When I was young in the world I saw a movie which I remember and helped me at the beginning of my monachal life, in my first years when I put the foundation. It was a film about two boxers who were to have a fight. The trainer of the younger one before the fight said to his athlete:
`This technique implies sacrifices. You won`t drink, you won`t smoke, you won`t do immoral things, you won`t go with women, you won`t lose nights in order to be healthy and this will help you in the fight to win victory. If you don`t keep these you will fail.
But the young man didn`t keep all those rules and for this reason his trainer admonished him:
`You are not going well. It`s impossible to make any progress in this way. You afre losing your toil and I lose mine.`
That man opposed him and being a boxer hit his trainer so badly that he knocked the man to the floor.
But after a few days the moment of the fight came. He started the fight without his trainer beside him. The other one had an aid, he had his trainer who advised him and gave him strength. The fight began. The younger one was losing, he was always losing ground and the other one won. His trainer who was hidden behind was watching him and was saddened seeing his trainee losing even if he had been hit by him. He knew his moral was low and because of this reason he had no chance tom win. Anticipating that the end was coming he ran down and went near him in a break for rest and spoke to him quietly and advised him and gave him courage. That was it! His disciple stood up and fought right and in the last round he made his adversary knock-out.
This helped me very much when the devil gave me thoughts against my elder, I kept this inside me that without a mentor, without a spiritual father, without a guide nothing can be done. And I benefited hugely.
Obedience is the safest and most salvatory kind of life and from it there will spring joy, peace, childish simplicity, lack of malice. When I was practicing my obedience towards my elder I felt the people in a different way. I saw them with a purity of soul. Maybe I will be able to express it in words. Anywhere I went and anywhere I stayed even when I lied down in bed tears were flowing from my eyes because of the spiritual peace I felt. I had no thoughts, only joy and light in my soul.
My elder told me : `As long as you are obedient, the burden comes to me and you fly !`
When I made efforts to reach humbleness I could not put myself on the left side of the Judge, I only saw myself on His right. I asked my elder and he told me:
`Obedience takes you to the right side.`
And I said to myself : If only I died now as long as my Elder lives as long as I am obedient to him !` Trying to practice obedience, silence and prayer I acquired the prayer and peace of my Elder. This obedience with so many charismas we reach with a lot of toil when we want to follow our own will.
In Paterikon abba Minos says it so simply and exhaustively : Obedience in exchange for obedience. That one who listens to God is listened by Him.
And abba Isaiah says it even more clearly : It is impossible…Our own wills don`t allow our prayer to be listened. If we pray and we are not listened let us beware if we are not disobedient towards our Elder. It is not possible to receive grace from God all the time in the heart which doesn`t stop its desires and in the mind which doesn`t recollect itself from its wandering in vain.
Excerpt from the book The Art of Salvation published by Evanghelismos.