Love the Cross of Christ!

`What to do to love Christ?` I asked the starets among others. I thought he would tell me many things about the Jesus prayer, a lot of prostrations, fasting and many others but he simply told me:

`Love the Cross of Christ!`

And that`s true, looking at the Cross of the Savior, we learn to receive with gratefulness all our suffering, troubles, etc and consider them nothing comparing them with everything Christ, the Savior suffered for us. One like this doesn`t boast and he gradually learns to pray with gratefulness. Even if someone doesn`t reach quickly the prayer of the heart without cease – thing which is hard to attain – however he will remain with the remembrance of the Cross of Christ deeply engraved in his memory, thing which helps to reach an increased humbleness. Patience, as we know, is a form of prayer. The Elder considers the love for the enemies a virtue of the same importance. And we learn to love our enemies only following the Savior, Who  forgave His crucifiers.

Another time I asked the Elder:

`Geronda, why do I still have thoughts against my enemy who hurt me deeply since I forgave him? Do I keep in my memory the evil?`

`No, answered the Elder. These thoughts are not in reality yours, they belong to the devil, who doesn`t want us to feel peace. Especially if he knows that we have a sensitive conscience, he fights us in this way. Discernment is always needed in all the cases.

`For whom should I pray first, for me or for others?` I asked the Elder.

Another one would have answered without thinking much: `Undoubtedly for others`, not understanding that we, the laymen are weak. However, the Elder answered:

`It is better of course for someone to pray for the others but if he can`t, it doesn`t matter, he should pray first for himself and his family then for the others.`

In other words, it doesn`t matter – he should pray first for himself then he will pray fervently, from the heart for the others as well. And there will come the day when God  gives us the gift to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. It is no use for someone to force himself to achieve perfection as long as he has not reached yet maturity in spiritual matters.

The Elder insists very much on the prayer for our close-knit, because he gives a great importance to the family, he considers that by the patience shown to our parents, by the mutual love between husbands, someone can really evolve spiritually.

`Unfortunately when I see homeless people even if I feel sorry for them, my sorrow is not that profound as if I were in their place`, I told him another time.

`This is not something human, it belongs to Christ`, he told me kindly.

I remembered then what saint Paisios wrote somewhere : `For long years I loved only Christ very much and for the others I didn`t feel the same love. Until one day when Christ came and gave me His love for men and for the whole creation. And afterwards my heart melted of love for everyone.` Meaning that we must first attain an ardent love for Christ and by it our Lord will give us the divine gift to attain the profound love for our neighbor.

`But we must first ask Christ to allow us to feel this`, he added.

Another time I told the Elder that when the others hurt me I try to forgive them but their offence upset me.

`Don`t get upset at all, because this is not something human, it`s a divine influence. The essence is the following: to try to forgive for real the one who hurt you and to pray with sincerity to God for him.` In other words `learn to forgive your enemy and don`t care if you, being human, got upset. Christ will take care of all the rest.