Three-Hundred Sayings of the Ascetics of the Orthodox Church - Part 3

July 7, 2018

Periodically in the coming months I will be utilizing a little book translated from Russian titled simply Three-Hundred Sayings of the Ascetics of the Orthodox Church. The purpose of the book is simple: to give short sayings from Orthodox saints on a variety of topics important to all of us. I have found this little collection helpful and I hope you do, too.
-Fr John

 

II. The Realities of the Spiritual World:

 

Sin and Evil

A lie is a delusion of the mind, while evil is a delusion of the will. The sign by which one is distinguished from the other is the judgement of God Himself ... that which he teaches a man: Truth is that which leads a man to will the good. But whatever contradicts this is entirely false, entirely evil. (St. Nicholas Cabasilas, Seven Sermons on the Life in Christ, 7)

 

Our world is guided by two principles and sources: God and the devil. All that is better in the world of men has its source in God, and all that is bad has the devil as its principle and source. In the final account, all good comes from God, and all evil from the devil. (St. Justin Popovich, Explanation of I John 3:11)


Food is not evil, but gluttony is. Childbearing is not evil, but fornication is. Money is not evil, but avarice is. Glory is not evil, but vainglory is. Indeed, there is no evil in existing things, but only in their misuse. (St. Maximus the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 3.4)


God and the devil are found at opposite poles. No one can turn his face to God who has not first turned his back on sin. When a man turns his face to God, all of his paths lead to God. When a man turns his face away from God, all of his paths lead to perdition. When a man finally rejects God by word and in his heart, he is no longer fit to do anything that does not serve for his complete destruction, both of his soul and of his body. (St. Nicholas of Serbia, Thoughts on Good and Evil)

 

Freedom

In truth there is only one freedom - the holy freedom of Christ, whereby He freed us from sin, from evil, from the devil. It binds us to God. All other freedoms are illusory, false, that is to say, they are all, in fact, slavery. (St. Justin Popovich, Ascetical and Theological Chapters, II. 36)

 

Only faith that all does not end with this earthly existence gives us power not to chain ourselves to this earthly life by all means, and for its sake to come into all manner of baseness, degradation and humiliation. Only man of deep and sincere faith can be truly free. Dependence on the Lord God is the only dependence that does not degrade a man, nor turn him into a pitiful servant. But, on the contrary, it exalts him. (Martyr Alexander Medem, Letter to his son, 1922)

 

Some people by the word freedom understand the ability to do whatever one wants ... People who have the more allowed themselves to come into slavery to sins, passions, and defilements more often than others appear as zealots of external freedom, wanting to broaden the laws as much as possible. But such a man uses external freedom only to more severely burden himself with inner slavery. True freedom is the active ability of a man who is not enslaved to sin, who is not pricked by a condemning conscience, to choose the better in the light of God's truth, and to bring it into actuality with the help of the gracious power of God. This is the freedom of which neither heaven nor earth are restricted. (St. Philaret of Moscow)

 

The Lord wants us to love one another. Here is freedom: in love for God and neighbor. In this freedom, there is equality. In earthly orders, there may not be equality, but this is not important for the soul. Not everyone can be a king, not everyone a patriarch or a boss. But in any position, it is possible to love God and to please Him, and only this is important. And whoever loves God more on earth will be in greater glory in His Kingdom. (St. Silouan the Athonite)

 

The Purpose of Life

Every Christian should find for himself the imperative and incentive to become holy. If you live without struggle and without hope of becoming holy, then you are Christians only in name and not in essence. But without holiness, no one shall see the Lord, that is to say they will not attain eternal blessedness. It is a trustworthy saying that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (I Tim.1:15). But we deceive ourselves if we think that we are saved while remaining sinners. Christ saves those sinners by giving them the means to become saints. (St. Philaret of Moscow)

 

The chief end of our life is to live in communion with God. To this end the Son of God became incarnate, in order to return us to this divine communion, which was lost by the fall into sin. Through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we enter into communion with the Father and thus attain our purpose. (St. Theophan the Recluse)

 

Just as people do not enter a war in order to enjoy war, but in order to be saved from war, so we do not enter this world in order to enjoy this world, but in order to be saved from it. People go to war for the sake of something greater than war. So, we also enter this temporal life for the sake of something greater: for eternal life. And as soldiers think with joy about returning home, so also Christians constantly remember the end of their lives and their return to their heavenly fatherland. (St. Nicholas of Serbia, Thoughts on Good and Evil)

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