On Striving for Exalted States Prematurely

icon by Christopher Klitou

St. Ignaty Brianchininov 1807-1867

In the chapter on Obedience [St. John of the Ladder says], “Scan the mind of inexperienced novices, and there you will find distracted thought: a desire for solitude, for the strictest fast, for uninterrupted prayer, for absolute freedom from vanity, for unbroken remembrance of death, for continual compunction, for perfect absence of anger, for profound silence, for surpassing purity. And if by divine providence they lack these in the beginning, they rush in vain to another life and are deceived. For the enemy urges them to seek these perfections before the time, so that they may not persevere and in due time attain them. But to those living in solitude the fraud extols hospitality, service, brotherly love, community life, visiting the sick. And the deceiver’s aim is to make the latter as impatient as the former.”

The fallen angel tries to deceive monks and drag them to perdition by suggesting to them not only sin in its various forms but also the most exalted virtues unsuited to their condition. Do not trust your thoughts, opinions, dreams, impulses, or inclinations, even though they offer you or put before you in an attractive guise the most holy monastic life. If the monastery in which you are residing gives you the possibility of living a life according to the commandments of the Gospel and unless you are exposed to temptations to mortal sin, do not leave your monastery. Endure courageously its defects, both spiritual and material. Do not think you can find a sphere of activity not given by God to our time. (The Arena: Guidelines for Spiritual and Monastic Life [kindle version])

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