Sunday, July 14, 2013

First Vision of Uncreated Glory

The vision of the young St. Symeon the New Theologian of God's uncreated light at the age of twenty is one of the most misunderstood Patristic passages that has been used to justify many false visions. Many times ordinary people have revealed to me stories of personal visions of light that anyone with even a small amount of discernment can recognize either as psychological or demonic in origin. I have also entered into debates and discussions with Orthodox theologians regarding visions of God's light received by non-Orthodox, such as the mystics of the West or Buddhists of the East. In almost all cases the vision of St. Symeon at the age of twenty is used to justify their emotion-filled arguments for the validity and divine origin of these visions. Their argument, though misinformed, is simple: Symeon saw God's uncreated light then fell into sin, so if Symeon can have such a vision then why can't anyone (including non-Orthodox)? They also argue against the need for purification and illumination to take place before such a vision can be granted. Are such interpretations justified?

It has become clear to me that of the many who have tried to use the above emotion-filled justifications have hardly or even never read the works of St. Symeon. The account in which he describes his vision at the age of twenty is described in his homily On Faith. The event St. Symeon describes is written in the third person in which he uses the pseudonym "George" to describe his actual experience. When he was fourteen he had approached his spiritual father Symeon the Elder to enter the monastic life, but considering the young Symeon immature at the time he rejected his entrance and told him to live a monastic sort of life in the world until he was mature enough - which didn't happen until he was twenty-seven. Thus seven years prior to his entering the monastic path did he have his vision.

From the age of fourteen until twenty St. Symeon strove to imitate that which he read in the writings of St. Mark the Ascetic. His day job was managing a patrician's household in Constantinople and engaged in the worldly affairs of the palace. But at night he would keep vigil and pray with tears and do as many prostrations as his conscience told him to do so that, at the advice of St. Mark, he never slept until his conscience was satisfied. He describes himself as regarding "all material things of life with indifference and even approached food and drink without taking pleasure in them or doing so with frequency." He says that he never observed long fasts beyond the prescribed fasts of the Church, he never slept on the ground, wear a hair shirt, or was tonsured a monk. Yet he had faith and actualized it in the world, as he says in his discourse: "By these deeds his faith received wings and reached heaven."

It was in this context that one night, while praying "God have mercy on me a sinner" with his mind, that "suddenly a flood of divine radiance appeared from above and filled all the room." He describes the vision as "nothing but light all around" him, to the point where he thought he was falling because even the ground was filled with light. "Oblivious of all the world he was filled with tears and ineffable joy and gladness." However St. Symeon goes on to describe that above him in the heavens there appeared another more clear light that was surrounding his spiritual father Symeon the Elder.

Following this vision, Symeon continued about his daily business affairs in the palace. This is something he would come to regret however. He writes:

"What we have related about this young man is amazing and unexpected, and we have never heard that anything like it has happened to anyone else. Even though it may have happened in some cases or will happen in the future, yet men should know that they will be deprived of so great a blessing unless they promptly withdraw from the world, or they will soon lose what they have received."

And by this Symeon reveals the reason for relating this story: that when one has been purified and illumined one must withdraw from the world completely to maintain the grace within. Symeon basically goes on to say that he received this vision of his spiritual father in uncreated glory because, through the prayer of Symeon the Elder, Christ was calling him to a monastic life and to the emulation of his elder. Young Symeon did not do this but remained in the world and Satan came out strongly against him to prevent his withdrawal to a monastery. He fell into despair as a result of his disobedience. It was only through the guidance and prayers of his spiritual father that he was able to free himself of his despair and recover. It was only until he completely renounced the world and repented with extreme ascetic feats after many years that he got a glimpse of what he had seen earlier, though Symeon is writing in the third person so we don't know how humble he was being at this point.

When we thus examine what St. Symeon says in his own words and in proper context, it is extremely far-reaching for Orthodox to use this example as a justification for the vision of uncreated glory of the non-Orthodox or even themselves outside of the context of purification and illumination within the Orthodox tradition. So when Symeon says that he lived a worldly life, he does not mean that he lived a sinful life in the world but that he maintained a busy occupation in the world while living faithful to God's commandments. And his post-vision despair is only the result of not being obedient to his monastic calling at the right time. This does not take away the fact that Symeon was living an ascetical life in the world, molding his faith by his works, and attaining a state of inner purification so as to be found worthy of the vision of divine glory. And it was not until after much effort for his disobedience to his heavenly calling that he was able to recover that which he lost. As St. Symeon explains in the same homily following the description of his vision by quoting St. Gregory the Theologian:

"Gregory the Theologian said: 'It is written, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7). For where there is fear there is the keeping of the commandments. Where there is the keeping of the commandments, there is the purification of the flesh, and from the cloud that besets the soul and prevents it from clearly seeing God's ray of light. Where there is purification there is illumination. Illumination is the fulfillment of those who desire either the greatest of all supremely great things, or even that which is above all greatness.' By this saying he showed that illumination of the Spirit is the goal of every virtue. He who attains to this illumination has arrived at the end and limit of all things that can be perceived and has found the beginning of the knowledge of spiritual things."

Interestingly this is all very similar to the vision of Saul on his way to Damascus before he was baptized Paul and made into an Apostle. Saul was a persecutor of the Church, yet beheld the resurrected Lord of glory. However, as a persecutor and being outside the Church, this vision was not the result of being found worthy due to his inner purification. Instead this vision of divine glory was like hell fire to him and it blinded him for his unworthiness. He was commanded to be baptized to receive his sight, and by baptism he was purified and illumined which he actualized by going into the desert for two years to study and pray. And by his obedience he progressed from glory to glory, whereas Symeon initially was disobedient and prevented from doing so until he repented.

St. Symeon the New Theologian


Ο ιερέας σας μπορεί να είναι μόλις 25 χρονών.

Μα η ιεροσύνη του είναι από καταβολής κόσμου. Όταν, λοιπόν, του ασπάζεστε το χέρι, προσκυνάτε την ιεροσύνη του, που φθάνει διαδοχικά από τον Χριστόν και τους Αποστόλους μέχρι τον ιερέα σας.

Όταν φιλάτε το χέρι του παπά σας, φιλάτε ολόκληρη την αλυσίδα των οσίων και αγίων ιερέων και ιεραρχών, από τους Αποστόλους μέχρι σήμερα.

Ασπάζεστε και προσκυνάτε τον Άγιο Ιγνάτιο τον Θεοφόρο, τον άγιον Νικόλαο, τον άγιον Βασίλειο, τον άγιον Σάββα και όλους τους « επίγειους αγγέλους και ουρανίους ανθρώπους», που, όταν ήταν στη γη, κοσμούσαν την Εκκλησία και τώρα στολίζουν τον ουρανό. Είναι φίλημα άγιον, όπως γράφει στους Κορινθίους ο Απόστολος Παύλος. Να ασπάζεστε, λοιπόν το χέρι του ιερέα που σας ευλογεί. Είναι ευλογημένο από τον Θεό. Με την χάρη της ιεροσύνης. Με την χάρη του Αγίου Πνεύματος. Να το φιλάτε το χέρι του ιερέα σας. Όσο νέος και αν είναι. Και να τον ακούτε.

Επισκόπου Αχρίδας Νικολάου


1.Sanctification and Salvation
"Affliction,you are a purgative"
(Gregory the Theologian,Sermon 37:On Patience)
The fruit of pain and of the death of Christ on the tree (wood) of the Cross is the redemption and salvation that was offered to us.Pain is the seed that falls in the plowed soul,and grows and bears fruits "in patience"; the fruits are the sanctification and the salvation. Without plowing and sowing there is no produce,nor harvest.But in order to
arrive at the harvest,we must pass through the sieve of the test of tribulations,slanders,and persecutions(Luke 22:31).

From the fruit,the benefit and blessing of pain shall become evident.Because the fruit displays the quality and the thoughts of the heart.When pain is rejected, and its benefits are not valued,it may"bear fruit of death",while it should and must "bear fruit to God" (Rom.7:4 ff.).
Then it bears the grapes of salvation and not wild grapes (Isa. 5:1-7),that is,denial and alienation.Our union with Christ through pain should be fruitful and fertile.Perhaps before we were in pain we might not have had fruits of virtue and love,or probably very few.Our Christ is the great Father and unique farmer of our souls,who tests"the hearts and minds",and cultivates us with the plow of pain and purges us as the "vine that bears fruit".This happens so that we also"may bear more fruit"(John 15:2)of love,patience,goodness,,faith,hope,sanctification,and salvation.This purification does not happen only once.It happens continuously,so that we may bring forth fruit an"hundredfold". Pruning is painful to the tree,but is necessary for its fruition and welfare:Dry and dead branches are cut off.This is the Godly method for our sanctification and our redemption,that is,the overabundance of virtue.But this presupposes our constant catharsis through pain and patience (Luke 8:15).Then there will come"the fruits of righteousness,which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God"(Phil, 1:11; John 15:8),Because wisdom and the cultivation given by pain become the source of life,that is,the source of love.
Love is life itself,since"God is love"(IJohn4:8)and"the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life"(Prov, 11:30).Thus pain becomes love that is produced by the power of Christ.This love that sanctifies and saves is multiplied,it is the love that evolves into all kinds of virtues(Gal, 5:22 ff.).This love that ripens via suffering is "sweet fruit",but not only to our taste (Song of Songs 2:2), but primarily to the heart; it is the love of salvation,of sanctification,of redemption.
It is an expiated love, cleansed in the fire of pain.And when the soul is purified by tribulation and pain,then it is like a bed of flowers,full of the aroma of the Spirit.Then it is prepared,ready to receive the beloved Lord Jesus.And He,the most beloved One,will come down"to His garden and eat of its choicest fruits"(Song of Songs 4:16).
"And seek my face,and in their distress they seek Me saying:
"Come,let us return to the Lord,for..... He may heal us....
He may heal us..."(Hosea 5:15;6:2).
Thus in the midst of pain and through the Holy Spirit,the believer shares the divine holiness itself.Because when the soul is purified by tribulation,the Lord Jesus gives it sanctification.And furthermore,He gives it His glory that He received from the Father. "And for their sake I consecrate Myself,that they also may be consecrated in truth"(John 17:19).But also the Lord Himself shall "be glorified in His saints"(II Thess. 1:10; 2;14).Thus a Christian,broken and contrite from pain,yet reinforced by his faith and his love for Christ,enters gradually "into the sanctuary of God"(Ps.72:17).He learns how to accept pain as the revelation of a divine plan that leads to redemption and sanctification,to salvation and deification.
He discovers its purifying value,which is similar to the fire that cleans and purifies the metal from its rust(Jer, 9:7; Ps, 64:10).

Sickness exists sometimes for the cleansing of sins,and sometimes to humble our mind.When our good and all- gracious Lord and Master sees people too lazy in their exercises ,He lays their flesh low with sickness,an exercise that gives them no labour;and this,towards sanctification.And sometimes it also cleanses the soul from evil thoughts or passions" (John Climacus).

In the same manner the soul is cleansed,brightened,and purified in the fire and the furnace of pain."Visible,external pride is cured by grim conditions,such as poverty and sorrow;but invisible inner pride can be healed only by Him who is eternally Invisible.The deer is the destroyer of all visible snakes,but humility destroys the spiritual ones".

An Excerpt from The Book "The Pain"By Georgia P.Kounavi

Taken from the Book "The Pain"An Orthodox Scriptural and
Patristic Approach,By Georgia P.Kounavi, Apostoliki Diakonia.

Humility in today's world

In our modern world culture, humbleness is not something that is given a high value. More common is the encouragement to become self assertive, forceful, to act independently. Yet Scripture and the Church Fathers continually emphasize the need for humbleness for our spiritual growth.

We know God loves us and wants to protect us. He knows our problems. He is omnipotent so there is no problem that he cannot help us with, except for one. That is overcoming our lack of humbleness.

Elder Paisios says,
The difficulty God faces, and I repeat, it is the only one, is the He “cannot” help us when our soul is not humble. God “feels sad” because, while he sees His creature suffer, He “cannot” offer any help. What ever help He offers, it will harm the person because he lacks a humble mind.
This is when we are overtaken by our passions and God allows this to happen. He cannot help us because our soul is filled with pride and self-centered thoughts. In a sense, in these moments we have rejected God and instead put all our trust in our own being. We are intent on gaining whatever it is we desire.

The Elder says,
God will not give us what we are asking for, no matter how hard we try, unless we humble ourselves. If our aim is humility, then God will give us everything for free.
God desires only one thing from us: our humbleness. He does not need anything else; just humble ourselves, so He can actually make us partakers of his divine grace, which was granted to us through the mystery of Holy Baptism.... He is only asking from us to humble ourselves and respond out of gratefulness and appreciation of His love. Thus, divine grace, will make us love God and get to know Him; it will do everything for us, if we only humble ourselves and allow for it to act.
Saint Peter advises us,
Cloth yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:5-7)Source: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, pp 88-89

Elder Paisios

Lay not up Treasures on Earth, but in Heaven where Nothing is Lost

The Lord speaks to all people of all times and races, and tells them something clear and well-known. Today a person is alive, but tomorrow he dies and everything that he has is lost to him. But the soul, which moves the body, continues to live and it is either comforted and happy, or sad and burdened. Man is created thus; the body must live as the soul desires. At the moment of death the soul continues to live without the body. Everything will perish except that which the soul has gathered through love and prayer. Everything virtuous done by a man is written in the soul and will not be taken from him. While a person is alive, he finds himself paying attention to many things: clothing, health, his job, studies. There are times when he is concerned only with the thought of war or a failed harvest - of everything that is necessary for life on earth.

So, too, in spiritual life there are times of special attention to what is needful for the soul. Such is Great Lent - a time of special attention, examination, of the freeing of spiritual forces. Fasting is established by the Holy Spirit. Righteous men, striving towards God, through life experience came to know the meaning of fasting and bear witness that without fasting there can be no spiritual life. All the various attacks of the devil, all his temptations, everything concerning the diabolic world, is cast aside -becomes powerless and is shamed-when a person firmly follows the words of the Saviour Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ: " .. . This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" (Matt. 17:21).

Now is a time of fasting, a suitable time for cleansing the soul. This is the most important thing, for a soul to be able to accept the grace of God, so that those treasures will be stored up in the soul, which will not be taken from it. And then the path of its life will be straight; in the soul there will be peace and joy.

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."

St John Maximovich

Άγιος Ιωάννης Μαξίμοβιτς ( Ἐπιφυλακή )

Τήρησε σθεναρά τήν πνευματική ἐπιφυλακή, ἐπειδή δέν γνωρίζεις πότε θά σέ καλέσει ὁ Κύριος κοντά Του. Κατά τήν ἐπίγειο ζωή σου, νά εἶσαι ἕτοιμος ἀνά πάσα στιγμή νά Τοῦ δώσεις λογαριασμό. Πρόσεχε νά μήν σέ πιάσει στά δίχτυα του ὁ ἐχθρός, ἤ νά σέ ξεγελάσει, προκαλώντας σε νά πέσεις σέ πειρασμό. Καθημερινά ἐξέταζε τήν συνείδησή σου, δοκίμαζε τήν καθαρότητα τῶν λογισμῶν σου, τίς προθέσεις σου.

Κάποτε ἦταν ἕνας βασιλιάς, ὁ ὁποῖος εἶχε ἕνα γιό πονηρό. Ἔχοντας χάσει κάθε ἐλπίδα γιά ἀλλαγή πρός τό καλύτερο, ὁ πατέρας καταδίκασε τόν γιό του σέ θάνατο. Τοῦ ἔδωσε ἕνα μήνα περιθώριο γιά νά προετοιμαστεῖ.

Πέρασε ὁ μήνας, καί ὁ πατέρας ζήτησε νά παρουσιασθεῖ ὁ γιός του. Πρός μεγάλη του ἔκπληξη, παρατήρησε πώς ὁ νεαρός ἦταν αἰσθητά ἀλλαγμένος: τό πρόσωπό του ἦταν ἀδύνατο καί χλωμό, καί ὁλόκληρο τό κορμί του ἔμοιαζε νά εἶχε ὑποφέρει.

«Πῶς καί σοῦ συνέβη τέτοια μεταμόρφωση, γιέ μου;» ρώτησε ὁ πατέρας.

«Πατέρα μου καί κύριέ μου,» ἀπάντησε ὁ γιός, «πῶς εἶναι δυνατόν νά μήν ἔχω ἀλλάξει, ἀφοῦ ἡ κάθε μέρα μέ ἔφερνε πιό κοντά στόν θάνατο;»

«Καλῶς, παιδί μου», παρατήρησε ὁ βασιλιάς. «Ἐπειδή προφανῶς ἔχεις ἔρθει στά συγκαλά σου, θά σέ συγχωρήσω. Ὅμως, θά χρειαστεῖ νά τηρήσεις αὐτή τήν διάθεση ἐπιφυλακῆς τῆς ψυχῆς σου, γιά τήν ὑπόλοιπη ζωή σου.»

«Πατέρα μου,» ἀπάντησε ὁ γιός, «αὐτό εἶναι ἀδύνατο. Πῶς θά μπορέσω νά ἀντισταθῶ στά ἀμέτρητα ξελογιάσματα καί τούς πειρασμούς;»

Ὁ βασιλιάς τότε διέταξε νά τοῦ φέρουν ἕνα δοχεῖο γεμάτο λάδι, καί εἶπε στόν γιό του: «Πάρε αὐτό τό δοχεῖο, καί μετάφερε τό στά χέρια σου, διασχίζοντας ὅλους τοὺς δρόμους τῆς πόλεως. Θά σέ ἀκολουθοῦν δύο στρατιῶτες μέ κοφτερά σπαθιά. Ἐάν χυθεῖ ἔστω καί μία σταγόνα ἀπό τό λάδι, θά σέ ἀποκεφαλίσουν.»

Ὁ γιός ὑπάκουσε. Μέ ἀνάλαφρα, προσεκτικά βήματα, διέσχισε ὅλους τοὺς δρόμους τῆς πόλεως, μέ τούς στρατιῶτες νά τόν συνοδεύουν συνεχῶς, καί δέν τοῦ χύθηκε οὔτε μία σταγόνα.

Ὅταν ἐπέστρεψε στό κάστρο, ὁ πατέρας τόν ρώτησε: «Γιέ μου, τί πρόσεξες καθώς τριγυρνοῦσες μέσα στούς δρόμους τῆς πόλεως;»

«Δέν πρόσεξα τίποτε.»

«Τί ἐννοεῖς, ‘τίποτε’;» τόν ρώτησε ὁ βασιλιάς. «Σήμερα ἦταν μεγάλη γιορτή - σίγουρα θά εἶδες τούς πάγκους πού ἦταν φορτωμένοι μέ πολλές πραμάτειες, τόσες ἅμαξες, τόσους ἀνθρώπους, ζῶα…»

«Δέν εἶδα τίποτε ἀπ’ ὅλα αὐτά» εἶπε ὁ γιός. «Ὅλη ἡ προσοχή μου ἦταν στραμμένη στό λάδι μέσα στό δοχεῖο. Φοβήθηκα μήν τυχόν μου χυθεῖ μία σταγόνα καί ἔτσι χάσω τή ζωή μου.»

«Πολύ σωστή ἡ παρατήρησή σου» εἶπε ὁ βασιλιάς. «Κράτα λοιπόν αὐτό τό μάθημα κατά νοῦ, γιά τήν ὑπόλοιπη ζωή σου. Νά τηρεῖς τήν ἴδια ἐπιφυλακή γιά τήν ψυχή μέσα σου, ὅπως ἔκανες σήμερα γιά τό λάδι μέσα στό δοχεῖο. Νά στρέφεις τούς λογισμούς σου μακριά ἀπό ἐκεῖνα πού γρήγορα παρέρχονται, καί νά τούς προσηλώνεις σέ ἐκεῖνα πού εἶναι αἰώνια. Θά εἶσαι ἀκολουθούμενος, ὄχι ἀπό ὁπλισμένους στρατιῶτες, ἀλλά ἀπό τόν θάνατο, στόν ὁποῖον ἡ κάθε μέρα μᾶς φέρνει πιό κοντά. Νά προσέχεις πάρα πολύ νά φυλᾶς τήν ψυχή σου ἀπό ὅλους τοὺς καταστροφικούς πειρασμούς.»

Ὁ γιός ὑπάκουσε τόν πατέρα, καί ἔζησε ἔκτοτε εὐτυχής.

«Γρηγορεῖτε, στήκετε ἐν τῇ πίστει, ἀνδρίζεσθε, κραταιοῦσθε» (Α’ Πρός Κορινθίους 16:13).

Ὁ Ἀπόστολος δίνει αὐτή τήν σημαντική συμβουλή, γιά νά στρέψει στήν προσοχή τους πρός τόν κίνδυνο τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, νά τούς καλέσει σέ συχνή ἐξέταση τῆς καρδιᾶς τους, ἐπειδή χωρίς αὐτό, εἶναι εὔκολο κανείς νά καταστρέψει τήν καθαρότητα καί τό πάθος τῆς πίστεώς του καί χωρίς νά τό ἀντιληφθεῖ, νά περάσει στήν ἀντίπερα ὄχθη τοῦ πονηροῦ καί τῆς ἀπιστίας.

Ὅπως εἶναι βασική μας μέριμνα νά προσέχουμε ἐκεῖνα πού μποροῦν νά ζημιώσουν τήν φυσική μας ὑγεία, ἔτσι ὀφείλουμε νά ἔχουμε σάν πνευματική μας μέριμνα νά προσέχουμε ἐκεῖνα πού μποροῦν νά ζημιώσουν τήν πνευματική μας ζωή καί τό ἔργο τῆς πίστεως καί τῆς σωτηρίας. Συνεπῶς, πρέπει νά ἐλέγχετε προσεκτικά καί μέ προσήλωση τά ἐσωτερικά σας ὁρμέμφυτα: εἶναι ἐκ Θεοῦ, ἤ ἀπό τό πνεῦμα τοῦ πονηροῦ; Νά φυλάγεσθε ἀπό τούς πειρασμούς τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, καί ἀπό τούς κοσμικούς ἀνθρώπους. Νά φυλάγεσθε ἀπό τούς κρυφούς ἐσωτερικούς πειρασμούς πού προέρχονται ἀπό τό πνεῦμα τῆς ἀδιαφορίας καί ἀπροσεξίας τήν ὥρα τῆς προσευχῆς ἐξ αἰτίας τῆς φθίνουσας Χριστιανικῆς ἀγάπης.

Ἄν στρέψουμε τήν προσοχή μας στόν νοῦ μας, θά παρατηρήσουμε ἕνα χείμαρρο ἀλλεπάλληλων λογισμῶν καί ἰδεῶν. Ὁ χείμαρρος αὐτός εἶναι ἀδιάκοπος, τρέχει γοργά πρός κάθε κατεύθυνση καί κάθε στιγμή – στό σπίτι, στήν ἐκκλησία, στήν ἐργασία, ὅταν διαβάζουμε, ὅταν συζητοῦμε… Συνήθως τό ὀνομάζουμε «σκέψη», γράφει ὁ Ἐπίσκοπος Θεοφάνης ὁ Ἔγκλειστος, ἀλλά στήν πραγματικότητα εἶναι μία διαταραχή τοῦ νοός, ἕνα σκόρπισμα, μία ἔλλειψη συγκέντρωσης καί προσοχῆς.

Τό ἴδιο συμβαίνει καί στήν καρδιά. Ἔχετε ποτέ παρατηρήσει τήν ζωή τῆς καρδιᾶς; Δοκιμάστε νά τό κάνετε, ἔστω γιά ἕνα μικρό διάστημα, καί παρατηρῆστε τί θά ἀνακαλύψετε: Προκύπτει κάτι δυσάρεστο, καί ταράζεστε. Σᾶς βρίσκει κάποια δυστυχία, καί νοιώθετε λύπηση γιά τόν ἑαυτό σας. Βλέπετε κάποιον πού δέν συμπαθεῖτε, καί ἀμέσως ἀναβλύζει μέσα σας ἡ ἐχθρότητα. Συναντιέστε μέ κάποιον ἰσότιμό σας, ὁ ὁποῖος ἐν τῷ μεταξύ σᾶς ἔχει προσπεράσει κοινωνικά, καί ἀρχίζετε νά τόν φθονεῖτε. Ἀναπολεῖτε τά ταλέντα σας καί τίς ἱκανότητές σας, καί ἀρχίζετε νά νοιώθετε ὑπερηφάνεια…. Ὅλη αὐτή ἡ σαπίλα: ματαιοδοξία, σαρκική ἐπιθυμία, λαιμαργία, ἀκηδία, κακία… ἡ μιὰ στοιβαγμένη πάνω στήν ἄλλη, τελικά καταστρέφουν τήν καρδιά. Καί ὅλα αὐτά μποροῦν νά διαπεράσουν τήν καρδιά μέσα σέ λίγα μόνο λεπτά. Γιά τόν λόγο αὐτό, κάποιος ἀσκητής πού ἀσκοῦσε αὐστηρό ἔλεγχο στόν ἑαυτό του, εἶπε -πολύ σωστά- ὅτι «ἡ καρδιά τοῦ ἀνθρώπου εἶναι γεμάτη ἀπό δηλητηριώδη φίδια. Μόνο οἱ καρδιές τῶν ἁγίων εἶναι ἀπαλλαγμένες ἀπό αὐτά τά φίδια: τά πάθη.»

Τέτοια ὅμως ἀπαλλαγὴ ἀποκτᾶται μονάχα μέσω μιᾶς μακροχρόνιας καί δύσκολης διαδικασίας αὐτογνωσίας, προσωπικῆς ἐνασχόλησης καί ἐπιφυλακῆς πρός τήν ἔσω ζωή μας, δηλαδή, τήν ψυχή.

Νά εἶστε προσεκτικοί. Νά εἶστε σέ ἐπιφυλακή γιά τήν ψυχή σας! Νά στρέφετε τούς λογισμούς σας μακριά ἀπό ἐκεῖνα πού γρήγορα παρέρχονται, καί νά τούς προσηλώνετε σέ ἐκεῖνα πού εἶναι αἰώνια. Ἔτσι θά βρεῖτε τήν χαρά πού ποθεῖ ἡ ψυχή σας, καί γιά τήν ὁποία διψᾶ ἡ καρδιά σας.

Άγιος Ιωάννης Μαξίμοβιτς

Θάρρος καί Προσευχή

Ἔχεις ἀκόμη ἀνησυχίες. Πές μου, ἀπὸ ποῦ θὰ μποροῦσαν νὰ προέρχονται; Ὅλα τὰ ἐξωτερικὰ πᾶνε καλά. Ὅλα τὰ ἐσωτερικὰ τὰ ἔχεις ἐπανεξετάσει καὶ τακτοποιήσει. Τὴν ἀπόφασή σου τὴν ἔχεις πάρει. Ἀπὸ ποῦ, λοιπόν, προέρχονται αὐτὲς οἱ ἀνησυχίες; Ὅλες εἶναι ἀπὸ τὸν ἐχθρό. Ὅλες. Ἀπὸ πουθενὰ ἀλλοῦ.

Τί ἄλλο θὰ μποροῦσε νὰ συμβαίνει; Μήπως σκέφτεσαι νὰ φτιάξεις τὴ ζωή σου μόνη σου, μὲ τὶς δικές σου ἱκανότητες καὶ προσπάθειες; Ἂν πραγματικὰ αὐτὸ σκέφτεσαι, σὲ συμβουλεύω ν' ἀλλάξεις ἀμέσως γνώμη, ἀλλιῶς δὲν θ' ἀπαλλαγεῖς ἀπό τὴ σύγχυση καὶ τὴν ταραχή.

Ἐξέτασε πάλι τὸν ἑαυτό σου ἤ θυμήσου ὅ,τι σοῦ ἔχω ὑποδείξει καὶ ὅ,τι ἔχει συμβεῖ μέσα σου σ' ὅλη τη διάρκεια τῆς ἀλληλογραφίας μας. Θυμήσου, ἐπίσης, ποιὰ ἦταν ἡ ἔκβαση τῶν προβληματισμῶν σου γιὰ τὴ ζωή. Τέλος, δῶσε στὴν αὐτοεξέτασή σου τέτοια κατεύθυνση, ὥστε νὰ καταλήξει σὲ μιά σταθερὴ ἀπόφαση ἀμετάκλητης ἐναποθέσεως τοῦ μέλλοντός σου στὰ χέρια τοῦ Θεοῦ.

Ἀφοῦ, λοιπόν, πάρεις αὐτὴ τὴν ἀπόφαση, προσευχήσου στὸν Κύριο ὁλόθερμα. "Τὸ μέλλον μου", πές Του, "τὸ ἀφήνω μὲ ἐμπιστοσύνη στὰ χέρια Σου. "Ὅπως ξέρεις καὶ ὅπως θέλεις, Κύριε, κατεύθυνε τὴ ζωή μου, μ' ὅλα τὰ ἀπρόοπτα καὶ μ' ὅλες τὶς δυσκολίες της. Ἀπὸ δῶ κι ἐμπρὸς δὲν θὰ μεριμνῶ καὶ δὲν θ' ἀνησυχῶ πιὰ γιὰ τὸν ἑαυτό μου. Μιὰ φροντίδα μόνο θὰ ἔχω, νὰ κάνω πάντα ὅ,τι εἶναι εὐάρεστο σ' Ἐσένα".

Ἔτσι νὰ Τοῦ μιλήσεις, ἀλλά καὶ ἔμπρακτα νὰ Τοῦ ἀποδείξεις ὅτι ἔχεις ὁλοκληρωτικὰ ἀφεθεῖ στὰ χέρια Του, ὅτι δὲν ἀνησυχεῖς γιὰ τίποτα, ὅτι ἀποδέχεσαι ἤρεμα καὶ ἀγόγγυστα ὁποιαδήποτε κατάσταση, εὐχάριστη ἡ δυσάρεστη, μὲ τὴν πεποίθηση ὅτι ἔχει παραχωρηθεῖ ἀπό τὴ θεία πρόνοια. Μοναδική σου μέριμνα ἂς εἶναι ἡ ἀκριβὴς τήρηση τῶν ἐντολῶν τοῦ θεοῦ σὲ κάθε περίσταση.

Ὕστερ' ἀπὸ μιά τέτοια ἐσωτερικὴ τοποθέτηση, ὅλες οἱ ἀνησυχίες σου θὰ ἐξανεμιστοῦν. Ἀνησυχεῖς γιὰ τὸν ἑαυτό σου τώρα, καθὼς θέλεις ὅλες οἱ περιστάσεις νὰ συντείνουν στὴν ἐκπλήρωση τοῦ δικοῦ σου σκοποῦ. Καὶ ἐπειδή, φυσικά, ὅλα δὲν γίνονται σύμφωνα μὲ τὸ θέλημά σου, ταράζεσαι καὶ στενοχωριέσαι - "Αὐτὸ δὲν ἔγινε ἔτσι, ἐκεῖνο δὲν ἔγινε ἀλλιῶς". Ἄν, ὅμως, ἀναθέσεις τὰ πάντα στὸν Κύριο μὲ ἐμπιστοσύνη καὶ δεχθεῖς πὼς ὅ,τι συμβαίνει προέρχεται ἀπ' Αὐτὸν γιὰ τὸ καλό σου, τότε δὲν θ' ἀνησυχεῖς πιά καθόλου. Θὰ κοιτᾶς μόνο γύρω σου, γιὰ νὰ δεῖς τί σοῦ στέλνει ὁ Θεός, καὶ θα ἐνεργεῖς σύμφωνα μ' αὐτὸ ποὺ στέλνει.

Κάθε κατάσταση μπορεῖ νὰ ὑπαχθεῖ σὲ κάποια θεία ἐντολή. Νὰ ἐνεργεῖς, λοιπόν, σύμφωνα μὲ τὴ σχετικὴ ἐντολή, ἐπιδιώκοντας τὴν εὐαρέστηση τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ ὄχι τὴν ἱκανοποίηση τῶν δικῶν σου ἐπιθυμιῶν. Προσπάθησε νὰ καταλάβεις τί λέω καὶ ἀποφάσισε νὰ τὸ ἐφαρμόσεις. Δὲν θὰ τὸ κατορθώσεις, βέβαια, ἀπό τή μιά στιγμὴ στὴν ἄλλη. Χρειάζεται ἀγώνας γι' αὐτό, ἀλλά καὶ προσευχή.

Ζητῶ ἀπὸ τὸν Κύριο νὰ σὲ λυτρώσει ἀπὸ τὴν κατάθλιψη, ποὺ θεωρεῖς ἀφόρητη, ἀλλά μόνο ἂν αὐτὸ εἶναι σύμφωνο μὲ τὸ ἅγιο θέλημά Του καὶ ἀπαραίτητο γιὰ τὴ σωτηρία σου. Θὰ σὲ λυτρώσει, δίχως ἄλλο, στὴν ὥρα ποὺ πρέπει. Ὁπλίσου μὲ πίστη καὶ ὑπομονή. Βλέπουμε πόσο γρήγορα μεταβάλλονται οἱ συνθῆκες τῆς ζωῆς μας. Ὅλα ἀλλάζουν ἀκατάπαυστα. Ἔτσι θ' ἀλλάξει καὶ ἡ ψυχική σου κατάσταση. Θὰ ἔρθει μία μέρα πού, ἀπαλλαγμένη πιὰ ἀπὸ τὸ πλάκωμα, θ' ἀναπνέεις ἐλεύθερα καὶ θὰ φτεροκοπᾶς ὅπως ἡ πεταλούδα πάνω ἀπὸ τὰ λουλούδια. Πρέπει μόνο νὰ σηκώσεις μὲ ὑπομονὴ τὴν τωρινὴ δυσκολία γιὰ ὅσον καιρὸ παραχωρήσει ὁ Θεός.

Ὅταν ἡ νοικοκυρὰ βάλει μιά πίτα στὸ φοῦρνο, δὲν τὴ βγάζει ὥσπου νὰ βεβαιωθεῖ πὼς εἶναι ψημένη. Ὁ Νοικοκύρης τοῦ σύμπαντος σ' ἔχει βάλει μέσα σ' ἕνα φοῦρνο καὶ σὲ κρατάει ἐκεῖ ὥσπου νὰ ψηθεῖς. Κάνε ὑπομονή, λοιπόν, καὶ περίμενε. Δὲν θὰ μείνεις στὸ φοῦρνο οὒτ' ἕνα λεπτὸ περισσότερο ἀπ' ὅσο χρειάζεται. Μόλις εἶσαι ἕτοιμη, θὰ σὲ βγάλει ὁ Κύριος ἔξω. Ἄν, ὅμως, μόνη σου πεταχτεῖς ἔξω, θὰ εἶσαι σὰν τὴ μισοψημένη πίτα.

Πρέπει ἐπίσης νὰ σοῦ πῶ, ὅτι, σύμφωνα μὲ τὴν πίστη μας, ὅποιος ὑπομένει ἀγόγγυστα τὶς δυσκολίες, πιστεύοντας ὅτι τὶς παραχωρεῖ ὁ Θεὸς γιὰ τὸ καλό του, εἶναι ἰσότιμος μὲ τοὺς μάρτυρες. Αὐτὸ νὰ τὸ θυμᾶσαι πάντα, γιὰ νὰ παρηγοριέσαι.

Εἶναι ἀδύνατο νὰ ζήσεις χωρὶς συναισθήματα καὶ συγκινήσεις, ἀλλά δὲν εἶναι σωστὸ νὰ ὑποκύπτεις σ' αὐτά. Πρέπει νὰ τὰ συγκρατεῖς μὲ τὴ λογικὴ καὶ νὰ τοὺς δίνεις τὴ σωστὴ κατεύθυνση. Εἶσαι εὐαίσθητη καὶ εὐσυγκίνητη. Ἡ καρδιά σου ξεχειλίζει καὶ χύνεται μέσα στὸ κεφάλι σου.

Προσπάθησε ν' ἀποκτήσεις αὐτοκυριαρχία. Σοῦ ἔχω γράψει ἤδη τί νὰ κάνεις: Νὰ σκέφτεσαι προκαταβολικὰ ποῦ βρίσκεται τὸ πιθανὸ ἐρέθισμα γιὰ κάθε συναίσθημα. Καί, ὅταν τὸ ἐντοπίζεις, νὰ εἶσαι σὲ ἐπιφυλακή, γιὰ ν' ἀντιλαμβάνεσαι ὁποιαδήποτε συναισθηματικὴ ταραχὴ τῆς καρδιᾶς, ἤ νὰ κρατᾶς τὴν καρδιά σου κάτω ἀπὸ τὸν σταθερὸ ἔλεγχο τοῦ νοῦ. Χρειάζεται ν' ἀσκηθεῖς σ' αὐτό. Μὲ τὴν ἐξάσκηση εἶναι δυνατὸ ν' ἀποκτήσεις πλήρη αὐτοκυριαρχία.

Ὅλα πάντως προέρχονται ἀπὸ τὸν Θεό. Γι' αὐτὸ ἂς στρεφόμαστε σ' Ἐκεῖνον μὲ τὴν προσευχή. Καὶ ὅμως, γράφεις ὅτι δὲν προσεύχεσαι. Τί εἶναι τοῦτο πάλι; Μήπως ἔγινες ἄθεη; Τί πάει νὰ πεῖ δὲν προσεύχεσαι; Μπορεῖ νὰ μὴ λὲς τὶς τυπικὲς προσευχές, ἀλλά ν' ἀπευθύνεσαι στὸν Θεὸ μὲ δικά σου λόγια καὶ νὰ Τοῦ ζητᾶς βοήθεια. "Κοίτα, Κύριε, τί συμβαίνει μ' ἐμένα. Ἐτοῦτο κι ἐκεῖνο... Δὲν μπορῶ νὰ τὰ βγάλω πέρα μόνη μου. Βοήθησέ με, πολυεύσπλαχνε!". Νὰ Τοῦ μιλᾶς γιὰ κάθε σου ἀνάγκη, ἀκόμα καὶ τὴν πιὸ μικρή, καὶ νὰ Τὸν παρακαλᾶς γιὰ διαρκή ἐνίσχυση. Αὐτὴ ἡ προσευχὴ εἶναι ἡ πιὸ γνήσια.

Γιατί ἀκοῦς ἐκεῖνον πού σὲ ἀποτρέπει ἀπὸ τὴν προσευχή; Δὲν καταλαβαίνεις ὅτι κι αὐτὸ εἶναι δουλειὰ τοῦ ἐχθροῦ; Ναί, ἀναμφίβολα εἶναι. Ψιθυρίζει στὸ αὐτί σου: "Μὴν προσεύχεσαι!". Καὶ μερικὲς φορές, ἀφοῦ κυριαρχήσει σ' ὁλόκληρο τὸ σῶμα σου, σὲ ρίχνει στὸ κρεβάτι καὶ σὲ ἀποκοιμίζει. Δικά του τεχνάσματα εἶναι ὅλα τοῦτα. Μὰ ἐνῶ ὁ πονηρὸς κάνει τὴ δουλειά του, πασχίζοντας νὰ σὲ ἀποσπάσει ἀπὸ τὸ καλό σου ἔργο, πρέπει κι ἐσύ νὰ κάνεις τὴ δική σου δουλειά, ἐπιμένοντας σ' αὐτὸ τὸ ἔργο ὥς τὸ τέλος.

Ὁπλίσου, ὅπως τόσες φορὲς σοῦ ἔχω πεῖ, μὲ θάρρος καὶ μὴν ἀκοῦς τὸν ἐχθρό. Καμιὰ προσοχὴ μὴ δίνεις στοὺς ψιθυρισμούς του. Καὶ ἐπιπλέον, θύμωσε! Θυμώνοντας ἐναντίον του, εἶναι σὰν νὰ τὸν χτυπᾶς κατάστηθα. Ἀμέσως γίνεται καπνός.

Σοῦ εὔχομαι μ' ὅλη μου τὴν καρδιὰ νὰ βρεῖς τελικὰ τὴν εἰρήνη. Ὁ Θεὸς βοηθός.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...