Orthodox Byzantine Chants
Holy Mount Athos
What to do – I asked the starets among others – to love Christ? I thought he would tell me many things about mental prayer, prostrations, fast and many others but he simply told me: Love Christ’s Cross!
And really looking at Christ’s Cross we learn to receive gratefully all the suffering, troubles etc and regard them as nothing in comparison with what Christ suffered for us. One like this doesn’t pride himself and slowly he gets used to pray gratefully. Even if someone won’t reach fast the permanent prater of the heart – which is hard to accomplish – he still remains with the remembrance of Christ’s Cross deeply graved in his memory thing that helps at enhancing humility. Patience as we know it is a form of prayer. The starets considered equally important as a virtue the love of your enemies. And we learn to love our enemies only by following the Lord who forgave His crucifiers.
Another time I asked the starets:
`Why, abba, since I’ve already forgiven my enemy who harmed me a lot I still get thoughts against him? Do I still keep the evil in my mind?`
`No, said the starets. These thoughts are not yours in fact but the devil’s who doesn’t want us to feel any peace. Especially if he knows we have a sensitive conscience he fights with us in this way. Discernment is always needed.`
`For whom shall I pray first for me or for the others?` I asked the starets.
Another one would have answered without hesitation: `For the others, for sure` without understanding that we the laymen are helpless beings. However the starets told me:
`Of course that it is better for someone to pray for the others but if he can’t – never mind – he should pray for himself and his family then for the others.
In other words – it doesn’t matter – someone should pray for himself then pray fervently and from his heart fr the others. And then the day will come when God will give us to love our neighbor as we love ouserselves. It’s no use for someone to compel himself to achieve perfection as long as he is a spiritual infant. On the other hand the starets insists upon the prayer for our families because he gives great importance to the family and he thinks that by showing patience to your parents, by mutual love between husbands someone may reach a good spiritual progress.
`Abba, unfortunately when I see homeless people though I feel sorry for them I am not that much affected as if I were a homeless myself, I told him another time.`
`This is not something human, it’s something belonging to Christ, he answered with kindness.`
Then I remembered what saint Paissios wrote down somewhere: `For many years I loved Christ a lot, but for the other men I didn’t feel such kind of love. Until one day when Christ came and gave me His love for men and for the entire creation.And afterwards I was melted by love for anyone.` So we first have to grow our love for Christ and by it the Lord will give us to reach the full love for our neighbor, which is a divine gift. `But we have to ask Christ to allow us feel this`, he added
Once I told the starets that when I am offended by others I try to forgive them but I am upset by the offence.
`Don’t be upset at all`, he told me because this is not something human but a divine work. What matters the most is this: to try indeed to forgive the person who offended you and pray honestly to God for him. In other words `learn to forgive your enemy and don’t worry if you as a human being feel hurt. Christ will take care of all the rest.