“As Great as is Our Joy, So Strong is Our Connection with God”

The sayings of Elder Aimilianos are a wonderful guide for self-knowledge, for ascending the ladder of virtues. His advice can be followed by any Christian who labors ascetically for the sake of liberation from his “I” and acquiring the freedom of the children of God (cf. Rom. 8:21).

The following excerpt was published in Russian by the Pskov Caves Monastery in the book, Life in God’s Presence.

A spiritual man is always peaceful

Archimandrite Aimilianos Archimandrite Aimilianos The natural condition in which man should live is serenity, spiritual joy, and peace. Man is not made for sorrow or pain. Sorrows are sent to us by God, because He wants to raise us from our wretchedness to the spiritual heights, to give us rest from fights, and to find joy and spiritual gladness. How do we respond to the difficulties we encounter? For example, we have a weakness: We want to be joyful, but instead, we easily succumb to despondency. And this grieves us. Of course, our sorrow is not for God; it’s egotistical. We want to feel joy, but we can’t. We look at our infirmities in an earthly way. Do you remember how the Apostle Paul similarly asked the Lord to deliver him from his affliction? How did God answer him? My grace is sufficient for thee (2 Cor. 12:9). God seemed to object to the Apostle’s request: “Don’t you understand? If I take this infirmity from you, you could perish. But with this affliction you will walk straight into Heaven.” Our character, and our infirmities, and all our sorrows and difficulties turn out to be our best guides on the path to Heaven.

If they become an obstacle for us, it’s because of our own egotism. We ourselves leave God, as if we don’t need Him or His grace; we love only ourselves. And instead of worshiping Christ, we worship ourselves. One person can abuse his beauty and become a fornicator, another his physical strength and become a criminal, and a third his money and turn into a dastardly and lowly person; so our attitude towards ourselves can be perverted, and we can deify our “I.” If a man doesn’t feel spiritual freedom, joy, and gladness, it means he hasn’t yet found a connection with God. The man who doesn’t love the Lord with all his heart, who hasn’t freely surrendered to Him, is still between corruption and incorruption, and therefore grieves and suffers from difficulties and problems, really struggling with temptations and feeling like a failure in life.

A man of God, a spiritual man is always peaceful, and the peace of his soul can never be overshadowed by anything. There is no cloud above it: The sun is at its zenith and disperses any clouds. He may have external sorrows, but they don’t affect his soul, they don’t cause internal pain. As the bush was engulfed in flames but didn’t burn because God was in it, the exact same thing happens with the saints. They can burn in the fire of temptations and sorrows. But what is this fire? It’s the visitation of God, the presence of the Living God, Who by this doesn’t allow them to relax, but compels them to seek Him more and more. And that’s why they don’t burn in this fire. They’re already in a state of deification, they are partakers of the Divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). They suffer neither mentally nor spiritually. They have only one suffering, one pain—the passion of Christ. They have one aspiration—perfection; one thirst—for God.

    

The peace of Christ is a deep sense of the wholeness of a human being. It arises, first of all, thanks to the complete unity and agreement of the three powers of the soul: the intelligent, the desiring, and the incensive. This holy peace fluctuates when the powers of the soul fluctuate, when the balance between them is lost. And this shows that man has deviated from the correct path in his spiritual life, that he no longer burns with love for God or feels His presence. In other words, there’s neither inner harmony nor union with God in him. A man who has lost spiritual peace has also lost God, because Divine grace no longer touches his heart, and he’s unable to become the dwelling place of God. And this happens because the sovereign principle, the spirit of man, called to unite with God and lead the whole man to theosis, is at odds with the other forces of the soul. He who is easily led to turmoil and has no peace has not yet become a spiritual person. His soul is drawn by earthly pleasures, his spirit wallows in them and falls into a carnal state. Such a man, although he’s created to soar in the heights like an eagle, has fallen to the ground and grovels like a worm. Imagine that an eagle can’t take off and walks along the earth, in the dirt. Can he not but long for the expanses of the heavens? Can he live like nothing happened?

The basis of the spiritual life is joy

The first foundation of the spiritual life is joy. The Church calls us to ever abide in joy, not to go about with a gloomy appearance, not to indulge in false sadness supposedly for the sake of God. Sorrow for God, right and true, given by the Holy Spirit, is not at all that sadness that sometimes comes upon us because we’re moving away from God. When we’re on the right path and we draw near to God, then we’re accompanied by joy and inner peace. It’s in an atmosphere of joy that the soul is able to thrive, to see God, and enjoy His presence. This spiritual joy is natural for man, and the Holy Spirit perfects it, so that it becomes an unfailing, inalienable gift of God. Perfect joy is preceded by the gift of tears. Tears express the deep pain of a soul striving to return to Paradise and suffering from the fact that it fell, that it was expelled from Paradise and ended up here, on earth. In other words, the sadness that the soul experiences from the consciousness of its impotence. However, it doesn’t deprive us of joy, but conversely, brings spiritual gladness and gives us a taste of Paradisiacal sweetness. As it’s impossible to breathe poisoned air, so it’s impossible to live without joy. Sorrow for the sake of God and fervent joy-making tears enhance joy, making it genuine and permanent.

***

A man who experiences no joy has deviated from the right spiritual path. When you have a temperature, there’s no doubt you’re sick. The same is true in the spiritual life: If a man feels no joy, it means something’s not right with him; and let him not think that his love for God is expressed in sadness, or that his neighbor, his difficulties, the weather, or poor health are responsible for his despondent state… Man himself is guilty; he himself has departed from God.

When thanks to the wholehearted concentration of the heart, aspiration for God becomes our constant possession, then our joy will be measureless and life will be spiritual. We can also understand what kind of connection we have with God by whether our joy is small or great, full or imperfect. As great as our joy is, so strong is our connection with God. We shouldn’t become despondent, for joy makes our life very easy, thanks to which we’re able to live.

Why do we lose our inner peace? We can also lose our inner peace because we isolate ourselves from loved ones and treat them scornfully. In such cases, we dissect the Body of Christ and something unnatural—alienation from loved ones—penetrates into our spiritual life, which in itself should be natural and simple. Without feeling the unity and community of the Body of Christ, we can’t feel the presence of God and His gracious peace within ourselves. In other words, the smallest separation from God or from any person, as well as the smallest displeasure with the world around us, naturally robs us of the peace of Christ.

After all, the entire creation is united with God, recognizes its Creator, and tolerates no discord or disorder within itself. It groaneth and travaileth (Rom. 8:22) together with man, who has fallen away from God, it strives for reunification with God, for its rebirth, and desires to see itself as the New Heaven and New Earth (2 Pet. 3:13). And therefore, as soon as you start grumbling and getting annoyed by the weather: “Why’s the wind blowing so hard? Oh, this endless rain! What awful humidity!” or you even just say: “Why do we need worms, lizards, and snakes in this world?” you immediately lose peace. When you collide with a creation that’s seeking God and groaning, combining its tears with those of all the saints, until it reconciles with God on the last day (cf. Rom. 8:21), your life sounds dissonant with the whole universe, and you separate from nature and God.

It’s the same in relationships with people: If you don’t put yourself on par with the lowest sinner, if you don’t recognize him as part of your own being, you’ll never be able to feel genuine peace. You should feel unity not just with all people, but also with the smallest insect, recognizing that God Himself unites both you and it with Heaven. Holy peace is something deeper, more durable than joy. Peace testifies not only to how I am now, but also to where I’m going, whether my path is true, and what kind of goal I have. The criterion in the spiritual life is joy, which shows what my spiritual condition is now; and peace, which testifies that I’m on the right path. If I don’t have peace, it means I’ve lost my way. We dare to say that even sin is not so dangerous as losing peace. Of course, in and of itself, sin is the great insult to God and man. People seek solace in sin, but sin has never brought anyone peace. And if a man has sinned, the most important thing for him is to immediately turn away from sin and make haste for Paradise with all his soul. Then he will find peace, and that’s what’s most important. When man is in a peaceful state, when his soul is calm and comforted, only then can that fire that will enlighten him and reveal God to him be kindled in his heart.

Archimandrite Aimilianos (Vafeidis)
Translation by Jesse Dominick

Pravoslavie.ru

10/15/2021

Comments
Adam10/17/2021 11:47 pm
This book needs to be translated in it’s entirety. So good.
James10/15/2021 8:25 pm
Profound and wondrous! Thank you Very Reverend Father, and brother Jesse and all at OrthoChristian for this wonderful article! Glory to Jesus Christ forever!
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