“If you become proud when you receive what you ask in prayer, then it is obvious that your prayer was not to God, and you did not receive help from Him, but the demons were working with you in order to exalt your heart; For when help is given from God, the soul is not exalted, but is all the more humbled, and she is amazed at the great mercy of God, how merciful He is to sinners.”
-St. Barsanuphius the Great
Barsanuphius of Palestine (+540), also known as Barsanuphius of Gaza, was a hermit of the sixth century. Born in Egypt, he lived in absolute seclusion for fifty years, and then near the monastery of Saint Seridon of Gaza in Palestine.
Poor, old, sick, to our last breath, we can love. Not sentimental nonsense so often confused with love, but the love of sacrifice – inner crucifixion of greed, envy, pride. Never confuse love with sentimentality and never confuse worship with affectation. Be humble – love even when it is difficult. And do not treat church worship as a theatrical performance!
This is an excerpt from a 2009 letter which Mother Thekla (1918-2011), abbess of the English Monastery of the Assumption, wrote to a new English convert to Orthodoxy.
O Lord our God, forgive all the sins I have committed this day in word, deed and thought, for Thou art good and lovest mankind. Grant me a peaceful sleep, free of restlessness. Send Thy guardian angel to protect and keep me from all harm. For Thou art the Guardian of our souls and bodies, and to Thee we send up glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
“It is always possible to make a new start by means of repentance. ‘You fell’, it is written, ‘now arise’ (c.f. Proverbs 24:16). And if you fall again, then rise again, without despairing at all of your salvation, no matter what happens. So long as you do not surrender yourself willingly to the enemy, your patient endurance, combined with self-reproach, will suffice for your salvation.
‘For at one time we ourselves went astray in our folly and disobedience’, says St. Paul. ‘. . . Yet He saved us, not because of any good things we had done, but in His mercy.’ (Titus 3:3,5).
So do not despair in any way, ignoring God’s help, for He can do whatever He wishes. On the contrary, place your hope in Him and He will do one of these things, either through trials and temptations, or in some other way which He alone knows. He will bring about your restoration; or He will accept your patient endurance and humility in the place of works; or because of your hope He will act lovingly towards you in some other way of which you are not aware, and so He will save your shackled soul.
Only do not abandon your Physician, for otherwise you will suffer senselessly the twofold death because you do not know the hidden ways of God.”
-St Peter of Damascus
“The Holy Eucharist is the first, most important, and greatest miracle of Christ. All the other Gospel miracles are secondary. How could we not call the greatest miracle the fact that simple bread and wine were once transformed by the Lord into His very Body and His very Blood, and then have continued to be transformed for nearly two thousand years by the prayers of priests, who are but simple human beings? And what is more, this mystery has continued to effect a miraculous change in those people who communicate of the Divine Mysteries with faith and humility.”
-St Ambrose of Optina
God has done all things for our benefit.
We are guarded and taught by the angels; we are tempted by the demons so that we may be humbled and have recourse to God, thus being saved from self-elation and delivered from negligence.
On the one hand, we are led to give thanks to our Benefactor through the good things of this world, by which I mean health, prosperity, strength, rest, joy, light, spiritual knowledge, riches, progress in all things, a peaceful life, the enjoyment of honors, authority, abundance and all the other supposed blessings of this life.
We are led to love Him and to do what good we can, because we feel we have a natural obligation to repay God for His gifts to us by performing good works. It is of course impossible to repay Him, for our debt always grows larger.
On the other hand, through what are regarded as hardships we attain a state of patience, humility and hope of blessings in the age to be; and by these so-called hardships I mean such things as illness, discomfort, tribulation, weakness, unsought distress, darkness, ignorance, poverty, general misfortune, the fear of loss, dishonor, affliction, indigence, and so on.
Indeed, not only in the age to be, but even in this present age these things are a source of great blessing to us.
-St Peter of Damascus
Let’s stop fighting and pray in a becoming way. We should put on the mildness of angels instead of the demons’ brutality.
No matter how we’ve been injured, we must soften our anger by considering our own case and our salvation.
Let us quiet the storms; we can pass through life calmly. Then, upon our departing, the Lord will treat us as we treated our neighbours. If this is a heavy, terrible thing to us, we must let Him make it light and desirable.
What we don’t have strength to carry out because of our struggle against sin, let us accomplish by becoming gentle to those who sinned against us.
-St. John Chrysostom
Elder Arsenie talks about humbleness, sacrifice and suffering. He is the archimandrite and abbot of Sfanta Maria (St Mary) Monastery near the Black Sea town of Techirghiol.
The spiritual son of the late and venerable Elder Cleopa (Illie), he was born on August 13th, 1914. He spent some twelve years imprisoned by the communists between 1938 and 1964 and is widely considered one of the greatest Romanian Orthodox elders of our time.
Seek God daily. But seek Him in your heart, not outside it. And when you find Him, stand with fear and trembling, like the Cherubim and Seraphim, for your heart has become a throne of God. But in order to find God, become humble as dust before the Lord, for the Lord abhors the proud; whereas He visits those that are humble in heart, wherefore He says: “To whom will I look, but to the one who is meek and humble in heart?
St. Nektarios of Aegina (1846-1920)