Thursday, May 22, 2014

How Devoutness is Transmitted by Elder Paisios

- Elder, how can I acquire devoutness?

- The Fathers say that to acquire devoutness one must associate with devout people and observe how they behave.  When Saint Paisios the Great was asked, "How can I acquire the fear of God?" he answered, "you must associate with people who love God and have fear of God in their heart, so that you, too, may acquire such divine fear." This, of course, does not mean that you should do outwardly whatever you see others doing without feeling it within you, for this would not be true devoutness, it would be false.Anything false is abhorrent.  Devoutness is the Grace of God in man.  Whatever the devout person does,he does because he feels it in his heart.Of course, there is natural devoutness within us, but, if we don't cultivate it, the devil will use our forgetfulness to make us insensitive and not devout.  But the behaviour of the devout awakens devoutness in us again.

- Elder, why do the Fathers speak only of devoutness when they advise us to acquire it by associating with those who are devout? Why do they not say the same about other virtues also?

- Because devoutness is a transmittable virtue.  The movements and behaviour of a devout person are transmitted like perfume, provided the recipient possesses good will and humility.  And let me tell you, if one is not devout,one has nothing.  A devout person can clearly recognize all things sacred as they truly are, even though he may not be educated.  For example, he will not err in anything that has to do with divine meanings.  It is much like small children who do not have any negative thoughts about their father and mother, because they love and respect them, and are able to see clearly and properly what their parents are doing.  How much more so in this case, where we have to do with God.  Who is incomparable and perfect in all things! One who is not devout falls into errors and falsehoods regarding the doctrine of the faith.  I can see what errors are made when those who are not devout write interpretations and commentaries on the sacred texts of Holy Scripture.

All spiritual things require devoutness and heart.  When everything begins with devoutness, everything is sanctified.Specifically, in order to write a Service for a Saint, one must love the Saint,and have reverence and devoutness for that Saint, so that everything one writes will be heartfelt and exude authentic devoutness.  When one reaches a state of divine eros, divine madness,the verses flow naturally from within.

- What else can help us acquire devoutness?

- Study with the mind everything that is sacred and truly digest these readings, but also make use of any opportunities afforded;this will gradually awaken devoutness in us.  For instance, if I have the chance to pass by a Church to pray and I don't take it, I am deprived of Grace.  But if I want to go and something prevents me then I am not deprived of Grace, because God sees my good intention.  Much help in acquiring devoutness is also found in becoming familiar with the Saints of our region, our country, so that we can love them and feel a link with them.God rejoices when we love the Saints and show devotion to them.And if we show devotion to the Saints, our devotion to God will of course be greater!

- Elder, what can help us to move about in Church with devout reverence?

- When you set out to go to the Church, you should say to yourself, "Where am I going? I am now entering the House of God.  What do I do? I revere the holy Icons and I worship God Himself. "From your monastic cell or from your assigned obedience, you go to the Church.  From the Church you go to Heaven and beyond Heaven to God himself.

- How is this done?

- The Church is the "House"of God.  And our own true home is in Paradise.Here the nuns are chanting. There the Angels, the Saints...If we politely knock at the door, wipe our feet, and sit reservedly upon entering a worldly home, how are we then to behave when we enter the House of God where Christ is being sacrificed?With one drop of divine Blood He once redeemed us from sin, and now continues to heal us with kilos of His Blood and to nurture us with His all-Holy Body.Therefore, when we recall all these awe-inspiring divine events, it helps us to move about in the Church devoutly.But I see in the Divine Liturgy, even when the priest says, Let us lift up our hearts, and we respond, We have lifted them up to the Lord, few are those who truly raise their mind to the Lord Jesus Christ! Perhaps it is better for us to pray with our mind, "May our hearts be raised to the Lord, "Because both our mind and our heart have a tendency to be drawn downward.  Otherwise, we are lying when we say, "We have raised them to the Lord," when in fact our mind is not there at all.  Of course, if our heart is indeed turned toward Heaven, then everything will surely go toward Heaven.

- How does it help to chant with contrition?

- Keep your mind focused on the divine meanings of the hymns and approach them devoutly;don't grasp the divine meanings as literature, but with your heart.Devoutness is one thing, and art-the art of chanting-another.  Art without devoutness is-paint.  When the chanter chants devoutly, the chanting overflows from his heart,and he chants with contrition.  When one is in a wholesome spiritual state, everything will be all right.  This is why one must be well-ordered inside to be able to chant with his heart, with devoutness,in order to actually chant with contrition.If someone has negative, inappropriate thoughts, what kind of chanting can he possibly offer? He cannot possibly chant with the heart.  Why does the Sacred Scripture say, Is any among you cheerful? Let him chant praise. When Saint John Koukouzelis once chanted, while pasturing the goats, the goats got up and stood upright. This is how people realized that he was indeed Koukouzelis, the chanter of the imperial court.  Whatever you do, do it with your heart, and do it for Christ.Put devoutness even into your embroidery, for it will be used with sacred vessels, and even those you make for the katzion*.  When someone is devout,his spiritual beauty is apparent in everything he does; it shows in his reading and in his chanting, even in his mistakes.

- In his mistakes?

- Yes, you can see that even the mistakes a devout person happens to make will profess devoutness, a certain kind of modesty.

*Katzion - A large censer used to cense the Church, at certain points in the liturgical services

Taken from the book Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Spiritual Counsels Vol 2 "Spiritual Awakening"