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Keep your mind on Hades and despair not

“If someone is teaching you outside of the things which the Holy Church received from the Holy Apostles, Fathers and Synods and preserved up till now, do not listen to him…, close your ears.” (St. John Damascene)

“The positive teaching of the Church serves to know whether a concept is from the Truth. This is a litmus test for all teachings. Whatever agrees with it, you should accept it, whatever does not, reject. One can do it without further deliberations.” (St. Theophan the Recluse)

“The Church of Christ is not comprised of the many, but of those who keep the correct and saving confession of faith, even if they are few.” (St. Theodore Studite)

On the Holy week of the Passion of Christ, there is no better question to ask ourselves than “well, what does it mean for me”? The answer is profound and should be centered against answering another question: “am I prepared for my own passion week? am I ready to really follow in the path of Christ and endure all the persecutions and slender everyone will have to face in the name of Christ at some point in their lives”? And how can one look at the world today and not despair? Christ did not come for this world, as He Himself said, but for those He picked from this world and no longer belong to the world, which is rapidly heading for disaster. So what should we do and how should we “escape” it? The answer was given to us by St. Silouan the Athonite who showed us the ascetic way to confront the challenges of the present age of general apostasy: keep your mind on Hades and despair not.
(must read: http://www.bogoslov.ru/en/text/1243244.html)

Excerpt from the article on St Silouan:
Be that as it may, what does this sentence, “Keep your mind on Hades and despair not,” really mean? The Lord suggested to Silouan that he descend to Hades and Silouan, in turn, calls this downward movement the “great science,” which put his soul to the rest. By plunging into Hades, the soul is humbled and the heart breaks. By the same token, evil thoughts are removed from one’s mind, and divine Grace finds a place to dwell inside the faithful person. Just as Christ with his passion plunged into Hades, only to be raised again triumphant towards Heaven, so does He now calls Silouan to walk into hell, with everything that such a downward spiral entails (the inner darkness and loneliness of one’s total isolation from every communion with God and fellow humans), so as to accomplish a spiritual victory akin to that of his Lord. Real saints deem themselves unworthy before God, whereas to all those assured of their inner worth asking for a lift to Heaven, the Lord says “You know not what you are asking for.” Hades is the spiritual realm that isolates man from God, manifesting one’s spiritual bankruptcy. It must be kept in mind, however, that this is a hopeful situation, for an awareness of one’s own bankruptcy fills the soul with remorse; it is the first-fruit, the very beginning of repentance, thanks to which God can now make a dwelling to the grieving soul. St. Symeon the New Theologian calls this state a “spiritual gallantry” because in it, the faithful person is not given to despair but is capable instead of conquering his fears and sorrow, finding new hope in God’s mercy. Genuine contrition leads, according to St. John the Sinanite, to exoneration from divine judgment and eternal condemnation. Self-criticism breeds contrition, leads to repentance, defeats enemies, frees us from the fetters of sin and renders the humbled person a participant of the Holy Spirit. The same view was held by St. Gregory Palamas, who noted that humility and self-criticism are the spiritual resources for overcoming all evil. Our temporary, self-inflicted condemnation thus spares us the horror of God’s upcoming judgment. In a manner similar to Silouan’s, other famed Church Fathers such as Anthony the great, Sisoes, Makarius, Poimen, to mention but a few, consented to undergo this experience of Hades in their earthly lives. In particular, Silouan had in mind an incident that had occurred to St. Anthony as he praying to God, asking for a clue as to the height of virtue he had attained by that time. It was then pointed out to him that, in fact, “Anthony you have not yet reached the pinnacle of virtue accomplished by this [plain] shoemaker in Alexandria. Curious, Anthony set out to meet this man in Alexandria and learn about his way of living. The shoemaker told Anthony that he gave one third of his earnings to the Church, one third to the poor, and kept the other one third for his own needs. Anthony, who had relinquished his entire fortune and lived in the desert, was naturally not impressed, and so revealed to the shoemaker that he was sent there by God to observe his conduct. The shoemaker, who revered Anthony, answered rather apprehensively: “Abba, I don’t think I have ever done anything good in my life, which is why every time I get up from bed to get to work, I say to myself that the entire city, from the youngest to the oldest member, shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, because of their good deeds. I, on the other hand, am the sole person who will inherit hell as a result of my sins. And I go over the same line right before bed time: all shall be saved, save for myself.” The Alexandrian shoemaker spoke plainly, as meekly and straightforwardly as did Anthony, Sisoes, Poemen, and other Church Fathers. Yet the power of their simple discourse, like its latent depth, are in fact off limits to those deprived of such experiences, i.e. to all those who have never felt the agony of Hades and are incapable of self-criticism. But anyone who spares himself or herself the sorrow of self-criticism is by definition cut off from the Holy Spirit and the divine Grace that the Paraclete dispenses. St. Silouan is categorical in this matter: “it was the Lord Himself who taught me how I ought to humble myself. ‘Keep you mind in Hades and despair not.’ This is how our spiritual enemies are defeated. But as soon as my mind overlooks the fires of hell, the dark thoughts resurface all over again.”

The experience of hell is nowadays a concrete and very real situation faced by a great many people who find themselves coping with all kinds of dead-ends, including many that they have created for themselves. Beset with ever pressing problems, human beings very often look to various forms of escapism as a way of gaining momentary relief from pressure, usually by resorting to hedonism and luxuries, which function as artificial substitutes of life. As a result of this consumerist attitude to life, people are increasingly alienated from God and from one another. The first half of the Lord’s injunction to Silouan suggests that making Hades the temporary dwelling place of one’s mind, along with repentance and humility, are the sole means of healing one’s soul. The other half of the Lord’s instruction is meant to provide hope for a final redemption. By willingly embracing self-condemnation and voluntarily descending to Hades in obedience to Christ’s command, the faithful Christian manages to overcome temptations and, more importantly, shows that one’s love for Christ is far stronger than death, as Christ Himself first taught us by His own example, when for our sake He trampled death by death. Thus, too, is humankind proven to be above the world and its natural decay and determinisms, emulating Christ in His decisive victory over death, accomplished by an act of utter humility.

What a profound thought!

What then “keeping one’s mind on hades and despair not” may mean for us? Maintaining awareness of the iniquities of this world and understanding their nature and how they are going to affect us is the most obvious way – because, let’s face it, the noose is tightening – do we not all feel like the whole Hell has come here on Earth? So by looking at the world today and seeing what is coming, is that not like keeping our minds on Hades?

St. Silouan tells us to not despair. He does not tell us to take up arms and fight, or to join any charismatic movement that opposes it, but just to stay calm, do not despair and put all our faith in God. We are too little to fight the forces of the coming Antichrist and over-zealousness can nudge us to the other side of the road.

If we were asked to summarize everything (the unfolding of the the mystery of iniquity) in just one phrase, it would sound like this:

The iniquities in the West are designed to “awaken” the people (the sort of awakening the establishment likes), then they feed our repulsion feelings and passions, stoke the charismatic revival fire that inflames the desire to ask for change and unity in the face of evil, seek wordly justice, organize the resistance, and then push everyone on board the train that leads to the arrival of the Antichrist who will have all the answers and solutions.

The preparations are quite visible on all fronts: in the spiritual realm the solution will be presented to us in the form of the “Great, Canonical and Holy Synod” of 2016 (of which we have already written about). On the political front they are shaping a unified response to the iniquities of the west as well:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-04-16/brics-consider-creating-imf-alternative-us-loses-credibility

Over the course of more than a year we highlighted on many occasions the importance Russia and Moscow Patriarchate would play in dictating the directions events would turn. The recent developments only come to strengthen the case. Let us thus say, just like St. Silouan the Athonite, yes, this is where things are going and Hell is becoming unleashed, but I shall not despair as Christ is my savior who came into the world for me the sinner, endured all persecutions, died on the Cross and then resurrected to show me the path to my salvation.

Christ is Risen !

Additional resources:
http://www.serfes.org/orthodox/theantichrist.htm

http://orthodoxaustralia.org/2013/08/13/russia-the-center-of-global-christianity/

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