ST. ANTHONY THE GREAT
170 Texts on Saintly Life
1. People are generally called intelligent through a wrong use of this word. The intelligent are not those who have studied the sayings and writings of the wise men of old, but those whose soul are intelligent, who can judge what is good and what evil; they avoid what is evil and harms the soul and intelligently care for and practice what is good and profits the soul, greatly thanking God. It is these alone who should properly be called intelligent.
2. A truly intelligent man has only one care-wholeheartedly to obey Almighty God and to please Him. The one and only thing he teaches his soul is how best to do things agreeable to God, thanking Him for His merciful Providence in whatever may happen in his life. For just as it would be unseemly not to thank physicians for curing our body, even when they give us bitter and unpleasant remedies, so too would it be to remain ungrateful to God for things that appear to us painful, failing to understand that everything happens through His Providence for our good. In this understanding and this faith in God lie salvation and peace of soul.
3. Restraint, meekness, chastity, steadfastness, patience, and similar great virtues are given us by God for weapons to resist and oppose the tribulations we meet with, and to help us when they occur. So if we train ourselves in the use of these powers and keep them always ready, then nothing that may befall us will ever be hard, grievous, destructive, or unbearable, for all would be overcome by the virtues we possess. Those whose soul is not intelligent never think of this, for they do not believe that all happens for our good, in order that our virtues should shine forth and that we should be crowned by God for them.
4. If you consider riches and their full enjoyment to be merely a short-lived illusory vanity, if you know that a virtuous life pleasing to God is better than riches, you will hold fast to this conviction and keep it in memory; then you will not sigh, complain or reproach anyone, but will thank God for everything, when you see that men worse than you are praised for eloquence or erudition and wealth. Insatiable desire of riches and pleasures, love of fame and vainglory, coupled with ignorance of truth, are the worst passions of the soul.
5. When an intelligent man examines himself he sees what he should do and what is useful to him, what is akin to his soul and leads to salvation, and what is foreign and leads to perdition. In this way he avoids what harms the soul, as something foreign to it.
6. The more a man uses moderation in his life, the more he is at peace, for he is not full of cares for many things-servants, hired labourers and acquisition of cattle. But when we cling to such things, we become liable to vexations arising from them and are led to murmur against God. Thus our self-willed desire (for many things) fills us with turmoil and we wander in the darkness of a sinful life, not knowing ourselves.
7. We should say not that it is impossible for a man to lead a virtuous life, but that it is not easy. Indeed, it is not attainable for everyone in equal measure, for only those attain to virtuous life who are devout and who have a God-loving mind. The ordinary mind is worldly and unstable; it produces both good and bad thoughts, is changeable, and leans towards material things. But a God-loving mind is an executioner of the evil which comes to men as a result of their self-willed carelessness.
8. Simple and uneducated men laugh at sciences and refuse to hear anything about them, for knowledge shows up their ignorance-and they want everyone to be like them. In the same way, men of unrestrained life and character greatly desire all others to be worse than themselves, thinking to find themselves excused by the fact that the wicked are many....
13. He alone should be called a man who is intelligent (in the sense of the first text), or who has set about correcting himself. An uncorrected person should not be called a man ; for this quality (that is, incorrigibility) is not that of a man. Such men should be avoided. Those who live contentedly with evil will never be among the immortals (that is, gain blessed immortality).
14. Only by its actual use does the intelligence that qualifies us (according to the first text) make us worthy of being called men. Lacking such intelligence we differ from dumb animals only by the arrangement of our limbs and the gift of speech. So, let an intelligent man know that he is immortal, and let him hate all the shameful lusts which are for men the cause of death.
15. Just as an artist shows his art by giving a beautiful form to the material he uses-one wood, another brass, another gold and silver-so too must we show that we are men not by the way our bodies are fashioned but by being truly intelligent in our soulsby the fact that we obey the law of good life, that is, a life that is virtuous and acceptable to God. A truly intelligent and God loving soul knows how all things should be in life, lovingly inclines God to mercy, gives sincere thanks to Him and strives towards Him with all its desire and all its thought.
17. As helmsmen and charioteers acquire skill in their work through judgment and diligence, so those who seek a truly virtuous life must use attentive judgment and take care to live as they ought and as is acceptable to God. For a man who desires it, and is convinced that it is possible for him to attain his desire, does by faith attain incorruptibility (pure life).
18. Regard as free not those who are free by their status, but those who are free in their life and disposition. For example, one should not call truly free people who are illustrious and rich when they are wicked and intemperate, for such men are the slaves of sensual passions. Freedom and blessedness of the soul are the result of true purity and contempt of temporal things.
19. Remind yourself that you must constantly show your intelligence, but show it by a good life and by your actions themselves. In the same way, those who are sick consider and acknowledge physicians to be their saviours and benefactors not by the physicians’ words but by their deeds.
20. That a soul is truly intelligent and virtuous is shown in a man’s look, walk, voice, smile, conversation and manner. In such a soul all has been transformed and has taken on its fairest aspect. Its God-loving mind, like a watchful doorkeeper, bars the entrance to evil and shameful thoughts.
23. Those whose life is passed in small and modest efforts become free of dangers and have no need of special precautions. By always conquering desires, they readily find the way leading to God.
24. Intelligent men should not listen to all kinds of conversation, but only to those which are profitable and lead to the understanding of God’s will; for His will is the way by which men return once more to life and eternal light.
25. Those who strive to lead a virtuous and God-loving life should relinquish self-esteem and all false and empty glory, and should strive to reform their life and heart. A God-loving and steadfast mind is a guide and a way to God.
26. There is no profit in studying sciences if the soul has no good life pleasing to God. And the cause of all evils is delusion, prelest and ignorance of God.
27. Profound reflection on good life and care of the soul produce good and God-loving men. He, who seeks God, finds Him by overcoming all desires through unceasing prayer to Him. Such a man does not fear the demons.
28. Those who are beguiled by earthly blessings, while knowing to the last word all that should be done to lead a good life, resemble those who have acquired remedies and medical appliances, but do not know how to use them and do not even trouble about it. Therefore let us not lay the blame for the sins we have committed either on our birth or on anyone else, but only on ourselves. For if our soul voluntarily surrenders to laziness, it cannot avoid being conquered.
29. A man who does not know how to discriminate between good and evil has no right to judge who is good and who evil among men. A man who knows God, is good; when a man is not good, it means that he does not know (God) and will never be known (by Him) : for the only means to know God is goodness.
30. Good and God-loving men accuse people of something bad when they are present, but when they are absent they not only refrain from accusing them, but do not permit others to do so when they attempt to speak of them.
31. No coarseness should be allowed in conversations; for modesty and chastity are usually attributes of the intelligent even more than of virgins. A God-loving mind is the light which illumines the soul as the sun does the body.
32. At the uprising of each of the passions of your soul, remember that those who think rightly and wish to put what concerns them (their lot) on a right and firm foundation, count as delight not the acquiring of perishable riches, but true glory (in heaven). It is this that makes them blessed. Riches can be stolen or taken away by those who are more powerful, but virtue of the soul is alone a safe possession, which cannot be taken away; moreover it is such as saves its owners after death. Those who reason in this way are not enticed by the illusory glitter of riches and other delights.
33. People who are inconstant and unskilled should not attempt to subject intelligent men to questioning. He alone is intelligent who tries to please God and is mostly silent, or, if he speaks, speaks little-and says only what is necessary and pleasing to God.
34. Men who strive after a virtuous and God-loving life are zealous for virtues of the soul, as a possession which is inalienably their own and brings eternal comfort. They use temporal things only as much as is necessary and as God wishes and provides, using them with gladness and all gratitude, even if they be very moderate. For a rich table feeds bodies, as being material, whereas knowledge of God, self-mastery, goodness, doing good to others, piety and meekness-deify the soul.
36. Those who count as a misfortune the loss of money, or children, or slaves, or some other possessions, should know, first, that we ought to be satisfied with what God provides; and then, when required, we ought to be ready to give this back with equanimity, not tormenting ourselves with grief at its loss, or rather at giving it back; like those who, for a time, use what is not theirs, and then return it.
40. It is impossible to become good and wise suddenly; but it is achieved by careful deliberation, training, practice, long work and (above all) a strong desire of good. A good man who loves God and truly knows Him gives himself no peace in doing all without exception that is pleasing to Him. But such men are rarely met with.
41. People who have no natural inclination to good must not be discouraged and give way to despair. They must not cease striving after a virtuous life pleasing to God, however inaccessible and unattainable it is to them. They too must take thought and have a care for themselves as best they can. For, although they may not reach the summit of virtue and perfection, by taking thought and caring for themselves in every possible way they will either become better or, at least, not worse-,and this is no small profit to the soul.
42. Through his mind man comes into contact with the ineffable Divine power, while in his body he is akin to animals. But those men are few who as real, that is intelligent, men strive to turn their thought to God and the Saviour, and to gain kinship with Him, and who prove this by deeds and a virtuous life. The majority, whose souls lack good sense, disregard this Divine and immortal son-ship and incline towards dead, beggarly and short-lived kinship with bodies. Thinking only of physical things and inflamed by lust, like dumb animals, they cut themselves off from God of their own action and bring their souls down from heaven into the abyss of carnal desires.
43. An intelligent man, who thinks about communion and life with God, will never cling to anything low and earthly, but will direct his mind towards the heavenly and the eternal, knowing that God’s will-this cause of all good and source of all blessings for men-is that men should be saved.
44. When you meet a man who loves to argue and he starts a dispute with you against what is true and self-evident, break off this dispute and withdraw from him, since his mind is completely turned to stone. For as putrid water makes even the best wines undrinkable, so evil conversations corrupt men who are virtuous in life and disposition.
45. If we use all means and all efforts to avoid death of the body, how much more must we seek to avoid death of the soul. For there is no obstacle for a man wishing to be saved, except negligence and laziness of soul.
46. One can say of those who are not keen to learn what is useful for them and what should be considered good, that they are not in good health. Of those who, having learnt the truth, shamelessly argue against it, one can say that their good sense has been killed; their disposition has become animal, they do not know God and their soul is not illumined by light.
47. By His Word, God called into being various kinds of animals for our use-some to be used as food, others for our service. But man God created to be a witness and grateful interpreter of His works. This is what men should strive for, lest they die as dumb animals, without having seen or understood God and His works. Man should know that God can do all things. No one can resist Him Who can do all things. Just as by His word He brought all things into being from non-being, according to His will, so (now) He does all for the salvation of men.
48. Heavenly beings are immortal owing to the goodness which is in them. Earthly beings have become mortal owing to the self-willed evil in them, which increases in the unintelligent through laziness and ignorance of God.
49. Death, for those who understand it, is immortality; but for simpletons, who do not understand it, it is death. It is not this death that should be feared, but the perdition of the soul, which is ignorance of God. This is what is terrible for the soul!
50. Sin has found support in the material, and the body has become its seat. But an intelligent soul, having understood this, throws off the burden of materiality and, arising from under this weight, apprehends the Almighty God, carefully watching the body and mistrusting it as an enemy and an adversary. In this way, having conquered evil passions and matter, the soul is crowned by God.
51. When sin is understood by the soul, it is hated by it like a foul-smelling beast. But when it is not understood, it is loved by him who does not understand it and, enslaving its lover, keeps him in captivity. And the poor miserable man does not see what can save him, and does not even think about it; but thinking that sin adorns him, he welcomes it
52. A pure soul, for its fine quality, is sanctified and illumined by God; then the mind thinks of what is good and gives birth to godly intentions and actions. But when the soul is defiled by sin, God turns away from it, or rather, the soul itself falls away from God, and evil demons, entering its thought, suggest to it unseemly things : adultery, murder, plunder and other similar devilish evil deeds.
53. Those who know God are filled with all kinds of good thoughts and, desiring the heavenly, despise the earthly. But such men are seldom pleasing to others ; so that many of the foolish not only hate them but also deride and abuse them. They are ready to endure dire poverty, for they know that what seems an evil to many is good for them. He who thinks of heavenly things believes in God and knows that all creatures are the work of His will; but those who do not think of it, never believe that the world is the work of God and created for the salvation of man.
54. Those who are full of sin and intoxicated by ignorance do not know God, for they are not sober in soul. But God is apprehensible to mind (that is, can be known only by a sober mind). Although He is invisible, yet is He very clearly manifest in the visible, like the soul in the body. As the body cannot live without the soul, so nothing visible and existing can stand without God.
55. What is man created for? In order that, through the knowledge of God’s creatures, he should see God Himself and should glorify Him, Who has created them for man. A mind cleaving to God by love (a God-loving and God-beloved mind) is an invisible blessing, given by God to the worthy for their good life.
56. He is free who is not a slave of pleasures (sensory pleasures), but rules over the body by means of good judgment and chastity, and who is content with what God provides, however moderate, with wholehearted gratitude. When God-loving mind and soul come to an understanding with one another, the body is docile, however unwillingly, for then by the action of the mind the soul extinguishes every animal stirring.
57. Those who are not satisfied with what they have to sustain life, but who seek for more, make themselves slaves of passions, which trouble the soul and introduce into it ever worse thoughts and fantasies-that everything is bad and, therefore, that new and better things must be acquired. As excessively long garments hinder travelers in their walking, so desire for excessive possessions does not allow the soul to make efforts and be saved.
58. Whatever a man finds himself in against his will and inclination is for him prison and torture. So be content with what you have; otherwise, if you endure (your condition) without gratitude (reluctantly, with discontent), you will be your own tyrant, without being aware of it. But there is only one way–scorn of worldly blessings.
62. When you close the door of your dwelling and are left alone, know that there is with you an Angel, allotted by God to every man, whom the Hellenes call the spirit of the home. He never sleeps and being always with you, sees everything. He cannot be deceived, and darkness hides nothing from him. And be aware that, besides him, God is present everywhere. For there is no place or substance where God is not present. He is greater than all and holds all in His hand.
67. If you wish, you can be a slave of passions, and if you wish, you can remain free and not submit to their yoke; for God has created you with that power. A man who overcomes passions of the flesh is crowned with incorruptibility. If there were no passions there would be no virtues, and no crowns given by God to those who are worthy.
68. Those who do not see what is profitable for them and do not know what is good, have an unseeing soul and their reason has gone blind. One must not look to them, lest perforce we should inadvertently suffer as do the blind.
72. Know that bodily ills are natural to the body, since it is material and corruptible. Therefore, if any such ill befalls, a soul instructed (in good) should thankfully show courage and patience, instead of reproaching God for having created the body.
73. Those who take part in Olympic games are crowned not after defeating one, or another, or a third opponent, but after defeating them all. In the same way every man who wishes to be crowned by God must teach his soul chastity, not only in relation to bodily passions, but also when he is tempted by greed of gain, by desire to seize what does not belong to him, by envy, love of pleasures, vainglory, or tried by accusations, mortal dangers and the like.
74. Let us strive after a good and God-loving life not for the sake of human praise, but let us choose it for the sake of saving our soul. For death is every day before our eyes, and all that is human is insecure.
80. Some of those who stop in inns are given beds, while others having no beds stretch themselves on the floor and sleep as soundly as those in beds. In the morning, when night is over, all alike get up and leave the inn, carrying away with them only their own belongings. It is the same with those who tread the path of this life: both those who have lived in modest circumstances, and those who had wealth and fame, leave this life like an inn, taking with them no worldly comforts or riches, but only what they have done in this life, whether it be good or bad.
82. It is impossible by any means to escape death. Knowing this, truly intelligent men, experienced in virtues and God-loving thoughts, meet death without groanings, fear or tears, for they bear in mind the thought that on the one hand it is inevitable, while on the other it frees us of the ills to which we are subject in this life.
84. Do not talk with everyone about piety and good life. I say this, not out of jealousy, but because I think that in the eyes of a foolish man you will appear ridiculous. Like accords with like, and listeners for such conversations are few, or rather very rare. So it is better not to speak, for it is not this that God wishes for man’s salvation.
85. The soul suffers with the body, but the body does not suffer with the soul. Thus, when the body is being mutilated, the soul suffers with it, and when the body is strong and healthy, the senses of the soul take pleasure in it. But when the soul reflects anew (repents), the body does not reflect (repent) with it, but remains detached, unmoving. For reflecting anew (repentance) is a painful feeling of. the soul. In the same way ignorance, pride, unbelief, covetousness, hatred, envy, anger, cowardice, vainglory, ambition, discord, insensitiveness to good and the like are produced by the soul.
86. When you think about God, be pious, free from envy, good, chaste, meek, as generous as you can, friendly, not argumentative and so on. For to please God by all this is that wealth of the soul, which cannot be taken away. In addition, you must not condemn anyone or say of anyone that he is not good, that he has sinned. It is better to search out one’s own evil deeds and examine one’s own life alone with oneself, to find whether it is pleasing to God. What business is it of ours if someone is not good?
87. A real man strives to be pious. That man is pious who desires nothing alien to him. What is alien to man is everything created. So, disdain all things, as befits the image of God. Man is an image of God when he leads a right life pleasing to God, and this is impossible unless he renounces all that is passionate. He whose mind loves God is skilful in all things salutary to the soul, and in every act of devotion required of him. A God-loving man blames no one else, for he knows that he too sins--and this is a sign of a soul on the way to salvation.
90. A man leading a pious life does not let evil enter the soul; and when the soul is free of evil, it is safe and sound. Over such men neither the evil demon, nor chance happenings have power. God delivers them from evil and they live invisibly protected as God-like beings. If anyone should praise such a man, he would smile inwardly at those who praise him; if anyone defames him, he does not defend himself against those who abuse him and is not indignant at what they say of him.
9 i . Evil clings to our nature like rust to iron, or dirt to the body. But as rust is not produced by the iron-worker nor dirt by the parents, so also evil is not produced by God. He gave man conscience and reason to avoid evil, knowing that it is harmful and prepares torment for him. So pay strict attention and when you meet some man possessed of power and wealth, be in no way beguiled by the demon to pander to him. But let death immediately stand before your eyes ; and you will never desire anything bad or worldly.
93. Life is union and junction of mind (spirit), soul and body; death is not the destruction of these parts, but the disruption of their union; God preserves it all even after this disruption.
94. Mind is not soul, but a gift of God which saves the soul. A mind pleasing to God flows ahead of the soul and counsels it to scorn the temporal, material, and corruptible, and to love blessings that are eternal, incorruptible, and immaterial, so that, while living in the body, man should, with his mind, apprehend and contemplate the heavenly and the divine. In this way a God-loving mind is a benefactor and saviour of the human soul.
96. Souls not bridled by reason and not governed by mind which restrains steadies and directs (correctly) their passions i.e. pleasure and pain-perish like dumb beasts, for their reason is swept along by passions, like a driver by runaway horses.
97. The most grievous disease of the soul, the worst calamity and disaster, is not to know God, Who has created all for man and has given him mind and word, by which, rising on high, he can enter into communion with God, contemplating and glorifying Him.
98. In the body is the soul, in soul is mind, and in mind is word. God, contemplated and praised by these, gives immortality to the soul, granting it incorruptibility and eternal bliss. For God has granted being to all that exists solely through His goodness.
100. Man receives good from God, since He is good. But man subjects himself to evil from himself, from the evil, lust and insensitiveness which are in him.
102. God is good but man is evil. There is no evil in heaven, and there is no true good on earth. But an intelligent man chooses the best : he learns to know the Almighty God, thanks and praises Him; he disdains the body even before death and does not allow its evil feelings (demands, desires) to be fulfilled, for he knows their harmfulness and their evil action.
103. A man who loves sin loves many possessions ; he neglects righteousness and does not think of the uncertainty, instability and brevity of life, and does not remember the inevitability of death, which cannot be bribed. If a man shows such shamelessness and lack of sense even in old age, he is like a rotten tree and is no use for anything.
105. Word is servant to mind. What mind wishes, word expresses.
106. The mind sees all things, even those in heaven, and nothing darkens it, save sin. But a pure mind finds nothing too hard to understand and its word-nothing too hard to express.
107. In his body man is mortal, but in his mind and word immortal. In silence you use your mind, and in using your mind you speak inwardly in yourself; for in silence mind gives birth to word. And a grateful word offered to God is salvation to man.
108. He who speaks foolishly has no mind, for he speaks with no thought at all. But examine what is useful for you to do for the salvation of your soul.
109. An intelligent word, that profits the soul, is a gift of God; but an empty word, that seeks to determine the measure of heaven and earth, their distance apart, and the size of the sun and the stars, is an invention of men who labour in vain and through empty vainglory seek things which bring them no profit, as though trying to draw water with a sieve. For men cannot discover these things.
110. No one sees heaven or can know what is there except a man striving after a virtuous life, who knows and glorifies Him Who created it for the salvation and life of man. Such a God-loving man knows beyond doubt that nothing exists without God, that He is everywhere and in all things, for He is God, by nothing limited.
111. As man leaves his mother’s womb naked, so does the soul leave the body; one soul emerges pure and bright, another is stained by downfalls, yet another is blackened by many sins. Therefore an intelligent and God-loving soul, remembering and reflecting on the trials and extremities that follow death, lives righteously, lest it be condemned and subjected to them. But unbelievers have no feeling, and so they sin, disdaining what awaits them there.
112. Just as when you leave the womb you do not remember what happened in the womb, so when you leave the body you do not remember what happened in the body.
113. As on leaving the womb you became better and larger in body, so on leaving the body pure and unpolluted you will become better and incorruptible in heaven.
114. As the body must be born after completing its development in the womb, so a soul, when it has reached the limit of life in the body allotted it by God, must leave the body.
115. Just as you treat the soul while it is in the body, so it will treat you on leaving the body. A man who indulges his body in this life, providing it with all kinds of comforts, serves himself ill for after death, for in his foolishness he has brought his soul to condemnation.
116. Just as the body cannot live if it comes out of the womb imperfect, so the soul cannot be saved or be in communion with God upon leaving the body, if it has not attained to vision of God through good life.
117. Uniting with the soul the body emerges into light from the darkness of the womb; but the soul, uniting with the body, becomes confined in the darkness of the body. Therefore we should not pity the body, but curb it as an enemy and adversary of the soul. For indulgence in good eating evokes evil passions, whereas an abstemious stomach stills the passions and saves the soul.
118. The body’s organ of sight is the eyes, and the soul’s organ of sight is the mind. As the body without eyes is blind, does not see the sun, which illumines the whole earth and sea, and cannot enjoy its light, so too a soul is blind when it lacks its proper mind and righteous life. It has no knowledge of God, does not glorify the Creator and Benefactor of all creatures, and cannot enter into His joy through being incorruptible and eternally blessed.
119. Ignorance of God springs from insensitivity and mindlessness of soul; and this ignorance gives birth to evil. Conversely, knowledge of God brings good to men and saves the soul. So, if you remain in a state of sobriety and knowledge of God and try not to fulfill your own desires, your mind is turned towards virtue. But if, intoxicated by ignorance of God, you take pleasure in fulfilling your own evil desires, you will perish like a dumb animal, forgetful of the trials awaiting you after death.
124. A man is he who has understood what the body is, namely, that it is corruptible and short-lived. Such a man also has understanding of the soul, namely that it is divine and immortal and, being the breath of God, is joined to the body to be proved and to ascend to the likeness of God. A man who has rightly understood the soul, leads a righteous life pleasing to God, not trusting nor indulging his body. Contemplating God with his mind, he also sees mentally the eternal blessings which God grants to the soul.
125. Being good and ungrudging (bountiful), God gave man freedom in relation to good and evil, by endowing him with reason, in order that man should see the world and all things in it and, through this, apprehend Him, Who has created every kind of thing for man. But an unrighteous man may desire and yet not understand this ; to his misfortune he may not believe and may think contrary to truth. Such is man’s freedom in relation to good and evil!
126. God decreed that as the body grows the soul should be filled with mind, so that man should choose out of good and evil what is pleasing to mind. A soul which does not choose good has no mind. So, although all bodies have souls, one cannot say that every soul has mind. A God-loving mind is found among the chaste, the just, the righteous, the good and pure, the merciful and devout. The presence of mind is the support of man in his relationship with God.
127. Only one thing is impossible for man-to avoid death. To have communion with God is possible for him, if he understands how it is possible. For if he so wishes and understands (how it is to be done), through faith and love, testified by a good life, a man can commune with God.
128. The eye sees the visible, mind apprehends the invisible. A God-loving mind is the light of the soul. He whose mind loves God is enlightened in heart and sees God with his mind.
131. As body without soul is dead, so soul without mind is inactive (barren) and cannot inherit God.
132. Only to man does God listen; to man alone does God reveal Himself; for God loves men, and wherever man may be, there too is God. Man alone is worthy to worship God; for man’s sake God transforms Himself.
134. Good is invisible, as things in heaven are invisible. But evil is visible, as things on earth are visible. Good is outside comparison; and man, possessed of mind, chooses the best. Man alone is capable of apprehending God and His creatures.
135. In the soul it is mind that acts, but in the body-nature. Mind makes the soul divine, whilst nature decomposes the body.
Nature acts in every body, but not every soul has mind-and so not every soul is saved.
136. The soul is in the world, since it is born; but mind is above the world, since it is not born. A soul, which understands what the world is and wishes to be saved, has a rigid rule-to think every hour within itself ‘Here comes the trial (of death), and the inquisition (of deeds), where you will not be able to endure (the glance of) the judge, and the soul is about to perish.’ Thinking thus, it preserves itself from worthless and shameful pleasures.
138. The mortal is subordinate to the immortal and serves it, that is, the elements serve man, through the loving-kindness and essential goodness of God the Creator.
140. Through the loving-kindness of our Creator, there are very many ways to salvation, which convert souls and lead them to heaven. Human souls receive rewards for virtue and punishment for sins.
141. The Son is in the Father, the Spirit is in the Son, the Father in Both. Through faith man apprehends all that is invisible and apprehensible by the mind. Faith is a free conviction of the soul as to the truth of what is proclaimed from God.
142. If people, who through some necessity or circumstances are forced to cross wide rivers, are sober, they preserve their life; for, even if the waters are turbulent and their boat ships water, they save themselves by clinging to something on the banks. If they are drunk, they may make numberless attempts to swim to the bank, but are overcome by wine, sink in the waves, and leave the circle of the living. It is the same with the soul: if, having fallen into the turbulent waters and swirling currents of life, it does not by its own efforts rise above love of flesh and does not learn to know itself-namely, that it is divine and immortal, and is joined to a material body, mortal, full of passions and without faith, merely as a test; and if it allows itself to be enticed by carnal passions to its own perdition-then, negligent of itself, intoxicated by ignorance and disdaining its own good, it perishes and is left outside the circle of the saved. For like a river, the body often sweeps us towards worthless pleasures.
150. God is good, and passionless and immutable. If a man accepts it as right and true that God does not change, yet is puzzled how (being such) He rejoices at the good, turns away from the wicked, is angered with sinners and shows them mercy when they repent, the answer to this is that God does not rejoice and is not angered, for joy and anger are passions. It is absurd to think that the Deity could be helped or harmed by human deeds. God is good and does only good; He harms no one and remains always the same. As to ourselves, when we are good we enter into communion with God through our likeness to Him, and when we become evil, we cut ourselves off from God, through our unlikeness to Him. When we live virtuously we are God’s own, and when we become wicked, we fall away from Him. This does not mean that He is angry with us, but that our sins do not let God shine in us, and that they link us with the tormentors-the demons. If later, through prayers and good deeds, we obtain absolution of our sins, it does not mean that we have propitiated God and changed Him, but that through such actions and our turning to God we have cured the evil in ourselves and have again become able to partake of God’s goodness. Thus, to say that God turns away from the wicked is the same as to say that the sun hides itself from those who lose their sight.
154. The mind which lives in a pure God-loving soul truly sees God-non-begotten, invisible, ineffable-Him Who Alone is Pure for pure hearts.
156. The world is maintained through God’s providence and there is no place which this providence does not touch. Providence is the self-fulfilling Word of God, the Giver of form to the substance constituting this world, the Architect and Artist of all that is. It is utterly impossible for matter to assume beautifully ordered form without the sagacious power of the Word, Which is the image, mind, wisdom and providence of God.
160. To a man who believes and desires, it is in no way difficult to apprehend God. But if you wish also to see Him, look at the perfect order and providence for all things, which have been and are through His Word. And all this is for man.
161. He is called a saint who is pure from evil and sin. So the greatest perfection of the soul, a state most pleasing to God is absence of evil in man.
166. I have written the present paragraph for the information of those who are simple, against men who assert that plants and grasses have a soul. Plants have physical life, but have no soul. Man is called a rational animal, because he is endowed with mind and capable of acquiring knowledge. Other animals-those on the ground and in the air who possess voice-breathe and have a soul. All things that grow and decrease can be called alive because they live and grow, but it cannot be said that all such things have soul. There are four kinds of living beings:-some of them are immortal and have souls, such as angels ; others have mind, soul and breath, such as men; yet others have soul and breath, such as animals; and others only have life, such as plants. Life in plants is maintained without soul or breathing, without mind or immortality. But all the rest, too, cannot be without life. Every human soul is very changeable.
170. When you lie down on your bed, remember with thanksgiving the blessings and providence of God. Thereupon, filled with this good thought, you will rejoice in spirit and the sleep of your body will mean sobriety of the soul; the closing of your eyes-a true knowledge of God, and your silence, brimming with the feeling of good, will wholeheartedly and with all its strength glorify the Almighty God, giving Him from the heart praises that rise on high. For when there is no evil in man, then even thanksgiving alone is more pleasing to God than costly sacrifices. To Him be glory for ages of ages. Amen.
Taken from the Early Fathers from the Philokalia by E.Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer. Faber and Faber Limited, No Copyright Notice Found, First Published in 1954, this text Eighth impression 1981.
Note: The text in the book skips some numbers throughout the text.
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