Sayings from Saints, Elders, and Fathers

St. Nikolai: On the Prayer of the Publican (I)

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“God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are.” A sinful man
dares to say this, in church, to God’s face! What is the Church, if not a place where the sick meet their physician? Those sick from sin come  to confess their sickness to God the Physician, and to find medicine and healing from Him who is the true Healer from all human suffering and weakness, and the Giver of all good things. Do the healthy go to hospital, to boast of their health to the doctor?

But this Pharisee did not come to the Temple with a whole and healthy soul, to boast of his health, but as a man seriously ill with unrighteousness who, in the delirium of his sickness, no longer knows he is ill. Once, when I was visiting a mental hospital, the doctor took me in front of a wire screen across the cell of the most seriously ill of his patients. “How do you feel?”, I asked him. He immediately replied: “How do you think I feel, among all these madmen?”

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican: The Gospel on True and False Prayer” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year

Orthodox Homilies for Sundays and Feast Days (2 Volume Set)

St. Nikolai: On the Prayer of the Publican (II)

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He would not lift up so much as his eyes towards heaven. Why not? The eyes are the mirror of the soul. The soul’s sins can be read in the eyes. Do you not see every day that, when a man sins, his eyes are lowered before men. How can the eyes of a sinner not be lowered before God the all-Seeing. Lo, every sin committed before men is committed before God, and there is no sin on earth that does not affect God. A true man of prayer is aware of this and is filled, along with humility, with shame before God. This is why it says: he would not lift up so much as his eyes towards heaven.

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican: The Gospel on True and False Prayer” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year

Orthodox Homilies for Sundays and Feast Days (2 Volume Set)

St. Nikolai: On the Prayer of the Publican (I)

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Why does it say: he prayed with himself? Why not aloud? Because God listens more carefully to what his heart says than his lips. What a man thinks and feels as he prays to God is more important to God than the words his tongue forms. The tongue is capable of delusion, but the heart does not delude: it shows a man as he is – black or white.

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican: “The Gospel on True and False Prayer,” Homilies: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year, Volume I

Homilies: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year by Velimirovic Nikolai (1996-05-03)

St. Gregory of Palamas: On the Prayer of the Pharisee

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Faith and contrition make prayer and supplication for the remission of sins effective, once evil deeds have been renounced, but despair and hardness of heart make it ineffectual. Thanksgiving for the benefits received from God is made acceptable by humility and not looking down on those who lack them. It is rendered unacceptable, however, by being conceited, as if those benefits resulted from our own efforts and knowledge, and by condemning those who have not received them. The Pharisee’s behaviour and words prove he was afflicted with both these diseases. He went up to the Temple to give thanks, not to make supplication and, like a wretched fool, mingled conceit and condemnation of others with his thanksgiving. For he stood and prayed thus with himself: “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers” (Luke 18:11).

St. Nikolai: Repentance is the abandoning of all false paths . . .

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Repentance is the abandoning of all false paths that have been trodden by men’s feet, and men’s thoughts and desires, and a return to the new path: Christ’s path. But how can a sinful man repent unless he, in his heart, meets with the Lord and knows his own shame? Before little Zacchaeus saw the Lord with his eyes, he met Him in his heart and was ashamed of all his ways.

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovic, “The Thirty-Second Sunday After Pentecost: The Gospel on Repentant Zacchaeus, Luke 19:1-10,” Homilies Volume II: Sundays after Pentecost

Orthodox Homilies for Sundays and Feast Days (2 Volume Set)

St. Nikolai: A man went into the forest to choose a tree . . .

A man went into the forest to choose a tree

A man went into the forest to choose a tree from which to make roof-beams. And he saw two trees, one beside the other. One was smooth and tall, but had rotted away inside, and the other was rough on the outside and ugly, but its core was healthy. The man sighed, and said to himself: “What use is this tree to me if it is rotten inside and useless for beams? The other it is rough and ugly, is at least healthy on the inside and so, if I put a bit more effort into it, I can use it for roof-beams for my house.” And, without thinking any more about it, he chose that tree.

So will God choose between two men for His house, and will choose not the one who appears outwardly righteous, but the one whose heart is filled with God’s healthy righteousness.

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican: The Gospel on True and False Prayer” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year

Orthodox Homilies for Sundays and Feast Days (2 Volume Set)

St. Ephraim the Syrian: According to thy mercy, pour out . . .

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According to thy mercy, pour out upon me, who am miserable, at least one small drop of grace to make me understand and be converted, that I might make at least some small effort to correct myself. For if thy grace does not illumine my soul, I will not be able to see the carelessness and negligence that the passions have produced in  me through my apathy and recklessness.

+ St. Ephraim the Syrian, “69: The Wiles of the Enemy and the Resources of Sin,” A Spiritual Psalter or Reflections on God

St. Anthony the Great: If we make every effort to avoid death . . .

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If we make every effort to avoid death of the body, still more should it be our endeavor to avoid death of the soul. There is no obstacle for a man who wants to be saved other than negligence and laziness of soul.

+ St. Anthony the Great, “On the Character of Men and on the Virtuous Life: One Hundred and Seventy Texts,” Text 45, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 1)

St. Dionysius: On Speech About Teachings

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Do not imagine this a victory, holy Sopatros, to have denounced [Tit. 3:9] a devotion, or an opinion, which apparently is not good. For neither—even if you should have convicted it accurately—are the (teachings) of Sopatros consequently good. For it is possible, both that you and others, whilst occupied in many things that are false and apparent, should overlook the true, which is One and hidden. For neither, if anything is not red, is it therefore white, nor if something is not a horse, is it necessarily a man. But thus will you do, if you follow my advice, you will cease indeed to speak against others, but will so speak on behalf of truth, that every thing said is altogether unquestionable.

+ St. Dionysius the Areopagite, Letter VI to Sopatros ─ Priest, The Works of Dionysius the Areopagite

The Works of Dionysius the Areopagite

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