My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
TEMPTATIONS IN OUR LIFE
By Saint Paisios of Mount Athos (Source: Spiritual Struggle)
God allows temptations that are in proportion to our spiritual condition. For example, sometimes He may allow us to make a mistake, some small indiscretion, so that we may be more careful next time; or be able to completely avoid a greater evil brought on by the cunning devil. Other times, God allows the devil to tempt us, to put us to the test. In such cases, we are given an examination and, instead of harming us, the devil does us good. Remember Elder Philaretos, who used to say, "Son, to have no temptations today is to be abandoned by God." He preferred to battle every day against temptations, so that he might be crowned by Christ.
A strong person like Elder Philaretos does not avoid temptations, but rather, says to Christ, "O my Lord, send me more temptations and give me the strength to battle against them." A weak person, however, will say, "Do not permit me to be tempted, O Lord." "And lead us not into temptation..." But when we actually are tempted, we tend to say, "Well, I am only human and I cannot resist these temptations!" Instead, what we should say in these circumstances is this: "O my God, I am not at all a worthy human being, I'm a rascal; help me become a worthy human being." I'm not, of course, suggesting that we should pursue temptations, but rather that we should confront them with patience and prayer when they do come.
In every spiritual winter, we should anticipate the spiritual spring with patience and hope. The greatest temptations are usually momentary, and if we can manage to escape the lure of the moment, the phalanx of demons will go away and we will be saved. When man is united with God, temptations disappear. Can the devil do any harm to an Angel? No, for he will be burnt by the Angel's presence.
Spiritual life is very simple and easy; we make it difficult by not struggling properly. With a little effort, a great degree of humility, and trust in God, one can achieve great progress in the spiritual life. For the devil cannot find a foothold where there is humility, and where there is no devil, it follows that there will be no temptations.
--Can one fall into some sin by divine concession?
--No, for it is very grave to say that God would concede for us to sin in some way. God never concedes for us to sin. It is we who make concessions, and the devil comes and tempts us. For example, when I'm proud, I expel Divine Grace, the Guardian Angel flees, the other "angel", the devil, comes, and I smash my face on the rocks of temptation. This is our concession, and not God's.
--Geronda (Elder), when we have fallen into sin, is it right to say, "The tempter caused me to fall"?
--I, too, often hear some people saying that the tempter, the devil, is the cause of their spiritual tribulations, when in fact it is their own fault for not confronting the situation appropriately. After all, the tempter tempts us. Can it avert us from doing evil? It's just doing its job. Let's not blame everything on the devil. There was once a novice who lived with his Spiritual Father, and when left alone for a while, he took an egg and placed it on one of those large old-fashioned keys. He then lit a candle below it and started cooking the egg. Suddenly the Elder entered the room. "What are you doing there?" he asked. "Well, Geronda (Elder), the tempter led me to cook this egg here," the novice replied. And then a fierce voice was heard, "I knew nothing about such cunning art; I just learned it from this novice!" Sometimes the devil is actually sleeping, but we rouse him into action!
SINNERS HAVE PLENTY OF CAUSE FOR HUMILITY
Those who have lived a sinful life but have repented and begun to live spiritually, should joyfully accept any forthcoming humiliation and grief, for this is how they clear their debts. Saint Mary of Egypt had lived a sinful life; but even after she repented and changed her way of life, worldly desires still tormented her. She undertook, however, a most valiant effort to overcome them. Yet, the devil would whisper to her, "What do you stand to lose if you take a look at the great city of Alexandria? I am not saying that you go and entertain yourself; just take a look from afar." But she wouldn't even as much as turn in that direction. Her repentance was indeed magnificent! Other saintly women who have not lived a worldly life didn't experience such a fierce struggle. Saint Mary of Egypt, however, had to fight more intensely because she had lived a worldly life. This torment is the cauterization of the wounds of sin. And that's how, in the end, those who have lived a worldly life attain to the same condition with those who haven't.
--In these cases is there no divine consolation?
--Of course there is! There is much, very much divine consolation! Saint Mary of Egypt had achieved such spiritual heights that she stood two feet above the ground when she prayed.
The very sinful, if they come to know themselves, will naturally have much cause for humility. Every fall is naturally a fall, but it is also cause for humility and prayer. Sins, when transformed into occasions for humility, are like the fertilizer we use on our plants. Why then shouldn't we use this material of our sins to fertilize the field of our soul and make it fertile and fruitful? Someone who has committed serious sins can reflect on his condition and say, "I'm not even worthy to lift up my head and look at another human being." By greatly humbling himself, one can receive tremendous Grace and steadily move on to great spiritual heights. On the other hand, one who has not sinned greatly but does not properly evaluate himself, might say, "God has guarded me from so many dangers, and yet I am so ungrateful, I'm so much more sinful than the greatest sinner;"--such a person is in fact spiritually inferior to the other.
Remember the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican? The Pharisee had performed good deeds, but he also had pride. The Publican had sins, but he had self-awareness, contrition, humility--which is the greatest that is asked by Christ of man--and this is why he was readily saved. Have you noticed how the Pharisee is depicted in the icon? With pride and contempt, he is pointing with his finger at the Publican, as if to say, "I am not like that man..." But the poor Publican was contritely hiding behind a pillar, unable to look up at the people around him. It was the Pharisee who pointed out to Christ where the Publican was! Have you noticed that? As if Christ didn't know where he was! While the Pharisee observed all the rules, it was all in vain. What great harm pride can cause! When a person has sins and lacks humility, then he has the sins of the Publican and the pride of the Pharisee. Double the..."gifts"! And as they say in Epirus, "To have scabies or to have scurvy--what's the difference? They're both bad."
As much as you can, try to cast off the spiritual toxins, the passions, in order to acquire spiritual health.
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God