EXPAND YOUR READING!!

"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Sunday, 31 October 2010

All Saints 2010


          I have always been struck by that phrase in the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer where we pray for “those whose faith is known to you alone.” Today is the Feast of All Saints. We remember all the saints of the Old and New Testament and all the saints of history, men and women, famous or forgotten, who are recognised as such by the universal Church, the “hundred and forty four thousand” as it were.

But then there is that “huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language”, who, according to the book of the Apocalypse, stand before God’s throne and worship him night and day in the joyful and victorious liturgy of heaven. Among them we find “those who have been through the great persecution and have washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb.”

It is six weeks now since Cardinal John Henry Newman was beatified. We have all been witnesses to how this was done and of the lengthy and complicated process that led up to his beatification. Obviously, that can only be an exception for the famous among the Church’s children. For most of us, it will be the good Lord alone who is aware of our sanctity. It is his gift after all!

          Today we celebrate not only the known but the unknown, those, in fact “whose faith is known to you alone.” I derive great comfort from that, because there is room among the saints even for the insignificant and the mediocre, the weak and those for whom faith and faithfulness are a real struggle, in other words even for me and you. And that is the ultimate meaning of Christian hope. “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.”

          St John told us in the second reading, “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children, and that is what we are. We are already the children of God. All we know is, that when the future is revealed, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he really is.”

          We are not easily convinced of God’s love. Creation, which reveals a God of love and beauty and life, also conceals the sinister presence of evil, destruction and death. Moreover, our faith is weak and we often feel unworthy, sinful, impure and guilty. Yet it is we whom God loves.

“God so loved the world … He did not send his only Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus came for one thing only, to save sinners, to save you and me. Not a sparrow falls to the ground but that God takes note. “Why, the very hairs of your head are counted!” It is easy to forget that the saints, too, were sinners, sometimes grave sinners, and that they, like us, were forgiven through the Cross of Jesus and saved by God’s grace, amazing grace indeed. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” those who recognise their need for God, for theirs alone is the Kingdom of Heaven. The saints encourage us to pray for conversion and to seek the grace of a new life in Christ.


          At present the children of God are divided into the Church Militant, those of us still struggling here on Earth (and it’s not always easy, is it?), the Church Expectant, the souls in Purgatory being cleansed and prepared for Heaven, and the Church Triumphant, those who have made it and now sing God’s praises together with the angels in the sheer bliss of the beatific vision. But let us not forget. One day there will be only Heaven and there will be only Love, for God will be all in all.

          Today, then, let us thank God for all the saints and thank him for calling us to be numbered among them.  Let us also promise to do our best to respond to his love and, in all humility, to be content and grateful just to be one of those “whose faith is known to you alone.” Amen.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

[Irenikon] Dated, but quite interesting: Benedict's most recent reflection of Fatima 3rd Secret

 

None other than Pope Benedict XVI—only days after the Fatima Challenge conference in Rome—has clearly and deliberately reopened the entire Third Secret controversy! During the Pope’s flight to Portugal for his just completed papal visit to the Fatima Shrine, papal spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi read to His Holiness three questions that represented a “synthesis” of the questions to which the press pool sought answers. In answering these questions, as John Allen notes, the Pope “was hardly caught off-guard. The Vatican asks reporters travelling with the pope to submit questions for the plane several days in advance, so Benedict has plenty of time to ponder what he wants to say. If he takes a question on the plane, it’s because he wants to talk about it, and he’s chosen his words carefully.”
In other words, the Pope wanted to talk about the Third Secret of Fatima, ten years after the subject was supposedly laid to rest. Here is the pre-selected question and the pertinent portions of the Pope’s explosive answer:
Lombardi: Holiness, what significance do the apparitions of Fatima have for us today? And when you presented the text of the Third Secret, in the Vatican Press Office, in June 2000, it was asked of you whether the Message could be extended, beyond the attack on John Paul II, also to the other sufferings of the Pope. Is it possible, according to you, to frame also in that vision the sufferings of the Church of today for the sins of the sexual abuse of minors?
Pope Benedict: Beyond this great vision of the suffering of the Pope, which we can in substance refer to John Paul II, are indicated future realities of the Church which are little by little developing and revealing themselves. Thus it is true that beyond the moment indicated in the vision, one speaks, one sees, the necessity of a passion of the Church that naturally is reflected in the person of the Pope; but the Pope is in the Church, and therefore the sufferings of the Church are announced…. As for the novelty that we can discover today in this message,  it is that attacks on the Pope and the Church do not come only from outside, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from sins that exist in the Church. This has always been known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from enemies outside, but arises from sin in the Church.

[Irenikon] St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite On Vampirism

 What about MERMAIDS?

Just as Spanish Christians lighted candles on graves to show their disbelief in ghosts and their faith that Christ had turned dead Christians into saints, so an Orthodox saint in the same Spirit casts scorn on beliefs in vampires.  Again, this post we owe to Fr Ambrose Young, an American Orthodox priest.   Happy Halloween!!!

 

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite On Vampirism


Canon 66 of St. Basil the Great

A grave-robber shall remain excluded from Communion for ten years.

Footnote By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

It is fitting that we add in the present footnote how great condemnation those priests or laymen deserve who open graves in order to find, as they say, the Vrykolakas*, as they call them, and put them to death.

Oh, to what a wretched condition and lack of knowledge present-day Christians have reached! Christian brethren, what delusions are those you have? What foolish and infantile imaginings are those in which you believe? What mockeries are those with which the demons separate you from an implicit belief in God, and make sport of you like silly children?

I tell you and I inform you with every assurance that Vrykolakas never occur, nor are there any in the world. Vrykolakas, as you call them, are nothing else than a false and childish prejudice born of your fear and unbelief; and they are a silly notion which fools you and tells you that the dead rise out of their tombs and come forth and trouble you. There are no Vrykolakas, because it is impossible for the Devil ever to raise a dead person and to make a corpse that has been dead a month or two have blood, or finger nails, or any bodily movement or motion, such as you imagine.

Vrykolakas are a silly notion, because, if one examines carefully those who claim to have seen Vrykolakas, he will find that after saying that someone else told them about it they finally come to believe that they themselves have seen them. That is my impression from having many times and in many places investigated the facts. Hence, my brethren, when you learn these, dismiss any such prejudice and imagination from your thought, and henceforth believe not that there are any such things as Vrykolakas in reality.

If, as a result of your paucity of belief in God the Devil ever obsesses you with any such imaginations, tell the priest to chant an Hagiasmo, or Sanctification Service, in that place, and through divine grace the activity of the demons will be terminated.

As for any persons that dare to open graves in order to strike or mangle a corpse, or to burn it, for the alleged purpose of putting to death with that blow or of burning the Vrykolakas, they ought to be canonized by the prelate not only as grave-robbers, but also as murderers. What am I saying? Why, such persons ought to be prohibited under severe penalties by the prelate from daring in the beginning even to open at all the graves of suspected dead persons.

See also divine Chrysostom (Homily 2 "On Lazarus and the Rich Man"), how he reproves those silly persons who believe that demons actually are in existence, which is the same as saying, the souls of those who have been murdered, or have been hanged, or have met a violent death. For he tells them that the souls of such persons do not become demons or Vrykolakas, but rather do those Christians who live in sins and who imitate the wickedness of the demons.

See also page 992 of the second volume of the Conciliar Records, where it is stated to have been a belief of the heresy of the Bogomils that demons inhabit bodies.

* Vrykolakas (Greek βρυκόλακας, pronounced /vriˈkolakas/), variant vorvolakas or vurdulakas, is a harmful undead creature in Greek folklore. It has similarities to many different legendary creatures, but is generally equated with the vampire of the folklore of the neighbouring Slavic countries. While the two are very similar, blood-drinking is only marginally associated with the vrykolakas. Read more here.

Source: The Rudder (Pedalion) (The Orthodox Christian Educational Society, Chicago: 1957) pp. 830-831

AND MERMAIDS?
wHAT__._,_.___

[Irenikon] The Christian, Not Pagan, Origins of Halloween

 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Christian, Not Pagan, Origins of Halloween

The following excerpt is from the book "The Stations of the Sun" by Ronald Hutton (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996). This is to supplement my post titled "Orthodoxy and Halloween: Separating Fact From Fiction". Hutton is a British historian, and his book is a very well-researched study of seasonal festivals in Britain. Some of his observations may be of interest to those who get their knickers in a knot over Halloween — either pagans who think Christians “stole” it, or Christians who think it must be “demonic”.

At the end of the nineteenth century, two distinguished academics, one at Oxford and the other at Cambridge, made enduring contributions to the popular conception of Samhain. The former was the philologist Sir John Rhys, who suggested that it had been the ‘Celtic’ New Year… Rhys’s theory was further popularized by the Cambridge scholar, Sir James Frazer. At times the latter did admit that the evidence for it was inconclusive, but at others he threw this caution overboard and employed it to support an idea of his own: that Samhain had been the pagan Celtic feast of the dead. He reached this belief by the simple process of arguing back from a fact, that 1 and 2 November had been dedicated to that purpose by the medieval Christian Church, from which it could be surmised that this was been a Christianization of a pre-existing festival. He admitted, by implication, that there was in fact no actual record of such a festival, but inferred the former existence of one from a number of different propositions: that the Church had taken over other pagan holy days, that ‘many’ cultures have annual ceremonies to honour their dead, ‘commonly’ at the opening of the year, and that (of course) 1 November had been the Celtic New Year. He pointed out that although the feast of All Saints or All Hallows had been formally instituted across most of north-west Europe by the Emperor Louis the Pius in 835, on the prompting of Pope Gregory IV, it had already existed, on its later date of 1 November, in England at the time of Bede. He suggested that the pope and emperor had, therefore, merely ratified an existing religious practice based upon that of the ancient Celts.

The story is, in fact, more complicated. By the mid-fourth century Christians in the Mediterranean world were keeping a feast in honour of all those who had been martyred under the pagan emperors; it is mentioned in the Carmina Nisibena of St Ephraim, who died in about 373, as being held on 13 May. During the fifth century divergent practices sprang up, the Syrian churches holding the festival in Easter Week, and those of the Greek world preferring the Sunday after Pentecost. That of Rome, however, preferred to keep the May date, and Pope Boniface IV formally endorsed it in the year 609. By 800 churches in England and Germany, which were in touch with each other, were celebrating a festival dedicated to all saints upon 1 November instead. The oldest text of Bede’s Martyrology, from the eighth century, does not include it, but the recensions at the end of the century do. Charlemagne’s favourite churchman Alcuin was keeping it by then, as were also his friend Arno, bishop of Salzburg, and a church in Bavaria. Pope Gregory, therefore, was endorsing and adopting a practice which had begun in northern Europe. It had not, however, started in Ireland, where the Felire of Oengus and the Martyrology of Tallaght prove that the early medieval churches celebrated the feast of All Saints upon 20 April. This makes nonsense of Frazer’s notion that the November date was chosen because of ‘Celtic’ influence: rather, both ‘Celtic’ Europe and Rome followed a Germanic idea….
 
This article is given to you through the kindness of Fr Ambrose Young.   In Peru, in many places the people spend the night of November 1st in the local grave yard where theylight candles on the tombs of the relatives and friends and say pray fpr the dead.   Also, small orchestras go round and, for a small donation, play music at the tomb.   I was told that this custom comes from Spain where, at a time when paganism was still very strong, people were afraid of graveyards because they were full of ghosts.   The Christians said that the spirits of the dead were not ghosts but saints; and, to demonstrate their belief, the Christians lit a candle on the grave of their dead, just as they did before the images of the saints. - David 
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Friday, 29 October 2010

THE ORIGINS AND MOTIVATIONS OF MONASTICISM

The origins and motivations of monasticism Written by Newman Nahas, M.Phil. From its inception, Christianity produced many who, while remaining fully part of their local parish, were inspired to pursue rigorous ascetic lifestyles. Indeed, even the most primitive expressions of Christianity, such as St. Paul's letters, contain strong ascetic emphases. However, the emergence of monasticism as a distinct ascetic movement, separated from the larger Christian community, does not appear straightaway. Rather, it emerges, in diverse forms and various regions, only around the fourth century AD. In this paper, I will trace the origins and depict the motivations of this movement, primarily as it appeared in the Christian East, and I will argue that monasticism should be understood as an organic outgrowth of the Christian kerygma -- that in the development of the monastic practice the Christian community changed its outer structure precisely to preserve its inner essence. Understanding Asceticism and Monasticism: Preliminary Observations I shall be using monasticism to refer to that ascetic movement characterized by anachoresis, or withdrawal from the Christian community and the rest of society. Monasticism does not have a monopoly on asceticism, as asceticism is a characteristic of many non- and pre-monastic Christians (as well as non-Christians). All monasticism is ascetic, but all asceticism is not monastic. What distinguishes monasticism from the broader category of Christian asceticism -- at least as I propose to use the terms -- is monasticism's emphasis on withdrawal. Before continuing, however, I would like qualify what I have said in two ways. First, I would like to emphasize that the withdrawal which characterizes monasticism need not be seen as signaling a complete disconnection from society. The monk may still be strongly connected with the rest of the Church (and society) through his prayers. Some of us might think prayer a negligible connection, but in characterizing the motivations of the monks we must realize that they certainly did not share this assumption. And we must also realize that the personal success of the monk possessed communal consequences. When Anthony defeats the devils in the Desert, it is not only his own victory, but ours as well. There exists a profound solidarity, then, among all humans and especially among all Christians. Moreover, in some cases the physical withdrawal is not permanent. After time apart, some anchoritic monastics resume contact with the rest of the community. St. Anthony is a prime example of this pattern: fortified by the freedom and insight which his withdrawal helped him obtain, he was enabled to help countless others find their own freedom. Indeed, many continue to find his life, words and prayers profoundly helpful even today, sixteen centuries after his death. Yet, what enabled him to be so helpful to society was precisely his withdrawal from society. Second, I would like to emphasize that asceticism need not denote dualist motivations or a hatred of the body or the world. While no doubt certain ascetics, Christian as well as non-Christian, may have had a pessimistic estimate of the human body and of the physical world -- the monk Dorotheus's explanation of why he taxes his body being a fine Christian example: "It kills me, so I kill it" -- the dominant view that we find among orthodox Christian monastics is more in line with Poemen's remark: "We were taught not to kill the body, but to kill the passions." The great battle is against spirits and principalities, not flesh and blood; and the battle line is drawn not between the physical and the immaterial, but between godliness and ungodliness. The passions can be as much spiritual as physical. As Peter Brown observes, In the desert tradition, vigilant attention to the body enjoyed an almost oppressive prominence. Yet to describe ascetic thought as "dualist" and as motivated by hatred of the body, is to miss its most novel and its most poignant aspect. Seldom, in ancient thought, had the body been seen as more deeply implicated in the transformation of the soul; and never was it made to bear so heavy a burden.1 Indeed, the great burden the monks placed upon the body was evidence of the great expectations they had for it. The body along with the soul was to be saved, and this is why not only the soul but the body, too, must be brought under a strict discipline. "Against all types of Dualism, pagan or pre-Christian, Antony's perfection is shown reflected in his bodily condition, retained right up to his death fifty years later, when he was still sound in all his senses and vigorous in his limbs, with even his teeth complete in number, though worn down to the gums".2 In the case of Syrian monasticism, however, some scholars have assessed the motivations of the monks to be extremely dualist.3 While a more thorough analysis of the Syrian monastic tradition must be deferred for now, at this point it is sufficient to note that this is not the only possible interpretation of the motivations of Syrian monasticism; and it is certainly not descriptive of the great sage of Syria, St. Ephrem, who, although not a monk in the more Egyptian sense of the word, was nevertheless an ascetic and had much to say on this question. "They greatly afflict their bodies," he wrote, "not because they do not love their bodies; rather, they want to bring their bodies to Eden in glory".4 The Struggle for Freedom If the austere fasts, the minimal amounts of sleep and the austere lifestyle of the monk are not to be taken as a rejection of the body as such, how then are they to be taken? They should be taken, I would argue, as having a more positive aim: the acquisition of freedom. One who is addicted to wine does not enjoy wine. It is only when one can say "no" to wine that one can truly enjoy it. Christian asceticism is in a sense concerned with producing precisely this sort of freedom. Asceticism enables us to say no, without which ability we can never truly say yes. In the end, asceticism is therefore the true hedonism; without asceticism, pleasures are lost in the sea of necessity. Asceticism is also able to cultivate our uniqueness and creativity. Slavery to the passions is an assault on one's unique identity and creativity. What is more boring and predictable than the behavior of a chap addicted to the affirmation of his ego? You can almost always anticipate what he is going to say, because it is usually.5 Unlike the one who is enslaved to a passion and who is thus in a category along with countless other similarly enslaved victims, the ascetic is one of a kind. Thus freedom from the tyranny of the passions, or apatheia, is a fundamental aim of Christian asceticism and monasticism. Freedom from a tyrant can be brought about in two ways. One can either alter the character of the relationship with the tyrant, or simply get rid of him. Similarly, ascetic and monastic theology tends to approach freedom from "the passions" in two ways. One can see the passions in Aristotelian terms, as neutral capacities capable of being put either to evil or to good use, in which case the aim would be to transform or to educate them so that they may work for our benefit. Or one may see the passions in Stoic terms, as fundamentally diseased qualities, intrinsically evil, in which case the aim is simply to get rid of them. Either way, however, both approaches agree that the common aim of the ascetic struggle is freedom from the passions, called apatheia, whether this 'freedom' implies reform or complete eradication. It should be noted that this state is not merely "apathy" or indifference, still less a condition in which sinning is impossible, but it is on the contrary a state of inner freedom and integration, in which we are no longer under the dominion of sinful impulses, and so are capable of genuine love . . . It is no mere mortification of the passions, but a state of soul in which a burning love for God and for our fellow humans leaves no room for sensual and selfish impulses."6 Finally, it should be emphasized that Christian asceticism and monasticism are to be distinguished from other forms of ascetic practice by their strong conviction that the ascetic struggles, while free, are effected not merely by one's own labor, but by God's grace. We must always bear in mind the monk's conviction that it is Christ who is at work in him, and that without him he can do nothing. But with him, there is nothing worth doing which he cannot do. The Different Kinds of Monasticism and the Different Regions in which they Emerged We shall consider four major categories of monasticism: the hermitic, the coenobitic, the semi-hermetic and the native Syrian proto-monasticism. We shall also look briefly at the way in which these different forms of monasticism existed in the following four regions in the Christian East: Egypt, Asia Minor, Palestine and Syria. The HermitFirst, there is the unmitigated life of withdrawal and seclusion: the eremitic life. This is found in particular in Lower Egypt, as well Syria, but there only after the fifth century. The great father of this form of life is St. Anthony. At about twenty years of age (c. 269), he heard Christ's words, "Go, sell all you have and give to the poor and come and follow me" read aloud in Church. He thus freed himself of the confines of his possessions -- although not without first securing a stable existence for his sister, for whose care he was responsible at the time (he entrusted her to a Parthenon, showing that community life for women already existed) -- and followed Christ into the Desert. His withdrawal was a gradual one: he moved further and further away from human society until, c. 285, he reached the deep desert, the outer mountain at Pispir, where he struggled day and night to liberate his true self from the 'zombiefying' delusions of the passions and the demons. Around 305, having attracted a number of followers who were inspired by his discipline and holiness, he came out of his seclusion to advise others in their own struggles. In what sense is it characteristic of following Christ to flee to the desert? The answer to this may be found in considering Christ's own departure to the desert prior to his ministry, as well as his departure to the desert after the death of St. John the Baptist. Our Lord's decision to withdraw into the desert -- in the mind of the hermit -- is certainly not a meaningless accident, an arbitrary selection of a place without significance. St. Anthony is thus following Christ's model; indeed, he is following Christ himself. For, as Fr. Georges Florovsky brilliantly explains, while Christ, as the Second Person of the Trinity, is everywhere present, filling all things, there is something unique about the desert and the solitude which it symbolizes (and effects) that makes Christ's presence more easily realized: By following out Lord into the desert, St. Anthony was entering a terrain already targeted and stamped out by our Lord as a specific place for spiritual warfare. There is both specificity and type in the desert. In those geographical regions where are no deserts, there are places which are similar to or approach that type of place symbolized by the desert. It is that type of place which allows the human heart solace, isolation. It is a type of place which puts the human heart in a state of aloneness, a state in which to meditate, to pray, to fast, to reflect upon one's inner existence and one's relationship to ultimate reality -- God. And simultaneously where the opposing forces to spiritual life can become more dominant. It is the terrain of a battlefield but a spiritual one. And it is our Lord, not St. Antony, who has set the precedent. Our Lord says that "as for what is sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceit of riches choke the world, and it becomes unfruitful." The desert, or a place similar, precisely cuts off the cares or anxieties of the world and the deception, the deceit of earthly riches. It cuts one off precisely from "this worldliness" and precisely as such it contains within itself a powerful spiritual reason for existing within the spiritual paths of the Church. Not as the only path, not as the path for everyone, but as one, full authentic path of Christian life.7 The Coenobitic LifeIn many ways, the anchoritic life is the most potent. Yet, precisely for this reason, it is the most dangerous, with great spiritual risks. As Fr. Florovsky indicates at the end of the above quotation, it is not for everyone. For others, a more moderated form of withdrawal and seclusion is more suitable. One such alternative form of monasticism, possessing great inherent safeguards against delusion, is the communal life. Here a group of monks live together, under a common rule and in a common monastery, mutually supporting and encouraging one another. There are two great fathers of this form of monastic life: St. Pachomius of Egypt (286-346) and St. Basil the Great (c. 330-379). This form of monasticism became common primarily in Egypt and Asia Minor. Within the former, it was popular in Upper Egypt, a part of the country less remote than St. Anthony's area. Pachomius's communities were found around Tabbennisi in Thebaid, near the Nile. Pachomius himself attracted a number of followers; at his death he was ruling over a nine monasteries for men and two for women. In Asia Minor, Basil also strongly encouraged this form of monasticism as being more suitable for most people than the hermetic style. However, it is unlikely that Basil's inspiration came from Pachomius; it seems to have come instead from Syria. At any rate, Basil feared that the hermetic life, among other pitfalls, could lead to a neglect of the evangelical call to charity and philanthropy, and so his monasteries were also concerned directly with issues of social justice. "Basil adds to the mystical and inner emphases of monasticism, a strong emphasis on external acts of charity and philanthropy".8 He also insists on monastic obedience as a check on the "excess, the competitiveness, and the ostentation of histrionic individuals who were bringing the monastic movement into disrepute." Basil was also careful to insist that monks remain mindful of the normal worshipping life of the Church and they remained connected and obedient to the local bishop.9 The Skete and the LavraThird, there is the semi-hermetic form of monasticism, which is intermediate between the two already mentioned. In this situation, the monks did not live in complete separation, like the hermits; nor did they live in complete community, like coenobitic monks. Rather, there existed a number of independent groups of monks, each of which varied greatly in size, but which would all come together for a common liturgy or meal, especially on Sunday. "The great centres of the semi-eremitic life in Egypt were Nitria and Scetis, which by the end of the fourth century had produced many outstanding monks -- Ammon the founder of Nitria, Macarius of Egypt and Macarius of Alexandria, Evagrius of Pontus, and Arsenius the Great".10 Nitria was nearer to Alexandria and formed a natural gateway to Scetis. It was meeting place between the world and the desert where visitors, like John Cassian, could first make contact with the traditions of the desert. Here, we may suspect that the monasticism was more of a more learned sort, and that a more Greek-influenced type of monasticism evolved around an educated minority, of whom Evagrius Ponticus is an outstanding example. This "semi-hermetic" model can also be found in Jerusalem, which became a great monastic center later in the fifth century. In the Judean wilderness, and especially around the desert of Gaza, there were great spiritual fathers of the Egyptian tradition. Indeed, in the fifth and sixth centuries, leadership in the monastic movement shifted to Palestine through the influence of such figures as St. Euthymius the Great (died 473) and his disciple St. Sabas (died 532). Judea became the home of the "Lavra".11 Here, a number of individual monks would have their own cells in proximity to a main leader and would meet on special occasions, just as in Nitria and Scetis. This sort of model preserved a greater level of solitude than was common in a coenobium. Another difference between the semi-hermetic and the coenobitic models is that the semi-hermetic arrangement often functioned as a preparatory phase for the anchoritic life, and seemed to tacitly presume that the anchoritic life was the superior. "This is in marked contrast with the ideal of Pachomius, or of Basil, for whom the coenobium is a lifelong vocation".12 SyriaFinally, there is the complicated situation of Syria. In order to understand the history of monasticism in Syria, we must realize that there were two phases in Syrian monasticism. The first phase we may call "proto-monasticism," and it is the phase dominant prior to the fifth century differing considerably from the Egyptian monastic traditions. The second phase is the one that receives the most attention among historians no doubt in part because it is also the one in which all the remarkable accounts of stunning acts of self-mortification are found. This second phase reflects a fundamental shift toward the Egyptian model, which had gained an irresistible prestige and momentum throughout Christendom. There is very little direct information concerning the first phase of Syrian monasticism. The primary sources for this period are Aphrahat and Ephrem. To understand the distinctive characteristics of Syrian "proto-monasticism," two phrases need to be understood: ihidaya (literally: solitary, monk) and Bnay Qyama (literally: sons of the covenant). These phases are used almost interchangeably, especially by Aphrahat; but they do seem to convey different nuances. The ways in which they are used, primarily by Aphrahat, give us a glimpse of the character of Syrian "proto-monasticism," and so it is worthwhile to pursue this matter in detail. Let us begin with the ihidaya (plural, ihidaye). This term refers to single persons who were committed to serving God. Griffith parallels them to the biblical widows and virgins. We know that the ihidaye occupied a special status in the church. But while they could occasionally be found among the clerical orders (particularly the lower ones), this was rare. They were primarily lay persons, whether male or female. The term ihidaye, more specifically, seems to have been used with three major senses in mind, and accordingly tells us three main things about the monastic movement: The first sense is that of "monochos", conveying the sense of unmarried or continent; second, "monozonos" or "monotropos", conveying the sense of single-mindedness; third, "monogenes", conveying the sense of union with the Monogenes (the Only-begotten Son), the Ihidaya. Griffith thinks that this last sense, with its connection between the individual ihidaya and the Ihidaya (the Only-begotten), was the most prominent in the minds of the Syrians. As Aphrahat explains: "For those who do not take wives will be served by the Watchers of heaven: the observers of consecrated holiness will come to rest at the sanctuary of the Exalted One. The Ihidaya who is from the bosom of the Father will gladden the ihidaye. There will be neither male nor female, neither slave nor free, but all are sons of the Most High. These things are befitting the ihidaye, those who take on the heavenly yoke, to become disciples to Christ. For so it is fitting for Christ's disciples to emulate Christ their Lord."13 Another important term that helps us understand native Syrian monasticism is Bnay Qyama. Qyama refers primarily to the sense of covenant, though it also connotes "station" and possibly "resurrection"; it was even used by Aphrahat to denote the whole Church. Accordingly, the Bnay Qyama (Sons of the Covenant) refers to a group of celibates who took upon themselves a special "station" in the life of the community. They assumed this station by covenant, or solemn pledge, at baptism, at which time they put on the Ihidaya and became ihidaye. They also accepted to follow Christ's lifestyle in a uniquely uncompromising way, and in so doing they were revealing the life that would be lived in the age to come (and that which was lived in the pre-fallen state) -- the life to which all the baptized are called. Through their celibacy and uncompromising pursuit of holiness, they stood among their community as anticipatory images of the Resurrection to come. "Their status in the community served as a type for the expectations of all the baptized." Thus, they represented for the Church, what the Church was called to be. It is difficult to say very much more about this movement. We can surmise that it was carried out neither in a strictly hermetic form, nor in a coenobitic form, although there may have been a proto-rule that the Bnay Qyama followed. Thus, it is difficult to pinpoint the differentia of this movement and to fit into the taxonomic system I have been employing thus far. Indeed, I wonder if perhaps it may not be better to call this movement simply a Syrian expression of pre-monastic asceticism. Why do we want to call it 'monasticism', if we define the differentia of monasticism as the emphasis on withdrawal, and we do not find such an emphasis among the Syrians? This phase of Syrian monasticism seems rather similar to the accounts of pre-monastic asceticism in other regions chronicled in Susana Elms's Virgins of God. On the whole, this first phase of native Syrian monasticism is still understudied, with many scholars disagreeing over its character and motivations; and perhaps, owing to the dearth of evidence, it is likely to remain in this state of enigma. But by the fifth century, this ascetic tradition --whatever its characteristics-- quickly becomes displaced by the Egyptian variety. There is a greater emphasis now placed on many of the monastic themes, such as martyrdom, that were prevalent in Egyptian thought; and withdrawal is certainly more emphatically pursued. In the case of the Ihidaye and the Bnay Qyama, while some might have pursued withdrawal, most did not. After the fifth century, however, the opposite is true. By this time, "in the Syriac speaking world the term ihidaya came to have the same range of meanings as did the Greek term monachos, the very Greek term that, if some modern scholars are correct in their surmises, writers of the early fourth century had first used in a Christian context to render the Syriac term ihidaya!".14 And it is during this period that one begins to find the appearance in inner Syria of institutions typical of the "Great Church," including one that would uniquely mark Christian life for centuries to come, the institution of monasticism. This institution was easily as powerful and significant at the time as the institution of the hierarchical episcopacy, which also appeared in Syria in the fourth century."15 Nevertheless, the Syrians did not simply import Egyptian monasticism; they incorporated it into their region in a creative way that reflected their own idiosyncrasies. We find that these idiosyncrasies were expressed in a range of behaviour that might strike the modern reader as deeply disturbing, even deeply un-human. Chadwick describes the situation: "In Syria and Mesopotamia asceticism occasionally took bizarre forms. The majority of the monks were simple Syriac speaking people, ignorant of Greek. Their recorded mortifications make alarming reading. A heavy iron chain as a belt was a frequent austerity. A few adopted the life of animals and fed on grass, living in the open air without shade from the sun and with the minimum of clothing, and justifying their method of defying society by claiming to be 'fools for Christ's sake.'16 However, I think Chadwick and many historians who similarly characterize the Syrian monks, fail to keep in mind that their austerities were not simply motivated by their simple-mindedness or personal imbalances. Peter Brown captures well their view of the fall, which I believe possesses the key to understanding their unique behaviour: According to the author of the Book of Degrees, Adam had fallen because he had looked around him in Paradise with a hot lust for the land. He had wished to possess its rich soil. He had wished, through property, to replace God as Creator. He had set about creating economic wealth by labour, and had wished to pile up the physical wealth of progeny by intercourse. He had turned from the contemplation of God to build the society that we now know, a society ruled by the iron constraints of the "law of Adam." The righteous might live decently in this society by the simple code of fallen Adam -- tilling their fields, doing good to their co-religionists, caring for the local Christian poor. God, who had shown mercy on Adam by allowing him to live by that law, would not deny the righteous their reward. But for those who had regained the first, Spirit-filled eyes of Adam, the present social world, the social structures of town, village, and the family, must seem, forever, unaccountably strange. The power of the "present age," made manifest in the care-worn state of organized society, and, only tangentially, the present state of human sexuality.17 Thus, many of the structures and customs of human society are understood as fundamentally the result of the fall. Such a conviction may indeed shed light on the curious behaviour of a Symeon of Emesa, who "would enter the women's section of the public baths, stark naked, with his robe on his head as a turban; and he would dance the jig with the townsfolk in the local tavern".18 We may disagree with the premises of the Syrian monks. But we should realize that if one starts with their premises and assumes that majority of the present structures of society are purely the product of the fall, then it makes good sense to flout the present structures of human society so conspicuously. Doing so would be the truly human thing to do, since the present state of affairs is supremely subhuman. Syrian monasticism should therefore not be seen simply as a more extreme form of monasticism stemming from either a greater degree of dualism or intellectual simplicity, but rather as a form of monasticism stemming from a different theological emphasis. We may not accept their paradigm, but we should see its internal integrity and conceptual sophistication. From Pre-Monastic Asceticism to Monasticism: Changing in Order to Stay the Same Prior to the emergence of monasticism in the fourth century, the practice of asceticism was widespread, and a number of church fathers, East and West, had already developed an ascetical theology. Indeed, asceticism goes back to the New Testament, and lesst dramatically to the Old Testament. On the level of practice, many celibates or consecrated virgins could be found, be they widows choosing to remain in their bereaved state, young virgins choosing to consecrate their lives to God, clergyman choosing to pursue their ministry in a state of celibacy (or, if already married, choosing to live with their wives in continence), married couples among the laity similarly choosing to live together in continence, or even in some cases unmarried men and women choosing to live together as brother and sister (although this particular practice would quickly fall into disfavor). "Anthony and the monks of the fourth century inherited a revolution; they did not initiate one. In the century that had elapsed between the youth of Origen and the conversion of Constantine, the horizons of the possible had already been determined, silently and decisively, in a slow folding of the moral landscape of the Christian world. Total sexual renunciation had become a widely acclaimed feature of the Christian life."19 No doubt Peter Brown is correct in emphasizing the continuity between pre-monastic asceticism and monastic asceticism. Asceticism was certainly no revolutionary idea; but Anthony's emphasis on withdrawal was, in some sense, revolutionary. Prior to Anthony, all examples of pre-monastic asceticism were undertaken within the milieu of the larger Church community and human society. We do not yet hear of specific cases of formal, systematic withdrawal. This is precisely, I think, the differentia of monasticism. On the level of theology, however, there is not much in the way of innovation to be found. There is rather a profound continuity between the monastic and pre-monastic ascetic theology. "In the Writings of Clement of Alexandria and especially of Origen all the essential elements of an ascetical theology may already be found".20 Clement, for instance, emphasizes that "the aim of the Christian life is not to trouble ourselves with what lies outside, but to purify the eye of the soul and to sanctify the flesh," and that "Jesus heals the whole human person, body and soul." Clearly, for Clement, salvation is not merely the extrinsic imputation of righteousness; salvation is far more than merely a juridical declaration of righteousness. It is ontological: the Christian is to be made righteous. In addition, we see a very holistic emphasis present in monastic theology: the whole person, body and soul is to be healed. Indeed, here we already find a framework that can happily support Chitty's observation: "One thing can be certain. This making a City of the Wilderness was no mere flight, nor a rejection of matter as evil (else why did they show such aesthetic sense in placing their retreats, and such love for all of God's animal creation?)".21 In Origen, too, there is a strong emphasis on the importance of martyrdom, and a very well developed understanding of the "senses of the soul" and the injunction to personal sanctification. Both Origen and Clement speak of mystical union with God. Such emphases would certainly figure prominently in subsequent monastic theology. In understanding the motivations of the various monks, I should like to highlight two fundamental themes. First, there is the ideal of martyrdom, the recognition that nothing -- family, possessions, even our own life -- is more important than union with the Lord. From this point of view, ascetic life is indeed a renunciation of the present world, a sober recognition of its secondary status. Secondly, the monastic life is centered on another ideal: that of returning to (if not surpassing) the state prior to the fall. By returning to the pre-fallen state, the monk seeks not only his own redemption but also that of the created world around him. Since through man that the created world fell, through man the created world can be restored. While full restoration will occur only at the Parousia, the monks partially anticipate this restoration here and now. From this point of view, asceticism is indeed an affirmation of the created world; while the monks renounce the world, they are renouncing only the fallen state of the world. Their willingness to die to the world reflects their conviction that the world is not as it should be, a recognition with which the created world, itself, would certainly agree as it groans in anticipation of its redemption. Thus, the created world rejoices in the monk's striving for salvation, for it knows that its own salvation is tied to the monk's success. The monks are carrying out a supreme act of love for the world, striving to restore it to its true vocation and state. And so the monk's partial anticipation of the final redemption of all things is prophetic: it provides a glimpse of the world as it should be and will be. "The denigration of marriage and sexuality may be the negative expression of the desire to return to the original blessings of paradise and the original, blessed condition of humanity and body. (And of course early Christian ascetic theorists understood both the similarities and differences between these two notions, and went to great lengths to distinguish the orthodox affirmation of the value of chastity, fasting, and other ascetic disciplines from the heretical -- namely, Manichean, Encratite -- condemnation of marriage and meat eating.)22 The themes of monastic theology were not innovations. They had their roots in the earliest expressions of Christianity and were articulated by many, well before the emergence of monasticism itself. Why, then, does monasticism emerge only in the fourth century and not before? If we cannot point to a new shift in theological understanding that could account for this new lifestyle, might we point to a shift in external circumstances? After Constantine's conversion, the Christian situation became ripe for monasticism. Persecutions had ceased, and Christianity had become rather more socially acceptable. It was becoming possible, in a sense, to convince yourself that you were serving God when you were really serving Mammon. The Church was becoming increasingly influential in high society. Bishops had become increasingly important figures in the secular sphere. Many local churches had obtained considerable wealth, becoming substantial landowners. Although there is nothing inherently contradictory between the Christian gospel and such developments, these developments nevertheless changed the character of the challenge facing the Church. From its beginning, Christianity was a call to self-denial, to a life of the cross. Without such willingness to part with one's old self, the new, true self could not arise. During the persecutions this call was often put before the Christian unambiguously: Do you have the discipline to accept the pain of parting with the familiarity of your fallen life for the sake of your true life in Christ? Christians could seldom hide behind a nominal acceptance of the faith. There were no secular advantages that might provide ulterior motives for becoming a Christian. Persecution kept sharp the line between being for Christ or against him. After Constantine's peace, however, this line was no longer so sharp. With peace between the City of God and the City of Man, there was a danger of forgetting Christ's injunction that "My Kingdom is not of this world." The call to self-denial for Christ's sake was no longer being put before the Christian with such unmistakable directness. The invitation was becoming quieter, and had to come from within. "The monks with their austerities were martyrs in an age when martyrdom of blood no longer existed; they formed the counterbalance to an established Christendom".23 Monasticism, a formal life of internally imposed self-renunciation, emerges in response to the diminishing presence of externally imposed self-renunciation. 1. Brown, The Body and Society, 235. [back] 2. Chitty, The Desert A City, 4. [back] 3. Voobus's History of Syrian Asceticism is the primary proponent of this view. However, there is no consensus on the validity of his analysis, and others, like Dr. Sebastian Brock, would question the universal applicability of his assessment. [back] 4. St. Ephrem, On Hermits and Desert Dwellers in the Fathers of the Church series, by Catholic University of America. [back] 5. Evdokimov, The Sacrament of Love, 55. [back] 6. Asceticism, 12. [back] 7. Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, vol. X: The Byzantine Ascetics and Spiritual Fathers. [back] 8. Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (Penguin), 178-9. [back] 9. ibid., 178-9. [back] 10. Kallistos (Timothy) Ware, The Orthodox Church, 37-38. [back] 11. Chitty, The Desert A City, 15: "The word lavra does not occur in the fourth-century Egyptian records, and its monastic use seems to originate in Palestine. Perhaps the sense of market that comes instantly to mind when we connect it with the Arabic suq is not inappropriate. Here the ascetics brought together their produce on Saturday mornings, worshipped and fed together, and transacted any necessary business, taking back with them to their cells on Sunday evenings bread, water, and raw material for their handiwork for the coming week." [back] 12. Chadwick, The Early Church, 178-9. [back] 13. Wimbush and Valantasis, Asceticism. [back] 14. ibid., 238. [back] 15. ibid., 221. [back] 16. Chadwick, The Early Church, 180. [back] 17. Brown, The Body and Society, 336. [back] 18. ibid., 335. [back] 19. ibid.., 208-209. [back] 20. Chadwick, The Early Church, 177. [back] 21. Chitty, The Desert A City

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Balamand Monastery One Hundred & Twenty Wise Sayings from The Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church


When a man walks in the fear of God he knows no fear, even if he
were to be surrounded by wicked men. He has the fear of God within
him and wears the invincible armor of faith. This makes him strong
and able to take on anything, even things which seem difficult or
impossible to most people. Such a man is like a giant surrounded
by monkeys, or a roaring lion among dogs and foxes. He goes
forward trusting in the Lord and the constancy of his will to
strike and paralyze his foes. He wields the blazing club of the
Word in wisdom.

St. Symeon the New Theologian, The Practical and Theological
Chapters

+ + +

When we lay bare the hidden meaning of the history, scripture is
seen to teach that the birth which distresses the tyrant is the
beginning of the virtuous life. I am speaking of the kind of birth
in which free will serves as the midwife, delivering the child
amid great pain. For no one causes grief to his antagonist unless
he exhibits in himself those marks which give proof of his victory
over the other.

St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses.  + + +
O strange and inconceivable thing! We did not really die, we were
not really buried, we were not really crucified and raised again,
but our imitation was but a figure, while our salvation is in
reality. Christ was actually crucified, and actually buried, and
truly rose again; and all these things have been vouchsafed to us,
that we, by imitation communicating in His sufferings, might gain
salvation in reality. O surpassing loving-kindness! Christ
received the nails in His undefiled hands and feet, and endured
anguish; while to me without suffering or toil, by the fellowship
of His pain He vouchsafed salvation.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, On the Christian Sacraments.

+ + +

Repentance is the renewal of baptism. Repentance is a contract
with God for a second life. A penitent is a buyer of humility.
Repentance is constant distrust of bodily comfort. Repentance is
self-condemning reflection, and carefree self-care. Repentance is
the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair. A penitent
is an undisgraced convict. Repentance is reconciliation with the
Lord by the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins.
Repentance is purification of conscience. Repentance is the
voluntary endurance of all afflictions. A penitent is the
inflicter of his own punishments. Repentance is a mighty
persecution of the stomach, and a striking of the soul into
vigorous awareness.

St. John Climacus

+ + +

Those who seek humility should bear in mind the three following
things: that they are the worst of sinners, that they are the most
despicable of all creatures since their state is an unnatural one,
and that they are even more pitiable than the demons, since they
are slaves to the demons. You will also profit if you say this to
yourself: how do I know what or how many other people's sins are,
or whether they are greater than or equal to my own? In our
ignorance you and I , my soul, are worse than all men, we are dust
and ashes under their feet. How can I not regard myself as more
despicable than all other creatures, for they act in accordance
with the nature they have been given, while I, owing to my
innumerable sins, am in a state contrary to nature.

St. Gregory of Sinai, Philokalia, Vol. IV.

+ + +

He, therefore, who sets himself to act evilly and yet wishes
others to be silent, is a witness against himself, for he wishes
himself to be loved more than the truth, which he does not wish to
be defended against himself. There is, of course, no man who so
lives as not sometimes to sin, but he wishes truth to be loved
more than himself, who wills to be spared by no one against the
truth. Wherefore, Peter willingly accepted the rebuke of Paul;
David willingly hearkened to the reproof of a subject. For good
rulers who pay no regard to self-love, , take as a homage to their
humility the free and sincere words of subjects. But in this
regard the office of ruling must be tempered with such great art
of moderation, that the minds of subjects, when demonstrating
themselves capable of taking right views in some matters, are
given freedom of expression, but freedom that does not issue into
pride, otherwise, when liberty of speech is granted too
generously, the humility of their own lives will be lost.

St. Gregory The Great, Pastoral Care

+ + +

The Lord of all gave to His apostles the power of the gospel, and
by them we also have learned the truth, that is, the teaching of
the Son of God - as the Lord said to them, `He who hears you hears
Me, and he who despises you despises Me, and Him Who sent Me'
[Lk.10:16]. For we learned the plan of our salvation from no other
than from those through whom the gospel came to us. The first
preached it abroad, and then later by the will of God handed it
down to us in Scriptures, to be the foundation and pillar of our
faith. For it is not right to say that they preached before they
had come to perfect knowledge, as some dare to say, boasting that
they are the correctors of the apostles. For after our Lord had
risen from the dead, and they were clothed with the power from on
high when the Holy Spirit came upon them, they were filled with
all things and had perfect knowledge. They went out to the ends of
the earth, preaching the good things that come to us from God, and
proclaiming peace from heaven to all men, all and each of them
equally being in possession of the gospel of God.

St. Irenaeus, Against the Heresies, III

+ + +

The Lord's Day is a mystery of the knowledge of the truth that is
not received by flesh and blood, and it transcends speculations.
In this age there is no eighth day, nor is there a true Sabbath.
For he who said that `God rested on the seventh day,' signified
the rest [of our nature] from the course of this life, since the
grave is also of a bodily nature and belongs to this world. Six
days are accomplished in the husbandry of life by means of keeping
the commandments; the seventh is spent entirely in the grave; and
the eighth is the departure from it.

St. Isaac of Syria, The Ascetical Homilies.I

+ + +



+ + +

The wicked one, on the watch, carried me off as booty as I lazily
slept.
He led my mind into error; he plundered my spirit and snatched
away
The wealth of Thy grace, this arch robber.
So raise me up, as I am fallen, and summon me, Saviour,
Thou who dost will that all men be saved.

Kontakia of St. Romanos, A Prayer.

+ + +

The roof of any house stands upon the foundations and the rest of
the structure. The foundations themselves are laid in order to
carry the roof. This is both useful and necessary, for the roof
cannot stand without the foundations and the foundations are
absolutely useless without the roof - no help to any living
creature. In the same way the grace of God is preserved by the
practice of the commandments, and the observance of these
commandments is laid down like foundations through the gift of
God. The grace of the Spirit cannot remain with us without the
practice of the commandments, but the practice of the commandments
is of no help or advantage to us without the grace of God.

St. Symeon the New Theologian

+ + +

I shall speak first about control of the stomach, the opposite to
gluttony, and about how to fast and what and how much to eat. I
shall say nothing on my own account, but only what I have received
from the Holy Fathers. They have not given us only a single rule
for fasting or a single standard and measure for eating, because
not everyone has the same strength; age, illness or delicacy of
body create differences. But they have given us all a single goal:
to avoid over-eating and the filling of our bellies... A clear
rule for self-control handed down by the Fathers is this: stop
eating while still hungry and do not continue until you are
satisfied.

St. John Cassian

+ + +

In Christianity truth is not a philosophical concept nor is it a
theory, a teaching, or a system, but rather, it is the living
theanthropic hypostasis - the historical Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
Before Christ men could only conjecture about the Truth since they
did not possess it. With Christ as the incarnate divine Logos the
eternally complete divine Truth enters into the world. For this
reason the Gospel says: "Truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).

St. Justin Popovich

+ + +

Let us charge into the good fight with joy and love without being
afraid of our enemies. Though unseen themselves, they can look at
the face of our soul, and if they see it altered by fear, they
take up arms against us all the more fiercely. For the cunning
creatures have observed that we are scared. So let us take up arms
against them courageously. No one will fight with a resolute
fighter.

St. John Climacus

+ + +

God is a fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts.
Hence, if we feel in our hearts the cold which comes from the
devil - for the devil is cold - let us call on the Lord. He will
come to warm our hearts with perfect love, not only for Him but
also for our neighbor, and the cold of him who hates the good will
flee before the heat of His countenance.

St. Seraphim of Sarov

+ + +

In the matter of piety, poverty serves us better than wealth, and
work better than idleness, especially since wealth becomes an
obstacle even for those who do not devote themselves to it. Yet,
when we must put aside our wrath, quench our envy, soften our
anger, offer our prayers, and show a disposition which is
reasonable, mild, kindly, and loving, how could poverty stand in
our way? For we accomplish these things not by spending money but
by making the correct choice. Almsgiving above all else requires
money, but even this shines with a brighter luster when the alms
are given from our poverty. The widow who paid in the two mites
was poorer than any human, but she outdid them all.

St. John Chrysostom

+ + +

Every day you provide your bodies with good to keep them from
failing. In the same way your good works should be the daily
nourishment of your hearts. Your bodies are fed with food and your
spirits with good works. You aren't to deny your soul, which is
going to live forever, what you grant to your body, which is going
to die.

St. Gregory the Great

+ + +

I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I
said groaning, "What can get through from such snares?" Then I
heard a voice saying to me, "Humility."

St. Anthony the Great

+ + +

"Remember, O my soul, the terrible and frightful wonder: that your
Creator for your sake became Man, and deigned to suffer for the
sake of your salvation. His angels tremble, the Cherubim are
terrified, the Seraphim are in fear, and all the heavenly powers
ceaselessly give praise; and you, unfortunate soul, remain in
laziness. At least from this time forth arise and do not put off,
my beloved soul, holy repentence, contrition of heart and penance
for your sins."

St. Paisius Velichkovsky

+ + +

This is the mark of Christianity--however much a man toils, and
however many righteousnesses he performs, to feel that he has done
nothing, and in fasting to say, "This is not fasting," and in
praying, "This is not prayer," and in perseverance at prayer, "I
have shown no perseverance; I am only just beginning to practice
and to take pains"; and even if he is righteous before God, he
should say, "I am not righteous, not I; I do not take pains, but
only make a beginning every day."

St. Macarius the Great

+ + +

Be strong in Me; and you, too, Andrew; just as you were the first
to find Me, you were found by me; so find the one who has
wandered;
Do not forget your first skill; from it I shall educate you for
this new art.
Formerly, naked into the deep sea, now naked into life;
Formerly, hunting with a fishing-rod, now taught to fish with the
cross;
Formerly, you used a worm as bait; now I order you to hunt with My
flesh.
I alone know what is in the heart.

Kontakia of St. Romanos, On the Mission of the Apostles.

+ + +

Why do you trouble yourself in a house that is not your own? Let
the sight of a dead man be a teacher for you concerning your
departure from hence.

St. Isaac the Syrian

+ + +

Beguiling and deceptive is the life of the world, fruitless its
labor, perilous its delight, poor its riches, delusive its honors,
inconstant, insignificant; and woe to those who hope in its
seeming goods: because of this many die without repentance.
Blessed and mos blessed are those who depart from the world and
its desires.

Elder Nazarius

+ + +

Faith and love which are gifts of the Holy Spirit are such great
and powerful means that a person who has them can easily, and with
joy and consolation, go the way Jesus Christ went. Besides this,
the Holy Spirit gives man the power to resist the delusions of the
world so that although he makes use of earthly good, yet he uses
them as a temporary visitor, without attaching his heart to them.
But a man who has not got the Holy Spirit, despite all his
learning and prudence, is always more or less a slave and
worshipper of the world.

St. Innocent of Irkutsk, Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of
Heaven.

+ + +

The demons are sleepless and immaterial, death is at hand, and I
am weak. Lord, help me; do not let Thy creature perish, for Thou
carest for me in my misery.

St. Peter of Damascus

+ + +

You cannot destroy the passions on your own, but ask God, and He
will destroy them, if this is profitable for you.

St. Anatoly of Optina

+ + +

The soul that really loves God and Christ, though it may do ten
thousand righteousnesses, esteems itself as having wrought
nothing, by reason of its insatiable aspiration after God. Though
it should exhaust the body with fastings, with watchings, its
attitude towards the virtues is as if it had not yet even begun to
labour for them.

St. Macarius the Great

+ + +

Souls that love truth and God, that long with much hope and faith
to put on Christ completely, do not need so much to be put in re
membrance by others, nor do they endure, even for a while, to be
deprived of the heavenly desire and of passionate affection to the
Lord; but being wholly and entirely nailed to the cross of Christ,
they perceive in themselves day by day a sense of spiritual
advance towards the spiritual Bridegroom.

St. Macarius the Great

+ + +

An old man was asked, 'How can I find God?' He said, 'In fasting,
in watching, in labours, in devotion, and, above all, in
discernment. I tell you, many have injured their bodies without
discernment and have gone away from us having achieved nothing.
Our mouths smell bad through fasting, we know the Scriptures by
heart, we recite all the Psalms of David, but we have not that
which God seeks: charity and humility.'

Apophthegmata Patrum

+ + +

The hour of death will come upon us, it will come, and we shall
not escape it. May the prince of this world and of the air (cf.
John 14:30; Eph. 2:2) find our misdeeds few and petty when he
comes, so that he will not have good grounds for convicting us.
Otherwise we shall weep in vain. 'For that servant who knew his
lord's will and did not do it as a servant, shall be beaten with
many stripes' (cf. Luke 12:47).

St. Hesychius the Priest

+ + +

Do not seek the perfection of the law in human virtues, for it is
not found perfect in them. Its perfection is hidden in the Cross
of Christ.

St. Mark the Ascetic

+ + +

Do not be surprised that you fall every day; do not give up, but
stand your ground courageously. And assuredly, the angel who
guards you will honour your patience.

St. John of the Ladder

+ + +

Behold, this is the true and the Christian humility. In this you
will be able to achieve victory over every vice, by attributing to
God rather than to yourself the fact that you have won.

St. Martin of Braga

+ + +

We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and that "the
eyes of the Lord are looking on the good and the evil in every
place." But we should believe this especially without any doubt
when we are assisting at the Work of God. To that end let us be
mindful always of the Prophet's words, "Serve the Lord in fear"
and again, "Sing praises wisely" and "In the sight of the Angels I
will sing praise to Thee." Let us therefore consider how we ought
to conduct ourselves in the sight of the Godhead and of His
Angels, and let us take part in the psalmody in such a way that
our mind may be in harmony with our voice.

St. Benedict

+ + +

Humility is the only thing we need; one can still fall having
virtues other than humility -- but with humility one does not
fall.

Elder Herman of Mt. Athos

+ + +

When you are praying alone, and your spirit is dejected, and you
are wearied and oppressed by your loneliness, remember then, as
always, that God the Trinity looks upon you with eyes brighter
than the sun; also all the angels, your own Guardian Angel, and
all the Saints of God. Truly they do; for they are all one in God,
and where God is, there are they also. Where the sun is, thither
also are directed all its rays. Try to understand what this means.

St. John of Kronstadt

+ + +

God descends to the humble as waters flow down from the hills into
the valleys.

St. Tikhon of Voronezh

+ + +

Our holy fathers have renounced all other spiritual work and
concentrated wholly on this one doing, that is, on guarding the
heart, convinced that, through this practice, they would easily
attain every other virtue, whereas without it not a single virtue
can be firmly established.

St. Symeon the New Theologian

+ + +

If you are praised, be silent. If you are scolded, be silent. If
you incur losses, be silent. If you receive profit, be silent. If
you are satiated, be silent. If you are hungry, also be silent.
And do not be afraid that there will be no fruit when all dies
down; there will be! Not everything will die down. Energy will
appear; and what energy!

St. Feofil, the Fool for Christ

+ + +

When anyone is disturbed or saddened under the pretext of a good
and soul-profiting matter, and is angered against his neighbour,
it is evident that this is not according to God: for everything
that is of God is peaceful and useful and leads a man to humility
and to judging himself.

St. Barsanuphius the Great

+ + +

What, then, are the things which are being prepared for those who
wait for Him? The Creator and Father of the ages, the All-holy
One, Himself knows their greatness and beauty. Let us then strive
to be found among the number of those that wait, that we may
receive a share of the promised gifts.

St. Clement of Rome

+ + +

Even if an angel should indeed appear to you, do not receive him
but humiliate yourself, saying, 'I am not worthy to see an angel,
for I am a sinner.'

Apophthegmata Patrum

+ + +

We should zealously cultivate watchfulness, my brethren; and when,
our mind purified in Christ Jesus, we are exalted by the vision it
confers, we should review our sins and our former life, so that
shattered and humbled at the thought of them we may never lose the
help of Jesus Christ our God in the invisible battle.

St. Hesychius the Presbyter

+ + +

Let us consider, then, brethren, of what matter we were formed,
who we are, and with what nature we came into the world, and how
He Who formed and created us brought us into His world from the
darkness of a grave, and prepared his benefits for us before we
were born. Since, therefore, we have everything from Him, we ought
in everything to give Him thanks, to Whom be glory for ever and
ever. Amen.

St. Clement of Rome

+ + +

Prove your love and zeal for wisdom in actual deeds.

St. Callistus Xanthopoulos

+ + +

What purposelessness, oh the deceit of life; truly in vain does
each man vex himself, and truly blessed and thrice-blessed are
those who have left everything for the Lord, that they may attain
the good things announced in the Gospels. For what profit will it
be for a man to enjoy the whole world, but lose his soul, to which
the whole universe is not equivalent? All the splendor of man is
like the blossom of grass. For the grass departs and the blossom
dies, but the word of the Lord abideth for ever.

St. Nicon "Repent Ye"

+ + +

It depends on us whether we wish to be saved.

Apophthegmata Patrum

+ + +

When the blessed Eulogius saw an angel distributing gifts to the
monks who toiled at all-night vigils, to one he gave a gold piece
with the image of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to another a silver piece
with a cross, to another a copper piece, to another a bronze
piece, and to another nothing. The others who had remained in the
church, left the church empty-handed. It was revealed to him that
the ones who had obtained the gifts are those who toil at vigils
and are diligent in prayers, supplications, psalms, chants, and
readings. Those who received nothing or who left the church
empty-handed are those who are heedless of their salvation, are
enslaved to vainglory and the clamors of life, and stand feebly
and lazily at vigils and whisper and jest.

St. Joseph of Volokalamsk

+ + +

Chastise your soul with the thought of death, and through
remembrance of Jesus Christ concentrate your scattered intellect.

St. Philotheus of Sinai

+ + +

Do we forgive our neighbors their trespasses? God also forgives us
in His mercy. Do we refuse to forgive? God, too, will refuse to
forgive us. As we treat our neighbors, so also does God treat us.
The forgiveness, then, of your sins or unforgiveness, and hence
also your salvation or destruction, depend on you yourself, man.
For without forgiveness of sins there is no salvation. You can see
for yourself how terrible it is.

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Journey to Heaven.

+ + +

What toil we must endure, what fatigue, while we are attempting to
climb hills and the summits of mountains! What, that we may ascend
to heaven! If you consider the promised reward, what you endure is
less. Immortality is given to the one who perseveres; everlasting
life is offered; the Lord promises His Kingdom.

St. Cyprian

+ + +

A man may seem to be silent, but if his heart is condemning
others, he is babbling ceaselessly. But there may be another who
talks from morning till night and yet he is truly silent, that is,
he says nothing that is not profitable.

Abba Pimen

+ + +

The way of humility is this: self-control, prayer, and thinking
yourself inferior to all creatures.

Abba Tithoes

+ + +

The body is a slave, the soul a sovereign, and therefore it is due
to Divine mercy when the body is worn out by illness: for thereby
the passions are weakened, and a man comes to himself; indeed,
bodily illness itself is sometimes caused by the passions.

St. Seraphim of Sarov, Spiritual Instructions

+ + +

Make glad, O Jerusalem, and all ye who love Sion, keep feast.
Today the ancient bond of the condemnation of Adam is loosed.
Paradise is opened to us: the serpent is laid low; for of old he
deceived the woman in Paradise, but now he seeth a woman become
the Mother of the Creator. O the depth of the riches of the wisdom
and knowledge of God! The instrument of sin that brought death
upon all flesh hath become the first fruits of salvation for the
whole world through the Theotokos. For God the All-perfect is born
a babe of her, and by His birth He doth set a seal upon her
virginity. By His swaddling bands he doth loose the bands of sin,
and by becoming a child He doth heal Eve's pangs in travail.
Wherefore, let all creation sing and dance for joy, for Christ
hath come to restore it and to save our souls.

Glory of the Aposticha of the Feast

+ + +

Christ is Risen!
O the marvel! the forbearance! the immeasurable meekness!
The Untouched is felt; the Master is held by a servant,
And He reveals His wounds to one of His inner circle.
Seeing these wounds, the whole Creation was shaken at the time.
Thomas, when he was considered worthy of such gifts,
Lifted up a prayer to the One Who deemed him worthy,
Saying, "Bear my rashness with patience,
Have pity on my unworthiness and lighten the burden
Of my lack of faith, so that I may sing and cry,
`Thou art our Lord and God.'"

Kontakia of Romanos, V. 1, On Doubting Thomas

+ + +

There is nothing impossible unto those who believe; lively and
unshaken faith can accomplish great miracles in the twinkling of
an eye. Besides, even without our sincere and firm faith, miracles
are accomplished, such as the miracles of the sacraments; for
God's Mystery is always accomplished, even though we were
incredulous or unbelieving at the time of its celebration. "Shall
their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?" (Rom. 3:3).
Our wickedness shall not overpower the unspeakable goodness and
mercy of God; our dullness shall not overpower God's wisdom, nor
our infirmity God's omnipotence.

St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

+ + +

It was said about John the Little that one day he said to his
older brother: I want to be free from care and not to work but to
worship God without interruption. And he took his robe off, and
went into the desert. After staying there one week, he returned to
his brother. And when he knocked at the door, his brother asked
without opening it: Who is it? He replied: It's John, your
brother. The brother said: John has become an angel and is not
among people anymore. Then he begged and said: It's me! But his
brother did not open the door and left him there in distress until
the next morning. And he finally opened the door and said: If you
are a human being, you have to work again in order to live. Then
John repented, saying: Forgive me, brother, for I was wrong.

Sayings of the Desert Fathers

+ + +

Long ago, the wily one cast his weapon and wounded Adam and killed
him;
Indeed, he completely destroyed the weak man.
But now, even if he struck the bodies of the noble men,
he did not destroy their spirits.
He persuaded the first-created man to fall by words,
but not even by deeds, the noble ones.
Bewitching the former, he made promises; he made offers to the
latter:
For Adam, the making of a god; for the martyrs, honor.
He offers what he does not have; he suggests bestowing things not
in his authority.
Therefore, saints, having shattered his scheme,
You gained crowns.

Kontakia of Romanos, On the Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia I.

+ + +

First of all it must be understood that it is the duty of all
Christians - especially of those whose calling dedicates them to
the spiritual life - to strive always and in every way to be
united with God, their creator, lover, benefactor, and their
supreme good, by Whom and for Whom they were created. This is
because the center and the final purpose of the soul, which God
created, must be God Himself alone, and nothing else - God whom
Whom the soul has received its life and its nature, and for Whom
it must eternally live.

St. Dimitry of Rostov

+ + +

Those who have truly decided to serve the Lord God should practice
the remembrance of God and uninterrupted prayer to Jesus Christ,
mentally saying: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me,
a sinner.

St. Seraphim of Sarov

+ + +

Let us go forward with the heart completely attentive and the soul
fully conscious. For if attentiveness and prayer are daily joined
together, they become like Elias' fire-bearing chariot, raising us
to heaven. What do I mean? A spiritual heaven, with sun, moon and
stars, is formed in the blessed heart of one who has reach a state
of watchfulness, or who strives to attain it.

St. Philotheus of Sinai

+ + +

My poor soul! Sigh, pray and strive to take upon you the blessed
yoke of Christ, and you will live on earth in a heavenly manner.
Lord, grant that I may carry the light and goodly yoke, and I
shall be always at rest, peaceful, glad and joyous; and I shall
taste on earth of crumbs which fall from the celestial feast, like
a dog that feeds upon the crumbs which fall from the master's
table.

St. Tikhon of Voronezh

+ + +

When despondency seizes us, let us not give in to it. Rather,
fortified and protected by the light of faith, let us with great
courage say to the spirit of evil: "What are you to us, you who
are cut off from God, a fugitive for Heaven, and a slave of evil?
You dare not do anything to us: Christ, the Son of God, has
dominion over us and over all. Leave us, you thing of bane. We are
made steadfast by the uprightness of His Cross. Serpent, we
trample on your head."

St. Seraphim of Sarov

+ + +

Even a pious person is not immune to spiritual sickness if he does
not have a wise guide -- either a living person or a spiritual
writer. This sickness is called _prelest_, or spiritual delusion,
imagining oneself to be near to God and to the realm of the divine
and supernatural. Even zealous ascetics in monasteries are
sometimes subject to this delusion, but of course, laymen who are
zealous in external struggles (podvigi) undergo it much more
frequently. Surpassing their acquaintances in struggles of prayer
and fasting, they imagine that they are seers of divine visions,
or at least of dreams inspired by grace. In every event of their
lives, they see special intentional directions from God or their
guardian angel. And then they start imagining that they are God's
elect, and often try to foretell the future. The Holy Fathers
armed themselves against nothing so fiercely as against this
sickness -- prelest.

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky

+ + +

Go and have pity on all, for through pity, one finds freedom of
speech before God.

Abba Pambo

+ + +

We see the water of a river flowing uninterruptedly and passing
away, and all that floats on its surface, rubbish or beams of
trees, all pass by. Christian! So does our life. . . I was an
infant, and that time has gone. I was an adolescent, and that too
has passed. I was a young man, and that too is far behind me. The
strong and mature man that I was is no more. My hair turns white,
I succumb to age, but that too passes; I approach the end and will
go the way of all flesh. I was born in order to die. I die that I
may live. Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom!

St. Tikhon of Voronezh

+ + +

It is better to eat meat and drink wine and not to eat the flesh
of one's brethren through slander.

Abba Hyperechius

+ + +

Wine makes glad the heart of man' (Ps. 104:15). But you who have
professed sorrow and grief should turn away from such gladness and
rejoice in spiritual gifts. If you rejoice in wine, you will live
with shameful thoughts and distress will overwhelm you.

St. Theodore of Edessa

+ + +

Acts of charity, almsgiving and all the external good works do not
suppress the arrogance of the heart; but noetic meditation, the
labor of repentance, contrition and humility -- these humble the
proud mind.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast

+ + +

Oh, what great happiness and bliss, what exaltation it is to
address oneself to the Eternal Father. Always, without fail, value
this joy which has been accorded to you by God's infinite grace
and do not forget it during your prayers; God, the angels and
God's holy men listen to you.

St. John of Kronstadt

+ + +

What we need is a little labor! Let us endure this labor that we
may obtain mercy.

St. Dorotheus of Gaza

+ + +

For Christians above all men are forbidden to correct the
stumblings of sinners by force...it is necessary to make a man
better not by force but by persuasion. We neither have autority
granted us by law to restrain sinners, nor, if it were, should we
know how to use it, since God gives the crown to those who are
kept from evil, not by force, but by choice.

St. John Chrysostom

+ + +

They went down to Egypt and provided food when famine reigned;
they came to the obstinate sea, and taught it wisdom with a rod;
they went out into the hostile desert and adorned it with a
pillar;
they entered the furnace, fiercely heated, and sprinkled it with
their dew;
into the pit where they had been thrown an angel entered and
taught its wild beasts to fast.

St. Ephrem

+ + +

While the Bridegroom tarried, they slumbered and slept:
Give ear, ye prudent, to our Lord's parable, for it is all light.
All of them slept, both the foolish and the wise --
Which signifies that the good and the wicked die until the
resurrection.
The same sleep comes upon the ten of them, which is as much as to
say,
That death is the same for all creation without distinction.
One was the sleep of the wise and of the foolish,
For one is death, both of the righteous and of sinners.
The good die, as the wise virgins slept;
And the bad die, as the foolish also slept.
Behold, all creation looketh for the coming of the Bridegroom,
Christ, Who cometh at the end with His angels.
But since He hath tarried, all generations slumber and sleep
With the sleep of death, while looking for when He cometh.

A Homily on the Ten Virgins by Mar Jacob, Bishop of Serugh

+ + +

Do all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should
not fall. But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue
the contest. Even if you fall a thousand times because of the
withdrawal of God's grace, rise up again each time, and keep on
doing this until the day of your death. For it is written, 'If a
righteous man falls down seven times' - that is, repeatedly
throughout his life - 'seven times shall he rise again' [Prov.
24:16].

John of Karpathos

+ + +

No one on this earth can avoid affliction; and although the
afflictions which the Lord sends are not great men imagine them
beyond their strength and are crushed by them. This is because
they will not humble their souls and commit themselves to the will
of God. But the Lord Himself guides with His grace those who are
given over to God's will, and they bear all things with fortitude
for the sake of God Whom they have so loved and with Whom they are
glorified for ever. It is impossible to escape tribulation in this
world but the man who is giver over to the will of God bears
tribulation easily, seeing it but putting his trust in the Lord,
and so his tribulations pass.

Archimandrite Sophrony

+ + +

The evil one cannot comprehend the joy we receive from the
spiritual life; for this reason he is jealous of us, he envies us
and sets traps for us, and we become grieved and fall. We must
struggle, because without struggles we do not obtain virtues.

Elder Ieronymos of Aegina

+ + +

For those who believe in Him, Christ will become all this and even
more, beyond enumeration, not only in the age to come but first i
this life, and then in the world to come. Thou in an obscure way
here below and in a perfect manner in the Kingdom, those who
believe see clearly nonetheless and receive as of now the
first-fruits of everything they will have in the future life.
Indeed, if they do not receive on earth everything that was
promised to them, they do not have any part of foretaste of the
blessings to come, their higher hope being set on the hereafter.
However, it is through death and the resurrection that God in His
foresight has given us the Kingdom, incorruptibility, the totality
of life eternal. Given these conditions, we unquestionably become
partakers of the good things to come, that is, incorruptible,
immortal, sons of God, sons of the light and of the day,
inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven, since we carry the Kingdom
within.

St. Symeon the New Theologian

+ + +

Self-accusation before God is something that is very necessary for
us; and humility of heart is extremely advantageous in our lives,
above all at the time of prayer. For prayer requires great
attention and needs a proper awareness, otherwise it will turn out
to be unacceptable and rejected, and `it will be turned back
empty' to our bosom.

Martyrius of Edessa

+ + +

The enemy of our salvation especially strives to draw our heart
and mind away from God when we are about to serve Him, and
endeavours to adulterously attach our heart to something
irrelevant. Be always, every moment, with God, especially when you
pray to Him. If you are inconstant, you will fall away from life,
and will cast yourself into sorrow and straitness.

St. John of Kronstadt

+ + +

There was a man who at a lot and was till hungry, and another who
ate little and was satisfied. The one who ate a lot and was still
hungry received a greater reward than he who ate little and was
satisfied.

Apophthegmata Patrum

+ + +

For to despise the present age, not to love transitory things,
unreservedly to stretch out the mind in humility to God and our
neighbor, to preserve patience against offered insults and, with
patience guarded, to repel the pain of malice from the heart, to
give one's property to the poor, not to covet that of others, to
esteem the friend in God, on God's account to love even those who
are hostile, to mourn at the affliction of a neighbor, not to
exult in the death of one who is an enemy, this is the new
creature whom the Master of the nations seeks with watchful eye
amid the other disciples, saying:"If, then, any be in Christ a new
creature, the old things are passed away. Behold all things are
made new" (2 Cor. 5:17).

St. Gregory the Great

+ + +

The knowledge of the Cross is concealed in the sufferings of the
Cross.

St. Isaac the Syrian

+ + +

The work of prayer belongs to the angels, and is, therefore, the
special concern of the Church. Every other work, i.e., charity,
nursing the brethren, visiting the sick, caring for prisoners,
releasing captives, and other similar things, is done by the
brethren in love and offered by them to God. Similarly, poverty,
fasting, sleeping on the ground, prostrations, vigils, etc., are
good and like a sacrifice to God, because they aim to subdue and
humble the body so that we may be purified and approach God and
become friends of God -- yet these things do not present us
directly to God, whereas prayer does so and unites us with Him. A
person praying acts towards God like a friend -- conversing,
confiding, requesting -- and through this becomes one with our
Maker Himself.

St. Symeon of Thessalonica

+ + +

He who really keeps account of his actions considers as lost every
day in which he does not mourn, whatever good he may have done in
it.

St. John of the Ladder

+ + +

We truly love God and keep His commandments if we restrain
ourselves from our pleasures. For he who still abandons himself to
unlawful desires certainly does not love God, since he contradicts
Him in his own intentions. . . Therefore, he loves God truly,
whose mind is not conquered by consent to evil delight. For the
more one takes pleasure in lower things, the more he is separated
from heavenly love.

St. Gregory the Great

+ + +

A greedy appetite for food is terminated by satiety and the
pleasure of drinking ends when our thirst is quenched. And so it
is with the other things. . . But the possession of virtue, once
it is solidly achieved, cannot be measured by time nor limited by
satiety. Rather, to those who are its disciples it always appears
as something ever new and fresh.

St. Gregory of Nyssa

+ + +

Observe your thoughts, and beware of what you have in your heart
and your spirit, knowing that the demons put ideas into you so as
to corrupt your soul by making it think of that which is not
right, in order to turn your spirit from the consideration of your
sins and of God.

Abba Elias

+ + +

Have unfeigned love among yourselves, keep the tradition, and may
the God of peace be with you and confirm you in love.

St. Paul of Obnora

+ + +

Bringing doxology to the One born of the Virgin in church hymns
and spiritual songs, we must, outside the church as well,
unceasingly praise Him and give Him thanks for His ineffable
lovingkindness to us sinners, who are atoned by His honourable
blood and who have received through this promise life eternal,
blessed, and unceasing.

St. Amvrosy of Optina

+ + +

If we wear our heavenly robe, we shall not be found naked, but if
we are found not wearing this garment, what shall we do, brethren?
We, even we also, shall hear the voice that says, "Cast them into
outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth." (Matt.
22:13) And, brethren, there will be great shame in store for us,
if, after having worn this habit for so long, we are found in the
hour of need not having put on the wedding garment. Oh what
compunction will seize us! What darkness will fall upon us, in the
presence of our fathers and our brethren, who will see us being
tortured by the angels of punishment!

Abba Dioscorus

+ + +

When an archer desires to shoot his arrows successfully, he first
takes great pains over his posture and aligns himself accurately
with his mark. It should be the same for you who are about to
shoot the head of the wicked devil. Let us be concerned first for
the good order of sensations and then for the good posture of
inner thoughts.

St. John Chrysostom

+ + +

Lord God, have mercy on me a sinner: I am not worthy to stand
before Thee, seeing that I have never tried to embellish my soul
for T ¾?Ä 2¿ µhÝt that prost ¾?@e accomplished in a single
day in beautifying herself surpasseth everything I have ever
achieved during all the years of my life. How can I have the face
to look upon Thee, my God? I do not know what words to use in the
attempt to justify myself in Thy presence, Lord. What excuse have
I before Thee, seeing that all my hidden secrets are laid open
before Thee? No, alas for me the sinner who, as I enter the
threshold of Thy sacred temple and appear before Thy glorious
altar, have failed to offer the beauty in my soul that Thou
wantest.

St. Nonnus (Life of St. Pelagia, the former harlot)

+ + +

Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit,
our confidence in being heard must be based on God's mercy and His
love for men. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is
by mercy that we shall be saved.

St. John Chrysostom

+ + +

Monasticism itself is a perpetual labor of conquering passions and
uprooting them in order that, being in a pure and immaculate
state, one may preserve oneself before the face of God. This,
then, is your task! Give your attention to it, and direct all your
powers towards it.

St. Theophan the Recluse

+ + +

If the soul is vigilant and withdraws from all distraction and
abandons its own will, then the spirit of God invades it and it
can conceive because it is free to do so.

Abba Cronius

+ + +

The Holy Eucharist is the first, most important, and greatest
miracle of Christ. All the other Gospel miracles are secondary.
How could we not call the greatest miracle the fact that simple
bread and wine were once transformed by the Lord into His very
Body and His very Blood, and then have continued to be transformed
for nearly two thousand years by the prayers of priests, who are
but simple human beings? And what is more, this mystery has
continued to effect a miraculous change in those people who
communicate of the Divine Mysteries with faith and humility.

St. Ambrose of Optina

+ + +

Strive as well as you can to enter deeply with the heart into the
church reading and singing and to imprint these on the tablets of
the heart.

Abbot Nazarius

+ + +

The man who follows Christ in solitary mourning is greater than he
who praises Christ amid the congregation of men.

St. Isaac the Syrian

+ + +

For to despise the present age, not to love transitory things,
unreservedly to stretch out the mind in humility to God and our
neighbor, to preserve patience against offered insults and, with
patience guarded, to repel the pain of malice from the heart, to
give one's property to the poor, not to covet that of others, to
esteem the friend in God, on God's account to love even those who
are hostile, to mourn at the affliction of a neighbor, not to
exult in the death of one who is an enemy, this is the new
creature whom the Master of the nations seeks with watchful eye
amid the other disciples, saying:"If, then, any be in Christ a new
creature, the old things are passed away. Behold all things are
made new" (2 Cor. 5:17).

St. Gregory the Great

+ + +

Blessed is he who always has before his eyes that "the earth is
the Lord's and the fulness thereof" (Ps. 23:1), and keeps in mind
that God is powerful to arrange for His servants as is pleasing to
Him.

St. Barsanuphius

+ + +

As a pilot calls on winds and a storm-tossed mariner looks
homeward, so the times call on you to win your way to God. As
God's athlete, be sober; the stake is immortality and eternal
life.

St. Ignatius the God-bearer

+ + +

Why do you increase your bonds? Take hold of your life before your
light grows dark and you seek help and do not find it. This life
has been given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain
pursuits.

St. Isaac the Syrian

+ + +

The Seraph could not touch the fire's coal with his fingers, but
just brought it close to Isaiah's mouth: the Seraph did not hold
it, Isaiah did not consume it, but us our Lord has allowed to do
both.

St. Ephraim the Syrian

+ + +

I pray Thee, compassionate Lord, do not allow me to be condemned
because of the unworthy and ungrateful manner in which I
contemplate the great mysteries that Thou hast revealed to Thy
saints and through them to me, a sinner and Thy unworthy servant.
For see, Lord, Thy servant stands before Thee, idle in everything,
speechless, as one who is dead; and I do not dare to say anything
more or to presumptuously contemplate further. But as always I
fall down before Thee, crying from the depths of my soul. . .

St. Peter of Damascus

+ + +

At the Last Judgment the righteous will be recognized only by
their humility and their considering themselves worthless, and not
by good deeds, even if they have done them. This is the true
attitude.

Holy New Hieromartyr Barlaam

+ + +

Death's awful mystery comes upon us suddenly, and soul and body
are violently severed, divorced from their natural union by the
will of God. What shall we do at that hour if we have not thought
of it beforehand, if we have not been instructed concerning this
eventuality and find ourselves unprepared?

St. Nil Sorsky

+ + +

The Holy Spirit often visits us; but if He does not find rest how
can He remain? He departs. Joy is in the hearts of those who are
cleansed and who are able to maintain within themselves the grace
of the Holy Spirit of the All-holy Trinity. There is no greater
joy and happiness for man. I am not able to describe to you how
one feels then.

Elder Ieronymos of Aegina

+ + +

Keep the body properly slim so that you reduce the burden of the
heart's warfare, with full benefit to yourself.

St. Philotheus of Sinai

+ + +

I consider those fallen mourners more blessed than those who have
not fallen and are not mourning over themselves; because as a
result of their fall, they have risen by a sure resurrection.

St. John of the Ladder

+ + +

I shall tell you something strange, but do not be surprised by it.
Should you fail to attain dispassion because of the
predispositions dominating you, but at the time of your death be
in the depths of humility, you will be exalted above the clouds no
less than the man who is dispassionate.

St. Theognostus

+ + +

One of the old men said, "It is written concerning Solomon that he
loved women, but every male loveth the females, and we must
restrain and draw onwards our nature by main force to purity."

Paradise of the Fathers

+ + +

O monk, take thou the greatest possible care that thou sin not,
lest thou disgrace God Who dwelleth in thee, and thou drive Him
out of thy soul.

Abba Epiphanius

+ + +

We were created for eternal life by our Creator, we are called to
it by the word of God, and we are renewed by holy Baptism. And
Christ the Son of God came into the world for this, that He should
call us and take us there, and He is the one thing needful. For
this reason your very first endeavor and care should be to receive
it. Without it everything is as nothing, though you have the whole
world under you.

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

+ + +

My soul, seek the Only One . . . My soul, you have no part with
the earth; for you are from heaven. You are the image of God: seek
your First Image. For like strives after like. Each object finds
its rest in its center and element -- fish in water, fire in its
upward movement everything strives to its center. My soul, you are
an immaterial spirit, immortal. . . In Him alone you will find
your rest.

St. Tikhon of Voronezh

+ + +

It is by warfare that the soul makes progress.

Abba John the Short

+ + +

Why do you beat the air and run in vain? Every occupation has a
purpose, obviously. Tell me then, what is the purpose of all the
activity of the world? Answer, I challenge you! It is vanity of
vanity: all is vanity.

St. John Chrysostom

+ + +

When you pray to God in time of temptation do not say, 'Take this
or that away from me', but pray like this: 'O Jesus Christ,
sovereign Master, help me and do not let me sin against Thee. . .'

Abba Isaiah the Solitary

+ + +

The evil one cannot comprehend the joy we receive from the
spiritual life; for this reason he is jealous of us, he envies us
and sets traps for us, and we become grieved and fall. We must
struggle, because without struggles we do not obtain virtues.

Elder Ieronymos of Aegina

+ + +

For now is the time to labour for the Lord, for salvation is found
in the day of affliction: for it is written: 'In your patience
gain ye your souls' (Luke 21:19)

Abba Isidore of Skete

+ + +

"But Adam did not wish to say, "I sinned," but said rather the
contrary of this and placed the blame for the transgression upon
God Who created everything "very good," saying to Him, "The woman
whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I
ate." And after him she also placed the blame upon the serpent,
and they did not wish at all to repent and, falling down before
the Lord God, beg forgiveness of Him. For this, God banished them
from Paradise, as from a royal palace, to live in this world as
exiles. At that time also He decreed that a flaming sword should
be turned and should guard the entrance into Paradise. And God did
not curse Paradise, since it was the image of the future unending
life of the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. If it were not for this
reason, it would have been fitting to curse it most of all, since
within it was performed the transgression of Adam. But God did not
do this, but cursed only the whole rest of the earth, which also
was corrupt and brought forth everything by itself; and this was
in order that Adam might not have any longer a life free from
exhausting labors and sweat..."

St. Symeon the New Theologian

+ + +

"Fortunate is the man who has come to have God as his helper and
to have his hopes in Him alone. Let the Devil bear malice towards
him, let all men persecute him and plot against him, let all his
adversaries fight against him - he never fears anyone, because his
has God as his helper. He remains always a victor, always
glorified, always happy, always rich, always cheerful and joyful,
even if he happens to fall into extreme poverty and into a great
many adverse and grievous circumstances of this present life. For
inasmuch as he hopes in Almighty God, he does not despair, he is
not sorry, is not anxious, but expects help from Above. Fortunate,
then, is such a man and worthy to be deemed happy, just as the
Prophet-king David regards such a man as happy, saying: "Blessed
is he whose helper is the God of Jacob, whose hoe is in the Lord
his God." Such were all the Prophets, the Apostles, the Martyrs,
the Holy Ascetics and all the Saints from the beginning of time."

St. Nikephoros of Chios

+ + +

The soul has followed Moses and the cloud, both of these serving
as guides for those who would advance in virtue; Moses her
represents the commandments of the Law; and the cloud that leads
the way, its spiritual meaning. The soul has been purified by
crossing the Sea; it has removed from itself and destroyed the
enemy army. It has tasted of the waters of Marah, that is, of life
deprived of all sinful pleasure; and this at first had seemed
bitter and unpleasant to the taste but offered a sensation of
sweetness to those who accepted the wood. Next it enjoyed the
beauty of the palm trees of the gospel and the springs; it filled
itself with the living water, that is, the rock. It took within
itself the bread of heaven. It overwhelmed the foreign host - a
victory due to the extended arms of the Lawgiver, which thus
foreshadowed the mystery of the Cross. Only then can the soul go
on to the contemplation of transcendent Being.

St. Gregory of Nyssa

+++

Quotes on this page were selected by monks of Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, Mass

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