The Spiritual Life Begins With Every Minute

Work stubbornly; pray constantly and with faith. Only under such conditions is it possible to set out on the path of the spiritual life.

Cultivate silence; thereby is prayer acquired.

What enormous personal responsibility one must have for accomplishing one’s designated rules (routine): to feel inwardly their holiness, loftiness, and the necessity of their completion! One should put aside the thought that what one is doing is one’s own personal work within one’s own cell. No: this is a fundamentally public service.

Fr. Gregory Ponomarev and Matushka Nina

Remember: You simply need to physically force yourself to pray. At first it may be disjointed, halting, even sinking. In spite of all this, do not stop your conversation with the world above.

How weak and inconstant I am in my decisions and intentions! Any insignificant matter can already disrupt such an important and necessary work as prayer. Remember that you are strong only through prayer. But this is how I behave… I do not appreciate this opportunity to acquire great strength.

We must cultivate in ourselves the spirit of constancy, and not that of momentary impulses. Give of yourself wholly, not half-heartedly. There is much grief in my absent-mindedness and lack of concentration.

How dangerous it is to let oneself slacken! It is enough to indulge oneself in something small for one’s entire spiritual house to be destroyed. In a short period one can destroy everything one has built up and guarded for months.

The most important thing is to learn how to cultivate a feeling of complete surrender to God’s will. Bear this firmly in mind: no matter what happens to you every day and hour, give thanks to the Lord for it all. Regard nothing that happens to you as simple coincidence, but as a necessary test of your spiritual strengths, of your spiritual combat readiness.

Always begin everything you do, no matter what it may be, with prayer – and then you will succeed.

One must guard oneself against inner irritability; no matter how fair the reasons for it, it is never justifiable. Every condemnation brings with it inner irritation and indignation. Take care that this filthy stream not flood the temple of your soul, filling it with its foul spirit of indifference, carelessness, and the neglect of spiritual rules.

Acquiring the spirit of peace is a great and difficult work. The Lord will send us His grace for this labor. Indignation of soul needs to be extinguished by peaceful thoughts; this is accomplished through prayer. Remember: nothing is by chance; everything is sent to test our spiritual strength. Help us, O Lord!

As soon as malice flares up, extinguish it by treating your neighbor lovingly and peacefully. Onto this flaming bonfire of malice, pour (without ceasing) words of peace and love, so that no embers of malice might remain lit.

There are terrible, subtle machinations that lead to the destruction of the spiritual home: idle talk, laughter, and condemnation. Know, and keep firmly in mind, that these are your enemies.

We are scared of committing big sins all at once. But when they enter gradually – in little things, piecemeal – we get used to them and are not afraid of entering into communion with a terrible demonic force.

How can you fulfill the first commandment – to love God – if you do not carry out the order to love your neighbor as yourself? The enemy hates this commandment very much and strives every minute (this is no exaggeration) to instill in us a lack of lovingness towards those around us, first in thought and then in words and deeds; he thereby leads our souls into a terrible place of spiritual darkness, emptiness, animosity, and irritability. Success in prayer for others is gained on the condition that we carry out this holy order: “Remember that God is love.” There are no obstacles for a loving soul; all for which it asks, it receives. Only sincerely grasp this commandment, and then life will be so sublime and joyful, no matter what the hardships, either physical or moral!

Question yourself every day and hour about love for your neighbor. This is the main thing: to cultivate love.

What enormous service does the examination of a single hour grant us! Here you can observe over the course of sixty minutes everything that has been sent to you for your spiritual growth and how you reacted to it: a visitation by good thoughts and the counsel of your friend, your holy Angel; and likewise a visitation of evil, dark forces, your foe – the envoy of hades. And all of this in the course of an hour!

One must always remember that the spiritual life requires great constancy and that life requires great effort. Force yourself every hour to fulfill what your routine dictates. Yet how much one wants to violate these directions and just daydream! But this leads to laziness and devastation of spirit. Be ever vigilant!

Call to mind more often the words of the Apostle Peter as he was sinking: “Lord, save me! I am perishing!” In storms of soul, great or small, never think that you can save yourself – you will drown! It is best to cry out with Peter: “Lord, save me! I am perishing!” Believe ­– believe firmly – that help will come quickly.

Lord, Thou art with us always! Why do we fear sorrows? With this in mind our souls will be purer and calmer.

Work stubbornly; pray constantly and with faith. Learn to account for every hour – such is the ladder of spiritual ascent.

Cultivate the value of time. Safeguard every hour – with every hour, everything begins.

Ten more short exhortations to spiritual children:

1. If you know something, keep quiet.

2. If you hear something, keep quiet.

3. Do not interfere in other people’s conversations.

4. Reply to questions, but do not talk much.

5. When you want to do something, think it over alone and with prayer; do not tell anyone about it until you have done it.

6. Do not point out people’s shortcomings.

7. If your self-love has been hurt or if you have been reproached, hold your tongue.

8. If you are wronged, say so quietly and calmly. 

9. Do not express yourself sharply and do not get agitated.

10. Look at everything like this: “As God grants! Such is His holy will.” Always remember God, the Mother of God, and pray.

 

Translated from the Russian

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