Taken from: Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos – “Spiritual Awakening”
– Geronda (Elder in Greek), Abba Makarios says our God gives us the heavenly gifts, (St. Makarios of Egypt, Spiritual Homilies) and this we believe. Should we believe He will also give us earthly gifts, which are not so important?
– What earthly gifts?
– Whatever we need.
– Yes, you put it well. God loves His creation, His image, and provides the things which man needs.
– Must everyone believe this and not worry?
– If one does not believe this and struggles by himself to acquire these earthly gifts, he will suffer. But even if God does not provide some of these earthly, material things, a person who is leading a spiritual life will not worry about it. If we seek first the Kingdom of God and this is our only concern, all the other things will be given to us, as well. Will God abandon His creation? The manna which God provided for the Israelites in the desert would spoil if they kept it for the next day. (Cf. Ex 16:19-20.) God arranged things this way so that the people would have confidence in His divine providence.
We have not yet understood the words of Jesus “Seek first the Kingdom of God”. (Cf. Mt 6:33).
Either we believe or we don’t. When I went to stay at Mount Sinai, I had nothing. But I didn’t think at all what would become of me in the desert among strangers, what I would eat, how I would live. The ascetic cell of Saint Episteme, where I was to stay, had been abandoned and uninhabitable for years. As I didn’t want to burden the Monastery of Saint Catherine, I didn’t ask for anything. They brought me a little bread from the Monastery, but I returned Why should I be worried, when Christ said, Seek first the Kingdom of God. There was also very little water. I had no trade to work and earn my living. The only tool I had was a pair of scissors. I separated it in two, sharpened the two pieces on a stone, took a piece of wood and began making little carved wooden Icons. I worked and said the Jesus Prayer. Quickly I became experienced. I kept making the same design, and the work that would have taken me five days, I could now do in eleven hours, and not only did I help myself, but I also was able to help the little Bedouin children.
For a long time I worked on this task for many hours each day. Later I had reached a point where I did not want to continue with handicraft, but then I could see the need of the Bedouin children. If you gave them a cup and a pair of sandals, it was a great blessing for them. So the thought came to me, “Did I come here to help the Bedouins or to pray for the whole world?’ Thus, I decided to stop the work in order to be un-distracted and to pray more. And it wasn’t as if I was expecting help from somewhere. The Bedouins did not even have enough to eat for themselves. The Monastery was far away. And in the opposite direction it was all desert. But on the same d.ay when I cut back on the work to devote more time to prayer, someone came and found me at my cell and told me, “Here, take these one hundred liras to help the 3edouins without interrupting your program of prayer!” I could not bear this. I left my visitor alone and went into my cell for about fifteen minutes. The providence and the love of God had created such a spiritual state in me that I could not hold back my tears.
Do you see how God provides when there is good will? How much could I have possibly given them? I could give to one child and another would come to remind me, “You didn’t give me anything, Father.” Then, Yet another would come to say the same thing, “Father, you haven’t given me anything!”
– Geronda, while many times we have felt the omnipotence of God, why is it that we do not also see His divine providence for us?
– This is a trap of the devil. The devil throws ashes in man’s eyes so he won’t see God’s providence. For when man sees the providence of God, his granite heart will soften, become sensitive and burst out in praise of God, and this is not what the devil wants.
Let us Entrust Ourselves to Divine Providence
Whoever observes God’s benevolence learns to rely upon divine providence. He then feels like an infant in a crib, crying when left alone for a little while by its mother until she returns to its side. It is an important matter to entrust yourself to God.
When I first went to the Monastery of Stomion, there was no place for me to stay; the Monastery was completely full of rubble. I found a comer near the wall, made a temporary cover and spent the nights there in a sitting position, because there was no room to lie down. One day a priest-monk I knew came to me and said, “How can you stay here?” “Why not?” I said, “Did people in the world have any more than what we have? When Konstantios Kanaris (Hero of the Greek revolution of 1821, legendary fire-ship captain from the heroic island of Psara. He served as Prime Minister of Greece (1864-1865 and 1877). asked for a loan, they told him, ‘You have no country.’ And he replied, ‘We will acquire a country soon.’ Now, if a man in the world had such faith, should we not have trust in God? Since Panaghia (the Holy Mother of God) provided that I come to this Monastery, will She not also provide for Her Monastery when the time comes?” And indeed, little by little, Panaghia provided.
I remember when they were pouring the cement to make the floors for the cells they had built, the prepared cement was not enough; they still had to work on one of the floor. The builders came and told me, “The cement is running out; we’ll have to thin it out to make it last for the entire floor.” “No,” I said to them, “continue to pour it normally.” It wasn’t possible to bring any more cement at the time, because the animals were away in the valley, The workers would have had to walk two hours to Konitsa, two more hours to the valley and the fields to find the animals. They couldn’t have gone and returned in time. Also the men had other work; they couldn’t come back another day. I noticed they had poured two-thirds of the flooring. I went into the Chapel and said, “Panaghia, what is (going) to happen now? Please help us.” Then I went out…
– What happened, Geronda?
~ The flooring was completed and there was extra cement left over.
– Did the workers realize it?
– How could they not realize it? Sometimes the help of God and Panaghia is very great indeed!
God’s Benefactions Break the Heart
– Geronda, what is it that God wants from us?
– God wants from us our good intentions, our good will, which will be expressed by even our limited but full of philotimo spiritual struggle, and the awareness of our sinfulness. Everything else is given by Him. One doesn’t need muscles in the spiritual life. We must struggle humbly, we must ask for God’s mercy and we must be grateful to Him for everything. He who abandons himself into the hands of God, without any plan of his own, will pass into God’s plan. As long as man is hooked onto himself, he remains behind; he does not progress spiritually because he obstructs God’s mercy. In order to grow spiritually he must place great trust in God.
At all times God caresses the hearts of all the people with His love, but we are not aware of it because our hearts have gathered a crust. When man has cleansed his heart, he is deeply moved and madly excited, because he can then see the benefactions, the blessings of God, Who loves all people in the same way. For those who are suffering, God is pained; for those who are living a spiritual life, He rejoices. When a philotimo-filled soul thinks of God’s blessings, it is enough to send it exploding towards Heaven, even more so if the soul also meditates on its many sins and God’s abundant mercy and compassion~ When man becomes aware of God’s providential care. and the eyes of his soul have been purified, he can experience and live the fullness of divine providence with his cleansed heart, which is then overwhelmed by a profound sense of gratitude and spiritual madness, in the good sense of the term. For God’s blessings, when man is aware of them, create a crack in his heart, and break it. Then, as the hand of God caresses his philotimo-filled heart and touches the crack, man experiences an inner explosion that increases his gratitude toward God. All those who struggle and are aware of their sinfulness and God’s blessings, entrusting themselves to His abundant mercy, elevate their soul to Paradise with great certainty and less bodily effort.
Gratitude to God for Little and for Much
Some people say, “I believe God will help me,” and at the same time they try to make lots of money so that they won’t be deprived of anything. These people mock God, because they do not entrust themselves to God, but to money. If they don’t stop loving money and placing their hope in it, they won’t be able to establish their hope in God. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t put some money aside for a time of need; I’m saying that they shouldn’t set their hopes on money and set their heart on it, because this way they forget God. Whoever makes his own plans, without putting his trust in God, and then says that this is how God wants it, is actually blessing his own work in a demonic way and is constantly tormented. We have not understood the power and goodness of God. We do not allow Him as Lord to govern us, and this is why we are tormented. (…)
(Excerpt form “God’s Providence for Man” by Elder Paisios)