Orthodox Philokalia

Collected sayings of the holy fathers ~ Matt. 13:52

Children of Light

If the day of our soul does not turn to evening and become dark, no thieves will come then to rob or slay or ruin our soul.

~ St. John Climacus

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Alpha Beta

6. One day Abba Arsenius consulted an old Egyptian monk about his own thoughts. Someone noticed this and said to him, ‘Abba Arsenius, how is it that you with such a good Latin and Greek education, ask this peasant about your thoughts?’ He replied, ‘I have indeed been taught Latin and Greek, but I do not know even the alphabet of this peasant.’

~ from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers

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Hesychia and Undistracted Prayer

31. The intellect cannot be still unless the body is still also; and the wall between them cannot be demolished without stillness and prayer.

32. The flesh with its desire is opposed to the spirit, and the spirit opposed to the flesh, and those who live in the spirit will not carry out the desire of the flesh (cf. Gal. 5:15-17).

33. There is no perfect prayer unless the intellect invokes God; and when our thought cries aloud without distraction, the Lord will listen.

34. When the intellect prays without distraction it afflicts the heart; and ‘a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise’ (Ps. 51:17).

35. Prayer is called a virtue, but in reality it is the mother of the virtues: for it gives birth to them through union with Christ.

36. Whatever we do without prayer and without hope in God turns out afterwards to be harmful and defective.

~ St. Mark the Ascetic

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Servants and Debtors

20. If ‘Christ died on our account in accordance with the Scriptures’ (Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 15:3), and we do not ‘live for ourselves’, but ‘for Him who died and rose’ on our account (2 Cor. 5:15), it is clear that we are debtors to Christ to serve Him till our death. How then can we regard sonship as something which is our due?

21. Christ is Master by virtue of His own essence and Master by virtue of His incarnate life. For He creates man from nothing, and through His own Blood redeems him when dead in sin; and to those who believe in Him He has given His grace.

22. When Scripture says ‘He will reward every man according to his works’ (Matt. 16:27), do not imagine that works in themselves merit either hell or the kingdom. On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are down with faith or without faith in Himself; and He is not a dealer bound by contract, but God our Creator and Redeemer.

23. We who have received baptism offer good works, not by way of repayment, but to preserve the purity given to us.

~ St. Mark the Ascetic

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Knowledge fulfilled in Practice

12. Even though knowledge is true, it is still not firmly established if unaccompanied by works. For everything is established by being put into practice.

13. Often our knowledge becomes darkened because we fail to put things into practice. For when we have totally neglected to practise something, our memory of it will gradually disappear.

14. For this reason Scripture urges us to acquire the knowledge of God, so that through our works we may serve Him rightly.

15. When we fulfil the commandments in our outward actions, we receive from the Lord what is appropriate; but any real benefit we gain depends on our inward intention.

16. If we want to do something but cannot, then before God, who knows our hearts, it is as if we have done it.  This is true whether the intended action is good or bad.

~ St. Mark the Ascetic

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‘Pray for me’

16. A brother said to Abba Anthony, ‘Pray for me.’ The old man said to him, ‘I will have no mercy upon you, nor will God have any, if you yourself do not make an effort and if you do not pray to God.’

~ from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers

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Delusion and the Jesus Prayer

Insanity can come from the Jesus Prayer only if people, while practising it, fail to renounce the sins and wicked habits which their conscience condemns. This causes a sharp inner conflict which robs the heart of all peace. As a result the brain grows confused and a man’s ideas become entangled and disorderly.

~ St. Theophan the Recluse

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The Jesus Prayer

If you desire to acquire the gifts of the Holy Spirit, first cleanse your heart of passions and the predispositions of sin, and make it a temple and dwelling place worthy of being inhabited by the Holy Spirit.  How?  Through inner attention and the return of the mind into the heart.  Then practice sacred mental prayer in the heart, saying, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me.”  When you prepare your heart, my beloved, then the all-holy, all-good, and most-manloving Spirit comes and dwells in you perceptibly, actively, manifestly.

Then, my brother, you will receive from the Holy Spirit whatever you long for.  Do you love the gift of wisdom?  You will receive it.  Do you want to partake of the gift of the Apostles?  You will acquire it.  Do you aspire after the gift of martyrdom?  You will receive it, if it is to your interest.  Do you love joy?  Do you love faith?  Do you love love?  Do you love the gifts of discernment, insight, foresight, foreknowledge, prophecy?  The Holy Spirit will give you all these things.

~ St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite

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Pride

Pride is a denial of God, an invention of the devil, contempt for men. It is the mother of condemnation, the offspring of praise, a sign of barrenness. It is a flight from God’s help, the harbinger of madness, the author of downfall. It is the cause of diabolical possession, the source of anger, the gateway of hypocrisy. It is the fortress of demons, the custodian of sins, the source of hardheartedness. It is the denial of compassion, a bitter pharisee, a cruel judge. It is the foe of God. It is the root of blasphemy.

~ St. John Climacus

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Joy

‘Rejoice in the Lord,’ said St Paul (Phil. 3 : 1). And he was right to say, ‘in the Lord’. For if our joy is not in the Lord, not only do we not rejoice, but in all probability we never shall. Job, as he described the life of men, found it full of every kind of affliction (cf. Job 7 : 1-21), and so also did St Basil the Great. St Gregory of Nyssa said that birds and other animals rejoice because of their lack of awareness, while man, being endowed with intelligence, is never happy because of his grief. For, he says, we have not been found worthy even to have knowledge of the blessings we have lost. For this reason nature teaches us rather to grieve, since life is full of pain and effort, like a state of exile dominated by sin. But if a person is constantly mindful of God, he will rejoice: as the psalmist says, ‘I remembered God, and I rejoiced’ (Ps. 77 : 3. LXX). For when the intellect is gladdened by the remembrance of God, then it forgets the afflictions of this world, places its hope in Him, and is no longer troubled or anxious. ¬†Freedom from anxiety makes it rejoice and give thanks; and the grateful offering of thanks augments the gift of grace it has received. And as the blessings increase, so does the thankfulness, and so does the pure prayer offered with tears of joy.

~ St. Peter of Damascus

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