Death to the World - The Last True Rebellion



    One should never believe in oneself or trust oneself in anything

    Not to rely on oneself is so necessary in our struggle, my beloved brother, that without this, be assured, not only will you fail to gain the desired victory, but you will be unable to resist the smallest attack of the enemy. Engrave this deeply in your mind and heart.

    Since the time of the transgression of our forefather, despite the weakening of our spiritual and moral powers, we are wont to think very highly of ourselves. Although our daily experience very effectively proves to us the falseness of this opinion of ourselves, in our incomprehensible self deception we do not cease to believe that we are something, and something not unimportant. Yet this spiritual disease of ours, so hard to perceive and acknowledge, is more abhorrent to God than all else in us, as being the first offspring of our self hood and self love, and the source, root and cause of all passions and of all our downfalls and wrongdoing. It closes the very door of our mind or spirit, through which alone Divine grace can enter, and gives this grace no way to come and dwell in a man. And so it withdraws from him. For how can grace, which comes to help and enlighten us, enter that man, who thinks of himself that he is something great, that he himself knows everything and needs no outside help?  May God preserve us from this disease and passion of Lucifer!  God severely reprimands those who are stricken with this passion of vainglory and | self esteem, saying through the prophet: 'Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight' (Isaiah v. 21). And the Apostle tells us: "'Be not wise in your own conceits' (From. xii. 16).
    While God abhors this evil conceit in us, there is nothing He loves and desires to see in us more than a sincere consciousness of our nothingness and a firm and deep felt conviction that any good, we may have in our nature and our life comes from Him alone, since He is the source of all good, and that nothing truly good can ever come from ourselves, whether a good thought or a good action. Therefore He takes care to plant this heavenly seed in the hearts of His beloved friends, urging them not to value themselves and not to rely on themselves. Sometimes He does this through the action of grace and inner illumination, or sometimes through external blows and tribulations, sometimes through unexpected and almost unconquerable temptations, and sometimes by other means, not always comprehensible to us.

    Yet, although expecting no good from ourselves and not relying on ourselves is the work of God in us, we on our side must make every effort to acquire this disposition, doing all we can, all within our power. And so, my brother, I offer you here four activities, by means of which, with God's help, you may end by acquiring disbelief in yourself, and learn never to rely on yourself in anything.

    (a) Realise your nothingness and constantly keep in your mind the fact that by yourself you can do nothing good which is worthy of the kingdom of heaven. Listen to the words of the wise fathers:

    Peter of Damascus assures us that Nothing is better than to realise one's weakness and ignorance, and nothing is worse than not to be aware of them' (Philokalia). St. Maximus the Confessor teaches: 'The foundation of every virtue is the realisation of human weakness' (Philokalia). St. John Chrysostom says; ''he alone knows himself in the best way possible who thinks of himself as being nothing.'

    (b) Ask for God's help in this with warm and humble prayers; for this is His gift. And if you wish to receive it, you must first implant in yourself the conviction that not only have you no such consciousness of yourself, but that you cannot acquire it by your own efforts; then standing daringly before the Almiglity God, in firm belief that in His great loving kindness He will grant you this knowledge of yourself when and how He Himself knows, do not let the slightest doubt creep in that you will actually receive it.

    (c) Accustom yourself to be wary and to fear your innumerable enemies whom you cannot resist even for a short time. Fear their long experience in fighting us, their cunning and ambushes, their power to assume the guise of angels of light, their countless wiles and nets, which they secretly spread on the path of your life of virtues.

    (d) If you fall into some transgression, quickly turn to the realisation of your weakness and be aware of it. For God allows you to fall for the very purpose of making you more aware of your weakness, so that you may thus not only yourself learn to despise yourself, but because of your great weakness may wish to be despised also by others. Know that without such desire it is impossible for this beneficent self disbelief to be born and take root in you. This is the foundation and beginning of true humility, since it is based on realisation, by experience, of your impotence and unreliability.

    From this, each of us sees how necessary it is for a man, who desires to participate in heavenly light, to know himself, and how God's mercy usually leads the proud and self reliant to this knowledge through their downfalls, justly allowing them to fall into the very sin from which they think they are strong enough to protect themselves, so as to make them see their weakness and pre  wnt them from relying foolhardily on themselves either in this or in anything else. This method, although very effective, is also not without danger, and God does not always use it, but only when all the other means we have mentioned, which are easier and more natural, fail to lead a man to self knowledge. Only then does He finally let a man; fall into sin, great or small, in accordance with the degree of his I pride, conceit and self reliance. So that where conceit and self-reliance are absent, instructive failures do not occur. Therefore, if you happen to fall, run quickly in your thought to humble self  a knowledge and a low opinion and sense of yourself and implore I God by persistent prayer to give you true light, so as to realize your nothingness and confirm your heart in disbelief in yourself,! lest you again fall into the same or even worse and more destructive sin.

    I must add that not only when a man falls into some sin, but also when he is afflicted by some ill fortune, tribulation or sorrow and especially a grievous and long drawn bodily sickness, he mi understand that he suffers this in order to acquire self knowledge namely the knowledge of his weakness  and to become humb With this purpose and to this end God allows us to be assail by all kinds of temptations from the devil, from men and from our own corrupted nature. St. Paul saw this purpose in the temp tions he suffered in Asia, when he said: "'But we had the sense of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, 1 in God which raiseth the dead'1 (II Cor. i. 9).

    And I shall add another thing: if a man wants to realise weakness from the actual experience of his life, let him, I do i say for many days but even for one day, observe his though words and actions  what he thought, what he said, what he d He will undoubtedly find that the greater part of his though words and actions were sinful, wrong, foolish and bad. This experiment will make him understand in practice how inharmonic and weak he is in himself. And if he sincerely wishes himself this understanding will make him feel how foolish it is to anything good from himself or to rely on himself alone.


    If you deny yourself and constantly renounce your own opinions, your own will, your own righteousness, or what amounts to the same thing, the knowledge, understanding, will and righteousness of fallen nature, in order to plant within you the knowledge of God, the will of God, and the righteousness of God taught us in the holy Gospel by God Himself, then fallen nature will open fire within you and declare a savage war against the Gospel and against God. Fallen spirits will come to the help of fallen nature.

    Do not fall into despondency on this account. By your firmness in the struggle show the tenacity of your purpose and the stability of your free will. When thrown down, get up. When duped and disarmed, re arm yourself afresh. When defeated, again rush to the fight. It is extremely good for you to see within yourself both your own fall and the fall of the whole of mankind. It is essential for you to recognize and study this fall in your own experience, in your heart and mind. It is essential for you to see the infirmity of your knowledge and intellect, and the weakness of your will.
    The vision of one's fall is a spiritual vision. The vision of one's infirmity and weakness is a spiritual vision. In this matter the spectator is the mind. The vision is obtained by grace, which is planted in us by baptism. By the action of grace the blindness of the mind is dispelled, and it begins to see clearly in the arena of its struggle what hitherto it has not seen through being outside this arena. It discovers the existence of what it did not even suspect.

    Another spiritual vision is associated with the vision of the fall of man; the vision of fallen spirits. Again this vision is a spiritual vision, a gift of grace.[1] In this case, too, the spectator is the mind. From the practice of the commandments and by striving to fulfil them in the most exact manner, the mind gradually begins to discern fallen spirits in the thoughts and feelings which they bring, begins to discern the distressing intercourse of human beings with fallen spirits, the subjection of men to fallen spirits, the activities and wiles of spirits for the destruction of men.

    In spiritual visions there is nothing sensory. They are acquired by care and diligence in the practice of the commandments of the Gospel and by struggling with sinful thoughts and feelings. A person who has not known these visions by experience can have no conception of them whatever, cannot even know that they exist.[2]

    The Holy Spirit has superbly described in the Psalter the war and struggle of an athlete of Christ with his own fall and with fallen spirits. The monks of early times learned the Psalter by heart, and they expressed in the words of the Spirit their prayers for their rescue from the pit of the passions, for deliverance from the jaws of the enemy, the devil.[3]

    [1] St. Isaac the Syrian, Ch. 61 (Ch. VIII of Eng. Trans.). Psalm 91:12.
    [2] St. Peter Damascene, Bk. I, On the Eight Mental Visions (Philokalia). Ladder 27:26.
    [3] Peter 5:8; 2 Timothy 4:17; Psalm 21:22; Wisdom 2:24.


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