Counsels from the Holy Mountain

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Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 7/2/2010, 17:40

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Counsels from the Holy Mountain
Selected from the letters and homilies
of Elder Ephraim


Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise

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

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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 8/2/2010, 03:48

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Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise

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

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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 9/2/2010, 02:07

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Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise

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

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

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

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

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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 10/2/2010, 00:52

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Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise

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

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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 11/2/2010, 05:26

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Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise

5 .
All the labor, toil, and temptations in this life, my blessed child, cannot be compared with that blessed life. Even if we had thousands of lives and sacrificed them all, we would not have done anything significant in comparison with the future glory in which Christ the Master longs to establish us through His precious and life-giving Blood! This is why the Apostle Paul says, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18 ). Furthermore, reflect that man “withers like a flower and passes like a dream,” (cf. Is. 40:6-8 ), and that “when the trumpet sounds, all the dead will rise as if in an earthquake” (cf. 2 Thes. 4:16 ) to meet Christ. When the door of the age to come opens, and when the present world is destroyed, then our nature will be restored to its original state. The Lord “will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.” (Phil. 3:21 ). Our nature, which groans and travails together with all of creation, (cf. Rom. 8:22 ), awaits the glorious revealing of the children of God with an intence yearning. “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:19 ). The grandeur of man, whom God raises to such heights and glory, is unrivaled! Yet we passionate sinners are unaware of and indifferent to these great riches, and our way of thinking is completely earthly. Just think: this body which is fetid dirt is counted worthy to be conformed to God’s glory, to become angelic! (cf. Phil. 3:21 ). Now, men are material in comparison to the angels, which are purely spiritual beings. Angels in comparison to God are somewhat “material”. They are not purely spiritual as God is, Who is unapproachable light. In this manner men will also become angelic then. Then, a single unity of the fullness of the Church, of the faithful with Christ will occur. How tenderly and paternally our Lord puts it: “Father,” He said to His Father, “I desire that they also whom Thou hast given Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me” (Jn. 17:24 ). Can worldly riches compare with these words of God? If only we were there where our Lord is—where angels shudder and tremble to approach! O hidden wisdom and infinite wealth of God!

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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 12/2/2010, 03:52

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Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise

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

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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 13/2/2010, 02:49

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Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise

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

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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 14/2/2010, 01:25

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Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise

8 .
I sent you a letter in which I wrote a few things about the paradise; I hope this pleased you. Ah, if you could only see a little bit of paradise, if you could only hear for a few seconds the chanting of the sweet angels who shine with heavenly light and emit paradisiacal fragnance! Oh, what beauty! Unfortunately, we are in the dark about all these things. There everything shines with limitless bliss. And what does the throne of Christ tell you? Christ the Master sits upon a throne, and due to His light no one can discern His sacred and most sweet face. Oh, what sweetness and beauty! What is more beautiful than this? This is truly paradise: to behold the face of our Jesus! Glory to Thy Cross, O Lord, and to Thy Resurrection! O depth of the wisdom of God! O mysteries of the threesun Deity! Blessed is he who humbles himself like a child, obeying all commands with a guileless soul for the love of God! And woe to him who will hold on to his egotism, like me; how many divine gifts does he deprive himself of! My children, run with humility to reach the Lord Who humbled Himself for our sake—our sweetest, beloved Christ, the light of our poor souls. See what beauty awaits us! If you could only see how beautiful it is! You would disregard everything; you would even become like trash to be stepped on, just as long as you would not be deprived of everything that the sweet love of Jesus has prepared! These are the kinds of things my Elder used to tell me, and I am conveying them to you so that you may be sweetened. I am done—forgive me!
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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 15/2/2010, 02:38

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Chapter One
On Salvation and Paradise

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

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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 16/2/2010, 02:21

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

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

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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 17/2/2010, 02:39

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

2 ).
Many things afflict us, my child, but blessed is he who passes through the grievous things of this present life with patience and thanksgiving. Yes, we ought to thank God, Who through such grievous things prepares our immortal soul to inherit the eternal blessings of the kingdom of heaven!”The Lord disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness”. (cf. Heb. 12:10 ). Through various afflictions He works in us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all! (cf. 2 Cor. 4:17 ).
For this reason it is neither necessary nor beneficial to be indignant when the Lord disciplines us. Rather, it is beneficial for everyone’s soul to have perfect obedience to the Physician of our souls and bodies, Who during various afflictions operates on the invisible wounds of the soul of each one of us, with the holy aim of giving us health- that is, the purification of the heart from vile passions. To such an omniscient spiritual Physician, we have the indispensable obligation to offer unceasing thanks by our actions, so that we do not grieve Him by any offence. All the saints passed their lives in afflictions and manifold sufferings, in spite of the fact that sin did not have any power over them to afflict them. Nevertheless, many times their life was a true martyrdom. Now, what justification will we give- we who have fallen into and occupy ourselves with many sins- to claim the right to pass our lives without afflictions and sufferings? Most certainly we are accountable for sin, and consequently we need the whip of the salvific discipline of the Lord, that we may have the fortune of being saved into the kingdom of heaven, by grace of the mercies of our God Who loves mankind.
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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 18/2/2010, 03:07

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

3 ).
Why are you sorrowful and glum while walking along the way of God? Those who have forgotten God, who have no hope in the living and eternal fountain of God, should grieve. But we, who believe in the living God and whose hopes depend upon Him, ought to rejoice that we have such a Father in the heavens, Who loves us more than all fathers and mothers and Who takes infinite care to render us worthy of Him. But, you say, we fall every moment! Yes, I do not deny it—but we know that our nature is from clay and that it desires the earth and seeks what is base, for “the mind of man is inclined to evil from his youth.” (cf. Gen. 8:21 ). And we see within us a law which seeks to capture our free will, to subjugate it and render it a slave of sin. (cf. Rom. 7:23 ). In all this, however, our good intention triumphs. God has given us spiritual weapons to fight against every satanic attack: the glorious banner of the cross of hope—living hope in Him Who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (cf. Heb. 13:5 )—hope in our Christ, who was hanged on the Cross, and all who look upon Him and hope in Him will not be put to shame. The all-immaculate Blood which was poured out on the Cross pardoned the sins of mankind and poured forth life. “Blessed is the man who hopes in Him.” (cf. Ps. 33:8 ).
Take courage, my child; this grief of yours will turn into joy. This grief produces great good for you; it surrounds you as with a breastplate of iron, so that the evil darts of attachment to earthly things do not tear your mind away from the concern for heavenly things and for your immortal soul. Grief will succeed joy, and joy, grief, just as night follows day. This is how the Father of lights has established the path of those who are being saved. Just have patience and hope: engrave these in the depths of your heart—with these, all adversities will be faced. Cling to our sweet Jesus; cry out to Him in your afflictions. Entrust to Him the care of grievous things and He will do good to you, as to Hannah, the mother of the Prophet Samuel, who out of extreme grief because of her barrenness, fell down before the Lord and poured out her soul as if beside herself. And her petition did not fail. [vid. 1 Kings (1 Sam. ) 1:1-18 ]. Who ever hoped in God and was put to shame? Of course, this does not mean blameworthy hope but active hope—that is, hope along with spiritual works according to our strength; otherwise, it is not hope but mockery. Save us from such deceitful hope, O God.
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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 19/2/2010, 02:32

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

4 ).
How much loss a person suffers when he forgets his sonship and does not reflect that he is disciplined as a child of God! Love imposes, on genuine parents, an absolute and indispensable duty to exercise discipline on their children. Therefore, since God is our Father, He disciplines His own children to educate them and make them partakers of His holiness. “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of His reproof.” (Prov. 3:11 ). So the Christians’ forgetfulness of their own Father, God, is a great evil; for when the paternal rod strikes them (sufferings, afflictions, trials, etc. ), they despair; ten thousand thoughts overcome them and their discipline becomes very toilsome, without any consolation. How beautifully the Apostle Paul says to us, “You have forgotten”, he says, “the exhortation which addresses you as sons.” (Heb. 12:5 ). We have forgotten, he says, the consoling counsel which God addresses to us as His children. The discipline of the Lord is inevitable towards His own children, whom He knows. God does not practice favoritism; God, being dispassionate and holy, is not overcome by unhealthy love—which many foolish parents practice on their children and which afterwards causes the destruction and eternal punishment of their loved ones. He does not overlook His beloved children’s misconduct and lack of discipline so that He would not upset them. No, a thousand times no! He is God, possessinhg genuine love towards His children. He will discipline them; He will admonish them; He will bind their freedom and will rebuke them in various ways in order to transform evil characters into His own holy characters, unto glory and praise in Christ Jesus. Even Christ, when He was on earth, the beloved Child of the Father, was tried in the discipline of the Lord; not that He, the sinless God, needed it, but for the salvation of man and for our admonition and example, so that we would follow His footsteps: “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou dost will; Thy will be done.” (Mt. 26:39, 6:10 ). How then will we justify ourselves, when our Christ, without having committed any sin—for He was God—went through such fearful sufferings? Reflect on the stupendous condescension of the infinite God: He became Man and suffered such a shameful Passion for the sake of us, the sinful, guilty and condemned; He was slapped in the face; they scourged Him, reviled Him, crucified Him; He died the most evil death: “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”! (Deut. 21:23, Gal. 3:13 ). He, as God, suffered so much for us sinners; what excuse do we have if we do not endure one trial out of love for Him, or at least for our sins?
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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 20/2/2010, 04:34

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

5 ).
In all circumstances have the noetic eye of the soul turned upwards, where help will come. Do not despair, whatever may happen. According to the trial, the way out follows. God never allows, or rather, He does not give a person a load beyond his strength. If men have the discernment to do this with animals, how much more does the good God, Who shed His All-holy Blood for man on the Cross! The truth is that Christians who endure temporary afflictions acquire through them future eternal joy and repose. We should never envy those who have constant joy and peace here on earth—rather we should pity them, for temporary joy will become for them an obstacle to the future life. God is merciful but also just—merciful in the present life, but after death a just Judge. It is not possible for Him to give afflicted Christians—that is, true Christians, not just Christians in name—eternal distress as well. But there He will give them constant joy, which no one will be able to take from them. God cannot cast a person from punishment to punishment. Therefore, rejoice instead of grieving, because God counted you worthy to suffer temporarily in order to give you eternal repose. Eternal joy is reserved only for suffering Christians. In the holy Gospel, the Lord says about the rich man and Lazarus: “Abraham said: Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.” (Lk. 16:25 ).
God never shows favoritism, but He acts according to righteous principles. If you glance through the lives of the saints, you will see continous trials, afflictions, and distress. This is how they passed their lives. No pleasure-lover will enter into the eternal habitation which is full of ineffable joy, but rather those who were afflicted and endured for God, for the sake of keeping His commandments. The Lord says, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”. (Jn. 16:33 ). This was said by the God Who came to the earth and labored and suffered throughout His life, and then finally, where did He end up? Hanging on the Cross as accursed, in order to throw down the barrier of the curse. Terrible anguish wrung the heart of the God-man, and He cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” The earth shook and the veil of the Temple was torn in the middle, as could be seen perceptibly. But also on the spiritual plane, the impregnable wall of the curse between God and man shook and utterly crumbled. And as Jesus expired, what had formerly been divided was united, and man became, not simply a friend of God, but God’s own kin; man received the grace of adoption into sonship: “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” (Rom. 8:17 ). For mankind gave the All-holy Virgin as a Mother to the Son, and Christ took flesh from Her pure blood. This deified human flesh sat at the right hand of God the Father. Henceforth, God was seen in the heavens and was worshipped also in human nature by the angels. Do you see where the human race has ascended? We shall become gods by grace! (cf. Jn. 10:34 ). But without afflictions, is anyone able to reach there? We shall be distressed, we shall be afflicted, but one day all will come to an end and will be forgotten; suddenly, the eternal Joy will open wide His tender arms and will call out, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden (with afflictions ), and I shall give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28 ). In each of your deeds and actions, whether in word or in thought, remember that God is present and He sees them and one day will judge them. From this saving meditation arises godly fear, which produces the greatest benefit: “I beheld the Lord ever before me, for He is at my right hand, that I might not be shaken,” (Ps. 15:8 ), said the Prophet David. “Thy law is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my paths”. (Ps. 15:8 ). It even produces humility. So humble-mindedness does not arise only from trials and tests but also from spiritual meditation and from realizing our weakness. One reflects on how weak man is, that he is not able to do good, even though it is sown within his nature. Evil, on the contrary, he does very easily, even though it is alien to him. Man wants to please God, but if the grace of God does not work together with him, the good he does is not good; and even if he wants to labor, if God does not help, his desire and labor are in vain. When a person considers his past—when he did not know God, how much he sinned—he feels contrition, humbles himself, weeps, seeks forgiveness, and reflects: “Even now, if the grace of God leaves me, I am capable of doing worse things.” Then a certain fear mingled with humility protects the soul as with a wall. This meditation is called awareness of man’s weakness, and it bears the fruits of humility and benefit, without toil and afflictions. Yes, trials come, but most of them are sent because of our pride. When someone is found in a state of humility, the trials will be fewer and light. But one must be ready, as a captain who expects a storm after the calm. When someone anticipates something, it does not seem strange to him when it comes, because he expected it. Thus one must always be prepared, so that when it comes he will not be distressed. But is it possible, my child, that we not experience distress? For it is from distress, from this affliction, that we shall inherit the eternal, unceasing good things which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has ptepared for those who love Him”? (1 Cor. 2:29 ).
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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 21/2/2010, 04:15

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

6 ).
Let us not forget, my child, that all the saints passed through this furnace of afflictions in different forms, each one according to the vocation to which he was called. If we take a look at the famous life and conduct of the Empress Saint Theophano, we shall see afflictions heaped up one after the other, throughout her life full of suffering. She suffered greatly; she endeavored in every way—through admonitions, prayers, tears, and examples—to reform her lawful spouse, the Emperor Leo the Wise, who was straying into sin. Her holy soul bore this cross throughout her life. And these sufferings, along with her good works, made her holy. This is how the life of man is mapped out on this earth; since he has fallen from immortality, he gathers the fruit which disobedience has brought forth. No matter how much he wants to, and no matter how much he strives to live without afflictions and thinks that he will reach this goal, he will not be able to achieve this, because the tempter is going to and fro on the earth and walking around it, (cf. Job 1:7 ), sifting everyone and watering them with the poison of afflictions as a result of the curse of the law. (cf. Gal. 3:10 ). Wherever you look, whomever you ask, all as with one mouth will confess that some thorn pricks them and they suffer. However, there are different kinds of affliction. Some are afflicted because they are not able to revel in illicit deeds; this is blameworthy affliction. Others are afflicted lawfully and for good reason; this is a natural outcome. But when there is also spiritual knowledge, then afflictions are engrafted into the one who endures patiently for his sanctification. This is precisely what happened with Saint Theophano as well; she suffered lawfully, because her spouse was unfaithful to her. But she, with spiritual knowledge, admonition, and a Christian example, enduring, weeping, and praying, placed all her trust in God. Because of all this, holiness was grafted onto what was lawful. For this reason, bear all these thinks; become holy through afflictions. Give thanks to God, Who disciplines you temporally in order to give you repose eternally! When I see or hear that someone lives without afflictions and prospers according to all his desires, I consider this to be abandonment by God! As for us, may God count us with the sufferers, so that He may write our name in the book of life, so that we not remain outside His divine bridal chamber. No matter how much we may suffer, one day all will come to an end and be forgotten; only deeds, whether evil or good, will remain to follow the soul to the tribunal, where it will hear the great verdict. This thought often moves me and I weep: what will I, the unworthy priest, speak in my defense at the judgment seat of Christ? Pray for me that I not be condemned.
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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 22/2/2010, 03:44

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

7 .
My beloved brother in Christ, may the grace of our Lady Theotokos preserve you from everything which would soil your dear little soul. Amen. “Tribulations and necessities have found me, Thy commandments are my meditation.” (Ps. 118:143 ). Afflictions succeed one another; we need patience. By meditating on the divine law, we are enlightened as to how to bear them, why they come, and what purpose they have. They come in order to teach us to become bearers of hardship, practiced fighters, followers of Him Who was crucified for us, brothers of all the Saints who walked the thorny road of the Cross: the martyrs by martyrdom, the monastics by ascesis, the faithful by keeping the holy commandments and through the various trials caused by the world, the devil, and the flesh. No one has ever been saved in comfort and without trials. Thus it follows that if we also bear trials, we should rejoice, for thus walked all those who were saved. And since we want to be saved, too, there is no other road but afflictions! Afflictions come in order to bring us closer to God, for afflictions grieve and oppress the heart, softening and humbling it. And when it is humbled, God looks upon it: “A heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise. (Ps. 50:17 ). “Upon whom shall I look, if not upon him who is humble and meek, and trembles at my words? (Is. 66:2 ). He who bears his sorrows with joy and knowledge will be freed from his sins and their penance. A spiritual character is also created in him: the person becomes merciful, humble, meek, etc. The one who does not have true knowledge of trials is distressed and grieved at a time when he should rejoice, for he walks the road of holy Golgotha and of the Saints. May the grace of God, which heals infirmities and makes up for deficiencies, help all of us to be patient in all things, that we be counted worthy of the kingdom of God. Amen.
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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 23/2/2010, 03:30

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

8 .
It is very consoling, my child, that each one of us will receive his reward based on how much he has labored for the love of Christ. It involves much labor to bear the burden of souls in the present era which is ruled by egotism and self will. Let us not lose our courage; for invisibly present is Jesus, Who will rebuke the stormy sea of trials and bring the calm of grace. Struggle upon the raging waves; call upon the only all-powerfull God: “Lord, Lord, look down from heaven and behold my trials and perfect my soul to do Thy will, for Thou art my God.” (cf. Ps. 79:15-16 ).
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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 24/2/2010, 02:17

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

9 .
Glory to the only wise God, Who knows how to extract the sweet out of the bitter and thus enrich our knowledge out of His boundless love toward us. He scourges us with afflictions and trials, so that He can draw us near Him; for He knows that through the sorrowful things of this present life, man remains near Him and is saved.
The comfortable life is very hazardous for eternal salvation. It is not the Spirit of God that dwells in those living in comfort, but rather the spirit of the devil, according to the saying of the Fathers. For this reason, in this life’s sorrows we need to have patient and thanksgiving, for God is well pleased with both of these virtues. May the Lord give us much patience in our life’s sorrows, so that in everything we may thank the Giver of good things Who provides for us.
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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 25/2/2010, 03:09

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

10 .
About the grief that torments you, I have told you many times that it is your cross which our Jesus has given to you so that you may become an imitator of Him and not be a stranger to His love. For whoever loves Him sincerely follows Him not only to Mount Tabor, where the glory of His divinity appeared (in other words, not only at the time of His visitation through His sweet grace and joy ), but follows Him also on the uphill climb to Golgotha and His Crucifixion (in other words, also in the absence of His grace and in sorrowful occurrences, which produce distress, pain, despair, perplexity, labor, and sweat). Precisely then is the inner man tested and it is revealed what he is: counterfeit or true, skilled or unskilled, captain or sailor. Precisely then are our intentions tested, and he who is courageous and patient is rewarded internally by the visitation of God through the increase of grace. In this manner, the Christian is trained in the spiritual struggle until he reaches the end and finds rest. Struggle philosophically; carry your cross with patience and joy until you bring it to the Place of the Skull, to the tomb, so that our Jesus may give you the resurrection! He who bears his cross for the love of Christ will be raised by the Lord on the last day. How long will our life be? The time of our death is unknown, whereas patience will be rewarded eternally. This cross of grief you are bearing has already given you very much, and how much more it will give you! And yet you do not see this, for God wisely hides it from you for your benefit. Entreat God continuously to give you patience, and thank Him with knowledge; then you will be able to endure ioyfully, awaiting your salvation through these afflictions.
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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 26/2/2010, 01:57

Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

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

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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 27/2/2010, 03:57

Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

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

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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 28/2/2010, 03:44

Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

13 .
In the tragic ordeal that my Elder went through, how tangibly he felt Christ! While to others the approach of death causes trembling and fear, he remained in the eros of Christ. What a wonder this is! “Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8 ).

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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 1/3/2010, 02:29

Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

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

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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 2/3/2010, 03:09

Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

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

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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 3/3/2010, 04:59

Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

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

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