Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers

despondency

29 Entries

"Listlessness begins with despondency and faintheartedness and the prolonged withdrawal of grace. It starts off with the application of economy towards some supposed infirmity or weakness, and ends in total disbelief and shamelessness and ingratitude. For those who live alone as hesychasts it starts from neglect of the rule and order of their lives, and grows if not attended to in good time. But in those who live with others, it begins with idle talk and backbiting." REF:Elder Joseph (trans. from Greek by Elizabeth Theokritoff), "Elder Joseph the Hesychast," (Mount Athos: The Great and Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi, 1999), pp. 195 - 198



'And He spake a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to lose heart.' So do not lose heart and despair because you have not yet received the gift of prayer. You will receive it later. Evagrios the Solitary, Philokalia, Vol. I

...do not despair in any way ignoring God's help, for He can do whatever He wishes. On the contrary, place your hope in Him and He will do one of these things: either through trials and temptations, or in some other way which He alone knows, He will bring about your restoration; or He will accept your patient endurance and humility in the place of works; or because of your hope He will act lovingly towards you in some other way of which you are not aware, and so will save your shackled soul. Only do not abandon your Physician, for otherwise you will suffer senselessly the twofold death because you do not know the hidden ways of God. St. Peter of Damascus (Book 1: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 170)

A certain brother fell into temptation, and through tribulation relinquished the garb of monkhood; and he wished to begin to renew his ascetic life, but he saw the great difficulty of the matter, and he drew back, and said, "When shall I ever find myself in the same condition as I was formerly?" And through fear he did not begin his work, and he went and made the matter known to an old man, and the old man said, "The matter is thus: There was a certain man who possessed an estate, and he held it to be of no account and did not cultivate it, and it became full of tangled undergrowth and thorns. Now one day he remembered it, and he sent his son, and said unto him, "Go, clean the estate." And when he had gone and seen the abundance of the undergrowth he was afraid, and said to himself, "When shall I be able to clean away all this undergrowth?" And he threw himself upon a bed, and lay down, and went to sleep, and thus he did every day. Then his father went forth and found that he was asleep, and that he had done nothing; and he said unto him, "How is it, my son, that no work whatsoever hath been done by thee?" And he said to his father, "When I came to work and saw the abundance of the undergrowth, I was afraid and said, "When shall I be able to clean all this away?" And his father said unto him, "My son, work according to the measure of thy sleep each day, and it shall be sufficient for thee"; and when he heard this the young man plucked up courage, and did thus, and in a short time he cleansed the estate. Thus also thou shalt not be afraid but begin the work of thy rules, and God, by His Grace, will establish thee among those in the first rank." Now when the brother had done thus he was helped. The Desert Fathers

A doctor visits the sick in the morning, but despondency visits ascetics about noonday. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston; Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 13: On Despondency

As we have frequently said, this - we mean despondency - is very often one of the branches of talkativeness, and its first child. And so we have given it its appropriate place in this chain of vices. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston; Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 13: On Despondency

Community life is opposed to despondency. But she is a constant companion of the hermit. She will never leave him till his death, and wrestles with him daily till his end. Seeing an anchorite's cell, she smiles, and creeps up and camps near by. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston; Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 13: On Despondency

Demons often transform themselves into angels of light and take the form of martyrs, and make it appear to us during sleep that we are in communication with them. Then, when we wake up, they plunge us into unholy joy and conceit. But you can detect their deceit by this very fact. For angles reveal torments, judgments and separations; and when we wake up we find that we are trembling and sad. As soon as we begin to believe the demons in dreams, then they make sport of us when we are awake too. He who believes in dreams is completely inexperienced. 'But he who distrusts all dreams is a wise man. Only believe dreams that warn you of torments and judgments. But if despair afflicts you, then such dreams are also from demons. St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent

Despondency is a paralysis of soul, an enervation of the mind, neglect of asceticism, hatred of the vow made. It calls those who are in the world blessed. It accuses God of being merciless and without love for men. It is being languid in singing psalms, weak in prayer, like iron in service, resolute in manual labor, reliable in obedience. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston; Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 13: On Despondency

Despondency is a pretext for hospitality. She insists that by means of manual labor, alms could be given; and she urges us eagerly to visit the sick, recalling Him who said, I was sick and ye visited Me (Matthew 25:36). She puts it into our hearts to go our visiting the dejected and faint-hearted, and sets one faintheart to comfort another. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston; Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 13: On Despondency

Do not be despondent when fighting against the incorporeal enemy, but even in the midst of your afflictions and oppression praise the Lord, Who has found you worthy to suffer for Him, by struggling against the subtlety of the serpent, and to be wounded for Him at every hour; for had you not lived piously, and endeavored to become united to God, the enemy would not have attacked and tormented you. St. John of Kronstadt.

Do not grow despondent and enfeebled in spirit, seeing the constant struggle within you of evil against good, but like a good and valiant soldier of Jesus Christ, our great Founder, struggle courageously against evil, looking at the crown, prepared by the Lord for all who conquer evil in this world and in their flesh. "To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with Me in My Throne" (Rev. 3:21). St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

Great is the tyranny of despondency, and much courage do we need so as to stand manfully against the feeling, and after gathering from it what is useful, to let the superfluous go. It is somewhat useful; for when we ourselves or others sin, then only is it good to grieve; but when we fall into human vicissitudes, then despondency is useless. St. John Chrysostom

If the spirit of despondency attacks you, do not leave your cell, and do not turn aside in time of discontent. For as silver is purified (by friction), so will your heart be made bright if you stand firm. "Instructions to Cenobites and Others", Abba Evagrius, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," translated from the Russian text, "Dobrotolubiye," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, eighth edition, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 115 - 116.

If you have sins do not become despondent, I often tell you this and will never stop. And even if you sin daily then you should repent daily. Just as when you have an old house and repair parts that begin to decay, removing the rotten pieces and replacing them with the new, the same should be done with your souls. You never forget to repair your house and so in the same manner you should never forget with your soul.

If you are brought backwards through sin renew yourself through repenting. Is it possible you ask me that through repenting you can be saved? Of course it is. All my life I spent in sin .. and when I repent I find salvation. How do I know this? How is this clear? From our God's Love of man.. because His Love cannot be counted, nor His gifts described with words.. Think of a spark falling into the sea. Can it stay alight and shine? As much as a spark can stay alight in the abyss of the sea so can sin stand up to God's Love.. God's Love is even better and much more. We know the abyss of the sea and even if it is large it can be measured but God's Love has no bounds and is immeasurable. St. John Chrysostom 8th Homily on Repentance



In time of temptations... courageously meet all the assailants, especially the demon of despondency, who indeed is the most grievous of all, but who, more than all, makes the soul experienced. If you flee or avoid the struggle, your mind will remain inexperienced, timid and easily turned to flight. Abba Evagrius the Monk(Texts on Active Life no. 19)

In times of any sorrow, illness, poverty, need, disagreements, and any difficulty, it is better to spend less time in ruminating and talking to ourselves, and more often to turn to Christ our God and to his most pure Mother in prayer, even if it is only a brief one. Through that, the spirit of bitter despondency will be driven away, and the heart will be filled with joy and with hope in God. Counsels of Venerable St. Antony (Putilov) of Optina

Nothing equals or excels God's mercies. Therefore he who despairs is committing suicide. A sign of true repentance is the acknowledgment that we deserve all the troubles, visible and invisible, that come to us, and even greater ones. Moses, after seeing God in the bush, returned again to Egypt, that is, to darkness and to the brick-making of Pharaoh, symbolical of the spiritual Pharaoh. But he went back again to the bush, and not only to the bush but also up the mountain. Whoever has known contemplation will never despair of himself. Job became a beggar, but he became twice as rich again. St John Climacus - the Ladder of Divine Ascent

Observe, and you will find that if you stand on your feet, despondency will battle with you. If you sit, it will suggest that it is better for you to lean back; and it urges you to lean against the wall of the cell; then it persuades you to peep out of the window, by producing noises and footsteps. This is the thirteenth victory. He who has really gained it has become experienced in all good. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston; Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 13: On Despondency

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. Elder Amvrossy of Optina

Q: What should I do, my Father? I suffer from sexual passion.

A: As much as you can, wear yourself out, but according to your strength; and have hope not in this, but in love from God and in His protection, and do not give yourself over to despondency, for despondency serves as the beginning of every evil. "Saints Barsanuphius and John: Guidance Toward Spiritual Life," trans. by Fr. Seraphim Rose, (Platina, California: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1990)



Spiritual heroes come to light at the time of despondency, for nothing procures so many crowns for a monk as the battle with despondency. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston; Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 13: On Despondency

The spirit of despondency takes away tears, and the spirit of discontent stifles prayer. "Instructions to Cenobites and Others", Abba Evagrius, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," translated from the Russian text, "Dobrotolubiye," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, eighth edition, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 115 - 116.

When despondency seizes us, let us not give in to it. Rather, fortified and protected by the light of faith, let us with great courage say to the spirit of evil: "What are you to us, you who are cut off from God, a fugitive for Heaven, and a slave of evil? You dare not do anything to us: Christ, the Son of God, has dominion over us and over all. Leave us, you thing of bane. We are made steadfast by the uprightness of His Cross. Serpent, we trample on your head. St. Tikhon of Voronezh

When despondency seizes us, let us not give in to it. Rather, fortified and protected by the light of faith, let us with great courage say to the spirit of evil: "What are you to us, you who are cut off from God, a fugitive from Heaven and a slave of evil? You dare not do anything to us: Christ, the Son of God, has dominion over us and over all. Leave us, you thing of bane. We are made steadfast by the uprightness of His Cross. Serpent, we trample on your head. St. Seraphim of Sarov. In Modern Orthodox Saints, Vol. 5

When despondency seizes us, let us not give in to it. Rather, fortified and protected by the light of faith, let us with great courage say to the spirit of evil: "What are you to us, you who are cut off from God, a fugitive from Heaven, and a slave of evil? You dare not do anything to us: Christ, the Son of God, has dominion over us and over all. Leave us, you thing of bane. We are made steadfast by the uprightness of His Cross. Serpent, we trample on your head." Spiritual counsels of St. Seraphim of Sarov in Modern Orthodox Saints,Vol. 5

When despondency seizes us, let us not give in to it. Rather, fortified and protected by the light of faith, let us with great courage say to the spirit of evil: 'What are you to us, who you are...a fugitive from Heaven, and a slave of evil? You dare not do anything to us: Christ...has dominion over us and over all. St. Seraphim of Sarov

When we become so conscious of our frailty that our spirit despairs, somehow, in an unknown fashion, a wondrous light appears, proclaiming life incorruptible. When the darkness within us is so appalling that we are paralyzed with dread, the same light will turn black night into bright day. When we properly condemn ourselves to eternal infamy and in agony descend into the pit, of a sudden some strength from Above will lift our spirit to the heights. When we are overwhelmed by the feeling of our own utter nothingness, the uncreated light transfigures and brings us like sons into the Father's house. How are these contrasting states to be explained? Why does our self-condemnation justify us before God? Is it not because there is truth in this self-condemnation and so the Spirit of Truth finds a place for Himself in us?" Archimandrite Sophrony (His Life is Mine, Chapter 7; SVS Press pg. 60)

What then? Someone will say: 'We have been beguiled and are lost. Is there then no salvation left? 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. St. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem.





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