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October 28, 2015 + The Path to Salvation

by St. Ambrose of Optina

Our salvation, according to St. Peter Damascene, is located between fear and hope, so that we do not have self-confidence and do not despair, but with blessed hope in the mercy and help of God, we strive to conduct a life in fulfillment of the Divine commandments.

According to human reasoning, the path of salvation, it would seem, should be a smooth path, quiet and peaceful; but according to the words of the Gospel, this path is sorrowful, difficult, and narrow. The Lord said, I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword (Matt. 10:34).

What does a person need in order to learn the ways of the Lord? A person needs to be meek and humble, and then the Lord Himself will teach him how to walk the way of the Lord.

The earthly lot of man—sorrow, labor, sickness, struggle, sadness, doubt, confinement, deprivation of this or that, insult, confusion, the rising of the passions, the battle with them, victory or exhaustion, or hopelessness and the like. It is not in vain that the Prophet David said: There is no peace in my bones in the face of my sins (Ps. 37:4). The beginning of salvation consists in rejecting your own will and understanding and doing the will of God.

From now on let us strive firmly to not divide the path of Christ into various branches, but to combine them into one main one: to love the Lord with our whole soul and to maintain peace and holiness with everyone, not thinking foolishly or suspiciously about anyone.

The mistake on our part is that we do not want to submit our will to the all-good Divine Providence, which indicates to us through circumstances the path beneficial to our soul. Instead we look for some sort of peaceful way for ourselves which exists only in dreams, and in reality is nowhere on earth. There will be rest not for everyone, but only for a few, when they sing: "With the saints give rest ..."

We are all confused: can't we arrange our retirement in such a way? And in retirement we often think: if it weren't for this inconvenience, if not for these circumstances, it not for that contrary person, then perhaps it would be easier and more peaceful for me; but we forget that discomforts often come from within us, like evil thoughts. Where the passions lie, from there proceeds all of our discomforts, disagreements, squabbling, and disorder. But may He Who came to save sinners overcome all of these, if we desire to repent, and become humbled and submissive.

The Godly-wise fathers teach us that it is always better to reproach ourselves and in every unpleasant situation to lay the blame on ourselves, and not on others. Then we will find rest and spiritual peace, and we will hold fast to the true path to salvation.

From Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina, Holy Trinity Publications, 2005.

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Martyr Neonilla with her husband and children

Troparion, Tone 3

Bound together by natural bonds and clothed with the might of faith, you walked the path of martyrdom with your seven children. O Holy Martyrs Terrence and Neonilla, pray that those who honor your contest may receive forgiveness of their sins.

Kontakion, Tone 4

Podoben: "As You were voluntarily raised..."
The universe rejoices at the honorable commemoration of the martyrs: Terence the most-wise, his wife Neonila, and their children. Therefore, let us hasten that we may receive healing; for he has received grace from the Holy Spirit to cure the sicknesses and ills of our souls.