Gratitude for Little and Much

Elder Païsios

Gratitude to God for little and much.
Elder Païsios of the Holy Mountain (1924–1998)

“I believe that God will help me,” some say, but then they try to save money so that they would not suffer any want. Such people mock God, because they are entrusting themselves not to Him, but to money. If they do not stop loving money, and put all their hope in it, then they cannot put their trust in God. I am not saying that people should not have some kind of savings in case of need, no. But they should not put their trust in money, they should not give their heart to money, because in doing so, people forget God. A person who, not trusting God, makes his own plans, and then says that God wants this, demonically “blesses” his deed and constantly suffers. We have not realized how powerful and kind God is. We do not let Him be the master, do not let Him direct us, and therefore we suffer.

On Sinai, in the cell of St. Epistimia where I lived, there was just a bit of water. In one cave, about 20 meters from the cell, water seeped drop by drop from a crack in the cliff. I made a small water collector and collected 3 liters of water a day. When I came for water, I put a tin can under the drip, and while it was filling, read the Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos. I wet my head a little, only my forehead — this helped me; one doctor had suggested this — I collected a little water to drink, in a separate can I collected a little water for the mice and birds living near my cell. For laundry and other needs, I used this very water from the cave. What joy, what thanks I felt for this little amount of water that I had! I praised God that I had water.

Then, when I came to the Holy Mountain and lived in the Iberian Skete for a short time, there, inasmuch as that side was sunny, there was no shortage of water. There was a cistern, out of which the water poured over the sides. Ooh! I washed my head, and feet… but the past was forgotten. On Sinai my eyes teared from thanks for the little amount I had, but here, in the skete, I fell into forgetfulness from the abundance of water. Therefore, I left this cell and set up residence father away, about 80 meters distant, where there was a small cistern. How lost a person becomes, forgetful, from abundance!

We must completely, unconditionally entrust ourselves to Divine Providence, to God’s will, and God will take care of us. A monk once went to the top of a mountain in order to serve vespers there. He found a white mushroom along the way and thanked God for this rare find. On the way back, he wanted to cut off this mushroom and prepare it for dinner. “If secular people will begin to ask me, if I eat meat, — the monk reasoned in his thoughts, — then I can say, that I eat it every autumn!” On the way back to the kaliva, the monk saw that, while he was reading vespers, an animal had stepped on the mushroom, and only half remained intact. “Apparently” — said the monk, — “this is how much I should eat.” He took what remained, and thanked God for His Providence, for the half of the mushroom. A little farther on he found another mushroom half, bent down to pick it and supplement the deficiency in his dinner, but saw that the mushroom was rotten (possibly, it was poisonous). The monk left it and thanked God again for protecting him from being poisoned. Returning to the kaliva, the monk supped with the half of the mushroom. The following day, when he left his home, a marvelous sight revealed itself. Beautiful mushrooms had grown all around the kaliva, and seeing them, the monk once again thanked God. See, he thanked God for both the whole mushroom and for the half, for the good and the bad, for one and for many. He was thankful for all.

Kind God gives us generous blessings, and His actions are directed towards our benefit. All the good that we have – are God’s gifts. He placed everything in service to His creation – man, He made it so that everything: animals, and birds, and small, and large, even plants – sacrifice themselves for him. And God Himself sacrificed Himself in order to deliver man. Let us not be indifferent to all this, let us not wound Him with our great ungratefulness and insensibility, but let us begin to thank and praise Him.