Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers

virtue

21 Entries

...illumination by the Spirit is the endless end of every virtue..." St. Simeon the New Theologian (On Faith, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pg.148):



...the more a man is found worthy to receive God's gifts, the more he ought to consider himself a debtor to God, who has raised him from the earth and bestowed on dust the privilege of imitating to some degree its Creator and God. For to endure injustice with joy, patiently to do good to one's enemies, to lay down one's own life for one's neighbor, and so on, are gifts from God, bestowed on those who are resolved to receive them from Him through their solicitude in cultivating and protecting what has been entrusted to them, as Adam was commanded to do (cf. Gen. 2:15)." St. Peter of Damascus (Book 1: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 176)

...we ought to learn the virtues through practicing them, not merely through talking about them, so that by acquiring the habit of them we do not forget what is of benefit to us. 'The kingdom of God', St. Paul says, 'resides not in words but in power' (I Cor. 4:20). For he who tries to discover things through actual practice will come to understand what gain or loss lies in any activity that he pursues..." St. Peter of Damaskos (Book 1:A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 183)

A greedy appetite for food is terminated by satiety and the pleasure of drinking ends when our thirst is quenched. And so it is with the other things. But the possession of virtue, once it is solidly achieved, cannot be measured by time nor limited by satiety. Rather, to those who are its disciples it always appears as something ever new and fresh. St. Gregory of Nyssa.

Abba John (the Dwarf) said, "I think it best that a man should have a little bit of all the virtues. Therefore, get up early every day and acquire the beginning of every virtue and every commandment of God. Use great patience, with fear and long-suffering, in the love of God, with all the fervor of your soul and body. Exercise great humility, bear with interior distress; be vigilant and pray often with reverence and groaning, with purity of speech and control of your eyes. When you are despised do not get angry; be at peace, and do not render evil for evil. Do not pay attention to the faults of others, and do not try to compare yourself with others, knowing you are less than every created thing. Renounce everything material and that which is of the flesh. Live by the cross, in warfare, in poverty of spirit, in voluntary spiritual asceticism, in fasting, penitence and tears, in discernment, in purity of soul, taking hold of that which is good. Do your work in peace. Persevere in keeping vigil, in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, and in sufferings. Shut yourself in a tomb as though you were already dead, so that at all times you will think death is near." Sr. Benedicta Ward, "The Sayings of the Desert Fathers," (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1975), pp. 89-95

After our forefather's transgression in paradise through the tree, we suffered the death of our soul - which is the separation of the soul from God - prior to our bodily death; yet although we cast away our divine likeness, we did not lose our divine image. Thus when the soul renounces its attachment to inferior things and cleaves through love to God and submits itself to Him through acts and modes of virtue, it is illuminated and made beautiful by God and is raised to a higher level, obeying His counsels and exhortations; and by these means it regains the truly eternal life. Through this life it makes the body conjoined to it immortal, so that in due time the body attains the promised resurrection and participates in eternal glory. St. Gregory Palamas (Topics of Natural and Theological Science no. 39, The Philokalia Vol. 4 edited by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware; Faber and Faber pg. 363

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

Christ’s Resurrection became life and healing from passions for those who believe on Him, that they might live in God and bring forth the fruits of truth. Venerable Abba Isaiah

He who wants to do something and cannot is, in the eyes of God who sees our hearts, as though he has done it. This should be understood as being so in relation to good and evil alike. St. Mark the Ascetic, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," trans. by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 86 - 90

If a person pushes himself to attain prayer alone, when he has none, in order to attain its grace, without striving earnestly for meekness and humility and charity and all the other commandments of the Lord, neither taking pains nor struggling and battling to succeed in these as far as his choice and free will go, he may at times be given a grace of prayer with some degree of repose and pleasure from the Spirit according as he asks. But he has the same traits he had before. He has no meekness, because he did not seek it with effort and he did not prepare himself beforehand to become meek. He has no humility, since he did not ask for it and did not push himself to have it. He has no charity toward all men, because he was not concerned with it and did not strive for it in his asking for the gift of prayer. And in doing his work, he has no faith or trust in God, since he did not know that he was without it. And he did not take the pains to seek from the Lord for himself to have a firm faith and an authentic trust. St. Macarius the Great, Fifty Spiritual Homilies.

It is by virtue of this alone - namely, that He is absolute and transcendent Goodness, possessing goodness as His essence - that the Creator and Lord of Creation is both intellectually perceived and described; and this solely on the basis of His energies which are directed towards creation." St. Gregory Palamas (Topics of Natural and Theological Science no. 34, The Philokalia Vol. 4 edited by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware; Faber and Faber pg. 360)

Men become better as they come nearer to God. "Reflections on the Eight Thoughts", 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. 113 - 114

On day a brother came to Abba John's (the Dwarf) cell. It was late and he was in a hurry to leave. While they were speaking of the virtues, dawn came without their noticing it. Abba John came out with him to see him off, and they went on talking until the sixth hour. Then he made him go in again after they had eaten, he sent him away. Sr. Benedicta Ward, "The Sayings of the Desert Fathers," (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1975), pp. 89-95

One of the elders said to the brethren at Kellia, "Nothing is greater than God; nothing is equal to Him; nothing is only a little inferior to Him. What then is stronger or more blessed than someone who has the help of God?" And again: "Let us gather together the cures of the soul: piety, righteousness, humility, submission. The greatest physician of souls, Christ our God, is near to us and is willing to heal us: let us not underestimate Him." John Moschus, Leimonarion (The Spiritual Meadow) seventh century

Rejoice when you perform the virtues, but do not become exalted, lest, arriving at the pier, you suffer a shipwreck. Venerable St. Nilus of Sinai

The abstinent withdraws from gluttony, the uncovetous from covetousness, the silent from wordiness, the pure from attachment to sensory pleasures, the chaste from fornication, he who is content with what he has from love of money, the meek from agitation (anger), the humble from vanity, the obedient from objection, he who is honest with himself from hypocrisy; equally, he who prays withdraws from despair, the willing pauper from acquisitiveness, he who professes his faith from denying it, the martyr from idolatry – so you see that each virtue, performed even unto death, is nothing but withdrawal from sin; and withdrawal from sin is a natural action, not an action which could be rewarded by the kingdom. St. Mark the Ascetic, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," trans. by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 86 - 90

The body of Christ is active virtues; he who tastes them will be free from passions. "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.

Therefore, there is no other way of attaining to spiritual knowledge except by following this order, which one of the prophets has neatly expressed: 'Sow for yourselves unto righteousness; reap the hope of life; enlighten yourselves with the light of knowledge' (Hosea 10:12). First, then, we sow for ourselves unto righteousness - that is, we must increase practical perfection by works of righteousness. Then we must reap the hope of life - that is, we must gather the fruit of spiritual virtues by expelling our carnal vices. Thus we shall be able to enlighten ourselves with the light of knowledge. St. John Cassian, The Conferences

We have been taught ... that He accepts only those who imitate the virtues that reside in Him-self­restraint, justice, and love of mankind.... And so we have received [this teaching] that if men by their works show themselves worthy of His design' they are deemed worthy of reigning in company with Him, being delivered from corruption and suffering." 110-165AD St. Justin Martyr First Apology chap. 107, written before 150 A.D.)

Why, then, did He make [man] frail and mortal? ... [So] He might set before man virtue, that is, endurance of evils and labors, by which he might be able to gain the reward of immortality. For since man consists of two parts, body and soul, of which the one is earthly, the other heavenly, two lives have been assigned to man. The first, which is appointed for the body, is transitory. The other, which belongs to the soul, is everlasting. We received the first at our birth. We attain to the latter by striving, that immortality might not be available to man without some difficulties.... For this reason He has given us this present life, that we may either lose the true and eternal life by our sins, or win it by our virtue." 260-330 AD Lactantius Institutes bk. 7, chap. 5

You will pay glorious homage to God if, through virtues, you imprint His likeness on your soul. "Reflections on the Eight Thoughts", 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. 113 - 114





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