Orthodox America

  58 Chapters - An Elder's Counsels to Christians Living in the World

       1. In moments of despair, know that the Lord is not abandoning you; rather, you are abandoning the Lord. In the name of God, here is how I would order you to live when you are alone: even if you are weighed down by grief, even if you don't want to--always, from your heart, mentally call upon the Lord Jesus Christ, Who dwells in your soul.

       2. Followers of Christ must have in mind not their own will but God's will, which forbade the Apostles and us likewise from investigating the future, which God placed under His own control.

      3. If you live with others, serve them as you would God Himself, and do not demand love in return for love, praises for humility, gratitude for service.

      4. Don't do anything that might stumble or offend those close ones living with you; if they should offend you, accept this not as an offense but as a tool, prepared for you by .the Lord God, which, if you so desire, you can use to uproot all filth from your heart.

      5. Before you say anything, think carefully: will your word or action offend God or your neighbor?

      6. Do not judge another man's servant, whether he is standing or falling: he has God Who has power to keep him from falling and to raise him up from a fall.

      7. Bear in mind that that minute which laziness has stolen from you may be the last minute of your life; after it comes death and the judgment. Abandon all idleness.

      8. Do not hurt anyone and do not repay abuse with abuse, hurt with hurt; and in the book of life your name will be written together with the righteous.

      9. I ask you, my friends, do not disdain any means by which you may please God. These are numerous. For example, being kindly affectionate towards others, consoling the sorrowful, interceding for someone who has been unjustly treated, giving alms to the needy, turning one's gaze away from what is unclean, withstanding unclean thoughts; forcing oneself to pray, patience, merciful kindness, fairness, and the like. In the performance of these virtues you will draw to yourself God's all-powerful aid, and with this you will overcome all difficulties which before seemed insurmountable.

      10. Resist by all means losing your temper, and, with God's help it will surely weaken. "If it happens that you become irritated or angry, then be all the more careful not to say anything; either step away or close your lips that no fierce flame should escape and singe your soul and cause rebellion in the soul of the other person; only when the flame dies out and your heart is at peace, then you can say something by way of correction.

      11. Strive by all means to avoid getting angry. No calamity visits us of itself; it is allowed by God's Providence for those soul-saving purposes for which the holy Apostle Paul was beset by calamities in the rivers, from robbers, from his own countrymen, from the pagans, in the cities, in the deserts, at sea, from false brethren, from without, from within - illnesses (II Cor. 11:26).

      12. Knowing this, pay no attention to who it is who offends you and why. Just remember that no one could have caused you such offense if the Lord had not willed to allow it. It is better to thank the Lord that through the afflictions visited upon you He clearly shows' that you are no stranger to Him and that He is leading you into the Kingdom of Heaven. Holy Scripture says: If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? (Heb. 12:7).

       13. Always avoid sternness, and before the Lord you will be like innocent children in your relations with others.

      14. Rest in God's love, learn of it, breathe it: God is love and whosoever abides in love, he is in God, and God is in him. With God's love even a life of affliction is sweet.

       15. Salvation lies not in an abundance of talk, but in absolute vigilance towards oneself.

       16. Avoid quarrels; by agitating the heart they deprive us of peaceful disposition of soul. Oppose all quarrelsome thoughts with the Jesus Prayer. Don't believe in prejudices.

       17. Suspicion is by no means a Christian characteristic; do not make a habit of it. Through the Holy Scripture God Himself requires of us wisdom, vigilance and purity: Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves

       18. Always hold to the middle path: extremes are never praiseworthy.

       19. Always be devoted to the will of God: it is altogether soul-saving.

       20. Be loving and cheerful towards others. Love them, serve them; they are valuable; the Saviour's blood was shed for them; they are members of Christ. Do not offend them, even in ways that are scarcely noticeable.

       21. Gain salvation by conducting yourself in a way pleasing to the Lord God, pleasing Him by all kinds of love. Make this your sole concern--to grow rich in love. He who has love has God within him.

       22. Notice, you are perfectly satisfied with everything when you have patience, humility of wisdom, submissiveness and love for all.

       23. Do not reproach that which is in the past, otherwise the Lord God will call you to account for that which He already forgave you.

      24. When despondent, force your heart and your lips to pray: Lord, save me---I am perishing!

      25. When making a request of someone, ask with the patience of the Canaanite woman.

      26. It is a sin to believe another's faults; avoid such sinful certainty.

      27. If in some way you offended your servant, do what you can to help him forget the offense.

      28. Do everything scrupulously, without haste, so that your undertaking might meet with success.

      29. Conquer evil with good; bad cannot be corrected with bad.

     30 Without cutting off one’s will one cannot lay a foundation for salvation, let alone attain it. My children, entreat the Lord to grant you self-denial; it is essential for salvation.

      31. If you’re thinking of visiting someone close to you, make a firm resolve to preserve the same love and disposition toward him as you have when you go to see him, even if during your visit he somehow offends you.

      32. Whenever something unpleasant happens in your relations with those closest to you, turn first of all to yourself: in a strict examination we nearly always find that we ourselves gave cause for the unpleasantness.

      33. When your temper flares up, keep silent and say the Jesus Prayer.

      34. Do not justify yourself, do not argue, take into account a person’s character and age. Comfort one and all however you can; do not judge anyone; do not repay evil with evil; love everyone, forgive everyone, be a servant to all.

      35. Consider yourself as the least and most selfish of all.

      36. Love the Lord God and pray to Him as to the Father; humble yourself before all Christians – and the Lord your God will love you, and your pastor will rejoice over you.

      37. Endure impatience, confusion, rudeness, irascibility - all without contradiction.

     38. When you conceive an involuntary feeling of animosity towards someone, try to conquer this sinful feeling; force yourself to pray: “Save, O Lord, Thy servant (name) and by his holy prayers grant peace to my heart.”  Make yourself be considerate to this person, and the Lord seeing your good intention, will not only uproot from your heart your sinful animosity, but He will fill it with love.

     39. If you receive no comfort from prayer, know that it is preparing for you divine consolation and sweetness in due time: With patience I waited patiently for the Lord, and He was attentive unto me (Ps. 39:1).

     40. Throughout your life, in all that you do, guide yourself by the following Christian reasoning: “Is what I have thought of doing contrary to God’s will? Is it harmful to my soul?  Will it offend my neighbor?” If, after a strict examination your conscience does not prick you, then follow through with your intention. But if it does prick you, refrain from acting on it.

     41. Do not trouble yourself with another’s honor, but use your tongue only for praising God and for another’s benefit and edification. When you are tempted to say something bad, recall those sins you committed from your youth and reproach yourself.

     42. Do not complain about life; it is unbearable only for the wicked. For those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who trust in Him and love Him, it is always bearable.

     43. Life is given to us only that we might glorify God, do good to our neighbor and attain the eternal kingdom by following the narrow path indicated in the Gospel – not in order to have fun: Blessed are those that mourne, not those who laugh.

     44. The source of humility is the Lord Jesus Christ Who humbled Himself; it is the crown and beauty of all virtues. What water is to parched earth, so humility is to the human soul.

     45. Humility is a virtue in which God Himself delights: To whom will I have respect, says the Lord, but to the humble and meek and the man that trembles at my words (Is. 66:2).

     46. What constitutes humility? It seems to me that it consists in a man’s thinking that he is a greater sinner than anyone else, he does not demean or hurt anyone, does not judge, looks only at himself; he seeks neither wealth, nor glory, nor praise, nor honor, considering himself unworthy of these; he bravely endures humiliations, abuse, reproaches, acknowledging in his heart that he deserves this; he treats everyone equally, is ready to serve everyone with love, does not see his own good deeds and doesn't talk about them unnecessarily. I am entreating such humility for you from the Lord God, my children, because it will not only deliver you from sin, but it will lead to the love of Him Who humbled Himself unto death, even the death on the cross.

      47. Love covers a multitude of sins. If you are sad, it serves to comfort; unhappy--to ease your grief; it is a help to the poor, father and mother to the orphan, a comfort to the sick, kindness to the servant, to the lost it serves as a guide to salvation, and for all Christians it is a zealous servant. If you have such love towards the lesser brothers and members of our Lord Jesus Christ, not only will your sins be smoothed away, but you will see the Lord face to face and rejoice for evermore.

       48. Guard your lips, train your heart in the Jesus Prayer, be temperate in all things--and you will receive a priceless gift, the gift of the love of God towards you.

      49, Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God--what is God's. While attending to externals, to what concerns your life in society, offer yourself up to God continually in your heart, and thus live in this Babylon--this world--ceaselessly thinking upon your heavenly Jerusalem and upon your predestination.

      50. Exchange your material well-being for slavery to the Lord Jesus Christ. Resist indulgence, avoid luxury, don't exalt yourself in front of your servants: they are, in fact, your equals, because our Lord calls them also to His Holy Supper, with the same words as He calls you: "Come, eat, this is My Body.....Drink from it all of you, this is My Blood, which is shed for you and for many...

     51. The valleys below are nearly always fertile and fruitful, while the high mountains are for the most part dry and unsuitable for agriculture. Similarly, an ear of wheat which stands with its head up is always empty, whereas the one bent down has many grains. Have a humble heart, and you will be enriched with all that is needed for salvation.

      52. Rain falls onto a fruitful valley directly from the clouds and from the mountains: so, too, humility. By rain here I mean God's grace, which is given to the humble directly from God and also through people who in this life have been raised up by the Lord, like the mountains. If your inner life is humbly given over to God's will and closed to His enemies, then, the Teacher, the Holy Spirit, will come to you and abide in you.

      53. Forget about the broad way: the Lord, according to His merciful kindness, is leading you through the narrow gates into the Heavenly Kingdom, while the other way leads to eternal destruction.

      54. For you, and for myself in this life, I desire only the cleansing of sins, and I ask the Lord God that He do with us whatever is pleasing to Him in order to cleanse our sins and wash away our iniquities, even if this means dishonor. You and I must live according to God's commandments, and not by human logic.

      55. For the benefit of your soul, love solitude and, submitting entirely to the injunction of the Heavenly Father, train your heart to ceaselessly perform the Jesus Prayer. Having the Lord God abiding within you, you will become more patient, more loving and more humble.

      56. Take care that laziness does not undermine your strength for spiritual labors: laziness is the first enemy for those living far from the Father; but neither should you despair of salvation, nor be overly grieved ff sometimes you grow weak in your spiritual struggles.

     57. Works, of themselves, will not save us; rather, it is God's mercy, if only we do good deeds in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. May He not deprive you, my friends, of His mercy all the days of your life. Whether you are weak, ugly--it matters not; run to the merciful Lord Jesus Christ and firmly trust in Him: this hope will never, ever let you down. 

      58. Do not scorn my words, nor consider them hard to fulfill: for the Lord and with the Lord all that is difficult is not difficult, and all that is grievous is not grievous, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. 

Translated from Vera i Zhizn, no. 16, 1977, St. Elias Publications, Forestville, CA; original in Sviatinya pod Spudom by S.A. Nilus.