Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Drunk with Wine or Desires

"Blessed is he that has come forth from the dizziness of his wine and has seen in others the shamelessness of his drunkenness; then he will understand his own shame. As long as he himself is under the drunkenness of sins, all that he does is beautiful in his eyes. When nature has deviated from its order, it is all alike, to be drunk with wine or with desires; both [states] remove [a man] from what is becoming; both excite in their bearer, the body, the same heat; they are different as to their idea, but one in appearance; and one in madness. There is no equality in their causal ideas; but in their bearers there is no diversity."

- Saint Isaac the Syrian

Reference: www.archive.org/.../isaac_of_nineveh_mystical_treatises_djvu.txt

Monday, May 30, 2011

The True Light

"When then Enemy sees that Christ, the true Light, is with us, he will not dare to look at us at all, for the light that is in us blinds his eyes. So, as I said before, brethren, lovers of Christ, let us be determined to purify our hearts, so as to draw upon us the grace of the Spirit for our assistance; and no longer does the evil one have power against us."

- Saint Ephrem the Syrian

Friday, May 27, 2011

In the Hour of Death

How in the hour of death the abbot Agathon, though he knew nothing against himself, yet was not thereby justified.

At the time when the abbot Agathon lay dying his eyes were fixed for three whole days, as if he were in a trance. The brethren who were with him touched him to awaken him, and said, "Father, where are you now?" He replied, "I stand gazing at the God who judges me." Then the brethren said, "Surely you are not afraid." He answered them, "While I was with you on earth, as far as in me lay, I strove to obey the commandments of God. Yet I am but a man, and now I am not sure -- how can I be sure? -- that the things I did were really pleasing in God's sight." The brethren said, "have you no confidence that your deeds were in accordance with the will of God?" He replied, "I have no confidence now that I am standing in the sight of God. Man judges about what is right and wrong. That is one judgment. God also judges what is right and wrong. His judgment is another and different."

Reference: http://www.archive.org/details/wisdomofdesert00birmrich

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Unique Miracle

"The entire history of Christianity is nothing other than the history of a unique miracle, namely, the Resurrection of Christ, which is unbrokenly threaded through the hearts of Christians form one day to the next, from year to year, across the centuries, until the Dread Judgment."

 - St. Justin Popovic

Reference: http://preachersinstitute.com/2010/04/12/a-paschal-homily-of-blessed-justin-of-chelije/

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Temptation is Good?

How temptation is not sin, but the means of being good.

A certain elder said, God will not condemn us because evil thoughts enter our hearts, but only if we make a bad use of our evil thoughts. It happens sometimes that men's souls are shipwrecked through evil thoughts, but also it is by the entering in of such thoughts that we become worthy of being crowned.

Reference: http://www.archive.org/details/wisdomofdesert00birmrich

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Peace of the Soul

"Outer stillness, with discerning asceticism, very quickly brings also interior stillness (the peace of the soul), which an essential preparation for delicate spiritual activity. For as much as one distances oneself from the world so much more is the world distanced from within you and worldly thoughts leave and the mind of a person is purified and he become a man of God."

- Elder Paisios of Mount Athos

From Spiritual Awakening, Vol. II in the Spiritual Counsels series by Elder Paisios of Mount Athos (Souroti, Thessaloniki, Greece: Holy Monastery “Evangelist John the Theologian”, 2008), pp. 109-114.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Of the infirmity of forgetfulness, and how we ought not to despond because of it.

A certain brother said to one of the elders, "Lo, my father, I frequently consult the elders, and they give me advice for the salvation of my soul, yet of all that they say to me I can remember nothing." Now it happened that there were two vessels standing empty beside the old man to whom he spoke. He therefore said to the brother, "Go, take one of the vessels. Put water in it. Wash it, and pour the water out of it again. Then put it back, clean, into its place. The brother did so. Then said the old man, "Bring both vessels here. Look at them carefully, and tell me which is the cleaner." "Surely," said the brother, "that is the cleaner which I washed with the water." Then said the old man to him again, "Even so it is, my son, with the soul which frequently hears the words of God. Even although the memory retain none of them, yet is that soul purer than his who never seeks for spiritual counsel."

Reference: http://www.archive.org/details/wisdomofdesert00birmrich

Friday, May 20, 2011

On the Second Coming of Christ

On the Second Coming of Christ, Ch. 15 from The Truth of Our Faith by Elder Cleopa of Romania

 "If neither the angels in heaven nor the Son of Man Himself as man know the appointed time, how is it possible for it to be known among men? From the words of the Saviour it is understood only that we must be ever vigilant and mindful of our salvation, ever ready for the coming of the Lord, for we know neither the day nor the hour of His coming, nor even the hour of our own end in this life. His appearance will be unexpected, as the Lord forewarned us when he said, Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh. (Mat. 25:13)"

Reference: http://www.stgeorgegreenville.org/OurFaith/Foundation%20of%20Faith/Eschatology.html

Thursday, May 19, 2011

More on Overcoming Evil Thoughts

The abbot Pastor speaks of a way in which we may overcome evil thoughts.

The abbot Isaiah once asked the abbot Pastor about evil thoughts which troubled him. Pastor answered him, "Just as clothes which are put away for a long time in some trunk, and not taken out at all, moulder and decay, so the evil thoughts of our hearts, if we do not put them into action, after a long time will fade away."

Reference: http://www.archive.org/details/wisdomofdesert00birmrich

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What does it mean to be “saved”...?

'What does it mean to be “saved” in and by Christ? Now it’s tempting to make a series of sharp contrasts. It’s tempting to say that Evangelicals emphasize the Cross—Orthodox, the Incarnation and the Resurrection. Evangelicals speak of atonement by penal substitution. Orthodox think of Christ the Victor over death. Evangelicals say “Christ for me”, where the Orthodox say “Christ in me”. The Evangelicals make a distinction between justification, sanctification and glorification, although they are not separated. In Orthodoxy, there is no clear distinction here. Salvation is seen as a continuing process. In the words of Metropolitan Anthony, whom I’ve already quoted, “Conversion begins but it never ends.” Orthodox, thinking of salvation, emphasize that it is primarily theosis, deification. We become, as St. Peter says (or whoever wrote 2 Peter 1:4), “Partakers of the divine nature.” Evangelicals, it is said, in their attitude toward salvation by Christ, tend to be transactional and forensic, using legal categories; whereas, the Orthodox are more organic and therapeutic, using images of healing. Orthodox, or so it is said, put an emphasis on love as the motive for the Incarnation; where, Anselm and Calvin in the West rather stress the justice of God and his honor. Evangelicals tend to be twice born and put clear emphasis on conversion. Orthodox, on the whole, are once born, though I would certainly say that I could mark out in my life a moment of conversion to Christ that came some time before I actually joined the Orthodox Church. But for Orthodox, conversion is seen, as I’ve said, as a lifelong process.'

- Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Diokleia

Reference: http://ancientfaith.com/specials/lectures_by_metropolitan_kallistos_ware/what_can_evangelicals_and_orthodox_learn_from_one_another

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Non-Orthodox Christians

"I will set forth briefly what I believe to be the Orthodox attitude towards non-Orthodox Christians.

1. Orthodoxy is the Church founded by Christ for the salvation of mankind, and therefore we should guard with our life the purity of its teaching and our own faithfulness to it. In the Orthodox Church alone is grace given through the sacraments (most other churches don’t even claim to have sacraments in any serious sense). The Orthodox Church alone is the Body of Christ, and if salvation is difficult enough within the Orthodox Church, how much more difficult must it be outside the Church!

2. However, it is not for us to define the state of those who are outside the Orthodox Church. If God wishes to grant salvation to some who are Christians in the best way they know, but without ever knowing the Orthodox Church—that is up to Him, not us. But when He does this, it is outside the normal way that He established for salvation—which is in the Church, as a part of the Body of Christ. I myself can accept the experience of Protestants being ‘born-again’ in Christ; I have met people who have changed their lives entirely through meeting Christ, and I cannot deny their experience just because they are not Orthodox. I call these people “subjective” or “beginning” Christians. But until they are united to the Orthodox Church they cannot have the fullness of Christianity, they cannot be objectively Christian as belonging to the Body of Christ and receiving the grace of the sacraments. I think this is why there are so many sects among them—they begin the Christian life with a genuine conversion to Christ, but they cannot continue the Christian life in the right way until they are united to the Orthodox Church, and they therefore substitute their own opinions and subjective experiences for the Church’s teaching and sacraments.

About those Christians who are outside the Orthodox Church, therefore, I would say: they do not yet have the full truth—perhaps it just hasn’t been revealed to them yet, or perhaps it is our fault for not living and teaching the Orthodox Faith in a way they can understand. With such people we cannot be one in the Faith, but there is no reason why we should regard them as totally estranged or as equal to pagans (although we should not be hostile to pagans either—they also haven’t yet seen the truth!). It is true that many of the non-Orthodox hymns contain a teaching or at least an emphasis that is wrong—especially the idea that when one is “saved” he does not need to do anything more because Christ has done it all. This idea prevents people from seeing the truth of Orthodoxy which emphasizes the idea of struggling for one’s salvation even after Christ has given it to us, as St. Paul says: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling [Phil. 2:12]. But almost all of the religious Christmas carols are all right, and they are sung by Orthodox Christians in America (some of them in even the strictest monasteries!)...

...We should view the non-Orthodox as people to whom Orthodoxy has not yet been revealed, as people who are potentially Orthodox (if only we ourselves would give them a better example!). There is no reason why we cannot call them Christians and be on good terms with them, recognize that we have at least our faith in Christ in common, and live in peace especially with our own families. St. Innocent’s attitude to the Roman Catholics in California is a good example for us. A harsh, polemical attitude is called for only when the non-Orthodox are trying to take away our flocks or change our teaching...

As for prejudices—these belong to people, not the Church. Orthodoxy does not require you to accept any prejudices or opinions about other races, nations, etc..."

- Father Seraphim Rose

Reference: (Hieromonk), Damascene. Father Seraphim Rose: his life and works. 2005. 813-815. Print. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Overcoming Evil Thoughts

The abbot Pastor teaches that evil thoughts are not to be avoided, but overcome.

A certain brother came to the abbot Pastor, and said, "Many evil thoughts come into my mind, and I am in danger through them." The old man led him out into the air, and said to him, "Stretch yourself out, and stop the wind from blowing." The brother, wondering at his words, replied, "I cannot do that." Then the old man said to him, "If you cannot stop the wind from blowing, neither can you prevent evil thoughts from entering your mind. That is beyond your power; but one thing you can do -- conquer them."

Reference: http://www.archive.org/details/wisdomofdesert00birmrich

Friday, May 13, 2011

Interpreting Scripture

"Saint Philip asks the eunich: understandest thou what thou readest? He answered: how can I, except some man should guide me? (Acts 8:31). How often those who read the word of God and writings of the fathers experience the same thing! What is read is beyond our comprehension; the mind cannot heed or grasp it, as if it were something foreign to it, about topics of an unknown realm. This is why an interpreter is needed, who is familiar with the meaning of the words. Saint Philip had the same spirit as the one which brought those prophecies, and so it was not difficult for him to interpret what the eunuch found hard to understand. Thus it is for us now: we must find a person who stands on such a level of life and knowledge as is touched upon by the scripture which is difficult for us, and he will interpret it without difficulty, because each level has its own spiritual view. He who stands on a lower level does not see all that he who stands on the higher sees, and can only guess about it. If it happens that the scriptures which are incomprehensible for us touch upon subjects of the higher level, but the interpreter met by us stands on the lower, then he cannot explain it as he should, and will apply everything to his own outlooks, and it will remain for us as dark as before. One must marvel at how people take on interpreting topics of Scripture while being totally foreign to the realm to which these subjects belong. And for them it does not come out as it should; nor do they fail to get puffed up over their own interpretations."

- Saint Theophan the Recluse


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Avoiding the Spirit of Anger

Of a certain brother who tried to avoid the occasions
rather than conquer the spirit of anger.

A certain brother was frequently moved to anger while he dwelt in a monastery. He said, therefore within himself, "I shall go forth into solitude, and when I have no one to quarrel with I shall find rest from this spirit of anger." So he went and dwelt in a certain cave. One day, after he had filled his pitcher and placed it on the ground, it was suddenly upset. Three times he filled it, and three times in the same way the water was spilled. Then, in a rage, he seized the vessel and broke it. When he came to himself, and began to consider how he had been trapped by the demon of anger, he said, "Lo, I am here alone, and yet I have been vanquished by anger. I shall return to my monastery, because, wherever there is most need of striving and of patience, there, no doubt, chiefly is the grace of God to be found.'' Then, rising up, he returned to his own place.

Reference: http://www.archive.org/details/wisdomofdesert00birmrich

Monday, May 9, 2011

Salvation is a Process

“I trust that, by God’s grace, I am being saved.” Not “I am saved” but “I am being saved”. Salvation, as I’ve said, is a process, not a single event, but an ongoing journey, a pilgrimage that is only completed at the moment of death.

- Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Diokleia

Reference: http://ancientfaith.com/specials/lectures_by_metropolitan_kallistos_ware/what_can_evangelicals_and_orthodox_learn_from_one_another

Friday, May 6, 2011

Temptation of Empty Pride (Vainglory)

A story of the abbot Nisteros, how he escaped the temptation of vainglory.

The abbot Nisteros the elder was one day walking in the desert with one of his disciples. Seeing a serpent in their path, they both turned and fled from it. Then the disciple said, "My father, were you afraid?" The old man answered him, "I was not afraid, my son, but it was better for me that I should flee before the serpent. If I had not at once fled from it, I should afterwards have had to flee before the spirit of vainglory."

Reference: http://www.archive.org/details/wisdomofdesert00birmrich

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Watchful After Pascha

"And so after Pascha we must be watchful and awake, pray and be stirred to compunction, weep and be illumined, always bearing in our bodies the death of the Lord Jesus, [2 Cor. 4:10.] dying each day by choice, always journeying from the body and dwelling with the Lord through leaving the thoughts of the flesh. Do not say, 'It is not Lent now'. It is always Lent for the watchful."

- Saint Theodore the Studite

Reference: Letters & Catechism

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Evil Thoughts

Of our strife against evil thoughts.

A certain elder said, If we have no evil thoughts we are no better than the beasts. The enemy does what is in his power when he suggests them to us. Let us also do the duty which lies within our power. Be instant in prayer, and the enemy will flee. Find time for meditation on divine things, and you will conquer. Persevere, and the good in you will win. Strive hard, and you will be crowned.

Reference: http://www.archive.org/details/wisdomofdesert00birmrich

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Antidote for a Bad Book

"Do not pick up a bad book, and you will not be mist-enshrouded by it; but if you should accidentally come upon such a book, take up a good book as an antidote, and you will refresh your head and breast."

- Saint Theophan the Recluse

Reference: http://days.pravoslavie.ru/en/Days/20110413.htm 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Idle Talking

Of the danger of idle talking.

The abbot Hyperichius said, The serpent whispered to Eve, and she was cast out of Paradise. He who gossips with his neighbour is like unto the serpent. He causes the loss of the soul of him who listens, and his own soul shall not be safe.

Reference: http://www.archive.org/details/wisdomofdesert00birmrich