The Good of our Soul2 December 2020
It needs great effort because the passions are very powerful. But by God’s grace, those who strive valiantly, with might and main, will overcome.
Bodily exertion and study of the holy Scriptures preserve the purity of the mind. It also requires a great deal of prayer, so that Divine Grace will mantle those who are striving. It takes a great spiritual struggle to acquire the Grace of the Holy Spirit, because people are easily led astray into wickedness and lose in a trice what it has taken them enormous effort to gain.
There’s good and evil in people’s hearts. Which of the two will win depends on your own struggle. If we allow ourselves freedom, without restraint, evil will triumph. When we struggle, however, good and virtue will overcome.
This is a harsh struggle. You’ll fall and get up again; fall once more and get back up. It’s a life-long effort, because Satan doesn’t leave us in peace even for a moment. He’s just waiting for our attention to slip so that he can exploit it and do harm to our soul.
As we said above, the spiritual struggle requires humility, but the Lord heeds only the prayer of the humble. The prayer of the humble ‘enters into the ears of the Lord. The eyes of the Lord are on the humble in heart’. Cry out with a humble mind to the Lord and say to Him: ‘Lord my God, if you want you can illumine the darkness of my soul’.
When the soul is warmed with love for God, it regards everything else as worthless detritus. Day and night it thinks of nothing other than Jesus Christ. Our contact with God is sweeter than even the most wonderful and tasty food. When the soul is united with God, then come tears of spiritual jubilation. And these tears accompany you whether you’re eating, drinking, praying or studying, as the fruit of the efforts of the soul. This is the reward God gives to those who labor at His commandments, to those who have set the good of their soul as their aim in life.
So when you’re visited by these tears, take heart and go forward with ever greater strength in order to cross over the sea of the passions. But be careful you don’t lose the spiritual bounty of your struggle either through egotism or negligence.
If you haven’t labored at good works, don’t talk about virtues. Because any virtue that comes about without hard work is viewed as an ‘eyesore’ for God. The groaning of your heart, your prayers, your vigils will be of no avail in gaining virtue. No matter how loudly you shout your prayers out to God, He won’t listen unless they’re accompanied with humility. Laboring at the commandments and, in particular, humility is what make us gods upon earth. Faith and alms bring us to purity more quickly.
Those who have fervent love for God are attracted by the good things to come. The more they’re fired by the hope of the good things of eternity, the more they’re freed from worldly concerns. But for people to reach this sublime state, it needs a fierce struggle. And you have to start from what’s simple and easy before you get to what’s difficult. You make the first step towards virtue, then the second and so you slowly progress in the spiritual life. You won’t get to the heights with one giant leap.
Let’s learn first to apply God’s commandments and then, after many great struggles, God will send us His Grace.
Happy are those who have decided to walk the path of sorrows for the love of God and don’t turn back. Those people will quickly reach the harbor of the Kingdom of God. After the exertions and the tribulations they’ll enjoy rest and recuperation. They’ll rejoice eternally with the enjoyment of the good things of the future.
Those who run the difficult race of virtue don’t turn back, nor do they think of the difficulties they’ll encounter but gladly proceed along the narrow and stony path, thanking God for allowing them to progress. But those who are afraid or make their way forward with timidity and fear will never get to the end and won’t take the crown of victory which the Lord gives to those who struggle in faith.
The slothful never make a start with repentance and constantly put it off. So they come to the hour of death and are unprepared. If you want to make progress in the matter of virtue, take no notice of the demands of the body, because the body is the enemy of the soul. Put your hope in God and, with humility, tread the path of virtue. You should know that, without God’s help, you’ll be poor and naked, deprived of all spiritual benefits. Don’t be overcome by cowardice and fear in the struggle. A farmer who waits for the winds to drop before sowing will never sow. Better that you die of love for God than that you live in shame and idleness.
When you want to make a start with God’s work you first have to abandon all hope and support in this life. Just as those who are preparing for death think of nothing other than this dread event, so those who wish to be united to God must die to every worldly thing. I remind you again: you’ll come across obstacles, but don’t lose hope.
Strengthen yourself with faith in God and with the thought that the things of this world are fleeting and vain and that the greatest treasure is the Kingdom of Heaven. God has prepared it for those who struggle, not for the slothful and idle. Begin your efforts with enthusiasm, not in a cowardly manner, because even the most wonderful work is useless when its wrought by people whose soul is divided: one part with God and the other in the world. God wants the whole of us.
Put your sure hope in Christ, so that your efforts don’t go to waste. The Lord is merciful and gives His grace to those who seek it with persistence. He gives His reward not in accordance with the work we’ve done, but with the willingness we’ve shown. Do what you can for the salvation of your soul. Pray with tears, read the holy Scriptures, give alms. Be content with warming your heart with the love of God.
Don’t concern yourself with the physical weakness of the body and lose your courage. Cast far from you love of yourself, greed and egotism. Hate the work of the sinful flesh and strive boldly to acquire virtue. And if, as a human being, you fall, get back up and never return to your former, sinful life. Always engage willingly and joyfully in God’s works and He will raise you to the peak of the virtues.