Elder Joseph the Hesychast. "Monastic Wisdom".
My child, hear about another delusion. There are also other monks who work on all the virtues together, and trust in their works. And when they pray and ask something from God, they do not seek it with humility, but with insolence and pretension, as if they have obligated God with their toils and therefore He owes it to them. When they are not heard and the Lord does not do their will, they are troubled and greatly grieved. Then when the Devil our enemy sees them with this ignorance, he attacks them with twisted thoughts and teaches them saying, “See? You are struggling so hard even until death to work for Him, and He doesn’t even listen to you! So why do you work for Him?” Then he pushes him to blaspheme the name of God, so that he may enter inside him and possess him, and then people bind him with chains.
But if the Devil is unable to accomplish this, he comes around differently. He transforms himself into an angel of light saying that he is the Archangel Gabriel or some other angel, and that God sent him to be near him, since God is pleased with his works. Or similarly, he transforms himself into the form of our Lord Jesus Christ, while another demon goes earlier and says, “Since you have gladdened God with your sweat, He has come to visit, so go and venerate Him to receive grace.” Or he says that he has come to raise him like the Prophet Elias to the heavens. And in closing, to make a long story short, with such methods he has deluded many both in the past and today. Some were thrown upon the rocks, others into wells, others were slaughtered in various ways and were utterly destroyed. And all this happened because from the beginning they had no discernment and were doing their own will, without having obedience.
But you, my beloved child in the Lord, since you are obedient, and confess everything openly, do not be afraid. Since you have an elder who guides you and prays for you day and night, God will not allow you to be deluded. But even if some such fantasy in the form of an angel appears to you, do not be afraid but tell him with boldness, even if it is in the form of the Lord, a saint, or an angel, tell him:
“I have an elder who guides me. I don’t want the teachings of angels! I want to see my Lord, the angels, and the saints in the other life. I don’t want to see them here.” And turn your face elsewhere. Do not look at him. And since he is unable to endure such boldness, he will disappear. But even if the vision is true, the Lord will not get angry with you, but at once your fear is transformed into joy and things will turn out as the Lord wills.
But we should never have such requests and desires from God, that is, to see angels or saints, because this is delusion. We should seek—as we have written many times—God’s mercy for the remission of our sins, and should attend to the purification of our soul. Then things from God come by themselves without our seeking them.
And even if we ascend to the heavens by theoria, nothing is due to us. But if after a little while we undergo a change without wanting to, and great sorrow and unbearable distress come upon us as if we are in Hades, and it seems to us that it will never leave, but will afflict us till death, once again we should remain composed. And just as we were happy when we were raised to the heavens, likewise, when some change occurs and grief overtakes us, we should have patience, without being agitated and without grumbling. But in peace tell your thoughts, “The Father has two places for us to dwell: one of joy and pleasure in the heavens, and one of sorrows down in Hades. And whenever He wants He raises me to the joy above, and whenever He wants He takes me below, so that I learn that as long as I wear this earthen body, I am subject to change. So I have nothing to say. Only let the will of the Lord be done in all, to all, and through all. But even if He leaves me below forever, I would say:
‘My sweetest Savior and God, I have done nothing good or pleasing before Thee, but as a diligent worker of sin I am worthy to be a son of hell. So, even if I am punished, I rightly deserve it. Only do not be grieved with me, but rather look upon me with a happy face, and then even Hades will become a brilliant paradise for me!’”
When you say such things, the sorrow departs and joy returns. But you should not say it so that joy comes back, but you should say it from your heart. And as long as you are in this life—as we have already said—you should never become cocky, even if you ascend to the seventh heaven and see all kinds of mysteries. Since you bear a body, there is danger and caution is needed. Only once you have departed from your dead body should you rejoice, because then you are not subject to change anymore, but whatever the Lord bestows upon you is yours and no one can take it from you—to Whom be glory and dominion unto the ages of ages. Amen.