“You don’t become holy by fighting evil. Let evil be. Look towards Christ and that will save you. What makes a person saintly is love – the adoration of Christ which cannot be expressed, which is beyond expression, which is beyond… And such a person attempts to undertake ascetic exercises and to do things to cause himself to suffer for the love of God.
“No monk became holy without ascetic exercises. No one can ascend to spirituality without exercising himself. These things must be done. Ascetic exercises are such things as prostrations, vigils and so on, but done without force. All are done with joy. What is important is not the prostrations we will make or the prayers, but the act of self-giving, the passionate love for Christ and for spiritual things. There are many people who do these things, not for God, but for the sake of exercise, in order to reap physical benefit. But spiritual people do them in order to reap spiritual benefit; they do them for God. At the same time, however, the body is greatly benefited and doesn’t fall ill. Many good things flow from them.”
This is good medicine for one such as I who lately struggles much with fasting and its benefits. Even more than that, the notion of not becoming holy via fighting evil is compelling. This matter has weighed heavily on my heart lately. When I came into the Church, my sponsor advised me that I had three enemies in this life: the devil, the world, and myself, and he told me always to blame myself first (it robs the devil of his chance to do so!). As of late, however, I feel stuck in the mire of all that’s bad in the world, and find myself wanting to flee everything. My family’s future goals of living self-sufficiently on a farm could easily be construed as such, and none do so more than I in my own heart.
But the Lord counsels otherwise: “What makes a person saintly is love – the adoration of Christ which cannot be expressed, which is beyond expression, which is beyond…”