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CHOTKI.COM

Discernment.


Discerning asceticism, together with humility and love, sanctify people very quickly, with less physical strain.

The more a person progresses in the spiritual life attending to himself, the wider the eyes of the soul open and the more clearly he discerns his mistakes and the many benefactions of God. Thus man is humbled and inwardly crushed, and then the Grace of God — divine enlightenment — comes naturally and he becomes more discerning.

God does not help the greatly sensitive and philotimo man to become conscious either of his sinfulness or of the many benefactions of God, so that the man will not despair. The more the man progresses, however, and gradually becomes stronger, the more God reveals to him. The same applies to the man with pride: God does not help him cut off his passions, so that the man will not become even prouder. When finally the man is disgusted with himself because of his constant falls, he becomes aware of his weakness and is humbled; then God’s Grace draws near him and helps him climb the spiritual stairs two at a time.

For this reason, we must not weigh the holiness of our fellow men with human scales, because only God, Who knows the hearts of men, has knowledge of their depths.

The thing that will move God more on the Day of Judgment is the work each one of us has done on his old man.

Greater worth has he who has acquired virtues through struggle than he who was born with inherent virtues and who therefore must double them so as to hear, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant..." (Matthew 25:21)

Certainly, we all have some discernment, but unfortunately most of us do not use it on ourselves but on our fellow men (so that we ourselves will not be ... discerned), and we contaminate it with criticism, condemnation, and the demand for others to correct themselves. We should, rather, demand this only from ourselves, who do not resolve to struggle fervently, cut off our passions, liberate our souls, and fly into Heaven.

Those who do not resolve to begin their struggle with philotimo, but spend their life in the "indefinite tense" will be constantly dazed and found to be both spiritually and physically ill. Finally, the gifts that God has given them and for which He will require an answer will be rendered useless.

The bright and discerning man not only makes use of the gifts the Good God has given him, as well as the kindness of others, for his spiritual progress, but also makes use of the injustices, contempt, etc., of his fellow men, which he attributes to the manslayer’s evilness. He is saddened by the frightful misery caused by the evil one in the same way that he feels grief for the wretchedness of his soul, and he asks for the mercy of God.

Self-accusation and self-criticism greatly help the scales fall from our soul’s eyes, so that we might see clearly.

Sensitive people must be very careful of self-accusation, because the devil tries to convert it into despair (through hypersensitivity). Self-accusation must always be accompanied by hope in God. When someone feels anxiety in this case, he must realize that the evil one has his tail in it.

When a person feels great pain for his sinfulness or his ungratefulness towards God, but hopes very much in God, he is greatly consoled by Him.

We should not despair when we struggle but see no progress, remaining continuously at zero. All people earn zeros with their human strength, some more and some less. Christ, seeing our small human effort, places the number one before our zeros, and thus they acquire value and we can detect some improvement. Thus, we must not despair, but hope in God.

We should only despair due to our ego and try as much as we can to extinguish it quickly before it extinguishes us. Those who struggle egotistically with fasting, vigils, etc., trouble themselves without any spiritual benefit, for they beat against the air (I Corinthians 9:26) and not the demons. Instead of driving away temptations, they receive more of them; as a result, they encounter many difficulties in their struggle (they feel as if strangled from stress). Those, however, who struggle hard, with great humility and great hope in God, feel that their hearts rejoice and their souls flutter.

Every single act of ours and every single virtue has need of humility, love and discernment, the latter being the salt of the virtues. This is why Christ tells us in the Gospel: "Every sacrifice shall be salted with salt" (Mark 9:49).

It is better for someone to eat a little twice a day and have more humility and a lighter stomach, than to eat once a day, have a full stomach and a head full of pride.

Discernment greatly aids the advent of inner peace in our soul. It contributes much to asceticism, for it nurtures the soul and body with more strength than material food can provide. When there is no inner peace, even the best food is poisoned by the ample gall that drips continuously and harms man both spiritually and physically.

Those who are sustained by the love of God often neglect material food, or, when they eat, are oblivious to the taste, for feeling the presence of God intensely, they are even then nurtured by the sweet blessing of His love.

The desire for good food is a trap of the evil one. Whoever does not get rid of this desire is caught by the enemy’s hook and is fried in his own fat by his burning flesh. On the contrary, the desire for spiritual nourishment takes the heart away from earthly things and raises the soul to Heaven, where it tastes the food of angels.

A double misfortune awaits those who do not restrain their hearts from material desires, which are unnecessary — not to mention carnal desires — and who do not gather their minds within their hearts so as to offer everything, along with their souls, to God, but instead leave them ungoverned.

When vigilance is absent, absent also are our minds from our heads (they are stolen by the devil), and we remain with our bodies alone, without our minds, like logs. Later, when we collect our minds, they are heavy-laden with trash, which the cunning devil uses as kindling wood to light the log of our flesh on fire. Then he mocks us, leaping for joy from wickedness.

In order for our minds not to wander, we must accustom them to suckling on the sweet name of Jesus inside our hearts, so as to make spiritual progress. For, when the mind is absent, it is as if the master of the house is absent, and that’s when the house becomes a wreck.

If our minds are not present at the hour of spiritual study, we receive no benefit, but simply dally about and tire ourselves in vain, since we cannot remember anything. It is like a printer who has his mind elsewhere and does not put ink in the machines, for then the printing press runs in vain, without printing anything.

Likewise, those who are mindful in spiritual study, but only so as to entertain themselves, without employing it for their spiritual progress, resemble farmers who are too bored to grab the plow and instead snatch a spot in the dense shade. There they read agricultural books continually and learn of many theories, but in practice they remain inactive and miserable.

Women also enjoy and find rest in reading and are able to be benefited more than men since they are lacking in much logic and have more faith. Unfortunately, however, few are those who are benefited and make progress. Most, when they lay hold of themselves, are in turn seized by the "funeral dirge," and continually wail and complain, conducting microscopic spiritual tests on themselves, without first cutting off their weighty passions and later the minor ones, which, by the Grace of God, gradually vanish by themselves.

Although most women have great prerequisites for the spiritual life, they make little progress. They have less logic, a trait that is not harmful but rather beneficial in regards to faith, whereas men undermine their faith with their logic. While women possess love in their nature and can dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to God, men need work in order to make their hearts beat for God. When man’s heart does not work for God, he is in no way different from a stone statue.

Hence, we all have prerequisites for the spiritual life, both men and women. We have no excuse, for it is sufficient for us to want to utilize the abilities God has given us respectively, so that we might attain Paradise near Him — so that He may rejoice and that we, His children, may rejoice with Him.

Inasmuch as the Good God treats us with love and kindness and invites us to Paradise, so must we not treat our fellow men barbarously, setting our conscience at rest with the thought that we send souls to Paradise with our cruel ways.

Whoever behaves in a barbaric way, ostensibly to benefit souls spiritually, is worse than Diocletian, for Diocletian was an idolater and not a Christian.

Christ does not commend killing people with cruel behavior and sending souls to Paradise, but He wants us to help our fellow men so that we might all go to Paradise together. Those who endure martyrdom from Christians receive a greater reward than the Martyrs, if they suffer with joy and do not judge those who torture them, but are grateful to them for the recompense of their sins, or, if they were not blameworthy in their life, for the reward and crown they will receive from Christ.

When an impassioned person rebukes an egotist, then it is that the pistol strikes the flint and fires erupt. If, however, this indiscreet man reproves a sensitive person, he wounds him severely. He becomes like the violent man who uses a thick scrub brush to clean mucus from the eye of a baby.

Similarly, he who preaches the word of God egotistically and in a frenzy (from his passions) resembles the porcupine that transports grapes on its spikes in order to feed its children, but by moving about nervously it increasingly makes them bleed — especially if they are sensitive — instead of feeding them.

Those who have much discernment, have noble love and humility as well. They even sweeten bitter truth with their kindness and express it with much simplicity. They help more positively than do sweet words, just as bitter medicine is more beneficial than sweet syrups.

Inner love is evident to people because it sweetens the person externally and beautifies him with Divine Grace, which cannot be concealed due to its radiance.

The angel, as an angel, always spreads what he possesses — heavenly joy and delight. The demon, however, who is disguised as an angel, spreads unrest (what he possesses), or stimulates the heart carnally in order to deceive the soul with the pleasure of the flesh, ostensibly presenting it as spiritual and divine.

A humble man, even if inexperienced, is able to discern an angel of God from a demon, for he has spiritual purity and is related to the angel. The egotist and carnal man, on the other hand, besides being easily deceived by the cunning one, also infects others with deceitful-ness and carnality, damaging weak souls with his spiritual germs.

The graced man of God imparts Divine Grace, transforming carnal people and liberating them from the slavery of passions; and, in this way, he draws them near to God and they are saved.

Those who withdraw themselves from Christ are deprived of divine enlightenment, for like fools they forsake sun-drenched places so as to retire to the shade. Hence, it is natural for them to be cold and fall spiritually ill. God has endowed us all with gifts, but not all of us utilize them for the salvation of our souls and the salvation of our fellow men. Instead, most of us, most of the time, use them to the detriment of others and ourselves.

If a man who is gentle or dispassionate by nature is assisted by his character once in his spiritual progress, then he who is lively and short-tempered is benefited twice by the strength his character offers, provided that he directs it against his passions and the evil one.

Let those who were careless in their life in the world and acquired bad habits patiently accept the enemy’s war, without embracing evil desires. By struggling in this way they will be purified and enjoy the fate of the pure, who neither knew great sins, nor acquired bad habits, nor suffered great warfare from the devil.

Great care is required of us all so as not to accept the wily calls of the enemy (evil thoughts), that we not defile the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19), for then the Grace of God deserts us and we fall into darkness.

He who pays attention to and preserves his spiritual purity, preserves Divine Grace also, and always sees clearly. He turns even unclean things to his advantage, making them clean in his good spiritual factory. He turns useless paper into clean napkins, notebooks, etc. He transforms broken bronze into candlesticks and chandeliers, and gold into holy chalices. On the contrary, the man who assents to deceit and thinks deceptively, transforms good into evil, not unlike the factory that produces war supplies and that makes gold into bullets and cartridges for cannons, since for this purpose its machinery was constructed.

Hence, let us never consent to an evil thought; let us always energize the good if we wish to transform the evil factories of our hearts into good factories.

One should not struggle, however, with sick scholastic meticulousness and be choked by stress (fighting with thoughts), but should simplify his struggle and place his hope in Christ and not in himself. Christ is all love, kindness and consolation, and He never stifles man, but possesses an abundance of spiritual oxygen — divine consolation. Thorough spiritual work is one thing and sick meticulousness is another; the latter chokes with its inner anguish (due to thoughtless external strain) and afflicts the forehead with splitting headaches.

Neither should we pressure others with such scholastic pedantry, causing ourselves headaches in order only to persuade them, repeating the truth many times when they are ignorant of it, aware only of lies. (It is like winding a clock whose spring has come off its spindle.) There are also those who know the truth but adopt it in their own way in order to support their ideas. It is better to avoid such people so as not to tire oneself in vain and squander the great truths, for when the wall is built of clay (In earlier times, many homes were built with small rectangular clay bricks, which were left out in the sun to dry), plaster from lime will not take hold, but only a mixture made of clay and straw.

Those who are in a state of anger and agitation and hammer away at matters in order, ostensibly, to bring spiritual serenity and kindness to the world, resemble the strong and furious wind which strikes and threatens the sea with the foaming waves it creates, so as to finally deliver calm. Instead, however, it sinks ships both at sea and in the harbor.

We must not seek to supposedly bring calm to others when we ourselves lack internal serenity in our souls. Neither should we seek for external serenity from our spiritual father, if we don’t first reconcile internally with the person we have wounded or wronged (if the possibility of finding him exists). Nor should we use excuses in our confession, because these become a burden on our conscience.

We must not admonish the humble and sensitive man harshly, for he may take upon himself more blame than he deserves, and the fear is that he will break down.

We should insist on humbling the egotist and hard-headed not with words but with prayer and humility. For if we persist and he becomes enraged, we will become exhausted, perspire and feel distressed.

Oftentimes, inconsiderate behavior does worse damage than the seriously crazed behavior of those who crack heads, for, with their piercing words, the inconsiderate wound sensitive hearts, even often fatally injuring them (bringing souls to despair).

Worldly politeness is also very bad since it is hypocritical. Being fooled by it, people open up their hearts and ultimately waste their devotion on a worldly person who does not know what devotion means. (It is like giving golden liras to people who only know about bronze drachmas).

Neither should we pointlessly lose our time lecturing others spiritually, while they find enjoyment in worldly conversations, egotistically volunteering their opinions.

With those close to you, when there is no common subject for discussion, it is best to take care while conversing, for although the conversation begins as spiritual it ends up as womanly gossip. It is not enough that one loses one’s time, but through criticism one also loses ones soul. We have no right to judge anyone, nor situations. However, after our painful discussion, if we are able we should help the situation. Neither should we condemn the dead, for each and every soul is, fortunately, in the hands of God, and I believe we will find mercy.

What is necessary for every Orthodox Christian is to stimulate within the heterodox a blessed discomfort, 50 they might realize that they are in delusion and not falsely put their mind to rest, being deprived of the rich blessings of Orthodoxy in this life and the much greater and eternal blessings of God in the next.

He whom we must judge harshly, and have the right to do so, is our own evil self. If, in this life, we do not punish him on our own for the misdeeds he has done and do not cut off our evil desires, these deeds and desires will punish us eternally.

Consequently, it is not necessary for us to know when the Second Coming of the Lord will take place, for when someone dies he is judged according to his state when death finds him.

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