Tuesday, 30 October 2012

St. John of Kronstadt-On Struggling

Do not fear the conflict, and do not flee from it: where there is no struggle, there is no virtue; where there are no temptations for faithfulness and love, it is uncertain whether there is really any faithfulness and love for the Lord. Our faith, trust, and love are proved and revealed in adversities, that is, in difficult and grievous outward and inward circumstances, during sickness, sorrow, and privations.
                           From The Diary Of St.John Of Kronstadt

                   The Spiritual Struggle
 You cannot conquer any passion, any sin without gracious help; therefore, always ask the help of Christ, your Saviour. It was for this that He came into the world, for this that He suffered, died, and rose from the dead, in order to help us in everything, to save us from sin, and from the violence of the passions, to cleanse us from our sins, to bestow upon us power in Holy Spirit to do good works, to enlighten us, to strengthen us, to give us peace. You ask how you can save yourself when sin stands at every step, and you sin at every moment? There is a simple answer to this: at every step, at every moment, call upon the Saviour, remember the Saviour, and you will save yourself and others.

Now we stand up and fall (in faith and virtue), but we hope for a time and condition when we shall no longer be able to fall, when we shall reach such a state of perfect safety from falling, as the angels have attained to, who are now inaccessible to evil, and when we shall become strengthened in holiness. In the meantime fight against sin, and hope that the time will at last come of perfect victory over sin and over death, which is its offspring. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."[1160]

Everything is possible unto those who believe and trust. We must struggle and conquer.

Struggle against your infirmity, pray as much as you have strength to, and the Lord will not despise the infirmity of your flesh and spirit.

The more the outward prosperity of a pious man increases the more furiously Satan rages against him, and fights against him by temptations (wiles), as he did against Job. Therefore, you who love God, when the prosperity of your house increases you must expect to meet with violent attacks from Satan; he will fall upon one or the other member of your family and torment him.

During prayer, do not allow the flesh and the enemy, acting through it, to conquer you; speak the truth from your heart, and use no deceit in your tongue. [1373] Think and feel what you say in the prayer, and do not let there be honey on your tongue and ice in your heart. Once you are conquered by the enemy, you will have to defend yourself and your freedom against him, as a piece of ground already conquered by the enemy, and your heart will withdraw itself from the Lord. Do not neglect anything in the spiritual life; do not consider anything unimportant, unworthy of great attention: it is through little sins that the Devil leads us to great ones. Above all, endeavour to be always truthful in your heart. When it is most difficult to fight against the flesh, then is the time to show your firmness, then is the time not to grow weak in the conflict, but to fight like a good soldier of Christ.

The sin, to which you do not consent, is not "imputed" to you, as, for instance: involuntary distraction during prayer, impure and blasphemous thoughts, involuntary malice, against which we zealously struggle, avarice, which we resist — all such are attacks of the spirit of evil. Our duty is to endure, to pray, to humble ourselves, and to love.

Let the following conviction be inherent in your heart: all we men are one (brethren), and God, the Most merciful, Almighty, Inexhaustible Source of all things, is everything to us all. But in all of us the Devil also can and does act, the enemy of mankind, whose wickedness, worked in men, must be conquered by good, patience, meekness, indulgence.

Here is another subject for hope. The passions assault your heart, their attack is violent, it is difficult to withstand them, not to succumb to them; but have hope in Christ, and you shall conquer them. Say: "From my youth up many passions have afflicted me; but Thou, my Saviour, Thyself deliver me and save me."[1202]

During times of slothfulness and hardness of heart, men, sometimes through their faintheartedness and impatience, become too familiar with God, and allow themselves various eccentricities in their voice and movements signifying impatience, dissatisfaction, murmuring, and even insolence towards God. Guard against this by every means, and endeavour to overcome your slothfulness. You must conquer the enemy and your passions.

The Devil takes captive and conquers man in this world by excessively exciting his natural spiritual and bodily needs, such as: the need of food and drink (and as everything has to be bought with money, therefore of money, too), the need of clothing, the need of pleasures, the need of honours or fame, and of a good name. All these and other similar requirements of man, which God has put into the very nature of man, are continually perverted by the Devil, who carries them to extremes, sometimes quite needlessly (for instance, with eating and drinking), and thus ruins both soul and body, and diverts the soul from God through its attachment to material things, and through its falling into sensuality and into the passions of malice, pride, envy, despondency, slothfulness, gluttony, fornication, drunkenness, covetousness, ambition, and so forth. And therefore fasting, chastity, disinterestedness, kindness, meekness, humility, faith, hope and love, prayer and meditation, are necessary.

What is our life? The burning of a candle; He Who gave it has but to blow — and it goes out. What is our life? The journey of a traveller; as soon as it reaches a certain limit, the gates are opened to him, he lays aside his travelling dress (the body) and his staff, and enters into his house. What is our life? A prolonged bloody war for the possession of the true country and true freedom. When the war is over, we shall be either conquerors or conquered; we shall be called from the place of combat to the place of reward, and obtain from the Recompenser either eternal reward, eternal glory, or eternal punishment, eternal shame.

I love to gaze upon the image of the risen Life-giver with the banner in His hand, with that symbol of victory over death and Him who has the power of death: " O death, where is Thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"[945] What a glorious Victor! What a cruel, most wicked enemy He has conquered! An enemy who gloried in his victories during thousands of years! "To Thee, Conqueror of death, we cry: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."[946] "We glorify Thee, Life-giving Christ, Who descended into hell for our sakes, and didst raise all with Thyself."[947] "In rising from the tomb, Christ, Thou didst raise all the race of Adam with Thyself."[948]

You see very clearly that it is extremely difficult, and without God's grace and your own fervent prayer and abstinence, impossible, for you to change for the better. You feel within yourself the action of a multitude of passions: of pride, malice, envy, greediness, the love of money, despondency, slothfulness, fornication, impatience, and disobedience; and yet you remain in them, are often bound by them, whilst the long-suffering Lord bears with you, awaiting your return and amendment; and still bestows upon you all the gifts of His mercy. Be then indulgent, patient, and loving to those who live with you, and who also suffer from many passions; conquer every evil by good, and, above all, pray to God for them, that He may correct them — that He may turn their hearts to Himself, the source of holiness. Do not help the Devil to spread his kingdom. Hallow the name of your Heavenly Father by your actions; help Him to spread His Kingdom on earth. " For we are labourers together with God."[742] Be zealous of the fulfilment of His will on earth, as it is in heaven. Forgive them that trespass against you with joy, as a good son rejoices when he has a chance of fulfilling the will of his beloved father.

How good it is to conquer the passions! After the victory one feels such lightness of heart, such peace and greatness of spirit!

Nothing is more changeable than matter; it changes into millions of forms, by natural means according to the laws of the Creator: not to speak of the wonderful changes, for instance, of fire into dew, of water into blood, of water into wine, of the rod into the serpent; even man sometimes changes matter into a thousand different forms. What can therefore be said of God, Who has created everything? The nature of matter is its changeableness. God does not act thus, and does not desire to act thus with a reasonable spirit: the nature of the spirit is its unchangeableness. But to strive to become perfect in good works is the act of a reasonable created spirit. It is the triumph of the spirit over matter that the spirit changes it into thousands of forms. Notice, for instance, how this spirit changes matter in the vegetable kingdom, how endlessly varying are the forms of plants, all growing out of the same soil, with the help of the same light of the sun, the same air, and the same water. And the bodies of animals, how varied they are! Thus the nature of matter is changeableness; upon this condition the world was created in all its variety. Glory to the only eternally, unchangeable God, the All-powerful Creator! Had matter been unchangeable, then God would not have been All-powerful. Glory to the spiritual nature! May it ever conquer the material nature! Ask God to give you unchangeableness in all that is good.

The spirit is powerful, mighty, and therefore it easily bears a heavy substance; whilst the flesh is inert, feeble, and is therefore easily overwhelmed by its own natural substance. This is why God by the word of His power upholds all things. [104] Similarly the spirit of a man blessed with grace, by God's help, easily conquers his own flesh, and even the flesh of others (as we see in the saints), easily masters during prayer the meaning of the words, filling them with his spirit; whilst the carnal man is in constant subjection to his flesh, is oppressed by the words of the prayer, which he is unable to endue with the spirit, being flesh himself, or is unable to penetrate into its pure, holy spirit with his own impure, carnal spirit.

In order not to be in daily bondage to the passions and the Devil, you must set yourself an object to aim at, have this object constantly in view, and endeavour to attain it, conquering all obstacles by the name of the Lord. What is this object? The Kingdom of God, the Divine palace of glory, prepared for believers from the creation of the world. But as this object can only be attained by certain means, it also is necessary to have such means at one's disposal. And what are these means? Faith, hope, and love, especially the last. Believe, hope, and love, especially love, disregarding all obstacles; love God above everything and your neighbour as yourself. If you have not sufficient strength to preserve in your heart these inestimable treasures, fall down oftener at the feet of the God of Love. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you"[94] — for He Who has promised is true. Walking, sitting, lying down, conversing, or working, at every time, pray with your whole heart that faith and love may be given to you. You have not yet asked for them as you should ask — fervently and instantly, with the firm purpose of obtaining them. Say now, "I will begin to do so henceforth."

The Devil, as a spirit, as an incomplex being, can hinder and wound the soul by a single instantaneous movement of the thought of wickedness, of doubt, blasphemy, impatience, irritation, malice, by an instantaneous movement of any attachment of the heart to anything earthly, by a movement of intuitive sight, adultery and other passions — he can fan the spark of sin, with the cunning and malice peculiar to him, into a flame, raging with infernal strength within the man. We must stand fast and strengthen ourselves by every means in God's truth, rejecting the lies, illusions, and malice of the Devil, at their very beginning. In such cases, the man should be all watchfulness, all eyes, hard as adamant, invincible in every part, firm and invulnerable. O, Glory, glory to Thy victory, Lord! Thus may I conquer, by the power of Thy might, the invisible and visible enemies, all the days of my life, until my last breath. Amen. O, simplicity of faith, do not leave me.

"Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more."[281] Experience proves that sins and passions destroy the health of the soul and the body, whilst victory over the passions affords heavenly tranquillity and health both to the soul and the body. Conquer the many-headed hydra of sin — and you will be made whole. Preserve tranquillity of spirit; do not be disturbed, do not be irritated by any opposition, offences, negligences, injustices — and then you will always enjoy spiritual and bodily health. Emotions, disturbance, and the fire of various passions produce in us a multitude of maladies both of mind and body.

When the enemy does not succeed in hindering the Christian upon the path of salvation by means of afflictions, oppression, poverty and various other privations, maladies, misfortunes, then he rushes to the other extreme: he fights against him by his own health, tranquillity, softness, the weakness of his heart, the insensibility of his soul to spiritual blessings, or by the opulence of his outer life. O, how dangerous is this last condition! It is more dangerous than the first state — the state of affliction, oppression, of sickness, and so forth. In such a state we easily forget God; we cease to feel His mercies; we slumber and spiritually sleep. "While the Bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made: Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him."[408] But in affliction we involuntarily turn to God to be saved; we constantly feel that God is the God of our salvation — "the God Who saves" — that He is our life, our breath, our light, our strength. Thus, it is better for the Christian to live in some or other kind of affliction.

Good is always stronger than evil, and therefore always conquers.

A Christian must always be kind, gracious, and wise in order to conquer evil by good.

Do not grow despondent and enfeebled in spirit, seeing the constant struggle within you of evil against good, but like a good and valiant soldier of Jesus Christ, our great Founder, struggle courageously against evil, looking at the crown, prepared by the Lord for all who conquer evil in this world and in their flesh. "To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with Me in My Throne."[439]

Bring your heart in sacrifice to God, give it wholly to the Almighty, renounce yourself, and all sinful inclinations: malice, hatred, pride, disobedience, and self-will, envy, malevolence, malignancy, avarice, covetousness, gluttony, fornication, uncleanness, stealing, deceit, fulness, slothfulness, and others; and continually force yourself to be kind when others exasperate and offend you, to pray for your enemies, for meekness, humility, gentleness, truer benevolence, generosity, disinterestedness, abstinence, chastity, alms-giving, truth and righteousness, industry, obedience, and others. It is difficult to conquer the passions, which become as though our natural members ("Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth"[553]), but by being continually watchful over yourself, by constant fervent prayer and abstinence, with the help of God you will be able to conquer and eradicate them. "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them."[554] I reverence even two or three praying together, for in accordance with the Lord's promise He Himself is in the midst of them. I reverence still more a numerous congregation. Collective prayer is speedily fulfilled, and bears much fruit when it is united, unanimous ("gathered together in My name"). The assiduous prayer of the Church for the Apostle Peter immediately ascended before the throne of the Lord, and the Lord sent his angel to miraculously deliver Peter from the prison, whom Herod wished to destroy. The unanimous prayer of the Apostles Paul and Silas brought down upon them wonderful heavenly help from the Holy Spirit. [555]

Do not give way to the dark evil inclinations in your heart against your neighbour, but conquer them and uproot them by the power of faith, by the light of a sound mind, and you will become kind and gentle. "I have walked innocently."[149] Such inclinations frequently arise in the depths of the heart. He who has not learned to subdue them will be often gloomy, melancholy, a burden to himself and to others. When they come to you, force yourself to be cordially disposed; to mirth and innocent jests; and the evil inclinations will be dispersed like smoke. This is from experience.

In our body, during all our lifetime, a war goes on between the principles of life and death, of good and evil, of sickness and health. The principles of death, being for a long time conquered by the principles of life (vitality), at last overpower the principles of life, because our body, being elementary and sinful, does not in itself contain any principles of life, but borrows them from the soul, which, through sin, also bears in itself many of the principles of death, and is too weak to be able to resist the principles of mortality existing in the soul itself. Besides this, the inner man is renewed at the expense of the corruption of his outward parts. The vigilant, ever-active spirit, by the exertion of this very activity, finally destroys the weak frail body. Besides this, hereditary bodily diseases in course of time increase more and more, and also destroy the bodily organism. Thus the life of man on earth is a gradual daily dying. And our passions? How much of our health they too bear away! And intemperance, excesses in eating, drinking, sleeping, and pleasures? How all these impair the health! Therefore, if our body is continually wasted, and visibly approaches its end, let us despise it as transient, and care with all our strength for the immortal soul. The body is a faithless, fleeting friend.

The greatest continual error of our heart against which we ought unceasingly to struggle during our whole lifetime — at night, in the morning, and during the day — is the secret thought that we can be anywhere and at any time without God and outside Him even for a single moment. We must unceasingly strengthen our heart in God, from Whom it continually mentally turns away; and great progress in the Christian life would be attained by him who could sincerely exclaim with Hannah, the mother of Samuel, "My heart is strengthened [rejoiceth] in the Lord; mine horn is exalted in the Lord; my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in Thy salvation."[1088]

Christian hope may be thus characterised: pray and hope, struggle and hope, strive to enter in at the strait gate. [1193] "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving."[1194]

Unite your soul to God by means of hearty faith and you will be able to accomplish everything. Do powerful, invisible, ever-watchful enemies wage war against you? You will conquer them. Are these enemies visible, outward? You will conquer them also. Do passions rend you? You will overcome them. Are you crushed with sorrows? You will get over them. Have you fallen into despondency? You will obtain courage. With faith you will be able to conquer everything, and even the Kingdom of Heaven will be yours. Faith is the greatest blessing of the earthly life; it unites the man to God, and makes him strong and victorious through Him. "He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit."[92]

Those who are trying to lead a spiritual life have to carry on a most skilful and difficult warfare, through their thoughts, every moment of their life — that is, a spiritual warfare; it is necessary that our whole soul should be every moment a clear eye, able to watch and notice the thoughts entering our heart from the evil one and repel them; the hearts of such men should be always burning with faith, humility and love; otherwise the subtlety of the Devil finds an easy access to them, followed by a diminution of faith, or entire unbelief, and then by every possible evil, which it will be difficult to wash away even by tears. Do not, therefore, allow your heart to be cold, especially during prayer, and avoid in every way cold indifference.

You have seen that on the icons of the saints, the Lord Jesus Christ is represented above, with the imperial globe in one hand and with the other extended in blessing. This is taken from reality. From heaven the Lord ever watches over those who combat for His sake upon earth, He helps them actively, as the almighty King, in their struggle with the enemies of salvation, blesses His wrestlers with "peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,"[1107] and bestows the crown of life upon them after they have finished their earthly exploits. Thus, Christians, all of you strengthen yourselves in faith and hope, looking unto Jesus, "the author and finisher of our faith,"[1108] Who ever watches over you and sees all your acts from the heavenly heights, as He looked down upon the proto-martyr, Stephen, opening unto him heaven and His glory; as He looked upon Saul, afterwards Paul, and also revealed Himself to him in the heavens, enlightening him with His light, and calling him with His voice. [1109]

We notice in ourselves the struggle between faith and unbelief, between the good power and the evil one; and in the world, between the spirit of the Church and the spirit of the world. There, through the spirit, you will distinguish two clearly antagonistic sides: the side of light and the side of darkness; of good and evil; the spirit of the Church and of religion, and the spirit of worldliness and unbelief. Do you know why it is so? It is owing to the struggle of two antagonistic forces: of the power of God and the power of the Devil. The Lord works in the sons who are obedient to Him, and the Devil in the sons of disobedience (" the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience"[119] ). And I, too, often feel within me the struggle of the same two antagonistic forces. When I stand up to pray, the evil force sometimes painfully oppresses and weighs down my heart, so that it cannot raise itself to God.

As all my misfortunes arise in my invisible mind and my invisible heart, therefore I require the invisible Saviour, Who directs our hearts. O my strength, Jesus, Son of God! O Light of my mind! the peace, the joy of my heart — glory to Thee! Glory to Thee, Deliverer from my invisible enemies, that fight against my mind and my heart, slaying me in the very source of my life, in my most sensitive part!

Sometimes, just when we begin to delight in the Lord, the enemy soon after, either himself or through men, brings the greatest sorrow upon us. Such is the lot of those who are labouring in this life for the Lord. For instance, you have just received peace and joy in the cup of the Lord, and sometimes immediately after the service a fiery temptation assails you, and with it the affliction connected with it; even at the very Cup the enemy sets his snares for you and disturbs you by various thoughts, against which you must fight, or else, knowing that you have wished for a long, long time to find rest in God, the enemy will not allow it. As long as the passions still work in us, as long as the old man lives and is not dead within us, until then much sorrow must befall us from various temptations in life and from the struggles between the old man and the new.

We, who are free, and at the same time fallen beings — although we were re-established by the Son of God, and have become free through this grace, by faith, love to God, and by good works — ought, by continual prayer to God, to guard ourselves from the antagonistic forces fighting against our soul, wishing to make us their prisoners, and similar to them in spirit. We must be watchful to the utmost so as not to become like unto the sub-celestial spirits of evil by our spirit and acts, lest they should become the breathing of our soul instead of God — lest the evil constituting their nature should become our evil. We must also ever bear in mind that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world, [217] and that the Lord keeps them too in His full power, and only permits them — as much as His goodness, mercy, and omnipotence allow — to act in the world, to teach and correct men. But there are men who have the Devil for their garment, food and drink, in the same manner as true Christians clothe themselves in Christ, and feed upon His Body and Blood. Throughout the world everything is double — one against the other; the spirit and the flesh, good and evil. Satan has his agents and helpers to spread his dominion amongst men; God has the angels, whom He gives to every Christian to guard him and guide him into Christ's blessed kingdom.

Do not be despondent when fighting against the incorporeal enemy, but even in the midst of your afflictions and oppression praise the Lord, Who has found you worthy to suffer for Him, by struggling against the subtilty of the serpent, and to be wounded for Him at every hour; for had you not lived piously, and endeavoured to become united to God, the enemy would not have attacked and tormented you.

"The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."[576] If we do daily strive to conquer the passions, which fight against us, and to gain the Kingdom of God in our heart, then the passions will tyrannically, forcibly take possession of us, will invade our soul like robbers; our attachments to earthly things will increase in proportion as our faith in heavenly blessings and love for them grows weaker and weaker; our love for God and our neighbour — will also grow weaker and weaker; we shall enjoy rest of conscience and peace of heart more and more seldom. We must struggle in the matter of the salvation of the soul, which is more precious than anything in the world; we must count everything earthly as dross, or as a phantom, a vision, and everything heavenly, above all, the Lord Himself — as truth itself, eternal, most-blessed, and unchangeable.

Work out your own salvation, each one of you; struggle, vanquish, but do not think yourself most wise; do not accuse the Creator of being unmerciful and unwise; do not blaspheme the all-merciful God. Raise yourself through love; ascend higher and higher, step by step, to spiritual perfection, which it is impossible to obtain without freedom. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."[142]

All the saints who are in heaven were cleansed by the blood of the Son of God, through the Holy Spirit, and have not a shadow of sin in them. It was for this that they struggled in this life, that they mortified their flesh in order to cleanse themselves "from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God,"[531] in order to become eternally united with that most glorious Being...

Do not be despondent and do not fall into despair when you feel within your soul the deadly breath and ferment of malice and evil, impatience and blasphemy, or any weakness from impure thoughts; but fight against them unremittingly and endure valiantly, calling with all your heart upon the Lord Jesus — the Conqueror of hell. Humble yourself deeply, deeply, acknowledging yourself from the depths of your soul as the first of sinners, unworthy of human fellowship, and the Lord, seeing your humility and your struggle, will help you. Call also to your help the speedy Mediatrix, the Most Holy Virgin, the Mother of God, saying: " Heal, most pure Lady, the many painful wounds of my soul, and strike the enemies constantly fighting against me."[481]

All possible sins and passions are ready to break into the soul, and strive to do so at every moment. But fight against them valiantly and vigilantly unto your last breath, looking upon them as dreams of your imagination, as illusions of the spirits of evil.

The bodiless enemy fights vigorously against us during Divine service, because at this time, by God's grace, through our intermedium, regeneration of our souls is accomplished; therefore, do not let be us be depressed by the calumnies of the Devil, but let us take courage and be strong, looking with our spiritual eyes upon Christ, the Founder of all great deeds, invisibly standing before us, and mysteriously accomplishing the regeneration of our souls.

The crucified flesh reconciles itself with the spirit and with God; whilst the flesh that is cherished, that is abundantly and daintily fed, fights hard against the spirit and against God, and becomes wholly an abomination of sin. It does not want to pray, and, in general, rebels against God by blasphemy, for instance, and estranges itself from God. This is from experience. Therefore, "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."[652]

What hinders you from fulfilling Christ's commandments The flesh and the world: that is, pleasant food and drink, which men like, in which they delight both in thought and in fact, which make the heart gross and hard — a partiality for elegant dress and adornment, or for distinctions and rewards; if the dress or adornments are made of very beautiful coloured and delicate materials, then care and anxiety arise how to avoid staining or soiling them, or getting them dusty or wet, whilst care and anxiety how to please God in thought, word, and deed vanish and the heart lives for dress and adornment, and becomes entirely engrossed in these things, ceasing to care about God and being united to Him; if such is the case with a priest, then he neglects praying for his people, and becomes not soul-loving, but money-loving and ambitious, seeking not the men themselves, but that which appertains to them, that is, money, food, drink, their favour, their good opinion and good word, and flattering them. Therefore fight against every worldly enticement, against every material enticement that hinders you from fulfilling Christ's commandments, love God with all your heart, and care with all your strength for the salvation of your own soul, and the souls of others, be soul-loving. Remember, that the world, which rose from nothing, is indeed nothingness, and will return to nothing, for heaven and earth shall pass away, but the human soul, the breath of God, the image of the immortal King is itself immortal. Remember all this, and renounce attachments to all earthly things. Besides looking upon corruptible creatures and created things turn your eyes constantly to the Creator, Who is in every creature, and Who constantly looks upon you, constantly proving your heart and your thoughts. Do not cling with your heart to anything, and do not make it the god of your heart; the sole God of our heart must be the Lord-God, Who created it: for our heart is His breath. Do not cleave with your whole heart unto any person, that is to any flesh, for the sole God of our heart must be the Lord-God, and to Him only must we cleave. For attachment to material things, or to flesh, is a lie, an enticement of Satan and the will of the Devil. Amen.

The kingdom of life and the kingdom of death go side by side. I say go, because they are spiritual. The Chief of the first — that is, of the kingdom of life — is Jesus Christ, and those who are with Christ are undoubtedly in the kingdom of life; the chief of the second — that is, of the kingdom of death — is the prince of the powers of the air — the Devil, with the spirits of evil subject to him, of which there are so many that their number far exceeds the number of all men dwelling upon earth. These children of death, the subjects of the prince of the air, are in constant stubborn warfare with the children of life — that is, with faithful Christians — and strive by every crafty means to win them over to their side, through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, because sin and crime are their elements, and through sins, if we do not repent of them, we pass over to their side; whilst those to whom sins form as though an every-day requirement, who drink in iniquity like water, are not disturbed by the spirits of evil, because they already belong to them as long as they live carelessly in regard to their souls. But as soon as they turn to God, acknowledging their sins, both voluntary and involuntary, the war bursts forth, and the hordes of Satan rise up and carry on an unceasing fight. You see by this how necessary it is to seek Christ, as the Chief of the kingdom of life, and the Conqueror of hell and death.

To look unto the Lord during the struggle against any passion, or after having committed any sin and repented of it, gives peace to our doubting hearts, and a wonderful brightness to our countenance." Thou hast put gladness in my heart; Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us."[443] O, how bright does our countenance become when we look upon the God of our hearts by the exertion of our faith, with our spiritual vision! Truly, then the Lord Himself is with us, as He said: "Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee."[444] "I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honour him."[445] O, Thou most-bountiful and long-suffering God, Thou Who art ready to pardon unto seventy times seven the sins and transgressions of all those who heartily repent and ask Thy forgiveness — have mercy upon us, who every hour offend many times against Thee. Amen.

O, how full of misery, of difficulties, and how grievous is this earthly life! From morning till night, daily, we must carry on a grievous warfare against the carnal passions, fighting against our soul, against "principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,"[441] whose craft and subtlety are immeasurably evil, infernally artful, indefatigable! O, Sweetest Saviour, Thou Who calleth unto Thyself all those who labour and are heavy-laden — to give them rest! Thou seest: our heart and bosom are wasted from this daily struggle and affliction, we are unnerved, weakened, we walk like shadows. Our evil enemies continually vex our souls, and endeavour by every means to draw us into the abyss of despair. Stretch forth, Master, Thy mighty right hand, and deliver us from the snares of the dragon of olden time, the murderer of men. "If any man will come after Me," said the Lord, "let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me."[442] But who is the daily cause of our cross, our afflictions and distresses? The old carnal man, and the Devil with his continual snares.

The corrupted man continually wishes to eat and drink, to continually satisfy his sight, hearing, smell, and feeling; carnal men satisfy themselves with dainty food and drink, fine sights, music, smoking, magnificent edifices, and outward splendour. But the adornment of holy objects raises our souls to God, and is therefore not only sinless, but holy and edifying, as also sacred singing, the fragrance of incense, the magnificence and splendour of the ornaments of the temple and all its vessels. All these, being destined to serve to the glory of God and to arouse pious feelings, are not sinful, but holy. But there, in the world, everything ministers to the carnal, corrupted man, and estranges from God. The corrupt heart seeks impure carnal sensations, and everything there satisfies it. The corrupt mind seeks knowledge corresponding to its corruption, and is there satisfied. The corrupt imagination and memory also seek images corresponding to them, and are there satisfied. But we Christians are "new creatures,"[325] or " a chosen generation,"[326] a new people, "created in righteousness and true holiness"[327] after God. We must divest ourselves of the old man and his works, and must fight against his desires and lusts.

Blessed is he who despises all earthly things, and who is wounded by the love of God, by heavenly love. But how few such men there are amongst the fallen sons of Adam! Who is not wounded and struck by the shafts of the passions, of gain and honours? And, vice versa, in whom are there the shafts of true love for God and his neighbour? The shafts of the passions and of sensual things have driven out the shafts of God's love, and do not leave room for them. For some persons these two elements are daily fighting against each other, and alternately thrust out each other, whilst in others there is not even a struggle; the earthly shafts reign wholly in some, stifling the heavenly ones: such, for instance, is the case with those who are greedy of gain, who are sensual, greedy of honours, drunkards, deceivers, murderers, fornicators, adulterers, and so forth. O, when will our hearts be wholly inflamed with love for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, for the Life-giving God the Trinity, Who has commanded us to keep His commandments?

If you do not fight against your passions, or only do so seldom and feebly, you will find it very difficult to fight against them, you will often be conquered by them; they will give you no rest, and your life will be poisoned by them, if you do not learn how to conquer these evil, inward enemies, that settle in your heart. Therefore labour and activity are indispensable for all. Life without activity is not life, but something monstrous — a sort of phantom of life. This is why it is the duty of every man to fight continually and persistently against the slothfulness of the flesh. God preserve every Christian from indulging it! "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."[264] "Unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath."[265]

This present life is a life of exile: "The Lord God," it is said, "sent him forth from the garden of Eden;"[395] and we, all of us, must earnestly strive to regain our country through repentance and works meet for repentance. Lord, "the desired fatherland give Thou to me, a citizen of Paradise me making once again."[396] The present life is the narrow way, the way of afflictions, privations, and maladies. The narrower the way, the more convincing, the surer it is, that we are going the right, true way; the wider, the more certain it is that we are nigh to destruction. The present life is a daily, cruel, most bitter struggle against the enemies of our salvation, especially against the invisible, sub-celestial spirits of evil, who do not leave us in peace for a single day, but constantly make use of their craft and subtlety against us, kindling various passions within us, and wounding us in the most acute manner by their shafts. Remember, therefore, that an incessant war is waged against us; that there is not time to rest, to enjoy, and amuse ourselves in this life, which is given us for our preparation for the future one; neither when we are tried by misfortunes; nor even then, when it seems to us we are perfectly easy and happy, as, for instance, when we give ourselves to pleasure at theatres or soirée's, when we display ourselves in festive attire and ornaments, when we give ourselves up to the pleasures of the table, when we turn round in the gay dance, drive in fine equipages, and so forth. Amidst all your worldly pleasures, man, the greatest misfortune hangs over you. You are a sinner; you are God's enemy; you are in great danger of losing eternal life, especially if you live negligently, if you do not do works meet for repentance. The wrath of God hangs over you, especially if you do not appease the God Whom you have offended by your prayers, penitence, and amendment. Thus, this is no time for you for pleasures, but rather for tears; your pleasures should be rare, and principally such as are afforded you by faith - in spiritual festivals.

The Lord allows the enemy to tempt us in order to prove us, in order to strengthen our spiritual powers in our struggle against the enemy, and so that we ourselves may see more clearly towards what our heart inclines, whether it inclines to patience, hope, and love and in general to virtue, or to irritability, incredulity, murmuring, blasphemy, malice, and despair. Therefore we must not be despondent, but must good-humouredly and patiently bear spiritual darkness that descends upon our soul, the fire that weakens and inclines us to impatience and malice, the affliction and oppression, knowing that all these are indispensable in the order of our spiritual life, that by these the Lord is proving us. Do not let us blaspheme against the true way — the way of holy faith and virtue, and do not let us prefer the evil way. We are free, and must strengthen ourselves by every means and with all our power in faith and virtue, unto the laying down of our life [406] for the way of truth; and how can this be if we have no temptations?

Thou teachest "my hands to war and my fingers to fight"[361] against the invisible enemies of my salvation and blessedness; against the enemies of holiness and of the power of Thy glory; against the subcelestial spirits of evil. Thou crownest me with success in my works accomplished in Thy name. For all this I thank, glorify, and bless Thy most gracious, fatherly, almighty power, God, our Saviour, our Benefactor. May the rest of Thy people know Thee as Thou hast revealed Thyself unto me, Lover of men. May they know Thee, Thy grace, Thy providence, Thy wisdom and power, and glorify Thee, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to ages of ages. Amen.

Why did the Holy Cross appear in the heavens to the Emperor Constantine? In order to show that our Lord Himself, also all the Apostles and all the army of martyrs, entered into glory through the Cross; that the Cross is invincible victory; that as the Devil was vanquished by means of the Cross, so likewise all the enemies of the Cross of Christ or of Christians will be vanquished by the Cross; also that the Devil acts through the persecutors of the Christians, and must be conquered by means of the Cross; and that the persecuted Christians are members of Christ, soldiers of Christ, who are always under the protection of Christ the Lord and His Cross.

Our love for God or for our neighbour will especially show itself, and its purity, strength, and constancy will be revealed when there is a contrary power (of the Devil) struggling and acting like fire in our hearts, and endeavouring to implant aversion, antagonism, contempt, hatred, and enmity in our hearts. Love is strengthened within us when the opposing forces endeavour, so to say, to uproot it, whilst we struggle in every way against these opposing forces, and by our struggle with the enemy purify, raise, and strengthen our love. It is in reward for this constant battle out of love for God and our neighbour, for this firmness, for this fiery, stubborn, constant, invisible war against the sub-celestial spirits of evil, that God weaves the shining heavenly crowns for the wrestlers of love for God and their neighbour. In this respect holy ascetics, known as the Holy Fathers, are worthy of thousands of crowns. They, out of love for God, forsook the world and all that is in the world; they went away into desert, uninhabited places, and there, shut up in their cells, they spent all their life in thinking of God, in prayer, in renouncing their own will, in fasting, watching, labouring, and in doing great deeds for the love of God, enduring during their whole life the assaults of the opposing forces, endeavouring by every means to shake their faith and trust in God, and especially their love for Him. To fight, for the love of God, against our own flesh and the Devil — that crafty, mighty, and evil enemy — not for some hours, days, and months, but for many years, sometimes sixty or seventy — is not this worthy of crowns? And what, in comparison with these ascetics, or Holy Fathers, are men living in the world, falling so often into sin even without being assaulted, and defeated by their own flesh without even being attacked? What in comparison to holy ascetics are worldly men, living in accordance with their own will, in luxury, in the pleasures of every kind, gorgeously apparalled and living delicately, [250] given over to pride, ambition, envy, hatred, avarice, irritability, wrath, revenge, amusements, fornication, drunkenness — to all possible vices, although not all in the same person? They are caught alive, without any resistance, in the power of the Devil, and therefore he does not attack them, but leaves them long entangled in his nets in the peace and self-forgetfulness that precede death.

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