Instructions to a brother who has asked him about insensitivity and the growing cold of love.
When your soul becomes insensitive, brother, it is useful to read the Holy Scriptures and the heart-touching words of the Holy and God-bearing Fathers, to remember God’s Last Judgment, the departure of the soul from the body, and the terrible powers that can greet it, and with whose cooperation the soul committed evil acts in this brief and tormented life. It is also useful to remember how we shall appear before the terrible and righteous judgment seat of Christ, and not only for our deeds, but for words and thoughts shall we give an answer before God, before all His angels, and in general before all creation.
Remember just as often also that sentence which the terrible and righteous Judge shall pronounce against those who stand at His left side: Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt. 25:41). It is good also to remember the great sorrows of mankind in order that the cruel and insensitive soul might be thereby if only involuntarily softened, and come to a recognition of its sinfulness.
You are failing in brotherly love because you accept suspicious thoughts against your neighbor, and trust your own heart; this happens to you also because you do not want to endure anything that goes against your will. Thus; before anything else you should, with God’s help, under no circumstances believe your own opinions, and strive with all your might to humble yourself before your brothers, and with all your soul cut off your will before them. If one of them injures you, or causes you sorrow in any way, then you should pray for him, according to the words of the Fathers, as for one who has given you great benefit and has healed your love of pleasure. Through this your irritability will decrease, for in the words of the Holy Fathers, love is the reigns on irritability. And before all, pray to God to give you attentiveness and understanding, so that you might know what is that good, perfect and acceptable will of God (Rom. 12:2); also pray for the strength to be ready for every good work. For to Him belongs all glory, honor and worship unto the ages of ages. Amen.
To a certain very sick brother who had various bad thoughts as to who will take care of his needs.
In the name of Jesus Christ, my brother, let us not have anything against our neighbor, for we should overcome and cover this with love. No one says to his neighbor, “Why don’t you love me?” But he himself, making himself worthy of love, attracts also his neighbor to love. And concerning the needs of the body, I will say that if someone is worthy of comfort, then God will instruct the heart of a Saracen to show him mercy according to his need; if he is not worthy, or if for his instruction it is not useful for him to be consoled, then even if he were to create an new heaven and a new earth, he would not find repose. And what you said about burdening your brother is apparently a self-justification; for no one, in helping his neighbor who desires salvation, in order to fulfill the commandment of God, will say to him, “I burden you.” He who hates those who upset him hates meekness, and he who flees from those who offend him, flees from repose in Christ. May the man-loving God cover us, my son, by His grace, through the prayers of all the saints. Amen.
We can keep guard over the whole world by keeping guard over the atmosphere of heaven within us, for if we lose the Kingdom of Heaven, we will save neither ourselves nor others. He who has the Kingdom of God within himself will imperceptibly pass it on to others. People will be attracted by the peace and warmth in us; they will want to be near us, and the atmosphere of heaven will gradually pass on to them. It is not even necessary to speak to people about this. The atmosphere of Heaven will radiate from us even when we keep silence or talk about ordinary things.
Praying by the prayer of Jesus is a divine institution. It was instituted not by means of an Apostle or by means of an Angel; it was instituted by the Son of God and God Himself. After the mystical supper among other sublime, final commandments and orders, the Lord Jesus Christ instituted prayer by His name. He gave this way of prayer as a new. extraordinary gift, a gift of infinite value. The Apostles partly knew already the power of the name of Jesus; they healed incurable diseases by it, they reduced devils to obedience, conquered, bound and expelled them by it. This most mighty, wonderful name the Lord orders us to use in prayer. He promised that such prayer will be particularly effectual. ‘Whatever you ask,’ He said to the holy Apostles, ‘the Father in My name, I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it’ (Jn. 14:13).
~Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov: On The Prayer of Jesus
The walls that stand between you and truth and loom up before you like colossal mountains, which you have been trying to cross by running to the point of exhaustion, are your own creation and are more fragile than the white foam on the lake. If only you could open your eyes wide enough not to see them. Truly, the existence of these walls depends upon your seeing them. If you did not wish to see them, they would not exist.
I once watched a chicken on top of a blackboard running around inside a circle that had been drawn on it with white chalk. I watched him for a long time as he ran to and fro and hesitated to jump over the white line, which he probably perceived to be a living creature or a high wall.
This is like my soul, I said in sorrow, when she thinks that she is cut off from her freedom either by some mighty giants or by frightful towering walls. In actual fact, between her prison and her freedom there exists only an imaginary line, thinner than a hair.
All the walls of your prison, my soul, consist of your fear of the world, of your desire for the world and of your thoughts about the world. All these walls you yourself have built according to the instructions of your senses from the material that they have given you, a material that is truly more fragile than foam.
Do not say that it is impossible to achieve a virtuous life, but say that it is not easy. Those who have achieved the virtuous life find it is not easy to maintain. Those who are devout, and whose intellect enjoys the love of God, take part in the life of virtue. The unspiritual intellect, however, is concerned with material things and wavers back and forth, producing both good and evil thoughts. It does this because it is changeable by nature and directed towards material things. But the intellect that enjoys the love of God punishes the evil which arises on its own through human laziness.
Real knowledge is patiently to accept affliction and not to blame others for our own misfortunes.
One man received a thought and accepted it without examination. Another received a thought and tested its truth. Which of them acted with greater reverence?
Those who always by choice incline to sensual pleasures refrain from doing what lies within their power on the grounds that they lack help.
Grace has been given mystically to those who have been baptized into
Christ; and it become active within them to the extent that they actively observe the commandments. Grace never ceases to help us secretly; but to do good – as far as lies in our power – depends on us.
When you have found that external events come to you through God’s justice, then in your search for the Lord you have found “spiritual knowledge and justice” (cf. Prov. 16:8 LXX)
A seed will not grow without earth and water; and a man will not develop without voluntary suffering and divine help.
Many of us feel remorse for our sins, yet we gladly accept their causes.
Each man’s knowledge is genuine to the extent that it is confirmed by gentleness, humility and love.
Undistracted prayer is a sign of love for God; but careless or distracted prayer is a sign of love for pleasure.
If you want with a few words to benefit one who is eager to learn, speak to him about prayer, right faith, and the patient acceptance of what comes. For all else that is good is found through these.
We who have received baptism offer good works, not by way of repayment, but to preserve the purity given to us.
Understand the words of Holy Scripture by putting them into practice, and do not fill yourself with conceit by expatiating on theoretical ideas.
The devil belittles small sins; otherwise he cannot lead us into greater ones.
Spiritists of our day accept every manifestation from the spiritual world as though sent by God, and immediately they boast that God has been “revealed” to them. I knew an eighty year old monk whom everyone respected as a great spiritual director. To my question: “Have you ever in your life seen anything from the spiritual world?”, the monk answered me, “No, never, praise be to God’s Mercy.” Seeing that I was astonished at this, he said, “I have constantly prayed to God that nothing appear to me, so that, by chance, I would not succumb to pride and receive a fallen devil as an angel. Thus far, God has heard my prayers.” This recorded example shows how humble and cautious the elders were. The devil, clothed in the light of an angel, appeared to a certain monk and said to him: “I am the Archangel Gabriel and I am sent to you.” To that, the brother responded, “Think! Were you not sent to someone else, for I am not worthy to see an angel?” The devil instantly became invisible and vanished.
Sometimes… greater evil ensues when in the case of wicked persons a policy of equality is adhered to rather than of discipline. Eli, for example, overcome by misguided affection and unwilling to chastise his delinquent sons, struck both himself and his sons before the strict judge with a cruel sentence, for the divine utterance was, “You have honored your sons rather than me.”
If the philosophies of men were able to satisfy man, why did the philosophers Justin and Origen become Christians? Why did Basil, Chrysostom and Gregory, who in Athens studying all the philosophy of the Greeks, receive baptism? And why did Blessed Augustine, who knew the wisdom of both the Greeks and the Romans, throw away all and seek salvation and illumination in the Faith of Christ? And St. Clement of Rome, who was very wealthy and very learned? And St. Catherine, who was from the royal house and knew all the worldly wisdom of the Egyptians? And the young Crown Prince Joasaph in India, to whom was known all the Indian philosophies? And many, many more who primarily sought explanations to the puzzles of the world and illumination for their souls in philosophy and, after that, entered the Church and worshiped the Lord Christ?