There was once a pious father who lived an ascetic life in the desert. An acquaintance of his who lived in the city and who was a spiritual man himself because he had got sick and was approaching the end of his life, desired to see the pious elder and be blessed by him to go to the other world with better hopes. The hermit wanted to fulfill his wish because he loved him dearly but he didn`t want to go in the city during daytime since he was a well known ascetic and he was to receive honors and praises. Thus he thought to go there by night when the men were sleeping to avoid the honors. When he got into the city God sent two bright angels holding burning torches one on his right and the other one on his left to light up the way that pious father was walking on. So the people seeing that light and the angels gathered around and they showed him more honor than he imagined. And saint Isaac the Syrian says that if the man humbles himself in the depths of his soul, he sees the glory of God.
The humble thinking and the obedience when they both adorn the monk, they make him in the course of time a flawless spiritual man, since the humble is obedient as well and the obedient is humble. The one who is obedient for Christ doesn`t know what means disobedience, gainsaying or self will. But of course even when we have obedience the devil comes and distracts the monk when he doesn`t practice obedience according to what is settle by the Holy Fathers. When the disciple has obedience, this obedience must be crowned by humble thinking. He must never imagine that he has a flawless obedience. He must assure himself and must not have pride for being obedient, because when the devil sees him that he doesn`t live in that way he robs him of the benefit of obedience.
The monk must think: `I have the duty to be obedient for the love of Christ, Who was obedient towards His Father till His death for our salvation. I owe Christ for His obedience to offer this small obedience I have. No matter how much obedience I would show I`ll never be able to pay my debt to the Great Obedient One, Jesus Christ, Who for the sake of obedience was led to the Cross, to despise, to offences, to humiliations, to slanders, to beatings, things which I as a disciple have not suffered at all. Therefore why be proud? And a second reason for not being proud of myself is that this obedience is reached with the blessing of the elder. I am a nothing, a zero and can`t do anything on my own.`
Thus being assured with the truth he can`t be deluded with the lie and the deceit of the devil that he became famous. This is the easiest but also the most important work for salvation. And our Lord, in order to teach better the Apostles – who had left everything and followed Him, showing complete obedience – what humbleness means, told them that even when they have kept all those prescribed by the Law they should consider themselves some wretched servants and think that had done what they had to do nothing more or less.
So when the disciple works right at his obedience is on the path of God and he walks on it unimpededly towards his salvation. It is enough if he remembers not to commit mistakes, not to follow his will, not to combine it and poison it with his will but to be sincere in his obedience. And when he fulfill this sincere act of obedience and doesn`t follow his will but entrusts himself to his spiritual guide and elder to advise him then he reaches a great achievement. He won`t give any more account for his deeds to God. He erased his past through the holy confession and the life in seclusion from the world becomes ordered by a persistent and vigilant obedience and by a permanent confession. Then there is no more difficulty.
And we, the wretched ones, were called to serve Him. Our call is very high because it aims to advise the man called near God. The monks will occupy the first places near the divine throne which belonged to the Rising Star before his fall and they will see the face of God. This condition can`t be comprehended by our intellect and it must absorb us completely and keep us with our mind at the heavenly ones to show patience in the saddening things from below. The devil knows this and that`s why he fights us to make us never reach that place.
When the pious martyrs Jacob from Iveria was in a rapture and reached the place of the Rising star he saw the bliss from that place and being amazed asked what was there. And he was answered that place was to be filled with the order of the saved monks. Saint John the Evangelist depicts in his Apocalypse the heavenly Jerusalem, the Sion as a bride. So many saints marveled! It is perfectly empty and awaits for the children of God. There will be no sun because everything will be lit by the Face of Christ. Saint Andrew the Fool for Christ revealed to us that in this city will live all those who took heed at themselves and lived in repentance and purity. And he said about the Lord that He left his glory for our nothingness. And the Lord told him nine inexpressible words he did not reveal to us.
For all these reasons saint Isaac the Syrian tells us: `You came to become an angel and you wonder if this path you came to follow is a painstaking one? If we had this thought deeply rooted within us if we meditated profoundly with the help of God`s enlightenment that we are called by our monachal life to become angels and live in the free and bright place of the Rising Star and receive that place and the closeness to the Throne of God and praise Him without cease, then recklessness, idleness, selfishness, disobedience, self will could they still dominate us and make us be only some formal monks?
Excerpt from the book The Art of Salvation published by Evanghelismos.