Three-Hundred Sayings of the Ascetics of the Orthodox Church
Orthodox Missionary Society of Venerable Serapion Kozheozersky
Once some thieves came to an old hermit and said, “We are
taking everything in your cell.” He answered, “Take
whatever you need, my children.” They took almost
everything in the cell and left. But they missed a little
bag of money that was hidden. The elder picked it up and
went after them, crying, “Children! You forgot something!”
The thieves were amazed. Not only did they not take the
money, but they returned everything that they had taken.
“Truly,” they said, “this is a man of God.”
This happened in the sixth century (after Christ) in
Palestine. Saint John Moschos recorded it, along with many
other stories about Orthodox monks, which he heard
firsthand. The old monk did not read sermons to his
impolite guests. He did not rebuke them or threaten them,
nor did he have a conversation with them. What then caused
the thieves to change their mind and correct their deed?
They had beheld in him a different sort of man: a man of
Only a man who is rich in God can be so free from
attachment to possessions and to money, which have
enslaved humanity. Only a man who is rooted in God can
unfailing preserve peace and magnanimity when confronted
with manifest evil.
But most of all, the thieves were touched by the love the
elder showed them. Only a man who has become like God can
demonstrate such love to outlaws who have come to rob him,
such that he can sincerely place their interests above his
own. This could not have happened if the monks faith had
been confined to rituals, collections of rules, and pretty
words about God, without real experience of life in Christ.
The thieves beheld a man in whom the word of the Gospels
had become a reality. In the Orthodox Church, such men are
called Holy Fathers. Over the course of two milennia, this
ancient Church has striven to preserve precisely that
truth received from the apostles, together with experience
of living communion with God. Therefore the Orthodox
Church has also been able to give birth to a multitude of
saints, who have been bearers of this experience of
heavenly life while still on earth.
The following sayings been have compiled in order to
enable the reader to touch the spiritual experience of the
Christian East. Collected here are three-hundred sayings
of over fifty Orthodox saints from Palestine, Syria,
Egypt, Greece, Russia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Georgia.
Since the Western Church was part of the family of
Orthodox Churches for the first thousand years after the
birth of Christ, you may also find in our compilation the
sayings of saints who lived in the territory of
contemporary Italy, England, France, and Tunis. All of
this is part of the spiritual inheritance of the Orthodox
The earliest of these sayings was written in the second
half of the first century. The most recent was written in
the second half of the twentieth century. No matter where
they lived, when they lived, or who they were, the
Orthodox Saints speak of a single spiritual reality, and
therefore their sayings harmoniously compliment one
another. In the nineteenth century, Saint Ignatios
Brianchaninov made this observation: “When on a clear fall
night I gaze upon the clear heavens, illumined by
innumerable stars that send out a single light, then I say
to myself: thus are the writings of the holy fathers. When
on a summer’s day I gaze upon the wide sea, covered with a
multitude of distinct waves, driven by a single wind to a
single end, a single pier, then I say to myself: such are
the writings of the fathers. When I hear a well-ordered
choir, in which different voices sing a single hymn in
shimmering harmony, then I say to myself: such are the
writings of the fathers.” I believe that this small
collection of Patristic aphorisms will be interesting and
useful not only for Orthodox Christians, but even for
everyone who values what is genuine.
Deacon George Maksimov
January 8, 2011
I. God and Us
How mistaken are those people who seek happiness outside
of themselves, in foreign lands and journeys, in riches
and glory, in great possessions and pleasures, in
diversions and vain things, which have a bitter end! In
the same thing to construct the tower of happiness outside
of ourselves as it is to build a house in a place that is
consistently shaken by earthquakes. Happiness is found
within ourselves, and blessed is the man who has
understood this. Happiness is a pure heart, for such a
heart becomes the throne of God. Thus says Christ of those
who have pure hearts: “I will visit them, and will walk in
them, and I will be a God to them, and they will be my
2 Corinthians 6:16
What can be lacking to them? Nothing, nothing at all! For
they have the greatest good in their hearts: God Himself!
Saint Nektarios of Aegina, Path to Happiness, 1
The soul that loves God has its rest in God and in God
alone. In all the paths that men walk in in the world,
they do not attain peace until they draw nigh to hope in
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homily 56, 89
Truth is not a thought, not a word, not a relationship
between things, not a law. Truth is a Person. It is a
Being which exceeds all beings and gives life to all. If
you seek truth with love and for the sake of love, she
will reveal the light of His face to you inasmuch as you
are able to bear it without being burned.
Saint Nicholas of Serbia, Thoughts on Good and Evil
How does God relate to us?
God loves us more than a father, mother, friend, or any
else could love, and even more than we are able to love
Saint John Chrysostom
A certain monk told me that when he was very sick, his
mother said to his father, “How our little boy is
suffering. I would gladly give myself to be cut up into
pieces if that would ease his suffering.” Such is the love
of God for people. He pitied people so much that he wanted
to suffer for them, like their own mother, and even more.
But no one can understand this great love without the
grace of the Holy Spirit.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, IX.10
The Lord loves all people, but He loves those who seek Him
even more. To his chosen ones the Lord gives such great
grace that for love they forsake the whole earth, the
whole world, and their souls burn with desire that all
people might be saved and see the glory of the Lord.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, IX.8
How to Come to Know God
If a person wants to get an idea about the pyramids of
Egypt, he must either trust those who have been in
immediate proximity to the pyramids, or he must get next
to them himself. There is no third option. In the same way
a person can get an impression of God: He must either
trust those who have stood and stand in immediate
proximity to God, or he must take pains to come into such
Saint Nicholas of Serbia, Thoughts on Good and Evil
As it is impossible to verbally describe the sweetness of
honey to one who has never tasted honey, so the goodness
of God cannot be clearly communicated by way of teaching
if we ourselves are not able to penetrate into the
goodness of the Lord by our own experience.
Saint Basil the Great, Conversations on the Psalms, 29
Many rich and powerful men would pay dearly to see the
Lord or His Most Pure Mother, but God does not appear in
riches, but in the humble heart... Every one of the
poorest men can be humbles and come to know God. It need
neither money nor reputation to come to know God, but only
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, I.11,21
No matter how much we may study, it is not possible to
come to know God unless we live according to His
commandments, for God is not know by science, but by the
Holy Spirit. Many philosophers and learned men came to the
belief that God exists, but they did not know God. It is
one thing to belief that God exists and another to know
Him. If someone has come to know God by the Holy Spirit,
his soul will burn with love for God day and night, and
his soul cannot be bound to any earthly thing.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, VIII.3
How do We Relate to God?
Always have the fear of God in your heart, and remember
that God is always with you, everywhere, whether you are
walking or sitting.
Saint Gennadius of Constantinople, The Golden Chain, 14
Having God, fear nothing, but cast all of your care upon
Him, and He will take care of you. Believe undoubtingly,
and God will help you according to His mercy.
Saint Barsanuphius the Great, Instructions, 166
You must love every man with your whole soul, but put your
hope in the one God, and serve Him alone. For as long as
He is protecting us and our friends (the angels) are
helping us, our enemies (the demons) cannot inflict evil
upon us. But when He forsakes us, the also our friends
turn away from us, and our enemies receive power over us.
Saint Maximos Confessor, Chapters on Love, 4.95
If a man has no worries about himself at all for the sake
of love toward God and the working of good deeds, knowing
that God is taking care of him, this is a true and wise
hope. But if a man takes care of his own business and
turns to God in prayer only when misfortunes come upon him
which are beyond his power, and then he begins to hope in
God, such a hope is vain and false. A true hope seeks only
the Kingdom of God... the heart can have no peace until it
obtains such a hope. This hope pacifies the heart and
produces joy within it.
Saint Seraphim of Sarov, Works, 4
God takes care of everyone
Do not say, “this happened by chance, while this came to
be of itself.” In all that exists there is nothing
disorderly, nothing indefinite, nothing without purpose,
nothing by chance ... How many hairs are on your head? God
will not forget one of them. Do you see how nothing, even
the smallest thing, escapes the gaze of God?
Saint Basil the Great
It is an indubitable truth that the highest Divine
Providence arranges all of creation. God considers all
things beforehand and takes care for all things. This is
the Divine fatherly care of which the blessed apostle
Peter speaks: “Cast all of your cares upon Him, because He
is concerned for you.”
I Pet. 5:7
Saint Elias Minjatios. Sermon on the Great Fast, 1
The purpose of God’s Providence is to unite, by means of
right faith and spiritual love, people who have been
separated by evil. To this end the Savior also suffered
for us, “in order to gather together the children of God
who were scattered.”
Saint Maximos Confessor, Chapters of Love, 4.17
Those Who Have Known God
A man becomes spiritual insofar as he lives a spiritual
life. He begins to see God in all things, to see His power
and might in every manifestation. Always and everywhere he
sees himself abiding in God and dependent on God for all
things. But insofar as a man lives a bodily life, so much
he does he do bodily things; He doesn’t see God in
anything, even in the the most wondrous manifestations of
His Divine power. In all things he sees body, material,
everywhere and always - “God is not before his eyes.”
Saint John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ, I.5
When the soul knows the love of God by the Holy Spirit,
then he clearly feels that the Lord is our own Father, the
closest, dearest Father, the best. And there is not
greater happiness that to love God with all the mind and
heart, and our neighbor as ourself. And when this love is
in the soul, then all things bring joy to the soul.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, IX.15
Don’t be troubled if you don’t feel the love of God in
yourself, but thing about the Lord, that He is merciful,
and guard yourself from sins, and the grace of God will
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, IX.16
When you throw a nail into a fire, it gets hot and starts
to glow like fire. In the same way you, when you listen to
divine teachings and live accordingly, will become like
Saint Symeon of Daibabe, Sayings, 26
The soul that has come to know God fully no longer desires
anything else, nor does it attach itself to anything on
the earth; and if you put before it a kingdom, it would
not desire it, for the love of God gives such sweetness
and joy to the soul that even the life of a king can no
longer give it any sweetness.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, IX.13
Christ and Us
It is only necessary to seek one thing: to be with Jesus.
The man who remains with Jesus is rich, even if he is poor
with regard to material things. Who ever desires the
earthly more than the heavenly loses both the earthly and
the heavenly. But whoever seeks the heavenly is Lord of
the whole world.
Saint Ignatios Brianchaninov, Paterikon
The flood of temporal things draws us after itself, but in
this flood there is, as it were, a full-grown tree: our
Lord Jesus Christ. He took flesh, died, and ascended to
heaven. It is as if He agreed to be in the flood of the
temporal. Is this stream dragging you headlong? Hold on to
Christ. He became temporal for you, so that you might
become eternal, for He became temporal in such a way that
He remained eternal. What difference is there between two
men in a prison when one of the is a convict and the other
a visitor! Sometimes a man comes to visit his friend, and
it seems that both are in prison, but there is a great
difference between them. One of theme is held there
because of guilt, while the other has come out of love for
mankind. Thus it is with our mortality: guilt holds us
here, but Christ had come out of mercy. He came freely
into bondage, and not as a convict.
Saint Augustin, Sermons on I John, II.10
A man in this world must solve a problem: to be with
Christ, or to be against Him. And every man decides this,
whether he wants to or not. He will either be a lover of
Christ or a fighter of Christ. There is no third option.
Saint Justing Popovich, Explanation of I John, 4.3
Cleanse your mind from anger, remembrance of evil, and
shameful thoughts, and then you will find out how Christ
dwells in you.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 4.76
The Fear of God
Fear of Offending God With One’s Sins
The fear of God illumines the soul, annihilates evil,
weakens the passions, drives darkness from the soul and
makes it pure. The fear of God is the summit of wisdom.
Where it is not you will find nothing good. Whoever does
not have the fear of God is open to diabolical falls.
Saint Ephraim Syrian
A man obtains the fear of God if he has the remembrance of
his unavoidable death and of the eternal torments that
await sinners; If he tests himself every evening as to how
he has spent the day, and every morning as to how he has
spent the night, and if is not sharp in his relations with
Geronta Dorotheos, Soul-profiting Teachings, 4
Sin makes man a coward; but a life in the Truth of Christ
makes Him bold.
Saint John Chrysostom, On the Statues, VIII.2
Whoever has become a servant of the Lord fears only his
Master. But whoever is without the fear of God is often
afraid of his own shadow. Fearfulness is the daughter of
unbelief. A proud soul is the slave of fear; hoping in
itself, in comes to such a state that it is startled by a
small noise, and is afraid of the dark.
Saint John of the Ladder, The Ladder, 21.11,1,4
Whoever fears God stands above all manner of fear. He has
become a stranger to all the fear of this world and placed
it far from himself, and no manner of trembling comes near
Saint Ephraim the Syrian, On the Fear of God and the Last Judgement
Falsehood - and only falsehood - separates us from God ...
False thoughts, false words, false feelings, false desires
- Behold the aggregate of lies that leads us to non-being,
illusion, and rejection of God.
Saint Nicholas of Serbia, Thoughts on Good and Evil
The Lord does not show Himself to a proud soul. The proud
soul, no matter how many books it reads, will never know
God, since by its pride it does not give place for the
grace of the Holy Spirit, while God is known only by the
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, III.11
Each of us can discuss God inasmuch as he has known the
grace of the Holy Spirit; for how can we think of or
discuss what we haven’t seen, or haven’t head of, or don’t
know? The saints say that they have seen God, but there
are people who say that there is no God. Clearly, they say
this because they haven’t known God, but this does not at
all mean that He is not. The saints speak of that which
they have truly seen and know.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, VIII.9
Pride does not allow the soul to set out on the path of
faith. Here is my advice to the unbeliever: let him say,
“Lord, if you exist, then illumine me, and I will serve
you with all my heart and soul.” And for this humble
thought and readiness to serve God, the Lord will
immediately illumine him... And then your soul will sense
the Lord; she will sense that the Lord has forgiven her,
and loves her, and you will know this from experience, and
the grace of the Holy Spirit will be a witness in your
soul of your salvation, and you will want to cry out to
the whole world: “The Lord loves us so much!”
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, III.6
Only one who guards himself from all sin can have sincere
and fervent faith. Faith is only preserved in the presence
of good morals.
Saint Nikon of Optina
II. The Realities of the Spiritual World
Sin and Evil
A lie is a delusion of the mind, while evil is a delusion
of the will. The sign by which one is distinguished from
the other is the judgement of God Himself ... that which
he teaches a man: Truth is that which leads a man to will
the good. But whatever contradicts this is entirely false,
Saint Nicholas Cabasilas, Seven Sermons on the Life in Christ, 7
Our world is guided by two principles and sources: God and
the devil. All that is better in the world of men has its
source in God, and all that is bad has the devil as its
principle and source. In the final account, all good comes
from God, and all evil from the devil.
Saint Justin Popovich, Explanation of I John 3:11
Food is not evil, but gluttony is. Childbearing is not
evil, but fornication is. Money is not evil, but avarice
is. Glory is not evil, but vainglory is. Indeed, there is
no evil in existing things, but only in their misuse.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 3.4
God and the devil are found at opposite poles. No one can
turn his face to God who has not first turned his back on
sin. When a man turns his face to God, all of his paths
lead to God. When a man turns his face away from God, all
of his paths lead to perdition. When a man finally rejects
God by word and in his heart, he is no longer fit to do
anything that does not serve for his complete destruction,
both of his soul and of his body.
Saint Nicholas of Serbia, Thoughts on Good and Evil
In truth there is only one freedom - the holy freedom of
Christ, whereby He freed us from sin, from evil, from the
devil. It binds us to God. All other freedoms are
illusory, false, that is to say, they are all, in fact,
Saint Justin Popovich, Ascetical and Theological Chapters, II.36
Only faith that all does not end with this earthly
existence gives us power not to chain ourselves to this
earthly life by all means, and for its sake to come into
all manner of baseness, degradation and humiliation. Only
man of deep and sincere faith can be truly free.
Dependence on the Lord God is the only dependence that
does not degrade a man, nor turn him into a pitiful
servant. But, on the contrary, it exalts him.
Martyr Alexander Medem, Letter to his son, 1922
Some people by the word freedom understand the ability to
do whatever one wants ... People who have the more allowed
themselves to come into slavery to sins, passions, and
defilements more often than others appear as zealots of
external freedom, wanting to broaden the laws as much as
possible. But such a man uses external freedom only to
more severely burden himself with inner slavery. True
freedom is the active ability of a man who is not enslaved
to sin, who is not pricked by a condemning conscience, to
choose the better in the light of God’s truth, and to
bring it into actuality with the help of the gracious
power of God. This is the freedom of which neither heaven
nor earth are restrict.
Saint Philaret of Moscow, Sermon on the Birthday of Emperor Nicholas I, 1851
The Lord wants us to love one another. Here is freedom: in
love for God and neighbor. In this freedom, there is
equality. In earthly orders, there may not be equality,
but this is not important for the soul. Not everyone can
be a king, not everyone a patriarch or a boss. But in any
position it is possible to love God and to please Him, and
only this is important. And whoever loves God more on
earth will be in greater glory in His Kingdom.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, VI.23
The Purpose of Life
Every Christian should find for himself the imperative and
incentive to become holy. If you live without struggle and
without hope of becoming holy, then you are Christians
only in name and not in essence. But without holiness, no
one shall see the Lord, that is to say they will not
attain eternal blessedness. It is a trustworthy saying
that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners
1 Timothy 1:15
But we deceive ourselves if we think that we are saved
while remaining sinners. Christ saves those sinners by
giving them the means to become saints.
Saint Philaret of Moscow, Sermon of September 23, 1847
The acquisition of of holiness is not the exclusive
business of monks, as certain people think. People with
families are also called to holiness, as are those in all
kinds of professions, who live in the world, since the
commandment about perfection and holiness is given not
only to monks, but to all people.
Hieromartyr Onuphry Gagaluk
The chief end of our life is to live in communion with
God. To this end the Son of God became incarnate, in order
to return us to this divine communion, which was lost by
the fall into sin. Through Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
we enter into communion with the Father and thus attain
Saint Theophan the Recluse, Letters to various people, 24
Just as people do not enter a war in order to enjoy war,
but in order to be saved from war, so we do not enter this
world in order to enjoy this world, but in order to be
saved from it. People go to was for the sake of something
greater than war. So we also enter this temporal life for
the sake of something greater: for eternal life. And as
soldiers think with joy about returning home, so also
Christians constantly remember the end of their lives and
their return to their heavenly fatherland.
Saint Nicholas of Serbia, Thoughts on Good and Evil
The humble soul is blessed. The Lord loves her. The Mother
of God is higher than all in humility, and therefore all
races bless her on earth, while the heavenly powers serve
her. And the Lord has given us this blessed Mother of His
as a defender and helper.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings III.14
“I love them that love me, and glorify them that glorify
me” (Proverbs 8:17, I Kings 2:30), says the Lord of His
saints. The lord gave the Holy Spirit to the saints, and
they love us in the Holy Spirit. The saints hear our
prayers and have the power from God to help us. The entire
Christian race knows this.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XII.1,8
Many think that the saints are far from us. But they are
far from those who distance themselves from them, and very
close to those keep the commandments of Christ and have
the grace of the Holy Spirit. In the heavens, all things
are moved by the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is on
earth too. He lives in our Church. He lives in the
Mysteries. He is in the Holy Scriptures. He is in the
souls of the faithful. The Holy Spirit unites all things,
and therefore the saints are close to us. And when we pray
to them, then the Holy Spirit hears our prayers, and our
souls feel that they are praying for us.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XII.3
The saints are like the Lord, but so are all people who
keep the commandments of Christ; but those who live
according to their own passions and do not repent are like
the devil. I think that if this mystery were revealed to
the world, then they would stop serving the devil, and
every one would strive to serve the Lord with all his
strength, and to be like Him.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XII.9
When the soul by the Holy Spirit comes to know the Mother
of God; when in the Holy Spirit the soul becomes kin to
the Apostles, the Prophets, and all the Saints and
Righteous Ones, then she is irresistibly drawn to that
world, and cannot remain, but is bothered, and thirsts,
and cannot cease from prayer, and although the body
becomes exhausted and wants to lie down on a bed, even
while lying in bed the soul longs for the Lord and the
Kingdom of the Saints.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, I.28
The Holy Scriptures
The Holy Scriptures lead us to God and open the path to
the knowledge of God.
Saint John Chrysostom, Conversations on the Gospel of John, 59:2
Of all the afflictions that burden the human race, there
is not one, whether spiritual or bodily, that cannot be
healed by the Holy Scriptures.
Saint John Chrysostom, Conversations on the Book of Genesis, 29.1
Just as those who are deprived of light cannot walk
straight, so also those who do not behold the ray of the
Holy Scriptures must necessarily sin, since they walk in
the deepest darkness.
Saint John Chrysostom, Conversations on the Epistle to the Romans, 0.1
A humble man who lives a spiritual life, when he reads the
Holy Scriptures, while relate all things to himself and
not to others.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Sermon, 1.6
In all things that you find in the Holy Scriptures, seek
out the purpose of the words, that you may enter into the
depth of the thoughts of the saints and understand them
with greater exactness. Do not approach the reading of the
Divine Scriptures without prayer and asking the help of
God. Consider prayer to be the key to the true
understanding of that which is said in the Holy Scriptures.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Sermon 1.85
When you begin to read or listen to the Holy Scriptures,
pray to God thus: “Lord Jesus Christ, open the ears and
eyes of my heart so that I may hear Thy words and
understand them, and may fulfill Thy will.” Always pray to
God like this, that He might illumine your mind and open
to you the power of His words. Many, having trusted in
their own reason, have turned away into deception.
Saint Ephraim the Syrian
The proud sin greatly who, after studying secular
literature and having turned to the Holy Scriptures,
consider all that they say to be the Law of God, and do
not endeavour to come to know the thoughts of the prophets
and apostles, but seek out from the scriptures
inapropriate texts for their own thoughts, as if this were
a good work, and not the most defiled kind of study: to
distort the thoughts of Scripture and submit them to their
own intentions, in spite of obvious contradictions... It
is proper to children and charlatans to try to teach that
which they do not know.
Saint Jerome, Letter to Saint Paulinus
If someone wants to be protected from tricks and remain
healthy in the faith, he must confine his faith first to
the authority of the Holy Scriptures, and secondly to the
Tradition of the Church. But someone may ask, is not the
canon of Scripture sufficient for everything, and why
should we add thereto the authority of Tradition? This is
because not everyone understands the Scriptures in the
same way, but one explains them this way and another that
way, so that it is possible to get therefrom as many
thoughts as there are heads. Therefore it is necessary to
be guided by the understanding of the Church ... What is
tradition? It is that which has been understood by
everyone, everywhere and at all times ... that which you
have received, and not that which you have thought up ...
So then, our job is not to lead religion where we wish it
to go, but to follow it where it leads, and not to give
that which is our own to our heirs, but to guard that
which has been given to us.
Saint Vincent of Lerina, Notes of a Pilgrim
Do not undertake to explain the Gospels or the other books
of Holy Scripture yourself. The Scriptures were not
expressed arbitrarily by the prophets and apostles, but by
the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. How mindless then is
it to explain them arbitrarily? The Holy Spirit, having
expressed the Word of God through the prophets and
apostles, explained it through the Holy Fathers. Both the
Word of God and its explanation are a gift of the Holy
Spirit. The holy Orthodox Church and its true children
accept only this patristic interpretation!
Saint Ignatios Brianchaninov, On Reading the Gospel
Sometimes Japanese protestants come to me and ask me to
clarify some place in the Holy Scriptures. “You have your
own missionary teachers,” I tell them, “Go ask them. What
do they say?” “We have asked them. They say: understand as
you know how. But I need to know the real thought of God,
not my own personal opinion.” ... It’s not like that with
us. Everything is clear, trustworthy and simple, since we
accept Holy Tradition in addition to the Holy Scriptures.
And Holy Tradition is a living, unbroken voice of our
Church from the time of Christ and His Apostles until now,
and which will exist until the end of the world. In it all
the meaning of the Holy Scriptures are preserved.
Saint Nicholas of Japan, Diary, January 15, 1897
The Church of Christ
Brothers and Sisters! The all-merciful God desires
happiness for us both in this life and in the life to
come. To this end He established His Holy Church, so that
she might cleanse us from sin, sanctify us, reconcile us
with Him and give us a heavenly blessing. The embrace of
the Church is always open to us. Let us all hasten their
more quickly, we whose consciences are burdened. Let us
hasten, and the Church will lift the weight of our
burdens, give us boldness before God, and fill our hearts
with happiness and blessedness.
Saint Nektarios of Aegina, The Path to Happiness, 1
The Church of Christ is One, Holy, Universal and
Apostolic. She is herself a single spiritual body, whose
head is Christ, and who has the one Holy Spirit abiding in
her. The local parts of the Church are members of a single
body of the Universal Church, and they, like branches of a
single tree, are nourished by one and same sap from a
single root. She is called holy because she is sanctified
by the holy word, deeds, sacrifice and suffering of her
founder, Jesus Christ, to which end He came in order to
save human beings and lead them to holiness. The Church is
called universal because she is not confined by place, not
by time, nor by nation nor language. The communicates with
all humanity. The Orthodox Church is called apostolic
because the spirit, teaching and labors of the Apostles of
Christ are entirely preserved in her.
Saint Nicholas of Serbia, Catechesis
We know and are convinced that falling away from the
Church, whether into schism, heresy, or sectarianism, is
complete perdition and spiritual death. For us there is no
Christianity outside of the Church. If Christ established
the Church, and the Church is His Body, then to be cut of
from His Body is to die.
Saint Hilarion Troitsky, On Life in the Church
One should not seek among others the truth that can be
easily gotten from the Church. For in her, as in a rich
treasury, the apostles have placed all that pertains to
truth, so that everyone can drink this beverage of life.
She is the door of life.
Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, III.4
The Church is holy, although there are sinners within her.
Those who sin, but who cleanse themselves with true
repentance, do not keep the Church from being holy. But
unrepentant sinners are cut off, whether visibly by Church
authority, or invisible by the judgement of God, from the
body of the Church. And so in this regard the Church
Saint Philaret of Moscow, Catechesis
When are we living in Christ? When we live according to
His Gospel and His Church. For He Himself, and not only
His Gospel, is in the Church with all of His perfections
and virtues. The Church is the eternally living Body of
the God-man Christ. In her we find the medium of the holy
mysteries. In her we find the means of holy good deeds.
Our Lord Jesus Christ abides inseparable from the Church
in this world. He abides with each member of the Church
throughout all ages. He has His entire self for us in the
Church, and continually gives Himself to us entirely, so
that we might be enabled to live in this world as He lived.
Saint Justin Popovich, Explanation of I John, 4:9, 17
The Spiritual Father
Consider that the Holy Spirit lives in the spiritual
father, and He will tell you what to do. But if you think
that the spiritual father live negligently, and that the
Holy Spirit can’t live in him, you will suffer mightily
for such a thought, and the Lord will humble you, and you
will straightway fall into delusion.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, II.1
If a man does not tell everything to his spiritual father,
then his path is crooked and does not lead to the Kingdom
of Heaven. But the path of one who tells everything leads
directly to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XIII.9
Tell everything to your spiritual father, and the Lord
will have mercy on you and you will escape delusion. But
if you think that you know more about the spiritual life
than your spiritual father, and you stop telling him
everything about yourself in confession, then you will
immediately be allowed to fall into some sort of delusion,
in order that you may be corrected.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XVII.13
The Holy Spirit acts mystically through the spiritual
father, and then when you go out from your spiritual
father, the soul feels her renewal. But if you leave your
spiritual father in a state of confusion, this means that
you did not confess purely and did not forgive your
brother all of his sins from your heart.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XIII.11
The Lord loves us so much that He suffered for us on the
Cross; and His suffering was so great that we can’t
comprehend it. In the same way our spiritual pastors
suffer for us, although we often don’t see their
suffering. The greater the love of the pastor, the greater
his suffering; and we, the sheep, should understand this,
and love and honor our pastors.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XIII.2
The spiritual father only shows to way, like a signpost,
but we have to traverse it ourselves. If the spiritual
father shows the way and the disciple doesn’t move
himself, then he won’t get anywhere, and will rot near the
Saint Nikon of Optina
Don’t be deceived regarding the knowledge of what will be
after your death: what you sow here, you will reap ther.
After leaving here, no one can make progress. Here is the
work, there the reward; here the struggle, there the
Saint Barsanuphius the Great, Instructions, 606
God gives His communion to all who love Him. Communion
with God is life and light and sweetness with all the good
things that He has. But those who of their own will
forsake him he rewards with separation from Him, which
they themselves have chosen. As separation from light is
darkness, so also alienation from God is deprivation of
all good things which He has. But the good things of God
are eternal and without end, so that the loss of them is
eternal and without end. Thus sinners shall be the cause
of their own torments, just as the blind do not see the
light, although it is shining on them.
Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, V.27
The Saviour of our race, employing all means to free man
from deception, has shared with us who obey Him heavenly
and divine good things. But to the disobedient he has
shown that there awaits them not temporal torments that
abide for a time, but eternal and everlasting torments.
Saint Photius the Great, Amphilocius, 6
Not only men, but also women, the weaker sex, in going by
the narrow path of Christ have received for themselves the
Kingdom of Heaven. For there is neither male nor female,
but everyone receives his own reward according to his own
Saint Ephraim the Syrian, Sermon on the Second Coming of the Lord
The Eternal Joy of Christians
Christians, always rejoice, for evil, death, sin, the
devil and hell have been conquered by Christ. But when all
of this is conquered, is there anyone in the world who can
bring our joy to naught? You are the lord of this eternal
rejoicing as long as you do not give in to sin. Joy burns
in our hearts from His truth, love, resurrection, and from
the Church and His saints. Joy burns in our hearts all
because of sufferings for Him, mockings for Him, and death
for Him, insofar as these sufferings write our names in
heaven. There is no true joy on earth without the victory
over death, but the victory over death does not exist
without the Resurrection, and the Resurrection does not
exist without Christ. The risen God-Man Christ, the
founder of the Church, constantly pours out this joy into
the hearts of His followers through the Holy Mysteries and
good deeds. Our faith is fulfilled in this eternal joy,
insofar as the joy of faith in Christ is the only true joy
for human nature.
Saint Justin Popovich, Explanation of I Thessalonians, 5
III. Us and Our Neighbors
Relationships With Other People
A Christian must be courteous to all. His words and deeds
should breath with the grace of the Holy Spirit, which
abides in his soul, so that in this way he might glorify
the name of God. He who regulates all of his speech also
regulates all of his actions. He who keeps watch over the
words he is about say also keeps watch over the deeds he
intends to do, and he never goes out of the bounds good
and benevolent conduct. The graceful speech of a Christian
is characterized by delicateness and politeness. This
fact, born of love, produces peace and joy. On the other
hand, boorishness gives birth to hatred, enmity,
affliction, competitiveness, disorder and wars.
Saint Nektarios of Aegina, The Path to Happiness, 7
It is joyful to feel that we do not and cannot have any
enemies among men, but only unhappy brethren, who are
deserving of pity and help, even when, through
misunderstanding, they become our enemies and fight
against us. Woe! They do not understand that the enemy is
found within ourselves, and that first of all one must
cast him our of oneself, and then also help others to do
the same. We have only one enemy: the devil and his evil
spirits. But man, no matter how far he has fallen, never
loses certain sparks of light and goodness which may be
blown into a bright flame. But for us there is no reason
to fight against people, even when they consistently send
against all kind of blows and rebukes ... To fight against
people is to take a false position of our enemies. Even if
we succeed, we gain nothing from this fight, but rather
become estranged from our own success.
Martyr Roman Medved, Letter to His Daughter from the Gulag, 1932
With all your power, ask the Lord for humility and
brotherly love, because God freely gives His grace for
love towards one’s brother. Do an experiment on yourself:
one day ask God for love towards your brother, and another
day - live without love. You will see the difference.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XVI.8
Adorn yourself with truth, try to speak truth in all
things; and do not support a lie, no matter who asks you.
If you speak the truth and someone gets mad at you, don’t
be upset, but take comfort in the words of the Lord:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of
truth, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven
Saint Gennadius of Constantinople, The Golden Chain, 26,29
The holy Isaiah said: If one should speak to his brother
with guile, he will not escape spiritual harm.
Ancient Paterikon, 10.28
If someone puts his trust in God in a matter, let him not
argue with his brother about it.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Sermon 2.103
Draw nigh to the righteous, and through them you will draw
nigh to God. Communicate with those who possess humility,
and you will learn morals from them. A man who follows one
who loves God becomes rich in the mysteries of God; but he
who follows an unrighteous and proud man gets far away
from God, and will be hated by his friends.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Sermon 57,8
Saint Pimen the Great said: Depart from every man who
loves to quarrel.
Ancient Paterikon, 11.59
If you cannot close the mouth of one who reviles his
brother, at least avoid conversation with him.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homily 89
How to Relate to the Sins of Others
Love sinners, but hate their deeds, and do not disdain
sinners for their failings, so that you yourself do not
fall into the temptation in which they abide... Do not be
angry at anyone and do not hate anyone, neither for their
faith, nor for their shameful deeds... Do not foster
hatred for the sinner, for we are all guilty... Hate his
sins, and pray for him, so that you may be made like unto
Christ, who had no dislike for sinners, but prayed for
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homily 57,90
Find evil in yourself and not in other people or things,
were with you have not learned how to relate properly.
This is how a child relates with fire or a knife: he burns
himself, he cuts himself.
Saint Sebastian of Karaganda
A brother asked an elder: If I see my brother fall into
sin, is good to hide him? The Elder answered: When, out of
love, we hide the sin of our brother, then God also hides
our sins; but when we show our brother’s sin before
others, then God also makes our sins known to people.
Ancient Paterikon, 9.9
Do not lose your temper with those who sin. Do not have a
passion for noticing every sin in your neighbor and
judging it, as we usually do. Everyone will give an answer
for himself before God. Especially, do not look with evil
intention on the sins of those older than you, with whom
you have no business. But correct your own sins, your own
Saint John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ, I.6
If you see your neighbor in sin, don’t look only at this,
but also think about what he has done or does that is
good, and infrequently trying this in general, while not
partialy judging, you will find that he is better than you.
Saint Basil the Great, Conversations, 20
If you see a man who has sinned and you do not pity him,
the grace of God will leave you. Whoever curses bad
people, and does not pray for them, will never come to
know the grace of God.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, VII.4, VIII.6
One who strictly prosecutes the misdemeanors of others
will find not condescension towards his own.
Saint John Chrysostom, On the Statutes, 3.6
Should We Denounce Them that have Sinned?
It is better to pray with good will for our neighbor,
rather than to denounce him for every sin.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 1.132
Do not attempt to benefit by rebukes one who boasts of his
virtues, for he loves to display himself can not be a
lover of truth.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.222
Whoever with fear of God corrects and directs a sinner
gains virtue for himself, that of opposition to sin. But
whoever insults a sinner with rancor and without good will
falls, according to a spiritual law, into the same passion
with the sinner.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.183
When you want to direct someone toward the good, first put
him at peace bodily and honor him with words of love. For
nothing inclines such a man to shame and induces him to
cast of his vice and be changed for the better as do
bodily goods and honor, which he sees in you. Then, with
love tell him a word or two, and do not be inflamed with
anger toward him. Do not let him see any cause of enmity
toward you. For love does not know how to lose its temper.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 85,57
He who seeks the forgiveness of his sins loves humility.
But he who judges another strengthens his own evil deeds
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 1.126
To judge sins is the business of one who is sinless, but
who is sinless except God? Who ever thinks about the
multitude of his own sins in his heart never wants to make
the sins of others a topic of conversation. To judge a man
who has gone astray is a sign of pride, and God resists
the proud. On the other hand, one who every hour prepares
himself to give answer for his own sins will not quickly
lift up his head to examine the mistakes of others.
Saint Gennadius of Constantinople, The Golden Chain, 53-55
A discerning man, when he eats grapes, takes only the ripe
ones and leaves the sour. Thus also the discerning mind
carefully marks the virtues which he sees in any person. A
mindless man seeks out the vices and failings ... Even if
you see someone sin with your own eyes, do not judge; for
often even your eyes are deceived.
Saint John of the Ladder, Ladder, 10.16-17
If you have the sinful habit of judging your neighbor,
then whenever you judge someone make three prostrations
that day with this prayer: “Save, O Lord, and have mercy
on him (whom I have judged) and by his prayers, have mercy
on me, a sinner.” Do this every time you judge someone. If
you do this, God will see your sincerity and will deliver
you from this sinful habit forever. And if you never judge
anyone, then God will never judge you. In this way you
will even receive salvation.
Priest-confessor Sergei Pravdolubov
How to Deal with Those Who Hurt Us
Whoever prays for those who hurt him lays the demons low;
but he who opposes his affronter is bound to the demons.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 1.45
Whoever does not fight the one who despises him, neither
in word not in thought, has received true knowledge and
demonstrates a firm trust in God.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.119
On Forgiveness of Insults
We have such a law: If you forgive, it means that God has
forgiven you; but if you do not forgive your brother, it
means that your sin remains with you.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, VII.9
We all have to die, beloved brethren, and it will be hard
for us if, while we are in this world, we do not love each
other, if we are not reconciled to our enemies, whom we
have offended, and if one has grieved another, if we do
not forgive him. Then we will not have eternal blessedness
in that world, and the heavenly Father will not forgive
Saint Peter of Cetinje, Letter to Radulovichs, 1805
The forgiveness of insults is a sign of true love, free
from hypocrisy. For thus the Lord also loved this world.
Saint Mark the Asceticf, Homilies, 2.48
When People Curse Us
We must receive the one who curses us as a messenger from
God, rebuking our hidden evil thoughts, so that we, seeing
our thoughts with exactness, might correct ourselves. For
we do not know how many hidden evils we have; Only a
perfect man can understand all of his own shortcomings.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 6
Inasmuch as you pray with all your soul for the one who
has slandered you, so much will God reveal the truth to
them who have believed the slander.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 4.89
When People Praise Us
When people begin to praise us, let us hurry to remember
the multitude of ours transgressions, and we will see that
we are truly unworthy of that which they say and do in our
Saint John of the Ladder, Ladder, 22.42
If you are remembering evil against someone, then pray for
him; and as you remove through prayer the pain of the
remembrance of the evil he has done, you will stop the
advance of the passion. And when you have attained
brotherly love and love for mankind, you will completely
cast this passion out of your soul. Then when someone else
does evil to you, be affectionate and humble toward him,
and treat him kindly, and you will deliver him from this
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 3.90
A soul that is nurtured by hatred toward man can not be at
peace with God, Who has said: If you forgive not men their
sins, neither shall your Father forgive your sins
If a man does not want to be reconciled, you must at least
guard yourself from hating, praying with a pure heart for
him, and speaking no evil of him.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 4.35
Love Toward Enemies
Whoever will not love his enemies cannot know the Lord and
the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches
us to love our enemies in such way that we pity their
souls as if they were our own children.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, I.11
When you have been insulted, cursed, or persecuted by
someone, do not think of what has happened to you, but of
what will come from it, and you will see that your
insulter has become the cause of many benefits to you, not
only in this age, but in that which is to come.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 1.114
Do not desire to hear about the misfortunes of those who
oppose you. For those who listen to such speech later reap
the fruits of their evil intention.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.173
I ask you to try something. If someone grieves you, or
dishonors you, or takes something of yours, then pray like
this: “Lord, we are all your creatures. Pity your
servants, and turn them to repentance,” and then you will
perceptibly bear grace in your soul. Induce your heart to
love your enemies, and the Lord, seeing your good will,
shall help you in all things, and will Himself show you
experience. But whoever thinks evil of his enemies does
not have love for God and has not known God.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, IX.21
IV. Concerning that which Brings us Close to God
Do not forsake prayer, for just as the body becomes weak
when it is deprived of food, so also the soul when it is
deprived of prayer draws nigh to weakness and noetic death.
Saint Gennadius of Constantinople, The Golden Chain, 44
Consistently pray in all things, so that you might not do
anything without the help of God ... Whoever does or
busies himself with anything without prayer does not
succeed in the end. Concerning this, the Lord said:
“Without Me you can’t do anything”.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.94,166
Whatever we do or say without prayer always ends up either
sinful or harmful and convicts us through the deeds in
some mysterious way.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.108
The prayer of one who does not consider himself a sinner
is not accepted by the Lord.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 55
God hears and fulfills the prayer of a man who fulfills
His commandments. “Hear God in His commandments,” says
Saint John Chrysostom, “So that He might hear you in your
prayers.” A man who keeps the commandments of God is
always wise, patient, and sincere in his prayers. Mystery
of prayer consists in the keeping of God’s commandments.
Saint Justin Popovich, Explanation of I John, 3:22
Give your intentions in prayer to God, Who knows everyone,
even before our birth. And do not ask that everything will
be according to your will, because a man does not know
what is profitable for him. But say to God: Let Thy will
be done! For He does everything for our benefit.
Saint Gennadius of Constantinople, The Golden Chain, 47
Everyone who asks something of God and does not receive it
doubtless does not receive it for one of these reasons:
either because they ask before the time, or they ask
unworthily, or out of vainglory, or because if they
received what they asked they would become proud or fall
Saint John of the Ladder, Ladder, 26.60
Whoever wants to approach prayer without a guide, and
proudly thinks that he can learn from books, and won’t go
to an elder, is already halfway into delusion. But the
Lord helps the humble, and if there is no experienced
guide, and he goes to a confessor, whoever he may be, then
the Lord will cover him because of his humility.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, II.1
If, at the time when the mind is praying it is distracted
by any extraneous thought or worry about anything, then
this prayer is not called pure.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 16
If you become proud when you receive what you ask in
prayer, then it is obvious that your prayer was not to
God, and you did not receive help from Him, but the demons
were working with you in order to exalt your heart; For
when help is given from God, the soul is not exalted, but
is all the more humbled, and she is amazed at the great
mercy of God, how merciful He is to sinners.
Saint Barsanuphius the Great, Instructions, 418
When God wants to have mercy on someone, He inspires
someone else to pray for him, and He helps in this prayer.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XX.9
In times of affliction, unceasingly call out to the
merciful God in prayer. The unceasing invocation of the
name of God in prayer is a treatment for the soul which
kills not only the passions, but even their very
operation. As a doctor finds the necessary medicine, and
it works in such a way that the sick person does not
understand, in just the same way the name of God, when you
call upon it, kills all the passions, although we don’t
know how this happens.
Saint Barsanuphius the Great, Instructions, 421
Every sin that is left without repentance is a sin unto
death, for which if even a saint shall pray, he shall not
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.41
One who has sinned cannot escape retribution in any other
way than by repentance corresponding to his sin.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.58
God will cleanse your sins if you yourself are
dissatisfied with yourself and will keep on changing until
you are perfect.
Saint Augustine, Sermons on I John, I.7
The saints were people like all of us. Many of them came
out of great sins, but by repentance they attained the
Kingdom of Heaven. And everyone who comes there comes
through repentance, which the merciful Lord has given us
through His sufferings.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XII.10
If someone falls into any sin and is not sincerely grieved
about it, it is easy for him to fall into the same thing
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.215
If someone has repented once of a sin, and again does the
same sin, this is a sign that he has not been cleansed of
the causes of the sin, wherefrom, as from a root, the
shoots spring forth again.
Saint Basil the Great
Do not say: “I have sinned much, and therefore I am not
bold enough to fall down before God.” Do not despair.
Simply do not increase your sins in despair and, with the
help of the All-merciful One, you will not be put to
shame. For He said, “he who comes to Me I will not cast
out” (John. 6:37). And so, be bold and believe that He is
pure and cleanses those who draw near to Him. If you want
to accomplish true repentance, show it with your deeds. If
you have fallen into pride, show humility; if into
drunkenness, show sobriety; if into defilement, show
purity of life. For it is said, “Turn away from evil and
do good” (1 Peter 3:11).
Saint Gennadius of Constantinople, The Golden Chain, 87-89
Whoever hates his sins will stop sinning; and whoever
confesses them will receive remission. A man can not
abandon the habit of sin if he does not first gain enmity
toward sin, nor can he receive remission of sin without
confession of sin. For the confession of sin is the cause
of true humility.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 71
It is harmful to remember previous sins in detail. For if
they bring you sorrow, they will estrange you from hope,
but if they are remembered without sorrow, they will
introduce the previous defilement. If you want to bring to
God an uncondemned confession, then don’t remember your
sins in detail, but manfully endure the suffering that is
coming because of them.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.151,153
The Lord greatly loves the repenting sinner and mercifully
presses him to His bosom: “Where were you, My child? I was
waiting a long time for you.” The Lord calles all to
Himself with the voice of the Gospel, and his voice is
heard in all the world: “Come to me, my sheep. I created
you, and I love you. My love for you brought Me to earth,
and I suffered all things for the sake of your salvation,
and I want you all to know my love, and to say, like the
apostles on Tabor: Lord, it is good for us to be with You.”
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, IX.27
Our Will and God’s Will
Here is the luminous teaching of our Savior: Thy will be
Whoever sincerely pronounces this prayer leaves his own
will and puts all things in the will of God. But the will
inspired by the demons consists is self-justification and
trust in ourselves, and then they easily subject a man who
receives this sort of thought.
Saint Barsanuphius the Great, Instructions, 40, 124
It is a great good to be given over to the will of God.
Then the Lord alone is in the soul, and no other thought,
and she prays to God with a pure mind. When the soul is
entirely given over to the will of God, then the Lord
Himself begins to guide her, and the soul learns directly
from God ... A proud man does not with to live according
to the will of God. He likes to direct himself, and does
not understand that man does not have enough understanding
to direct himself without God.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, VI.1
In the measure to which a man cuts off and humbles his own
will, he proceeds toward success. But insofar as he
stubbornly guards his own will, so much does he brings
harm to himself.
Saint Ephraim the Syrian, Counsels to a Novice Monk
How can you find out if you are living within the will of
God? Here is the sign: If you are troubled about any
thing, this means that you have not completely given
yourself over to the will of God. A person who lives in
the will of God is not concerned over anything. And if he
needs anything, he gives both it and himself over to God.
And if he does not receive the necessary thing, he remains
calm nevertheless, as if he had it. The soul which has
been given over to the will of God is afraid of nothing,
not of thunder nor of thieves - nothing. But whatever
happens, she says, “Thus it pleases God.” If she is sick,
she thinks: this means that I need to be sick, or else God
would not have given it to me. Thus peace is preserved in
both soul and body.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, VI.4
The Lord has given the Holy Spirit upon the earth, and in
whomsoever He dwells, that one feels paradise within
himself. You might say: why hasn’t this happened to me?
Because you have not given yourself over to the will of
God, but you live according to yourself. Look at the one
who loves his own will. He never has peace in himself and
is always displeased with something. But whoever has given
himself over to God’s will perfectly has pure prayer. His
soul loves the Lord, and everything is acceptable and good
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, VI.14
As it is not possible to walk without feet or fly without
wings, so it is impossible to attain the Kingdom of Heaven
without the fulfillment of the commandments.
Saint Theophan the Recluse, Five Teaching on the Way to Salvation, 3
The Commandments of God are higher than all the treasures
of the earth. Whoever has acquired them has received God
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 57
The Holy Apostle John the Theologian says that the
commandments of God are not difficult, but easy
I John, 5:3
But they are only easy because of love, while they are all
difficult if there is no love.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XVI.10
God requires not the doing of the commandments for their
own sake, but the correction of the soul, for whose sake
He established the commandments.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 34
God abides in each commandment by His gracious power. “God
is hidden in His commandments”, says Saint Mark the
Ascetic. God helps everyone who strives to keep His
commandments. That God abides in us we know by the Spirit,
which He has given us. This means that a Christian is
never alone, but that he lives and works together with the
Saint Justin Popovich, Explanation of I John, 3:24
How God Sees our Deeds
In all of our deeds God looks at the intention, whether we
do it for His sake, or for the sake of some other
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 2:36
God values deeds according to their intentions. For it is
said, “The Lord grant unto you according to your heart”
(Psalm 19:5... Therefore, whoever wants to do something
but can’t is considered as having done it by God, who sees
the intentions of our hearts. This applies to both good
and evil deeds alike.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 1.184, 2.16
If the intention is unclean, the deed that follows from it
will also be evil, even if it seems good.
Saint Gregory the Dialogist, Conversations, 1.10
How We Should Relate to our Deeds
Do not think about or do anything without a spiritual purpose, whereby it is done for God. For If you travel without purpose, you shall labor in vain.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 1.54
Fasting, prayer, alms, and every other good Christian deed
is good in itself, but the purpose of the Christian life
consists not only in the fulfillment of one or another of
them. The true purpose of our Christian life is the
acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. But fasting,
prayer, alms and every good deed done for the sake of
Christ is a means to the attainment of the Holy Spirit.
Note that only good deeds done for the sake of Christ bear
the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Everything else that is not
done for the sake of Christ, even if it is good, does not
bring us a reward in the life to come, not does it bring
the grace of God in this life. This is why our Lord Jesus
Christ said, “Whoever gathereth not with me
scattereth” (Matthew 12:30).
Saint Seraphim of Sarov, Conversation on the Goal of the Christian Life
When the mind forgets the purpose of Christian life, then
even the clear fulfillment of virtue becomes profitless.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2:51
All that you lose in the name of God, you keep. All that
you keep for your own sake, you loose. All that you give
in the name of God, you will receive with interest. All
that you give for the sake of your own glory and pride,
you throw into the water. All that you receive from people
as from God will bring you joy. All that you receive from
people as from people will bring you worries.
Saint Nicholas of Serbia, Thoughts on Good and Evil
It is needful to do everything with discernment, and to
take your own measure, so that you will not be confused
later. To perform alms, fasting, or anything else at the
highest degree (beyond one’s limits or personal measure)
lacks discernment, since later it will lead the one who
performs them into confusion, despondency, and grumbling.
Even God requires that which is according to the strength
Saint Barsanuphius the Great, Instructions, 627
No matter who you are, what kind of work you do, give an
account of yourself as to how you have performed your
work: as a Christian, or as a heathen (that is, motivated
by self-love and worldly pleasure). A Christian must
remember that every deed, even the smallest, has a moral
principle. A Christian, who remembers the teaching of
Jesus Christ, should perform every deed so that it will be
of use toward the spreading of the grace of God and the
Kingdom of Heaven among men.
Saint Gabriel of Imereti, Yearly Account
Our Good Deeds
One evil receives strength from another. In the same way,
good deeds also sprout one from another, and the one in
whom they are found grows larger.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.93
Every time that we sin, we are born of the devil. But
every time that we do good, we are born of God.
Saint John Chrysostom
We abide in God insofar as we do not sin.
Saint Bede the Venerable, Commentary on I John, 3:6
Forget your good deeds as soon as possible ... Do not
record your good deeds, for if you record them, they will
soon fade. But if you forget them, they will be written in
Saint Nicholas of Serbia, Thought on Good and Evil
If you want the Lord to hide your sins, then don’t talk to
people about what kind of virtues you have. For as we
relate to our virtues, so God relates to our sins.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.135
Whoever has a spiritual gift and compassionate toward one
who does not have it guards his gift through his
compassion. But whoever is proud of his gift loses it
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 1.8
Even a Small Good Deed has Worth
If at some time you show mercy to someone, mercy will be
shown to you.
If you show compassion to one who is
suffering (and of course, this is not a great deed) you
will be numbered among the martyrs.
If you forgive one who has insulted you, then not only
will all your sins be forgiven, but you will be a child of
the Heavenly Father.
If you pray from all your heart for salvation - even a
little - you will be saved.
If you rebuke yourself, accuse yourself, and judge
yourself before God for your sins, with a sensitive
conscience, even for this you will be justified.
If you are sorrowful for your sins, or you weep, or sigh,
your sigh will not be hidden from Him and, as Saint John
Chrysostom says, “If you only lament for your sins, then
He will receive this for your salvation.”
Saint Moses of Optina
God gave people the word “love” so that they could call
their relationship to Him by this name. When people misuse
this word to refer to their relationship with earthly
things, it loses its meaning.
Saint Nicholas of Serbia, Thoughts on Good and Evil
Do not disdain the commandment to love, for through it you
become a son of God, and when you break it, you become a
son of Gehenna.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 4:20
Love toward God should be higher for us that love toward
Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite
Do not say that faith in Christ alone can save you, for
this is not possible if you do not attain love for Him,
which is demonstrated by deeds. As for mere faith: “The
demons also believe and tremble”
The action of love consists in heartfelt good deeds toward
one’s neighbor, magnanimity, patience, and sober use of
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 1.39-40
As God illumines all people equally with the light of the
sun, so do those who desire to imitate God let shine an
equal ray of love on all people. For wherever love
disappears, hatred immediately appears in its place. And
if God is love, then hatred is the devil. Therefore as one
who has love has God within himself, so he who has hatred
within himself nurtures the devil within himself.
Saint Basil the Great, Homily on Asceticism, 3
“Love covers a multitude of sins,”
I Pet. 4:8
That is, for love towards one’s neighbor, God forgives the
sins of the one who loves.
Saint Theophan the Recluse, Letters, VI.949
Love for Christ overflows into love for one’s neighbor,
love for truth, love for holiness, for the world, for
purity, for everything divine, for everything deathless
and eternal ... All these forms of love are natural
manifestations of love for Christ. Christ is the God-man,
and love for Him always means love for God and for man.
When we love Christ God, we also love all that is divine,
immortal and Christ-like in people. We can’t truly love
people if we do not love them for the sake of these
causes. Any other love is pseudo-love, which is easily
changed into lovelessness and hatredness toward people.
True love for man comes from love for God, and love for
God grows in accordance with the keeping of His
Saint Justin Popovich, Explanation of the I John, 4:20, 5:2
Love is the fruit of prayer ... Patiently abiding in
prayer signifies a man’s renunciation of himself.
Therefore the self-denial of the soul turns into love for
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homily, 43
If you find that there is no love in you, but you want to
have it, then do deeds of love, even though you do them
without love in the beginning. The Lord will see you
desire and striving and will put love in your heart.
Saint Ambrose of Optina
Who Has no Love
Whoever sees in himself the traces of hatred toward any
man on account of any kind of sin is completely foreign to
the love of God. For love toward God does not at all
tolerate hatred for man.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 1.15
Who is far from love is a bad state, and to be pitied. He
passes his days in a delirious dream, far from God,
deprived of light, and he lives in darkness ... Whoever
does not have the love of Christ is an enemy of Christ. He
walks in darkness and is easily lead into any sin.
Saint Ephraim the Syrian, Homily on Virtues and Vices
How to Manifest Love
Whoever has known the love of God loves the whole world
and never murmurs against his fate, for the burden of
sorrow for the sake of God gains eternal joy.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Letters, I.27
Love is manifested not only through the distribution of
one’s possessions, but even moreso through the spreading
of the word of God and helpful deeds.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 1.26
What is perfection in love? Love your enemies in such a
way that you would desire to make them your brothers ...
For so did He love, Who hanging on the Cross, said
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they
Saint Augustine, Sermons on I John, I.9
Happy is the man in whom there is love for God, for he
bears God within himself. The one in whom there is love is
with God, above all things. Whoever has love in himself
does not fear. He is never mad at anyone, nor does he
exalt himself above anyone. He does not calumniate anyone,
nor does he listen to the calumniator. He does not compete
with anyone, is not jealous, does not rejoice in the fall
of another, does not slander the fallen, but sympathizes
with him and helps him. He does not disdain his brother
who is fallen into need, but helps him and is ready to die
for him. Whoever has love fulfills the will of God.
Saint Ephraim the Syrian, Spiritual-Moral Letters
Let there always be a preponderance of mercy with you,
even though you don’t feel such mercy in yourself, as God
has for the world ... A cruel and merciless heart is never
purified. A merciful man is the doctor of his own soul,
because as it were a by a strong wind from is heart he
drives out the darkness of the passions.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 41
If you begin to guard wealth it will not be yours. But if
you begin to distribute it, you will not lose it.
Saint Basil the Great, Conversations, 7
Do you think that the man-loving God has given you much so
that you could use it only for your own benefit? No, but
so that your abundance might supply the lack of others.
Saint John Chrysostom, Conversations on the Book of Genesis, 20
If you are truly merciful, then when what is yours is
unjustly taken, don’t be sad inside, and do not tell of
our loss to your neighbor. Let a better loss, inflicted by
those who insult you, be absorbed by your mercy.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 58
Nothing is more opposed to God than pride, for
self-deification is concealed in it, its own nothingness
or sin. Thus more than anything humility is acceptable to
God, which considers itself nothing, and attributes all
goodness, honor, and glory to God alone. Pride does not
accept grace, because it is full of itself, while humility
easily accepts grace, because it is free from itself, and
from all that is created. God creates out of nothing. As
long as we think that we can offer something of ourselves,
He does not begin His work in us. Humility is the salt of
virtue. As salt gives flavor to food, so humility gives
perfection to virtue. Without salt, food goes bad easily,
and without humility, virtue is easily spoiled by pride,
vainglory, impatience - and it perishes. There is a
humility which a man gains by his own struggles: knowing
his own insufficiency, accusing himself for his failings,
not allowing himself to judge others. And there is a
humility into which God leads a man through the things
that happen to him: allowing him to experience
afflictions, humiliations, and deprivations.
Saint Philaret of Moscow, The Glory of the Mother of God, 9
They asked and elder, “What is humility?” The elder said,
“When your brother sins against you, and you forgive him,
before he repents before you.”
Ancient Paterikon, 15.74
He does not show humility who accuses himself (for who
will not accept rebukes from himself?), but he who, being
rebuked by another, does not decrease his love toward him.
Saint John of the Ladder, Ladder, 22.17
As water and fire oppose one another when combined, so are
self-justification and humility opposed to one another.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homily 2.125
Some suffer much from poverty and sickness, but are not
humbled, and so they suffer without profit. But one who is
humbled will be happy in all circumstances, because the
Lord is his riches and joy, and all people will wonder at
the beauty of his soul.”
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writing, III.9
Humility consists in considering oneself to be nothing in
all circumstances, cutting off one’s will in all things,
accusing oneself of everything, and bearing without
confusion that which befalls him from without. Such is
true humility, in which vainglory finds no place. A humble
man doesn’t need to try to show his humility in words, nor
does he need to make himself do humble deeds, for both of
these lead to vainglory, hinder progress, and cause more
harm than good. But when they command anything, it is
necessary not to contradict, but to fulfill it with
obedience. This is what leads to success.
Saint John the Prophet, Instructions, 275
Meekness is an unchanging state of mind, which both in
honor and dishonor remains the same. Meekness consists in
praying sincerely and undisturbedly in the face of
afflictions from one’s neighbor. Meekness is a cliff
rising from the sea of irritability, against which all the
that waves that strive against it break, but which is
itself never broken.
Saint John of the Ladder, Ladder, 24.4
Let them push you, but do not push; Let them crucify you,
but do not crucify. Let them insult, but do not insult.
Let them slander, but do not slander. Be meek, and do not
be zealous in evil.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homily, 89
As fire is not extinguished by fire, so anger is not
conquered by anger, but is made even more inflamed. But
meekness often subdues even the most beastly enemies,
softens them and pacifies them.
Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk
Love hunger and thirst for the sake of Christ. Insofar as
you pacify your body, so much much will you do make your
soul virtuous. God, who rewards thoughts, words, and
deeds, will give good in return for even a small thing
which you gladly suffer for His sake.
Saint Gennadius of Constantinople, The Golden Chain, 41
Seek the simplest in all things, in food, clothing,
without being ashamed of poverty. For a great part of the
world lives in poverty. Do not say, “I am the son of a
rich man. It is shameful for me to be in poverty.” Christ,
your Heavenly Father, Who gave birth to you in the
baptistery, is not in worldly riches. Rather he walked in
poverty and had nowhere to lay His head.
Saint Gennadius of Constantinople, The Golden Chain, 24-25
You must teach yourself how to eat less, but with
discernment, insofar as your work allows. The measure of
temperance should be such that after lunch you want to
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, V.8
By obedience a man is guarded against pride. Prayer is
given for the sake of obedience. The grace of the Holy
Spirit is also given for obedience. This is why obedience
is higher than prayer and fasting.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XV.4
Obedience is necessary not only for monks, but for all
people. Even the Lord was obedient. The proud and
self-regarding do not allow grace to live in them, and
therefore they never have spiritual peace, while in the
obedient soul the grace of the Holy Spirit enters easily
and gives joy and peace. Whoever bears even a little grace
in himself joyfully submits himself to all direction. He
knows that God directs even the heavens and the
netherworld, and himself, and his business, and everything
in the world, and therefore he is always at peace.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XV.2
V. Concerning that which Hinders us on the Path to God.
A passion is a contranatural movement of the soul or an
irrational love, or an blindfold hatred toward any
material thing, or because of it: for example, for food,
or for women, or for riches, or for worldly glory, or any
other sensible thing; or for the sake of such things, as
in a senseless hatred for someone on account of the things
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 2.16
Some passions are bodily, other spiritual. Bodily passions
have their sources in the body, while spiritual ones come
from external things. But love and temperance cut out both
the one and the other: Love cuts out spiritual passions,
and temperance bodily ones.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 1.64
We must consider all evil things, even the passions which
war against us, to be not our own, but of our enemy the
devil. This is very important. You can only conquer a
passion when you do not consider it as part of you.
Saint Nikon of Optina
At first a simple thought about evil makes it into the
mind, and if it is kept in the mind, then a passionate
motion arises from it, and if you do not extirpate the
passion, then it inclines the mind to agreement, and when
this happens, it leads the mind to the commission of a
sinful deed. [Guard your thoughts], for if you do not sin
in thought, you will never seen in deed.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 1.84, 2.78
Unclean spirits increase the passions in us, making use of
our negligence, and inciting them. But the angels decrease
our passions, inciting us to the perfection of virtue.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 2:69
A sinful soul, full of passions, cannot have peace and
rejoice in the Lord, even if it had charge over all
earthly riches, even if it ruled over the whole world. If
it was suddenly said to such a king, happily feasting and
sitting on his throne, “King, now you will die,” his soul
would be troubled and he would tremble with fear, and he
would see his powerlessness. But how many beggars there
are, whose only wealth is love for God, and who, if you
said to them, “You will die now,” would answer peacefully,
“Let God’s will be done. Glory to the Lord, that He has
remembered me and wants to take me to Himself.”
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, IV.3
The Struggle with the Passions
When a man is given over to the passions, he does not see
them in himself and does not fight against them, because
he lives in them and by them. But when the grace of God
becomes active in him, he begins to discern the passionate
and sinful in himself, acknowledge them, and to repent and
decide to guard against them. A struggle begins. At first,
the struggle begins with deeds, but when is released from
shameful deeds, then the struggle begins with shameful
thoughts and feelings. And here the struggle encounters
many steps ... The struggle continues. The passions
increasingly are torn out of the heart. It even happens
that they are entirely torn out ... The sign that the
passions are torn out of the heart is that the soul begins
to feel repulsion and hatred for the passions.
Saint Theophan the Recluse, How the Spiritual Life Proceeds
A man who hates the passion cuts off their causes. But a
man who remains among their causes experiences even
against his will the conflict from the passions. It is not
possible to be mentally inclined toward a passion if one
does not love its cause. For who, disdaining shame, is
given to vainglory? Or who, loving lowliness, is bothered
by dishonor? Who, having a broken and humble heart,
accepts fleshly sweetness? Or who, believing in Christ, is
concerned about temporal things, or argues about them?
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homily 2.119,122-123
It is one thing to be delivered from bad thoughts, and
another to be freed from the passions. Often people are
delivered from thoughts, when they do not have before
their eyes those things which produce passion. But the
passions for them remain hidden in the soul, and when the
things appear again the passions are revealed. Therefore
it is necessary to guard the mind when these things
appear, and to know toward which things you have a passion.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 3:78
The mind of a man that loves God does not fight against
things or thoughts about them, but against the passions
that are connected with these thoughts. That is, he does
not struggle against a woman, or against one who has
insulted him, and not against the images of them, but
against the passions that are aroused by these images.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 3:40
The passions are uprooted and turned to flight by constant
occupation of the mind with God. This is a sword that puts
them to death... Whoever always thinks about God drives
the demons away from himself and pulls up the seeds of
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 8
The worst kind of sin is not to acknowledge that you are
Saint Caesarius of Arles, Commentary on I John, 1:8
Flee from self-love, the mother of malice, which is an
irrational love for the body. For from it are born the
three chief sinful passions: gluttony, avarice, and
vainglory, which take their causes from bodily needs, and
from them all the tribe of the passions is born. This why
we must always oppose self-love and fight against it.
Whoever rejects self-love will easily conquer all the
other passions with the help of God: anger, despondency,
rancor, and the others. But whoever is retained by
self-love will even unwillingly be conquered by the
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 2.59,8
Whoever does not want to know the will of God is mentally
walking a path next to a cliff, and easily falls with any
wind. If he is praised, he is proud. If he is rebuked he
is angry. If he eats pleasant food, he is drawn into
bodily passions. When he suffers he weeps. When he knows
something, he wants to show that he knows. When he doesn’t
understand, he pretends to understand. When he is rich he
puts on airs. When he is poor, he is a hypocrite. When he
is full, he is bold. When he fasts he is vainglorious.
When he is denounced he loves to argue, while he looks on
those who forgive him as fools.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.193
Understand two thoughts, and fear them. One says, “You are
a saint,” the other, “You won’t be saved.” Both of these
thoughts are from the enemy, and there is no truth in
them. But think this way: I am a great sinner, but the
Lord is merciful. He loves people very much, and He will
forgive my sins.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XVII.1
Sincere faith is the renunciation of your own mind. It is
necessary to make your mind naked and present it like a
clean chalkboard to faith, so that she can draw herself on
it like she is, without any without any admixture of
foreign sayings and attitudes. When the mind’s own
attitudes remain within it, then, after the attitudes of
faith are written on it, there appears a mixture of
attitudes. The mind will be confused, encountering
contradictions between the actions of faith and the
sophistries of the mind. Thus are all who approach the
region of faith with their own sophistries... They are
confused in the faith, and nothing comes of it but harm.
Saint Theophan the Recluse, Thought for Every Day of the Year, 11.04
There are lots of those who speak but few who do. However,
no one should distort the word of God by his own
negligence, but it is better to confess your own weakness,
not hiding the truth of God, so that together with the
breaking of the commandments you do not also appear guilty
of an untrustworthy explanation of the word of God.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 4:85
Whoever prematurely begins a work that is above his
strength receives nothing, but only brings harm upon
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 11
There are people who, when they encounter inability to
understand, do not ask the Lord. But one must immediately
say, “Lord, I am a sinful man and I don’t understand as I
should. But give me understanding, merciful One, as to how
I must proceed.” And the merciful Lord then inspires them
as to what to do and what not to do.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XX.4
No one ever accomplishes good by means of evil, because
they are themselves conquered by the evil. On the
contrary, evil is corrected by good.
Saint Barsanuphius the Great, Instructions, 15
Do not try to decide a difficult matter by means of
disputing, but that which is enjoined by the spiritual
law, namely patience, prayer, and thoughtful hope.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 1:12
If we weave by day and undo at night, nothing gets woven.
If we build by day and destroy by night, nothing is ever
built. If we pray to God and do evil before Him, the
nothing is woven, and a house for our soul is not built.
Saint Nicholas of Serbia, Thoughts on Good and Evil
Remain in Place and do not Flee from Temptation
Gerontissa Theodora said: A certain monk, afflicted by many
sorrows, said to himself, “Leave this place.” With these
words he began to put his sandals on his feet, and
suddenly he saw the devil in the form of a man sitting in
the corner of his cell. The devil was also putting on his
sandals. He said to the monk, “Are you leaving here
because of me? Well then, wherever you go, I will be there
Saint Ignatios Brianchaninov, Paterikon
A certain monk asked one of the elders, “Why are my
thoughts always inclined to defilement, so that they give
me no rest even for an hour, and my soul is troubled?” The
elder said to him, “If the demons inspire thoughts in you,
do not give in to them.” It is their nature to tempt
constantly. And even though they never leave off this
temptation, they cannot force you to sin. It depends on
your will to listen to them or not to listen.” The brother
said to the elder, “What should I do? I am weak and the
passion is conquering me.” The elder answered, “Guard
against them, and when they begin to speak to you, do not
answer them, but pray to God: Son of God, have mercy on
Ancient Paterikon, 5.35
If a man does not argue with the thoughts that the enemy
secretly sows in us, but by prayer to God uproots
conversation with them, this is a sign that his mind has
attained wisdom, and that he has found a short path.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 30
A man who is enticed by sinful thoughts is blinded by
them, and he sees the action of sin in himself, but he can
not see the cause of this action.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 1.168
It is impossible to keep spiritual peace if we do not take
care of the mind, that is if we do not drive out thoughts
that are displeasing to God and, on the contrary, keep
thoughts which are pleasing to God. It is necessary to
look into the heart with mind and see what is done there.
Is it peaceful or not? If not, then find out in what you
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XIV.8
When bad thoughts are planted in you, then cry to God:
“Lord, my Maker and Creator. You see that my soul is in
agony from bad thoughts. Have mercy on me.” Teach yourself
to root out thoughts immediately. But when you forget and
don’t root them out immediately, then offer repentance.
Work on this, so that you get a habit.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XVII.4,6
The Snares of the Devil
Love for that which is earthly makes the soul empty, and
then there she is sad, and grows wild, and does not want
to pray to God. The enemy then, seeing that the soul is
not in God, shakes her and freely places in the mind
whatever he wants, and he drives the soul from one thought
to another, and thus the whole day the soul remains in
such disorder and cannot purely gaze at the Lord.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, IV.5
Our inhuman enemy [the devil, in drawing a Christian to
defilement] inspires the thought that God loves mankind,
and that He quickly forgives this sin. But when we observe
the guile of demons, then we see that after the commission
of the sin, they suggest to us that God is a righteous and
implacable Judge. The first they say in order to lead us
to sin, the second, in order to weigh us down in despair.
Saint John of the Ladder, Ladder, 15:33
The devil makes small sins seem smaller in our eyes, for
otherwise he can’t lead us to greater evil.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2:94
When anyone goes into sin, his thoughts are is it were
enchained and his vision is changed for the worse through
that by means of which the evil one, instigating and
flattering, weakens and darkens us. But after the sin has
been committed he sets before our eyes what we have done
and cruelly reveals that to which he has drawn us with
much guile and, condeming the severity of the deed,
endeavours by the same to draw the sinner into despair.
Saint Photius the Great, Amphilochius, 14
We have within us deeply rooted weaknesses, passions, and
defects. This can not all be cut out with one sharp
motion, but patience, persistence, care and attention. The
path leading to perfection is long. Pray to God so that he
will strengthen you. Patiently accept your falls and,
having stood up, immediately run to God, not remaining in
that place where you have fallen. Do not despair if you
keep falling into your old sins. Many of them are strong
because they have received the force of habit. Only with
the passage of time and with fervor will they be
conquered. Don’t let anything deprive you of hope.
Saint Nectarios of Aegina, Path to Happiness, 3
Do not seek earthly glory in any matter, for it is
extinguished for him who loves it. In its time it blows on
a man like a strong wind, and then quickly, taking from
him the fruits of his good works, it goes away from him,
laughing at his foolishness.
Saint Gennadius of Constantinople, The Golden Chain, 35
Geronta Pimen said, he who fervently desires the love of
men is deprived of the love of God. In is not good to be
liked by everyone, for it is said, “Woe to you, when all
men speak well of you” (Luke 6:26).
Ancient Paterikon, 8:16
Often the Lord heals vainglory by dishonor.
Saint John of the Ladder, Ladder, 22.38
[It is possible to struggle against love of honor and
vainglory in this way:] When you hear that your neighbor
or friend has reproached you in your absence or presence,
then show love and praise him.
Saint John of the Ladder, 22:15
In the Scriptures it is written that falsehood is from the
evil one, and that He is the “Father of Lies” (John 8:44),
while God is truth, for He Himself says, “I am the way,
the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
Thus you see from whom we estranged ourselves and to whom
we are united by a lie. So then, if we really want to be
saved, we must love truth with our whole hearts and guard
ourselves from all falsehood. There are three different
types of lies: in thought, in word, and in life itself. A
man lies in thought when he accepts as true his own
imaginations, that is his vain despite of his neighbor.
Such a one, when he sees that someone is conversing with
his neighbor, makes his own estimation and says, “They are
talking about me.” If someone say a word, he considers
that it was said to grieve him. Never believe your own
guesses and interpretations, for a crooked measurement
makes even the straight to be crooked. Human opinion is
false and harms those who are given to it. The one who
sins in word is one who, for example, when out of
despondency he has not gotten up for the service, does not
say, “Forgive me, I was too lazy to get up,” but says, “I
had a fever, I had too much work, I hadn’t the strength to
get up, I was sick,” and says ten false statements, rather
than make a single prostration and be humbled. And if he
should be rebuke is such a situation, he changes his words
and argues, in order not to be rebuked. One who lies by
his life is one who, if he is defiled, pretends to be
chaste, or if he is avaricious, praises almsgiving, or if
he is proud praises humility. Thus, in order to escape
falsehood and be delivered from the part of the evil one,
let us strive to appropriate truth, in order to have union
Geronta Dorotheos, Soul-profiting Teachings, 9
Guard your mind from self-praise and flee a high opinion
of yourself, so that God does not allow you to fall into
the opposite [passion to the virtue for which you boast],
for man does not accomplish virtue alone, but with the
help of God who sees all.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 85
The Lord bears all the weaknesses of men, but He does not
bear a man who is always murmuring, and does not leave Him
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 85
If suffer some misfortune, then think: “The Lord sees my
heart, and if it pleases Him, it will be well both for me
and and others.” And thus your soul will always be at
peace. But is someone murmurs, “This is bad, and that is
bad,” then he will never have peace in his soul, even
though he fasts and prays a lot.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, IV.1
A certain monk lived in a monastery, and he was always
angry. He decided, “I will leave this place and dwell by
myself as a hermit, and then I will no relations with
anyone, and the passion of anger will leave me.” Leaving
the monastery, he settled in a cave. One day, having taken
up a pitcher of water, the monk set it one the ground, and
it tipped over. Again he drew the water, and the pitcher
tipped a second time. The he drew it again, and it fell a
third time. The brother got angry, picked it up and broke
it. When he had come to himself, he understood that the
devil had triumphed over him and said, “Behold, I have
gone away into seclusion, and I am conquered! I will go
back to the monastery, for patience and the help of God
are necessary everywhere!” And he returned to his previous
Ancient Paterikon, 7.38
Geronta Agathon said: An angry man, even if he raises the
dead, is not pleasing to God.”
Ancient Paterikon, 10.15
Are you angry? Be angry at your sins, beat your soul,
afflict your conscience, but strict in judgement and a
terrible punisher of your own sins. This is the benefit of
anger, wherefore God placed it in us.
Saint John Chrysostom, Conversation of Ephesians, 2
Gluttony and satiety in food produce defiled lust, while
free association with women enflames the fire of lusts ...
At the time of struggle with defilement, punish your
thoughts with lack of nourishment, so that you will think
not of defilements, but of hunger, and reject the
invitation to go visiting.
Saint Nilus of Sinai
Don’t let your eyes look here and there, and don’t look on
someone elses’ beauty, so that the devil will not conquer
you with the help of your eyes.
Saint Ephraim the Syrian
A certain monk had a struggle against defiled lusts. He
got up and night and went to the elder and confessed to
him the thoughts that were drawing him to defilement. The
elder calmed him and the brother, have benefited, returned
to his cell. But the struggle rose up against him again,
and again he went to the elder. He did this a few times.
The elder did not grieve him, but said, “Don’t give up,
but it is better that you come to me whenever the demon
disturbs you, and repel him by exposing your thoughts. By
such a repulsion he will pass you by. For nothing so burns
the demon of defilement as the revelation of his deeds [in
confession before a spiritual father]. And nothing makes
him so happy as the hiding of thoughts.” Thus the brother
came to the elder eleven times, repelling his thoughts,
and the brother’s temptation ceased.
Ancient Paterikon, 5.16
Lust is as it were desire and desire, will which extends
beyond the natural will, passionate, not governed by the
law and moderation. There are thus many forms of lust,
like the many forms of sin ... Lust does not approach the
soul in the form of a warlike enemy, but in the form of a
friend or a pleasant servant. It suggests some sort of
pleasure or illusory good. But this is only a trick by
which the malicious angler strives to lead astray and
catch the poor soul. Remember this when you are tempted by
Saint Philaret of Moscow, Sermon on the 5th of July, 1845
VI. Concerning What Must be Endured of the Spiritual Path
When you want to make a beginning of a good deed, first
prepare for temptations, which will come to you, and don’t
doubt the truth [of that which you do for God.]
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 57
No one can sense his own weakness is at least a small
temptation is not allowed to afflict either his body or
his soul. Then, comparing his weakness to the help of God,
a man comes to know its magnitude. But whoever does not
know that he needs God’s help, let him make many prayers.
Insofar as he multiplies them, in that measure will he be
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 61
There is no man who will not be grieved at the time of his
chastisement; and there is not man who will not endure a
bitter time, when he must drink the poison of temptations.
Without them, it is not possible to obtain a strong will.
When he has often experienced the help of God in
temptations, a man also obtains strong faith.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 37
Without temptations, it is not possible to learn the
wisdom of the Spirit. It is not possible that Divine love
be strengthened in your soul. Before temptations, a man
prays to God as a stranger. When temptations are allowed
to come by the love of God, and he does not give in to
them, then he stands before God as a sincere friend. For
in fulfilling the will of God, he has made war on the
enemy of God and conquered him.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 5
Conquer temptations by the patience and prayer. If you
oppose them without these, you will fall all the more
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.106
If an unexpected temptation comes, don’t blame the one
through whom it came, but seek out the reason. Thus you
will find correction for your soul.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 2.42
Temptations come on some people for the cleansing of
previous sins, on other for the beautification of their
current perfection, and on yet others, as preparation for
things to come, except temptations, which are for the
increase of a man’s faith and virtue, as it was with Job.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 2.45
Temptations come so that hidden passions may be revealed
and so that it will be possible to fight them, and so that
the soul may be rid of them. They are also a sign of God’s
mercy. So give yourself with trust into God’s hands and
ask his help, so that he will strengthen you in your
struggle. God knows how much each one can bear and allows
temptations according to the measure of our strength.
Remember that after temptation comes spiritual joy, and
that the Lord protects them that endure temptations and
suffering for the sake of His love.
Saint Nektarios of Aegina, The Path to Happiness, 4
A child cries when his mother washes him, and those of
little faith murmur at God when they are in trouble, which
cleanses the soul like water cleanses the face.
Saint Symeon of Daibabe, Sayings, 89
If you want to serve God, prepare your heart not for food,
not for drink, not for rest, not for ease, but for
suffering, so that you may endure all temptations, trouble
and sorrow. Prepare for severities, fasts, spiritual
struggles and many afflictions, for “by many afflictions
is it appointed to us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven”
(Acts 14,22); “The Heavenly Kingdom is taken by force, and
the who use force seize it” (Matthew 11:12).
Saint Sergios of Radonezh, Life, 10
It is impossible to draw near to God without sorrows,
without which human righteousness cannot remain
unchanged... If you desire virtue, than give yourself to
every affliction, for afflictions produce humility. If
someone abides in virtue without afflictions, the door of
pride is opened to him.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 34
Sin is a sickness which has been introduced into human
nature. A sinful impression and perverse pleasure leaves a
trace in the soul and body, which becomes deeper with the
repetition of sinful actions and which forms a propensity
for sinful action and a certain thirst for sin. Therefore,
as a bodily doctor sometimes painful burns out the ulcers
that have infected the body, or separates them with iron,
in the same way the Doctor of souls and bodies uses
instruments of affliction is order to wrest out the roots
and erase the traces of sins, and with the fire of
suffering burns out the contagion of propensity to sinful
Saint Philaret of Moscow, Homily on July 5th, 1848
Geronta Dorotheos said: No matter what kind of sorrow
comes to you, don’t blame anyone but yourself, and say,
“This has happened because of my sins.”
Saint Ignatios Brianchaninov, Paterikon
A man of discernment, meditating on the healing Divine
Providence, bears with thanksgiving the misfortunes that
come to him. He sees their causes in his own sins, and not
in anyone else. But a mindless man, when he sins and
receives the punishment for it, considers the cause of his
misfortune to be God, or people, not understanding God’s
care for him.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 2.46
If we were not passionately inclined to money or to
vainglory, then we would not fear death or poverty. We
would not know enmity or hatred, and we would not suffer
from the sorrows of ourselves or others.
Saint John Chrysostom, To those at Enemity, 3.19
Afflictions for God’s sake are dearer to Him than any
prayer or sacrifice.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 58
God tested Abraham. That is, he sent him afflictions for
his benefit, not so that he could find out what sort of
man he was, for God knows everything, but so that He give
him the means to perfect his faith.
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.203
When we bravely and quietly endure the afflictions sent to
us, we participate a little, albeit not fully, in the
sufferings of Christ.
Saint Makarios of Optina, Letters, 473
The righteous have no sorrows that are not turned into
joy, as sinners have no joy that is not turned into sorrow.
Saint Dmitri of Rostov
Humility and suffering free a man from all sin; for the
first cuts out spiritual passions, and the latter bodily.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 1.76
We suffer because we have no humility and we do not love
our brother. From love of our brother comes the love of
God. People do not learn humility, and because of their
pride cannot receive the grace of the Holy Spirit, and
therefor the whole world suffers.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XVI.4,6
Everyone who loves God shows himself patient and steadfast
in times of suffering. Whoever bears them bravely becomes
strong and obedient to God, and whoever enters the path of
following the will of God conquers his natural weakness.
On the other hand, whoever does not recognize his own
powerlessness is proud and not inclined to submit himself
to the will of the Lord. Whoever does not submit to it and
hopes only in his own power does not receive the power and
help of God and, not having been strengthened in spirit,
cannot become patient. But whoever does not endure
misfortune and afflictions has not faith, and whoever does
not have faith, does not love God.
Saint Alexis of Senaki, Concerning Afflictions
No matter what bitterness has befallen you, no matter what
unpleasantness has happened to you, say, “I shall endure
this for Jesus Christ!” and it will be easier for you. For
the name of Jesus Christ is powerful. Through it all
unpleasantness is calmed, and demons disappear. Your
disappointments will also be calmed and you pusillanimity
will be quited.
Saint Anthony of Optina
How Can we be Saved?
Orthodox Christians must steadfastly remain in Orthodoxy,
preserve oneness of mind with one another and
unhypocritical love, guard purity of soul and body, reject
evil and unclean intentions, temperately partake of food
and drink, and above all adorn themselves with humility,
not neglect hospitality, refrain from conflicts and not
give honor and glory in anything to earthly life, but
instead await a reward from God: the enjoyment of heavenly
Saint Sergios of Radonezh, Life, 32
If you want to attain salvation, learn and keep in your
heart all that the holy Church teaches and, receiving
heavenly power from the mysteries of the Church, walk the
path of Christ’s commandments, under the direction of
lawful pastors, and you will undoubtedly attain the
Heavenly Kingdom and be saved. All of this is naturally
necessary in the matter of salvation, necessary in it
entirety and for all. Whoever rejects or neglects any part
of it has no salvation.
Saint Theophan the Recluse, Five Teachings on the Path to Salvation, 3
A certain monk asked Saint Anthony the Great, “What must I
do to be saved?” The elder answered him, “Don’t trust in
your own righteousness, don’t worry about what’s past, and
constrain your tongue and your stomach.”
Ancient Paterikon, 1.2
Another brother asked Geronta Makarios, “How can I be saved?”
The elder answered him, “Be like one dead: do not think
about insults from people, nor of glory, and you will be
Ancient Paterikon, 10.45
In the spiritual life we can do nothing worthy without
repentance, but the Lord has much mercy on us because of
our intentions. He who compels himself and holds on to
repentance until the end, even if he sins is saved because
he compelled himself, for the Lord promised this in the
Saint Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 3
A Christian receives divine wisdom in three ways: by the
commandments, teachings, and faith. The commandments free
the mind from passions. Teachings lead it to true
knowledge of nature. Faith leads to the contemplation of
the Holy Trinity.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 4.47
If you become rich, consider whether or not you could
worthily bear poverty
If you are happy, imagine how you could worthily meet
When people praise you, think how you might worthily bear
insult. And, all your life, think how you might worthily
Saint Nicholas of Serbia, Thoughts on Good and Evil
So, being the portion of the Holy God, begin to do all
that pertains to holiness, running away from evil words,
unclean and shameful relations, drunkenness, passions and
innovations, base lusts, defiled adulteries and
overweening pride. For it is said: “God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble”
1 Peter 5:5
So, let us unite ourselves to them to whom grace has been
given by God. Let us put on oneness of mind, let us be
humble, temperate, far from any cursing or evil speech,
making ourselves righteous by deeds and not by words...
Let our praise be from God, and not from ourselves. God
hates those who praise themselves. Let the witness of our
good deeds be given by others.
Saint Clement of Rome, Corinthians, 30
Christians, have we understood the great responsibility
that we have taken on before God through baptism? Have we
come to know that we must conduct ourselves as children of
God, that we must align our will with the will of God,
that we must remain free from sin, that we must love God
with all our hearts and always patiently await union with
Him? Have we thought about the fact that our heart should
be so filled with love that it should overflow to our
neighbor? Do we have the feeling that we must become holy
and perfect, children of God and heirs of the Kingdom of
Heaven? We must struggle for this, so that we may not be
shown unworthy and rejected. Let none of us lose our
boldness, nor neglect our duties, nor be afraid of the
difficulties of spiritual struggle. For we have God as a
helper, who strengthens us in the difficult path of virtue.
Saint Nektarios of Aegina, The Path to Happiness, 2