Thursday, March 31, 2016

The athlete is tested by the stadium, the captain by the storm and tempest, the general by the battle, the magnanimous by misfortune, and the Christian by temptation

 My blessed child in Christ, I am praying that the great Physician of souls and bodies grant you your full health, in accordance with His holy will. There were holy men, my child, who were gravely ill, yet in their illness they healed others. Oh, how much God loved them! 

An exceptional sign of God’s love for a soul is when He saddles it with illnesses or afflictions. Pain of body or soul purifies, cleanses, and brightens the garment of the soul from every stain of sin. There was one holy monastic father who was always ill. It happened once that he was not ill for a period of time, and he complained, saying: “Ah, my God, why didst Thou forget me and not consider me worthy of Thy visitation?” This blessed man yearned for illnesses because he knew from his experience how much the soul benefits from them. 

Pain brings the unrepentant sinner to repentance, whereas for the righteous, it fortifies the strength of his soul and becomes a mighty wall around him so that he does not stray into sin. Just as a sick person gladly submits himself to the painful treatment of the doctor because he knows his aim, similarly we should endure with gratitude and knowledge all things that befall us involuntarily as sent from the kind hand of God for our salvation. 

“The athlete is tested by the stadium, the captain by the storm and tempest, the general by the battle, the magnanimous by misfortune, and the Christian by temptation,” says St. Basil the Great. Just as the earth becomes productive when the plow tills it deeply, likewise the soul becomes fruitful in virtues when pain and illness visit it frequently and intensely! 

The more pain and affliction a person has, the more beautiful his crown becomes. And if there are many and various pains that oppress him, then the crown of glory is adorned with many flowers and pearls. Gold has to pass through the furnace to become purified, and the soul of a Christian has to pass through the furnace of temptations to receive the seal of eternal glory in the royal treasury of Christ the King. 

If holy and blessed people passed through the furnace of pain and were benefited, how much more pain suits us and how much benefit we will derive from it when we endure it with knowledge and gratitude! It is when we see pain oppressing us, physically or spiritually, that we should consider that we are loved by God and that He has placed us in the ranks of His chosen. 

O blessed chastening of the Lord, I love you. But I am unworthy of such a gift, for I live in comfort and shall become a victim of the eternal fire. So, my child, I envy you because you are suffering and will obtain eternal repose! Your crown is decorated and beautified for your eternal glory! Endure for the Lord’s sake until the end. Bear your cross well lest you drop it, and you can be sure that you will be glorified with Christ eternally! Pray for me, too, lest I be shut out of paradise as one who does not practice what he preaches.

Elder Ephraim of Arizona