Tag Archives: Material World

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)

St. Barsanuphius of Optina: You need not be despondent. Let those … who do not believe in God . . .

Icon of ResurrectionYou need not be despondent. Let those be despondent who do not believe in God. For them sorrow is burdensome, of course, because besides earthly enjoyment they have nothing. But believers must not be despondent, for through sorrows they receive the right of sonship, without which is impossible to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

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

St. Ambrose of Optina: If you do good . . .

Icon of St. Ambrose of OptinaIf you do good, you must do it only for God. For this reason you must pay no attention to the ingratitude of people. Expect a reward not here, but from the Lord in heaven. If you expect it here — it will be in vain and you will endure deprivation.

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

St. Paisios of Mt. Athos: Women usually have no sense of moderation when it comes to household chores. . . .

Women usually have no sense of moderation when it comes to household chores. They’re constantly finding things to do. While they do have a lot of heart and could do much “housecleaning” in their soul, they often waste their heart on insignificant things. Let’s say we have a delicate glass with very intricate designs. Now, if this glass didn’t have all these designs on it, it would still serve its purpose as a glass. But no, women go to the store and start: “No, I want the designs up higher, to this point; no, not this way, the other way…” And if there should be some floral details on it, well then the heart really starts leaping! But by doing this, women lay waste to all their energy and potential. You’ll hardly find a man paying so much attention to such details. For example, a man will hardly notice if a lamp shade is brown or black. But a woman wants something beautiful and she rejoices in it; she gives a port of her heart to this, a part to that, and then what is left for Christ? Only a tired yawn is spared for the time of prayer. The more a woman distances her heart from material things, the closer she comes to Christ. And when her heart is given to Christ, then she acquires great strength.

+ St. Paisios of Mt. Athos, Elder Paisios of Mount Athos Spiritual Councils IV: Family Life

St. Ambrose Milan: But nothing causes such exceeding grief as when anyone, lying under the captivity of sin . . .

Icon of St. Ambrose of Milan“But nothing causes such exceeding grief as when anyone, lying under the captivity of sin, calls to mind from where he has fallen, because he turned aside to carnal and earthly things, instead of directing his mind in the beautiful ways of the knowledge of God. So you find Adam concealing himself, when he knew that God was present and wishing to be hidden when called by God with that voice which wounded the soul of him yourself? Why are you concealed? Why do you avoid Him Whom you once longed to see? A guilty conscience is so burdensome that it punishes itself without a judge, and wishes for covering, and yet is bare before God.”

+ St. Ambrose Milan, Concerning Repentance, Book II

St. Isaac the Syrian: A man can never learn what divine power is . . .

Comfortable Living Room“A man can never learn what divine power is while he abides in comfort and spacious living.”

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

St. Isaac the Syrian: Do not reckon as a truly wise man . . .

Icon of St. Isaac the Syrian“Do not reckon as a truly wise man that one whose mind is subject to fear on account of temporal life.”

+ St. Isaac the Syrian, “Six Treatises on the Behaviour of Excellence”, Mystical Treatises by Isaac of Nineveh

St. Maximos the Confessor: The person who loves God values knowledge of God more than anything created . . .

Icon of St. Maximos the Confessor“The person who loves God values knowledge of God more than anything created by God, and pursues such knowledge ardently and ceaselessly.”

+ St. Maximos the Confessor, Four Hundred Texts on Love 1.4, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)

St. Isaac the Syrian: O glutton, bent on the worship of your own belly . . .

“O glutton, bent on the worship of your own belly! It is better for you to cast a live coal into your stomach than the fried foods of rulers and princes.”

+ St. Isaac the Syrian, The Ascetical Homilies, Homily 17

St. Isaac the Syrian: Oppose no man in anything; do not quarrel, and do not lie . . .

Icon of St. Isaac the Syrian“Oppose no man in anything; do not quarrel, and do not lie, and do not swear by the name of the Lord your God. Be despised, and do not despise. Be wronged, and do not wrong. It is better for things of the body to perish with the body than for something pertaining to the soul to be hurt. Go to court with no man, but endure to be condemned, being uncondemned.”

+ St. Isaac the Syrian, The Ascetical Homilies, Homily 17

 

St. Symeon the New Theologian: . . . are you not ashamed of playing with shadows and hoarding transitory things . . .

“If you know that all visible things are a shadow and all pass away, are you not ashamed of playing with shadows and hoarding transitory things? Like a child you draw water with a bucket full of holes; do you not realize it and take it into account, my dear friend? As though there were nothing more serious than appearance and illusion, as though reality has been taken from them?”

+ St. Symeon the New Theologian, Symeon the New Theologian: The Discourses (Classics of Western Spirituality), XIX Symeon’s Spiritual Concern

St. Sebastian Dabovich: The land of the Gadarenes was a place favored by the legion of darkness. . . .

Jesus Gadarene Demon 2“The land of the Gadarenes was a place favored by the legion of darkness. The people disobeyed the law of Moses, if not by using as food the flesh of swine, then by keeping swine for commerce. These people were ungrateful, malicious, and mercenary. When the Lord Jesus Christ delivered the two possessed with devils, and the people lost their herd of many swine, they did not think of the sin of breaking the law, nor did they even wonder at the pity shown by the great Miracle-Worker, but they came out, in a matter of fact way, and besought Jesus that he would depart from their borders. My dear brethren and sisters, let us look to ourselves, that for the appetites of the flesh, the pleasures of frivolous society and false philosophy, and that for gain and business, we lose not Jesus, our Saviour, and fall a prey to the adversary of our eternal salvation. Amen.”

+ St. Sebastian Dabovich,  The Lives of Saints: With Several Lectures and Sermons [hard-copy book] | [read online], “Sunday for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity”

St. Sebastian Dabovich: Rouse yourselves ! The world which you worship only flatters you. . . .

Jesus Gadarene Demon 4“Rouse yourselves ! The world which you worship only flatters you. The heaviness of your flesh should not keep you back from our Saviour—the God of spirits and of all flesh. If you continue to drowse, you will imperceptibly fall under the influence of the evil spirits, who are anxious for the company even of swine. Be careful that you become not possessed by a devil.”

+ St. Sebastian Dabovich,  The Lives of Saints: With Several Lectures and Sermons [hard-copy book] | [read online], “Sunday for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity”

St. Thalassios the Libyan: It is not difficult to get rid of material things . . .

“It is not difficult to get rid of material things if you so desire; but only with great effort will you be able to get rid of thoughts about them…”

+ St. Thalassios the Libyan, “On Love, Self-Control and Life in Accordance with the Intellect,” 3.23, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)

St. Thalassios the Libyan: The first renunciation is that of material things . . .

Icon of St. Thalassios the Libyan“The first renunciation is that of material things, the second that of the passions, the third that of ignorance.”

+ St. Thalassios the Libyan, “On Love, Self-Control and Life in Accordance with the Intellect,” 3.23, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: There is no need to prove that bodily nourishment cannot satisfy the soul of man . . .

Icon of the Samaritan WomanThere is no need to prove that bodily nourishment cannot satisfy the soul of man, nor can bodily drink quench its thirst. But even all this spirit of life, that shines through all created things, giving them life and harmony, is incapable of feeding and refreshing the soul.

The body directly receives food that is in essentials identical to the body. The body is of the earth, and food for the body is of the earth. This is why the body feels at home, among its own, in the world. But the soul suffers; it is crucified and suffers; it is disgusted and protests at having to receive food indirectly, and this a food not identical to itself. The soul therefore feels itself, in this world, to be in a foreign country, among strangers.

That the soul is immortal, and that it, in its essence, belongs to the immortal world, is proved by the fact that, in this earthly world, it feels itself a discontented traveller in a foreign land, and that nothing in the world can fully feed and refresh it. And even were the soul to be able to pour the whole universe into itself like a glass of water, its thirst would not only not become less but would, of a certainty, become greater. For then there would not remain in it one single illusory hope that it would, beyond the next hill, light on an unsuspected source of water.

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Homilies: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year, Volume 1, “24. The Gospel on the Giver of Living Water and the Samaritan Woman John 4:5-42”

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: This is not a cry by a poor and simple man, who had no way of refreshing his soul . . .

“Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks, so longeth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul is athirst for God; yea, even for the living God!” (Psalm 41/42:1-2)

This is not a cry by a poor and simple man, who had no way of refreshing his soul with human wisdom, worldly knowledge and skills, philosophy and art: the knowledge of the fine threads from which the lives of men and nature are woven. It is not; but it is the sad and heartfelt cry of a king, rich with earthly riches, genial in mind, noble in the motions of his heart, and powerful in the strength and acts of his will. Refreshing his soul with all of these, for which the unfree soul craves in this world, King David suddenly felt that his spiritual thirst was not only unquenched but had grown to such proportions that all this material universe was in no way able to quench it. He then felt himself to be, in this world, in a barren and dry land, where no water is (Psalm 62/63:2), and cried to God as the only Source of immortal drink, for which a rational, awakened soul yearns. “My soul is athirst for God; yea, even for the living God!

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Homilies: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year, Volume 1, “24. The Gospel on the Giver of Living Water and the Samaritan Woman John 4:5-42″”

St. John Chrysostom: Neither let a wife say to her husband, “Unmanly coward that you are” . . .

Icon of St. John ChrysostomNeither let a wife say to her husband, Unmanly coward that you are, full of sluggishness and dullness, and fast asleep! Here is such a one, a low man, and of low parentage, who runs his risks, and makes his voyages, and has made a good fortune; and his wife wears her jewels, and goes out with her pair of milk-white mules; she rides about everywhere, she has troops of slaves, and a swarm of eunuchs, but you have cowered down and livest to no purpose. Let not a wife say these things, nor anything like them. For she is the body, not to dictate to the head, but to submit herself and obey. But how, some one will say, is she to endure poverty? Where is she to look for consolation? Let her select and put beside her those who are poorer still. Let her again consider how many noble and high-born maidens have not only received nothing of their husbands, but have even given dowries to them, and have spent their all upon them. Let her reflect on the perils which arise from such riches, and she will cling to this quiet life. In short, if she is affectionately disposed towards her husband, she will utter nothing of the sort. No, she will rather choose to have him near her, though gaining nothing, than gaining ten thousand talents of gold, accompanied with that care and anxiety which always arise to wives from those distant voyages.

+ St. John Chrysostom, Homily 20 on Ephesians

Chrysostom: Homily on Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon

St. John of Kronstadt: . . . we ought to meditate upon higher things, and count all earthly things but dung . . .

Icon Parable of the Rich ManIf God had not been incarnate upon earth, if He had not made us godly, if He had not taught us in His Own person how to live, what to hope for and expect, if He had not pointed out to us another perfect and eternal life, if He had not suffered and died and risen from the dead—then we should still have had some reason to live, as we all now live—that is to mostly lead a carnal, earthly life.

But, now, we ought to meditate upon higher things, and count all earthly things but dung, for, everything earthly is nothing, in comparison with heavenly things.

Meanwhile, the Devil, the father of lies, in spite of the Savior’s teaching and His spirit, teaches us to attach ourselves to earthly goods, and forcibly nails our sensual heart to them.

The heart naturally seeks happiness—and the Devil gives a false direction to this tendency, and allures it by earthly happiness, that is—by riches, honors, splendor of dress, furniture, silver, equipages, gardens and various amusements.Book St John Kronstadt My Life in Christ

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

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Four Stichera at the Praises, Matins, Saturday before Meatfare: Come, brethren, before the end, and let us all look upon our clay . . .

Icon Adam Created 3Come, brethren, before the end, and let us all look upon our clay, upon the infirmity and meanness of our nature. Let us behold our end, and the organs of the vessel of our flesh. Let us see that man is dust, food for worms, and corruption; that our bones grow dry, and have no breath of life within them. Let us gaze on the tombs. Where is man’s glory? Where his outward beauty? Where is the eloquent tongue? Where the noble brow, and where the eye? All is dust and shadow. Therefore, Saviour, spare us all.

Why does man deceive himself and boast? Why does he trouble himself in vain? For he is earth, and soon to the earth he will return. Why does the dust not reflect that it is formed from clay, and cast out as rottenness and corruption? Yet though we men are clay, why do we cling so closely to the earth? For if we are Christ’s kindred, should we not run to him, leaving all this mortal and fleeting life, And seeking the life incorruptible, Which is Christ himself, the illumination of our souls?

Thou hast formed Adam with thine hand, O Saviour, and set him on the border between incorruption and mortality; thou hast made him share in life through grace, freeing him from corruption and translating him to the life that he enjoyed at first. Give rest, O Master, to thy servants thou hast taken from us; may they dwell with the righteous in the choir of thine elect; write their names in the book of life; raise them with the sound of the Archangel’s trump, and count them worthy of thy heavenly Kingdom.

Christ is risen, releasing from bondage Adam the first-formed man and destroying the power of hell. Be of good courage, all ye dead, for death is slain and hell despoiled; the crucified and risen Christ is King. He has given incorruption to our flesh; he raises us and grants us resurrection, and He counts worthy of his joy and glory all who, with a faith that wavers not, have trusted fervently in him.

— Four Stichera at the Praises, Matins, Saturday before Meatfare, Lenten Triodion, p. 139

St. Theognostos: Let no one deceive you, brother: without holiness . . . no one can see God

Icon of Jesus“Let no one deceive you, brother: without holiness, as the apostle says, no one can see God (cf. Heb. 12:14).

For the Lord, who is more than holy and beyond all purity, will not appear to an impure person.

Just as he who loves father or mother, daughter or son (cf. Matt. 10:37) more than the Lord is unworthy of Him, so is he who loves anything transient and material.

Even more unworthy is the person who chooses foul and fetid sin to preference to love for the Lord; for God rejects whoever does not repudiate all filthiness: ‘Corruption does not inherit incorruption’ (1 Cor. 15:50). ”

+St. Theognostos, On the Practice of the Virtues, Contemplation and the Priesthood

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. Anthony of Optina: Can you place your hope in the world? . . .

Photo of St. Anthony of Optina“Can you place your hope in the world? Whom has it not deceived? To whom has it not lied? It promises much, but gives very little. Only those who hope in the Lord, according to the words of the Prophet David, do not sin, i.e., they are not deceived in their hope!”

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

St. John of Kronstadt: . . . Christ taught us truth; the Devil teaches us falsehood, and strives in every way to contradict every truth . . .

[Image of Satat from illustration in Paradise Lost by John Milton]‘God came upon earth in order to raise us up to heaven.’

It would seem, after this, that even when living upon earth we must live as if in the heavenly kingdom, dwelling there in anticipation by hope. But in reality, for the greater part, the contrary is the case. Men cling with their whole being to the earth and everything earthly.

Wherefore is this? Because our common enemy, the Devil, endeavours with all his might to oppose the intentions of the God-man, Christ. He endeavours to do everything in opposition to what Christ did and does.

Christ wishes to raise men up to heaven, and has given them all the means to attain this; whilst the Devil, who himself for his pride was cast down from heaven into the dominions of the air, wishes by every means to attach men to earthly,- sensual, transitory things, and, in order to attain this end, he employs the most powerful, most prodigious means.

Christ taught us truth; the Devil teaches us falsehood, and strives in every way to contradict every truth; devising various calumnies against it.

The Devil endeavours by every means to keep men in error, in the enticement of the passions, in darkness of mind and heart; in pride, avarice, covetousness, envy, hatred, wicked impatience and irritation; in evil despondence, in the abominations of fornication, adultery, theft, false-witness, blasphemy, negligence, slothfulness, and sluggishness.Book St John Kronstadt My Life in Christ

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

You don’t need a Kindle device to read the Kindle version of this book, which is available a very reduced cost. Try Amazon’s FREE Kindle Cloud Reader app for your computer, phone, or tablet.

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

Fr. Seraphim Rose: Why do men learn through pain and suffering, and not through pleasure and happiness? . . .

Photo of Fr. Seraphim Rose“Why do men learn through pain and suffering, and not through pleasure and happiness? Very simply, because pleasure and happiness accustom one to satisfaction with the things given in this world, whereas pain and suffering drive one to seek a more profound happiness beyond the limitations of this world. I am at this moment in some pain, and I call on the Name of Jesus—not necessarily to relieve the pain, but that Jesus, in Whom alone we may transcend this world, may be with me during it, and His will be done in me. But in pleasure I do not call on Him; I am content then with what I have, and I think I need no more. And why is a philosophy of pleasure untenable?—because pleasure is impermanent and unreliable, and pain is inevitable. In pain and suffering Christ speaks to us, and thus God is kind to give them to us, yes, and evil too—for in all of these we glimpse something of what must lie beyond, if there really exists what our hearts most deeply desire.”

+ Fr. Seraphim Rose, quoted in Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works

St. John of Kronstadt: Our life is child’s play, only not innocent, but sinful, because, with a strong mind, and with the knowledge of the purpose of our life, we neglect this purpose . . .

Our life is child’s play, only not innocent, but sinful, because, with a strong mind, and with the knowledge of the purpose of our life, we neglect this purpose and occupy ourselves with frivolous, purposeless matters. And thus our life is childish, unpardonable play.

We amuse ourselves with food and drink, gratifying ourselves by them, instead of only using them for the necessary nourishment of our body and the support of our bodily life.

Source

We amuse ourselves with dress, instead of only decently covering our body and protecting it from the injurious action of the elements.

We amuse ourselves with silver and gold, admiring them in treasuries, or using them for objects of luxury and pleasure, instead of using them only for our real needs, and sharing our superfluity with those in want.

We amuse ourselves with our houses and the variety of furniture in them, decorating them richly and exquisitely, instead of merely having a secure and decent roof to protect us from the injurious action of the elements, and things necessary and suitable for domestic use. Biltmore

We amuse ourselves with our mental gifts, with our intellect , imagination, using them only to serve sin and the vanity of this world–that is, only to serve earthly and corruptible things–instead of using them before all and above all to serve God, to learn to know Him, the all-wise Creator of every creature, for prayer, supplication, petitions, thanksgiving and praise to Him, and to show mutual love and respect, and only partly to serve this world, which will some day entirely pass away.

We amuse ourselves with our knowledge of worldly vanity, and to acquire this knowledge we waste most precious time, which was given to us for our preparation for eternity.

ClockWe frequently amuse ourselves with our affairs and business, with our duties, fulfilling them heedlessly, carelessly, and wrongfully, and using them for our own covetous, earthly purposes.

We amuse ourselves with beautiful human faces, or the fair, weaker sex, and often use them for the sport of our passions.

We amuse ourselves with time, which ought to be wisely utilized for redeeming eternity, and not for games and various pleasures.

Finally, we amuse ourselves with our own selves, making idols out of ourselves, before which we bow down, and before which we expect other to bow down.

JesusWho can sufficiently describe and deplore our accursedness, our great, enormous vanity, the great misery into which we voluntarily throw ourselves?

What answer shall we give to our immortal King, Christ our God, Who shall come again in the glory of His Father to judge both the quick and the dead, to declare the secret thoughts of all hearts, and receive from us our answer for every word and deed. O, woe, woe, woe to us who bear the name of Christ, but have none of the spirit of Christ in us; who bear the name of Christ, but do not follow the teaching of the Gospel! Woe to us who ‘neglect so great salvation’! Woe to us who love the present fleeting, deceptive life, and neglect the inheritance of the life that follows after the death of our corruptible body beyond this carnal veil!Book St John Kronstadt My Life in Christ

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

You don’t need a Kindle device to read the Kindle version of this book, which is available a very reduced cost. Try Amazon’s FREE Kindle Cloud Reader app for your computer, phone, or tablet.

St. John Chrysostom: Wherefore, if you desire to become equal to the apostles, there is nothing to hinder you. . . .

Icon ApostlesWherefore, if you desire to become equal to the apostles, there is nothing to hinder you. For to have arrived at this virtue only suffices for your not at all falling short of them. Let no one therefore wait for miracles. For though the evil spirit is grieved, when he is driven out of a body, yet much more so, when he sees a soul delivered from sin. For indeed this is his great power. [Acts 8:10] This power caused Christ to die, that He might put an end to it. Yea, for this brought in death; by reason of this all things have been turned upside down. If then thou remove this, you have cut out the nerves of the devil, you have bruised his head, you have put an end to all his might, you have scattered his host, you have exhibited a sign greater than all signs.

The saying is not mine, but the blessed Paul’s. For when he had said, Covet earnestly the best gifts, and yet show I unto you a more excellent way; [1 Corinthians 12:31] he did not speak next of a sign, but of charity, the root of all our good things. If then we practice this, and all the self-denial that flows from it, we shall have no need of signs; even as on the other hand, if we do not practice it, we shall gain nothing by the signs.

Bearing in mind then all this, let us imitate those things whereby the apostles became great. And whereby did they become great? Hear Peter, saying, Behold we have forsaken all, and followed You; what shall we have therefore? [Matthew 19:27] Hear also Christ saying to them, ‘You shall sit upon twelve thrones, and, every one that has forsaken houses, or brethren, or father, or mother, shall receive an hundredfold in this world, and shall inherit everlasting life.’ From all worldly things, therefore, let us withdraw ourselves, and dedicate ourselves to Christ, that we may both be made equal to the apostles according to His declaration, and may enjoy eternal life; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.

Book Complete Church Father Series+ St. John Chrysostom, Homily 46, Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew

For less than the price of a cup of fancy coffee, you can get The Complete Ante-Nicene & Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers Collection which can be read with the the free Kindle reading app. This includes 3 Series, 37 Volumes, 65 Authors, 1,000 Books, 18,000 Chapters, 16 Million Words.

 

 

St. Leonid of Optina: Beware of passionate attachments to the world. . . .

St. Leonid of Optina“Beware of passionate attachments to the world. Although they deceive you with peace and comfort, they are so fleeting that you do not notice how you are deprived of them, and in their place come sorrow, longing, despondency, and no comfort whatsoever.”

+ St. Leonid of Optina

St. John of Kronstadt: . . . These living examples, which are so numerous, are capable to strengthen the wavering faith of every Christian in the Lord and in the future life. . . .

Icon of All SaintsWhen your faith in the Lord, either during your life and prosperity, or in the time of sickness and at the moment of quitting this life, grows weak, grows dim from worldly vanity or through illness, and from the terrors and darkness of death, then look with the mental eyes of your heart upon the companies of our forefathers, the patriarchs, prophets, and righteous ones:

St. Simeon, who took the Lord up in his arms, Job, Anna the Prophetess, and others; the Apostles, prelates, venerable Fathers, martyrs, the disinterested, the righteous, and all the saints.

See how, both during their earthly life and at the time of their departure from this life, they unceasingly looked to God and died in the hope of the resurrection and of the life eternal, and strive to imitate them.

These living examples, which are so numerous, are capable to strengthen the wavering faith of every Christian in the Lord and in the future life.

Those Christian communions who do not venerate the saints and do not call upon them in prayer lose much in piety and in Christian hope. They deprive themselves of the great strengthening of their faith by the examples of men like unto themselves.Book St John Kronstadt My Life in Christ

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

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. 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. Justin Popovich: What is it that the God-man gives to man which no one else is capable of giving? . . .

Icon of St. Justin Popovich“What is it that the God-man gives to man which no one else is capable of giving? It is victory over death, over sin, and over the devil, Eternal Life, Eternal Truth, Eternal Justice, Eternal Virtue, Eternal Love, Eternal Joy: the entire fullness of the Godhead and of Divine Perfection. As the Apostle tells us: the God-man gives to men ‘those things which God has prepared for those who love Him, which no eye has seen, which no ear has heard, and which have not entered the heart of man’ (1 Cor. 2:9).

In fact only He, the wondrous God-man, is the ‘one thing that is needed’ (cf. Luke 10:42) by man in all his worlds and in his every life. Therefore, only the God-man is justified in asking of us that which no one else has ever dared to ask: that we love Him more than we love parents, siblings, children, friends, the earth, the angels, anyone and everyone in all the worlds, visible and invisible (Matth. 10:37-39; Luke 14:26, Rom. 8 31-39).”

— St. Justin Popovich, Orthodox Faith & Life in Christ, “Reflections on the Infallibility of European Man”

Canon of St. Andrew: I have been anxiously concerned only about outward adornment . . .

Icon of St. Andrew of CreteHaving preferred a possessive and pleasure-loving life to spiritual poverty, O Savior, I am now harnessed with a heavy yoke.

I have adorned the idol of my flesh with the many-colored clothing of shameful thoughts, and I am condemned. [1 John 5:21]

I have been anxiously concerned only about outward adornment, and have neglected the inner temple made in the image of God. [I Peter 3:3-4]

+ The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Tue 2.5-7
Text of the Canon

St. Peter of Damaskos: If we are not willing to sacrifice this temporal life, or perhaps even the life to come, for the sake of our neighbor . . .

Icon of St. Peter of Damascus“God says, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might’ (Deut. 6:5); yet how much have the fathers said and written – and still say and write – without equaling what is contained in that single phrase? For, as St Basil the Great has said, to love God with all your soul means to love nothing together with God; for if someone loves his own soul, he loves God, not with all his soul, but only partially; and if we love ourselves and innumerable other things as well, how can we love God or dare to claim that we love Him? It is the same with love of one’s neighbor. If we are not willing to sacrifice this temporal life, or perhaps even the life to come, for the sake of our neighbor, as were Moses and St. Paul, how can we say that we love him? For Moses said to God concerning his people, ‘If Thou wilt forgive their sins, forgive; but if not, blot me as well out of the book of life which Thou hast written’ (Ex. 32:32 LXX); while St. Paul said, ‘For I could wish that I myself were severed from Christ for the sake of my brethren’ (Rom. 9:3). He prayed, that is to say, that he should perish in order that others might be saved — and these others were the Israelites who were seeking to kill him.”

+ St. Peter of Damaskos, “Book I: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge,” The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 3)

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. John of Kronstadt: Watch your heart during all your life . . .

Icon of St. John of KronstadtWatch your heart during all your life — examine it, listen to it, and see what prevents its union with the most blessed Lord. Let this be for you the science of all sciences, and with God’s help, you will easily observe what estranges you from God, and what draws you towards Him and unites you to Him. It is the evil spirit more than anything that stands between our hearts and God; he estranges God from us by various passions, or by the desire of the flesh, by the desires of the eyes, and by worldly pride.

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

 

 

Fr. Seraphim Rose: This weekend, at the Sunday Vigil of the Prodigal Son . . .

Photo of Fr. Seraphim RoseThis weekend, at the Sunday Vigil of the Prodigal Son, we will sing Psalm 135.[1]

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion”.

In these words of the Lenten Psalm, we Orthodox Christians, the New Israel, remember that we are in exile. For Orthodox Russians, banished from Holy Russia,[2] the Psalm has a special meaning; but all Orthodox Christians, too, live in exile in this world, longing to return to our true home, Heaven.

For us the Great Fast is a session of exile ordained for us by our Mother, the Church, to keep fresh in us the memory of Zion from which we have wandered so far. We have deserved our exile and we have great need of it because of our great sinfulness. Only through the chastisement of exile, which we remember in the fasting, prayer and repentance of this season.

Do we remain mindful of our Zion?

“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…”

Weak and forgetful, even in the midst of the Great Fast we live as though Jerusalem did not exist for us. We fall in love with the world, our Babylon; we are seduced by the frivolous pastimes of this “strange land” and neglect the services and discipline of the Church which remind us of our true home. Worse yet, we love our very captors – for our sins hold us captive more surely than any human master – and in their service we pass in idleness the precious days of Lent when we should be preparing to meet the Rising Sun of the New Jerusalem, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is still time; we must remember our true home and weep over the sins which have exiled us from it. Let us take to heart the words of St. John of the Ladder: “Exile is separation from everything in order to keep the mind inseparable from God. An exile loves and produces continual weeping.” Exiled from Paradise, we must become exiled from the world if we hope to return.

This we may do by spending these days in fasting, prayer, separation from the world, attendance at the services of the Church, in tears of repentance, in preparation for the joyful Feast that is to end this time of exile; and by bearing witness to all in this “strange land” of our remembrance of that even greater Feast that shall be when our Lord returns to take His people to the New Jerusalem, from which there shall be no more exile, for it is eternal.

— Fr. Seraphim Rose, March 1965

Footnotes:

[1] “By the Waters of Babylon” is the entire Psalm 136, sung to a plaintive melody, after the Polyelos Psalm during Matins. It is only sung in church the three Sundays that precede Great Lent: Sunday of the Prodigal Son, The Last Judgment (Meatfare) and Forgivensss (Cheesefare) It is significant that this same hymn is chanted at the beginning of the service of monastic tonsure.
[2] This homily was written in 1965, when the church in Russia was still under captivity to the Communist regime.

St. Justin Popovich: Only the gospel of Christ fully knows the mystery of sin and the problem of sin . . .

Icon of St. Justin Popovich“Only the gospel of Christ fully knows the mystery of sin and the problem of sin and everything which hides within it. The prodigal son of the Gospel is the perfect example of the repentant sinner. The Gospel shows us that man, through his free will, can share his life with Earth and with Heaven, with Satan and with God, with paradise and with hell. Sin gradually strips man of everything divine in him, paralyzes his every divine inclination and desire, until it finally throws him into the bosom of Satan. And then man reaches the plight of grazing the swine of his master, the Devil. The swine are passions, which are always greedy and gluttonous. In such a life, the unfortunate man is nothing more than insane. In a shocking parable of the Gospel, the Lord says about the prodigal son, ‘he came to himself,’ (Luke 15:17) How did he come to himself? He came to himself through repentance. Through sin, man becomes mad, insane. Every sin, even the most seemingly insignificant one, is always an insanity of the soul. Through repentance, man comes to his senses becomes complete again, comes to himself. Then he cries out loud to God, runs to Him, and cries towards Heaven, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in thy sight’ (Luke 15:21). And what is the heavenly Father doing? He is always infinitely merciful upon seeing His child in a state of repentance. He has compassion for him, runs, embraces him, and kisses him. He orders His heavenly hosts, the holy angels: ‘Bring forth the best robe and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this is My son who was dead, and is alive again; and he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.’ (Luke 16:22-24) And this is taking place for each and every one of us, and for the sake of every sinner who repents. Namely, joy and happiness is taking place in the heaven of the All-merciful Lord and God, and together with Him, all of the holy angels.”

+ St. Justin Popovich, From the preface to the book of Fr. Justin, Sinful Souls, Belgrade, 1968; quoted from Orthodox Faith & Life in Christ, “Select Writings of Fr. Justin”