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Friday, December 19, 2014

God always helps. He always comes in time, but patience is necessary ( Elder Joseph the Hesychast )

Fortieth Letter

Come, my good and beloved sister. Come and I shall comfort your sorrow once again. Come and we shall bless God with the sweet voice of our heart, intoned through our mouth, and resonating in our nous, saying, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and let all that is within me bless His holy name." [1]

Do you see how much the Lord loves us? Do you see how fortunate we ungrateful ones are for everything that His goodness gives us every day? But the time of the real harvest still awaits us: that blessed moment when we shall leave everything here and depart to the other homeland—the true one—the blessed life, the certain joy, so that each one of us receives the portion that the munificent, sweetest Jesus will give him.

O joy! O gratitude! O love of the heavenly Father! He cleanses us from all defilement, honors us, enriches us, bestowing His riches! There, my golden sister, there are no crafty people to wrong us. Envy and jealousy will have disappeared. There are no passions there whatsoever; those who have them have remained on the other side of the bridge. For a great gulf is fixed between here and there. [2]

But, O sweet love of Christ, what good didst Thou see in us that Thou didst lead us along Thy divine path?

So rejoice and exult, my beloved sister. Thank and glorify God, and behold, the time draws near. The time will soon come for us to hear the blessed voice, "Come unto me." [3] And as soon as these bodily eyes close, the noetic eyes of the soul will open. Then as if from sleep we shall wake up into the other life. Then you will see parents, brothers, relatives. Then you will see angels, saints, and the blessed Mother of all, the pure Virgin Theotokos, whom we all call upon at every moment and to whom, after God, we owe everything. Then, whom shall we speak with first, who will kiss us first, whom shall we kiss? With all purity, with all modesty, with all holiness. So who, expecting such blessings, would not endure every sorrow here of this present life?

Therefore, my good beloved sister, make a review of your life. Examine in what manner you have passed your life. Recall the innumerable benefactions of our Savior Jesus Christ and His sweetest Mother, and be patient in the temptations that come.

God always helps. He always comes in time, but patience is necessary. He hears us immediately when we cry out to Him, but not in accordance with our own way of thinking.

You think that your voice did not immediately reach the saints, our Panagia, and Christ. On the contrary, even before you cried out, the saints rushed to your aid, knowing that you would call upon them and seek their God-given protection. However, since you do not see beyond what is apparent and do not know how God governs the world, you want your request to be fulfilled like lightning. But this is not how things are. The Lord wants patience. He wants you to show your faith. You cannot just pray like a parrot. It is necessary also to work towards whatever one prays for, and then to learn to wait. You see that what you longed for in the past has finally happened. However, you were harmed because you didn't have the patience to wait, in which case you would have gained both the one and the other: both the temporal and the eternal.

Now you become angry and fainthearted and grieved, thinking that the heavenly Father is slow in answering. But I tell you that this will also happen as you desire—it will definitely happen—but first it takes prayer with all your soul, and then you must wait. And when you have forgotten your request and have ceased asking for it, it will come to you as a reward for your patience and endurance. When you reach the verge of despair while praying and seeking, then the fulfillment of your request is near. Christ wants to heal some hidden passion within you, and this is why He delays in granting your request. If you obtain it sooner, when you demand it, your passion remains uncured within you. If you wait, you obtain your request and the cure of the passion. And then you rejoice exceedingly and give warm thanks to God Who arranges all things in wisdom and does everything for our benefit.

So then, there is no point in losing heart, getting upset, complaining. You must close your mouth. Let no one perceive that you are disturbed. Don't fume with anger, as if to work it out of your system, but rather be calm. Burn the devil through patience and forbearance.

The Lord, Who destroys all who speak lies, is my witness that I have greatly benefited by the advice I am giving you. The temptations I had were strong enough to make you think that your soul would depart due to the pain, as if from a flaming furnace. Nevertheless, once the trial is over, so much consolation comes that you feel as if you were in paradise without a body. Then Christ loves you, our Panagia loves you, the saints praise you, and the angels admire you.

Do you see how many good things temptations and afflictions cause? So if you too want to see, to taste the love of Christ, endure whatever comes upon you—not whatever you like, but whatever the Lord wants to test you with. What we buffer voluntarily is absolutely nothing in comparison with the trials the Lord sends us against our will. The hostile devil fights us bone against bone and blood against blood, as much as God allows. He fights so much, that one melts and flows like wax before the fire. [4] But when the trial passes, you are totally filled with joy. You are encompassed with extraordinary light and see mysteries which the human tongue is unable to utter. And henceforth you thirst for more temptations, when they will come again, since you have already learned how salutary they are.

This is truly the road, my sister, and the one writing to you bears witness to the truth out of his own experience. So be brave and strong in the Lord, enduring whatever comes to you, expecting, along with the pain, the peace and grace of God. Be strong and give courage to your soul, considering that the lame and the maimed do not enter into these good things. Christ allows temptations so that we may be purified of our predispositions. Temptations are like soap and a mallet which hits us and whitens us. All the clothes that are firm are useful for the Bridegroom. But those which do not endure the mallet are torn and thrown out in the trash.

Therefore, let us exert ourselves a little bit here, for the time draws near. Keep the letters I send you, so that you will have them when afflictions trouble you, because it seems to me that I shall soon leave you. The more that time passes, the more seriously ill I become. I am like a paralytic now.

Postscript: I don't have time to write to you about the miracle that the Lord showed me to correct a mistake I was making out of ignorance, as you know. So, do you see the great goodness of our Lord? Do you see that He even works miracles when His divine providence deems it suitable? Many times a person is deluded out of ignorance or because others mislead him. But when he has an upright soul and good intentions, the Lord does not abandon him, but will bring him enlightenment in various ways. This makes me feel like dirt, ash, and a worm of the earth.

Most truly, great is the mercy of the Lord. The Psalmist is right in saying, "Not according to our sins hath He dealt with us, nor according to our iniquities hath He rewarded us." [5]

So then, why shouldn't you thank God? Why should you grumble? If I were to write to you the temptations I undergo, you would not be able to bear it. Nevertheless, the grace of Christ and our Panagia dispels them all. Have patience, for the Theotokos, the Queen and Lady of all, does not abandon us. She prays for us.



Endnotes
Ps. 102:1
cf. Lk. 16:26
Mt. 11:28
Ps. 67:2
Ps. 102:9 





Fortieth Letter 
Monastic Wisdom 
The Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast