God is fire, warming and igniting the heart and inward parts. So, if we feel coldness in our hearts, which is from the devil (for the devil is cold), then let us call the Lord: He, in coming, will warm our heart with perfect love, not only towards Himself, but to our neighbors as well. And the coldness of the despiser of good will run from the face of His warmth.
Faith, according to the teachings of St. Antioch, is the beginning of our union with God: the true believers are the stone of the church of God, prepared for the edifice of God the Father, which is raised up to the heights by the power of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Cross and help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:26). The works of faith are love, peace, longsuffering, mercy, humility, bearing one’s cross and life by the spirit. True faith cannot remain without works. One who truly believes will also surely perform good works.
If a person does not have superfluous care for himself, out of his love for God and for virtuous deeds, and knows that God will take care of him, then this hope is true and wise. But if a person places all his hope in his works, and turns to God in prayer only when unforeseen misfortunes befall him, then he, seeing that he lacks the means of averting them in his own abilities, begins to hope for help from God -- but such a hope is trivial and false. True hope seeks the one Kingdom of God and is sure that everything necessary for this mortal life will surely be given. The heart cannot have peace until it acquires this hope. This hope pacifies it fully and brings joy to it. The most holy lips of the Saviour spoke about this very hope: "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Mt. 11:28).
Love for God
He who truly loves God considers himself a wanderer and newcomer on earth, for in him is a striving towards God in soul and mind, which contemplates Him alone.
As for care of the soul, a person in his body is like a lighted candle. The candle must burn out, and a person must die. But as our soul is immortal, so our cares should be directed more toward the soul than the body: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mt. 16:26)" for which, as is known, nothing in the world can serve as ransom? If the soul alone is worth more than all the world and the worldly kingdom, then the Kingdom of Heaven is incomparably more precious. We consider the soul as most precious for the reason stated by Macarius the Great, that God did not desire to bond and unite His spiritual essence with any visible creation except man, whom He loves more than any of His creations.
Love for Neighbors
One must behave affectionately toward one’s neighbors, not showing even a hint of offense. When we turn away from a person or offend him, it is as if a rock settles on our heart. One must try to cheer the spirit of an embarrassed or dejected person with words of love.
When you see a brother sinning, cover him, as counseled by St. Isaac the Syrian: "Stretch out your vestment over the sinner and cover him."
It is necessary to be merciful to those wretched and wandering. The great lightgivers and Fathers of the Church took great care concerning this. In relation to this virtue we must try by all means to fulfill the following law of God: "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful," and, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice" (Lk. 6:36; Mt. 9:13). The wise heed these saving words, but the foolish do not heed them. For this reason the reward is also different, as is said: "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully" (2 Cor. 9:6).
Giving alms must be done with a spiritually kind disposition, in agreement with the teachings of St. Isaac the Syrian: "If you give anything to him who asks, may the joy of your face precede your alms, and comfort his sorrow with kind words."
Non-Judgment and the Forgiveness of Offenses
It is not right to judge anyone, even if you have seen someone sinning and wallowing in the violations of God’s laws with your own eyes, as is said in the word of God: "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Mt. 7:1). "Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand" (Rom. 14:4). It is much better always to bring to memory the words of the apostle: "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).
Why do we judge our neighbors? Because we are not trying to get to know ourselves. Someone busy trying to understand himself has no time to notice the shortcomings of others. Judge yourself — and you will stop judging others. Judge a poor deed, but do not judge the doer. It is necessary to consider yourself the most sinful of all, and to forgive your neighbor every poor deed. One must hate only the devil, who tempted him. It can happen that someone might appear to be doing something bad to us, but in reality, because of the doer's good intentions, it is a good deed. Besides, the door of penitence is always open, and it is not known who will enter it sooner — you, "the judge," or the one judged by you.
One desiring salvation must always have a heart inclined towards penitence and contrition: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Ps. 51:19). With such a contrite spirit a person can avoid without trouble all the artful tricks of the devil, whose efforts are all directed towards disturbing the spirit of a person. By this disturbance he sows tares (i.e., weeds), according to the words of the Gospel: "Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, ‘An enemy hath done this’" (Mt. 13:27-28). But when a person struggles to have a meek heart and to keep peace in his thoughts, then are all the wiles of the enemy powerless; for, where there is peace of thought, God Himself resides: "In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion" (Ps. 76:2).
One should take enough food everyday to strengthen the body, so that it can be a friend and helper to the soul in accomplishing virtues: otherwise it can happen that through the exhaustion of the body the spirit can weaken. On Wednesdays and Fridays, particularly during the four Lenten periods, follow the example of the Fathers and take food once a day — and the Angel of the Lord will affix himself to you.
Patience and Humility
It is necessary always to be patient and to accept everything that happens, no matter what, with gratitude for God’s sake. Our life — is a minute compared to eternity. And for this reason "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18).
The body is the handmaid of the soul, and the soul — its queen. Therefore it often happens that by the mercy of God our body is debilitated by illnesses. Passions weaken because of illnesses, and the person becomes well. Sometimes bodily illness itself is born of passions. To bear illness with patience and gratitude is regarded as a feat, and even more than one.
One elder, suffering from dropsy, told this to the brethren who came to him, desiring to heal him: "Fathers, pray, that my inner person is not subjected to a similar illness. But concerning the present illness, I ask God that he not suddenly relieve me of it, ‘for though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day’" (2 Cor. 4:16).
The Spiritual World
The spiritual world is gained by sorrows. The scriptures say: "We went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place" (Ps. 66:12). For those who desire to serve God the path lies through many sorrows. How can we praise the holy martyrs for the sufferings which they bore for God, when we cannot even bear a fever?
In order to keep spiritual peace it is also necessary to avoid judging others in any way. Condescension towards your neighbor and silence protect spiritual peace. When a person is in such an state, then he receives Godly revelations.
Purity of Heart
We must continually protect our heart from unclean thoughts and impressions, according to the words of the author of the book of Proverbs: "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23).
Purity is born within the heart from extended safekeeping of it, to which the vision of the Lord has access, according to the assurance of eternal Truth: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
Excessive Care about Worldly Matters
Excessive care about worldly matters is characteristic of an unbelieving and fainthearted person, and woe to us, if, in taking care of ourselves, we do not use as our foundation our faith in God, who cares for us! If we do not attribute visible blessings to Him, which we use in this life, then how can we expect those blessings from Him which are promised in the future? We will not be of such little faith. By the words of our Saviour, it is better first to seek the Kingdom of God, for the rest shall be added unto us (see Mt. 6:33).
Acquiring the Holy Spirit
(from the Saint's Conversation with Motovilov)
The true goal of our Christian life consists of acquiring God’s Holy Spirit. Fasting and vigil, prayer, mercy, and every other good deed performed for Christ — are means for acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. Only deeds performed for Christ give us the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Some say that the foolish virgins lacking enough oil in their lamps is meant to be understood as a lack of good deeds (see Mt. 25:1-12). Such an understanding is not completely correct. How could there have been a lack of good deeds when they, though foolish, are still called virgins? For virginity is the highest virtue, as a state equal to the angels, and could by itself serve in place of all other virtues. I, the wretched, think that they did not have enough of the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God. These virgins, because of their spiritual injudiciousness, supposed in performing good deeds that it is only necessary to do good works to be a Christian: "We performed a good deed and thus did God’s will." Whether or not they had received the grace of the Holy Spirit, whether they had attained it, they did not even bother to find out ... But, this acquiring of the Holy Spirit is in fact that oil which the foolish virgins lacked. They are called foolish because they forgot about the essential fruit of virtue — the grace of the Holy Spirit — without which there is no salvation for anyone and cannot be. For "through the Holy Spirit every soul is quickened, and through its purification, it is exalted and illumined by the Triune Unity in a Holy mystery." The Holy Spirit Himself settles in our souls, and this occupation of our souls by Him, the All-Ruling, and this coexistence of our spirit with His One Trinity, is granted only through the diligent acquiring, on our part, of the Holy Spirit, which prepares, in our soul and body, the throne for the coexistence of God the All-Creator with our spirit, by the immutable word of God: "And I will walk among you and will be your God, and ye shall be my people" (Lev. 26:12).
This is the very oil in the lamps of the wise virgins, which burned brightly and steadily; the virgins with these burning lamps could await the Groom coming at midnight, and enter the chamber of joy with him. The foolish ones, seeing their lamps going out, though they went to the market to buy oil, did not manage to return in time, for the doors were already locked. The market is our life; the doors of the bridal chamber — locked and not permitting entrance to the Groom — human death, the virgins wise and foolish, Christian souls; the oil, not deeds, but the grace of the All Holy Spirit of God received through them, transforming from decay to incorruption, from emotional death into spiritual life, from darkness to light, from the manger of our existence, where our passions are tied like beasts and animals, into a church of God, into the all-lighted chamber of eternal joy in Jesus Christ.