Patience will open the gates of Paradise

Elder Ephraim of Arizona: (from Counsels from the Holy Mountain)

Note: this was recently emailed to us by the sisters of Saint John the Forerunner, along with a note of encouragement.

How much loss a person suffers when he forgets his sonship and does not reflect that he is disciplined as a child of God! Love imposes, on genuine parents, an absolute and indispensable duty to exercise discipline on their children. Therefore, since God is our Father, He disciplines His own
children to educate them and make them partakers of His holiness.

“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of His reproof.” (Prov. 3:11) So the Christians’ forgetfulness of their own Father, God, is a great evil; for when the paternal rod strikes them (sufferings, afflictions, trials, etc.), they despair; ten thousand thoughts overcome them and their discipline becomes very toilsome, without any consolation. How beautifully the Apostle Paul says to us, “You have forgotten,” he says, “the exhortation which addresses you as sons.’ (Heb. 12:5) We have forgotten, he says, the consoling counsel which God addresses to us as His children.

Even Christ, when He was on earth, the beloved Child of the Father, was tried in the discipline of the Lord; not that He, the sinless God, needed it, but for the salvation of man and for our admonition and example, so that we would follow His footsteps: “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou dost will; Thy will be done.” (Mt. 26:39, 6:10)

How then will we justify ourselves, when our Christ, without having committed any sin-for He was God-went through such fearful sufferings? Reflect on the stupendous condescension of the infinite God: He became Man and suffered such a shameful Passion for the sake of us, the sinful, guilty and condemned; He was slapped in the face; they scourged Him, reviled Him, crucified Him; He died the most evil death: “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”! (Deut. 21:23) He, as God, suffered so much for us sinners; what excuse do we have if we do not endure one trial out of love for Him, or at least for our sins?

Why are you sorrowful and glum while walking along the way of God? Those who have forgotten God, who have no hope in the living and eternal fountain of God, should grieve. But we, who believe in the living God and whose hope depends upon Him, ought to rejoice that we have such a Father in the heavens, Who loves us more than all fathers and mothers and Who takes infinite care to render us worthy of Him.

God has given us spiritual weapons to fight against every satanic attack: the glorious banner of the cross of hope, living hope in Him Who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5), hope in our Christ, who was hanged on the Cross, and all who look upon Him and hope in Him will not be put to shame. The all-immaculate Blood which was poured out on the Cross pardoned the sins of mankind and poured forth life. “Blessed is the man who hopes in Him.” (cf. Ps. 33:8)

Take courage, my child; this grief of yours will turn into joy. This grief produces great good for you; it surrounds you as with a breastplate of iron, so that the evil darts of attachment to earthly things do not tear your mind away from the concern for heavenly things and for your immortal soul. Concerning the sorrow which you have in your soul because of your sins, it is good and beneficial.

Only when it leads you to despair, then it is clearly demonic. Immediately turn toward hope and say: “Since I repent for everything, I hope that everything I have done is forgiven. There is no sin which surpasses the compassion of God. However great the sins may be, when they come to repentance they are dissolved. Oh, the depth of the humility, forbearance, and compassion of the Lord!” May all those who are laden with a heavy sentence take courage, for there is a God Who does not consider whatever evil we may have done to Him. He forgives all sins, if only we sincerely repent. Endure the trials, my child, and it will turn out well for you. Patience – yes, patience: this will open the gates of Paradise for us!