STORIES FROM THE
Abba Theodoros of Fermi
Abba Theodoros of Fermi said :
"The person who remains steadfast
in repentance, is not bound to any commandment."
Abba Isaac of Thebes
Abba Isaac of Thebes once visited a
commune, and , upon seeing a brother committing a sin, reproached him.
When he departed to the desert, an angel of the Lord came to him, and
stood at the entrance of his hut, saying :
"I shall not allow you to enter."
He then beseeched him :
"What have I done ?"
And the angel replied :
"God has sent me, with the
instruction to ‘say to him, where do you command that I place the
soul of the sinful brother whom you judged ?' "
He then immediately repented, and
"I have sinned, forgive me."
And the angel said :
"Rise up, God has forgiven you.
From now on, take care not to judge anyone before He has judged
Abba Poemen said :
"If a man should sin, and then deny
it, by saying "I did not sin", do not check him, for you may deter
his good will.
If however you say to him "don't
be distressed, my brother, but in future be more careful", you raise
his soul, towards repentance.
Abba Dorotheos used to say that it is
impossible for someone who adheres to his own opinions and thoughts,
to become submissive, or to conform to whatever is best for his
Antonios the Great
Through His Word, God created the
various species of animals for the needs of man; others for
sustenance, others to serve him; man was created to look upon the
animals and their works in admiration, and to give thanks to God.
Man must therefore be very careful,
that he does not perish as dumb animals do, without seeing and feeling
Man must furthermore understand that
God is almighty and that nothing exists, which has not been of His
will, and who is able to do anything; that He created - and creates -
whatever He wishes, from nothing, through His word, in order to save
For people who comprehend it, death
is immortality; however, for the foolish who do not comprehend, it is
death; but this death we should not fear.
The loss of one's soul, that is to
say, ignorance of God, is the real misfortune for the soul, and it is
this, that we should be afraid of.
Saint Kassianos the Roman
Last of all spoke the blessed
Antonios : "Everything that you have said is both necessary and
beneficial, for those who seek God and who wish to approach Him. But
we are not permitted to give these virtues first place; we have seen
many who tortured themselves with fasting and night-vigils and who
departed to the desert, and practiced such disdain for possessions, to
the point of depriving themselves even of their daily sustenance, and
who achieved such charity, that whatever they possessed was not enough
to give; only to become a pitiful sight, by having thus fallen from
virtue, and sliding into malice.
What, then, made them lose the
straight path ? Nothing more - as I believe and judge - other than
their lack of the gift of discernment. This gift teaches a person not
to exaggerate anything, and to follow the royal (middle) path; it will
not cause him to be harmed from the right-hand side by uncontrolled
abstinence, nor from the left-hand side by being drawn into
indifference and flabbiness.
To the soul, discernment is an eye
and a lamp, as the Gospel says : "the eye is the lamp of the body :
if your eye is clear, your entire body will be brightened; if your eye
is darkened, your entire body becomes dark."
And it is truly so. Because
discernment checks all of our thoughts and actions, and it perceives
and isolates whatever is evil and displeasing to God, and thus expels
This can also be seen in the
narrations of the Bible. For instance, Saul, to whom God first
entrusted Israel, did not have that discerning eye, hence his thought
was darkened, and could not discern that it was God's wish that he
should obey holy Samuel's commands, rather than to offer sacrifice.
And while he believed that his actions pleased God, it was exactly for
these actions that he was expelled from the kingdom. This would not
have happened to him, if he had acquired within him the light of
The Apostle also named discernment
"sun", when he said "let not the sun set on your anger".
And it is also referred to as
government of our lives, according to the script : "whomsoever does
not have government, shall fall like the leaves".
And the Scripture refers to it as
awareness , and it teaches us to do nothing without it, so that even
the spiritual wine - which elates a man's heart - may not be
partaken of, without discretion, as in the saying "drink wine with
awareness", and also "whomsoever does not always act with
awareness, resembles a city in ruins, without walls".
Wisdom and understanding and prudence
are attributed to awareness, without which, we are unable to build our
inner home, or gather spiritual wealth, as was said "a home is built
with wisdom, and is raised with prudence, and its storerooms are
filled with riches, through prudence."
It has also been referred to as solid
sustenance, for those who have trained their senses with ascetic
labours, and by habit are able to discern good and evil.
It is therefore obvious that, without
the gift of discernment, no virtue can be created, or maintained
unchanging to the end;
discernment gives birth to, and
protects, all virtues.
Saint Mark the Ascete
There is the uneventful and
beneficial crushing of the heart which leads it to piety, and there is
the abnormal and harmful kind, which perverts it.
Do not seek the fulfilment of this
law (of freedom) in human virtues; no-one becomes perfect through
One's perfection can only be found
within the Cross of Christ.
He that has ceased to sin and is
already repenting, check him no longer.
And if you say that you are checking
him according to God's will,
first reveal your own sins .
Painful events bestow remembrance of
God to the wise man and likewise anguish, to him that has forgotten
Man counsels his neighbour, according
to the knowledge which the latter possesses;
God acts within him that listens,
according to the faith he possesses.
When you perceive that your thought
urges you to desire human glory, be assured that it is preparing you
Whomsoever we clearly observe to be
sinning and not repenting, and is without suffering to his day of
death, you must know that God's judgement of him will be merciless.
If you sin, do not be annoyed by the
act, but by the inclination.
If the mind had not preceded, the
body would not have followed.
Let us say that the most despicable
vices are twelve;
if you voluntarily embrace a single
one of them, it will supplement the other eleven.
Conscience is a book which originates
from within our nature. Whoever actually studies it, receives God's
One is not abstinent, if nurtured by
For even if they are beneficial, they
are not more beneficial than hope.
No-one is as guileless and charitable
as God. However, to a person who does not repent, He too will not
offer any forgiveness.
Many of us feel regret for our sins,
yet, we accept their causes with all our heart.
Esychius the Elder
A proper teacher for both the body
and the soul is the constant remembrance of death; we should bypass
everything else that intervenes, and incessantly bring to mind our
death, the bed in which we shall lay during our dying breath, and all
We should utilize the three parts of
our soul justly, and in accordance with the nature which God bestowed
upon them. Anger, we should direct towards our sinful self and the
devil. The Scripture says "Be angry at sin : this means, be angry
with yourselves and with the devil, so that you may not sin before
God". Our desire, we should direct towards God and virtue. Our mind,
should be placed to guard the other two parts of the soul with
knowledge and wisdom; to give them directions, to counsel them, to
administer punishments and to reign over them, just as a king reigns
over his subjects; then, the logic which we have inside us will govern
the other two parts in accordance with God's will, even though vices
may rise up against it; We should therefore ensure that our logic
overpowers all vices, because, as James - the brother of Christ -
said, "he that does not err with his logic is a perfect man, and he
has the power to master even his entire body". Indeed, it is true
that everything illegal and sinful is enacted when all three parts of
the soul collaborate; likewise, every virtue and justice is attributed
to the same three.
Saint Neilos the Ascete
Blessed is the Monk who looks upon
every person as God, immediately after God.
Saint Makarios the Egyptian
Most people seek to gain the kingdom
without labours and sweat; and while they admire the holy men and
covet their honour and their charismas, they do not desire to
participate in the pains and tribulations which they undergo. Everyone
desires the kingdom, including whores and taxmen and every other man :
it is for this reason that temptations and trials exist : so that it
may become evident just how many truly loved their Lord, to have
rightly earned the kingdom of heaven.
Saint Simeon the New Theologian
Let no-one deceive us with hollow
words, and neither let us deceive ourselves : unless we acquire the
gift of mourning and weeping, inside us cannot be found either
repentance or true reform, nor the fear of God in our hearts, nor have
we convicted ourselves, nor can our soul feel the coming judgement and
the eternal torment.
Because, if we did convict ourselves
and acquired all these things and lived inside them, tears would also
inevitably come to us. Without tears, neither can our heart's
rigidity be softened, nor our soul acquire spiritual humility, and
ourselves manage to become humble. And he that has not become humble,
cannot be joined with the Holy Spirit. And he that has not been
purified in order to be joined with it, will never acquire the theory
and the knowledge of God, nor is he worthy of secretly learning the
virtues of humility.