God shows us His love for man not only in those instances when we do good, but also when we affront Him with our sins and anger Him. With what longsuffering he bears our lawlessness! “Do not call God a rightful Judge,” says St. Isaac, “for His rightful judgment is not seen in your deeds.
True, David called Him a righteous judge and rightly, but the Son of God has shown us that God is good and merciful even more. Where is His righteous judgment? We were sinners, but Christ died for us” (St. Isaac the Syrian, Word 90).
“God is fire, warming and igniting the heart and inward parts. So, if we feel coldness in our hearts, which is from the devil (for the devil is cold), then let us call the Lord: He, in coming, will warm our heart with perfect love, not only towards Himself, but to our neighbors as well. And the coldness of the despiser of good will run from the face of His warmth.”
“The devil is like a lion, hiding in ambush (Ps. 9:29). He secretly sets out nets of unclean and unholy thoughts. So, it is necessary to break them off as soon as we notice them, by means of pious reflection and prayer.”
“Where there is God, there is no evil. Everything coming from God is peaceful, healthy and leads a person to the judgment of his own imperfections and humility.”
“He who has acquired perfect love for God goes through this life as if he did not exist. For he considers himself a stranger to all that is visible, and awaits with patience that which is unseen. He is completely transformed into love for God and has abandoned all worldly attachments.”
“He who truly loves God considers himself a wanderer and newcomer on earth, for in him is a striving towards God in soul and mind, which contemplates Him alone.”
“One must behave affectionately toward one’s neighbors, not showing even a hint of offense. When we turn away from a person or offend him, it is as if a rock settles on our heart. One must try to cheer the spirit of an embarrassed or dejected person with words of love.”
“In our relations with our neighbors we must be equally pure towards everyone in word as well as in thought; otherwise we will make our life useless. We must love others no less than ourselves, in accordance with the law of the Lord: “Thou shalt love … thy neighbour as thyself” (Lk. 10:27). But not so much that our love for others, by extending past the boundaries of moderation, diverts us from fulfilling the first and main law of love towards God, as our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Mt. 10:37).
“As for care of the soul, a person in his body is like a lighted candle. The candle must burn out, and a person must die. But as our soul is immortal, so our cares should be directed more toward the soul than the body: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mt. 16:26)” for which, as is known, nothing in the world can serve as ransom? If the soul alone is worth more than all the world and the worldly kingdom, then the Kingdom of Heaven is incomparably more precious. We consider the soul as most precious for the reason stated by Macarius the Great, that God did not desire to bond and unite His spiritual essence with any visible creation except man, whom He loves more than any of His creations.”
When someone sets out to learn a craft, in the beginning he labors hard and with great difficulty, and many times he fails. He is not angered or discouraged by such failures, but keeps trying. And if he fails yet again, he will not put the work aside, as he wants to assure the master of his desire to learn.
However, if he allows himself to be discouraged and puts the work aside, he learns nothing. Failing many times and yet not despairing, but rather with patience laboring and working, in time with God’s help he gains skill and works effortlessly. Then he is able to live by his handiwork. Spiritual life is like this as well. If one is oppressed by the struggle for virtue, he must not believe that he will achieve his ends immediately…such is not possible. Nonetheless, he must continue to struggle; and even if he should fail, he must not give up, else nothing is gained. He must try again and again, just as one who strives to learn a new trade. Having patiently endured many failures without anger, the labour of his desire will gain God’s approval, and then his work will proceed without struggle or difficulty. It is just as Abba Moses said, ‘The strength of those who want to acquire the virtues is this, if they fall, they do not despair but keep rising to try again.’
— Abba Zosimas, Beneficial Chapters
Why do we so often choose to conceal ourselves and cover things up? For the simple reason that it is a terrible thing for us to realize that we are nothing. Do you know what it means to go from thinking that you’re special and important, from being respected publicly, from thinking that you’ve done great things, from being talented, wonderful, good-looking, charming, and I don’t know what else besides, to recognizing that, on the contrary, you’re naked and of no consequence whatsoever? It requires strength to accept that, a lot of strength. And yet we can’t even accept the slightest blemish that we might have, or any fault, failure, error or sin that we may have committed, without covering it up with a lie, and then covering up that lie with a second one, and then the second with a third.
A person may conceal his or her nakedness by means of an inferiority complex, by acts of aggression, by self-justification, by donning various masks, and by many other means. Such strategies of denial involve concealment from myself.
What does that mean? It means that, even though I’m naked, I’ll live as though I were not, and thus live a double life. Or I may refuse to grow and progress, as though I weren’t naked at all. And this is something much more terrible, for it is the rejection of reality, and such a rejection can only have tragic consequences for me.
Life is full of people like that. They know they’re sinners, they know they’re naked, and yet they go through life doing the very things which they hate, which disgust them, which they know are beneath them. And they know that they must somehow silence the terrible cry of their conscience, which torments them (cf. Rom 7.15-20).
The soul’s other alternative is to accept its situation and say: “I’ll do something about my nakedness. I will declare my sin. I will confess my sin and my nakedness” (cf. Ps 31.5; 37.18). And naked though I be, I will nevertheless present myself to God. I’ll tell Him: “You clothe me.” And that takes great strength. To turn to God as if nothing else in the world exists requires tremendous honesty and authenticity. And what are the means by which I will either accept my nakedness or pursue a life of concealment? That which we call the ego, the self. Not the ego in the sense of boasting and selfishness, but rather in the sense of an inner balance, a proper self-knowledge and equilibrium. –
- Elder Aimilianos
Be persecuted, rather than be a persecutor.
Be crucified, rather than be a crucifier.
Be treated unjustly, rather than treat anyone unjustly.
Be oppressed, rather than be an oppressor.
Be gentle rather than zealous, with respect to evil.
Lay hold of goodness, rather than justice.
– St. Isaac the Syrian, The Ascetical Homilies
“When we are coming to church what are we looking for? Fish in the desert? No, we are looking for that hidden “inward meditation” of the heart which unites us to
Christ…The same thing happens in the church where you are mystically and sacramentally united with Christ. In and through your inner meditation on these things they will become a reality…In order to find Him strive to enter into that hidden, inner meditation and you’ll see that He’ll come of His own accord. You’ll see the heavy stone roll away from your heart and He Himself will rise!”
– Elder Aimilianos, The Way of the Spirit
“Unless we look at a person and see the beauty there is in this person, we can contribute nothing to him. One does not help a person by discerning what is wrong, what is ugly, what is distorted. Christ looked at everyone he met, at the prostitute, at the thief, and saw the beauty hidden there. Perhaps it was distorted, perhaps damaged, but it was beauty none the less, and what he did was to call out this beauty.”
– Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
“The aim of love is for one person to give joy to another; for me to voluntarily deprive myself of something so that someone else has more; for me to sacrifice myself so that the other feels at ease, feels secure in his life. Love is a link which ties us to the Church and at the same time to Christ. How are we to achieve this? By “bearing patiently with one another’s failings in the spirit of love”, as the Apostle Paul says, by accepting the other person as he is. Does he grumble? Let him grumble! If you try to make him stop grumbling, he’ll grumble even more, and you’ll get upset and start to shout. Someone else gets up in the middle of the night, makes a lot of noise, and wakes you up. You probably do the same thing and don’t even realize it. Leave him alone because if you try to reprove him, he’ll want later to correct your mistakes.
How do we become kind? By “forgiving one another”. I realize, for instance, that someone is angry with me. I don’t speak roughly to him. Instead, I behave toward him with great politeness and love, imitating the Lord. We also express our love by honoring one another. Let each of us do what the other wants.
– Elder Aimilianos The Church at Prayer
The Angel cried to the Lady, full of grace: “Rejoice, O pure Virgin! Again, I say: Rejoice, thy Son is risen from His three days in the tomb! With Himself He has raised all the dead. ”
Rejoice, O ye people!
Shine, shine, O new Jerusalem!
The glory of the Lord has shone on thee.
Exult now, and be glad, O Zion!
Be radiant, O pure Theotokos, in the Resurrection of thy Son!