On Tempting the Lord

There were two monks on Mt Athos that shared a cell their whole monastic life. They knew each other so well. They never had an argument. Everything was so good that they thought something was missing. They felt that there was no temptation or provocation in their situation with each other. One day, they decided to have a mock-argument in order just to test themselves, so that they might profit spiritually from the exercise. The topic in itself wasn’t important to them. They believed their spiritual balance was stable enough to undertake the exercise without harm to their spiritual condition.  However, it secretly allowed the evil one to introduce a contentious spirit into their situation. This contention didn’t go away. It eventually led to disrespect and condemning of each other. The rift widened to the point that they could no longer live together. They were not in fact able to preserve their spiritual balance. What started as an exercise became a real fall for both of them. What can we say? We can say they were correct that things were indeed originally missing in their original situation when everything on the surface seemed fine to them. But they were wrong. Firstly, they had stopped relying on the providence of God Who knew they were so weak and were unable to bear certain temptations and Who was shielding them from these temptations all the while. Then they prescribed spiritual medicine to themselves without a blessing, listening to no-one. All of this came about through their inner negligence, their forgetfulness and through their spiritual insensitivity. Step-by-step, they fell into a fall because they were not faithful to their cenobitic way of life that was designed to shelter them from their own presumption and delusion. Their lack of inner vigilance was at the root of their fall. It allowed the evil one to whisper into their hearts that same temptation of our Lord in the Desert (Mt 4: 5-7) Who said, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Deut 6:16.)