21 July 1954
You write that you have read in the holy Fathers about a disciple who told his staretz that some people are granted to see the holy angels. The staretz replied: 'Blessed are those who constantly see their sins'.
St Peter Damascene writes: 'If you see your sins as sands of the sea, it is a sign of a healthy soul'. You write: 'I cannot understand how saints can see their sins as sands of the sea'. This represents the high degree of spiritual maturity of the men of God, those who with God's help have cleansed their hearts of passions: pride, conceit, slyness, hypocrisy and other vices. However, even they were not free from impacts and suggestions from passions. For as long as the soul is in the body it cannot possibly be freed from these impacts, whether it wants them or not. But when they have overcome the passions within them through virtues, their minds can repel these attacks with God's help. God alone is perfect and unchanging.
Although the Holy Fathers by God's mercy prospered in the spiritual life, they were subject to changes. Sin continued to use cunning; they even had impure and bestial thoughts. Do not be surprised at this, it is so. I am not writing this as my own wisdom; these are the thoughts of men of godly wisdom. These changes in their pure hearts make them see their sins 'as the sands of the sea', and they genuinely regard themselves as worse than anyone else.
We sinners in our careless way of living sometimes say that we are sinful and even that there is none in all the world like our self. But this is only idle talk and mere words. If we were speaking from the feelings of our heart, we would not have been condemning others for anything, nor been proud, angry, and so on. We ourselves do not keep a single commandment, but we expect others to do so. Oh, the blindness of our hearts!
Lord, grant that I may see my sins and not judge my brother.
No doubt you have now understood the deep thoughts of the holy men of God. I ask your holy prayers. "