Counsels from the Holy Mountain

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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 25/4/2010, 23:11

Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity


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

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

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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 27/4/2010, 02:07

Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity


2. Οh, what bliss is hidden within monasticism! O luxuriousness of heaven, how you captivate the monk who practices hesychia* and is far from the vain world! How much the nous in a quiet place is drawn above and passes from knowledge to knowledge, from theoria to theoria, ascending in his heart, beholding only God with divine eros! Oh, the depth of the knowledge of God! Indeed, the obscure monks who wandered around in the wilderness were divine philosophers; they walked on earth, but they resided in heaven through theoria and eros. O monasticism, how great is your glory! When a person settles down from all the tumult and becomes a monk under the guidance and supervision of a precise guide, he is led to the internal glory of monasticism. We wrestle against powers, against principalities, against dark and very sly authorities (cf. Eph. 6:12 ), against legions very experienced in warfare, against the flesh and the world of passions which are like dreadfully painful wounds that take time, patience, diligence, and a correct approach to be healed. Take a look at the Holy Fathers in their initial years; they endured droughts, terrible times of discouragement, and many deadly temptations. But they held on tightly to patience and forcefulness, and then grace visited them in proportion to whatever they endured beforehand.
*Hesychia (ησυχία )
The term ησυχία can mean either external stillness or internal, noetic stillness. In the former instance, the word is translated as "stillness", whereas in the latter instance, it is transliterated in this book as "hesychia". Hesychia is the ascetical practice of noetic stillness linked with watchfulness and deeoened by the unceasing Jesus prayer. Hesychia is an undisturbed nous and a heart with peace, freed from thoughts, passions, and from influences of the environment. It is dwelling in God. The only way for man to achieve theosis is through hesychia. External stillness can help one achieve hesychia. Hesychia can also mean noetic stillness itself.

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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 27/4/2010, 23:15

Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

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

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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 29/4/2010, 00:57

Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

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

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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 30/4/2010, 00:35

Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

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

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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 1/5/2010, 02:30

Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

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

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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 2/5/2010, 05:01

Chapter Four
On Monasticism, Virginity, and Purity

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

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

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

***Single-phrased (μονολόγιστος )
This is an adjective used by St. John of the Ladder and other Church Fathers to describe the Jesus prayer because of its short form.

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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 3/5/2010, 01:45

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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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 4/5/2010, 00:43

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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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 5/5/2010, 01:29

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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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 6/5/2010, 00:56

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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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 7/5/2010, 02:24

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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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 8/5/2010, 01:08

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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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 9/5/2010, 03:11

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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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 10/5/2010, 02:09

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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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 11/5/2010, 01:46

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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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 12/5/2010, 02:02

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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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 13/5/2010, 04:20

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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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 14/5/2010, 03:15

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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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 15/5/2010, 11:45

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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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 16/5/2010, 02:32

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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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 17/5/2010, 02:02

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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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 18/5/2010, 04:35

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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Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 19/5/2010, 01:44

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.

silver

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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 20/5/2010, 03:25

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.

silver

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