Teachings (2)12 November 2021
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The aim of our life is for us to become perfect and holy; to prove to be children of God and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. We must be careful lest, for the sake of this present life, we’re deprived of that of the future; lest, because of the cares and concerns of daily living, we neglect the aim of our life. Fasting, vigils and prayer don’t, of themselves, bring the desired fruits, because they aren’t the aim of our life; they’re the means for us to achieve our goal.
Decorate your festal candles with virtues. Strive to cast out the passions from the soul. Clean all the grime from your heart and keep it pure, so that the Lord may come and reside in you; so that the Holy Spirit may inundate you with his divine gifts. My beloved children, may all your care and attention be directed to these things. May they be your constant aim and desire. Let the whole of your prayer to God be about these things. Seek the Lord every day, but in your heart, not outside it. And when you find him, stand with fear and trembling, as do the Cherubim and Seraphim, because your heart will have become the throne of God.
In order to find God, humble yourself down to the ground, because the Lord abhors the proud, but loves and visits the humble in heart. This is why he says: ‘These are the ones I look on with favor, those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word’ (Is. 66, 2).
Fight the good fight and God will strengthen you. In the struggle, we identify our weaknesses, shortcomings and faults. It’s the mirror of our spiritual state. If you haven’t striven, you don’t know yourself. Pay attention to small transgressions, as well. If some sin befalls you through lack of attention, don’t despair, but recover quickly; fall down before God who has the power to put you right. Great sorrow is a cover for pride. Excessive sorrow and despair are harmful and dangerous, and are often exacerbated by the devil in order to impede the progress of those who are striving.
We have within us weaknesses, passions and deeply-rooted faults, some of which we inherited. None of them can be cut off through some fitful action, fretfulness or profound sorrow, but only through patience and persistence, perseverance, care and attention. The road leading to perfection is a long one. Pray to God that he’ll give you strength. Deal with your lapses with patience and, once you’ve recovered, start running again; don’t stand on the same spot, like a little child who’s fallen down and is crying and wailing inconsolably.
Be watchful and pray not to enter into temptation. Even if you keep falling into old sins, don’t despair. Many of these are powerful, by nature and by habit. But over time they can be defeated with enough diligence. Let nothing make you despair.
Temptations are allowed so that our hidden passions will manifest themselves, so that we can fight them and thus heal our soul. They, too, are an example of God’s mercy. So, trust God and ask for his help and support in your struggle. Hope in God never leads to despair. Temptations bring humility. God knows the resilience of each of us and allows temptations which are commensurate to our strength. But we should also make sure we’re vigilant and alert, so that we don’t put ourselves into the path of temptation of our own accord. Trust in the good, powerful and living God and he will bring you to rest. After the trials, spiritual joy follows. The Lord watches over all those who are undergoing trials and sorrows for the sake of his love. So don’t lose heart and don’t flinch.
I don’t want you to be sad and upset when things don’t go your way, no matter how justified you might feel. Such sorrow is evidence of the existence of egotism. Beware of the egotism that hides under the cover of being justified. Also beware inappropriate sadness if it follows a justified rebuke. Excessive sorrow over these things is a temptation. Real sadness does, indeed, exist: when we recognize the wretched condition in which our soul finds itself. None of the other sorrows have anything to do with the grace of God. Take care to guard within your heart the joy of the Holy Spirit and don’t allow the evil one to pour his gall into you. Beware. Beware lest the paradise within you be transformed into hell.
Our main task, as people, is to pray. We were made in order to glorify God. That’s the task we’re best suited to and it’s the only one which explains our spiritual mode of existence. It’s the only thing which justifies our pre-eminent position within creation. We were made to worship God and to share in his goodness and blessedness.
As the images of God which we are, we long for him and hasten with desire to be lifted up to him. We’re made glad by prayers and hymns. The spirit rejoices and the heart skips. The more we pray, the more the soul is stripped of worldly desires and is filled with the good things of heaven. The more it withdraws from earthly things and the pleasures of life, the more it rejoices in the delight of heaven. Our experience and acquired knowledge are proof of this truth.
God is pleased with those prayers which are offered to him in the appropriate manner, that is, in full cognizance of our imperfection and unworthiness. But such awareness requires rejection of our wicked self and submission to God’s commandments; it demands humility and constant spiritual effort. Put all your cares into God’s hands and he will provide for you. Don’t be faint-hearted or upset. He who examines the hidden depths of our soul knows your wishes and has the power to fulfil them as he knows best. Just ask of him and don’t lose heart. Don’t think that, because your desire is devoutly to be wished, you therefore have to right to complain if your prayers aren’t heeded. God takes care of your needs in a way that you don’t understand. Stay calm, then, and call upon God.
Prayers and intercessions don’t, of themselves, lead us to perfection. The Lord does that when he comes and resides in us, when we observe his commandments. And one of the first of these is that the will of God should be done in our lives, not our own will. And it should be done with the same punctiliousness as is shown by the angels in heaven. So that we, too, can say: ‘Lord, not as I want, but as you wish’; and ‘Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’. Unless Christ is within us, prayers and intercessions lead us into delusion.
Peace is a divine gift which is granted lavishly to those who are reconciled with God and carry out his divine commands. Peace is light and flees from sin, which is darkness. Sinners are never peaceful. Struggle against sin and don’t let any flaring of passion disturb you. If, in your struggle, you defeat them, the upsurge of the passions is a source of new joy and peace. If you’re defeated- God forbid- then sorrow and turmoil arise. But again, if after a hard-fought struggle, sin prevails momentarily and you then persist and prevail, peace returns. ‘Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord’ (Heb. 12, 14).
Peace and holiness are the two necessary conditions for those who desire, with longing, to see the face of God. Peace is the foundation on which holiness is built. Holiness can’t dwell in a turbulent and angry heart. When anger lingers in the heart, it creates enmity and hate towards your neighbor. This is why we have to be reconciled quickly towards them, lest we’re deprived of the grace of God which sanctifies our soul.
Those who are at peace with themselves are also at peace with their neighbor and at peace with God. Such people are full of sanctity, because God himself abides in them.