Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers


24 Entries

Now one cannot be a half-hearted Christian, but only ENTIRELY or not at all.REF:Fr Seraphim Rose, "Letters"

...we carry as in earthen vessels - that is to say, in our bodies - the Father's Light in the Person of Jesus Christ, and so can experience the glory of the Holy Spirit... St. Gregory Palamas (Those Who Practice a Life of Stillness, The Philokalia Vol. 4 edited by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware; Faber and Faber pg. 333

A life of fasting, properly understood as general self-limitation and abstinence, to the annual practice of which the Church always calls us with the Great Lent, is really that bearing of the cross and self-crucifixion which is required of us by our calling as Christians. And anyone who stubbornly resists this, wanting to live a carefree, happy, and free life, is concerned for sensual pleasures and avoids sorrow and suffering that person is not a Christian. Bearing one's cross is the natural way of every true Christian, without which there is no Christianity. Archbishop Averky of Syracuse (of Blessed Memory)

Come now, my brethren - all who have received the name of faith, who have been deemed worthy to be called people of Christ - do not put aside our calling; let us not violate our faith through improper works. It is not enough for someone merely to be known as a believer, so let us show our faith through works. St. John of Damascus, Homily on the Withered Fig Tree and the Parable of the Vineyard

First of all it must be understood that it is the duty of all Christians - especially of those whose calling dedicates them to the spiritual life - to strive always and in every way to be united with God, their creator, lover, benefactor, and their supreme good, by Whom and for Whom they were created. This is because the center and the final purpose of the soul, which God created, must be God Himself alone, and nothing else - God whom Whom the soul has received its life and its nature, and for Whom it must eternally live. St. Dimitry of Rostov in The Art of Prayer

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking[9] method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring.[10] They have a common table, but not a common bed.[1] They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.[2] They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.[3] They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life.[4] They are poor, yet make many rich;[5] they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless;[6] they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred. The Epistle Of Mathetes To Diognetus

For to despise the present age, not to love transitory things, unreservedly to stretch out the mind in humility to God and our neighbor, to preserve patience against offered insults and, with patience guarded, to repel the pain of malice from the heart, to give one's property to the poor, not to covet that of others, to esteem the friend in God, on God's account to love even those who are hostile, to mourn at the affliction of a neighbor, not to exult in the death of one who is an enemy, this is the new creature whom the Master of the nations seeks with watchful eye amid the other disciples, saying: "If, then, any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away. Behold all things are made new" (2Cor. 5:17). The Homilies of St. Gregory the Great On the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel

For to despise the present age, not to love transitory things, unreservedly to stretch out the mind in humility to God and our neighbor, to preserve patience against offered insults and, with patience guarded, to repel the pain of malice from the heart, to give one's property to the poor, not to covet that of others, to esteem the friend in God, on God's account to love even those who are hostile, to mourn at the affliction of a neighbor, not to exult in the death of one who is an enemy, this is the new creature whom the Master of the nations seeks with watchful eye amid the other disciples, saying:"If, then, any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away. Behold all things are made new" (2Cor. 5:17). St. Gregory the Great, Homilies On the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel

In Christianity truth is not a philosophical concept, nor is it a theory, a teaching, or a system, but rather it is the living theanthropic hypostasis -- the historical Jesus Christ (Jn. 14:6). Before Christ men could only conjecture about the Truth since they did not possess it. With Christ as the incarnate divine Logos the eternally complete divine Truth enters into the world. For this reason the Gospel says: `Truth came by Jesus Christ' (Jn. 1:17). St. Justin Popovich, Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ

It is demanded of us, Christians, that we receive these heavenly and most sweet tidings [the Gospel] gratefully as they are sent from Heaven, and that from a pure heart we always give thanks to God our Benefactor, Who so freely had mercy on us, and that we show holy obedience and compliance in all thankfulness. For conscience itself instructs and convinces us to be thankful to our Benefactor. He loved us who are unworthy. Let us also love Him Who is worthy of all love. Love requires that we never offend the beloved. God is offended by every sin. Let us keep away from every sin and let us do His holy will that we may not offend Him as our compassionate Father and Benefactor. St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Journey to Heaven

Not in form or in outward figures lies the distinguishing mark of Christians. Most men think that the difference which distinguishes themselves from the world consists in a form and in figures; and lo! in mentality and understanding they are like the world, undergoing the same shaking and inconstancy of thought, and unbelief,and confusion, and disturbance, and fear as all other men. In outward form and appearance they differ from the world, and in a few points of religious ordinance; but in heart and mind they are bound with earthly bonds, never having acquired rest from God and the peace of the heavenly Spirit in their heart, because they never sought it from God, nor believed that He would vouchsafe these things to them.

It is in the renewing of the mind, and the peace of the thoughts, and the love and heavenly attachment for the Lord, that the new creation-the Christian-is distinguished from all the men of the world. This was the purpose of the Lord's coming: to vouchsafe these spiritual blessings to those who truly believe in Him. Christians have a glory and a beauty and a heavenly wealth which is beyond words, and it is won with pains, and sweat, and trials, and many conflicts, and all by the grace of God. St. Macarius the Great (+390)

Now He Who has raised Him from the dead will raise us also, provided we do His will, make His commandments our rule of life, and love what He loves; if we abstain from every kind of wrongdoing, avarice, love of money, slander, and false testimony; ... St. Polycarp, Epistle to the Phillipians in The Didache

People account it a great thing to have friendship and fellowship with an earthly king; how incomparably greater is the privilege of having fellowship and friendship with God, Who is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords and abides in light unapproachable! O how much have God's goodness and love toward man wrought! Look, O Christian, and you shall see the nobility and merit of Christians. They have communion with the great and incomprehensible God. St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Journey to Heaven

Since I see, most excellent Diognetus, that you are so very anxious to understand the religion O of the Christians, and that your inquiries respecting them are distinctly and carefully made, as to what God they trust and how they worship Him, that they all disregard the world and despise death, and take no account of those who are regarded as gods by the Greeks, neither observe the superstitions of the Jews, and as to the nature of the affection which they entertain one to another, and of this new development of interest, which has entered into men's lives now and not before: I gladly welcome this zeal in you, and I ask of God, Who supplieth both the speaking and the hearing to us, that I may be granted to speak in such a way that you may be made better by the heating, and that you may so listen that l the speaker may not be disappointed. /../

Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind either in locality or in speech or in customs. For they dwell not somewhere in cities of their own, neither do they use some different language, nor practice an extraordinary kind of life Nor again do they possess any invention discovered by any intelligence or study of ingenious men, nor are they masters of any human dogma as some are. But while they dwell in cities of Greeks and barbarians as the lot of each is cast, and follow the native customs in dress and food and the other arrangements of life, yet the constitution of their own citizenship, which they set forth, is marvelous, and confessedly contradicts expectation. They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships as strangers. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is a foreign country. They marry like all other men and they beget children; but they do not cast away their offspring. They have their meals in common, but not their wives. They find themselves in the flesh, and yet they live not after the flesh. Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, and they surpass the laws in their own lives. They love all men, and they are persecuted by all. They are ignored, and yet they are condemned. They are put to death, and yet in dying they are endued with life. They are poor, and yet they make many rich. They are in want of all things, and yet they abound in all things. They are dishonored, and yet they are glorified in their dishonor. They an slandered, yet they are vindicated. They are reviled, and they bless; they are insulted, and they respect. Doing good they are punished as evil-doers; being punished they rejoice, as if they were thereby given new life. The Jews war against them as heretic- and the Greeks persecute them, although none of those that hate them can tell the reason of their hostility.

In a word, what the soul is to the body, so are the Christians to the world. The soul is spread through all the members of the body, and Christians through the divers cities of the world Just as the soul has its abode in the body and yet it is not of the body, so Christians have their abode in the world and yet they are not of the world. The soul, which is invisible, is guarded in the body, which is visible: so Christians are recognized as being in the world, and yet their religion remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul and wars against it, though it receives no wrong, because it is forbidden to indulge in pleasures; so the world hates Christians, though it receives no wrong from them, because they oppose its pleasures. Nevertheless, the soul loves the flesh and its members in spite of this hatred: so, too, Christians love these that hate them. The soul is enclosed in the body and yet holds the body together; se Christians are confined within the world as in a prison house, and yet they are the ones who hold the world together. The soul, though it is immortal, dwells in a mortal tabernacle; so Christians sojourn amidst perishable things, while they look for the imperishability which is in the heavens. The soul when hardly treated in the matter of food and drinks is improved; and so Christians when punished increase more and more. So great is the office for which God has appointed them, and which it is not lawful for them to decline.

For it is no earthly discovery, as I said, which was committed to them, neither do they care to guard so carefully any mortal invention, nor have they been entrusted with the stewardship of human mysteries. But truly the Almighty Creator of the universe, the invisible God Himself from heaven planted among men the Truth and the holy teaching which surpasses the wit of man, and fixed it firmly in their hearts, not as any man might imagine, by sending (to mankind) an emissary or angel, or ruler, or one of those that direct the affairs of earth, or one of those who have been entrusted with the dispensations in heaven, but the very Artificer and Creator of the universe Himself, by whom He made the heavens, by whom He enclosed the sea in its proper bounds whose mysteries all the elements faithfully observe from Whom the sun has received even the measure of the courses of the day to keep them, Whom the moon obeys as He bids her shine by night, Whom the stars obey as they follow the course of the moon, by Whom all things are ordered and bounded and placed in subjection, the heavens and thy things that are in the heavens, the earth and the things that are in the earth, the sea and the things that are in the sea, fire, air, abyss, the things that are in the heights, the things that are in the depths the things that are between the two. Him He sent unto them. Was He sent, think you, as any man might suppose, to establish a sovereignty, to inspire fear and terror? Not so but in gentleness and meekness has He sent Him, as a king might send his son who is a king He sent Him, as sending God; He sent Him as a man unto men; He sent Him, as Saviour, as using persuasion, not force: for force is no attribute of God, He sent Him, as summoning, not as persecuting; He sent Him, as loving, not as judging. For He will send Him in judgment, and who shall endure His presence?...Do you not see them thrown to wild beasts that so they may deny the Lord, and yet not overcome? Do you not see that the more of them are punished, just so many others abound? These are not like the works of a man; they are the power of God; they are proofs of His presence...

Mine are no strange discourses or perverse questionings, but, having been a disciple of the Apostles, I come forward as a teacher of the Gentiles, ministering worthily to them--as they present themselves disciples of the truth--the lessons which have been handed down. For who that has been rightly taught and has entered into friendship with the Word does not seek to learn precisely the lessons revealed openly by the Word to the disciples; to whom the Word appeared and declared them, speaking plainly, not perceived by the unbelieving, but relating them to disciples who being reckoned faithful by Him were taught the mysteries of God? For which cause He sent forth the Word, that He might appear unto the world. Who, although dishonored by the Chosen people, was preached by the Apostles and believed in by the Gentiles. This Word, who was from the beginning, who appeared as new and yet is known to be of old, is ever born anew in the hearts of His saints. This is He, I say, Who is eternal, Who today was accounted a Son, through Whom the Church is enriched and grace is unfolded and multiplied among the saints, grace which confers understanding, which reveals mysteries, which announces seasons, which rejoices over the faithful, which is bestowed upon those who seek her--those who do not break the pledges of faith nor transgress the boundaries of the fathers. Whereupon the fear of the law is sung, and the grace of the prophets is made known, and the faith of the Gospels is established, and the tradition of the Apostles is preserved, and the joy of the Church exults. If you do not grieve this grace, you will understand the discourse which the Word holds by the mouth of those whom He desires when He wishes. For in all things, that by the will of the commanding Word we were moved to utter with much pains, we become sharers with you, through love of the truths He has revealed to us… second century treatise, "To Diognetus”, by an unknown author - Adapted from A Treasury of Early Christianity, edited by Anne Freemantle; Viking Press, 1953

The Christian ought not to be of doubtful mind, nor by anything drawn away from the recollection of God and of His purposes and judgments. The Christian ought in all things to become superior to the righteousness existing under the law, and neither swear nor lie. The Christian ought to be patient, whatever he have to suffer, and to convict the wrong-doer in season, not with the desire of his own vindication, but of his brother's reformation, according to the commandment of the Lord. The Letters of St. Basil the Great

The Christian ought not to grudge another's reputation, nor rejoice over any man's faults; he ought in Christ's love to grieve and be afflicted at his brother's faults, and rejoice over his brother's good deeds. He ought not to be indifferent or silent before sinners. He who shows another to be wrong ought to do so with all tenderness, in the fear of God, and with the object of converting the sinner. He who is proved wrong or rebuked ought to take it willingly, recognizing his own gain in being set right. St. Basil the Great.

The Lord rose from the dead. He lives and reigns forever, but His disciples today, the millions of baptized Christians, are for the most part dead in a spiritual sense. Christ does not live in their hearts. They show no tangible proof of their faith.

Where is their fiery zeal to spread the Gospel? Where is their burning love, their bold decision to go out and demolish the strongholds of Satan? They are indifferent -- cold as the marble slabs that cover the tombs of the dead. They are dead, unburied dead. The laity are dead, but so too are the clergy, especially bishops, in whose chests Christ is supposed to live and reign.

What a great calamity! Our bishops are dead, faithful copies of the sluggish, useless bishop of the church of Sardis whom the Holy Spirit rebuked saying, "I know your works, that you have a name, that you are alive, but you are dead!" (Rev. 3:1). A church comprised of spiritually dead clergy and laity, a church that carries death and spreads it, cannot be called anything else but a dead church.

Take comfort. Amid all the coldness that transforms people's hearts into snowballs, there are still sparks -- burning coals and hearths of spiritual life in the modern world. Wherever a child stammers a quick prayer through innocent lips; wherever a boy or girl actively listens to catechetical lessons and sings joyous songs to the resurrected Lord; wherever a faithful mother prays for her children's salvation; wherever a young man or woman in the flower of youth offers himself or herself to the Lord's service; wherever a faithful nurse spends the night at the bedside of a sick person; wherever a missionary goes through virgin jungles to spread the light of the gospel to spiritually unenlightened lands; wherever there is a mighty battle against the dark powers; wherever sinners repent sincerely for their miserable past and, like Mary Magdalene, shed tears by their own tomb and seek forgiveness in confession; wherever there are holy pulsation's; wherever hearts are warmed in reading the Scriptures -- there are the sparks, the blazing coals, the spiritual hearth, the living Church. There is where Christ lives and reigns to the ages of ages.

Faithful souls, whenever earthquakes topple our world and whenever you see the ruins left behind by the faithlessness and corruption of our times, do not be disturbed. You have a rock upon which you can stand and an anchor upon which you can depend. You have a light with which to pass through. You have the sun that rose out of the tomb -- Jesus, crucified and resurrected from the dead. Why are you afraid? What is there to fear? Come, let us worship and bow down to Him, Christ, the Victor over Death, the Kind of the Ages. "Follow Me," by Bishop Augoustinos N. Kantiotes (Bishop of Florina in Greece), (Belmont, Massachusetts:Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1989), pp. 265-269

These, then, are the things in which you must stand firm and follow the Lord's example: be steadfast and immovable in the faith; love the brotherhood; cherish one another; be united in the truth; with the meekness of the Lord give precedence to one another; despise no one. When able to do a work of charity, do not put it off; for almsgiving delivers from death. One and all, submit to each other's rights; for life among the gentiles must be beyond reproach; thus by your good example you will win praise for yourselves and the Lord will not be blasphemed on your account. St. Polycarp, Epistles to the Philippians

To deny oneself means: to give up one's bad habits, to root out of the heart all that ties us to the world; not to cherish bad desires and thoughts; to quench and suppress bad thoughts; to avoid occasions of sin; not to do or desire anything from self-love, but to do everything out of love for God. To deny oneself means, according to the Apostle Paul, to be dead to sin and the world, but alive to God. Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven, Bishop (St.) Innocent of Kamchatka

To the impious and lovers of this world the Christian life and the morality of the Gospel is a scandal and foolishness, but it is wisdom before God. You should do what the Gospel teaches and not as people say. Let the mockers mock, but afterward they will weep bitterly, and already too late, for their conscience itself will reprove them. St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Journey to Heaven

Truly never before has the cross of each person who wants to be a true Christian been as heavy as in this time of the triumph of falsehood which we are experiencing.

Never before on this earth has there been such a huge number of people who freely and easily, without any shame, without any pangs of conscience "call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20). Archbishop Averky of Syracuse (of Blessed Memory)

Christians have other aspirations, another mind; they are men of another age, of another city, because the Spirit of God abides in communion with souls. Venerable Abba Isaias.

Nothing is so incongruous in a Christian, and foreign to his character, as to seek ease and rest St John Chrysostom, HOMILY XIII on PHILIPPIANS

Sin, to one who loves God, is nothing other than an arrow from the enemy in battle. The true Christian is a warrior fighting his way through the regiments of the unseen enemy to his heavenly homeland. According to the word of the Apostle, our homeland is in heaven; and about the warrior he says: 'our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.' St. Seraphim of Sarov, Letters, Little Russian Philokalia, V.3

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