It is good, O brethren, to sing the words of the holy God-bearers, for they strive everywhere to instruct us in everything which leads to the enlightenment of our souls. From the words we sing on the feast day, we should always come to understand the meaning of the what is being commemorated, whether it be a feast of the Lord, of the holy martyrs, or of the holy Fathers; in a word no matter what saint or blessed commemoration it is.
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.
Abba Dorotheus said that one who trusts in his own understanding or judgment cannot submit to nor follow the good example of his neighbor. He likewise said: Being passionate, we cannot at all believe in our own hearts; for a crooked rule will make even the straight crooked.
If you do not wish to fall into irritability and remembrance of evil, have no attachment whatever to things and do not be overly concerned for them, neither despise them as being of little importance or insignificance.When someone asks something of you, give it to him; and if he by chance, or by carelessness, should break or lose something, do not be grieved.
Believe that reproaches and dishonors are medicines which heal the pride of your soul, and pray for those who make you meek as the true physicians of your soul, be convinced that he who hates dishonor hates humility, and he that flees those who offend him is fleeing meekness.
The Fathers say that half of spiritual life is to remain in the cell, and visiting the elders is the other half. This expression means that both inside the cell and outside the cell we must be equally heedful, and we must know why we should keep silence in the cell and why we should go to the fathers and brethren; for one who keeps sight of these aims strives to act as the Fathers teach.
The Holy Apostles established and committed to us as a help and benefaction for our souls something yet greater and more exalted--that we should set apart a tenth portion of the very days of our lives and devote them to God. Thereby might we also receive a blessing for all our deeds, and yearly cleanse the sins we have committed over the course of the whole year.
How is the house of the soul built? We can learn this by observing how a material house is built. For he who wishes to build such a house much fortify all around by building walls on all four sides, and not concern himself with one side only, neglecting the other three. Otherwise he will derive no benefit at all, but will waste everything in vain—his intention, expense, and labor. So does it happen also with the soul: for a man who desires to build a house of the soul should not neglect a single wall of his building, but should erect it evenly and harmoniously.
Such are those who really want to be saved: this is what it means to bear the yoke of temptation with humility of wisdom and to pray for the life of Nebuchadnezzar. This is why the Prophet said, In the life of Nebuchadnezzar is our salvation. The same thing is implied in saying, "I see great fruit coming to me from this labor" as "in the life of Nebuchadnezzar is our salvation." This the Elder confirms by saying, "Today I know that you are in the way to making progress and you will surpass me."
If you wish I will explain this to you by an example that I have said to you. Let any one of you come and I will shut him up in a dark cell, and even for three days let him not eat or drink or sleep, neither converse with anyone, nor sing psalms, nor pray, nor think at all about God—then would he see what the passions would do in him. But he would still be here: when the soul is separated from the body, how much more will it suffer from the passions, being left all alone with them, the poor wretch?
Let us take a care for ourselves, O brethren, let us be heedful. Who will give us this time back if we lose it in vain? In truth we will seek these days and not find them. Abba Arsenius always used to say to himself, "Arsenius, why did you leave the world?" And we find ourselves in such ruinous sloth that we are not even conscious of what we then desired, and therefore we not only make no progress, but we constantly grieve. This occurs in us because we do not have heedfulness in our heart.
I wish to remind you, O brethren, about lying, for I see that you do not strive very hard to restrain your tongues and from this we are easily drawn into much evil. Make note my brethren that in every matter, as I constantly tell you, one may acquire a habit either for the good or for the evil; and so one needs great heedfulness so that we will not be robbed by lying, for one who lies has no union with God. Lying is foreign to God.
The Fathers have said that it is not characteristic of monks to become angry or to offend anyone, and furthermore, "He who has overcome anger has overcome the demons, but he who is overcome by this passion is a stranger to the monastic life." And what should we say of ourselves when we not only do not leave off irritability and anger, but also surrender ourselves to the remembrance of wrongs? What must we do but weep over such a pitiful and inhuman state of our souls? And so let us pay heed to ourselves O brethren, and let us strive with God's help to be delivered from this ruinous passion.
Let us examine, brothers, how it is that at one time a man hears a disparaging remark and passes it by without being disturbed, as if he had hardly heard it, and at another time he hears it and is immediately disturbed. What is the reason for such a difference? Is there only one reason for this difference or are there many? As I see it there are many reasons, but there is one thing, one might say, which is the basic generating cause of them all. I will tell you how this is.
So what is it we want from our neighbor? Why are we so concerned about the burden of others? We have plenty to be concerned about, brothers! Let each one of us attend to himself and his own sins. God alone has the authority to judge, to justify or to condemn, inasmuch as He knows the state of each one of us and our upbringing and our gifts, our constitution and abilities, and it is for him to judge each of these things according to the knowledge that He alone has. For God judges the affairs of a bishop in one way and those of a secular governor in another.
The wise Solomon says in the Proverbs (Prov. 11:14), They that have no guidance fall like leaves, but in much counsel there is safety. Do you see O brethren, the power of this expression? Do you see what the Holy Scriptures teaches us? It exhorts us not to trust in ourselves, not to consider ourselves intelligent, not to believe that we are able to govern ourselves; for we have need of help, we have need of those who instruct us according to God. There are no people more unfortunate and closer to perdition than those who do not have an instructor in God's path.
St. John says in his Catholic epistle (I John 4:18) Perfect love casteth out fear. What does the Holy Apostle wish to say to us through this? What kind of love is he talking about, and what kind of fear? The Prophet David says in the Psalms (Ps. 33:10) Fear ye the Lord all ye His saints, and we find many other similar expressions in the Divine Scriptures. Thus, if even saints, who so loved the Lord, feared Him, then how is it, as St. John says, that Perfect love casteth out fear?
When God created man He sowed in him something divine, a certain thought which has in itself, like a spark, both light and warmth; a thought which enlightens the mind and indicates to it what is good and what is evil—this is called conscience, and it is a natural law. This is that well which, as the Holy Fathers interpret it, Isaac dug and the Philistines covered up (Gen. 26:18). Following this law, that is, conscience, the Patriarchs and all the saints pleased God before the written Law.
Thus, let us also be humbled a little, and we shall be saved. If we who are infirm cannot labor, then let us try to be humbled; and I believe in the mercy of God that for the little we do with humility, even we shall be in the place of the saints who have labored much and worked for God. Even if we are infirm and cannot labor—can it be that we cannot become humble? Blessed, O brethren, is he who has humility. Great is humility! One saint who had true humility said it very well: "Humility does not become angry at anyone and angers no one, and it considers anger completely foreign to itself."
Then, no matter how disinclined he is to fulfill his own will, it turns out that it is always fulfilled. For to one who does not have his own will, everything that happens to him is according to his will. In this way he becomes free of attachment, and from non-attachment, as I have said, he comes to dispassion. Do you see to what a state of advancement, little-by-little, the cutting of one's own will leads him?