Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers


22 Entries

... Tell me, who of you that stand here, if he were required, could repeat one Psalm, or any other portion of the divine Scriptures? There is not one.

And it is not this only that is the grievous thing, but that while ye are become so backward with respect to things spiritual, yet in regard of what belongs to Satan ye are more vehement than fire. Thus should any one be minded to ask of you songs of devils and impure effeminate melodies, he will find many that know these perfectly, and repeat them with much pleasure. St John Chrysostom, Gospel According To St. Matthew, Homily 2

A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, "You are mad; you are not like us. St. Anthony the Great

As earth thrown over it extinguishes a fire burning in a stove, so worldly cares and every kind of attachment to something, however small and insignificant, destroy the warmth of the heart which was there at first. St. Simeon the New Theologian (Practical and Theological Precepts no. 63, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pg. 111)

BROTHER: And what shall I do in respect of the world which troubles me?

OLD MAN: The world troubles you because its care is in your mind, and the love of it is in your body, and its pleasures are in your heart; forsake the world and it will depart from you; and root up from yourself all its branches, and behold, the war thereof will die down in you. For as long as your body seeks its gratifications, and its lust is of this world, you are not capable of life. E. A. Wallis Budge, "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers," Seattle, St. Nectarios Press, 1984, pp. 265-266

BROTHER: How does a man go forth from the world?

OLD MAN: By forsaking entirely the gratification of desire, and by running to the utmost of his power in the fulfillment of the commandments; for he who does not act in this way falls. E. A. Wallis Budge, "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers," Seattle, St. Nectarios Press, 1984, pp. 264-265

BROTHER: What is remoteness from the world?

OLD MAN: The thought (or mind) which overcomes the love of the body; for if the body be not trampled upon by the feeling of patient endurance a man cannot conquer in his strife. E. A. Wallis Budge, "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers," (Seattle, St. Nectarios Press, 1984), pp. 268-269

Beguiling and deceptive is the life of the world, fruitless its labor, perilous its delight, poor its riches, delusive its honors, inconstant, insignificant; and woe to those who hope in its seeming goods: because of this many die without repentance. Blessed and most blessed are those who depart from the world and its desires. Elder Nazarius

Both the Emperor's commands and yours (person in authority) must be obeyed if they are not contrary to the God of heaven. If they are, they must not only not be obeyed; they must be resisted. St. Euphemia, d. July 11, 303

Every man whose effort is to become truly spiritual must try to hold himself aloof from noisy crowds and not go near them, so as to be outside the vortex and turmoil of men in body, heart and mind; for where there are men, there is turmoil. Our Lord showed us an example of withdrawal from people and solitude when He used to go alone up into a mountain to pray. In the wilderness too he conquered the devil, who dared to wrestle with Him. Naturally He was not powerless to conquer him even among the multitude; but He acted thus to teach us that we can more easily overcome the enemy and reach perfection in silence and solitude. Neither did the Lord show His glory to the disciples in the midst of people, but led them up into a mountain and there showed them His glory. John the Forerunner also dwelt in the wilderness until he appeared to Israel. In the world it is easier for the enemy to press upon us with his weapons, both inner and outer; attracting some men as helpers and assistants obedient to him, he there wages war against the faithful. Some shameless woman may serve as a very strong weapon to him, spreading wide her ensnaring nets. When Ezekiel saw four living creatures, each with four faces, all showing the glory of the Lord, he was not in a city or a village but outside in a plain; for God said to him, "Arise, and go forth into the plain, and there shalt thou be spoken to" (Ezekiel 3:22). In general such visions and revelations were given to the saints only in mountains and wilderness. Prophet Jeremiah, knowing how much solitude pleases God, also said, "It is good for a man when he bears a yoke in his youth. He will sit alone, and be silent" (Lamentations 3:27-28). Again, knowing well how much harm human talk brings to those who want to please God, he could not refrain from saying, "Who would give me a most distant lodge in the wilderness, that I might leave my people, and depart from them?" (Jeremiah 9:2). Also Prophet Elijah received food from the angels, and this not among a crowd of people, nor in a city or a village, but in the wilderness. All these and similar things, which occurred to the saints, were written to persuade us to imitate those who loved retirement, for it can lead us too to the Lord. So try to be well grounded in it, that you may be led to the vision of God, which is the most spiritual contemplation. 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

Follow the straight path which has been charted by our Lord Jesus Christ, and do not allow yourselves to be encircled by sin...Today's path which is followed by various societies is directed towards sin. The cause of this is the development of civilization - of wrongly conceived civilization - towards which the various leaders are striving by diverse means to direct mankind, trying to create a new way of life, different from that prescribed by the Lord. 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

For if thou wouldest learn how great is the profit of the Scriptures, examine thyself, what thou becomest by hearing Psalms, and what by listening to a song of Satan; and how thou art disposed when staying in a Church, and how when sitting in a theatre; and thou wilt see that great is the difference between this soul and that, although both be one. St John Chrysostom, Gospel According To St. Matthew, Homily 2

For it suits the old man to seek the present world, to love transitory things through desire, to raise the mind in pride, not to have patience, to ponder through pain of spite on the injury of a neighbor, not to give one's goods to the poor and to seek those of others to multiply one's own, to esteem no one solely on God's account, to render enmity to enmity, to rejoice in a neighbor's affliction. All these are attributes of the old man and plainly derive from the root of corruption. But he who surmounts these things, and at the precepts of the Lord changes his mind to kindness, of him it is rightly said: "The old things are passed away. Behold, all things are made new." St. Gregory the Great, Homilies on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel

Having resolved to run our race with ardor and fervor, let us consider carefully how the Lord gave judgment concerning all living in the world, speaking of even those who are alive as dead, when He said to someone: Leave those in the world who are dead to bury the dead in body. His wealth did not in the least prevent the young man from being baptized. And so it is in vain that some say that the Lord commanded him to sell what he had for the sake of baptism. This is more than sufficient to give us the most firm assurance of the surpassing glory of our vow. St John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent", Step 2: On Detachment (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978)

He who esteems life in this world and judges its values as worth protecting does not know how to discern what is his own from what is alien to himself. Nothing transitory belongs to us. St. Gregory of Nyssa

Nothing doth so hurt and dim the eye of the soul as the crowd of worldly anxieties and the swarm of desires. St John Chrysostom, Gospel According To St. Matthew, Homily 2

Since, as the Lord says, "this world lies in wickedness," and everything opposed to virtue (which is wickedness) is foreign to those who follow the Law, the man who in his life makes his way through this world will safely conclude this necessary journey of virtue if he truly keeps to the highway which is hardened and smoothed by virtue and will under no circumstances be turned aside to any byways because of evil. St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses

Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me: `We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?' I replied to them: `Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not be absent from the divine services; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another man's domestic happiness, and be content with that your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way, you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven. St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent

Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me; “We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?” I replied to them: “Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not be arrogant towards anyone; do not hate anyone; do not be absent from the divine services; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another man’s domestic happiness, and be content with what your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way, you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.” St John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent", Step 1: On Renunciation of the World (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978)

The brothers said, "Why is it that the monks are obliged to go around begging for the food and clothes they need, like those who are in the world, although our Lord promised them, saying, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and that of which ye have need shall be given to you’ (Matt. 6:23)?"

The old man said, "This saying is a proof of the wisdom and grace of God toward those who are in the world, for in the majority of cases, the righteousness of the children of this world consists of alms and compassion; but the children of light are righteous people and monks who, in their persons, and in their bodies, and in their thoughts, serve our Lord. And God has made the monks to have need of the children of this world because of His love, so that they may care for each other, and may pray for each other; that is to say, the children of the world must care for the monks and the monks must pray in love for them.

"And as the children of the world make the monks associates with them in the corporeal things of the world, the monks must make the children of the world to be associates with them in the things of heaven, for our Lord spoke to the children of the world, saying, ‘Make ye to yourselves friends of this mammon of iniquity so that when they have become perfect they may receive you into their tabernacles which are forever.’ (Luke 14:9)" E. A. Wallis Budge, "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers," (Seattle, St. Nectarios Press, 1984), p.304

Think of actors: they wear masks, they dress up. One looks like a philosopher while not being one; another seems to be a king but is no king; another appears to be a doctor and has not the faintest idea how to cure the sick; another pretends to be a slave despite being free; still another plays the part of a teacher yet does not know even how to write. They do not appear as they are, they appear to be something else. The philosopher is a philosopher only because of his abundant but false wig, the soldier is a soldier just because he sports a military uniform. These disguises help to create an illusion, to hide the reality.

The world is a theater too. The human condition, richness, poverty,power, subjection are merely the pretenses of actors.

But when the day is done and the night falls (which, however, we ought to call day: it is night for sinners and day for the just),when the play is over, when we all find ourselves confronted with our own actions and not with our riches or dignity or the honors we have had or the power we have wielded, when we are asked to give an account of our lives and our works of virtue, ignoring both the feats of our opulence and the humility of our need, when we areasked: "Show me your deeds!" then the disguises will fall and we shall see who is truly rich and who is truly poor. St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Lazarus

Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4). Who therefore does not rejoice at the approaching end of the world, testifies that he is its friend, and by this he is revealed as an enemy of God. But let this be far from the faithful, far from the hearts of those who believe through their faith that there is another life, and who love it in very deed. Let them grieve over the ruin of the world who have planted the roots of their hearts deep in the love of it, who neither look for the life to come, nor are even aware that it is. But we who have learned the joys of our heavenly home must hasten to it as speedily as we may. We should desire to go there with all haste, and to arrive by the shortest way. And with what miseries does not the world urge us forward? What sorrow, what misfortune is there, that does not press upon us? What is this mortal life but a way? And what folly would it be,let you carefully consider, to be weary with the fatigue of the way, and yet not eager to finish the journey!

That the world is to be trodden on, and despised, Our Redeemer then teaches us, by a timely similitude: Behold the fig tree and all the trees: when they now shoot forth, ye see and know that summer is now at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand (vv.29-31). This is as if He were openly to say: as from the fruit on the trees you know that summer is near, so from the ruin of the world you may know that the kingdom of God is likewise near. From which it may be truly gathered that the fruit of the world is ruin. To this end it arises, that it may fall. To this end it germinates,that whatever it has brought forth from seed will be consumed in disaster. But happily is the Kingdom of God compared to summer, because then the clouds of our sadness will pass away, and the days of our life shall be resplendent in the glory of the eternal Sun. St Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome - Homilia I in Evangelia, in The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, translated and edited by M. F. Toal

Why do you beat the air and run in vain? Every occupation has a purpose, obviously. Tell me then, what is the purpose of all the activity of the world? Answer, I challenge you! It is vanity of vanity: all is vanity. Abba John the Short

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