Morality

St Mark the Ascetic, No Righteousness By Works

We should always search our heart for upright and humble motives. St Mark the Ascetic warns that “some, without keeping the commandments, think they are keeping the faith, while others, keeping the commandments, expect to receive the kingdom as a reward owed to them. Both are deprived of the kingdom.” Our reward lies in our humble obedience, our salvation is our striving to live a more godly life.

Salvation is not a transaction, salvation is not bartering, salvation is a gift by grace, unearned. St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “when the Scriptures say, ‘God will reward each person according to his works,’ the Scriptures are not saying that works deserve hell or the kingdom, but rather that works are done out of faith or lack of faith in Him. Christ repays each person not as a businessman fulfilling his contracts but as God, our Creator and Redeemer,” out of love for us, not out of bartered obligations. […]

Morality

St. Mark the Ascetic, Writings on the Spiritual Law

You cannot cherry-pick which commandments you should follow and which ones you should ignore. Little sins vs whoppers, scrupulously avoiding small penny sins to save up for the whoppers you need to be forgiven for when you hide thousands of dollars of defects when selling your house or when you need to ruin someone financially to steal their business. St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “Those who do not consider themselves under obligation to perform all of Christ’s commandments study the law of God in a literal manner, ‘understanding neither what they say nor what they affirm.’ (1 Tim 1:7) Therefore the think they can fulfill the law by their own works.”(34)
“Do not seek the perfection of the law in human virtues. . . Perfection is hidden in the Cross of Christ.(31) The law of freedom by true knowledge, and is understood through the practice of the commandments, and is fulfilled through the mercy of Christ.”(32)
“Fulfilling a commandment is one thing, and virtue is another, although each promotes the other.(193) Fulfilling a commandment means doing what we are enjoined to do; but virtue to do it in a manner that conforms to the truth.”(194) […]

Morality

St Diadochos of Photiki, Blog 2, On Spiritual Knowledge

St Diadochos teaches that when “the energy of the Holy Spirit is within us,” “the soul is kindled into Love for God and, free from all fantasy and image, moves untroubled by doubt towards Him, drawing the body with it into the depths of that ineffable love. The Love which comes from the Holy Spirit so inflames the soul that all its parts cleave ineffably and with utter simplicity to the delight of its love and longing for the divine.” […]

Morality

St Diadochos of Photiki, Blog 1, On Spiritual Knowledge

Like the Didache, this beatitude by St Diadochos begins with love. St Diadochos teaches us, “All spiritual contemplation should be governed by faith, hope, and love, but most of all by love. Faith and hope teach us to detach ourselves from visible delights, but love unites the soul with the excellence of God, searching out the Invisible by means of intellectual perception.” […]

Morality

St Hesychios On Watchfulness and Holiness

We must be watchful. “Watchfulness is a continual fixing and halting of thought at the entrance to the heart. Guard your mind and you will not be harassed by temptations. But if you fail to guard your mind, accept patiently whatever trial comes. Watchfulness when practiced over a long period, completely frees us with God’s help from impassioned thoughts, impassioned words and evil actions. . . This enables us to fulfil every divine commandment in the Old and New Testaments and bestows every blessing of the age to come. It is purity of heart, a state blessed by Christ when He says” ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ Purity of heart is the ground for the vision of God.” […]

Morality

Philokalia, On the Character of Men and the Virtuous Life

What is our most precious possession? “A virtuous way of life, conforming to God’s will, surpasses all wealth. When you reflect on this and keep in your mind constantly, you will not grumble, whine or blame anyone, but will thank God for everything, seeing that those who rely on repute and riches are worse off than yourself.”(4) “The more frugal a man’s life, the happier he is, for he is not troubled by a host of cares.” We should seek the prosperity that fills our soul rather than our pocket, for chasing after new cars and castles and country clubs will only add to the cares of this world. Should we pray to God to fill our pockets, and should we complain to God when our pockets are not filled, complaining how our prayers are never answered? Should our prayers be a shopping list we hand to God? Thieves can steal our wealth, but never our virtue. Here the Philokalia teaches that we should never consider it a loss when we lose our children, our money, or our possessions, but be thankful for all the God has loaned to us for our use, realizing it could be taken away at any time. […]

Morality

St Isaiah the Solitary on Guarding the Intellect

St Isaiah the Solitary “On Guarding the Intellect” gives us this advice, “If you find yourself hating your fellow man and resist the hatred, and you see that it grows weak and withdraws, do not rejoice in your heart; for this withdrawal is trick of the evil spirits. They are preparing a second attack worse than the first; they have left behind their troops behind the city and ordered them to remain there. If you go out to attack them, they will flee before you in weakness.” […]

Morality

St John of Karpathos, 100 Texts for the Monks in India

St John of Karpathos encourages us to persevere in the spiritual life. When we stumble on the rocky path, when we skin our knees on the hard rocks, we should seek the hand of the Lord to pull us back up again. When we allow evil thoughts to roam about in our consciousness, for a time we forget grace, we distance ourselves from God, but that is when we should make every effort to seek God, so we are not deprived of the grace of God. St John of Karpathos tells us that “lifted by the wings of the Spirit and freed from the weight of my body, I was able to soar above he predatory demons,” those demons who care not for our soul, those demons who seduce us with the pleasures of this world. […]

Morality

St John Cassian on the Other Seven Vices, Blog 2

We must not only watch what we eat, we must watch what we think, as we seek to conquer the next vice, the demon of unchastity and the desire of the flesh.  St John Cassian teaches, “Bodily fasting is not enough to bring about perfect self-restraint and true purity; it must be accompanied by contrition of heart, intense prayer to God, frequent meditation on Scriptures, toil and manual labor. . . Humility of soul helps more than anything else. . . We must take the utmost care to guard the heart from base thoughts.”  Contrition and humility comes from sincere confession and repentance. […]

Morality

Introduction to the Philokalia, the Love of the Beautiful

When the Russian pilgrim in the spiritual classic, “The Way of a Pilgrim,” hears the Scriptures being read that exhorts us to pray without ceasing.  He asks a monk in a monastery how he can pray without ceasing, and the simple answer is he can start on his path by each day praying more.  He selling all he has, giving it to the poor, to embark on a spiritual pilgrimage, trudging through the forests of Siberia.  His only possessions in his travel bag are the Holy Scriptures and the Philokalia, the treasured writings of the early Greek Church Fathers. […]