1. Never stop starting over: “Abba Poeman said regarding Abba Prin that every day he made a new beginning.” “My God, do not abandon me. I have done nothing good before Thee, but grant me, in Thy compassion, the power to make a start” (Arsenios, 5th century).
2. Live intentionally, not aimlessly: “Think nothing and do nothing without a purpose directed to God. For to journey without direction is wasted effort” (St. Mark the Ascetic, 5th century). “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
3. Never, ever despair, no matter what: “Let us eagerly draw near to Christ, and let us not despair of our salvation. For it is a trick of the devil to lead us to despair by reminding us of our past sins” (St. Makarios of Egypt, 5th century). “When someone is defeated after offering stiff resistance, he should not give up in despair. Let him take heart, encouraged by the words. . . . God raises up all who are bowed down (Psalm 145:14). Do all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should not fall. But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest. Even if you fall a thousand times. . . . rise up again each time” (St. John of Karpathos, date unknown).
4. Pray simply, not stupidly: “Often when I have prayed I have asked for what I thought was good, and persisted in my petition, stupidly importuning the will of God, and not leaving it to Him to arrange things as He knows is best for me. But when I have obtained what I asked for, I have been very sorry that I did not ask for the will of God to be done; because the thing turned out not to be as I had thought” (Evagrios the Solitary, 4th century). Abba Macarius said, “It is enough to say, ‘Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy.’ And if the conflict grows fiercer, say: ‘Lord, help!'”
5. Renounce all self-justification: According to John the Dwarf, “We have put aside the easy burden, which is self-accusation, and weighed ourselves down with the heavy one, self-justification.”
6. Stop judging others: “The monk, says Moses, must never judge his neighbor at all in any way whatever.” “They said of Abba Macarius that just as God protects the world, so Abba Macarius would cover the faults he saw, as though he did not see them, and those he heard, as though he did not hear them.”
7. Stay put: Mother Syncletica (4th century), “If you find yourself in a monastery do not go to another place, for that will harm you a great deal. Just as the bird who abandons the eggs she was sitting on prevents them from hatching, so the monk or the nun grows cold and their faith dies when they go from one place to another.” “In Scetis a brother went to Moses to ask for advice. He said to him, ‘Go and sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.'”
8. Celebrate theological modesty: “St. John Chrysostom says that we do not know wholly even what is given in part, but know only a part of a part” (St. Peter of Damaskos, 12th century).
9. Acknowledge my brokenness: “The person who has come to know the weakness of human nature has gained experience of divine power. Such a person never belittles anyone. . . . He knows that God is like a good and loving physician who heals with individual treatment each of those who are trying to make progress” (St. Maximos the Confessor, 7th century). “A brother said to Abba Theodore, ‘Speak a word to me for I am perishing.’ Sorrowfully, the old man said: ‘I myself am in danger. So what can I say to you?'”
10. Be ruthlessly realistic: “Saint Anthony said to Poemen, ‘expect trials and temptations until your last breath.'” “I am convinced that not even the apostles, although filled with the Holy Spirit, were therefore completely free from anxiety. . . . Contrary to the stupid view expressed by some, the advent of grace does not mean the immediate deliverance from anxiety” (St. Makarios of Egypt, 5th century).
11. Always think good of everyone: “Show the greatest gentleness toward all people” (Evagrios the Solitary, 4th century).
12. Read the obituaries: “When the death of Arsenius drew near, the brothers saw him weeping and asked, ‘Truly, Father, are you afraid?’ ‘Indeed,’ he answered them, ‘the fear which is mine this hour has been with me ever since I became a monk.'” “At the moment of our death we will all know for certain what is the outcome of our life” (St. Gregory of Sinai, 13th century).
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
May 2012 be full of blessings and great joy for all of us! +