They Gave Their Hearts
What is holy and beautiful and what gladdens the heart and frees the soul from every evil is the effort to unite yourself to Christ, to love Christ, to crave for Christ and to live in Christ, just as Saint Paul said, It is no longer I who live; Christ lives in me. This should be your aim. Let all other efforts be secret and hidden. What must dominate is love for Christ. Let this be in your head, your thought, your imagination, your heart and your will. Your most intense effort should be how you will encounter Christ, how you will be
united to Him and how you will keep Him in your heart.
Forget about all your weaknesses so that the adverse spirit does not realize what is going on and grab you and pin you down and cause you grief. Make no effort to free yourself from these weaknesses. Make your struggle with calmness and simplicity, without contortion and anxiety. Don’t say: ‘Now I’ll force myself and I’ll pray to acquire love and become good.’ It is not profitable to afflict yourself to become good. In this way your negative response will be worse. Everything should be done in a natural way, calmly and freely. Nor should you pray, ‘O God free me from my anger, my sorrow, etc.’ It is not good to pray about or think about the specific passion; something happens in our soul and we become even more enmeshed in the passion. Attack your passion head on, and you’ll see how strongly it will entwine you and grip you and you won’t be able to do anything.
Don’t struggle directly with temptation, don’t pray for it to go away, don’t say, ‘Take it from me, O God!’ Then you are acknowledging the strength of the temptation and it takes hold of you. Because, although you are saying ‘Take it from me, O God’, basically you are bringing it to mind and fomenting it even more. Your desire to be free of the passion will, of course, be there, but it will exist in a hidden and discreet way, without appearing outwardly. Remember what Scripture says: Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Let all your strength be turned to love for God, worship of God and adhesion to God. In this way your release from evil and from your weaknesses will happen in a mystical manner, without your being aware of it and without exertion.
This is the kind of effort I make. I have found that the bloodless mode is the best mode of sanctification. It is better, that is, to devote ourselves to love through the study of the hymns and psalms. This study and preoccupation directs my mind to Christ and refreshes my heart without my realizing it. At the same time I pray, opening my arms in longing, love and joy, and the Lord takes me up into His love. That is our aim – to attain to that love. What do you say? Isn’t this way bloodless?
There are many other ways, for example through remembrance of death, of hell and of the devil. Thus you avoid evil out of fear and through counting the cost. In my own life, I have never employed those methods which are exhausting, cause a negative reaction and produce the opposite of the desired effect. The soul, especially when it is sensitive, is filled with gladness and enthusiasm through love; it is strengthened and transforms, alters and transfigures all the negative and ugly things.
For this reason I prefer the ‘easy path,’ that is, the way that leads through the meditation on the poetic canons of the saints. In these canons we will discover the means employed by the saints, the ascetics and the martyrs. It is good to ‘steal’ their wisdom, that is, for us to do what they did. They cast themselves upon Christ’s love. They gave their hearts. We must steal their method.