February 2023 - Our Orthodox Faith

Saint Paisios the Athonite on: ACTIONS WITH PRUDENCE AND LOVE

The following passage comes from Spiritual Awakening, the second volume of a compilation of spiritual counsels from the holy Saint Paisios of Mount Athos.

Whatever we do we must do for God

-Geronda, usually I am motivated by fear of hurting other people's feelings, or of lowering myself in their eyes. I don't think about disappointing God. How can I increase my fear of God?

We need to be vigilant. Whatever we do we must do for God. We forget God and then the thought that we are doing something important enters our mind, we become overly concerned with being liked by others, and then we worry about not lowering ourselves in other people's eyes. Instead, if we proceed with the thought that God sees us, that He is observing us, then what we do is sure; otherwise, if we do something in order to appear good to others, then everything is lost, every effort is wasted. For every action of his, man must ask himself, "What I am doing pleases me, but does it also please God?" and must examine whether it is pleasing to God. If we forget to do this, then we also forget God. That's why in the old days they used to say: "For God's sake!" or "O that godless man; he has no fear of God!" Or else people would say: "God willing," or "If God permits it." People felt the presence of God everywhere, they kept God constantly before them and they were careful. They actually lived what
the Psalm says, I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. And they did not waver or move away from God. Now, you see, the European way of life is gradually entering our society and many people are well-behaved out of a worldly sense of good manners. Whatever we do we must do purely for Christ, keeping in mind that Christ sees us and is observing us; Christ must be at the centre of our every action. The human element must not get in the way. If we act out of a need to be liked by others, this does not benefit us at all. We need to be very careful. I have to always examine the motives for my action, and, as soon as I detect that I am motivated by a need to be liked by others, then I must strike it down at once. For when I try to do good but my need to be liked by others gets in the way, this is like drawing water from the well with a sieve for a bucket.

Most temptations are often created by ourselves, when we include the self in any cooperation with others. That is, when we are motivated by self-interest and want to elevate ourselves and seek our personal gratification. One rises to Heaven through spiritual descent, not through worldly ascent. Whoever walks lowly always walks securely and never falls. This is why we should uproot, as far as we can, the worldly concern to project ourselves and achieve worldly success, which leads to spiritual failure. We should reject hidden and obvious egoism and the superficial need to be liked by others, so we can come to love Christ most sincerely. Our time is not characterised by what is discreet and noiseless but by what is impressive and empty. The spiritual life, however, is discreet and noiseless. It is good to do what is well within our means, quietly, without ambitious displays beyond our capabilities, because otherwise it will be at the expense of our soul and body, and often at a high cost to
the Church as well.

By truly pleasing our neighbour we also please Christ. It is here that we must be very careful; to purify our agreeableness towards our neighbour, to eliminate the need to please others and to allow this human offering also to go to Christ. When someone is attempting to base ecclesiastical issues upon supposedly Orthodox models, but his aim is simply to position himself more favourably, to seek his own self-interest, how can he ever be blessed by God? As much as possible, he must try to conform to the will of God. He must always examine himself and see how he can perform the will of God. When he performs the will of God, then he is related to God and then, without even asking for it from God, he receives; he receives endless living water from the source.

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