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On the World and Family

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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
    On the World and Family by Elder Ephraim May an angel of God, my child, follow you and show you the path of God and of your salvation. Amen; so be it. I pray
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 31, 2005
      On the World and Family by Elder Ephraim

      May an angel of God, my child, follow you and show you the path of God and
      of your salvation. Amen; so be it. I pray that God gives you health of
      soul, for this is a special gift of sonship which is bestowed only upon
      those souls that have been completely devoted to the worship and love of
      God.

      The world attracts the youth like a magnet; worldly things have great power
      over the newly enlightened soul that just started to find its bearings and
      see its purpose in life and the duty calling him. "Friendship with the
      world is enmity with God. Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the
      world makes himself an enemy of God." [1] God has stored up pleausres for
      eternity, for both He and our soul are eternal. There is no comparison
      between the pleasures of the world and the pure pleasures of God.

      The pleasures of the world are obtained with toil and expenses, and after
      their momentary enjoyment, they are followed by various consequences, so
      that they are incorrectly called pleasures. The pleasures of God, however,
      do not have such consequences, because spiritual pleasures down here on
      earth are the firstfruits of an eternal series of pleasures and delights in
      the kingdom of God. Whereas on the contrary, one who has been corrupted by
      the pleasures of the world is compelled to undergo eternal damnation along
      with the first instigator of corruption, the devil.

      The time of our life, my child, has been given to us as a sum of money so
      that each of us may trade for his salvation, and depending on the trade we
      deal in, we shall become either rich or poor. If we take advantage of the
      "money" of time by trading to increase our spiritual wealth, then we shall
      truly be skilled traders, and we shall hear the blessed voice: "Well done,
      good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things, I will make
      you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord." [2]

      At the end of our life, an exact account will be demanded of each one of
      us: how and where we spent the money of time, and woe to us if we have
      squandered it in movie theaters, in entertainments, in debauchery, in
      futile dreams, in carnal pleasures. Then what defense will our tied tongue
      be able to utter, and how will we be able to lift up our eyes and see our
      Christ, when He enumerates the countless benefactions which His boundless
      love profusely poured upon us?

      Now that we have time, now that the money of time has not yet been spent
      completely and we still have it at our disposal, let us reflect sensibly on
      the vagrant world which seeks to rob us. Let us push it away like a putrid
      dead dog, and with that money let us run to buy precious works which, when
      tried by fire, will become very bright—gifts worthy of our Holy God, fit to
      be used as a decoration in the holy Jerusalem of Heaven. We should not
      purchase chaff, that is, punishable works of darkness, for we shall go down
      with them into the eternal fire of damnation, where the multitude of people
      who embezzled God's gifts will reap whatever they sowed! Sow good works
      with tears, and then in a time of visitation you will reap the sheaves of
      enjoying eternal life!

      2. It is from God that you are being tested, because He is training you for
      battle; He is drilling you, just like the soldiers who are trained through
      severe labors in their drills. There, first they learn the theory of
      warfare, and then at the sound of the trumpet in the real war, since they
      have already been trained, they rush into the battle with the inner
      assurance that they know how to fight, and they are ready to sacrifice
      themselves for their cause and ideology.

      You are also in a similar situation: since you have been called to become
      soldiers of Christ and to fight against His enemy, He trains you in order
      to ascertain your love towards Him: "Who is it that loves me, but he who
      keeps my commandments?" [3] Take courage, my children; remain loyal and
      dedicated to Him Who has loved you with perfect love.

      Before a battle begins, the generals boost the soldiers' spirits by singing
      various battle hymns and relating various stories of heroic deeds to kindle
      their sense of self-sacrifice. This tactic gives them great strength and
      bravery in the battle about to be fought.

      Likewise, we too should contemplate, as the Saints did, the struggles of
      the martyrs and of the holy monks: how they lived ascetically, how they
      renounced the world and everyone, and how nothing prevented them from
      following the path that leads to Jesus. This contemplation will greatly
      strengthen your good disposition and intention, for there have been many
      who were unaware of the concealed traps, with the result that their souls
      succumbed to temptation and thus they fell from the hope of eternal life.

      Contemplate the love of our Jesus; the love of Jesus will overpower every
      other natural love. The more we renounce, the more love of God we shall
      enjoy.

      Let us attend on high, where Jesus sits at the right hand of God. Let our
      eyes look on high, for the eternal and everlasting things are above, not
      below; for everything here is dust and ashes. Reflect on the luxuriousness
      of heaven: the infinite wisdom of God is there; inconceivable beauty is
      there; the angelic melodies are there; the riches of divine love are there;
      the life free from pain is there; the tears and sighs will be taken away
      there; only joy, love, peace, an eternal Pascha, and an unending festival
      are there, "Oh, the depth of the riches and knowledge of God!" [4] "Eye has
      not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things
      which God has prepared for those who love Him." [5]

      Attend to the prayer; persevere in prayer, and it will put everything in
      order. Do not yield at all; remain firm in your holy goal. Remain beside
      Jesus to live with spiritual happiness. There is no happiness anywhere
      except in Christ. So-called "happiness" outside of Christ is incorrectly
      called happiness, since it is obtained with reprehensible means and since
      it ends quickly and leads man to the eternal unhappiness.

      Struggle, my children; the angels are weaving crowns with flowers of
      paradise. Our Christ regards the struggle as a martyrdom—what is more
      excellent than to be a martyr for Christ!

      3. I received your letter, my child, and we all rejoiced at your firm
      desire and wonderful aspiration for monasticism. "I have chosen to be an
      outcast in the house of my God rather than to dwell in the tents of
      sinners." [6] May no other love separate you from the love of Christ;
      consider everything rubbish so that you may gain Christ. The sufferings of
      this present life are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which
      will be given to those who struggle. [7] Now is the time for struggles,
      afflictions, and labors for God; whereas the future is the time for crowns
      of eternal glory, rewards, praises, and dwelling together with the holy
      angels beside the supreme throne of God.

      Youth passes by silently; the years roll by quietly, imperceptibly, like
      the water in a creek; hours disappear like smoke in the wind. This is how
      the present life passes and vanishes. God's strugglers advance toward
      eternal prizes of glory, whereas the indolent and lovers of the world
      proceed towards an eternal damnation with the demons.

      The allurements of the world and its pleasures will transform into eternal
      affliction and pain for those who delight in them, if they do not repent.
      While on the contrary, for the people of God a little deprivation will be
      recompensed by an eternal felicity and blessedness of God.

      Do not let familial affection hinder you; reflect that you will be alone in
      the hour of death, and then you will need to have God as a helper. So if
      you love Him more than them, you will have Him. But if you succumb, you
      will reap the crops of bitter remorse all on your own. So for the love of
      our Christ, make the decision and begin your new life.

      4. (To a spiritual daughter)

      Everything depends on your will. Entreat our Panagia very fervently to warm
      your holy desire, so that you decide with self-denial to renounce the vain
      world along with that dream which is called life, and to follow Christ the
      Bridegroom, Who will give you Himself and His sweetest love, and will count
      you worthy to become an heir of His kingdom. Entreat the Panagia to help
      you make the holy decision, and when she does, make the sign of the cross
      and follow the salvific voice of Jesus, saying: "If anyone desires to come
      after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." [8]

      In the dreadful hour of death, no one will help us; only the good works
      that we have done for God and our soul will help us. Therefore, since the
      monastic life in general consists of Works of God which are very conducive
      to our soul's salvation, why shouldn't we sacrifice everything to live such
      a life which will make us rich in the kingdom of God? "For what will it
      profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" [9]

      The life of man hangs by a hair; at every step, our life hangs in the
      balance. How many millions of people woke up in the morning, never to see
      the evening? How many millions of people fell asleep, never to wake up?
      Indeed, the life of man is a dream. In a dream, one sees things that do not
      exist: he might see that he is crowned a king, but when he wakes up, he
      sees that in reality he is just a pauper.

      In this life that we live, man labors to become rich, to become educated,
      to have an easy life, to become great; but unfortunately, death comes and
      foils everything. Then what he labored for all his life is taken by others,
      while he leaves life with a guilty conscience and a soiled soul. Who is
      wise and will understand these things and will renounce them and follow
      Christ the Bridegroom, so that all the works he will do will be recompensed
      infinitely in His kingdom?

      Always, my daughter, remember death and the judgment of God which we will
      unavoidably undergo. Bear them in mind to have more fear of God, and weep
      for your sins, because tears console the soul of him who weeps.

      5. My spiritual daughter, I pray that peace and divine joy may accompany
      your life. Amen.

      I received your letter and saw your joy. I pray that this joy will be the
      firstfruits of a continual spiritual harvest, of a new life totally
      dedicated to the unrivaled love of God. Now you have experienced the fruits
      of the Spirit. If you were so invigorated by experiencing a little, how
      much more will you be invigorated when you find yourself in a completely
      spiritual environment!

      Everywhere and until the end of our life we shall undergo temptations: even
      in a monastery, even in the wilderness, if we happen to be there. However,
      if we are far from the world we shall have the freedom to fight the battle
      in an open place, where we shall be able to gather spiritual reinforcements
      to help us, with high hopes of eternally winning the prize for which we
      have been called heavenward. [10] Here we have no continuing city, but we
      seek a future, eternal, glorious one! [11] The form of this world is
      passing away, [12] whereas he who does good works abides unto the ages.

      Struggle, my child, with all your strength. Do not give joy to Satan by
      neglecting your duties, but give him bitterness by performing them with
      precision and eagerness. Satan will not stop shooting poisoned arrows at
      you with various thoughts, and especially with filthy thoughts. But prepare
      yourself to battle valiantly to obtain the unfading crown. As soon as a bad
      thought appears, immediately destroy the fantasy and say the prayer at
      once, and behold, your deliverance will come!

      Do not be afraid when you see the battle, lest you lose your morale; but
      invoke the Almighty God and humble yourself very much. Rebuke yourself with
      the worst names and convince yourself that this is how you really are. And
      then from this point begin the battle with the prayer. Be careful, for the
      battle we conduct is not slight; we have to fight with principalities and
      powers, and it takes prudence and caution to fight well, for something good
      is not good if it is not done properly.

      I pray that you have a good fight, and be careful with the people you keep
      company with....

      With many prayers and blessings,
      Your lowly Elder

      Endnotes
      Jas. 4:4
      Mt. 25:23. Webmaster note: One is reminded of very similar "economic"
      analogies in St. Seraphim of Sarov's conversation with Nicholas Motovilov:
      "What do you mean by acquiring [the Spirit of God]?" I asked Father
      Seraphim. "Somehow I don't understand that."

      "Acquiring is the same as obtaining," he replied. "You understand, of
      course, what acquiring money means? Acquiring the Spirit of God is exactly
      the same. You know well enough what it means in a worldly sense, your
      Godliness, to acquire. The aim in life of ordinary worldly people is to
      acquire or make money, and for the nobility it is in addition to receive
      honours, distinctions and other rewards for their services to the
      government. The acquisition of God's Spirit is also capital, but
      grace-giving and eternal, and it is obtained in very similar ways, almost
      the same ways as monetary, social and temporal capital.

      "God the Word, the God-Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, compares our life with a
      market, and the work of our life on earth He calls trading, and says to us
      all: Trade till I come (Lk. 19:13), redeeming the time, because the days
      are evil (Eph. 5:16). That is to say, make the most of your time for
      getting heavenly blessings through earthly goods. Earthly goods are good
      works done for Christ's sake and conferring on us the grace of the All-Holy
      Spirit.

      "In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, when the foolish ones
      lacked oil, it was said: 'Go and buy in the market.'...

      cf. Jn. 14:21
      cf. Rom. 11:33
      1 Cor 2:9
      Ps. 83:11
      cf. Rom. 8:18
      Mt. 16:24
      Mk. 8:36
      cf. Phil. 3:14
      cf. Heb. 13:14
      1 Cor. 7:31
      From Counsels from the Holy Mountain, by Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, Mount
      Athos [now of St. Anthony's Monastery in Florence, AZ]. Widely available
      from Orthodox bookstores.
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