The Profit of Pain and Suffering
A hymn to the Theotokos
Standing by the Cross, O Jesus, she who gave birth to Thee, wept lamenting and cried out: “I cannot bear this, to see Thee nailed on the wood to Whom I gave birth and escaped pain for it was without a man. How I am now gripped with pain, and wounded in heart; now is fulfilled the saying which Symeon uttered, ‘A sword shall pierce thy heart O undefiled One.’”
Having recently heard much of pain and suffering from others I thought that it should be the topic of this post. I will join together two quotes. One quote will be from the book, Russian Letters of Direction , Macarius, Starets of Optino; and the other from Elder Joseph the Hesychast, Struggles-Experiences-Teachings. I hope these quotes could be made applicable to the various pains and sorrows we meet in life, and will help to inspire hope and patience in the hearts of the readers.
In section under the heading of sorrow the Elder Macarius writes:
I thank you for having unveiled to me the sadness of your grief-stricken heart; a great radiance comes over me when I share with others their sorrow. Complete, perfect, detailed compassion if the only answer I can give to your tender love of me that has led you, at such a time, to seek me out in my distant, silent humble, hermitage…
Christ says as it were: I accepted the Cross for the salvation of mankind; and whomsoever I specially long to draw unto myself, on him do I first shower sorrows; his heart do I first piece with arrows dipped in the wormwood of grief. This I do so that he may die to the extreme fascination, to the sweetness, of transitory joys and powers. The scourge of sorrows is the banner of my love. Thus did I wound the heart of my servant David; but when the stream of tribulations had separated him from the world, then did a dread meditation, an unwonted, blessed trend of thought well up in his mind and take full possession of his being…
In the ground of the Christian’s heart, sorrow for the dead soon melts, illumined by the light of true wisdom. Then, in place of the vanished grief, there shoots up a new knowledge made up of hope and faith. This knowledge does not only wash the soul of all sadness; it makes it glad. (p. 41)
The Elder, Joseph the Younger, in expounding the teachings of his Elder, Joseph the Hesychast on “The Nature and Forms of Trials” writes the following:
Trials or temptatioins (peirasmoi) have been so named because they produce experience (peira) in those who are tried. As to their nature, they comprise all the distressing events in life, from the smallest pain to the greatest of all, which is death. In a word, we may call them a cross, because just as a cross tortures a man and puts him to death, so distressing things in general lay him low and destroy him. Tribulations do not have their origin in the creation that was from the beginning, but are parasitic, consequences accompanying our fallen state.
They are born of transgression and sin, and this is hwy they are disgusting and repellent to life and nature. They cause and embody corruption and death, and so they always provoke aversion and repugnance. Thus in a certain was our life has been changed into boundless bitterness and tribulation, into endless pain and labour, unending agony and unhappiness, with lamentation as its inseparable companion!
But blessed be our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who transformed this terrible threat and conspiracy against our nature. And not only that, He turned it to our profit and benefit as well. When death was abolished and its place taken by life…the comprehensive cross, the whole profusion of sadness and the totality of trials—all these were transformed from then on into means and methods of salvation for us. Since then and in perpetuity, all the throngs of the righteous, all the clouds of the martyrs, all the choirs of the saved and all those who will press on towards life until the end of the ages will look upon their trials with gratitude as the most practical method of attaining Life. (pp.66-7)
Through the prayers of these venerable Elders may our Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us.