Tag Archives: Intellect

St. Isaac the Syrian: Do not reckon as a truly wise man . . .

Icon of St. Isaac the Syrian“Do not reckon as a truly wise man that one whose mind is subject to fear on account of temporal life.”

+ St. Isaac the Syrian, “Six Treatises on the Behaviour of Excellence”, Mystical Treatises by Isaac of Nineveh

St. Anthony the Great: The truly intelligent man pursues one sole objective: to obey and to conform to the God of all. With this single aim in view . . .

Icon of St. Anthony the Great“The truly intelligent man pursues one sole objective: to obey and to conform to the God of all. With this single aim in view, he disciplines his soul, and whatever he may encounter in the course of his life, he gives thanks to God for the compass and depth of His providential ordering of all things. For it is absurd to be grateful to doctors who give us bitter and unpleasant medicines to cure our bodies, and yet to be ungrateful to God for what appears to us to be harsh, not grasping that all we encounter is for our benefit and in accordance with His  providence. For knowledge of God and faith in Him is the salvation and perfection of the soul.”

+ St. Anthony the Great, “On the Character of Men and on the Virtuous Life: One Hundred and Seventy Texts,” Text 2, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 1)

St. Anthony the Great: Men are often called intelligent wrongly. Intelligent men are not those who . . .

Books“Men are often called intelligent wrongly. Intelligent men are not those who are erudite in the sayings and books of the wise men of old, but those who have an intelligent soul and can discriminate between good and evil. They avoid what is sinful and harms the soul; and with deep gratitude to God they resolutely adhere by dint of practice to what is good and benefits the soul. These men alone should truly be called intelligent.”

+ St. Anthony the Great, “On the Character of Men and on the Virtuous Life: One Hundred and Seventy Texts,” Text 1, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 1)

St. John Damascene: These eight passions should be destroyed as follows . . .

Icon of St. John of Damascus“These eight passions should be destroyed as follows: gluttony by self-control; unchastity by desire for God and longing for the blessings held in store; avarice by compassion for the poor; anger by goodwill and love for all men; worldly dejection by spiritual joy; listlessness by patience, perseverance and offering thanks to God; self-esteem by doing good in secret and by praying constantly with a contrite heart; and pride by not judging or despising anyone in the manner of the boastful Pharisee (cf. Luke 18 : 11–12), and by considering oneself the least of all men. When the intellect has been freed in this way from the passions we have described and been raised up to God, it will henceforth live the life of blessedness, receiving the pledge of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 1 : 22). And when it departs this life, dispassionate and full of true knowledge, it will stand before the light of the Holy Trinity and with the divine angels will shine in glory through all eternity.”

+ St. John Damascene, “On the Virtues and the Vices” from The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)

St. Peter of Damaskos: . . . We are not in the least interested in examining our life . . .

Icon of St. Peter of Damascus“As St John of Damaskos says, without attentiveness and watchfulness of the intellect we cannot be saved and rescued from the devil, who walks about ‘like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour’ (1 Pet. 5:8). For this reason the Lord often said to His disciples, ‘Watch and pray; for you do not know at what hour your Lord is coming’ (Matt. 26:41, 24:42). Through them He was giving a warning to us all about the remembrance of death, so that we should be prepared to offer a defense, grounded in works and attentiveness, that will be acceptable to God. For the demons, as St Hilarion has said, are immaterial and sleepless, concerned only to fight against us and to destroy our souls through word, act and thought. We lack a similar persistence, and concern ourselves now with our comfort and with ephemeral opinion, now with worldly matters, now with a thousand and one other things. We are not in the least interested in examining our life, so that our intellect may develop the habit of so doing and  may give attention to itself unremittingly.”

+ St. Peter of Damaskos, “Book I: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge,” The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 3)

St. Gregory of Nazianzus: . . . Not to every one, my friends, does it belonge to philosophize about God . . .

Icon of St. Gregory the TheologianBut since they neglect every path of righteousness, and look only to this one point, namely, which of the propositions submitted to them they shall bind or loose, (like those persons who in the theatres perform wrestling matches in public, but not that kind of wrestling in which the victory is won according to the rules of the sport, but a kind to deceive the eyes of those who are ignorant in such matters, and to catch applause), and every marketplace must buzz with their talking; and every dinner party be worried to death with silly talk and boredom; and every festival be made unfestive and full of dejection, and every occasion of mourning be consoled by a greater calamity—their questions—and all the women’s apartments accustomed to simplicity be thrown into confusion and be robbed of its flower of modesty by the torrent of their words…since, I say this is so, the evil is intolerable and not to be borne, and our Great Mystery is in danger of being made a thing of little moment. Well then, let these spies bear with us, moved as we are with fatherly compassion, and as holy Jeremiah says, torn in our hearts; let them bear with us so far as not to give a savage reception to our discourse upon this subject; and let them, if indeed they can, restrain their tongues for a short while and lend us their ears. However that may be, you shall at any rate suffer no loss. For either we shall have spoken in the ears of them that will hear, and our words will bear some fruit, namely an advantage to you (since the Sower soweth the Word upon every kind of mind; and the good and fertile bears fruit), or else you will depart despising this discourse of ours as you have despised others, and having drawn from it further material for gainsaying and railing at us, upon which to feast yourselves yet more…

Not to every one, my friends, does it belong to philosophize about God; not to every one; the Subject is not so cheap and low; and I will add, not before every audience, nor at all times, nor on all points; but on certain occasions, and before certain persons, and within certain limits.

— Gregory of Nazianzus, First Theological Oration

St. Peter of Damascus: That there are no contradictions in Holy Scripture

Icon of St. Peter of DamascusTHAT THERE ARE NO CONTRADICTIONS IN HOLY SCRIPTURE

Whenever a person even slightly illumined reads the Scriptures or sings psalms he finds in them matter for contemplation and theology, one text supporting another. But he whose intellect is still unenlightened thinks that the Holy Scriptures are contradictory. Yet there is no contradiction in the Holy Scriptures: God forbid that there should be. For some texts are confirmed by others, while some were written with reference to a particular time of a particular person. Thus every word of Scripture is beyond reproach. The appearance of contradiction is due to our ignorance. We ought not to find fault with the Scriptures, but to the limit of our capacity we should attend to them as they are, and not as we would like them to be, after the manner of the Greeks and Jews. for the Greeks and Jews refused to admit that they did not understand, but out of conceit and self-satisfaction they found fault with the Scriptures and with the natural order of things, and interpreted them as they saw fit and not according to the will of God. As a result they were led into delusion and gave themselves over to every kind of evil.

The person who searches for the meaning of the Scriptures will not put forward his own opinion, bad or good; but, as St. Basil the Great and St. John Chrysostom have said, he will take as his teacher, not the learning of this world, but Holy Scripture itself. Then if his heart is pure and God puts something unpremeditated into it, he will accept it, providing he can find confirmation for it in the Scriptures, as St. Antony the Great says. For St. Isaac says that the thoughts that enter spontaneously and without premeditation into the intellects of those pursuing a life of stillness are to be accepted; but that to investigate and then to draw one’s own conclusions is an act of self-will and results in material knowledge.

This is especially the case if a person does not approach the Scriptures through the door of humility but, as St. John Chrysostom says, climbs up some other way, like a thief (cf. John 10:1), and forces them to accord with his allegorizing. For no one is more foolish than he who forces the meaning of the Scriptures or finds fault with them so as to demonstrate his own knowledge — or, rather, his own ignorance. What kind of knowledge can result from adapting the meaning of the Scriptures to suit one’s own likes and from daring to alter their words? The true sage is he who regards the text as authoritative and discovers, through the wisdom of the Spirit, the hidden mysteries to which the divine Scriptures bear witness.

The three great luminaries, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom, are outstanding examples of this: they base themselves either on the particular text they are considering or on some other passage of Scripture. Thus no one can contradict them, for they do not adduce external support for what they say, so that it might be claimed that it was merely their own opinion, but refer directly to the text under discussion or to some other scriptural passage that sheds light on it. And in this they are right; for what they understand and expound comes from the Holy Spirit, of whose inspiration they have been found worthy. No one, therefore, should do or mentally assent to anything if its integrity is in doubt and cannot be attested from Scripture. For what is the point of rejecting something who integrity Scripture clearly attests as being in accordance with God’s will, in order to do something else, whether good or not? Only passion could provoke such behaviour.

+ St. Peter of Damaskos, “Book I: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge,” The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 3)

Fr. Seraphim Rose: Never has there been such an age of false teachers . . .

Photo of Fr. Seraphim Rose“Never has there been such an age of false teachers as this pitiful twentieth century, so rich in material gadgets and so poor in mind and soul. Every conceivable opinion, even the most absurd, even those hitherto rejected by the universal consent of all civilized peoples — now has its platform and its own ‘teacher.’ A few of these teachers come with demonstration or promise of ‘spiritual power’ and false miracles, as do some occultists and ‘charismatics’; but most of the contemporary teachers offer no more than a weak concoction of undigested ideas which they receive ‘out of the air,’ as it were, or from some modern self-appointed ‘wise man’ (Or woman) who knows more than all the ancients merely by living in our ‘enlightened’ modern times. As a result, philosophy has a thousand schools, and ‘Christianity’ a thousand sects. Where is the truth to be found in all this, if indeed it is to found at all in our most misguided times?

In only one place is there to be found the fount of true teaching, coming from God Himself, not diminished over the centuries but ever fresh, being one and the same in all those who truly teach it, leading those who follow it to eternal salvation. This place is the Orthodox Church of Christ, the fount is the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, and the true teachers of the Divine doctrine that issues from this fount are the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church.”

+ Fr. Seraphim Rose (1934-1982), as printed in the biography Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works by Hieromonk Damascene

St. Mark the Ascetic: He who neglects action and depends on theoretcial knowledge . . .

Icon of St. Mark the Ascetic“He who neglects action and depends on theoretical knowledge holds a staff of reed instead of a double-edged sword; and when he confronts his enemies in time of war, ‘it will go into his hand, and pierce it’ (2 Kgs. 18:21), injecting its natural poison.”

— St. Mark the Ascetic

St. Maximos the Confessor: Just as the thought of fire does not warm the body . . .

Icon of St. Maximos the Confessor“Just as the thought of fire does not warm the body, so faith without love does not actualize the light of spiritual knowledge in the soul.

Just as the light of the sun attracts a healthy eye, so through love knowledge of God naturally draws to itself the pure intellect.”

+ St. Maximos the Confessor, Four Hundred Texts on Love 1.31-32, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)