Α nun possessed by a spirit of despair would say over and over again, “I am afraid that I will not be saved.” And a wise elder replied to her:
“Who could then be saved if monastics cannot? For whom has God created Paradise? We will be saved. We ought to be joyful. We should admit that we are sinners, but also glorify God. To trust in God is like a continuous prayer. Think no evil. Blasphemous thoughts are like airplanes: they fly by, they disturb our tranquillity, and then they are gone. It is up to me to say when I am a sinner — not when the Devil wants me to.”
The elder also said, “Various people can be comforted near a person who is free from stress.”
A hermit said:
“What guarantees a safe journey to eternity is effort, dignity, the sense of being unworthy before God, hope (the spiritual oxygen), consolation, and certainty. Not misery and compelled obedience and forced prayer; not tears and sadness — these all come from Satan. Yes, I ought to weep for my sins, but all the while hoping in God’s love. But I cannot stand it if I cry because the Devil wants me [to despair]. Many times Satan crushes a person with despair and the devil becomes the victor. But this does not happen when one is like a child on his father’s trusting arm. Our trust in God is a ceaseless prayer that brings positive results. Despair comes from the Devil. Don’t say, ‘Oh, what has happened to me?’ but give yourself to God totally and hope in Him.
Our obedience should not be done with misery or because we happen to be monastics. The elder or the eldress is not like the Emperor Diocletian who gives us orders. Rather, we should be grateful to our elders and eldresses because our obedience to them protects us. We thus must not react to their directions negatively, nor disobey them.
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An elder said:
“I have not dealt with many things. I am familiar with some patristic teachings and I keep trying. Nonetheless, one thing has become clear to me. There is no bitterness for man. When you face bitter situations spiritually, eventually they become sweet.
We come across a person who has sinned, has regretted it and repented sincerely; he is sad and confesses and receives divine consolation. If one does not feel this way, it means that he should understand that something is not quit right with his conscience. He should go to confession again; then consolation will follow. This is the way we should go. A person shares in his fellow man’s sorrow, prays for him, and asks God to help him.”