Questions about Delusion

Questions to Schema-archimandrite Abraham (Reidman) after his conversation about delusion in the Gospel.

Question. What does it mean to "humbly strive for a higher spiritual gift"?

Answer. This means knowing your constitution and striving for improvement, soberly assessing yourself - that is, forcing yourself, but at the same time understanding what you can do. We are unable to compel ourselves to unceasing prayer, we are unable to compel ourselves to dispassion, I am not even talking about miracles. Something else may occur: under the pretext of humility, people lose zeal, this is also wrong. Therefore, you need to force yourself and strive for more, but at the same time know your measure. Although sometimes it happens that the Lord visits a person beyond his measure, one must also have the right attitude to such a state. You need to understand that grace is not given according to merit. If we believe that we are unworthy of grace, then we assume that we have not yet deserved it, and if we do something else, we deserve it. But sometimes the Lord gives grace as if in advance, beyond all merits, therefore, what is given must be evaluated not by one's own worthiness, but focusing on how the holy fathers describe it, to see if this matches their explanation of this or that spiritual experience or not. At the same time, there is no need to ponder whether we are worthy or not (because we are not only unworthy to be in a monastery at all, but not worthy to live), this approach is also a hidden manifestation of pride.

Question. If the schema-nun, about whom you told, was in delusion, how could she, not having the grace of God, lead such a harsh life for years?

Answer. Those who are deceived just lead a harsh life, for example, yogis show more vigorous physical labours than Orthodox ascetics. Yogi is put on glass, and a car is driven on him, and he is buried in the ground, then they take him out - and he is alive. And Porfiry Ivanov, the founder of his own sect, did not eat or drink for 100 days. How can all this be possible?

Question. How do you feel about the rest of the stories of Father Mercury, which are contained in his book "In the mountains of the Caucasus"?

Answer. I met with Father Mercury, he is an interesting person. In his book, he reports what he knows, in no way pretending to be a spiritual elder. This is a kind of documentary story, of course, of interest. But I don't know whether you can completely trust him or not.

Once my friend and I went to the Caucasus. However, we were not going to the mountains, because Father Andrey, our confessor, warned us: “Look, don’t go to the mountains without me, you cannot be there”. Therefore, I did not have such a thought. And father M., a monk from the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, began to persuade us, sweetly like a cat purring. But I remembered that we were not allowed to go to the mountains - we could not be there, and that was all. My friend gave in a little, but obeyed me, and we did not go to the mountains. Father Mercury, with whom we also consulted, in that situation reasoned more soberly, very restrained.

Question. And why did Father M. persuade you to go to the mountains?

Answer. He explained this by the fact that in monasteries there is work of obedience, there is no time for prayers, but in the mountains you can really pray. In fact, I saw those people who have lived in the mountains for a long time, and I can't say that they all acquired something special, because everything depends on the guidance, and not on where you live. In the Kursk Root Hermitage I met one hierodeacon with an interesting fate. He was a Jew, and when he converted to Orthodoxy, his parents caught him and put him in an insane asylum (later, however, when the Soviet regime was gone, they themselves converted to Orthodoxy). This man suffered a lot and was forced to hide in the mountains, where he lived an ascetic life for 15 years. But his guide was completely inexperienced: he simply exploited him, and that monk was very zealous and obedient (they say that Jews used Russians, but in this case the opposite happened). In addition, he was a person accustomed to intellectual work, physical activity was difficult for him, and you have to carry food to the mountains. The ascetics remained in the mountains for a very long period without going down, many days, therefore, when they descended to the villages, they gathered everything they needed and carried a huge load on themselves. So this monk dragged huge sacks of food into the mountains. When I met him in the 90s, his health was completely undermined, he said about himself: "I am already an old man." Later, he found himself a guide in a parish: a monk who practiced mental prayer, who was expelled from the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius under Khrushchev. Not in the mountains, but in the parish, this man found a true guide for himself.

Question. What do the words of Saint Ignatius mean: "Whoever thinks that he is not in delusion is already in delusion"?

Answer. We are all subject to the spirit of delusion to some extent. We have pride, vanity, we are seduced by some of our deeds, in general, we are seduced by the world and forget that there is eternity. It fades away from us into the background, and we plunge into vanity. All this can be called a state of delusion. When we realize this, then at least we look at ourselves critically, and when we think that everything is fine with us, then we can have all sorts of vicissitudes.

Question. Can the Lord hide from a person his spiritual state so that he does not become proud?

Answer. The holy fathers say that there are simple people from whom their spiritual state is concealed, and they cite similar examples, but I’m afraid that you would not think about yourself that the Lord also conceals your high spiritual state from you because of your simplicity. One elder had a novice and gave him an order to do something, but he confused and thus angered the elder. The elder, without thinking, said to him: "Die" - he fell and died. The elder was horrified, he did not imagine that such a force was hidden in his words. Then he began to ask God to resurrect his novice, promising that he would never speak so carelessly again. And through his prayers, that novice was resurrected. From this we can see that the common man had great grace, which he himself did not realize. But in our country, I think, the opposite is observed: both simple and not simple people think that they have grace, but they do not. This is a more dangerous situation.

Question. Can some kind of struggle, for example with lust or laziness, be permitted, so that a person does not become proud?

Answer. Of course it can. But this does not mean that if such struggle is permitted, then one must succumb to it! We must fight, it is in such a struggle that humility is acquired, and not when we act out of passion. It happens, of course, that a person humbles himself due to his stumbling and involuntarily, but then we can call everyone humble - even a drunkard who lies under the fence and cannot get up. Everyone spits on him, but he is unable to answer - it is clear that he is in some sense humble, but this does not mean that one should strive for such a state.

Question. Forgive me, I did not understand: in one conversation you said that one should not seek any spiritual gifts, and in another - that a Christian, especially a monk, will receive a reward already here on earth if he leads an ascetic life. So, should we wait for this very reward, which is spoken of in the Gospel, and should we strive to receive it or not?

Answer. Indeed, in one conversation I said that you need to strive for a reward, and in another I warn you that you can fall into delusion [1]. This is because one must have both zeal and caution. Everything needs to be done correctly, wisely. If you have zeal, but not have caution and discernment, you can get confused, stumbled, fall and crash to death. I will give you a sports example from the life of climbers. This does not mean that I approve of them, on the contrary, I believe that mountaineering is a crazy pastime: a person is risking his life in vain. After all, the Apostle Paul, saying that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize (1 Cor. 9:24), does not approve of sports with these words, but simply gives an example that will be clear to his readers. So, the climber goes to the mountains and sets a goal for himself - to reach the top. To do this, he must have some kind of zeal, courage, audacity, but at the same time, he needs to follow certain rules, otherwise he will not only fail to conquer the top, but, on the contrary, will fall off the nearest cliff. The same is valid for the spiritual life: on the one hand, we must have boldness, and on the other, caution. Of course, it is not necessary to sit down out of caution, but boldness should not be such that there is practically nothing to be afraid of when we carry out our plans. If we are not careful, we will never reach the top.

Question. Please indicate the first external signs of delusion, how can it manifest itself in us?

Answer. There are moral signs of delusion and there are immediate ones. Moral signs: pride, vanity, contempt of neighbors, selfishness, self-confidence, etc. Sometimes all this can be hidden under the guise of humility and a very proud person can appear humble in the eyes of spiritually inexperienced people. And the immediate signs of delusion are some kind of dreams, wrong sensations, or, perhaps, visions during prayer. Delusion is called "delusion" because it deceives a person, because false spiritual states resemble true ones and an inexperienced person gets confused. It is difficult to determine exactly where the delusion state is and where the true one is. If suddenly some novice begins to experience a state that should not be characteristic of him or her, then this is suspicious, although I do not say that it is wrong. This requires a thorough check.

Question. Does it happen that a person, wanting to feel love for God, humility in his soul while praying, excites such feelings in himself with his imagination, with some images - is this also delusion?

Answer. You should not imagine anything, you should just pray attentively. If there is attention, then everything will come from it, including such correct spiritual sensations as humility and love for God. Although, as a rule, they do not appear immediately, but after a long time, after working hard. But, in principle, everything can happen quickly if a person was predisposed to this in the previous time of his life. Signs of correct prayer should be taken not as a goal, but only as benchmarks. A person only needs to compare his feelings with what the holy fathers describe. For example: I have silence in my soul and the holy fathers talk about it this way - that means my feeling is true; here I have peace - yes, that's right; here I have a feeling of self-humiliation or a feeling that I am the worst of all, and the holy fathers write about this in the same way - correctly. And how will you strive for peace or self-abasement if it does not depend on you, since it is in our power only to force ourselves to prayer and, in general, to attention?! You don't have to imagine anything.

Question. I always keep in my memory your words that we should not give up on ourselves and consider that it is absolutely impossible for us to achieve a significant measure of spiritual success. On the other hand, after your conversation, I came to the conclusion that I am constantly in delusion. What would you recommend? What do we really need to strive for?

Answer. Of course, in no state, even if you are in delusion, you should not assume that you will not succeed. Any person can be in delusion, in a state of delusion, and we should only watch ourselves carefully and get rid of this taint. Saint Ignatius wrote (and you reminded me of this) that the one who says that he is not in delusion is already in delusion. The realization that we are in delusion is the best warning against it, therefore we must understand that it acts in us to a certain extent. At the same time, one must strive for a better spiritual state, first of all, through repentance, which to the greatest extent warns us against false spiritual sensations. However, one must remember that in repentance, too, one can be deceived: there are even sects that preach repentance. For example, in Russia, members of such a sect (it may seem ridiculous, but nevertheless it had supporters and followers) were called so: penitents. Their motto was: if you do not sin, you will not repent. They walked, robbed someone, then surrendered to the police - and they were sent to penal servitude. Rasputin said something similar.

Question. If a person departs from Orthodoxy, is it possible to say that delusion became the reason for the falling away? For example, Tertullian fell away from Orthodoxy, joined a sect, does this mean that at first he was deceived? Can heresy be called delusion at all?

Answer. Of course, yes, any deviation from Orthodoxy is a delusion. The basis of delusion is necessarily a wrong spiritual state of a person's soul, false spirituality. In the canons, in liturgical texts, paganism is often called delusion. As for Tertullian, he, driven by false zeal, began to confess the heresy of the Montanists. It seemed to him that there was a cooling of Christian zeal in church society. The leaders of this sect were the deceived false prophets Montanus and Priscilla. But there is an opinion that Tertullian repented at the end of his life.

Question. Father, what do you think, does common prayer affect the enemy horde as a whole, does it diminish its strength? Do the Christian forces grow and become more powerful? After all, if the world's evil is not diminished, then what is the point of praying?

Answer. Why is it necessary to fight the world's evil? Is it not enough that I myself want to be saved? If as a result of prayer, the world's evil is not diminished, then there is no need for me to pray and be saved? Nowadays there are very few even simple Orthodox people left; why do we necessarily have to fight the world's evil, when people perish in ignorance, in sins, in real falling away from the Orthodox Church?

The very formulation of the question is wrong: they want something from a monk all the time - monks must save people, fight the world's evil, they must do this, they must do something else ... But in fact, a monk must save himself - that's all. He is a monk, he is alone, except himself, he thinks of no one and does not think about anything, he lives only for salvation, for eternity, as they say, dropped out of the game. Translated from the Greek, "monk" is "one". A monk casts out evil from himself, and from no one else.

The confessor, by circumstance, is forced to answer for his spiritual children, but novice N. is not responsible for anyone, it would be good if she at least answered for herself. Everything is not as simple as it seems. As if a person, having joined a monastery, is already saved and now must disperse the world's evil like clouds of smoke - no, let him at least save himself with God's help! We need to think not about the world's evil, but about our salvation. It is mother superior who is responsible for the sisters of her monastery, she is forced to think about the salvation of those who are entrusted to her by the Providence of God; so is a confessor or an elderess, to whom a nun or votaress is entrusted when taking the veil. If we begin to fight against the world's evil, then this will reveal our too great claims. Of course, there are ascetics who reach high spiritual states, who pray for the whole world, but this is the destiny of few: if there are several such people in a whole generation, even this should be considered the mercy of God. And I would not ask directly the question whether we reduce the world's evil or not. A person wins when he overcomes his own passion, for example, pride or anger - then he is in the army of Christ. But even if we fight against the evil of the world, it is only in the sense that we join a monastery and receive a greater hope, a greater opportunity to engage in our salvation. If a person who joins a monastery improves, becomes a true Christian and passes into eternity with repentance and notification that he will be pardoned in the future life, then the world evil is defeated by this particular person. People come to the monastery to be saved, they fight against evil in themselves, and none of them should dare to do anything more, it would be simply ridiculous. One should not think that if a person was saved, then this is a trifle and it is easy to achieve this - this is not at all the case. Many people have a false idea that salvation consists in attending church, bowing, crossing oneself, kissing the icon - and that’s all, you are saved. This is not how the holy fathers thought about those who are saved. Despondency overcomes when you read about how they frightened the monks, saying that those who have not achieved dispassion cannot hope for eternal life...

It cannot be said that the world's evil is diminished as a whole. No, it is diminished a little if a person went to a monastery, thereby moving "from one camp to another." It is diminished even more if a man began to struggle with his passions and improve. This is much, because this person, like everyone else, is sinful and is the bearer of evil. If 100 people have gathered here - and everyone will be saved, then this is already a lot. Even if only one is saved. After all, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said that there is more joy in heaven about one repentant sinner than about 99 righteous people who do not need repentance. For some reason, some people do not understand that we are talking about eternity, that if even one perishing person is suddenly saved, then there will be a great celebration in heaven. And it is very difficult to be saved, you need to put your whole life on it, shed a lot of sweat, blood and tears. Even if the global evil is reduced by only one person, by 10 or by 100, then this is already significant, and we do not need to count billions - this is not our business.

Question. Father, but you said that Father Andrey prayed for the whole world.

Answer. Father Andrey prayed. We don't pray. Who among us is able to pray for the whole world? I believe that yes, there are monks who have achieved high spiritual success, who pray for the whole world and whose prayer is extremely powerful, for example, Elder Silouan, Schema-Archimandrite Sophrony, maybe there were also ascetics who achieved such success, but these were special people, their experience is beyond our comprehension. And you cannot apply the measures that refer to the people who fly high as eagles to ordinary monks and nuns who think about their salvation.

Question. When praying, can you force yourself to have a feeling of repentance if it makes it easier to keep your attention?

Answer. Of course, this is necessary, but only in moderation. Because repentance is a gift of grace, it is impossible to get it by force. The best approach to prayer is to seek attention, to force oneself by strength to repentance and the remembrance of death, while realizing that if the grace of God does not come, then these virtues will not really manifest in us. That is, the compulsion must be reasonable.

Question. Should we share the knowledge that we receive in the monastery if lay people ask us questions? How do you feel about preaching to the world?

Answer. Since people come to us, then if we have a blessing for this, we should help them as much as we can. However, not everyone can give advice, which is why we reason who is capable of this and to what extent. There are sisters who should only answer when they are addressed, and in other cases they should be silent. If someone turns to us for help and this does not interfere with our monastic practices, then we can provide help, not forgetting, however, about our vocation. And if they do not turn to us, then we must humbly remain calm and not impose ourselves on a person. We do it differently. There is a good fable by Krylov on this topic. I cannot tell it as a poem, but I will retell the meaning. One shepherd had a small herd of goats. Once in winter he found another herd in a cave, but wild goats, and he thought: "That's good, during the winter I will tame wild goats, my flock will increase, and I will get rich." He began to feed them, but it happened so that he did not have enough time and food for everyone, and he began to neglect his goats, and looked after the wild ones better. When spring came, the wild goats went off into the mountains, and his herd died. So it can happen with us: we sometimes neglect people who come to us, and go to those who do not want to listen to us; and we will be left without these and those. Therefore, we must first of all pay attention to those who come to our church with their spiritual questions, and only then, if there are especially capable people, we can bless them to preach somewhere else.

But not everyone can do this. It happens that people love a priest as a confessor, but he does not know how to preach, such a person cannot be sent, for example, to a military unit. And it happens that a person speaks very well, but it is not good to him. The gift of speech does not mean that a person has the right to carry out a preaching mission. If a person undertakes to save someone, and it surpasses his strength, this is also a kind of delusion. In the first words of his book, John Climacus clearly says that the devil inspires monks to go into the world to preach and do other similar things. Communicating with people, preaching is not a vocation for monastics, but for people belonging to the ministry: priests, bishops, and so on.

Sometimes they say: "We have nothing to give out yet, so we accumulate, then we will give." But don't think it's easy. Whoever says: "It is already possible to give out" - he simply does not understand what it is about. He cannot understand that an ordinary Christian, even of an impeccably righteous life, is one thing, and the apostles or people like them, who had the same grace as the apostles, is quite another. The apostles really had something to give, but we have nothing to share. There is one saying that fits the occasion, the Savior's saying Who said: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves" (see Matthew 23:15). That is, even preaching and turning a man to the true faith is not always a good deed, because you can then corrupt this person. I knew a Muscovite who served as a psalm reader at the church and distributed spiritual literature, copying books on a copier in hundreds, even thousands of copies - in those days he could get into trouble because of this - thus preaching and supporting his friends. He also had a confessor, who had a reputation of a rather experienced priest. And so in the end this psalmist began to preach to a woman who took to some form of Buddhism. But then he met his match and this situation turned out the other way around: it was not he who converted her, but she who converted him, he fell away from Orthodoxy and, as far as I know, although I don’t know for sure, has not returned up to this day. And we say he could give something to others! How many cases are known when someone starts preaching to some woman and then marries her. It's good if she is unmarried, otherwise fornication is the result, and also due to preaching, due to the struggle with the world's evil. And it happens, they pray, pray for everyone, and then they go crazy, and I know such cases. Therefore, you do not need to take too much on yourself, but you need to be really sober and humble. One must understand that the salvation of one's own soul is hard work, a feat, and it is still unknown how it will end. It is necessary to make every effort, to mobilize all your strength, to do everything even beyond your strength in order to barely escape, - according to the Apostle Paul, so as by fire (1 Cor. 3:15), and not to think as if we are already OK. This is the case with Baptists, who think that they have already been saved and now they only have to save others.

Question. But what is the correct attitude to those passages in the works of Symeon the New Theologian, which say that whoever, during his lifetime, does not feel a pledge, a notice of his salvation, let him not deceive himself with hope - he will not enter eternal life? Or the saying that if you get rid of all passions, and only one remains in you, then you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven anyway?

Answer. Indeed, these are the well-known words of the venerable Simeon. This is how we must strive. If we do not feel the pledge in ourselves, it means that we are still in fear, how can we give out what we do not have? How can you give anything to a person when you yourself have nothing?!

And you need to treat these words like this: be afraid and strive with all your might, repent and hope for the mercy of God. People who have reached the state described by Symeon the New Theologian are worthy to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and the rest, perhaps, will enter it through much repentance, they need to rely on the mercy of God. Therefore, it is inappropriate to talk about any kind of social service for monastics, because that is why we are called "monks" that we are alone and seek solitude, and as for helping our neighbors, this is more the service of the laity. We, of course, bear it as much as we can, but so as not to emasculate the actual monastic practice. The 1909 congress of monastics was attended by fathers superior of the best monasteries, spiritual elders, and they came to the conclusion that rich monasteries, which have the opportunity for this, can also have charitable institutions, but on condition that the monks and nuns do not work there since in this way they would be distracted from their service. If we can maintain an institution, we maintain it by hiring lay people and controlling them, but if the nuns did the work of obedience there, then, of course, they would be distracted, and even, might be tempted, and so on. And without such work, the life of modern monks is far from the monastic ideal, since circumstances prevent it from assuming the correct external form, which will help monasticism flourish internally. And we also additionally rush into vanity. Whoever likes it, let him do good deeds, but our good deed is repentance.

Question. When I read the book "In the mountains of the Caucasus" by Schema-monk Hilarion, there was a slight embarrassment. It seems that the spirit of this book is not entirely sober, it is written too excitedly. What do you think of it?

Answer. It contains a theological, dogmatic, mistake regarding the name of God. In the library of our monastery, a chapter from the essay of Metropolitan Benjamin on name-worship (onomatodoxy) was included in this book, after reading which the mistake of Schema monk Hilarion becomes clearer. Except for this mistake, I think the book is, on the contrary, very sober. When the author writes about what qualities a hermit should have and warns against premature departure into the wilderness, it is clear that regarding practical spiritual questions, Father Hilarion is a very sober person. He says that it is necessary to have humility, and he describes it and other qualities very correctly and accurately. So I think this book might be helpful.

Question. But after all, such lofty reasoning and the author's thoughts when describing nature do not suit us?

Answer. Why don't they suit? It is in fact divine contemplation if a person has such an exalted state of mind. Everything teaches such a person, nature becomes a book that teaches him. And that's why I really like his descriptions of nature. Someone skips them, but I, on the contrary, read them with even greater interest than spiritual instructions. In principle, there is nothing new for me in his instructions, but the descriptions of nature are very beautiful and interesting. There is an episode in this book: once, ascending a high mountain at sunset, he saw packs of wolves standing and howling in a meadow below. And so he says that they, of course, “seek their meat from God” (see Psalm 104: 21). Isn't it beautiful? He describes pictures of nature not in a hackneyed way, not like any professional writer who finds it very difficult not to use cliches, to abandon the generally accepted approach. Schemamonk Hilarion was a simple man, he knew something only through self-education. I do not think that he read fiction, apparently, he studied exclusively ascetic and comprehensible theological books. Therefore, his description of nature is very sincere and lively. These passages in his book seem to me, from a literary point of view, the best. He was a very courageous person: he tells, for example, how he climbed the mountains, what mortal dangers there were, it's just amazing. For example, he has a story about how one day, getting wet during a rainstorm and fearing that he would completely freeze, he lay down on the ground and lay exhausted, no longer being able to walk. At this time, a bear was passing by - carefully came up, sniffed him with sympathy, as he says, and went on.

Question. If, during critical situations, peace appears in the soul of the beginner – is this a delusion or grace that helps him?

Answer. If a person has overcome some temptation, for example, indignation, then, after that, indeed, peace can be established in his soul. In general, after the victory over some passion, peace settles in the soul: with the rejection of thoughts of condemnation, anger, resentment. This is also possible with a beginner. But since I am speaking in general, you should tell to the elderess about each specific case and ask for advice.

Question. You say that the beginner does not need to strive for unceasing prayer. And what should one strive for?

Answer. You need to strive for attention. The mind should not be idle, it should always be occupied with either prayer or reading, and at the same time strive for attention - the rest is God's gift. How can we strive for unceasing prayer? By willpower, or what? But nothing depends on this. The only thing we can do is to devote our free time to prayer and never remain mentally idle: if we ourselves are resting, then the mind should not be idle. And, of course, it is possible to dream of unceasing prayer, but it will not give any result. Unceasing prayer, in addition to depending on many reasons related to our state of mind, especially whether we have humility, is also not in our power, because it is given by God.

Question. Some elders advise to pray to learn how to pray. The Philokalia describes how the venerable Maxim the Kapsokalyvite prayed the Lord to grant him the gift of unceasing prayer. Do we need to do this too?

Answer. There is a saying: "God gives prayer to the one who prays." If we simply pray to Him and say: "Have mercy on me, a sinner," then this short appeal contains everything, and God Himself knows how to have mercy on us. You know, you will ask for unceasing prayer, you will receive it, and this will become a reason for pride. And this will be harmful for you, not beneficial.

Question. I cannot understand why Saint Ignatius left the Optina elder Leo. Then, in a letter to the hegumen of the Cheremenets monastery, Anthony, he wrote that the elders Leo and Macarius introduced only external piety in the Optina Monastery. But it is generally accepted that they first of all restored noetic prayer. It seems very strange that such devotees disagreed. How could this happen?

Answer. There is nothing strange, Saint Ignatius just had higher requirements, and in the Optina Hermitage they were more modest. I will not talk about Elder Leo, but as for Elder Macarius, he was against noetic prayer. He learned the Jesus Prayer from a disciple of Paisius Velichkovsky, who did not have the blessing to practice mental prayer, but received the blessing from Elder Paisius to pray with an oral prayer all his life. He conveyed this caution to Macarius, and he, accordingly, to his disciples. Thus, Saint Ignatius and the Optina elders had the ideas of spiritual success, which apparently diverged in terms of the height. Saint Ignatius believed that this was not enough.

Question. However, Elder Leo, according to the descriptions, had high spiritual prosperity, we have heard about cases of his foresight, healings, is there no contradiction here?

Answer. Apparently, Saint Ignatius had some complaints against him as a guide.

Question. We watched a film about the life of monks of Mount Athos. Our way of life pales before theirs in terms of severity, but it is especially surprising that there are dead from the brethren, whom the Lord did not have mercy on. If with such a harsh lifestyle (they don't even have free time) they are not all saved, then what can be said about us?]

Answer. Salvation does not depend on whether we have time or not, whether we lead a harsh lifestyle or not, but on our inner state: if we are purified through repentance and noetic prayer or not. We should not compare ourselves with anyone, but in the conditions, in which we live, we should take care of our inner state, that is, through repentance, we should purify our heart.

November 19, 2001

Notes

1. See the discourse in this collection "On the Three Degrees of Spiritual Life"

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