Anthropology


“What can I do for God? Nothing. In fact, I can’t even seek Him; I can’t even repent. But what I can do is to struggle. This means that I can commit myself to a life of asceticism, to the practice of spiritual exercises. And I will undertake such a commitment in a manner appropriate to my way of life, that is, depending on my situation, character, physical strength, psychological disposition, my history, my heredity, in terms of my gifts and so on. Whatever role these factors play, there will be a commitment to asceticism.

Earlier we said that pain begins with the experience of pleasure. Of course, we wanted only the pleasure, not the pain. But now I must embrace pain in order to regain true pleasure. Why? Because we were created for pleasure. God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of “delights”, for this is what the word “Eden” means.

… asceticism is a way in which I as a human being, set about attracting the attention of God. … Does God have need of such activity? I will say only this: it is something I can do, and God wants me to do what I can. …It’s my preparation in order to seek, want, actively desire, love and finally, receive God. What we’re attending to now are the preparations, just as we would sweep the house in preparation for a visit by our spiritual father. Thus I give expression to my inner disposition by enduring the coldness, and filth that is within me, and accepting my nakedness and acknowledging it before God. Asceticism is the way I cry out to Him.”

– Elder Aimilianos, The Way of the Spirit p. 18-19

Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807-1867)

“A monk must be extremely cautious of carnal and animal zeal, which outwardly appears pious but in reality is foolish and harmful to the soul.
“Worldly people and many living the monastic life, through ignorance and inexperience, often praise such zeal without understanding that it springs from conceit and pride.  They extol this zeal as zeal for the faith, for piety, for the Church, for God.  It consists in a more or less harsh condemnation and criticism of one’s neighbours[…]  Deceived by a wrong conception of zeal, these imprudent zealots think that by yielding themselves to it they are imitating the holy fathers and holy martyrs, forgetting that they – the zealots – are not saints, but sinners.
“[…] Divine zeal is a fire, but it does not heat the blood.  It cools it and reduces it to a calm state.  The zeal of the carnal mind is always accompanied by heating of the blood, and by an invasion of swarms of thoughts and fancies.  The consequences of blind and ignorant zeal, if our neighbour opposes it, are usually displeasure with him resentment, or vengeance in various forms; while, if he submits, our heart is filled with vainglorious self-satisfaction, excitement and an increase of our pride and presumption.”

 

– St. Ignatius Brianchaninov (The Arena)

“This is the way we should see Christ. He is our friend, our brother; He is whatever is good and beautiful. He is everything. Yet, He is still a friend and He shouts it out, ‘You’re my friends, don’t you understand that? We’re brothers. I don’t hold hell in my hands. I am not threatening you. I love you. I want you to enjoy life together with me.’

Christ is Everything. He is joy, He is life, He is light. He is the true light who makes man joyful, makes him soar with happiness; makes him see everything, everybody; makes him feel for everyone, to want everyone with him, everyone with Christ. Love Christ and put nothing before His Love. Christ is Everything. He is the source of life, the ultimate desire,He is everything. Everything beautiful is in Christ. Somebody who is Christ’s must love Christ, and when he loves Christ he is delivered from the Devil, from hell and from death.”

– Elder Porphyrios

Elder Iakovos, Elder Paisios and Elder Porphyrios

Elder Iakovos, Elder Paisios and Elder Porphyrios

Here is a great little introduction to the Orthodox view of the “Theotokos,” i.e. the Virgin Mary. Bp. MICHAEL is my old dean at seminary, and he is doing a great job answering seven of the most common questions non-Orthodox may have about our devotion to the Mother of God.

 

“If recompense is bestowed according to the measure of love for God, and if the man who loves the Son is loved of Him and of His Father and becomes the dwelling place of Both, and They mystically abide and walk in him, as it is recorded in the Master’s Gospel, who, then, will love Him more than His Mother? For, He was her only-begotten Son, and moreover she alone among women gave birth knowing no spouse, so that the love of Him that had partaken of her flesh might be shared with her twofold. And who will the only-begotten Son love more than His Mother, He that came forth from her ineffably without a father in this last age even as He came forth from the Father without a mother before the ages’? How indeed could He that descended to fulfill the Law not multiply that honor due to His Mother over and above the ordinances of the Law?”

“Who can tell of your mighty acts, O Virgin, or who can show forth all your praise, O holy Maid? You bear the title of Mother of God. You united your nous with God. You have joined God with flesh. You have made God the Son of Man, and man the Son of God. You have reconciled the world to its Creator.”

– St. Gregory Palamas

“We receive the remission of our sins at our divine baptism and we are freed from the ancient curse and sanctified by the presence of the Holy Spirit. But this is not yet that perfect grace of which the Scripture speaks. This applies only to those who are strong in faith and show it in their works, for if we fall back into evil and shameful deeds after our baptism, we completely throw away this very sanctification. It is in proportion to our repentance, confession, and tears that we receive the remission of our former sins, and as a consequence of this, sanctification and grace from on high.”

– St. Symeon the New Theologian

“Even though there is only one baptism for the whitening of stains, yet there are two eyes which, when filled with tears, provide a baptismal font for the limbs. For the Creator knew well beforehand that sins multiply in us at all times, and though there is only a single baptism, he fixed in the single body two fonts that give absolution.”

– St. Ephrem the Syrian

“The spirit of obedience is necessary not only in monks but in everyone else, too. Even the Lord was obedient. The proud and those who are a law unto themselves prevent the indwelling of grace and therefore never know peace of soul; whereas the grace of the Holy Spirit enters with ease into the soul of the obedient, bringing joy and quiet.”

– St. Silouan of Athos

“If anyone really in truth desires the Will of God with all his heart, God never leaves him to himself but always guides him according to His Divine Will. If a man really set his heart upon the Will of God, God will enlighten a little child to tell that man what is His Will. But if a man does not truly desire the Will of God, even if he goes in search of a prophet, God will put into the heart of the prophet a reply like the deception in his own heart.”

– St. Dorotheos of Gaza

Prayer for finding a Spiritual Father:

“O Lord, who desirest not the death of a sinner but that he should turn and live, Thou who didst come down to earth in order to restore life to those lying dead through sin and in order to make them worthy of seeing Thee the true light as far as that is possible to man, send me a man who knows Thee, so that in serving him and subjecting myself to him with all my strength, as to Thee, and in doing Thy will in his, I may please Thee the only true God, and so that even I, a sinner, may be worthy of Thy Kingdom.”

– St. Symeon the New Theologian

St. Arsenius & Elder Paisius the Athonite

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