STORIES FROM THE
ON GOOD AND EVIL
Life and death stem from those who
are near us .
For, if we gain our brother, we gain
God; if however we scandalize him, we sin in Christ !
Abba Antonios was once visited by
several elders, amongst which was the Abba Joseph.
Wishing to test them, Abba Antonios
selected an excerpt from the Bible and asked them what it meant,
starting from the youngest.
And, one by one, they gave their
opinion, to the best of their ability.
When each one finished, he would say
"You haven't grasped it yet."
Finally , he asked Abba Joseph :
"What do you think this excerpt
And he replied :
"I don't know."
Then Abba Antonios said :
"Abba Joseph has at least found the
path, because he said "I don't know".
Abba Antonios said :
A time will come, when people will
become deranged, and, when they encounter someone who is not deranged,
they will revolt against him, saying "you are deranged", simply
because he does not resemble them.
Three fathers were accustomed to
visiting the blessed Antonios each year.
And whilst two of them would ask him
for his thoughts on the salvation of the soul, the one father would
always remain silent, never asking anything.
A long time had passed , when Abba
Antonios finally asked him :
"You have come here so many times,
and yet you have never asked me anything."
To which he replied :
"It is enough for me to observe
Abba Antonios said :
" I do not fear God any more;
instead, I love Him. 'for love casts out all fear' (John,
Abba Antonios said :
"He that strikes the mass of iron,
first considers what he intends to make from it ; a sickle, a knife,
We must similarly consider for which
virtue we are labouring, so that we do not toil in vain."
Once, when Abba Arsenios was
consulting an Egyptian elder, someone who saw him remarked :
"Abba, how is it that you, with
such a broad Roman and Greek education, are discussing your thoughts
with this peasant here ?"
and he replied :
"I may possess Roman and Greek
education, however I have not yet learnt this peasant's alphabet."
"A man who becomes enraged is not
accepted by God, not even if he resurrects the dead."
Saint Isaiah the Anachorite
Anger is a natural passion of the
mind: without anger, man is not purified, unless he becomes angry at
all the sins to which he is subjected by the devil.
When Job discovered it, he reproached
his enemies, with these words:
"you dishonorable and corrupt ones,
who have nothing good; whom I do not consider worthy, not even as
sheepdogs for my herds ".
He that wants to attain natural
anger, uproots all his personal desires, until he is raised to the
natural state of the mind.
Abba Agathon once asked Abba Alonios
"How can I restrain my tongue, not
to tell any lies ?"
And Abba Alonios replied :
"If you do not tell lies, then you
must be committing many sins."
He then asked :
"What do you mean ?"
And the Abba explained :
"Let's say that two people
murdered someone, before your very eyes, and one of them hid himself
in your cell. And let's say, that the master who is searching for
him, asks you "did a murder take place in your presence ?". If you
do not lie, you will be surrendering the man to his death.
It is therefore better to set him
free before God, for only He is all-knowing."
Abba Ioannis Kolovos
Several elders found time to dine
together at the Scete; with them, was Abba Ioannis. Someone, who
happened to be the eldest in age, arose to offer the jug of water;
No-one was willing to take it from him, except for Ioannis Kolovos.
The others therefore wondered at
this, and asked him :
"How is it that you, being so much
younger, dared to be served by the eldest one ?"
And he said to them :
"Whenever I rise to offer the jug,
I rejoice if everyone accepts it, because in this way I receive wages.
It is for this reason that I accepted
it, so that he too may receive wages, in case he is saddened if no-one
accepts it from him."
And when they heard these words, they
were amazed, and were benefited by his discretion.
Abba Isaac the elder of the cells
Abba Isaac said :
"When I was younger, I lived as a
hermit with Abba Kronios, who never asked me to do anything, even
though he was old and weak; instead, he would get up by himself and
would offer the jug to me and to all the others, without exception. I
had also lived as a hermit with Abba Theodoros of Fermi, who also
never asked me to do anything; indeed, he would even set the table by
himself and say :
"Brother, if you wish, come and
And I would say :
"Abba, I have come here to benefit
from you; why don't you ask anything of me ?"
But the elder would remain silent. So
I left him, and sought the other elders' advice. The elders went to
him, and said :
"Abba, our brother came to your
holiness to benefit himself – why do you never ask anything of him
And the elder replied :
"Am I perhaps the head of a
commune, that I should command him ? Indeed, I may perhaps say nothing
to him, however, if he wishes, he may do whatever he sees me do."
So, from that time, I hastened to do
that which I perceived the elder was going to do. Furthermore,
whenever he did something, he would do it silently.
This he also taught me : to pursue my
work in silence.
Abba Jacob said:
"It is more important to prefer
estrangement than hospitality."
Abba Joseph said:
We were together with Abba Poemen,
when he called Agathon 'abba'. And so we asked him :
'He is so young; why do you call
him 'abba' ?'
And abba Poemen replied :
"It is his mouth that caused him to
be called 'abba' ".
The same abba spoke of an elder who
had a good pupil, whom, in contempt, he drove out of his cell, clothed
only in his woolen cape. However, the brother sat outside, and
practiced patience. When the elder later opened the door and noticed
him still sitting outside, he bowed before him in penance, saying :
"Father, the humility of your
tolerance has conquered my carelessness. Come inside; from now on, you
are the elder and the father, and I am the junior and the pupil."
Athanasios the great
If all that we see around us is the
work of evil, then which is the work of goodness ?
Indeed, we see nothing that is not
the work of the Creator.
And how could we have known of the
existence of goodness, if none of its works existed, by which we could
recognize it ? Because it is by his works, that we recognize the
And finally, how is it possible for
two beings - entirely contradictory to each other - to co-exist, and,
what is that which would separate them, so that the one may remain at
a long distance away from the other ? Because it is impossible for
both of them to exist together, since the one would negate the other.
Nor can the one exist within the
other - since by nature they have nothing in common to each other -
and thus cannot be joined.
Saint Mark the Ascetic
Whatever good you may remember, do
it; so that whatever you do not remember, shall be revealed to you.
Do not thoughtlessly surrender the
essence of goodness to oblivion.
Do not say that you have achieved a
certain virtue without any tribulation; the virtue which you acquired
thus easily, has not been tested.
Most counseling from others is for
our benefit; however, nothing can be more beneficial to each of us,
than our own opinion.
If you desire to be cured, attend to
your conscience: do whatever it tells you, and you shall discover the
Each person's secrets are exposed
to God, and to their own conscience; may every one of us therefore be
corrected by these two.
Whoever disregards prudence and
prides himself for his ignorance, is not only incompetent verbally,
but also in knowledge.
Just as wisdom in words is one thing,
and prudence is another, thus differs incompetence in words, to
It is better to pray humbly for your
neighbour, than to reprimand him for his every sin.
If they speak to you in a bad manner,
turn your anger towards yourself, and not towards the other;
otherwise, if your hearing perceives maliciously, you will reply
Executing a command is one thing, and
acting virtuously is another;
although the one seems to spring from
the other, when they collaborate in doing good.
Always do good, as much as you can,
and, whenever there is need for the greater, do not turn to the
lesser; for, as the Bible says, "he that looks back, is not worthy
of the kingdom of heaven".
Man is almost incapable of managing
those things which he has inherited by nature.
Christ, through His Cross, bestows
upon us an heirdom.
The first evil is ignorance;
secondly, follows faithlessness.
Humility is not the condemning of our
conscience; it is God's grace, and our awareness of His sympathy.
Saint Diadochus of Fotiki
Evil does not exist in nature, nor is
anyone created evil;
God did not create anything evil.
It is when someone desires evil
within his heart, thus giving substance to the unsubstantial, that it
commences to exist, exactly as desired by him that shaped it.
Consequently, we should always ensure
that we have God in our memory, and should always fight the tendency
towards evil. This can be done, because the nature of goodness is more
powerful than the tendency towards evil, since good does exist,
whereas evil does not exist, except when we cause it to exist.
Saint Peter of Damascus
Food is not evil, only gluttony;
neither is money, only avarice;
neither is speech, only idle talk;
neither are the pleasant things of
the world, only their excesses;
neither is the love for our kin,
except when it becomes the cause for not showing gratitude to God;
neither is clothing, when we use it
to cover us and protect us from the cold and the heat, only that which
is unnecessary and luxurious;
neither are houses, when we have them
to protect us from those things which I just mentioned, as well as
from enemies, beasts and people; only the two-storey and three-storey
ones, and the huge and overly expensive ones;
neither is property, only that which
is not considered absolutely necessary;
neither is the possession of books,
for those who sincerely desire to have no possessions; only if they
are not used for divine study;
neither are friends, only those
friends that do not benefit our souls;
neither is woman something evil, only
neither is wealth, only avarice;
neither is wine, only drunkenness;
neither is natural anger, like the
one we feel towards our sins, only the anger we feel towards our
neither is authority, only the lust
for power; and what is worse, vainglory;
neither is virtue, only the belief
that it is ours;
neither is knowledge, only the belief
that we are knowledgeable, and what is worse, to ignore our own
neither is true knowledge, only
neither is the world something evil,
neither is a unanimous opinion evil,
only that which is between criminals, or that which does not aid the
salvation of our soul;
neither are the members of the body;
only their misuse; because vision was not given to us to observe the
things we should not, but to glorify the Creator on observing His
creations and to progress according to the soul's and the body's
neither was hearing given to us so
that we may pay attention to slander and nonsense, but to hearken to
the Word of God, and to every voice, of men and of birds and of all
others, and to glorify their Creator;
neither the sense of smell, so that
the soul would become limp and betray its principles on account of the
fragrances, as the Theologian said, but to breathe, and to accept the
air bestowed on us by God, and to thank Him for it, because without
air no body could survive, neither man's nor beast's (.....).
And the arms and legs were not given
to us so that we may steal and grab and beat others, but that we may
use them in labours that please God : to those who are weaker in soul,
so that they may give alms to the needy, thus perfecting themselves,
and to those who are stronger in soul and in body, so that they may
practice abstinence from possessions and thus imitate Christ and His
holy disciples, and glorify God, and marvel, at how His wisdom exists
in our body parts. And how these, our weak hands and fingers - through
God's providence - are capable of every science and labour, of
writing and agility, from whence comes the knowledge of innumerable
arts and scriptures, of science and of various medicines, of so many
languages and letters; and, generally speaking, everything that has
been done, and is being done, and that shall be done, are all gifts
which have been given to us and are continuously being given, so that
we may survive physically and be saved spiritually, as long as we use
all of them according to God's purposes, and through them, glorify
Him with endless gratitude.
Otherwise, we depose and destroy
ourselves, and everything in this life will lead us to suffering, and
to eternal damnation in the coming life, as has already been said.