The Easy Path of Love
Our religion is perfectly and profoundly conceived. What is simple is also what is most precious. Accordingly, in your spiritual life engage in your daily contests simply, easily and without force. The soul is sanctified through the study of the words of the Fathers, through the memorization of the psalms and of portions of Scripture, through the singing of hymns and through the repetition of the Jesus Prayer.
Devote your efforts, therefore, to these spiritual things and ignore all the other things. We can attain to the worship of God easily and bloodlessly. There are two paths that lead to God: the hard and debilitating path with fierce assaults against evil and the easy path with love. There are many who choose the hard path and ‘shed blood in order to receive the Spirit’,1 until they attained great virtue. I find that the shorter and safer route is the path with love. This is the path that you, too, should follow.
That is, you can make a different kind of effort: to study and pray and have as your aim to advance in the love of God and of the Church. Do not fight to expel the darkness from the chamber of your soul. Open a tiny aperture for light to enter, and the darkness will disappear. The same holds for our passions and our weaknesses. Do not fight them, but transform them into strengths by showing disdain for evil. Occupy yourself with hymns of praise, with the poetic canons, with the worship of God and with divine eros. All the holy books of our Church – the Book of the Eight Tones, the Book of the Hours, the Psalter, the books with the Offices for the Feasts and Saint-day Commemorations – contain holy, loving words addressed to Christ. Read them with joy and love and exaltation. When you devote yourself to this effort with intense desire, your soul will be sanctified in a gentle and mystical way without your even being aware of it. The lives of the saints… made a profound impression on me. All day long one can meditate on and take delight in their achievements and imitate their way of life. The saints gave themselves entirely to Christ.
By reading these books you will gradually acquire meekness, humility, and love, and your soul will be made good. Do not choose negative methods to correct yourselves. There is no need to fear the devil, hell or anything else. These things provoke a negative reaction. I, myself, have some little experience in these matters. The object is not to sit and afflict and constrict yourself in order to improve. The object is to live, to study, to pray and to advance in love – in love for Christ and for the Church.
Done Without Force
You don’t become holy by fighting evil. Let evil be. Look towards Christ and that will save you. What makes a person saintly is love – the adoration of Christ which cannot be expressed, which is beyond expression, which is beyond… And such a person attempts to undertake ascetic exercises and to do things to cause himself to suffer for the love of Christ… No one can ascend to spirituality without exercising himself. These things must be done. Ascetic exercises are such things as prostrations, vigils and so on, but done without force. All are done with joy. What is important is not the prostrations we will make or the prayers, but the act of self-giving, the passionate love for Christ and for spiritual things.
(End of Part 2)