By leading their lives in prayer, fasting and hard work, the great saints attained the glory of God. They lived on the same earth as people like you and me; born of a woman, they became the saints of God. What made them so successful? Some of the best-known saints - like Nicholas the Wonderworker - were destined to become saints from childhood. Others were much less known. There is still an indeterminate number of people who are living like hermits and whose great feats remain unknown to anyone. They became God's true servants by being models of humility, purity, industriousness and self-denial.
What are the main distinctions of a saint? A saint submits himself fully to God's will, he opens up his heart to be filled with God's grace. Nevertheless, the saints described themselves as the least of all other people. They were not being facetious, they honestly viewed themselves in this way; they looked deep in their inner selves, and had a realistic view of what was going on there. The rest of us would rather pay attention to our looks, which mostly misses the point. However, focusing on outward looks may still make sense to an extent. The practice of introspection takes a significant amount of preparation, Not all of us can bear what they are going to see within themselves unless they are prepared. In His wisdom, God protects us from falling in the spirit.
Each person is a servant of God according to their capability. Some of the most distinguished of us could move mountains by the power of their faith, others have been honoured for not judging others ever in their lives. We all follow different paths. A novice at the Optina Pustin monastery died at a fairly young age; he was not known for any great feat or any remarkable ascetic exploits. Yet it was revealed to the Hegumen that his soul was glorified in the Kingdom of God. The brothers were surprised. "He was always munching on something whenever we saw him," they said. His obedience was in a hospital; he ate all the leftovers from his brothers' meals, and apparently was not observing strict fasts. The hegumen prayed, and the Lord revealed to him that the novice had lived his entire life without judging anyone a single time. Indeed, he had made no outstanding feats, but refraining from judging others also an outstanding achievement which few of us could repeat. The Lord shows to every person a way of serving Him; one needs to accept this indication as a foundation for building our own lives as temples of the Living God. We accept Christ into ourselves and carry God within us.
What can we do in order not to waste this treasure? Perhaps this is exactly for this reason that we are all meted out a different time on this earth. Some saints died early in their lives, as they were ready to embrace the Heavenly Kingdom. We are staying on, and still working hard to overcome our limitations. If we cannot win this struggle, nobody else will. We the sin plenty of chances for sin to overwhelm us; we open our gates wide, and the enemy takes over the whole city. We come to our senses, and begin to fight back. An attack follows a counter-attack. There is little stability. Yet stability is something that is essential in the lives of our spirits. Our feats may not be brilliant or outstanding, but our very ability to stand up to an attack is already an important victory. Many have said to me: "I have been confessing to the same sins for twenty years, but I still have not made very much progress in overcoming them. To this, I am saying: but holding one's ground for so long is also a great achievement, and let us thank our Lord for it. Holding out for so long is indeed a great feat. Indeed, we persist in our sins, but we are not retreating. Some saints who had the ability to look into our time justly remarked that people with endurance and the ability to withstand pressures will surpass in sainthood the ascetics of the earlier times, who had suffered torment and martyrdom for their faith. They said that just having endurance would be enough to become a saint.
Holding our ground and not yielding will be a remarkable feat in the last days. There is so little and so much that is expected of us: to meet with patience and humility the things and people we may not fully like.The one who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22). So let us all extend our thanks and send our praise to the Lord.
Priest Valery Zakharov
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