“As the Vespers service finished, I reflected on the newly tonsured nuns. They had waited years for this moment. They had struggled and fought temptations, passions, bad thoughts, and here they were at the true beginning of their monastic life. Things would become harder, but also sweeter. There would be periods of grace and periods of difficult temptations, as St. Syncletike herself taught:
‘We put out to sea. At first we sail with a favorable wind, then the sails spread, but later the wind becomes adverse. Then the ship is tossed by the waves and is no longer controlled by the rudder. But then in a little while there is calm, and the tempest dies down, then the ship sails on again. So it is with us, when we are driven by the spirits who are against us, we hold to the Cross as our sail and we can set a safe course’.”
St. Syncletike, “Life and Struggles of Syncletike”
The Scent of Holiness, Lessons from a women’s Monastery, Constantina R. Palmer
My resources for this podcast are:
The Scent of Holiness, Lessons from a Women’s Monastery, by Constantina R. Palmer
Letter 23, The Monastic Wisdom of Elder Joseph
St. Nickolai Velimirovic, The Prologue
Why do temptations and suffering befall us? How I hated and tried my best to overcome suffering in New Age and Eastern religions – to no avail – as many of you might have read in my book, The Pearl of Great Price. Only by the grace of God and Orthodoxy have I come to an understanding with suffering and temptations.
We are Christians following Christ’s example, ‘The way to the Father is through the Son’. If Christ was tempted – so too will we be tempted. If Christ carried His Cross – so too do we have our crosses to bear. It is through our temptations and crosses that we draw and attract the grace of God to us. This Grace of the Holy Spirit refines and purifies our souls, bringing us into refreshment and joy in Christ. This is our regeneration in grace in a nutshell.
Let’s hear what Elder Joseph has to say about the right attitude and preparation to have towards periods of both temptations and grace.
Letter 23, The Monastic Wisdom of Elder Joseph
“Grace always precedes a temptation as if to notify you saying, ‘Prepare yourself and lock your doors.’
When you see comfort in your heart… prepare yourself at once. Don’t say, ‘I have been given rest,’ but load your weapons–tears, fasting, vigils, and prayer–and set sentries on your senses to guard your nous. Ask yourself, ‘I wonder, from where will the battle begin? From the demons? From men? Or from my own nature?’ Don’t get drowsy before the battle trumpet sounds, and during the battle, your struggle and victory will show.
It is when grace is acting within you that you should be afraid. Conversely, when you see temptations and afflictions oppressing you from all sides, you should rejoice. Don’t grieve, don’t grumble, and don’t be despondent. Give courage to yourself, for joy and comfort will come. ‘Be brave, my soul,’ you should say, ‘This is only a temptation, a trial, an affliction. Afterwards you will have peace and joy and grace for many days. Thank you, my dear Christ,’ and you should say, ‘for in mine affliction Thou hast made room for me,’ (Ps. 4:1), and ‘with chastisement hast Thou chastened me,’ (Ps. 117:18) and ‘Thou didst bring my soul out into a place of refreshment.’ (Ps. 65:12)”
This is our striving to be brave and pray, knowing, ‘This too shall pass’.
So what do we do when we have implored and prayed God to remove a trial from us, but it continues… St. Nicholai Velimirovic and St. Paul have a few words of encouragement for us on this matter:
‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ (II Cor. 12:9)
Christ did not even spare His holy apostles from temptations, and He therefore gave them grace. (Let us take heart – God will give us the grace to endure. Let us have faith in our God, for God is growing our faith in Him through our trails.) When Satan himself began to wreak his malice on the Apostle Paul, Paul prayed that Satan be removed from him. But the Lord replied: ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ In other words: if you have to suffer at Satan’s hands, My grace is sufficient for your suffering. If you have to struggle with Satan, again My grace is sufficient for you. If you desire to overcome Satan, again My grace is sufficient. Grace is a weapon that can be used for everything. Grace is stronger than all adversaries, all assaults, and all the powers of darkness. Grace is both unconquerable and conquering.
Therefore my brethren, we must pray to God to give us His almighty grace. (So rather than praying for our suffering to end, we are praying for the grace to patiently endure our suffering and have our trails bring us closer to God and others. For if we patiently endure our suffering with Christ in prayer, He will shoulder our burdens and lighten our load.) Grace is God dwelling in us. Grace is the Kingdom of God in us. When God’s grace is within us, then it is day in our souls. And the day means light, knowledge and freedom from fear. (We pray and strive to be faithful and grateful to our Lord for both the good and bad so as to attract His grace to us.)
We cannot ask here on earth, my brethren, for a greater gift from God than divine grace. Should we receive the entire universe as a gift, it would be less than the grace of God.
O most rich Lord, Thou inexhaustible fountain of almighty grace, brake and plow through our hardened hearts by grace, that we may weep before Thy great goodness and our horrendous ingratitude. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen. St. Nickolai Velimirovic, The Prologue, May 26
I am a native San Franciscan currently living in Sacramento, CA. Due to health issues in my early 20s, I began a spiritual journey in quest of inner peace and healing. I felt my soul and body were connected and if my soul could heal, perhaps so could my body.
I was a lapsed Catholic who studied Eastern religions. I had a guru and Tibetan lama, practiced prayer and fasting, and meditation techniques. I studied metaphysics, channeling and the life of the soul, which I later taught to others.
Yet, after twenty-five years of seeking within the New Age and Eastern religions, I was left depressed and spiritually unfulfilled. Thanks to my late husband and the grace of God, my spiritual journey ultimately allowed me to convert to back to Christianity, find God and open my heart newly to Jesus Christ through the study of ancient Christianity in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
I am the author of two published books, The Pearl of Great Price and In Christ I am a New Creation, Part I. I am currently working on my third book, A Leap of Faith, and a book about my saint, St. Veronica, my other guardian angel. St. Veronica is the woman with the issue of blood, whom the Lord healed (Matt. 9:20). In 2018, I will be publishing a book about St. Veronica including an Orthodox liturgical service to her.
I am passionate about:
Eastern Orthodox Christianity (Orthodoxy) since my Christian conversion in 1996.
My relationship with Jesus Christ
Striving to live in the world, but not be of the world
Talking about spiritual warfare - there is an unseen battle being fought for the salvation of
Helping others come to peace with the Church and God
Connecting with other Orthodox Christians about their spiritual experiences
Living a full life while dealing with chronic health issues
My dogs and gardening
My saint, St. Veronica
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