Suffering

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. Peter of Damascus: . . . if someone wants to be saved, no person and no time, place or occupation can prevent him. He must not, however . . .

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Briefly, we may say that in the nature of things, if someone wants to be saved, no person and no time, place or occupation can prevent him. He must not, however, act contrary to the objective that he has in view, but must with discrimination refer every thought to the divine purpose. Things do not happen out of necessity: they depend upon the person through whom they happen. We do not sin against our will, but we first assent to an evil thought and so fall into captivity. Then the thought itself carries the captive forcibly and against his wishes into sin.

The same is true of sins that occur through ignorance: they arise from sins consciously committed. For unless a man is drunk with either wine or desire, he is not unaware of what he is doing; but such drunkenness obscures the intellect and so it falls, and dies as a result. Yet that death has not come about inexplicably: it has been unwittingly induced by the drunkenness to which we consciously assented. We will find many instances, especially in our thoughts, where we fall from what is within our control to what is outside it, and from what we are consciously aware of to what is unwitting. But because the first appears unimportant and attractive, we slip unintentionally and unawares into the second. Yet if from the start we had wanted to keep the commandments and to remain as we were when baptized, we would not have fallen into so many sins or have needed the trials and tribulations of repentance.

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

St. Ignatius Brianchaninov: You receive the Cup which seemingly comes . . .

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You receive the Cup which seemingly comes from the hands of man. What is it to you whether the bearer of the Cup acts righteously or unrighteously? As a follower of Jesus, your concern is to act righteously; to receive the Cup with thanksgiving to God and with a living faith; and courageously to drink it to the dregs.

+ St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, The Cup of Christ

Read in full at Orthodox England

St. Silouan: A certain monk told me that when he was very sick . . .

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A certain monk told me that when he was very sick, his mother said to his father, “How our little boy is suffering. I would gladly give myself to be cut up into pieces if that would ease his suffering.” Such is the love of God for people. He pitied people so much that he wanted to suffer for them, like their own mother, and even more. But no one can understand this great love without the grace of the Holy Spirit.

St. Theophan the Recluse: Woe to those who are rich . . .

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Woe to those who are rich, who are full, who laugh, and who are praised. But good shall come to those who endure every wrongful accusation, beating, robbery, or compulsory difficulty. This is com­pletely opposite to what people usu­ally think and feel! The thoughts of God are as far from human thoughts as heaven is from the earth. How else could it be? We are in exile; and it is not remarkable for those in exile to be offended and in­sulted. We are under a penance; the penance consists of deprivations and labors. We are sick; and most useful for the sick are bitter medi­cines. The Savior Himself all of His life did not have a place to lay His head, and He finished his life on the cross — why should his followers have a better lot? The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of preparedness to suffer and bear good-naturedly all that is sorrowful. Comfort, arro­gance, splendor, and ease are all foreign to its searching and tastes. Its path lies in the fruitless, dreary desert. The model is the forty-year wandering of the Israelites in the desert. Who follows this path? Ev­eryone who sees Canaan beyond the desert, boiling over with milk and honey. During his wandering he too receives manna, however not from the earth, but from heav­en; not bodily, but spiritually. All the glory is within.

+ St. Theophan the Recluse, Thoughts for Each Day of the Year: According to the Daily Church Readings from the Word of God

For the 19th Monday after Pentecost; Phil. 2:12-16; Luke 6:24-30

St. Isaac the Syrian: I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love. . . .

I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love.

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Nay, what is so bitter and vehement as the torment of love?

I mean that those who have become conscious that they have sinned against love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment.

For the sorrow caused in the heart by sin against love is more poignant than any torment.

It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the love of God.

Love is the offspring of knowledge of the truth which, as is commonly confessed, is given to all.

The power of love works in two ways. It torments sinners, even as happens here when a friend suffers from a friend.

But it becomes a source of joy for those who have observed its duties.

Thus I say that this is the torment of Gehenna: bitter regret.

But love inebriates the souls of the sons of Heaven by its delectability.

+ St. Isaac the Syrian,  “Homily 72: On the Vision of the Nature of Incorporeal Beings, in Questions and Answers,” Ascetical Homilies of St Isaac the Syrian

Ascetical Homilies of St Isaac the Syrian

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

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You 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. Nikolai Velimirovich: Only the foolish think that suffering is evil . . .

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Only the foolish think that suffering is evil. A sensible man knows that suffering is not evil but only the manifestation of evil and healing from evil. Only sin in a man is a real evil, and there is no evil outside sin. Everything else that men generally call evil is not, but is a bitter medicine to heal from evil. The sicker the man, the more bitter the medicine that the doctor prescribes for him. At times, even, it seems to a sick man that the medicine is worse and more bitter than the sickness itself! And so it seems at times to the sinner: the suffering is harder and more bitter than the sin committed. But this is only an illusion – a very strong self-delusion. There is no suffering in the world that could be anywhere near as hard and destructive as sin is. All the suffering borne by men and nations is none other than the abundant healing that eternal Mercy offers to men and nations to save them from eternal death. Every sin, however small, would inevitably bring death if Mercy were not to allow suffering in order to sober men up from the inebriation of sin; for the healing that comes through suffering is brought about by the gracefilled power of the Holy and Life-giving Spirit.

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “23. The Third Sunday After Easter: The Gospel on the Miracle at Bethesda John 5:1-16,” 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)

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