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CHOTKI.COM

The inner battle.


‘The enemy of the human race began to subject me to various temptations from the very first days of my pastoral service. First of all, he began to instill in me a sort of unaccountable fear during the performance of the sacrament of baptism and the Divine Liturgy, and later began to make me waver through mental conflict. Then I understood that only through constant and never-ending vigilance over myself and never-ending prayer could I fight against this hidden and unremitting foe; I began to try, as deeply as possible, to know myself, i.e., my soul, my nature, my infirmities and failings. So that this vigilance after myself should be constant, I began to keep a diary from the very first days of my service. To the present time I set myself as a rule to write down everything (outstanding in my spiritual life) — and that inner battle, which I wage with myself— and the bitterness of defeat from the side of the prince of darkness, and the sweetness of victory, and that blessed aid which the Lord gives me in the battle. At times, as I read through my diary and, as it were, look back upon myself, I can clearly see whether I am moving forward, have stopped in my advance, or have even retreated. Consequently, I consider the keeping of the diary of such importance, that I try not to miss even a single day without making at least the briefest of remarks. By always watching after myself and coming to know myself more and more, I also come to realize my own helplessness in all respects without the aid of God’s grace, especially in the defeat of evil, and through this you arrive at humility, at submission to God’s will, which is blessed and perfect always and in everything, and you also learn to regard other people as well with love, with sympathy, with a readiness to help them always and in everything.

"In order to quell everything unclean and injurious within myself and to be always ready to appeal to God, I always try to keep a double watch over my heart and to quell all unclean desires immediately as soon as I notice them. The main thing here is not to permit the sinful thought or desire to take hold (fasten) in the soul, to take possession of the mind, heart and all your being, and to put them on the rock of faith and God’s commandments. When the unclean desire or emotion is but arising, then it is much easier to extirpate it and to subdue it within you, than later, when it becomes deeply rooted. The task of ceaseless inner battle with oneself is at first extremely difficult, because this battle is with a cunning, perfidious and experienced foe — the devil. He employs all possible means to subjugate man; defeated in one case, he immediately employs another way, finer yet. That is why one must keep a vigil over oneself without fail..."

Here St. John’s speech was interrupted by one of the listeners:

‘Teach us, most honored Batiushka, how to behave in those cases when all efforts to repulse the enemy from oneself, to defeat him within oneself, come to nothing. Then despondency sets in involuntarily, the will becomes weakened and one loses heart during work. Would it be the correct method of battle in this case if one tries not to pay attention to the suggestions of the enemy, to spit upon him, so to speak?"

St. John animatedly replied:

"Yes, quite so, that is exactly how you should act: you must, by diligently calling the name of Jesus Christ, with hidden, deep repentance, overthrow the hidden enemies; do not pay them any attention, do not concern yourselves with them, and you must consider everything they suggest to be a harmful dream. You must never become despondent during strong temptations. The Lord is always close to help us and is ready at the first call of His Name to protect and repulse our invisible foes. ‘And call upon Me in the day of trouble,’ says He through the Prophet, ‘I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me.’"

"Allow me to ask you again, Batiushka: often one is forced to experience an extremely heavy feeling at the sight of victorious evil. How and with what can one defeat this type of despondency within oneself?"

"Indeed, one experiences an extremely heavy feeling at the sight of victorious evil; I also have to experience a similar state often. Moreover, there is the awareness that even pastoral fervor is helpless here — one often has to concede. In these cases one can find comfort in the knowledge that this phenomenon is but temporary, permitted by God’s Providence with special aims, known only to God, and that sooner or later evil will be defeated and goodness will be victorious. Also in these cases one must strengthen oneself by prayer. But do not for a single moment forget how merciful the Lord is, and how quick to hear, that He always bends His ear to our prayer and very swiftly fulfills our requests and helps us, if we completely surrender ourselves to His holy and perfect will."

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