// Google analytics code

Father Gavril Galev: Ascetic – Hesychastic side of the Cross


The Cross through the three levels of the spiritual life.

For the message of the cross is foolishness for those who are perishing; but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18)

Man, created in the image and likeness of God, disobeying the providence of God and his predestination, deceived himself with the perishable and earthly things and fell from God. He was expelled from heaven to this earth which brought forth both thorns and thistles, and in the sweat of his toil he will eat bread (Gen. 3; 18:19), that is, impure passions began to be born in his heart, which seize and suffocate the heart and with sweat, that is, with much effort and exertion, he should clean and ennoble his heart.

Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in accordance to the salvific Providence of God was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man in order to raise the fallen image of God in man. For this reason, the Son of God voluntarily became man, lived on earth, preached the gospel of salvation, was ridiculed, insulted, beaten, endured all kinds of afflictions, and in the end He was crucified on the Cross in order to take away the sins of the world and raise the original image of man by showing him the way, or rather He revealed to us that He is the way, the truth and the life (John: 14: 6). Now, every personal life path in that struggle of returning to the first created (original) human image and his elevation to the image and likeness of God, is called Cross, i.e. carrying of our own Cross or fulfilling the providence of God for us.

After the fall man is no longer a human, he is more like the unreasoning animals, even more similar to the evil demons than to humans. That is why Lord Jesus Christ came into this world, to raise, renew and to deify the fallen image of man.

In this process there are generally three levels noted. They are also known as the three levels of spiritual life:

  • Purification of the heart from passions,
  • Enlightenment of the mind, and,
  • Deification (perfection) of the entire human person.


Each level or period in that process is characterized by its own specifications.


  • The first level

At the first level of our spiritual life our heart is defiled by the passions, our mind is darkened and we, unfortunately, are slaves to the passions and sins. That is, we are slaves to the devil.

The mind is the reasoning part of the human soul, which should be the leader and keep the heart clean and lead it to God. But now, the mind being helpless and darkened, gets confused by the passions that are in the heart. The temptations at this level come from within, from our heart which is a captive of the passions.

The healing required to regain the original image of God in us was shown to us by our Lord Jesus Christ: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls; for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew: 11, 28-30). “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew: 8, 34).

It is necessary that we become aware and confess that we are sick, that is, fallen and sinners. After the fall, sin has greatly entered, conquered and became an inseparable part of the man, which means that self-denial is indispensable for us in order to be healed. Therefore, self-denial and dying for this world are the basic conditions for our healing and rise.

IMG_4614The reason for the fall is our pride, so the cure needs to be in accordance with the illness. That is why we need to be in a perfect obedience to a spiritual father, and according to the extent we are obedient, to that same extent we will be healed. Perfect self-denial is not possible in the world, it can be achieved only in a monastery, that is why monks develop faster and are called venerable.

The cross that we have to carry in this period is the humble acceptance of all situations, circumstances and people around us. Our thoughts are that everything is from God and for our salvation. We need to endure everything and everyone and find our fault in everything that is happening to us. We also need to give thanks to God both for the good and for the bad – because, what seems bad to us is in truth good. God is absolutely good, and, nothing bad can come from His essence; It is us that are bad, our energy is bad and darkened; it is because of our pride and vanity that we hurt each other and get hurt. That this is so can be seen from the fact that in identical situations we react differently in different periods of our spiritual development. This clearly means that the problem is not external but internal, within us.

God is merciful and He always gives us the best cure to heal our sick souls. This happens in two ways. The first is by our willing effort to cleanse our hearts, that is, by voluntarily bearing our Cross in an effort of obedience: by fasting, prostrations, regular presence and standing at the church services, the struggle in prayer and so on; and the second way is by involuntary suffering and pain in carrying of the Cross not by our will but by the will of God – which means humble enduring of all temptations given to us by God.

Offence, humiliation, gossip, ridicule, blame are the best medicine for our pride, our vanity and the high opinion of ourselves. Experiencing these involuntary sufferings are the best way for us to check our spiritual condition, that is, to check how clean our hearts are. We must not justify ourselves or get angry or rebel against those by whom the temptation presents itself, but with joy we should say: “Thank You God for remembering me and visiting me, the time has come for me some of my sins to be forgiven, it is a time for spiritual growth and rise, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Each justification is a fall, descending from the Cross that God has given us for our salvation. Our own justification of our actions means that we refuse to drink the medicine for our healing. Illness, poverty, subordination, worldly weakness and every weakness are the appropriate medicines for our healing and raising at the first level of our spiritual life.


  • The second level

At the second level, after the heart is cleansed enough from the passions, the struggle consists in striving to continue with the purification until we illumine the essence of the mind. Now, as the heart is clean enough of the passions, the devil cannot easily influence and tempt us from within, but he uses other people who are his weapons in his attack from outside. The struggle or the Cross at this level consists in responding with ascetic love for whomsoever the temptations come through, regardless of the fact if they are our friends or our enemies. Our “enemies” are in truth our best friends as they help us the most in our struggle (asceticism) of love and spiritual perfection. That is why we should look upon each and every person as our brother or sister, as our fellow men.

Christ was crucified with his arms wide open to all, and accept all in His heart. Love towards our enemies is the final annihilation of all vanity, high opinion of ourselves and all pride within us.


  • The third level

At the third level – the level of deification of the complete human person – the heart and the essence of the mind are clean and into them the human-loving God pours the wholeness of His grace (the christening grace has been actualized again); the ascetic ceaselessly delights and quenches his thirst from it and he is no longer of this world, but he already lives in the eternity, the Kingdom of Heaven is already in his heart, and his mind ceaselessly abides in the heavenly heights.

01At this level of spiritual life it seems like there are no temptations. It is not that there are no temptations, because greater spiritual growth entails greater temptations, but now because of the immeasurable grace that the ascetic possesses, it only seems that they do not exist. There is also the possibility of fall at this level of spiritual growth as the demon can attack directly. The cross at this level consists of the graceful and thankful endurance of everything and of love towards everyone with not even a single exception.

The raising, renewal and recreating the fallen image of man correspond respectively to each of the three levels of spiritual life. The raising happens at the first level when the heart is purified from the passions, the renewal happens at the second level when the mind is illuminated (this is the natural state of our forebears Adam and Eve before the fall) and the recreating the fallen image of man, is the deification for which man is intended. We are created by the image and likeness of God; God became a man so that man could become God.

We have said that our only purpose here on earth is to gain the Kingdom of Heaven and the life of the world to come; that is why we should not worry too much about this passing, material and decaying world founded on evil and whose master is the antichrist with his fallen angels (demons). On the contrary, we should despise it and lift our hearts to the Lord in Whom is all our hope; we need to humble ourselves and deny ourselves, take our cross and follow Christ, our only Lord and Saviour.

We fruitlessly spend our time in self justification (excuses), self-lying, delusion and darkness. There is nothing to wait for, nothing to lose. Let us deny our sinful ego, take upon our cross and follow Christ. Amen


Fr. Gavril Galev

Abbot of the monastery “St. Clement of Ohrid”,

Kinglake, Melbourne, Australia

About The Author