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Counsels from the Holy Mountain.

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

26 .
  My blessed child, may the God of love be with you. Be patient in everything, for it is in this way that you will reap benefit from everything. Our Christ loves you, and for this reason He continually visits you so much. If He did not love you, He would have abandoned you and you would have been lost, whereas now you are alive and are struggling. It is irrelevant if you suffer temporally; consider and meditate on what is eternal, and this will relieve and refresh you in the burning heat of harsh trials. You are passing through the furnace that trfines those souls which have dedicated their lives to God. So take courage and rejoice, for through this your soul will be purified to receive the most pure Lord. Be humble and love everyone for the love of Christ, and in this way you will be saved. I leave you with the peace and love of God.
With fatherly love, Geronda.*

*Geronda (Γέρων )
A geronda (pronounced “yeh-ron-da” ) is a hieromonk, priest, or monk who, ideally, has reached dispassion by the grace of God. Thus, because of his own experience, he is able to lead his spiritual children to dispassion as well. In a broader sense, though, it is used as a respectful title for any spiritual father and any elderly hieromonk, priest, or monk.

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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

27 . 
  My blessed child, I pray that the Heavenly Father grants you discernment so that you can discern the truth from the devil’s lie. Concerning the first thought that you wrote about, I reply: Didn’t God declare that Job was blameless? Then why did He permit trials so severe that he reached such a difficult situation that he cursed the day of his birth? Nevertheless, all this was permitted in order to teach him, of course; for this is what the Lord usually does: first He tests and then He shows His love. The love of God is manifested not only when He caresses, but also when He slaps. If the Heavenly Father slaps us, He reveals through this that He loves us. If God did not consider us His children, He would not have sent us trials but would have abandoned us as we are: spiritually uneducated, without any solicitude. In the order world, the ones nearest the Lord will be those who have been educated in soul and wise in spiritual struggles. And because He loves us wretched ones and wants to honor us, He educate us spiritually here, in the University of Monasticism. But since we are inexperienced as to how Divine Providence works, we blame God, asking why He should send us trials, and thus we jeopardize our eternal happiness through our ignorance. Spiritual education consists of deliverance from the passions and especially from egotism. So, my child, let us struggle not to condemn; let us say, “Bless”*, and, “May it be blessed”. Let us have genuine love. And when do we have genuine love? When we do not condemn the others, but justify them.

*Bless (ευλογείτε, ευλόγησον )
Ιn addition to its regular meaning, this word is used by monastics also to mean: (1 )  “Forgive me”; (2 ) “Hello”; or (3 ) “Good-bye”.
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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

28 .
  Do not lose your courage, my child. The deprivations we bear are meant to prepare for us the eternal enjoyment of heaven! We knowingly deprive ourselves of the pleasurable things of this life for the love of our Christ. If we wanted to, we could enjoy them freely, but voluntarily we do not accept them so that we may be given the affectionate love of our exceedingly sweet Jesus. My daughter, we have an immortal and eternal Bridegroom, Who preserves the glory of virginity forever. We have been called to become angels, my beloved daughter, so shouldn’t we deprive ourselves of things pleasurable and sinful? Isn’t worth depriving ourselves of foul things for Jesus’ divine love? So struggle worthily of your calling with fortitude. The martyrs shed their blood for the love of our Christ, so can’t we resist one loathsome, counterfeit pleasure? Glorify God in your body and in your soul.
Struggle to the end.
Farewell, my daughter.
Your father.
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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

29 . 
  Here in this vain world, my child, we shall be afflicted, we shall be embittered, we shall feel pain. But all this is for a limited time; it is temporary—let us pray that God does not abandon us to an eternal degree and measure, for then we would not bear it. Whenever you are in pain and are afflicted, call to mind Him Who was Crucified and then you will find much relief. For who could gaze at the Crucified One and reflect on His Passion wich He suffered for us, and not find balm for his wounds, whether spiritual or physical? Look up, my child, there on Golgotha, there where the holy Lamb triumphed victoriously in order to wash the wounds of our sins and passions with His Blood. His compassion is great; never lose your confidence in Him Who was crucified for you. I pray that you pass Great Lent with flourishing health of both soul and body. Amen.
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Chapter Two
On Afflictions, Pain, and Labors

30 . 
  A physician torments a sick person with operations, bitter medicines, amputation of body parts, etc., with the purpose, of course, of curing him and not of torturing him out of wickedness. Likewise God, as the Physician of our souls and bodies, heals us with all kinds of medicines, afflictions, and sufferings to give us our spiritual health, which is the greatest good that exists. But those who are indignant and do not bear it patiently—like me—lose the spiritual benefit and thus gain only pain. So since God saves us in such a miraculous way, we have the necessary obligation to thank Him unceasingly and to bless His All-holy Name. We should do so not only with our mouth, but primarily with our works, so that no deed of ours may offend God’s grandeur. For if we bless Him with our lips and revile Him with our works, then we are mocking Him. Let us make an effort not to grieve our Christ by any offense, so that the Holy Spirit may rest in our souls. Amen.

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On Illness

1 The truth is that the illnesses, afflictions, and tribulations of Christians bring about the cleansing of their soul and the forgiveness of their sins. Every Christian has the sacred obligation to accept with a guileless and simple heart whatever kind of cross God has placed upon him, and to carry it up to glorious Golgotha. Sometimes he may fall to his knees under the toil and burden, but God will send another good Simon of Cyrene (vid. Mt. 27:32 )—that is, the grace of patience—who will lift the cross to Golgotha. When we visit a cemetery, we see a cross on every grave—some wooden, others stone, others iron, etc. Likewise, God gives a cross to every Christian soul. To one He gives an iron cross, to another a wooden cross, to another a stone cross; each person is given one as the wisdom of God deems best. The main purpose of the Lord is to save pur precious soul, regardless of whether or not it suffers in the process. He Himself provides us with the patience and enlightenment to be able to bear the cross to the end. The afflictions felt in illnesses are sent by the holy hand of our good God. The most effective medicine for spiritual health is bodily illness. Illnesses are the reveille for the soul that has become drowsy with the narcotic drink of ignorance, of forgetfulness of God. Illnesses force the soul that has become careless, because of its spiritually harmful physical health, to get back to the right way of life. “In affliction I remembered Thee” (Is. 26:16 ). “In my affliction Thou hast made me prosper” (Ps.4:1 ). “We must through many tribulations enter into life” (cf. Acts 14:22 ). “By your patience possess your souls” (Lk. 21:19 ). The slaps of pure love are absolutely never occasioned without a holy and saving purpose foreseen! The Lord tells us in the Holy Gospel that without the will of our heavenly Father, not even a sparrow falls dead, and that the very hairs of our head are numbered (cf.Mt.10:29-30 ). How assuring these words are that all our deeds, words, and thoughts are known to God, and that our afflictions occur with His knowledge, are from His providence, and aim at some salvific goal! What great corruption, both physical and spiritual, did mankind have before the coming of the Lord! Which medicine brought about spiritual rebirth to the souls of men? Was it not the gigantic Cross of our Lord Jesus? If the Lord had not died on the Cross, man could not have been saved in any other way. Jesus became a model for us by bearing His Cross. He showed thus that whoever wants to be saved must follow Him, endure the cross which the Lord will lay upon him according to his strength, ascend to Golgotha, be crucified together with Jesus, and then be glorified together with the Lord in the kingdom of God. When the soul sees that the glory and repose in the bliss of heaven are given in proportion to the cross it carried, it will regret that it did not carry a heavier cross in order to receive greater glory and repose. It will say, “The labor then lasted only a short time, whereas now I am deprived of eternal blessings! Even the Patriarch Abraham, when he sees blessings being distributed, will regret not having struggled more! One young girl was continuously sick with a nasty illness, which finally killed her. One night she appeared to her sister, who asked her, “How are you doing, my sister, in the place where you are”? And she answered, “What can I say, my sister? Christ gave me much glory and repose because of my illness. Oh, if only I could return to the earth to suffer a greater illness, so that I would receive more glory here!” If the Lord Himself—the omnipotent and sinless One—carried a cross for the sake of man, for his salvation, how much more so do we sinners, who sin every hour, need a cross for our salvation? “I made ready and was not troubled” (Ps.118:60 ), says the Prophet David. We must always be ready to endure without grumbling every trial that the holy hand of the Physician will send us. Since this trial comes from and is permitted by Him Who loves us boundlessly, the trial will absolutely never be for our harm, for after it is over we shall see its good result; we shall see God’s main purpose. The Lord Jesus, foreseeing the future trials of His followers, gave them support by saying, “By your patience possess your souls. He who endures to the end will be saved” (Lk. 21:19, Mt. 10:22 ). By enduring your illness with patience, you are also counted among the beloved children of God. Your burden will one day become your resurrection; your sorrows, joy; your patience, eternal life! Cry out with thankfulness to the Lord: “Blessed be the name of the Lord. As it seemed good to the Lord, so has it come to pass. Glory  to God for everything” (cf. Job 1:21 ). As you cry out like this, your soul will be filled with joy and peace, and at the same time you will strengthen yourself in patience. What is a Christian? What must he have? Certainly, he must have much patience in everything. The road that takes wayfarers to the city of paradise is completely strewn with thorns; those who travel along it will bleed. But the hope of enjoying paradise overcomes everything and provides the wayfarers with patience—as the forty holy martyrs said when they were thrown into the frozen lake: “Winter is bitter, but paradise is sweet; the frost is painful, but the enjoyment will be sweet”. May the all-good God also count us the lowly along with those who labor and are heavy-laden in order to give us eternal repose. Amen.
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On Illness

2 .
 From the time our sweet Jesus lifted the life-giving wood of the precious Cross on His immaculate shoulders and was hanged upon it, from that time and throughout the ages, lifting the cross is continued by His followers in the form of various afflictions and trials, through which the Christian triumphs over the many forms of destructive self-love. Through Luke the Evangelist, the Savior stresses that “whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Lk. 14:27 ). And again: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Lk. 9:23 ). Abba Isaac, the hesychast philosopher, says, “Man changes at every moment.” Indeed, the dispositions of both the soul and body do not stop changing at any moment, sometimes bringing about distress, at other times pain, sometimes expectation of sad news, at other times an undefined disorder and distress of soul and body. All of these are due to either bodily or spiritual causes, which confirm God’s curse that burdened the race of man due to the disobedience of Adam and Eve. But the good Jesus, the Tree of life, on the one hand by His holy example, and on the other by His divine teachings, pours out the balsam of consolation upon the cross of afflictions along with many life-giving assurances that it is through many tribulations that we shall be able to enter His kingdom(cf. Acts 14:22 ). In the Old Testament, in the Book of Numbers, among other things, the following distinctive event is narrated: “When the Israelites had disobeyed God in the wilderness, as a punishment for their disobedience He sent serpents to them which bit and killed them. But God heard the prayer of Moses, who was fervently praying for this wrath to abate, and ordered him to make a bronze serpent and lift it up on the pole. And all who were bitten by the serpents were immediately healed when they looked at the bronze serpent” (cf. Num. 21:6-9 ). And in the Holy Gospel, our Jesus likened the elevation of the bronze serpent to His own life-giving elevation on the Cross by saying: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” (Jn.3:14 ). So sin—which is the meaning of the poisonous serpent—bites man, poisoning the entire being of his poor soul through culpable and passionate pleasure, which brings about the soul’s death and separation from God. But our Christ, the noetic bronze serpent, who was hanged on the life-giving wood of the precious Cross, through the lofty truths of the gospel, heals the souls that have been bitten by various sins, giving them a living hope of a life beyond comprehension. “O Death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory? (1 Cor. 15:55 ). The powers of your horrible tyranny were abolished, annihilated, enfeebled, and completely put to death by the death and resurrection of Jesus, our God, Who saves our souls. The heart is poisoned and darkened by pleasure and sensuality. Then, since it is darkened, it does the work of darkness, grieving the Holy Spirit Whom it had received through rebirth in the sacred baptismal font. Conversely, pain and affliction expel culpable sensuality from the heart. As it is cleansed by pain, it becomes capable of receiving the comforting Spirit. Once the good Comforter comes, He consoles, encourages, and enlightens the heart, and as a nurturer He gives it life with the divine teachings and the aids of joy and hope. So look upon the noetic bronze serpent, Jesus, Who heals through pain all souls that suffer from the bites of poisonous sin in its many forms. From the unshakeable truths derived from experience, it follows that pain and affliction are the most essential medicine for the soul which is ill with sin. At the same time, they are also excellent teachers for the spiritual uplifting of the soul which has sullied its beauty in sin and moral darkness and has thereby acquired morally evil habits. Pain, in the various meanings of the word, becomes the skillful cultivator that takes a sinful soul that is like a wild olive tree and grafts it onto o good olive tree. Sin hardens the heart of the sinner and renders him unfeeling; nothing moves him, because God, Who has feeling and sympathy for people, is missing. However, what does God do—He Who loves mankind, Who “came to seek and to save that which was lost”? (cf. Lk. 19:10 ). He draws up a plan of salvation through pain, and especially through illness, for the soul which has gone astray. You see, for example, a youth in his prime, puffed up because of his strength and behaving arrogantly, forgetting about God and his soul—then suddenly he lies prostrate on a bed of pain. Then, as a most experienced and skillful doctor, pain begins its surgery. First, it operates on the heart by removing its hardness little by little, and thus it softens the soul. He who was formerly hard of heart becomes soft and calm in his feelings. He commiserates with his fellow patients, and he who was formerly unsympathetic speaks with sympathy. And once his heart has been prepared through these and various other feelings brought about by the instructive rod of pain, then the ears of his previously deaf soul open, and he accepts, retains, and attentively listens to the word of truth, the gospel of salvation. Then he who was formerly indifferent to God and to his soul becomes zealous in reading various religious books and periodicals. He begins to recall his sinfulness with genuine contrition and feeling. Thus he learns to pray with compunction and soon becomes an eloquent preacher of the benefactions of the excellent doctor, pain, proclaiming that it alone cures the illness of being far from God. Pain cures not only the person who is far from God; it also heals souls that are healthy, but partially ill with a “sickness not unto death,” (Jn. 11:4 ), such as occasional indifference, criticism, self-love, cowardice, doubts, and so on. Pain exercises its activity even in the saints so that through their patience their glory may be increased. However, the saints often suffer also to give an example to others, as happened with long-suffering Job, St. Syncletiki, and so many other saints. When we have a beautiful piece of furniture and leave it unattended to for a period of time, we see that a layer of fine dust settles upon it. True—it is not ruined, but it has lost some of its shine and beauty. This also happens to a healthy soul when it does not have afflictions now and then. For example, indifference, if one does not attend to it in time, little by little without anyone realizing it, settles in the soul like dust on the furniture, and the soul loses its original zeal towards God. It does pray; it does fulfill its duties, but not as it should. But if pain comes, if affliction visits, then the wind blows and the flame—that is, the zeal to fulfill its duties to God—is kindled again. Just as it happens with indifference, so it happens also with every other illness of the soul. Pain is the divine medicine which the infinite wisdom of God devised for the ailing soul, and He uses it with absolute authority and no reserve so that through such an effective medicine, we may come to our senses and be watchful and vigilant in executing His holy will. Thus at the time of repayment we may receive, as a reward for vigilantly cleaving to His will, entrance into the eternal delight of the Lord, rejoicing and exulting in it together with those who have been called from all ages. There, together with the Lady Theotokos, the angels, and all the saints, we shall praise with endless, joyful hymns the blessed name of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, to Whom belong all glory, honor, and dominion unto the endless ages of ages.
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On Illness

3 .
  God chastens and then heals; He raises up and casts down—who is able to withstand the will of the Lord? If God wills that we suffer, He has some salvific purpose in mind which we earthly ones are unable to foresee. Whereas patience, forbearance, and the humble acceptance of trials will always—yes, always—bring certain benefit later. My child, bear your cross, and know that all that we suffer is known to God, and as a true Father He tries in every way to form Jesus Christ within us (cf. Gal. 4:19 ). He wants us to suffer because He knows what He has prepared in the heavens for His suffering children. But if He did not send them afflictions, He would do them injustice, because they would be deprived of the ineffable blessings of heaven. The more we suffer, the more beautifully our crown of glory is woven! Never believe that you are possessed; never let any such thought deceive you. Such things happen to many monks when they become ill. This is how God has arranged things: when the body is ill, the soul follows accordingly, and when the soul suffers, the body also wastes away and sulks. The tempter was envious of you, my child, but let us be patient so that he may be foiled and God may be glorified. Who does not feel pain when he undergoes surgery, and who does not feel pain when he loses the grace of God and is swarmed by thousands of warped thoughts? This is how God’s wisdom has arranged things to bring about the soul’s correction. All things will pass, as well as the winter of our passions, and the sweet spring of health will blossom again, and you will rejoice and say, “It is good for me that Thou hast humbled me, that I may learn Thy statutes” (Ps. 118:71 ). As nature’s seasons—winter, spring, summer, and autumn—follow one another, likewise the spiritual seasons follow each other. One goes, another comes—and thus the soul becomes accustomed to all spiritual changes and becomes wise and experienced. This experience is grace, which supports the soul in times of terrible changes, so that from past trials it will know well that only patience and forbearance can provide a peaceful state and beneficial thoughts. In this manner, we emerge from trials with benefit, and we become wiser and more experienced.
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On Illness

4 .
  My child, although much of your illness is due to disobedience, the love of God is evident in you. God loves you very much, which is why He chastens you. God is working out your precious salvation through the trials you are undergoing. He wants to lighten your burden and fill the vessel of your soul with the gift of the great hope of obtaining heaven and dwelling eternally near Christ, Whom you have ardently loved in this life! So what remains for you to do? Maintain utmost patience, exercise courage in the trial you are undergoing, and give boundless thanks to the excellent Guide of our souls, coupled also with grace-filled humility. My child, walk up the path to Golgotha with the cross you have been given by the greatly beneficent hand of Him Who loves and chastens you so that you may partake of His holiness.
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On Illness

5 . 
  My child, I pray that the God of patience and consolation (Rom. 15:5 ) will strengthen you in your illness, which you have fallen into by the will of God. When I heard that you were seriously ill, I felt much pain for you and begged our Panagia to make you well, first in soul and then in body. My child, think of the holy martyrs—how much they endured for the love of our Christ! Therefore, you should also say to yourself, “Lowly one, patiently endure the torments of illness so that you may avoid the eternal torments of hell!” Those martyrs voluntarily submitted to the tortures of martyrdom, whereas you are in pain involuntarily. But even this is good; it will benefit you significantly—just bear the chastisement of the Lord with joy and thankfulness. Tell yourself these and other such things to strengthen yourself and to give yourself fortitude and consolation.
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On Illness

6 . 
  Entrust your health to God. If your illness or the doctor imposes something on you, accept it with the hope that through it God will accomplish what He wants. Of course, our self-denial should not lead us to death (which would be suicide ), nor should we have so much attentive care that it leads to self-love, but we should walk the middle road—that is, in faith we should do what is prescribed so that it is not considered to be suicide. But as to whether or not we shall get well through the means we use, in faith we leave this up to God. My child, have patience in all your sufferings. Illnesses provide great benefit to the soul when we endure them, as long as we blame ourselves for them, since we suffer from them primarily on account of our sins, and especially on account of our pride of heart.
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On Illness

7 . 
  I pray that you will always be healthy. But when you are ill, bear patiently the chastening of the Lord which is sent from His affectionate and immense heart. The chastening proceeding from such a heart will never be fruitless, harmful, or undiscerning. Rather, it chastens us for our own good, for the forgiveness of our sins, for our protection, and for eternal salvation! The heart that chastens us is the heart of God Himself, our heavenly Father. He sees all, especially the purpose of every act. He sees how you are suffering and are afflicted. Know that He will not try you beyond your strength. Through afflictions, He brings about the cleansing of your soul and its eternal salvation. “We glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance” (Rom. 5:3 ). As His children, God disciplines us so that His features may be formed in us. It is when children bear the features of their parents that their legitimacy shows. So this is the purpose of the Lord’s chastening. Your afflictions are salvific; always have hope and you will by no means be put to shame.
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On Illness

8 . 
  Ignorance, my child, is known as the soul’s death. Ignorance does not enlighten a sick person; it does not say to him: “Your illness is the will of God, and you ought to pass through it with patience and thankfulness, so that you will not become a transgressor before God with your impatience!” To the enlightened Christian, however, knowledge of God’s will not only makes him bear everything with thankfulness, but also helps him acquire a strong spiritual constitution and at the same time obtain the refreshment of consolation. He reflects: “By undergoing these pains and afflictions I am doing God’s will, and this will bring about the forgiveness of my previous offences. By paying here the debt of my sentence, I shall receive my freedom there in the life to come, where I shall live eternally—whereas here, no matter how much suffering I may undergo, it is temporary and short-lived”. So my child, we need patience so as not to be condemned with the unrepentant world. Regardless of what might happen to us, through patience everything is put aright, and the inner man will find peace, bearing patiently what God has allowed. Bear your cross, and I shall bear mine, as we follow the heavenly Bridegroom, Christ, Who for us ungrateful sinners bore a Cross of disgrace. What do we bear that is equal in worth to such good things that we enjoy from God? If I were to enumerate the blessings of God and the ingratitude of man, I think my mind would stop; for how can the finite mind comprehend the infinite benefactions of God towards man?
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On Illness

9 .
  May the God of patience and consolation (Rom. 15:5 ) grant you patience and His caress of consolation to strengthen you to continue the struggle. My child, do not look only at the present pains, but raise your eyes “as one weaned from his mother” (Ps. 130:3 ) and behold: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,” (Rom. 8:18 ), who long for the manifestation of our Christ. Do not measure only the pains, but philosophically consider the reward, for isn’t God just? God deprived you of the comfort of having healthy feet in order to count you worthy to celebrate the great resurrection of your soul “with a joyful step” (Paschal Canon, Ode Five ) there in the Jerusalem on high. Yes, indeed, all of Scripture proclaims this. My child, walk in Christ bearing in mind the eternal joy to come. Do not grow weary of contending; do not imagine that you are beating the air, for truly there is a fight going on as there was with Job. He patiently bore a martyrdom of a variety of pains, and his wife pushed him towards eternal death through her evil advice; whereas you are being advised through these pains to obtain eternal life. He sat on a dung heap, was covered with sores, and was ridiculed as a sinner, but you rest at home upon a bed and are considered to be a virtuous Christian. Do you see how inferior we are? Therefore, endure patiently and thank God Who gave you such a gift, so that He might make you, as a grateful servant, a heir of His boundless kingdom! Amen; so be it.
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Candy. All nice and sweet. One is better reading the Church Fathers of yesterday for True Orthodoxy.
 

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This book reads like the book written by Neale Donald Walsch "Conversations with God."
 

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On Illness

10 .
  You say that your brother was hungry, thirsty, and so on when he was sick, and he blasphemed. You also said that your brother was committing a mortal sin. God, though, Who is very compassionate, wanted to bring him to a realization of his guilt so that he would repent, so He gave him this illness out of paternal love as a spiritual medication to cure his soul of its illness. If you had looked after your brother and offered him every bodily comfort, what pains would he have suffered for God to see and have pity on him? You should realize that the more he was tormented, the more his penalty was lightened! God gave him the illness and allowed the brethren to neglect their duty towards him so that his conscience would make him feel remorse and repent. He is like a patient who is given medicine by a doctor, but lacks the necessary patience. Thus, he curses and grumbles at the doctor, which only leads to his own demise.
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On Illness

11 .
  When you are in pain, gather the powers of your soul and try to understand what heaven is trying to tell you in this trial of yours. If perhaps you cry from the pain, the tears will cleanse your vision, as it did to Job the much-suffering, and then you, too, will be able to say along with him, “now mine eye hath seen Thee” (Job 42:5 ).
Don’t forget that God sees you and watches you when you are in pain; He perceives even the beating of your heart. Consequently, He will not leave you without consolation and His fatherly protection. Naturally, the saints rejoiced in their afflictions; as for us, let us at least manage to accept affliction or pain patiently.
My child, pray within your heart, and the name of Jesus will become for you a comforting balm so that you can bear this trial of yours in a way which benefits you. You will greatly benefit from this trial if you submit yourself to it patiently. So again I say to you, with the almighty armor of prayer continually approach the omnipotent Lord more often, and you will come to know how He wondrously lifts the burden of pain and marvelously gives rest to sufferers.
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On Illness

12 .
    Ι pray that you will get fully well. What can we do? The Lord chastens us so that we may have an eternal reward. Since we have no ascesis, the Lord gives us illnesses and afflictions to count it as ascesis for us so that we may have some small consolation when we are judged before Him. What can we do, my child? This is how God wants things: that we suffer here in order to find repose in the world to come. Everything here is transient; there, eternal. Winter is bitter, but paradise is sweet. Let our feet freeze here so that they may dance there eternally! Glory to Thee, O God.
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On Illness

13 .
  My blessed child in Christ, I am praying that the great Physician of souls and bodies grant you your full health, in accordance with His holy will. There were holy men, my child, who were gravely ill, yet in their illness they healed others. Oh, how much God loved them! An exceptional sign of God’s love for a soul is when He saddles it with illnesses or afflictions. Pain of body or soul purifies, cleanses, and brightens the garment of the soul from every stain of sin. There was one holy monastic father who was always ill. It happened once that he was not ill for a period of time, and he complained, saying: “Ah, my God, why didst Thou forget me and not consider me worthy of Thy visitation?” This blessed man yearned for illnesses because he knew from his experience how much the soul benefits from them. Pain brings the unrepentant sinner to repentance, whereas for the righteous, it fortifies the strength of his soul and becomes a mighty wall around him so that he does not stray into sin. Just as a sick person gladly submits himself to the painful treatment of the doctor because he knows his aim, similarly we should endure with gratitude and knowledge all things that befall us involuntarily as sent from the kind hand of God for our salvation. “The athlete is tested by the stadium, the captain by the storm and tempest, the general by the battle, the magnanimous by misfortune, and the Christian by temptation,” says St. Basil the Great. Just as the earth becomes productive when the plow tills it deeply, likewise the soul becomes fruitful in virtues when pain and illness visit it frequently and intensely! The more pain and affliction a person has, the more beautiful his crown becomes. And if there are many and various pains that oppress him, then the crown of glory is adorned with many flowers and pearls. Gold has to pass through the furnace to become purified, and the soul of a Christian has to pass through the furnace of temptations to receive the seal of eternal glory in the royal treasury of Christ the King. If holy and blessed people passed through the furnace of pain and were benefited, how much more pain suits us and how much benefit we will derive from it when we endure it with knowledge and gratitude! It is when we see pain oppressing us, physically or spiritually, that we should consider that we are loved by God and that He has placed us in the ranks of His chosen. O blessed chastening of the Lord, I love you. But I am unworthy of such a gift, for I live in comfort and shall become a victim of the eternal fire. So, my child, I envy you because you are suffering and will obtain eternal repose! Your crown is decorated and beautified for your eternal glory! Endure for the Lord’s sake until the end. Bear your cross well lest you drop it, and you can be sure that you will be glorified with Christ eternally! Pray for me, too, lest I be shut out of paradise as one who does not practice what he preaches.
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On Illness

14 . 
  My child, I pray that the good Comforter, the good and true Spirit, the Holy Spirit, will overshadow you, console you, and ignite in you the love of Christ. I pray with all my soul that our Christ will grant you your health. I see and know from my experience, my child, that if one suffers various afflictions, whether bodily or spiritual, and patiently endures them with knowledge, and thanks God, then God is definitely obliged to send consolation to refresh his soul. But if we do not endure pain and labor, God does not console—He does not give His grace. Do you see after you recover from pain how much the love of Christ ignites within you? Yes, it is the reward for your labor, your patience. If you didn’t have this illness, you wouldn’t have so much love and consolation. Do you see that when you recover, you feel like a child? This is a sign that God forgives your sins and that you are free from blame. All this is caused by the patience you have when you are ill. When God deigns for you to get well, then you will see in practice what I am telling you. The more one suffers, the more grace one is given. One monk was ill, and he had such a horrible disease that the brethren were disgusted by him and drove him away. He blamed himself by saying that he deserved such treatment. Because of his humility, God made him well. But afterwards, this holy monk kept saying, “Ah, my Christ, I was unworthy to suffer more for Thy love!” He knew from experience how much he gained during his illness. Therefore, do not grieve at all. Only thank our Christ, Who loves you so much that He has given you temporary afflictions here in order to give you everlasting joy there. When you are ill and unable to fulfill your spiritual duties with exactitude, do not be sad, because it is not a sin since your will does not exercise authority over your health. Nevertheless, a monk must compel himself. But if he is ill, it is not a sin not to fulfill his duties—God is just. Obedience with humility and thanksgiving to God replace the ascesis of fasting. Great is the benefit of self-reproach when one is unable to fast due to illness.
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On Illness

15 . 
  I pray, my child, that a drop of the infinite patience of God may drip into your soul, where it will build a tower of patience so that you may find the unfailing treasure of eternal life. You wrote that at times when grace was afire, you asked our Christ to grant you illness or even something worse so that you could suffer out of love for Him. He did not overlook you but sent you an illness, as you had asked. So you have to be patient now, and you will learn discernment from experience, that is, not to seek things from God that we have not tried through experience. Therefore, we should always pray that the Lord’s will be done. Now pray like this: “My God, make me well, but let not my will be done, but Thine.” Like naϊve children, we often seek things that are not to our benefit. But God, as our Father, fulfills our requests in order to teach us through experience how we should pray to Him. Afterwards, though, we see that we did not pray properly, and we suffer. Nevertheless, God is forbearing and delivers us, so that the lesson of giving up our own will becomes deeply rooted within us. Moreover, at times when we suffer from our lack of discernment, God does not abandon us, but sends His grace and comforts us so that we may bear the burden. This is what is happening with you, my child. What you saw and felt was the grace of God, which nurses you until you grow in experience. The fact that God lets you suffer shows that you still need such chastening. Leave it all to God and say: “My God, I leave my illness in Your holy hands, and whenever You—Who love me so much—want to heal me, I will also want it then. I only ask Your infinite goodness that You not overlook me, but always give me the patience to bear this cross of mine, until Your will is done again.”
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On Illness

16 . 
  I am sick with the flu and feel sharp pains in my appendix. I don’t know what will happen. In any case, glory to Thee, O God. God loves us and through involuntary pain seeks to count us worthy to participate in His most perfect blessings. Unfortunately, we – and I –do not love our soul in a spiritual way. If we loved it, we would endure trials of both soul and body without complaining, in order to attain the eternal blessings. Pain softens the heart and removes its hardness. As the heart is softened in this manner, the ground is prepared for the sowing of genuine repentance and correction. We who are cowardly in every affliction chase away, so to speak, the grace of God. When man is prospering, he cannot remember God, and if he remembers Him, it is only faintly. When affliction or pain approaches, he remembers Him vividly and with fervor. When sorrow oppresses him or when he expects tribulations, then he prays most ardently. And our holy God is pleased with this, just as a mother is pleased when her child seeks her with heartfelt pain, for in this she discerns love. No matter how man is tried, he always benefits when he shows the corresponding patience and gratitude during the trial. This is revealed at the end of the trial, when he sees the lightness of his soul, the clarity of his mind, and the sweetness that comes to his inner self. Let us pray to be granted knowledge and patience in life’s miseries, so that we may gain our salvation. Amen.
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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

1.
  To fall and be injured is human, since—even if a man’s life lasted for only one day—his mind is inclined to evil from his youth (cf. Gen. 8:21 ). But to fall and remain fallen is not human. Repentance recreates man; it was given to us to cure the soul after baptism. If it did not exist, rarely would a person be saved. That is why, the virtue of repentance is unending as long as man is alive, for only the perfect do not err. My children, every time you see your thoughts reproaching you for some sin, immediately take the medicine: repent, weep, go to confession, and behold, you return to your former and better state.
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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

2.
  After Judas the traitor dedicated himself to the Lord and became a partaker of grace, he performed miracles along with the rest of the Apostles, yet in the end he shipwrecked; whereas the thief who had done impious, evil, immoral deeds, by crying out for mercy, was granted repose in the calm haven of eternal bliss. The Jewish nation, which had received the promises of God and was called by Him special, chosen, and holy (vid. Ex. 19:5, 1 Pet. 2:9 ), was blinded and lost Him forever. The barbaric nations, on the other hand, which were like the harlot in their works, received the gospel and inherited what Israel had rejected: God. Therefore, away with despair and hopelessness! No matter how sinful we may be, we should always turn the eyes of our soul to God and entrust ourselves to Him as servants entrust themselves to the hands of their master. In this manner let our eyes be fixed on the Lord, always trusting in His mercy until He has mercy on us (Ps. 122:2 ).
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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

3. 
  The fall of man into physical mortality and the consequences of exile and alienation from our good Heavenly Father, brought about the law of sin, which wars against the law of God (cf. Rom. 7:23 ). From his youth, man is subject to the law of sin as a tendency, as an inclination, and as wickedness (cf.Gen. 8:21 ). And this tendency towards evil—as an ancestral inheritance and as a mark, product, and remnant of the ancient severance from the fountain of happiness—naturally took on substantial proportions in human nature, thus drawing it to evil. Thereafter, it was only natural for grievous calamities to befall the children of Adam and Eve. The restoration to the sonship of old by means of the Lord Jesus’ death on the cross led to eternal salvation. However, this did not remove the law of sin existing within man: not that God was unable to—for just one drop of the awesome and holy blood of Jesus Christ could transform everything—but providentially He let it coexist in man so that by means of it He could not only instruct him, but also make manifest the intentions of each person. The Scriptures say that God did not permit Joshua the son of Nun to destroy all the surrounding idolatrous nations, but he left some so that through them He could teach the art of war to the sons of Israel
(vid. Josh. 17:13 ). So when this law of sin does not find a brave adversary (that is, one with good intentions and with the divine commandments and precepts as weapons ), then it vanquishes and captures the spiritual struggler; it strips him of his divine weapons and then drags him to the life of sin. From all these and many other things, we reach the truthful conclusion that all the distressing events and things in human nature are a consequence of its fall from its original immortality to mortality. Furthermore, we see that the salvific sacrifice of the God-man Jesus providentially did not remove the law of sin existing within man in order to instruct him, as well as for many other reasons pertaining to our salvation, so that by them He may make him a wise heir of His eternal blessings.
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Christ is Risen!
 

Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

4. 
  “As I find you, I will judge you” (cf. Ez. 33:20 ). Behold, the value of a moment. Did He find you in repentance? Did He meet you in confession? Did He reach you saying “I have sinned against heaven and before you”? (Lk. 15:18 ). Did He approach you when you had tears of genuine repentance and self-reproach in your eyes? Behold, it is in one moment that God makes his decision. “The Lord is faithful in all His words” (Ps. 144:13 ). However, if He finds you otherwise, O man, then the eyes of your soul will open, and you will see what you have lost—but what is the use? If God condemns a person, repentance is futile; when the “fair” of life ends, words are pointless. It is all over! Oh, what a great mystery this is! O my God, my Sweet Jesus, open the eyes of my soul that I may see very clearly this great mystery of my eternal salvation, so that, helped by Thy grace, I may prepare provisions and not repent at the end of my life to no avail. As Thou dost see, I do absolutely nothing and am entirely leprous with passions. Grant me tears and complete repentance before the last hour comes, when I shall hear Thy voice, “Set thy house in order, for thou shalt die and not live” (Is. 38:1 ).
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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

5 . 
  Repentance is endless. All the virtues, by the grace of God, may be perfected by man, but no one can perfect repentance, since we need repentance until our last breath, for we err in the twinkling of an eye. Therefore, repentance is interminable. Oh, how good God is! Justly will my fellow sinners be punished, for they have ignored the infinite compassion of the heavenly Father. Although we err as humans, we are sluggish to say, “I have sinned!” But how can we say this, since we (and I, above all ) are forgetful and lazy and proud, too—mighty obstacles on the road to humility! Christ showed this road to us through His Cross, but unfortunately we voluntarily turn a deaf ear to Him, to our great regret. Time flies, the years roll by, and we are drawing nearer and nearer to eternity. We see this, yet a mental numbness has bound us until we (and I, first ) are thrown into hell! My God, Who has delivered the human race from the enemy’s slavery, deliver us also from the future condemnation when You come to judge the world and render to each according to his works (cf. Rev. 22:12 ). Through your prayers, may I find mercy when my wretched soul is judged, for I am afraid to meet the fearsome Judge because my conscience reproaches me.
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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

6 .
  Obedience, cutting off one’s will, self-reproach, and patience in general are what lay the foundations of the soul, while fervor and zeal preserve one’s tears. If you want to be zealous until the end of your life, diligently pursue constant tears. If you have such tears, do not be afraid; the zeal of yearning for your salvation will remain. Water normally quenches fire; the water of God, however, which streams from the eyes of the repentant, lights not a physical fire—as we know—but a divine fire burning up the enemy’s weeds!
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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

7 .
  Let us sincerely repent; let us confess frankly and in detail. Let the tribunal of God and His decision preoccupy us continuously, and let us say, “I wonder, shall I be saved or shall I face the torments of hell?” Now is the time we must shed tears of repentance—in fact, constantly. Ah, how much we should be preoccupied by the question of how white and clean our soul is! We must purify it; otherwise, we shall be unable to present ourselves before Christ as we are now. Meditation on death should not escape us at all during our monastic routine.
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Chapter Three
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8 . 
  How precious is the time of this life! Every minute has great worth, for within one minute we can think so many things, either good or evil. One godly thought raises us to heaven, and one diabolical thought lowers us to hell. So then, behold how valuable every minute in this present life is. Unfortunately, though, we do not think about this, and hours, days, and years pass with no profit—but is it merely with no profit? How much damage we have all suffered—and I, first—without realizing it! But some day, when our soul is about to depart from our body, we shall realize it. But, alas, it will be too late; there is no room for correction then. We must realize this now when we can still make a start. We should take advantage of the precious time of our life. Truly blessed is he who compels himself and makes a start, because some day he will become spiritually rich. It is never too late, for the Lord awaits each one of us to awaken so that He may give us work. He waits until the eleventh hour (cf. Mt. 20:6 ). He tries with every means to awaken us. I pray that all of us will awaken, light our lamps, and with a vigilant eye wait patiently for the Lord to come, so that we may enter the resplendent bridal chamber of eternal bliss, the festival of the bright angels, to chant with them the resurrectional canticles, which will elevate us from theoria to theoria and to divine ascents! Then—oh, then!—we shall fully realize what a great work it is to compel ourselves in everything and that our superiors did well to push us and grieve us, for we shall say, “Behold what we see now!” Then our thanks to God will have no limits. Then we shall really render thanks worthily to God!
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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

9 .
  Let us not lose our time in vain. The kingdom of heaven belongs to those who force themselves (cf.Mt. 11:12 ). Bear in mind the departure of our souls, the final hour and moment of that difficult separation. Keep in mind how the demons seek to snatch the poor soul at this final hour and lead it to Hades. Oh, what grief! What pain of soul! How the soul sighs then! Alas, what a sorrowful situation it is in at that moment! How many promises a person will make to God that he will change his life, that he will walk the path of repentance and hardship, as long as he does not die! All of us shall reach this hour and encounter the above and much more, and we shall then promise much more earnestly that we shall take the path of repentance and spiritual warfare. Let us imagine that this has already happened and that God has heard our request. Now what is left for us to do? To fulfill our promises by showing true repentance and the struggle to correct our soul. Behold the appropriate time for repentance and spiritual warfare! Little by little the time of our life is cut short, and without even realizing it, we are led to the end and to the grave! A tribunal and a Judge await us, as well as entire books in which the deeds of each one of us are written. Who is able to escape these things? No one. We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ “naked and open” (Heb. 4:13 ) for each of us to give an account of his deeds, words, and thoughts. Let us bear in mind these and many more such things night and day, so that we may bring our souls to mourning and rears!
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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

10 . 
  Sin, as a hook camouflaged with the suitable pleasure,
comes craftily as something sweet and charming to the tongue in order to attack the soul.
However, he who has been lured by the momentary pleasure and its comfort will find it more bitter than poison
and more destructive than a pestilent disease in his soul.
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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

11 .
  No matter what happened with your parents, confession forgives and erases everything, my dear brother in the Lord. Recall how much the prodigal son sinned (vid. Lk. 16:19-31 ), and how much he grieved his father with his reckless life. But when he repented, at once his father’s arms opened and the past was wiped out as if it had never happened. So the cure for your sad parents has already occurred, for the change of your life to a spiritual life has rectified everything. Now that they are in the true life, they are informed by God about the change of your lifestyle and your repentance, for them. If, when we sin against our true Father, God, He forgives us no matter what we have done, how much more so will our parents be pleased, there in the true life, where they see things clearly. They know human weakness and how easily youth slips, and they are aware of the great master of evil, the devil, who was the cause for all the troubles. Instead, they will be thankful to you that through you they receive aid from God. Remain fully at peace, my brother. Walk the path of repentance with a peaceful mind, and do not let the past trouble you. “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Phil. 3:14 ), we should look to the goal of our salvation. As soon as man says, “I have sinned!” God forgives him immediately and overlooks his sins. How much did blessed Augustine grieve that holy mother of his! Nevertheless, what sanctity and eros of God he attained later! With repentance everything is corrected. There is nothing that overcomes the compassion of God. “He is merciful to the last and provides for the first; to this one He gives, and to that one He shows kindness” (Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom ). The love of God covers and corrects everything. No one is sinless except for one-God.
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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

12 .
  [The Elder writes to one of his spiritual daughters in the world (“In the world” means not in a monastery. ]:
All that you suffered, my daughter, was because of your self-reliance. Didn’t I advise you to have humility and self-reproach? What did you trust in? don’t you know that if one boldly leans on a bamboo rod, it will break and pierce his hands? So what did you trust in? Don’t you know the saying: “Without Me you can do nothing”? (Jn. 15:5 ). Don’t you know that many Fathers fell by trusting in themselves? Humble yourself, blame yourself, weep, my daughter, wash your wedding garment. Your Bridegroom, Who is more beautiful than the sons of men, is calling you, is seeking you, and has prepared an abode for you in the heavens. The spiritual bridal chamber is extremely luxurious! Angels are serving; do not be sluggish. Arise; get some water and wash your wedding gown well, for you do not know when He will come. The time of death is unknown; it comes to us all. We do not know at what moment it will come. Repent. See how the harlot washed the immaculate feet of the Master. She shed tears more precious than myrrh, and they attracted God’s mercy and forgiveness. Then she heard, “Your sins are forgiven; go in peace” (Lk. 7:48,50 ). Repent, my daughter. Fall before the fearsome feet of the Master with mourning. Weep; cry out, “I have sinned, my Jesus. Accept me in repentance and save me. Overlook not my tears, O joy of the angels. Abhor me not, cast me not away. Thou Who hast bent the heavens by Thine ineffable abasement”. With these and many other such words importune Christ, resting assured that you will find His love three times as strong. Your repentance will give limitless joy to the angels, and exuberantly they will exclaim, “She stopped! She stopped! She stopped!” That is, she stopped short of falling. You were caught out of the flow, and now you are ascending again.
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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

13 .
  Pray for me, my brother, so that the Lord may grant me repentance before I depart on the great journey from this world—for we were not created for this earth, but for heaven. There, God has prepared a place for His children who are obedient to Him in everything He tells them. On the contrary, for all who are deaf to His divine commandments, He has prepared a place of eternal imprisonment—may God keep us from going there. Now God cries out through the Holy Scriptures, the preachers, the spiritual father: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt.3:2 ). Unfortunately, though, those who think they are smart and strong turn a deaf ear to Him with various excuses. But the all-good God, wanting to distribute His riches to man, calls “all the feeble, the weak, the things that are not” (cf.1 Cor. 1:27,28 ). “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind, that my house may be filled” (Lk 14:21,23 ), says God through the Holy Gospel. By calling the useless, His compassion is glorified more, and man is led to gratitude, for what leper counted worthy of purification would not render thanks to his benefactor? What person condemned to an eternal imprisonment would not be grateful to his Savior? Unfortunately, my brother, I do not thank God, because forgetfulness—the offspring of pride—has made me lose my head.
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Chapter Three
On Sin, Repentance, Mourning, and Tears

14 . 
  Beloved brother, may God, Who has visited our humbleness, grant us genuine repentance, through which God’s tribunal is propitiated. Sincere repentance is repentance that displays regret for sins committed, mourning, burning tears that break down the strongholds of sin, and sincere and frank confession. Repentance leaves nothing unhealed. If man had not been given repentance, no one would be saved. Triumph and victory are given to man through the weapon of repentance. Glory to the only wise God, Who gave man such an effective medicine that cures every kind of illness, as long as it is taken properly.
Let us struggle, my brother; let us live in simplicity and innocence of heart like small children, as the Savior said: “Unless you become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3 ). With simplicity and faith we are freed from evil day-dreaming, which destroys the good seeds of the Holy Spirit. Things will happen according to our faith. What you sow is what you reap. Let us ask God for compunction and mourning, and He will grant them to us, so that a stream of life-giving tears may follow. Then our heart will produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
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On Confession and Spiritual Accounting

1.
This confession of yours gave my soul much joy, because God and the angels, who were awaiting it, rejoiced. You succeeded in putting the devil to shame, who greatly rejoices when someone hides his thoughts from his spiritual father. When a snake leaves its lair, it rushes to hide somewhere because it feels as if it will be struck—the same thing happens with a diabolical thought, which is like a poisonous snake. When such a thought leaves a person’s mouth, it disperses and disappears, because confession is humility, and since Satan cannot even bear the smell of humility, how could he possibly remain after a humble, sincere confession? My child, I wish you a good beginning and cautious progress. Don’t be ashamed before me. Don’t see me as a man, but as a representative of God. Tell me everything, even if you have a bad thought about me, because I am experienced with demonic influences, and I know how the devil fights man. I know that spiritual children have simple hearts and that if evil thoughts come to them, it is due to the devil’s malice and the spiritual child’s ego, who is permitted to fall and have such thoughts against his Elder, so that the spiritual child may be humbled more. Therefore, don’t worry. I will always rejoice when you speak freely and sincerely to me, for without frank confession, there will be no spiritual progress.
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On Confession and Spiritual Accounting

2.
  My child, have no worries. I have taken up your burden. I only beg you to be at peace. Your words may be just on paper, but I feel the power, the meaning, and the essence of what you write; I enter into the spirit of your words. I entreat you to be at peace from now on. You are forgiven everything with the confession you made. Satan perceived your character and torments you, but without anything serious having occurred. Everything you write (that is, the thoughts that torture you ) is a trick of the evil one to make you despair, be distressed, and so forth. Throw everything that happened to you into the depths of the sea. Map out a new course in your life. If you keep thinking the same way, know that you will become the laughing-stock of the demons. I beg you, just be obedient to me. After your confession, everything has been forgiven, so let bygones be bygones. Don’t scratch a wound that made you suffer so much. Don’t be deceived by the thought that it is your fault. If you hadn’t taken him to the doctors, etc., then such thoughts would rightfully fight you. Whereas, as things are now, you have fulfilled your duty. God wanted to take him, for a reason that only His infinite wisdom knows, while you are thinking you killed him! Be careful with this thought, or else it might lurk in your heart. It is a ruse of the devil to harm you, as he knows how. This skilled trickster has drowned in the depths of hell countless multitudes with despair. When something happens and the devil sees that a person is upset by it, his trick is to pile on a multitude of supposedly legitimate thoughts in order to lead the poor person to a great storm and drown him. (As the saying goes, a fox loves a scuffle ). And when the storm passes, he sees that he was in danger of drowning in just a spoonful of water.
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On Confession and Spiritual Accounting

3. 
  Humble yourself, and from now on confess, for confession contains most holy humility, without which no one is saved.
The devil greatly rejoices when he manages to persuade a person to hide diabolical thoughts.
This is because he will achieve his premeditated, soul-destroying goal.
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