Orthodox Thought for the Day


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Recognize your spiritual poverty

From Abbot Nikon in Letters to Spiritual Children:

My dear one!

You become despondent and lost at the least temptation.  The Lord allows this to happen so that you might discover your weakness and understand how much lies hidden in a person’s soul, and that labor is necessary in order to cleanse oneself of passions, to become the temple of the Living God and to achieve salvation.  When your human frailty becomes apparent to you, then you will fall down before the Lord and from the bottom of your heart cry out to Him, like the Apostle Peter when he was drowning.  Then you will receive the Lord’s help and realize how close the Lord is to those who call out His name from the depths of their heart.  Then you will fall in gratitude at His feet and weep over your sins through which you have grieved the Lord.  Then your heart will be humbled and you will cease accusing others, endeavoring instead to have your past sins forgiven and to avoid future transgressions of the Lord’s commandments.  You will also come to understand the vanity of everything worldly, and how very insignificant is your attachment to this earth, its disputes, its disappointments.  It is not worth becoming dismayed over such things, as they rob you of spiritual peace and even, perhaps, your salvation.

All that is bad—all the passions, the devil’s snares, all misfortunes and sufferings—all these are conquered through humility.  And humility arises through saying to the Lord from the depths of our heart, “I receive the due reward for my deeds.  Remember me, Lord, in Thy Kingdom,” (Luke 23:41).  If we are able to say this in all of life’s circumstances, without grumbling at the Lord or at people, then immediately our burden will be lightened and we will find ourselves on the correct spiritual path.  If we do complain or blame someone for our misfortune, then we must humble ourselves even further and say, Lord, I really am worth nothing, only You can save me.  “If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean,” said the leper who had lost all hope of being healed.  “I will, be thou clean,” said the Lord, touching him, and the leper was free of his affliction.  And so it is with us—if we, realizing the full extent of our feebleness and spiritual poverty, turn to the Lord our only Savior, and from a contrite heart say, “Lord, if You desire it, You can heal and cleanse me,” we will hear the same reply from the Lord, Who suffered for us on the Cross, “I will, be thou clean.”

Our soul will clearly hear this reply and we will receive the strength to bear all of life’s difficulties with thanksgiving, just as the repentant thief bore great sufferings without grumbling, as he remained hanging on the cross until evening.  May God help you to understand this, to humble yourself and give yourself over into God’s hands.  Constantly say, “Lord, may Your holy will be done.  Lord, do with me what You will, just do not allow me to grumble at You, and grant me salvation.”

So far you have only read and heard about spiritual warfare, about tears and suffering of heart.  God is allowing you to discover from experience just where it is you stand.  Will you be able to persevere and bear hardships without murmuring but thinking of the Lord, or will you begin complaining and then—what is worse—sink into despondency?

Decide for yourself.  “Give blood and receive the Spirit.”  The time of childhood is over, it is time to begin the work of an adult.  A contrite and humble heart the Lord will not despise, and, “The snares of the devil do not touch one who is humble,” (from a vision of Saint Anthony the Great about snares.)

If you give in to complaining and begin to blame people and circumstances for your hardships, then you will eventually come to murmur against God and may become totally despondent.  May the Lord preserve you from this!

May the Lord grant you spiritual peace, humility and wisdom, and may He give you patience and strength to carry the burden of both your own passions and of those with whom you come in contact…

This beautiful meditation comes from the book Letters to Spiritual Children published by Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society in New York in 1997.

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