Archive for the ‘Gleanings’ Category

Synergy and the Holy Spirit – St Symeon the New Theologion

Saturday, June 6th, 2009


A house roof is held up by the foundations and the rest of the building, and the foundation and the rest of the building are laid to hold the roof – since both are necessary and useful – and neither is the roof built without the foundations and the rest of the house, nor can foundations and walls without roof make a building fit to live in.


So it is with the soul: the grace of the Holy Spirit is preserved by keeping the commandments, and the keeping of the commandments is the foundation laid for receiving the gifts of God’s grace.


Neither does the grace of the Holy Spirit remain in us without our obeying the commandments, nor can obeying the commandments be useful and salutary without Divine grace.


St. Simeon the New Theologian (Practical and Theological Precepts no. 95, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pg. 119)


Taken from


The Holy Spirit – Gleanings from the Holy Fathers

Friday, June 5th, 2009


Pentecost is almost upon us. I have posted many things about Pentecost this week, and actually have lots more. Maybe I will get to sending those things, but in the meantime, I want to post something form the Holy Fathers abut the Holy Spirit – a selection each day for a few/many days.

These selection are all from:


But when the Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of a person, He shows him all his inner poverty and weakness, and the corruption of his heart and soul, and his separation from God; and with all his virtues and righteousness. He shows him his sins, his sloth and indifference regarding the salvation and good of people his self-seeking in his apparently most disinterested virtues, his coarse selfishness even where he does not suspect it.


To be brief, the Holy Spirit shows him everything as it really is.


Then a person begins to have true humility, begins to lose hope in his own powers and virtues, regards himself as the worst of men. And when a person humbles himself before Jesus Christ Who alone is Holy in the glory of God the Father, he begins to repent truly, and resolves never again to sin but to live more carefully.


And if he really has some virtues, then he sees clearly that he practiced and practices them only with the help of God, and therefore he begins to put his trust only in God. St. Innocent of Irkutsk, Indication of the Way Into the Kingdom of Heaven


St John Chrysostom on true fasting. WORTHY TO BE READ during a fast free week!

Friday, February 13th, 2009

This is a long quotation, but very profitable to read. It explains the purpose of fasting, the proper attitude towards it, its effects on our spiritual state, and how fasting not done in the right spirit is actually injurious to us.


We also see from St John’s words the reason we have a fast free week following the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee. He does not reference this custom, but his explanation is the reason it exists. The homily from which this quotation was taken has many other profitable things about fasting.


It is very fruitful to think about the true purpose of fasting during a fast-free week!

TO MY FLOCK:It would also be very fruitful to discuss this in church this weekend. Please read this carefully, so we can discuss it. 

St John Chrysostom, Letters; Homilies on the Statutes, Homily III, (

 Bold face and headings inserted.



Fasting is a help to us; we should approach fasts with expectation of spiritual improvement.


7. Let us not then despair of our safety, but let us pray; let us make invocation; let us supplicate; let us go on embassy to the King that is above with many tears! We have this fast too as an ally, and as an assistant in this good intercession.


Therefore, as when the winter is over and the summer is appearing, the sailor draws his vessel to the deep; and the soldier burnishes his arms, and makes ready his steed for the battle; and the husbandman sharpens his sickle; and the traveler boldly undertakes a long journey, and the wrestler strips and bares himself for the contest.


So too, when the fast makes its appearance, like a kind of spiritual summer, let us as soldiers burnish our weapons; and as husbandmen let us sharpen our sickle; and as sailors let us order our thoughts against the waves of extravagant desires; and as travelers let us set out on the journey towards heaven; and as wrestlers let us strip for the contest. For the believer is at once a husbandman, and a sailor, and a soldier, a wrestler, and a traveler.


Hence St. Paul saith, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers. Put on therefore the whole amour of God.” Eph. vi. 12.


Hast thou observed the wrestler? Hast thou observed the soldier? If thou art a wrestler, it is necessary for thee to engage in the conflict naked. If a soldier, it behooves thee to stand in the battle line armed at all points. How then are both these things possible, to be naked, and yet not naked; to be clothed, and yet not clothed! How? I will tell thee. Divest thyself of worldly business, and thou hast become a wrestler. Put on the spiritual amour, and thou hast become a soldier. Strip thyself of worldly cares, for the season is one of wrestling. Clothe thyself with the spiritual amour, for we have a heavy warfare to wage with demons. Therefore also it is needful we should be naked, so as to offer nothing that the devil may take hold of, while he is wrestling with us; and to be fully armed at all points, so as on no side to receive a deadly blow.


Cultivate thy soul.

Cut away the thorns.

Sow the word of godliness.

Propagate and nurse with much care the fair plants of divine wisdom, and thou hast become a husbandman.


And Paul will say to thee, “The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.” 2 Tim. ii. 6. He too himself practiced this art. Therefore writing to the Corinthians, he said, “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” 1 Cor. iii. 6.


Spiritual and physical effects of Fasting.

Sharpen thy sickle, which thou hast blunted through gluttony—sharpen it by fasting. Lay hold of the pathway which leads towards heaven; rugged and narrow as it is, lay hold of it, and journey on.


And how mayest thou be able to do these things? By subduing thy body, and bringing it into subjection. For when the way grows narrow, the corpulence that comes of gluttony is a great hindrance.


Keep down the waves of inordinate desires.

Repel the tempest of evil thoughts.

Preserve the boat; display much skill, and thou hast become a pilot.

But we shall have the fast for a groundwork and instructor in all these things.


Real Fasting: from meat and sins.


8. I speak not, indeed, of such a fast as most persons keep, but of real fasting ; not merely an abstinence from meats; but from sins too. For the nature of a fast is such, that it does not suffice to deliver those who practice it, unless it be done according to a suitable law. “For the wrestler,” it is said, “is not crowned unless he strive lawfully.” 2 Tim. ii. 5.


Why do we fast after the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee?


To the end then, that when we have gone through the labor of fasting, we forfeit not the crown of fasting, we should understand how, and after what manner, it is necessary to conduct this business; since that Pharisee also fasted,  Luke xviii. 12. but afterwards went down empty, and destitute of the fruit of fasting. The Publican fasted not; and yet he was accepted in preference to him who had fasted; in order that thou mayest learn that fasting is unprofitable, except all other duties follow with it.


The Ninevites fasted, and won the favor of God. Jonah iii. 10. The Jews, fasted too, and profited nothing, nay, they departed with blame. Isa. lviii. 3, 7; 1 Cor. ix. 26.


Since then the danger in fasting is so great to those who do not know how they ought to fast, we should learn the laws of this exercise, in order that we may not “run uncertainly,” nor “beat the air,” nor while we are fighting contend with a shadow.


Fasting is a medicine; but a medicine, though it be never so profitable, becomes frequently useless owing to the unskilfulness of him who employs it. For it is necessary to know, moreover, the time when it should be applied, and the requisite quantity of it; and the temperament of body that admits it; and the nature of the country, and the season of the year; and the corresponding diet; as well as various other particulars; any of which, if one overlooks, he will mar all the rest that have been named. Now if, when the body needs healing, such exactness is required on our part, much more ought we, when our care is about the soul, and we seek to heal the distempers of the mind, to look, and to search into every particular with the utmost accuracy.



Admonition – Dost thou fast? Give me proof of it by thy works!.


11. I have said these things, not that we may disparage fasting, but that we may honor fasting; for the honor of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it.


Dost thou fast? Give me proof of it by thy works!


Is it said by what kind of works?

If thou seest a poor man, take pity on him!

If thou seest in enemy, be reconciled to him!

If thou seest a friend gaining honor, envy him not!

If thou seest a handsome woman, pass her by!


For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.

Let the hands fast, by being pure from rapine and avarice.

Let the feet fast, by ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles.

Let the eyes fast, being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances, or to busy themselves with strange beauties.


Fasting for all the senses explained


For looking is the food of the eyes, but if this be such as is unlawful or forbidden, it mars the fast; and upsets the whole safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting. For it would be among things the most absurd to abstain from lawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to touch even what is forbidden. Dost thou not eat flesh? Feed not upon lasciviousness by means of the eyes.


Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to receive evil speakings and calumnies. “Thou shalt not receive a false report,” it says.


12. Let the mouth too fast from disgraceful speeches and railing. For what doth it profit if we abstain from birds and fishes; and yet bite and devour our brethren? The evil speaker eateth the flesh of his brother, and biteth the body of his neighbor.


Because of this Paul utters the fearful saying, “If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” Gal. v. 15. Thou hast not fixed thy teeth in the flesh, but thou hast fixed the slander in the soul, and inflicted the wound of evil suspicion; thou hast harmed, in a thousand ways, thyself and him, and many others, for in slandering a neighbor thou hast made him who listens to the slander worse…


This document is at:






Let us then make our soul a Heaven

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Let us then make our soul a Heaven. The heaven is naturally bright; for not even in a storm does it become black, for it does not itself change its appearance, but the clouds run together and cover it. Heaven has the Sun; we also have the Sun of Righteousness. I said it is possible to become a Heaven; and I see that it is possible to become even better than Heaven. How? When we have the Lord of the Sun. Heaven is throughout pure and without spot; it changes not either in a storm or in the night. Neither let us then be so influenced either by tribulations or by “the wiles of the devil” ( Eph. vi. 11 ), but let us continue spotless and pure. Heaven is high and far from the earth. Let us also effect this [as regards ourselves]; let us withdraw ourselves from the earth, and exalt ourselves to that height, and remove ourselves far from the earth. Heaven is higher than the rains and the storms, and is reached by none of them. This we also can do, if we will.


It does appear to be, but is not really so affected. Neither then let us be affected, even if we appear to be so. For as in a storm, most men know not the beauty of [heaven,] but think that it is changed, while philosophers know that it is not affected at all, so with regard to ourselves also in afflictions; most men think that we are changed with them, and that affliction has touched our very heart, but philosophers know that it has not touched us.


Let us then become heaven, let us mount up to that height, and so we shall see men differing nothing from ants. I do not speak of the poor only, nor the many, but even if there be a general there, even if the emperor be there, we shall not distinguish the emperor, nor the private person. We shall not know what is gold, or what is silver, or what is silken or purple raiment: we shall see all things as if they were flies, if we be seated in that height. There is no tumult there, no disturbance, nor clamor.


Saint John Chrysostom: Homily XVI, on Hebrews ix. 15–18


I wanted to share with you part of the text I read today related to today’s epistle readings. St John always applies the scripture to our moral lives, because, as you may have heard before, IT IS ALWAYS ABOUT MORALITY.


Here, he gives us a revolutionary perspective. Let us be a heaven! This is thouroughly scriptural and Orthodox, and is one of the most unique features of our faith related to others who also believe in Christ. We really believe we can become a heaven. One can call this "theosis"; it is the same thing.


I am very much in favor of  utilizing the scriptures and writings of the fathers as a sort of "mnemonic device". Certain concepts and turns of phrase affect me more deeply than others; I am sure this is true with you too.


St John brilliantly asks us to consider our perspective if we were in "heaven", which we think of as high above the earth. What an idea! How insignificant everything looks when we are high above the earth! We cannot see the rich or poor, or anything which seems so important to us when we are on the earth.


All of the Christian life is fought, and won or lost, with the mind, and thought. As we think, so we are. The reason why we value those things which have no value is because of how we think about them. How different we would view material things, and petty arguments and annoyances if we viewed them from heaven.



Abraham and the Holy Trinity, vigil, St Philaret, and us.

Monday, December 15th, 2008


Emulating Abraham the hospitable, O Philaret,

thou didst honor the life-creating Trinity,

which did not manifest Itself to thee in the guise of three strangers,

but in the guise of a multitude of the wretched

to whom thou didst zealously minister.

St Philaret the Merciul, Dec 1. Matins Canon, Ode 4

We remembered St Philaret the Merciful this Sunday (Dec 1/14). As is always the case, the vigil contained many "pearls". These are precious moments, when something "hits you", and you feel deeply a theological and moral truth, usually accompanied by a fervent desire to do better in one’s life. Other times, a deep consolation is felt, and a quiet confidence that indeed, one can become good, and have the strength to do all that is necessary in this difficult life.


These moments are short, and often few and far between, but they thoroughly nourish the soul. "Without vision, the people perish". We need to feel truth deeply, viscerally, in order to be strengthened to act. I believe with all my heart that vigil is absolutely essential for our spiritual well-being, because of the moments God gifts us with during the long service. Oh! if we could only preserve the warm pious feelings we have but for a few moments!

I can not even say accurately what this hymn meant to my soul when I heard it chanted, even though, even at this time over a day removed from hearing it, I know exactly what it meant to me. Pious feelings cannot be fully explained.

An inaccurate summary: We have the privilege of encountering God and entering into the life of the Holy Trinity whenever we act morally, with kindness to another person. We were born for this. At no other time are we more alive, and closer to God, and know God, than when we are being kind. What a privilege it is to participate with the Holy Trinity in God’s economy!

From the village of Amnia in Paphlagonia, Philaret was at first a man of some substance, but, as a result of his constant almsgiving, he became utterly destitute. He was not afraid of poverty, and went on with his charitable works with trust in the Lord who has said: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’, paying no attention to the disapproval of his wife and children. Once, when he was ploughing in his meadow, a man came to him with the news of the death of his ox in harness, and of his inability to plough with only one ox, so Philaret unhamessed his own and gave it to him. He gave away his remaining horse to a man who was called away to battle, and the calf from his remaining cow – and, when he saw how the cow pined after her calf, gave the man the cow as well. And so the aged Philaret was left hungry in an empty house. But he prayed to God, entrusting himself to Him. God does not abandon the righteous man, allowing him to be shamed in his hope. At that time, the Empress Irene was on the throne with her young son Constantine and, in accordance with the custom of the time, the Empress sent men through the whole Empire to find the best and most distinguished maiden to wed her son. By divine Providence, these men happened upon Philaret‘s home and beheld his very beautiful and modest grand-daughter Maria, the daughter of Hypatia, and they took her to Constantinople. The Emperor was well-pleased with her and took her to wife, and brought Philaret and all his family to the capital, showering honour and wealth upon them. Philaret did not become proud in this change of fortune but, with gratitude to God, performed still greater deeds of charity than before, remaining thus for the rest of his days. At the age of ninety, he called all his children to him and, having blessed them and instructed them to cleave to God and His Law, foretold to each of them how their lives would develop, just as our forefather Jacob did aforetime. When he had done this, he went to a monastery and there gave his soul into God’s hands. At his death, his face shone like the sun and a sweet fragrance arose from his body, and miracles were worked over his relics. This righteous man of God went to his rest in 797. His wife and all his children and grandchildren lived and died in the Lord.


From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
©1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK



Gleaings:Sin compared to despair

Friday, December 12th, 2008

"It is more serious to lose hope than to sin. The traitor Judas was a defeatist, inexperienced in spiritual warfare; as a result he was reduced to despair by the enemy’s onslaught, and he went and hanged himself. Peter, on the other hand, was a firm rock: although brought down by a terrible fall, yet because of his experience in spiritual warfare he was not broken by despair, but leaping up he shed bitter tears from a contrite and humiliated heart. And as soon as our enemy saw them, he recoiled as if his eyes had been burnt by searing flames, and he took to flight howling and lamenting."

St. John of Karpathos.

Thoughts and distractions

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Those who want to pray with a cleansed mind (nous) must not concern themselves with the latest news from the newspapers, or read books that are irrelevant to our spiritual life – especially those books that arouse the passions – and they must not strive to learn out of curiosity whatever pertains to the lives of others. All these things bring foreign thoughts to mind, and when a person attempts to elucidate them, they confound his mind even more.


fsof05Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov


Gleanings:An explanation of why the bride and groom wear crowns

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008


Garlands are wont to be worn on the heads of bridegrooms, as a symbol of victory, betokening that they approach the marriage bed unconquered by pleasure. But if captivated by pleasure he has given himself up to harlots, why does he wear the garland, since he has been subdued?

St John Chrysostom, Homily IX. on 1 Timothy ii. 11–15 (


In Slavic churches, metal crowns are worn, whereas the Greeks use flower garlands. The meaning is the same. This homily was one of the ones of St John’s that applies to todays readings.



Gleanings from the Holy Fathers: On Fasting

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

Fasting is an exceptional virtue; it represses bodily impulses and gives strength to the soul to fight against the poisoning of the heart through the senses, and provides it with a remedy against any past poisoning. Fasting causes the mind to be cleansed constantly. It whithers up every evil thought and brings healthy, godly thoughts — -holy thoughts that enlighten the mind and kindle it with more zeal and spiritual fervor. Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, “Counsels from the Holy Mountain”

A life of fasting, properly understood as general self-limitation and abstinence, to the annual practice of which the Church always calls us with the Great Lent, is really that bearing of the cross and self-crucifixion which is required of us by our calling as Christians. And anyone who stubbornly resists this, wanting to live a carefree, happy, and free life, is concerned for sensual pleasures and avoids sorrow and suffering that person is not a Christian. Bearing one’s cross is the natural way of every true Christian, without which there is no Christianity. Archbishop Averky of Syracuse (of Blessed Memory)

Abba Isidore said, “If you fast regularly, do not be inflated with pride; if you think highly of yourself because of it, then you had better eat meat. It is better for a man to eat meat than to be inflated with pride and glorify himself.” The Desert Fathers

According to St. Gregory the Sinaite there are three degrees in eating: temperance, sufficiency, and satiety. Temperance is when someone wants to eat some more food but abstains, rising from the table still somewhat hungry. Sufficiency is when someone eats what is needful and sufficient for normal nourishment., Satiety is when someone eats more than enough and is more than satisfied. Now if you cannot keep the first two degrees and you proceed to the third, then, at least do not become a glutton, remembering the words of the Lord: “Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger” (Lk. 6:25). St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain, A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel

Almsgiving heals the soul’s incensive power; fasting withers sensual desire; prayer purifies the intellect and prepares it for contemplation of created beings. For the Lord has given us commandments which correspond to the powers of the soul. St. Maximos the Confessor (First Century on Love no. 79)

Beware of limiting the good of fasting to mere abstinence from meats. Real fasting is alienation from evil. ‘Loose the bands of wickedness.’ For give your neighbor the mischief he has done you. Forgive him his trespasses against you. Do not ‘fast for strife and debate.’ You do not devour flesh, but you devour your brother. You abstain from wine, but you indulge in outrages. You wait for evening before you take food, but you spend the day in the law courts. Woe to those who are ‘drunken, but not with wine.’ Anger is the intoxication of the soul, and makes it out of its wits like wine. St. Basil, in his homilies on the Holy Spirit

Suppose you have ordered yourself not to eat fish; you will find that the enemy continually makes you long to eat it. You are filled with an uncontrollable desire for the thing that is forbidden. In this way you can see how Adam’s fall typifies what happens to all of us. Because he was told not to eat from a particular tree, he felt irresistibly attracted to the one thing that was forbidden him. St. John of Karpathos “The Philokalia: the Complete Text” (volume I), by St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth, trans. By G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and (Bishop) Kallistos Ware, (London: Faber and Faber, 1979), pp. 298 – 309

MENAION Jan 10/23 St Theophan the Recluse

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Today we celebrate St Theophan the Recluse.

His was a unique ministry – a “recluse” who communicated with hundreds of people regularly via letters. We are fortunate to have many of his letters, evidently saved by his correspondents. In addition, this “modern” Saint wrote many excellent books, all of which were steeped in the wisdom of the Fathers, expressed in way easy to understand by the modern man. For many parts of his life, St Theophan saw almost no human faces, but he shows an incredible insight into human nature and the troubles of modern life. It is well worth it to pick up ANY book written by him and read it.

Here are a few pithy quotes, in no particular order.

Human life is complex and multi-faceted. It has physical, mental and spiritual aspects. Each aspect has its powers, needs and modes, and the exercise and satisfaction of them. Only when all of our powers are in motion does a man live. But when only a small portion of his powers is in motion, and only a small number of his needs are satisfied, this life is not life. (The Spiritual Life and how to be attuned to it, p 38)

It is necessary for us to live as God created us, and when someone does not live this way, I may confidently state that he does not live at all. (Ibid, p 39)

God grant that such a feeling – rejecting worldly life and amusements – always be with you. But is is also possible to fall in love with such things. It is obvious that you should not come into contact with such a life. The second time around, it will not seem so destructive and disturbing; the third time, even less so, and then it will not seem bad at all. As they say about vodka, with the first glass you are just breaking the bonds, with the second glass you soar like an eagle, and after that you just pour. (Ibid, p 37)

Everywhere and always God is with us, near to us and in us. But we are not always with Him, since we do not remember Him; and because we do not remember Him we allow ourselves many things which we would not permit if we did remember. Take upon yourself this task — to make a habit of such recollection. Make yourself a rule always to be with the Lord, keeping your mind in your heart, and do not let your thoughts wander; as often as they stray, turn them back again and keep them at home in the closet of your heart, and delight in converse with the Lord.

He who refuses to give into passions does the same as he who refuses to bow down and worship idols

It is well known how powerfully corrupt images act upon the soul, no matter in what form they may touch it! How unfortunate is the child who, closing his eyes, or being left alone and going within himself, is stifled by a multitude of improper images — vain, tempting, breathing of the passions. This is the same thing for the soul as smoke is for the head.

Recommended books

The Path to Salvation: A Manual of Spiritual

The Spiritual Life and how to be attuned to it.

Unseen warfare.