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Spiritual Precepts
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We have currently entered such a period of human existence, wherein salvation is attained exclusively by means of a patient endurance of sorrows, with faith in God and hope in His mercy. At present no one is able to attain salvation by any other means. Only one single path has been left for our times: the endurance of sorrows.

Most people do not understand Christianity. However, some have understood it, and have come to realize that the most important thing to do is to force oneself to live according to Christs commandments, to repent ones sins and the trespassing of these commandments, to repent always, to consider oneself unworthy of the Heavenly Realm, to entreat the Lord for mercy with the words of the publican: Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner. Here is my testament to you: repent, consider yourselves sinners just as the publican did, entreat Gods mercy, and pity each other.

Abbot Nikon (Vorobyev)

Some people say: why must we enumerate the names of the living and the deceased when praying for them? God, being omniscient, knows these names Himself, knows each ones need. But those who say this forget or do not understand the importance of prayer, forget that Gods justice and mercy are obtained by our heartfelt prayer, which the Lord, in accordance with His goodness, imputes to the living and the deceased who are mentioned, since we are all members of a single Church body. They do not realize that the heavenly Church, in its great love, constantly prays to God for us, - and specifically mentions before God the names of those people who pray to the heavenly denizens - equal measure for equal measure. We commemorate them and they commemorate us. And whoever does not commemorate his brethren in his prayers, will himself be unworthy of commemoration. Of great significance is even a single word of faith and love during prayer. The fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16).

Saint John of Kronstadt

Do not be afraid of spiritual struggles and do not try to avoid them: wherever struggles are absent, so is virtue; wherever loyalty and love are not tested, it is not known whether loyalty and love for the Lord exist. Our faith, hope and love are manifested in contrariness, i.e. in difficult and dire circumstances, both external and internal: in illness, sorrow, need.

Charity is like a seed; if you wish it to bear fruit a hundredfold, turn it into a good seed, giving charity simply and from a kind, merciful and compassionate heart; and be assured that you are not losing anything by giving, but instead are acquiring enormously, if you give charity from a kind heart and not for mercenary or selfish reasons. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me, your Lord (Matt. 25:40).

A persons thoughts have a very strong effect on the state and inclination of his heart and actions; therefore, in order for the heart to be pure, good and tranquil, and the inclination of the will to be good and pious, one must cleanse ones thoughts through prayer, the reading of the Holy Scriptures and the works of the Holy Fathers, musing upon the quick passing and decay of earthly pleasures.

From the spiritual diary of St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

A model of renaissance

In the hope of penitence the sinful woman ran to the place where Christ was, carrying with her only a small bottle of myrrh the aromatic essence bought with the price of shame. She was not frightened off by the contempt with which she was met. She had eyes only for the Teacher.

As though drawn by an invisible force, she approached Him and understood that she had nothing to tell, that her entire life was known to Him. She also understood that only He could forgive her. Infinite gratitude and ardent love overwhelmed her soul. With tears of repentance the sinful woman fell at His feet. His feet were dusty. She washed them with her tears, wiped them with her hair Breaking open the fragile bottle, the woman began to pour myrrh over His head, clothes, feet. It was not just the bottle but her very soul which she broke open here, and offered her entire being in sacrifice. And her sacrifice was not rejected. Thy many sins are forgiven thee, for thou hast loved much, she heard in response. A despised sinner fell to the Lords feet and arose as Mary Magdalene, equal-to-the apostles, for it was she.

St. Mary Magdalene.

Silence is golden

For every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give
account thereof in the day of judgment (Matt. 12:36).

In the snowy mountains of Switzerland there are regions where the guides warn travelers not to utter a single word, because the slightest vibration of air can cause the overhanging snow to move and create an avalanche, carrying everything along with it into the abyss. Who would think that one word could have such terrible consequences? However, the moral effect of our words is far greater. The thoughtless words which we so often and so easily throw to the winds can affect events for centuries, and the great day of judgment will reveal the terrible consequences of our words.

On that day we will answer for every idle word. Is it not awful to think of the multitude of words which we have uttered and which will confront us with implacable clarity? Idle words are those which spring from an idle life, they are words which are unnecessary, thoughtless, often harmful. Such empty words, passing in idleness from mouth to mouth, often blacken a persons moral character, inflict wounds, gloat over the misfortune of others, and from idle become cruel. Idle words also include talk which intrudes into the privacy of family life, which under the guise of a flat joke or inappropriate remark can shake the foundation of a familys happiness.

One can never be careful enough in the use of words. May our words be truthful, plain and sincere, may they be good-natured and loving. May your word always be with grace, says Apostle Paul. The thought of Gods judgment should serve to curb our tongue. We would speak with greater wisdom if we would constantly remember that our words are heard in heaven, and that they will serve to either acquit us or condemn us on the final day. How sacred, how pure, how truth-ful would be each word we utter if we would remember that one of the appellations of Jesus Christ Himself was the Word.

From Day by day a book of spiritual reflections.

The grace of the Holy Spirit

Many people think the saints are far away from us. But they are far away only from those who have distanced themselves, and very near to those who keep Christs commandments and who possess the grace of the Holy Spirit. In heaven everything lives and breathes by the Holy Spirit. But on earth there is the same Holy Spirit. He lives in our Church; He lives in the sacraments; He is to be found in the Holy Scriptures; He is in the souls of the faithful. The Holy Spirit brings everyone together, and therefore the saints are close to us, and when we pray to them they hear our prayers through the Holy Spirit, and our souls feel that they are praying for us.

God can be known only through the Holy Spirit, and the one who, in his pride, wishes to know the Creator through his mind is blind and foolish. With the mind we cannot even understand how the sun was made, and when we ask God to tell us how He made the sun, the reply is clear: Humble yourself, and you will know not only the sun, but also its Creator.

Venerable Siluan the Athonite

The mirror of the Gospel

I gaze at eternity: all that is temporal is trivial, vain, insignificant. I love solitude: in this state one can gaze at eternity more intently, observe what is needed, and prepare this needful thing in advance, before the soul departs from the body. I am attracted to the Gospel. My gaze is overwhelmed by the traits of Gods image and the nuances of Gods likeness that are depicted in the Gospel! Be like unto Me, the Lord says to mankind, and in order for men to absorb this wondrous likeness more easily God became incarnate. What ineffable beauty in this new Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ! And what ugliness in myself, what disorder! How many stains there are upon me! This is how I see myself when I look into the mirror of the Gospel.

Saint Ignaty (Bryanchaninov)

St. Pimen the Great

A brother asked Abba Pimen: What constitutes repentance of sin? The elder replied: Never to commit this sin again. The sinless and the righteous are so called because they have rejected their sins and have become righteous.

Abba Pimen said: Man has constant need of humility, spiritual wisdom and the fear of God, just as he needs the air that he breathes through his nostrils.

Abba Pimen said: If man reaches the state of which the Apostle said: for the pure one everything is pure, he will see himself the worst of all creation. A brother said to him: How can I consider myself to be worse than murderers? The elder replied: If a man reaches the spiritual state indicated by the Apostle, and sees another man who had committed murder, he will say to himself: that man committed the sin only once, while I kill myself and others with my sins daily!

Our protectors

If tomorrow you had to go to court in order to appear before a strict judge, I think today you would take great care to prepare a good defense, and would immediately try to find defenders and protectors who would intercede on your behalf. And yet soon the mighty judge Jesus Christ will arrive for His judgment, together with a host of angels and archangels. If we do not now find protectors for ourselves, who will defend us then? We have the holy martyrs to defend and help us, they are always ready to come to our aid and intercede on our behalf. Call upon them now, appeal to them for help. The Lord will accept their intercession, because although He is a righteous judge, at the same time He is long-suffering and ever-merciful.

Saint Gregory the Theologian.

The holy fathers on angels

It is our duty to venerate the angels: they, glorifying the Creator, reveal His charity and goodwill towards men.

St. John Chrysostome.

After the Trinity come the invisible shining Angels. They move freely around the great throne - quick minds, flames and divine spirits - and faithfully serve the high commands of God. They are one in spirit and alike among themselves: one essence, one mind, one love - around the mighty King God.

St. Gregory the Theologian.

Angels, being servants of love and peace, rejoice in our repentance and attainment of virtues, try to fill us with spiritual contemplation and aid us in the doing of good.

St. Theodore of Ephesus.

The difficult easy path

For people who are just beginning to love piety, the path of virtue seems severe and fearful. And that is not because it is so in essence, but because such people have become used from childhood to live in pleasure and with total abandonment. For the one who has already lived a goodly portion of his life in piety, the path of virtue appears benevolent and joyful. That is because when we suppress our evil intentions with good habits, then our passion for pleasures of the flesh begins to disappear simultaneously. Afterwards the soul willingly follows the path of righteousness. For this reason the Lord, calling upon us to begin working on our salvation, says that strait and narrow is the way that leads unto life, and few are those who follow it (Matt. 7:14). To those who earnestly wish to live in accordance with His holy commandments He says: My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matt. 11:30)

Blessed Diodochus, Bishop of Photika.

The crowning virtue

Treat your brethren with joy and affection. Love them. Serve them: they are precious - the Saviours blood has been spilt for them, they are members of Christ. Do not offend them in any way whatsoever.

Attain salvation by pleasing the Lord God, pleasing Him with all forms of love. Make your chief concern the enrichment of yourselves with love. Whosoever possesses love - has God within himself.

Humility has its beginning in the humbleness of our Lord Jesus Christ and is the crown and beauty of all virtues. What rain is to parched earth, so humility is to the human soul. Humility is a virtue which even the Lord God Himself admires: upon whom shall I gaze? - He says, - safe the meek one and the humble one, the one in awe of My words.

With the Lord and for the sake of the Lord all that is difficult is not difficult and all that is sorrowful is not sorrowful.

Elder Ambrose of Optina.

Love for ones brethren

I will not conceal from you the virtue for which the Lord gives His grace. I will not write too much, but will only ask you - love each other and you shall then see Gods grace. Let us love our brethren, and the Lord will love us. Do not think, o soul, that the Lord loves you when you glance askance at someone. Not at all! It is more likely that the demons love you then, since you have become their servant; but hurry up and repent, and ask the Lord for strength to love your brother, and you will find peace in your soul.

With all your might ask the Lord for humility and love among yourselves, because for love of your brethren the Lord freely give His grace. Test yourself: one day ask the Lord to grant you love for your brethren, and the next day live without love, and you will see the difference. The spiritual fruits of love are clear: peace and joy within the soul, and everyone will seem dear to you, and you will shed copious tears for your neighbors and for all creation.

Venerable Siluan the Athonite.

On inner peace

Inner peace is acquired through sorrows. The Scriptures say: We went through fire and through water; but Thou has brought us out into a tranquil place (Psalm 66:12). For those who wish to please God, the path lies through many sorrows. How can we worship the holy martyrs for the suffering they endured for the sake of God, when we ourselves are unable to endure even a single spark? Thus we must concentrate all our thoughts, wishes and actions towards attaining the peace of God. We must do our best to preserve this inner peace and not become upset by insults on the part of others; to this end we must make a great effort to restrain our anger, and by means of attentiveness safeguard our mind and heart from unseemly actions. Therefore, we must be totally indifferent to insults from others, and we must attain such a disposition whereby these insults would seem to us to concern others and not ourselves

Saint Seraphim of Sarov.
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