Saint Paisios of Mount Athos: Let Us Fight Out of Love for Christ

Maybe you are afraid to go to hell and suffer along with demons? I understand if you say this: “My Christ, help me to be rewarded with Heaven so as not to hurt You. For it will be very difficult for You to know that I’m in hell after all that You have done for me”. But there is no piety in the desire to be in Heaven just for you to feel good. I do not say this so that we begin to live sloppily, behave outrageously and get into hell torment. But sometimes a person has a kind of addiction: “I will do good in order not to lose Paradise”. If we have piety, we will begin to think as follows: “So many unhappy people who have not experienced true joy at list a little bit in this life will suffer in hell, so how can I think about myself?” I will tell you frankly: the question of where will I be, in Paradise or in hell, does not bother me. I myself put myself aside. The question “will I be in Paradise or not” does not bother me not because I do not want to be with Christ, no. But doing good in order to earn Paradise by this is not my goal. “Even if You throw me aside, my Christ,” I say, “I will not be offended: I am not worthy of Paradise.”

Today our life is joyless and hard, because heroism and piety have become less significant among people. Even spiritual people think like two-by-four merchants and go so far as to live a pseudo-spiritual life. They strive to grab any pleasure from life, until it becomes sin. “Is it a sin [or not a sin]? – such people calculate. – No, it is not [yet] a sin. So, I can enjoy it”. For example, they treat fast like this: “Okay, tomorrow is what: Friday. So today till 11:55 pm I can eat meat. Bring it, let’s eat! No, after midnight it is impossible – it’s new day cycle, so it is a sin”. Thus, such people want both to enjoy earthly life and not to lose Paradise. Therefore they have two-by-four merchants attitude to sin and hell torment. However, if they thought piously, they would say [to themselves]: “Christ suffered the Crucifixion and endured so much for me! So how can I hurt Him with my sinful act? I do not want to end up in hell torment for no other reason but the fact that I cannot bear the suffering of Christ, who will see me in hell”.

We will not do good with the expectation that we will receive a reward for it, but let us fight out of love for Christ. We will try to ensure that everything we do is pure, performed for the sake of Christ. Let us be careful that [in our actions] there is no human principle, self-satisfaction, self-interest and the like. Let us remember that Christ sees us, watches over us, and try not to upset Him. Otherwise, our faith and our love will fall apart.

And if we look closer at everything that we do in spiritual life: asceticism, fast, vigil, and the like, we will see that all [these means] strengthen our bodily health. Does someone [fighting] sleep on a hard bed? And doctors advise the same thing: “Sleep on hard one, because sleeping on soft is harmful”.  Does someone make bows? Many do gymnastics to strengthen their muscles. Is someone content with a little sleep? But a long sleep befuddles a person. Do not they say: “This man is like a sleepy fly, while that one is good, he does not yawn”? That is, the spiritual exercises that a person does strengthen his bodily health. And besides, a person benefits greatly from abstinence. After all, those who are engaged in scientific research and the like, try to live chastely so that their heads are not confused, but have clarity of thought. Of course, this is not the purpose of our [monastic] abstinence, but one of the results of the spiritual exercises that we perform is just the benefit that worldly people strive for. We do something spiritual, and through this spiritual we get bodily health.

Source: Words. Volume III. Spiritual Fight
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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