By: Elder Paisius the Athonite
Naturally, the Saints struggled, each one in his own spiritual way, and are now helping us, each one again in his own holy way. They speak to each soul in its own language, in that which it can understand, in order for it to be profited.
All Saints struggled for the love of Christ. The Holy Martyrs shed their blood, the Righteous Fathers shed their sweat and tears, performed spiritual experiments on themselves, like good botanists*, and were embittered out of their love for the image of God. They left us their spiritual recipes, so as to forestall evil or cure a pre-existing spiritual illness, acquire health, and, if we have enough philotimo (love of honour) to imitate them in their struggles, we can even become saints.
All the struggles of the monastic Saints, fasting, vigils, etc. and the torments which all the Holy Martyrs endured cannot, of course, be compared with the Passion of our Lord, for Christ divinely helped all of them, sweetening their pains by His great love. As a result, the executioner’s knife on their neck felt to them to be sweeter than the violin’s bow. For Himself, however, Christ did not use His divine power at all and suffered great pain on His sensitive body out of His great love for His creatures. Only when man experiences this kind of love will he be likewise a true human being internally. Otherwise, he will be even more insensitive than the creation, for even the sun sensed the Lord’s Passion and hid itself, not withstanding the sight of it. The earth was frightened when it beheld it. The stones were shattered to pieces. The graves shook so strongly that they woke up the long since departed and led them out of the tombs to witness against the ungrateful behaviour of men towards their God, Benefactor and Redeemer.
Therefore, since we did not offer anything of our own to Christ, let us at least not embitter Him, but rather let us offer Him our gratitude and commemorate with great piety His Holy Passion. Furthermore, let us also celebrate the memory of our Saints, who shed blood, sweat, and tears for the love of Christ, that we might be helped. When we hear their lives read in the Synaxarion- “on this day we commemorate our Holy Father…”- let us stand up with reverence like the soldiers do when the names of their heroic brothers fallen in battle are being read aloud.
* Fr. Paisius compared the Righteous Fathers with good botanists, who try various herbs in order to detect their therapeutic qualities. Sometimes, they inevitably taste the bitterness of certain herbs.
Excerpt taken from the book:
Elder Pasisios of Mount Athos, Epistles