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 1

  1. From the life of saint Singlitichia

The blessed Singlitichia said: Those who come towards God have at the beginning a lot of struggle and exertion but afterwards they have an indescribable joy. We are like those who want to light a fire and they first inhale smoke and weep: of we really want to light the divine fire within us we must chase this thing with tears and painstaking and this is how we should try to do it. Because the Lord says:

`I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!` (Luke 12,49). But some endured the smoke striving a little and because of their carelessness they didn’t light the fire giving it up too soon and they didn’t have enough patience and they didn’t endure till the end.

  1. From Patericon
  • An elder was asked: `Why am I always careless ?` And he answered: `Because you haven’t seen the sun yet.`
  • An elder said: Strive in everything, this is the way of God.
  • The same said: The one who strives for God is like a confessor.`
  • Some brothers asked one of the Elders : `Why the soul doesn’t run towards the promises of God made in the Scriptures and strays towards the unclean ones?` And the elder answered: I say that he hasn’t tasted yet from those from above and that is why he longs for the unclean ones.`
  • A brother asked abba Pimen : `My body is exhausted but the passions are not weakened.` And the elder answered: Passions are weeds full of thorns.` He meant that who wants to uproot the passions needs as many efforts and endeavours as the hands of the one who wants to pluck weeds and they bleed.
  • Abba Joseph said to abba Lot: `You cannot become a monk if you don’t begin to burn like fire, if you don’t despise honor and rest, if you don’t give up on the desires of your heart and if you don’t strive to keep all the commandments of God.
  1. Of abba Isaiah

Brother, do not become idle in your strifes, for not being assaulted by the works of the enemy. The soul of the idle beginner becomes a shelter of all the disgraceful passion just like a deserted house from outside the city that becomes a place full of stink.

  1. Of abba Mark
  • Everyone who was baptized Orthodox received the entire grace in a mystical way; but he is fully aware of that only when he accomplishes the commandments.
  • Christ’s commandment, the commandment fulfilled with a good purpose, according to the conscience, gives comfort in accordance with the multitude of the pains of the heart. But each one of these comes at its time.
  1. Saint Diadoh’s

For those who begin to get fond of godliness the path of virtue seem very difficult and completely dark. And that’s not because it would be so but because the human nature immediately after it is born lives among pleasures but for those who succeed to reach the middle of the path it seems pleasant and full of comfort. Because by the aid of good the bad habit surrenders in front of the good one and it vanishes together with the memory of the irrational pleasures. And then the soul crosses delightfully all the paths of virtue. That is why when He brings us to the beginning of the path to salvation the Lord says:

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7,14). And to those who are determined to keep His holy commandments He says: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11,30).

So at the beginning of the spiritual struggle we must put into practice His holy commandments forcing our will somehow and the good God seeing our aim and painstaking sends us a will ready to serve delightfully His glorified wills.

Then it is made ready the will from God (Pr.8,35), so that we may gladly practice the good without cease. Then we truly feel that God is the One who works within us to make us want and do what He pleases. (Philippians 2,13).

  1. From Patericon
  • Abba Zosimas said: The grace of God always follow our will and by grace is made by us all the good. But we don’t try to start doing the good and we don’t show any determined will and zeal to make the grace of God come to our help. Even if we seem to have a will sometimes this is weak and small and unworthy to receive any good from God.

Don’t we know that everything we have s like the seed and the fruit? The ploughman sows his land and then waits for the mercy of God. And God sends rain at due time and favorable winds making the seeds thrown by the ploughman grow and give him a rich crop from a few seeds. It is the same with us: if we sow a rich will from all our heart for the good ones, we will find appropriate grace from God by means of that being able to gain without effort all the goods.

We see the same thing happening in what regards the crafts. Who begins to learn a craft labors, fails and many times he spoils what he had done but he doesn’t lose his courage nor fall into despair only begins his strife again. How often he spoils it he seeks improvement proving to his master his determination. Because if he becomes discouraged and give it up he doesn’t learn anything. After he is repeatedly wrong and he is corrected by the master enduring and working painstakingly and patiently he slowly comes to manage his craft well. Afterwards he does his work peacefully and lives from it.

Who wants to gain virtue must do the same: he must show determined will and courage in the beginning then he must do the good patiently and ask God for help and protection without losing his hope in his falls and without being desperate or give up on his strife – otherwise he will never gain any good – but on the contrary he should get back on his feet every time it happens to fall, having hope and waiting for the mercy of God. This is what abba Moses said that the power of those who want to gain virtues is to keep their courage when they fall and be watchful.

We too making all efforts in practicing virtue should wait for the Lord, showing our determination and asking for help from Him. And He will surely show us His mercy and he will give us His grace plentifully and by this we will be able to gain all the good easily and without painstaking.

There was one young monk who when he went to make his prayers got shivers and fever and had painful headaches. But he said to himself: I am sick and I may well die so I have to make my prayers first before I die. He strived having this thought in his mind and made his prayers. After finishing his prayers the fever and the headache ceased and when it came the time for prayer they began again. But he kept this thought in his mind and forced himself to make his prayers. And after not long he was escaped of this war by the help from God.

  • One of the elders went to abba Achilles and saw him spitting blood. He asked him: What is this? And the elder answered : It is the word of a brother who upset me and I struggled not to say it. I prayed to God to take it away from me and the word turned into blood in my mouth. I spat it and I calmed myself and forgot the sorrow.
  • One of the brothers starved in the morning and struggled with the thought not to eat till the third hour of the day. When that hour came he struggled again not to eat till the sixth hour. At the sixth hour he soaked his crackers and said to his thought: Let’s wait till the nineth hour. And when that hour came he made his prayer and he saw the devilish work as a smoke coming out of his handmade work and flying up in the air. Then his hunger ceased.
  • An elder struggled not to drink water for forty days. If there was scorching heat and he suffered terribly of thirst he washed his cup, he filled it with water and put it before him. When a brother asked him why he did that he answered: To struggle even more seeing the water and not tasting it beside suffering of thirst and in this way I will receive a higher reward from God.
  • An elder said: We don’t make any progress and we don’t know our measures because we don’t have patience when we begin a work and we want to gain virtue without effort. That’s why we are easy going and fickle moving from one place to another and thinking that we can find a place without devils.
  • The same said: If a monk strives for a few days then he gets weak then again he strives and then again he gets weak one like this doesn’t do any good and doesn’t get any patience.
  1. Of saint Ephrem

My beloved, choose study from your youth and until the old age you will find wisdom. Sow your land and take care of it from your youth so that no thistles grow on it. Reap good fruit and give glory to the One who strengthens you.

  1. Of abba Isaac

The foundation of all goods, the salvation of the soul from the bondage of the enemy and the path that leads towards light and life stays in these two: to stay alone in one place and fast: make a habit from refraining your stomach wisely in a peaceful place thinking at God without cease. The one who keeps these two will progress and will gain all virtues from them. The boldness of the heart and the ignorance of the dangers come from these two reasons: either from the callosity of the heart or from much faith in God. Callosity is followed by pride and faith is followed by the humble thought of the heart.

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

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