Saturday, July 16, 2016

Where man cannot reach,
God Provides Help.

Saint Paisios the Athonite.

   - What's that smoke over there?.
   - We're burning something, Geronda.
   - You started a fire with such a wind?.
   - Geronda, it rained this morning.
   - Even if it rained and there was a deluge, still, if a strong wind comes, it will dry up everything so much that it can bum like gunpowder. "It rained this morning", she says!... Some time ago, a fire started down there because of your foolishness, have you forgotten?... If someone makes a fool of himself once, he must then be very careful. God helps wherever He must, where man cannot act by himself; He will not help in our negligence. That way we will make fools even of the Saints.
   - Geronda, do we always know how far we can act without God's help?.
   - To begin with, this is obvious. But even if someone has the good will to do what he is capable of doing and doesn't do it because of some obstacle, God will help him at a difficult moment. But if he lacks the will, while having the strength, God will not intervene to help. For example, they tell you to lock the door at night, and you neglect to do it, because you are too lazy to walk over to the door, and you think to yourself "God will protect us, after all." This is not a case where you don't lock up because you trust God, but because you are lazy. How then can you expect God to help?... You want Him to help a lazy person?... When I tell someone to lock up and he doesn't, his disobedience alone calls for punishment. Whatever someone can do within his human ability, he should do, and whatever he can't do, he should leave to God. And if he should do a little more than he is able, not out of pride but out of philotimo (Nobility of Spirit), believing that he has not exhausted what is humanly possible, again, God will be moved by this. In order for God to help, He expects to see us make an effort. You see, Noah struggled for one hundred years to build the ark. They had to cut the lumber with wooden saws. They used the really hard wood to make saws for the softer wood. Couldn't God have done something to expedite the building of the ark?. God instructed them how to build it and then gave them the power to do it. This is why we should do what we can so that God may do whatever we cannot.
   Someone came to the Kalyvi and told me:
   - Why do the monks sit here and not go into the world to help people?.
   - If they did go into the world to help people, you would probably ask why they wander around the world. Now that they don't, you ask why not.
   Then he went on to say:
   - Why do monks have to go to doctors and are not helped by their Christ and their Panaghia (Mother of God) to get well?.
   - That same question was asked of me by a Jewish doctor, I told him.
   - He's not a Jew, offered an­other man who was with the inquirer.
   I said:
   - It doesn't matter if he isn't a Jew. What matters is that it's a Jewish question. And I will share with you the answer I gave to the Jewish doctor, since the case is similar. So I told him: "As a Jew, you should know the Old Testament well. In Isaiah it is written that God granted King Hezekiah an additional fifteen years of life because he was very good. He sent the Prophet Isaiah to tell the King, 'God grants you fifteen more years of life because you destroyed the sacred groves of the pagans. And for your wound - the king had a wound - you should use a tsapella (a bunch of dried figs strung together on a string) of figs and you will be healed!'. Now, since God granted him fifteen more years of life, couldn't He also have healed the wound?... But that wound was to be healed with poul­tice made of dry figs"… We should not expect God to do the things we can do for ourselves. We should humble ourselves before our fellow human beings and ask them for their help.
   Up to a certain point man must act in a human man­ner and only after that rely on God. It is egotistical to try to help in something that cannot be done by human means. In many cases where someone insists on help­ing, I see that it is a matter of temptation to render him useless. When I see that a situation cannot be helped any more by human means - perceiving more or less to what extent man can help and at what point he must then leave It to God - I raise my hands to God, light two candles, and pray.

Chamberas P. (2008), Spiritual Counsels II: Spiritual Awakening by Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Monastery of St John the Theologian, Souroti, Thessaloniki, Greece.