It is a remarkable phenomenon…

From St. John of Kronstadt’s “My Life in Christ”

“It is a remarkable phenomenon in nature that, if you put a plant into a large, wide pot or tub, it grows very much at the roots; they thicken, they give out many ramifications, but the tree itself does not grow much in height, and only yields few and small leaves and flowers. But if it is planted in a small pot, then the roots are small, but the plant itself grows rapidly in height and yields beautiful leaves and flowers (if it is the nature of the plant to produce flowers). Is it not the same with man? When he lives in full liberty, in abundance and prosperity, then he grows in body and does not grow in spirit, does not bring forth fruits–good works; whilst when he lives in straightness, in poverty, sickness, misfortune, and afflictions, in a word, when his animal nature is crushed, then he grows spiritually, bears flowers of virtue, ripens and brings forth rich fruits. This is why the path of those who love God is a narrow one.”

Advertisements

St. Seraphim on Despair

“Just as the Lord is solicitous about our salvation, so too the murder of men, the devil, strives to lead a man into despair.

A lofty and sound soul does not despair over misfortunes, of whatever sort they may be. Our life is as it were a house of temptations and trials; but we will not renounce the Lord for as long as He allows the tempter to remain with us and for as long as we must wait to be revived through patience and secure passionless!

Judas the betrayer was fainthearted and unskilled in battle, and so the enemy, seeing his despair, attacked him and forced him to hang himself, but Peter, a firm rock, when he fell into great sin, like one skilled in battle did not despair nor lose heart, but shed bitter tears from a burning heart, and the enemy, seeing these tears, his eyes scorched as by fire, fled far form him wailing in pain.

And so brothers, St. Antioch teaches, when despair attacks us let us not yield to it, but being strengthened and protected by the light of faith, with great courage let us say to the evil spirit: “What are you to us, estranged from God, a fugitive from heaven and evil servant? You dare do nothing to us. Christ, the Son of God, has authority both over us and over everything. It is against Him that we have sinned, and before Him that we will be justified. And you, destroyer, leave us. Strengthen by His venerable Cross, we trample under foot your serpent’s head” (St. Antioch, Discourse 27).

St. Seraphim of Sarov, “The Spiritual Instructions to Laymen and Monks”

How Some Fall Away

“Sometimes in his heart a man draws near to God, sometimes he goes far from God, and therefore he experiences either peace and joy, or fear, disturbance, and oppression. The one is life, the other, spiritual death.

We draw near to God mostly in time of affliction, from which no one can save us but God, to Whom we then turn with our whole heart, and thus approach Him sincerely; whilst we go far from God in times of ease and abundance of earthly blessings, which make the old carnal man proud of himself, and–especially when he thirsts for riches, glory and distinction, and has attained all these–he loses faith from his heart and forgets God, his Judge and Recompenser, forgets the immortality of his soul, and his duty to love God with all his heart and his neighbour as himself.”

St. John of Kronstadt, “My Life in Christ”

Don’t Mess with Sin

St. Mark the Ascetic of Sketis said: “Suppose that there are twelve shameful passions. Indulging in any one of them is equivalent to indulging in them all.

for:

“Sin is a blazing fire. The less fuel you give it, the faster it dies down: the more you feed it, the more it bums.” (From the Philokalia, “On the Spiritual Law”)

We who are addicts to sin, when we feel that we have made some progress towards a Christ-like life, must be careful. For one simple passion or sin can catch the others which were drying up and withering away back on fire. And from there we tend to leap head-on into despair and indulgence in sin. Ask any addict how dangerous it can be for them to treat situational triggers lightly, or to “just have one”. POOF! Like a dry forest bed, the spark causes a massive, raging fire to devour us.

And so we must always stand before the Lord, beating our breasts in humility like the Publican “God be gracious! Lord, have mercy! Lord, increase my faith!”

Reality

Every soul that strives for a new life, a life in Christ, experiences persecution from without, from the world, and suffers through a great struggle with internal enemies. These trials are inescapable, according to the words of the Savior: If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.

“…We must treat these trials in different ways. We must persistently do battle with our internal enemies, conquering them with the help of the grace of God; but we must forgive our outward enemies. We need not fear this struggle. The Lord strengthens us in it and grants us such ineffable joy that, compared with one minute of it, all earthly joys are nothing.” St. Macarius of Optina

When we take up our cross and follow Him, we have nothing to fear. He leads the way to Golgotha, he goes before us to make sure we are on the straight path. The Cross is our ladder to heaven. It is heavy and hard, but when we hang on it in imitation of Him -because He did it for us- we will also join Him where that Ladder leads.

May God give us strength when we have none left!

Consoling Words

In honor of our Holy Father among the Saints, John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco, the wonderworker, whose memory we celebrate today.

“God’s grace always assists those who struggle, but this does not mean that a struggler is always in the position of a victor. Sometimes in the arena the wild animals did not touch the righteous ones, but by no means were they all preserved untouched.
What is important is not victory or the position of a victor, but rather the labor of striving towards God and devotion to Him.
Though a man may be found in a weak state, that does not at all mean that he has been abandoned by God. On the cross, the Lord Jesus Christ was in trouble, as the world sees things. But when the sinful world considered Him to be completely destroyed, in fact He was victorious over death and hades. The Lord did not promise us positions as victors as a reward for righteousness, but told us, “In the world you will have tribulation — but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).
The power of God is effective when a person asks for the help from God, acknowledging his own weakness and sinfulness. This is why humility and the striving towards God are the fundamental virtues of a Christian.”
+ St. John Maximovitch

Be Strong!

“Whoever fears the Lord will not fear the sickly attacks of demons or the threats of evil people. Like a flame or a burning fire, he goes about day and night through dark and hidden places, and instead of fleeing from the demons he makes them flee from him, so as not to be scorched by the flaming rays of divine fire that pour from him.

Whoever goes in the fear of God is not afraid when surrounded by evil men, for he has the fear of God within him and wears the invincible armour of faith. This gives him strength to do all things, even those that seem to most people difficult or impossible. Like a giant among monkeys or a roaring lion among dogs and foxes, he is resolute in the Lord, unnerving his enemies with the constancy of his purpose and filling their minds with terror; for he wields God’s wisdom like a rod of iron(cf.Ps.2 :9).”
~St. Symeon the New Theologian
A Century of Practical and Theological Texts
The Philokalia, Vol. 4

And this is why we fast and pray so often and for long periods of time. This is why we cross ourselves constantly, and hold the Saints near and dear to our hearts! -Fr. P