Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers

fear

14 Entries

...fear is of two kinds: the first is introductory, while the second, which grows out of the first is perfect.

He who is afraid of God's punishment has a slave-like fear of God, and it is this that makes him refrain from evil: 'Out of fear of the Lord men shun evil' (Prov. 16:6. LXX)... through fear of what threatens us we sinners may be led to repent and may seek deliverance from our sins...

The more a man struggles to do good, the more fear grows in him, until it shows him his slightest faults, those which he thought of as nothing while he was still in the darkness of ignorance.

When fear in this way has become perfect, he himself becomes perfect through inward grief: he no longer desires to sin but, fearing the return of the passions, he remains in this pure fear invulnerable. As the psalm puts it, 'The fear of the Lord is pure, and endures for ever' (Ps. 19:9. LXX). The first kind of fear is not pure, for it arises in us because of our sins. But, independent of sin, the person who has been purified continues to feel fear, not because he sins, but because, being human, he is changeable and prone to evil.

In his humility, the further he advances through the acquisition of the virtues, the more he fears. This is natural; for everyone who possesses wealth greatly fears loss, punishment, dishonor, and the consequent fall from his high estate...The sign of the first kind of fear is hatred of sin and anger towards it, like someone wounded by a wild beast. The sign of perfect fear is the love of virtue and the fear of relapsing, since no one is unalterable. St. Peter of Damaskos (Book 2: Twenty-Four Discourses no. 3, The Philokalia Vol. 4 edited by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware; Faber and Faber pgs. 217-218)



As it is not possible to cross over the great ocean without a ship, so no one can attain to love without fear. The fetid sea, which lies between us and the noetic paradise, we may cross by the boat of repentance, whose oarsmen are those of fear. But if fear's oarsmen do not pilot the barque of repentance whereby we cross over the sea of this world to God, we shall be drowned in the fetid abyss. Repentance is the ship and fear is the pilot; love is the divine haven. The Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian

As it is not possible to cross over the great ocean without a ship, so no one can attain to love without fear. The foetid sea, which lies between us and the noetic paradise, we may cross by the boat of repentance, whose oarsmen are those of fear. But if fear's oarsmen do not pilot the barque of repentance whereby we cross over the sea of this world to God, we shall be drowned in the foetid abyss. Repentance is the ship and fear is the pilot; love is the divine haven. The Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian.

Do not hesitate to go late at night to those places where you usually feel afraid. But if you yield only a little to such weakness, then this childish and ridiculous infirmity will grow old with you. As you go on your way, arm yourself with prayer. When you reach the place, stretch out your hands. Flog your enemies with the name of Jesus, for there is no stronger weapon in heaven or earth. When you get rid of the disease of fear, praise Him who has delivered you. If you continue to be thankful, He will protect you for ever. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 21: On Unmanly and Puerile Cowardice

Fear is a rehearsing of danger beforehand; or again, fear is a trembling sensation of the heart, alarmed and troubled by unknown misfortunes. Fear is a loss of assurance. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 21: On Unmanly and Puerile Cowardice

He who has acquired purity of heart has conquered fear. But a man who is still in process of purification, at times is conquered by fear, and at times conquers it. A man, however, who does not strive at all after purity, is either for ever sunk into a state of insensibility and, being a friend of passions and demons and filled with vanity and conceit, 'think(s) himself to be something, when he is not' (Gal. 6:3); or he is a slave, delivered into the hands of fear and, being of a childish mind, trembles and is afraid, where for those who fear God there is no fear or trembling. St. Simeon the New Theologian (Practical and Theological Precepts no. 50, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pgs. 107-108)

He who has become the servant of the Lord will fear his Master alone, but he who does not yet fear Him is often afraid of his own shadow. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 21: On Unmanly and Puerile Cowardice

Q: Pray for me, my Father, I am very much disturbed by thoughts of sexual sin, despondency, and fear; and a thought says to me that I should converse with a brother to whom I feel attracted when I see him, lest by my silence I give him occasion for suspicion. I feel likewise that the demons are somehow pressing me, and I fall into fear.

A: Brother! You are not yet instructed in warfare with the enemy, which is why there come to you thoughts of fear, despondency, and sexual sin. Stand against them with a firm heart, for combatants, unless they labor, are not crowned, and warriors, unless they show the King their skill in battles, do not become worthy of honors. Remember what David was like. Do you not also sing: "Test me, O Lord, and try me, kindle my inwards parts and my heart" (Psalms 25:2). And again: "If a regiment arm itself against me, I will hope in Him" (Psalms 26:3). Likewise, concerning fear: "For if I should go in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me" (Psalms 22:4). And concerning despondency: "If the spirit of the powerful one should come upon thee, do not leave thy place" (Ecclesiastes 10:4).

Do you not wish to be skilled? But a man who is not tested by temptations is not skilled. It is battles that make a man skilled. The work of a monk consists of enduring battles and opposing them with manfulness of heart. But since you do not know the cunning traps of the enemy, he brings thoughts of fear and weakens your heart. You must know that God will not allow against you battles and temptations above your strength; the Apostle also teaches this, saying: "Faithful is the Lord, Who will not leave you to be tempted more than you can bear" (I Corinthians 10:13).

Brother! I also in my youth was many times and powerfully tempted by the demon of sexual sin, and I labored against such thoughts, contradicting them and not agreeing with them, but presenting before my own eyes eternal tortures. For five years I acted thus every day, and God relieved me of these thoughts. This warfare is abolished by unceasing prayer with weeping.

And the fact that the demons are pressing you proceeds from their envy; if they could, they would chase you out of your cell also; but God does not allow them to take possession of you, for they do not have authority for this. God could swiftly relive you, but then you would not begin to oppose another passion (when it comes). May the demons not weaken you so as to turn your attention to a brother (to whom you are attracted), or to converse with him; but If you should happen unexpectedly to come together with him, against your desire, restrain your glance with fear and decency and do not listen attentively to his voice. And if this brother, out of ignorance, should himself begin to speak with you or sit next to you, then skillfully avoid him, but not suddenly, rather with decorum. Say to your thought: "Remember the terrible Judgment of God and the shame which will then overtake those who are attracted by these shameful passions." Compel your thought, and you will receive help, by the prayers of the Saints, and God will have mercy on you. Do not be a child in mind, "but a child in malice" (I Corinthians 14:20); in mind, O brother, be perfect. Pay heed to yourself, as to how you will meet God. Amen. "Saints Barsanuphius and John: Guidance Toward Spiritual Life," trans. by Fr. Seraphim Rose, (Platina, California: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1990)



The fact that repentance furnishes hope should not be taken by us as a means to rob oursleves of the feeling of fear, so that one might more freely and fearlessly commit sin. For behold how God in every wise preached fear in all the Scriptures and showed Himself to be a hater of sin. The Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian.

The first good which actively affects us, namely fear, is reckoned by Scripture as the most remote from God, for it is called 'the beginning of wisdom' (Ps. 111:10, Prov. 1:7; 9:10). Setting out from this towards our ultimate goal, wisdom, we come to understanding, and this enables us to draw close to God Himself, for we have only wisdom lying between us and our union with Him. Yet it is impossible for a man to attain wisdom unless first, through fear and through the remaining intermediary gifts, he frees himself completely from the mist of ignorance and the dust of sin. That is why, in the order established by Scripture, wisdom is placed close to God and fear close to us. In this way we can learn the rule and law of good order. St. Maximos the Confessor(Third Century of Various Texts no. 41)

The origin and consummation of every man's salvation is wisdom, which initially produces fear but when perfected gives rise to loving desire. Or, rather, initially and providentially wisdom manifests itself for our sakes as fear, so as to make us who aspire to wisdom desist from evil; but ultimately it exists in its natural state for its own sake as loving desire, so as to fill with spiritual mirth those who have abandoned all existing things in order to dwell with it. St. Maximos the Confessor(Third Century of Various Texts no. 60)

The soul that is given over to the will of God fears nothing: neither thunder nor thieves nor any such thing. Whatever may come, 'Such is God's pleasure,' she says. If she falls sick she thinks, 'This means that I need sickness, or God would not have sent it.' Wisdom from Mount Athos, The writings of Staretz Silouan 1866-1938, by Archimandrite Sophrony

Those who mourn and those who are insensitive are not subject to fear, but the cowardly often have become deranged. And this is natural. For the Lord rightly forsakes the proud that the rest of us may learn not to be puffed up. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 21: On Unmanly and Puerile Cowardice

To those who do not long for it, wisdom is fear, because of the loss which they suffer through their flight from it; but in those who cleave to it, wisdom is loving desire, promoting an inner state of joyous activity. For wisdom creates fear, delivering a person from the passions by making him apprehensive of punishment; and it also produces loving desire, accustoming the intellect through the acquisition of the virtues to behold the blessings held in store for us. St. Maximos the Confessor(Third Century of Various Texts no. 61)





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