The priceless gift of discernment

The starets always reminded us of the great virtue of spiritual discernment.

Apostle Peter tells us add knowledge-discernment to virtue. In the Holy Scripture God Himself expects that we have spiritual wisdom, innocence and mindfulness: Be wise as snakes and innocent as doves.

Before starting any work we should take into account the following Christian reasoning: Isn’t the work I intend to do against God? Could it be possible to harm my neighbor by doing it?

If after a thorough exploration your conscience will remain peaceful, then do what you intend to do, the starets said.

Always entrust yourself to God’s will. Never be against it, but listen to it with great care. Always keep the middle way. Extremes are never advisable. Never delay working on your salvation and don’t postpone your repentance.

Never expect or pretend love for the love you show, praises for your humility and gratefulness for your service. Try to avoid any earthly rewards in order to gain the divine reward.

Discernment is a priceless gift considered by the Holy Fathers above all virtues as long as due to it the soul opposes passions. The same deed we can turn into a good one in a case and in another case in a bad one, if we don’t have spiritual discernment. In the same way each work becomes fruitful or fruitless. Let’s take a button for instance. If we sew it with thick thread, it will last for a long time. Thus our work will be fruitful. But if we sew it with thin thread, then our work will be fruitless, because the button will break in a short time and we’ll have to sew it again.

It happens the same with the prayer and any other kind of work, starting from the carelessness we have when we make the sign of the Cross. If we make the sign as it should, with fear of God and prayer, then our work is redeeming, guiding us towards God. But if we make it carelessly, if we move the hand without inner prayer, then we offend God’s greatness and we don’t gain any benefit. By doing so we only multiply our sins.

When you make the sign of the Cross before the icons, take care not to push anyone, cause the soul of that person saddens and gets distracted from prayer.

You go to the church to ask for the mercy of God that’s why you should take heed not to offend your neighbor. And especially when you go to receive the Holy Eucharist, say the Jesus prayer, don’t speak to anyone and don’t turn your thoughts or your sight in any other part. Go and receive the Holy Eucharist with peaceful soul, grieving only for your sins.

We should ask ourselves with discernment: What to say? How to say? So that I will not hurt anyone with my word.

Apostle Paul teaches us: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths (Ephesians 4, 29)

And if others offend you, don’t take this as an offence but as a medicine prepared by God for us, having the chance to receive a wreath for your patience, which cleanses any impurity of our heart.

The starets knew how to use any work of his spiritual sons to learn a lesson from it so that he could teach the others and straighten all those who erred. Once while officiating a holy service before the miracle working icon of the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God, a woman started to make prostrations before it. The starets stopped her gently and told her not to do it again. While speaking to her, he explained for all the people attending that service why we shouldn’t make prostrations during the divine service.

You think that you make prostrations for receiving blessings but in reality you sin. Why? Because we all stay and pray, we speak with the Holy Mother of God and she listens to us carefully. But you steal this time from the other people, offending those who pray and the Holy Mother of God. We should do everything with caution.

Now you’ll receive holiness but you shouldn’t lose divine grace – God forbid! – because of an intemperate haste. Holiness is lost when it’s made noise. We should try to plant grace in our hearts in order to take roots and feed us spiritually so that our soul would become enlightened, pure and fragrant.

We should receive holiness with piety and fear of God. We should kiss the Icon of the Holy Mother of God and the Cross only at the beginning. After we receive the grace, we should preserve it and never part with it. If you go to the Holy Mountain [1] and you see a big and healthy tree and down, near it we find a dry branch which fell from it, we should know that this happens to us if we break ourselves from the grace of God. Meaning that our soul dries. Our Lord says this in the Gospel: If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15, 6)

From the book: Abba Sava the Comforter

[1] the starets called the Holy Mountain a mountain which was near the monastery.

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