CTS Service Files
We may study as much as we will but we shall still not come to know the Lord unless we live according to His commandments, for the Lord is not made known through learning but by the Holy Spirit. Many philosophers and scholars have arrived at a belief in the existence of God but they have not come to know God. And we monks apply ourselves day and night to the study of the Lord's command but not all of us by a long way have come to know the Lord, although we believe in Him. - St. Silouan the Athonite (1866 - 1938) To believe that God exists is one thing, to know God another. - Archimandrite Sophrony
Prayer, fasting, vigil and all other Christian practices, however good they may be in themselves, do not constitute the aim of our Christian life, although they serve as the indispensable means of reaching this end. The true aim of our Christian life consists in the [increasing] acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ's sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. - St. Seraphim of Sarov
Worship is the norm of Christian existence. It should be the constant disposition or attitude of the Christian man. Indeed, to worship God means precisely to be aware of His presence, to dwell constantly in this presence. It is through worship that the ‘new man’ is being formed in the believer, and the baptismal grace of adoption is actualized. The Christian man must be always in the state of worship, whether it is expressed in words or not. In its essence worship is the orientation of man towards God. - Protopresbyter Georges Florovsky (1893-1979)
True Christians live in this world as travelers, pilgrims, and sojourners, and they look ever toward their heavenly homeland with faith and with the eyes of the soul, and they strive to reach it. You should also be a pilgrim and sojourner in this world and constantly look toward that homeland and strive to obtain it, and so the world with its enticements and lusts will become abhorrent to you. Whoever seeks eternal blessedness and desires it and strives to reach it will despise everything temporal, lest while seeking the temporal he be deprived of the eternal. - St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
A Christian's ... duty is to "take up his cross." The word "cross" means sufferings, sorrows, and adversities. To take up one's cross means to bear without grumblings everything unpleasant, painful, sad, difficult and with love, with joy and with courageous strength. - St. Innocent of Alaska
Thus it is the Church's spiritual teaching that God does not punish man by some material fire or physical torment. God simply reveals Himself in the risen Lord Jesus in such a glorious way that no man can fail to behold His glory. It is the presence of God's splendid glory and love that is the scourge of those who reject its radiant power and light. ... those who find themselves in hell will be chastised by the scourge of love. How cruel and bitter this torment of love will be! For those who understand that they have sinned against love, undergo no greater suffering than those produced by the most fearful tortures. The sorrow which takes hold of the heart, which has sinned against love, is more piercing than any other pain. It is not right to say that the sinners in hell are deprived of the love of God ... But love acts in two ways, as suffering of the reproved, and as joy in the blessed! - (St. Isaac of Syria, Mystic Treatises)
Reject those who say we need only our own free will and not prayer to help us keep from sin. Even the Pharisee wasn't blinded by such darkness. For, although he mistakenly thought he only needed his own righteousness (and believed he was saturated with it), nevertheless, he thanked God that he wasn't "like other men, junjust, extortioners, adulterers..." ...Yet it isn't a question of prayers alone, as if we don't need to include our willful efforts. For although God is "our Helper," we cannot be helped if we don't make some effort of our own. God doesn't work out our salvation in us as if we are dull stones or creatures without reason or will. - St. Augustine of Hippo
From much speaking proceeds the destruction of the virtues, the laying waste of silence, and other dishonorable passions. He who is silent is fearful to demons, because they do not see the secrets of the heart among those who are perfect when they do not speak with the lips. But he who loves much talking will not escape sin. If one were to place on one side of the scale all the works of sinful life and on the other side silence, we will find that silence outweighs them. - St. Paisius Velichkovsky
The whole therapeutic method of the Orthodox Church is not aimed simply at making human beings morally and socially balanced, but at re-establishing their relationship with God and one another. This comes about through the healing of the soul's wounds and the cure of the passions through the Sacraments and the Church's ascetic practice. - Met. Hierotheos Vlachos
"The aim of this music is not to display the fine voices of the chanters, or to entertain the congregation, or to evoke aesthetic experience…. The aim of Byzantine sacred music is spiritual. The music is, in the first place, a means of worship and veneration; and in the second place, a means of self-perfection, of eliciting and cultivating man’s higher thoughts and feelings and of opposing and eliminating his lower, undesirable ones." - Constantine Cavarnos
"When someone leads a simple life, humbly looks upon himself and feels the need of God's providence, then he puts aside all his concerns and worries, and has faith in Him. When God sees that this soul totally depends on Him, and not on itself, He will mercifully protect it; thus, this soul will intensively experience the sense of God's providence and feel contented. God wants our soul to be simple without many thoughts and too much knowledge; like an infant that expects everything from its parents. That is why the Lord said: "If you do not become like children you will not be able to enter into the Kingdom of God." We must humbly pray to God and admit our weakness, and this way we will be able to free ourselves from our concerns and worries; just as our shadow closely follows our body, God's mercy will follow our humility and faith."
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Humble people have no needless or petty quarrels with others, because they have no egocentric desires to always have their own way. They are not self-seeking; for they know that it is God's will, not their own, that they should strive for. Therefore, humility naturally brings with it unity, both with God and with our fellows.
When people around us fail to submit and act on cue, according to our directions, the limits of our power over them is exposed and we lash out like a thwarted petty tyrant throwing a tantrum. As this "inner Napoleon," kicks and screams, he may hurt others, but his ultimate victim is the soul that he inhabits, namely, our own. That's why resentment so often leaves us feeling far worse than the person against whom our resentment is directed. As someone once said, "Resentment is the poison we drink, hoping someone else will die."
"When we teach children to be good, gentle, forgiving (all these are attributes of God), to be generous, to love their fellow men, to regard this present age as nothing, we install virtue in their souls, and reveal the image of God within them." - St. John Chrysostom
The Holy Fathers prophesied about the last generation, saying to each other in wonderment: "What have we achieved?" One of them, Abba Ischyrion, a great Elder, replied: "We have fulfilled the commandments of God." The others said: "What about those who will come after us, what will they do?" The Elder answered: "They will accomplish half of our work." And again the Fathers asked: "What about those who come after them?" Abba Ischyrion replied: "The men of that generation will accomplish no work at all; temptation will come upon them. But those who are found worthy in that epoch will be greater than we and our Fathers."
"Tis better that people think you to be a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."
We Should Not Despair, Even If We Sin
by St. Peter of Damascus
Even if you are not what you should be, you should not despair. It is bad enough that you have sinned; why in addition do you wrong God by regarding Him in your ignorance as powerless? Is He, who for your sake created the great universe that you behold, incapable of saving your soul? And if you say that this fact, as well as His incarnation, only makes your condemnation worse, then repent; and He will receive your repentance, as He accepted that of the prodigal son (cf. Luke 15:20) and the prostitute (cf. Luke 7:37-50).
But if repentance is too much for you, and you sin out of habit even when you do not want to, show humility like the publican (cf. Luke 18:13): this is enough to ensure your salvation. For he who sins without repenting, yet does not despair, must of necessity regard himself as the lowest of creatures, and will not dare to judge or censure anyone. Rather, he will marvel at God’s compassion, and will be full of gratitude towards his Benefactor, and so receive many other blessings as well. Even if he is subject to the devil in that he sins, yet from fear of God he disobeys the enemy when the latter tries to make him despair. Because of this he has his portion with God; for he is grateful, gives thanks, is patient, fears God, does not judge so that he may not be judged. All these are crucial qualities. It is as St. John Chrysostom says about Gehenna: it is almost of greater benefit to us than the kingdom of heaven, since because of it many enter into the kingdom of heaven, while few enter for the sake of the kingdom itself; and if they do not enter it, it is by virtue of God’s compassion. Gehenna pursues us with fear, the kingdom embraces us with love, and through them both we are saved by God’s grace (Homily On 1 Timothy 15:3).
If those attacked by many passions of soul and body endure patiently, do not out of negligence surrender their free will, and do not despair, they are saved. Similarly, he who has attained the state of dispassion, freedom from fear and lightness of heart, quickly falls if he does not confess God’s grace continually by not judging anyone. Indeed, should he dare to judge someone, he makes it evident that in acquiring his wealth he has relied on his own strength, as St. Maximus states. St. John of Damascus says that if someone still subject to the passions, and still bereft of the light of spiritual knowledge, is put in charge of anyone, he is in great danger; and so is the person who has received dispassion and spiritual knowledge from God but does not help other people.
Nothing so benefits the weak as withdrawal into stillness, or the man subject to the passions and without spiritual knowledge as obedience combined with stillness. Nor is there anything better than to know one’s own weakness and ignorance, nor anything worse than not to recognize them. No passion is so hateful as pride, or as ridiculous as avarice, “the root of all evils” (1 Tim. 6:10): for those who with great labor mine silver, and then hide it in the earth again, remain without any profit. That is why the Lord says,
“Do not store up treasures on earth” (Matt. 6:19);
“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21).
For the intellect of man is drawn by longing towards those things with which it habitually occupies itself, whether these be earthly things, or the passions, or heavenly and eternal blessings. As St. Basil the Great says,
a persistent habit acquires all the strength of nature (Long Rules 6).
A weak person especially ought to pay attention to the
promptings of his conscience, so that he may free his soul from all
condemnation. Otherwise at the end of his life he may repent in vain and mourn
eternally. The person who cannot endure for Christ’s sake a physical death as
Christ did, should at least be willing to endure death spiritually. Then he will
be a martyr with respect to his conscience, in that he does not submit to the
demons that assail him, or to their purposes, but conquers them, as did the holy
martyrs and the holy fathers. The first were bodily martyrs, the latter
spiritual martyrs. By forcing oneself slightly, one defeats the enemy; through
slight negligence one is filled with darkness and destroyed.
From A Treasure of Divine Knowledge in The Philokalia (vol. 3).