The Art Of Salvation by Elder Ephraim of Arizona is a compilation of thirty-three homilies concerning spiritual life. It is a powerful and convicting book that will jolt you out of your spiritual slumber to recognize the stakes involved in your salvation. I was so deeply affected while reading that I often had to stop to contemplate or pray. It’s one of the best Orthodox books I’ve read.
Salvation is not a game
The matter of eternal life should not be taken lightly because, after a few moments we depart from this life, we will find ourselves—definitively and positively—before eternity. Is it a game to confront fearsome death? To encounter the demons? To face our criminal record—which every man has before God—and to observe all our sins being enumerated in complete detail? To discover our sinfulness, which we are unaware of presently? Is it a game to begin our ascent to the Judge, and to face the toll-houses? How will we look at the Lord straight in the eyes? Does our conscience reassure us? Does it hearten us and encourage us? Do we have the confidence? No! I am the first one who does not have it!
We will not be able to look at the Lord in the eyes. We will lower our head in shame because we did not do the will of God. We defiled the white garment that we received during Holy Baptism. I wonder, however: Did we ever wash it with tears? Did we pour out tears of repentance? Did we change our life and live with purity? Not at all! Just as we are about to accomplish something good, we fall back into the same filthy muck again!
When someone is being prosecuted, especially for a serious crime, we all know how concerned he is about avoiding imprisonment or even death itself. Such a person searches for lawyers, tries to find a preeminent attorney with connections, ensures that everyone is paid, and makes every effort to find witnesses and advocates in order to be found innocent. So much worry, so much distress over a temporary case! Yet, we do not take seriously the inescapable court of God that is awaiting us. We do not give it much thought. Our life and our actions prove it.
What is Orthodoxy?
Orthodoxy is the truth. It is the correct dogma of God, man, and the world, as it was handed to us by the incarnate God Himself through His extraordinary teaching, His holy life, and His redeeming sacrifice; as it was detailed, in following, by the divinely inspired mind and heart of the Apostle Paul; as it was brought to life by the Disciple of love, Saint John the Evangelist, and the other Evangelists and Apostles with the heavenly light of the Holy Spirit; as it was handed to us by the spirit-moved fathers of Alexandria, Constantinople, Cappadocia, Syria, Palestine, and, later, Mount Athos. All these individuals, from the venerable Polycarp (the disciple of the Apostles) up until Saint Nicodemos the Hagiorite (who fell asleep at the onset of the last century), through their wisdom, holiness, sacrifices, and struggles entrusted us with the inheritance of proper faith and life: the treasure of Orthodox tradition.
Orthodoxy is the marvelous synthesis of dogma and ethos, theory and practice. Orthodoxy, furthermore, is what was formally delineated by the holy Synods, these blessed ecumenical assemblies of Christ’s worldwide Church. The God-bearing Fathers, “having amassed all the knowledge of the human soul and after making careful inquiry with the help of the divine Spirit,” gave answers to the biggest problems occupying man’s spirit and they laid the foundations of spiritual life…
An entire sacred army of heroic confessors, consisting of millions of men, women, and children martyrs throughout the centuries confirmed the truth of Orthodoxy with their precious blood. From the amphitheaters of Rome to the concentration camps of Russia, they proved that Christianity is not a simple theory but the truth and life itself—it is the most splendid heroism, the victory over despicable acts of violence and tyranny, and the reign of the kingdom of the spirit.
Why do you delay repentance?
We do not know what tomorrow will bring. We may unexpectedly find ourselves in the courthouse of God, and then we will bang our heads against the wall in regret; however, forgiveness and correction will no longer be possible. Currently, we have the blessing from God to be alive. We have not yet departed from this life. We still have the right to repent; we have the ability to emend our criminal record, and to lead a light-filled life. We should thank God now that we are still breathing and capable of voicing a word of repentance with every breath. Let us correct our life today, now that we have time, now that we are able to walk, now that death has not yet arrived.
We witness formerly unrepentant people, with an extensively incriminating record, who in a moment become enlightened and return. They kneel, set their sins before the clement spiritual court, and immediately receive forgiveness. No handcuffs, no jail, no restrictions—nothing! It is so easy for laden man to receive forgiveness, and yet he chooses not to do so. The devil prevents him from confessing in order to keep him subordinated and, at the time of death, to lead him to Hell with no return.
When a person, through the enlightenment of God, attempts to uproot (in essence, to transfigure) a passion, he grips and removes the rootlets with forceps. However, as he attempts to uproot each passion, he simultaneously lacerates the heart. When the heart is cut open, it bleeds and hurts. If a person decides not to bear the pain, he gives up at this point, he abandons the struggle, and thus remains passionate and sinful. If, however, he patiently endures the pain, he removes the root of the passion and is set free.
If we want to become rich spiritually, we must welcome temptations and see them as a war, as an incentive to fight with the evil demons of passion and weakness, as an opportunity to be victorious and advance with the grace of God. If we do not overcome a particular passion, it will continue to thrash us for the rest of our life. We will drag it behind us like a piece of filthy garbage. This is why God permits us to be battled: so we can win and be freed from the disgraceful passions that defile our soul.
According to Saint Isaac the Syrian, God does not want unwise, brainless, and inexperienced “dummies” in the next life, but wise people: not wise in a secular sense, but wise in the warfare against the demons, against the world, and against their own selves. A person must fight like a warrior. During this complex war he learns the art of arts and the science of sciences; he becomes wise, and graduates with a diploma in godly wisdom. Thus, he ascends and becomes an heir of the kingdom. An heir of which kingdom? Not an earthly or corrupt one, but of the eternal and incorrupt Kingdom.
…if we do not learn how to engage in war, we will make no progress. Even if we are educated, even if we read and study, we will accomplish absolutely nothing if we do not learn how to fight against our evil thoughts and fantasies. We should love one another, and we should sacrifice ourselves for each other. “Even if you do not help me, I will help you.” This is the attitude we should all have. This is the law of the Gospel. If you do not act this way, do not expect to execute the Gospel correctly.
I have a tendency to run away from spiritual struggles. If I know a situation is overly tempting, I will escape the temptation so that I don’t have to struggle against it and potentially fail. While in these cases I do not commit a sin, I also do not earn a crown (reward), because virtue is built through active struggle.
Laboring with zeal
If we were diagnosed with cancer and learned that there is a preeminent oncologist at the North Pole, we would immediately make every possible effort to obtain the required funds and go to received treatment for our physical illness. We would not take into account the difficulties, trouble, expense, or anything else. We would drop everything and run. We would humble ourselves without reservation, as long as we became well.
When, however, we have the cancer of sin threatening us with death of the soul, shouldn’t we disregard everything (our job, our pay, the distance) and run toward the confession room to kneel, to reveal our wounds, to receive medicine, to become well, and thus escape from the dreadful death of the soul?
As human beings, we are unaware of the moment our Lord will come. He warned us: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Mt. 25:13). Run, He commands. Don’t waste any time. For you do not know when the Lord will decide to take your life and lead you to the supreme and fearful courthouse, from which no person is exempt.
[When] we offer nothing voluntarily and also lose our patience during involuntary trials, we will leave this life with an empty suitcase and with nothing to offer Christ. What will we say to Him? Instead of diamonds and other precious items, our luggage will be fully of hay, rusted cans, garbage, and rags. These will be our works. Christ will ask, “You mean to tell Me, this is what you accomplished all these years I gave you? This is what you did? This is what you brought Me? How many things did I do for you?” At that moment, our conscience will attest that this is indeed the truth. It will serve as witness of condemnation when it confirms and agrees that this is how things are. Then, every man is silenced; he closes his mouth and has nothing to answer in his defense.
Editor: “Our love for our brothers draws God’s love to us. The more our love for others increases, the more God’s love for us increases correspondingly… According to St. Augustine, God is a mirror: depending on the face we have, this is the face He shows us, and whatever disposition God shows to us.”
Love, the way it was taught by our Lord, nor the way it is distorted by people, is an expression of sacrifice. It is a “sweet-smelling, spiritual aroma” (cf. Eph. 4:18). It is an expression of the heart, and an offering that issues from a clement soul. Love is not measured by what you give, but according to how you give. Love is not stretching our your hand only, but giving your heart as well.
Do we really love Lord Jesus Christ?
We do not love Christ—and I first—because if we loved Him, we would not sin. We have forgotten Him, but He never forgets us. He is the only One Who loves man to the point of death—even death on the Cross (cf. Phil. 2:8). He visits us continuously, sometimes with an illness, sometimes with an affliction, and other times with various trials. It is Christ who knocks on every person’s door requesting, “Open the door so I may enter, and I will make you happy. I will make you My heir.” Unfortunately, we bar the door securely, and we fail to understand that it is Christ Who is knocking in order to save me.
You can do nothing good without God
Whatever we have, we have received it all from God. You assisted someone with your own hands? Very well. Didn’t God give you your hands? Did you say a good word with your mouth? Did you save someone with your good advice? Do not boast! God gave you both your mouth and the ability to speak. Did you use your feet to run and serve others? Well, they also belong to God. Did you praise God with your heart, with your inner voice, and with your inherent logic? Did you have good thoughts about God and your neighbor? Again, the heart are mind are also God’s. Did you even desire to be born? No! It was God Who brought you into existence. Since everything is a gift from God and all things must serve Him, then what can you possibly offer to God?
This is why Christ said to His disciples, “When you have done all that you were ordered to do, you must know that you are simple and worthless slaves” (cf. Lk. 17:10). “I give to you, and then you give to others. If I had not given to you, you would have nothing to give. You did not conceal the gift, but you transmitted it and multiplied it.” Hence, what is rewarded is the desire to perform virtue, as in the parable of the talents (vid. Mt. 25:15-28).
The nature of sin
Conversely, when a person falls into sin and wallows in the mire of iniquity, his soul becomes disfigured and filthy, it begins to emit a foul odor, and the angels distance themselves, unable to tolerate the soul’s stench.
Saint Andrew the Fool for Christ was holy and free of passions, yet he pretended to be a lunatic and would roam around to different places. His biography states that he once entered a residence of sinful women, where he sensed a tremendously offensive odor. He immediately felt distressed, for he was pure and thus could not bear the stench. In following, the saint revealed to these ladies that they emitted a terribly foul odor on account of the sins of their soul and body. The angels—and especially our guardian angels—distance themselves and flee from man when he is not careful!
Sin is like fire. The droplets that extinguish this fire are the droplets of repentance. If the house next door to you catches fire, won’t you run to help put out the fire? If you remain indifferent, the fire will spread to your home as well. Similarly, you cannot remain indifferent when someone else is being burned by the inferno of sin. Shed tears in order to put out the fire. If you remain indifferent, you will also be at fault; you will also have a sin. If, however, you not only remain indifferent but also make fun of, criticize, and openly ridicule the other person’s sin, then God will permit you to fall as well, and the fire of your sin may turn out to be your initiation into Hell, according to Saint John Chrysostom.
Imagine a tree with a thick trunk and deep roots. The lumberjack strikes it with the axe; obviously, the tree does not fall with the first whack. He strikes it a second time, a third time, a tenth time… Eventually the tree starts to give and falls to the ground. It is the same with sinful passions. They may not fall over with the first swing of the axe. Continue steadily with repentance to strike at the passion. Be assured that some day the passion will fall, and you will be freed from the sin that tormented you for years.
When a person is careless and sins, however, this grace becomes buried and submerged deep within the heart. It is entombed, and its radiance does not illumine the mind. In the absence of its brilliant light, man is incapable of coming to know God within himself; for when the temple of God is not clean, God neither visits it nor remains in it. Rather, He departs and abandons it. Then it becomes a filthy wasteland. All the demons come and take up residence within it, and consequently, man is left defenseless, unprotected, unguarded, and barren by the devil.
Are you ready for Judgment?
We must reflect upon these matters very seriously and think, “I have an immortal soul; I have a conscience. I will go to be judged by God, and an eternal decision will follow shortly thereafter. What does God want from me? He wants me to correct myself, to repent, to stop sinning, to confess, to cry for my sins, and to map out a new path—a righteous, bright, and positive path.” I should look neither to the right nor to the left, but directly toward Heaven. And when death comes, it will not disturb me. The Bible states, “I prepared myself, and I was not disturbed” (Ps. 118:60). When someone is ready, he does not become alarmed. Who panics? The person who is unprepared.
What happens after bodily death
St. Nicodemos: “…during the time of death and the separation of the soul from the body, the devil come to oppose and lay claim to the soul. Both angelic powers and a multitude of demons comes to meet the soul and examine each person’s deeds. If a person has good deeds, the angels take the soul; if they are evil, the demons take it. At that time, each soul is overcome by uncertainty and fear because the devil attempts to impede it from ascending into the heavens. The angels, on the other hand, help the soul, just as St. Anthony the Great saw during his vision and as we read in the life of St. Makarios… These abominable spirits are envious when they see the souls of mortal and physical humans ascending to the places of repose, while they remain in places of suffering and confinement. They can’t stand to see humans inhering their former dwelling place in Heaven, while they themselves inherit the darkness of hades and the eternal fire of Hell.
For more Orthodox teachings on what happens after death, read Father Seraphim Rose’s book The Soul After Death.
Love your enemies
The most vibrant form of love for our fellow man is expressed and revealed when we pray wholeheartedly for our enemies, when we forgive with all our heart (not merely as a formality because God says so), and when we love our enemies, who in actuality are our benefactors. The person who bothers us, who criticizes us, who creates temptations and hardships for us, on the one hand becomes an instrument of the devil, but on the other hand an instrument of Christ. The Fathers teach that such a person is Jesus’ instrument that cauterizes our egotism and our pride, and through him we receive therapy.
The evil that someone has done to us, whether it be our neighbor, our brother, our colleague, or our relative is not as significant as it seems. It is transient. Even if it lasts a lifetime, one day it will come to pass. It does not have eternal validity, power, and existence. However, the harm we inflict upon ourselves when we do not forgive is endless. It has an eternal dimension—we will be punished endlessly!
Where are all the previous generations of people who left from this life once and for all without having forgiven others? What did these people gain by not forgiving? Are they not filled with bitter, unproductive regret now when there is no longer any possibility of correction?
When we unconditionally forgive every person who has harmed us, we will have the courage and boldness to ask for our eternal forgiveness, and we will be numbered amongst the saved servants of God.
The importance of prostrations
What are prostrations? The worship of God. We worship God, something that our enemy, the devil, does not do. He does not bow his head, he does not kneel, he does not worship. Everyone who worships God is an enemy of the devil, and hence a person of God. This is why prostrations have great significance. If we do extra prostrations, this is an ascetical effort and will be rewarded by God. The few prostrations we do are slowly deposited in God’s bank in Heaven above, and when we make our way upward we will discover that they have become a large sum. This will help us when we give an account during the frightful moment we are judged.
The person who irritates you reveals your inner sickness
Sometimes we find ourselves at odds with another person, and we stubbornly insist, “He is at fault. He’s the one who became angry. He’s the one who spoke to me rudely. He must humble himself. If he had spoken to me calmly and addressed me with respect, I would have been patient and not have been offended. Hence, he is to blame!” Behold the passion of egotism! We must oppose such thoughts by responding, “No, no! If I did not have egotism, I would not be bothered. Hence, I am to blame. My brother is not at fault. If I had humility, I would take this opportunity to gain a crown, and I would view this person as Jesus’ cauterizing instrument. He is cauterizing my passion so I can become healthy. He is helping me now. He is my benefactor! I must embrace him, love him, and pray for him because he actually did me a favor by revealing my sickness. If he had not spoken to me in this manner, and if this temptation had not transpired, I would have remained unaware of the extensive egotism within me, and I would have never realized that I need to struggle against it. The sting of this temptation uncovered my sickness. Now that I have seen it, I will make sure I apply the medication in order to be healed.”
How many of us have parents that annoy us or say outrageous things we disagree with? And from our mouths blow a strong wind of complaints, criticisms, anger, and the like. What a lost opportunity to humbly look inward, to say to ourselves that we may be to blame for aggravating our parents by giving them stones instead of love.
Stop criticizing others
…Christ, Who is just, will ask us, “Why did you criticize and condemn others? What did I tell you in My Gospel? I told you not to judge. Who are you to judge? How did you become a judge? I am the Judge.” Thus, he will condemn us according to the measuring stick we use to assess others. We wretched people fail to understand this, and we open our mouth to gossip about others. We are quick to cast the stone of anathema (vid. Jn. 8:4-5) without realizing that we ourselves have the anathema.
We are plagued with so many sins, we are so heavily burdened, we have so many personal faults, and yet we continue to make countless erroneous judgments. Even though we constantly discover that we have made incorrect assessments in the past, we persist. At the slightest opportunity and excuse, we immediately move our tongues, start making phone calls, and begin criticizing and gossiping. Thus, the devil opens his books and records our sin within our criminal record. Why should we allow this to happen when our Christ very clearly teaches us not to judge?
My holy elder would say to me, “My child, the person who does not criticize his brothers is the mark of a saved man.” That is, when someone does not criticize, this is an indication and proof that he is saved, that he is prepared to enter the Kingdom of God. When someone governs his tongue properly, this means that he governs his entire self correctly in accordance to the will of God.
I will love my brothers, I will not criticize them, I will not slander them, and I will not complain about anything, but I will always accept that I am to blame for everything. My evil thoughts are due to my extreme pride, and my massive and preposterous egotism. All these thoughts arise from my pride and egotism. If a brother rebukes me, God has allowed him to become the cauterizing instrument for my egotism. God sent him to cauterize the egotism and pride that plague me.
In the last 24 hours alone, I’ve criticized at least five people in my mind for a variety of pointless reasons. This will be a tough passion to uproot.
Life begins at conception
I am not sure if you are aware of the fact that these embryos, these infants, these beings do not cease to exist once they are aborted. On the contrary! Each embryo is a complete human being especially with respect to the soul. These children live in the other world, and, as you can understand, many millions of children now comprise an entire army in heaven. All of them protest. Their innocent blood cries out to God that they were killed unjustly, that they did not receive Holy Baptism, that they did not become Orthodox Christians.
…women who have had abortions should not feel at ease by virtue of the fact they confessed this sin. They must pour forth tears of repentance throughout the remainder of their life. Many of these women do not feel at peace even though they have confessed. Why? Because they still have not repented internally, they have not shed the appropriate amount of tears required to wash away the blood of the abortion or abortions. Repentance is indeed vast and endless.
The Watchful Fathers tell us that one single thought can either raise us to Heaven or plunge us into Hell. “Through our thoughts we either improve or worsen.” If we are careless when a sinful thought assaults us, it will poison us, impart sinful pleasure to us, and, subsequently, it can render us worthy of Hell. Conversely, one divine thought, one thought of self-denial, one courageous thought to resist sin, and prayerful thought or spiritual contemplation renders us worthy of approaching the Divine Throne and tasting heavenly things. Depending on our thoughts, we will either become defiled or purified. Sin begins and originates from our thoughts.
Why do we suffer?
The question arises: “Why does God allow man’s life to be inundated with pain and sorrow from the moment of birth until death?” Of course, we know that it is the result and the aftermath of exile. God realized that pain and suffering are the means and the medicine that heal man spiritually, restore him to health, and render him worthy of salvation.
Pain is the greatest, harshest, and strongest medicine, which God reserves for people who have not yet discovered the path of return and repentance.
…when someone gives alms, he loans to God; and God who borrows will return the loan as He has promised, both in this life one hundred times over, and in the next life with His Kingdom (vid. Mt. 19:29). A person gives material goods; God, however, will repay him with spiritual goods.
We should constantly keep almsgiving in mind: both material and spiritual alms. We should always repeat, “Thine own of thine own.” Nothing is ours. Everything belongs to God. Has God blessed me? I have something. God did not send His blessing? I have nothing.
God loves the merciful person who gives eagerly, with a cheerful face, and on his own accord. Alms offered with sorrow and reluctance are unacceptable and are spurned. The root of charity is found in the heart. It originates from our heart and ends in the palm of our hands. Charity transmits warmth to others when the fire of love co-exists. Alms without love is frigid and oppressive. It is a dead corpse void of the sun and light. It is a flower lacking beauty and fragrance. When someone gives without love, he is actually offering an insult. For what value does the most exquisite and expensive gift have when it is offered without a genuine smile?
Why don’t we love God?
Amidst the writings of the Desert Fathers, the following dialogue is recorded: Once a certain monk went down into the city where he overheard a small child telling his father, “Daddy, there is a person who loves me, but I hate him. There is someone else who hates me, but I love him.” The monk concluded that this is a true statement. He used this opportunity to contemplate: God loves us, and we hate Him. The devil hates us, and we love him with our actions.
When we begin to prepare ourselves, God’s grace will help us immensely, because God is waiting with His heart wide open to take us in and fill us with heavenly joy. We have not realized what type of God we have. If we knew, we would do everything in our power not to lose Him. My elder would tell me that there were monks in the past who would shed streams of tears (i.e., tears of joy, love, and divine eros) whenever they would hear the words “God” or “Christ.” We hear and read about God, but unfortunately our eyes remain dry because God does not speak to our heart; we have not felt Him within us. Of course, we have felt love for our fellow man in various ways, and, to some extent, we have knowledge of what it means to love another person. However, have we felt something similar with regard to the reality of God’s existence? We must struggle as much as possible to acquire this love of God.
Feminist ideology is superfluous
In our days there is much talk concerning equality of men and women. However, the struggles for this equality and the so-called feminist movement have appeared quite late. For twenty centuries now, Christianity has resolved the problem. How? It abolished discrimination. It honored the female gender with value equal to that of man. Furthermore, it honored a particular woman with acclaim that no man ever had, has, or will have. This woman is the Most-Holy Theotokos.
Christianity, and the Church, does not use gender, social status, education, material wealth, or intelligence as criteria to rate and assess people. It grades and evaluates them using a single criterion: holiness. In the eyes of God there is no male and female. There are only people who are sinful and repentant, impious and pious, holy and holier.
Idle chatter always leads to sin
As we labor at our ministry, we should be contemplating the name of Christ in order to avoid talking idly, which always results in sin. When we talk idly, the demons drop in on us and start going from one person to the next advising, “Say this thing; say that…” Thus, idle talk carries on with its ugly consequences. When, however, the Prayer is being said, the demons flee far away because they cannot stand to hear the name of Christ. “Flog the enemies with the name of Jesus,” advises Saint John Climacus. When, however, we do not flog them with the Prayer, they draw near and inundate us with thousands of impure thoughts.
This holds true for me. Once I enter into an idle chat, it doesn’t take long for me to lose control of my thoughts and tongue to begin judging, condemning, mocking, complaining, belittling, or exhibiting pride.
The Jesus Prayer
Even today, when we utter the name of Christ, if we could observe with our eyes what takes place invisibly, we would exclaim, “Indeed! The name of Christ stirs up Hell even today, and it will always do so.”
The purpose of uttering the Prayer as we work, of the verbal invocation during the day, is to aid us in our primary prayer during the night. Consequently, it is crucial for us to pray verbally during the day and to guard our five senses—especially our mouth.
If a person on the one hand struggles in an attempt to acquire the Prayer and to become a spiritually successful and fortunate monk, but on the other hand is careless during the day by speaking idly and ushering into his mind thousands of unnecessary things, how can this poor man later collect his thoughts when he sits to pray? He has deposited so much material within himself all day long; what type of prayer will he attain during the night? At that time, the devil, who has acquired many rights, will bring forward a multitude of intense images. The soul, compromised by the defeat it suffered during the day, cannot overcome the difficulty it faces from the devil. Thus, the prayer is fruitless, the soul feels dry and empty, and a person wonders, “Why is this happening to me? Why am I not able to pray?” My dear fellow, you have been disobedient, you have spoiled all your efforts, and you have made a mess of things!
Maintain high zeal
[When] zeal begins to die down, our fervent thoughts ice up, we start becoming self-confident internally, and we begin believing that we are doing well. Subsequently, vain thoughts arise, which assault us and compromise the intensity of the struggle. When zeal diminishes, the soul begins to fall asleep, the mouth ceases saying the Prayer continuously, the Prayer becomes intermittent, man begins to waver, and he no longer cultivates the Prayer properly. At that point in time, the enemy strips us of the Prayer completely, our mouth remains shut, evil thoughts roam freely within us, empty idle talk shows up accompanied by criticism and forwardness, and the spiritual flock of the soul is left desolate.
When your heart is unclean
When our heart is unclean, our actions, our eyes, our thoughts, our movements, and everything we do will also be unclean. All our bodily actions originate from the heart. The heart externalizes through the bodily members whatever is contained within it. This is how lustful dreams arise. The devil presents images to us in our sleep in order to summon them back to our mind as soon as we wake up, and thus precipitate a battle during the day as well. What must we do in this situation? We must disregard the lustful dream as nothing, aiming not to recall all the dirt that the devil presented to us during sleep.
We should struggle correspondingly against our imagination. Do images come to mind? We must erase them with a sponge. Do they return defiantly? Erase them again. However, if we do not struggle accordingly, they begin to affect us, they start to take root within us, and they gain strength.
You are nothing
Whatever you possess, from where did you receive it? From your own self? No! Then why do you think you are something? You are nothing! Time has proved again and again that you have been fooled and have made many mistakes! God has given you a drop of grace and you thought of something beautiful, or you said a few beneficial words, or you showed compassion through alms, or you helped someone. But, truly, what is so great about this?
Elder: “…He who created the heaven and the earth, He who created the spiritual world, the angels, and the kingdom above, He who with His command brought the universe into existence out of nothing, said that He is humble and meek (cf. Mt. 11:29). Why are you prideful? You are clay, dirt, sinful, and full of passions. You have received innumerable blessings from God, and yet you imagine that you are something great? He bent down and washed His disciples’ feet. He endured ridicule, curses, and sarcasm from a great multitude of people. We see Him dying naked on the Cross out of love for us, even though He could have returned the universe to nothing with a single glance. He was so humble; He didn’t speak; He didn’t utter a word. And we human beings lift our head up and believe that we are something?”
How can we tell if we possess pride and egotism? If you feel uneasy inside or become embittered, if your ego revolts of you begin to object (either with your mind internally or with your mouth externally) when another person belittles you, rebukes you, or speaks to you in an impolite manner, this is proof that the heart is infested with pride and egotism. The harsh word, which God permitted to be directed at you, serves as medication. It is rubbing alcohol that induced pain as it was poured into the wound.
The way I approached reading The Art Of Salvation was to tackle no more than one homily per day to help retain the guidance that Elder Ephraim covers on both inner and outer spiritual life. He also offers edifying anecdotes from saints and holy elders. Since Elder Ephraim will almost certainly be canonized, it wouldn’t hurt to ask him for your prayers as you read so that you may understand his teachings and implement them into your faith. If you’re an Orthodox Christian, this book is a must-read.
Learn More: The Art Of Salvation on Amazon