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“Life according to the Gospels”

St Ignatius Brianchaninov was one of the great Russian spiritual writers of the nineteenth century. Giving up a promising career as a military officer to become a monk, he was soon put over monastery in St Petersburg where he served and also wrote many of the works for which he would become known. His wonderful book The Arena is a classic and can be read by almost any Orthodox Christian with great profit. The following excerpts on living according to the Gospel commandments are taken primarily from The Arena.

Do not be content with a mere fruitless reading of the Gospel; strive to fulfill its commandments, and read it with your deeds. This is the book of life, and it must be read by life.

We will be judged according to the Gospel commandments at the judgment established by God for us Orthodox Christians … we will be judged according to the Gospel, that carelessness in fulfilling the Gospel commandments is an active rejection of the Lord Himself.

The Gospel is the image of the qualities of the new man, who is the Lord from the heavens (cf. 1 Cor. 15:48). This new man is God by nature. He makes His holy tribe of men, who believe in Him and are transformed in accordance with Him, gods by grace.

Humility, love, meekness, and so it would follow, all the holy commandments of Christ are a throne and resting place, so to say, for the Holy Spirit.

Take counsel with the Gospels concerning your own thoughts as well as your neighbor’s thoughts and advice.

The Gospel beatitudes are a spiritual state that is revealed in the Christian from his fulfillment of the Gospel commandments; beatitudes are revealed one after the other, one giving birth to another…

The Holy Spirit effects purification in a person who expresses by his life the will for purification.

Confessing God with the lips without confessing Him through deeds and the hidden life of the heart, through only a few external church rites and institutions, is recognized as empty, soul-destroying hypocrisy.

The Commandments should be the soul of each Christian, and of Christian society.

Spiritual discernment is acquired by reading the Holy Scriptures, first and foremost the New Testament, and reading the holy Fathers whose writings correspond to the type of life the Christian lives.

It is necessary that reading be assisted by a way of life: Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves (James 1:22).

Our abode in the sonship of God received through holy Baptism is upheld and continued by a life according to the Gospel commandments. This abiding in sonship is lost by departing from al ife according to the Gospel commandments.

It is necessary for salvation that the one who has been baptized into Christ should live according to the laws of Christ.

Damage to humanity consists in the mixing of good with evil; healing consists in the gradual removal of evil, when it begins to act more than good in us.

“Give me a word!”

As soon as condemnation comes into your head, immediately say with attention: "Lord grant me to see my sins and not condemn my brother."

-St. Nektary of Optina

Without God, we cannot do anything. Excessive sorrow, and despair, are of the tempter.... Always say, 'May Thy will be done.' Have joy and sorrow as guests, but not despair. No matter how much sorrow the evil one brings, say, 'I have my Christ. He was crucified for me and loves me.’

-Elder Ieronymos of Aegina

The greatest asceticism is to bear without groaning whatever comes our way in this valley of tears. He who persists to the end is saved.

-Elder Epiphanios of Athens

It is more serious to lose hope than to sin.

-St. John of Karpathos

Let them push you, but do not push; Let them crucify you, but do not crucify. Let them insult, but do not insult. Let them slander, but do not slander. Be meek, and do not be zealous in evil.

- St Isaac the Syrian

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