Thursday, 13 February 2014

St.Nikodemos the Hagiorite -On How to overcome negligence

 Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite

 An excerpt from "Unseen Warfare"
To avoid falling into the pernicious evil of negligence, which will stop your progress towards perfection and deliver you into the hands of the enemies, you must flee all kinds of inquisitiveness (trying to find out what’s here, or what’s there, idle wandering,empty chatter, gaping around), any kind of cleaving to something earthly, all arbitrary actions or ‘ doing what I like’,’, which is totally out of keeping with your position. On the contrary, you must force yourself to follow, willingly and quickly, every good guidance and command of your teachers and spiritual fathers and to do everything at the time and in the manner they wish.
Never delay in undertaking any work you have to do, for the first brief delay will lead to a second, more prolonged one, and the second to a third, still longer, and so on. Thus work begins too late and is not done in its proper time, or else is abandoned altogether, as something too burdensome. Having once tasted the pleasure of inaction, you begin to like and prefer it to action. In satisfying this desire, you will little by little form a habit of inaction and laziness, in which the passion for doing nothing will possess you to such an extent that you will cease even to see how incongruous and criminal it is; except perhaps when you weary of this laziness, and are again eager to take up your work.

Then you will see with shame how negligent you have been and how many necessary works you have neglected, for the sake of the empty  and useless ‘ doing what you like’.
Scarcely perceptible at first, this negligence permeates everything and not only poisons the will, planting in it aversion to all kind of effort and all forms of spiritual doing and obedience, but also blinds the mind, and prevents it from seeing all the folly and falsehood of the arguments which support this disposition of will; for it hinders the mind from presenting to the consciousness the sound reasonings, which would have the power of moving the slothful will to perform the necessary work as quickly and diligently as possible, without putting it off till another time.
For it is not enough to perform the work quickly; each thing has to be done in its proper time, as required by its nature, and needs to be performed with full attention and care, to make it as perfect as possible.
Listen to what is written: “ Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully’ (Jeremiah xlviii. 10). 
And you incur this disaster, because you are too lazy to think of the value and worth of the work you have to do; for this thought would impel you to do it in its proper time and with such resolution as to banish all the thoughts of the accompanying difficulties, which laziness suggests in order to turn you away.
Let the conviction never leave your thought that a single raising of your mind to God, and a single humble genuflexion to His glory and in His honour has infinitely more value than all the treasures of the world; that every time we banish negligence and force ourselves to do the work we should with diligence, Angels in heaven prepare for us the crown of a glorious victory; and that, on the contrary, not only has God no crowns for the negligent, but that little by little He takes back from them the gifts He had bestowed upon them for their former diligence in His service, and will finally deprive them of His kingdom if they continue to be negligent, as He said in the parable of guests bidden to supper, who were too lazy to come: ‘For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper’ (Luke xiv. 24). 
Such is the lot of the negligent. For those who are diligent and who force themselves without self-pity to every good work, the Lord multiplies His blessed gifts in this life, and prepares a life of eternal bliss in His heavenly kingdom, as He said: ‘The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force’ (Matt. xi. 12).

If an evil thought comes to try and cast you into negligence, and suggests that the work necessary to acquire the virtue you love and desire is extremely long and hard, that your enemies are strong and numerous, while you are weak and alone, that you must do much, and perform great deeds to attain your aim; if, I say, the thought of negligence suggests all this to you, do not listen to it. 
On the contrary, look at the matter this way: of course you must work, but not much, you must undertake labours, but they are very small and will not last long; you will meet enemies, but instead of many there will be only one, and, although he is too strong against you alone, yet you are incomparably stronger than he, since you can always rely on God’s help in return for your great trust in it. 
If you have this attitude, negligence will begin to retreat from you and in its place, under the influence of good thoughts and feelings,there will gradually enter into you a diligent zeal in everything, which will finally possess all the powers of your soul and body.
Do the same in relation to prayer. Supposing the performance of some sacred service demands an hour of diligent prayer, which seems burdensome to your laziness; then, in starting this work, do not think that you must stand for an hour, but imagine that it will last only a quarter of an hour. In this way, the quarter of an hour of prayer will pass imperceptibly. Thereupon say to yourself: ‘Let us stand for another quarter of an hour—it’s not much, as you see.” Do the same for the third and the fourth quarter, and you will complete your task of prayer, without noticing any hardship or difficulty, If,, in the course of this,,’ you feel it so onerous that this feeling interferes with the prayer itself, leave off reciting prayers for a while and then, after a short interval, resume it again and finish what you have omitted.

Do the same in relation to manual work and the tasks of your obedience. Sometimes your tasks may seem too many; you become flustered and are ready to give them up. But refrain from thinking of their great number; instead, force yourself, take up the most immediate task and do it with diligence, as though the others did not exist; and you will do it without trouble. Then do the same in
relation to other tasks, and you will finish them all calmly, without fuss and bother.
Behave thus in everything, and know that, if you do not listen to reason and do not thus try to overcome the sense of burden and difficulty, which the enemy presents to you in the tasks which lie before you, then negligence will finally take complete possession of you. Then you will feel as if you were carrying a mountain on your shoulders, not only when you are faced with some immediate task, but even when it is still far ahead; you will be weighed down and tormented by it, like a slave hound in slavery with no hope of release. 
Then, even at times of rest, you will have no rest, and will feel yourself overburdened with work, even while doing nothing.
Know also, my child, that this disease of laziness and negligence gradually undermines with its poison not only the first small roots out of which virtuous habits may grow, but even those which are already deep rooted and serve as a foundation of the whole order of righteous life. As a worm gradually gnaws at the root of a tree, so negligence, if it persists, insensibly wears away and destroys the very nerves of spiritual life. Through it the devil manages to spread his nets and set the snares of temptations for every man; and exerts particular care and sly cunning in the case of those who are zealous in spiritual life, knowing that a lazy and negligent man easily submits to lusts and falls, as it is written: ‘The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing” (Prov. xiii. 4).
So be for ever watchful, pray and take good care of everything good, as it behooves a courageous warrior: ‘ The soul of the diligent shall be made fat’ (Prov. xiii. 4). Do not sit with folded hands, putting off the sewing of your wedding garments the moment when it is time to go out in festive raiments to meet the coming bridegroom, Christ our Lord. Remind yourself every day that now is in our hands, but to-morrow is in the hands of God, and that He Who gave you this morning has not bound Himself with the promise to give you the evening too. Refuse to listen to the devil when he whispers to you: give me now, and you will give to-morrow to God.
No, no! Spend all the hours of your life in a way pleasing to God; keep in your mind the thought that after the present hour you will not be given another and that you will have to render a strict account for every minute of this present hour. Remember, that the time you have in your hands is priceless and if you waste it uselessly, the hour will come when you will seek and not find it.
Consider as lost a day when, although performing good deeds, you have not struggled to overcome your bad tendencies and desires.

To end my lesson on this subject, I shall repeat the Apostle’s commandment: “Fight the good fight” always (I Tim. vi. 12). For one hour of diligent work has often gained heaven and one hour of negligence has lost it. Take great care if you want to prove before God your firm faith in your salvation. ‘He that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat’* (Prov. xxviii. 25).

Source - "Unseen Warfare"  by Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, and Saint Theophane the Recluse

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