Friday, May 8, 2015
“Each person must bear the weaknesses of others. Who is perfect? Who can boast that he has kept his heart undefiled? Hence, we are all sick, and whoever condemns his brother does not perceive that he himself is sick, because a sick person does not condemn another sick person.”
Elder Ephraim of Arizona
…Να γονατίζουμε και να προσευχόμαστε με πολλή ταπείνωση. Σε κάθε μετανοημένη ψυχή δίδεται λόγος, της δίδεται φωτισμένη προσευχή. Αυτό το βλέπουμε στην πόρνη του Ευαγγελίου κατά τη Μεγάλη Τρίτη. Πού ήξερε αυτή, μια γυναίκα του δρόμου να κάνει προσευχή;
Αφ’ης στιγμής, όμως, αποφάσισε να μετανοήσει και άρχισε να κλίνει προς το φως και προς την αλήθεια, της δόθηκε πνεύμα προσευχής. Πόσο ωραία είναι τα λόγια της μπροστά στο Σωτήρα! Εξέφρασε με όλη την καρδιά την μετάνοιά της (…). Είδε ότι μόνο ο Ιησούς, ο Χριστός, είναι αυτός που θα της δώσει το φως, την ανακούφιση, την χαρά και την άφεση των πολλών της εγκλημάτων…
(απόσπασμα απ’το βιβλίο του γερ.Εφραίμ Φιλοθεΐτη, "Η τέχνη της σωτηρίας", εκδ. Ι.Μ.Φιλοθέου)
Ο δε μακαριστός γέροντάς μου εδώ στην Αγία Γη,ο γέροντας Σεραφείμ ο Κυθήριος ο ηγούμενος της μονής μας, του Αγίου Σάββα,έλεγε....."Μα βρε παιδί μου ,τι μορφή είναι αυτός ο Εφραίμ ο Φιλοθείτης;;;
Καλημέρα σας.Να είστε όλοι καλά,όλοι ευλογημένοι.
Μου ζητήσατε να πω δυό λόγια για τον γέροντα της Αριζόνας,Εφραίμ τον προηγούμενο της μονής Φιλοθέου του Αγίου Ορους.Μόνον δυό λόγια να πει κανείς γι'αυτή την μεγάλη μορφή;;;Αν μέχρι τώρα έχουν γραφτεί τόσα πολλά για τον μακαριστό γέροντα Παίσιο,Ιάκωβο Τσαλίκη και τόσους άλλους πολλούς αγίους γεροντάδες των ημερών μας,...φανταστείτε τι έχει να γραφεί και να ειπωθεί μετά την κοίμηση του γέροντος Εφραίμ του Φιλοθείτου!!!!!!!!!Υψος πνευματικότητας,μέγεθος!!!!
Ειχα εξομολογηθεί κανά δυό φορές κοντά του,όταν ήμουν στον Καναδά το 1988-1992.Δεν είχα αφήσει κήρυγμα του κανένα!!! Είχα γίνει η κουραστική σκιά του!!!Δεν τον άφηνα...ρούπι,που λέμε!!!Εκανα 100-150 χιλιόμετρα για να πηγαίνω να τον ακούω.Γύριζα σπίτι στις μία-δύο μετά τα μεσάνυχτα..επιστρέφοντας από κηρύγματά του σε σπίτια κυρίως,τότε.Είχα μαγευτεί!!! Γνώρισα συνειδητά Ορθοδοξία και πίστη από τις ομιλίες του.
Από την γνωριμία μαζί του αγάπησα και θέλησα να γίνω κάποτε μοναχός,όπως και έγινε!!! Ο δε μακαριστός γέροντάς μου εδώ στην Αγία Γη,ο γέροντας Σεραφείμ ο Κυθήριος ο ηγούμενος της μονής μας, του Αγίου Σάββα,έλεγε....."Μα βρε παιδί μου ,τι μορφή είναι αυτός ο Εφραίμ ο Φιλοθείτης;;;Είχε έλθει και λειτούργησε στην Λαύρα του Αγίου Σάββα της Ιουδαίας ,πριν αρκετά χρόνια.Μα....δεν λειτούργησε άνθρωπος..αλλά άγγελος!!! Πως να τον πω;;; ασώματο,άυλο,παιδάκι μικρό,χαριτωμένο,αγγελουδάκι;;;......!!!!!".
Συχνά,του ζήταγα να μας παριστάνει ο γέροντας Σεραφείμ,πώς είχε λειτουργήσει ο γέροντας Εφραίμ στον Αγιο Σάββα.Εμιμείτο ακριβώς την αγγελική εκείνη ψιλή φωνούλα του,που σαν να έμοιαζε με μικρό παιδάκι.
Του άρεσε πολύ να τον παριστάνει......."Και υπεεεεέρ του καταξιωθήναι ημαααάς...ακούσωμεν του αγίου Ευαγγελίουυυυυυυυυυ,Ειρήηηηνη Πάαασιιιιιιιιιιι!!! Ηταν απολαυστικός να μας κάνει τον γέροντα Εφραίμ.
Τον θεωρούσε ,και φυσικά είναι,.....μεγάλος όσιος,οσιακή,ασκητική μορφή των χαλεπών ημερών μας,άγιος ήδη.............!!!!!!!
ΠΑΤΗΡ ΙΓΝΑΤΙΟΣ ΑΠΟ ΤΗΝ ΜΟΝΗ ΤΩΝ ΠΟΙΜΕΝΩΝ "Τι θυμάμαι από την προσωπική μου επαφή με τον γέροντα Εφραίμ;;;"
Τι θυμάμαι από την προσωπική μου επαφή με τον γέροντα Εφραίμ;;;
Τότε ερχόταν πάρα πολύ συχνά στο Τορόντο του Καναδά από το Άγιο Ορος.Ηταν ακόμα ηγούμενος στη Μονή Φιλοθέου.
Αγαπούσε και αγαπά πολύ την ομογένεια.Τον γνώρισα νομίζω,το 1988.Οταν τον πρωτοείδα....αυτό ήταν. Πήγα αμέσως για εξομολόγηση και από το πρωί.... μπήκα να τον δώ,το απόγευμα.
Είχα αριθμό 352 στη σειρά για να περάσω. Νόμιζα ότι ήμουν μπροστά σε άγγελο!!!! Δεν είπαμε τόσα πολλά,πιο πολύ προσευχόταν με το κομποσχοίνι του ,παρά, μου μιλούσε,είτε με κοιτούσε. Μου είπε να μην φύγω από τον Καναδά,προφανώς επειδή του είπα,ότι βλέποντάς τον θέλησα να γίνω μοναχός.
Ομως,πως να έμενα Καναδά;;; εκεί ,όχι μόνον δεν είχε μοναστήρια, αλλά ούτε τι είναι μονή ...δεν γνώριζαν!!! Εκείνος φυσικά γνώριζε ότι εκεί είχε μπόλικο έμψυχο υλικό,όπως μου ανέφερε,για να χτίσει τα 18-20 μοναστήρια που έκανε ,κυρίως στην Αμερική,αλλά δεν μου είχε πει τίποτε, για ίδρυση μονών!!!.Αν το ήξερα,...δεν θα έφευγα. Από τότε έγινα ...η σκιά του στις ομιλίες του.Στα κηρύγματά του στο ναό της Μεταμορφώσεως στο Pape Avenue-Τοronto που κήρυττε,δεν ήθελε κανένα φως.Συνήθως μιλούσε τα απογεύματα,που ήδη νύχτωνε ενωρίς, και ο ναός ήταν μόνον στο φως των καντηλιών.Ηταν όμως....αυτόφωτος!!! Εγώ έψαχνα να βρω εάν κάτω από το τραπεζάκι που του είχαν ,μπροστά στο ιερό,του είχαν βάλει κανένα φωτάκι από κάτω,ίσως κάποιο κρυφό φωτισμό,.....έψαχνα να δω...και δεν έβρισκα τίποτε!!!Μπα......,έλεγα μόνος μου,από πού φωτίζεται όλο του το πρόσωπο μέσα στο σκοτάδι;;;Εβλεπες και την παραμικρή σύσπαση του μορφής του,όταν μίλαγε,και την πιο ελάχιστη ρυτίδα του προσώπου του,αν είχε.Τελευταία φορά τον είδα το 1992,που τελείωσα τα ξενοδοχειακά που σπούδαζα ,και αναγκαστικά δεν είχα βίζα,και έπρεπε να αναχωρήσω.Αν θυμάμαι κάτι έντονα από τα πέντε χρόνια που έμεινα στον Καναδά...είναι μόνον ο άγιος γέροντας Εφραίμ,ο παππούλης μας!!!!
Κι αυτός έχει φωτογραφίες με ζωάκια,βλέπετε;;; Ισως από πνευματική συγγένεια και "πνευματικά γονίδια", να μου κόλλησε κι εμένα.Ομως θα του μοιάσω και σε κάτι άλλο;;;Εχουμε ανάγκη από θέωση και αγιασμό των ψυχών μας!!! Αχ παππουλάκο μας καλέ....πόσο ακόμα θα αναπνέεις σε τούτον εδώ τον μάταιο κόσμο;;;.....................
They surrender their lives to the “Geronta” or “Elder” or “Starets” trusting him to lead them to perfection and sanctification-”theosis”.
They always gaze toward the Cross of Christ seeking the strength and consolation of the Crucified and Risen Lord.
Through Prayer, Obedience and Humility they become “like Christ”. They crucify their flesh and their will so that they may transform themselves from fallen human beings to “transfigured children of God”.
As our two small buses rolled through the arid desert, my mind wondered “where on earth have they come to live?” Then, the oasis appeared suddenly ahead of us transforming the “coldness” of the land to a warm and welcoming embrace; I felt the heartbeat of the monastic prayer rising around me “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner,” and my heart was filled with joy of anticipation: What couldn’t come from five days in an Athonite-style monastery in the desert of Arizona? How will this experience affect us individually and as a group?
The buses drove into the dusty parking lot surrounded by ancient cactuses and “jumping joys” and stopped in front of the arched gateway that leads to the courtyard of the monastic settlement.
The group members quickly disembarked from the two buses and carried their luggage to the covered kiosk.
Sighing with relief (mission accomplished!), I deposited my things on the bench and took out my camera. The byzantine style church rising humbly into the crystal clear blue sky, while hiding shyly behind a mixture of desert and tropical trees and beautiful flowers, the black-clad monks coming up politely to offer us water and “loukoumi”, and the women of our group unrecognizable behind their head scarfs and long dresses, provided the backdrop of the setting that we were to become accustomed to for the next five days.
This was different, very different from whatever I had experienced in my last thirty years of traveling to monasteries. It was bound to be a unique experience.
A tall monk from Russia, in his early thirties (speaking fluent Greek)) showed us to our rooms. The women had to walk all the way to the outskirts of the desert settlement to two brand-new buildings where they shared rooms together. The men were led to the nearby guest house and I was taken to the “Episcopal residence”-a spacious apartment where the priests would stay in rooms with two beds each; the bishop’s section (where metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco stays when he visits here) was locked. The spacious kitchen and living-room soon became a gathering place for the visiting priests. As I entered the apartment I was greeted by Fr. Photios from the Pittsburgh Metropolis, a retired priest who was here since Saturday, waiting to see Fr. Ephraim, the Geronda. He offered to show me around and helped me get oriented.
At 3:30 pm the sound of the wooden “symandron” filled the air with its hoarse sounds; it was time for Vespers. I put on my Exorason and Kalimafki and headed for the “katholikon”.
The church was already crowded with pilgrims. Our group members quickly disappeared in the crowd. I took my seat next to Fr. Photios at the front left side where the guest-priests stand. The service of the ninth hour finished and the priest on duty moved from the back of the church to the royal gate; the Vespers began. I looked around searching for my wife’s god-son who lives here in this monastery as a monk, Fr. Vasilios. He was received into the Orthodox Church in Orlando and my wife became his sponsor some twenty five years ago. He later followed the route to Mount Athos, where he became an Orthodox monk. After several years on the Holy Mountain, Fr. Vasilios was asked by Geron Ephraim to return to the U.S. to serve in the newly founded monasteries here. He reluctantly obeyed.
Tonight, there he was at the left chanter’s stand singing the “Kekragaria”. His proficiency in Greek surprised me even more than his ability to chant in the Byzantine mode. He stands out as the first African American to serve on Mount Athos for so many years. His life is a testimony of the yearning of the human heart for the higher existence. I had not seen him in seventeen years, so a sense of joy filled my heart tonight. There he was, worshiping, singing and living in this ascetic setting.
At the conclusion of the Vespers, the monks sang the Paraklesis Service of St. John Chrysostom – today was the celebration of his memory (November 13).
We exited the church heading for the “Trapeza” (the Dining Hall). The priests sat on a table next to the abbot’s, the monks along the wall on one side, the men in the middle tables and the women along the wall on the other side. Prayers were offered and the meal began. A monk from the “amvon” of the refectory read aloud in a monotone voice about the life of St. John Chrysostom. We all ate quietly and waited for the abbot to ring the bell so that we can pour water in out stainless-steel cups to quench our thirsts. The food was plain (Monday is a fasting day for the monks), but it tasted so good-it always does in monasteries. I remember, we discussed this several times with George and Ted during my last trip to Mount Athos with them in 2004; there is no other explanation, we concluded, the prayers of the monks who prepare this food must be the reason why it tastes so good. Most of us would not eat this way at home and yet the food here tasted as if it was the best on earth. The bread, especially – four different kinds of it – fresh out of the oven, was unbelievably tasty.
Soon, the abbot rang the bell and we all stood for thanksgiving prayers. The monk who read throughout the meal descended from the amvon and headed to the abbot. After he received a blessing and a piece of bread the dinner was concluded with the “special prayer after a meal” and the abbot walked to the entrance of the “trapeza”, raised his right hand in the mode of blessing and blessed us all as we exited, first the priests, then the monks, the men and finally the women. After everyone came out, we followed the abbot back to the church for the reading of the Small Compline, followed by the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos. Evening services were over at about 6:15 pm and “lights out” would be at 8:00 pm.
We regrouped to evaluate our first experiences; a feeling of awkwardness hang over us. For most of the members of the group this was the first exposure to a monastic setting. The black attire of the monks, their long beards, their covered heads, the fast reading in church (all in Greek), but above all the distance the monks placed between them and us made most of us uncomfortable (I was later told by one of the monks that only few of them have permission to speak with the guests). One of the members of the group expressed that this awkwardness was almost a kind of fear of the monks. They were different. They were unusual. They were from a different world. I pointed out that this was a natural reaction. We were coming from a different world. This was a culture shock for us. Let’s give ourselves time to adjust.
We closed our meeting and headed for bed. I was exhausted. I arrived at the “Episcopal residence” to discover that I had a roommate, Fr. Theodoros. We quickly found out that our paths had crossed at the seminary during my last year at Holy Cross, when he joined the program himself. I felt like I knew him for ever. He expressed that same feeling too.
The “symandron” rang at 1:50 am,. In a matter of minutes we were in church. The Midnight service had already begun. I took my seat with the guest-priests as the monks moved into place, their dark silhouettes moving about quickly in the dimly lit church as they venerated the icons and took their seats on either side at the front of the church. The Fisrt Hour was followed by the Third Hour and then we entered the Orthros. The order of the services is a bit different at the monasteries; they follow the Typicon of St. Savvas. In the parishes we follow the Cathedral Typicon. The monasteries read extra Psalms, sing the Canon of the Feast and do the services of the Hours. The Sixth Hour followed the Orthros and then we entered the Divine Liturgy. This was the Feast of St. John Chrysostom and the services were richer in content as the great father of the Church was honored today.
All the monks lined up for Holy Communion. They have Liturgies every day, but they usually receive Holy Communion on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays after they had fasted strictly on the previous days (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Fasting is a constant askesis for them. They never eat meat and their diet is mostly vegetables, beans, olives and salads. Eggs and cheese are consumed on days of no fasting and fish or shell-fish on days of celebration.
I had asked our group not to go for Holy Communion today. We wanted to immerse ourselves in prayer and the monastic life for a couple of days, have Confession on Wednesday and then receive on Thursday. That would make Holy Communion more meaningful and raise our experience to a higher spiritual level.
Breakfast was available for us at about 5:30 am as we exited the Divine Liturgy. Eggs, cheese and milk were served, but the monks were not there. They have only two meals a day. By six o’clock we were finished. It was still dark outside and the stars shown brighter than I had seen in a long time. The group members agreed to meet at 10:30 am for a tour of the monastic settlement. We then headed back to bed to catch up on our missed sleep. There was a lot more to see and experience, but it all could wait.
Our rendezvous was at the kiosk by the main entrance. The women were all there, but the men had gone to the kitchen to help set up for lunch. The monks had asked them to lend a hand. The dining room had to be ready by 12:30 pm for over 150 people. The monastery was at full capacity. A bus of 55 Arab speaking Palestinian Christians from California had arrived late last night. Men, women and children accompanied by two priests, father and son, were here to stay for two nights. The monks have to feed everyone, prepare our beds, wash the sheets and towels, clean the rooms and also take care of the gardens. Some of them were working at the construction site of a new chapel on a nearby hill dedicated to prophet Elias.
The meal at lunch was delicious; baked salmon, potatoes, fresh bread and salad. This was a feast!
The group met after lunch to tour the campus. The men now had a different perspective than last night. The fear of the monks was gone. “They are cool guys, they are our friends,” one of them explained. “After working side by side with them and getting to talk to them, I feel very different.” The fear has been replaced by the warm feeling of friendship. The monastic setting is having an effect on hearts and minds. I am certain we will leave here deeply changed by the experience.
May an angel of God, my child, follow you and show you the path of God and of your salvation. Amen; so be it. I pray that God gives you health of soul, for this is a special gift of sonship which is bestowed only upon those souls that have been completely devoted to the worship and love of God.
The world attracts the youth like a magnet; worldly things have great power over the newly enlightened soul that just started to find its bearings and see its purpose in life and the duty calling him. “Friendship with the world is enmity with God. Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”  God has stored up pleausres for eternity, for both He and our soul are eternal. There is no comparison between the pleasures of the world and the pure pleasures of God.
The pleasures of the world are obtained with toil and expenses, and after their momentary enjoyment, they are followed by various consequences, so that they are incorrectly called pleasures. The pleasures of God, however, do not have such consequences, because spiritual pleasures down here on earth are the firstfruits of an eternal series of pleasures and delights in the kingdom of God. Whereas on the contrary, one who has been corrupted by the pleasures of the world is compelled to undergo eternal damnation along with the first instigator of corruption, the devil.
The time of our life, my child, has been given to us as a sum of money so that each of us may trade for his salvation, and depending on the trade we deal in, we shall become either rich or poor. If we take advantage of the “money” of time by trading to increase our spiritual wealth, then we shall truly be skilled traders, and we shall hear the blessed voice: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” 
At the end of our life, an exact account will be demanded of each one of us: how and where we spent the money of time, and woe to us if we have squandered it in movie theaters, in entertainments, in debauchery, in futile dreams, in carnal pleasures. Then what defense will our tied tongue be able to utter, and how will we be able to lift up our eyes and see our Christ, when He enumerates the countless benefactions which His boundless love profusely poured upon us?
Now that we have time, now that the money of time has not yet been spent completely and we still have it at our disposal, let us reflect sensibly on the vagrant world which seeks to rob us. Let us push it away like a putrid dead dog, and with that money let us run to buy precious works which, when tried by fire, will become very brightgifts worthy of our Holy God, fit to be used as a decoration in the holy Jerusalem of Heaven. We should not purchase chaff, that is, punishable works of darkness, for we shall go down with them into the eternal fire of damnation, where the multitude of people who embezzled God’s gifts will reap whatever they sowed! Sow good works with tears, and then in a time of visitation you will reap the sheaves of enjoying eternal life!
2. It is from God that you are being tested, because He is training you for battle; He is drilling you, just like the soldiers who are trained through severe labors in their drills. There, first they learn the theory of warfare, and then at the sound of the trumpet in the real war, since they have already been trained, they rush into the battle with the inner assurance that they know how to fight, and they are ready to sacrifice themselves for their cause and ideology.
You are also in a similar situation: since you have been called to become soldiers of Christ and to fight against His enemy, He trains you in order to ascertain your love towards Him: “Who is it that loves me, but he who keeps my commandments?”  Take courage, my children; remain loyal and dedicated to Him Who has loved you with perfect love.
Before a battle begins, the generals boost the soldiers’ spirits by singing various battle hymns and relating various stories of heroic deeds to kindle their sense of self-sacrifice. This tactic gives them great strength and bravery in the battle about to be fought.
Likewise, we too should contemplate, as the Saints did, the struggles of the martyrs and of the holy monks: how they lived ascetically, how they renounced the world and everyone, and how nothing prevented them from following the path that leads to Jesus. This contemplation will greatly strengthen your good disposition and intention, for there have been many who were unaware of the concealed traps, with the result that their souls succumbed to temptation and thus they fell from the hope of eternal life.
Contemplate the love of our Jesus; the love of Jesus will overpower every other natural love. The more we renounce, the more love of God we shall enjoy.
Let us attend on high, where Jesus sits at the right hand of God. Let our eyes look on high, for the eternal and everlasting things are above, not below; for everything here is dust and ashes. Reflect on the luxuriousness of heaven: the infinite wisdom of God is there; inconceivable beauty is there; the angelic melodies are there; the riches of divine love are there; the life free from pain is there; the tears and sighs will be taken away there; only joy, love, peace, an eternal Pascha, and an unending festival are there, “Oh, the depth of the riches and knowledge of God!”  “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 
Attend to the prayer; persevere in prayer, and it will put everything in order. Do not yield at all; remain firm in your holy goal. Remain beside Jesus to live with spiritual happiness. There is no happiness anywhere except in Christ. So-called “happiness” outside of Christ is incorrectly called happiness, since it is obtained with reprehensible means and since it ends quickly and leads man to the eternal unhappiness.
Struggle, my children; the angels are weaving crowns with flowers of paradise. Our Christ regards the struggle as a martyrdomwhat is more excellent than to be a martyr for Christ!
3. I received your letter, my child, and we all rejoiced at your firm desire and wonderful aspiration for monasticism. “I have chosen to be an outcast in the house of my God rather than to dwell in the tents of sinners.”  May no other love separate you from the love of Christ; consider everything rubbish so that you may gain Christ. The sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which will be given to those who struggle.  Now is the time for struggles, afflictions, and labors for God; whereas the future is the time for crowns of eternal glory, rewards, praises, and dwelling together with the holy angels beside the supreme throne of God.
Youth passes by silently; the years roll by quietly, imperceptibly, like the water in a creek; hours disappear like smoke in the wind. This is how the present life passes and vanishes. God’s strugglers advance toward eternal prizes of glory, whereas the indolent and lovers of the world proceed towards an eternal damnation with the demons.
The allurements of the world and its pleasures will transform into eternal affliction and pain for those who delight in them, if they do not repent. While on the contrary, for the people of God a little deprivation will be recompensed by an eternal felicity and blessedness of God.
Do not let familial affection hinder you; reflect that you will be alone in the hour of death, and then you will need to have God as a helper. So if you love Him more than them, you will have Him. But if you succumb, you will reap the crops of bitter remorse all on your own. So for the love of our Christ, make the decision and begin your new life.
4. (To a spiritual daughter)
Everything depends on your will. Entreat our Panagia very fervently to warm your holy desire, so that you decide with self-denial to renounce the vain world along with that dream which is called life, and to follow Christ the Bridegroom, Who will give you Himself and His sweetest love, and will count you worthy to become an heir of His kingdom. Entreat the Panagia to help you make the holy decision, and when she does, make the sign of the cross and follow the salvific voice of Jesus, saying: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” 
In the dreadful hour of death, no one will help us; only the good works that we have done for God and our soul will help us. Therefore, since the monastic life in general consists of Works of God which are very conducive to our soul’s salvation, why shouldn’t we sacrifice everything to live such a life which will make us rich in the kingdom of God? “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” 
The life of man hangs by a hair; at every step, our life hangs in the balance. How many millions of people woke up in the morning, never to see the evening? How many millions of people fell asleep, never to wake up? Indeed, the life of man is a dream. In a dream, one sees things that do not exist: he might see that he is crowned a king, but when he wakes up, he sees that in reality he is just a pauper.
In this life that we live, man labors to become rich, to become educated, to have an easy life, to become great; but unfortunately, death comes and foils everything. Then what he labored for all his life is taken by others, while he leaves life with a guilty conscience and a soiled soul. Who is wise and will understand these things and will renounce them and follow Christ the Bridegroom, so that all the works he will do will be recompensed infinitely in His kingdom?
Always, my daughter, remember death and the judgment of God which we will unavoidably undergo. Bear them in mind to have more fear of God, and weep for your sins, because tears console the soul of him who weeps.
5. My spiritual daughter, I pray that peace and divine joy may accompany your life. Amen.
I received your letter and saw your joy. I pray that this joy will be the firstfruits of a continual spiritual harvest, of a new life totally dedicated to the unrivaled love of God. Now you have experienced the fruits of the Spirit. If you were so invigorated by experiencing a little, how much more will you be invigorated when you find yourself in a completely spiritual environment!
Everywhere and until the end of our life we shall undergo temptations: even in a monastery, even in the wilderness, if we happen to be there. However, if we are far from the world we shall have the freedom to fight the battle in an open place, where we shall be able to gather spiritual reinforcements to help us, with high hopes of eternally winning the prize for which we have been called heavenward.  Here we have no continuing city, but we seek a future, eternal, glorious one!  The form of this world is passing away,  whereas he who does good works abides unto the ages.
Struggle, my child, with all your strength. Do not give joy to Satan by neglecting your duties, but give him bitterness by performing them with precision and eagerness. Satan will not stop shooting poisoned arrows at you with various thoughts, and especially with filthy thoughts. But prepare yourself to battle valiantly to obtain the unfading crown. As soon as a bad thought appears, immediately destroy the fantasy and say the prayer at once, and behold, your deliverance will come!
Do not be afraid when you see the battle, lest you lose your morale; but invoke the Almighty God and humble yourself very much. Rebuke yourself with the worst names and convince yourself that this is how you really are. And then from this point begin the battle with the prayer. Be careful, for the battle we conduct is not slight; we have to fight with principalities and powers, and it takes prudence and caution to fight well, for something good is not good if it is not done properly.
I pray that you have a good fight, and be careful with the people you keep company with….
With many prayers and blessings,
Your lowly Elder Ephraim Arizona