On the World and Family
by Elder Ephraim
May an angel of God, my child, follow you and show you the path of God and of your
salvation. Amen; so be it. I pray that God gives you health of soul, for this is
a special gift of sonship which is bestowed only upon those souls that have been
completely devoted to the worship and love of God.
The world attracts the youth like a magnet; worldly things have great power over
the newly enlightened soul that just started to find its bearings and see its purpose
in life and the duty calling him. “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.
Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of
God.”  God has stored up pleasures for eternity, for both He and our soul are
eternal. There is no comparison between the pleasures of the world and the pure
pleasures of God.
The pleasures of the world are obtained with toil and expenses, and after their
momentary enjoyment, they are followed by various consequences, so that they are
incorrectly called pleasures. The pleasures of God, however, do not have such consequences,
because spiritual pleasures down here on earth are the firstfruits of an eternal
series of pleasures and delights in the kingdom of God. Whereas on the contrary,
one who has been corrupted by the pleasures of the world is compelled to undergo
eternal damnation along with the first instigator of corruption, the devil.
The time of our life, my child, has been given to us as a sum of money so that each
of us may trade for his salvation, and depending on the trade we deal in, we shall
become either rich or poor. If we take advantage of the “money” of time by trading
to increase our spiritual wealth, then we shall truly be skilled traders, and we
shall hear the blessed voice: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful
over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of
your Lord.” 
At the end of our life, an exact account will be demanded of each one of us: how
and where we spent the money of time, and woe to us if we have squandered it in
movie theaters, in entertainments, in debauchery, in futile dreams, in carnal pleasures.
Then what defense will our tied tongue be able to utter, and how will we be able
to lift up our eyes and see our Christ, when He enumerates the countless benefactions
which His boundless love profusely poured upon us?
Now that we have time, now that the money of time has not yet been spent completely
and we still have it at our disposal, let us reflect sensibly on the vagrant world
which seeks to rob us. Let us push it away like a putrid dead dog, and with that
money let us run to buy precious works which, when tried by fire, will become very
bright—gifts worthy of our Holy God, fit to be used as a decoration in the holy
Jerusalem of Heaven. We should not purchase chaff, that is, punishable works of
darkness, for we shall go down with them into the eternal fire of damnation, where
the multitude of people who embezzled God’s gifts will reap whatever they sowed!
Sow good works with tears, and then in a time of visitation you will reap the sheaves
of enjoying eternal life!
2. It is from God that you are being tested, because He is training you for battle;
He is drilling you, just like the soldiers who are trained through severe labors
in their drills. There, first they learn the theory of warfare, and then at the
sound of the trumpet in the real war, since they have already been trained, they
rush into the battle with the inner assurance that they know how to fight, and they
are ready to sacrifice themselves for their cause and ideology.
You are also in a similar situation: since you have been called to become soldiers
of Christ and to fight against His enemy, He trains you in order to ascertain your
love towards Him: “Who is it that loves me, but he who keeps my commandments?” 
Take courage, my children; remain loyal and dedicated to Him Who has loved you with
Before a battle begins, the generals boost the soldiers’ spirits by singing various
battle hymns and relating various stories of heroic deeds to kindle their sense
of self-sacrifice. This tactic gives them great strength and bravery in the battle
about to be fought.
Likewise, we too should contemplate, as the Saints did, the struggles of the martyrs
and of the holy monks: how they lived ascetically, how they renounced the world
and everyone, and how nothing prevented them from following the path that leads
to Jesus. This contemplation will greatly strengthen your good disposition and intention,
for there have been many who were unaware of the concealed traps, with the result
that their souls succumbed to temptation and thus they fell from the hope of eternal
Contemplate the love of our Jesus; the love of Jesus will overpower every other
natural love. The more we renounce, the more love of God we shall enjoy.
Let us attend on high, where Jesus sits at the right hand of God. Let our eyes look
on high, for the eternal and everlasting things are above, not below; for everything
here is dust and ashes. Reflect on the luxuriousness of heaven: the infinite wisdom
of God is there; inconceivable beauty is there; the angelic melodies are there;
the riches of divine love are there; the life free from pain is there; the tears
and sighs will be taken away there; only joy, love, peace, an eternal Pascha, and
an unending festival are there, “Oh, the depth of the riches and knowledge of God!”
 “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the
things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 
Attend to the prayer; persevere in prayer, and it will put everything in order.
Do not yield at all; remain firm in your holy goal. Remain beside Jesus to live
with spiritual happiness. There is no happiness anywhere except in Christ. So-called
“happiness” outside of Christ is incorrectly called happiness, since it is obtained
with reprehensible means and since it ends quickly and leads man to the eternal
Struggle, my children; the angels are weaving crowns with flowers of paradise. Our
Christ regards the struggle as a martyrdom—what is more excellent than to be a martyr
3. I received your letter, my child, and we all rejoiced at your firm desire and
wonderful aspiration for monasticism. “I have chosen to be an outcast in the house
of my God rather than to dwell in the tents of sinners.”  May no other love separate
you from the love of Christ; consider everything rubbish so that you may gain Christ.
The sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared with the future
glory which will be given to those who struggle.  Now is the time for struggles,
afflictions, and labors for God; whereas the future is the time for crowns of eternal
glory, rewards, praises, and dwelling together with the holy angels beside the supreme
throne of God.
Youth passes by silently; the years roll by quietly, imperceptibly, like the water
in a creek; hours disappear like smoke in the wind. This is how the present life
passes and vanishes. God’s strugglers advance toward eternal prizes of glory, whereas
the indolent and lovers of the world proceed towards an eternal damnation with the
The allurements of the world and its pleasures will transform into eternal affliction
and pain for those who delight in them, if they do not repent. While on the contrary,
for the people of God a little deprivation will be recompensed by an eternal felicity
and blessedness of God.
Do not let familial affection hinder you; reflect that you will be alone in the
hour of death, and then you will need to have God as a helper. So if you love Him
more than them, you will have Him. But if you succumb, you will reap the crops of
bitter remorse all on your own. So for the love of our Christ, make the decision
and begin your new life.
4. (To a spiritual daughter)
Everything depends on your will. Entreat our Panagia very fervently to warm your
holy desire, so that you decide with self-denial to renounce the vain world along
with that dream which is called life, and to follow Christ the Bridegroom, Who will
give you Himself and His sweetest love, and will count you worthy to become an heir
of His kingdom. Entreat the Panagia to help you make the holy decision, and when
she does, make the sign of the cross and follow the salvific voice of Jesus, saying:
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross,
and follow Me.” 
In the dreadful hour of death, no one will help us; only the good works that we
have done for God and our soul will help us. Therefore, since the monastic life
in general consists of Works of God which are very conducive to our soul’s salvation,
why shouldn’t we sacrifice everything to live such a life which will make us rich
in the kingdom of God? “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world,
and loses his own soul?” 
The life of man hangs by a hair; at every step, our life hangs in the balance. How
many millions of people woke up in the morning, never to see the evening? How many
millions of people fell asleep, never to wake up? Indeed, the life of man is a dream.
In a dream, one sees things that do not exist: he might see that he is crowned a
king, but when he wakes up, he sees that in reality he is just a pauper.
In this life that we live, man labors to become rich, to become educated, to have
an easy life, to become great; but unfortunately, death comes and foils everything.
Then what he labored for all his life is taken by others, while he leaves life with
a guilty conscience and a soiled soul. Who is wise and will understand these things
and will renounce them and follow Christ the Bridegroom, so that all the works he
will do will be recompensed infinitely in His kingdom?
Always, my daughter, remember death and the judgment of God which we will unavoidably
undergo. Bear them in mind to have more fear of God, and weep for your sins, because
tears console the soul of him who weeps.
5. My spiritual daughter, I pray that peace and divine joy may
accompany your life. Amen.
I received your letter and saw your joy. I pray that this joy will be the first-fruits
of a continual spiritual harvest, of a new life totally dedicated to the unrivaled
love of God. Now you have experienced the fruits of the Spirit. If you were so invigorated
by experiencing a little, how much more will you be invigorated when you find yourself
in a completely spiritual environment!
Everywhere and until the end of our life we shall undergo temptations: even in a
monastery, even in the wilderness, if we happen to be there. However, if we are
far from the world we shall have the freedom to fight the battle in an open place,
where we shall be able to gather spiritual reinforcements to help us, with high
hopes of eternally winning the prize for which we have been called heavenward. 
Here we have no continuing city, but we seek a future, eternal, glorious one! 
The form of this world is passing away,  whereas he who does good works abides
unto the ages.
Struggle, my child, with all your strength. Do not give joy to Satan by neglecting
your duties, but give him bitterness by performing them with precision and eagerness.
Satan will not stop shooting poisoned arrows at you with various thoughts, and especially
with filthy thoughts. But prepare yourself to battle valiantly to obtain the unfading
crown. As soon as a bad thought appears, immediately destroy the fantasy and say
the prayer at once, and behold, your deliverance will come!
Do not be afraid when you see the battle, lest you lose your morale; but invoke
the Almighty God and humble yourself very much. Rebuke yourself with the worst names
and convince yourself that this is how you really are. And then from this point
begin the battle with the prayer. Be careful, for the battle we conduct is not slight;
we have to fight with principalities and powers, and it takes prudence and caution
to fight well, for something good is not good if it is not done properly.
I pray that you have a good fight, and be careful with the people you keep company
With many prayers and blessings,
Your lowly Elder
- Jas. 4:4
- Mt. 25:23. OCIC Ed.: Compare with this passage from Saint Seraphim of Sarov’s conversation with Nicholas Motovilov:
“What do you mean by acquiring [the Spirit of God]?” I asked Father Seraphim. “Somehow I don’t understand that.”
“Acquiring is the same as obtaining,” he replied. “You understand, of course, what
acquiring money means? Acquiring the Spirit of God is exactly the same. You know
well enough what it means in a worldly sense, your Godliness, to acquire. The aim
in life of ordinary worldly people is to acquire or make money, and for the nobility
it is in addition to receive honours, distinctions and other rewards for their services
to the government. The acquisition of God’s Spirit is also capital, but grace-giving
and eternal, and it is obtained in very similar ways, almost the same ways as monetary,
social and temporal capital.
“God the Word, the God-Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, compares our life with a market,
and the work of our life on earth He calls trading, and says to us all: Trade till
I come (Lk. 19:13), redeeming the time, because the days are evil
(Eph. 5:16). That is to say, make the most of your time for getting heavenly blessings
through earthly goods. Earthly goods are good works done for Christ’s sake and conferring
on us the grace of the All-Holy Spirit.
“In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, when the foolish ones lacked oil,
it was said: ‘Go and buy in the market.’...
- cf. Jn. 14:21
- cf. Rom. 11:33
- 1 Cor 2:9
- Ps. 83:11
- cf. Rom. 8:18
- Mt. 16:24
- Mk. 8:36
- cf. Phil. 3:14
- cf. Heb. 13:14
- 1 Cor. 7:31
From Counsels from the Holy Mountain, by Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, Mount
Athos [now of St. Anthony’s Monastery
in Florence, AZ]. Widely available from Orthodox bookstores.