St. Sergius of Radonezh on Prayer
Many people think that spiritual life depends on our feelings, and if we feel good, happy and peaceful, it means that everything we have with the spiritual life is good. Conversely, if we experience sadness, sorrow, we think that with spiritual life we are not all right. Of course, it is a fact that the struggling person judges his spiritual state by what he feels, but at the beginning of spiritual life this criterion is not always reliable, because there is such a law of change acting in our psychic world.
Many are dissatisfied with the way their spiritual life goes, because, according to them, they do not see any progress in themselves, they feel that they are all with the same denominator, and with what they started, they remain the same, if they have not become worse. And because of this, they grieve and mourn. Of course, the fact that they are grieving is not evil, but the guarantee of their safety in the spiritual life, but all the same we need to be careful not to fall into stress or depression because of the feelings that we are experiencing.
As we have said, there are many reasons that can cause changes in the soul of a person. Fathers call many reasons, and one of them is our environment: even climatic conditions play a certain role in our state of mind. These external conditions affect our soul. And, which is very important, other people also influence it.
I remember one saint of our days, to whom the gift of the word was given from God, he had the theological charism to speak and interpret the word of God to the people who came to him. And then a group came to him and he was asked to say a word, but he thought about it and said:
"I'm sorry, but I can not tell you anything, I have nothing on my mind, I can not tell you anything."
Then he tried to tell them something, but realized that this was no longer the old, ordinary word that came from the soul of the old man, and not the fruit of the grace that lived in him, but the word that the old man forced himself to say from his understanding. And when these people left, the old man explained what had happened:
"When certain people are present, I can not speak."
The word in him fades, and he finds no words.
I will give you another example. I remember on the Holy Mountain of Athos when I lived there, and in monasteries in those days when we communed (there we all communed, four times a week, and the Holy Liturgy was served every day, and for many years I was the only one priest, in our brotherhood), and so, every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday the monks communed with the Holy Mysteries, and these days the church was in a special atmosphere.
And since we served the Holy Liturgy every day, I already knew roughly how much strength I had - at the Liturgy, at prayer, etc. But these days I felt some additional power, which moved my soul to a special prayer and communion with God. And I realized that this additional power was, of course, not mine, but proceeded from the atmosphere that prevailed in the temple. As the monks were preparing to receive communion on this day, they were even more attentive and diligent to prepare for the participation in the Holy Mysteries, and thus the atmosphere was electrified, in a spiritual sense, and helped me, the infirm, and I received additional spiritual power.
Remember the words of Christ in the Gospel: Entering the house, greet him, saying: Peace to this house (Matthew 10, 12)? This expression is Jewish, and the Jews' wishes usually had a special meaning, like all Eastern peoples: they do not say "hello", "welcome", and "peace" - "shalom." The Arabs also say: "Peace to this house." And if there is peace in it, then your peace will remain in this house, and if there is no peace, then the world you send as a wish will return to you, and then you leave thence, shaking even the dust from your shoes.
One person can change the atmosphere for the better, and for the worse
It is proved that the spiritual atmosphere influences our state of mind, and only one person can change the whole atmosphere in a specific place for the better, and for the worse. One God's man can cause a peaceful atmosphere to reign here, but it is also possible that one person who does not have the spirit of God, has confused many people.
I will give you a simple example. I do not want you to do this and I do not call for it, but if you happen to argue with some heretic (try to talk with the Jehovah's Witness), then the demonic spirit immediately enters our soul, causing us to be irritated. I think, for sure, everyone has such experience. We have nothing against these people: they are in spiritual delicacy, they are heretics, God may have mercy on them, but only this spirit of charm, the spirit of blasphemy, heresy, which is a powerful demonic spirit, like an injection, pours into our souls and causes confusion all our being.
We have nothing against them, they are simply seduced people, they come to tell us a word, and our soul is immediately embarrassed. And we think: "Why am I so embarrassed? What happened, how, why? "The reason is that this person is the bearer of the spirit of charm. And vice versa, when we approach the man of God, he, maybe, will not tell us anything, but we already feel the atmosphere of peace and joy.
I will give you another example. When I confess for hours, and small children approach, it is for me the best rest - even if I go for an hour or so, I will not rest like a small child in a confessional: he, like a sponge, erases all spiritual fatigue and changes the whole atmosphere. Why? Because he is an innocent creature. It is a child, a human soul, not participating in human vices, in our passions, and it radiates peace, tranquility and rest around.
Do you know how well I feel when I am in elementary school? Just great! What can I say? That is, I feel so good, so easy with small children, I feel in my soul an atmosphere that relieves fatigue as a hand. No matter how broken I am, this fatigue always disappears. And the reason is small children.
The soul has its own laws and rules, according to which it operates
And, on the contrary, there are people who, if they only come close, always tire us, even if they do not say a word. We feel the heaviness in the soul, some kind of stiffness, stiffness. Why? Because the soul has its own laws and rules, by which it acts.
Of course, ideally, it is necessary to overcome such influences and not look at the changes taking place in the soul, especially when it comes to our brothers. Here we must sacrifice our soul for the sake of our brother, even if we feel that he is intrusive, unpleasant, oppressive and burdens our soul.
I remember one day when I told the old man: "I can not stand this man, he tires me," he said to me:
"You're tired of listening to him." And he asked: Is he tired of himself? You asked this man where he is (in the spiritual sense), how much mired in this confusion and darkness, in all this hardship? You listen to him for five minutes, but how much can you understand while listening to him? And he lives in this state. Think about the state of his condition.
Do not succumb to your impressions and emotions - if we are spiritual people, this must be overcome. And you know, when a person overcomes this state, he goes to a higher space. I will give you an example.
When our soul senses the presence of Satan, demonic energy, she becomes confused, afraid and embarrassed - she does not accept all this. And this is natural: our soul, being a spirit, can feel the demonic presence. And the souls of saints, when they feel this presence or remember the existence of demons, do not react like that: their souls are moved by a great love for ... "tangalashka", as the Monk Paisii said. With great pain and with only a great deal of love, as for difficult people, the elder said.
Once I talked about clergymen, and the elder said:
"I like very good clerics." And I like more bad clerics, but with great pain.
Indeed, when a person is spiritually perfect or in a spiritual state, he does not feel disgust for someone who is in a difficult condition, but pain and love, and therefore can support his brother, neighbor, any man, he can strengthen it, not feeling that the other was a burden to him. But we are ordinary people with our human infirmities. Therefore, when we find ourselves in an environment that acts on us relieved, we rest. And when we find ourselves in an environment that acts on us tiringly, we will try not to react to it, but to be attached and patronized with love, praying that it will pass, accusing ourselves that we are weak and therefore can not restrain ourselves, and the other is not to blame.
Love always stands, it never falls. In love there are no falls and changes
And one more thing. We need to know that if we feel distaste for others it means that we have not yet attained perfect love, and therefore we can not even be called Christians, because a Christian is a person who has love in him, a lot of love for other people, and love always stands, like hope, it never falls. There is no fall and no change in love.
There is a place for everyone in it, and even when someone has to be punished or forced to do something that seems unpleasant, but it is necessary for his own good, then let it be done with real love. With pain, because you must impose on him some penance, establish order for both the personal salvation of the other, and for the common good. But in any case, we must do this, and the criterion of spirituality will be love for everyone.
We need to be very careful in our usual environment and in the places we are going to, because, whether we like it or not, the environment affects us. Therefore, the fathers listened to themselves - not out of contempt for other people, but with a sense of human infirmity, and listened to where they go and with whom they speak.
And one thing can destroy the whole peaceful atmosphere in the house
Know that even one object can destroy the whole peaceful atmosphere in the house, not a person, but only one thing, and even more - a book. In "Paterik" it is narrated that a certain elder, hegumen of the monastery, prayed one night and saw the Most-Holy Mother of God, who walked around the monastery. She went into the cell of all the monks, blessed them, but did not go into one. It was the cell of a good monk, and the hegumen knew that he was a good one, so he asked the Blessed Virgin:
"Why do not you go into this cell to bless this monk?" He's also struggling and so kind.
And the Most Holy Theotokos answered him:
"Yes, he's a good monk, but he keeps one heretical book in the cell, and I can not go in there." I do not want to go in there.
Another case. I was present at the same time. Once, having left with two monks from Mount Athos, we went on business to Thessaloniki and stopped in a konak , since there was nowhere else to go. In monasteries, there are konaks in which monks stop. We sheltered a young man from Cyprus, he was a student and came to the university to take exams. The abbot said that he stopped in a konak for a couple of months, because we are not always there. There was a room in which he could stop.
And so we arrived tired, the whole day from the Holy Mountain: the sea, ships, buses, all sorts of adventures, etc. They came to the konak, hastily snacked, served a pokery and went to rest. But, as soon as they lay down, suddenly there is a terrible noise. Hierodeacon, who was with us, awoke in horror and jumped up. We all felt something was wrong:
- What happened to you? What happened?
"Nothing, nothing," he answered.
"Well, let's rest then."
They again went to their rooms, but a little later the same noise is heard again, and the deacon again jumps up.
"What's the matter, my child?"
- I do not know. Something is happening here, some kind of temptation, I can not sleep. This temptation comes to strangle me.
"Well, father deacon, you will not let us sleep today ..."
We leave - he again in horror jumps up and loudly screams.
"What's going on here?"
"Well, what can I tell you?" A Chinese with a mustache threw himself at me and began to strangle me.
A Chinese in a konak? Where did he come from? The temptation of Satan at this hour. From Satan, but in this way. And yet where did he come from? What's going on here?
Then the student woke up:
"What is it, what was it?"
- Yes, here, this and that was it.
While the point is, I told him:
"Listen, what's going on here, what are you doing here?" Do you read anything?
What happened in the end? This young man, out of curiosity, bought himself an occult book, there was a bookstore nearby where he sold such literature - esoteric, about all occult practices, and this book described various Hindu and Chinese techniques. Demonic energy came from this book.
I could tell you many such cases, but now is not the time to tell them. I just want to tell you: be careful about what you bring home, what you carry with you and what you store in the premises. Because I'm in different houses and sometimes I see there demonic symbols, magic signs, masks, statues of buddhas. Be careful - these are not simple ornaments. As the icon of Christ is not an ornament, but radiates Christ's grace, as the Cross radiates grace. St. John Chrysostom says that if the house has the Gospel, it protects it and transmits grace to the whole house. Similarly, where there are such objects, books and images emanating demonic energy, they, unfortunately, affect our environment.
What the fathers talked about centuries ago, they are again coming back to this today, so that science too clearly spoke on this matter. Today she undertakes to analyze the effects that have on a person including cartoons.
When there was a conference in Limassol devoted to pornography, I was really horrified. A film was shown on it, one TV channel prepared it so that we could see what was being shown on TV. One part was devoted to all this nakedness and carnal things, which are shown on TV. And the second was that the children are watching: some dragons, aliens. What can I tell you? From their mouths there was a fire, there were some horrific scenes, and I really came to confusion. It was completely dark, and if I were alone, I would have cried! It's good that there were people around.
Indeed, my soul was confused, I began to worry, although I knew that we were just watching a film for scientific purposes. The scientists themselves, not some church people, analyzed how the things that children look at, what people are watching, how all this affects our soul world.
The environment matters, and we must be attentive to it, as to everything in life
So, Wednesday, as the fathers say, is of great importance, and we must be attentive to it, as to everything in life. To everything, even to the office in which we work: if it is not cleaned so as to give us comfort, then we can not work in it, the work becomes exhausting for us. So I told you that it is good to have a lamp at home, an icon that you still have, and you will immediately see a change. The icon of Christ, the Most Holy Theotokos, the saints is a different atmosphere, the house will immediately get warm, whereas earlier there was a heavy and hostile atmosphere. You will see this impact. Because the things that surround us are not so harmless. Fortunately, science already speaks of this, and fathers spoke before it, explaining the whole labyrinth of influences and changes.
God wants a person's soul to become mature and perfect
We also need to know that changes in our souls are due to pedagogical reasons, from God: God wants the soul of man to become mature and perfect. It's like in the case of food: we do not always eat the same food, because in that case we would die, no matter how good it is. That's what they say. I do not know if this is true, but it's what educated people, nutritionists and doctors say-that if every day to feed a person with the same food, he at some point will die or fall ill, no matter how good it may be. We need variety.
You see, we are eating jam, salad, ice cream, and wine, sometimes we drink, every day at the table we have different dishes or at least different foods - a person needs variety. On the other hand, God created us like that. He did not create us so that we ate one bean, for example, and that we used different foods. This is our nature.
And in spiritual life, too, it is necessary for a person to be integral, so that he does not have one kind of virtue, because then he would be flawed. Even love, when she is alone, harms - love, this greatest virtue, which is the fullness of virtues.
But there is such a virtue, which, as our elder said, is the salt of everything. So what is this salt?
"Salt, children, salt," said the old man.
So he spoke. And we asked ourselves: what kind of salt is this? And what are we going to salt it with? What kind of salt is he talking about?
"What kind of salt is it, old man?"
And salt is judgment. Every foolish virtue is dangerous. Even love. When there is no salt in a well-prepared dish, it is tasteless, just as judiciousness gives taste and correct proportionality to everything.
Change takes place in a person so that he becomes perfect so that he has gone through all the stages of spiritual life in order to gain more than one kind of virtue - only love, or only alms, or nonchildness, or prayer - because then he would be one-sided And when he is like that, he can not see other people properly.
Once I was at a great old man. And there came a monk, praising the virtue of the Abbess of a large monastery, in which there were many nuns. He told him that this abbess is such a pure person, she has such a pure mind, she never had carnal thoughts, she does not even know what it is, she is such a holy soul who did not have fleshly temptations. And here he was, and with him and all of us, we expected from the old man that he would say: "Bravo! What a wonderful man, and what an abbess! "
- Yes, it really is something great!
And the elder, wise and experienced, shook his head disapprovingly and said:
"And I, Father, do not praise what you say." I do not want the abbess to understand these things, I want the abbess to understand this, so that she goes through the furnace of temptations, so that she knows and comforts others who are next to her.
From the "Paterik" we know such cases with the holy ascetics. God allows us to go through temptations, the danger of perdition, sin, we want to be full people, not one-sided. Did you think about such a cleric who does not understand these things? He is like a doctor who does not know what pain is, and it will hurt people. But if the doctor himself falls ill, and he is grabbed by the arms and legs, thrown on the table and begin to cut, then the next time someone tells him: "It hurts!" - he will already know what it is, and not will say: "Nothing hurts you!" - or: "Never mind, you will suffer!" Let him himself experience pain, and then he will learn to feel compassion for the sick person.
So God allows us to go through such changes so that we will gain experience. For as He Himself suffered, having been tempted, He can also help the tempted (Heb., 2, 18). That is, a person needs to go through this, because so he resigns, learns his weakness, understands human impotence, learns to sympathize with others, learns to be kind, sympathetic, consoling.
A certain monk was guilty of something, and the rest decided to expel him, but Abba Pamvo said:
"I, too, have a lot from the old man, so I, too, must be cast out."
Then all bowed and said:
- But who can say that there is nothing from the old man in it? Who are we then to drive someone from the place of repentance?
I remember one kind confessor on the Holy Mountain. Another confessor, strict, but unreasonable, came and made a remark to him:
"You, Father, are too lenient, you allow everyone to receive communion." They ought to impose penance: for something - a year, for another - two, for a third - ten years. Why do you allow them to partake of communion? They have to be judged, you're a confessor! To impose penance, not all can receive communion!
And the old man said to him:
"Father, I, when I serve, I say to myself that if there is someone here who should not partake of communion, but go out, it's me." If God tolerates me, then who am I to cast out another? If anyone should leave the temple as the most sinful, and an abomination to the Church, and the one whom God abhors, it's me. If I'm the first of the worst, how will I get rid of someone? I can not do what you say. If you think you can do this, then do it. And if you think that when you take communion, you have a clear testimony of conscience, telling you that you can take communion, and the other can not, then do it. But I do not have such a testimony of conscience.
The saints, because they were tempted, passed through this circle of changes and tasted sorrow and joy, pain and pleasure, poverty and wealth, hunger, thirst and saturation - became complete people. Completed people - consoling, gracious, and accepting other people, because, passing all this way, on which God raised them, they understood, first of all, their human nature.
We need to know that God Himself in our own hands makes our salvation, but we depend on two things. The first is our free consent: to go to the God Doctor, to put ourselves in His hands, and He will already heal us. And to say to Him:
"Look at me, I'm sick!" I pray thee, O Lord: heal me, sick!
And the second is to stay in the hospital until you get through all the treatment. Do not do as those who first go to the doctor, and at night escapes from the hospital and thinks that the health problem has already been resolved. No, you need to stay in the hospital, go through all the exams, injections, procedures, medications and so on, to get out healthy.
To a man who salutes, God can not let him perish
So it is with man in the spiritual life. First, he gives his consent to co-work with God's grace, and the second remains in the spiritual hospital, undergoing everything that God will allow, knowing that God rules his salvation, and it is impossible that He cast man to perdition: to a man who salutes, God does not can give to die.
And, whatever happens to this person, whatever fall, hindrance or change may happen, he can turn everything on spiritual benefit, trusting in God's Providence, and will receive a great spiritual benefit. And, as the elder said, the most disgusting is manure, however, and it becomes a valuable fertilizer, producing sweet fruits, if it is used correctly.
The same thing happens with our downfall and changes for the worse: they can transform into excellent spiritual elements, if a person in humility endures, relies on God's mercy and humbly marches forward on the path of spiritual life, firmly believing in the Father's Providence of God that He never it will not leave, no matter what happens.
 Konak - the kind of hotel, the place where you can spend the night.