Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers


17 Entries

... not every man can be trusted when giving advice to those who seek it. We can trust only him who has received from God the grace of discrimination and who ... has acquired through great humility and long practice of the virtues an intellect blessed with spiritual insight. Such a man is in a position to advise, not everyone, but at least those who seek him out voluntarily and who question him by their own choice; for he has learned things in their true order. St. Peter of Damaskos (Book 1: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 183)

...even the doing of what is good requires discrimination...for the good is not good unless its purpose is conformed to God's will. St. Peter of Damaskos (Book 1: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 208) needs to acquire discrimination, either through the humility given by God or through questioning those who possess the gifts of discrimination. For without discrimination nothing that comes to pass is good, even if we in our ignorance think that it is. But when through discrimination we learn how it lies in our power to attain what we wish, then what we do begins to conform to God's will. St. Peter of Damaskos(A Treasury of divine Knowledge, Book 1)

...we can learn that we shall be granted the gift of true discrimination when we trust, no longer in the judgments of our own mind, but in the teaching and rule of our fathers...We should learn from examples provided by human arts and sciences. If we cannot accomplish anything in them by ourselves - in spite of the fact that they deal with things we can touch with our hands, see with our eyes and hear with our ears - but still need someone who will instruct us well and guide us, how can it be anything but foolish to think that the spiritual art, the most difficult of all the arts, has no need of a teacher? St. John Cassian(On the Holy Fathers of Sketis)

A compassionate and self-controlled man is someone who fully, persistently, and with unfailing discrimination strives all his life for total virtue; for discrimination is greater than any other virtue, and is the queen and crown of all virtues. St. John of Damaskos(On the Virtues and the Vices)

Discrimination is the distinctive characteristic of one who probes. He then who examines the symbols of the Law in a spiritual manner, and who contemplates the visible nature of created beings with intelligence, will discriminate in Scripture between letter and spirit, in creation between inner essence and outward appearance, and in himself between intellect and the senses; and in Scripture he will choose the spirit, in creation the inner essence or logos, and in himself the intellect. If he then unites these three indissolubly to one another, he will have found God: he will have come to recognize, as he should and as is possible, the God who is Intellect, Logos and Spirit. In this way he will be delivered from all the things which deceive man and seduce him into innumerable errors - delivered, that is to say, from the letter, the outward appearance of things, and the senses, all of which possess quantitative distinctions and are the negation of unity. But if a man compounds the letter of the Law, the outward appearance of visible things, and his own senses with each other, he is 'so short-sighted as to be blind' (2 Pet. 1:9), sick through his ignorance of the Cause of created beings. St. Maximos the Confessor(Second Century of Various Texts no. 6)

He who devoutly strives to attain wisdom and is on his guard against the invisible powers, should pray that both natural discrimination - whose light is but limited - and the illuminating grace of the Spirit abide with him. The first by means of practice trains the flesh in virtue, the second illuminates the intellect so that it chooses above all else companionship with wisdom; and through wisdom it destroys the strongholds of evil and pulls down 'all the self-esteem that exalts itself against the knowledge of God' (2 Cor. 10:5). St. Maximos the Confessor(Second Century on Theology no. 33)

If a man exercises only sensory discrimination between pain and pleasure in the body, thus transgressing the divine commandment, he eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that is to say, he succumbs to the mindless impulses that pertains to the senses; for he possesses only the body's power of discrimination, which makes him embrace pleasure as something good and avoid pain as something evil. But if he exercises only that noetic discrimination which distinguishes between the eternal and the transitory, and so keeps the divine commandment, he eats from the tree of life, that is to say, from the wisdom that appertains to his intellect; for he exercises only the power of discrimination associated with the soul, which makes him cleave to the glory of what is eternal as something good, and avoid the corruption of what is transitory as something evil. St. Maximos the Confessor(Second Century of Various Texts no. 34)

If the mind is strengthened with the strength that it received from the Spirit, first it is purified and sanctified, and learns discrimination in the words that it delivers to the tongue, that they may be without partiality and without self-will, and so the saying of Solomon is fulfilled, `My words are spoken from God, there is nothing froward nor perverse in them.' (Cf. Prov. 8:8) And in another place he says, `The tongue of the wise is healing' (Prov. 12:18), and much besides. St. Anthony the Great

Pray that God may give you grace to see and understand all things clearly, so that you can discriminate correctly between good and evil. It is written by Apostle Paul that "strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age" (Hebrews 5:14). These are men, who by long and diligent work have their senses and intentions trained to discern both good and evil, who have become sons of the kingdom and are enrolled for Divine sonship. God has given them wisdom and good judgement in all their works, so that neither man nor devil can seduce them.

You must know that the enemy tempts the faithful under the guise of good and succeeds in seducing many because they have neither wisdom nor good judgment. Therefore when Apostle Paul had learned the riches of understanding, which are destined for the faithful, and whose greatness has no bounds, he wrote to the Ephesians, "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints (Ephesians 1: 17-18). He wrote this from his exceeding great love for them, knowing that if they attain it they will find hardship in nothing, no fear will touch them; but the joy of the Lord will comfort them day and night and their labors will be sweet for them at all times.

Many of the monks and virgins living in communities do not attain to this measure. And you, if you wish to attain to this measure, in which is the height of perfection, should withdraw from all those who while they bear such names, that is monkhood and virginity, yet lack this clear vision and good judgment. For, if you become connected with them, they will not let you make progress, and may even cool your ardor, because they themselves have no ardor but only coldness, since they follow their own desires. So, if they come to you and begin worldly conversations, according to their own desires, do not consent to it. For Apostle Paul writes, "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings" (I Thessalonians 5: 19-20). St Anthony the Great, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, 1954), pp. 46-51

The blood of Christ is discrimination of actions; he who drinks it will be illumined. "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.

The light of true knowledge is the power to discriminate without error between good and evil. St. Diadochos of Photiki (On Spiritual Knowledge no. 6)

The light of true knowledge is the power to discriminate without error between good and evil. Then the path of righteousness leads the intellect upward towards the Sun of Righteousness and brings it into the boundless illumination of spiritual knowledge, so that henceforward it will grow more and more confident in its quest for love. St. Diadochos of Photiki (On Spiritual Knowledge no. 6)

The mark of dispassion is true discrimination; for one who has attained the state of dispassion does all things with discrimination and according to measure and rule. St. Thalassios the Libyan(First Century no. 43)

The perceptive faculty of the intellect consists in the power to discriminate accurately between the tastes of different realities. Our physical sense of taste, when we are healthy, lead us to distinguish unfailingly between good food and bad, so that we want what is good; similarly, our intellect, when it begins to act vigorously and with complete detachment, is capable of perceiving the wealth of God's grace and is never led astray by any illusion of grace which comes from the devil. Just as the body, when it tastes the delectable foods of the earth, knows by experience exactly what each thing is, so the intellect, when it has triumphed over the thoughts of the flesh, knows for certain when it is tasting the grace of the Holy Spirit; for it is written: 'Taste and see that the Lord is good' (Ps. 34:8). The intellect keeps fresh the memory of this taste through the energy of love, and so unerringly chooses what is best. As St. Paul says: 'This is my prayer, that your love may grow more and more in knowledge and in all perception, so that you choose what is best' (Phil. 1:9-10). St. Diadochos of Photiki (On Spiritual Knowledge no. 30)

The spirit of counsel is the habit of discrimination according to which we fulfill the divine commandments intelligently and distinguish what is good from what is bad. The spirit of cognitive insight is an unerring perception of the ways in which virtue is to be practiced; if we act in accordance with this perception we will not deviate at all from the true judgment of our intelligence. St. Maximos the Confessor(Third Century of Various Texts no. 39)

True discrimination comes to us only as a result of true humility, and this in turn is shown by our revealing to our spiritual fathers not only what we do but also what we think, by never trusting our own thoughts, and by following in all things the words of our elders, regarding as good what they have judged to be so. St. John Cassian(On the Holy Fathers of Sketis)

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