Grace always precedes a temptation, as if to notify you saying,
"Prepare yourself and lock your doors."
When you see comfort in your heart, illumination in your nous, and theoria, prepare yourself at once. Don't say, "I have been given rest," but load your weapons: tears, fasting, vigil, 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, 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," you should say, "for in mine affliction Thou hast made room for me,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)
But the cane is the remedy for every passion. Demons fear it and shudder when they see a man punishing himself like a martyr for the love of Christ. Once in a while, when the passions rise up against the soul and want to "hurl the rider"(cf.Ex. 15:1) (the nous, that is), when each passion raises its head, give the battle cry, "Quiet, be still! (Mk. 4:39) Or else I'll put the cane to work!"
For example, the thought comes and distresses you in church, "Why should your brother chant again instead of you, since this is contrary to the proper order?" You should tell it, "It is better for my brother to be happy than for me." The thought persists, "But why, since this is just and correct?" You tell it, "Devil, leave me alone!" and keep your mind on the Jesus prayer. The tempter revolts, ready to burst, "But no, why???" "All right," tell him, "wait a second and I'll tell you why!" Then at once leave the church on a pretext, and hurry to your cell. Grab a cane there and say with anger, "Here's your 'why,' devil! This is it. This is the justice you sought from me, so take it!" Next, after you wound him in your body, lodge a complaint about him to Christ as the cause of your pain. The devil flees shuddering, Christ comes, fills you with comfort, and alleviates the passion, and thus you learn the art of how to win.
Does sleep overcome you? Strike your laxity. Does anger agitate you? Crush your egotism. Do resentment and envy embitter you? The same. You don't like the food? Likewise. Does the warfare of the flesh rise up? Arise like a strong man and fight your enemies. And in general, whenever your body and your thoughts seek "justice" and "why," the answer is the cane.
"Either I shall live one hour as Thou dost want, my dear Christ, or may I not exist in this life." If you weep and mourn while praying like this, the mercy of the Lord will come. Your passions will subside and you will be at peace with yourself, with God, and with all of creation. The body will fall along with all its arrogance, and then it no longer needs beating, since it has learned to be subject to the spirit.
(The elder is not advocating some kind of masochism here, but advises counteracting sinful pleasure whether it be due to thoughts of anger, pride, or carnal thoughts with physical pain. Similar techniques were used by Sts. Benedict, Martinios, Epiphanios, Archbishop of Constantinople, Nephon, Bishop of Constantiana, and many other saints.)
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