Saint Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia: Undertake Your Spiritual Struggle Simply, Easily and Without Force

sv_porfiriiOur faith is perfectly and profoundly conceived. What is simple is also what is most precious. Accordingly, in your spiritual life engage in your daily contest simply, easily, and without force. The soul is sanctified and purified through the study of the Fathers, through the memorization of the psalms and of portions of Scripture, through the signing of hymns and through the repetition of the Jesus Prayer.

Devote your efforts, therefore, to these spiritual things and ignore all the other things. We can attain to the worship of God easily and bloodlessly. There are two paths that lead to God: the hard and debilitating path with fierce assaults against evil and the easy path with love. There are many who choose the hard path and ‘shed blood in order to receive the Spirit’, until they attained great virtue. I find that the shorter and safer route is the path with love. This is the path that you, too, should follow.

You can make a different kind of effort: to study and pray and have as your aim to advance in the love of God and of the Church.  Do not fight to expel the darkness from the chamber of your soul. Open a tiny aperture for light to enter, and the darkness will disappear.   The same holds for our passions and our weaknesses. Do not fight them but transform them into strengths by showing disdain for evil.  Occupy yourself with hymns of praise, with the poetic canons, with the worship of God and with divine love. All books of our Church – the Book of the Eight Tones, the Book of the Hours, the Psalter, the books with the Offices for the Feasts and Saint-day Commemorations contain holy words, words of love of Christ. Read them with joy, love and cheer. When you devote yourself to this effort with intense desire, your soul will be sanctified in a gentle and mystical way without your even being aware of it

The lives of saints impress me and most of all the life of saint John Kolibar. Saints are God’s friends. You can all day enjoy and rejoice in their achievements and imitate their lives. Saints were utterly devoted to Christ.

By such careful reading you will gradually acquire meekness, humility and love, and your soul will be becoming better. Do not choose negative methods to correct yourselves. There is no need to fear the devil, hell or anything else. These things provoke a negative reaction. I, myself, have some little experience in these matters. The objective is not to sit and afflict and constrict yourself in order to improve. The objective is to live, to read carefully, to pray and to advance in love – in love for Christ and for the Church..

What is holy and beautiful and what gladdens the heart and frees the soul from every evil is the effort to unite yourself to Christ, to love Christ, to crave for Christ and to live in Christ, just as Saint Paul said, It is no longer I who live; Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20). Let this be your aim. Let all other efforts be secret and hidden. What must dominate is love for Christ. Let this be in your head, your thought, your imagination, your heart and your will. Your most intense effort should be how you will encounter Christ, how you will be united to Him and how you will keep Him in your heart.

Leave aside all your weaknesses so that the adverse spirit does not realize what is going on and grab you and pin you down and cause you grief. Make no effort to free yourself from these weaknesses. Make your struggle with calmness and simplicity, without contortion and anxiety. Don’t say, ‘Now I’ll force myself and I’ll pray to acquire love and become good etc.’ It is not profitable to afflict yourself to become good. In this way your negative response will be worse. Everything should be done in a natural way, calmly and freely. Nor should you pray, ‘O God free me from my anger, my sorrow, etc.’ It is not good to pray about or think about the specific passion; something happens in our soul and we become even more enmeshed in the passion. Attack your passion head on, and you’ll see how strongly it will entwine you and grip you and you won’t be able to do anything.  

Don’t struggle directly with temptation, don’t pray for it to go away, don’t say, ‘Take it from me, O God!’ Then you are acknowledging the strength of the temptation and it takes hold of you. Because, although you are saying ‘Take it from me, O God,’ basically you are bringing it to the mind and fomenting it even more. Your desire to be freed from the passion must, of course, be there, but it shall exist in a hidden and discreet way, without appearing outwardly. Let it happen secretly. Remember what Scripture says: Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing (Math. 6:3). Let all your strength be turned to love for God, worship of God and adhesion to God. In this way, your release from evil and from your weaknesses will happen in a mystical manner, without your being aware of it and without exertion.

This is the kind of effort I am trying to make. I have found that the bloodless way is the best way of sanctification. It is better, that is, to devote ourselves to love through the study of the hymns and psalms. This study and preoccupation directs my mind to Christ and refreshes my heart without my realizing it. At the same time I pray, opening my arms in longing, love and joy, and the Lord takes me up into His love. That is our aim – to attain to that love. What do you say? What would you say, isn’t this way bloodless?

There are many other ways, for example through remembrance of death, of hell and of the devil. Thus you avoid evil out of fear and through counting the cost. In my own life, I have never employed those methods which are exhausting, cause a negative reaction and frequently produce the opposite of the desired effect. The soul, especially when it is sensitive, is filled with gladness and enthusiasm through love; it is strengthened and transforms, alters and transfigures all the negative and ugly things.

For this reason, I prefer the ‘easy path’, that is, the way that leads through the meditation on the poetic canons of the saints. In these canons, we will discover the means employed by the saints, the ascetics and the martyrs. It is good to ‘steal’ their wisdom, that is, for us to do what they did. They cast themselves on Christ’s love. They gave their hearts. Let us “steal” their method.