О искушениях

…Без искушений никто не сможет спастись…

Очень многое можно сказать о человеке по его реакции на искушение. Кто-то ропщет молча, осуждает обидчика, кто-то громко ругается, а кто-то и вовсе приходит в ярость и ищет отмщения; редко, кто-то тихо, со слезами, благодарит Бога за вразумление, приносит Ему сердце сокрушенное и смиренное, которое Бог никогда не уничижит.

Да, искушения всем знакомы: болезнь, предательство, обида, незаслуженное – казалось бы – обвинение, всяческие поломки… Трудно описать все, что может с нами случиться на жизненном пути. У преподобного Антония Великого есть такие слова: “Всякий может управлять кораблем в хорошую погоду, истинно же искусный мореплаватель познается во время бури.”

Треволнения искушений являются некоим Божиим рентгеном, открывающим нам страсти таящиеся в глубине наших душ. Не будь искушений, мы бы никогда не узнали насколько мы немощны и беспомощны сами по себе, без Бога. Не будь искушений, мы бы никогда не узнали как далеки мы от совершенства, к которому призваны Богом.

Однажды, я спросил своего знакомого если он играет в теннис. Он сказал мне, что ни разу в жизни никому не проиграл, чем вызвал мое восхищение… потом он добавил, что он никогда не играл… От моего восхищения не осталось и следа.

Каждое искушение – духовная битва, сражение показывающее нам наше духовное состояние. Побеждая, мы обретаем благодать Божию и двигаемся вперед к следующей битве, но и проигрывая, мы не должны унывать, не должны падать духом. Если искушение одолевает нас, не дадим радости врагу и даже наше поражение обратим в оружие против него искренним покаянием и смирением.

Многое в нашей жизни зависит от нашего настроя: если мы всегда и за все благодарим Господа, то никакое искушение не сможет сломить нашей веры, если же мы ропщем и ищем легкой жизни, хотим пройти широкими вратами, то каждое – даже самое маленькое и незначительное – искушение будет для нас мучением. Поэтому, возблагодарим Господа за всякое искушение и смирением и кротостью сохраним душу свою от всякого вреда. Будучи искушаемы, будем рассудительны и не будем гордо сами искать искушений – безрассудная горячность никому не делала добра. В сокрушении сердца да помним всегда слова молитвы Господней: “…и не введи нас во искушение, но избави нас от лукавого.” Аминь.

About temptations

…Without temptations no one can be saved…

Much can be said about someone based on his reaction to temptation. Some murmur quietly, some judge the offender, some make a loud fuss, and some altogether become enraged and seek vengeance; rarely, some quietly, with tears thank God for correction, offer Him a heart that is broken and humbled, which He will not despise.

Yes, all of us are familiar with temptations: illness, betrayal, offence, undeserved – seemingly – accusations, various break downs… It is difficult to describe everything that can happen with us on life’s journey. St. Anthony the Great has the following words: “Everyone can steer the ship during good weather, a true seaman is revealed during the time of a storm.”

The tempests of temptations are a certain God’s x-ray, which reveals to us the passions hiding deep within our souls. If there were no temptations, we would have never found out how week and helpless we are without God. If there were no temptations, we would never come to know how far we are from perfection, to which we are called by God.

Once, I asked an acquaintance if he plays tennis. He told me that he never lost a match to anyone in his life, for which I admired him greatly… then he added that he never played… My admiration vanished without a trace.

Each temptation is a spiritual battle, a combat that shows us our true spiritual state. Winning, we obtain God’s grace and move forward to the next battle, yet even when we lose, we should not become despondent, our spirit should not be cast down. If a temptation should overcome us, let us not give the enemy any cause for joy and let us turn our failure into a weapon against him by sincere repentance and humility.

Much in our life depends on our attitude: if in at all times and in all things we thank the Lord, then no temptation will be able to crush our faith, but if we grumble and seek an easy life, if we wish to pass through the wide gates, then every – even the most minute and insignificant – temptation will be a torment for us. Therefore, let us thank the Lord for every temptation and let us protect our souls from all harm by humility and meekness. Being tempted, let us be discerning and let us not proudly seek temptations, because hotheaded imprudence never served anyone for good. In contrition of heart let us always remember the words of the Lord’s prayer: “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Amen.

On giving of thanks

The holy apostle Paul teaches us to thank the Lord always and in all things. However, the feeling of gratitude, for the most part, is familiar to us only when all things are smooth, when everything is going our way. Alas, in times of temptations our first reaction is grumbling, vexation, irritation. All of this does not attract the grace of God toward us, but quite the opposite, it drives it away from us. Our negative thoughts and feelings, like raging waves, toss the ship of our heart hither and thither, hindering the captain – the mind – in steering, at times threatening altogether to break it over the rocks – over bitter sorrow.

Blinded, devoid of reason by ingratitude in times of temptation, we are like sick people, who grumble and complain against the doctor for bitter, but beneficial medicine.

Let us remember Joseph the Most Comely, whom his brothers, first, wanted to kill, but then sold him into slavery, into Egypt. In all his sorrows he continued to thank the Lord and to serve Him faithfully, and for that he was rewarded with honour and glory, having become a great chief in Egypt, second to Pharaoh in power, and a saviour from hunger not only for the Egyptians, but also for his brothers.

Thanksgiving to the Lord for everything, especially for sorrows, calms the tempest of feelings and thoughts, giving the mind ability to see circumstances clearly, and consequently, the ability to make correct decisions, ones beneficial for the salvation of the soul. Ingratitude, grumbling, and sorrow darken our reason, cover the eyes of our soul with thick wall of smoke and darkness and do not allow it to see God. The one, who believes, knows that without God even joy is not a joy.

Therefore, let us try every day, every hour, at all times and in all things to fulfill this bright commandment: to thank the Lord for all things. The words of thanksgiving in our mouth will be sweet as honey, which by its sweetness helps us swallow bitter medicine. Thus, our gratitude will sweeten our sorrow and grief, will make it more tolerable, and at times altogether help us see everything in a different – Divine – light and will heal our heart, having purified it of bitterness and having filled it with joy in the Lord, Who, in all our sorrows, is our Quick and Almighty Protector.

О благодарении

Святой апостол Павел учит нас всегда и за все благодарить Господа. Однако, чувство благодарности нам, по большей части, знакомо лишь тогда, когда все гладко, все по нашему. Увы, во время искушений наша первая реакция – ропот, досада, раздражение. Все это не привлекает к нам благодать Божию, а наоборот удаляет ее от нас. Наши негативные мысли и чувства, как бурные волны, бросают корабль нашего сердца туда и сюда, не давая уму – капитану – возможности управлять, грозя порой и вовсе разбить корабль о камни – горькую печаль.

Ослепленные, лишенные ума неблагодарностью во время искушений, мы похожи на больных, которые ропщут и жалуются на врача за горькое, но полезное лекарство.

Вспомним Иосифа Прекрасного, которого братья сперва хотели убить от зависти, а потом продали в рабство, в Египет. Во всех своих бедах он продолжал благодарить Господа и верно служить Ему, за что был награжден честью и славой, став большим начальником, вторым после Фараона по власти, и спасителем от голода не только для Египтян, но и для своих братьев.

Благодарноcть Гоcподу за все, особенно за скорби, успокаивает бурю чувств и помышлений, давая возможность уму ясно видеть обстоятельства, а следовательно, и решения принимать правильные и спасительные для души. Неблагодарность, ропот, печаль затемняют наш рассудок, окутывают плотной завесой дыма и мглы глаза нашей души и не дают ей видеть Бога. Тот кто верит, знает: без Бога и радость – не радость.

Поэтому, постараемся каждый день, каждый час, каждую минуту, всегда и во всем исполнять эту светлую заповедь – благодарить Господа за все. Слова благодарности на наших устах, будут сладки как мед, который своей сладостью помогает нам проглотить горькое лекарство. Так и наша благодарность, усластит нашу беду, нашу скорбь, сделает ее более терпимой, а то и вовсе поможет нам увидеть все в ином, Божественном, свете и исцелит наше сердце, очистив его от горечи и наполнив его радостью о Господе, Который во всех бедах наш Скорый и Всемогущий Заступник.

On self-will

Very often, one can even say, in the majority of cases, we come to church in the search for help, especially during the time of trouble, sorrow, or grief. The heart shows us the way, gives us a direction; the soul of every person yearns for God and inexorably attracts one to the church. Having crossed the threshold of the church, having heard the most accessible and comforting prayer “Lord, have mercy”, little by little, we become eyewitnesses and participants of a great miracle: our repentance, renewal, and healing.

At first look, it seems that this process is extremely simple: church is perceived as a pharmacy, or a store – you come, get what you need, and continue on your way. However, such an approach – even when it is at the subconscious level – always ends in a disappointment. Some for a short while, others for a number of years try to get something from God; I shall dare to say that some try to get their own way with all righteous and unrighteous means.

In some cases, everything is resolved in good time: we are churched and begin to see our needs differently. Yet at other times, on account of our weakness of soul and our willfulness, we get stuck in erroneous opinions, built upon and by all means founded on our fleshly reasonings. Stubbornly striving after our goal, there are times, when we undertake considerable efforts: we fast too strictly, take upon ourselves extended prayer rules, read one after another books on spiritual life, look for elders, in order to use their blessings as some seal of approval for our desires and actions. In other words: we become great zealots, yet without proper understanding.

In itself, fasting, prayer rule, reading of spiritual books is without doubt of great benefit, save for the times when they are, in essence, some bargaining tool in trading with God. I really need something, so I’ll fast more strictly, I’ll say some extra prayers, will read some books, and look, perhaps, the Lord will give me what I want. How always painful it is to see such, though most sincere, yet still mistaken way of thinking.

Such an approach toward spiritual life was already condemned by the Lord. Blinded by our desires, we do not hear His strict warning. Addressing pharisees, lawyers, and scribes, the Lord accused them for trying by all means to keep the letter of the law, at the same time violating its spirit. The Lord said: “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:24)

What did He want to say by those words? The Lord did not abolish the law, He fulfilled it and taught us to live by the commandments. Consequently, we should fast, pray, and read the Holy Gospel. Only we must always remember that we do all that in order to have the strength to fight with our passions: with pride, avarice, hardness of heart and others. Our passions are those camels, which we swallow, in other words, we do not pay due attention to fighting them.

If we use the weapons for the spiritual struggle with the passions for our own self-centered goals and then, when, in the end we do not get what we want, we are mistaken about the reasons for our sorrows and consider ourselves righteous and worthy of God’s help, we run the risk of becoming exhausted and mentally ill, of losing our faith, of becoming angry with the church and its ministers, the risk of becoming a prey of the evil one.

Such are the consequences of self-will.

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Saint Isaac the Syrian said that grace is bestowed not for the virtues, but for the humility, which is born in those, who try to acquire the virtues and come to see their falls, sins and shortcomings.

In the garden of Gethsemane, the Lord gave us an example of how we should pray and ask God: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39) In this short prayer the Lord humbles Himself twice, saying first: “if it be possible”, and then: “nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”

Let us also, when we seek help from God, seek deliverance from sorrows, believe with our whole heart in His loving providence for us sinners, knowing that everything always happens for the better, for our benefit. Let us always remember that the words “Thy will be done” are part of the Lord’s prayer. Then, no sorrow, no trial will be able to darken our reason and separate us from the love of God and commitment to His Church.