+ Elder Joseph the Hesychast, Elder Joseph the Hesychast: Struggles, Experiences, Teachings
The Apostles wavered in their faith in Jesus as the Messiah, because they anticipated and desired to see in Him an earthly king, in whose kingdom they could sit at the right and the left hand of the Lord.
The thief understood that the Kingdom of Jesus of Nazareth, despised and given over to a shameful death, was not of this world. And it was precisely this Kingdom that the thief now sought: the gates of earthly life were closing after him; opening before him was eternity. He had settled his accounts with life on earth, and now he thought of life eternal. And here, at the threshold of eternity, he began to understand the vanity of earthly glory and earthly kingdoms. He recognized that greatness consists in righteousness, and in the righteous, blamelessly tortured Jesus he saw the King of Righteousness. The thief did not ask Him for glory in an earthly kingdom but for the salvation of his soul.
The faith of the thief, born of his esteem for Christ’s moral greatness, proved stronger than the faith of the Apostles, who although captivated by the loftiness of Christ’s teaching, based their faith to a still greater extent on the signs and wonders He wrought.
Now there was no miraculous deliverance of Christ from His enemies — and the Apostles’ faith was shaken.
But the patience He exhibited, His absolute forgiveness, and the faith that His Heavenly Father heard Him so clearly, indicated Jesus’ righteousness, His moral superiority, that one seeking spiritual and moral rebirth could not be shaken.
And this is precisely what the thief, aware of the depth of his fall, craved. He did not ask to sit at the right or the left hand of Christ in His Kingdom, but, conscious of his unworthiness, he asked in humility simply that he be remembered in His Kingdom, that he he be given even the lowest place.
+ St. John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Franscisco, From Man of God: Saint John of Shanghai & San Francisco, “Why the Wise Thief Was Pardoned”
“What, then, O, brethren, is required of us in order that we might avail ourselves of all the grace brought unto us from on high by the coming to earth of the Son of God? What is necessary, first of all, is faith in the Son of God, in the Gospel as the salvation-bestowing heavenly teaching; a true repentance of sins and the correction of life and of heart; communion in prayer and in the mysteries [sacraments]; the knowledge and fulfillment of Christ’s commandments. Also necessary are the virtues: Christian humility, alms-giving, continence, purity and chastity, simplicity and goodness of heart.
Let us, then, O brothers and sisters, bring these virtues as a gift to the One Who was born for the sake of our salvation – let us bring them in place of the gold, frankincense and myrrh which the Magi brought Him, as to One Who is King, God, and Man, come to die for us. This, from us, shall be the most-pleasing form of sacrifice to God and to the Infant Jesus Christ.”
+ St. John of Kronstadt, Sermon on the Nativity of Jesus Christ
From the Russian text appearing in Chapter 2 of “Solntse Pravdy: O Zhizni i Uchenii Gospoda Nashego, Iisusa Khrista” [“The Sun of Righteousness: On the Life and Teaching of Our Lord, Jesus Christ”], by Protopriest [Saint] Ioann [John] (Sergiev) of Kronstadt, pp. 4-6. Translated into English by G. Spruksts.
“Why is it hard to believe that Mary gave birth in a way contrary to the law of natural birth and remained a virgin, when contrary to the law of nature the sea looked at Him and fled, and the waters of the Jordan returned to their source (Ps. 113:3). Is it past belief that a virgin gave birth when we read that a rock issued water (Ex. 17:6), and the waves of the sea were made solid as a wall (Ex. 14:22)? Is it past belief that a Man came from a virgin when a rock bubbled forth a flowing stream (Ex. 20:11), iron floated on water (4 Kings 6:6), a Man walked upon the waters (Mt. 14:26)? If the waters bore a Man, could not a virgin give birth to a man? What Man? Him of Whom we read: ‘…the Lord shall be known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day; and they shall offer sacrifices, and shall vow vows to the Lord, and pay them’ (Is. 19:20).
+ St. Ambrose, Synodal Letter 44, Letters, 1-91 (Fathers of the Church Patristic Series)
All of our holy fathers knew this and all with one accord teach that perfection in holiness can be achieved only through humility.
Humility, in its turn, can be achieved only through faith, fear of God, gentleness and the shedding of all possessions.
It is by means of these that we attain perfect love, through the grace and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory through all the ages. Amen.
+ St. John Cassian, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 1), “On the Eight Vices: On Pride”
“We ought to have the most lively spiritual union with the heavenly inhabitants, with all the saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs, prelates, venerable and righteous men, as they are all members of one single body, The Church of Christ, to which we sinners also belong, and the living Head of which is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This is why we call upon them in prayer, converse with them, thank and praise them, It is urgently necessary for all Christians to be in union with them, if they desire to make Christian progress; for the saints are our friends, our guides to salvation, who pray and intercede for us.”
“The aim of all those who live in God is to please our Lord Jesus Christ and become reconciled with God the Father through receiving the Holy Spirit, thus securing their salvation, for in this consists the salvation of every soul. If this aim and this activity is lacking, all other labour is useless and all other striving is in vain. Every path of life which does not lead to this is without profit.”
+ St. Simeon the New Theologian, Philokalia
“The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who fills the whole universe, passes through all believing, meek, humble, good, and simple human souls, dwelling in them, vivifying and strengthening them. He becomes one spirit with them and everything to them – light, strength, peace, joy, success in their undertakings, especially in a pious life, and everything good – “going through all understanding, pure and most subtle spirits” (Wisdom of Solomon vii, 23). “We have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (I Cor. xii.13). All pious people are filled with the Spirit of God similarly as a sponge is filled with water.”
“‘And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:3-4). They partook of fire, not of burning but of saving fire; of fire which consumes the thorns of sins, but gives luster to the soul. This is now coming upon you also, and that to strip away and consume your sins which are like thorns, and to brighten yet more that precious possession of your souls, and to give you grace; for He gave it then to the Apostles. And He sat upon them in the form of fiery tongues, that they might crown themselves with new and spiritual diadems by fiery tongues upon their heads. A fiery sword barred of old the gates of Paradise; a fiery tongue which brought salvation restored the gift.”
+ St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 17.15, Catechetical Lectures