Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers


4 Entries

A certain man said that there were once three men who loved labors, and they were monks. The first one chose to go about and see where there was strife, which he turned into peace; the second chose to go about and visit the sick; but the third departed to the desert that he might dwell in quietness. Finally the first man, who had chosen to still the contentions of men, was unable to make every man to be at peace with his neighbor, and his spirit was sad. He went to the man who had chosen to visit the sick; he found him in affliction because he was not able to fulfill the law which he had laid down for himself.

Then the two of them went to the monk in the desert, and seeing each other they rejoiced, and the two men related to the third the tribulations which had befallen them in the world. They entreated him to tell them how he had lived in the desert. He was silent, but after a little he said unto them, "Come, let each of us go and fill a vessel of water." After they had filled the vessel, he said unto them, "Pour out some of the water into a basin, and look down to the bottom through it," and they did so. He then said unto them, "What do you see?" And they said, "We see nothing." After the water in the basin had ceased to move, he said to them a second time, "Look into the water," and they looked, and he said unto them, "What do you see?" They said unto him, "We see our own faces distinctly."

He said unto them, "Thus is it with the man who dwelleth with men, for by reason of the disturbance caused by the affairs of the world he cannot see his sins; but if he live in the peace and quietness of the desert he is able to see God clearly." "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers," trans. by E. A. Wallis Budge, (Seattle, St. Nectarios Press, 1984)

Truly, I fear that our fathers according to the flesh, who live in the world and are absorbed in cares and vexations and who think of us (who are, of course, men dedicated to God and already in possession of a pledge of entering into the blessed life!) expecting to receive succor from us in the age to come, will be found to condemn us and to quote the words of Scripture, "How have you become wretched, greatly put to shame? Great is your affliction; a fire is kindled upon you; your branches have become useless. For this cause they have become a prey. The lions have roared at it and have given out their voice against it." For this reason, "the beloved are like the abhorred" and "the crown of your head is taken away. Cities that face the south, how are you shut off? There is nobody to give access to you. Let indeed the wicked be removed, that you may not see the glory of the Lord." You have heard. St Pachomius, Armand Veilleux, trans., "Pachomian Koinonia -- Volume II," (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1981), pp. 41 - 44

Worldly thoughts and the cares of life have the same effect on the understanding as a veil draped over the eyes, for the understanding is the eye of the soul. So long as we leave them there, we cannot see. But when they fall away as we remember that we are to die, then we shall clearly see the true light which illumines every man as it comes into the world from on high. St. Symeon the New Theologian, The Practical and Theological Chapters.

We have to work, St. John Chrysostom says, but we need not concern or trouble ourselves about many things, as our Lord told Martha (Luke 10:41). For concern with this life prevents that concern with one's own soul and its state which is the purpose of the man who devotes himself to God and is attentive to himself. It is said in the Law, "Be attentive to yourself" (Deuteronomy 15:9). St. Basil the Great has written about this text with marvelous wisdom. REF:St. Peter of Damaskos, "The Bodily Virtues As Tools For The Acquisition Of The Virtues Of The Soul ", from G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Bishop Kallistos Ware, "The Philokalia: Vol. III," (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), pp. 103 - 104

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