I have gained a lot, from repeated listenings, from the March 28, 2008 Illumined Heart podcast, an interview with Father Zacharias (Zakarou), spiritual child of Elder Sophrony (mp3 link). Here are some excerpts:
We only have two enemies: pride and despair. If we avoid pride and despair, and we desire to be saved, the Lord will find ways to save us.
But in our day to day life one way of living this saying of St Silouan–Keep thy mind in hell and despair not–is to accept the providence of God for the circumstances in which we live, and always accepting them humbly, giving justice to God and taking upon us the blame and the shame for our failings, for our mistakes and for our failures.
When we start practicing what the prophets and the saints of God have transmitted to us, then we see that the spirit of God witnesses to us a certain grace, a certain strength which liberates us, liberates our heart, makes our heart free in order to be able to run after Christ, to run in the way of his commandments.
[On why the saints suffer] Because he has a very great purpose for us, a very great plan. He wants nothing less for us than he is himself. Everyday in the Psalms when we read Psalms we say to him, “I am thine, save me.” But who is man to say to God, I am thine? We have to convince God that we are his. And we convince him through many trials, through a certain educational chastening, as it is written in the epistle to the Hebrews. And when we have convinced God that we are truly his, then he says, “Yes, thou art mine, this day have I begotten thee,” “Yes, thou art mine, all that is mine is thine.” It’s because God wants to clothe us with the honor of sonship and that’s why he chastises us. Because the epistle to the Hebrews says, that to Whomsoever accepts the chastening of the Lord, God is offering himself as a father to his children. So all those trials . . . we have to go through trials to convince God that we are his in order that he clothes us with the honor of sonship and transmits to us all that is his–all that is mine is thine–it’s for a great purpose.
There are other reasons [that the saints suffer]. For example, we know that Job, from the Bible, that Job went through many, through much suffering because God wanted, in the person of Job, to confound the enemy and the accuser of mankind. And so what happened in the life of our Lord that through his cross and unjust death life came to the world, the abundance of life came. His unjust death became a condemnation of the just death because of the sin that preceded it. It is the same in the lives of the saints: the Lord chastises them so that through their chastising, through even their death, they also condemn death in themselves. So their suffering becomes a condemnation of evil in themselves.
[Psychology is useful in the salvific path, in its measure] But true deliverance can come only through the acquisition of the grace of God, and this grace of salvation, this grace of deliverance, comes from Christ through a life-giving relationship, a personal relationship we establish with the person of Christ. And when we have been confirmed in this relationship, then we can exploit every energy that assails our being in this world, whether psychological, or any energy, and install in us a transformer that will convert it to a spiritual energy which will sustain our converse with God. And we do that by keeping a dialogue with our Lord, with the person of our Savior. For example, I remember my grandmother how good she was and many other things, and I become moved by that, I am emotional. When that emotion comes, that energy, I forget my grandmother and I lift my mind to the Lord and I use that energy which came to me the emotion and I make it prayer. And I pray to God for the remission of my sins, for the forgiveness and the rest of your soul, or any other thing that I have in my heart to prayer for. Or another case for example: A fellow has said a harsh word to me. I cannot avoid being wounded in my heart because of the harsh word and the harsh behavior. But there are two ways of confronting that. One way is to think psychologically and say, “He’s unjust. He’s nasty. I’m always so kind to him and look what he has done to me. He is a bad person.” Of course there is no benefit in such a reasoning. But I can react in another way: My heart is painful because I have received this harsh assault from my fellow. I can lift up my mind to God and say, “Lord,” you say, “you send your angel to wake me up from my despondency, from my laziness, and to bring me back to you and to know that you are the source of every consolation, you are the source of every joy and blessings, and not to have my trust or my confidence in people but in you who are my savior and everything for me.” And that energy, the hurt of my heart, becomes a cause for a great, great converse with God, great prayer to him. And I come out of that consoled, and I forget even how it began in me, and who wounded me, because I feel after that refreshed. So there is a spiritual, a spiritual attitude that, if we have it, it’s like installing in us a transformer that transforms every negative energy in this world to a positive energy to sustain our relationship with the Lord, our converse with him.
[On the pattern of the spiritual life] It’s very difficult to make a system out of the spiritual life, because everybody’s path to God is unique, because every person is unique, and God has a special way for each person leading to him. But because we are all partakers of the same human nature, certain things occur in patterns, you know. And we can observe the phenomena, and we say that three stages. The first is when God visits man for the first time, when God finds a humble disposition in man, a little opening, he will visit him with grace, he will evangelize himself to him. And sometimes this grace will be great and sublime. Especially in different ways. But this, this blessing and this treasure of this first visitation is not a merited treasure. We have done nothing to merit it. We have received it because of the good pleasure of God. . . . And then God withdraws so that man shows his true and free disposition and understanding to prove to God that he appreciated what he was given. And he struggles in order to reacquire this grace, which he has known in the beginning. This period, the second period is a long period and very complicated but it is a very creative period because God gives us the chance to prove to him that we learned the lesson his grace taught us at the beginning, and this . . . the grace of being called to him in the beginning. Always God when he calls us to himself he gives us a certain capital of grace by which we may build up our life in him. So the second period is a period very precious and creative, because when grace withdraws we have to devise every way to do everything we can, as St Paul says, in order to stand in that grace which we have known, so that we have not received it in vain, that grace. It’s a long and creative period, and in fact, it’s a gift of God in itself that period, because if we go through it in faith and fidelity to God, then God will return with even more grace at the end, and in a more permanent way. And with that grace we hope to finish our life. We can undertsand this from the words of the Lord himself, he said to Thomas, “Because thou hast seen me Thomas you believe, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” When the Lord comes to us and the grace is in our heart, it’s easy for us to follow the Lord and to do all the great works of piety. Because it’s like we see the Lord, the Lord is present in us, and he is doing the works. And it’s easy for us to follow him, and to believe in him. But if that grace withdraws, and we do the same works and we have the same fidelity and we follow the Lord in the same way wherever he leads us to, then we receive this blessedness he said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” Because though we don’t see him so evidently like in the first period, we follow him exactly in the same way and therefore we are called blessed.
The last fifteen minutes or so of the interview include some teaching on the Jesus Prayer.