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February 28, 2016

Like the Prodigal Son, We Must Come to our Senses (St. Paisios the Athonite)

St. Paisios the Athonite said the following:

God is very near us, but also very high. In order for someone to have God bend to descend and remain with them, they must be humbled and repent. Then, the greatly-compassionate God, beholding their humility, lifts them up to the Heavens and loves them greatly. There is joy in heaven over the repentance of a sinner, says the Gospel.

God granted people a mind to contemplate their faults, to repent and to seek forgiveness. The unrepentant person is a hardened thing. They are very senseless, because they do not wish to repent, in order to eliminate the small hell that they are experiencing now, which leads to something worse, the eternal. Thus, they are barren of heavenly joys on earth, which continue in Paradise, near God, where there are much greater joys, eternal ones.

As long as a person is far from God, they are outside of themselves. See how the Gospel says that the Prodigal Son "came to himself," saying: "I will go to my Father." In other words, when he came to his senses, when he repented, he said: "I will return to my Father." As long as he was living in sin, he was outside of himself, he was not in his right mind, because sin is irrational.

- Elder, Abba Alonios says: "If a man wishes, he can reach a divine measure from morning until the evening." What does he mean?

The spiritual life does not require time. In one second, one can be found in Paradise from hell, if they repent. People are responsible. They can become an angel, they can become a devil. My, my, my, what power repentance has! It attracts divine Grace.

A humble thought that a person brings to mind can save them. A prideful thought can come to their mind, and if they do not repent, death will find them, they are gone, they are lost. Of course, the humble thought must be followed with internal sighs, with internal contrition. Because the thought is a thought, but there is also the heart. The hymnographer says: "With all my soul and mind and heart...". I think, however, that the Abba is thinking here of a more permanent state. It requires some time, in order for one to reach a good state.

If I err, then I repent, and I am forgiven that instant. If I have a struggling spirit, slowly I will achieve a more stable situation, but until then, I can be swayed.

- Elder, can an older person help themselves spiritually?

Yes, barely, for when someone gets old, they are granted the strength to repent, because all illusions flee. Formerly, because they had bodily strength and nothing was difficult for them, they did not understand their weaknesses and they thought that they were in a good state. Now that they have difficulties and grumble, they are helped to understand that they are not well, that they are limping, that they must repent. If they spiritually utilize the few remaining years of their life, and if they use their experience that shows that most of the years of their life have passed him by, [they will learn that] Christ will not leave them, He will have mercy on them.

Source: From the book Saint Paisios the Athonite: Spiritual Struggle (vol. 3). Translated by John Sanidopoulos.