Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers

despair

15 Entries

"Just as our Lord is solicitous about our salvation, so too the murderer of men, the devil, strives to lead a man into despair ... Judas the betrayer was fainthearted and unskilled in battle, and so the enemy, seeing his despair, attacked him and forced him to hang himself; but Peter, a firm rock, when he fell into great sin, like one skilled in battle did not despair nor lose heart, but shed bitter tears from a burning heart, and the enemy, seeing these tears, his eyes scorched as by fire, fled far from him wailing in pain." St. Seraphim of Sarov (Spiritual Instructions no. 14, Little Russian Philokalia Vol. 1; St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood pg. 34)



"This is the way the demons work; after causing a soul to fall into sin, then they cast us into despair to destroy us completely. The demons are always saying to the soul: 'When will his name die and be destroyed? (Ps. 40:6). If the soul is one of sobriety, it will answer them and say 'I shall die but live, and declare the works of the Lord' (Ps. 117:17).

Again he said: 'Do you be the door-keeper of your heart. And so that no alien may enter therein, say: 'Are you on our side or the adversary's?' Sayings of a Certain Egyptian Elder, THE SPIRITUAL MEADOW of John Moschos



...for all his [the Christian's] deep compassion, his tears and prayers for the world, there is none of the despair that destroys. Aware of the breath of the Holy Spirit, he is assured of the inevitable victory of Light. Archimandrite Sophrony (His Life is Mine, Chapter 4; SVS Press pg. 39)

Hear what the Psalmist says: 'How great is the multitude of Thy goodness, O Lord!(Ps. 31:20)'. Your accumulated offenses surpass not the multitude of God's mercies: your wounds surpass not the great Physician's skill. Only give yourself up to faith. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 2)

It is always possible to make a new start by means of repentance. "You fell," it is written, "now arise"(cf. Prov. 24:16). And if you fall again, then rise again, without despairing at all of your salvation, no matter what happens. So long as you do not surrender yourself willingly to the enemy, your patient endurance, combined with self-reproach, will suffice for your salvation. "For at one time we ourselves went astray in our folly and disobedience," says St. Paul. "... Yet He saved us, not because of any good things we had done, but in His mercy" (Tit. 3:3,5). St. Peter of Damaskos, Philokalia, Vol. 3

Nothing equals or excels God’s mercies. Therefore, he who despairs is committing suicide. A sign of true repentance is the acknowledgement that we deserve all the afflictions, visible and invisible, that come upon us, and even greater ones. Moses, after seeing God in the bush, returned again to Egypt, that is, to the darkness and to the brick-making of Pharaoh, who was symbolical of the spiritual Pharaoh. But he went back again to the bush, and not only to the bush, but also up to the mountain. Whoever has known divine vision will never despair of himself. Job became a beggar, but he became twice as rich again. St John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent", Step 5: On Painstaking and True Repentance Which Constitute the Life of the Holy Convicts (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978)

One who has an evil heart should not despair, for with God’s help, one can correct his heart. He must only remain vigilant and miss no opportunity to help his neighbors. He must open himself up before his elder, and must be as charitable as possible. This, of course cannot be accomplished all at once, but the Lord is very patient. He brings a person’s life to an end only when He sees him ready to depart into eternity or when he sees no hope for his correction. Counsels of the Venerable Elder St. Amvrossy of Optina

The Lord is loving unto man, and swift to pardon, but slow to punish. Let no man therefore despair of his own salvation. St. Cyril of Jerusalem(Catechetical Lectures:Lecture 2 no. 19)

What then? some one will say: 'We have been beguiled and are lost. Is there then no salvation left? We have fallen: Is it not possible to rise again? We have been blinded: May we not recover our sight? We have become crippled: Can we never walk upright? In a word, we are dead: May we not rise again?' He that woke Lazarus who was four days dead and already stank, shall He not, O man, much more easily raise thee who art alive? He who shed His precious blood for us, shall Himself deliver us from sin. Let us not despair of ourselves, brethren; let us not abandon ourselves to a hopeless condition. For it is a fearful thing not to believe in a hope of repentance. Second Catechetical Lecture Of Our Holy Father Cyril, Archbishop Of Jerusalem, Lecture Ii.- On Repentance And Remission Of Sins, And Concerning The Adversary

When we are in trouble or despair or have lost hope, we should do what David did: pour out our hearts to God and tell Him of our needs and troubles, just as they are (cf. Ps. 142:2). It is because He can deal with us wisely that we confess to God: He can make our troubles easy to bear, if this is for our benefit, and can save us from the dejection which destroys and corrupts. St. Hesychius the Priest, Philokalia, Vol. I.

Beware of despair. You do not serve a tyrant, but your service is to a kind Lord, Who, taking nothing from you, he has given you all. And when you did not exist at all, He fashioned you so that you would be in that [state] in which you now are. Who is sufficient to render Him thanks for the fact that He has brought us into existence? O the immeasurable grace! Who can sufficiently honor Him with hymns? For He has given us knowledge of all things. And not only of those which are manifest, but also of hidden things. For we know that if there is anything we do not know, it is necessary for us only to ask this [knowledge] from Him. St. Isaac the Syrian, The Ascetical Homilies

Patient endurance kills the despair that kills the soul; it teaches the soul to take comfort and not to grow listless in the face of its many battles and afflictions. St. Peter of Damaskos (Book 2: Twenty-Four Discourses no. 5, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 222)

Beware of despair. You do not serve a tyrant, but your service is to a kind Lord, Who, taking nothing from you, he has given you all. And when you did not exist at all, He fashioned you so that you would be in that [state] in which you now are. Who is sufficient to render Him thanks for the fact that He has brought us into existence? O the immeasurable grace! Who can sufficiently honor Him with hymns? For He has given us knowledge of all things. And not only of those which are manifest, but also of hidden things. For we know that if there is anything we do not know, it is necessary for us only to ask this [knowledge] from Him. St. Isaac the Syrian, The Ascetical Homilies

When you stand praying, burdened with many sins and overpowered with despair, begin to pray with hope, with a fervent spirit, and remind yourself that 'the Spirit Itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered!' (Rom. 8:26). When you remember with faith this action of the Spirit of God within us, then tears of emotion will flow from your eyes, you will feel in your soul peace, sweetness, justification, 'and joy in the Holy Ghost,' (Rom. 14:17) and you will cry in your heart, 'Abba, Father!' REF:St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christpg. 125

If our thought, in a moment of weakness, should succumb, we should not be afraid or despair, or ascribe to our own soul what is said to us by the devil. On the contrary, we should patiently and diligently, to the limit of our strength, practice the virtues and keep the commandments, in stillness and devotion to God, freeing ourselves from all thoughts subject to our volition.

In this way the enemy, who day and night promotes every kind of fantasy and deceit, will not find us worried about his tricks and illusions and all the thoughts within which he lurks, presenting to us as truth what are really deceits and falsehoods; and so he will lose heart and go away. REF:St. Peter of Damaskos, "God's Universal And Particular Gifts", from G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Bishop Kallistos Ware, "The Philokalia: Vol. III," (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), pp. 172 - 173.







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