Saint Sophrony of Essex (+July 11, 1993) is one of the most beloved orthodox Christian elders of our times. In this rare audio recording he talks about our daily struggle to live without sin.
The greatness of monastic vocation (Essex Monastery, December 9th, 1991)
Audio source: youtube.com/watch?v=dzrd2Nd6A8E
English translation adapted after the Romanian version of Fr. Rafail Noica, Cuvantari Duhovnicesti I (21).
Today I would like to speak in more detail. Sin is every thought that doesn’t correspond to the spirit of the evangelical commandments. And we have to get away from it. But how can we get away?
When the work of a certain thought manifests in us, then we cry out:
“Lord, heal my mind! Lord, heal my heart! Lord, heal me whole! You see how painful is when the thought, which doesn’t even make sense, torments me like a slave. I pray You, protect me! You know that I have no other desire than to live according to Your commandments. Your commandment is the highest law of my whole being: both temporary and eternal. You inspired me to love Your commandments. You gave me Your light, in order to see the beauty of the divine life. And now, save me from the power of passionate lust!”
This is how we can begin the conversation with God, against the passions. Sometimes it can be a monologue, other times it takes the form of a dialogue. An example of one of the rarest dialogues in the life of the Universal Church is found in Saint Silouan [the Athonite]:
When he was overwhelmed by the attacks of the enemies, with all the power of his soul, wanting to pray with a clear mind, he said to Christ:
“You see that I wish to pray to You, but the enemies won’t let me.”
The Lord answered:
“The proud always suffer like this.”
And then – dialogue:
“Lord, teach me how to humble myself!”
And the answer, gentle, but truly tragic, and more than tragic:
“Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not!”
And this refers to the knowledge of how we can spend our day or night without sin. Every human passion, because it belongs to the created world, has its form, image and energy. The high mind guides us, helped by the grace, in the unseen war with the enemy, and thus, through such a prayer – monologue or dialogue – we get out of the conversation with the enemy and we enter into conversation with God himself.
It is this transition from conversation with the enemy to conversation with God which is important! And if we keep talking to God, then, of course, God becomes the content of our lives. And He Himself, through Himself, is the Eternal Life, which never diminishes. And no matter what passion we struggle with, whether it be with bodily passion, either with the love of money, or with the love of power, or with the love of comfort, and so on – no matter, the principle remains essentially the same:
Do not surrender your mind to the enemy!