Tag Archives: Living Orthodoxy

St. Ignatius Brianchaninov: Speak will of those who speak evil of you. . . .

St. Ignatius Brianchaninov 2Speak well of those who speak evil of you.

Pay good for evil.

Pray for those who cause you various offenses, wrongs, temptations, persecutions.

Whatever you do, on no account condemn anyone; do not even try to judge whether a person is good or bad, but keep your eyes on that one evil person for whom you must give an account before God–yourself.Book The Arena St Ignatius

+ St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov), The Arena: Guidelines for Spiritual and Monastic Life

St. Neilos the Ascetic: . . .Rivalry over material possessions has made us forget . . .

BiltmoreSo we no longer pursue plainness and simplicity of life. We no longer value stillness, which helps to free us from past defilement, but prefer a whole host of things which distract us uselessly from our true goal. Rivalry over material possessions has made us forget the counsel of the Lord, who urged us to take no thought for earthly things, but to seek only the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matt. 6:33). Deliberately doing the opposite, we have disregarded the Lord’s commandment, trusting in ourselves and not in His protection. For He says: ‘Behold the fowls of the air: for they do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them’ (Matt. 6:26); and again: ‘Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they do not toil or spin’ (Matt. 6:28). When He sent the apostles out to declare the good news to their fellow men. He even forbade them to carry wallet, purse or staff, and told them to be content with His promise: ‘The workman is worthy of his food’ (Matt. 10:10). This promise is to be trusted far more than our own resources.

Despite all this we go on accumulating as much land as we can, and we buy up flocks of sheep, fine oxen and fat donkeys – the sheep to supply us with wool, the oxen to plough and provide food for us and fodder for themselves and for the other animals, the donkeys to transport from foreign lands the goods and luxuries which our own country lacks. We also select the crafts which give the highest return, even though they absorb all our attention and leave no time for the remembrance of God. It is as if we accused God of being incapable of providing for us, or ourselves of being unable to fulfill the commitments of our calling. Even if we do not admit this. openly, our actions condemn us; for we show approval of the ways of worldly men by engaging in the same pursuits, and perhaps working at them even harder than they do.

+ St. Neilos the Ascetic, “Ascetic Discourse,” The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 1)

Elder Thaddeus: Abstinence is for everyone, not just for monks. Husbands and wives for whom marriage means only . . .

MarriageAbstinence is for everyone, not just for monks. Husbands and wives for whom marriage means only the satisfaction of bodily passions will not be justified. They will answer before God for not having been abstinent. Of course, as the Apostle says, they are not to abstain from each other for a long time, lest the devil deceive them, but they should abstain according to mutual consent (cf. I Cor. 7:1-6). Married people should abstain from corporeal relations during fasts and on great Feast days.

+ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives

St. Mark the Ascetic: . . . without affliction virtue has not been tested.

Icon of St. Mark the AsceticDo not claim to have acquired virtue unless you have suffered affliction, for without affliction virtue has not been tested.

+ St. Mark the Ascetic, On the Spiritual Law Two Hundred Texts, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 1)

St. Ambrose of Optina: . . . you should care about the main thing . . .

“You must not be greatly troubled about many things, but you should care for the main thing — preparing yourself for death.”

+ St. Ambrose of Optina, quoted from Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina

St. Isaac the Syrian: A humble man is . . .

Icon of St. Isaac the SyrianA humble man is never rash, hasty or perturbed, never has any hot and volatile thoughts, but at all times remains calm. Even if heaven were to fall and cleave to the earth, the humble man would not be dismayed. Not every quiet man is humble, but every humble man is quiet. There is no humble man who is not self-constrained; but you will find many who are self-constrained without being humble. This is also what the meek humble Lord meant when He said, ‘Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’ [Matt 11:29]  For the humble man is always at rest, because there is nothing which can agitate or shake his mind. Just as no one can frighten a mountain, so the mind of a humble man cannot be frightened. If it be permissible and not incongruous, I should say that the humble man is not of this world. For he is not troubled and altered by sorrows, nor amazed and enthused by joys, but all his gladness and his real rejoicing are in the things of his Master. Humility is accompanied by modesty and self-collectedness: that is, chastity of the senses; a moderate voice; mean speech; self-belittlement; poor raiment; a gait that is not pompous; a gaze directed towards the earth; superabundant mercy; easily flowing tears; a solitary soul; a contrite heart; imperturbability to anger; undistributed senses; few possessions; moderation in every need; endurance; patience; fearlessness; manliness of heart born of a hatred of this temporal life; patient endurance of trials; deliberations that are ponderous, not light, extinction of thoughts; guarding of the mysteries of chastity; modesty, reverence; and above all, continually to be still and always to claim ignorance.

+ St. Isaac the Syrian,  Homily 72, Ascetical Homilies of St Isaac the Syrian

 

St. Theophan the Recluse: When going to the Holy Mysteries, go with . . .

Receiving CommunionWhen going to the Holy Mysteries, go with simplicity of heart, in full faith that you will receive the Lord within yourself, and with the proper reverence towards this. What your state of mind should be after this, leave it to the Lord Himself. Many desire ahead of time to receive this or that from Holy Communion, and then, not seeing what they wanted, they are troubled, and even their faith in the power of the Mystery is shaken. The fault lies not with the Mystery, but with superficial assumptions. Do not promise yourself anything. Leave everything to the Lord, asking a single mercy from Him — to strengthen you in every kind of good so that you will be acceptable to Him. The fruit of Communion most often has a taste of sweet peace in the heart; sometimes it brings enlightenment to thought and inspiration to one’s devotion to the Lord; sometimes almost nothing is apparent, but afterward in one’s affairs there is a noted a great strength and steadfastness in the diligence one has promised.St. Theophan the Recluse Spiritual Life

+ St. Theophan the Recluse, The Spiritual Life: And How to Be Attuned to It

St. John the Wonderworker: . . . Receiving the Body of Christ, while turning away from Him in spirit, is like . . .

CommunionFor a man’s complete sanctification, the body of the servant of the Lord must be united with the Body of Christ, and this is accomplished in the Mystery of Holy Communion. The true Body and the true Blood of Christ which we receive become part of the great Body of Christ.

Of course, for union with Christ, the mere conjoining of our body with the Body of Christ does not suffice. The consumption of the Body of Christ becomes beneficial when in spirit we strive towards Him and unite ourselves with Him. Receiving the Body of Christ, while turning away from Him in spirit, is like the contact with Christ which they had who struck Him and mocked and crucified Him. Their contact with Him served not for their salvation and healing, but for their condemnation.

But those who partake with piety, love and readiness to serve Him, closely unite themselves with Him and become instruments of His Divine will.

+ St. John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, “The Church as the Body of Christ,” Man of God: Saint John of Shanghai & San Francisco

St. Sebastian Dabovich: We hear it frequently remarked that it matters not what one believes if he does right. But . . .

St. Sebastian Dabovich 4“We hear it frequently remarked that it matters not what one believes if he does right. But if one does not believe right, he does not do the right thing—that is, if his belief is sincere and carried out in practice. If one believes that which is wrong, and still acts otherwise from force of circumstance, he is wrong in heart. A man may believe in polygamy, but the law and common custom may forbid its practice. He would be in outward life aright, but in heart would be a virtual polygamist. And if circumstances were favorable, his life would bear its legitimate fruit. And this is just as true of every other moral evil. It is all-important to believe right. Every false religion which has cursed mankind has started in a wrong belief. It might not have affected practical duties for a time, but the fruit finally developed. Thus belief in that first lie of Satan’s (Gen. iii: 4) has borne its legitimate fruit in—first, the deification of the beautiful, and unnatural curiosity; second, self-love, delusion, and idol-worship; third, free-thinking, protesting, infidelity, and anarchy.”Book The Lives of Saints St Sebastian Dabovich

+ St. Sebastian Dabovich,  The Lives of Saints: With Several Lectures and Sermons [hard-copy book] | [read online], “Sincere Religion”

St. Thalassios the Libyan: The person advancing in the spiritual life studies three things . . .

Icon of St. Thalassios the Libyan“The person advancing in the spiritual life studies three things: the commandments, doctrine, and faith in the Holy Trinity.”

+ St. Thalassios the Libyan, “On Love, Self-Control and Life in Accordance with the Intellect,” 3.28, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)

St. John the Wonderworker on Engaging in Entertainments on the Eves of Feast Days

St. John the Wonderworker 2“The holy canons dictate that Christians should spend the eves of feast days in prayer and with reverence in preparation for participation or attendance at the Divine Liturgy. If all Orthodox Christians are called to this, then this pertains all the more to those who take an active part in the church services itself. Their participation in diversions on the eve of a feast day is especially sinful. In view of the above, those who attend a dance or similar form of entertainment and diversion may not participate in the choir the next day, may not serve in the altar, enter the altar or stand on the cliros.”

+ St. John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, Ukase concerning the inadmissibility of engaging in entertainments on the eves of feast days. Quoted from Man of God: Saint John of Shanghai & San Francisco.

St. Pachomius the Great: . . . shun the satisfactions of this age, so as to be happy in the age to come. . . .

St. Pachomius the Great 2“As for you, my son, shun the satisfactions of this age, so as to be happy in the age to come. Do not be negligent, letting the days pass by till unexpectedly they come looking for you and you arrive at the straits of your anguish and the ‘horror-faces’ surround you and drag you off violently to their dark place of terror and anguish. Do not be sad when you are cursed by men; be sad and sigh when you sin — this is the true curse — and when you go away bearing the sores of your sins.

If you have hit your brother, you will be handed over to pitiless angels and you will be chastised in torments of fire for all eternity.”

+ St. Pachomius the Great, Pachomian Koinonia III: Instructions, Letters, and Other Writings of Saint Pachomius and His Disciples. The Instructions of Saint Pachomius, 23,41

St. John of Kronstadt: Envy

“It is madness for a Christian to be envious. In Christ we have all received infinitely great blessings.”

+ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ [paperback]  or  [hardback]

St. Ambrose of Optina: A continuously happy life produces extremely unhappy consequences. . . .

Portrait of St. Ambrose of Optina“A continuously happy life produces extremely unhappy consequences. In nature we see that there are not always pleasant springs and fruitful summers, and sometimes autumn is rainy and winter cold and snowy, and there is flooding and wind and storms, and moreover the crops fail and there are famine, troubles, sicknesses and many other misfortunes. All of this is beneficial so that man might learn through prudence, patience and humility. For the most part, in times of plenty he forgets himself, but in times of various sorrows he becomes more attentive to his salvation.”

+ St. Ambrose of Optina, Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina

St. Theophan the Recluse: . . . be sober, watch, and pray—and the enemies will do nothing to you.

Christ Tempted By SatanThe devil approaches the God-man with temptations.
Who among men is free of them?

He who goes according to the will of the evil one does not experience attacks, but is simply turned more and more toward evil. As soon as one begins to come to himself and intends to begin a new life according to God’s will, immediately the entire satanic realm enters into action: they hasten to scatter good thoughts and the intentions of the repentant one in any way they can.

If they do not manage to turn him aside, they attempt to hinder his good repentance and confession; if they do not manage to do that, they contrive to sow tares amidst the fruits of repentance and disrupt his labors of cleansing the heart.

If they do not succeed in suggesting evil they attempt to distort the truth; if they are repulsed inwardly they attack outwardly, and so on until the end of one’s life. They do not even let one die in peace; even after death they pursue the soul, until it escapes the aerial space where they hover and congregate.

You ask, “What should we do? It is hopeless and terrifying!”

For a believer there is nothing terrifying here, because near a God-fearing man demons only busy themselves, but they do not have any power over him. A sober man of prayer shoots arrows against them, and they stay far away from him, not daring to approach, and fearing the defeat which they have already experienced.

If they succeed in something, it is due to our blundering. We slacken our attention, or allow ourselves to be distracted by their phantoms, and they immediately come and disturb us more boldly.

If you do not come to your senses in time they will whirl you about; but if a soul does come to its senses they again recoil and spy from afar to see whether it is possible to approach again somehow.

So be sober, watch, and pray—and the enemies will do nothing to you.Book Thoughts for Each Day of the Year

+ St. Theophan the Recluse, Thoughts for Each Day of the Year: According to the Daily Church Readings from the Word of God

St. Seraphim of Sarov: . . . the devil strives to lead a man into despair. . . .

Icon of St. Seraphim of SarovJust as the Lord is solicitous about our salvation, so too the murder of men, the devil, strives to lead a man into despair.

A lofty and sound soul does not despair over misfortunes, of whatever sort they may be. Our life is as it were a house of temptations and trials; but we will not renounce the Lord for as long as He allows the tempter to remain with us and for as long as we must wait to be revived through patience and secure passionless!

Judas the betrayer was fainthearted and unskilled in battle, and so the enemy, seeing his despair, attacked him and forced him to hang himself, but Peter, a firm rock, when he fell into great sin, like one skilled in battle did not despair nor lose heart, but shed bitter tears from a burning heart, and the enemy, seeing these tears, his eyes scorched as by fire, fled far form him wailing in pain.

And so brothers, St. Antioch teaches, when despair attacks us let us not yield to it, but being strengthened and protected by the light of faith, with great courage let us say to the evil spirit: “What are you to us, estranged from God, a fugitive from heaven and evil servant? You dare do nothing to us. Christ, the Son of God, has authority both over us and over everything. It is against Him that we have sinned, and before Him that we will be justified. And you, destroyer, leave us. Strengthen by His venerable Cross, we trample under foot your serpent’s head” (St. Antioch, Discourse 27).Book Little Russian Philokalia St Seraphim of Sarov

+ St. Seraphim of Sarov, “The Spiritual Instructions to Laymen and Monks”, printed in Little Russian Philokalia: St. Seraphim of Sarov

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: Bless My Enemies O Lord

Icon of St. Nikolai VelimirovichEnemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have.

Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world. Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.

They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.

They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.

They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself.

They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord, Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.

Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of your garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:

so that my fleeing to You may have no return;

so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;

so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;

so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins, arrogance and anger;

so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;

ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands.Book Prayers By the Lake by St Nikolai Velimirovich

For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life.

Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prayers By the Lake (A Treasury of Serbian Orthodox Spirituality, Volume 5)

St. John the Russian: You cannot turn me from my holy Faith . . .

St. John the Russian“You cannot turn me from my holy Faith by threats, nor with promises of riches and pleasures. I will obey your orders willingly, if you will leave me free to follow my religion. I would rather surrender my head to you than to change my faith. I was born a Christian, and I shall die a Christian.”

+ St. John the Russian

St. Justin Martyr: . . . for it is in our power, when we are examined, to deny that we are Christians; but we would not live by telling a lie. . . .

Icon of St. Justin MartyrAnd reckon ye that it is for your sakes we have been saying these things; for it is in our power, when we are examined, to deny that we are Christians; but we would not live by telling a lie. For, impelled by the desire of the eternal and pure life, we seek the above that is with God, the Father and Creator of all, and hasten to confess our faith, persuaded and convinced as we are that they who have proved to God by their works that they followed Him, and loved to abide with Him where there is no sin to cause disturbance, can obtain these things. This, then, to speak shortly is what we expect and have learned from Christ and teach.

+ St. Justin Martyr, The First Apology

St. Theophan the Recluse: Everyone knows that a church calls for reverence . . .

Icon of St. Theophan the Recluse“My House shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

Everyone knows that a church calls for reverence, for a collecting of thoughts, for deep thinking about God, and for standing in the presence of God, but who fulfills this? People go to church with a desire to pray, to stand in it for a while with warm fervour; but then thoughts begin to wander, and bargaining begins in one’s head even louder than that which the Lord found in the Jerusalem temple.

Why is this so?

Because the way one stands in church is a reflection of one’s entire life. As people live, so do they behave in church. A church influences and somewhat supports spiritual movements; but then the usual course of one’s spiritual constitution takes over.

Therefore if you want your time in church to consist of worthily standing in the face of the Lord, prepare for this in your ordinary life; walk, as much as you can, in a prayerful frame of mind.

This labour will bring you to the point that in church also you will stand reverently all the time. This reverence will inspire you to be reverent in your ordinary life as well. Thus you will walk ever higher and higher. Say, ‘O Lord, help’ —and begin!Book Thoughts for Each Day of the Year

+ St. Theophan the Recluse, Thoughts for Each Day of the Year: According to the Daily Church Readings from the Word of God

St. Isaac the Syrian: Behold, for years and generations, the way of God has been leveled by the cross and by death. . . .

Icon of St. Isaac the Syrian“Behold, for years and generations, the way of God has been leveled by the cross and by death. How is this with thee, that thou seest the afflictions of the way as if they were out of the way? Doest not thou wish to follow the steps of the saints? Or doest thou wish to go a way which is especially for thee, without suffering? the way unto God is a daily cross. No one can ascend unto heaven with comfort, we know where the way of comfort leads.”

+ St. Isaac the Syrian, Mystic Treatises, Homily LIX

St. John of Karpathos: My brethren, do all that is in your power not to fall, . . . but, if you do fall . . .

St. John of Karpathos“My brethren, do all that is 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 at each time, and keep on doing so until the day of your death. For it is written: ‘If a righteous man falls seven times,’ that is, repeatedly throughout his life, ‘seven times shall he rise again’ [Proverbs 24:16].”

+ St. John of Karpathos, From the collection of letters to monks in India

St. Barsanuphius of Optina: Prayer in church is important. The best thoughts and feelings come in church, yes, and the enemy attacks more violently . . .

St. Barsanuphius of Optina“Prayer in church is important. The best thoughts and feelings come in church, yes, and the enemy attacks more violently in church, but with the sign of the Cross and the Jesus Prayer, you drive him away. It is good to stand in some dark corner in church and to pray to God. “Let us lift up our hearts!” the priest exclaims, but our mind often creeps along the ground, thinking about indecent things. Fight against this.”

+ St. Barsanuphius of Optina, Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina

St. John Maximovitch: God’s grace always assists those who struggle, but this does not mean that a struggler is always . . .

Icon of St. John the WonderworkerGod’s grace always assists those who struggle, but this does not mean that a struggler is always in the position of a victor. Sometimes in the arena the wild animals did not touch the righteous ones, but by no means were they all preserved untouched.

What is important is not victory or the position of a victor, but rather the labor of striving towards God and devotion to Him.

Though a man may be found in a weak state, that does not at all mean that he has been abandoned by God. On the cross, the Lord Jesus Christ was in trouble, as the world sees things. But when the sinful world considered Him to be completely destroyed, in fact He was victorious over death and hades. The Lord did not promise us positions as victors as a reward for righteousness, but told us, “In the world you will have tribulation — but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).

The power of God is effective when a person asks for the help from God, acknowledging his own weakness and sinfulness. This is why humility and the striving towards God are the fundamental virtues of a Christian.

+ St. John Maximovitch

St. Raphael of Brooklyn: Instructions to Orthodox Christians with No Orthodox Clergy Nearby

Icon of St. Raphael of BrooklynAs to members of the Holy Orthodox Church living in districts beyond the reach of Orthodox Catholic clergy, I direct that the ancient custom of our Holy Church be observed, namely, in cases of extreme necessity, that is, danger of death, children may be baptized by some pious Orthodox layman, or even by the parent of the child, by immersion three times in the names of the (persons of the) Blessed Trinity, and in case of death such baptism is valid: — but, if the child should live, it must be brought to an Orthodox priest for the Sacrament of Chrismation.

In the case of the death of an Orthodox person where no priest of the Holy Orthodox Church can be had, a pious layman may read over the corpse, for the comfort of the relatives and the instruction of the persons present, Psalm 91 and Psalm 118, and add thereto the Trisagion (“Holy God, Holy Strong One,” etc). But be it noted that so soon as possible the relative must notify some Orthodox bishop or priest and request him to say the Liturgy and Requiem for the repose of the soul of the departed in his Cathedral or parish Church.

As to Holy Matrimony, if there be any parties united in wedlock outside the pale of the holy Orthodox Church because of the remoteness of Orthodox centers from their home, I direct that as soon as possible they either invite an Orthodox priest or go to where he resides and receive from his hands the holy Sacrament of Matrimony; otherwise they will be considered excommunicated until they submit unto the Orthodox Church’s rule.

I further direct that Orthodox Christians should not make it a practice to attend the services of other religious bodies, so that there be no confusion as to the teaching or doctrines. Instead, I order that the head of each household, or a member, may read the special prayers which can be found in the hours of the Holy Orthodox Service Book, and such other devotional books as have been set forth by the authority of the Holy Orthodox Church.

+ St. Raphael of Brooklyn
Letter to Clergy and Laity of the Syrian Greek-Orthodox Catholic Church in North America addressing the Orthodox relationship with the Episcopal Church

Issued late in the year 1912; from The Most Useful KNOWLEDGE for the Orthodox Russian-American Young People, compiled by the Very Rev’d Peter G. Kohanik, 1932-1934 (pp. 297-303).

Read Entire Letter Here

St. Mark of Ephesus: . . . for this would be to mix what cannot be mixed. But it befits them to be absolutely separated from us until such time as God shall grant correction and peace to His Church.

Icon of St. Mark of Ephesus“Concerning the Patriarch I shall say this, lest it should perhaps occur to him to show me a certain respect at the burial of this my humble body, or to send to my grave any of his hierarchs or clergy or in general any of those in communion with him in order to take part in prayer or to join the priests invited to it from amongst us, thinking that at some time, or perhaps secretly, I had allowed communion with him. And lest my silence give occasion to those who do not know my views well and fully to suspect some kind of conciliation, I hereby state and testify before the many worthy men here present that I do not desire, in any manner and absolutely, and do not accept communion with him or with those who are with him, not in this life nor after my death, just as (I accept) neither the Union nor Latin dogmas, which he and his adherents have accepted, and for the enforcement of which he has occupied this presiding place, with the aim of overturning the true dogmas of the Church.

I am absolutely convinced that the farther I stand from him and those like him, the nearer I am to God and all the saints, and to the degree that I separate myself from them am in union with the Truth and with the Holy Fathers, the Theologians of the Church; and I am likewise convinced that those who count themselves with them stand far away from the Truth and from the blessed Teachers of the Church.

And for this reason I say: just as in the course of my whole life I was separated from them, so at the time of my departure, yea and after my death, I turn away from intercourse and communion with them and vow and command that none (of them) shall approach either my burial or my grave, and likewise anyone else from our side, with the aim of attempting to join and concelebrate in our Divine services; for this would be to mix what cannot be mixed. But it befits them to be absolutely separated from us until such time as God shall grant correction and peace to His Church.”

+ St. Mark of Ephesus, as quoted in The Orthodox Word, June-July, 1967, pp. 103ff,

Elder Thaddeus: All of us sin constantly. We slip and fall. In reality, we fall into a trap . . .

Photo of Elder Thaddeus“All of us sin constantly. We slip and fall. In reality, we fall into a trap set by the demons.

The Holy Fathers and the Saints always tell us, ‘It is important to get up immediately after a fall and to keep on walking toward God’. Even if we fall a hundred times a day, it does not matter; we must get up and go on walking toward God without looking back.

What has happened has happened – it is in the past. Just keep on going, all the while asking for help from God.”

+ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Our Thoughts Determine our Lives

St. John of Kronstadt: The candles lit before icons of saints reflect their ardent love for God for Whose sake . . .

Photo of St. John of Kronstadt“The candles lit before icons of saints reflect their ardent love for God for Whose sake they gave up everything that man prizes in life, including their very lives, as did the holy apostles, martyrs and others. These candles also mean that these saints are lamps burning for us and providing light for us by their own saintly living, their virtues and their ardent intercession for us before God through their constant prayers by day and night. The burning candles also stand for our ardent zeal and the sincere sacrifice we make out of reverence and gratitude to them for their solicitude on our behalf before God.”

+ St. John of Kronstadt

St. Macarius the Great: . . . Unless the man who is under the influence of the passions will come to God, denying the world, and will believe with patience and hope to receive a good thing . . .

Icon of St. Macarius the Great“Whatever the soul may think fit to do itself, whatever care and pains it may take, relying only upon its own power, and thinking to be able to effect a perfect success by itself, without the co-operation of the Spirit, it is greatly mistaken. It is of no use for the heavenly places; it is of no use for the kingdom – that soul, which supposes that it can achieve perfect purity of itself, and by itself alone, without the Spirit. Unless the man who is under the influence of the passions will come to God, denying the world, and will believe with patience and hope to receive a good thing foreign to his own nature, namely the power of the Holy Spirit, and unless the Lord shall drop upon the soul from on high the life of the Godhead, such a man will never experience true life, will never recover from the drunkenness of materialism; the enlightenment of the Spirit will never shine in that benighted soul, or kindle in it a holy daytime; it will never awake out of that deepest sleep of ignorance, and so come to know God of a truth through God’s power and the efficacy of grace.”

+ St. Macarius the Great, Spiritual Homilies, Homily 24

St. John of Kronstadt: The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who fills the whole universe, passes through all believing, meek, humble, good, and simple human souls, dwelling in them, vivifying and strengthening them. . . .

Icon of St. John of Kronstadt“The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who fills the whole universe, passes through all believing, meek, humble, good, and simple human souls, dwelling in them, vivifying and strengthening them. He becomes one spirit with them and everything to them – light, strength, peace, joy, success in their undertakings, especially in a pious life, and everything good – “going through all understanding, pure and most subtle spirits” (Wisdom of Solomon vii, 23). “We have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (I Cor. xii.13). All pious people are filled with the Spirit of God similarly as a sponge is filled with water.”

+ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ [paperback]  or  [hardback]

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St. Macarius the Great: As the Lord put on the body . . .

Icon of St. Macarius the Great“As the Lord put on the body, leaving behind all principality and power, so Christians put on the Holy Spirit, and are at rest.”

+ St. Macarius the Great, “Spiritual Homilies” (Homily 26)

St. Ignatius of Antioch: The Christian is not the result of persuasion, but of power. When he is hated by the world, he is beloved of God. . . .

Icon of St. Ignatius of Antioch“Only request in my behalf both inward and outward strength, that I may not only speak, but [truly] will, so that I may not merely be called a Christian, but really found to be one. For if I be truly found [a Christian], I may also be called one, and be then deemed faithful, when I shall no longer appear to the world. Nothing visible is eternal. ‘For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal’ [2 Cor 4:18]. The Christian is not the result of persuasion, but of power. When he is hated by the world, he is beloved of God. For says [the Scripture], ‘If ye were of this world, the world would love its own; but now ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it: continue in fellowship with me’ [John 15:19].”

+ St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 3 (Pray Rather that I May Attain to Martyrdom)

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: [T]he enormous difference is clearly seen between a pagan philosopher and a Christian saint. . . .

Icon of St. Nikolai Velimirovich. . . “[T]he enormous difference is clearly seen between a pagan philosopher and a Christian saint. The one (the philosopher) looses himself in abstractions, in cleverly twisted words, in logical provocations and in thoughtful sport while the other (the saint) directed his whole mind on the Living God and on the salvation of his soul. The one is abstract and dead, while the other is practical and alive.”

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich

St. John of Damascus: . . . Nor are the saints whom we glorify fictitious. . . .

Icon of St. John of Damascus“Possibly a contentious unbeliever will maintain that we worshiping images in our churches are convicted of praying to lifeless idols. Far be it from us to do this. Faith makes Christians, and God, who cannot deceive, works miracles. We do not rest contented with mere colouring. With the material picture before our eyes we see the invisible God through the visible representation, and glorify Him as if present, not as a God without reality, but as a God who is the essence of being. Nor are the saints whom we glorify fictitious. They are in being, and are living with God; and their spirits being holy, the help, by the power of God, those who deserve and need their assistance.”

+ St. John of Damascus, Treatise on Images

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: My child, just read!

A monk complained to St. Arsenius that while reading Holy Scripture he does not feel, neither the power of the words read nor gentleness in his heart.

To that the great saint will reply to him: “My child, just read! I heard that the sorcerers of serpents, when they cast a spell upon the serpents, the sorcerers are uttering the words, which they themselves do not understand, but the serpents hearing the spoken words sense their power and become tamed.

An so, with us, when we continually hold in our mouths the words of Holy Scripture, but even though we do not feel the power of the words, evil spirits tremble and flee for they are unable to endure the words of the Holy Spirit.”

My child, just read!

The Holy Spirit Who, through inspired men, wrote these divine words, will hear, will understand and will hasten to your assistance; and the demons will understand will sense and will flee from you.

That is: He Whom you invoke for assistance will understand, and those whom you wish to drive away from yourself will understand. And both goals will be achieved.

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue of Ochrid (May 8)

St. Maximos the Confessor: . . . I shall sooner agree to die than to apostatize in any way from the true Faith and thereby suffer torments of conscience.

Icon of St. Maximos the ConfessorWhen all the people in Babylon were worshiping the golden idol, the Three Holy Children did not condemn anyone to perdition. They did not concern themselves with the doings of others, but took care only for themselves, lest they should fall away from true piety. In precisely the same way, when Daniel was cast into the lion’s den, he did not condemn any of those who, fulfilling the law of Darius, did not wish to pray to God, but he kept in mind his own duty, and desired rather to die than to sin against his conscience by transgressing the Law of God. God forbid that I should condemn anyone or say that I alone am being saved! However, I shall sooner agree to die than to apostatize in any way from the true Faith and thereby suffer torments of conscience.

+ St. Maximos the Confessor, The Life of Our Holy Father St. Maximus the Confessor (Boston: Holy Transfiguration, 1982)

Fr. Seraphim Rose: Orthodoxy is life. . . .

Photo of Fr. Seraphim RoseOrthodoxy is life. If we don’t live Orthodoxy, we simply are not Orthodox, no matter what formal beliefs we might hold.

+ Fr. Seraphim Rose, Living the Orthodox World View (A talk delivered by Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) at the St. Herman Pilgrimage, August 1982, St. Herman of Alaska Monastery, Platina, California)

St. John Chrysostom: Let us not then make ourselves unworthy of entrance into the bride-chamber . . .

Icon of St. John ChrysostomLet us not then make ourselves unworthy of entrance into the bride-chamber: for as long as we are in this world, even if we commit countless sins it is possible to wash them all away by manifesting repentance for our offenses: but when once we have departed to the other world, even if we display the most earnest repentance it will be of no avail, not even if we gnash our teeth, beat our breasts, and utter innumerable calls for succor, no one with the tip of his finger will apply a drop to our burning bodies, but we shall only hear those words which the rich man heard in the parable ‘Between us and you a great gulf has been fixed.’ [Luke xvi. 26]

Let us then, I beseech you, recover our senses here and let us recognize our Master as He ought to be recognized. For only when we are in Hades should we abandon the hope derived from repentance: for there only is this remedy weak and unprofitable: but while we are here even if it is applied in old age itself it exhibits much strength. Wherefore also the devil sets everything in motion in order to root in us the reasoning which comes of despair: for he knows that if we repent even a little we shall not do this without some reward. But just as he who gives a cup of cold water has his recompense reserved for him, so also the man who has repented of the evils which he has done, even if he cannot exhibit the repentance which his offenses deserve, will have a commensurate reward. For not a single item of good, however small it may be, will be overlooked by the righteous judge. For if He makes such an exact scrutiny of our sins, as to require punishment for both our words and thoughts, much more will our good deeds, whether they be great or small, be reckoned to our credit at that day.

Wherefore, even if thou art not able to return again to the most exact state of discipline, yet if thou withdraw thyself in a slight degree at least from thy present disorder and excess, even this will not be impossible: only set thyself to the task at once, and open the entrance into the place of contest; but as long as thou tarriest outside this naturally seems difficult and impracticable to thee. [Matt. xxv. 34; 249 Luke xvi. 26]. For before making the trial even if things are easy and manageable they are wont to present an appearance of much difficulty to us: but when we are actually engaged in the trial, and making the venture the greater part of our distress is removed, and confidence taking the place of tremor and despair lessens the fear and increases the facility of operation, and makes our good hopes stronger.

For this reason also the wicked one dragged Judas out of this world lest he should make a fair beginning, and so return by means of repentance to the point from which he fell. For although it may seem a strange thing to say, I will not admit even that sin to be too great for the succor which is brought to us from repentance. Wherefore I pray and beseech you to banish all this Satanic mode of thinking from your soul, and to return to this state of salvation.

+ St. John Chrysostom, An Exhortation to Theodore After His Fall, Letter 1

 

St. Anthony the Great: One should not say that it is impossible to reach a virtuous life . . .

Icon of St. Anthony the Great“One should not say that it is impossible to reach a virtuous life; but one should say that it is not easy. Nor do those who have reached it find it easy to maintain. Those who are devout and whose intellect enjoys the love of God participate in the life of virtue; the ordinary intellect, however, is worldly and wavering, producing both good and evil thoughts, because it is changeful by nature and directed towards material things. But the intellect that enjoys the love of God punishes the evil which arises spontaneously because of man’s laziness.”

+ St. Anthony The Great

St. Philaret of Moscow: A fish that is alive swims against the flow of water. . . .

Icon of St. Philaret of Moscow“A fish that is alive swims against the flow of water. One that is dead floats down with the water. A true Christian goes against the current of sinful age. A false one is swept away by its swiftness.”

+ St. Philaret of Moscow, Orthodox Life Vol. 63 No. 3 May-June 2012