Saint Paisios the New of Mount Athos
“We pray, Elder, and our thoughts go here and there. Why?”
“Because it is prayer without pain!” replied the Elder Paisios the New of Mount Athos. “To pray with the heart, we must hurt. Just as when we hit our hand or some other part of our body, our mind (nous) (“Nous: the highest faculty or power of the human soul, called by the Holy Fathers “the eye of the soul,” St. John Damascene, and “the spiritual nature of man,” St. Isaac the Syrian) is gathered to the point we are hurting, so also for the mind to gather in the heart, the heart must hurt.”
The Elder was then asked, “How can we preserve ourselves in this state when we don’t have some problem, some pain?”
He replied, “We should make the other’s pain our own!! We must love the other, must hurt for him, so that we can pray for him. We must come out little by little from our own self and begin to love, to hurt for other people as well, for our family first then for the large family of Adam, of God” (Athanasios Rakovalis, Talks with Father Paisios (Thessalonica, Greece: Orthodox Kypseli, 2000), pp. 123-24).
“To some people your love will be expressed with joy and to others it will be expressed with your pain. You will consider everyone your brother or your sister, for we are all children of Eve (of the large family of Adam, of God). Then, in your prayer you will say: ‘My God, help those first who are in greater need, whether they are alive or reposed brothers in the Lord.’ At that point, you will share your heart with the whole world and you will have nothing but immense love, which is Christ” (Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Epistles, p. 50).
Those who are sustained by the love of God often neglect material food, or, when they eat, are oblivious to the taste, for feeling the presence of God intensely, they are even then nurtured by the sweet blessing of His love.
In former days, the Holy Fathers first withdrew into the desert, becoming themselves a desert void of their passions by struggling. Without plans or programs of their own, they left themselves in the hands of God, avoiding honors and power, even when they arrived at measures of sanctity — unless Mother Church had need of them. They did obedience to the will of God, and they glorified the name of God with their holy life. They became spiritual blood donors, for they had acquired good spiritual health in the desert with good spiritual food and vigilant patristic watchfulness.
In our day, however, many of us, who are unfortunately influenced by worldly love, which can make no spiritual pledge, supposedly venture to do good, to donate blood, but our blood is full of spiritual bacteria and we do more harm than good.
If, however, we were living patristically, we would all have spiritual health, which even all the heterodox would envy, leaving their sick delusions aside to be saved without preaching.