August 2010

St. Peter of Damascus

“Even the devil, having lost the knowledge of God, and so inevitably becoming ignorant in his ingratitude and pride, cannot of himself know what to do. On the contrary, he sees what God does to save us and maliciously learns from this and contrives similar things for our destruction. For he hates God and, being unable to fight Him directly, he fights against us who are in God’s image, thinking to avenge himself on God in this way. “

– St. Peter of Damascus

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”

– St. Peter the Apostle


Archimandrite Aimilianos

“Whatever has taken place in the history of salvation – whatever was done by Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit – must also take place within me. That’s what it means for me to participate in the life of God. For example, to the extent that I have emptied myself (cf. Phil. 2.7), I experience what the Mother of God felt when she said to the angel: Let it be done to me according to your word. I experience, in other words, her total self-surrender to that which was beyond her capacity to understand. How shall this be? she asked; How can I give birth, since I am a virgin and have not known a man? Was there anything she could understand? The angel replied: The Spirit will overshadow you and you will give birth (cf. Lk. 1.34-38). Did she understand anything? Nothing at all. That is what is meant by Let it be done to me according to your word, which means: ‘whatever you say, just as you said it. Even though I cannot understand it, let it happen just as you say.'”

– Elder Aimilianos, The Way of the Spirit, p. 36

Elder Porphyrios of the Holy Mountain

“We shouldn’t blackmail God with our prayers. We shouldn’t ask God to release us from something, from an illness , for example, or to solve our problems, but we should ask for strength and support from Him to bear what we have to bear. Just as He knocks discretely at the door or our soul, so we should ask discretely for what we desire and if the Lord does not respond, we should cease to ask. When God does not give us something that we ask for insistently, then He has His reasons. God, too, has His ‘secrets.’ Since we believe in His good providence, since we believe that He knows everything about our lives and that He always desires what is good, why should we not trust Him? Let us pray naturally and gently, without forcing ourself and without passion. We know that past present and future are all known, ‘open and laid bare‘ before God. As Saint Paul says, Before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to His eyes [Heb 4:13]. We should not insist; such persistence does harm instead of good. We shouldn’t continue relentlessly in order to acquire what we want; rather we should leave things to the will of God. Because the more we pursue something, the more it runs away from us. So what is required is patience, faith and composure. And if we forget it, the Lord never forgets; and if it is for our good, He will give us what we require when we require it.

In our prayer we should ask only for the salvation of our soul. Didn’t the Lord say, Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you [Matt 6:33 and Luke 12:31]? Easily, without the slightest difficulty, Christ can give us what we want. And remember the secret. The secret is not to think about asking for the specific thing at all. The secret is to ask for your union with Christ with utter selflessness, without saying ‘give me this’ or ‘give me that.’ It suffices to say, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.’ God has no need to be informed by us about our various needs. He knows them all incomparably better than we do and He gives us His love. What is important is for us to respond to this love with prayer and with the keeping of His commandments. We should ask for the will of God to be done. That is what is in our best interest and the safest thing for us and for those fro whom we pray. Christ will give us everything abundantly. When there is even a trace of egotism, nothing happens.”

–Elder Porphyrios, Wounded by Love, pp 116-117

Hat-tip: Dn Charles

“Hesychia, stillness, is essential for man’s purification and perfection, which means his salvation. St. Gregory the Theologian says epigrammatically: “One must be still in order to have clear converse with God and to bring the nous a little away from those wandering in error”. Through hesychia a man purifies his heart and nous from passions and thus attains communion and union with God. This communion with God, precisely because it is man’s union with God, also constitutes man’s salvation.

Hesychia is nothing other than “keeping one’s heart away from giving and taking and pleasing people, and the other activities”. When a person frees his heart from thoughts and passions, when all the powers of his soul are transformed and turned away from earthly things and towards God, then he is experiencing orthodox hesychia. St. John of the Ladder writes that stillness of soul is “the accurate knowledge of one’s thoughts and is an unassailable mind”. Therefore hesychia is an inner state; it is “dwelling in God”.

Of course the holy Fathers distinguish between external and internal stillness. External stillness is liberation of the senses and the body from sights, and particularly from the bondage which the world imposes, while inner stillness is liberation of the heart from images, fantasies and worries. Hesychia of the body is usually the hesychastic position and the person’s attempt to limit as far as possible external representations, the images which our sensations receive and offer to the soul. Hesychia of the soul implies that the nous is able not to accept any temptations to stray. In this way man’s nous escapes from the outer world and enters his heart, which is where it really belongs. Thus a person acquires peace in his heart, and there God Himself is revealed.

As we have seen, St. Gregory Palamas lived this orthodox hesychia. At first he looked for a secluded spot on the Holy Mountain and prayed to God night and day. Then he attained inner hesychia as well. Within this spiritual hesychastic atmosphere he acquired the knowledge of God, at the time when the heresy appeared which sought to unsettle the fundamental aspects of the Church’s teaching. It was just then, since he had experience of this life, that he expressed it. It is only in this light that we must look at the life of St. Gregory. He was not just a student of the holy Fathers, but one who had the same life, and therefore also the same teaching as they.”

– Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos