By Matushka Constantina
This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read concerning the difficult points in one’s struggle to attain holiness. I thought you’d all benefit as well from the elder’s divinely-inspired words. From Archimandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios. Homilies on the Book of Revelation. trans. Constantine Zalalas (St.Nikodemos Publications: Bethlehem, 2009), 201-202:
When you begin to climb spiritually, at some point you will reach a critical point. And the crisis is that you will have that feeling that you cannot climb anymore because you are tired. This is a crisis that we meet along the way. Everyone goes through this. Those that set out toward a spiritual life go on and on and on and then at some point they become afraid, they panic…We need to understand that when we come to the point of panic or exhaustion, it means that we have reached that critical plateau.
…Let us consider an example from the area of supersonics. When a jet takes off, and its speed increases, the behaviour of the air changes as the plane goes faster and faster. The air becomes increasingly a solid mass. At a certain point, as the speed of the plane increases and comes close to the speed of sound, the air takes on the dimension of a solid, and the jet feels like it is cutting through a mountain. The jet feels almost ready to fall apart because the air acts like a solid mass. Now if the jet succeeds in passing this critical level, which is called the sound barrier, then the airplane glides very nicely. Not only does it escape danger but now this plane becomes supersonic. It went beyond the sound barrier; it flies very comfortably and it feels that the air does not exist anymore. Well, my friends, this very thing happens in the spiritual life. The moment you have reached this critical point, you will succeed – if you do not lose heart.
…Now if you do not cower, if you do not give up from exhaustion, and you succeed in passing this barrier, then the spiritual life that awaits you is wonderful; it is actually great. It feels so great and so natural that you could not consider living in any other way. If feels like it is in your blood, like something woven into your entire existence. So if you happen to meet a very spiritual person, an ascetic, he will act surprised if you tell him that you cannot reach that sort of spirituality, that you cannot possibly reach his level. He will say, “How can you say that? But it is so easy. It is not hard at all.” It feels like the easiest thing for him because he went beyond the critical point and now that he is beyond that point, the life of the spirit is for him something very natural and effortless.