Tag Archives: Living in the World

St. Neilos the Ascetic: . . .Rivalry over material possessions has made us forget . . .

BiltmoreSo we no longer pursue plainness and simplicity of life. We no longer value stillness, which helps to free us from past defilement, but prefer a whole host of things which distract us uselessly from our true goal. Rivalry over material possessions has made us forget the counsel of the Lord, who urged us to take no thought for earthly things, but to seek only the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matt. 6:33). Deliberately doing the opposite, we have disregarded the Lord’s commandment, trusting in ourselves and not in His protection. For He says: ‘Behold the fowls of the air: for they do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them’ (Matt. 6:26); and again: ‘Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they do not toil or spin’ (Matt. 6:28). When He sent the apostles out to declare the good news to their fellow men. He even forbade them to carry wallet, purse or staff, and told them to be content with His promise: ‘The workman is worthy of his food’ (Matt. 10:10). This promise is to be trusted far more than our own resources.

Despite all this we go on accumulating as much land as we can, and we buy up flocks of sheep, fine oxen and fat donkeys – the sheep to supply us with wool, the oxen to plough and provide food for us and fodder for themselves and for the other animals, the donkeys to transport from foreign lands the goods and luxuries which our own country lacks. We also select the crafts which give the highest return, even though they absorb all our attention and leave no time for the remembrance of God. It is as if we accused God of being incapable of providing for us, or ourselves of being unable to fulfill the commitments of our calling. Even if we do not admit this. openly, our actions condemn us; for we show approval of the ways of worldly men by engaging in the same pursuits, and perhaps working at them even harder than they do.

+ St. Neilos the Ascetic, “Ascetic Discourse,” The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 1)

St. Barsanuphius of Optina: You need not be despondent. Let those … who do not believe in God . . .

Icon of ResurrectionYou need not be despondent. Let those be despondent who do not believe in God. For them sorrow is burdensome, of course, because besides earthly enjoyment they have nothing. But believers must not be despondent, for through sorrows they receive the right of sonship, without which is impossible to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

+ St. Barsanuphius of Optina, quoted from Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina

St. Ambrose of Optina: If you do good . . .

Icon of St. Ambrose of OptinaIf you do good, you must do it only for God. For this reason you must pay no attention to the ingratitude of people. Expect a reward not here, but from the Lord in heaven. If you expect it here — it will be in vain and you will endure deprivation.

+ St. Ambrose of Optina, quoted from Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina

St. Isaac the Syrian: A man can never learn what divine power is . . .

Comfortable Living Room“A man can never learn what divine power is while he abides in comfort and spacious living.”

+ St. Isaac the Syrian, “Homily 72: On Faith and Humility,” Ascetical Homilies of St Isaac the Syrian

St. Symeon the New Theologian: . . . are you not ashamed of playing with shadows and hoarding transitory things . . .

“If you know that all visible things are a shadow and all pass away, are you not ashamed of playing with shadows and hoarding transitory things? Like a child you draw water with a bucket full of holes; do you not realize it and take it into account, my dear friend? As though there were nothing more serious than appearance and illusion, as though reality has been taken from them?”

+ St. Symeon the New Theologian, Symeon the New Theologian: The Discourses (Classics of Western Spirituality), XIX Symeon’s Spiritual Concern

St. Sebastian Dabovich: Rouse yourselves ! The world which you worship only flatters you. . . .

Jesus Gadarene Demon 4“Rouse yourselves ! The world which you worship only flatters you. The heaviness of your flesh should not keep you back from our Saviour—the God of spirits and of all flesh. If you continue to drowse, you will imperceptibly fall under the influence of the evil spirits, who are anxious for the company even of swine. Be careful that you become not possessed by a devil.”

+ St. Sebastian Dabovich,  The Lives of Saints: With Several Lectures and Sermons [hard-copy book] | [read online], “Sunday for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity”

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: There is no need to prove that bodily nourishment cannot satisfy the soul of man . . .

Icon of the Samaritan WomanThere is no need to prove that bodily nourishment cannot satisfy the soul of man, nor can bodily drink quench its thirst. But even all this spirit of life, that shines through all created things, giving them life and harmony, is incapable of feeding and refreshing the soul.

The body directly receives food that is in essentials identical to the body. The body is of the earth, and food for the body is of the earth. This is why the body feels at home, among its own, in the world. But the soul suffers; it is crucified and suffers; it is disgusted and protests at having to receive food indirectly, and this a food not identical to itself. The soul therefore feels itself, in this world, to be in a foreign country, among strangers.

That the soul is immortal, and that it, in its essence, belongs to the immortal world, is proved by the fact that, in this earthly world, it feels itself a discontented traveller in a foreign land, and that nothing in the world can fully feed and refresh it. And even were the soul to be able to pour the whole universe into itself like a glass of water, its thirst would not only not become less but would, of a certainty, become greater. For then there would not remain in it one single illusory hope that it would, beyond the next hill, light on an unsuspected source of water.Book St Nikolai Homilies

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “24. The Gospel on the Giver of Living Water and the Samaritan Woman John 4:5-42,” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year

St. Macarius the Great: When the soul of a man departs from the body . . .

Icon of St. Macarius the Great“When the soul of a man departs from the body, a certain great mystery is there enacted. If a person is under the guilt of sin, bands of demons and fallen angels approach along with the powers of darkness which capture the soul and drag it as a captive to their place. No one should be surprised by this fact. For if, while a man lived in this life, he was subject to them and was their obedient slave, how much more, when he leaves this world, is he captured and controlled by them?”

+ St. Macarius the Great, The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 22

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: Bless My Enemies O Lord

Icon of St. Nikolai VelimirovichEnemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have.

Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world. Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.

They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.

They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.

They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself.

They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord, Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.

Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of your garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:

so that my fleeing to You may have no return;

so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;

so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;

so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins, arrogance and anger;

so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;

ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands.Book Prayers By the Lake by St Nikolai Velimirovich

For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life.

Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prayers By the Lake (A Treasury of Serbian Orthodox Spirituality, Volume 5)

St. Anthony of Optina: Can you place your hope in the world? . . .

Photo of St. Anthony of Optina“Can you place your hope in the world? Whom has it not deceived? To whom has it not lied? It promises much, but gives very little. Only those who hope in the Lord, according to the words of the Prophet David, do not sin, i.e., they are not deceived in their hope!”

+ St. Anthony of Optina, Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina