Have you ever boiled water? Did any flies land on it?
Then you know how to respond to temptation and defeat the adversary. Keep it in mind!
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So, then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:6-15
How is this to be?
“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Matthew 22: 35-40
These are the Lord’s commandments, his answer to the legalist who tempted Him as we do when we want to avoid what He has plainly said.
Venerable Pimen the Great
Pimen was an Egyptian by birth and a great ascetic of Egypt. As a boy, he visited the most renowned spiritual men and, from them, gathered tangible knowledge as a bee gathers honey from flowers. In time, Pimen was tonsured a monk and attracted two of his brothers to the monastic life as well. In the monastery of these three brothers, governed by Abba Anubis, Pimen’s eldest brother, this was their Rule: at night, they spent four hours of working with their hands, four hours of sleep and four hours of reading the Psalter. During the day, from morning until noon, they spent in alternating work and prayer; from noon until Vespers they spent reading and, in the afternoon, they prepared supper for themselves the only meal in twenty-four hours and that usually consisted of some vegetables. Concerning their life, Pimen himself speaks: “We ate that which was given to us. No one ever said: ‘Give me something else or I do not want that.’ In this manner, we spent our entire life in silence and peace.” Pimen lived a life of mortification as an ascetic in the fifth century and died peacefully at an old age.
Out of this labor of love and prayer was wisdom born, which has been passed down to us. Remember the question at the beginning about boiling water? St. Pimen said, “Upon boiling water flies do not land and from a warm soul, the devils flee.” Pimen labored to keep his soul warm (very warm!). We can at least keep ours warm enough to discourage flies.
Love God. Love your neighbor. You have been given light. Don’t cover it over with the darkness of unrestrained passions.
Perhaps you have filled your pot with a dark brew of anger, lust, envy, etc. Don’t just put it on to boil, hoping it will improve while you continue to dump dark stuff into it. Toss it out and put in the water of repentance – perhaps even tears and sweat – the water of your labors for good – especially prayer. Every time you turn to prayer, every time you come to church, every labor of fasting and kindness puts pure water in your pot, water that can be heated by the Holy Spirit, from which devils flee and to which angels are attracted.
We have been given light, but we have this treasure in very earthen vessels – that the excellency of power may be of God, and not of us. Nonetheless, our cooperating labor is necessary. God gives us all the help, challenges, inspiration, and mercy we need to make progress. Are we to refuse the gifts of the one who created us and gave us life? I admit that sometimes they don’t look like gifts; they are not what we would like nor have asked for. Then we must remember that God always has heaven in mind and the eternal life of the soul, not just parking spaces and good health on earth.
If you feel darkness encroaching, indifference or anger or depression, recognize that our adversary is trying to come in. Lift your gaze to heavenly things. Brush the evil one aside and embrace someone, help someone, love someone, give to someone. Remember something for which you are or could be grateful. Celebrate eternal life and light, love God and your neighbor. Warm your heart and soul and give no place for flies to land.
This message was given by Fr. Stevan Bauman at Joy of All Who Sorrow on Sunday, September 9, 2018.