Palm Sunday

St. Ignatius Briancianinov

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).

The divine Prophet foretold for more than four hundred years before that event we are mentioning and celebrating today. Our Lord Jesus Christ, finishing his preaching on Earth, entered solemnly in the queen city of Jerusalem, in the city of worship of the true God, in the city that was God’s more than any other city.

The Lord made this entry as king and victorious to crown his ministry with decisive urgency: the passing of death by death, removing the curse from human race by taking this curse upon Himself. He made His entry into the royal city on the colt, the foal of a donkey (John 12:15), which no one has ever ridden, to return to mankind the royal worthiness lost by our ancestor, to return it through crucifixion (Luke 19:30). The untamed foal has been tamed by the wonderful Rider.

The Apostles put their cloaks on the colt; and the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:19; Luke 19:38).

According to the Lord’s will he was proclaimed to be king in the name of the Lord, not by chance, not by human knowledge and will! The same people, after four days, was shouting about the One they name today Emperor: “Crucify Him, crucify Him; we have no king, but Caesar “(Luke 23:21, 19:15).

What does the entrance of the Lord in Jerusalem on untamed colt, the foal of a donkey mean? According to the Holy Fathers’ interpretation, this has a profound meaning, a prophesy. Our all-seeing Lord, had already seen the coming of the last apostasy, unchanging from now, of the Jews. He foretold this apostasy ever since the Law of Sinai was given to the Israelites – he foretold it through the mouth of God the inspirational legislator.

“They are corrupt”, said Moise, as an already committed deed, about the sin that the Jews would commit against the God-Man, “and not his children; to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation. Is this the way you repay the Lord, you foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?”

Their vine comes from the vine of Sodom and from the fields of Gomorrah. On the contrary, “Rejoice, you nations, with his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants; he will take vengeance on his enemies and make atonement for his land and people.” (Deut. 32, 5, 28, 32, 43). The entrance to Jerusalem on untaught colt at riding is a repetition of Moses’ prophecy – a repetition not by words but by symbols.

Moses foretold that the peoples would rejoice the Lord, and the Jews would be cast out: here the untamed colt, which none of the people had ever mounted, imagine the pagans. The Apostles’ clothes are the teachings of Christ, the one they preached to the people, and the Lord has spiritually placed himself over the people, becoming their God. He brought them to Jerusalem: to the middle of His Church, to the everlasting, holly city of God, in the city of salvation and happiness.

The outcaste Jews were present. They were saying, the king of Israel, but in their soul, in their Synedrion, they had already decided to kill the Savior. The foal of a donkey means also another thing. These words point to every man driven by cravings, lacking in his spiritual freedom, connected to the addiction and the habit of bodily life. Christ’s teaching detaches the colt from the manger, that is, the fulfillment of the sinful and fleshly passion.

After that, the Apostles bring the colt to the Christ, they put on their clothes, and on it the Lord sits, and makes his entrance into Jerusalem. That means: after leaving the sinful life, man is brought to the gospel and dressed, as with apostolic clothing, in the most detailed and subtle knowledge of Christ and His commandments.

Then the Lord ride on him, showing himself spirituality and dwelling spiritually in him as he pleased to promise: “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father. Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching and I will love them and show myself to them. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14, 21, 23).

The coming of the Lord is accompanied by peace above the word and understanding, by the graceful peace worthy of its Giver, which is the Lord. This peace does not resemble the natural silence of the fallen man, who can also feel peace and contentment after the bodily delight, who can consider peaceful even his senselessness, his very own eternal death.

The Lord sits on the natural attributes of the man who obeyed Him, who has mastered His holy teaching and brings him, sitting on him, in the spiritual city of God, in the city of peace, in Jerusalem whose God is the maker, not the man. “Rejoice, rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

You, feeling the gracious peace of Christ within yourself and making yourself the daughter of this peace, you have renewed yourself with spiritual youth, and know through research the kingdom of Christ. The passions are tamed now within you, through the graceful power of the Rider who leads you: your natural qualities cannot overcome the laws of their nature; they cannot break and pretend to be unrestrained passions!”

Taking from the Lord all thoughts, all the feelings, all your work, you can and you are obliged to say the name of the Lord to your brothers, in the midst of the church to praise the Lord (Psalm 21: 24).

You, being born by the Holy Spirit and daughter of the Spirit, you are able to see your King’s graceful walking, you are able to see your King’s righteousness. He is gentle and humble in heart (Matt. 11, 29) and will direct the meek to judgment, teach the meek His ways (Psalm 24, 10).

Our God is Spirit, Spirit incomparable with any made spirit, just as in all other respects it is endlessly different from all creatures: the holy made spirits are its chairs and chariots. He sits and walks on cherubims; He sits and walks over those happy human souls who obeyed Him and brought Him as sacrifice of all their natural attributes.

On these souls is walking the king who enters into the holy city of God and bringing into it the holy souls. “Hosanna in the highest heaven! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, blessed is the King of Israel.” Amen.

Lazarus Saturday and the resurrection of the dead

The Orthodox Church celebrated the resurrection of Lazarus one day before Palm Sunday, named the Saturday of Lazarus. At every commemoration of the ones asleep, Lazarus is called to pray for them: “…for the prayers of the Holy and Righteous Lazarus, who resurrected from the dead on the fourth day …”

Painful for us is the fact that we got used so much with death that we have come to regard it as natural. We don’t realize that man was not created to die, that the death has been swallowed up in victory of Christ through resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). Lazarus’s resurrection is the invitation or the call to come out of death and enter into Life through Christ, the Lord of Life. This resurrection showed that Christ, Who accomplished this great miracle through His Divinity, can raise up the people from death on the day He chooses. He is the powerful and sawyer God.

Through Lazarus resurrection, Christ prefigures the resurrection of the human bodies. He who raised Lazarus, who had been dead for four days and was smelling, can also raise the people whose bodies decomposed after their soul had left them. Besides, the future resurrection of the bodies is also called rebirth or resurrection, because it is a new creation. This new creation does not mean that the bodies will gain another form, for, while remaining the same, they will be saved from corruption and the domination of the death, becoming spiritual bodies.

Between the resurrection of Lazarus and the resurrection of people at the second coming of Christ there is no doubt a fundamental difference. After the resurrection, Lazarus did not get a spiritual body, but the same body he had before his death, with all the characteristic features of wickedness and obedience to death, still needing food and everything necessary to maintain the biological body. This also results from the fact that later on he died again. So despite his resurrection, he got a mortal and temporary flesh. But after the second coming of Christ, when the bodies will resurrect, they will be spiritual, without needing food, sleep, water or clothing.

Source: www.ziarullumina.ro

Ignorance and deceit

The cause of ignorance

The cause of ignorance is the low and worldly thinking of man, the brutish life, as saint Basil the Great calls it. Thus the mind cannot perceive the divine realities and states. Therefore ignorance is the result of sin, of the man’s fall and of his enslavement to his own will, of his estrangement from God. Who fell from the divine love has inside himself as a ruler the law of the flesh. And this condition doesn’t allow him to fulfill any commandment of God. Because instead of virtues he preferred a life fond of pleasures, ultimately instead of knowing God he comes to ignoring him, as saint Maximus emphasizes. Our recklessness in knowing the gifts of God led us to idleness and this one made us be dominated by oblivion and this is the cause that made us be ruled by ignorance. (Saint Mark)

  1. Consequences

Ignorance separates the soul from his union with God and makes the man completely irrational and unfeeling. Who falls into ignorance doesn’t know the judgments of God. He argues with those who rebuke him and he consider as stupid those who forgive him. When he becomes rich he behaves boastfully and when he gets poor he is a hypocrite. When he lives in comfort falls into debauched shameful deeds and when he is deprived he complains of his fate.

Thus if someone doesn’t acquire with the help of the divine grace the knowledge of truth and the fear of God is badly hurt not only by his passions but by all the saddening things that occur to him.

These are some of the consequences of ignorance in the spiritual world of man.

Saint Maximus tells us that ignorance gives birth to selfishness and tyranny. Ignorance is the cause of our fondness of vainglory and of our love for money.

Saint Theodor of Edessa says : Therefore you must take care of the first good thing, to get a right opinion about beings and then to give wings to your will to fly to the first good and despise all earthly things and be aware of their great vaingloriousness.

  1. Ignorance and deceit

Ignorance is responsible for deceit and heresy. Ignorance gives birth to haughtiness and this brings deceit. We can say that ignorance is equivalent with deceit. The mendacious devil who is cheating the world exploits the ignorance of men being the one who creates premises and stimulates the apparition of ignorance and of the deceit of all kinds in the case when this thing happens in the spiritual life.

The great adversary of the truth that draws men to destruction is deceit. Deceit causes the dark ignorance that reigns in the souls of the idle ones and estranges men from God. Such people do not recognize Christ Who gave us birth for the second time and enlightened us as God r they believe in Him and recognize Him only in words, but not in deeds. They think that God revealed Himself only to those from the ancient times and He doesn’t do this with us. They think that the testimonies of the Scriptures about God do not have anything to do with them but with others or only with those who wrote them. Thus they blaspheme the teaching about God denying true godliness. They understand the Scriptures only in a worldly way, for not saying in a Jewish way and they negate the possibility of our spiritual rebirth, preferring to live in the tomb of ignorance.

In deceit there are these three passions: faithlessness, cunning and idleness. These three are born from one another and sustain one another. Ignorance is the teacher of cunning, cunning is the companion of idleness and this one has sloth as its symbol.

And vice versa idleness gives birth to cunning as the Lord says : `Perfidious and idle slave.` Cunning is the mother of faithlessness because any perfidious man is unfaithful and who doesn’t have any faith has no fear of God. And from faithlessness is born idleness, the mother of despise that causes the loss of all good and the perpetration of any wickedness.

  1. Healing

Fight ignorance with enlightened knowledge by means of which the soul awakens and drives away the darkness of ignorance.

Saint Gregory Palamas, following the pure Orthodox tradition considers absolutely necessary the presence of the starets, of the spiritual confessor who can guide us on the safe path of salvation. If someone wants to get rid of ignorance he should not believe in his thought but ask the starets. The liberation f ignorance is a gift from God. This is given to those who struggle and strive. God seeing the effort made by man takes off the cloud that covers the human mind making him being unable to have a pure sight, wiping out his ignorance and giving him self- knowledge, the knowledge of His mysteries and of His Truth.

What mean the words of Christ: `I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.`

`I did not come to bring peace on earth ; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.` This is what the Lord said. To be written: I did not come to reconcile the truth with the lie, the wisdom with the folly, the good with the bad, the justice with the injustice, the animality with humanity, the innocence with fornication, God with Mammon, but I brought a sword to cut and separate them so that they won’t mingle. With what to cut them and separate them, Lord? With the sword of truth. Or with the sword of the word of God, which is quite the same. Because the truth is the word of God and the word of God is the truth.

Apostle Paul advises us: `take the spiritual sword that is the word of God.` And saint John saw in a vision the Son of God in the middle of seven candlesticks and from His mouth was coming out a sharp sword. What else can be the sword coming out of the mouth if not the word of God, the word f truth? This sword brings salvation to the world, not the peace of good with the bad and this is what it was, what it is and will be till the end of times.

That this understanding is right it is seen in what Christ says forwards: `I came to turn the man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter in law against her mother in law. Because if the son follows Christ and his father remains in the darkness of lie the sword of Christ’s truth will separate them. The truth is more worthy to be loved than the father. Ans if the daughter follows Christ and her mother remains obstinate in denying Christ what kind of union can be there? Isn’t it Christ sweeter than the mother? It is the same with the daughter in law and her mother in law. But do not misunderstand this – that the man who loves Christ should separate physically from his relatives all of a sudden. It is not written anything like this. It is enough to have the souls separated and not to receive anything from the thoughts and deeds of unfaithfulness. Because if the believers would separate themselves from the unbelievers, in the world would be two opposite sides. Who would teach and correct the unbelievers then? The Lord bore faithless Judas for three years.

Apostle Paul writes: `the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his believing wife and the unbelieving woman is sanctified through the believing man.`

I can tell you how saint Teophilact of Ohrida interprets these words of the Lord: By father, mother, mother in law it is understood what is old and by son and daughter what is new. Thus God wants that His new divine commandments defeat all our old sinful habits.

 (Saint Nikolai Velimirovich, Questions of the world of nowadays, Sofia Publshing, p. 39)

Lust

We must distinguish those signs that disclose the sinful lust. The physical movements are natural in the body and there is no sin in them. Sin is when the man relates in a wrong way to them, with his freedom and conscience. The man who finds delight in these movements, arouses them willingly and is ready to satisfy them lusts.

The one who by satisfying this lust frequently gets the inclination to seek its pleasures suffers of passionate lust that troubles him and torments him tyrannically. In this situation it takes control of the whole man and this man begins to lead his life in accordance with the circumstances that may feed and arouse this lust. Because of the sweetness brought by the satisfaction of this passion, it is called the passion of voluptuousness.

Because of its ruining action against the soul and body, the Apostle calls it  `wicked lust` (Colossians, 3,3) and considering the humiliation of the understanding being `opprobrious passion` (Romans, 1,26)

Saint Teophanus the Recluse, Questions at the questions of the intellectuals,  Sofia Publishing: Alexandria : Orthodox Book, vol.2, 2005-2007, p. 49.

About forgiveness and uncondemning

Anything can be forgiven. There is no wrong someone does to us that we cannot forgive.`God give me to see my own sins and not to condemn my brother` says saint Ephrem the Syrian in his prayer.

I’m sure you’ve noticed too that unfortunately it is more handy fr ourselves to see the mistakes of the others than our own but you should know that any thought turned into that direction makes a crack in the wall of the stronghold and the more time goes by the more it enlarges and at a certain moment the stronghold will be torn down.

Any thought of judgment wipes out the grace of God that may descend over us. There is only one way for us to get back the grace of God…beginning with the forgiving of our brother.

Anything can be forgiven. There is no wrong someone does to us that we cannot forgive.`That is why we realize that our beginning was made under some demonic auspices: Adam loses heaven, falls from it and is heading for hell. Christ, the new Adam makes this way back and the way culminates on Golgotha, where after a life filled with pain, he forgives everything to everybody. In the moment we forgive, the easier and the more we forgive, the world changes little by little and this change is in fact a work of the divine grace, it is not a mere ethical or psychological matter that brings you peace and reconciliation with yourself, but brings you reconciliation with God as well. It is the beginning of your own deification and of those around you. Saint Seraphim of Sarov states it: `When you begin seeking God and Hs grace descends upon you, others dozens of people will get sanctified around you.

You should know that this process is not a simple rule to be accomplished, it is a profound work done by God so that the world may sanctify itself, may change itself. This change won’t happen through intellectual discussions but by personal example.

By each one of your forgiving the world starts to change, be the first to forgive, don’t wait this thing from the other one.

Nothing divides people harder than unforgiving and judgment. From these begin all the bad things among people, know that.

You see, when a row bursts we can never find out exactly who started it, from whom it started but we can do one thing, to be those who put an end to it.

These are simple things but in the Christian world they are essential :

`God, give me to see my own mistakes !` `Give me to be able to control my thoughts and my heart and not to try to dominate the others!

We aim to be Christians, we begin walking on this way but we are lamentable many times, because these fundamental things, FORGIVENESS, UNCONDEMNING are taken out at the limit of our Christian life.

Think on what are focused so many of our confessions…on the mistakes of the other one. We justify our mistakes by the mistakes of the other. But here, where you justify your mistakes, your wickedness by the infirmities of the other one, God doesn’t intervene anymore, He s far away.

Forgiveness is the beginning of our spiritual life. To be Christian it doesn’t mean to fly in the air, to fast a long time, to make interminable prostrations but first of all to forgive. FORGIVE TO BE FORGIVEN!

If Adam didn’t forgive Eve and Eve didn’t forgive the snake and they were all of them condemned, Christ forgives everyone: God, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing!

You realize what a divine work is in a man who doesn’t see anything wrong in his brother and even if that is obvious he says like Christ `God forgive him because he doesn’t know what he is doing.`

A man sees all the time the wickedness of the other one, he compares himself all the time with his brother, he considers the other guilty and not himself but if the man puts God in front of himself and he begins walking on this way full of humility, the things change radically in his soul and in the souls of the others.

God won’t judge us for how long we didn’t eat and didn’t drink at all, no, the accent doesn’t fall on such things, they only help us, but on how much we could forgive and love the man who is in front of us, understanding that his falls are not bigger than ours. Doing this thing, we accomplish the word of Christ who says:

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the Gospel will find it.

Forgive easily and you will see what big changes will happen into your soul and of those around you and you will see how the grace and peace of God will surround you.

Priest Visarion Alexa

Ceaseless prayer and self-knowledge

If you are a simple man and you cannot understand what meant the Holy Fathers of Philokalia, use for ceaseless prayer a simpler method and you will not fall into deceit. Because unfortunately some people do not aim to kill the old man, to find humility and repentance, having asceticism as an aid in the sanctification of their souls, for filling deeply their sinfulness and the need to receive God’s mercy and utter `Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me` with sweet pain, but begin with a dry asceticism and aim to experience the divine delights and see the divine lights.

They always increase their prayers and prostrations and they consider themselves holy, making mathematical accounts of their prayers. Of course they make a stool and practice all the rest, the bending f the head and the breath, as it is said by saint Calist and Gregory from Philokalia – while these are only aiding means – and considering they are somewhere close to the saints they make prostrations. And when they think they sanctified themselves the enemy comes and turns on the tv and that is followed by the demonic prophecies etc.

That’s why you shouldn’t ask for more than repentance in your prayer brother. No light nor miracles or prophecies, or charismas, nothing else but repentance. Repentance will bring you humility, humility will bring you the grace of God and God will give you by His grace everything you need for your salvation and for helping other souls.

Things are very simple and we have no reason to confound them. In this way we’ll feel the prayer as a necessity and we will not feel any fatigue, even if we say it for many times. Then our heart will feel a sweet pain saying the prayer and Christ will give us His sweet comfort in our heart. Thus prayer gives rest not fatigue.  It is tiresome only when we don’t understand its meaning revealed by the Holy Fathers. When we feel the need for God’s mercy then without forcing ourselves to pray this hunger for praying will make us open our mouth like a baby who wants to suckle and we will feel in the same time the safety the baby feels in his mother’s arms rejoicing.

We, the monks, as telegraphists that we are, will have to be in a permanent connection with God and as much as possible on reception. And this is for feeling more safety, for having in each moment plentiful divine powers. Of course the enemy is not at rest, but plots in many ways. However we can use him to our benefit making him a worker without payment to help us in our ceaseless prayer. For instance when he brings us in our mind bad thoughts or blasphemies we should begin the prayer and say to the demon: `It’s good that you poked me because I forgot about Christ.` And when we do this even if we wanted to keep the demon near us, he doesn’t stay anymore, because he is not a fool to work for nothing and to do good to our soul.

And if we want to make an even finer work, we should review the greatest passions by turns and every mistake we made during the day and we should humbly ask for God’s mercy: `Lord Jesus Christ…` to get rid of them. In this way the passions are uprooted and the good habit of the prayer remains, not only its exterior form, that causes us false feelings and deceit.

Thus when someone comes to know himself, he feels his great sinfulness and he is aware of the great blessings from God, then the heart softens, no matter how hardened it would be and the true tears fall freely, the man doesn’t force himself to pray or to cry. Because humility and magnanimity work in the heart permanently as some drills and the springs increase and the hand of God comforts all the time his magnanimous child who exercises repentance.

When you focus on your sinfulness and do the fine work you have hope in God from the beginning. Hold on to that tightly so that you won’t ever lose it. The sins that do not belong to the physical nature you can analyze in detail to humble yourself. But do not search at all the physical ones, only consider yourself a dirty skin, full of filth. Nor dare to pray for persons who committed physical sins, beside the fact that it is considered an impudence, because you didn’t come to peace with God, the enemy will dirty yourself with filthy thoughts during the day and at night he will bring to you dirty visions to taint you.

If something like this will happen to you in your sleep do not search what you dreamt nor remember something from your previous sinful life, from where you were saved by God as if you had been a chicken saved from the claws of the eagle because he is dangerous. Otherwise you will suffer like that soldier who although God protected him from the grenade of the enemy he stood and examined the grenade and it exploded in his hands blowing up his brains. A young man can experience the same if he examines the physical sins. That’s why when we consider ourselves a dirty skin, we find more safety in that.

Pious Paisios the Athonite, Letters, Evanghelismos Publishing House, Bucharest, 2005, p. 60-p.62.

We must not blame the devils but ourselves for all our wrongs. Because the devils cannot ever harm those who have vigilance. And the wars are allowed in accordance with the power of men.

  1. From Patericon

Abba Anthony said: `God doesn’t allow wars against this generation as those against the old ones. He knows they are weak and they cannot fight them.

Abraham, the disciple of abba Agaton, asked abba Pimen: `What can I do because the devils war me?` The elder said: `The devils war you? They don’t war us as long as we make our wills. Because our wills became devils and they oppress us to fulfill them. Do you want to know who the devils warred? Moses and those like him.

A brother asked abba Pamvo: `Why the devils prevent me do good to my neighbor?` The elder answered: `Don’t speak like that cause you make God a liar. You should rather say: `I never want to have mercy.` Because God said: I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.(Luke 10,19) A brother asked abba Sisoe: `What to do with the passion and the devils?` The elder said: Everyone of us is tempted by his own desire. (Jacob 1,14)

Saint Singlitichia said : `The more the fighters advance the stronger are the enemies they are confronted with`

Once abba Moses was fought powerfully by lust. He couldn’t stand to sit in his cell anymore so he went and confessed to abba Isidor. The elder asked him to return to his cell but he didn’t accept saying: `I cannot do that anymore, abba.` The taking him out they went on the house and he said: `Look to the West`. He looked and he saw lots of devils making a lot of uproar preparing for war. The abba Isidor told him: `Look to the East`He looked and he saw lots of angels full of glory. And the elder said: `These are sent by God to help the saints and those from the West war them. We have more on our side so dare and do not fear a thing!` Thus abba Moses thanked God and got courage so he went back to his cell.

An elder said: `At the beginning of the monk’s seclusion from the world, the devils are not allowed to fight him fiercely so that he can’t be stunned and frightened by this and go back into the world. But when he advances in his strife are allowed to come against him the wars of pleasures and desires. And being saddened he needs to humble himself and cry in his heart blaming himself for everything he sinned and sins. Hardened in this way through temptations he gains patience, experience and a righteous judgment. And afterwards he seeks escape in God with tears. And God unfold all the plots of the enemy leading slowly the monk to peace. But some who lost their courage lost their life by their own hand or returned in the world overwhelmed by sadness.

  1. Of abba Casian

Abba Serin said that not all the devils arouse in men all passions but each passion has certain devils who cause it. For instance some devils enjoy the dirtiness of pleasures and stinks, other enjoy blasphemy; some enjoy anger and fury, others  sadness, some enjoy vainglory, others enjoy pride. Every devils enjoys to arouse all the time that certain passion he sees that the soul receives with pleasure.

The devils do not bother nor sow their wickedness in the same way in all men. But by turns as they think it’s appropriate for the circumstances, places and people, sometimes they work together, other times they give their place to another, without keeping an order among themselves. Because the Scripture says: You will seek skill at the evil ones and you won’t find it. And our enemies are mindless (Isaiah 56,11/Dt 32,31) However, sometimes they prove to have a certain agreement in the war they fight against us, changing places as it was said according to circumstances and places. Because it is impossible to see someone being tormented by vainglory and lust in the same time, nor be swelling with pride and be humiliated by gluttony, or burst into laugh and in the same time be fought by anger. Because the evil spirits wait for their turn and they fight the man in this way. And when they are defeated they withdraw and leave place to a more fierce devil.

We should also know that not all devils have the same ferocity or strength, but their power and the kind of pleasure they arouse are as different as their work. Thus the strugglers belonging to Christ who begin walking on the path of virtue and are still weak are fought by weaker demons. But after they are defeated their place is taken by more powerful enemies. If the hardship of the fight hadn’t been in accordance with the power of the man, none of the strugglers could have endured the terrible ferocity of so many enemies. And the man wouldn’t have the strength to stand against their intrigues if in such a confrontation hadn’t stood Christ as a men loving intercessor who ordained and judged the struggle.  He takes care the fights are in accordance with our powers, preventing and turning back the overwhelming assaults of the enemy and not allowing as it is written to be tempted more than we can bear, but bringing together with the temptation the escape from it to be able to endure it (1Co.10,13).

We think that the devils do not make their wars without painstaking and pain, because they have worries and sadness too especially when they fight against strong patient men.

The Apostle testifies about this when he says: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ef.6,12) and again:

 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. (1Co.9,26), and in another place: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2Tim.4,7). And where is a war, a struggle and a fight there each of the opponents experiences worries, pain and trouble. And in the same way we enjoy defeating them and when defeated we are upset, they suffer the same. When they defeat us they are glad and when after painstaking they are defeated, the same of defeat is suffered by them. Thus it happens what it is written: `

The trouble they cause recoils on them (Ps.7,16), and again: let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall. (Ps.34,8).

All these were known by prophet David who seeing with his inner eyes the unseen war and knowing that the enemies enjoy our fall said to God : `Enlighten my eyes so that I won’t die, so that my enemy won’t say: I took control over him.`Those who fight against me will be glad if I waver. And again: `do not let them gloat over me.`  (Ps.34,23-24). And showing the shame they experience when defeated prayed against them to God: `Let those who fight against me be ashamed` (Ps.34,4). And Jeremiah says: Let my persecutors be put to shame, but keep me from shame; let them be terrified, but keep me from terror. Bring on them the day of disaster; destroy them with double destruction. (Jeremiah17,18). And indeed the devils are twice crushed when we defeat them. First because the men gain holiness while those having it had lost it. Then because although they are spirits, they suffer defeat from earthly creatures.

  1. Of saint Maximus

Some say that there wouldn’t be any evil in creatures if there wasn’t another power to draw us to it. And this power is the recklessness in the natural works of the mind. That’s why those who take care f these do only the good and never the bad. If you want that too, cast out recklessness and thus you’ll cast out evil. And the evil is the wrong judgement of the meanings followed by the wrong use of the things.

It is in the nature of the rational part from us to obey the divine reason and control the irrational part from us. If this order is kept in everything there will be no more evil in the creatures nor will be found anything to draw us to it.

  1. From Patericon[ii]
  • They said about abba Isaiah that once he took a basket went to the field and said to the master of that place: `Give me wheat.` And that one said to him: `Did you reap, abba?` The elder answered: `So if someone doesn’t reap he doesn’t receive any reward?“No`, said the nobleman. And the elder left. The monks seeing what happened went to bow before him and asked him to tell them why he had done that. The elder told them: `I have done it to be an example. If someone doesn’t work, he doesn’t receive any reward from God.`
  • An elder was living in the desert at a distance of twelve miles from the water. When he went one day to fill his bucket his spirit weakened and he said:`why do I need this painstaking?“I shall come and live near the water.`
  • While saying that he felt he was followed. He turned around and saw someone behind him who counted his steps. The elder asked him: `Who are you? And that one said: I am the angel of God and I was sent to count your steps to give you reward.` Hearing those words the elder took courage and became more zealous. He added five miles more meaning that he went to live farther in the desert.

They said about abba Herimon from Skete that his cave was at forty miles from the church and twelve miles from the water and meadow (the place from where they took their twigs) And the elder did not get exhausted with his spirit making such efforts to bring water and what was necessary for his work, going to the church as well on every Sunday.

[i] meanings – mental representations lot things. It is expressed here an idea that is often found at the holy fathers abba Marcus and saint Maximus speak about: the sin is born in the mind and the struggler in order not to sin must guard his mind. The things are outside the kind but their meanings are inside.Thus in our minds is found the power to use them well or wrong. (saint Maximus the Confessor, Chapter about love, 11.73, PG 90,1008A). If someone doesn’t sin in his mind, he won’t sin with the things either (Ibidem. 11.78, PG 90,1008A). We should mention that when saint Maximus speaks about mind, he understands in continuity with the whole patristic tradition, the central part of the spiritual hyposthasis of man. In the same way the head has the primacy before all the other limbs of the body, the mind is in the soul image of the head.(saint Maximus the Confessor, Qucestiones, Interrogationes et Responsiones, 67, PG 90,840B).

[ii] in the manuscripts from the family of the following three apophthegms these represent a distinct theme, the 31st, with the title: According to each one’s painstaking, God gives him his mercy. From here till the 36th theme in the two families f manuscripts is a difference of a theme

Excerpt from EVERGHETINOS –  2010  Holy Monastery Vatoped vol. II, Theme 30

Where do fear of God and love originate from? What degree should they reach?

  1. From Patericon

A brother askes abba Evrepie : How does  fear of God come in the soul at the beginning? And the elder answered: `If the man chooses humility and poverty he gains fear of God soon.

*

      Abba Jacob said : `In the same way the torch shines in the dark, the fear of God, when it comes into the heart of man, teaches him all the virtues and commandments of God.`

*

A brother asked the elder : `How does the fear of God come in the soul ?` And the elder said: `If the man chooses humility, poverty and not to judge the others and if he searches his soul for everything so that he may remember that he shall meet God, then the fear of God comes into his soul.

_____________________

Excerpt from EVERGHETINOS – first edition 2007  Holy Monastery Vatoped vol. I, Theme 14 – Metropolis Press, Athens, Greece, 2007.

The beginners need patience and diligence and the steadfast beginning is very useful. And it is impossible for the man who doesn’t prepare first for death to follow Christ part 2

  1. Of abba Isaac

Blessed are those who hold on patience and hope and who for the love of God threw themselves in the sea of hardships with simplicity and in an uninquisitive way, those who didn’t fear the waves raising in themselves or the fury of the sea nor got frightened by its riotousness. Because they escape unexpectedly on the shore of the Kingdom, they rest in the places of those who strived well and rejoice in their hope.

Those who run hopefully on the tortuous and difficult way do not go back, nor waste time to wonder about that. Only after they cross the path and reach its end think about its tortuous and difficult parts and thank God for saving them so many times of such terrible things without being aware of that.

But those who make many plans in their mind and wish to consider themselves wise, who let themselves be dominated by thoughts and they are ready to get frightened, those who want to see first the harmful causes, many of these remain standing at the doors of their own houses. About such people the Scripture says:

The idle man being sent on the way will say : There is a lion on the way and a killer on the path. As those who said: We saw giants and we were like some grasshoppers near them (Nm 13, 33) These are the men who in the moment they die they are found fruitless, those who always want to be wise but they never want to begin.

The plenty of wisdom should not be for you a reason to glide or a trap before you. Begin your journey having faith in God, make the start on the path full of blood with good zeal, without any care for the body and without thinking much, so that you won’t be found lacking the knowledge of God. In the same way the fearful ploughman waiting for favorable winds never sows. The death for God is better than the shameful and idle life.

Thus when you want to begin to work for God, make a pledge before God that you won’t live for the worldly life anymore, that you are ready for death and you don’t have any hope in the present life. Keep this in your mind and in this way you will be able to fight and win with the help of God. The hope in the worldly life makes the mind idle and doesn’t let the man make any progress in good. But you shouldn’t come to the work for God with doubts, meaning with lassitude – so that your strife won’t be without gain and the work of your ploughing burdensome. Begin the good work with courage and unwavering faith in God, knowing that God is merciful, ready to help and He rewards generously those who seek Him, giving His grace not according to our work but to the zeal and faith of our souls. Because He is the One that says:  Let it be done just as you believed it would.

Thus whoever wants to follow Him should deny himself, according to His Word and thus he will be able to follow Him taking up his cross. And the cross means he is ready for all hardships and suffering and even for death.

Because the man who wants to accomplish the Word of God is like the man who is ready to be crucified and he thinks of death and this is how he goes, like a man who doesn’t think of any life on earth. Who wants to live in this world will lose himself for the true life. And who loses his soul in his mind longing for Me is kept safe and sound for the eternal life. So prepare your soul for a complete exit from this life and I will give you eternal life as I promised. And I will show you my promise in deed and you will get the confidence in the future goods and their earnests from here.

Thus if you don’t despise first the life from here you won’t find the eternal life. And when you begin the fight prepared in this way you won’t care about what is thought painful and troublesome. Because nobody can endure troubles in another way than hating first his life in the world for the sake of the one to come.

Question:

From where should start the struggle against sin the one who got free of all worries and prepared in this way he began the fight?

Answer:

The fast and vigils are the foundation of all virtue.  When they are done wisely they help the man to all good. And the beginning of all evils is the comfort of your stomach and the drowsiness of sleep that incite the lust for fornication and dulls the mind showing it permanently thick and darkened.

As natural as it is for the healthy eyes to want the light, in the same way the fast kept wisely is followed by the desire to pray. Because when someone begins to fast his mind rises to the wish to speak to God. And the body that fasts and is not burdened with satiation cannot suffer to sleep in his bed all night but wakes zealously to pray to God.

As long as the seal of fasting marks the body of the man his mind think painfully, his heart springs prayers, on his face shows asperity, the shameful thoughts go away of him and he becomes an opponent of all bad desires and vain companies. The fast is a good foundation for all good things and who disconsider it shakes all virtues. Because it is the commandment given from the beginning to our nature to be guarded and from there it fell our being.

Thus from there where was the initial fall the strugglers strive again by keeping the law of abstinence to rise to the fear of God and the accomplishment of all commandments. Our Savior Himself began the fight against the devil. Because after the Baptism the spirit took Him to the desert and He fasted for forty days. In the same way those who go out of the world to follow Him must put the beginning of their work after God on this foundation. If the One who set the law of salvation fasts, who is that one of those who want to keep the law that doesn’t need fasting? Because before the Savior went into the desert the human race hadn’t known victory and the devil didn’t know any defeat from our nature. But with this weapon of the fasting he was weakened. And our Lord, the Commander of all victory against him put in this way the first crown of victory on the head of our nature. Since then the enemy has been afraid when he saw this weapon at a man remembering how he was defeated by the Savior in the desert. And his power is weakened by the weapon given by the Commander of our salvation. Not only it is very powerful against the arrows of the enemy but also gives us inner courage during the fight. The more the body struggles and strives while the army of devils assault him, the more his heart is filled of courage and boldness. That is why he stands against the enemies courageously fighting with more bravery and audacity being zealous against them. And he doesn’t stop nor suffer to

Do that until he doesn’t chase them away and defeat them completely with the help from above and by accomplishing the other commandments.

But zealous Elijah fasted as well when he strived for the law of God . Because the fasting reminded him of the commandments of the Spirit who uses him well and he is an intercessor between the old law and the grace given to us by Christ. And who ignores it is weak and helpless for the other strives. If he doesn’t care of fasting he gives the enemy an obvious sign about his spiritual drowsiness and it is clear that he starts the fight unprepared. That’s why the enemy becomes daring and assaults him without any effort – since he is unarmed and frightened and in a short time he kills him. Because his limbs are ready to receive the arrows sent by the enemy because he didn’t protected himself with this weapon of fasting that we took from our Lord.

Excerpt from EVERGHETINOS – 2010 Holy Monastery vol. II, Theme 28