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The Holy Fathers about passions and virtues.


He who has found the path to longsuffering and non-hatred, has found the path of life.

It is better to cut irritability short with a smile, than to fume unceasingly.

Irritability and rankling are the same as snake poison, because they distort the face, and weaken the muscles, and cause the person to have insufficient strength to perform; but meekness and love banish all this.

Be attentive to yourself, that you are not possessed by quick temper, irritability, rankling, from which you will lead a fearful and unsettled life. But attain magnanimity, meekness, kindness and everything that is proper for a Christian, in order to lead a peaceful and serene life.

If you have ought against any, or any against you, make peace. If you do not do this, anything that you bring to God will not be accepted (Mark 11:25, Matt. 5:23-24). If you fulfill this commandment of the Lord, then you can pray to Him boldly, saying "Lord, forgive me my debts, as I forgive my brother’s, fulfilling Your commandment! And the Lover of Mankind will answer: "If you have released him, I will release you: if you have forgiven, I forgive your debts."

Do not think, that you alone carry more sorrows than anyone else. As no one living on earth can avoid its air, thus a person, living in this world, cannot avoid being tempted by sorrows and illnesses. He who is occupied with the earthly, will feel earthly sorrow; he who strives for the spiritual, will suffer about the spiritual. But the latter will be blessed, because their fruit is plentiful in the Lord.

God does not permit the soul hoping in Him and patient, to be tried in such measure that it comes to despair, that is to fall into such temptations and sorrows, that it cannot bear them (1 Cor. 10:13). And the evil one cannot tempt the soul and burden it with sorrow as he will, but only as much as permitted by God. Let the soul only bear it courageously, holding on to hope in faith and awaiting God’s help and hope; and it is impossible for it to be abandoned.

Ven. Ephraim of Syria

Hatred comes for harboring ills, harboring ills — from pride, pride — from vanity, vanity — from lack of faith, lack of faith — from hard-heartedness, hard-heartedness — from laxity, laxity — from laziness, laziness — from despondency, despondency — from impatience, impatience — from conceit.

Prayer depends on love, love — on joy, joy — on meekness, meekness — on humility, humility — on service, service — on hope, hope — on faith, faith — on obedience, obedience — on simplicity.

Ven. Macarius the Great

We must consider sadness healthy for us only in the case when it results from repentance for sins, or a fervent desire for perfection, or contemplation of future blessings. The blessed Paul says the following concerning this: "For Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death" (2 Cor. 7:10).

There is also another type of sorrow that is indecent, that fills the sinning soul not with the intention of correcting one’s life and purifiyng itself from passions, but with ruinous despair. This is what did not permit Cain to repent after murdering his brother, and did not let Judas seek ways of assuagement after his treason, but led him, through instilled despair, to hang himself.

Ven. John Cassian

The one who observes moderation does not sorrow that he did not get food, the virtuous, that he did not perform shameful indecencies, the tranquil, that he did not get revenge, the wisely meek, that he is deprived of worldly honors, the unselfish, that he suffered a loss. They have completely doused in themselves such desires — and therefore do not feel sorrow; because the passionless are not hurt by sorrow, as one in armor is not pierced by arrows.

Sorrow comes from that which is revolting (disasters, sorrows, disappointments); from sorrow also comes a gloomy frame of mind (as is said: he is out of sorts, in a bad mood); and from both comes senseless abuse (griping at everyone).

If you want to suppress sorrow with a gloomy frame of mind, then embrace good-naturedness and array yourself in joy without anger.

St. Nil of Sinai

Anger is the memory of hidden hatred, in other words, harboring ills. Anger is the desire to do evil to the offending one. Quick-temperedness (biliousness) is the sudden inflammation of the heart. Disappointment is an unpleasant (annoying) feeling that settles in the soul. Rage is the defeat of good mood and the disgrace of the soul.

Anger, like the quick motion of a millstone, can grind down and destroy spiritual wheat and fruit in one moment — more that anything else can do in a whole day. Therefore, one must carefully pay attention to oneself. It, like a flame fanned by strong winds, burns and destroys the spiritual field faster than a slow fire.

As darkness disappears with the appearance of light, so does all sadness and anger disappear from the fragrance of humility.

Ven. John of the Ladder

When someone is either good to us, or we bear evil from someone, we must look to the hills and thank God for everything that is happening to us, always reproaching ourselves and saying, as the fathers said, that if something good happens to us, then this is God’s Providence, but if bad, then it is because of our sins, because truly everything which we have to bear, we bear because of our sins. The saints, if they suffer, suffer for God’s name, or in order that their virtues be revealed for the sake of many others, or that their crowns and rewards from God be increased.

Ven. Abba Dorotheus

The Lord supplements the lack of good deeds with either illnesses or sorrows.

St. Demetrius of Rostov.

When, for example, the sick person plans to bear his illness in good spirits, and does so, the enemy, knowing that in this manner he will become entrenched in the virtue of patience, sets about disrupting his good will. At first, he makes the person think of all the good deeds that he could be doing if he was in another circumstance, and tries to convince him that, were he healthy, how well he would work for God and what benefits he would bring to himself and others: he would go to church, lead discussions, would read and write to help others and so on.

Noticing that such thoughts are beginning to be admitted, the enemy repeats them more often, multiplies them and paints them brighter, leads them towards feelings, calls out desires and efforts to such deeds, portraying how well these or other feelings would go, and encouraging pity, that he is tied hands and feet by illness.

Little by little, repeating such thoughts and movements in the soul often, the desire changes to discontent and vexation. The former good will in this manner is disturbed, and the illness is no longer accepted as medicine from God and a field for the virtue of patience, but like something not belonging to the act of salvation, and the desire to free oneself from it becomes uncontrollable, still seeing freedom from illness as freedom to do good deeds and to please the God of all beings.

When the person has come down to this, the enemy steals this good reason for the desire to be well from his mind and heart, and, leaving only the desire for health for health’s sake, forces the ill person to look upon the illness with vexation, not as a barrier to good, but as something which is hostile by itself. From this stems impatience, which cannot be healed by good thoughts, deprives of strength, turns into complaints and deprives the ill person of the former peace from good-spirited patience. And the enemy rejoices, that he has managed to disrupt it.

In the same exact manner, the enemy disrupts the poor man, patiently bearing his fate, painting for him what great deeds he would perform were he rich.

It is easy to get rid of these temptations, if he who has an experienced director, counselor and person to talk to, follows his directions with humble submissiveness. But he who is deprived for some reason of such a blessing, let him be attentive to himself and strictly learn to distinguish the good from the bad from the fundamentals of Christianity, on which all our lives should be based. If events, disturbing (as it appears to us) our abilities to widen our scope of good deeds, are sent by God, then accept them with submission and do not listen to any suggestions, swaying you from such submission. In sending such an event, God does not expect anything from you, except that you keep yourself and act as the illness demands and permits.

Ill or poor, be patient. God does not demand anything from you besides patience. By bearing it well, you will be doing a good deed unceasingly. No matter when God will look at you, He will see that you are doing good, or exist in good, if you bear the condition well, while a healthy person does good intermittently. Why, by desiring a change in your state, do you wish to change the better for the worse?

Ven. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain

God does not permit temptations to exceed our powers. The master lightly strikes the crystal or glass vessel, so as not to break it, but he hits the silver or bronze hard; thus the weak are given light, and the strong are given the heaviest temptations.

Anger turns into hatred and rankling, when it is kept long and fed in the heart. For this reason we are ordered to cut it out fast, so that it does not grow into hatred and malice, and so that greater evil will not be added to evil. "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil," says the apostle (Eph. 4:26-27).

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

One must try at all cost to keep spiritual peace and not be disturbed by insults, but bear them with equanimity, as if they do not relate to you. Such an exercise will give our heart peace and make it a dwelling for the Holy Spirit.

If you only knew, what joy awaits the righteous soul in the heavens, you would decide to bear all sorrows, persecutions and slander with thanksgiving.

If this very cell were full of worms and if they would be eating our body all of our temporary life, you should agree to this with complete desire, in order to not deprive yourself of that heavenly joy, which God has prepared for those who love Him.

Ven. Seraphim of Sarov

When the mind submits to God, then the heart submits to the mind. This is what humility consists of. What is humility? Humility — is the meek devotion to God, united with faith, blessed by Godly grace.

St. Ignatius Brianchaninov

Punishment by itself does not heal a person of his sinfulness; a person can suffer greatly, but if these sufferings that are sent him as a test will arouse anger and bitterness in him, if he will not humble himself and bear them patiently, with submission, thanking God for the granted single true means capable of leading to the blessed residences, but will arouse in himself anger, irritability, hatred toward everyone around him, saying words of despair, and maybe even curses, toward the reasons which caused these sufferings, then he will only be increasing his sunfulness, adding to the old, not yet repented through these sufferings sins, one of the very worst sins — opposition to His holy will.

Macarius, Metropolitan of Moscow

Immeasurable grief over sins, reaching the point of despair, is denounced in the teachings of the holy fathers. This grief should be dissolved with hope on the mercy of God: one should grieve and hope at the same time. Grieve, because we anger God with our sins, distance ourselves from God. Hope, because we have an All-powerful Doctor for our sins, the Lord Jesus Christ, spilling His blood for us.

In order not to give way to irritability and anger, one must not rush.

Ven. Ambrose of Optina

Where is the true ideal, encompassing all human nature in its fullness and in its never-ending development, close to all and accessible to all, easily experienced, giving the weak less, the strong great, worthily gracious, attracting everyone and satisfying all? There is only one such ideal — that is the Christian God: be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect…

Try to show a person the greatest demand of nature, which could not be satisfied in Him; imagine the highest perfection, in which He would not be found. He is the very reality, love, good, purity, truth, unselfishness, self-denial, industriousness, patience, courage — but who can number all of His perfections? Does He not fit into the spirit of our time because there are no passions in Him, with which we can justify ourselves, and He does not indulge us in them, "because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth" (Is. 53:9).

Christian parents bring their children to Him, stand them before Him in that holy school, which is called the Church. Here upbringing is pursued according to all the laws of human development.

First through the senses — by impressions. As a person recognizes and begins to love the beauty of nature in its general features before any learning, by becoming familiar with it through simple contemplation and childhood experiences, so in the Church the first notions of God, the earliest and more important in the person’s life, come through the contemplation of images, actions, symbols pointing to the spiritual world.

The mother, the object of all the love and tenderness of the child, stands with a reverent expression and prays before the Saviour’s icon; the child looks at her, then the image — and does not require long explanations of what it means. This is the first, silent lesson of the Knowledge of God.

The child in church: the beauty of the church, the lighting, the bright vestments of the priesthood, the singing and silence of those standing and praying while facing the sanctuary, the holy activities, the lack of everyday objects, the forbidding of irreverent movements, the demand for attention to something higher, special — these are lessons of reverence before God, which cannot be replaced by any fancy speech of a religious teacher.

In these lessons, one cannot notice the moment at which the children begin to understand what is being read or sung in the church; we only know that we loved our Saviour long before the lessons in the Law of God, because we often heard readings about Him, prayed to Him often, kissed His Gospel, cried about Him when the Gospel of His Passions were read, and rejoiced with all our hearts, celebrating His Bright Resurrection.

This abundance of blessed influences and the very grace of God is what parents deprive their children of by not taking them to church to receive Holy Communion and not taking them to church from infancy, for the empty reason that the child doesn’t understand anything — as if only an analyzing wisdom is the guide of all influences acting on the development of a person! Here, especially, is where religious feeling is instilled, the main engine of spiritual life. The loss of this time and this method of developing the heart is a loss that is irreparable. Later, the child will assimilate even abstract notions, and will begin to repeat lessons, but the heart, which is already occupied by other influences and tendencies, will be dull and deaf to spiritual impressions.

Archbishop Ambrose (Kliucharev)

A person, subject to irritability and breathing anger, very clearly feels the presence of an evil, enemy power in his chest; in the soul it produces the very opposite of that which the Saviour says of His Presence: "For my yoke is easy, and my burden in light" (Matt. 11:30). In that presence, one feels horrible bad and heavy — both spiritually and physically.

Righteous St. John of Kronstadt

Do not complain, child, do not, if the Lord had forgotten you or was not merciful to you, you would not be alive; you just don’t see His mercies, because you want your own and pray for your own, but the Lord knows what is better and healthier for you. Always pray, of course, for deliverance from grief and from your sins, but at the end of your prayers always add, saying to the Lord: "Still, Lord, let Thy will be done."

Elder Alexis of Zosima

The amount of suffering that the soul can accommodate is also how much it can accommodate the grace of God.

Elder Alexander of Gethsemane

In healing the sick, the Lord usually adds: "Your sins are forgiven you." We can infer from this, that the majority of illnesses are sent as punishment for sins. For this reason, when we are struck by illness, we should not grieve, but rejoice, because they redeem our sins.

If the person realizes that everything in his life is done by the will of God, and never forgets that, then he bears all the disappointments and vicissitudes of life easily, understanding that everything is sent by the Lord for his benefit or for the redemption of sins, and is therefore always calm and happy.

Archbishop Alexander (Tolstopiatov)

Bear insults, reproaches, unfairness, bear each others burdens, desiring by this to supplement the insufficiency of spiritual work, one must consider oneself deserving of all insults and troubles ("we receive what is due us").

You know that at the end of time people will earn salvation through sorrows. Are we excluded from this law? Not for nothing did the holy fathers suggest remembering death more often (many times daily), about the Judgment, about the necessity of answering to God for every word, deed, thought, for trickery, for attachment to the world, for vanity, for all which is secret, known only to the Lord and our conscience.

Hegumen Nikon (Vorobiev)

Missionary Leaflet # E142
Copyright © 2004 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)


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