More of my translation work from St. Dimitry of Rostov.
Be zealous, O man, and always be ablaze in your soul; flee despondency and coldness so that you will not hear: since“you were neither cold nor hot … I will vomit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15, 16). Strive to be watchful and do not waste the time of your life in vanity, for time has been given to you for the correction of the soul and the acquiring of eternal good. Look to it that not one day would pass in vanity – for if you lose the day to vanity, then you will never have it again. If a day has passed, it has passed; it is not within your power to return it. Therefore, do not waste your day on emptiness; instead use the given flow of time to perfect yourself. True life is not given to you for vanity, but for this: that you would use each day for profit and be accomplishing the contest1 for the virtues; never be idle.
True life is not relaxation, but battle and war, a time for enterprise, a school, a navigation across the sea. There can be no tranquility during a war, nor rest in commerce; no leisure in school, nor ease when sailing upon the sea. Who sails on the sea without fear and sobriety? Who is in the midst of war without dread? Who goes to market or school for rest? No one. Be not slothful in the things of God, nor despondent, but resolutely ready yourself and labor. For you the harvest is now; now is the time for trading,2 now is the time for buying. Reap and buy now so that you will not be found with empty hands, a stranger to God’s grace, and turned over to severe judgment. The Lord rebuked the lazy servant not for receiving and preserving the talent, but for failing to multiply it, “You wicked and lazy servant … you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at My coming I would have received back my own with interest” (Mat. 25:26-7). Not only have you not multiplied your talents, but through sloth and carelessness have lost everything. What will you say on the Fearful Day of Judgment when every detail of your life will be tested? Therefore, be watchful.
Do not bury the talent given to you in the earth through sloth and carelessness; instead strive, be vigilant, ceaselessly adding warmth to warmth and fire to fire, so that you may multiply the good given to you. Then you may daringly say to the Lord on that Day, “Here, Lord, I have gained five talents,” and you will hear the Lord’s sweet voice, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Mat. 25: 20-21). If you fail to multiply your God-given talent, but instead waste it and diminish it; if you do not flourish in good deeds, but sink to the depths; if you allow the flame of zeal within you to go out, then, the result will be your fall, which will truly be full of lamenting and weeping. Therefore, it is better to work good rather than evil, and it is better to be vigilant and watchful. For evil a person receives everlasting death, but for goodness an eternal reward; for watchfulness – praise, and for slothfulness – judgment and punishment. Therefore always be vigilant and watch, “Be Faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). The devil is watchful, and he never rests, for he goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour among those who resist him.3 But you, always be watchful; do not sleep, that you may escape the snares which the enemy has laid for you.
The wise Solomon stirs you up to continual labor and teaches, saying, “Compare yourself to the ant, O sluggard, and be zealous when you see his ways, and become wiser than he. For although he has no tilled land, neither anyone to compel him, nor any master to rule him, yet he prepares all his food in the summer and makes provisions abundant in the winter. Or go to the honeybee, and learn how she is a worker and how solemnly she does her work, whose labor kings and commons use for health; and she is desirable to all and glorious; and although she is weak in bodily strength she leads the way in honoring wisdom. How long, O sluggard, will you be idle, and when will you arise from sleep? You sleep a little … and fold your hands on your chest a little; then poverty comes to you as an evil traveler and neediness as a swift runner” (Prov. 6:7-15). Therefore always work good and flourish daily. Now is the time for action; then will come the time to receive recompense according to your actions. Now is the time for labor and then comes rest; now is the time for sorrow and patience and then crowns and honor; now is the time for tears and mourning and then joy and delight.
And so, O man, neither take ease nor be careless. Always be watchful and heedful; always be thoughtful and vigilant. You will achieve only one thing – either victory over the enemy or your defeat, you will either be abiding in God or cut off from Him. You will be saved, or you will perish. There are no other choices. You will never find peace and rest in this present life, nor receive from it stillness and calm. Therefore, as long as you have breath always be ready for battle. This world is not a place for rest and relaxation, but diligence and action; so ready yourself, labor while you have time. For even though you may greatly desire to recapture the time which you have spent on uselessness, you will not be able – an appointed time is allotted and another will not be given to you in this age. Now of your own free will labor just a little, so that afterward you will be delivered from the many undesired everlasting miseries; labor zealously for a short time, so thereafter you will receive a multitude of grace from the Lord and be counted worthy of life eternal.
More than anything else, nurture eternal good things. Think about how people strive for corruptible goods, they pass sleepless nights, giving themselves no rest in commerce, in craftsmanship, in agriculture, in military service, in exploits at sea, in travels, and in a variety of other labors and cares. And yet, you shrink from the labor that brings eternal and immortal blessings; you’d rather give yourself to sloth and neglect – wake up, be watchful! Why are you slothful? Why are you wasting the time given to you? Have you somehow already finished? Have you somehow already conquered? Are there somehow no more battles? Or are you already perfectly united to God? What are you doing? What are you acquiring? Behold, the market is closing, the sun is setting in the west, Judgment is at the door, the harvest is coming in, and day after day your life is drawing to its end. Will you continue sleeping instead of laboring? Do you think that someone can sleep through the time for sowing and then wake up at harvest time and begin to reap sheaves? Who collects grapes from vines which they have never planted? To the one who labors belongs the fruit. Why then do you not labor? Why do you not work? Why are you not gathering while you still have the time? The time is coming when you will not be able to take action. The time allotted for your life is like a single day. Call upon the Lord, diligently work, be watchful, redeem the time, and take action. Gather and reap while it is the harvest, while you have good weather, while night is yet to come, while it is not yet winter, because when the day ends you may desire to take action, but you will be unable. Who, in this life ever acquires temporal riches through sloth and carelessness? Who receives glory and honor without effort ? Who does nothing and achieves a reward? No one. If it is impossible to attain temporal goods without labor and effort, how much more the eternal.
Your allotted time is drawing to a close, death is ever approaching, prepare now for the grave and judgment, the demons are eagerly seeking to catch you, and you, why are you still without action? Why are you vainly pursuing emptiness? Rouse yourself, awaken, open your eyes, open your ears, come to your senses, and regain feeling! Look at the sun, watch the moon, observe the heavenly elements; they never stop and are always in action. They never rest, as they move on their courses, and with their every movement your life is growing shorter. Why then are you slothful? Why are you resting? Remember how the saints labored and what zeal they had for God. Call to your mind their virtues and the spiritual feats4 they manifested, how they resolutely pursued these things as if not in their own bodies. They despised glory, riches, pleasurable pastimes, and even their bodies and health. In this life, they loved nothing more than Christ. Why then are you so cold and dejected? Arise, arise! Do not strive zealously only today and then cease tomorrow; do not be watchful only today and then succumb to sloth tomorrow; instead always be vigilant so that you may be counted worthy of eternal life.
Always prepare yourself, O man, to meet the Heavenly Bridegroom, the sweetest Lord Jesus, so that you may meet Him with the lamp of your heart burning and your soul full of warmth – only this will remain forever. Always keep your lamp lit, see to it that it never goes out inside of you, so that you will not be left in the darkness of unfeeling and sloth. See to it that the door of Christ’s wedding feast is not closed on you, and you find yourself outside of Christ’s mercy. Prepare to receive the Lord of Glory, open your heart and soul, receive the One Who stands before the door of your heart, continually urging within your soul, saying, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20).
1In Russian, Подвиг (Podvig).
2Cf. The parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price, Matthew 25: 13:44-46.
3Cf. 1 Peter 5:8
4In Russian, Подвиги (Podvigs).