January 2023 - Our Orthodox Faith
The following passage comes from With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man, the first volume of a compilation of spiritual counsels from the holy Saint Paisios of Mount Athos.
They have spoiled the peace of nature
Most of the devices that people use these days for their comfort create noise. They have driven peaceful nature crazy with the noise! They have altered nature and destroyed it with all the modern means. In the old days there was so much tranquility! How is it that man destroys and is being destroyed - without even realizing it?
We are now used to living with noise. Many young people cannot study without listening to rock and roll music! In other words, they are more comfortable studying with music than with quiet. They are comforted by unrest because there is so much unrest within them. Wherever you go there is noise...
They have even ruined the sacred desert sites
The restless, secular spirit of our times, supposedly so cultured, has destroyed sacred desert sites that bring so much calm and sanctity to souls. When a person lacks inner peace, he cannot find peace anywhere. It's almost impossible to find a quiet place anywhere on earth today. Look what they have done to the Holy Land! We read in the life of the Hermitess Photeini about the many kiosks and cantinas that sprang up in the wilderness where she once had lived as an ascetic. In centuries-old ascetic caves, where so many saintly people spent their lives, the British started selling refreshments! This is what has been made of the desert! It is now full of houses, radios, stores, hotels and airports!
...Try to limit these noisy activities as much as you can. I see that you have not yet experienced the sweetness of hesychia. If you had, you would be better able to understand me and what I am trying to say. If you had tasted the spiritual fruit of hesychia, you would indeed have the good kind of restlessness and concern, and you would strive all the more to acquire the holy hesychia of the spiritual life.
Tranquility is mystical prayer
Using noisy devices, we monks remove the very preconditions for prayer and monastic life. For this reason, we should avoid them as much as possible. Tools that people today find convenient do not help monastics achieve their goal. They create an environment in which the monk cannot experience what he set out to find.
Tranquility is a very important subject. To be tranquil is to pray even when one is not literally praying. Tranquility is mystical prayer and very helpful to prayer; it is like the invisible breath of man. A monk who labors spiritually in tranquility will find himself immersed in the Jesus Prayer. Do you know what "immersed" really means? When a small child rests contentedly in his mother's arms, he is quiet, he does not speak. It is a deep union, a silent communication. This is why it is good for monasteries to be located in isolated areas, away from archaeological sites, worldly noises, and great crowds.
When a quiet environment, away from the world, is combined with discerning asceticism and unceasing prayer, the result is inner tranquility. Peacefulness in one's soul is an essential precondition for refined spiritual work. When one attains this state, he is no longer annoyed by external distractions. His mind is in Heaven. Only his body is here on earth.
We must acquire inner tranquility
The best thing is to use everything for the sake of our spiritual struggle. We should try to achieve inner tranquility. Make the best of noise by putting the right thoughts in your mind. It's all in the way we choose to deal with things. We should face everything with good thoughts. Being tranquil in the midst of a great disturbance is a great achievement. If you cannot find peace where it is noisy, you will not find it when it is quiet. When interior peace comes, then everything inside us becomes peaceful, and nothing can disturb us. If we need external peace to find inner peace, we will pick up a stick and start chasing the cicadas during the day and the jackals at night! In other words, we will be chasing whatever the devil gathers together. What do you think his job is? He puts obstacles in our way to thwart our efforts, until he turns us upside down...
...If we do not use good thoughts and deal with things in a spiritual way, even living next to saints will not help us. Let's say that I find myself at a military base. I should think of the trumpet as a church bell and of weapons as spiritual armaments against the devil. If we don't treat every situation in a spiritual way, then even the sound of the church bell will annoy us. Either we make the best of a situation spiritually or the devil will take advantage of it. A restless person will bring his restless self with him, even into the desert. The first and most important thing for the soul is that she acquire inner peace in the noisiest of places so that she will be able to rest in the stillness of the desert.
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