Patristics


“How are you to know if you are living according to the will of God?

Here is a sign: if you are distressed over anything it means that you have not fully surrendered to God’s will, although it may seem to you that you live according to his will. He who lives according to God’s will has no material cares. If he has need of something, he offers himself and the thing he wants to God; and if he does not receive it, he remains as unworried as if he had got what he wanted.”

– St. Silouan the Athonite 

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“Lack of self-control is actually an evil both ancient and modern, though it did not precede its antidote, fasting. By means of our forefathers’ self-indulgence in paradise and their contempt for the fast already in existence there, death entered the world. Sin reigned and brought in the condemnation of our nature from Adam until Christ.

The flood covered the whole earth because of the self-indulgence of Adam’s descendants in this world of ours and their disdain for the chastity which came before. In those days God said to Noah, ‘My Spirit shall not abide in these men, for they are flesh’ (cf. Gen. 6:3 LXX). The deeds of those who are flesh are none other than unlimited eating, drunkenness, sensual pleasure and the evils that spring from them. Because of the abominable depravity and self-indulgence among the men of Sodom, fire fell on them from heaven (Gen. 19:24). ‘Behold’, says the prophet Ezekiel, ‘this was the iniquity of the men of Sodom, in fulness of bread they committed abomination’ (cf. Ezek. 16:49-50). By means of this abomination, ignoring human nature they fell into unnatural unions. What deprived Esau, Isaac’s firstborn, of his birthright and his father’s blessing? Of course it was lasciviousness and an unreasonable demand for food (Gen. 25:25-34; 26:34-35, Heb. 12:16). Why were Eli’s sons condemned to death, and why did he meet a violent death at the news of the death of his children, whom he had not disciplined with proper care? Surely it was because they took the meat from the cauldrons before the time and used it (1 Sam. 2:12-17; 4:11, 17-18). Also, the whole Hebrew nation, while Moses was fasting on the mountain for their sake, were indulging themselves to their own detriment. They ate and drank and rose up to play, as the Scripture says (Exod. 32:6), and their sport was worshipping an idol, for it was then that the incidents surrounding the fashioning of the calf took place among them.

Sensual pleasure causes ungodliness as well as sin, but fasting and self-control result in the fear of God as well as virtue. Fasting must be accompanied by self-control. Why? Because eating our fill, even of humble foods, is a hindrance to the purifying mourning, godly sorrow and contrition in our souls, which bring about unswerving repentance leading to salvation. For without a contrite heart we cannot really lay hold of repentance. It is the restriction of self-indulgence, sleep and the senses according to God’s will that crushes our hearts and makes us mourn for our sins.”

– St. Gregory Palamas

“If you want cure your soul, you need four things. The first is to forgive your enemies. The second is to confess thoroughly. The third is to blame yourself. The fourth is to resolve to sin no more. If we wish to be saved, we must always blame ourselves and not attribute our wrong acts to others. And God, Who is most compassionate, will forgive us.”

– St. Cosmas of Aitolia

“The drunkard, the fornicator, the proud – he will receive God’s mercy. But he who does not want to forgive, to excuse, to justify consciously, intentionally… …that person closes himself to eternal life before God, and even more so in the present life. He is turned away and not heard.”

– Elder Sampson of Russia

“Abba Poemen also said this about Abba Isidore that whenever he addressed the brothers in church he said only one thing, ‘Forgive your brother, so that you also may be forgiven.'”

– From the Desert Fathers

“I do not dare to ask for relief in any of my battles, even if I am weak and utterly exhausted: for I do not know what is good for me. ‘Thou knowest all things’ (John 21:17); act according to Thy knowledge. Only do not let me go astray, whatever happens; whether I want it or not, save me, though, again, only if it accords with Thy will. I, then, have nothing: before Thee I am as one that is dead; I commit my soul into Thy pure hands, in this age and in the age to be. Thou art able to do all things; Thou knowest all things; Thou desirest every kind of goodness for all men and ever longest for my salvation. This is clear from the many blessings that in Thy grace Thou hast bestowed and always bestowest on us, visible and invisible, known to us and unknown; and from that gift of Thyself to us, O Son and Logos of God, which is beyond our understanding. Yet who am I that I should dare to speak to Thee of these things, Thou searcher of hearts? I speak of them in order to make known to myself and to my enemies that I take refuge in Thee, the harbor of my salvation. For I know by Thy grace that ‘Thou art my God’ (Psalms 31:14).”

– St. Peter of Damascus

“If people could behold in what glory a priest celebrates the Divine Office they would swoon at the sight; and if the priest could see himself, could see the celestial glory surrounding him as he officiates, he would become a great warrior and devote himself to feats of spiritual endurance, that he might not offend in any way the grace of the Holy Spirit living in him.

As I pencil these lines my spirit rejoices that our pastors are in the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ. But we, the flock, though we have grace but in small measure – we, too, are in the likeness of the Lord. Men ignore this mystery but St. John the Divine told us clearly: “We shall be like him”, (1 John iii:2) and this not only after death but even here and now, for the merciful Lord has given the Holy Spirit on earth, and the Holy Spirit lives in our Church, lives in all virtuous pastors; lives in the heart of the faithful. The Holy Spirit teaches the soul to fight the good fight; gives the strength necessary to fulfill the commandments of the Lord; stablishes us in all truth; and has so adorned man that he has become like unto the Lord.

We must always bear in mind that a father-confessor performs the duties of his office in the Holy Spirit, wherefore we must venerate him. Know this, brethren, that if anyone should die with his confessor present, and, dying, say to him: ‘O holy father, give me the blessing that I may behold the Lord in the Kingdom of Heaven,’ and the confessor should answer, ‘Go, child, and look upon the Lord,’ it would be with him according to the confessor’s blessing, for the Holy Spirit both in heaven and on earth is one and the same.

Great power lies in the prayers of a spiritual father. For my pride I suffered much from devils but the Lord humbled me and had mercy on me because of my spiritual father’s prayers, and now the Lord has revealed to me that the Holy Spirit dwells in our father-confessors, wherefore I hold them in deep respect. Because of their prayers we receive the grace of the Holy Spirit, and joy in the Lord, Who loves us and has given us all things needful for our soul’s salvation.

If a man does not open his heart to his confessor, his will be a crooked path that leads not to salvation; whereas he who keeps nothing back will go straightway to the Kingdom of Heaven (…)

Whoever would pray without ceasing must have fortitude and be wise, and in all things consult his confessor. And if your father-confessor has not himself trodden the path of prayer, nevertheless seek counsel of him, and because of your humility the Lord will have mercy on you, and keep you from all wrong. But if you think to yourself, ‘My confessor lacks experience and is occupied with vain things, I will be my own guide with the help of books,’ your foot is set on a perilous path and you are not far from being beguiled and going astray. I know many such who reasoned thus and so deceived themselves, and they did not thrive because they despised their confessors. They forgot that the saving grace of the Holy Spirit is at work in the sacrament of confession. In such wise does the enemy delude those who fight the good fight – the enemy would have no men of prayer – while the Holy Spirit gives good counsel to the soul when we harken to the advice of our pastors.

Through the father-confessor the Holy Spirit operates in the sacrament (of confession), and this is why the soul, on leaving her confessor, feels renewed through peace and love for her neighbour. But if you are troubled when you leave your confessor, it means that you have not made a clean confession of your sins, and have not in your soul forgiven your brother his transgressions.

A confessor should rejoice when the Lord brings him a soul for repentance, and according to the grace given to him he should heal that soul, wherefore he will receive great mercy from God, as a good sheperd of his sheep.”

– St. Silouan the Athonite

“The man who is conscious of his sins is greater than he who profits the whole world by the sight of his countenance. The man who sighs over his soul for but one hour is greater than he who raises the dead by his prayer while dwelling amid many men. The man who is deemed worthy to see himself is greater than he who is deemed worthy to see the angels, for the latter has communion through his bodily eyes, but the former through the eyes of his soul. The man who follows Christ in secret mourning is greater than he who praises Christ amid the congregations of men.”

– St. Isaac the Syrian

“If the Holy Spirit is peace of soul, as He is said to be, and as He is in reality, and if anger is disturbance of heart, as it actually is and as it is said to be, then nothing so prevents His presence in us as anger.’

Though we know very many intolerable fruits of anger, we have only found one, its involuntary offspring, which, though illegitimate, is nevertheless useful. I have seen people flaring up madly and vomiting their long-stored malice, who by their very passion were delivered from passion, and who have obtained from their offender either penitence or an explanation of the long standing grievance. I have seen others who seemed to show a brute patience, but who were nourishing resentment within them under the cover of silence. And I considered them more pitiable than those given to raving, because they were driving away the holy white Dove with black gall. We need great care in dealing with this snake; for it too, like the snake of physical impurities, has nature collaborating with it.”

– St. John Climacus (The Ladder, Step 8.15-16)

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