From Unseen Warfare
As soon as you wake up in the morning, pray for a while, saying: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me.” Then your first work should be to shut yourself in your own heart, as if taking up position in an arena. Having established yourself there, bring yourself to the consciousness and feeling that your enemy and the passionate urge against which you struggle at the moment is already there, on your left, ready for immediate attack; therefore rouse against them a firm resolve to conquer or die, but never to submit. Realize also that on your right there stands, invisibly present, your Commander, our Lord Jesus Christ, with his holy mother and a host of holy angels, with Archangel Michael at their head, ready to come to your aid. So take heart and be of good cheer.
Lo, the prince of the nether world, the devil, rises against you with his host of demons and begins to fan the flame of passionate attraction, trying to persuade you with various promises flattering to your self-indulgence, to cease struggling against that passion and to submit to it, assuring you that this submission would be better and less troublesome. But you must keep attention in yourself – and at the same time you should hear from the right the warning and inspiring voice of your guardian angel who, speaking for all those standing on your right, will assuredly say to you: “You are now faced with a battle against your passion and your other enemies. Fear not and be not afraid; let not this fear drive you to run from your post on the battlefield. For our Lord Jesus Christ, the Commander, is near you, surrounded by the commanders and centurions of his incorporeal armies and all the hosts of the holy angels, ready to fight with you against your enemies and not let them overcome and conquer you, as is promised: ‘The Lord shall fight for you.'” (Exodus 14:14) Therefore stand firm, compel yourself not to give ground and strive by all possible means to stand up to the trial which has assailed you, calling from the bottom of your heart: “Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies.” (Psalm 27:12) Appeal to your Lord, to the Holy Virgin, to all the angels and saints. Help will come, and you will be victorious, for it is written: “I write unto you, young men” (emboldened and intrepid warriors), “because ye have overcome the wicked one.” (1 John 2:18) You may be weak and tied by bad habits, while your enemies are strong and numerous; but much more powerful help is ready for you from him, who has created and redeemed you. God, your protector, is incomparably stronger than all others in this battle. As it is written: “The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle.” (Psalm 24:8) Moreover his desire to save you is greater than that of your enemy to destroy you. So fight and never weary of the labors of this warfare. For victory is won by these labors, by forcing yourself and mercilessly tearing yourself from vicious habits despite the pain; and thus a great treasure is gained, whereby the kingdom of Heaven is purchased and the soul forever united with God.
Thus every morning begin in God’s name your struggle with the enemies, armed with distrust of yourself and a daring hope in God, with prayer and a merciless self-compelling to fitting labors and spiritual tasks, and above all, armed with prayer of the mind in the heart: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me!” Wielded in the heart like a two-edged sword, this terrible name strikes down both demons and passions, and drives them away. This is why John of the Ladder says: “Flog the foes with the name of our Lord Jesus.” We shall speak further of this prayer in a separate chapter. So, I repeat, with these weapons smite that enemy, that passion, and that evil tendency which assails you, in the order indicated in the thirteenth chapter. Namely, first, oppose the passion, then hate it, and finally practice the particular virtue opposed to it, doing all this, if we can so say – in an atmosphere of prayer. If you do this, your activity will be pleasing to your God, who, together with the church triumphant in the heavens, stands by invisibly and watches your struggles.
Such struggles are extremely hard and arduous; but grieve not, nor drop your task, bearing in mind that, on the one hand, it is our duty to work and to please our God, and on the other, as has been said already, to fight is unavoidable if we want to live; for once we stop fighting, we shall straightway be stricken to death. Do not let the enemy seduce you by the suggestion: “Let go just for an hour.” Very well, just for an hour. But what will become of you, if you relinquish your life in God, and abandon yourself to the world and its comforts, and to bodily enjoyments? You will be a renegade from God; which is terrible for a single moment, let alone for an hour. And is it likely to be but an hour? Is it not more probable that hour after hour will pass in this ungodly life, then day after day, and year after year? And beyond this, what? Even if the Lord takes pity on you and gives you time to come to yourself, to get free of this net of the devil and awake from your sinful sleep, you will still have to rejoin the same battle, from which you flee now to seek an easy life, with the only difference that then the fight will be incomparably harder, more acute, more painful, and, in addition, less successful.
But if the Lord leaves you in the hands of your enemies and of your own will? What then? I shall not repeat it. I shall say only: remember; for who is there who does not know it? After a life spent in the wearisome bonds of evil passions, at times intoxicated by sensuality, but always deprived of true joys, the hour of death will suddenly come – a terribly painful state of the soul, which even the word of God could not describe, but merely said: “Then they will cry to the mountains: ‘Fall on us.'” (Revelation 6:16) This cry, beginning at the hour of death, will go on ceaselessly for all time after death, till the end of the world, and will be heard at the moment when the last judgment comes – and always in vain. Then be not so unmindful as to cast yourself knowingly into the eternal torment of hell, for the sake of avoiding the momentary struggles and labors of spiritual training. If you are intelligent and, I would say, prudent, it is better for you to undertake now the temporary labors and hardships of spiritual struggle so as to overcome your foes, receive a crown, and be united with God both here and beyond – in the kingdom of Heaven.