“The attentive person can do much more for himself and within himself: first of all, he can draw God’s attention, God’s love, God’s grace. Saint Symeon the New Theologian says that one must struggle, pray, weep, repent, and undertake ascetic labors – but all the while recognizing that it is not ascetic struggles that save us, but attention, God’s eyes, which see us in this spiritual disposition and condition. It is He, the Lord, Who saves us. Through one’s ascetic struggles one simply demonstrates that one desires salvation and that one is disposing oneself to it, that is, that one is attentive to it.”
-From The Heart is Deep: St. Gregory Palamas and the Essence of Hesychasm by Bishop Atanasije (Jevtic)
Avoid This Demonic Toxicity
Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk & Friends 16 Things Orthodox Christians Should Avoid
1. Vain Thoughts
“Humility consists in considering oneself to be nothing in all circumstances, cutting off one’s will in all things, accusing oneself of everything, and bearing without confusion that which befalls him from without. Such is true humility, in which vainglory finds no place.”
– St. John the Prophet
2. Remembering Evil
“Remembrance of wrongs is the consummation of anger, the keeper of sins, hatred of righteousness, ruin of virtues, poison of the soul, worm of the mind, shame of prayer, stopping of supplication, estrangement of love, a nail stuck in the soul, pleasureless feeling beloved in the sweetness of bitterness, continuous sin, unsleeping transgression, hourly malice.”
– St. John Climacus
3. Evil Desire
4. Bad Sights
6. Vile Songs
7. Slanderous Whispers
“He who wants to overcome the spirit of slander should not ascribe the blame to the person who falls, but to the demon who suggests it. For no one really wants to sin against God, even though we all sin without being forced to do so.”
– St. John Climacus
12. Foul Language
13. Every Idle and Rotten Word
16. Evil Deeds
If you can avoid these 16 sins, you may find your path to theosis rewarding, triumphant, and meaningful!
This morning I was looking over a copy of The Talanton, the newsletter from St. Gregory Palamas Monastery in Ohio. Included is a good homily by Metropolitan Savas, you can read the whole homily HERE. I had a hard time picking which part to share, so this is kind of a long excerpt. Worth the read, though.
This is why we go through this period of fasting: to discipline our body, to show the body who is the boss so we are not led by it. But we are riding the body like a horse. This is why we involve our body in prayer; we do not just pray in our heads, but we involve our bodies: we raise hands, bend our knees, kiss the ground, cross ourselves. We know that whatever we do with the body affects the soul. We know that the body’s actions are an expression of this. And we know that we wait for a new heaven and earth. We aren’t expecting to be delivered from the material world – we are expecting a transfiguration of the world. . .
I want to share an extended passage from St. John [of the Ladder] that speaks to this relationship of body and soul. . .
By what rule or manner can I bind this body of mine? By what president can I judge him? Before I can bind him he is let loose, before I condemn him I am reconciled with him, before I can punish him I bow down before him and feel sorry for him. How can I hate him when my nature disposes me to love him? How can I break away from him when I am bound to him forever? How can I escape from him when he is going to rise with me? How can I make him incorrupt when he has received a corruptible nature? How can I argue with him when all the arguing of nature is on his side? If I try to bind him through fasting, then I pass judgement on a neighbor who does not fast, with the result I am handed over to him again. If I defeat him by not passing judgement, I turn proud, and I am again a prisoner to him. He is my helper and my enemy, my assistant and my opponent, a protector and a traitor. I am kind to him and he assaults me. If I wear him out he gets weak. If he has his rest he becomes unruly. If I upset him he cannot stand it. If I mortify him I endanger myself. If I strike him down, I have nothing left with to acquire the virtues. I embrace him and I turn away from him. What is this mystery in me? What is the principle of mixture of body and soul? How can I be my own friend and my own enemy? Speak to me, speak to me my old fellow, my nature, I cannot ask anyone but you. How can I remain uninjured by you? How can I escape the danger of my own nature? I have made a promise to Christ that I will fight you, yet how can I defeat your tyranny? But this I have resolved, mainly that I am going to master you.
. . .We are living now in a period where we are trying to do just that, master our bodies, for the sake of the health of our soul, and we are in a period where we are in a sense all becoming monks and nuns. We are trying to do at least 40 days of what monks and nuns do throughout the year. You know they are the maximalists of the faith, they have the volume turned way up. They do it all the time, we try and get there every so often, and follow their example, and learn from them. And so this is the time where we, too, turn to literature such as this that feeds our souls as we try to reign in our bodies, and we thank God for the gift of St.John and we ask for his prayers always now and forever and to the ages of ages.
Well, I was very bad during Cheesefare and didn’t have time (or on some days, a computer) to update like I have in the past. I’ll have to catch up at some point after Clean Week. For now, spiritual food for this strict fasting day, the first day of Great Lent:
“These eight passions should be destroyed as follows: gluttony by self-control; unchastity by desire for God and longing for the blessings held in store; avarice by compassion for the poor; anger by goodwill and love for all men; worldly dejection by spiritual joy; listlessness by patience, perseverance and offering thanks to God; self-esteem by doing good in secret and by praying constantly with a contrite heart; and pride by not judging or despising anyone in the manner of the boastful Pharisee (cf. Luke 18 : 11–12), and by considering oneself the least of all men. When the intellect has been freed in this way from the passions we have described and been raised up to God, it will henceforth live the life of blessedness, receiving the pledge of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 1 : 22). And when it departs this life, dispassionate and full of true knowledge, it will stand before the light of the Holy Trinity and with the divine angels will shine in glory through all eternity.” – St. John of Damascus
Tonight at the book club meeting we discussed Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica. This is one of the stories that came up, it’s a good one:
Once, two women came to me and brought a third who was dragging her leg. She could barely walk. She said that she had been to several doctors, but they were not able to say what was wrong with her. I told her that her nerves were weak. I also told her that mine was a worse case than hers! She said that her husband had left her. “Of course he has,” I said. “Who is going to take care of the children, who will prepare his meals for him when you are so depressed? You are not physically ill! You are too depressed. Sing! Sing and your husband will come back to you!” I told her that I was going to the church to read some prayers, and that I wanted her to go home by herself. She looked at me for a while and then practically ran to the car. The other two were amazed. “She is well,” I said, “and she no longer needs your help!”
I have been remiss with my Lenten posts this year. Here’s another gem from Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnika:
“We cannot be saved without fighting against the devil! We are descendants of our parents, from whom we have inherited all those negative traits that are not easy to get rid of. We must suffer heartache in order for our souls to be freed from these mental bonds. Our enemy attacks either directly or else indirectly, through other people. And so we fight – according to the Lord’s providence – and we gradually come to our senses. Without misfortune there is no prayer to God.”
“For God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane; but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with a shaggy chest – a sign of strength and rule.”
-Clement of Alexandria
I’m still not sure how I feel about chest hair, but science says women are generally more attracted to men with facial hair, and tend to believe bearded men will be better fathers. So dear Clement is onto something, and once again the Church seems to know what is best for us. We should probably listen to her more often.
“Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture.
If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind,
then that is what our life is like.
If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live,
we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility. . .
Everything, both good and evil, comes from our thoughts.”
– Elder Thaddeus