Rejecting Blasphemous Thoughts, Part 2

In 1990, a great holy elder in Romania named Paisius, fell asleep in the Lord.  Recently, a wonderful collection of his stories and teachings was published by St. Herman Press entitled A Little Corner of Paradise, and, I must confess, reading this beautiful collection brings me to a Paradisaical corner.

In one section, he is counseling some women who have come to him, one of whom is struggling with despondency and blasphemous thoughts.  He says to her:

What is this about despair and despondency?  Despondency, despair — this is the greatest sin.  Don’t say, “I won’t be saved, I’m praying in vain.”  No — say, “Where are these thoughts coming from?  Oh, no.  With the help of our dear Mother of God, I will be saved.”  The door of Paradise is open, my dear, if we want to enter; God does not force anyone.  He may sometimes drag someone in — by sending an illness or a difficulty, but God loves him who gives willingly.

Perhaps it’s written somewhere: “Any sin is forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is never forgiven” (cf. Matt. 12:31).  But is it your thought?  No!  It’s his blasphemy, the enemy’s.  The devil does this — he gives you blasphemous thoughts in order to bring you to despair, and then he also reminds you that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is never forgiven.  No, my dear, it’s his blasphemy.

…Come to Confession and tell what came into your mind: “Father, I have blasphemous thoughts, I have profane thoughts about the Mother of God, about God, about icons, about monks, about priests…” [1] Thoughts must be revealed in a timely manner.  What is this despair?  Come, reveal it and raise yourself again.   Confession is a a second Baptism.  Through the Mystery of Confession we raise ourselves again.  And do this all the time: fall and get up….Don’t let yourself stay in despair.

How is it possible that you don’t love God?  These are thoughts of the devil.  Be quiet!  What do you mean you don’t believe?  Who brought you here to the monastery?  Why do you listen to what the enemy says?  And why will you not be saved?  No, my dear, stop it — with the help of the Mother of God, we will be saved.  Because if we were able to accomplish everything [on our own], we’d become prideful and would be even worse…The power of God is perfected in weakness (cf. II Cor. 12:9).

Do everything that depends on you.  Pray more, confess more, go to church more often, partake of Holy Communion more often, at least every month… And do not be afraid: you won’t go to hell.  Fast on Fridays until you are hungry.  Read another [spiritual] book.  Always say the Jesus Prayer, and don’t forget the Mother of God…do everything that depends on you.

So, my dear, let us from now on make a good beginning.  We live with hope in the life beyond the grave. [2]


[1] It is important to note here that the holy elder advised his spiritual children to confess what the blasphemous thoughts regard (Christ, Theotokos, etc), but not to go into detail about them or remember them in detail.  As mentioned in my last blog, it is not healthy to dwell upon or recollect thoughts that come straight from hell.

[2] The above comes from A Little Corner of Paradise: The Life and Teachings of Elder Paisius of Sihla by Archimandrite Ioanichie (Balan), St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2016.  A copy of the book can be purchased from St. Herman Press or from the Hermitage of the Holy Cross.  If you would like to receive just a small taste of Elder Paisius’ life and teachings, a short booklet can be purchased for $4 here.

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Jeremiah

Growing up in non-denominational churches, I became weary of many practices in the church. I decided it was time to find a church that enabled me to grow in my faith and talents, but that was also theologically deep. I was drawn to the Eastern Orthodox Church for several reasons. Check out my blog which details my journey into this ancient faith.