Friday, April 29, 2011

Keeping the Spirits of Darkness at Bay

"St. John Chrysostom writes that even a room in which a copy of the Gospels is kept holds the spirits of darkness at bay and becomes an unpromising field for their wiles."

 - From The Way of the Pilgrim

Reference: French, R.M. The way of a pilgrim ; and, The pilgrim continues his way. Hope Pub House, 1991. 25-26

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Violence to Thoughts and Destroying the Will

How we must ever be ready to do violence to ourselves. 

A certain elder was once asked, "What is the meaning of this which is written: 'Strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life?" He answered, "The strait and narrow way is this : that a man do violence to his thoughts and destroy his own will for God's sake. This is what we are told the apostles did, of whom it is written: 'Lo, we have left all and followed Thee."


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Allurements of Sin

"A man is not freed from the allurements of sin in his heart until he hates from [the depth of] his heart and sincerely the cause of sin. This causes the vehemence of the struggle which opposes man in the blood and in which his freedom is testified to through the purity of his love of virtues."

- Saint Isaac the Syrian


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Inward Strife

How the abbot John learnt the lesson that inward strife is better than inward peace.

The abbot Pastor relates of John the Short that he once prayed, asking God to take away from him all passion. God granted his prayer; and he, being free from envy, anger, and all evil thoughts, was at peace. In his great gladness he went to a certain elder, and said to him, "Behold in me a man who has no strife nor contests. I am altogether at peace." But the old man, being grieved for John's sake, replied to him, "My son, go, ask the Lord to grant you occasion for strife. There is no way in which the soul advances towards God but by striving." Then John, knowing in himself that this was true, did as the old man bade him. Afterwards, when the necessity for constant strife came back upon him, he never again prayed that it should be taken away from him. Always he made this petition "Lord, give me grace to conquer in the strife."


Monday, April 25, 2011

Turn Your Thoughts Away

“Now turn your thoughts away from the externals, and gathering them in your heart, raise up the truth of the resurrection, in all of its breadth, depth and height; so that your rejoicing be more than external. Bear out that spirit of joy, like a spring of bright water, gushing from depths of the earth.”

Saint Theophan the Recluse

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pleasing God

A way in which a man may order his life wisely.

A certain brother asked the abbot Antony, "What shall I do that I may please God?" The old man replied, "Keep these commandments which I give you. Wherever you go, have God always before your eyes. Whatever work you do, set before yourself an example from the Holy Scriptures. Wherever you dwell, be not hasty in removing thence. Stay patiently in the same place. If you guard these three precepts without doubt you will be saved."


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Need Strive No More?

Why no man must dare to think within himself- "I have conquered, and need strive no more" 

A certain old man came to another and said, "I, indeed, am already dead unto the world." But the other, seeing the danger in which he was, thus warned him, "Be not ever sure of yourself while you remain in the body. Although perhaps you may say, ' I am dead unto the world,' yet there is one who is by no means dead to you even your adversary the devil. Surely innumerable are his evil ways, and immeasurable is his craftiness."


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Die to the World

"The soul that desires to live with God in rest and eternal light must come, as was said before, to Christ the true High-priest, and be slain, and die to the world, and to the former life of the darkness of wickedness, and be translated into another life and to a conversation that is divine...Let us therefore pray that we ourselves may be slain through His power, and die to the world of the wickedness of darkness, and that the spirit of sin may be destroyed in us, and that we may put on and receive the soul of the heavenly Spirit, and be translated from the wickedness of darkness into the light of Christ, and may rest in life through world after world."

- Saint Macarius the Egyptian


Monday, April 18, 2011

Conquering Evil Thoughts

Advice for the conquering of evil thoughts.

A certain brother once asked one of the elders, "How shall I overcome the evil thoughts which ceaselessly trouble me?" The elder said to him, "Do not attempt to strive with all of them. Strive only against one. All evil thoughts have a single head and source. In one man it is this, in another that. It is necessary, first of all, to find out each man for himself what is the origin of his evil thoughts. Then let him bend his energies to the conquest of that one thing, and all other evil thoughts will give way before him."


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Acquisition of Grace

"Acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit also by practicing all the other virtues for Christ's sake. Trade spiritually with them; trade with those which give you the greatest profit. Accumulate capital from the superabundance of God's grace, deposit it in God's eternal bank which will bring you immaterial interest, not four or six per cent, but one hundred per cent for one spiritual ruble, and even infinitely more than that. For example, if prayer and watching gives you more of God's grace, watch and pray; if fasting gives you much of the spirit of God, fast; if almsgiving gives you more, give alms. Weigh every virtue done for Christ's sake in this manner."

- Saint Seraphim of Sarov


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Escaping the Snares: Discretion

How one was preserved from a snare of the devil by discretion.

They tell about a certain old man that sometimes in his struggles against temptations he saw the devils, who surrounded him, with his bodily eyes. Nevertheless, he despised them and their temptations. Seeing that he was being vanquished, the devil came and showed himself to the old man, saying, "I am Christ." But when the old man beheld him, he shut his eyes. Then the devil said again, "I am Christ; why have you shut your eyes?" The old man answered him, " I neither expect nor wish to behold Christ in this present life. I look to see Him only in the life beyond." Hearing these words, the devil straightway vanished from his sight.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Taking Up Your Cross

"Taking up our cross means courageously enduring difficult unseen labor, agony, and torment for the sake of the Gospels as we war with our own passions, with the sin that lives in us, with the spirits of evil who vehemently make war against us and franticly attack us when we resolve to cast off the yoke of sin, and submit ourselves to the yoke of Christ."

- Saint Ignatius (Brianchaninov)


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Vanquished by Humility

Another story of a devil vanquished by humility.

There was a certain hermit renowned among the monks. It happened that there once met him a man possessed by an evil spirit, who struck him violently upon the cheek. The old man straightway turned to him the other cheek, that he might smite him upon it also. The devil was not able to endure the flame of his humility, but immediately departed from him who was possessed.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

We Are the Cause

"We must pray for other people with contrition and pain in our soul. We can only achieve this, if, due to our humbleness, we consider ourselves the cause of all the problems in the world."

- Elder Paisios

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Escaping the Snares: Humility

A story of how a certain one escaped one of the snares of the devil through humility.

The devil once appeared to a certain brother transformed into the likeness of an angel of light. He said, " I am the angel Gabriel, and I am sent unto thee." The brother, though he doubted not at first but that he saw an angel, yet out of his humility made answer, "Surely you are sent to some other one and not to me, for I am altogether unworthy to have an angel visitor." Then the devil, being astonished and baffled, departed from him.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Life Eternal

"He who believes in the Saviour, and feeds upon His Body and Blood, has life eternal in himself; and this is the reason why every sin occasions painful suffering and disturbance of heart. But those who have not life eternal in them drink iniquity like water, and do not suffer, because life eternal is not in their hearts."

- Saint John of Kronstadt


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Being Humble

Of the great safety of being humble.

St. Antony tells how once in a vision he beheld all the snares of the evil one spread over the whole earth. When he looked upon them and considered their innumerable multitude, he sighed, and said within himself, "Who is able to pass safely through such a world as this?" Then he heard a voice, which answered him, "The humble man alone can pass safely through, O Antony. In no way can the proud do so."


Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Therapeutic Scalpel

”The priest's stole is a planing instrument that planes and straightens out a person. It is a therapeutic scalpel that excises passions, and not a trowel for workaholics, or a symbol of power. It is a servant's apron intended for ministering to people, for providing therapy and salvation.”

- Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain


Friday, April 8, 2011

The Drunk

How an old monk was redeemed from his sin by the gentleness and patience of his disciple.

There was a certain old monk who was a drunkard. He used to weave a mat every day, sell it in a neighbouring village, and spend the money he got on wine. After a while there came a younger brother, who dwelt with him as a disciple. He also wove one mat every day. The old man used to take his mat, too, and sell it, and spend the price of both on wine. Late in the evening he used to return and bring the disciple a very small piece of bread. Thus three years went by, and the young man spoke no word of complaint. At last he said within himself, "I am nearly naked, for my clothes are worn out. I am half starved for want of food. It is good that I arise and go hence." Then again he said within himself, "Whither have I to go? Better that I stay here. It was God who set me here. For God's sake, therefore, I will stay, enduring the life which I live." Immediately that he had thus resolved an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, "You need not depart. To-morrow we shall come to you." Then the brother said to the old man, "Do not leave the cell to-morrow, I beseech you, for some friends of mine are coming to take me away." The next day, when the hour came at which the old man was wont to go down to the village, he grew impatient, and said to the disciple, "I think your friends will not come to-day. See how late it is." But the brother besought him very earnestly to stay, saying that his friends most certainly would come. While he was speaking death came to him, and he slept peacefully. Then, when the old man saw that he was dead, he wept bitterly, and cried out, "Alas! alas! for me, my son! These many years I have lived carelessly; but you, in a brief time, have gained salvation for your soul by being patient." From that day forth the old man was sober, and well reported of for his good life.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Family Resemblance

"Children, being the images of their father and mother, are near to their hearts; but still nearer are men—and especially Christians—the images of God, to the heart of God. The outward and often inward resemblance of children to their parents reminds us of our inward resemblance to God."

- Saint John of Kronstadt


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Filled With the Spirit

'As you borrow your breath from the air and emit it into the air again—so that you are always surrounded by air, and it penetrates you—so also your soul comes from God and will return again to God, so that you are always in God, and are surrounded on all sides and inwardly filled with Him as with air. This is the meaning of the words "filled with the Spirit." As you breathe every minute by means of air, so every minute you are mentally either with God or with the Devil, according to your inward disposition. What air is to the body, the spirit of God is to the soul. As you breathe from the air the elements required to nourish your body, so likewise you breathe into yourself from the Spirit of God good inclinations and thoughts.'

- Saint John of Kronstadt


Tuesday, April 5, 2011


The example of St. Antony, showing how he valued a sinner who repented.

It happened that a certain brother in the community of the Abbot Elias fell into sin. The brethren expelled him from the monastery and he fled to St. Antony who then dwelt on the inner mountain. The saint kept him there some time and then sent him back to the monastery from which he had been cast out. The brethren, when they saw him, immediately drove him forth again. Then, as at first, he fled to St. Antony, and said to him, "My father, they will not receive me." Then the saint was grieved, and sent to the brethren a message, saying, "A certain vessel suffered shipwreck in the sea, and all her cargo was lost. Yet with great labour the sailors brought the ship herself to land. Do you now wish to push forth into the deep and sink the ship that has been rescued?" The brethren meditated upon the message which the saint sent them. When they understood it they were greatly ashamed, and at once received again the brother who had sinned.


Monday, April 4, 2011

The Most Important Letter You'll Ever Read

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, an 18th century Orthodox bishop, says, “If an earthly king or emperor wrote you a letter, would you not read it with joy? Certainly, with great rejoicing and careful attention. But what,” he asks, “is our attitude towards the letter that has been addressed to us by no one less than God himself? You have been sent a letter—not by any earthly emperor, but by the King of heaven. And yet you almost despise such a gift—so priceless a treasure. To open and read this letter,” St. Tikhon adds, “is to enter into a personal conversation, face-to-face, with the living God. Whenever you read the Gospel, Christ himself is speaking to you. And while you read, you are praying and talking to him.”

- Metropolitan Kallistos Ware


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Be Like the Dead

How St. Macarius taught the meaning of the apostle's words — "Dead with Christ" "Buried with Christ."

A brother once came to the abbot Macarius and said to him, "Master, speak some word of exhortation to me, that, obeying it, I may be saved." St. Macarius answered him, "Go to the tombs and attack the dead with insults." The brother wondered at the word. Nevertheless he went, as he was bidden, and cast stones at the tombs, railing upon the dead. Then returning, he told what he had done. Macarius asked him, "Did the dead notice what you did?" And he replied, "They did not notice me." "Go, then, again," said Macarius, "and this time praise them." The brother, wondering yet more, went and praised the dead, calling them just men, apostles, saints. Returning, he told what he had done, saying, "I have praised the dead." Macarius asked him, "Did they reply to you?" And he said, "They did not reply to me." Then said Macarius, "You know what insults you have heaped on them and with what praises you have flattered them, and yet they never spoke to you. If you desire salvation, you must be like these dead. You must think nothing of the wrongs men do to you, nor of the praises they offer you. Be like the dead. Thus you may be saved."


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Footprints of Blood

The story of a certain brother's love for a sinner, and how he gained thereby his sister's soul.

A certain brother dwelt in a cell in Egypt who was renowned for his humility. Now he had a sister who was a harlot in the city, and was working the destruction of the souls of many men. Many times the elders exhorted him, and at last hardly persuaded him to go to her if, perhaps, he might persuade her to leave her sinful life. When he came to the town one of the citizens ran before him to the harlot's house and told her, "Behold, your brother comes to see you." She then, because she loved him, left her lovers on whom she was attending, and without even covering her head, ran to meet him. He immediately stretched forth his arms to her, and said, "My sister, my dearest sister, have pity on your own soul. Do you not know that through you many are going to perdition? How can you bear this bitter life of yours? How will you bear the torments of eternity? She trembled exceedingly, and replied to him, "My brother, are you sure that there is salvation for me even now?" He answered her, "If you wish for it there is salvation for you. Then she fell at his feet, and besought him that he would take her with him into the desert. He said to her, "Go, then, cover your head and follow me. But she replied, "No. But let us go straightway. It is better that men should see me walking through the streets with my head uncovered than that I should go again into the place where I sinned. Then they went together, and by the way he taught her the meaning of repentance. At last, as they journeyed, they saw some men coming towards them on the road, and the brother said, "Since these men will not know that you are my sister, I beseech you go aside a little from the road until they pass. After the men had passed, he called her, saying, "Sister, let us go on upon our way. When she did not answer him, he went to look for her and found her dead, and lo! her footprints were full of blood, for she had started on their way barefooted. When the elders heard the story they talked among themselves of whether she was saved.

God in the end revealed it to one of them, that inasmuch as she had cared nothing for her body or its pain upon her journey, inasmuch as she had counted her wounds as nothing for the great longing that she had to escape perdition, that therefore, for the sake of her heart's devotion, God had received her repentance.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Prayer and the Heart

"...We Orthodox think of prayer as growing more and more inward. It begins as prayer of the lips—oral prayer—but then it grows more inward—prayer of the mind. Because prayer which is merely said with the lips is not true prayer. We need to pray with our mind, with our inner attention, so that it becomes prayer of the mind.
  But then we say that there is a further stage where the prayer can descend from the mind into the heart. When Eastern Christian writers speak of the heart, they do not just mean the emotions and feelings. The heart signifies the spiritual center of the total human person. The heart is the place where we make model decisions. The heart is the seat of understanding and wisdom. It is in the heart that we know ourselves as made in the image and likeness of God.
  This understanding of the heart, not just as emotions and feelings, but as the spiritual center of the total person, is exactly the way that it is understood in scripture. So when we speak of the prayer descending from the mind into the heart, we mean that the prayer is to be identified with our total being. It is not to be just something that we think about with our minds in a detached way. The prayer is to become, not just something that we do, but something that we are. Prayer of the heart means prayer of the total person in which the reasoning brain, the emotions, the feelings, the deep understanding, yes, and also the body—all of these are to participate in prayer. So, this is what we mean by descending upon the mind and into the heart. The prayer becomes, by God’s grace and not just by our own efforts, prayer of the whole of ourselves."

- Metropolitan Kallistos Ware