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Author Topic: Counsels from the Holy Mountain.  (Read 16032 times) Average Rating: 0
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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
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

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.

St Gregory of Sinai
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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
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

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.

St Gregory of Sinai
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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
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

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
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

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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