This week I’m sure sharing with you another letter from Fr Nikon Vorobiev, a Russian spiritual father of the last century. -Fr John
I have received your gloomy letter. You certainly know the spiritual law saying that the way to the Kingdom of God lies through many tribulations; that you will suffer in this world; that you should strengthen your soul by endurance, etc. Every believer should know this rule by heart. The God Man has endured spitting, beating, mockery and other insults, the horrible Crucifixion and death; as a sword-sharp pain was piercing the heart of the Mother of God, when she stood watching the sufferings of the Savior. The apostles, martyrs, confessors, the righteous people and other true followers of Christ all endured a lot, didn’t they?
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
If you sincerely want to follow Jesus Christ, you should know that there is no other way except the one He has showed. This way goes through outer hardships and one’s bodily diseases, and through constant struggle with one’s own passions which may take very different forms. There are obvious passions, such as gluttony, all kinds of whoredom, greed for money, melancholy, despondency, anger, conceit, pride, lack of faith, jealousy, deceitfulness, disapproval of other people, etc. The followers of Christ must lead a war against all these passions. They will lose some and win other battles during this war. It takes an all-out effort and endurance to win. It often is very tormenting; this is real carrying of the “cross” which is impossible to put aside. There are two options: either to give in to the passions and betray Christ and choose the world and the worldly life, or to struggle, suffer and thus ensure spiritual growth.
Your condition, which you only “brush over” in your letter, is passion. It is a feature of the “old man” that is not clearly evident, but is obscured and hidden amidst various admixtures as a result of the wily enemy’s tricks. Demons, whose reasoning was darkened by the fall, have preserved something of the angelic wit and a few other potentials. They have thoroughly explored human physical and psychic characteristics; they have access to the body and nerves, and to the brain of man; they affect human heart and its inclinations, always causing evil and perish. Since people are able to identify evident passions and the damage they cause, the demons try to confuse people’s feelings by intensifying some and weakening others and in this way to draw people into aberration. They will amplify the significance of passions to make them appear in a very attractive light. Their tricks, slyness, deceit, various ways for seduction and perish of man are innumerous and boundless.
We, inexperienced beginners, without spiritual guides, should remember that alone we cannot overcome passions and defeat demons, but we must struggle with them as much as we can, and when falling down incessantly implore God’s help. “They” (enemies and passions) “surrounded me, but in the name of the Lord I pushed them away.” Neither you by yourself, nor anyone else is able to help you “push them away,” but only the Lord. That is why it is important to pray as much as possible, to pray awesomely and wholeheartedly beseeching God’s help to overcome passions and iniquities, as well as His forgiveness for committed sins. Thus doing will soon make you feel peace at heart and calm you down. This will also somewhat humble you and at the same time make you resolute to endure everything for the sake of the Lord and for the sake of your own salvation.