Thursday, December 12, 2013

St. John of Kronstadt on Divine Providence

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior, the open Gospel says: "I am the way, the truth and the life..." (source)
St. John of Kronstadt on Divine Providence (Excerpts compiled from: My Life in Christ)
If God does not leave a blade of grass, a flower, or a small leaf of a tree without His good providence, will He leave us? O, let every man be convinced with his whole heart that God is true to Himself in His providence for even the least of His creatures. Let him understand that the Creator invisibly dwells in all His creatures. In the words of our Saviour, God clothes the grass of the field, feeds the fowls of the air.[52]

We must trust in God in all temptations, in all desolate conditions of the soul. The Lord will deliver.

Give yourself up entirely to God's providence, to the Lord's Will, and do not grieve at losing anything material, nor in general at the loss of visible things; do not rejoice at gain, but let your only and constant joy be to win the Lord Himself. Trust entirely in Him: He knows how to lead you safely through this present life, and to bring you to Himself — into His eternal Kingdom. From want of trust in God's providence many and great afflictions proceed: despondency, murmurings, envy, avarice, love of money or the passion for amassing money and property in general, so that it may last for many years, in order to eat, drink, sleep and enjoy; from want of trust in God's providence proceed in particular afflictions such as arise, for instance: from some loss of income through our own oversight, from the loss of objects, specially valuable and necessary, as well as immoderate joy at recovering some objects, or at receiving some large income or gain, or some profitable place or employment. We, as Christians, as "fellow citizens with the Saints and of the household of God,"[574] ought to commit all our life, together with all its sorrows, sicknesses, griefs, joys, scarcities and abundance unto Christ our God.

Bear with humble submission to the will of God every sorrow, every sickness and infirmity, every labour, every offence and disappointment, saying: "Thy Will be done,"[1360] knowing that God's mercy orders everything for your good, and that the Lord can easily change every disappointment into happiness and joy.

"That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us."[522] What separates us from God and each other? Money, food, and drink — this dust, this dross, this corruption. Why? Because we have not living Christian trust and faith in God. We do not know, or we forget, that man's true life is love for God and his neighbour. Setting our life upon dust and trusting in it, we do not render to the Heavenly Father the glory that is due to Him, by putting our whole trust in Him, by casting all our care upon Him, as His faithful children in Christ should do. "If then I be a Father, where is Mine honour? [523] Where is your trust in Me? Where is your love for Me? Where is your detachment from earthly, corrupt things, and your hearty desire for the heavenly, spiritual, and eternal ones?

When you are disturbed and depressed by the wickedness of men, remember how boundlessly you are beloved by the Almighty and All-righteous God, Who suffers the evil until the time comes, and then will justly punish it. You cannot master yourself, your tongue, or one single member of your body. Judge by this what He must be, Who governs the whole world, Who keeps it in such wonderful order, Who governs the whole of mankind, evil, perverted as we are, ever ready as we are to destroy each other, and yet meanwhile more prosperous than needy under His sovereignty. How almighty and wise must He be to govern such heterogeneous multitudes! Trust in Him entirely.

"Thy will be done." For instance, when you wish and by every means endeavour to be well and healthy, and yet remain ill, then say: "Thy will be done." When you undertake something and your undertaking does not succeed, Say: "Thy will be done." When you do good to others, and they repay you by evil, say: "Thy will be done." Or when you would like to sleep and are overtaken by sleeplessness, Say: "Thy will be done." In general, do not become irritated when anything is not done in accordance with your will, but learn to submit in everything to the Will of the Heavenly Father. You would like not to experience any temptations, and yet the enemy daily harasses you by them; provokes and annoys you by every means. Do not become irritated and angered, but say: "Thy will be done."

It is never so difficult to say from the heart, "Thy Will be done, Father," as when we are in sore affliction or grievous sickness, and especially when we are subjected to the injustice of men, or the assaults and wiles of the enemy. It is also difficult to say from the heart "Thy Will be done" when we ourselves were the cause of some misfortune, for then we think that it is not God's Will, but our own will, that has placed us in such a position, although nothing can happen without the Will of God. In general, it is difficult to sincerely believe that it is the Will of God that we should suffer, when the heart knows both by faith and experience that God is our blessedness; and therefore it is difficult to say in misfortune, "Thy Will be done." We think, "Is it possible that this is the Will of God? Why does God torment us? Why are others quiet and happy? What have we done? Will there be an end to our torments?" And so on. But when it is difficult for our corrupt nature to acknowledge the Will of God over us, that Will of God without which nothing happens, and to humbly submit to it, then is the very time for us to humbly submit to this Will, and to offer to the Lord our most precious sacrifice — that is, heartfelt devotion to Him, not only in the time of ease and happiness, but also in suffering and misfortune; it is then that we must submit our vain erring wisdom to the perfect Wisdom of God, for our thoughts are as far from the thoughts of God "as the heavens are higher than the earth."[317]

"For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory," not ours. We ourselves should like to reign with our passions — that is, to order everything as we like, to trust to our own power, and not to Thine, to seek our own glory, and not Thine; but this is the Devil's wish in us. We ought to submit everything to Thy will, seek in all matters Thy power, and do everything for Thy glory. "Do all to the glory of God."[756]

"Let it be as I will, and not as thou wilt." Such is the mighty voice of God, which our soul ever hears when it has fallen into sin and desires to emerge from a state of spiritual, sinful affliction. "Let it be as I will: either repent from the depths of your heart in proportion to the sin, and return to the road that leads to life, shown by Me; either bear the punishment, corresponding to the sin and determined by My justice, or your sin will torment you as a deviation from My laws." And only then will our soul enjoy peace when we truly repent from the depths of our heart in proportion to the sin, or bear the punishment due from God. O! Almighty and most just power of our God, invisibly governing our invisible souls, all glory to Thee, glory to Thee, God our Saviour! Thy will be done in us!

Breathe by faith (by certitude in God's truth), by trust in God, and by love for God and your neighbour. And how can you help yourself in this? By unbelief in the durability of everything earthly; by not putting your trust in earthly blessings, such as food, drink, money, riches, and earthly ties; by not caring for, by being indifferent to everything earthly and perishable. Do not let your heart cling to anything, do not attach yourself to anything. "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth."[1295]

To trust in God means to confide to Him our life, our fate, all our future, and to wait with confidence for the fulfilment of His promises. Hope proceeds from faith, as the plant from the seed, or the stream from the source. We believe that the Lord is good and merciful, that He loves us as a Father, and therefore that He desires every good and true happiness for us. He is most wise and omniscient, and consequently He knows better than we ourselves what is really needful and useful for us. He is almighty; and thus He is always able to bestow upon us that which He pleases, to fulfil that which He has promised. He is holy and righteous, and therefore all His words are truth. His promises are unchangeable. The highest proof of God's love to man is shown in the fact that He did not spare His Only begotten Son, but delivered Him for our sakes unto sufferings and death. Having strengthened our soul by the thought of the boundless mercy, wisdom, omnipotence, and holiness of our Creator and Provider, we can pass through the course of our earthly life without fear and without disturbance, like a child in its mother's arms, like a ship with trusty anchors. And therefore "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is."[1166] "The Lord is my deliverer, in Whom I will trust."[1167] "I will not be afraid for ten thousand of the people."[1168] However, while having trust, we must not ourselves be careless and idle. The essence of Christian hope is a lively, active, and constant aspiration after the Highest Blessing and the Source of all blessings, God, with an insatiable longing to come near or to Him and to receive from Him and in Him the kingdom of heaven, prepared before the creation of the world. "Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks, so longeth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God. When shall I come to appear before the presence of God?"[1169]

Thy name, Lord, is Almighty, because Thou holdest not only heaven and earth, but also all mankind, the life of every man, the hearts of all in Thy Hand; and not only the life of every man, but also of every beast, bird, fish, insect, worm, reptile, and of every infusoria invisible to the eye. Glory to Thine infinite Omnipotence, Lord! Glory to Thine All-merciful, Most-wise, and All-powerful Providence! Lord of heaven and earth! Almighty Sovereign! Thou likewise holdest in Thy Hand all hell, with Satan and his innumerable hordes; and it is only by Thy permission, for our instruction and punishment, that Satan and his angels can lay their snares for us. As soon as we pray to Thee our Saviour, as soon as we unfeignedly repent before Thee of our sins, Thou, having taught us, sendest away our enemies from us, saying: "You have done enough evil to My servants; they belong to Me again." Thus, Lord, if Thine unceasing benefits and mercies to us do not teach us, what remains to be done? It only remains for Thee to teach us by chastisement, by bitterness, by oppression, by fire, and by our own wickedness — we sensual men, who love space, freedom, vain carnal freshness; who are slothful, negligent, and evil by nature.

How must we look upon the gifts of intellect, feeling and freedom? With the intellect we must learn to know God in the works of His creation, revelation, providence, and in the destinies of men; with the heart we must feel God's love, His most heavenly peace, the sweetness of His love, we must love our neighbour, sympathise with him in joy and in sorrow, in health and in sickness, in poverty and in wealth, in distinction and in low estate (humiliation); we must use freedom, as a means, as an instrument for doing as much good as possible, and for perfecting ourselves in every virtue, so as to render unto God fruits a hundredfold.

Concerning praise. The soul involuntarily longs to praise when we gaze upon the starry sky; but still more when, in looking upon the sky and the stars, we represent to ourselves God's providence towards men, how infinitely He loves men, cares for their eternal beatitude, not having even spared His only-begotten Son for our salvation and our repose in the Heavenly Kingdom! It is impossible not to praise God when you remember that you were created from nothing, that you were predestined from the foundation of the world for eternal blessedness, quite without cause, not in accordance with your merits — when you remember what grace God has bestowed upon you for your salvation during all your life-time, what an innumerable multitude of sins are forgiven you, and this not once or twice but an incalculable number of times, what a multitude of natural gifts are bestowed upon you, beginning with health down to the current of air, down to the drop of water. We are involuntarily incited to praise when we see with wonder the infinite variety of things created on the earth, in the animal kingdom, in the vegetable kingdom, and in the mineral kingdom. What wise order in all, both in great and small! We involuntarily praise and exclaim: "O Lord! how manifold are Thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all: Glory to Thee, Lord, Who hath created everything!"[219]

Until now I have not become impoverished by being merciful to others, and shall not become impoverished to the last, for "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and to-day."[696] It is not said without reason: "He that giveth to the poor shall not lack." Indeed, up till now the Lord has only increased my temporal blessings, and has not taken them away. I praise the bountifulness of the Lord, His rich Providence.

Maladies in our eyes only appear painful, unpleasant, and terrible. It is seldom that any one of us during the time of sickness represents to himself the profit which his illness brings to his soul; but in God's all wise and most merciful Providence, not a single malady remains without some profit to our soul. Sicknesses in the hands of Providence are the same as bitter medicines for our soul, curing its passions, its bad habits and inclinations. Not a single malady sent to us shall return void. Therefore, we must keep in view the utility of sicknesses, in order that we may bear them more easily and more calmly. "He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin,"[848] says the Holy Scripture.

Let heaven and earth, created by the Lord, and existing, acting, and moving through Him, teach me — I, who am one spirit with the Lord! What is there for me to grieve at, when I am, and can ever be, one spirit with the Lord? I will cast all my care upon Him. Heaven and earth exist for thousands of years through the Lord, through His power and laws, though they are soulless, inert, inactive, and powerless matter. And the grass, the flowers of the field, the birds, fishes, and so forth. How all these teach us to entirely trust in God's providence!

In the matter of God's providence for men, and in accordance with the requirements of reason, there must be mediators between men and God from the spiritual world (as men occupy the medium between the spiritual and material worlds), who may guide us to the heavenly kingdom — namely, the angels. There is an astonishing gradation and order with the Lord in all His works. Everywhere in His kingdom the lower are guided by the higher; hence the necessity of guardian-angels for Christians redeemed by the blood of the Lord. Besides this, the angels themselves are full of love for us, and rejoice over the conversion of one sinner; but love is active, and the Lord has given perfect freedom to their noble and useful activity, as we see from the Holy Scripture. Guardian-angels are indispensable for men, owing to the craftiness of the evil spirits. Men themselves do not see them, for men are very infirm in the spiritual life. Therefore, besides the grace of God, we require a person, or persons, full of this grace, wise, firm by their nature: and such are the angels. Besides this, after man departs this life, there must be witnesses of his deeds against the demons.

A visible proof of the omnipresence and of the providence of God is presented to us by vegetation. Where is it not to be found upon the terrestrial globe? It covers the plains, it climbs up the inaccessible heights of rocky mountains, it grows in the deserts, spreads its roots in the waters and amongst the waters, upon desert islands. And who is it that gives it growth and adorns it with beautiful varieties of shapes, colours, and flowers? The Lord God. "God so clothes it." But if God so carefully clothes the grass, then shall He forsake and forget man, even for a minute? "Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?"[1241] If God at every instant vivifies the grass, and His life does not forsake it, then shall He cease to give life to me? No; if He clothes and gives life to the grass, then in me He dwells continually, as in His temple, if I do not voluntarily drive Him away by my sins. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"[1242] In reference to the temple, we may remark that the Apostle calls a Christian the temple, because the Spirit of God dwells in him. This signifies that God dwells continually in Christian temples. Hence the holiness of the temple; hence the reverence due to it. And the action of God dwelling in the temple is very perceptible upon the hearts of those who turn to Him in prayer.

May my soul understand that as everything proceeded from God and exists in God, therefore the Lord God in the most perfect manner knows at every moment of the existence and of the nature of every being, and that He supports its existence, at every moment, by the laws of nature given by Him. If we, ourselves, having written a book, know all about its disposition and contents, about all the ideas to be found in it, so that when other people explain us the idea, and especially the plan of our book, we say that it is our plan, our idea; then why should we take from the Lord His omniscience of all worlds, of all creatures, of all things contained in the world, with all their qualities and conditions? Are they not, so to say, the book of God? And thus, my soul, reverence thy Creator every moment of thy life, and know that at every moment He knows thee wholly, that He supports and gives thee life and everything necessary for thy existence and welfare. "How could anything have endured if it had not been Thy will?"[1131]

Concerning trust in God's providence. "Can a woman" (a mother) " forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee,"[1367] says the Lord. And who could be more tender and careful than a mother of her children? What woman will forget to feed the children of her womb? But let us even admit that mothers who forsake their children may be found; "But I," says the Lord, "am not like such carnal mothers, and will not forget nor forsake you." What trust, what hope, the Lord Himself inspires in us by these words, in His Providence con- tinually caring for us and never forsaking any one of us! You are sometimes anxious about what you shall eat and drink, and how you shall be clothed; you greatly afflict your heart if you part grudgingly, sorrowfully with your money, when it is necessary to give to another, although you have plenty left, and you thus show that you put your trust and hope in earthly dross. But why are you anxious? Why do you cling to dross? Cling to the heavenly Father; He will not forget you, and will not forsake you. Let the dross forsake you; you will only feel easier without it; for the more money you have, the greater the quantity of this dross that adheres to your heart, the more will your heart which is not earthly be afflicted. There is a saying amongst men that money is no hindrance, however much of it we may have. This is untrue. It greatly hinders our soul from rising upwards, or from meditating upon our heavenly country, and the more we have of it the more it drags our soul down to earth, inciting us to occupy ourselves with various earthly devices, such as buildings, rich furniture in our houses, rich clothes, luxurious viands and drinks, and thus depriving our soul of holy zeal and precious time, during which it ought to be earning future bliss for itself.

If you wish to be humble, consider yourself worthy of all malice and hatred on the part of others, and of every calumny. Do not grow irritated, and do not nourish malice against those who bear malice against you, slander you, or falsely blame you. Say: "Holy Father, Thy will be done! "Remember the words of the Lord: "The servant is not greater than his Lord; if the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you."[1396] If the world hated Him, the Most-righteous, the Most-merciful, then why should it be wonderful if other people hate you, a sinful and evil man?

My God! to what have we come? In what are we better than heathens in our mode of life? Where is our faith, our trust in God, our love for our neighbour? O, pride of Satan! O, what shame is ours! Heavenly Father! Thou who knowest what things we have need of, and givest them to us before we ask Thee, [468] have mercy upon us unfaithful, ungrateful, and evil-natured ones. Lord, we hear Thy merciful words: "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee;"[469] but being daily tempted by earthly blessings, we do not heed them, and transgress Thy will.

 [219] Psalm civ. 24.
[317] Isaiah lv. 8, 9.

[468] St. Matthew vi. 8.
[469] Hebrews xiii. 5.
[522] St. John xvii. 21.
[523] Malachi i. 6.
[574] Ephesians ii. 19.
[696] Hebrews xiii. 8.
[756] 1 Corinthians x. 31.
[848] 1 Peter iv. 1.
[1131] Wisdom xi. 25.
[1166] Jeremiah xvii. 7; Psalm ii. 12; Proverbs xvi. 20.
[1167] Psalm xviii. 1.
[1168] Psalm iii. 6.
[1169] Psalm xlii. 2, 3.
[1241] St. Matthew vi. 30; St. Luke xii. 28.
[1242] 1 Corinthians iii. 16.
[1295] Colossians iii. 2.
[1360] St. Matthew vi. 10; St. Luke xi. 2.
[1367] Isaiah xlix. 15.
[1396] St. John xiii. 16; xv. 18.

Excerpts compiled from: My Life in Christ or Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-Amendment, and of Peace in God, St. John of Kronstadt. (source)

 St. John of Kronstadt, the Wonderworker (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

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