Asceticism, Cross, Discernment, Elder Ephraim of Arizona, Elder Joseph the Cave-Dweller, Elder Joseph the Hesychast, Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, mental health, New Martyr Archbishop John of Riga, Patience, Podvig, Purification, St. John Chrysostom, Temptations
It is truly foolish for us to flee from sorrow—because the more we try to avoid sorrow and suffering, the more they overpower us. Conversely, when we greet difficulties and sorrows with joy, they become frail and collapse before us, just as when Christ voluntarily proceeded to meet His enemies: “When Jesus went forth and said unto them, ‘Whom seek ye?’ they answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus then said unto them, ‘I am He.’ As soon as He said ‘I am He,’ they went backward and fell to the ground” (Jn. 18:4-6).
We can actually experience the joy of Paradise when we find ourselves nailed to the cross of sorrows, if we thank God in times of difficulty and confess that we deserve to suffer, just as the good thief did while hanging on the cross. He acknowledged Christ as the Lord and rebuked the other thief, “Dost not thou fear God? We indeed suffer justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds” (Lk. 23:40-41). Do you see the gratitude of this thief? People who love the Lord behave in the same manner. They realize that they are worthy of condemnation; however, as they hang from their cross they do not lose hope but rather profess Christ to be the Almighty God, and they beseech Him to be deemed worthy of entering His Heavenly Kingdom.
The more we patiently endure our cross, the lighter it becomes for us. If we carry our cross eagerly and joyfully, it will become a source of great delight, an inseparable memory of our Savior, and a certain hope of eternal life within Paradise, as took place with the good thief, who heard these blessed words from the Lord: “Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in paradise” (Lk. 23:43).
An exceptional degree of perfection exists, indeed, when a person remains patiently affixed to the cross with determination for the love of God, and without complaining to God or others that his cross is unbearable. Blessed is the man who not only thanks the Lord in times of poverty, sickness, loss of his family members, and various other misfortunes, but also blesses and glorifies the Lord always—even when death itself approaches—, and joyfully embraces every cross for the love of God. Such a person resembles the holy martyrs who glorified the Lord as they were tortured on the cross and thanked Him for allowing them to die on account of His holy name.
O my beloved Christians: we find and acquire glory upon the Cross—not within pleasure and enjoyment!
—from the book The Salvation of Sinners