Saturday, February 20, 2016

The need for a spiritual guide.

St. Theophan the Recluse

Father Elias Morkos (+23 February 2011)
the Spiritual Father  of the Holy Trinity Family.
   The penitent, having given himself to God, immediately enters into His direct guidance and is taken in by Him. Anyone who has succeeded in doing this as he should from the start, is quickly, evenly and hopefully led by God's grace into perfection.
   But in actual fact, there are very few such people. These are the chosen ones of God, who, in an incredibly rapid burst away from themselves, gave themselves over into God's hands, were received by Him and led by Him. Some examples are St. Mary of Egypt, St. Paul of Thebes, St. Mark of Thrace and others. They were saved by one decisive dedication of themselves to God. St. Mary of Egypt, in all of her cruel battles with the passions, had one rule-to commit herself to God's hands; and her passions abated, as we know, according to her struggle. Undoubtedly she did the same in all situations: she turned to God for instruction and received it.
   But such a path never was and never can be for everyone. It belonged and belongs to ones specially chosen by God. Others ripen under the visible guidance of experienced men. Firm in that belief that only God converts, the penitent, in order to succeed, should without fail commit himself to a father and guide. This is necessitated by the fact that we do not give ourselves totally to God - an inadequacy belonging to the majority. One must ripen for this, and ripen through much experience, and until that happens there is no point of contact for the Lord's guiding hand, no sort of handle by which He can lead. Consequently, without this condition, anyone who begins himself to do the work of salvation will inevitably take a path about which it is impossible to say that it is the true path; it is also dangerous and exhausts the spirit.
   St. Anthony the Great, when he began to wonder whether his rule was true, immediately began to cry out: "Tell me the way, Lord," and was only at peace when he received assur­ance. Anyone who has embarked upon the spiritual life is just as one who has embarked upon an ordinary journey. Since we do not know the way, we need someone to lead us. It would be too self-reliant to think: "I can do it myself… " No, nei­ther rank nor learnedness, nor any other thing can help. It is no less self-reliant if someone who is not subject to extraordi­nary circumstances but has the opportunity to seek out a guide, yet does not choose one, assuming that God will guide him without an intermediary. It is true that it is God Who has received us and leads us to perfection, but under the guidance of a father. The father does not lift us onto the steps, but facilitates our being lifted by God. Nevertheless, in the usual order of things, God leads us, makes us understand, purifies us, and tells us his will through others. Anyone left alone with himself is in extreme danger, never mind that he will be thrash­ing and floundering in one place, producing very little fruit. Knowing neither ascetic feats, nor spiritual exercises, nor their order, he will do them and re-do them, like someone who has taken up a task he does not know how to do. Often for this reason many people get stuck, grow cold and lose their zeal. But the chief danger is inner disorder and satanic delusion.
Father Elias Morkos with the Holy Trinity Family.
   Inside the beginner is fog, as from the steaming of stench and decay - from passions, unrighteous consequences and cor­rupted powers. Everyone has this fog in greater or lesser density, depending on his former corruption. How good and reliable is it to discriminate objects in this fog?. To someone lost in a fog a small row of bushes can appear to be a forest or a village. So the beginner in spiritual activity will inevitably see much where there is actually nothing. Only the experienced eye will be able to discern and explain what is going on. If a man is sick, how can he be a doctor unto himself?. He will starve and kill himself out of self-love alone - for even doctors do not try to treat their own bodies. But the chief danger in this comes from satan. Because he is the foremost self-reliant thinker, he also loves most of all those people who guide themselves with their own minds - this is how he most often throws them off and destroys them. And it could be said that this alone gives him access to us, or the opportunity to hurl us into destruction. He who does not believe his own intellect and heart, but to the contrary, offers everything he feels and thinks to someone else for scrutiny, will not suffer even if the devil has sown something dangerous and destructive in him, because the experience and reasoning of another more experienced will disperse the delusion and warn him. This is why it is said that satan does not approach anyone who has a trusted guide, for he does not wish to be repeatedly put to shame and have all his machinations exposed. To the contrary, he is inseparably present with anyone who trusts only in himself or makes his own conclusions and relies on them. The devil uses seemingly good impressions in the imagination or the power of fantasy to lead such a one down various wrong turns until finally he destroys him completely.
   The beginner should agree that these are very cogent reasons for having a guide, and he should therefore choose one and entrust himself to him. He will be safe under his guidance as under a protective veil or in a fortress, for the guide will answer for him before God and man for his mistakes. But what is truly wonderful is that anyone who sincerely seeks will be given a true guide. And that guide, no matter who he might be, will always give exact and true counsel once the guided one entrusts himself with all his soul and faith. For the Lord Himself watches over one who is so trustful. Pray, and the Lord will show you a guide. Entrust yourself to this guide, and the Lord will teach him how to lead you.

Fr. Seraphim Rose (1998), The Path to Salvation St. Theophan the Recluse, St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, St. Paissius Abbey, California, U.S.A.