Category Archives: Wisdom of the Church Fathers

Holy Tradition

~ Words of the Church Fathers ~

If someone wants to be protected from tricks and remain healthy in the faith, he must confine his faith first to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, and secondly to the Tradition of the Church. But someone may ask, is not the canon of Scripture sufficient for everything, and why should we add thereto the authority of Tradition? This is because not everyone understands the Scriptures in the same way, but one explains them this way and another that way, so that it is possible to get there from as many thoughts as there are heads. Therefore it is necessary to be guided by the understanding of the Church. What is tradition? It is that which has been understood by everyone, everywhere and at all times…that which you have received, and not that which you have thought up…So then, our job is not to lead religion where we wish it to go, but to follow it where it leads, and not to give that which is our own to our heirs, but to guard that which has been given to us.

St Vincent of Lerina, Notes of a Pilgrim

“Our religion is perfectly and profoundly conceived. What is simple is also what is most precious. Accordingly, in your spiritual life engage in your daily contest simply, easily, and without force. The soul is sanctified and purified through the study of the Fathers, through the memorization of the psalms and of portions of Scripture, through the singing of hymns and through the repetition of the Jesus Prayer. Devote your efforts, therefore, to these spiritual things and ignore all the other things.”

St Porphyrios,Wounded by Love

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Prayers for the Dead

Why do we pay for the dead? It is true that the dead are judged by how they lived. Generally, the Church teaches our future in eternity is based on our faith, life, deeds, virtues, love, compassion and goodness (or their absence) in this life, before our death. Yet, since we are never fully sure of the place of each soul before God, and because God Himself is merciful and loving, we pray for any help which might come to the soul of the deceased.

The Church teaches that our prayers help the deceased in some way. We do not know how or how much. There is an interesting passage in 2 Maccabees which addresses this question. Some soldiers of Judus Maccabees, the Jewish leader, fell in battle and were found to have idols on their persons, a grave sin. Their death was blamed on their sin (12:42), A collection was taken for funds to be sent to the temple “to provide for a sin offering” (12:43). The book comments on this by connecting this act with the resurrection. “For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore, he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin” (2 Maccabees 12:44-45). These words were written about 50 years before the birth of Christ.

The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions & Answers, S. Harakas

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When you are praying alone…

~ Words of the Church Fathers ~

When you are praying alone, and your spirit is dejected, and you are wearied and oppressed by your loneliness, remember then, as always, that God the Trinity looks upon you with eyes brighter than the sun; also all the angels, your own Guardian Angel, and all the Saints of God. Truly they do; for they are all one in God, and where God is, there are they also. Where the sun is, thither also are directed all its rays. Try to understand what this means.

St John of Kronstadt

Humility is the only thing we need; one can still fall having virtues other than humility – but with humility one does not fall.

Elder Herman of Mt Athos

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On Christ in the hearts of the faithful

~ Words of the Church Fathers ~

‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith’ (Eph. 3:17).

He has not Christ who only has Him on his tongue. Nor does he have Christ who only has Him on paper. Nor he who only has Him on the wall. Nor, indeed, he who has Him in a museum. He has Him in truth who has Him in his heart. For Christ is love, and the throne of love is the heart. If Christ is in your heart, then He is your God. If He is only on your tongue, or on paper, on the wall or in a museum, then, even if you call Him God, He is a plaything for you. Beware then, O man, for none can play with God with impunity!

The heart is apparently a small organ, but God can abide in it. And when God abides in it, it is filled to overflowing and nothing else can stand in it. If, however, the whole world were to dwell in it, without God, it would remain empty.

My brethren, let Christ the risen and living Lord dwell in your hearts by faith, and your hearts will be filled to overflowing. For He can in no other way abide in your hearts than by your faith. If you have no faith, Christ will remain only on your tongue or on paper, or on the wall or in the museum. What use is that to you? What use is it to you to have life on your tongue but death in your heart? For if you have the world in your heart and Christ on your lips, you have death in your heart and life on your lips. Water on the tongue is of no help to the thirsty. Let the living Christ into your heart, and your thirst will be truly quenched, and you will know unspeakable sweetness.

O risen Lord, cleanse our hearts from the deadly guests in them, and do Thou Thyself abide in them, that they may live and glorify Thee. To Thee be glory and praise for ever. Amen.

St Nikolai Velimirovic

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True freedom in the light of God’s truth

~ Words of the Church Fathers ~

Some people by the word freedom understand the ability to do whatever one wants. People who have the more allowed themselves to come into slavery to sins, passions, and defilements more often than others appear as zealots of external freedom, wanting to broaden the laws as much as possible. But such a man uses external freedom only to more severely burden himself with inner slavery. True freedom is the active ability of a man who is not enslaved to sin, who is not pricked by a condemning conscience, to choose the better in the light of God’s truth, and to bring it into actuality with the help of the gracious power of God. This is the freedom of which neither heaven nor earth are restrict.”
+ St. Philaret of Moscow

Until a man’s earthly life finishes its course, up to the very departure of the soul from the body, the struggle between sin and righteousness continues within him. However, high a spiritual and moral state one might achieve, a gradual or even headlong and deep fall into the abyss of sin is always possible. Therefore, communion of the holy Body and Blood of Christ, which strengthens our contact with Him and refreshes us with the living streams of the grace of the Holy Spirit flowing through the Body of the Church, is necessary for everyone.
+ St. John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, “The Church as the Body of Christ”

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The Cross

~ Words of the Church Fathers ~

Many indeed are the wondrous happenings of that time: God hanging from a Cross, the sun made dark, and again flaming out; for it was fitting that creation should mourn with its Creator. The Temple veil rent, blood and water flowing from His side: the one as from a man, the other as from What was above man; the earth was shaken, the rocks shattered because of the Rock; the dead risen to bear witness of the final and universal resurrection of the dead. The happenings at the Sepulchre, and after the Sepulchre, who can fittingly recount them?

Yet not one of them can be compared to the miracle of my salvation. A few drops of Blood renew the whole world, and do for all men what the rennet does for milk: joining us and binding us together.

St Gregory the Theologian

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The Will of God…

~ Words of the Church Fathers ~

No good thing can be brought to completion by our own efforts, but by the power and will of God. However, God demands effort on our part to conform to His will.
+ Saints Barsanuphius and John

Someone asked “Where is God?” – “Where you have left Him.”
If we turn to Him and follow Him He is with us and in us.
+ Bishop Paulos, Satista

If a man listens to God, then God listens to him.
+ Abba Moses

“But I say to you,” the Lord says, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you.” Why did he command these things? So that he might free you from hatred, sadness, anger and grudges, and might grant you the greatest possession of all, perfect love, which is impossible to possess except by the one who loves all equally in imitation of God.
+ St Maximus the Confessor

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That Secret Things Might be Revealed…

~ Words of the Church Fathers ~

All images reveal and make perceptible those things which are hidden. For example, a man does not have immediate knowledge of invisible things, since the soul is veiled by the body. Nor can man have immediate knowledge of things which are distant from each other or separated by place, because he himself is limited by place and time.

Therefore the icon was devised that he might advance in knowledge, and that secret things might be revealed and made perceptible. Therefore, icons are a source of profit, help, and salvation for all, since they make things so obviously manifest, enabling us to perceive hidden things. Thus, we are encouraged to desire and imitate what is good and to shun and hate what is evil.

St John of Damascus

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That We Should Not Despair Even if We Sin Many Times

~ Word of the Church Fathers ~

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 (Luke 15:20) and the prostitute (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 (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.

St Peter of Damaskos, Book I: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 3)

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Wise Counsel from the Elder: St Iakovos (Tsalikis) of Evia

St Iakovos (Tsalikis) of Evia – Reposed November 21st 1991, Commemorated November 22nd

“We are not sanctified by the place in which we live, but by the way we live.”

“The faithful shouldn’t tell others of things they have confessed, of details of their life or their spiritual endeavour.”

“Chase away the bad thoughts and fantasies that the devil presents. Don’t even notice them.”

“Don’t hesitate [to come to confession]. Don’t be ashamed. Whatever you may have done, even the greatest of sins, the spiritual father has power from the Lord Christ Himself and from the Apostles to forgive you with his stole.”

“I asked God in prayer for the gift of discerning men’s hearts by looking at their faces, so that I might be able to help them; and God granted it.”

Wise Counsel from the Elder (from Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit)

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