Thursday, August 16, 2007

Christ is in our Midst XVI(letter 17)

... "Strive for humility, my child, and do not trust yourself this side of the grave. It is not in our power to hold to virtue; that is a matter of grace, and grace works only through humility. John of the Ladder says: 'Where a fall has overtaken us, pride has already pitched its tent'. It is a great good fortune for us to have the books of the Holy Fathers, for they speak in detail about the spiritual life. Of course it would be good to lead a spiritual life under the guidance of a spiritual director, but holy men have become fewer, and without a director it is very dangerous to be guided only by books, just in the way that a person who has not studied medicine can go to the pharmacy and choose something poisonous instead of useful medicines. However, we must not despair. Let us make the publican's humility our foundation and the Lord in his goodness will help us sinners and deliver us from disasters on the spiritual path. And let us repent of our weaknesses, for all the wrestlers for piety have held to humility and penitence.

The great staretz Paissy Velichkovsky also grieved that there were no guides, but on the basis of his experience in the spiritual life he advised simply consulting with like-minded people, discussing and reading together the books of the Holy Fathers. So your group is very useful, for you exchange ideas there. You need not be worried when there are differences of opinion: this happens even among the spiritual wrestlers. God is one, and people come to Him from different directions. So it is very precious and useful to have a like-minded person to talk with. St Seraphim said: 'If you want to put yourself into disorder, talk with a man of another- turn of mind', and experience shows this to be true. Sometimes speaking with one person is simply a rest, while speaking with another is heavy; it is close to a quarrel; there is little to say; one is thinking how to get away as soon as possible.

You have the second volume of the Philokalia; read St Hesychios on sobriety and prayer. The struggle with thoughts is very well presented. I often look at it; it is hard to tear myself away from it and I never get tired of reading it. It is very inspiring; even though we do not follow its advice it is still useful to know what is the essence of the spiritual life.

What a long letter I have written, and not very coherent, but never mind.

The Lord keep you!"

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