My child, since your elder has experience with prayer, there is no danger of being deluded. Do as your elder tells you, and don't feel sad if grace comes and goes. For this is how it trains a person to think humbly and not become arrogant. In the beginning, this is how an infant acts. "Woe to thee, O city, when thy king is a child," say the Holy Scriptures. "Woe to thee, O soul, when thy nous is a beginner in these things!" (Eccl. 10:16)

The nous, my child, cannot remain motionless, especially the nous of the one who is spiritually weak. One moment he needs reading, another moment chanting, later silence. When a person is silent, the nous finds the opportunity to meditate on various themes from the Scriptures which he had read previously. So when you give the nous whatever it likes that is good, it gains strength, just as the body does when it receives healthy food. But when you give it just anything, then it is darkened instead of being enlightened. Likewise, when it is tired it needs rest.

In this manner, it learns to discern the good from the bad. Thus the nous becomes all light, all clarity. It sees the soul's purity. It sees the thorns. It endures temptations. Grace increases. The body is cleansed of passions. The soul becomes peaceful. And finally, everything comes in succession as if chained together, quickly and without much toil. This is all the result of perfect obedience. Furthermore, you should know that he who has perfect obedience is totally free from cares.

Now then, the nous is the steward of the soul that carries its food - that is, whatever you give it. So when it is at peace and you give it the good things it wants, it lowers them into the heart. First of all, the nous is cleansed from whatever predispositions it was obsessed with in the world. It is disentangled from the cares of life, and by constantly saying the prayer, it completely stops wandering. And then you realize that it has been purified, because it no longer inclines towards the evil and filthy things which it had seen or heard in the world. Afterwards, through the prayer that is going in and out of the heart, the nous clears a path and expels all indecency, evil, and filth from the heart. For the nous declares war against the passions and against the demons, who arouse the passions and who have been lurking in the heart for so many years without anybody seeing or knowing about them. But now that the nous has acquired purity - its original garment - it sees them and, like a watch-dog, barks, howls, and fights with them as lord and guard of the entire intellectual part of the soul. It wields the name JESUS like a weapon and flogs the enemies, who also are barking like wild dogs, until it throws them all out to the periphery of the heart. Then the nous begins to clean up all the filth and dirt with which the demons had defiled us every time we assented to do anything evil and sinful. It proceeds to fight with the demons in order to drive them out and remove them entirely, so that they do not disturb it at all. And it constantly struggles to throw out the filth which they constantly throw in. Then, as a good steward, it carries provisions suitable for the enlightenment and health of the soul.

In all of this, purifying grace assists. The one praying is covered under the protection of obedience as if he were in the shade. He is guarded by the grace of him who has assumed the responsibility of his soul before God. And slowly the change of the Most High occurs. In short, once the demons have been completely banished and the inner heart has been purified, the defilement ceases. The nous is enthroned upon the heart as a king and rejoices like a groom with his bride in the bridal chamber. He celebrates with a holy, peaceful, pure joy. He says the prayer effortlessly. And then grace acts freely and shows his nous the promises that he expects to receive as a reward, if he carries out his obligations without fail. Once grace has come upon him, he is henceforth calm and peaceful, and it raises him to theoria in proportion to the foundation's capacity.

So it is primarily the fear of God, faith, perfect obedience, and self-denial that bring all these good things. Then a person attains blessed love and finally dispassion, so that evil is no longer active in his nous; rather, he cries out from the depths of his heart, "My soul thirsted for Thee, my God! When shall I come and appear before Thy holy countenance?" (Ps. 41:2) And he awaits death as the greatest joy; he awaits the time when these eyes will close and the other ones will open, whereby he will see everything with joy forever.

Therefore exert yourself, my child, exert yourselves in blessed obedience where all these good things lie, and live as one soul in different bodies. Then the elder is relieved and has time to pray for you with all his soul and is full of joy and delight.

+ Elder Joseph the Hesychast +

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