Sunday, January 12, 2014
Fathers of the Church ( Elder Paisios )
In former days, the Holy Fathers first withdrew into the desert, becoming themselves a desert void of their passions by struggling. Without plans or programs of their own, they left themselves in the hands of God, avoiding honors and power, even when they arrived at measures of sanctity — unless Mother Church had need of them. They did obedience to the will of God, and they glorified the name of God with their holy life. They became spiritual blood donors, for they had acquired good spiritual health in the desert with good spiritual food and vigilant patristic watchfulness.
In our day, however, many of us, who are unfortunately influenced by worldly love, which can make no spiritual pledge, supposedly venture to do good, to donate blood, but our blood is full of spiritual bacteria and we do more harm than good.
If, however, we were living patristically, we would all have spiritual health, which even all the heterodox would envy, leaving their sick delusions aside to be saved without preaching. Now, however, they are not moved by our Holy Patristic Tradition, for they want to see how we continue the Patristic Tradition, to see our true kinship with our Saints.
Unfortunately, in our day, words and books have multiplied and experiences have diminished, because the worldly spirit, which pursues all conveniences and avoids all bodily effort, influences people. Most of us find rest in much reading but little or no implementation. We simply marvel at the holy athletes of our Church without realizing how much they’ve labored, for we have not toiled so as to be able to understand their toil, to love them and to struggle out of philotimo in order to imitate them.
Those, however, who struggle with philotimo and do not give themselves rest, removing their egos from every one of their actions, help very positively. For only then are the souls in need of help given rest, and only then will their own souls find inner rest, in this life as well as in eternity.
Those who pursue power while being overpowered by passions, who pass off their personal interests as spiritual, and who resort to worldly authorities in order to solve their ecclesiastical problems are left abandoned by the Grace of God....
When someone tries to settle ecclesiastical matters in an Orthodox way, but his goal is to better establish himself, how can he be blessed by God?
Neither should anyone be impressed by those who settle ecclesiastical matters exceptionally well — even "orthodoxically" — if these same people are not well situated in the life of the Church, but rather trouble Her with imprudent excessiveness or frivolity.
The two extremes always weary Mother Church, as well as those who hold to them, because the two extremes as a rule stab one another... . In other words, it is as if the one extreme is held by a possessed man who is spiritually insolent (and feels contempt for everything), and the other extreme is held by a madman who is childishly zealous with narrow-mindedness. God forbid — these two ends could strike at one another continually and no one could find an "end to it all."
Those who are able to bend these two extremes and make them unite, will be crowned by Christ with two imperishable crowns.
We should neither create problems in the Church nor magnify the minor human disorders that occur, so as not to create greater evil and make the wicked one rejoice.
He who is irritated about a minor disorder and abruptly rushes to ostensibly correct it (with vehemence and petulance) resembles the light-headed sacristan who sees a candle dripping and abruptly dashes to fix it, stumbling over people and candlesticks, and thus causing an even greater disorder during the Divine Service.
Unfortunately, in our day, there are many who weary Mother Church. Among these, those who are educated have grasped the dogma with their mind and not with the spirit of the Holy Fathers.
Others, who are unlearned, have grasped the dogma with their teeth, which explains why they grate their teeth when discussing ecclesiastical themes. Hence it is that they cause more serious harm to the Church than the enemies of our Orthodoxy.
There are people who justify their wickedness by examining others and not themselves, or by publicizing predicaments of the Church to the world — even things that should not be said in public — using as a pretext the "tell it unto the church" (Matthew 18:17) of the Gospel. Let them do this first for their small church, their family, or their brotherhood; if they think this is good, let them then disgrace Mother Church as well. Good children, I believe, never accuse their mothers. Unfortunately, however, many inconsiderate people offer a wealth of live ammunition to heretics, enabling Jehovah’s Witnesses and other heretics to seize Orthodox cities and villages and expand their missionary work.
It is well known to discerning spiritual fathers that this demonic practice (namely, deriding the clergy and the Church) has turned many people into Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is also known to the whole world that not even one Jehovah’s Witness has become Orthodox thanks to this un-Orthodox practice.
The Good God, on the other hand, endures us lovingly without ridiculing anyone, even though, as the Beholder of hearts, He knows our pitiful state well. The same thing applies to Saints who never insulted a sinful person in the presence of others, but with love, spiritual nobility, and in a hidden way, helped in the correction of the evil. We, notwithstanding the fact that we are sinners, do the opposite (like hypocrites).
Only a man possessed by a demon is justified to mock people in the presence of others and tell them about their past (inasmuch as the demon has rights, of course), in order to make weak souls falter. The unclean spirit, naturally, does not reveal people’s virtues, but only their weaknesses. Those who are liberated from their passions, however, since they no longer possess wickedness, correct the evil by their kindness. If sometimes they see a little uncleanness that is not easily cleaned, they cover it up with a plate, so that others who might see will not be disgusted by it. Those, on the contrary, who re investigate the rubbish, resemble scavengers…
An honest and straightforward person is neither he who speaks the truth to your face nor he who publicizes it, but rather he who has love, lives a true life, and speaks with discernment, when he should, saying the right word at the right time.
Those who admonish others without discernment are spiritually darkened and hardened and haplessly view people as lifeless logs. And, although they hack at them unmercifully, and the people suffer, they rejoice over the "rectangle" they’ve made out of their lifeless logs (cubism!).
Those who rush to play the role of the spiritual father, while still being filled with many spiritual toxins, resemble the unripe, sour quince fruit: no matter how much sugar one adds, sufficient sweetness cannot be produced, or if it is produced, it quickly turns sour. Sweet words and great truths have value when they come out of truthful mouths and find a place within good-intentioned souls and those great people who have pure minds.
The internal purity of the true man’s beautiful soul beautifies his external person as well, and the divine sweetness of God’s love sweetens even his countenance. The internal beauty of the soul, apart from spiritually beautifying and sanctifying man externally, with Divine Grace revealing him to others, also beautifies and sanctifies the ugly clothes the graced man of God wears.
Of greater worth is the blessed man who has changed internally and been sanctified also externally, than those who continually change externally (their clothes) but internally maintain the old man with his "antiquated" sins.
Of greater value is one word of a humble man who has spiritual experience, coming with pain from the bottom of his heart, than a whole array of learned words from a superficial man, coming with great speed from his learned tongue. His tongue does not enlighten souls for it is fleshly and not that fiery tongue of Holy Pentecost...