“For it is absolutely necessary for the grace of God to leave, once a tried struggler has acquired a good taste of it in the beginning, so that he may be tested and become a practiced soldier in Christ.” Elder Joseph
My last few podcasts have focused on fighting our spiritual battles as members of the Church Militant on earth. We wage our spiritual war against unseen forces through the temptations that God sends our way to test us. Understanding the necessity temptations, accepting that they are part of our life as Christians is essential – otherwise we cannot attract the grace of God to help us win our spiritual battles. Grace is withdrawn and returned to us – Why? Elder Joseph, Elder Ephraim and St. Nicholai Velomirovic, my resources for this podcast, will explain this mystery to us….
From My Elder Joseph the Hesychast
By Elder Ephraim
‘For it is absolutely necessary for the grace of God to leave, once a tried struggler has acquired a good taste of it in the beginning, so that he may be tested and become a practiced soldier in Christ. And without such temptations, no one has ever ascended to perfection… the grace of God withdraws in order to make us, as we have said, practiced soldiers of war, so that we are not infants forever. But the Lord wants us to become worthy men and brave fighters – able to guard His riches and that is why He allows us to be tempted.’
“We learned from Elder Joseph that temptations require forcefulness and resistance in order for the passions to abate.
Temptations make a person more experienced, so that he is more careful. They make him say, ‘Without God I can do nothing. I can’t even have faith. Did we hear this? How I struggled for years to acquire faith, but I was missing this understanding…. If God wills, I have faith; if he doesn’t, I won’t. If a person can say this with conviction, he is building on rock. If he can’t, he is building on sand. A rock is solid, and not even waves can break it, but sand shifts with the waves and the wind, and the house built on it can collapse. The rock is the awareness that one can do nothing without the power and grace of God. But in order for this rock to be formed, one must go through many trials in life to learn through experience man’s weakness and God’s omnipotence.’
He inspired us to aim all our pursuits, all our desires, and all our actions towards this goal: to induce grace to come and stay with us. The focus was on grace because only through grace can we succeed in being freed from the ‘old man,’ (Rom. 6:6) and because without grace we will not be able to do anything. As the Lord said, ‘Without Me ye can do nothing.’ (John. 15:5)
The primary reason why he emphasized the acquisition of God’s grace so much was because only God’s grace will bring us the love of God, which is our real goal. He proved to us with detailed explanations that there is nothing more worthy for man to occupy himself with then the love of God. Everything else–even virtues–is vanity in comparison with it. The goal and center of Christian life is the love of God.”
So let’s recap the essential lessons Elders Joseph and Ephraim are teaching us about how to attract the grace of God to us:
We are nothing and can do nothing without God – our spiritual life is built upon this rock or our spiritual foundation will not be secure – it will be sand under our feet.
In our weakness we find God’s strength – ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ as St. Paul learned.
We cannot even have faith without God granting it to us – so praying to God to deepen our faith, especially through our trials is what attracts the grace of God to us, carries us through our sufferings and trials and deepens our love of God, which is the goal and center of our Christian life.
I will also repeat what I learned from my research for this set of podcasts:
Our goal is not to seek or pray for an end to our sufferings. Rather, we pray for God’s grace to carry us through our temptations and trials. We strive to trust in God’s wisdom and His timeline. It is our faith in Him, which He gives us, that lifts us up and lightens the burden of our sufferings. Then we can bear our suffering and trials completely differently, for we experience them in Christ and with Him. That is how the martyrs were able to endure their trials.
According to the Saints, who is our strongest aid in our regeneration by Grace – the Mother of God. In honor Mary and the Advent Fast, I will be devoting my next several podcasts to the Mother of God. It is Mary that can help us to prepare the manger of our soul to receive Christ this Nativity. She is the highest example of transformation by grace.
Now let’s go to St. Nicholai for his commentary on the dance between temptations and grace…
“The love of God, like a fragrant oil, is shed upon our hearts in no other way than by the Holy Spirit, the all-good and all-powerful Spirit. Though we are utterly undeserving of it, the Spirit of God pours the divine law of God into our hearts in the mystery of Chrismation.
But we sometimes neglect this love and estrange ourselves from God by sin and fall into spiritual weakness. And the Holy Spirit, unable to dwell in an unclean vessel, departs from our hearts. When the Holy Spirit departs from us, joy and strength, peace and fortitude depart at once with Him, and we become miserable, and enfeebled, disturbed and afraid.
But the all–good Spirit of God only puts Himself at a distance from us; he does not abandon us completely. He does not abandon us, but rather offers us, as to sick men, medicines through the mysteries of repentance and Holy Communion. It is so important in our modern times to go frequently to both confession and communion. For these sacraments allow us to commune directly with Christ and renew ourselves for the battles we fight. Why? And when we have cleansed ourselves anew by repentance and communion, then God the Holy Spirit makes His abode in us again and pours the love of God into our hearts.
We fall down and get up; we fall down again and get up again. When we fall, the Spirit of God stands beside us and lifts us up, if we desire to be so lifted. And when we are on our feet, the Spirit of God stands with us until, through our sinfulness and stupidity, we fall again. And so we are by turns a fruitful meadow and a wasteland, sons of repentance and of perdition, of fullness and emptiness, of light and darkness.
O all–good Holy Spirit, our God, do not depart from us either when we need Thee or when we do not feel the need of Thee. Abide with us until our death, and save us for life eternal. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.”
St. Nicholai Velimirovic, The Prologue May 24
And to return where we started this podcast…
“He inspired us to aim all our pursuits, all our desires, and all our actions towards this goal: to induce grace to come and stay with us. The focus was on grace because only through grace can we succeed in being freed from the ‘old man,’ (Rom. 6:6) and because without grace we will not be able to do anything. As the Lord said, ‘Without Me ye can do nothing.’ (John. 15:5)”
This is exactly what the Mother of God did!!!
Let us begin to ponder the mystery of the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit within Mary’s womb – the ultimate attraction of the Grace of God! ‘Hail, Mary full of Grace the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast born the Savior of our souls.’
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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