My beloved spiritual children 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.
GOD'S PROVIDENCE FOR MAN
by Saint Paisios of Mount Athos
"Seek First the Kingdom of God"
Geronda [Elder], Abba (Father) Makarios says our God gives us heavenly gifts, and this we believe. Should we believe He will also give us earthly gifts, which are not so important?
--What earthly gifts?
--Whatever we need.
--Yes, you put it well. God loves His creation. His image, and provides the things which man needs.
--Must everyone believe this and not worry?
--If one does not believe this and struggles by himself to acquire these earthly gifts, he will suffer. But even if God does not provide some of these earthly material gifts, a person who is leading a spiritual life will not worry about it. If we seek first the Kingdom of God and this is our only concern, all the others things will be given to us, as well. Will God abandon His creation? The manna which God provided for the Israelites in the desert would spoil if they kept it for the next day (cf., Exodus 16:19-20). God arranged things this way so that the people would have confidence in His Divine Providence.
We have not yet understood the words of Jesus, "Seek first the Kingdom of God" (cf. St. Matthew 6:33). Either we believe or we don't. When I went to stay at Mount Sinai, I had nothing. But I didn't think at all what would become of me in the desert among strangers, what I would eat, how I would live. The ascetic cell of Saint Episteme, where I was to stay, had been abandoned and uninhabitable for years. As I didn't want to burden the Monastery of Saint Catherine, I didn't ask for anything. They brought me a little bread from the Monastery, but I returned it. Why should I be worried, when Christ said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God." There was also very little water. I had no trade to work and earn my living. The only tool I had was a pair of scissors. I separated it in two, sharpened the two pieces on a stone, took a piece of wood and began making little carved wooden Icons. I worked and said the Jesus Prayer. Quickly I became experienced. I kept making the same design, and the work that would have taken me five days, I could now do in eleven hours, and not only did I help myself, but I also was able to help the little Bedouin children.
For a long time I worked on this task for many hours each day. Later I had reached a point where I did not want to continue with handicraft, but then I could see the need of the Bedouin children. If you gave them a cap and a pair of sandals, it was a great blessing for them. So, the thought came to me, "Did I come here to help the Bedouins or to pray for the whole world?" Thus, I decided to stop the work in order to be in-distracted and to pray more. And it wasn't as if I was expecting help from somewhere. The Bedouins did not even have enough to eat for themselves. The Monastery was far away. And in the opposite direction it was all desert. But on the same day when I cut back on the work to devote more time to prayer, someone came and found me at my cell and told me, "Here, take these one hundred liras to help the Bedouins without interrupting your program of prayer!" I could not bear this. I left my visitor alone and went into my cell for about fifteen minutes. The Providence and the love of God had created such a spiritual state in me that I could not hold back my tears.
Do you see how God provides when there is good will? How much could I have possibly given them? I would give to one child and another would come to remind me, "You didn't give me anything, Father." Then, yet another would come to say the same thing, "Father, you haven't given me anything?"
--Geronda (Elder), while many times we have felt the omnipotence of God, why is it that we do not also see His Divine Providence for us?
--This is a trap of the devil. The devil throws ashes in man's eyes so he won't see God's Providence. For when man see the Providence of God, his granite heart will soften, become sensitive and burst out in praise of God, and this is not what the devil wants.
Man Often Decides Without God
Someone had made a fishery and all day long he would express his gratitude, "Glory be to You, O God," for he could see constantly the Providence of God. He told me that a tiny fish, from the instant it is fertilized and is as tiny as the head of a pin, it also has a tiny pouch of liquid from which it feeds until it grows enough to be able to feed on the micro-organisms in the water. God provides for the tiny fish is own compania! (Compania: its own supply of food). If God provides for the tiny fish, how much more does He provide for man! But man often plans and decides for all things without God. He says, for example, "I am going to have two children." God is not brought into the equation, and so many accidents occur and so many children are lost. Most people have two children, one is involved in an automobile accident and the other becomes ill and dies, and then they have no children.
When parents, the co-creators with God, encounter difficulties, after all their efforts to settle their children, they should humbly seek the help of the Great Creator by stretching their hands toward Heaven. Then God is pleased and the parents are pleased to be helped. During the time I was in the Monastery of Stomion, I met the head of a family with many children. He was a rural policeman in a village of Epiros, four and a half hours on foot from Konitsa, where his family lived. He had nine children. Because the road to the village passed by the Monastery, that policeman would stop by on his way to work and on his way back home. On his way home, he would ask me to let him light the oil lamps himself. Even though he would spill some oil, I would allow him to do it, preferring to clean up the tiles of the Church myself later rather than upset him. When he left the Monastery, at about three hundred meters distance, he would fire a shot with his gun. This I could not explain and so I decided to observe him from the moment he entered the church until he left for Konitsa.
First he would light the lamps in the church and then would go to the narthex. After lighting the oil-lamp over the entrance in front of the Icon of Panaghia (Ever-Virgin Mary), he would dip his finger into the oil of the lamp, go down on his knees, raise his arms toward the icon and say, "Oh, my Panaghia (Virgin), I have nine children; provide a little meat for them." Then he would rub the oil from his finger on the sight on the barrel of his gun, and leave. Three hundred meters outside the Monastery, where there was a mulberry tree, a wild goat was waiting for him. He would take one shot, as I said, kill the goat, take it down a little way into a cave and skin it, and take it to his children. This would happen every time he returned home from his trip to work. I marveled as the faith of the rural policeman and the Providence of Panaghia.
After twenty-five years he came to find me on the Holy Mountain. At some point I asked him about the children, "How are your children? Where are they?" He then stretched his hand toward the north and said, "Some are in Germany," and then he stretched his hand toward the south and said, "Some are in Australia; glory be to God they are all healthy." That man had preserved his faith and himself pure of any atheistic ideologies, and, for this reason, God was with him and never abandoned him...
"...The Benevolent God provides an abundance of blessings and always acts for our good. All the good things we have are gifts from God. He has made everything to serve His creation, the human being, and to be sacrificed for him, animals and birds, small and large, even plants,--God, too, sacrificed Himself to redeem man. Let us not be indifferent to all His benevolence and cause Him grief through our great insensitivity and ingratitude, but, rather, let us thank Him and praise Him. (Source: Spiritual Awakening: Spiritual Counsels II by Saint Paisios of Mount Athos)
(To be continued)
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!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Theophany,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George