On Discernment and Enduring Patiently in Struggles

Extracted from St. John Climacus, The Ladder Step 26: On Discernment

This editorial revised text based on trans. Archimandrite Lazarus Moore, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, revised editionĀ©1979

In critically self-examining yourself regarding every passion and virtue ask: "Where are we?" At the beginning, or the middle or at the end? All demonic attacks come from three causes: sensuality, pride, or the envy of the demons. Those experiencing the last, the envy of demons, are bless, those the middle, pride, are very pitiful, whilst those the first, sensuality, are failures.

There is a certain feeling, or habit, called endurance of hardship, those possessing it will be neither cowardly nor will they avoid labor, and it was by upholding this glorious virtue that the martyrs easily despised their tortures.

The guarding of thoughts is one thing, having custody of the mind another. As far as East from West, so much higher and laborious is the latter than the former, for it is one thing to pray for deliverance from bad thoughts, quite another to contradict them, and yet still more to despise and disregard them. Of praying for deliverance he bears testimony who said O God, be attentive unto helping me; of contradicting them, he said So shall I give an answer to those who reproach me and again Thou hast made us a gainsaying among our neighbors; of the third, the Psalmist witnesses I was dumb, and opened not my mouth and I will set a guard for my mouth, when the sinner stood up against me and again The proud have transgressed exceedingly, but from Thy divine vision have I not declined. He who stands on the middle step may be taken unaware and so will often make use of the first of these means. Those standing on the first step is in no position to ward off enemies by the second means. He who has reached the third step, however, spurns the demons altogether.

While it is naturally impossible for an bodiless being to be confined by the body, for a person, having God with us, makes all things possible.

As those with a healthy sense of smell can tell who has hidden perfumes, the pure soul can discern in others the fragrance obtained from God, and the stench from which he has been freed, even when it is imperceptible to others. Similarly, while it is impossible for all to become dispassionate, it is not impossible for all to be saved and be reconciled to God. Take care not to be mastered by Philistines, thoughts that urge you to inquire about ineffable judgments of divine providence or about visions secretly suggesting that the Lord is partial, for such thoughts are the offspring of self-esteem.

The demon of avarice often apes humility while the demons of vainglory and of sensuality urge almsgiving. If we are clear of these, we should not stint our deed of mercy, wherever we are.

Some say demons work against demons; I know all seek our destruction.

Our strong desire and intention precede every spiritual labor, physical and mental, paving the way for God to walk with us. Without strong desire and intention, we obstruct the way of God.

If there is a time for everything under heaven as Ecclesiastes says, and by the word 'everything' understood as meaning what concerns our holy life, then, please, seek to do at each time what is proper for that occasion for it is certain that, for those who enter the lists, there is a time:

Let us not be deceived by proud zeal and seek prematurely that which will come of its own good time!

Do not seek in winter that which comes in summer, or at seed time, what comes at harvest: there is a time to sow labors and a time to reap the unspeakable gifts of grace. If we seek out of season, we shall not receive even in due season what is proper. By the ineffable providence of God, some have received holy returns in their toiling before their labors, some during their labors, and some at the time of their death. It is a question of which of them was rendered more humble.

Prayer of the Hours

Thou Who at all times and at every hour, in heaven and on earth, art worshipped and glorified, O Christ God, Who art long-suffering, plenteous in mercy, most compassionate, Who callest all to salvation through the promise of good things to come:

Receive, O Lord, our prayers at this hour:

Compass us about with Thy holy angles, that, guarded and guided by their array, we may attain to that unity of faith and the knowledge of Thine unapproachable glory, for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages.