An excerpt from His Eminence Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou’s homily at the Church of St. Anthony the Great in the village of Spilia, Cyprus, on January 17, 2020.
All of us today—monastics and laity, whether single or married—have one big problem: restlessness. We can’t find peace and quiet in our souls. We are all burdened with many cares. As new technologies develop, the amount of worries and troubles increase, although it seems like it should be the other way around… Why does it happen this way? In fact, man finds peace only in the Truth. Technology cannot give a man rest, because it makes life easier only for the body. But man is not just a body: He has both a body and a soul.
This is why we must find a way to give rest to both the body and the soul. There is a paradox in the Church: When the body grows tired for the sake of love for Christ or love of neighbor—the poor or sick, those in need of help—then, despite the physical fatigue, a wondrous peace settles into the soul. Such a man finds rest in his soul. And then this rest is conveyed from the soul to the body, giving it new strength to act. This feeling was wonderfully familiar to the saints: peace, rest, grace, and great joy. But to achieve spiritual peace, you have to labor. It takes effort to acquire Divine grace. We must love laboring for the sake of God and for the benefit of others…
We have to take some time to be in silence. Of course, we can’t be in the desert twenty-four hours a day, as was St. Anthony the Great, but it would be good if we could be in silence for at least a few minutes, especially at night. Don’t spend the whole night on your phone and sleeping. Devote some part of the night to wakefulness, deprive yourself of some sleep, and then you will find vitality of spirit; your mind will become clear. And we will become at least a little bit like St. Anthony the Great, St. John the Forerunner, the Prophet Moses, and the Prophet Elijah. And Christ Himself and the Most Holy Theotokos will help us, as they helped all the aforementioned saints. What unites all these saints? They all had one common desire: to acquire Divine energy—the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Sacred silence, detachment, prayer, and fasting were not ends in themselves for them, but means to an end. They weren’t attached to all of this. The same goes for reading the Psalter. It’s not an end, but a means. And what is our end goal? Our goal is to attain purity of heart: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me (Ps. 50:12)...
May God grant us to have this good and lofty goal. And to have such great goals, we need great role models. Please, be sure to read the lives of the saints if you want to live a spiritual life, so the desire for sacred silence, the desire for detachment, the desire for prayer, the desire for holiness might be born in your hearts. Otherwise, we will reach old age and inherit not holiness, but corruption…
I appeal to those who live in cities: Do you want to be modern and follow fashion? Leave the city. Find a quiet village where you could take a rest from the hustle and bustle of the city. But don’t take the commotion of the city with you to the countryside, otherwise its tranquility will be disturbed. Being in nature, outside the city, we can enjoy the peace and quiet, especially at night. When I come to Evrychou,1 I manage to grab a few hours of silence every day, despite my episcopal duties.
Use these hours of silence properly, for studying Holy Scripture, for prayer, and for communion with the Most Holy Trinity, the Theotokos, and the saints. And have an example to follow in the person of the saints.
I often recall St. Iakovos of Evia. Few people know which saint he took an example from in everything. They think it was St. David of Evia. But actually, no. He imitated St. Daniel the Stylite. One year on Pascha, he ate so little that I made a remark about it. He replied: “What do you think, what did St. Daniel eat when he was on his pillar?” Of course, he wasn’t a stylite, but he really wanted to be one. And now, for his striving and imitation of this saint, the Lord has glorified him among the saints, like St. Daniel.
So I repeat: Have some great role models and make time for silence. Silence has its own voice and stimulates spiritual work. Read the Psalter, for in it you will find a source of tears that purity your heart, and a source of joy.
A woman recently came to see me who really loves the Psalter and reads the Psalms every day. What did she tell me? “I didn’t understand very much at first. There were a lot of words I didn’t know. But when I’m done reading, I feel greater joy than I’ve ever known. Where does this joy in my heart come from?” I responded: “This joy is from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.”
Whatever kind of life you lead—monastic or family life—have great examples to imitate, and you will certainly benefit. And you will have something to pass on to your children and grandchildren.