Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers

struggle

82 Entries

If you do not feel like praying, you have to force yourself. The Holy Fathers say that prayer with force is higher than prayer unforced. You do not want to, but force yourself. The Kingdom of Heaven is taken by force (Matt. 11:12). REF:St. Ambrose of Optina (+1891)



…My last counsel is: be careful sisters! Don’t neglect to strive for your immortal soul. Work unmurmuringly, to hand over your soul unpolluted into God’s hands. Do not cease working the virtues. REF:St. Anthimos of Chios +1960

I pray to the merciful God that He will show you the path of salvation and guide you as a hart to the springs of the living water of refreshment. Man is full of passions, shortcomings, etc., and in order to be freed of them, he must engage in a bloody battle. Once he wins, with God's help, he will receive here in this life the promise of the future marriage with the Lamb, Who was ruthlessly slaughtered by cruel hands accursed by God. Selected from Counsels from the Holy Mountain From the Letters and Homilies of Elder Ephraim

It is not the time for distraction, but the season for spiritual gains. Who will guarantee us that, sleeping, we will wake up? For this reason let us compel ourselves. REF:Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

11. Struggle, my child, as much as you are able in the matter of forcefulness. Forcefulness in everything, especially in silence and mournful tears. When silence which is in knowledge is kept with tears, the monastic foundation stone is created, out of which is formed the secure future house where the soul will find spiritual coziness. REF:Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

For this reason, my child, compel yourself in everything; for the good beginning is praised but the negligent beginning is censured -- for the end of this is most lamentable. REF:Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

...know that nothing is easier for God than to give you victory over your enemies, whether they be few or many, whether they be old and strong or new and weak. Yet He has His own time and order for everything. Therefore if a soul be overburdened with sins, if it be guilty of all the crimes in the world, if it be defiled beyond imagination; - if, at the same time, to the extent of its desire and strength, it uses every means and endeavor to become free of sin and turn to the path of good, but cannot get stable in anything right, however small, and, on the contrary, sinks ever deeper and deeper into evil; even if it is all that, it must not weaken in its trust of God or fall away from Him. It must not abandon its spiritual weapons and strivings but must fight and fight, struggling with itself and with its enemies with all its courage and untiring efforts. For know and understand, that in this unseen war all are losers except a man who never ceases to struggle and keep his trust in God; for God never abandons those who fight in His armies, although at times He lets them suffer wounds. So fight, everyone, and do not give ground; for the whole thing is in this unceasing struggle. Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 6)

...though remission of sins is given equally to all, the communion of the Holy Spirit is bestowed in proportion to each man's faith. If you have labored little, you receive little; but if you have wrought much, the reward is great. You are running for yourself, see to your own interest. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures: Lecture 1)

13. Moreover, when thou hast been deemed worthy of the grace, He then giveth thee strength to wrestle against the adverse powers. For as after His Baptism He was tempted forty days (not that He was unable to gain the victory before, but because He wished to do all things in due order and succession), so thou likewise, though not daring before thy baptism to wrestle with the adversaries, yet after thou hast received the grace and art henceforth confident in the armor of righteousness[4], must then do battle, and preach the Gospel, if thou wilt.*** Catechetical Lectures Of Our Holy Father, Cyril, Archbishop Of Jerusalem - Lecture 3. On Baptism

A brother asked an old man, "What shall I do, father, for I am not acting at all like a monk, but I eat, drink, and sleep carelessly, and I have evil thoughts and I am in great trouble, passing from one work to another and from one thought to another?" The old man said, "Sit in your cell and do the little you can untroubled. For I think the little you can do now is of equal value to the great deeds which Abba Antony accomplished on the mountain, and I believe that by remaining sitting in your cell for the name of God, and guarding your conscience, you also will find the place where Abba Antony is." The Desert Fathers

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 small but persistent discipline is a great force; for a soft drop tailing persistently, hollows out hard rock. St. Isaac of Syria

A worker takes the trouble to get hold of the instruments that he requires. He does so not simply to have them and not use them. Nor is there any profit for him in merely possessing the instruments. What he wants is, with their help, to produce the crafted objective for which these are the efficient means.

In the same way, fasting, vigils, scriptural meditation, nakedness and total deprivation do not constitute perfection but are the means to perfection. They are not in themselves the end point of a discipline, but an end is attained to through them. St. John Cassian, Conference One



Abba Ammonas was asked, "What is the narrow and hard way?" (Matt. 7:14). He replied, "The narrow and hard way is this, to control your thoughts, and to strip yourself of your own will, for the sake of God. This is also the meaning of the sentence, "Lo, we have left everything and followed you.’" (Matt. 19:27) The Desert Fathers

Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, "Can a man lay a new foundation every day?" The old man said, "If he works hard, he can lay a new foundation at every moment. The Desert Fathers

Abba Poemen said concerning Abba Pior that every day he made a new beginning. The Desert Fathers

Abba Poemen said of Abba John the Dwarf that he had prayed God to take his passions away from him so that he might become free from care. He went and told an old man this: "I find myself in peace, without an enemy," he said. The old man said to him, "Go, beseech God to stir up warfare so that you may regain the affliction and humility that you used to have, for it is by warfare that the soul makes progress." So he besought God and when warfare came, he no longer prayed that it might be taken away, but said, "Lord, give me strength for the fight." Sr. Benedicta Ward, "The Sayings of the Desert Fathers," (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1975), pp. 85-89

Abba Poemon said, "As long as the food which is being boiled is on the fire the flies will not approach it, but as soon as it is taken off they cluster round it." The meaning of this is that as long as our hearts are fervent in the spirit, impure thoughts will not approach us, but that if we are negligent and make ourselves to be remote from the occupation of the spirit, they will then gain dominion over us. The Sayings of the Holy Fathers. Vol. II of The Paradise of the Fathers,translated by E. A. Wallis-Budge

Amma Theodora said, "Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate. Just as the trees, if they have not stood before the winter's storms cannot bear fruit, so it is with us, this present age is a storm and it is only through many trials and temptations that we can obtain an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven." Sr. Benedicta Ward, "The Desert Christian," (New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1975), pp. 83-84

An old man was asked, "How can a fervent brother not be shocked when he sees others returning to the world?" And he said, "Watch the dogs who chase hares. When one of them has seen a hare, he pursues it until he catches it, without being concerned with anything else. The others, seeing the dog launched in pursuit, run with it for a short time and soon come back. Only the one who has seen the hare follows it till he catches it, not letting himself be turned from his course by those who go back, and not caring about the ravines, rocks, and undergrowth. So it is with him who seeks Christ as Master; ever mindful of the Cross, he cares nothing about any of the scandals that occur, till he reaches the Crucified One." The Desert Fathers

Away with arguments, where faith is reequired; now let dialectic hold her peace, even in the midst of her schools. I ask not what it is that philosophers say, but I would know what they do. They sit desolate in their schools. See the victory of faith over argument. They who dispute subtly are forsaken daily by their fellows; they who with simplicity believe are daily increased. Not philosophers but fishermen, not masters of dialectic but tax gatherers, now find credence. The one sort, through pleasures and luxuries, have bound the worlds burden upon themselves; the other, by fasting and mortification, have cast it off, and so doth sorrow now begin to win over more followers than pleasure. St Ambrose of Milan

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. St. Philo of Alexandria

Brothers, as long as you have breath in your bodies, strive for your salvation. Before the hour comes in which we shall weep for ourselves, let us practice virtue eagerly. For I tell you that if you knew what good things are in heaven, what promise is laid up for the saints and how those who have fallen away from God are punished and also what torments are laid up for those who have been negligent – especially those who have known the truth and have not led a way of life worthy of it so as to inherit that blessedness which is reserved for the saints and to flee the punishments of these torments – then you would endure every pain in order to be made perfect in the virtue which is according to Christ. St Pachomius, Armand Veilleux, trans., "Pachomian Koinonia -- Volume II," (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1981), pp. 41 - 44

Come to love work, and soon God will send you peace. Glinsk elder Schema-hieromonk Andronicus Lukasha (1889-1974) (From the book Glinsk Mosaic: Pilgrims’ Recollections of the Glinsk Hermitage, 1942-1961, Pilgrim Publishers, Moscow, 1997.)

Disciplined piety feeds the soul on holy thoughts. What can be more blessed than to imitate on earth the chorus of the angels; to begin the opening day with prayer, honoring the Creator with hymns and songs; and when the sun is up to turn to work, always accompanied by prayer, and to season one's labors with singing? Cheerfulness and freedom from sorrow are the gifts which the soul received from the singing of hymns. St. Basil the Great: Letters

Do all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should not fall. But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest. Even if you fall a thousand times because of the withdrawal of God's grace, rise up again each time, and keep on doing this until the day of your death. For it is written, 'If a righteous man falls down seven times' - that is, repeatedly throughout his life - 'seven times shall he rise again' [Prov. 24:16]. John of Karpathos quoted in Repentance and Confession in the OrthodoxChurch by Fr. John Chryssavgis

Do all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should not fall. But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest. Even if you fall a thousand times because of the withdrawal of God's grace, rise up again each time, and keep on doing this until the day of your death. For it is written, 'If a righteous man falls down seven times' - that is, repeatedly throughout his life - 'seven times shall he rise again' [Prov. 24:16]. St. Ephrem

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 be surprised if you fall every day and do not surrender. Stand your ground bravely. And you may be sure that your guardian angel will respect your endurance. A fresh, warm wound is easier to heal than those that are old, neglected, and festering, and that need extensive treatment, surgery, bandaging, and cauterization. Long neglect can render many of the incurable. However, all things are possible with God. St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 5

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

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. St. Mark the Ascetic

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

Fasts and vigils, the study of Scripture, renouncing possessions and everything worldly are not in themselves perfection, as we have said; they are its tools. For perfection is not to be found in them; it is acquired through them. It is useless, therefore, to boast of our fasting, vigils, poverty, and reading of Scripture when we have not achieved the love of God and our fellow men. Whoever has achieved love has God within himself and his intellect is always with God. St John Cassian

For no virtue is perfected without effort, not is it possible for anyone to mount to the stability of mind that he desires without great contrition of heart. For man is born in trouble .In order that 'he might attain to the perfect man, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:190, he must always be watchful with still greater attentiveness and labor with constant care. St. John Cassian, The Institutes

For now is the time to labor for the Lord, for salvation is found in the day of affliction: for it is written: 'In your patience gain ye your souls' (Luke 21:19) Elder Ieronymos of Aegina

He who chooses to live well for eternity, will live in discomfort for the present. He will be subjected to all types of troubles and burdens as long as he is on earth, so that in the end he will have divine and heavenly consolation. On the other hand, he who chooses to live well for the present will fare badly in eternity. Lactantius (260-330 AD) Institutes bk. 7, chap. 5)

He who endures distress, will be granted joys; and he who bears with unpleasant things, will not be deprived of the pleasant. "153 Texts on Prayer", St Nilus of Mt Sinai, "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. 127 - 135.

Human effort is profitless...without help from above, but no one receives such help unless he himself chooses to make an effort. We need always both things, we need the human and the divine, ascetic practice and spiritual knowledge, fear and hope, inward grief and solace, fearfulness and humility, discrimination and love." St. Peter of Damascus (Book 1: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pgs. 167-168)

In the beginning there are a great many battles and a good deal of suffering for those who are advancing towards God and afterwards, ineffable joy. It is like those who wish to light a fire; at first they are choked by the smoke and cry, and by this means obtain what they seek -- as it is said, 'Our God is a consuming fire' -- so we also must kindle the divine fire in ourselves through tears and hard work. Amma Syncletica

It is by warfare that the soul makes progress. St. Tikhon of Voronezh

It is impossible to become good and wise suddenly; but it is achieved by careful deliberation, training, practice, long work and (above all) a strong desire of good. St. Antony the Great(170 Texts on Saintly Life no. 40)

It is, indeed, impossible for the mind not to be troubled by thoughts, but accepting them or rejecting them is possible for everyone who makes an effort...therefore we practice the frequent reading of Scripture, so that we may be open to a spiritual point of view. For this reason we frequently chant the psalms, so that we may continually grow in compunction. For this reason we are diligent in vigils, fasting, and praying, so that the mind which has been stretched to its limits may not taste earthly things but contemplate heavenly ones. When these things cease because negligence has crept in again, then, it is inevitable that the mind, by the accumulated filth of the vices, will soon turn in a carnal direction and fall... St. John Cassian

It was said of Abba Arsenius that once when he was ill at Scetis, the priest came to take him to church and put him on a bed with a small pillow under his head. Now behold, and old man who was coming to see him, saw him lying on a bed with a little pillow under his head and he was shocked and said, "Is this really Abba Arsenius, this man lying down like this?"

The the priest took him aside and said to him, "In the village where you lived, what was your trade?" "I was a shepherd," he replied. "And how did you live?" "I had a very hard life." Then the priest said to him, "And how do you live in your cell now?" The other replied, "I am more comfortable." Then the priest said to him, "Do you see this Abba Arsenius? When he was in the world he was the guardian of the emperor, surrounded by thousands of slaves with golden girdles, all wearing collars of gold and garments of silk. Beneath him were spread rich coverings. While you were in the world as a shepherd you did not enjoy even the comforts you now have, but he no longer enjoys the delicate life he led in the world. So you are comforted while he is afflicted."

At these words, the old man was filled with compunction and prostrated himself saying, "Father, forgive me, for I have sinned. Truly the way this man follows is the way of truth, for it leads to humility, while mine leads to comfort." So the old man withdrew, edified. The Desert Fathers



Let all of us who wish to fear the Lord struggle with our whole might, so that in the school of virtue we do not acquire for ourselves malice and vice, cunning and craftiness, curiosity and anger. For it does happen, and no wonder! As long as a man is a private individual, or a seaman, or a tiller of the soil, the King's enemies do not war so much against him. But when they see him taking the King's colors, and the shield, and the dagger, and the sword, and the bow, and clad in soldier's garb, then they gnash at him with their teeth, and do all in their power to destroy him. And so let us not slumber. St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent

Let us charge into the good fight with joy and love without being afraid of our enemies. Though unseen themselves, they can look at the face of our soul, and if they see it altered by fear, they take up arms against us all the more fiercely. For the cunning creatures have observed that we are scared. So let us take up arms against them courageously. No one will fight with a resolute fighter. St. John Climacus

Let us charge into the good fight with joy and love without being afraid of our enemies. Though unseen themselves, they can look at the face of our soul, and if they see it altered by fear, they take up arms against us all the more fiercely. For the cunning creatures have observed that we are scared. So let us take up arms against them courageously. No one will fight with a resolute fighter. St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 1

Let us eagerly run our course as men called by our God and King, lest, since our time is short, we be found in the day of our death without fruit and perish of hunger. Let us please the Lord as soldiers please their king; because we are required to give an exact account of our service after the campaign. St. John of the Ladder

Let us eagerly run our course as men called by our God and King, lest, since our time is short, we be found in the day of our death without fruit and perish of hunger. Let us please the Lord as soldiers please their king; because we are required to give an exact account of our service after the campaign. Let us fear the Lord not less than we fear beasts. For I have seen men who were going to steal and were not afraid of God, but, hearing the barking of dogs, they at one turned back, and what the fear of God could not achieve was done by the fear of animals. Let us love God at least as much as we respect our friends. For I have often seen people who have offended God and were not in the least perturbed about it. And I have seen how those same people provoked their friends in some trifling g matter, and then employed every artifice, every device, every sacrifice, every apology, both personally and through friends and relatives, not sparing gifts, in order to regain their former love. St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent

Let us toil, carrying each other's burden, as Christ carried our diseases in His body without flinching. If Christ is our master, then let us imitate Him and bear His injuries, lest in the age to come we be separated from our brothers who suffered afflictions. Such was also the fate of others because they wanted to give themselves not to virtues but rather to vices. The Letters of St. Pachomios, Pachomian Koinonia, Vol. 3

Of course, it would be easier to get to paradise with a full stomach, all snuggled up in a soft feather-bed, but what is required is to carry one's cross along the way, for the kingdom of God is not attained by enduring one or two troubles, but many! Elder Anthony of Optina

One must condescend to the soul in its infirmities and imperfections, and bear its defects as we bear those of others; one must not, however, become lazy, but should spur oneself to do better. Perhaps one has eaten too much, or done something similar to this which is natural to human weakness - do not be disturbed at this, and do not add injury to injury; but bestir yourself to correction and at the same time strive to preserve peace of soul, according to the word of the Apostle: 'Blessed is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth' (Rom. 14:22). St. Seraphim of Sarov, Little Russian Philokalia, Vol. 1

People who have no natural inclination to good must not be discouraged and give way to despair. They must not cease striving after a virtuous life pleasing to God, however inaccessible and unattainable it is to them. They too must take thought and have a care for themselves as best they can. For, although they may not reach the summit of virtue and perfection, by taking thought and caring for themselves in every possible way they will either become better or, at least, not worse - and this is no small profit to the soul. St. Antony the Great(170 Texts on Saintly Life no. 41)

Q: Having many sins, I wish to repent, but because of bodily infirmity I cannot labor like the Fathers: I beg you, tell me: how can I make a beginning?

A: Brother! They are poor whom the Lord glorifies because they have renounced all their possessions, that is, all their passions, and have become stripped of them for the sake of His Name, such ones are poor in truth, and to them belongs blessedness. And there are other poor who have acquired nothing good, whom the Lord threatens, saying: “Depart from Me, ye cursed” (Matthew 25:41).

He who has such possessions and is burdened by them, let him renounce them, so that he may remain without care. And so, if you desire to make a beginning of repentance, look at what the harlot did: with her tears she washed the feet of the Master (Luke 7:38). Lamentation will wash anyone of sins; but a man attains lamentation with difficulty, by means of much instruction in the Scriptures, of patience, of reflection on the terrible Judgment and eternal shame, and through self-renunciation, as the Lord has said: “He who would come after Me, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow after Me” (Matthew 16:24). And to renounce oneself and take up one’s cross means: to cut off one’s own will in everything and consider oneself to be nothing. Since you have said that you are infirm in body and can do nothing – therefore, do according to your strength, taking bread and drink a little less than ordinarily, for God accepted the two mites of the widow and rejoiced over them more than over all the rest. Instruct yourself not to be free in your relations with others, and you will be saved. “Saints Barsanuphius and John: Guidance Toward Spiritual Life,” trans. by Fr. Seraphim Rose, (Platina, California: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1990)



Q: The same brother, being attacked by the same sexual passion, asked the same Great Elder to pray for him and to tell him how to distinguish whether a man is being tempted by his own lusts or by the enemy.

A: Brother! Without labor and contrition of heart no one can be delivered from passions and please God. When a man is tempted by his own lust, this may be known from the fact that he is careless about himself and allows his heart to reflect about what he has done before; and then a man himself draws passion unto himself through his own lust. His mind, being little by little blinded by passion, begins, unnoticeably for himself, to pay attention to someone for whom he feels attraction, or to speak with him, and he finds occasions on which to converse with him or to sit with him, and by all means he strives to fulfill his desire. If one allows thoughts to pay heed in this, warfare will increase until a fall, albeit not in body but in spirit, in agreement with thoughts; and it turns that such a man lights the fire himself in his own substance.

But a sober and prudent man who desires to be saved, when he sees from what it is that he suffers harm, carefully preserves himself from evil remembrances, is not drawn into passionate thoughts, avoids meetings and conversations with those for whom he feels attraction and avoids every occasion for sin, fearing lest he himself ignite a fire within himself. This is the warfare which proceeds from one’s own lust, which a man brings on himself . . . "Saints Barsanuphius and John: Guidance Toward Spiritual Life," trans. by Fr. Seraphim Rose, (Platina, California: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1990)



Remember that each of us has his own cross. . . The Golgotha of this cross is our heart: it is being lifted or implanted through a zealous determination to live according to the Spirit of God. . . Just as salvation of the world is by the Cross of God, so our salvation is by our crucifixion on our own cross. Bishop Theophan the Recluse

The Kingdom of Heaven is the very highest beatitude, and the greatest glory and honor, and the most inexhaustible riches; and therefore if great cares and labors are necessary in order to obtain a trifling quantity of earthly wealth, how can such an unspeakable treasure be obtained without labors? St. Innocent, Bishop of Kamchatka, Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven

The Lord has ordained that for a little labor, which we temporarily endure in this life, we shall be vouchsafed the Kingdom of the heavens, life everlasting, ineffable delights, and endless rest. As fitting, we believe these promises of the Lord. Therefore, let us leave all the sweet pleasures of the world, as false and short-lived, that we may inherit what is true and ageless. St. Irene Chrysovalandou of Cappadocia, "The Lives of the Spiritual Mothers: An Orthodox Materikon of Women Monastics and Ascetics," (Buena Vista, Colorado: Holy Apostles Convent, 1991), p. 597

The evil one cannot comprehend the joy we receive from the spiritual life; for this reason he is jealous of us, he envies us and sets traps for us, and we become grieved and fall. We must struggle, because without struggles we do not obtain virtues. Abba Isaiah the Solitary

The evil one cannot comprehend the joy we receive from the spiritual life; for this reason he is jealous of us, he envies us and sets traps for us, and we become grieved and fall. We must struggle, because without struggles we do not obtain virtues. Archimandrite Sophrony

The more the victor has to struggle, the more he is honored, and from this he derives great joy. When such a person hears the sound of the trumpet, he does not feel fear because it summons him to face death, but rather he rejoices because it foretells the glory that awaits him. For there is nothing that so readily prepares one for victory as bravery combined with a firm faith; and nothing so readily prepares one for defeat as self-centredness and the cowardice that comes from lack of faith. St. Peter of Damaskos (Book 1: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg.179)

The one who has come to understand the weakness of human nature has had experience of the divine power, and such a person who because of it has succeeded in some things and is eager to succeed in others never looks down on anyone. For he knows that in the same way that God has helped him and freed him from many passions and hardships, so can He help everyone when He wishes, especially those who are striving for His sake. Although for His own reasons He does not deliver all from their passions right away, still as a good and loving physician He heals in His own good time each one of those who are striving. St. Maximus the Confessor, Four Centuries on Love

The path of Christ is somewhat difficult, but with patience, will, and humility one makes progress... It involves tribulation and suffering, without which it is not possible for one to find the path open for the benefit of his soul. Modern Orthodox Saints Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene of Lesvos., by Constantine Cavarnos., INSTITUTE FOR BYZANTINE AND MODERN STUDIES., Belmont, Massachusetts., 1990., pp. 145-155

The priest of Nitria asked him how the brethren ought to live. He replied, “With much labor, guarding their consciences towards their neighbor.” Abba Pambo, from Sr. Benedicta Ward, “The Desert Christian,” (New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), pp. 195 - 198

The strength of those who wish to acquire the virtues is as follows: if they fall, let them not lose their courage, but let them be sure to make a new beginning at their endeavor. Insofar, then, as we put all our energy into practicing the virtues, let us await the Lord, showing Him a generous resolve and calling on His aid, and without fail He will strengthen us with His mercy and bestow His Grace on us in abundance, in which case we will accomplish every good easily and without exertion. Abba Moses in The Evergetinos, Book I, Vol. III/

The weather shifts from cloudy to clear and then back to rain; thus it is with human nature. One must always expect clouds to hide the sun sometimes. Even the saints have had their dark hours, days and weeks. They say then that "God has left them" in order that they may know truly how utterly wretched they are of themselves, without His support. These times of darkness, when all seems meaningless, ridiculous and vain, when one is beset by doubt and temptations, are inevitable. But even these times can be harvested for good.

The dark days can best be conquered by following the example of St. Mary of Egypt. For forty-eight years she dwelt in the desert beyond Jordan, and when temptations befell her and memories of her former sinful life in Alexandria beckoned her to leave her voluntary sojourn in the desert, she lay on the ground, cried to God for help and did not get up until her heart was humbled. The first years were hard; she sometimes had to lie this way for many days; but after seventeen years came the time of rest.

On such days stay quiet. Do not be persuaded to go out into social life or entertainment. Do not pity yourself, seek comfort in nothing but your cry to the Lord: "Haste thee, O God, to deliver me! Makes haste to help me, O Lord (Psalm 70:1)! I am so fast in prison that I cannot get forth (Psalm 88:8)," and other such appeals. You cannot expect real help from any other source. For the sake of chance relief do not throw away all your winnings. Pull the covers over your head; now your patience and steadfastness are being tried. If you endure the trial, thank God who gave you the strength. If you do not, rise up promptly, pray for mercy and think: I got what I deserved! For the fall itself was your punishment. You had relied too much on yourself, and now you see what it led to. You have had an experience; do not forget to give thanks. "Way of the Ascetics," by Tito Colliander, San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1982, pp. 84-85



Till we die, we will have a struggle because the passions are kneaded with our blood... Without toils, no one is saved; the more one toils, the more grace he gets. God pays everything, nothing gets lost. Gerondisa Makrina (+1995)

To the Monk Andrew, when he became faint from the temptations that had come upon him:

Andrew! My brother one in soul (with me), do not grow faint. God has not abandoned you and will not abandon you. But know that the sentence pronounced by the Master to our common father Adam: "In the sweat of your brow you shall earn your bread" (Genesis 3:19) is immutable. And just as this commandment is given to the outward man, so to the inward man it is commanded to aid the prayers of the Saints by means of one’s own ascetic labors; and these prayers greatly help a man so that he will not remain fruitless. For just as gold which is heated in a furnace, held with pincers and beaten with a hammer, becomes pure and fit for a royal crown, so also a man being supported by the mighty and much-performing prayer of the Saints is heated by sorrows, receives the blows of temptations and, if he endures everything with gratitude, becomes a son of the Kingdom.

And therefore, everything that might happen to you occurs for your benefit, so that you also might receive boldness before God, both through the intercession of the Saints and through your own labors. And do not be ashamed to offer now to God the beginning of these labors, lest in place of spiritual joy, sorrow should overtake you; and believe that He who has given the promises will fulfill them (Hebrews 10:23). Prosper in the Lord, my beloved. "Saints Barsanuphius and John: Guidance Toward Spiritual Life," trans. by Fr. Seraphim Rose, (Platina, California: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1990)



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

True prayer is a gift of God, which is granted to him that prayeth, that is, to those who labor in it unremittingly, continually, without sloth, according to what is written: He granteth his prayer to him that prayeth. If with every virtue habit is not acquired at once, but according to the measure of one's practice in it, then even more the habit of prayer requires long-continued labor and unremitting forcing of oneself. Abbess Thaisia, Letters to a Beginner

We ought to do everything we can for the acquisition of virtue and moral wisdom (phronesis), for the prize is beautiful and the hope great.

The path of virtue is a path of effort and toil: "Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it;" whereas the gate of vice is wide and the way spacious, but lead to perdition. "Modern Orthodox Saints, St. Nectarios of Aegina", Dr. Constantine Cavarnos, Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Belmont, Massachusetts., 1981., pp. 154-187



We...ought to be subject to a rule of life, so that we are under an obligation to do what is good, even against our will. For we still pander to our passions and our pleasures, to the comfort of our bodies and to our own desires; and so the enemy leads our intellect where he wills. St. Peter of Damaskos (Book 1: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 180)

What toil we must endure, what fatigue, while we are attempting to climb hills and the summits of mountains! What, that we may ascend to heaven! If you consider the promised reward, what you endure is less. Immortality is given to the one who perseveres; everlasting life is offered; the Lord promises His Kingdom. St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Journey to Heaven

When people go to the Lord with a firm resolve, He never allows them to fall back completely. He sees their weakness and works with them to help. He stretches out His hand of power from on high and draws them to Himself. His assistance is at the same time open, yet secret, conscious, yet unconscious, until such time as we have climbed right up the ladder and drawn close to Him. Then we will be made one in the All and forget all the things of earth, and be with God, whether in body our out of it I do not know. There we shall be fellow citizens, enjoying the good things that cannot be described. St. Symeon the New Theologian, The Practical and Theological Chapters

When tested by some trial you should try to find out not why or through whom it came, but only how to endure it gratefully, without distress or rancor." St. Mark the Ascetic

With pain and tears you will receive grace, and again with tears and joy and thanksgiving, with fear of God you will keep it. With zeal it is drawn. With coldness and negligence it is lost. Elder Joseph the Hagiorite (+1959)

You seek to wage war, O fool, as if wars were at peace. From the first formed day in the end you fight.
Lust precipitates you, there is war; fight with it.
Luxury persuades, neglect it; You have overcome the war.
Be sparing of abundance of wine, lest by means of it you should go wrong.
Restrain your tongue from cursing, because with it you adore the Lord.
Repress rage.
Make yourself peaceable to all.
Beware of trampling on your inferiors when weighed down with miseries.
Lend yourself as a protector only, and do not hurt.
Lead yourselves in a righteous path, unstained by jealousy.
In your riches make yourself gentle to those that are of little account.
Give of your labor, clothe the naked. Thus shall you conquer.
Lay snares for no man, since you serve God.

Look to the beginning, whence the envious enemy has perished.

I am not a teacher, but the law itself teaches by its proclamation.
You wear such great words vainly, who in one moment seek without labor to raise a martyrdom to Christ.
Number 63 from The Instructions of Commodianus (A.D. 240)

If any person feels within himself a strong heart to wrestle with satan let him remain (for I do not despair of the Church's strength of nerve) and let him say ,,Who shall separate us from love of Christ?'' St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Nothing is so incongruous in a Christian, and foreign to his character, as to seek ease and rest St John Chrysostom, HOMILY XIII on PHILIPPIANS

Through the toil of prayer and the anguish of your heart commune with those who are grieved at heart, and the Source of mercy will be opened up to your petitions. St Isaac of Syria

No bodily or spiritual activity without pain or toil ever brings the fruit to him who practices it. St Gregory

Whoever runs late in spiritual struggles resembles those who walk slowly in the arena and lose the victory. REF:Saint Basil the Great

When effort on our part is absent, then God’s help also stops. REF:Saint John Chrysostom





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