Saturday, 27 October 2012

St. Theophan the Recluse-On Sickness and Sorrows

                   Consolation in Sickness and Sorrow
                              From the letters of St. Theophan the Recluse 

On sorrowful circumstances of life

Our spiritual blindness and egoism are the cause of our sorrows - the fact that we become too upset under unfavorable circumstances. You, of course, understand all this perfectly, and are able to contain your feelings within the framework of Divine Providence. I wish you inner tranquility. A heart faithful to God is always able to find peace! May the Mother of God warm you with motherly comfort in your soul!

…Everyone has to keep in mind the law in accordance with which the Lord measures our fate on earth. Everything here is from the Lord, from small things to large, and is the means of preparing us for future life. Such is the significance of illnesses and health; such is the significance of the illness of your N. On her way to a future life of bliss, she must, in accordance with God’s wise and merciful judgment, endure that which she is enduring. Come to this realization and inspire her with the same, and then all that is difficult in her illness will cease to burden her soul and will calm her. Faith is the healer of the soul, flying on the wings of hope and warmed by love.

Standing firm in this conviction, continue having your usual care for medical treatment, but with inner tranquility and giving yourself over entirely to the will of God. Let N. be of similar disposition. Earthly happiness is a good thing in its own right. But if the Lord finds that it is better for me not to have that part of such happiness which constitutes health - may the will of God be done! It suffices for me to have the love of a husband, mother, father, relatives. I offer thanks to the Lord for the former and for the latter, for what is given and for what is not given. May the Lord only grant me goodwill and patience, and such a state of mind, with which it would not be shameful to appear before the Lord.

…The Lord sent you an illness. Thank the Lord, because everything that comes from the Lord is for your good. If you see and feel that you are to blame, then begin with repentance before the Lord and regret for not having safeguarded the gift of health which He had given you. And afterwards return to the fact that the illness has come from the Lord, for all constraint of circumstances comes from the Lord and nothing happens by chance. And consequently give thanks to the Lord. Illness humbles and mollifies the soul, and eases its usual burden of many concerns.

…Everything is from God: both illness and health; and everything that comes from God is given to us for our salvation. Thus should you look upon your illness and thank God for being concerned about your salvation. In what manner that which God sends us works for our salvation - we do not know, and perhaps it is not for us to know. God sends us one thing for the sake of punishment, as a form of penance; another thing for instruction, so that a person may regain his right mind; another to deliver a person from misfortune, which would befall him were he in good health; another for a person to show his patience and thus earn a good reward; another to purify us from passions, and many other reasons… But you, as you think of your sins, should say: “Glory to Thee, o Lord, for having subjected me to penance in punishment!” When you remember that formerly you have not always thought of God, you should say: “Glory to Thee, o Lord, that Thou hast given me a reason to think of Thee more often!” When the thought comes into your mind that if you were healthy, you would do things that were not so good, then say: “Glory to Thee, o Lord, that Thou restrains me from sin,” and so on in everything… Thus be of good cheer!

…Through illness learn humility, patience, goodwill and gratitude to the Lord. That impatience overcomes you is very human. When it comes - you should chase it away. For this reason we feel the heaviness of our condition, so that there would be something to bear. If you do not feel any difficulty, then you do not need any patience. But when the feeling of oppression comes and is accompanied by a desire to be rid of it, there is nothing sinful in that. It is a natural feeling! Sin begins when, as a consequence of this feeling, the soul yields to intolerance and begins to grumble. When such a feeling comes, it must be repelled and thanks must be offered to God.

Consolation to family members on the illness of those close to their heart

In afflictions good is often concealed beneath the heart’s sorrow - for this reason it is not felt or seen, although it is truly there. It is now active in your case, too, both for N. and for yourself. What would you wish for N. - temporary well-being or eternal salvation? It is difficult for you to chose? The natural choice would be “both one and the other.” But if one cannot combine the former with the latter, then, without any hesitation, you will choose the latter, rejecting the former. Thus become convinced in your mind and in your heart that for N., due to the circumstances of her life and yours, which you do not see and do not know, it has been found necessary to cut off the enjoyment of earthly goods - either temporarily or forever. And the Lord has made it thus. Having allowed her to succumb to a difficult illness, He has thus shielded her from everything that could have had an ill effect on her condition. When the dangers pass - her health will return. If they do not pass - so will it remain. You have no reason to fear for her eternal salvation. Now she is in a sickly condition. Consequently, she will go to the Lord in that condition, in which the illness struck her. Such is her eternal fate. It can increase through your cheerful patience and faith, and placing her into God’s hands. I am, moreover, of the opinion that although the soul becomes disordered as a result of the disorder of the body, the spirit remains whole, and it increasingly matures in the depths of consciousness in the same direction, in which it was headed when the body became disordered. So summon within yourself good faith in God’s merciful providence - and use it to repel all attacks of sorrow that upset your mind and heart.

It is impossible not to sorrow; but what sense is there in killing oneself with grief? She will ail for a while and will then become well. Not all sick people die. Why should you send your daughter off to the other world when she has just become ill? The fact that she has worsened reflects the general course of illnesses. Of course, we are all in the hands of God, - and death can come to any of us at any moment. The sick person has the distinguishing characteristic that death, if it is fated to come, will not come unexpectedly. This is the advantage of your ill one. She can reflect upon herself and can prepare for her departure in a Christian manner.

It is about this that you should now be concerned much more that killing yourself with grief.

Let us assume that she dies. What’s wrong with that? All of us will die. She dies today, we will die tomorrow. What difference does it make? It is not she who dies… The body will die, while the soul will remain alive. And she will be much better off without her body than within her body.

Thus you see that not only because of illness, but also because of death, if it should come, we should not grieve. You should now get up immediately, take heart and be tranquil… and you will thus comfort all others. And your ill one should use this beneficial time to reflect upon the saving grace of death. A healthy person can seldom think of it… For this reason the Lord sends us illnesses, in order to remind us of death… and from this remembrance to lead the ailing person to concern himself, finally, with preparing oneself for death.

Consolation to the ailing

…Your thoughts about a supposedly desperate situation are not to be tolerated. They are the enemy’s work. Who can say what will happen? God alone. But the enemy, brashly declaring himself to be God, pops up everywhere with his malicious prophecies, and upsets our faith and takes tranquility away from our heart. Do not listen to him, but when he finishes his work and leaves, - you will become well again and will serve the Lord.

Whatever will be - is in God’s hands. Therefore, all our steps should be accompanied by the cry: may God’s will be done! Having given ourselves over to the will of God, we should no longer rush hither and thither, but should be in internal agreement with whatever the Lord gives us. This is the source of peace for all, but especially for the sick.

…Do not look upon ailments gloomily. They indicate God’s mercy and attention to you, rather than His inattention.

…God has entirely different thoughts about ill and healthy states than we do, and they are as far away from ours as heaven from earth. It happens that God uses illnesses to protect people from misfortunes that would have befallen them were they in good health.

…How can we say that your illness has not been sent by the Lord to prevent a misfortune occurring to you? The course of life is hidden from us, and its chance events are so incomprehensible that nothing else is left to us but to cry out: may Thy will be done, o Lord! For we know that only good comes from the Lord.

If everything comes from the Lord, the illness comes from Him also. If everything from the Lord is for our benefit, then so is your illness. Accept it all as a curative medication, though bitter, but beneficial.

…Endure your illness good-naturedly and thank God for it, because, were it not for the illness, perhaps you would have walked around topsy-turvy, while now you do everything as you should. Another advantage is that, if you were in good health and had wanted to actively work on your salvation, you would have had to keep strict fasts, say lengthy prayers, attend long church services and engage in other spiritual labors. Now all of this is replaced in you by the endurance of ailments. Bear them patiently and do not worry about anything else. Only keep your soul in good order. Your spiritual side is hale. Consequently, you should serve the Lord with it in full measure: be spiritually attentive and on guard, keep a penitent and humble spirit, remain in prayer, repel temptations, refrain from judgment, think of God and the hour of death, etc… Therein lies salvation!

…You are in failing health. Failing health can lead to failing salvation when grumbling words and cries of despair issue from the lips of the sick person. May the Lord deliver you from both misfortunes! On the basis of your thoughts and feelings you are uttering such words that the matter of your salvation is losing power. Make sure to rectify that. Good and ill health are in the hands of God’s providence for us and are the means of our salvation, whenever both the one and the other are used in a spirit of faith… But they can also lead to perdition when they are treated in a willful manner. You are in great need of patience, good-natured and submissive to God. As soon as such a disposition appears in your heart, you will immediately step on the path to salvation - into paradise. And then you will be able to take heart!

…You are in pain over your daughter’s illness. Here is what I wish to tell you: as you have already gone through all possible treatments, you are left with only one - to make peace with this grief and bear it in submission to God, having faith that this illness is necessary for the salvation of yourself and your daughter. Having thus come to peace with it, stay tranquil and pass on the same tranquility to your daughter. Remember the martyrs, who, having been tortured, were left in prison for several years, sometimes 5, 10 or 20. But they bore it all patiently and with good will, having paradise before their eyes… for their endurance.

From the letters of St. Theophanus the Recluse

St. John of Kronstadt-On Love

Be zealous after love: all things shall pass away, but love shall eternally remain, as God Himself, who is Love.

Excerpts from the diary of St. John of Kronstadt on Love

Love calms and agreeably expands the heart and vivifies it, whilst hatred painfully contracts and disturbs it. Those who hate others torture and tyrannise themselves

What is sweeter than love? And yet there is not much love in us! Wherefore? We love our flesh exceedingly, and with it everything carnal, material and earthly! Let us, therefore, despise the flesh and walk by the spirit, mortifying the works of the flesh by the spirit.

Lord! Thou, Whose love to us infinitely surpasses the love of every father, of every mother, of the tenderest wife, have mercy upon us!

Looking upon the Saviour's cross, contemplate Love, crucified upon it for our salvation; and think, for what blessedness He has saved us, and from what torments He has redeemed us! He has snatched us from the jaws of the beast and has brought us to the Father! O love! O redemption! O terrors of everlasting torments! O indescribable, endless blessedness!

The most abominable enemy [the devil] endeavours to destroy love by love itself: love for God and our neighbour — by love for the world, for its fleeting blessings and its corrupt, impious habits, by carnal love, by the love of riches, of honours, of pleasure, of various amusements. Therefore let us extinguish every love for this world in ourselves, and let us kindle in ourselves, by self-denial, love for God and our neighbour. Every beauty in this world (personal beauty) is only a faint, insignificant shadow of the uncreated beauty, of the unspeakable goodness of God's face; every earthly enjoyment is nothing in comparison to future delights. I pray, Lord, that the faith of Christ may penetrate into the depths of my heart, that Christ's Gospel may penetrate all my thoughts, feelings, words, and deeds, into all my bones and my brains, and not me only, but all men, as the universal truth, the highest wisdom, and the life eternal. " And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent."[806]

The heart that loves carnal delights is unfaithful to the Lord. "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon."[509]

What is mercy? Mercy is to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, to do good to those who hate us, who do us harm, who drive us away, to defend those who are persecuted, and so on.

What is the name of our God? Love, Mercy, Compassion, Bountifulness. When you pray, contemplate with the eyes of your heart Love and Mercy standing before you — the Lover of men listening to you.

God is love, and I am an image of God; therefore I ought to be all love. God is the most perfect good, free from the least shadow of evil; I am an image of God; therefore I ought also to be perfectly good, without even a shadow of evil.

Love does not suffer self-justification, does not exalt itself, is not puffed up.

In order to test yourself, whether you love your neighbour in accordance with the Gospel, pay attention to yourself at the time when others offend you, abuse you, mock at you, or do not render you the respect due to you, and which is customary in social intercourse, or when your subordinates err against the rules of the service, and are negligent. If you remain calm on such occasions, are not filled with the spirit of enmity, hatred, impatience — if you continue to love these persons as much as previously, before their offences or negligence, then you do love your neighbour in accordance with the Gospel; but if you become irritable, angry, agitated, then you do not do so. "If ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?"[792]

The purer the heart is, the larger it is, and the more able it is to find room within it for a greater number of beloved ones; whilst the more sinful it is, the more contracted it becomes, and the less number of beloved can it find room for, because it is limited by self-love, and that love is a false one; we love ourselves in objects unworthy of the immortal soul — in silver and gold, in adultery, in drunkenness, and such like.

We stand before the altar of love in the presence of Incarnate Love Itself, but we have no love to each other. How strange it is! And we do not even care about this. But love will not come of itself without our zeal, efforts and activity.

Up till now you have not learned to love your neighbour. You answer men's dislike towards you by dislike on your part. But do the contrary; answer others' dislike by heartfelt goodwill and love; the more dislike you see towards you, the more you should love. Dislike is a malady, and a sick person should be more pitied, should be shown greater care and greater love, exactly because he is ill. Do you not know that the bodiless enemy uses his craftiness against all, infects all with the poison of his hatred? And you, too, are not exempt from his craftiness. Do not serve him, then, the spirit of enmity, but serve the God of love with the utmost zeal. Remember that God the Word died for your brethren.

The Lord is my life, my breath, my strength, my light, peace and joy, my food and drink; what shall I bring to such a Benefactor, or what shall I render unto Him? I will render unto Him, with His help, obedience to His Will, the fulfilment of His commandments. "If ye love Me," says He Himself, "keep My commandments."[1227] I will endeavour to please Him by seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and by counting earthly blessings as naught in comparison to heavenly ones; I will not let my heart cleave to anything earthly. O, Lord! grant me strength to accomplish this. Strengthen me Thyself by Thy right hand. My Strength, do not forsake me! Grant that I may put my trust in Thee alone, my Nourisher — in Thee, Who hast never forsaken me!

Π. Εφραίμ, Δίκαιος Σκήτης Α.Ανδρέα - " Άγιος Δημήτριος"

Ομιλία με θέμα: " Ο Ἅγιος Δημήτριος ο Μυροβλύτης,μέγας κατηχητής των Θεσσαλονικέων"Ομιλητής: Ο Πανοσιολογιώτατος Αρχιμανδρίτης π. Εφραίμ, Δίκαιος Σκήτης του Αγίου Ανδρέα (Σεράι) Αγίου Ορους. ----- Ι.Ναός:Αγίου Δημητρίου Δήμος Αγίου Δημητρίου ----- Ημερομηνία:24 - 10 - 201
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