Bishop Job (Smakouz) on Elder Paisios and spiritual warfare.
Volume 3 of Elder Paisios the Athonite’s works deals with spiritual warfare. We Are Here to Repent, a collection of Hegumen Nikon (Vorobyov; †1963) letters to his spiritual children is a remarkable textbook on repentance and basic tenets of spiritual life, too.
Jesus began his public ministry after his baptism in the Jordan River. He preached about the Kingdom of Heaven, which was nigh, and called every one of his listeners to repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17). There is only one key to the Kingdom of God, and a simple one. It is repentance, or μετάνοια, which literally means a change of mind and thoughts, a change of life, a transformation. It means being born again as the children of God.
Elder Paisios the Athonite cultivated penitence by reading the Great Penitential Canon of St. Andrew of Crete and Manasseh’s prayer O Lord the Ruler of All, God of Our Fathers from the Great Compline. Paisios preached, “I ask God to let me know myself. If I get to know myself, I shall have repentance. If I have repentance, I shall also possess humility, followed by grace. That’s why the only thing I keep asking for is repentance, repentance, and repentance…”; “You needn’t ask God for light, or gifts, or anything else. What you must ask God for is repentance, repentance, and repentance.”
The elder prescribed repentance as a universal and potent remedy against all kinds of illnesses and numerous problems. Repentance was the core of his message.
According to St. Paisios, a Christian must see passions that dwell in his heart and repent of them, instead of trying to forget about them. Hence his words, “When I spotted any of my sins, I rejoiced. I was glad that I was able to see another one of my wounds and that I could cure it.”
Interestingly enough, the elder associated sins with causes of illnesses. “Spiritual life is regulated by spiritual laws. If we repent sincerely of one of our sins, we won’t have to pay for it with an illness. God lets illnesses or injustices happen for those of our sins that we don’t realize”, those sins that we don’t repent of.
Paisios the Athonite believed that the life of a Christian, especially a monk, was to consist of incessant repentance.
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds