…It is necessary valiantly to endure the many and varied temptations which may assail you and to resist them with patience and courage. So listen to the words of the Holy Scriptures about this. Here is what Paul the Christ-bearer says: ‘For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places’ (Eph. vi. 1 2); and: ‘But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons’ (Heb. xii. 8); and: ‘For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth’ (Heb. xii. 6). The meaning of the first chapter of the epistle of James, the brother of God, is the following: ‘A man who has not endured temptations has not been tried.’ St. Elias Ekdikos says: ‘No Christian, believing in God, should be careless, but should always expect temptation and be ready for it, so that, when it comes, he may not think it strange and be confused by it, but suffer the burden of affliction with gratitude, remembering the words of the prophet: “Examine me, 0 Lord, and prove me” (Ps. xxvi. 2); and: “Your chastisement will correct me in the end”; he does not say, Your chastisement will destroy me, but that it will correct me in the end.’ Do not seek to find the causes of temptations or whence they come; only pray to suffer them with gratitude, as St. Mark says: ‘When a temptation assails you, do not seek to understand why and wherefore it comes; your only care should be to bear it gratefully and without rancour’ (St. Mark on exculpation by deeds, Ch. 198). Again: ‘Since there is no man who could please God without temptations, one should give thanks to God for every sorrowful occurrence’ (ibid., Ch. 200); and: ‘Every affliction reveals the disposition of our will, whether it inclines to the right or to the left. An affection is therefore called temptation, because it puts to the test the man afflicted by it, proving his inner disposition’ (ibid., Ch. 204). St. Isaac also says, among other things: ‘Temptation is useful for every man. For if temptation was useful to Paul, then “every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. iii. I 9 ).
Spiritual doers are tempted, that they may add to their riches; the weak-that they may protect themselves from harm; those who are asleep-to prepare them for awakening; those far away -to bring them nearer to God; those who are of God’s own household (who dwell in His house)-that they may abide in Him with daring. A son who is not made to practice (carrying burdens) cannot profitably inherit the riches of his father’s house. Therefore God first tempts and oppresses, and then reveals the gift of grace. Glory be to the Lord, leading us to the sweetness of health by bitter remedies! No man can pass the time of his education without affliction; and no man, while drinking the poison of temptations, can fail to find it bitter. Yet without them it is impossible to acquire a strong constitution (of the soul). But again, to withstand them is not in our power. How could perishable clay withstand the action of water unless the Divine fire make it strong? If we submit to the yoke of God’s will and pray with constant desire in humility, then, through patience, we also shall receive everything from our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Ch. 37, pp. 2 3 I -2). In the book of the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach it is also said: ‘My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation. Set thy heart aright, and constantly endure, and make not haste in time of trouble’ (Eccles. ii. I, 2).
The Monks Kallistos and Ignatios, Philokalia