St. Gregory Palamas: Why did [the Prodigal Son] not set off at once instead of a few days after?

“And not many days after,” it says, “the younger son gather all together, and took his journey into a far country” (Luke 15:13). Why did [the Prodigal Son] not set off at once instead of a few days after? The evil prompter, the devil, does not simultaneously suggest to us that we should do what we like and that we should sin. Instead he cunningly beguiles us little by little, whispering, “Even if you live independently without going to God’s Church or listening to the Church teacher, you will still be able to see for yourself what your duty is and not depart from what is good.” When he separates someone from the divine services and obedience to the holy teachers, he also distances him from God’s vigilance and surrenders him to evil deeds. God is everywhere present. Only one thing is far away from His goodness: evil. Being in the power of evil through sin we set off on a journey far away from God. As David says to God, “The evil shall not stand in thy sight” (Ps. 5:5).

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

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Here is what the Pharisee says: “God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are.” He is not, in fact, thanking God for this, acknowledging that it is God’s doing that he is not as other men. No; the words: “God, I thank Thee … ” are nothing more than an exclamation, a flattering approach to God so that God will listen to his boast. For, from all that he says, he is not thanking God for anything; on the contrary, he is blaspheming against God by blaspheming against the rest of God’s creation. He is thanking God for nothing; everything that he says about himself is expressed as his own doing, achieved without God’s help. He will not say that he is not an extortioner, an unjust man, an adulterer or a tax-collector because God has preserved him from this by His power and His mercy. In no way; but only because he is what he is in his own assessment: a man of such exceptional type and worth that he has no peer in the whole world.

+ 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. Kosmos: Hatred is the Devil’s Poison

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Even if we perform upon thousands of good works, my brethren: fasts, prayers, almsgiving; even if we shed our blood for our Christ and we don’t have these two loves [love of God and love of brethren], but on the contrary have hatred and malice toward our brethren, all the good we have done is of the devil and we go to hell. But, you say, we go to hell despite all the good we do because of that little hatred?

Yes, my brethren, because that hatred is the devil’s poison, and just as when we put a little yeast in a hundred pounds of flour it has such power that it causes all the dough to rise, so it is with hatred. It transforms all the good we have done into the devil’s poison.

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

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