St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church
872 N. 29th St. Boise, ID
an American parish of the Russian Orthodox Church
A Talk on Passions, Thoughts, and Spiritual Warfare - Monk Vlasie of Vigla

How can we rid ourselves of the state of idleness and melancholy that often takes hold of us?

As Christ the Savior says in the Gospel: The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force (Mt. 11:12). Efforts should be directed towards three things: prayer, fulfilling the commandments of the Church and partaking in Christ’s Mysteries. Prayer gives strength to the soul, and the most important of the Holy Mysteries are Confession and Communion of the Body of Christ.

Many come to me and ask, “How can we protect ourselves from sin if we live in the world?” And I would answer them, “You should observe three things: frequent confession, communing of the Body and Blood of Christ and thorough study of the Holy Scriptures.” These, coupled with prayer and observance of the rules of the Church, lead to not being bothered by temptations. Even if they come, they cannot strike him, and fall to his feet helplessly, because there is humility in the confession of sins, and humility attracts grace.

How can we avoid judging others?

Let’s keep in mind the word of the Lord, that says: Judge not, that ye be not judged (Mt. 7:1). Always know that if someone judges someone while talking with you, he well may judge you, his friend, in front of others. So, whenever a person judges someone, we should not participate.

How can we learn to look at every human being as our brother and as Christ?

There are two types of judgment: one is external and made verbally, and the other is secret and is felt only in the soul. In my understanding, we can only attain pure thoughts through prayer. Constant self-deprecation, or self-criticism, can bring us to look differently at those around us because we were given eyes to see not only the passions, but also the weaknesses of our neighbor.

If there were love in a person, he would be able to look at others the way he looks at God. But there is some subtle passion, jealousy, which hinders his seeing clearly. St. Paul says that when we see our neighbor in virtue, we must rejoice, because we are the members of one body. If, on the other hand, we see something bad, we must grieve instead of judging our neighbor, otherwise we wound ourselves (cf. 1 Cor. 12:26). But we have no awareness that we are all brothers and members of one body. We don’t suffer and don’t feel the pain of our neighbor.

If doubts come to your mind to disrupt what you want to do, how can we figure out whether these thoughts are good or have come from the evil one?

There are changes that take place in the human soul as it moves toward God. Thoughts cast doubt on these changes and they are blocked.  We should pray to God daily for the strength to keep His commandments. All the good that comes into our souls is from God. It is His work and not that of the person.