“If a man does not die in a position of being alive, then the entire creation suffers”

I recommend a state of inner joy, from within, from the heart, a state which means unceasing prayer. A state of true joy, detached from the problems of life, the problems of the paths of life, of one person or another. A state of joy, no matter what. If there is sadness, the eggs of the devil are brooding. It’s a state of absence, of darkness. If a man does not die in a position of being alive, of ascension, of being a pillar, then the entire creation suffers. We are part of a great union; the whole of God’s creation is a union. If we break away from the great union, we are in a position of canceling, of self-canceling. So, I recommend a position of being alive. For the tragedy of the whole world must be felt as our own sins. And, the state of prayer means a state of presence. As a spiritual father who speaks all day to people who need uprightness, I do not recommend ascetic struggles. I recommend a state of permanent presence, which means to acknowledge the good forces within.

Elder Arsenie Papacioc

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13 Responses to “If a man does not die in a position of being alive, then the entire creation suffers”

  1. Rhonda says:

    “As a spiritual father who speaks all day to people who need uprightness, I do not recommend ascetic struggles. I recommend a state of permanent presence, which means to acknowledge the good forces within.”

    Perhaps I’ve missed something, but how does one do this without the ascetic struggles?
    Thanks, Father 🙂

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  2. Such joy! Thanks

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  3. Andy says:

    Father,
    With all due respect to Elder Papacioc, this sounds to me little different from New Age mumbo- jumbo. Am I missing something?

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      I’m quite sure that it ain’t New Age mumbo-jumbo; but given that I am failed ascetic, I’m afraid I don’t have any further insight, though I welcome the positive thrust of what Elder Papacioc seems to be saying. Perhaps Fr Stephen might have a word for us.

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    • Indeed, sounds of mumbo-jumbo to me. I never trust someone telling me that there is a way of unending happiness this side of the grey, since even Christ Himself wept (more than once) and exclaimed several times. Perfect love finds its purpose is most often suffering in this life.

      But then masochists certainly think they are happy.

      Many great saints do not appear “happy” by any modern use of that word. Perhaps there are different sorts of saints. 🙂

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  4. Karen says:

    This put me in mind of the account in Nehemiah 8:1ff,, especially vss. 9-10. I suspect the Elder would acknowledge the essential place of ascetic labor that is spurred on by the grace of God, the kind of “erotic” pull of God’s love that Elder Porphyrios talks about in Wounded by Love (and which cannot fail to produce joy). I suspect he is only seeking here to discourage the kind of asceticism that relies on pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps, which is driven by an unhealthy and vainglorious self-focus and self-flagellation (to which I admit being prone), rather than love for God. Elder Porphyrios also also talks about “not forcing” prayer and ascetic labor, but rather focussing on awareness of God in His love and allowing our responsive love (“eros”) for God to drive our prayer life. (Perhaps Fr. Stephen Freeman can confirm/clarify–I believe he’s quite familiar with Elder Porphyrios’ teachings.) It seems to me the Elder here is teaching that the key to prayer (as union with God) is not our self-effort, but rather awakening to the movements of the grace of the Holy Spirit within our own hearts.

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    • Mark says:

      Karen, this was my thought as well. Of course there is no way to unite with Christ apart from his cross- but our “efforts” to struggle or suffer for Chirst can stir up all sorts of passions that sever the effort from the fruit.
      My spiritual father worked his greatest healing in me by telling me not to fast or to pray at all, except when I wanted to (this, during a Nativity Fast!). This was so hard for me; disorienting and disappointing at first (b/c I found I didn’t want to very often at all!). But it was exactly what I needed; it broke my former passionate (false) asceticism which was rooted in “proving” myself to God (and to myself). Father also told me to only pray this: “Abba, Father, God loves me.” This slowly worked to make God’s love for me central, and what little desire I had to pray and fast followed my attraction to this love.

      Thanks for bringing back that memory. 🙂
      Love;
      -Mark Basil

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  5. Caroline says:

    I wonder if it’s the ‘direction’ that a person is facing that is important — not so much the complete absence of ascetic struggles as the lack of focus on them, as Paul says in Galatians 5:16, ‘walk by the Spirit and you will not fulfil the desires of the flesh’. ‘Walking by the Spirit’ is surely a state of presence, ‘a position of being alive’.

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  6. jrj1701 says:

    Some warn that ascetic life is calling, and that the struggles of the ascetic should not be taken on without first consulting those who live the ascetic life. There are tricks and pitfalls and yet also great rewards along the way and it is the path least taken for good reason.

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  7. He never used the word “happiness”. He speaks of joy. The author of Hebrews say that Jesus endured the cross because of the joy set before him. Happiness comes and goes, joy is transcendent, a fruit of the Spirit. Joy can exist in great sorrow. Union with God is the goal of the saints.

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