In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
Dear brothers and sisters, throughout Great Lent we daily hear at the divine services the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian: O Lord and Master of my life… The seventh request of this prayer contains a prayer to the Lord that He grant us the spirit of patience.
Dear brothers and sisters, there is nothing we more often encounter in life than misfortunes and sorrows! Sorrows accompany a person from his very birth to his death, and there is no one who has never tasted of them in his lifetime. There is no person who could say that he is blessed and satisfied with everything. Either we are worn out by sickness, or grieving over the loss of a loved one, or we are hounded by envy and hatred, or natural disasters strike—in a word, human life does not pass by without sorrows and disasters.
What should we do amidst all these misfortunes in order to keep ourselves from harm, to not be conquered but to become conquerors? For this we have to have patience. It is impossible to get around having patience in any single misfortune, or any one sorrow. Sorrows are not the thing of a minute, but to the contrary, most often between the beginning of a disaster and to its end a lot of time goes by, when whether we like it or not we have to have patience, to bear this yoke, to carry it and suffer.
The realm of patience should spread over a person’s entire life and over the whole fate of humanity in this world. Through patience a person obtains good things and is able to keep them, is able to weather the vicissitudes of evil unharmed. If he loses patience he immediately finds himself in danger of losing those good things, or, what is worse, committing evil. A minute of impatience can wreak havoc on years and centuries. The holy fathers say that patience was needed even in paradise, where it would seem that there was nothing to endure.
Thus, if our fore-mother Eve had had enough patience to not answer the deceitful talk of the tempter, if she had refrained, and not thrown herself rashly at the forbidden fruit, then very probably her sensual attraction would have been stopped, truth would have triumphed over falsehood, the sin would not have been done and death would not have followed. She didn’t have enough patience; our fore-parents fell and brought down the whole future race of man. In comparison to paradise, we need ever so much more patience on earth, where man was sent from paradise in order to acquire possession of his soul through patience.
If the above-mentioned grievous example of a lack of patience is frightening to us, then let us comfort ourselves with other edifying examples of saving patience and its beneficial effects. What suffering and temptation righteous Job had to endure! And how faithfully and generously was his patience rewarded! What cruel and long-lasting persecutions David endured, and how gloriously he was made worthy of honor! What various and sundry torments and deaths were intentionally invented by the enemies of Christianity in order to shake the patience of the Christian martyrs! And how wondrously was the power of God made perfect in their weakness—that calm and at times even painless endurance of tortures, or sudden healing of wounds, that spiritual victory, which changed the tormentors themselves into Christians.
And how much and long did those ascetics of piety endure, who in fasting and vigils spent the days of their austere lives! Patience forged them, and implemented in them the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Without patience there is no podvig, and without podvig there are neither virtues, nor spiritual gifts, nor salvation. In order to know how to live we have to know how to endure. The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force (Matt. 11:12).
Do you want, according to God’s commandments, to acquire perfect love, which would love even your enemies? Think about how this can be done. We often encounter imperfections in other people, not rarely even vices, and sometimes even hatred toward us. All of this inclines us towards disrespect of them, to rejection of them, finally to mutual hatred, and, well, not love at all. How can we acquire love for all? Here is how: If you firmly resolve and teach yourself to look at people’s imperfections and vices, and even their very hatred of you with patience, then you will be able to love everyone, without meanwhile ceasing to hate the vice. This cannot be achieved without patience.
Do you want to acquire Christian obedience towards all? How can this be obtained? It is unavoidable that you will often be asked to do things that in thought, desire, or personal taste are burdensome and hard for your self-love to take. In order to do all this without resistance, without murmuring, you need patience. Therefore if you have patience you can have obedience; but without patience—you can’t.
In the same way do any other virtues require depravation, labor, podvig, struggles against the passions, desires, and temptations that are not always easily and quickly crowned with success, and thus require patience. If your patience wavers, neither will any other virtue stand firm. And since the acquisition of the virtues is the requirement of our whole lives, then patience is needed throughout all our lives and even to its very end.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us patiently endure everything, the little and the great, with faith and hope accepting all our misfortunes as deserved punishment and as God’s mercy. With patience let us approach the ascetic labors ahead of us, ever keeping our sight upon the Chief and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus; and with patience let us continue to the end, for he that endureth to the end shall be saved (Matt. 10:22). Amen.
From Archimandrite Kirill (Pavlov), A Time for Repentance.