Elder Ephraim with Elder Paisios
My children, fight the good fight (1 Tim. 6:12 ); let brotherly love continue (Heb. 13:1 ); may love be the center of all actions within the synodia — may egotism be far from your thoughts and words. “Whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all” (Mk. 10:44 ), says the Lord. And if we do not become like little children in terms of innocence and simplicity, we shall by no means enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt. 18:3 ). When love governs a synodia, Christ invisibly blesses everything; joy, peace, and self-sacrifice for the brethren are afire in the hearts of every brother—but also prayer intensifies then. The more love abounds, the more love in Christ and self-sacrifice enriches their souls, and then Christ is glorified and worshipped, and we become humble instruments for the glorification of the holy name of God. Genuine love does not envy the good gifts of one’s brother; it does not rejoice when it hears humiliating words or criticism of a brother; it does not restrain itself from constantly commending a brother’s progress. Love does not envy; love does not parade itself, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, but its brother’s interests; it is not provoked; it thinks no evil; it bears all things, endures all things (cf. 1 Cor. 13:4-7 ).
Whoever has genuine love never falls by sinning against his brother. So my children, pray that Love itself — our God — will grant you the gift of love in Christ. When this love comes to reign in our hearts, words, and deeds, then we should hope for prospects of forming a synodia in Christ with a Christian spirit, with spiritual radiance and an unshakeable foundation — a synodia closely united with one mind and one soul in many bodies.
My beloved children, I pray that the God of love will strengthen you in mutual love and give you the love that does not act wickedly, that does not create scandals, but rather averts them with the wisdom it engenders. I pray that the Lord will give you pure love—love which guards the mouth of him who possesses it and does not let him fall into the pit of criticism, malicious gossip, lying, hypocrisy, and the countless other evils which the lack of this true, godly love begets through the tongue. “He who has love abides in God, and God in him” (cf. 1 Jn. 4:16 ), The evidence that we are of God and that we love Him is when we have true and unadulterated love for one another. “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1 Jn. 3:15 ) and is in spiritual darkness and does not know where he is going (cf. Jn. 12:35 ). We have received a very important commandment from our Lord Jesus: to love one another. Likewise, the devil has given a commandment to those who obey him, that they hate one another. Therefore, we are disciples and subjects of him whose commandment we keep. My children, let us fear coldness and enmity towards our brethren, as well as the various thoughts that accompany these attitudes, which little by little lead the soul to demonic hatred. For in this manner we subject ourselves to the devil—the enemy of our salvation—as to a master, and then innumerable evils will accumulate in our poor souls!
Love is the base, the foundation, and the roof of the soul that possesses it . When such a soul has the God of love dwelling within it, it rejoices splendidly at every moment. In a monastery, mutual love among its members is extremely necessary for its establishment and preservation, because love is the golden link that unites the brethren in every way in a closely knit body, which will withstand the temptations that the lord of enmity and hatred—the devil—will always create. Love is that invincible power that holds the members together in one body, with the abbot as the head. And every time it is necessary, this power will fight against the other completely opposite power of evil, which will endeavor to break off members from their unity. When we are lax and slack in love, the opposing power of the devil will have victories for its side corresponding to the laxity that our previously fervent and powerful love has suffered. What are the victories of the opposing power? Troubles within the brotherhood, such as back talk, disobedience, quarrels, pride, bragging, envy, hatred, and finally, deserting the monastery! Let us reflect, my children: do the angels in heaven perhaps talk back, disobey, do their own will, bear malice, hate, or desert the place where they serve before the throne of God? Of course not. This is what Lucifer did, who was once a rising star, and was cast down and became Satan!
Therefore, since we have worn the angelic schema, aren’t we also obliged to live in an angelic manner? How can you be considered to be living an angelic life when I see amongst you back talk, complaining, self-will, enmity, and worst of all, disobedience? By doing so, wouldn’t you be doing the opposite of what you have been counseled to do by my lowliness? Won’t you receive a greater condemnation by doing the opposite, according to the scriptural saying that “he who knows and does not do shall be beaten with many blows” (cf. Lk. 12:47 ). That is, he will be strictly chastised with many terrible blows and punishments. Let us fear disobedience to counsels, my children, because every transgression and disobedience inevitably receives a punishment (cf. Heb. 2:2 ). On the contrary, let us struggle to apply them. Be obedient to what you have been advised to do, so that you may receive the unfading crown of love and obedience when the trophies and crowns are given by the Judge of the contest, Jesus Christ. I pray that the Christians’ Champion Lady of the world will count you worthy, through her prayers and those of all the saints, to receive this unfading crown of eternal glory!
My child, see to it that you drive away the evil thoughts which the devil urges you to consent* to—especially thoughts of hatred towards the brethren you should pay no attention to, because he aims to steal from you the greatest virtue: love. And if he achieves this, he has completely won your soul. Once we have lost love—God, that is, for God is love and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him (1 Jn. 4:16 )—then what is there left to save us? My child, do not listen at all to these thoughts of hatred towards the brethren, but drive them away immediately, and start saying the prayer, or tell Satan, “The more you bring me thoughts of hatred, devil, the more I will love my brethren. For I have an order from my Christ not only to love them, but even to sacrifice myself for them, just as Christ sacrificed Himself for me, the wretch”. And at once embrace the things about them that annoy you, and say, “Just look how much I love them, O envious Satan! I will die for them!” By doing this, God sees your good intentions and the method you are using to conquer the devil, and He will come at once to your aid to deliver you.