Theodoros the Great Ascetic

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#It is less difficult to cleanse an impure soul than to restore to health a soul which was once cleansed but has been wounded anew. For it is less difficult for those who have recently renounced the confusion of the world to attain dispassion, whatever faults they may previously have committed, than it is for those who have tasted the blessed words of God and walked in the path of salvation and then gone back to sin. This is due partly to the influence of bad habit and partly to the fact that the demon of objection is always dangling the image of sin before them. But, with the co-operation of divine grace, a diligent and assiduous soul may deadily achieve even this difficult feat of regaining its dispassion; for, long-suffering and compassionate, grace invites us to repentance, and with inexpressible mercy accepts those who return, as we have been taught in the Gospels throught the parable of the prodigal son (cf. Luke 15:11-32). <br>
 
#It is less difficult to cleanse an impure soul than to restore to health a soul which was once cleansed but has been wounded anew. For it is less difficult for those who have recently renounced the confusion of the world to attain dispassion, whatever faults they may previously have committed, than it is for those who have tasted the blessed words of God and walked in the path of salvation and then gone back to sin. This is due partly to the influence of bad habit and partly to the fact that the demon of objection is always dangling the image of sin before them. But, with the co-operation of divine grace, a diligent and assiduous soul may deadily achieve even this difficult feat of regaining its dispassion; for, long-suffering and compassionate, grace invites us to repentance, and with inexpressible mercy accepts those who return, as we have been taught in the Gospels throught the parable of the prodigal son (cf. Luke 15:11-32). <br>
 
#No one among us can prevail by his own unaided strength over the devices and wiles of the evil one; he can prevail only through the invicible power of Christ. Vainly, therefore, do conceited people wander about claiming that they have abolished sin through their ascetic accomplishments and their free will. Sin is abolished only through the grace of God, for it was made dead through the mystery of the cross. This is why that luminary of the Chrusch, St John Chrysostom, says :'A man's readiness and commitment are not enough if he does not enjoy help from above as well; equally help from above is no benefit to us unless there is also commitment and readiness on our part. These two facts are proved by Judas and Peter. For although Judas enjoyed much help, it was of no benefit to him, since he had no desire for it and contributed nothing from himself. But Peter although willing and ready, fell because he enjoyed no help from above. So holiness is woven of these two strands. Thus I entreat you neither to entrust everything to God and then fall asleep, nor to think, when you are striving diligently, that you will achieve everything by your own efforts.<br>
 
#No one among us can prevail by his own unaided strength over the devices and wiles of the evil one; he can prevail only through the invicible power of Christ. Vainly, therefore, do conceited people wander about claiming that they have abolished sin through their ascetic accomplishments and their free will. Sin is abolished only through the grace of God, for it was made dead through the mystery of the cross. This is why that luminary of the Chrusch, St John Chrysostom, says :'A man's readiness and commitment are not enough if he does not enjoy help from above as well; equally help from above is no benefit to us unless there is also commitment and readiness on our part. These two facts are proved by Judas and Peter. For although Judas enjoyed much help, it was of no benefit to him, since he had no desire for it and contributed nothing from himself. But Peter although willing and ready, fell because he enjoyed no help from above. So holiness is woven of these two strands. Thus I entreat you neither to entrust everything to God and then fall asleep, nor to think, when you are striving diligently, that you will achieve everything by your own efforts.<br>
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#'God does not want us to be lying idly on our backs; therefore He does not effect everything Himself. Nor does He want us to be boastful; therefore He did not give us everything. But having taken away from each of the two alternatives what is harmful, He has left us what is for our good.' Truly does the psalmist say : 'unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain that build it; unless the Lord guard the city, the watchman keep awake in vain' (Ps. 127:1). For it is impossible to 'tread on the asp and basilisk and trample on the lion and dragon' (ps. 91:13.LXX), unless you have first cleansed yourself as far as you can, and have been strengthened by Him who said to the apostles :'See, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and on al the enemy's power' (Luke 10:19). It is on this account that we have been commanded to entreat the Master not to 'lead us into temptation, but to deliver us from the evil one' (Matt. 6:13). For if we are not delivered from 'the fiery arrows of the evil one' (Eph. 6:16) through the power and help of Christ, and found worthy of attaining dispassion, we are labourig in vain, thinking that through our own powers or efforts we shall accomplish something. Therefore, he who wishes 'to stand against the wiles of the devil' (Eph. 6:11) and render them ineffectual, and to share in the divine glory, ought day and night to seek God's help and divine succour with tears and sighs, with insatiable longing and fire in his soul. He who wishes to share in this glory purges his soul of all worldly pleasures and of hostile passions and desires. It is of such souls that God speaks when He says : 'I will dwell in them and walk in them' (2 Cor. 6:16). And the Lord said to His disciples : 'If a man loves Me, he will keep My commandments; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and take up Our abode with him' (John 14:23).<br>
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#One of the ancients spoke wisely and simply about thoughts. Judge thoughts, he said, before the judgment seat of the heart, to discern whether they are ours or those of our enemy. Place those which are good and properly our own in the inmost shrine of the soul, keeping them in this inviolable treasure. But chastise hostile thoughts with the whip of the intelligence and banish them, giving them no place, no abode within the bounds of your soul. Or, to speak more fittingly, slay them completely with the sword of prayer and divine meditation, so that when the robber have been destroyed, their chief may take fright. For, so he says, a man who examines his thoughts strictly is one who also truly loves the commandments.<br>
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#he who is battling to repulse what harrases and wars against him must enlist the help of other allies - I mean humility of soul, bodly toil and every other kind of ascetic hardship, together with prayer that springs from an afflicted heart and is accompanied by many tears. he must be like David who says : 'Look on my humility and my toil, and forgive all my sins' (Ps. 25:18). 'Do not pass my tears over in silence' (Ps. 39:12); 'My tears have been my bread day and night' (ps. 42:3); and 'I mingled my drink with weeping' (Ps. 102:9).<br>
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#The adversary of our life, the devil, empoys many devices to make our sins seem small to us. Often he cloaks them with forgetfulness, so that, after suffering a little on their account, we no longer trouble to lament over them. But, my brethren, let us not forget our offences, even if we wrongly think that they have been forgiven through repentance; let us always remember our sinful acts and never cease to mourn over them, so that we may acquire humility as our contant companion, and thus escape the snares of self-esteem and pride.<br>
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#Let no one think that he endures suffering and achieves holiness through his own powers. For God is the cause of all the good that comes to us, just as the demon that deceives our souls is the cause of all evils. Therefore, give thanks to their Cause for whatever good acts you perform; and atrribute to their instigator the evil that trouble you.<br>
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#He who yokes the practice of the virtues
  
  

Revision as of 20:22, August 27, 2005

Our father among the saints Theodoros the Great Ascetic was a monk of the monastery of St. Savvas near Jerusalem who became Bishop of Edessa in Syria. His feast day is celebrated on July 19. His Life was written by Basil of Emesa. The work A Century of Spiritual Texts is included in the Philokalia and is believed to have been written by St. Theodoros.

In the middle of the 9th century, St. Theodore of Edessa converted the "Saracen king", Muawid, one of the three sons of the Umayyad caliph Mutawakkil (847-861 A.D.), to Orthodoxy, baptizing him with the name John together with his three confidants.[1]


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Excerpts from A Century of Spiritual Texts:

  1. Since by God's grace we have renounced Satan and his works and have sworn allegiance to Christ, both at our baptism and now again through our profession as monks, let us keep His commandments. Not only does our double profesion demand this of us, but it is also our natural duty, for since we were originally created by God as 'very good' (Gen 1:31), we owe it to God to be such. Although sin entered us through our negligence and introduced into us what is contrary to nature, we have been reclaimed through God's great mercy, and renewed by the passion of Him who is dispassionate. We have been 'bought with a price' (1 Cor 6:20), namely by the blood of Christ, and liberated from the ancient ancestral sin. If, then, we become righteous, this is nothing great; but to fall from righteousness is pitiable and deserves condemnation.
  2. Just as a good act performed without genuine faith is quite dead and ineffective, so too faith alone without works of righteousness does not save us from eternal fire; for 'he who loves Me', says the Lord, 'will keep My commandments' (cf. John 14:15, 23). If then, we love the Lord and believe in Him, we shall exert ourselves to fulfil His commandments, so as to be granted eternal life. But how can we call ourselves faithful if we neglect to keep His ordinances, which all creation obeys, and if, althought we have been honoured above all creation, we are the only creatures who disobey the Creator and show ourselves ungrateful to our Benefactor?
  3. When we keep Christ's commandments we do not benefit Him in any way, since He is in need of nothing and is the bestower of every blessing. It is ourselvese that was benefit, since we win for ourselves eternal life and the enjoyment of ineffable blessings.
  4. If anyone whatsoever opposes us in the fulfilment of God's commandments, even if it is our father or mother, we ought to regard him with hatred and loathing, least we be told :'He who loves father or mother or anyone else whatsoever more than Me is not worthy of Me' (cf Matt. 10:37)
  5. Let us bind ourselves with all our strength to fulfil the Lord's commandments, lest we ourselves shoud be held by unbreakable cords of our evil desires and soul-corrupting pleasures (cf. should be passed on us as well : 'Cut it down, so that it does not clutter up the ground' (Luke 13:7). For, as Christ says, whatever 'does not produce good fruits is hewn down, and cast into the fire' (Matt. 3:10).
  6. He who gives himself to desire and sensual pleasures and lives according to the world's way will quickly be caught in the nets of sin. And sin, when once committed, is like fire put to straw, a stone rolling downhill or a torrent eating away its bank. Such pleasures, then, bring complete perdition on him who embraces them.
  7. So long as the sould is an state contrary to nature, running wild with the weeds and thorns of sensual pleasures, it is a dwelling place of grotesque beasts. Isaiah's word apply to it : ass-centaurs shall rest there, and hedgehogs make their lair in it, and there demons will consoft with ass-centaurs (cf. Isa. 34:11, 14. LXX) - for all theses animals signify the various shameful passions. But the soul, so long as it is joined to the flesh, can recall itself to its natural state at any time it wishes; and whatever it does so and disciplines itself with diligent effort, living in accordance with God's lwa, the wild beasts that were lurking inside it will take to flight, while the angels who guard our life will come to its aid, making the soul's return a day of rejoicing (cf. Luke 15:7). And the grace of the Holy Spirit will be present in it what is good and rise to higher levels.
  8. The Father define prayer as a spiritual weapon. Unless we are armed with it we cannot engage in warfare, but are carried off as prisoners to the enemy's country. Nor can we acquire pure prayer unless we cleave to God with an upright heart. For it is God who gives prayer to him who prays and who teaches man spiritual knowledge.
  9. It does not lie within our power to decide whether or not the passions are going to harass and attack the soul. But it does lie within our power to prevent impassioned thoughts from lingering within us and arousing the passions to action. The first of these conditions is not sinful, inasmuch as it is outside our control; whether the second is concerned, if we fight against the passions and overcome them we are rewarded, but we shall be funished if because of laziness and cowardice we let them overcome us.
  10. There are three principal passions, through which all the rest arise: love of sensual pleasure, love of riches, and love of praise. Close in their wake follow five other evil spirits, and from these five arise a great swarm of passions and all manner of evil. Thus he who defeats the three leaders and rulers simultaneously overcomes the other five and so subdues all the passions.
  11. Memories of all the impassioned actions we have performed exert an impassioned tyranny over the soul. But when impasioned thoughts have been completely erased from our heart, so that they no longer affect it even as provocations, this is a signt that our former sinful acts have been forgiven. For so long as the heart is stimulated by passion, sin clearly reigns there.
  12. Bodily passions or passions concerned with material things are reduced and withered through bodily hardship, while the unseen passions of the soul are destroyed through humility, gentleness and love.
  13. Self control together with humility withers passionate desire, love calms inflamed anger, and intense prayer together with mindfulness of God concentrates distracted thoughts. Thus the tripartite soul is purified. It was to this end that the apostle said : 'Pursue peace with all men and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord' (Heb. 12:14).
  14. Many People Wonder whether thought stimulates the passions or the passions stimulate thought. Some say the first and some the second. My own view is that thoughts are stimulated by the passions. For unless passions were in the soul, thoughts abouth them would not disturbd it.
  15. The demons, who always waging war against us, try to prevent us from performing actions that are within our power and that would help us to acquire the virtues, while at the same time they suggest ways of accomplishing things that in fact are impossible or else out of place. They compel those progressing in obedience to follow the hesychasts' way of life; and they implant in hesychasts and hermits a desire for coenobitic rule. They use a similar method with respect to every virtue. So let us be mindful of their designs, knowing that all things are good in their proper time and measure, while things lacking measure and out of place are noxious.
  16. With those who live in the world and are associated with the material things that feed the passions, the demons wage ware through practical activities; while with those who dwell in the wilderness, where material things are rare, they fight by troubling them with evil thoughts. This secode mode of warfare is far more difficult to cope with; for warfare through things requires a specific time and place, and a fit occasion, whereas warefare of the intellect is mercurical, and hard to control. But as our trusty weapon in this incorporeasl fight we have been given pure prayer: that is why we are told to pray without ceasing (cf. 1 Thess. 5:17). Prayer strengthens the intellect in the struggle, since it can be practiced even without the body taking part.
  17. With reference to the perfect mortification of the passions St Paul says :'They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh together with the passions and desires' (Gal. 5:240. For when we mortify the passions, utterly destroy desires, and subjugate the will of the flesh to Spirit, we take up the cross and follow Christ (cf. Matt. 16:24). For withdrawal from the world is nothing else but the mortification of the passions and the manisfestation of the life that is hidden in Christ (cf. Col. 3:3-4).
  18. Those who have given up their hour-by-hour warfare, because of their distress at the rebelliousness of 'body of this death' (Rom 7:24), should blame not the flesh, but themselves. For if they had not given it the strength, providing for it so it could gratify its desires (cf. Rom. 13:14), they would not have so greatly distressed by it. Do they not see how those who have crucified themselves together with their passions and desires, and who proclaim the death of Jesus in their mortal flesh (cf. 2 Cor. 4:10), have made the flesh tractable and obedient to the law of God, so that it proves any ally rather than an adversary in their aspirations towards the divine? Let them do likewise and they will enjoy the same peace.
  19. Every assent in thought to some forbidden desire, that is, every submission to self-indulgence, is a sin for a monk. For first the thought begin to darken the intellect through the passible aspect of soul, and then the sould submits to the pleasure, not holding out in the fight. This is what is called assent, which - as has been said - is a sin. When assent persists it stimulates the passion in question. Then little by little is leads to the actual committing of the sin. This why the prophets calls blessed those who dash the children of Babylon against the stones (cf. Ps. 137 : 9). People with understanding and discretion will know what is meant.
  20. Being servants of love and peace, the angels rejoice over our repentance (cf. Luke 15:7) and our progress in holiness. Hence they try to develop spiritual contemplation within us and they cooperate with us in the achieving of every form of blessing. The demons, on the contrary, being producers of anger and of evil, rejoice when holiness diminishes in us, and they attempt to seduce our souls with shameful fantasies.
  21. Faith is a quality inherent in our nature. It begets in us the fear of God; and fear of God instils that keeping of the commandments which constitues the practice of the virtues. From such practice grows the precious flower of dispassion. The offspring of dispassion is love, which is the fulfilment of all the commandments (cf. Rom. 13:10), binding and holding them in unity.
  22. When the body's perception is sound one is aware of what sickness afflicts it, while if one is not aware one is a victim of obtuseness. Similarly, the intellect, as long as it preserves its own proper energy, is conscious of its powers and knows from where the tyrannizing passion enter it; and it makes a determined stand against them. But it is terrible to pass one's day in a state of oblivion, like one who fights by night, not being able to see the evil thoughts agaings which one is battling.
  23. When our intelligence unyieldingly devotes itself to the contemplation of the virtues, and our desire is focused solely on this and on Christ who bestows it, while our souls's incensive power arms itself against the demons, then our faculties are acting according to nature.
  24. Every deiform soul is tripartite, according to Gregory the Theologian. Virtue, when established in the intelligence, he calls discretion, understanding and wisdom; when in the incensive power, he calls it courage and patience; and when in the faculty of desire, he calls it love, self-restraint and self-control. Justice or right judgment penetrates al three aspects of soul, enabling them to function in harmony. Through discretion the soul fights against the hostile powers and defends the virtues. Through self-restraint it views things dispassionately. Through love it urges a man to love all men as himself. Through self-control it eliminates every sensual pleasure. Finally, through courage and patience it arms itself against its invisible enemies. This is the harmony of the melodious organ of the soul.
  25. Let him who cultivates self-restraint and longs for blessed purity - which could rightly be called dispassion - discipline the flesh and bring it into subjection, with humble thoughts invoking divine grace, and he will achieve the aim he desires. But he who feeds the body intemperately will be tormented by the demon of unchastity. Jus as much water puts out a flame, so hunger or selfcontrol combined with humility of soul extinguishes the fever of the flesh and of shameful fantasies.
  26. If you love Christ you must keep the passion of rancour far from your soul. You should on no account yield to feelings of hostility; rancour lurking in the heart is like fire hidden in stalkds of dry flax. Rather you should pray fervently for anyone who has grieved you, and you should help him, if you have the means. By this action your sould bill be delivered from death (cf. Tobit 4:10) and nothing will hinder your communion with God when you pray.
  27. The Lord dwells in the souls of the humble; but shameful passions fill the hearts of the proud. Nothing so strengthens these passions against us as arrogant thoughts, and nothing uproots the evil herbs of the soul so effectively as blessed humility. Hence humility is rightly called the executioner of passions.
  28. Let Your sould be free of evil fantasies and illumined with thoughts of what is truly noble. Constantly remember the saying, 'A self-indulgent heart becomes a prison and a chain for the soul when it leaves this life; whereas as assiduous heart is a open door.' Truly, when pure souls leave the body they are guided by angels who lead them to the life of blessedness. But unclean and unrepentant souls will be taken in charge by the demons.
  29. Beautfile is a head adorned with a precious diadem, set with Indian stones and lustrous pearls. But incomparably more beautiful is a sould rich in the knowledge of God, illumined by the most lucid contemplation and having the Holy Spirit dweling within it. Who can adequately describe the beauty of that blessed soul?
  30. Do not let anger and wrath make their home in you; ro 'an angry man is not dignified' (Prov. 11:25. LXX), whereas wisdom dwells in the hearts of gentle. If the passion of anger dominates your soul, those who live in the world will prove to be better than you, and you will be put to shame unworthy of monastic solitude.
  31. In every trial and in all warfare use prayer as your invicible weapon, and by the grace of Chris you will be victorious. Let your prayer be pure, as our wise teacher counsels. For he says : 'I would have men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without anger and without quarelling' (1 Tim. 2:8). But the person who neglects such prayer will be delivered over to trials and passions.
  32. 'Wine makes glad the heart of man'(Ps. 104:15). But you who have professed sorrow and grief should run away from such gladness and rejoice in spritual gifts. If you recjoice in wine, you will live with shameful thoughts and distress will overwhelm you.
  33. Do no plan to spend feast-days in drinking wine, but in regenerating your intellect and purifying your soul. If you eat gluttonously and drink wine provoke anger in the person whom the feast is honouring.
  34. We have been instructed to keep vigil - with prayers, reading, and the recitation of the Psalter - at all times, and especially at feasts. A monk who keeps vigil refines his mind for contemplation, whereas much sleep coarsens the intellect. But take care that during vigil you do not pass the time in empty gossip or evil thoughts. It is better to be asleep than to keep vigil with vain words and thoughts.
  35. He who keeps a serpent in his breast and he who keeps an evil thought in his heart will both be killed, the one by being bitten in the body by venomous fangs and the other by injecting a lethal poison into his soul. Let us, then, speedily slay the 'offspring of vipers' (Matt. 3:7), and let us not bring forth evil thoughts from our heart, lest we suffer bitter pangs.
  36. A pure sould can truly be called a 'chosen vessel'(Acts 9:15), 'an enclosed garden' and 'a sealed fountain' (Song of Solomon 4:12), and 'a throne of perceptiveness' (Prov. 12:23. LXX). But a soul polluted with filthy impurities stinks like a sewer.
  37. I have heard from elders experience in the practice of the virtues that evil thoughts are engendered in the soul by showy clothes, the belly's repletion and bad company.
  38. Desire for material wealth must not lodge in the souls of those pursuing the spiritual way. For a monk with many possesions is an over-laden ship, driven by the storm of cares and skinkin in the deep waters of distress. Love of riches begets many passions, and has aptly been called 'the root of all evil' (1 Tim. 6:10).
  39. A condition of total poverty, combined with silence, is a treasure hidden in the field of the monastic life (cf. Matt. 13:44). So 'go and sell all you have and give to the poor' (Matt. 19:21), and acquire this field. And when you have dug up the treasure, keep it inviolate, so that you become rich with a wealth that is inexhaustible.
  40. When you have taken up your dwelling with a spiritual father and find that he helps you, let no one separate you from his love and from living with him. Do not judge him in any respect, do no revile him even though he censures or strikes you, do not listen to someone who slanders him to you, do not side with anyone who critizes him, lest the Lord should be angered with you and blot you out of the book of the living (cf. Exod. 32:33).
  41. The struggle to achieve obedience is won by means of renunciation, as we have learned. He who seeks to be obedient must arm himself with three weapons : faith, hope, and divine and holy love (cf. 1 Cor. 13:13). Thus defended, he will 'fight the good fight' and receive 'a crown of righteousness' (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
  42. Do not judge the actions of your spiritual father, but obey his commands. For the demons are in the habit of showing you his defects, so that your ears may be deaf to what he tells you. They aim either to drive you from the arena as a feeble and woardly fighter, or simply to terrify you with thoughts that undermine your faith, and so to make you sluggish about every form of virtue.
  43. A monk who disobeys the commands of his spiritual father transgresses the special vows of his profession. But he who has embraced obedience and slain his own will with the sword of humility has indeed fulfilled the promise that he made to Christ in the presence of many witnesses.
  44. From our own observations we have clearly perceived that the enemies of our life, the demons, are exceedingly jealous of those pursuing the ascetic way under obedience to a spiritual father. Gnashing their teeth at them and devising all sorts of schemes, they do and suggest everything possible so as to separate a monk from his spiritual father's care. They propose plausible excuses, they contrive irritations, they arouse hatred against the father, they represent his admonitions as rebukes, they make his words of correction seem like sharpened arros. Why they ask, since you are free, have you become a slave - a slave to a merciless master? How long will you wear yourself out under the yoke of servitude and not see the light of freedom? Then they make suggestions about giving hospitality, visiting the sick and caring for the poor. Next they extol above measure the rewards of extreme stillness and solitude, and sow all sorts of evil weeds in the heart of the devout warrior, simply to cast him out of the fold of his spiritual father; and having unmoored him from that untroubled haven they drive him out to sea, into the fierce and soul-destroying tempest. Finally, when they have enslaved him to their own authority, they use him according to their own evil desires.
  45. You who are under obedience to a spiritual father must be alert to the cunning of your enemies and adversaries. Do not forget your profession and promise to God; do not be defeated by insults; do not afraid of reproof, mockery or sneering; do not give way to the proliferation of evil thoughts; do not evade your father's strictures; do not dishonour the blessed yoke of humility by daring to be self-satisfied and presumptuous. Instead, rooting in your heart the Lord's words, 'He who endures to the end will be saved' (Matt. 10:22), patiently run the race that is set before you, 'looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith' (Heb. 12:1-2).
  46. The goldsmith purifies gold by smelting it in a furnace. And a novice must surrender himself to the struggle for obedience and to the fiery ordeal of a holy life, learning with toil and much patience the practice of obedience. And once his old manners and habits have been melted down and he learn true humility, he becomes radiant, fit for heavenly treasures, for a life of immortality and a blessed repose whence 'pain and sorrow have fled away' (Isa. 35:10. LXX), and where gladness and continual joy flourish.
  47. True inward faith begets fear of God. Fear of God teaches us to keep the commandments. For where there is fear, it is said, there the commandments are kept. The keeping of the commandments establishes practical virtue, the precursor of contemplative virtue. Of these fruit is dispassion. Through dispassion, love is born in us. Concerning love the beloved disciple said, 'God is love, and he who dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him' (1 John 4:16).
  48. The monk's way of life is truly full of beauty and excellence, provided it accords with the rules and laws laid down by its founders and directors, taught as they were by the Holy Spirit. The warrior of Christ mus be above material things and detached from all worldly thought and deeds; for, as St Paul says :'In order to please the leader who has chosen him, the soldier going to war does not entangle himself in the affairs of his life' (2 Tim. 2:4).
  49. The monk, therefore must be detached from material things, must be dispassionate, free from all evil desires, not given to soft living, not a tippler, not slothful, not indolent, not a lover of wealth, pleasure or praise. Unless he raises himself above all these things, he will fail to achieve the angelic way of life. For those who do achieve it, the yoke is easy and the burden is light cf. Matt. 11:30), divine hope sustaining them in all things. This life and its activities are full of delight, and the lot of the soul that has attained it is blessed and 'cannot be taken away'(Luke 10:42).
  50. If you have renounced worldly cares and undertaken the ascetic struggle you should not desire to have wealth for distributionto the poor. For this is another tirck of the devil who arouses selfesteem in you so as to fill your intellect with worry and reslessness. Even if you have only bread or water, with these you can still meet the dues of hospitality. ven if you do not have these, but simply make the stranger welcome and offer him a word or encouragement, you will not be failing in hospitality. Think of the widow mentioned in the Gospel by our Lord : with two mites she surpassed the generous gifts of the wealthy (cf. Mark 12:42-44).
  51. These things apply to monks pursuing the life of stillness. But those under obedience to a spiritual father should have only one thought in mind - to depart in nothing from his commands. For if they achieve this, they achieve everything. But if htye depart from such strict obedience they will fail completely in the spiritual life and in every form of virtue.
  52. Since you are friend of Christ, let me give you this further piece of advice. You must aspire to live in exile, free from the conditions and ways of your own country. Do not be caught up by anxiety for your parents or by ties of affection to your relatives. Do not stay in a town but persevere in the wilderness, saying like the prophet: 'Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness' (Ps. 55:7. LXX).
  53. Seek out places which are secluded and far from the world. And even it there is a scarcity of essentials in the place you choose, do not be afraid. If you enemies should encircle you like bees (cf. Ps. 118:12) or perniciuous drones, assaulting you and disturbing you with all kinds of thoughts, do no be scared, do not listen to them, do not withdraw from struggle. Rather, endure patiently, always saying to yourself: 'I waited patiently for the Lord; and He heard me, and listened to my supplication' (Ps. 40:1.LXX). And then you will see the great things God does, His help, His care and all His forethought for your salvation.
  54. If you are a friend of Christ you should have as friends persons who are of benefit to you and contribute to your way of life. Let your friends be men of peace, spiritual brethren, holy fathers. It is such that our Lord was speaking when He said : 'My mother and brethren are those wo do the will of My Father who is in heaven' (cf. Matt. 12:49-50).
  55. Do not hanker after varied and costly foods or lethatl peasures. For 'she that indulges in pleasure' it is said, 'is dead while still alive' (1 Tim. 5:6). Even with ordinary foods, avoide satiety as fas as possible. For written : 'Do not be deceived by the filling of the belly' (Prov. 24:15.LXX).
  56. You must avoid continually wasting time outside your cell, if you have indeed chosen to pracice stillness. For it is most harmful, depriving you of grace, darkening your mind and sapping your aspiration. This why it is said: 'Restlessness of desire perverts the guileless intellect' (Wisd. 4:12). So restrict your relationships with other people, lest your intellect should become distracted and your life of stillness disrupted.
  57. When sitting in your cell, do not act in a mindless and lazy manner. 'To journey without direction', it is said, 'is wasted effort.' Instead, work purposefully, concentrate your intellect an always keep before your eyes the last hour before your death. Recall the vanity of the world, how deceptive it is, how sickly and worthless; reflect on the dreadful reckoning that is to come, how the harsh keepers of the toll houses will bring before us one by one the actions, words and thoughts which they suggested but which we accepted and maed our own. Recall the chastisements in hell, and the state of the soul imprisoned there. Recall, too, that great and fearful day, the day of the general resurrection, when we are brought before God, and the final sentence of the infallible Judge. Bring to mind the punishment that befalls sinners, the reproach, the reprobation of the sonscience, how they will be rejected by God and cast into the age-long fire, to the worm that does not die, to the impenetrable darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (cf. Mark 9:44, Matt. 8:12). Meditate on all the other chastisements, and let your tear continually drench your cheeks, your clothes, the place where your are sitting. I have known many men in whom such thoughts have produced an abudance of tears, and who in this way have wonderfully cleansed all the powers of their soul.
  58. But think also of the blessings which await the righteous: how they will stand at Christ's right hand, the gracious voice of the Master, the inheritance of the heavenly kingdom, the gift which is beyond the intellect's grasp, that sweet light, the endless joy, never interrupted by grief, those heavenly mansions, life with the angels, and all the other promises made to those who fear the Lord.
  59. Let these thoughts dwell with you, sleep with you, arise with you. See that you never forget them but, wherever you are, keep them in mind, so that evil thoughts may depart and you may be filled with divine solace. Unless a soul is strengthened with these thoughts it cannot achieve stillness. For a spring which has no water does not deserve its name.
  60. This is the way of life ordained for those who live in stillness: fasting t the limit of one's strength, vigils, sleeping on the ground, and every other form of hardship for the sake of future repose. For, says St Paul, 'the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us' (Rom. 8:18). Especially important is pure prayer - prayer which is unceasing and uninterrupted. Such prayer is a safe fortress, a sheltered harbour, a protector of virtues, a destroyer of passions. It brings vigour to the soul, purifies the intellect, give rest to those who suffer, consoles those who mourn. Prayer is converse with God, contemplation of the invisible, the angelic mode of life, a stimulus towards the divine, the assurance of things longe for, 'making real the things for which we hope' (Heb. 11:1). As an ascetic your must embrance this queen of the virtues with all your strength. Pray day and night. Pray at times of dejection and at times of exhilaration. Pray with fear and trembling, with a watchful and vigilant mind, so that your prayer may be accepted by the Lord. For, as the psalmist says : 'The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to heir prayer' (Ps. 34:15).
  61. It has been said aptly and appositely by one of the ancients that, among the demon opposing us, there are three groups that fight in the front line: those entrusted with the appetites of glutony, those that suggest avaricious thoughts, and those that incite us to self-esteem. All the other demons follow behind and in their turn attack those already wounded by the first three groups.
  62. Indeed, we have come to know from our own observations that it is not possible for a man to fal into sin or be subject to a particular passion unless he has previously been wounded by one of these three. That is why the devil attacked our Saviour with these three thoughts (cf. Matt. 4:1-10). But our Lord, having shown Himself superior to them, commanded the devil to depart, in His goodness and compassion bequeathing to us the victory He had achieved. He assumed a body in all respects like ours, but without sin (cf. Heb.4:15), and showed us the unerring path of sinlessness, by following which we form in ourselves the new man, who is 'formed again ... according to the image of his Creator' (Col. 3:10).
  63. Davide teaches us to hate the demons 'with perfect hatred'(Ps. 139:22), inasmuch as they are the enemies of our salvation. This hatred is most necessary for the task of acquiring holiness. But who is the man who hates his enemies with perfect hatred? He who no longer sins either in act of in thought. Yet so long as the instruments of our friendship with them - that is to say, the things that provoke the passions - are still present in us, how shall we achieve such hatred against them? For a self-indulgent heart cannot nurture this hatred within itself.
  64. Dispassion is the weeding garment of the deiform sould that is separated from worldl pleasures, has renounced misdirected desires, and is occupied with devout thoughts and the practice of contemplation in its purest form. But through intercourse with shameful passions the sould discards its robe of self-restraint and debases itself by wearing filthy rags and tatters. The man in the Gospels who was bound hand and foot and cast into outer darkness was clothed in a garment woven out of such thoughts and acts; and so the Logos declared him to be unworthy of the divine and immortal weedingfeast (cf. Matt. 22:11-13).
  65. From self-love, which causes hatred for all men, everything evil in men is derived, as a wise man has told us. For this terrible enemy, self-love, is the foremost of all evil dispositions, and is like some tyrant with the help of which the three principal passions and the five that come in their wake overwhelm the intellect.
  66. I wonder if a man whos sates himself with food is able to acquire dispassion. By dispassion I do not mean abstinence from actual sin - for this is called self-control. I mean the abstinence that uproots passionate thoughts from the mind and is also called purity of heart.
  67. It is less difficult to cleanse an impure soul than to restore to health a soul which was once cleansed but has been wounded anew. For it is less difficult for those who have recently renounced the confusion of the world to attain dispassion, whatever faults they may previously have committed, than it is for those who have tasted the blessed words of God and walked in the path of salvation and then gone back to sin. This is due partly to the influence of bad habit and partly to the fact that the demon of objection is always dangling the image of sin before them. But, with the co-operation of divine grace, a diligent and assiduous soul may deadily achieve even this difficult feat of regaining its dispassion; for, long-suffering and compassionate, grace invites us to repentance, and with inexpressible mercy accepts those who return, as we have been taught in the Gospels throught the parable of the prodigal son (cf. Luke 15:11-32).
  68. No one among us can prevail by his own unaided strength over the devices and wiles of the evil one; he can prevail only through the invicible power of Christ. Vainly, therefore, do conceited people wander about claiming that they have abolished sin through their ascetic accomplishments and their free will. Sin is abolished only through the grace of God, for it was made dead through the mystery of the cross. This is why that luminary of the Chrusch, St John Chrysostom, says :'A man's readiness and commitment are not enough if he does not enjoy help from above as well; equally help from above is no benefit to us unless there is also commitment and readiness on our part. These two facts are proved by Judas and Peter. For although Judas enjoyed much help, it was of no benefit to him, since he had no desire for it and contributed nothing from himself. But Peter although willing and ready, fell because he enjoyed no help from above. So holiness is woven of these two strands. Thus I entreat you neither to entrust everything to God and then fall asleep, nor to think, when you are striving diligently, that you will achieve everything by your own efforts.
  69. 'God does not want us to be lying idly on our backs; therefore He does not effect everything Himself. Nor does He want us to be boastful; therefore He did not give us everything. But having taken away from each of the two alternatives what is harmful, He has left us what is for our good.' Truly does the psalmist say : 'unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain that build it; unless the Lord guard the city, the watchman keep awake in vain' (Ps. 127:1). For it is impossible to 'tread on the asp and basilisk and trample on the lion and dragon' (ps. 91:13.LXX), unless you have first cleansed yourself as far as you can, and have been strengthened by Him who said to the apostles :'See, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and on al the enemy's power' (Luke 10:19). It is on this account that we have been commanded to entreat the Master not to 'lead us into temptation, but to deliver us from the evil one' (Matt. 6:13). For if we are not delivered from 'the fiery arrows of the evil one' (Eph. 6:16) through the power and help of Christ, and found worthy of attaining dispassion, we are labourig in vain, thinking that through our own powers or efforts we shall accomplish something. Therefore, he who wishes 'to stand against the wiles of the devil' (Eph. 6:11) and render them ineffectual, and to share in the divine glory, ought day and night to seek God's help and divine succour with tears and sighs, with insatiable longing and fire in his soul. He who wishes to share in this glory purges his soul of all worldly pleasures and of hostile passions and desires. It is of such souls that God speaks when He says : 'I will dwell in them and walk in them' (2 Cor. 6:16). And the Lord said to His disciples : 'If a man loves Me, he will keep My commandments; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and take up Our abode with him' (John 14:23).
  70. One of the ancients spoke wisely and simply about thoughts. Judge thoughts, he said, before the judgment seat of the heart, to discern whether they are ours or those of our enemy. Place those which are good and properly our own in the inmost shrine of the soul, keeping them in this inviolable treasure. But chastise hostile thoughts with the whip of the intelligence and banish them, giving them no place, no abode within the bounds of your soul. Or, to speak more fittingly, slay them completely with the sword of prayer and divine meditation, so that when the robber have been destroyed, their chief may take fright. For, so he says, a man who examines his thoughts strictly is one who also truly loves the commandments.
  71. he who is battling to repulse what harrases and wars against him must enlist the help of other allies - I mean humility of soul, bodly toil and every other kind of ascetic hardship, together with prayer that springs from an afflicted heart and is accompanied by many tears. he must be like David who says : 'Look on my humility and my toil, and forgive all my sins' (Ps. 25:18). 'Do not pass my tears over in silence' (Ps. 39:12); 'My tears have been my bread day and night' (ps. 42:3); and 'I mingled my drink with weeping' (Ps. 102:9).
  72. The adversary of our life, the devil, empoys many devices to make our sins seem small to us. Often he cloaks them with forgetfulness, so that, after suffering a little on their account, we no longer trouble to lament over them. But, my brethren, let us not forget our offences, even if we wrongly think that they have been forgiven through repentance; let us always remember our sinful acts and never cease to mourn over them, so that we may acquire humility as our contant companion, and thus escape the snares of self-esteem and pride.
  73. Let no one think that he endures suffering and achieves holiness through his own powers. For God is the cause of all the good that comes to us, just as the demon that deceives our souls is the cause of all evils. Therefore, give thanks to their Cause for whatever good acts you perform; and atrribute to their instigator the evil that trouble you.
  74. He who yokes the practice of the virtues


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