(Precepts of Saint Seraphim of Sarov)
Inner peace is attained through affliction. The Scriptures say: We went through fire and through water, but Thou broughtest us out into a tranquil place (Psalm 66:12). Those who wish to please God must follow a path of many sorrows. How do we dare venerate the holy martyrs for the tortures they suffered for God’s sake, when we ourselves cannot endure even a single spark?
Nothing promotes the attainment of inner peace as much as silence and a continuous discourse with oneself, and rarely with others. Nothing is more excellent than peace in Christ, as it entirely destroys the warfare of the evil spirits of the air and the earth. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against the evil spirits in high places (Eph. 6:12).
The mark of spiritual life is one’s immersion into oneself and the hidden struggle within one’s heart. The grace of God envelops such a person, and at first he remains in a state of peace, and then by means of it he transitions to an other-worldly state, i.e. he is at peace by being of good conscience, and he is in an other-worldly state when his mind contemplates the grace of the Holy Spirit within himself.
Do we not rejoice upon seeing the sun with our physical eyes? Even more joyous is the sight of the Sun of truth – Christ the Lord – in the mind’s eye! In such a case we rejoice with the joy of angels. The Holy Fathers, being in a state of peace and enveloped by the grace of God, lived for a long time.
When a man attains a state of peace, he can radiate from himself the light of illumination of the mind unto others. This peace the Lord Jesus Christ left to His disciples before His death as some priceless treasure, saying: Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you (John 14:27). Thus we must focus all our thoughts, wishes and actions upon the attainment of the peace of God, and to always exclaim with the Church: O Lord our God, grant peace unto us (Isaiah 26:12).
On preserving inner peace
One must try hard to preserve this inner peace and not be offended by insults from others; to this end we shall restrain ourselves from anger and by means of attention shall guard our mind and heart from wavering unnecessarily.
Insults from others should be borne with complete indifference, and we should place ourselves in such a mood as though these insults have nothing to do with us whatsoever. Such an exercise can bring tranquility to our heart and make it the residence of God Himself.
We see an example of such meekness in the life of St. Gregory the Wonder-worker, from whom a certain fallen woman publicly demanded payment for the sin he had supposedly committed with her, while he, in no way angered at her, humbly said to a friend of his: quickly give her the price she asks. As soon as the woman took the unlawful payment, she became possessed by a demon; the saint then exorcized the demon from her by prayer.
If it is impossible not to be upset, then we must at least curb our tongue, as King David says: I was agitated and spoke not.
In this case we can use the examples of St. Spyridon of Tremithon and St. Ephraim the Syrian. The first bore an insult in the following manner: as he once entered the palace at the behest of his king, one of the servants, believing St. Gregory to be a beggar, laughed at him, did not allow him to enter the palace, and even slapped his cheek. St. Spyridon, being of a mild nature, turned the other cheek to him in accordance with the words of the Lord.
St. Ephraim, while fasting in the desert, was once deprived of food in the following manner: his disciple, while carrying the food to him, unexpectedly broke the vessel along the way. Seeing his disciple greatly saddened, the saint said to him: “Do not sorrow, brother; if the food did not wish to come to us, we shall go to it.” And then the venerable saint went, sat down near the broken vessel, and picking up the food, proceeded to eat it. In this manner he showed himself to be totally without anger.
As far as anger management is concerned, we can learn from the life of St. Paisius Velichkovsky, who prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ to free him from wrath. The Lord said to him: “If you want to overcome anger and fury, do not wish for anything, do not hate anyone, do not humiliate anyone.”
To preserve inner peace, we must chase away dejection and sustain a joyous spirit. To preserve inner peace, we must completely avoid judging others. Inner peace is preserved through compassion towards others and through silence. A person who remains in such a state receives divine revelations.
To avoid judging others, we must pay attention to ourselves, we must refuse to hear bad things about others, and we must be indifferent to all that surrounds us.
To preserve inner peace, we must draw into ourselves more frequently, and ask ourselves: at what point am I? At the same time we should make sure to have our physical senses, especially sight, serve our inner man and not distract our soul with sensual objects, for gifts of grace are given only to those who labor internally and guard their souls.
On spiritual labors
We should never undertake spiritual labors beyond our means, but should make sure that our friend, i.e. our body, is faithful and capable of doing good. We should follow the middle road, without veering either right or left; we should give spiritual things to our spirit and bodily things to our body, whatever is needed for sustaining our temporal life. We must also not refuse our social life that which it lawfully demands from us, according to the Scriptures: Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s (Matt. 22:21).
We must be lenient towards our soul’s frailties and imperfections, and we must bear our failings just as we bear the failings of others; however, we should never fall into idleness, but should constantly spur ourselves to do better.
Whether you overindulged in food or did something else that stems from human frailty, – do not add harm to injury, but bravely spurring yourself to correction, try to preserve your inner peace.
Our bodies, becoming exhausted from work and illness, should be moderately fortified by sleep, food and drink, irrespective of time. Immediately upon resurrecting the daughter of Jairus, our Lord Jesus Christ commanded that she be given food.
We must credit the Lord with all our successes and say together with the prophet: Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Thy name give glory (Psalm 113:9).
It is a great feat for man to keep himself chaste until the age of 35, i.e. the middle of his earthly life, and many are unable to remain virtuous during those years, but are deflected from the path of virtue into passion and desire; on the other hand, many others amassed numerous virtues in their youth, but being at mid-life and subjected to temptations from the evil spirits, are unable to withstand the torment and lose all their virtue. In order to avoid such transformations, we must place ourselves as though on a scale and watch ourselves attentively through-out our entire life.