In the struggle for Christian virtue it is easy to lose hope and to stop struggling. Many a times do we say, ‘It’s just too hard!’ In today’s spiritual counsel Abba Zosimas reminds us that there comes a time in the spiritual struggle when we will be able to accomplish all good things without difficulty and toil. This is what Abba Zosimas has to say;
The Grace of God always follows close on our intentions and that with the help of Grace we succeed in accomplishing every good thing; yet we do not seek to make a start on doing good, nor do we display a great and eager intention to attract the Grace of God to help us. If we ever do manifest some intention to do good, this intention is paltry and sluggish and does not make us worthy to receive any good from God. Do we not know that all of our spiritual endeavours are reminiscent of a seed and the fruit that it bears? It is like the farmer who sows seeds on his land, but later awaits the mercy of God; God then proceeds to send His bounty with rains and favourable winds at the appropriate time, so that the seeds which the farmer threw into the earth may sprout, grow, and come to perfection. In this way, God helps him to gain many crops from a few seeds.
The same thing happens to us, too. Insofar as we sow an intention that is rich and generous in good deeds, then we shall find the Grace from God whereby we will henceforth be able to accomplish all good things without difficulty and toil. We see the same thing happen in the case of skills. He who comes to learn a skill toils at the beginning and experiences failure, and often comes close to despair; in spite of all this, however, he does not lose his resolve, nor is he discouraged, but he tries once more. However often he fails, at least as often he also seeks to correct himself, showing his good intention to the expert. For if he loses heart and withdraws, he will not learn anything; on the contrary, he will only become accustomed gradually to the skill and learn it perfectly when he displays patience and works with exertion and persistence, being corrected by the expert whenever he makes a mistake. After he has learned the skill well, then he performs his work with ease, so as to gain his livelihood from it.
He who wishes to attain some virtue should act in this way; that is, at the outset he should arm himself with bravery and show great resolve, and then should continue patiently doing what is good, ever calling on God to help and defend him. He should not be indifferent when he fails, or despair and abandon the attempt, because in that case he will never be able to accomplish anything good. He should get up, whenever he happens to fall, and increase his zeal through hope, awaiting God’s mercy with patience.
This is what Abba Moses had to say:
“The strength of those who wish to acquire the virtues is as follows: if they fall, let them not lose their courage, but let them be sure to make a new beginning at their endeavor. Insofar, then, as we put all our energy into practicing the virtues, let us await the Lord, showing Him a generous resolve and calling on His aid; and without fail He will strengthen us with His mercy and bestow His Grace on us in abundance, in which case we will accomplish every good easily and without exertion.”