A Penance from God after Compliments

A story included only in English edition of "My Elder Joseph the Hesychast".

Elder Joseph the Hesychast (1897 - 1959)

Only once in his life did Elder Joseph not wake up for his vigil. One day Papa-Ananias said to him, “Geronda, is there anyone else in the entire Holy Mountain who mindfully and seriously practices hesychasm with praxis and theoria? I doubt it. You are the only one.”

He was momentarily enticed by this compliment, and his face looked as if he was in a daze. But a second later he regained his senses and exclaimed, “Get behind me, Satan!” and punched himself on the thigh with all his might. “Forgive me, my God!” As a “penance” for him, God allowed him to be so sleepy the following night that he slept right through his vigil until late in the morning. To make up for not doing his prayer rule that night, he did it during the day instead of working.

After experiencing how easy it is to accept vainglorious thoughts and seeing how much damage they do, he later wrote to someone: “Be careful … not to compliment one another in each other’s presence, for if compliments harm the perfect, how much more harmful they will be to you who are still weak.”