Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers


14 Entries

...if a man does not first sin in his mind, he will never sin in action. St. Maximos the Confessor (Second Century on Love no. 78) is not authority that is bad, but the love of authority; not glory, but the love of glory and - what is worse - vainglory; not the acquisition of virtue, but to suppose that one has acquired it; not spiritual knowledge, but to think that one is wise and - worse than this - to be ignorant of one's own ignorance; not true knowledge but what is falsely called knowledge (cf. I Tim. 6:20); not the world, but the passions; not nature, but what is contrary to nature; not agreement, but agreement to do what is evil and does not contribute to the soul's salvation; not the body's members, but their misuse. St. Peter of Damaskos (Book 1:A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pgs. 156-157)

...let us not lay the blame for the sins we have committed either on our birth or on anyone else, but only on ourselves. St. Antony the Great(170 Texts on Saintly Life no. 28)

...true contemplation begins the moment we become aware of sin in us...To apprehend sin in oneself is a spiritual act, impossible without grace, without the drawing near to us of Divine Light. The initial effect of the approach of this mysterious Light is that we see where we stand 'spiritually' at the particular moment. The first manifestations of this Uncreated Light do not allow us to experience it as light. It shines in a secret way, illuminating the black darkness of our inner world to disclose a spectacle that is far from joyous for us in our normal state of fallen being...This is the beginning of real contemplation - which has nothing in common with intellectual or philosophical contemplation. We become acutely conscious of sin as a sundering from the ontological source of our being...we see ourselves as prisoners of death. With death waiting at the end, another thousand years of life would seem but a deceptive flash. Archimandrite Sophrony (His Life is Mine, Chapter 5; SVS Press pg.41)

Do not be surprised that you fall every day, do not give up, but stand your ground courageously. And assuredly, the angel who guards you will honor your patience. While a wound is still fresh and warm, it is easy to heal; but old, neglected and festering ones are hard to cure, and require for their care much treatment, cutting, plastering and cauterization. Many from long neglect become incurable, but with God all things are possible. St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent

First the memory brings some passion-free thought into the intellect. By its lingering there, passion is aroused. When the passion is not eradicated, it persuades the intellect to assent to it. Once the assent is given, the actual sin is then committed. St. Maximos the Confessor (First Century on Love no. 84)

For sin is what is not swiftly washed away by penitence, or sin is the cause of sin, or sin is also the punishment for sin, or sin is at once both the cause and the punishment of sin. For every act which is committed is first sin. But if it is not cleansed swiftly by penitence Almighty God by righteous judgement allows the guilty mind of the sinner to fall to further guilt, so that the mind which was unwilling to cleanse what it had done by weeping and correction begins to add sin to sin. Therefore the sin which is not washed away by the lament of penitence is at the same time the cause of sin, because from it arises whence the spirit of the sinner plunges deeper into guilt. Truly sin which follows from sin is at the same time a sin and the penalty for sin, because with increasing blindness it is generated from the retribution of prior guilt so that certain punishments are, as it were, the very increase of vices in the sinner. St. Gregory the Great, Homilies on the Book of Ezekiel

Never confuse the person, formed in the image of God, with the evil that is in him, because evil is but a chance misfortune, illness, a devilish reverie. But the very essence of the person is the image of God, and this remains in him despite every disfigurement. St. John of Kronstadt

Sin. The Prophet does not speak here about sin proper, but about how a sinner frees himself from its bondage, and what means he uses to stay on the right path. The sinner is taken at that very moment when awakening from sin he resolves to stop sinning. Before him are the world with its delights and the Lord with His commandments. Having considered the one and the other, he chooses the law. However, old habits are not easily overcome, and he asks help from God. Having received God's forgiveness, he considers a new life, yet this decision does not make him a different person on the spot; he has to withstand and overcome sin, and drop his former sinful friendships. The Prophet offers powerful means to achieve this: nightly prayer, contact with God-fearing people, and the handing over of one's fate to the mercy of God. St. Hilary of Poitiers, Commentary on Psalm 118, in The Lament of Eve

The problem of our life is union with God, and sin completely prevents this; therefore flee from sin as from a terrible enemy, as from the destroyer of the soul, because to be without God is death and not life. Let us therefore understand our destination; let us always remember that our common Master calls us to union with Himself. St. John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ, Part 1; Holy Trinity Monastery pg. 20)

The self-controlled refrain from gluttony; those who have renounced possessions, from greed; the tranquil, from loquacity; the pure, from self-indulgence; the modest, from unchastity; the self-dependent, from avarice; the gentle, from agitation; the humble, from self-esteem; the obedient, from quarrelling; the self-critical, from hypocrisy. Similarly, those who pray are protected from despair; the poor, from having many possessions; confessors of the faith, from its denial; martyrs, from idolatry. Do you see how every virtue that is performed even to the point of death is nothing other than refraining from sin? Now to refrain from sin is a work within our own natural powers, but not something that buys us the kingdom. St. Mark the Ascetic, The Philokalia, Vol. 1

The soul may quite sensibly be compared to the finest down and the lightest feather which, if spared the onset and penetration of dampness from without, have a nature so mobile that at the slightest breeze they rise up of themselves to the highest points of the sky. But if they are weighed down by any splash, any dampening of moisture, not only will there be no natural impulse to fly up into the air but the pressure of the absorbed liquid will drag them downward to earth. So too with our soul. If sin and worldly preoccupation have not weighed it down, if dangerous passion has not sullied it, the, lifted up by the natural goodness of its purity, it will rise to the heights on the lightest breath of meditation and, leaving the lowly things, the things of earth, it will travel upward to the heavenly and the invisible. St. John Cassian, The Conferences

To uproot sin and the evil that is so imbedded in our sinning can be done only by divine power, for it is impossible and outside man's competence to uproot sin. To struggle, yes, to continue to fight, to inflict blows, and to receive setbacks is in your power. To uproot, however, belongs to God alone. If you could have done it on your own, what would have been the need for the coming of the Lord? For just as an eye cannot see without light, nor can one speak without a tongue, nor hear without ears, nor walk without feet, nor carry on works without hands, so you cannot be saved without Jesus nor enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. St. Macarius, Homily 3.4

To yield and give way to our passions is the lowest slavery, even as to rule over them is the only liberty. The greatest of all good is to be free from sin, the next is to be justified; but he must be reckoned the most unfortunate of men, who, while living unrighteously, remains for a long time unpunished. The end contemplated by a philosopher is likeness to God, so far as that is possible. Fragments from the writings of St. Justin Martyr

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