Edifying quotes from Orthodox Saints and Elders

NickK

Robin
The idea of this thread is to help build up our spiritual lives.

This forum is a great place for information on the workings of the anti-Christ system, but focusing only on that and neglecting our spiritual lives can only lead to despair and an inclination to use the One Ring to defeat Sauron, so to speak.

So, please post any edifying quotes or whole book passages from the Orthodox Tradition you come across. I'll start:

Elder Pavlos of Sinai* († March 1, 2020)

—How can we become a spiritual person and acquire the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Is there a recipe?

—Of course—it’s the spiritual recipe given to us by Christ. The Apostles, the Fathers of the Church, and the saints followed it. The Church recorded it in the sacred books, in the patericons, in the canons of the Ecumenical Councils, in its daily life. And everyone can act according to it and see its effect on themselves.

The goal of an Orthodox Christian is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. To become a good person is not the goal, and there are very good people outside of Christianity. To become a spirit-bearing person, to receive the Holy Spirit within yourself, is something different. The main thing is to purify yourself from the passions, because the Holy Spirit cannot enter into a heart polluted by them. There is no nationalism in Orthodoxy—there is neither Greek, nor Jew. What’s important is how much you’ve liberated yourself from the passions.

The Holy Spirit seeks a pure heart and takes up abode within it. Such a person lives continually in the presence of the Holy Spirit: He finds inner silence and reconciles himself, first of all, with God, and with himself and others. He who has a pure heart does not divide people into good and bad. What’s important to him is not “real reality,” but “spiritual reality.” He hopes to be saved. He never despairs, does not lose hope in difficult circumstances. Such is a grace-filled, spirit-bearing person. …
 

Er Miqué

Sparrow
I recommend reading the Sayings from the Desert Fathers if you want edifying quotes. But don't approach them in a "read them all fast" manner: read one saying a day and meditate on it all you can, that way you will get to understand it deeper and you will be able to extract more value from it for your life. The Sayings are full of eternal wisdom that will help you become a better Christian, kill your passions and achieve greater humility.

There are sayings that are hard to understand: begin with the simple ones so you don't end up confusing yourself. Take it slow as that's the better way.
 

Enigma

Hummingbird
Gold Member
I recently read St. Maximos' Four Hundred Chapters on Love. He's often referred to for his headier theological works, but this is such an excellent work on the spiritual life.

There are way too many good quotes to include here, but there are a few in particular that I wrote down for reference:

- "He who forsakes all worldly desires sets himself above all worldly distress."

- "If you are not indifferent to both fame and dishonor, riches and poverty, pleasure and distress, you have not yet acquired perfect love. For perfect love is indifferent not only to these but even to this fleeting life and to death."

- "As long as you have bad habits, do not reject hardship, so that you may be humbled and eject your pride."

- "You should wish for your affairs to turn out, not as you think best, but according to God's will."

- "He who bears distress patiently will attain joy, and he who endures the repulsive will know delight."

- "Dispassion engenders love, hope in God engenders dispassion, and patience and forbearance engender hope in God; these in turn are the product of complete self-control, which itself springs from fear of God. Fear of God is the result of faith in God.

If you have faith in the Lord you will fear punishment, and this fear will lead you to control the passions. Once you control the passions you will accept affliction patiently, and through such acceptance you will acquire hope in God. Hope in God separates the intellect from every worldly attachment, and when the intellect is detached in this way it will acquire love for God."
 
From Chapter 48 of The Arena:
St. Ignatius Brianchaninov said:
Invasion by the twin passions of lust and listlessness (sloth) is followed by the invasion of thoughts and feelings of sadness, dejection, unbelief, hopelessness, hardness, stubbornness, darkeness and blindness, blasphemy, and despair.

I think this is an even more important message today than in Abbot Ignatius' time, since it's so easy now to just vegetate in front of a screen eating a microwave dinner. Finding something engaging to do can prevent a lot of backsliding and anguish.
 

Aboulia

Woodpecker
Eating is the father of appetite - St John Climacus (of the Ladder) . That quote has always stuck with me, and it doesn't apply to only food., the more you engage with any passion, the deeper the roots become.

A book about the life of Elder Ieronymos of Aegina was given to me by a monk, in which I found many edifying teachings. Here's a few:

The Elder Ieronymos has a monastic conscience. He believes that prayer, the union of the mind with God, was his primary work. And for him prayer, even the daily services, was not just some formal proceeding, but rather a total giving. He insisted that the church services are indispensable. He never omitted them himself, even if, rarely, he found himself far from his cell. But he maintained that it was equally necessary that during the time of prayer a person let himself free, that he might make confession before God.

He was wont to say to us, "When your mother or some relative dies, do you take up a book to mourn them with? Of course not. The words will come by themselves to your mind, from sorrow. It's the same way with prayer. We have to let ourselves confess to God whatever is on our mind

"When you want to dig a well, you don't just dig a little and leave off. Rather, you labor and dig deeper day by day, until you find water. Thus it is with prayer also. We will labor every day, we will dig - Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. With the spade of our mind we will dig in the heart, until we find the source - the living water springing up unto life everlasting."

"Cancer has come out of Paradise. It is a blessing for the believing man. It prepares him. It gives him time to reflect, to repent. It does not take you out of this life suddenly. The Fathers call a sudden death an evil death. I pray, "My most sweet Saviour, Lord Jesus, give me a painful cancer before I die, that I may be cleansed. Then take me."
 
Fr. Alexander Schmemann said:
The liturgy is, before everything else, the joyous gathering of those who are to meet the risen Lord and to enter with him into the bridal chamber. And it is this joy of expectation and this expectation of joy that are expressed in singing and ritual, in vestments and censing, in that whole "beauty" of the liturgy which has so often been denounced as unnecessary and even sinful.
Unnecessary it is indeed, for we are beyond the categories of "necessary." Beauty is never "necessary," "functional," or "useful." And when, expecting someone whom we love, we put a beautiful tablecloth on the table and decorate it with candles and flowers, we do all this not out of necessity, but out of love. And the Church is love, expectation, and joy.
- For the Life of the World 2:4

Just the other day, a coworker of mine criticized Christians for having expensive, beautiful church buildings. She thought it was a greedy thing to do when there are people in need of financial aid. I wish I'd read this sooner; I couldn't explain it very well. All I could think of to say that the building isn't for us, it's for God.
 

DanielH

Pelican
The following is step 11 of “The Ladder” by St. John Climacus on talkativeness and silence. This one is very profound and I think also applies to social media, where we often are more quick to say hostile or ignorant things since we're hidden behind a screen.

Screenshot_20201006-214811_Adobe Scan.jpg
 

Amwolf

Robin
Woman
This reading by St. Theophan the Recluse is one that I can relate to. Oftentimes we underestimate the power of the Devil.

[Eph. 5:25-33; Luke 4:1-15]

The devil approaches the God-man with temptations. Who among men is free of them? He who goes according to the will of the evil one does not experience attacks, but is simply turned more and more toward evil. As soon as one begins to come to himself and intends to begin a new life according to God’s will, immediately the entire satanic realm enters into action: they hasten to scatter good thoughts and the intentions of the repentant one in any way they can. If they do not manage to turn him aside, they attempt to hinder his good repentance and confession; if they do not manage to do that, they contrive to sow tares amidst the fruits of repentance and disrupt his labours of cleansing the heart. If they do not succeed in suggesting evil they attempt to distort the truth; if they are repulsed inwardly they attack outwardly, and so on until the end of one’s life. They do not even let one die in peace; even after death they pursue the soul, until it escapes the aerial space where they hover and congregate. You ask, “What should we do? It is hopeless and terrifying!” For a believer there is nothing terrifying here, because near a God-fearing man demons only busy themselves, but they do not have any power over him. A sober man of prayer shoots arrows against them, and they stay far away from him, not daring to approach, and fearing the defeat which they have already experienced. If they succeed in something, it is due to our blundering. We slacken our attention, or allow ourselves to be distracted by their phantoms, and they immediately come and disturb us more boldly. If you do not come to your senses in time they will whirl you about; but if a soul does come to its senses they again recoil and spy from afar to see whether it is possible to approach again somehow. So be sober, watch, and pray—and the enemies will do nothing to you.
 

DelMarMisty

Sparrow
Woman
"Refine the youthful impulses of the flesh, strengthen your soul and renew your intellect with the help of the Spirit. For the flesh of youth, gorged with food and wine, is like a pig ready for slaughter. The flames of sensual pleasure kill the soul, while the intellect is made prisoner by the fierce heat of evil desire and cannot then resist such pleasure. For when the blood is heated, the spirit is cooled."

"Of the demons opposing us in the practice of ascetic life, there are three groups who fight in the front line. Those entrusted with the appetites of gluttony, those who suggest avaricious thoughts, and those who incite us to seek the esteem of men. All the other demons follow behind and in their turn attack those wounded already by the first three groups. In short, no one can fall into the power of any demon, unless he has been wounded by those of the front line."

" In the whole range of evil thoughts, none is richer in resources than self esteem; for it is to be found almost everywhere, and like some cunning traitor in a city it opens up the gates to all the demons"


"When you pray, keep close watch on your memory, so it does not distract you with recollections of the past. Make yourself aware that you are standing before God. The memory brings before you either fantasies of past things, or recent concerns or the face of someone who has irritated you. The demon is very envious of us when we pray, and uses every kind of trick to thwart our purpose. Therefore he is always using our memory to stir up thoughts of various things and our flesh to arouse the passions, in order to obstruct our way of ascent to God".

"When the man has conquered almost all the passions there remain two demons that still fight against him. The first troubles the soul by diverting it from its great love of God into a misplaced zeal, so that it does not want any other soul to be as pleasing to God as itself. The second demon inflames the body with sexual lust. This happens to the body first because sexual pleasure with a view of procreation is something natural and can overcome us. Of course, this passion troubles men not only after they mature in their virtues, but also before that; in either case the soul is made to appear worthless, however great its virtues may be. We should fight this demon by means of self-control, freedom from anger, and intense mediation on death, until we come to perceive unceasingly the energy of the Holy Spirt within us and rise with the Lord's help above even these passions"


Philokalia - Volume I
 
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Rum

Pigeon
I dunno, I have a different take on the Desert Fathers. Hear me out.

I got about halfway through, and then I was like, "Most of these guys sound like they're not even saved."

The thing is, most of the anecdotes/sayings were either 1) weird/unbelievable/nonsensical stories, 2) trying to earn salvation, or 3) extremely basic Christian doctrine - "milk", not "meat".

But hey, maybe I'm the exception. I just didn't see much value in what I read. I can glean MUCH MUCH more practical and spiritual wisdom from reading a chapter from Proverbs daily. YMMV I suppose.
 

DanielH

Pelican
I dunno, I have a different take on the Desert Fathers. Hear me out.

I got about halfway through, and then I was like, "Most of these guys sound like they're not even saved."

The thing is, most of the anecdotes/sayings were either 1) weird/unbelievable/nonsensical stories, 2) trying to earn salvation, or 3) extremely basic Christian doctrine - "milk", not "meat".

But hey, maybe I'm the exception. I just didn't see much value in what I read. I can glean MUCH MUCH more practical and spiritual wisdom from reading a chapter from Proverbs daily. YMMV I suppose.
This comes off as very arrogant. Who are you to judge the salvation of monastic elders? A lot of their “extremely basic” sayings are for simple illiterate pilgrims, maybe that's why they use the examples they use. If you're above that level, great, you don't need to dunk on them.
 

NickK

Robin
I dunno, I have a different take on the Desert Fathers. Hear me out.

I got about halfway through, and then I was like, "Most of these guys sound like they're not even saved."

The thing is, most of the anecdotes/sayings were either 1) weird/unbelievable/nonsensical stories, 2) trying to earn salvation, or 3) extremely basic Christian doctrine - "milk", not "meat".

But hey, maybe I'm the exception. I just didn't see much value in what I read. I can glean MUCH MUCH more practical and spiritual wisdom from reading a chapter from Proverbs daily. YMMV I suppose.
All of us who are here (you included) are spiritual midgets compared to the Desert Fathers.
 

debeguiled

Peacock
Gold Member
I dunno, I have a different take on the Desert Fathers. Hear me out.

I got about halfway through, and then I was like, "Most of these guys sound like they're not even saved."

The thing is, most of the anecdotes/sayings were either 1) weird/unbelievable/nonsensical stories, 2) trying to earn salvation, or 3) extremely basic Christian doctrine - "milk", not "meat".

But hey, maybe I'm the exception. I just didn't see much value in what I read. I can glean MUCH MUCH more practical and spiritual wisdom from reading a chapter from Proverbs daily. YMMV I suppose.

I just like that you didn't Jesus-Signal, and risked being honest. You might like the collected sayings of Kona The Mischievous.
 

Aboulia

Woodpecker
What's with the hostile tone? If a man gives his honest opinion, it's worthy of addressing. It's better for a man to say "This makes no sense to me" than to pretend it's edifying to fit in.

I dunno, I have a different take on the Desert Fathers. Hear me out.

I got about halfway through, and then I was like, "Most of these guys sound like they're not even saved."

The thing is, most of the anecdotes/sayings were either 1) weird/unbelievable/nonsensical stories, 2) trying to earn salvation, or 3) extremely basic Christian doctrine - "milk", not "meat".

But hey, maybe I'm the exception. I just didn't see much value in what I read. I can glean MUCH MUCH more practical and spiritual wisdom from reading a chapter from Proverbs daily. YMMV I suppose.

Well, you have a different conception of salvation than the Desert Fathers so of course it seems simple.To the Orthodox, salvation is a life long process which can be lost if you aren't paying attention. And most of us will spend our life fighting those basic things. We don't "earn our salvation" either, for if we do good, we're only acting in the manner God prescribed for us, however, when we do evil, it is all our own fault, we have not rid ourselves from our sinful disposition. Assuming you're a Protestant of some sort, this is some of the scripture where we get this view from.

In Revelation 2:1-5 it is written...
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,

‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.

This passage shows that Christ acknowledges the good that is done, but still demands repentance of his followers where it is lacking. Knowing this, does it not make sense that St Paul asks the already converted "to work out our salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12)?

Search the New Testament and read all the passages concerning the "old man" that you put off in baptism. (Romans 6: 1-16, Colossians 3: 5-11, Ephesians 4: 17-32.) What are the works of the "old man"? How is the new man supposed to act? Does this accurately describe you?

2 Corinthians 5:11-12
11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. 12 For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.

A Christian life is one in constant struggle with the evil that lives within man's heart. Christians try to obey our consciences as best as we can, and we constantly test our conscience comparing it to the standard of Christ. If we aren't, are we really Christians? We know will never attain the sinlessness of Christ, but we are to struggle towards it with all our mind/strength/heart.

Hope this helps
 

Rum

Pigeon
Well, you have a different conception of salvation than the Desert Fathers so of course it seems simple.To the Orthodox, salvation is a life long process which can be lost if you aren't paying attention. And most of us will spend our life fighting those basic things. We don't "earn our salvation" either, for if we do good, we're only acting in the manner God prescribed for us, however, when we do evil, it is all our own fault, we have not rid ourselves from our sinful disposition. Assuming you're a Protestant of some sort, this is some of the scripture where we get this view from.
...
A Christian life is one in constant struggle with the evil that lives within man's heart. Christians try to obey our consciences as best as we can, and we constantly test our conscience comparing it to the standard of Christ. If we aren't, are we really Christians? We know will never attain the sinlessness of Christ, but we are to struggle towards it with all our mind/strength/heart.

I would just call myself a "Bible believer", not a "protestant". (What matters, as I see it, is to pay attention to biblical doctrine.)

I think we probably agree on our outlook.

I agree that we must do good works, live to please God, and strive to improve ourselves spiritually. I wouldn't agree that our works can gain salvation in any way. (But I don't think you're saying that - just clarifying.)

But regarding the desert fathers: they just really didn't inspire me, I guess. Apparently a lot of people are inspired to be more like Christ from reading them. I just don't see the value in living on a pillar etc.

Hey, maybe I just don't "get it". ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
 

Enigma

Hummingbird
Gold Member
What's with the hostile tone? If a man gives his honest opinion, it's worthy of addressing. It's better for a man to say "This makes no sense to me" than to pretend it's edifying to fit in.

He said the sayings of the Desert Fathers, who are the foundation of Christian monasticism, sounded "nonsensical" and like they're "not even saved".

How is claiming Orthodox saints aren't saved not hostile?

When someone asks an honest question, like here, they get plenty of helpful responses. When they're hostile, they're met with hostility. Simple as.

This is supposed to be a thread about edifying quotes, now it's a debate, which was likely the point.
 
“Compeletely have trust in God, leave everything in His hands, and believe that His love will act for your own benefit. Then God will take care of everything, because there is nothing He cannot do; everything is easy for Him. The difficult thing for man is to decide to humble himself and leave everything to God’s providence and love.”
  • St. Paisios
 

Enea

Pigeon
“God shares man’s sufferings in a certain way. We are used to saying that God suffers if man does not respond to his love. But God suffers not because he himself would have need of our love, but he suffers for all the sufferings which appear in us owing to our refusal to respond to his love and to our reciprocal appeal for a complete and unhesitating love. The blessings of God come to us in the form of his love and of the love among ourselves. If we refuse this love or its fullness by refusing our own complete and unhesitating response, then we are refusing God’s blessings and God himself. God’s suffering for our own sake comes from the sufferings we bury ourselves in through this course of action. His suffering derives from the fact that he cannot make us participate in his blessings because of our refusal to accept his love.”[Bold Mine]
  • Fr. Dumitru Staniloae, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, vol. 1, p. 166-167
 
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