Thursday, 24 January 2013

Elder Ephraim Of Arizona-On Forcefulness, Courage, and Self-Denial.

Chapter Eight.

13. Constant forcefulness is necessary for us not to remain outside the bridal chamber of Christ, as did the foolish virgins. Rather, our spiritual forcefulness should continuously light our lamps, so that we can see Christ entering His bridal chamber and enter together with Him into the eternal wedding of the Lamb! Courage, my child; keep your chin up when you face the enemy, for we are soldiers of the great King, Who triumphed at the battlefront on Golgotha. If we are ever defeated, let us rise once again, and after we have bandaged our wounds, let us take up our weapons again with bravery and a firm heart. Since we have this kind of victorious Commander-in-Chief, we, too, shall be victorious with the power of our Christ, as long as a spirit of humble-mindedness dwells in our souls.

14. Do not lose your courage, my child, no matter how much the tempestuous sea of various passions might rage at times. You should reflect that all these things—and even many more things—are incapable of preventing us from receiving the grace and love of God. If our longing for Christ grows, my child, all the obstacles will become very small and easy to pass. But when we have no love nor any longing for our Christ, they become difficult to bear, and they water our days with burning tears. Yes, my child, let us keep calling upon Jesus until His flame ignites within us, and then all the weeds will become ashes. Always remember that we have to take up our cross every day, which means afflictions, labor, temptations, and every diabolical influence. Which saint has ever walked the dark paths of this world without afflictions and perils? And if we have been called to walk the same path, why do we find it strange to face afflictions? Since we have chosen to fight the devil, why are we surprised to encounter difficulties? Let us have the lamp of our eagerness lit, and let us await with patience and vigilance the coming of the Lord Jesus.

15. We should not postpone correcting ourselves, lest death finds us. Then we shall weep and lament inconsolably—and I, first of all—without a single ray of hope that the tribulations will change. Compel yourselves. Behold, Great Lent has come. However, it is not the fasting of the body as much as the fasting of the tongue, of the mind, of the heart, and of the senses that should preoccupy us especially now during Great Lent. Let us purify ourselves with this kind of fasting internally, where spiritual snakes are lurking that poison the life of our soul and deaden our spiritual strength, leaving it unable to correct and transfigure our soul. Now, during Lent, compel yourselves even more. Become stubborn in your resolve; this stubbornness is holy and not egotistical. You will see how much you will profit spiritually. Merely for the promise that the passions will be suppressed and that we will avoid certain sins corresponding to our efforts, we have good reason to become stubborn with the devil, who continually throws us into the same old sins.

16. Struggle, my child; isn’t the present life a time for struggling? Isn’t the life of every earthly man but a dream? Raise the noetic eyes of your soul and behold heavenly hosts of angels and archangels. Lift up the eyes of your mind higher and behold the blissful place of Lucifer, who was once a rising star, now empty. Oh, what a great destination! What a supremely holy calling! There, by the throne of God, souls will see the divine beauty of Christ and will be led up from knowledge to knowledge and from theoria to theoria with a superabundance of riches of divine grace! But in order to obtain these heavenly blessings, we must display bravery and mettle, and must engage in battles without turning our backs in defeat, keeping before us Jesus, Who said to us: “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33 ), and “The ruler of this world will be cast out” (Jn. 12:31 ). So, trusting in the invincible power of the crucified Christ, let us dedicate ourselves with simplicity to the struggle of the monastic life, and let us keep smothering the immaculate feet of our Savior with kisses, shedding tears of gratitude and joy. Who, then, shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or nakedness, etc.? (cf. Rom. 8:35 ). “I count all things as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8 ), cried out the mouth of Paul. Aren’t we obliged to imitate Paul and attain the same grace and love towards Christ that he had? Yes, but do we struggle as he did? Have we—have I –also gone through everything that he went through for his beloved Christ? No. This is why I am bare—or rather dressed in rags and covered with shame, and I am deluded, thinking that I am wearing a glorious diadem. Woe to me, woe to me the wretch! Who shall illuminate my darkness, so that I may see my wretchedness?

17. Force yourselves in your spiritual duties, for forcefulness in spiritual things is like a solid wall that does not let the river run into the garden and destroy what the gardener has labored to grow. But if we are negligent, the river comes in and destroys everything! The Lord speaks to us about this in the Holy Gospel: “While the men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat” (Mt. 13:25 ). The more we compel ourselves, the more we shall gain. The more one works, the more he is paid. The life of a monk is a daily cross, a holy Golgotha, where Jesus is calling all of us who love Him to be crucified with Him, and then the soul will resurrect.

18. Do not remain sluggish; just compel yourselves, so that you will not be condemned as hearers and not doers of the law. For you seek divine words, and seeking presupposes a commitment to apply the advice; so compel yourselves. Struggle, my children. Together with our Christ we shall endure everything. The world will hate us, primarily because it hates our Jesus—our love and adoration! Love Christ; breathe Christ; make Jesus dwell within your soul. Fear no one, for we belong to God; the King of kings has us as his royal servants; no evil will touch us, for we serve Christ—to Him are all things subjugated!

19. Μy children, be brave in the fight. Our Christ is invisibly present, waiting to see your victory, in order to give you the unfading crown of eternal glory! Whoever loves God sacrifices everything, solely to please God. Spare nothing, for before the love of God, everything is rubbish. The demons are troubled when they see us preparing for battle; the angels, though, rush to drive away every obstacle preventing victory. So let us ally ourselves with the angels of God, so that we may bear witness that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8 ).

20. (To an Abbess )Struggle, for the duty of shepherds is to sacrifice themselves for the sheep they have undertaken to shepherd. Thrice-blessed are the shepherds who will guide their rational sheep well, for great eternal riches await them in heaven. Endure everything, my child, for the devil will strike in many ways to break down the wall of our patience; he will thus make a double profit: our own defeat as well as that of the sisters.

21. I pray that the grace of God will overshadow you and give you sufficient strength to confront our wicked ego, the dreadful root of all the evil activities of polymorphous evil. Do not be afraid of the devil’s pressure, my child. The power of our God is so mighty that it helps unreservedly those who want to fight using it. The devil’s power is not trivial, but God miraculously protects us wretches. Have courage in the struggle, my child; study the law of God; say the sanctifying and salvific Jesus prayer, and hurl yourself into the fire of the battle. God will reward this struggle of yours with alleviation—as has already happened countless times—with high hopes for an eternal, bright future. Do not lose heart when facing any diabolical passion, no matter how gigantic it may look, for wherever God intervenes, the devil’s opposition is overcome.

22. My blessed child, do not be afraid in the struggle. Nourish your soul with courage and hope. Disregard the adversities that come from the demons. See to it that every fight is crowned with success. In God’s eyes nothing is in vain—even the slightest forcefulness is good. Do not lose your nerve at all; fight valiantly; coerce yourself, press yourself, for it is by pressing grapes that sweet wine is made, which gladdens the heart. Courage, my child; we shall prevail with God’s help.

23. Bolster your courage for a new struggle, and thus you will repel every thought of cowardice and discouragement. We must continually revive our strength and regroup our front of resistance, as the devil also does. Do not let an incidental fall—or even continual falls—drive you to despair. Our objective is not to turn our backs to the enemy in despair, so that he cannot boast before God and so that we do not sadden Him. Courage and bravery are appropriate for strugglers when they are struggling not for ephemeral crowns that fade, but for everlasting ones that are incorruptible! So blessed are all who will have their lamps lit with oil in them. With joy and exultation they will enter along with Christ into the eternal wedding, full of spiritual delight.

24. The Christian struggle is glorious, for the prize is not something ephemeral, but it is eternal glory up in heaven! Blessed is he who is wise in God, for no account will be demanded from him, and he will not find himself in a difficult position when God calls him to give an account for his time on earth. We waste time with no regret. When we leave this world, we shall realize the damage we have suffered by letting time escape from us. The days are passing with no reckoning. Realizing this saves us, even if it is only during the final days of our life.

Taken From: "Counsels From the Holy Mountain" by Elder Ephraim Of Arizona+Philotheou(Mount Athos)

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