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An Excerpt from Wounded By Love: The Life and Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios

On Dispositions of the Heart

We need always to have thoughts of love for our brothers and sisters
We need to have goodness and love in our soul

Man has such powers that he can transmit good or evil to his environment. These matters are very delicate. Great care is needed. We need to see everything in a positive frame of mind. We mustn’t think anything evil about others. Even a simple glance or a sigh influences those around us. And even the slightest anger or indignation does harm. We need to have goodness and love in our soul and to transmit these things.

We need to be careful not to harbour any resentment against those who harm us, but rather to pray for them with love. Whatever any of our fellow men does, we should never think evil of him. We need always to have thoughts of love and always to think good of others. Look at Saint Stephen the first martyr. He prayed, Lord, do not hold this sin against them. [1] We need to do the same.

We should never think about someone that God will send him some evil or that God will punish him for his sin. This thought brings about very great evil, without our being aware of it. We often feel indignation and say to someone: ‘Have you no fear of God’s justice, are you not afraid of God’s punishment?’ Or else we say, ‘God will punish you for what you’ve done,’ or, ‘O God, do not bring evil on that person for what he did to me,’ or, ‘May that person not suffer the same thing.’

In all these cases, we have a deep desire within us for the other person to be punished. Instead of confessing our anger over his error, we present our indignation in a different way, and we allegedly pray to God for him. In reality, however, in this way we are cursing our brother.

And if, instead of praying, we say, ‘May God repay you for the evil you have done to me,’ then once again we are wishing for God to punish him. Even when we say, ‘All very well, God is witness,’ the disposition of our soul works in a mysterious way and influences the soul of our fellow man so that he suffers evil.

When we speak evil about someone, an evil power proceeds from within us and is transmitted to the other person, just as the voice is transmitted on sound waves, and in point of fact the other person suffers evil. It is something like the bewitchment of the evil eye, when someone has evil thoughts about others. This occurs through our own indignation. We transmit our evil in a mystical way. It is not God who provokes evil, but rather people’s wickedness. God does not punish, but our own evil disposition is transmitted to the soul of the other in a mysterious way and does evil. Christ never wishes evil. On the contrary, He commands, Bless those who curse you... [2]

The evil eye is a very bad thing. It is the evil influence that occurs when someone is jealous of, or desires something or someone. It needs great care. Jealously does great harm to the other person. The person who exercises the evil eye doesn’t think for a moment that he is doing harm. Remember what the Old Testament says: For the bewitching eye of wickedness obscures what is good. [3]

When the other person, however, is a man of God and makes confession and receives Holy Communion and wears a cross, nothing does him any harm. Even if all the demons were to fall on him, they would achieve nothing.

‘The noise of murmurings shall not be hidden’

Within us there is a part of the soul called the ‘moralist’. This ‘moralist’, when it sees someone going astray, is roused to indignation, even though very often the person who judges has strayed in the same way. He does not, however, take this as an occasion to condemn himself, but the other person. This is not what God wants. Christ says in the Gospel: You, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? [4] It may be that we do not steal, but we commit murder; we reproach the other person and not ourselves. We say, for example: ‘You should have done that and you didn’t do it. So see now what’s happened to you!’ When we think of evil, then it can actually happen. In a mysterious and hidden manner we diminish the power of the other person to move towards what is good, and we do him harm. We can become the occasion for him to fall ill, to lose his job or his property. In this way we do harm, not only to our neighbour, but also to ourselves, because we distance ourselves from the grace of God. And then we pray and our prayers are not heard. We ‘ask and do not receive’. [5] Why? Have we ever thought of this? ‘Because we ask wrongly.’ [6] We need to find a way to heal the tendency within us to feel and think evil about others.

It’s possible for someone to say, ‘The way that person is behaving, he will be punished by God,’ and to believe that he is saying this without evil intent. It is a simple matter, however, to discern whether he has or does not have evil intent. It does not appear clearly. What is hidden in our soul and how that can exercise influence on people and things is a very secret matter.

The same is not true if we say with a sense of awe that another person is not living well and that we should pray for God to help him and grant him repentance; that is, neither do we say, nor deep down do we desire that God will punish him for what he does. In this case not only do we not do harm to our neighbour, but we do him good. When someone prays for his neighbour, a good force proceeds from him and heals, strengthens and revives him. It is a mystery how this force leaves us. But, in truth, the person who has good within him radiates this good power to others, mystically and gently. He sends light to his neighbour and this creates a shield around him and protects him from evil. When we possess a good disposition towards others and pray, then we heal our fellows and we help them progress towards God.

There is an invisible life, the life of the soul. This is very powerful and can have effect on the other, even if we are miles apart. This also happens with the curse, which is a power that works evil. But if, conversely, we pray with love for someone, whatever the distance that separates us, the good is transmitted. So distances do not affect the power of good and evil. We can transmit these across boundless distances. Solomon the Wise says this very thing: ‘The noise of murmurings shall not be hidden.’ [7] The noise of our soul is transmitted mysteriously and affects the other, even if we don’t say a word. Even without speaking we can transmit good or evil, irrespective of the distance which separates us from our neighbour. What is not expressed generally has greater power than words.

‘My Holy Lady, make him glorify your name!’

Listen, and I’ll tell you one of my own experiences. Once I was on my way to my village via Chalkida. Near the railway station at Chalkida I saw a boy on a cart who was trying to cross the railway line. His horse was refusing to obey him and he started to curse our Lady. I was distraught at his behaviour and instinctively I said, ‘My Holy Lady, make him glorify your name!’ Five minutes later the boy’s cart overturned and trapped him underneath. The barrel that was in the back of the cart broke open and the grape must that was in it poured all over him. The boy, holding his head and trembling in shock, started to shout: ‘My Holy Lady, my Holy Lady, my Holy Lady!!!’ When I saw him from the vantage point where I was standing, I wept in remorse and said to our Lady: ‘My Holy Lady, why did you do it like this? I asked for him to glorify your name, but not in that way.’ I was distraught about the boy. I repented that I had become the cause of him suffering what he suffered. I believed that I had made that prayer to our Lady with goodness of heart when I heard him cursing her name, but perhaps in my soul some hidden indignation had been created.

I’ll tell you about another incident and you will be amazed. It’s not a figment of my imagination. What I’m going to tell you is true. Listen.

One afternoon a lady went to visit one of her friends. In the sitting room she saw a beautiful Japanese vase of great value filled with flowers.

‘What a beautiful vase!’ she exclaimed. ‘When did you buy it?’

‘My husband brought it to me,’ answered her friend.

The next morning at eight o’clock the lady who had visited her friend was sitting with her husband drinking coffee and she remembered the vase. It had made a great impression on her. So she said to her husband in a tone of admiration:

‘You should see what my friend’s acquired. Her husband brought her a most beautiful Japanese vase, brightly coloured and painted with idyllic scenes; her whole living room has been transformed.’

Later the same day she called on her friend once again to discuss something. She looked and saw that the vase was missing. She asked:

‘What did you do with your vase?’

‘What can I say?’ she answered. ‘Early this morning at eight o’clock while I was sitting quietly in the room I heard a loud ‘crack!’ and the vase shattered into pieces ? on its own, without anyone touching it, without the wind blowing, without anyone moving a finger!’

To begin with the lady said nothing. Then she confessed:

‘Well, you know... At eight o’clock this morning I was drinking coffee with my husband and I was describing your vase to him with admiration. I described it to him really vividly and passionately. What do you think? Could I have released some evil power? But that would have happened only if I didn’t love you.’

And yet that was exactly what had happened. She didn’t realize that she had jealousy within her. That was envy, jealousy, evil bewitchment. The evil power can be transmitted, however far apart we are. This is a mystery. Distance is irrelevant. That’s why the vase broke. I remember something else that also happened out of jealousy.

There was a mother-in-law who was very jealous of her daughter-in-law; she didn’t want to believe that there was any good in her at all. One day the girl bought some lovely printed fabric to make a dress. The mother-in-law saw it and was filled with envy. Her daughter-in-law locked the material in the bottom of a chest beneath all the other clothes until the dress-maker would come to make it up. The day came when the dress-maker arrived. The girl went to take out the material, and what did she see! The whole of the fabric was cut into tiny shreds and useless. And yet it had been locked in the chest.

The evil power knows no barriers; it is impeded neither by locks nor by distances. The evil power can cause a car to crash without there being any mechanical fault.

With the Spirit of God we become incapable of every sin

You see, then, how our evil thoughts, our evil disposition affect others. That’s why we need to find the way of purifying the depths of our soul from every evil. When our soul is sanctified, it radiates goodness. We then silently emit our love without words.

Certainly, to begin with this is somewhat difficult. Remember Saint Paul. That’s what it was like for him too in the beginning. He said in distress: For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want, that I do. And he continues, I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? [8] He was very weak then and couldn’t do what was good, even though he desired it and longed for it.

That is what he said at the beginning. But when in this way Paul devoted himself ever more fully to the love and worship of God, God, seeing the disposition of heart, entered into him and divine grace came to dwell in him. In this way he succeeded in living in Christ. Christ Himself entered into him, and the man who had said ‘I cannot do what is good, even though I desire it’, succeeded by the grace of God in becoming incapable of evil. At first he was incapable of doing what was good, but after Christ entered within him he became incapable of doing what was evil. Indeed he proclaimed: It is no longer I who live; Christ lives in me. [9] He proclaimed boasting that ‘I have Christ in me’ whereas he had previously said: ‘I wanted to do what was good, but I couldn’t.’ Where did that ‘wretched man that I am’ go? It disappeared. The grace of God within him completed its work. From being wretched he became filled with grace. Grace permeated him, after he had first been humbled.

Do you see what happens? With the Spirit of God we all become incapable of every sin. We are made incapable because Christ dwells within us. We are henceforth capable only of good. Thus we will acquire the grace of God and become possessed by God. If we abandon ourselves to the love of Christ, then all will be overturned, all will be transfigured, all will be transformed, all will be transubstantiated. Anger, resentment, jealousy, indignation, censure, ingratitude, melancholy and depression will all become love, joy, longing, divine eros. Paradise!

Endnotes

[1] Acts 7 : 60.

[2] Matt. 5 : 44.

[3] Wisd. 4 : 12.

[4] Rom. 2 : 21.

[5] Cf. Jas. 4 : 3.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Cf. Wisd. 1 : 10.

[8] Rom. 7 : 19.

[9] Gal. 2 : 20.

From Wounded By Love: The Life and Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios, pp. 212-217, as edited from an archive of notes and recordings by the Sisters of the Holy Convent of Chrysopigi (Life-Giving Spring). Posted with the permission of the publisher and the blessing of Mother Theoxeni, Abbess of the Monastery of Chrysopigi. This remarkable book is available directly from the publisher in Greece or from Uncut Mountain Supply. Posted on 7 Dec, 2005.