Posts for Tag: spiritual-life

Christ is the only exit from this world

Christ is the only exit from this world; all other exits—sexual rapture, political utopia, economic independence—are but blind alleys in which rot the corpses of the many that have tried them.

Fr. Seraphim Rose, journal entry dated February 3, 1961. From Hieromonk Damascene, Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works (St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2003), 95.

Self-examination and weeping willingly

The saint of God[, St. Agathon,] constantly and strictly attended to himself and said that without intense self-examination, no person can achieve success. This is the path to salvation. The saints of God, who constantly examined themselves, constantly found within themselves new failing, and once they found them, they plunged ever deeper into repentance that purified them and prepared them for heaven. On the contrary, evil inattentiveness and busyness are always connected with a profound ignorance concerning oneself; not surprisingly, such self-ignorance is always very self-satisfied and proud of itself. "Many delude themselves," said Blessed Theophylact, "with vain hope, thinking that they will receive the kingdom of heaven, and they in advance add themselves to the ranks of those who rose up because of their virtue, imagining great things about themselves.... Many are called, because God calls many, even all, but there are few chosen, few who are saved, few who are worthy of being chosen by God. To call is God's work, but to be chosen is ours: the Jews were called, but were not chosen, for they were not obedient to the One Who called.

St. Arsenius, who was great among monks, during the entire course of his life, whenever he did manual labor, put a kerchief on his knees because of the amount of tears that fell from his eyes. He died. Abba Pœmen, a father who was gifted with unusually profound spiritual discernment, said upon hearing of this man's death, "You are blessed, Arsenius, for you wept for yourself during this life. Whoever does not weep for himself here will weep eternally. It is impossible to run away from weeping. Either you weep here willingly, or you will weep there unwillingly, in tortures." Hearing of this death, Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria said, "Blessed are you, Abba Arsenius! You constantly remembered the hour of your own death."

St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, "A Homily on Death" in The Threshold: Trials at the Crossroads of Eternity, trans. Nicholas Kotar, The Collected Works of St Ignatius (Brianchaninov), vol. 3 (Jordanville: Holy Trinity Publications, 2023), 88.

We can find Christ partly in all until he has been made all in all

... [H]e must not seek all the kinds of virtue from one person, however outstanding he may be. For there is one who is adorned with the flowers of knowledge, another who is more strongly fortified by the practice of discretion, another who is solidly founded in patience, one who excels in the virtue of humility and another in that of abstinence, while still another is decked with the grace of simplicity, this one surpasses the others by his zeal for magnanimity, that one by mercy, another one by vigils, yet another by silence, and still another by toil. Therefore the monk who, like a most prudent bee, is desirous of storing up spiritual honey must suck the flower of a particular virtue from those who possess it more intimately, and he must lay it up carefully in the vessel of his heart. He must not begrudge a person for what he has less of, but he must complete and eagerly gather up only the virtuousness that he possesses. For if we want to obtain all of them from a single individual, either examples will be hard to find or, indeed, there will be none that would be suitable for us to imitate. The reason for this is that, although we see Christ has not yet been made "all in all" (to cite the words of the Apostle), we can nonetheless in this fashion find him partly in all.... Christ is now divided among each of the holy ones, member by member. But when all are assembled together in the unity of faith and virtue, he appears as "the perfect man," completing the fullness of his body in the joining together and in the characteristics of the individual members.

St. John Cassian, The Institutes, trans. Boniface Ramsey, Ancient Christian Writers, no. 58 (New York: Newman Press, 2000), 118–119.

I wish to set you free from the condemnation that attaches to wealth

The things and possessions that are in the world are common to all, like the light and this air that we breathe, as well as the pasture for the dumb animals on the plains and on the mountains. All these things were made for all in common solely for use and enjoyment; in terms of ownership they belong to no one. But covetousness, like a tyrant, has intruded into life, so that its slaves and underlings have in various ways divided up that which the Master gave to be common to all. She has enclosed them by fences and made them secure by means of watch-towers, bolts, and gates. She has deprived all other men of the enjoyment of the Master’s good gifts, shamelessly pretending to own them, contending that she has wronged no one. But this tyrant’s underlings and slaves in turn become, each one of them, evil slaves and keepers of the properties and monies entrusted to them. Even if they are moved by the threat of punishments in store for them, or by the hope of receiving them back a hundredfold (Mk. 10:30) or by sympathy for the misfortunes of men, and take a few or even all of these things to give to those who are in poverty and distress whom they have hitherto ignored, how can they be accounted merciful? Have they fed Christ? Have they done a deed that is worthy of a reward? By no means! I tell you that they owe a debt of penitence to their dying day for all that they so long have kept back and deprived their brothers from using!...

But if anyone says, “Since this is so and we have no reward for the money and possessions we give, what need is there to give to the poor?” let him hear from Him who will judge him and requite to every man according to his works (Rom. 2:6), as though he were speaking to him: “You fool, what have you brought into the world (cf. 1 Tim. 6:7)? Have you yourself made anything that is visible? Did you not come forth naked from your mother’s womb? Will you not depart from life naked (Job 1:21) and will you not stand exposed before My judgment seat (cf. Heb. 4:13)? What money is there of yours for which you ask compensation? By what possessions of yours do you claim that you give alms to your brethren, and through them to Me? I have given you all these things, not to you alone, but to all men in common. Or do you think that I covet something and that I can be bribed like the covetous among human judges? For it is impossible that you have so thought in your folly. It is not that I covet any wealth, but that I have pity on you; it is not that I wish to take what is yours (cf. 2 Cor. 12:14) but that I wish to set you free from the condemnation that attaches to them that I so legislate, and for no other reason.”

Do not think at all, brother, that God is at a loss and is unable to feed the poor, and for this reason commands you to show mercy to them and highly values this commandment. Far from it! But Christ has taken that which the devil through covetousness has wrought against us for our perdition, and through almsgiving has turned to our good to make it redound for our salvation. What do I mean? The devil has suggested to us that we appropriate the things that were provided for our common use and hoard them for ourselves, so that through this covetousness he might make us liable to a double indictment and thus subject to eternal punishment and condemnation—the one, of being unmerciful, the other, of putting our hope in hoarded up wealth instead of in God. For he who has wealth hoarded up cannot hope in God, as is clear from what Christ our God has said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Lk. 12:34). He, then, who distributes to all from the wealth that he has stored up has no reward owing to him for doing this; rather, he is to blame for hitherto unjustly depriving others of it. Further, he is responsible for those who from time to time have lost their lives through hunger and thirst, for those whom he did not feed at that time though he was able, for the poor whose share he buried and whom he allowed to die a cruel death from cold and hunger (cf. Jas. 2:15f.). He is exposed as one who has murdered as many victims as he was then able to feed.

St. Symeon, Symeon the New Theologian: The Discourses, ed. Richard J. Payne, trans. C. J. de Catanzaro, The Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980), Discourse 9.4: 152–153, 9.6: 155–156.

Abba Moses' basket of sand

A brother of a Skete once committed a sin, and a council was held by the brethren to adjudicate the matter. They sent for Abba Moses, but he did not wish to come. The presbyter again sent for him, saying: "Come, we are all waiting for you." Then Abba Moses arose and took a basket with holes in the bottom, filled it with sand, and carried it on his back to the meeting. The Fathers came out to meet him, and when they saw him carrying the basket on his shoulders, they asked him: "What is this, Father?" The Elder replied to them: "They are my sins that are flowing out behind me, and I do not see them; and yet, I have come today to judge someone else's sins." When they heard this, they said nothing to the brother whom they wished to judge, but forgave him.

Archbishop Chrysostomos, Hieromonk Patapios et al., trans. and ed., The Evergetinos: A Complete Text, vol. III (Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 2008), 24.