Fragment of a monastic meeting held on December 30, 2013
Nun Chionia: We brought up the following topic during one of our previous meetings: as soon as a person decides to struggle with a certain sin, she is immediately overwhelmed by temptations. I’m having a serious issue with it. No matter how many times I tried to struggle with my passions, of which I have plenty – I can simply pick and choose any of them – I have always faced this problem. As soon as I tell myself that I start the fight, I meet a temptation. I cannot get it: why does it happen, given that the enemy does not know our good thoughts?
Father Andrew: This is because the enemy knows our weaknesses.
Nun Chionia: How can he know that, for instance, today I would like to start fighting this or that sin?
Father Andrew: He feels it. He has an intuition. Perhaps, this is what God allows him to do. A person thinks, “I will get up early and attend all the nocturnal services,” but immediately she is overcome by such sleepiness that she cannot possibly attend a nocturnal service at all. The Lord says, “Come on, you are free to try but it is Me who you need to succeed.” The brothers who stay at the metochion often promise that they will never drink again but this never happens because they rely solely on their own strength. We should call unto God, “O Lord, help me! I cannot live like that anymore.”
Nun Chionia: Yes, we should begin with praying to God. However, even though I do pray, the situation never changes; perhaps, this is because my prayer is too weak. I have sins like irascibility and anger. So I plan to struggle with these sins and say, “O Lord, help me, protect me, teach me to react to everything calmly.” Nevertheless, I fail to do this and temptations come down on me like an avalanche. I want to fight the sin, and start sinning even more as a result.
Father Andrew: You’ve got to feel your weakness, for God’s power is made manifest in weakness; you’ve got to humble yourself down because you are a proud person. So if you say, “I’ll do this, I’ll do that,” gradually you may be overridden with pride, self-confidence with regard to your abilities and your spiritual condition, and this will be the most horrifying of all.
Nun Chionia: How can I improve?
Father Andrew: You have to humble down.
Abbess Euphrosinia: I can relate to what you are saying. You want to do everything for your own sake, for the sake of your pride, not for the sake of Christ.
Father Andrew: In order to justify yourself in your own eyes. You should be thinking, “Lord, I am the worst of all the sisters. I do not deserve anything but please do not leave me; I want to live with love, humility, and patience, but instead I am angry and all my passions, all my sinful dirt pours over onto my dear sisters. Forgive me, O Lord, help me!” If you reprimand yourself like that, if you feel your absolute dependency on God – you will not even notice how your way of doing things will change. This is because if you decide to do something, you cannot help watching over yourself and looking at the result, and believing that this result is your own. That is why the saints used to say that they were the worst of all: they did not see themselves exalted, they saw their wretchedness. Whenever God would give something to them, they were humbled even more because they considered themselves unworthy of it. You see, you can walk on nails and stand on your head, you can be sophisticated to a great extent – and many people do it – however, the basis for it will not be right, it will be the spirit of pride, the evil spirit. Apparently, the Lord sees that you have to humble down more. You want it but you cannot do it so you should rebuke yourself and ask for the sisters’ prayers, and when you succeed, you should say, “The sisters’ prayers managed to do it, not my own strength.” The first person you should ask for prayers is the person you dislike most. This will be a humbling experience for you, and that is how you will grow spiritually and not notice yourself doing any good. As you look into your soul, you will be able to see how deep your fall is and will no longer be proud of what the Lord gives you. The original sin deformed the human nature, so we can say that the worse – the better, if you do not become desperate.
Nun Chionia: You tell me I should ask for the prayers of the sister I have a hard time getting along with. This is the most difficult task for me…
Father Andrew: Well, you should be friends, help each other, serve each other. Carry out your holy obedience. See how Nun Nadezhda carries it out and feels that God is her strength.
March 7, 2014