various excuses. But the all-good God, wanting to distribute His riches to man, calls “all the feeble, the weak, the things that are not” (cf.1 Cor. 1:27,28 ). “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind, that my house may be filled” (Lk 14:21,23 ), says God through the Holy Gospel. By calling the useless, His compassion is glorified more, and man is led to gratitude, for what leper counted worthy of purification would not render thanks to his benefactor? What person condemned to an eternal imprisonment would not be grateful to his Savior? Unfortunately, my brother, I do not thank God, because forgetfulness—the offspring of pride—has made me lose my head.
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« Reply #76 on: April 15, 2010, 09:35:25 PM »

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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

14 . 
   Beloved brother, may God, Who has visited our humbleness, grant us genuine repentance, through which God’s tribunal is propitiated. Sincere repentance is repentance that displays regret for sins committed, mourning, burning tears that break down the strongholds of sin, and sincere and frank confession. Repentance leaves nothing unhealed. If man had not been given repentance, no one would be saved. Triumph and victory are given to man through the weapon of repentance. Glory to the only wise God, Who gave man such an effective medicine that cures every kind of illness, as long as it is taken properly.
Let us struggle, my brother; let us live in simplicity and innocence of heart like small children, as the Savior said: “Unless you become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3 ). With simplicity and faith we are freed from evil day-dreaming, which destroys the good seeds of the Holy Spirit. Things will happen according to our faith. What you sow is what you reap. Let us ask God for compunction and mourning, and He will grant them to us, so that a stream of life-giving tears may follow. Then our heart will produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
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« Reply #77 on: April 16, 2010, 10:11:06 PM »

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On Confession and Spiritual Accounting

1.
   This confession of yours gave my soul much joy, because God and the angels, who were awaiting it, rejoiced. You succeeded in putting the devil to shame, who greatly rejoices when someone hides his thoughts from his spiritual father. When a snake leaves its lair, it rushes to hide somewhere because it feels as if it will be struck—the same thing happens with a diabolical thought, which is like a poisonous snake. When such a thought leaves a person’s mouth, it disperses and disappears, because confession is humility, and since Satan cannot even bear the smell of humility, how could he possibly remain after a humble, sincere confession? My child, I wish you a good beginning and cautious progress. Don’t be ashamed before me. Don’t see me as a man, but as a representative of God. Tell me everything, even if you have a bad thought about me, because I am experienced with demonic influences, and I know how the devil fights man. I know that spiritual children have simple hearts and that if evil thoughts come to them, it is due to the devil’s malice and the spiritual child’s ego, who is permitted to fall and have such thoughts against his Elder, so that the spiritual child may be humbled more. Therefore, don’t worry. I will always rejoice when you speak freely and sincerely to me, for without frank confession, there will be no spiritual progress.
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« Reply #78 on: April 18, 2010, 06:30:17 AM »

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On Confession and Spiritual Accounting

2.
   My child, have no worries. I have taken up your burden. I only beg you to be at peace. Your words may be just on paper, but I feel the power, the meaning, and the essence of what you write; I enter into the spirit of your words. I entreat you to be at peace from now on. You are forgiven everything with the confession you made. Satan perceived your character and torments you, but without anything serious having occurred. Everything you write (that is, the thoughts that torture you ) is a trick of the evil one to make you despair, be distressed, and so forth. Throw everything that happened to you into the depths of the sea. Map out a new course in your life. If you keep thinking the same way, know that you will become the laughing-stock of the demons. I beg you, just be obedient to me. After your confession, everything has been forgiven, so let bygones be bygones. Don’t scratch a wound that made you suffer so much. Don’t be deceived by the thought that it is your fault. If you hadn’t taken him to the doctors, etc., then such thoughts would rightfully fight you. Whereas, as things are now, you have fulfilled your duty. God wanted to take him, for a reason that only His infinite wisdom knows, while you are thinking you killed him! Be careful with this thought, or else it might lurk in your heart. It is a ruse of the devil to harm you, as he knows how. This skilled trickster has drowned in the depths of hell countless multitudes with despair. When something happens and the devil sees that a person is upset by it, his trick is to pile on a multitude of supposedly legitimate thoughts in order to lead the poor person to a great storm and drown him. (As the saying goes, a fox loves a scuffle ). And when the storm passes, he sees that he was in danger of drowning in just a spoonful of water.
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« Reply #79 on: April 18, 2010, 07:08:01 PM »

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On Confession and Spiritual Accounting

3.   
  Humble yourself, and from now on confess, for confession contains most holy humility, without which no one is saved.
The devil greatly rejoices when he manages to persuade a person to hide diabolical thoughts.
This is because he will achieve his premeditated, soul-destroying goal.
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« Reply #80 on: April 19, 2010, 10:32:51 PM »

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On Confession and Spiritual Accounting

4. 
   I have written to you about the conscience, that we must be careful not to do something that will make it reproach and condemn us. Bear in mind that God sees everything and that nothing is hidden from His eyes. So how could I tell lies before God? Don’t you know that lies are from the devil, and that by not being careful, it becomes a practice, then a habit, and then a passion, and don’t you know that liars will not inherit the Kingdom of God? (cf. Rev. 21:8 ). Fear God. God is not pleased with material offerings when we neglect attending to our inner heart. But it is necessary to do these also without leaving the others undone. (cf. Mt 23:23 ). Attend to your conscience, for we do not know the hour of our death. And if we do not repay our creditor (our conscience, that is ) everything we owe him, he will accuse us vehemently, without holding back. Then—alas!—our mouth will be silenced, not having any answer to give.
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« Reply #81 on: April 20, 2010, 10:13:39 PM »

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On Confession and Spiritual Accounting

5. 
  Every night, review how you passed the day, and in the morning review how the night passed, so that you know how your soul’s accounts are doing. If you see a loss, try to regain it through caution and forcefulness. If you see a profit, glorify God, your invisible helper. Do not let your conscience prick you for long, but quickly give it whatever it wants, lest it take you to the judge and the prison (cf. Mt. 5:25 ). Does your conscience want you to attend to your prayer rule* and regain prayer? Give it these things, and behold, you are delivered from going to the judge. Do not weaken the saving voice of your conscience by disregarding it, because later you will regret it to no avail.

*Prayer rule (κανών )
Α prayer rule consists of the prayers and metanoias** which one does daily, under the guidance of one’s spiritual father.
** Metanoia (μετάνοια )
Ιn its primary sense, «μετάνοια» (pronounced «meh-tah΄-nee-ah» ) means repentance, literally, “a change of mind”. However, it can also mean the specific act of making the sign of the cross, followed by a bow either down to the ground or to the waist. It is a gesture of reverence, worship, respect, or repentance. A typical prayer rule includes a number of metanoias done while saying the Jesus prayer. Some translators use the word “prostration” for this term.
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« Reply #82 on: April 21, 2010, 07:32:48 PM »

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On Confession and Spiritual Accounting

6. 
   See to it that you are sincere in your deeds as well as in your words, and especially in confession. For God searches out the hearts and reins (Ps. 7:9 ), and nothing remains obscure in the sight of His sleepless eye. Fear God; God is not mocked (Gal. 6:7 ); He is not fooled. He chastises severely when He does not see sincerity; so be careful. When you are disobedient and commit a secret sin, counteract it by openly revealing it in confession. Do not let your ego overcome you and make you hide the truth and remain uncorrected and passionate. Correct everything now if you want to see good days of dispassion* and peace.

*Dispassion (απάθεια )
Dispassion is achieved when all three aspects of the soul (i.e., the intelligent, appetitive, and incensive aspects ) are directed towards God. It is the transfiguration of the passionate aspect of the soul (i.e., the aspect of the soul which is more vulnerable to passion, namely, the appetitive and incensive aspects ), rather than its mortification. Thus dispassion in this context does not signify a stoic indifference, but rather, a transfiguration and sanctification of the powers of the soul and eventually of the body also.
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« Reply #83 on: April 22, 2010, 10:13:04 PM »

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Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity


There is nothing more choice than monasticism. Monasticism means theosis, sanctification of soul and body, communion with God. Monasticism is consciousness, awareness, and discovery of the kingdom of God within man. Who is wise and will understand these things? (Ps. 106:43 ). Who is truly prudent and has recognized that within monasticism lies the extraordinary grace of God, as theosis and sanctification? Who left the world, his desires, and freedom, went to live this life, and by constant digging and struggling found Jesus and became a king ruling with dispassion? Without monasticism no one reaches dispassion. No one obtains a pure nous without vigils, abstinence, and unceasing prayer. No one attains theoria without a monastic lifestyle. No one acquires such a close relationship and contact with Jesus as he who stays near Him and does not abandon Him. Then he will be worthy of the beatitude: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God” (Lk. 11:28 ). Is the heart is not purified, our pure Jesus will not come to make an “abode” (cf. Jn. 14:23 ) in it. But how is it possible for someone to purify his heart while living in the midst of the world? The Fathers realized the difficulty of this, and for this reason they abandoned the world and dwelt in the wilderness. They set up their arena there and won the crowns of victory. So, man is called to begin the struggle and the spiritual contest with God as an ally and the Elder as a helper. But the enemies—the devil, the world, and the flesh—will offer strong resistance to intimidate the fighter. But if he firmly holds on to the counsels and advice of his spiritual guide, by all means he will obtain victory and will receive the crowns of eternal glory. Monasticism is supernatural. The life of a monk is supernatural because he renounces nature in the full sense of the word. For behold: he breaks the natural bonds with his parents and relatives and abandons them for his entire life—not for selfish purposes, but exclusively for the sake of serving God with complete dedication. The goal of his new life is to mortify his carnal mentality and through the struggle to obtain angelic purity. It is natural to sleep at night, but monasticism prescribes vigil so that a monk becomes “like a sparrow sitting alone upon the housetop” (Ps. 102:7 ). It is natural for an individual to have freedom, but as soon as one begins the monastic life, he forces himself to mortify his self-will for the sake of the love of God. And in general, the life of a monk is completely different from worldly life, which is why it is called angelic, because of its supernatural course. It is a great gift from God to be called to monasticism and an even greater gift to find a spiritual guide in it. To leave the world is easy, but to find a competent guide is a special gift from God, because whether or not he makes progress will depend on his guide. When the remembrance of death is diligently meditated upon, it provides great strength in the beginning when one intends to renounce the world, as well as throughout one’s monastic life. This remembrance will become an all-powerful spiritual philosophy for him, from which he will draw forth the truth of things to supplant everything transitory. Visit the frigid tombs and listen carefully, and hear what those dwelling in them will tell you “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mk. 8:36 ). “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2 ). At the extremely difficult and exceedingly grievous hour of death, there is no one to help a person except for his works. In fact, no one except God. If we serve Him, we shall have an almighty helper and protector at the fearful and deadly separation of our soul and body. What a struggle the soul has as it is separated from the body! Keep this struggle constantly in mind; think and note that we also have to pass the aerial toll-houses* which impede souls from ascending as they present the deeds of our life in order to obstruct our souls’ ascent and drag them down into Hades. Then we must bear in mind that we also have to face a tribunal. And alas, what a tribunal! Saying, “I have sinned” and “forgive me, the sinner”, is not effective then, for every mouth shall be silenced with no excuse. We should ponder these things and other such things so that we can trace out more clearly what kind of goal we have and so that we can run as quickly as possible to obtain it, for we do not know what tomorrow holds. The time of death is unknown. Only good deeds done for God will remain and will follow man beyond death. And what is better than working for God all one’s life so that one takes the profit of this work with him when he goes to God! Truly this person is the wise merchant who found the pearl of great price. If you listen to the voice of the Lord your God, do not harden your heart, but listen to what He will tell you: “He will speak peace to His saints and to them that turn their heart unto Him” (cf. Ps. 84:8 ). I pray with all my heart that through divine eros you acquire a ceaseless yearning for God, and that by soaring with it you attain beauty equal to the angels, through the intercessions of the Abbess of the Holy Mountain, the Lady Theotokos. Amen; so be it.

*Toll-houses (τελώνια )
According to the Holy Fathers,** when a person dies, his soul ascends to the throne of God to be judged, and the demons as “tax-collectors” where they examine if the soul has sins that have not been confessed, and they even accuse the soul of sins not committed. If so, they cast the soul into hell at once before it even reaches the throne of God. Of course, the toll-houses are not material entities, but spiritual realities which the Holy Fathers chose to describe with material imagery.
**Although some modern theologians doubt the existence of the toll-houses, toll-houses are mentioned either explicitly or implicitly by countless saints including St. Paul, St. Makarios of Egypt, St. Basil the Great, St. Ephraim the Syrian, Abba Isaiah, St. Hesychius the Presbyter, St. Diadochos of Photiki, St. Theognostos, St. Athanasios the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. John of the Ladder, St. John of Damascus, St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, St. Theophan the Recluse, St.John of Kronstadt, and St. John Maximovitch.
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« Reply #84 on: April 23, 2010, 08:31:56 PM »

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Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity


2.     Οh, what bliss is hidden within monasticism! O luxuriousness of heaven, how you captivate the monk who practices hesychia* and is far from the vain world! How much the nous in a quiet place is drawn above and passes from knowledge to knowledge, from theoria to theoria, ascending in his heart, beholding only God with divine eros! Oh, the depth of the knowledge of God! Indeed, the obscure monks who wandered around in the wilderness were divine philosophers; they walked on earth, but they resided in heaven through theoria and eros. O monasticism, how great is your glory! When a person settles down from all the tumult and becomes a monk under the guidance and supervision of a precise guide, he is led to the internal glory of monasticism. We wrestle against powers, against principalities, against dark and very sly authorities (cf. Eph. 6:12 ), against legions very experienced in warfare, against the flesh and the world of passions which are like dreadfully painful wounds that take time, patience, diligence, and a correct approach to be healed. Take a look at the Holy Fathers in their initial years; they endured droughts, terrible times of discouragement, and many deadly temptations. But they held on tightly to patience and forcefulness, and then grace visited them in proportion to whatever they endured beforehand.

*Hesychia (ησυχία )
The term ησυχία can mean either external stillness or internal, noetic stillness. In the former instance, the word is translated as "stillness", whereas in the latter instance, it is transliterated in this book as "hesychia". Hesychia is the ascetical practice of noetic stillness linked with watchfulness and deeoened by the unceasing Jesus prayer. Hesychia is an undisturbed nous and a heart with peace, freed from thoughts, passions, and from influences of the environment. It is dwelling in God. The only way for man to achieve theosis is through hesychia. External stillness can help one achieve hesychia. Hesychia can also mean noetic stillness itself.
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« Reply #85 on: April 24, 2010, 08:26:46 PM »

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Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

3. 
   3.   (The Elder writes to nuns about the life of virginity. )
The life of virginity resembles a small boat that is constantly struggling with the relentless harsh storm, with no haven in sight, and is continuously tossed about by the waves. For a virgin bears within her the flame of carnality and for this reason there can be no cease-fire, but rather a constant war, keeping one’s weapons always in hand. When a storm breaks out, a married woman takes shelter in the harbor, which is conjugal union, and thus escapes the danger. A virgin, however, braves the storms and proceeds in the open sea while firmly holding the helm of the boat of her soul. She is not alone, though, but protected with perfect obedience to her spiritual parents and strengthened by the grace of the angelic schema, she courageously struggles with the rough waves of the flesh while incessantly calling upon Jesus until He comes and rebukes the sea, saying to it: “Peace, be still” (cf. Mk. 4:39 ). Oh, how lofty is chastity! How much its resplendent garment shines, and how immense is its boldness towards God, for it not only equates man with the angels, but it even raises him above them! The angels effortlessly remain in chastity, because they are living in accordance with their nature, whereas a virgin has set her course above nature. Not only does she have the struggle to turn her nature in another direction, but she also has a constant battle and life-long endeavor against the dreadful demons who gnash their malicious teeth to make the straight paths of the Lord crooked; that is, to tear the pure bride of Christ away from His love and turn her into a beast, like a pig that devours the muck of passionate pleasure. Let us labor, my children, let us struggle. Let us run that we may obtain the prize of the high calling (cf. Phil. 3:14 ), for Christ the Judge of the contest is present, compassionately observing each person’s struggle, so that we may enjoy His likeness when He appears. As Paul the Apostle of the Gentiles wrote: “When Christ Who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4 ). Girls desert their beloved parents and brothers and relatives, and through marriage cleave to a mortal man and bear with his weaknesses, his bad manners, his passions, and sometimes (if he has a bad character ) even with his beatings and curses. Nevertheless, they do not leave their husband because they respect the bond of the sacrament of marriage, or because they want financial support and security. But you, on the contrary, have married the incorruptible Bridegroom Christ and have deserted parents and all the good things of this vain world in order to be united with Christ through a spiritual marriage. You lovingly follow Jesus, Who for our sake endured the Cross and death and gave you an immense dowry: the Kingdom of Heaven. Although you were poor and dirty, He made you into queens to enjoy in heaven more glory and delight than emperors. How incomparably the grace of virginity surpasses marriage, and how much loftier is the gift of the mystery of the mystical spiritual wedding with the Bridegroom Christ than a carnal wedding! And this is because the Bridegroom is heavenly, spotless, eternal—God! We see that the wife in common marriages becomes a heroine of patience by enduring the sorrows, the worries and difficulties of married life, the passions, the beatings from her husband, and the difficulties beyond her strength in raising and fostering her children. So then—alas!—how reprehensible we are when we don’t have patience, forcefulness, obedience, and everything that the easy yoke (cf. Mt. 11:30 ) of the sweetest Jesus calls for, to a greater degree than a married woman does! Therefore, we ought to demonstrate a way of life that corresponds to the excellence of our calling and to the impending trophies and eternal rewards of heaven. Let us humble ourselves and cry out to Christ the Bridegroom: “O Bridegroom of my poor soul, close not Thy heavenly bridal chamber as Thou didst unto the foolish virgins, but count us worthy to have lamps filled with the oil of good works, love, patience, chastity, discernment, and the rest of the virtues, so that they will be sufficient to keep the light lit until Thou comest, so that our entire synodia may enter with Thee into the eternal wedding with a bright garment, radiant with the light of Thy grace, while celebrating and rejoicing with Thee, unto the endless ages of ages. Amen; so be it”.
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« Reply #86 on: April 25, 2010, 06:28:19 PM »

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Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

4.
     (Τo a novice nun )
Love Christ your Bridegroom more than your mother, and you will be called blessed in heaven. Care for nothing earthly except for how to please your most beautiful Bridegroom Christ. The spiritual wedding with Him will last eternally, whereas worldly weddings last only a little while, and then the torments, the toil, and the labor begin. In the monastic life, any labor one puts in will be rewarded richly and eternally—and even here on earth we shall receive a hundredfold what we give by leaving our parents, brothers, etc. Our Christ gives us the sisterhood in Christ where the love is spiritual and aims to contribute towards our spiritual progress, whereas carnal love loves only physical and vain things in the worldly life, the toil and torments are vain, whereas in the monastic life they help us to acquire God. Oh, how wonderful it is when there is love in a sisterhood, when a sisterhood is one soul with many bodies! Truly they live a heavenly life. But God allows things to happen from time to time that will cause vexation and coolness. This happens, however, for our benefit so that we may be trained and so that our virtue or weakness may be revealed. That is why the spiritual law tells us: sometimes joy, sometimes mourning; sometimes winter, sometimes summer; sometimes war, sometimes peace. This is how the spiritual road has been mapped out by the omniscient God.
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« Reply #87 on: April 26, 2010, 09:56:09 PM »

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Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

5. 
   (To a spiritual daughter )
“I heard a voice… like the sound of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne… and no one could learn that song…. These are the ones who did not defile themselves with women, for they are virgins… following the Lamb wherever He goes” (Rev.14:2-4 ). My daughter, may the grace of the Lord grant you His ardent love so that you become all afire with it and thus walk with exultation the blessed path of monastic life. This path is angelic, and when someone walks it worthily, his soul becomes a bride of Christ, and it shines more than the angels, for the soul of man is created in the image and likeness of God. Yes, my daughter, never exchange your heavenly Bridegroom for a carnal man; your Creator for an earthly creature; the divine heavenly nature for human nature. Is there a more glorious achievement for a person than to have as the bridegroom of his soul the Son of God, Who will keep his angelic virginity forever and will give him eternal life in heaven within the divine dwellings of angelic heavenly pleasure? What more do the girls do who leave their parents and siblings to get married? Those who become nuns do the same thing, too. Therefore, those who become nuns do not sacrifice anything more than those who get married, with the only difference that the latter obtain an earthly man with passions and weaknesses, while the former marry a Bridegroom Who is heavenly, dispassionate, and God. So how much more successful are those girls who become nuns with Christ, both here in this world and there in heaven forever! The devil creates many impediments for someone who wants to become a monk or nun. He wants him to stay in the world so that he can hurl him into sins more easily. Therefore, my daughter, keep in mind the wiles of the devil and be wise regarding the thoughts or temptations that come to you. When I am not nearby, reveal them clearly to the Eldress, and she, with the enlightenment she has, will help you very much. Say the prayer* constantly, for it will help you in everything and will dissipate everything that prevents you from achieving your holy goal. Be careful; keep yourself pure from every carnal defilement, for the heavenly Bridegroom loves above all a person’s chastity of soul and body. I pray, my daughter, that you love and be loved by our Lord Jesus, and that He becomes to you the beloved Bridegroom of your soul forever.
*The prayer (η ευχή )
The Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” is usually referred to as simply “the prayer”.
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« Reply #88 on: April 27, 2010, 06:19:32 PM »

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Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

6. 
    (To another spiritual daughter )
My good little child, I send you my fatherly greetings from the garden of our Panagia, the Holy Mountain. I am also sending you a bouquet of beautiful little prayers to strengthen you in the path of virginity. Each person will face the fearsome hour of death all by himself, and works done with humility will be his true aid. What is more humble than the robe of a recluse nun? A nun sits far away from worldly joys and weeps for her sins in order to find the genuine joy of the soul which comes from a clear conscience. The monastic life is very beautiful and sweet. But unfortunately, our passions and weaknesses sometimes make it seem difficult. The more one comes to the knowledge of God with understanding, the more beautiful he perceives the monastic life to be, because he perceives and tastes the heavenly grace and sweet love of God. The world is ignorant of Him Who gives these divine and heavenly gifts, and this is why it is miserable and leprous with sin. The angels, though, see Him—how greatly they love and worship Him! But even a nun who senses Him is not left out of such a divine vision and love. However, the world “knew Him not” and for this reason its heart is full of sorrow and distress. The more a nun approaches, lives with, and beholds—as far as possible—the Bridegroom of her soul, the more beautiful she becomes on the inside. She sees this with the eyes of her soul, and she lives it with spiritual perception—how wonderful she feels then! She deplores the joys and delights of the vain and seductive world and feels sorry for the miserable people who rely and depend on them, and in the end will be hopelessly embittered because of them.
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« Reply #89 on: April 28, 2010, 08:45:06 PM »

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Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

7.
     (To a spiritual daughter )
My child, I received the confession you sent me. I thank our good God that the rays of divine illumination again and again enlighten souls to inherit the paternal authority, with regard to the essential issue of the soul—the communication, I mean, of the soul with God by means of noetic prayer*. God is an infinite Nous, whereas the human nous is limited. When the small nous of man is united through noetic prayer with the infinite Nous—God—he naturally partakes of His divine and blessed energies and becomes blessed. Perceiving the unspeakable joy, the sweetness, and the exultation, the sweetest tears comfort his soul and fill it with divine consolation. Prayer is the mighty weapon of the Christian and especially of the monk, who bears the title of a soldier of the divine army, who with an oath has raised the glorious banner of an unequal, lifelong war against the world, the flesh, and the devil. We have been called to become unknown heroes, visible only to the unsleeping eye of God. “If you want to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Mt. 19:21 ). Become my follower along the steep ascent to Golgotha. Let us be crucified together, let us breath our last together, so that we may also be risen together and live together. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross every day” (cf. Mt. 16:24 ). If anyone loves Me, let him follow Me, for everything is rubbish, more illusory than dreams. “Riches do not remain; glory does not accompany one to the other world; for when death strikes, it obliterates them all” (from the funeral service ). Theology—true theology—is not gained in universities, but rather by despising the world and by living in a quiet and peaceful place far from the world’s noise and turmoil, with a program of prayer and ascesis. Then, once a person has thus purified his intellect** and been delivered from the surges of the flesh, he will obtain the light of true theology, of knowing himself. “If you are a theologian, you pray well; if you pray well, you are a theologian” (The Philokalia,vol. I, p. 62 ). In stillness the nous quiets down. Furthermore, once the nous is stripped of earthly thoughts, it naturally returns to itself and through itself to God, by means of the single-phrased*** prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. If a person withdraws from the world, then he will discover its stench, whereas one who wanders about in it clothes himself with the rags of worldly delights and pleasures as if with a glorious garment. There is nothing sweeter than to be an outcast in the house of God rather to dwell in the tents of the sinful world (cf. Ps.. 83:11 ) with all the seductions of sensuality, by which Hades obtains most of its booty. My child, love of the world is enmity with God. If you love God and want to serve Him completely and effectively, forget about the vanity of the big city’s worldly concerns, and come to the beloved and desired dwellings of the Lord, wherein you will study the science of sciences: the art of how to conquer the devil, the world, and your own self. This is the science of fighting bravely for eternal rewards and positions!

*Noetic Prayer (νοερά προσευχή )
Noetic prayer is prayer done with the nous without distraction within the heart. Another name for it is “prayer of the heart”. It is contrasted with the prayer of the intellect which is done within the reason.

**Intellect (διάνοια )
   The word “διάνοια” means the reason of man, that is, his discursive, conceptualizing, and logical faculty of conscious thinking and cogitation. It draws         conclusions and formulates concepts from information either obtained by revelation or by the senses.

***Single-phrased (μονολόγιστος )
This is an adjective used by St. John of the Ladder and other Church Fathers to describe the Jesus prayer because of its short form.
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« Reply #90 on: April 29, 2010, 08:24:11 PM »

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Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

8. 
    (To a spiritual daughter )
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God” (Rom. 11:33 ), cried out the Apostle Paul when he was overwhelmed by the visions of divine light and the burning of his heart with divine eros! What is sweeter than God? Are not all human things vanity? Doesn’t the grave cover everything? Where is one’s youth, where is one’s beauty, where are one’s glory and riches? Isn’t everything dust and ashes? Who was a king and who was a soldier? Who was rich and who was poor? Don’t we see just bones? Where are the palaces of the kings, the luxuries of the wealthy, the lavish tables and banquets of the pleasure-loving? Where are the sensual pleasures of the immoral? Don’t worms and an unbearable stench cover them all? Truly vanity of vanities; all is vanity! (Eccl. 1:2 ). While philosophizing about these things, let us exert ourselves and love with great longing the pure and holy path of glorious virginity, so that when we leave our body on the earth and our soul ascends to heaven, the beauty and loveliness of virginity will adorn it, so that the Bridegroom of pure souls, our Christ, will love it. Fight the good fight, my child. Continuously remember the holy name of our Jesus. Lower your head while you walk and say in a whisper or mentally, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. Bear in mind the uncertainty of the time of your death; sigh and say: “Ah, in what state will death find me? Ah, will I be ready? Will I have served Christ enough to expiate my sins?” And always bear in mind the lives of holy monastics so that your yearning for monasticism is kindled even more.
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« Reply #91 on: April 30, 2010, 10:09:57 PM »

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Chapter Four
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9. 
    (To another spiritual daughter )
I am praying that God may guide you aright in everything. When one goes to a monastery, he brings with him his virtues and passions. He is called to monasticism to increase his virtues and to eradicate his passions. The difficulty he encounters in uprooting his passions corresponds to the roughness or the multitude of them, and he needs the corresponding self-denial to achieve his goal, which is the liberation from the dishonorable, sinful passions. As times passes in the monastic life and as spiritual knowledge grows, the laboriousness of Golgotha is lessened because the good Cyrenian (vid. Mk. 15:21 )—the consolation of luminous knowledge—comes and lifts the burden of the passions. Thereafter the follower of Jesus walks as light as air towards the complete mortification of the passions, and then his resurrection will follow. And oh, my child, what a resurrection! A taste of the kingdom of heaven! An heir of God and joint heir with Christ! Then the soul receives its betrothal promise: that it will become a bride of Christ after death in an undefiled bridal chamber with eternal delight! Then it will see itself sailing in oceans of joy and theorias. And all these spiritual good things are won when one struggles well to eradicate his passions with patience and humility. I pray, my child, that you will excel in your future struggle.
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« Reply #92 on: May 02, 2010, 12:41:45 AM »

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Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

10. 
   (Another letter to the same spiritual daughter )
I pray with all my soul that our good God will preserve you under His mighty protection and guide you like an unerring compass to the pole of your pure destination, to a holy dedication at the feet of Jesus, like St. Mary, the sister of St. Martha (vid. Lk. 10:39 ), to hear the words of grace spoken in your heart. Fear no one but God, Who examines hearts and rewards each according to his works. Fight the fight of salvation; meditate upon the uncertainty of life; reflect that we are passersby, strangers, and sojourners, as were all our fathers (1 Chron. 29:15 ); and that we came, we saw, and we departed. When death strikes, it obliterates everything. Struggle so that you hate with all your soul the temporal good things, and as a wise merchant trade and buy the field in which the treasure, the precious pearl, is hidden, and dig and find it, and then you will become rich in grace. The field is monasticism, and he who sells all his self-will, pleasures in general, and his freedom, buys it. And he who digs—in other words, toils in monasticism—finds the grace of the Comforter and becomes rich in love and hope in God. There is nothing more beautiful than monasticism, when it is lived along the lines that the Holy Monastic Fathers have mapped out. One acquires the luxury of true joy and rejoices in God with the blessed hope that he will live with God forever in blessedness and ineffable joy! Oh, the depth of God! Oh, what sweet and inexpressible riches! If even the Apostle Paul in spite of all his eloquence could not present a simple image of everything he saw and felt when he was caught up into paradise, how will I, the wretch, be able to speak of the magnificence of the bliss of communion with God? Taste and see that the Lord is good (cf. Ps. 33:9 ). O child of mine and of Jesus, be wary lest any of the worldly things that are considered to be good separate you from Him. Instead, transfer all your longing to the things of heaven, for our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20 ). Despise all worldly things; consider them dirt and ash. Nothing is certain in the present age. Flee from sin as from a fire and a poisonous snake, and with the prayer take refuge in Jesus, and He will rescue you miraculously. Sacrifice everything for Jesus because He deserves every sacrificial act of love.
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« Reply #93 on: May 02, 2010, 09:36:36 PM »

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Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

11. 
    (To those desiring the monastic life )
Oh, how can I appraise the inconceivable riches of virginity! What tongue of clay is able to extol its glory beside our Christ! Virginity is equality with the angels. It is that which makes an earthly human similar to our Christ and our Panagia, for both of them were virgins. Before Adam and Eve sinned, they were virgins; only after the Fall did they have marital relations. That is, virginity was dictated first, whereas marriage is a result of the Fall. Consequently, whoever wishes to attain the virtue that Adam and Eve had when they were in Paradise must live in virginity and chastity. Virginity and chastity have great boldness before God. Therefore, sacrifice even your lives; just guard your virginity as the apple of your eye. But, in order to keep it, you must say the prayer constantly and make sure that you avoid occasions of sin; be especially careful with your eyes.
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« Reply #94 on: May 03, 2010, 08:33:03 PM »

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Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

12.
   My child, we must attend to chastity, for this is how a monastic soul is kindled.
It is chastity that best characterizes the monastic way of life as angelic.
The Holy Spirit looks favorably upon chastity and visits the chaste. Then a monk feels as if he were in paradise.
The devil attacks chastity in order to prevent the visitation of the Holy Spirit.
This is why, my child, he troubles us with bad thoughts; so that we will not become useful vessels of the Holy Spirit,
and so that we will not feel that the monastic life is angelic. So let us struggle to acquire, by the grace of God, chastity of soul and body.
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« Reply #95 on: May 04, 2010, 04:36:07 AM »

Beautiful.

I have not read the book but I have been meaning to.

The Devil doesn't want you to read it, don't listen to him.

He hates us to learn spiritual things, because they show us how to fight and defeat him(by the Grace of God).

He rejoices over people without guidance. Without realizing it, we become tools of our enemies.

This chapter, we must listen to:

St Abba Dorotheos, Lesson #5 That One Should Not Trust His Own Understanding:

http://www.philokalia.org/abba_dorotheos.htm


That chapter is sooo revealing and helpful. But the devil doesn't want you to listen to it.
Don't listen to him.
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100. Like a bee one should extract from each of the virtues what is most profitable. In this way, by taking a small amount from all of them, one builds up from the practice of the virtues a great honeycomb overflowing with the soul-delighting honey of wisdom.

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« Reply #96 on: May 04, 2010, 09:14:25 PM »

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Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

13.
   When people are tonsured*, grace visits some greatly, while others less. This, however, does not foretell the monk’s future spiritual life. Some do not feel the grace of the angelic schema** at all, and yet they make much progress thereafter; whereas the opposite happens with others. But the goal of monasticism is purity of heart, from which perfect love is attained. This is what should preoccupy us and what we should attend to: whether or not we have patience and bravery in our battles with the devil, pure love, a tongue free of criticism and backbiting, etc. A monk has two joys: one when he becomes a monk, and one when he approaches death. What is the life of a monk but a continuous martyrdom? This is why death is joyful, because he ponders that he will escape the torments and battles of the tempter. Heal yourself now that you are young and your passions are just sprouting, so that you find repose in old age. For a life with a good struggle will bring us much spiritual wealth in our old age and a good end.

*Tonsure (κουρά )
A tonsure is the rite in which a novice becomes a monk or nun. It is called a tonsure because during the rite, some of the novice’s hair is cut.

**Schema (σχήμα )
The schema, usually called the “great schema” or “angelic schema”, is the habit of a monk of the highest level of monasticism. It is called the “angelic schema” because its bearer strives to live angelically in purity and devotion to God alone.
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« Reply #97 on: May 05, 2010, 08:46:37 PM »

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Chapter Four
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14. 
     I entreat you, pay attention to yourselves and do not forget the goal for which you left the world and for which we should fight to achieve. For what good is it if we accomplish something worldly and harm our immortal soul, to which nothing is equivalent? Our goal as monks is to ascend to the things above and dwell in the heavens. We set our minds on the things above, on the purity of the angels. It is unbefitting to succumb to any indecent thought and to abandon the almighty weapon—the prayer. The body of a monk is a temple of God, and we ought to beautify this sacred temple with every kind of cleanliness, so that it is pleasing to God. Whoever defiles this temple grieves the Lord, so be careful in regard to chastity. Virginity is a distinctive trait of devoted souls, as well as of the angels. The devil absolutely hates virginity, since he is filthy and alienated from God. He brings us so many filthy thoughts in order to defile the beauty of chastity and make it thus lose its angelic radiance.
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« Reply #98 on: May 06, 2010, 10:10:09 PM »

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Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

15.   
   (From Mt. Athos, October 1957 )
My beloved brother in Christ…, may God bless and enlighten you along the unerring path of salvation. You asked me in your letter if you have the calling from the Lord to become a monk, lest you do something without Him having called you to monasticism and thus desert your responsibilities, etc. My brother, “He who is able to accept it, let him accept it. Not everyone can accept this saying” (Mt. 19:12 ). The characteristics of a calling are when a person sees within himself a keen desire, zeal, yearning, and a kind of eros towards monasticism. When he sees such things in himself, he is assured that God is definitely calling him to become a monk. Yet he is left completely free to choose by himself one or the other, but with the conviction that he has been given the aptitude and the calling, and if he wants, he may voluntarily, without coercion, embrace monasticism, which is also called the life of virginity. This calling is due to the grace of God, which a person must not lay aside and quench. For if he lays it aside by remaining in the world for two or three years, it will surely be quenched, and then one’s desire can no longer be kindled for such a lofty goal. While such a person is still in the world, he needs to fast in accordance with his physical strength and with discernment, to keep vigil, to pray, to give alms, to guard himself from the things that defile his chaste disposition, to avoid bad company and talking with members of the opposite sex, to find time for stillness, to read, etc. All these things help to increase his desire for monasticism and keep it warm until the appropriate time comes to fulfill his desire, if, of course, he decides to; because as we said, a person is left completely free to choose, even though he has evidence of his calling from the characteristic signs. Of course, when one has made a vow to God to become a monk, he is in a sense obligated to do so, just as the great Church Fathers say. When one is about to take a vow, one must think it over well, because breaking it will not have good results, since it is considered scorning God, to Whom he made the vow. The life of virginity is lofty, for a person completely allows himself to please God without any obstacles, so that, in time, by working fully in the service of God, he may become holy in soul and body; he will be reborn; he will become a new man dedicated to Christ with the characteristics of the life in Christ. My brother, whenever you want, you may come to the Holy Mountain, even as a pilgrim, and see things up close. If you like, you may stay as long as you want with us, or anywhere else. Our little house has two small cells : one for me, one for you. This way you will see better what you should do. You will also hear spiritual words from experience, from my Elder, and—in a word—you will be enlightened to know what to do. In the beginning, the life in Christ has much toil and various temptations. But with time they abate and the spiritual consolation begins, such that when the grace of God visits, you will find yourself in a state of spiritual pleasure and delight.
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« Reply #99 on: May 06, 2010, 10:19:39 PM »

I just received this book in the mail along with Orthodox Psychotherapy, and I am astonished at the depth of Wisdom that Elder Ephraim was gifted with by Gods Grace.

This book should be titled, 'Councels about  how to live Christianity in its fullness, and also on defeating the Devil'


The Holy Father Dorotheos tells us that if we don't have anybody who is spiritually wise to guide us, then the Devil can make a corpse of us.

But he also said that even if we are to read something from a saint that is good, we must hold on the one hand that it is good, but on the other, not believe in our own ability to perform it in the way it should be done.

He stresses casting all our cares upon God, or on someone who, after God can help us, and give us a hand.

He says this is so incredibly crucial. Because the Devil can make a corpse of us.

St Abba Dorotheos, Lesson #5 That One Should Not Trust His Own Understanding:

http://www.philokalia.org/abba_dorotheos.htm


I give 5 stars to the Counsels of the Holy Mountain.
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100. Like a bee one should extract from each of the virtues what is most profitable. In this way, by taking a small amount from all of them, one builds up from the practice of the virtues a great honeycomb overflowing with the soul-delighting honey of wisdom.

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« Reply #100 on: May 07, 2010, 08:47:46 PM »

I just received this book in the mail along with Orthodox Psychotherapy, and I am astonished at the depth of Wisdom that Elder Ephraim was gifted with by Gods Grace.



Christ Is Risen, my brother!


In Christ,
Costas.
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« Reply #101 on: May 07, 2010, 08:49:38 PM »

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Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

16.
    (From Mt. Athos, November 1957 )
My dearest brother in Christ, may the grace of the Holy Spirit always protect you. I receive your letter yesterday and greatly rejoiced to see that you have grasped the true essence of monasticism and that you are well. My health is poor, as God wills. What I meant about quenching grace is that if a person remains and lingers for two or three years in the world, his zeal is cooled and then he loses his vigor towards monasticism, for the grace of the fervency withdraws because of his negligence to fulfill his goal. “Thorns and thistles will the earth bring forth to you” (Gen. 3:18 ) say the Scriptures. Thorns and thistles: that is, passions and bad habits arise in the earth of the heart. With much toil and sweat and tears the thorny roots of the passions and bad habits are plucked out in order to clear the heart’s earth where the seed, the word of God, will be sown. “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. According to the Watchful Fathers*, the prayer is the seed which is sown in the heart of the novice with much labor and struggling in the beginning, until it sprouts, grows, is reaped, and made into bread, the bread of life; in other words, so that he may eat the fruit of his labor which is the sweetness of the prayer, the love of Christ. This is the living water that waters the heart, refreshes it, and makes it flourish; things which I, the indolent one, lack. “The hour is coming when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth” (cf. Jn.4:23 ). How beautifully the Lord clarifies noetic prayer! While you remain in the world, struggle, read, pray, and say the prayer as much as you can, for its power is enormous. Pursue almsgiving; great is the power of almsgiving. I, too, when I was in the world, gave alms as much as I could, even though I was poor, so that God would help me achieve my goal. Have you noticed how God glorifies the merciful? An angel of the Lord appeared to Cornelius the centurion and said to him: “Your alms and your prayers have come up for a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4 ). Likewise the Prophet Daniel said to the King: “O King, atone for your sins by alms and for your iniquities by compassion on the poor” (Dan. 4:24 ). Brother, let us –and first of all me, the senseless one—bear in mind the fearful reckoning before the dreadful tribunal of God, just as the holy ascetics did. Abba Agathon wept when he was about to die, and his monks asked him: “Are you also weeping, Abba?” “Believe me, my children, I strove to please God with all my strength, but I do not know if my deeds are pleasing to God!” Saint Anthony the Great also wept when he approached death. “Are you also weeping, Abba?” “Believe me, my children, ever since I became a monk, the fear of death has never left me!”
So I think about myself as well; what defense shall I give to God?—I, the indolent and filthy one, whose passions have stripped me of my wedding garment! You will encounter, my brother, many obstacles along your path, but do not lose your courage. Avoid everything that hinders you on the path of God. Cut off all friendships with worldly youths. Do not fear; when God is with us, no one is against us. My little cell is very hesychastic. When you come, you will be very pleased. I live in profound stillness and freedom from care. My Elder gave me a blessing to eat something in the morning by myself in peace. Rarely does someone pass by. I eat my meager food by myself. I strive with the help of God to keep saying the prayer. I wake up by myself; I keep vigil by myself. So anyone who longs to live in stillness, prayer, and freedom from care will love it here.
I await you with much joy, and I beg that you do not hesitate to write. I am praying for you with love in Christ.
--Lowly Papa-Ephraim of Joseph.
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« Reply #102 on: May 08, 2010, 10:59:53 PM »

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Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

17.
   Abstinence, fasting, keeping vigil, renouncing worldly things, etc., are the means, my child, by which we attain purity of heart. The primary property that characterizes purity of heart is love. So our goal is purity of heart. Without purity, God is not beheld; He is not revealed. So how can we tell whether we have achieved our goal, whether we have drawn near to it, if we do not have a pure heart? The Apostle Paul says, “Love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8 ). All these characteristics which the Apostle Paul proclaims with a thundering voice indicate how much a person has progressed in purity. The farmer starts by clearing his field. He clears it of rocks and thorns; he plows it; he sows and waits for God to send rain, sunshine, and wind, with one objective: to reap wheat and enjoy the fruit of his toils. The sailor and the merchant travel afar, risk facing storms and various dangers with the aim of increasing and enjoying their wealth. The monk endures the deprivation of his parents, siblings, relatives; he deprives himself of pleasure, he keeps vigil, prays, is obedient, battles with thoughts, etc.—with what goal? To achieve purity of heart, to see God! If it is not purified, he will not see God. What is God? God is love. Therefore, he who lacks true love, love that is spiritual and unadulterated, is unable to know the Divine.
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« Reply #103 on: May 09, 2010, 09:56:34 PM »

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Chapter Four
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18. 
   My daughter, may the sweetest Crucified Lord bestow thousands of blessings upon you, for He adores virginity, which is the spiritual sister of the virginity of the angels. The Heavenly Father is a virgin; His Son, our Lord Jesus, is a virgin; the beloved disciple of Christ, John, was a virgin; but where shall I place the Virgin Mary, our Panagia, who is a wall of protection for struggling virgins? This most holy virtue of virginity, the adornment of the angels, I pray that you, my daughter, will choose in your life. Everything that a person loses can be regained, except for virginity, which is a most pure life free of presumptuous and shameful sins. The angelic hosts rejoice when even just one more fellow combatant is added to their ranks. This is an enviable post. Wouldn’t you like to occupy it, my daughter? I hope that the work of grace will be gloriously completed in you, for the glory of the Crucified Lord. O daughter, love our Jesus and worship only Him in your life. May Jesus be the spiritual delight of your heart. Never exchange this holy love for deceitful worldly pleasures, no matter how hard the vain world tries to force you. Become a disciple of Jesus, like another myrrh-bearer offering as a precious myrrh your virginal purity to your Teacher. All earthly things pass like a dream, and nothing in this world remains stable and unchangeable. So then, why should we love transitory and ephemeral things instead of the eternal and everlasting ones? At every moment death threatens to send us to the other world and in particular to the tribunal of God. So what are we to do? What else other than to prepare ourselves to give a good defense to God for everything in which we have sinned against Him! Drive away every thought of yours that is sinful and not good, as soon as it appears. Constantly call to mind the name of our Jesus, for this most holy name will give you victory against sin in all its forms.
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« Reply #104 on: May 10, 2010, 09:35:59 PM »

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Chapter Four
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19.
    Sometimes externally a monk may seem to be gloomy, whereas in reality he has joyful mourning, which is so beneficial and necessary. He appears sullen when he is fighting against evil thoughts or when he is being tempted by his ego, by disturbing words, or by some reproach, and he is struggling to crush his ego’s uprising with thoughts of self-reproach. The seeming gloominess is not due to thoughts of despair, since he blesses the hour in which God took him out  of the misery of the world and brought him to the saving life of monasticism. Instead of gloominess, we should call it joyful mourning, which means a deep joy and satisfaction that come from the systematic cultivation of the heart. Such mourning is unknown to worldly people who pay attention only to externals and let their heart remain dangerously ill with egotism, pride, and vainglory! External Christian works—without watchfulness*, unceasing prayer, and vigils in solitude in a dark cell—lead the Christian to vainglory, since he bases everything on his works that are so cheap! To clean the heart requires labor: the labor of self-reproach, prayer, self-denial, obedience, godly labors, many tears, etc. If the heart has not been cleansed in this manner, how can one’s works be pleasing to God? Only monasticism strikes passions at their root like an ax, while without a monastic struggle one cuts only branches and leaves!
*Watchfulness (νήψις )
Watchfulness is unceasing attentiveness, alertness, or vigilance whereby one keeps watch over one’s inward thoughts and fantasies, so that they do not enter the heart; it is only the nous which must be within the heart.
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« Reply #105 on: May 11, 2010, 09:23:29 PM »

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Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

20.
   The supernatural miracles of the monks and their spiritual state, which is the fruit of their ascetical struggles, show what monasticism is.
Although struggling to live the Christian life in the world is a godly pursuit, it does not even come close to monasticism in its yield of spiritual wealth and in its closeness to God. “A tree is known by its fruit” (Mt. 12:33 ).
An entire army of monastics has filled heaven. How many Righteous* saints do we have? You can count them on your fingers.

*The Righteous are the saints who attained sanctity while living in the world and were not clergy, monastics, or martyrs.
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« Reply #106 on: May 12, 2010, 10:47:56 AM »

This is just my opinion, but I think that, if one wants to share a reading with others, it's best to post a link, rather than many posts with text which aren't necessarily pertinent to the thread's topic. A text may be very good, but when it is posted on a forum in blog manner, it becomes unwieldy. So I think.
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« Reply #107 on: May 12, 2010, 02:35:43 PM »

This is just my opinion, but I think that, if one wants to share a reading with others, it's best to post a link, rather than many posts with text which aren't necessarily pertinent to the thread's topic. A text may be very good, but when it is posted on a forum in blog manner, it becomes unwieldy. So I think.

Charles Dickens (and others) published books on a serial basis and they were successful.
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« Reply #108 on: May 13, 2010, 12:09:23 AM »

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On the World and Family

May an angel of God, my child, follow you and show you the path of God and of your salvation. Amen; so be it. I pray that God gives you health of soul, for this is a special gift of sonship which is bestowed only upon those souls that have been completely devoted to the worship and love of God. The world attracts the youth like a magnet; worldly things have great power over the newly enlightened soul that just started to find its bearings and see its purpose in life and the duty calling him. “Friendship with the world is enmity with God. Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jas 4:4 ). God has stored up pleasures for eternity, for both He and our soul are eternal. There is no comparison between the pleasures of the world and the pure pleasures of God. The pleasures of the world are obtained with toil and expenses, and after their momentary enjoyment, they are followed by various consequences, so that they are incorrectly called pleasures. The pleasures of God, however, do not have such consequences, because spiritual pleasures down here on earth are the firstfruits of an eternal series of pleasures and delights in the kingdom of God. Whereas on the contrary, one who has been corrupted by the pleasures of the world is compelled to undergo eternal damnation along with the first instigator of corruption, the devil. The time of our life, my child, has been given to us as a sum of money so that each of us may trade for his salvation, and depending on the trade we deal in, we shall become either rich or poor. If we take advantage of the “money” of time by trading to increase our spiritual wealth, then we shall truly be skilled traders, and we shall hear the blessed voice: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord”(Mt. 25:23 ). At the end of our life, an exact account will be demanded of each one of us: how and where we spent the money of time, and woe to us if we have squandered it in movie theaters, in entertainments, in debauchery, in futile dreams, in carnal pleasures. Then what defense will our tied tongue be able to utter, and how will we be able to lift up our eyes and see our Christ, when He enumerates the countless benefactions which His boundless love profusely poured upon us? Now that we have time, now that the money of time has not yet been spent completely and we still have it at our disposal, let us reflect sensibly on the vagrant world which seeks to rob us. Let us push it away like a putrid dead dog, and with that money let us run to buy precious works which, when tried by fire, will become very bright—gifts worthy of our Holy God, fit to be used as a decoration in the holy Jerusalem of Heaven. We should not purchase chaff, that is, punishable works of darkness, for we shall go down with them into the eternal fire of damnation, where the multitude of people who embezzled God’s gifts will reap whatever they sowed! Sow good works with tears, and then in a time of visitation you will reap the sheaves of enjoying eternal life!
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« Reply #109 on: May 13, 2010, 11:03:16 PM »

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On the World and Family

2.     It is from God that you are being tested, because He is training you for battle; He is drilling you, just like the soldiers who are trained through severe labors in their drills. There, first they learn the theory of warfare, and then at the sound of the trumpet in the real war, since they have already been trained, they rush into the battle with the inner assurance that they know how to fight, and they are ready to sacrifice themselves for their cause and ideology. You are also in a similar situation: since you have been called to become soldiers of Christ and to fight against His enemy, He trains you in order to ascertain your love towards Him: “Who is it that loves me, but he who keeps my commandments?”(cf. Jn 14:21 ). Take courage, my children; remain loyal and dedicated to Him Who has loved you with perfect love. Before a battle begins, the generals boost the soldiers’ spirits by singing various battle hymns and relating various stories of heroic deeds to kindle their sense of self-sacrifice. This tactic gives them great strength and bravery in the battle about to be fought. Likewise, we too should contemplate, as the Saints did, the struggles of the martyrs and of the holy monks: how they lived ascetically, how they renounced the world and everyone, and how nothing prevented them from following the path that leads to Jesus. This contemplation* will greatly strengthen your good disposition and intention, for there have been many who were unaware of the concealed traps, with the result that their souls succumbed to temptation and thus they fell from the hope of eternal life. Contemplate the love of our Jesus; the love of Jesus will overpower every other natural love. The more we renounce, the more love of God we shall enjoy. Let us attend on high, where Jesus sits at the right hand of God. Let our eyes look on high, for the eternal and everlasting things are above, not below; for everything here is dust and ashes. Reflect on the luxuriousness of heaven: the infinite wisdom of God is there; inconceivable beauty is there; the angelic melodies are there; the riches of divine love are there; the life free from pain is there; the tears and sighs will be taken away there; only joy, love, peace, an eternal Pascha, and an unending festival are there. “Oh, the depth of the riches and knowledge of God!” (cf. Rom. 11:33 ). “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9 ). Attend to the prayer; persevere in prayer, and it will put everything in order. Do not yield at all; remain firm in your holy goal. Remain beside Jesus to live with spiritual happiness. There is no happiness anywhere except in Christ. So-called “happiness” outside of Christ is incorrectly called happiness, since it is obtained with reprehensible means and since it ends quickly and leads man to the eternal unhappiness. Struggle, my children; the angels are weaving crowns with flowers of paradise. Our Christ regards the struggle as a martyrdom—what is more excellent than to be a martyr for Christ!

*Contemplation (θεωρία )
Τhe Holy Fathers use the word θεωρία (theh-oh-ree`ah ) in three different ways. Its first meaning is simply “seeing” or “beholding” physically. Its second meaning metaphorically refers to intellectual perception, that is : “consideration”, “speculation”, and “philosophical contemplation”. In this case, we chose to translate θεωρία with the word “contemplation”. Its third meaning refers to noetic contemplation which is the highest state of prayer. When used in reference to this noetic contemplation, we merely transliterated the word as “theoria”, instead of using the term “contemplation”, to avoid confusion with the second meaning of the word, i.e., intellectual contemplation. See also theoria.
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« Reply #110 on: May 15, 2010, 07:37:40 AM »

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On the World and Family

3.
   I received your letter, my child, and we all rejoiced at your firm desire and wonderful aspiration for monasticism. “I have chosen to be an outcast in the house of my God rather than to dwell in the tents of sinners” (Ps. 83:11 ). May no other love separate you from the love of Christ; consider everything rubbish so that you may gain Christ. The sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which will be given to those who struggle (cf. Rom. 8:18 ). Now is the time for struggles, afflictions, and labors for God; whereas the future is the time for crowns of eternal glory, rewards, praises, and dwelling together with the holy angels beside the supreme throne of God. Youth passes by silently; the years roll by quietly, imperceptibly, like the water in a creek; hours disappear like smoke in the wind. This is how the present life passes and vanishes, God’s strugglers advance toward eternal prizes of glory, whereas the indolent and lovers of the world proceed towards an eternal damnation with the demons. The allurements of the world and its pleasures will transform into eternal affliction and pain for those who delight in them, if they do not repent. While on the contrary, for the people of God a little deprivation will be recompensed by an eternal felicity and blessedness of God. Do not let familial affection hinder you; reflect that you will be alone in the hour of death, and then you will need to have God as a helper. So if you love Him more than them, you will have Him. But if you succumb, you will reap the crops of bitter remorse all on your own. So for the love of our Christ, make the decision and begin your new life.
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« Reply #111 on: May 15, 2010, 10:22:13 PM »

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On the World and Family

4.
   (To a spiritual daughter )
Everything depends on your will. Entreat our Panagia very fervently to warm your holy desire, so that you decide with self-denial to renounce the vain world along with that dream which is called life, and to follow Christ the Bridegroom, Who will give you Himself and His sweetest love, and will count you worthy to become an heir of His kingdom. Entreat the Panagia to help you make the holy decision, and when she does, make the sign of the cross and follow the salvific voice of Jesus, saying “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”(Mt. 16:24 ). In the dreadful hour of death, no one will help us; only the good works that we have done for God and our soul will help us. Therefore, since the monastic life in general consists of works of God which are very conducive to our soul’s salvation, why shouldn’t we sacrifice everything to live such a life which will make us rich in the kingdom of God? “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mk. 8:36 ). The life of man hangs by a hair; at every step, our life hangs in the balance. How many millions of people woke up in the morning, never to see the evening? How many millions of people fell asleep, never to wake up? Indeed, the life of man is a dream. In a dream, one sees things that do not exist: he might see that he is crowned a king, but when he wakes up, he sees that in reality he is just a pauper. In this life that we live, man labors to become rich, to become educated, to have an easy life, to become great; but unfortunately, death comes and foils everything. Then what he labored for all his life is taken by others, while he leaves life with a guilty conscience and a soiled soul. Who is wise and will understand these things and will renounce them and follow Christ the Bridegroom, so that all the works he will do will be recompensed infinitely in His kingdom? Always, my daughter, remember death and the judgment of God which we will unavoidably undergo. Bear them in mind to have more fear of God, and weep for your sins, because tears console the soul of him who weeps.
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« Reply #112 on: May 16, 2010, 09:51:24 PM »

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On the World and Family

5.
   My spiritual daughter, I pray that peace and divine joy may accompany your life. Amen. I receive your letter and saw your joy. I pray that this joy will be the firstfruits of a continual spiritual harvest, of a new life totally dedicated to the unrivaled love of God. Now you have experienced the fruits of the Spirit. If you were so invigorated by experiencing a little, how much more will you be invigorated when you find yourself in a completely spiritual environment! Everywhere and until the end of our life we shall undergo temptations: even in a monastery, even in the wilderness, if we happen to be there. However, if we are far from the world we shall have the freedom to fight the battle in an open place, where we shall be able to gather spiritual reinforcements to help us, with high hopes of eternally winning the prize for which we have been called heavenward (cf. Phil. 3:14 ). Here we have no continuing city, but we seek a future, eternal, glorious one! (cf. Heb. 13:14 ). The form of this world is passing away (1 Cor. 7:31 ), whereas he who does good works abides unto the ages. Struggle, my child, with all your strength. Do not give joy to Satan by neglecting your duties, but give him bitterness by performing them with precision and eagerness. Satan will not stop shooting poisoned arrows at you with various thoughts, and especially with filthy thoughts. But prepare yourself to battle valiantly to obtain the unfading crown. As soon as a bad thought appears, immediately destroy the fantasy* and say the prayer at once, and behold, your deliverance will come! Do not be afraid when you see the battle, lest you lose your morale; but invoke the Almighty God and humble yourself very much. Rebuke yourself with the worst names and convince yourself that this is how you really are. And then from this point begin the battle with the prayer. Be careful, for the battle we conduct is not slight; we have to fight with principalities and powers, and it takes prudence and caution to fight well, for something good is not good if it is not done properly. I pray that you have a good fight, and be careful with the people you keep company with….
With many prayers and blessings,
Your lowly Elder.

*Fantasy (φαντασία )
In the patristic sense, a fantasy is a mental image formed in the nous either by oneself or by the demons. Fantasies are the chief instruments of the demons to lead man into sin. As St. Hesychios the Priest writes, “It is impossible for sin to enter the heart without first knocking at its door in the form of a fantasy provoked by the devil” (Philokalia, vol. I, p. 173 ). Fantasies created in one’s own nous, though, can be either beneficial or harmful. For example, it is helpful to contemplate death, heaven, hell, etc. with our nous at the outset of prayer, because in this way one’s heart is predisposed to prayer. However, it is also possible with one’s nous to meditate on worldly or sinful things. Nevertheless, all fantasies are an obstacle to pure prayer, which requires an undistracted nous.
 
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« Reply #113 on: May 18, 2010, 12:24:53 AM »

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Chapter Five

On Obedience, Disobedience,
and Cutting off of the Will.


1. 
    I always pray to our good God that you walk the true path of the monastic life. Do not forget against what enemy we are conducting the war and the battles, for salvation should not be pursued superficially. Compel yourselves; think about the reason why we became monks. We abandoned parents, brothers, sisters; if, however, we do not also abandon our own will and are not obedient, then we shall not find mercy when our souls are judged. Reflect on eternal punishment and do not forget paradise; for we shall earn one of the two. For the sake of us unworthy ones, Christ showed perfect obedience to His Heavenly Father, as well as to His Mother according to the flesh—our Panagia—and to Joseph the Betrothed; how much more should we cut off our will and have obedience to our spiritual father on account of our sins! The martyrs will present, as a fruit of their piety, their terrible martyrdoms; the confessors, their holy confession; the holy hierarchs, their labors against heresies; the monastics, their ascetic struggles; what will we (and first of all, I ) present? If, however, we are obedient and cut off our will for the love of our Christ, we have also borne fruit; we will also offer something, so that we will not go empty-handed like the slothful servant (vid. Mt. 25:24-30 ).
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« Reply #114 on: May 18, 2010, 09:36:09 PM »

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Chapter Five

On Obedience, Disobedience,
and Cutting off of the Will.

2.   
    Pay close attention to your obedience. If you carry it out well, you will gain eternal life through it; if not, punishment will be your end. So wake up from forgetfulness and indolence. It is time for us to rise from the sleep of negligence—for the end of our life is unknown. When will we wake up? When the Archangel comes to take our soul? Waking up then is of no use. The future life is the time for crowns; now is the time for struggling, laboring, and wrestling. Compel yourselves; say the prayer; stop idle talk; close your mouths to criticism; place doors and locks against unnecessary words. Time passes and does not come back, and woe to us if time goes by without spiritual profit. This is what I write to you; this is what you should meditate on; this is what you should do. May the God of love be with you, and may our sweet Panagia strengthen and enlighten you and make you eager for the struggle.
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« Reply #115 on: May 19, 2010, 10:56:26 PM »

Chapter Five

On Obedience, Disobedience,
and Cutting off of the Will.

3. 
    Become last if you want to become first. When one disobeys and distresses his spiritual father, then God is also grieved. Our Christ showed us through His deeds the greatness of holy obedience, for He sacrificed Himself for the sake of obedience to His Father, “Therefore He has given Him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9 ). Indeed, he who has perfect obedience will be counted worthy to receive a great name in heaven, a name of sonship, which will be revered even by the angels—a double crown in the heavenly glory. St. Palamon said, “He who submits himself well has no need to pay attention to the commandments of Christ”. Why? Because through perfect obedience he has fulfilled all of Christ’s commandments, and therefore it is unnecessary to ask if he has carried them out. Obedience has genuine humility in its bosom. Wherever there is humility, there is the scent of Christ, the fragrance of God.
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« Reply #116 on: May 20, 2010, 11:12:51 PM »

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Chapter Five

On Obedience, Disobedience,
and Cutting off of the Will.

4.
   4.   A struggle that has as its driving force absolute obedience which lacks curious inquiry and is “blind” is considered very lawful by the Holy Fathers. This struggle is the safest and most perfect because obedience includes humility, and wherever there is humility, there is lawfulness and safety. Espouse perfect obedience and humility, my child, and then you will know that you are struggling lawfully. Obedience does not merely mean carrying out your assigned task, but it primarily signifies submitting readily to the advice that your Elder gives—that is, obeying whatever he advises you regarding your spiritual struggle. Do not undertake any struggle without your Elder’s knowledge. In the old days, disciples* would even tell their Elder how many cups of water they would drink, so that their Elder would know everything in order that they would not be deluded and lose the reward for all their labors.

*Disciple (υποτακτικός )
Taken in the broad sense, the word “disciple” refers to every Christian who receives spiritual guidance from his spiritual father. In the monastic life, though, it applies to a monk who obeys an elder so that his soul may be healed from the passions and attain theosis by the grace of God.
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« Reply #117 on: May 21, 2010, 05:21:36 PM »

This is just my opinion, but I think that, if one wants to share a reading with others, it's best to post a link, rather than many posts with text which aren't necessarily pertinent to the thread's topic. A text may be very good, but when it is posted on a forum in blog manner, it becomes unwieldy. So I think.

Charles Dickens (and others) published books on a serial basis and they were successful.

Dickens was the rightful possessor of his own intellectual property. You are simply posting the contents of the book on a thread meant as a review, not a serial publication.
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« Reply #118 on: May 21, 2010, 10:09:41 PM »

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Chapter Five

On Obedience, Disobedience,
and Cutting off of the Will.

5.
       What is more blessed than obedience for the sake of God! What spiritual course is safer than this! Therefore, run with joy in order to gain possession of the unfading crown of obedience with which the Champion of lofty obedience, Jesus, will adorn the head of each disciple who has contested. Be obedient to the Elder, as if obeying the Lord. Compel yourselves in your spiritual struggle, and above all in obedience, which is the disciple’s adornment. A disciple without obedience is a barren womb, whereas when he is adorned with obedience and cuts off every bit of self-will, he is a fruitful womb. The disciple has the advantage of finding the will of God easily through his Elder. Oh, what a great advantage this is! Other people are completely at a loss and ask themselves, “Should I do this, or that?” They literally suffer, remain irresolute, and lose time—for today, due to our poor prayer, we rarely find the will of God precisely, and this is why we shipwreck constantly. Therefore, my children, since the love of God has had so much mercy on you, in that without labor you can find His will, hasten to the haven of obedience with faith and confidence, and it will continuously show you His will, which is eternal life and blessed repose for souls. Continuously, night and day, I hear confessions. What don’t I hear, and what don’t I learn! Problems without end, without a solution. And I know what a triumph is accomplished through obedience with confidence in one’s guide, and what tempests and shipwrecks are suffered by those who rely on themselves because of their egotism. The result is that they pass from darkness to darkness, and from smaller errors to greater, going astray because of their arrogance.
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« Reply #119 on: May 22, 2010, 11:00:28 PM »

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Chapter Five

On Obedience, Disobedience,
and Cutting off of the Will.

6.
     O thrice-blessed obedience, what grandeur you conceal!
Whoever has loved you has become rich from your beauty, has become childlike in Christ, and has humbled himself like a child.
Therefore, he will also enter into the kingdom of Heaven rejoicing—exactly as the Lord said:
“If you do not turn and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven”(Mt. 18:3 ).
A little child is characterized mainly by simplicity, innocence, and obedience to his dear mommy.
So obedience makes spiritual babes: babes in malice, but mature in the wisdom of God.
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« Reply #120 on: May 24, 2010, 12:06:35 AM »

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Chapter Five

On Obedience, Disobedience,
and Cutting off of the Will.

7. 
     My child, follow faithfully behind me and do not fear. Tend to obedience, especially spiritual obedience. He who has obedience has eternal life, for all the virtues are contained within perfect obedience, and especially the soul’s freedom from having to give an account. My child, a disciple must show perfect obedience to his Elder with self-sacrifice and eagerness, as if seeing Christ before him. See to it, my child, that your obedience is sincere and complete. Hate self-will as the death of your immortal soul. Take Adam and Eve as an example, who were disobedient to the divine will and suffered the penance of banishment. Do not contradict the Elder; reflect that he represent the divine will. Every transgression and disobedience is punished in proportion to the sin. A disciple ought to keep his place steadfastly, so that he cannot be shaken. He should be obedient wherever he is placed and die fulfilling his duty; this is called obedience unto death, even death on a cross.
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« Reply #121 on: May 25, 2010, 10:12:27 PM »

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Chapter Five

On Obedience, Disobedience,
and Cutting off of the Will.

8.
     My beloved children in Christ, may the grace of our Christ be with you and may the holy prayers of my holy father Joseph guard you powerfully in my absence, since the spiritual union in Christ of a good disciple with his Elder is never broken. My dear children, who fill my wretched soul with fragrance, remember the words which I spoke to you when I was with you, for when you remember my words and keep them, you are under spiritual obedience, the best type of obedience. And one who has such obedience becomes like Christ Jesus, because Christ became obedient unto death, even death on a cross, wherefore His Father has exalted Him and given Him the name Jesus, and at the name of Jesus all the powers of darkness shudder and tremble (Phil. 2:8 ). He who has obedience already in this life lives the life of the Spirit, which will be continued even after death, unto the ages of ages. Let us reflect that we were not crucified for our Christ, our Savior, but He for us monsters suffered the Cross, the Cross for the sake of obedience.
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« Reply #122 on: May 26, 2010, 11:17:55 AM »

Silver,

It is good to share spiritual texts, but you are posting just about the whole book on this thread, which is meant as a review, and not a place to republish the book. Do you have permission from the original publisher and, presumably, the holder of the copyright, to publish the contents of this book?
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« Reply #123 on: May 26, 2010, 11:18:54 PM »

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Chapter Five

On Obedience, Disobedience,
and Cutting off of the Will.

9.
   There is no better path than obedience, for it gives to the one who loves it happiness, repose, freedom from responsibility, forgiveness, and a multitude of other good things—but
first and foremost, protection from the snares of Satan, because he is safely guided by the experience of his spiritual father, and thus he walks the path of the spiritual life without many obstacles.
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« Reply #124 on: May 27, 2010, 11:41:36 PM »

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Chapter Five

On Obedience, Disobedience,
and Cutting off of the Will.

10.
   All disciples who cut off their own will and please their Elder in everything are considered martyrs by intention, without undergoing various bodily tortures.
The majority of martyrs finished their life in a very brief time of martyric torture, whereas the martyrdom of monastic obedience is worked out for life, and consequently, it is considered a martyrdom of conscience. For this reason, I entreat all of you to be attentive to your obedience.
This obedience of yours is offered to God through your Elder.
What will it benefit us if we have left the world and relatives, yet do not fulfill everything that we have promised to God?
What account will we give? Let us, therefore, walk the path of absolute obedience wholeheartedly and thus our souls will gain the grace of God.
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« Reply #125 on: May 30, 2010, 12:04:20 AM »

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Chapter Five

On Obedience, Disobedience,
and Cutting off of the Will.

11.
   Whoever puts into practice everything his spiritual father advises has his blessing; whoever does not do what he is advised does not have the blessing of his Elder here or in the other world.
Whoever disregards whatever he is commanded, whoever does not regard as law the things which he is advised and does not strive to apply them out of disdain, must realize that damnation will befall him!
My child, fear the righteous Judge and be obedient to your spiritual father’s advice, for your Elder desires the salvation of your soul, whereas the devil desires to make you his own through egotism and disobedience.
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« Reply #126 on: May 30, 2010, 09:23:24 PM »

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Chapter Five

On Obedience, Disobedience,
and Cutting off of the Will.

12.
    Be obedient, I entreat you; without hesitation or surliness endeavor to please your father according to the spirit.
With him you live and will live; why do you grieve him? It is not advantageous to your soul that he sighs for you.
You cannot be edified like that. You will be in ruins until the end if you do not correct your disobedience.
Look at how the disciples of old shone: they sacrificed everything on the altar of obedience and pleased the heart of their spiritual guides with perfect faith and love towards them.
You, however, first examine whether the Elder’s words will work, and then you are obedient or disobedient, accordingly. Such obedience is good for nothing! Not thoughts—but deeds! Not objections—but death! Death through obedience!
Only thus will we be justified before God when we carry out our duties.
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« Reply #127 on: June 01, 2010, 04:20:55 AM »

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Chapter Five

On Obedience, Disobedience,
and Cutting off of the Will.

13.
    Obedience is the “panagia”* of the disciple: just as a panagia distinguishes the bishop from the priest, so also obedience reveals the good disciple from the unsubmissive. Love your spiritual father and be obedient to him as to God, for it is he who has the next position in the hierarchy. You will find great grace when you obey your Elder for God’s sake. Do not grieve him in order not to grieve the Holy Spirit, Who anointed him a successor to the Apostles. Elders are their final successors and occupy this position hierarchically through the Holy Spirit. Consequently, those who grieve them grieve the Holy Spirit.

*A “panagia” is the medallion a bishop wears around his neck that has an icon of the Panagia.
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« Reply #128 on: June 02, 2010, 12:13:52 AM »

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Chapter Five

On Obedience, Disobedience,
and Cutting off of the Will.

14.
   You, my children, take care to guard what you have received unadulterated and pure. Be attentive to observe the whole rule, just as I gave it to you. For every transgression and disobedience receives, according to the Apostle Paul, a “just reward” (Heb. 2:2 ).
Fear the punishment of disobedience. Whoever disobeys resembles the disobedient Adam and Lucifer who rebelled against God, who both miserably fell away from God.
Abba Barsanuphius says that a disciple who disobeys his Elder is a “son of the devil”.
I pray for you from my heart that you become perfect disciples, so that you shine like angels in the midst of the angels of God, so that you sing hymns and pray for me, too, your wretched and unworthy Elder, who teaches without practicing anything at all of what is taught.
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« Reply #129 on: June 02, 2010, 10:49:07 PM »

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Chapter Five

On Obedience, Disobedience,
and Cutting off of the Will.

15. 
      It is characteristic that one who does not have obedience does not have humility either, and he is secretly robbed by pride. And how is it possible for pride to result in correct judgment and decisions beneficial for the soul? Therefore, we must be humble for divine enlightenment to come, for the humble gain wisdom and discernment, while the proud acquire an evil and warped conscience. For this reason they also misunderstand the texts of the sacred Scriptures and of the holy Fathers, since humility, with a pure and enlightened conscience, is absent. “A self-advised man is his own enemy”. That is, one who listens to what his thoughts tell him and does not listen to the advice of his superiors, becomes his own foe. Therefore, be careful, my children, and do nothing at all without the advice of your Elder, if you desire to walk the monastic path successfully. For if you do your own will, you should know that you will walk crookedly, and the more time passes, the more the crookedness will be strengthened. Eventually a time will come when you will want to “straighten out” and you will not be able to.
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« Reply #130 on: June 03, 2010, 10:38:54 PM »

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Chapter Five

On Obedience, Disobedience,
and Cutting off of the Will.

16.  
  I pray that all of you who are obedient to your Elder may have the blessing and grace of the Holy Spirit, behold the face of God, and dwell with the angels of heaven eternally.
But as for all of you who disobey and contradict and quarrel and disregard your conscience, may God slap you so that you reform and come to yourselves, for “wherever words do not work, a rod does”.
My great paternal love, my suffering for your correction, and my longing for your salvation compel me to behave strictly whenever some stray, for if the evil remains uncontrolled and unpunished,
the responsibility falls upon both those in charge and those in submission.
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« Reply #131 on: June 04, 2010, 11:30:57 PM »

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Chapter Five

Homilies on Obedience
Stories of Obedience and Disobedience


In Katounakia on the Holy Mountain there was an elder by the name of Father Cyril, and he had a disciple named Father John. This disciple grieved and saddened his elder by his frequent disobedience. As time passed, this disciple began to feel physically ill. Before he became completely possessed by the demon, he behaved like an irrational person. He used to go with our fathers, Father Athanasios and Father Joseph, to gather hazelnuts, but he couldn’t. This person smelled like sulfur—I know this from my own personal experience. He had deranged thoughts, and his face showed his whole condition. Now and then he would come to our elder, Elder Joseph, to reveal his thoughts and seek advice, but he would not be obedient in anything. Before his elder, Father Cyril, died, he told him, “My child, when I die, bury me here”. When his elder died, however, he buried him elsewhere. The other fathers advised him not to disobey—be it even now—but to fulfill the last wish of his elder. But he replied, “No! I want to bury him here”. Once he buried him, the devil appeared before him and said to him, “Fool! I was the one who did all this to you. I was the one who incited you to grieve your elder with all your disobedience”. And as he opened his mouth, the devil entered inside him. From then on, he did crazy things…. When they chanted the Cherubic Hymn, he ridiculed them and acted like a wolf, like a wild beast. He took an axe and hacked at the icon* of St. John the Theologian. He would wander around all over the place. Now and then he would come to his senses. One day at noon we heard the cries of a fox. Father Joseph the Cypriot said to me, “Just look how audacious that fox is! Isn’t it afraid to howl in broad daylight?”
I said to him, “That’s not a fox; it’s that possessed man, Father John”. “I don’t believe it”, he replied. “Then wait and see”, I told him. And sure enough, in a little while Father John passed by in front of our house! I am telling you all these things so that you understand the importance of obedience, and also as a warning, because it will be very useful to you in the future. Another time, when Father John was in his right mind, he came to see my Elder. According to the typikon** we had there, and according to the rule of our Elder, I had to leave. As soon as I saw a visitor, I disappeared. So as soon as he came, I went to the adjacent cell and sat down there. Elder Joseph was sitting on a little stool. Father John came and sat down beside him. I knew from my Elder that he was possessed, because my Elder frequently told me about him for my instruction and experience. While I was sitting in the adjacent cell, I could hear what Father John said and how my Elder advised him. “Geronda”, Father John began, “when the demon seizes me, he lifts me up, he hits me, I speak incoherently, I do irrational things, and I find myself a mere spectator of what my body does and what my mouth says! I am a spectator, and I am unable to do anything, while all my members obey the devil!” After Elder Joseph’s repose when we were still at New Skete***, we had a lot of work and trouble fixing up our cell. The tempter made one of the fathers upset me with something. I kept telling him, “Don’t act like that; it is not to your advantage”. Finally, God gave him the personal experience to see that he should not behave like that. So one day during Great Compline—it was Lent—while he was reading at the lectern, he stopped reading for a moment, came over to me, and, terrified, he said to me, “Geronda, I am being possessed!” “Why do you say that?” I ask him. “Look”, he answered, “each one of my fingers is becoming as dig as my arm. My hand is swelling and is becoming three, four times its normal size by demonic activity! I am perishing, Geronda; cross me before I am possessed!” Then I crossed him and said, “All right, now go and read Compline, and next time be careful not to talk back and not to have a different opinion than the elder, because it is not to your advantage”. So after being crossed, he was delivered from it and came to himself, and trembling, went back to read. The feats of an obedient disciple are great. Those who obey and do not sadden their elder achieve angelic feats. Through obedience, a disciple receives much grace. The Apostle Paul, even though he was teaching Christians, stressed the basic virtue, obedience—that we must give joy to the spiritual fathers with our spiritual progress, for they watch out for our souls, as he said (cf. Heb. 13:17 ). It is not to our benefit to sadden and grieve those who struggle for the good of our soul. When we do not find rest or benefit in obedience, something is not going well; we are missing something. When a disciple is counseled by his elder about this or that, he should not take it merely as advice. In essence it is a command, even if it is not explicitly stated clearly as such. For example, the elder counsels: “My child, be obedient, say  the prayer, drive away evil thoughts as soon as they come, because the longer they stay and settle down, the more they defile the soul. But even if they leave after a long time, they will still leave spots and blemishes behind!” Or when he says: “As soon as the talanton**** is struck, go down to church at once”. Or: “In church, don’t move around easily, but be patient in your seat, and only move when there is some great need”. When a monk does not obey every counsel and exhortation his elder gives him, he is being disobedient. Does the elder have to say explicitly, “I command you to do this and that”, so that the monk is afraid and obeys? Of course not. Commands are given only in particular circumstances. When someone comes to the monastery to become a disciple, it is very clear that he does not come for the abbot’s sake or for the monastery’s sake. It is clear—crystal clear—that he comes for the love of Christ and for the salvation of his soul. But since he does not see Christ, in order to be obedient to Him, Christ has left His representative (the abbot of the monastery ) so that a disciple can show him the obedience he desires to show to Christ. Every spiritual father is an icon of Christ. So corresponding to how one obeys his spiritual father, he obeys Christ. It is a terrible sin to act impiously towards an icon of Christ, the Panagia, or the saints. Nothing is considered to be worse than this. In this case, it is an icon that depicts a divine person—we venerate and kiss it, and the veneration is transferred to that person himself. The spiritual father bears the living image of Christ, and the disciple is commanded to obey him and respect him solely for the love of Christ—not for the person of the elder, because he might be a sinful person; he might be on his way to hell, as I am.
However, obedience has another meaning: it is passed on directly to Christ. Since the love of Christ has called us to come here to struggle and save our souls, we must employ every means to acquire this basic virtue of obedience, which also has a universal quality: when you see a good disciple, you know that he has not only obedience, but many other virtues and achievements as well. Another one of the many examples my holy Elder told us in order to strengthen our obedience and faith and love towards the person of the elder is the following, which happened in Katounakia. There was a disciple who used to love his elder very much and was very obedient to him. Once they went up to Karyes. His elder became seriously ill there and wanted to return to his cell. So the disciple took him on his shoulders, and after walking for hours along the mountain ridge, he brought him back to Katounakia where they lived. Later, this monk affiliated himself with a synodia at St. Basil’s, where the fathers received communion without fasting. He wanted to leave his elder and go there to continue his monastic life. Even though he was a great schema monk, he wanted to leave his elder and go there. His elder told him, “You shall not go”. He answered, “Yes I will!” “My child”, the elder replied, “don’t go. Pascha is coming; stay here so that we can celebrate the Resurrection together”. “No, I’m going”, he repeated. One day the elder lost his patience and said, “May an evil angel pursue you”. The following day, a large pimple appeared on his nose and began to swell. Finally, he ended up going to Father Artemios, a self-taught doctor who had healed both Elder Joseph and me. He showed him the pimple, but he couldn’t cure him. In three or four days the swelling increased. The pimple burst and ran with pus, and he was approaching death. The fathers told him, “For the love of Christ, be reconciled with your elder so that he may forgive you and so that you may take his blessing with you”. “No!” he kept saying. He had become fierce as if he were possessed! But in the end, when he was about to breathe his last, he beat his breast, saying these words: “I lost! I lost! I lost my salvation!!!” My Elder used to tell us very many stories, because he knew many monks of the past. In the patristic***** writings is written the story of a good disciple whose elder counseled him every day after Compline. He would advise him regarding obedience and what he must do in order to be saved. One day the elder dozed off as he was talking. Then the devil began to disturb the disciple with thoughts, saying: “Leave, since your elder has fallen asleep. Why are you just sitting around? You should also go rest now; you are tired”, and so on. “But how can I go?” he thought. “I have to get Geronda’s blessing first”. “But he’s sleeping now”, his thoughts told him. “It doesn’t matter; I’ll be patient”. These thoughts of leaving fought against him seven times, but he wouldn’t leave. Hours later, when it was almost time for Matins, the elder woke up and said to him, “Didn’t you go rest yet?” “I couldn’t, Geronda, without your blessing”. “Then why didn’t you wake me up?” “It doesn’t matter, Geronda, I wanted to be obedient and patient”. “Fine. Let’s do Matins now, and then go rest well”. And that is what happened. When the elder went back to sleep again after Matins, he saw that he was in a chamber full of light, and in it was a resplendent throne, and on the seat of the throne were seven crowns with much grace. The elder wondered and said “Who knows what great saint and holy man this throne belongs to, and what struggles he must have done to win these crowns!” And as he was standing there, lo and behold, a venerable person approached and said to him, “What are you marveling at, Geronda?”
“I’m marveling at the throne’s splendor and thinking that it must be the throne of some great saint”. “No”. he said, “it doesn’t belong to some great saint, but to your disciple”. “But that’s impossible”, the elder said. “He is still very young, and he came just recently—and he has a throne and crowns already?”  “He certainly does! He was given the throne from the moment he did his metanoia of obedience,****** and he received the seven crowns last night by opposing thoughts”.
Then he came to himself and called his disciple and asked him, “My child, what thoughts did you have yesterday?”  “I didn’t have any in particular, Geronda. I don’t remember having any bad thoughts”.  “Try thinking a little harder; review the day step by step”. And then, as he was examining himself, he said, “Yes, yes, Geronda, last night after Compline after you fell asleep, the thought to leave you and go rest fought against me seven times, but I resisted it, and, as you saw, I waited for you”.
“Fine, my child; go”. And the elder understood that his disciple had won the seven crowns the previous night by opposing thoughts.

*Icon (εικών )
Αn icon is a two-dimensional sacred depiction of Christ, of His saints, or of a holy event. Icons are to be venerated, not worshipped, as worship is due to God alone. As St. Basil the Great has stated, the reverence given to icons is transferred to their prototype, that is, to the one portrayed.

** Typikon (τυπικόν )
Τhe «typikon” can mean: (a ) a brotherhood’s system of rules regulating the life of a monk in general; or (b ) the set of rubrics governing the order of liturgical services.

*** Skete (σκήτη )
A skete is a small monastic village, usually consisting of a central church and several “cells”. Cells are monastic houses, each with its own synodia and usually with its own chapel.

**** Talanton
A “talanton” is a specially shaped wooden plank that is struck in monasteries before services begin.

***** Patristic (πατερικός )
This adjective is used to describe something of, or relating to, the Holy Fathers of the Church.

****** metanoia of obedience
Once a person has chosen his spiritual father and is accepted by him, he does a metanoia symbolizing his submission.


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« Reply #132 on: June 06, 2010, 09:09:41 PM »

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Chapter Five

Homilies on Obedience.

Stories of Obedience and Disobedience


Monastic Obedient


By the example of our Jesus, Who humbled Himself so much, we are taught the grandeur that is hidden within obedient. Obedience is not merely obeying the elder, but it is also obeying every commandment of God. Here the elder gives commands, but above all, it is God Who does so with His commandments: “Thou shalt…” If a person is obedient, he will later enjoy the fruits of this obedience. Christ humbled Himself out of obedience to His heavenly Father. He obeyed as a man in order to teach us the lofty virtue of obedience, for without humility, one cannot approach God. We see that Adam and Eve in Paradise were happy as long as they were obedient and kept the commandment of God—that is, not to eat the forbidden fruit. They were the king and queen of all creation; they ruled over all; they were happy, and they felt and saw God. The life they lived was the most blessed life. They had the protection of God; no one troubled them; no one condemned them. They were free to walk within Paradise without fear, without a remorseful conscience. Why? Because they had not fallen into any sin against God. Later, when they misused their freedom and wanted, as free beings, to transgress the commandment, they did so and sinned against God. Right after their sin, remorse leaped up. Immediately after their fall, their consciences began to disturb and oppress their souls. It is clear that the reproof of the conscience was a result of transgression, of sin. After the Fall, Adam and Eve found themselves at an impasse. “They heard God walking in Paradise”, say the Scriptures, “and they were afraid and hid themselves”! (cf. Gen. 3:9 ). Previously, however, when they had not sinned against God, why weren’t they afraid of Him? Was this, perhaps, the only time God walked in Paradise? Since they were His genuine children, didn’t He visit them and walk in Paradise? But they were not afraid of Him then because their conscience did not reprehend them; it was full of tranquility and peace, and so they also remained at peace. So, “As God was walking in Paradise, they both hid themselves, for they were afraid of God”. God said to them, “Adam and Eve, where are you? Where have you hidden?” what could they say to God now? “Adam, why did you hide?” “I was afraid”, said Adam. “I heard You walking in Paradise, and I was afraid”. “But why should you be afraid? Are you afraid of your Father, your Creator, your Benefactor? Are you afraid of Me approaching, Who out of boundless divine love gave you an entire Paradise? Happiness Itself, the Fountain of life, joy, and peace approaches and you are afraid?”
“Yes”, replied Adam. “I am afraid because I made a mistake. But it’s not my fault; it’s Eve’s, that woman You gave me. She’s the one who pushed me, who urged me to, and then I transgressed Your commandment and ate the forbidden fruit”. “Eve”, said God, “why did you deceive your husband? Why did you eat it?” “It’s  not my fault”, said Eve. “The serpent—which You, of course, created and put here in Paradise—is the one that told me to eat. And he told me that if I ate this fruit I would become equal to God and would know good and evil”. One sees here outright egotism and back talk. Egotism results in back talk in the mind and heart. It rises up against God and indirectly throws the responsibility on Him. So, since God did not see repentance or hear an apology, He immediately ordered their exile. This dialogue between God and Adam and Eve gives us the precious advice and teaching that God does not abandon man when he transgresses His commandment. He does not condemn him immediately, but He approaches him. But how does He approach him? Man doesn’t hear Him walking, as Adam did! I, however, hear Him very distinctly reproving me and saying to me, “You did badly here. There you did not do well. Why are you doing this?” through our conscience God cries out, “Repent; you are human”. Man is easily corrupted; he falls easily; he is changeable, mutable, prone to fall. God knows this because He formed us. He made us human. But He also gave us the grace to repent; He has given us the power to arise. Why don’t you do this? When He reproves you through your conscience and exhorts you through the Scriptures to repent, and you do not do so, then the condemnation and punishment begin. Let us change the subject now to our way of life. Again, we see here that as long as one practices obedience, he lives happily. His conscience does not reprove him; it does not trouble him; it does not disturb him at all. When he does not obey well, his conscience reproves him and says, “You did badly here”. Again egotism shouts, “No!” The conscience repeats, “You ought to repent”. And thus there is a disturbance, a war begins, and a state of reproof is created in the soul. Such a state of reproof and disturbance, however, does not exist in a good disciple, but he lives in peace and tranquility with the good hope of the future eternal restoration* in God. Now we are in a cenobitic** monastery, which operates under a certain order, law, regulation, discipline, admonition, and obedience.
When a disciple does not properly apply the order, admonitions, and commands of both God and the elder, then he feels reproof within himself. The Fathers kept obedience with such exactitude that it is written that they would even ask, “Is it good that I drink ten sips of water a day?” What are they trying to tell us with this teaching and counsel and exhortation? They are trying to teach us how much exactitude we should have in obeying the counsels and orders of the elder. Furthermore, the Fathers tell us that we make fools of ourselves when we have given up our parents, the world, freedom, and then we make a spectacle of ourselves before God, the angels, men, and the demons when they see us quarrel over a needle, a thread, or the merest trifle. We have promised to God to have self-denial. What does self-denial mean? It means denying our passions and all our will. But when we do our own will and do things without a blessing to please and serve ourselves, do you think we are practicing obedience? If we shall give an account to God for one idle word (cf. Mt. 12:36 ), won’t we give an account for one act of self-will? When we became monks, we promised self-denial and obedience till death. How, then, shall we justify ourselves when we stand before the humble Jesus, the utterly obedient One, when He shows us the wounds of the nails and the crucifixion? When He says to us, “Behold how much I obeyed the heavenly Father and cut off my will. I did not cut off my will with regard to a needle, a thread, or some very minor command, but I cut off my will to the point of death, even death on a cross (cf. Phil. 2:8 ). But when, for example, we are reproved for an act of self-will, at once we get upset and there is a war within us. When something clashes with the desire of our self-will, we find an enormous upheaval of everything within us. We see our Christ receiving an order and saying, “If it is possible, let this hour, this cup pass from Me, and let man be saved differently”  (cf. Mt. 26:39 ). But the Father’s answer was, “No, You will proceed the way of the Cross and of Golgotha”. “May Thy will be done”. Therefore, we should be attentive to our conscience and not do anything without the elder’s knowledge. For although now we are happy doing our own will and are pleased with it and are fulfilling our hearts’ desire, the hour will certainly come when we shall find ourselves in a very difficult situation. Then we shall recall our former life and seek time for repentance and correction, but it will be too late! Now that we are able to correct things, let us do so. Let us not do anything without a blessing.
In The Sayings of the Desert Fathers it is written that a certain nun went to the garden and, without a blessing, took some lettuce and ate it, and a demon entered inside her. She then started behaving like a possessed person. So they called the elder to make her well. He rebuked the demon and asked it, “Why did you enter inside the sister?” “It’s not my fault”, said the demon. “I was just sitting on the lettuce and she ate me!” The demon entered this nun physically, whereas when we do similar deeds and acts of self-will, the demon enters us differently: through our guilt. This is worse, because that demon was apparent, and in the end came to the attention of the elder, and the nun was healed. But when we transgress, the demon remains within and this is worse. The Fathers say: “It is not such a great thing for a demon to be cast out of a person. It is a far greater achievement to be able to cast out a demonic passion”.  A saint can cast out a demon, but to cast out a passion requires a personal struggle. It is precisely for this reason that we should not labor in vain and lose our time and be deceived, thinking that we are on the right path of the monastic life and practice obedience, being content and self-complacent, when in fact we are transgressors. Perhaps we are being fooled by our thoughts—or rather our conceit—saying: “This is nothing, that doesn’t matter. It’s no big deal if I do this, too”. Yet in reality it is a transgression of the divine law. And let us not forget that although we may modify it, the law of God is immutable, unchangeable, and constant, and one day it will be fully applied—when we are judged by it!
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« Reply #133 on: June 08, 2010, 10:26:04 PM »

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Chapter Five

Homilies on Obedience.

Stories of Obedience and Disobedience


Patristic Obedience
   



Through humility the Holy Fathers attained great degrees of grace. But can’t a disciple achieve such success? Of course he can. If he keeps silence, attends to his spiritual duties, and keeps himself free from cares, if he maintains introspection and regularly takes account of himself, he will definitely make progress. When we were with Elder Joseph, we were disciples. We had our diakonema*, the daily labor, etc. With our Elder as an experienced guide in these divine paths of the spiritual life, some of the fathers were able to come to know those things that the Watchful Fathers have left us as a sacred heritage. We should avoid saying unnecessary things. Let us be consistent in doing our prayer rule. Likewise, let us be punctual in going to church. We should be in church to hear the service, the Liturgy, Vespers. We should be all together in the refectory; we should have order in everything. “Wherever there is order, there is peace; wherever there is peace, there is God. Wherever there is disorder, there is confusion; wherever there is confusion, there is the devil”. “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40 ). As disciples, let us practice our obedience. Let us not do our own will. Self-will cast Adam and Eve out of Paradise. Christ’s submission of His will to His Father brought Adam and Eve back into Paradise again, and thus obedience triumphed. Lucifer disobeyed God. He proudly fantasized about equality with God, and God sent him far from Himself, and he became the devil who fights against us. The other ranks of the angels remained loyal and obedient to God and still remain in the presence of His glory. Though they used to be angels changeable by nature, they became incapable of falling by grace, for they learned so much from the falls of Lucifer and man that now they are unshakeable in their obedience to God. How evil is the will of man, for concealed within it are pride, self-love, and so many other passions. That is why a disciple who has been freed from self-will is freed from the passions. Christ was obedient to the point of death on the Cross, that is, a complete mortification of self-will. If Christ as Man had not been obedient, if He had not cut off His own will, man would not have been saved! In exactly the same way, a person who holds on to his own will and does what he wants is not saved. What does denying one’s will mean? It means putting it away from oneself, renouncing it, not having anything to do with it. Only when a disciple does away with his will in this manner is he delivered from the passions. The more he renounces his own will, the more he is relieved from the passions. If a disciple knows in practice how to say “Bless” and “May it be blessed”, this disciple will be crowned with an unfading crown in the heavenly world. Wherever a disciple has put forth his own will, he has injected poison, and with this poison he poisons himself. Even if the command he is given is wrong, God will bless it anyway for obedience’s sake. There was a disciple who had such unquestioning obedience that his elder would tell him to go steal various things from the brethren’s cells, and he would go and do so! The elder would then take them and give them back to the brethren. He was never bothered when thoughts told him, “Hey, what is the elder doing to me? Is he inciting me, is he teaching me how to steal? And later I’ll have the habit of stealing!” Instead, he thought about it and said, “I am being obedient. Now, what it is that I am doing, I don’t know. I know only one thing—that I am being obedient”. Someone went and became a disciple of an elder who had a synodia. The elder told him, “Since you want to live in my synodia, I order you never to say a single word—to become mute for the sake of Christ!” He replied, “May it be blessed”. After he had spent some time in this synodia, the elder saw that it was not to his benefit to continue living there. So one day he told him, “I am going to send you to another elder, to another monastery”. And he gave him a note and said, “Go to such-and-such monastery, and give this to the abbot and stay there”. The abbot received the letter—it was a letter of recommendation that said, “Geronda, please keep this brother. He is a good monk”, and so forth. So he kept him. After a while, this monk died, without ever breaking his silence. After his death, the second elder wrote to the first elder, “Even though the brother you sent me was mute, he was a real angel!” Then the first elder answered, “He wasn’t born mute, but he remained silent out of obedience!” And the second elder marveled at the strength of this brother and how well he adhered to the command of his first elder! What I am trying to say is that complete renunciation of self-will sanctifies us. Many times I think to myself, “How much a perfectly obedient disciple will be honored by Christ, Who is first in obedience! And  how is it possible for Christ not to take the perfectly obedient disciple in His synodia, where they will see His face eternally, as St. John the Theologian writes in the Book of Revelation? (vid. Rev. 22:4 ). We monks of today hold on to our self-will very tightly, and thus we are unable to progress further. We do not say, “Bless” and “May it be blessed”, but we say, “No, not like that. This is how it should be done”, etc., and in this way we pour poison on ourselves and on our lives. And this is why we do not have the progress that good monks do. We read in the books, in the Fathers, about some holy disciples. Just think, there was an abbot who put an ox in the cell of one of his disciples, and for so many years it kept ruining his yarn and his loom! And, of course, the ox must have done many other things to him in there. He wouldn’t have had any quiet at all! In spite of all this, he never had any resentful thoughts—as he told Abba Paphnoutios “Never, Abba, did a bad thought about my Elder cross my mind, questioning why he put the ox in my cell. But since he put it, he knows what he is doing, and I am at rest with that”. He did not have his own way of thinking. His elder’s way of thinking was also his. This is why we say, “If we don’t have spiritual obedience, we haven’t achieved anything at all”. When we do not want what the elder wants, we are not in essence disciples—we do not have spiritual obedience. Even if we are obedient in our actions, it is as if we were humans with a body but no soul (as if it were at all possible for someone with only a body to be considered a real person ), which is something logically unacceptable. In exactly the same way, it is logically unacceptable from a spiritual point of view for one to be called a disciple if he has obedience only in his actions and at his diakonema. Above all, one must have a soul: one must have spiritual obedience. One should say, “Whatever the elder believes, thinks, and decides, I also believe, think, and decide in exactly the same way”. St. Symeon the New Theologian received the blessing from above solely for his obedience. He is a very strong and clear example for us. St. Paisios told his disciple one day: “My child, go drink water from that wash-basin”. The disciple thought to himself, “Instead of the Elder telling me to go drink from the pitcher or from the fountain—since I have come from my diakonema tired and sweaty—he tells me to drink from this dirty water in the basin!” He trusted his own thoughts and missed out on a great blessing! Later he thought, “Why don’t I go drink it?” But he didn’t find any water. Then Abba Paisios said to him, “You poor fellow! Do you know what that rinse water was? It was water that had washed the feet of Christ!” From then on, a spirit of grief came upon him, and Abba Paisios tried to console him, but how could he? He reached the point of having no peace at all. Then one day the saint told him (since he couldn’t be at peace and remain beside him ), “Go to such and such a place. There are three tombs there, and in front of one of them (he indicated which ) say a prayer and pay attention to what you will hear”. He did so, and heard a voice saying, “Go back to your Elder and be obedient”. But he had already shipwrecked internally. The house of his soul had been damaged beyond repair. This is why he passed the rest of his life vacillating and storm-tossed in his obedience to Abba Paisios. While St. Symeon the New Theologian triumphed against his own will and received the theology from above for his perfect obedience, the other monk, by doing his own will, remained outside obedience and grace. Of course, these are just a few examples. For if everything done by those Fathers—those excellent disciples—were written down, entire volumes could have been compiled. These examples are like mirrors in which we can see ourselves and how we are doing. May God help each one of us to come to our senses, to see ourselves, to see how much we have renounced our own will. Let us struggle to rid ourselves of this poison so that we can live as God wills and as the monastic profession requires of us.
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« Reply #134 on: June 09, 2010, 10:08:07 PM »

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Chapter Five

Homilies on Obedience.

Stories of Obedience and Disobedience


Homily on Conscience and Obedience

When a person remains completely obedient to his conscience and implements whatever it tells him, he is not reproved by it anymore—not that its voice has weakened, but rather because of his good obedience, his conscience has nothing to reprove. The Apostle John says that when a man’s conscience does not condemn him, he has confidence toward God (cf. 1 Jn 3:21 ). It is impossible for a person to proceed without ever stumbling somewhere, because from all sides the devil, the world, and the flesh are continuously inserting obstacles into his life, and he stumbles in proportion to his carelessness. Therefore, when he falls, he should arise at once and seek forgiveness. When one repents in proportion to the gravity of his fall, his conscience, which used to bother him, stops reproving him. We must guard our conscience on three points—with respect to God, with respect to our neighbor, and with respect to things. One guards his conscience with respect to God when he avoids the various sins. He guards his conscience with respect to his neighbor when he does not grieve him, judge him, slander him, scandalize him, or push him towards evil deeds. He guards his conscience with respect to things when he does not cause destruction or damage to material things through carelessness, negligence, or unscrupulousness. St. Theodore the Studite tells us many things about this “unscrupulousness”. When you see something burning or being damaged and you don’t pick it up and protect it, this is unscrupulousness. When your cloths get torn and you neglect them, and then they get completely ruined, this is unscrupulousness. When you are able to work but instead of working you wander around here and there, this is also unscrupulousness. When you leave your food out and it goes bad and you throw it away, this is unscrupulousness because you should have taken care to eat it before it went bad. Therefore, unscrupulousness is when one errs in any way with respect to material things, and also when one offends God in any way. The greatest wealth is obtained when one strives to preserve his conscience unburdened. But in the event that he senses that something has wounded him, he should correct it immediately, and thus he will return to his prior state. How many times has our conscience reproved us! The more a person listens to his conscience, and the more he attends to it, the more precisely it guides him. And the more discreetly it guides and reproves him, the more he ascends in purity. There is also the so-called “evil conscience”, which often comes with the pretense and shape and form of the good conscience, yet in essence it is the evil, perverted conscience, the conscience which is opposed to God. The evil conscience is that voice which teaches things deceitful, perverted, and contrary. The good conscience has humility and obedience as its starting point, source, and foundation. The evil conscience has pride and disobedience as its source. When one does not obey the Elder, when one resists, when one is deceitful, when one does not listen, then one has what is called self-reliance; such self-reliance is the evil conscience. Humble-mindedness gives birth to the good conscience. Since the two consciences are entangled, one often asks himself, “Is this the evil conscience or the good one? Should I believe this thought or that one?” So to learn—or rather to be taught—what is the good conscience, one needs to have humility; but above all, he needs to place himself under the guidance of another, his superior, his leader, his spiritual father, and to obey whatever he says. Then little by little he will begin to perceive which thoughts are evil and which are good, what is the hue of the good conscience and what is the hue of the evil conscience. Thus, on the one hand, through the teaching and guidance of his spiritual father he avoids falling, and on the other hand, in time he is taught what the hue and appearance of the two consciences are and becomes a perfect man. It is those who are without obedience who have suffered harm. For man is pressed by both consciences; the one works to save him and the other to destroy him, and many times he does not know which one to listen to. He who is under obedience avoids this danger and little by little becomes experienced and skilled in discerning the evil conscience from the good conscience. Abba Poimen had two thoughts, and he went to tell them to his spiritual father, who lived very far away—he set out in the morning and arrived in the evening. He forgot one thought, however, and told him only the other one. When he returned to his cell, as soon as he put the key in the door, he remembered the second thought. So without even opening the door, he went back again to tell him his other thought. When his spiritual father saw his labor and his exactitude, he exclaimed, “Poimen (“Poimen” in Greek means shepherd ), Poimen, shepherd of angels! Your virtue will make your name known in all the world”. For one to become experienced enough to distinguish the voice of the good conscience from the voice of the evil conscience, he must pass through obedience. If he does not pass through obedience, he is deficient. He may have gifts; he may be a good soul; he may do various good works—but you will see that he always hobbles in discernment and humility. The virtue that submission to an Elder gives is, first and foremost, discernment, which comes through humble-mindedness. That is to say, obedience forges a man’s character and gives him, above all, discernment and humility. “Ask your Father”, says the Scripture, “and he will tell you” (Deut. 32:7 ). We see this in the patristic path the saints walked. We read in the Lives of the Desert Fathers that a certain Zacharias saw a vision, but his spiritual father was not in a position to elucidate whether it was from God or from the demons. So he rebuked his disciple, telling him not to pay attention to visions. The disciple went to a discerning Elder who told him, “The vision is from God, but go and submit yourself to your spiritual father”, thus showing that being obedient is more important than seeing visions. How much the Fathers have left us for our instruction! The best road, the most correct, the safest, the most free from responsibility, is the road of submission to an Elder. “He who practices obedience”, says Abba Palamon, “has fulfilled all the commandments of Christ”. “The disciple has chosen the best road”, says Abba Moses. “Run, children, to wherever obedience is. There lie joy, peace, brotherly love, unity, vigilance, consolation, crowns, and wages”. But when we want to put forth our own will as disciples, then the road becomes difficult, rough, and dangerous. When one practices obedience, he finds himself in love, in forcefulness, in brotherly affection, in crowns, in sanctification, in salvation. Self-will is a great barrier, a great obstacle—it is a wall between the soul and God. Just as when a wall is in front of us and blocks the sun, the place is damp and unhealthful and does not bear fruit because the sun does not shine there, the same thing happens with the wall of self-will. When it stands in front of the soul, the soul is darkened and remains without fruit. The Sun of Righteousness is Christ; when the soul is not obstructed, the rays of Christ come and illuminate it, and man bears fruit and is sanctified. Only the one who has tasted the fruit of obedience can speak about it. Obedience is the most grace-filled road. Above all, one who is obedient casts out the evil demon of selfishness and pride—which causes all evils—and brings humility and freedom from care. We read in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers about two brothers who decided to become monks and left the world. One became a disciple in a cenobitic monastery; the other became a hermit. After two or three years the hermit said, “Let me go and see my brother who is in the monastery, living in the midst of cares and worries. Who knows how the poor thing is doing in the midst of so much bustle”. He was confident that through his ascesis he had reached a high spiritual level. He went to the monastery, and with the excuse that he supposedly needed his brother, he said to the abbot, “I would like to see my brother a little”. His brother came, and the abbot, who was a holy man, blessed them to go off by themselves and talk. When they had gone some distance from the monastery, they saw on the path a dead man who was almost naked. The hermit said, “Don’t we have any clothes to cover the man with?” The monk from the monastery, in his simplicity said, “Wouldn’t it be better to pray for him to be resurrected?” Lets pray”, said the hermit. They both prayed, and the dead man arose. The monk from the monastery didn’t attach much importance to the miracle; he believed it came about through the prayers of his Elder. The hermit, however, said within himself that the miracle occurred because of his own virtues—because of his ascesis and fasting, his nightly vigils and the hardship he endured, his sleeping on the ground and all his other achievements. When they returned, before they had a chance to speak, the abbot said to the hermit, “Brother, do not think that it was because of your prayers that God raised the dead man—no! God did it because of the obedience of your brother!” When the hermit saw that the abbot immediately read his thoughts, that he had the gift of clairvoyance and was a holy man, he believed that in reality he himself was deluded, and that his brother, who he thought was anxious and worried about many things within the monastery, was actually above him. Think with what confidence the disciple said, “Let’s pray for him to be resurrected!” Here you see simplicity, guilelessness, faith. The hermit considered it impossible, but the monk from the monastery considered it natural; he trusted in the prayers of his Elder. What a struggle he must have undergone to reach such humility! How his egotism and pride must have been smashed in the monastery! What person coming from the world does not have egotism and pride? How many disciples were sanctified and gave forth myrrh after death! On the Holy Mountain, in the region of St. Anne’s Skete, there was a monk who hauled sacks of wheat up from the harbor with much labor and sweat. At one point he began to say in his thoughts, “I wonder if we will have a reward for all the sweat and labor we endure in order to obey our Elders?” As he reflected on these things, he sat down to rest a little. A light sleep came upon him, and as he was half asleep, he saw the Panagia before him. “Do not be dismayed, my child” She said to him. “This sweat which you shed to haul your provisions  for the sake of obedience is counted as the blood of a martyr before my Son”. Then he came to himself, and his thoughts and distress left him. The fathers inscribed that event on the stone wall there, and whoever passes by there reads it. Near the main church of St. Anne’s Skete, there is a little house called “The Patriarch’s”.
A Patriarch by the name of Cyril lived there in ascesis; he had abandoned the patriarchal throne and came to live as a simple monk. The fathers hauled their things on their backs, but they said to the Patriarch, “You are old, your All-holiness, and not accustomed to our way of life. We will get you a little donkey to load your provisions on”. So they got him a little donkey, and he went up and down the mountainside with it.
One day, as the Patriarch climbed up with the animal and the other fathers had their provisions on their backs, they sat down to rest a little. And as the Patriarch was half awake, he suddenly saw the Panagia together with the Angels. The Panagia was holding a vessel and was giving a drink to the fathers who were carrying their things on their backs; the Angels were holding handkerchiefs and wiping away their sweat. He saw with surprise that they even wiped the sweat from the donkey, and he begged them, “Wipe me also, please”. Then the Panagia said to him, “Father, you have not sweated; we will wipe the donkey because it has”. Then he woke up and came to himself. He said to the fathers, “Take away the donkey, because I am missing out on many blessings. The Panagia and the angels wiped the donkey and not me!” From then on, he also carried his things on his back. How very many such things have happened in the lives of the Fathers! If only we were there to see them! Now such things are rarely encountered; they have all been lost. So let us be attentive to our conscience. Let us acquire a good conscience through obedience, contrition, confession, and humble-mindedness. Let us avoid self-will, which begets self-reliance and the evil conscience.
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« Reply #135 on: June 10, 2010, 11:34:01 PM »

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Chapter Five

Homilies on Obedience.

Stories of Obedience and Disobedience


Selections on Obedience


What is a more beautiful example than that of the Lord Jesus! Didn’t obedience towards His Father lead Him to the Cross and death? Couldn’t He, being of the essence with the Father, have opposed this? But no, He walked with sweat; He fell to His knees with pain beneath the weight of cutting off His will as He ascended Golgotha. But He had to ascend it, reach the top, be lifted up on the glorious—and to the demons, dreadful—Cross, and there on it show perfect and absolute obedience, and receive the unfading crown of eternal glory. This is how the resurrection of our soul is gained, and not by vacillating between obedience and disobedience with self-will. The crown is not acquired like that, but by a willingness to sacrifice. All obstacles are surmounted by the strong thought of preferring to die rather than betray the obedience of doing one’s duty.
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« Reply #136 on: June 12, 2010, 09:57:28 PM »

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Chapter Five

Homilies on Obedience.

Stories of Obedience and Disobedience
   


Selections on Obedience


What is a more beautiful example than that of the Lord Jesus! Didn’t obedience towards His Father lead Him to the Cross and death? Couldn’t He, being of the essence with the Father, have opposed this? But no, He walked with sweat; He fell to His knees with pain beneath the weight of cutting off His will as He ascended Golgotha. But He had to ascend it, reach the top, be lifted up on the glorious—and to the demons, dreadful—Cross, and there on it show perfect and absolute obedience, and receive the unfading crown of eternal glory. This is how the resurrection of our soul is gained, and not by vacillating between obedience and disobedience with self-will. The crown is not acquired like that, but by a willingness to sacrifice. All obstacles are surmounted by the strong thought of preferring to die rather than betray the obedience of doing one’s duty.
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« Reply #137 on: June 13, 2010, 10:11:41 PM »

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Chapter Five

Homilies on Obedience.

Stories of Obedience and Disobedience. 
 


Selections on Obedience.


2.    Through the obedience of Christ we were saved, whereas through the disobedience of Adam we were drawn into the abyss of hell. The road of obedience does indeed lead to Golgotha. It is uphill, and the ascent is a little laborious, and we shall sweat and be fatigued, but let us reflect that after the resurrection we shall gain purity of soul and sonship, and this wealth cannot be matched by any worldly enjoyments. What am I saying, worldly things? If one gives the entire world, he cannot buy even one drop of spiritual joy from that soul which has ascended Golgotha and seen its own resurrection.
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« Reply #138 on: June 14, 2010, 11:33:08 PM »

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Chapter Five

Homilies on Obedience.

Stories of Obedience and Disobedience.   


Selections on Obedience.

3.
   Christ said to His disciples, “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him Who sent Me” (Lk.10:16 ).
The successors of the Apostles are the hierarchs, the priests, the abbots, and the elders of small synodias. So whoever obeys the successors of the Apostles obeys Christ Himself, and whoever disobeys them, rejects Christ.
For this reason, since we want to place ourselves under obedience to Christ, we ought to show obedience—not merely obeying what we like and disobeying what we do not want.
For in Gethsemane, Christ asked that the salvation of mankind happen differently from what the Heavenly Father desired. But since the Heavenly Father decided upon the Cross, Christ then replied, “Not My will, but Thy will be done, my Father” (cf. Mt. 26:29 ).
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« Reply #139 on: June 15, 2010, 11:07:10 PM »

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Chapter Five   

Selections on Obedience.

4.
   Theology emanates from prayer, and prayer from perfect obedience.
Without obedience, a monk will soon lose whatever talent or gift he might have,
whereas a true disciple is fertile and fruitful with all the gifts of the Comforter and is rich now and unto the ages.
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« Reply #140 on: June 16, 2010, 10:29:36 PM »

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Chapter Five   

Selections on Obedience.

5.
    For the grace of God to visit us, we must apply ourselves with absolute obedience to whatever we are taught.
Let us not add our will to the will of the Elder, for this is called spiritual adultery. We must work at obedience with much sincerity, otherwise we shall not make any progress in our monastic journey.
Humility is the virtue which helps wonderfully to apply perfect Christ-like obedience. On the contrary, egotism and pride are opposed to its acquisition.
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« Reply #141 on: June 17, 2010, 11:35:42 PM »

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Chapter Five   

Selections on Obedience.

6.
    It is extremely terrible, very dreadful, to press and compel your Elder to do something that you want but that his soul does not want.
It is frightful. Only someone with personal experience knows this.
Your spiritual Father and Elder is worth much more to you than all the people of the earth, even more than the whole universe!
Only the devil knows better than anyone else what it means to have an Elder and to have perfect obedience to him.
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« Reply #142 on: June 19, 2010, 12:05:20 AM »

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Chapter Five   

Selections on Obedience.

7.
   Never examine what your Elder does or why he does this or that.
Do not judge him, for you will become an antichrist! Never in your life tolerate others who speak against your Elder, but oppose them immediately; shield him; defend him.
Christ makes straight the “crookedness” of the Elder’s human shortcomings and mistakes, on account of uncritical and guileless obedience.
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« Reply #143 on: June 20, 2010, 09:58:20 PM »

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Chapter Five   

Selections on Obedience.

8.
   It is a great achievement for Satan to persuade a disciple to hide his thoughts, to do anything without the permission and blessing of the Elder, and not to confess everything clearly to his spiritual father.
Such a disciple will never make a good beginning and will never make progress in the grace of God, but will be dragged here and there until the wretched end of his life comes.
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