Clerical Articles

ABBESS MACRINA VASSOPOULOS (III)

  • August 17, 2017

May 1979[1]

When you think what a beauty we have! What a beauty we have in the monastery! And how should we be in the monastery? Our heart should fly, fly high. We should not complain or compete with each other; we should all serve for the love of Christ. We must strain to see Christ. As the elders who woke up in the middle of the night and took the laundry of the sick and washed it then walked all night and served the sick and the poor. And that was because they had divine love within themselves. If we don’t strain ourselves, we don’t reach Christ.

There is a need for diligence, except for the case when one is sick and impuissant. How someone settles down this is how he will sleep. Did he work extra hours? He will take more.

God won’t leave that one who makes more effort. He will fill his trunk with money, will fill him with virtues. And he will take all these when he goes to heaven. How nice!

No one overdrives himself for the abbot or for the abbess but for Theotokos. If someone thinks that he is doing it for Theotokos, not only he will do it with zeal but he will clean with his tongue the floor of the whole monastery. What a joy has Theotokos then! She rejoices so much! Order and tidiness. What a nice thing! And all these are rewarded by Theotokos. Who does much receives grace. And when he does everything humbly he says: I don’t do anything. God gives me power and I do. This is not my merit but God’s and for every effort he makes God rewards him. He doesn’t leave anyone unrewarded. He rewards us generously. But now we don’t see them, we shall see them in heaven. For instance we will go two or three of us to that one who makes more effort at her chores and help her so that her soul won’t revolt. Let us have readiness for each other.

When the man has the Prayer he can’t express himself through cries or gestures and grimaces. The grace of God working in his soul makes him meek humble and with repentant heart. But because we forget to say the Prayer we get angry and speak vanities. When the man has the Prayer in his heart he feels an indescribable sweetness. Is it the same thing to have a toffee in your mouth and feel its sweetness permanently and to speak vanities? That one who says the Prayer eats another kind of food, nourishes himself with something else, with the grace of God. But the grace of God is ousted by speaking vanities. Especially complains and small talk end the communion with God and then anxiety and impatience appear.

Sometimes one of you gets angry and tells something to another one and that being burdened by her thoughts and trying to get rid of them when she is burdened by the other one the evil spreads up and nobody can stand against it.

Then she revolts in her soul and she cannot pray anymore, cannot accomplish her duties anymore and she doesn’t like her cell anymore and cannot find rest anywhere. That’s why we need to have humility in our souls. When we humble ourselves then we save our souls. Due to our humility God will give us plenty of grace. By her prayer the one who practices it receives divine comfort and experiences heavenly splendors.

Saint Simeon the New Theologian says that the man must feel here too the divine grace so that he may see God in heaven. We have at our disposal all means and that’s why we should make all efforts and delight in God. The monastery has a special beauty. The people who come here feel a spiritual scent. I don’t know if you feel that too in your hearts. It has so much beauty. Anywhere would go someone there is nice scent and anywhere would turn there is a flower scent.  When the man has God within himself when he separates the good ones of the bad and throws away the bad ones from his soul, then he has the impression that everywhere there are flowers. And says: These are violets? Those are hyacinths? Here are lilies? There is basil? When the soul is prepared for the heavenly Jerusalem it feels that monastery is like an earthly heaven. And gathers one and another from here and from there, strife, sadness, patience and then the soul goes. It takes its full rucksack and leaves full of joy. What more does it need? It is not afraid of death, of thunderbolt, of bombardments of anything at all anymore. And that’s because the soul is ready and says: My Lord Jesus Christ, I pleased you, now take me.

When someone goes to his chores and doesn’t say anything against it only says `be it blessed` and `forgive me` he feels happiness. There is no sadness, nothing… He becomes a free man.

It becomes as the laymen say when they come to us : How nice ! Here is a piece of heaven. And it is right so. Nobody figures out if he is here on earth  because whn someone has divine contemplations he sees the sky.

This is how God broadens them. He makes the mind be entirely light, entirely joy. He looks at a small flower but sees it big. God makes his mind be so enlighetened that he says: I am in heaven. He doesn’t miss anything on earth or in the skies. But when we always complain, we always chatter God leaves our soul and then we cannot find rest anywhere and see the mistakes of the others.

When we are concerned in our mind about how to enjoy our Groom and how He  will adorn us, what He will give us, we become like some small children who say: What gifts our father will bring us now? Will he bring us skirts, this or that? The soul feels exactly like that, like the small children who wait for their father to bring them some trifles. Like a small child he sees his Father bringing him gifts. And Christ with plenty of gifts comes and tells us: Come my baby, raise your hands, lie your lap and get these! All these are yours. I give them to you.

What a joy! You want sweetness. I’ll give it to you. You want inner change? I’ll give it to you. You want happiness? I’ll give it to you. Divine fire and spiritual delight so intense you could hardly bear? I’ll give them to you. And what can’t I give you? Isn’t it nice to live in this way in the monastery? There is no higher life than this. He will say: My Lord give me years to serve You, cause I haven’t done anything for You. Give me years, give me health, give me wings to fly to You. But we by our complaints make the grace of God who is approaching us go away. We drive away the grace of God and God leaves. Our idleness makes everything hard and troublesome. `Let her do it, why would I do it myself? our mind tells us.

Oh, how nice is for someone to live in the earthly heaven, rejoice and be merry. The man gets wings and rejoices and is merry. Belive me! And I say: `My Lord, give me health. Make me the way I was before when I didn’t care about myself and did everything. But I think if I’d do everything I’ll lie in bed and who knows what trouble, what misfortune will reach me. I don’t care about myself, but I don’t want to tire you. Inside me there is a dove flying. I wish I could fly and do everything. I am not saying this for priding myself I’m saying it to the glory of Christ. That is why health is the most precious thing for the man. To do all labors and see God. In the middle of the labor there is God. In the middle of labour someone finds God. The grace of God has magnificence.

June 1979

What a nice thing is for the nun to have authentic obedience ! This is the greatness of the obedient. To show obedience and feel the grace of God in her soul. To admit her mistake without justifiying herself. If someone doesn’t estrange himself of everything cannot see himself. When the chatter starts, what does one and what does the other, the monk estranges of his path. The monasteries are filled but who will find salvation? Many are called but few are chosen. [2] And the nuns begin their gossip about the abbess and one says: `I have knowledge and it it right how I say and not how the abbess thinks.` God doesn’t want cleverness. Only to adore Him and have Him near you in your mind. To the man who has God near in his mind, God gives spiritual wisdom and discernment. Otherwise he becomes casehardened and neglects his duties, neglects his prayer. You see a temptation showing up? It is because of disobedience. When the monk has obedience, humility and prayer he lives a heavenly life. He is not afraid of the devil of anything but feels only spiritual joy within himself. When someone feels obedience it is as if he wore a panoply and said: No matter how hard the tempter would fight against me, I won’t be hurt. He is not afraid anymore because he has God within himself. But when he doesn’t have obedience he brings sadness to himself and  to his neighbor. When we do things without blessing only failure take place in our soul. That’s why the abbess should know everything in detail, even your breath. If you say the prayer and are obedient then you see even the smallest thing as the sunlight comes in the room and we see the dust in the air and without the sun we wouldn’t see it. We should never exculpate ourselves saying that we did right what we did. Let us pray to God to give us the light of knowledge so that our mind may be clean and we could see our mistakes. The day is gone and we don’t feel the honey of grace. How much we sadden our guardian angel!

I tell you these because I am your spiritual mother and I have the duty to tell these to you and because I don’t want to be separated there in the Jerusalem from above but live together.

The man who has prayer will stay away as much as possible of discussions. He doesn’t stop to listen but tries not to lose God and the discussion with Him. When the man has the grace of God he is not aware anymore that there are people around him. Otherwise everything bothers him. If the man stays to pray and his mind is in communion with God he receives plenty of joy. He doesn’t want to talk with anyone because the divine grace overfills his heart. And he prays as he feels. Sometimes he has the hands raised up other times like the doomed one he has them crossed and his eyes are brimming with tears other times he is on his knees and feels that he is at Christ’s feet. And this is coming spiritually, not as a fancy. Let us reinforce our obedience and prayer. Faith, piety and fear of God can do everything. We don’t need any knowledge.

For each mistake we should bow before the abbess. And when she says: `May God forgive you` these words should be enough for us to convince ourselves that God forgave us. In this way comes the grace of God.

It is needed spiritual striving. Every passion is like the hydra from Lerna, when you cut its head, it appears another. Let us examine ourselves. What’s fighting with us? Recklessness? Then we should seek prayer. Slander? We should cut it out. Anger? We should bite our tongue. Did you get angry? Did you slander? Slap yourselves. Why would you upset your brother? The passions, slander, envy, selfishness go away in this way. Did I upset someone who is in the image and likeness of God? Then slap yourself. Why would we feel sorry for the body? It will be eaten by worms. The holy fathers fought in this way and defeated their passions.

Thus comes humility, fear of God and tears in the soul. We say: `Why be sober all the time?` The saints tormented themselves to control their passions. If pious Ephrem never laughed only cried continuously what will we say? In the same way we eat permanently for preserving our body we should nurture our soul with prayer. Who prays without cease feels divine happiness and receives help from God. If we had had something precious and had lost it we would have done everything possible to find it. In this way we should `chase` the name of God.

Our passions are so vivid, so powerful that we lose our temper in an instant. And this happens because we don’t pray perseveringly. If we persevered our mouth  would be incapable of saying cold and bitter words.

Saint Nektarios says: `The word should be said sweetly as if it were honey and you should touch the hand of your sister as if you touched her with cotton…`

The grace of God that’s coming by means of the sweetest name of Jesus softens the soul. Even if the world collapsed he has inside himself meekness, restraint, peace, merriment. When someone sees himself as being nothing and sees his passions as big, then he approaches God. While if he looks at one or other then he is far away of God.

When the man has the divine grace, he doesn’t make any gestures, any grimace. When he stay and when he walks the monk has to keep his hands crossed because he is crucified. We should restrain ourselves and think how we are going to leave cause time flies and we need to be well prepared. Let us ask Christ to give us patience. When we go to our chores we should make the sign of the cross and say: Christ, my Lord strengthen me so that I won’t upset You till tonight only give glory to You. When we say the Prayer although we don’t understand it it protects us of temptation because it works within us and in the same time a sister who faces a temptation is helped as well. When we see a nun facing a temptation let’s say: `Today I won’t drink three glasses of water I’ll drink only one or I won’t eat two loaves of bread only a half so that God helps my sister.`

God seeing we refrain ourselves like this for one of our sisters gives us both His mercy. And let’s have humility. When we are fought by a certain passion we should say to another nun: `Mother, I have this passion. Pray for me a little because I can’t fight with it and it torments me.`

If we have love for our brothers and do a spiritual work praying for our sister who is facing a temptation, for the whole community and for the whole world we won’t have time at all for any vain word. Spiritual work will bring us meekness, tears and so much humility that we’d like to fall down and be trampled. We have to tie our mind as the soldiers tie their knapsacks. And when is ready to go roaming about we should tell it: `Come back here! Where do you want to go? To slander? To roam about? Stay here tramp!`But we let it go wherever it wants and afterwards it comes back naked and hungry and then we have to bring it into the heart and pray. Even if we said some spiritual words this may hide some pride sometimes. When we’ll strain ourselves to Prayer we’ll have God in our heart. When we strain ourselves and take heed at our behavior God makes us as some cobwebs so thin that you can’t catch it. We came here for the love of Christ, so we should be lacking a little to have a reward. Without obedience we cannot find our salvation. There are needed obedience, humility and sincerity. The grace of God is `forgive me` and `may it be blessed`. We should never do our will. The will of our starets should prevail. Even if the order is wrong but since it was given by the abbot or the abbess `may it be blessed.` May God help us repent humbly and with broken heart for our sins. And this will be done when we pray Christ to enlighten us for understanding our mistakes.

Who is always musing at the heavenly things and tastes God feels a great delight and joy. When he doesn’t think about them he wanders around the earthly ones that are without any value. We should have a blind obedience. The word should not be repeated. `Why?` and `I want` are the two sins which can separate you of God. That is why it is needed a self striving for defeating them. This is what the holy father did. They gave up on their own will and said: `For the prayers of my elder`. That’s why they gave spiritual fruit. If we use `why` it becomes a wall before our soul and the sun doesn’t rise anymore.

There will come griefs, pains and torments but afterwards the man sees heaven and the royal throne of God, sees how it kneels down and hears the voice: `I don’t know you.`[3].

He sees the brightness of the angels, the cherubims with a lot of eyes and the seraphims with six pairs of wings ; and sees himself as a doomed, as the last man and hears the voice of God: Go in the everlasting fire [4].

No, Christ my Lord, not in the everlasting fire!  Why do You send me away to the thick darkness to the frozen tarn?

The he feels again God’s love and hears his voice: `Here is what I prepared for you.` And he sees so much light that he can’t distinguish the splendors of God. He hears when a voice when another. All these are the results of the Prayer. The soul sees them as contemplation, as a revelation. God reveals to him what he will receive in heaven and what he loses here on earth. And if he deviates a little from the path of God he won’t be able to understand anything anymore. If the man doesn’t find his delight in God, that day is lost for him and all the others are without any value.

They day shouldn’t pass in complaints that harm the man and make him discontent. They day shouldn’t pass without spiritual communion with God because the man becomes saint by this, god after grace. Focus on Prayer as those who seek pearls. Without Prayer Christ doesn’t come in the heart of man.

[1] The day before the Eve of Ascension.

[2] Matthew 20, 16.

[3] Matthew 25, 12.

[4] Matthew 25, 41.