Is everyone aware of their sinfulness? Elder Paisios says, "we all have awareness, but we just don't care." For one to come to the light of Christ, one must want to come out of the darkness of sin. This is our common condition. We all struggle with this. We know deep down that we are sinful but we resist participation the the Sacrament of Confession. Why do we resist? Pride? Perhaps. But as the Elder says, "we just don't care." We need to find a glimmer of "light" and then we will seek out reconciliation with God. But first we must care about our condition in relationship to what Christ has taught us.
Elder Paisios uses the analogy of being shut in a dark cellar to describe the condition of one who has a heavy conscience due to sinful activities. He says that the moment one who is locked in a dark place, like a dark cellar, they feel trapped When they see a single ray of light, they will immediately try to follow it to find a way out. That single light beam will give them hope and they will struggle to find its source to escape from the darkness.
It is the same with the [sinful] person; from the moment he sees the good as a necessity and feels "good restlessness" about achieving it, makes every effort to come out of the darkness of sin. If he says, "what am I doing wrong, I am not on the right path", then he humbles himself, God's grace comes upon him and then he moves onto the right path.But he adds that this is very difficult. We must first have this feeling of "good restlessness". We must care about our spiritual condition and desire to improve it. The Elder relates this to one shut in a closet.
Someone, for example, is in a tiny closet and feels as if he is suffocating. You tell him, "Get up, oen the door and go out and get some fresh air to revive yourself." But he begins to say, "I can't go out. But why am I closed up in here unable to breath? And why shouldn't I have fresh air: And why does God keep my in here while others are out in the fresh air? Well tell me can such a person be helped?Is this not the condition of many of us. We are shut up in this tiny closet of our own mind, locked in by our own pride. Even when we are given the offer to come to receive the light, to come and seek forgiveness in Confession, we say, "Why do I need to talk to the priest? Why can't I do this all by myself? Am I not a good person?" Can such a person be helped by the Church? No, he or she remains locked in their own little world, suffocating due to their own pride.
This is the challenge and opportunity offered to us by the Church in the Lenten season. If we follow the fast, increase our daily prayers, and open our hearts to our sinfulness, we can ask for forgiveness and find relief when we may not know this is possible. We can become more capable to seek spiritual nurturing through the Sacraments and prayers of the Church. But, first, we must care. We must care about our spiritual condition. We must want to see "the good as a necessity," and want to seek what the elder calls, "good restlessness."
Let's not deceive ourselves by thinking we don't need this extra effort, that we don't need to go to Confession, that we don't need to take time each morning and evening for prayers. Let's surrender to the Wisdom of the Church and follow its teachings and partake of all the tools it offers to us for our spiritual well being.
Reference:Elder of Mount Athos Spiritual Counsels III: Spiritual Struggle, pp130