Many times I have written words for the benefit of my own soul, and I believed that those words would also benefit other persons who do not have time to open books and, perhaps, do not even have the books at hand. I know that today all are in a hurry, and the thick books of the Holy Fathers remain forgotten, and rarely does someone read them. Such is the spirit of the times, such are the occupations of men, such is the invisible war, that the spiritual work and especially the reading of the holy books have little place in the life of laymen, but even the monks have begun to adjust their lives to the new fashion. The care for earthly things keeps them shackled, and they do not find time for reading and meditation upon the Divine Scripture.
They hardly have time to listen to Vespers and Matins in the Church; and, even then, their minds are burdened with care for the body and with the vexations of life. It is difficult to find time in this century for the sweetening of the soul. But this harms us more than anything else. Having no respite to look toward those heavenly things, we forget the meaning of life, we weaken spiritually, and many times we begin to despair when we see that our life has been spent in a useless manner, in spite of the promise we made to God.
This is how the pious Nicodemus the Haghiorite advises us in this respect: "All literate Christians have the obligation to read the Holy Scripture because, as St. John Chrysostom says, without reading the Holy Scripture, one cannot be saved." In his sermon about St. Lazarus, St. John Chrysostom says: "It is impossible for someone to be saved without often sweetening himself with spiritual reading." Then, St. John of the Ladder instructs us that reading enlightens and collects the mind, and diminishes the habits and vices. And St. Ephraim the Syrian says: "Just as the sound of the trumpet in time of war arouses the zeal of the brave fighters against the enemy, so the Holy Scripture encourages you to fight against the passions."
Thus, my brother, be full of strength and strive always to apply yourself to reading the Holy Scripture in order to learn well how to avoid the snares of the enemy and so achieve eternal life. But there are some who read and do not strive to understand the written things.
The holy Apostle Paul writes to his disciple Timothy: "Pay attention to what you read." And of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory the Theologian, the historian Rufinus says that they remained in the desert for thirteen years, meditating upon the Scriptures. Now, let us think of ourselves who live in this century and ask: "If there was an absolute need for reading the Scriptures in olden times, how much more so today when the evils in the world have increased, and the good pastors have decreased, when you hardly find an example of clean life or spiritual advice; how much more we should strive to read the Holy Scripture, since only in them shall we find consolation and enlightenment."
This is the will of the Holy Spirit, to be His beloved in continual reality. The Spirit of God does not dwell in those who live in rest because the Most-Good God wished that His beloved servants should not have rest in this life, but rather live in suffering, difficulties, worries, poverty, and nakedness, in solitude and debts, in sicknesses and defamations, in battles and crushing of heart, with sickly body and image detested by others, in a state which does not compare to other people's, and a lonely, peaceful, and quiet dwelling, completely invisible to men and free of anything that produces earthly consolation. Therefore, these people weep, and the world laughs; these sigh, but the world enjoys; these fast, but the world amuses itself. During the day, they wear themselves out; and, during the night, they prepare for deprivation. There are some who offer themselves to weariness voluntarily and also submit to afflictions; some are persecuted, while others were killed, and some hid in cellars. In them was fulfilled the word that says, "You will have afflictions, but in Me you will have joy," because the Lord knows that the ones who live in rest cannot remain in His love. Therefore, Christ the Saviour has prevented these from rest and satisfaction. He Whose love is more powerful than death of the body wanted to show also in us the power of His love. Amen.
Not to make ourselves judges of the servants of God, according to the words of the Gospel -- "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matt. 7:1).
In the History of the Church by the most-wise hierarch Meletius, it says that when the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea ended, the Emperor St. Constantine the Great rejoiced greatly at the victory of the the Church against the slanderers. The emperor was present at the Council and honored the Holy Fathers with rich gifts, according to their merit, piously kissing the plucked eyes of the devoted Paphnutius with zeal, as well as the hands maimed by the tyrants. He also devoutly kissed all the other confessors, in order to sanctify himself through their wounds, which they suffered in the time of the persecution.
Some of the Council's fathers handed the emperor some complaints against a number of bishops of bad conduct. But the great Emperor Constantine did not even read their papers, nor was he interested in the identity of the accused clerics, but burned the papers in the presence of all, saying: "If with my own eyes I were to see a cleric sin, I would cover him with my mantle, that is with the mantle of the emperor."
The emperor-saint tried to give an example to all in not denouncing the hidden sins and wickedness of the clerics. Those who divulge the sins or shortcomings of clerics become defamers of the law, since all clerics are servants of the Law of God.
There are some Christians who do not judge or divulge the wickedness of clerics, but instead avoid taking a blessing from those whom they know to have human shortcomings or passions. If, however, some happen to pay for the celebration of a liturgy or take Holy Communion from such clerics and afterwards find out that they smoke tobacco or drink or are given to other passions, then these Christians repent because they have asked sanctification of such sinners. Some, like these, although they do not judge with words, become judges by their behavior. Brothers, if the priest or bishop is Orthodox, then let us be assured that the gift of the Holy Spirit works through him in every Church mystery, regardless of how sinful he is. Only when he is under interdiction by the Council or by the bishop of the diocese, or when he preaches a wrong faith, then indeed the gift of the Holy Spirit does not work through him. Then you should avoid such clerics.
In the Patericon there is an example of not judging the servants of God. Abba Mark the Egyptian spent thirty years in his cell. He used to ask the priest of the Skete to come to his cell on certain days and celebrate the holy liturgy. The devil, seeing the increased patience of the abbot, devised a way to tempt him by judging. Thus, the sly devil urged a possessed brother to go to the abbot to ask a blessing. Arriving at the hermit's, without saying another word, he yelled, "Your priest stinks of sin -- do not let him come to you!" The abbot, inspired by God, answered, "Son, all people leave their filth outside, but you have brought it inside to me!" It is written, "Judge not that ye be not judged." Even though the priest is sinful, the Lord will save him, since it is written, "And pray for one another that ye may be healed" (James 5:16).
After pronouncing these words, the saintly man prayed and chased the demon out of the possessed and healed him. And the good God, seeing the goodness of the old man, revealed to him a miraculous sign. And here is his own testimony: "When the priest wanted to begin the holy liturgy, I saw an angel of God descending from heaven and placing his hand on the priest's head. In that moment, the priest became like a fire-column. But I, being amazed at this sight, heard a voice saying to me, 'Why are you astonished at this?' For if the earthly emperors do not let his noblemen stand soiled before him, but all are dressed in great glory, how much more does the Divine Power cleanse the servants of the holy Mysteries, when they stand before the heavenly glory? Hearing such words, the poor hero Mark strove much more to honor the holy persons. Behold, what wonderful gifts do those who do not judge clerics receive!"