Rise above your trials – St. Basil the Great

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I have, therefore, determined to address your excellency in writing, to remind you that these afflictions are not sent by the Lord, Who rules us, to the servants of God to no purpose, but as a test of the genuineness of our love to the divine Creator.

Just as athletes win crowns by their struggles in the arena, so are Christians brought to perfection by the trial of their temptations, if only we learn to accept what is sent us by the Lord with becoming patience, with all thanksgiving. All things are ordained by the Lord’s love. We must not accept anything that befalls us as grievous, even if, for the present, it affects our weakness.

We are ignorant, perhaps, of the reasons why each thing that happens to us is sent to us as a blessing by the Lord but we ought to be convinced that all that happens to us is for our good, either for the reward of our patience, or for the soul which we have received, lest, by lingering too long in this life, it be filled with the wickedness to be found in this world. If the hope of Christians is limited to this life, it might rightly have been reckoned a bitter lot to be prematurely parted from the body; but if, to them that love God, the sundering of the soul from these bodily fetters is the beginning of our real life, why do we grieve like them which have no hope? (1 Thessalonians 4:12).

Be comforted then, and do not fall under your troubles, but show that you are superior to them and can rise above them.

[St. Basil the Great, Letter 101]

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Our life and death is with our neighbour – Abba Anthony the Great

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He also said, ‘Our life and our death is with our neighbor. If we gain our brother, we have gained God, but if we scandalize our brother, we have sinned against Christ.’

[Abba Anthony the Great, the Father of Monks, Apophthegmata Patrum]

Be of good cheer; do not despair – St. Basil the Great

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If you have any hope of salvation; if you have the least thought of God, or any desire for good things to come; if you have any fear of the chastisements reserved for the impenitent, awake without delay, lift up your eyes to heaven, come to your senses, cease from your wickedness, shake off the stupor that enwraps you, make a stand against the foe who has struck you down.

Make an effort to rise from the ground. Remember the good Shepherd who will follow and rescue you. Though it be but two legs or a lobe of an ear, spring back from the beast that has wounded you. Remember the mercies of God and how He cures with oil and wine. Do not despair of salvation.

Recall your recollection of how it is written in the Scriptures that he who is falling rises and he who turns away returns; the wounded is healed, the prey of beasts escapes; he who owns his sin is not rejected. The Lord wills not the death of a sinner but rather that he should turn and live. Do not despise, like the wicked in the pit of evil. There is a time of endurance, a time of long suffering, a time of healing, a time of correction.

Have you stumbled? Arise. Have you sinned? Cease. Do not stand in the way of sinners, but spring away. When you are converted and groan you shall be saved. Out of labour comes health, out of sweat salvation. Beware lest, from your wish to keep certain obligations, you break the obligations to God which you professed before many witnesses. Pray do not hesitate to come to me for any earthly considerations. When I have recovered my dead I shall lament, I shall tend him, I will weep because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people (Isaiah 22:4).

All are ready to welcome you, all will share your efforts. Do not sink back. Remember the days of old. There is salvation; there is amendment. Be of good cheer; do not despair. It is not a law condemning to death without pity, but mercy remitting punishment and awaiting improvement. The doors are not yet shut; the bridegroom hears; sin is not the master. Make another effort, do not hesitate, have pity on yourself and on all of us in Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom be glory and might now and for ever and ever. Amen.

[St. Basil the Great, Letter 44]

A lesson in judging others – Abba Moses the Black

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A certain brother committed an offence in Scete, the camp of the monks, and when a congregation was assembled ‎on this matter, they sent after Abba Moses, but he refused to come; then they sent the priest of the church to him, ‎saying, “Come, for all the people are expecting you,” and he rose up and came.

He took a basket with a hole in it ‎and filled it with sand, and carried it upon his shoulders, and those who went out to meet him said unto him, “What ‎does this mean, O father?” And he said to them, “The sands are my sins which are running down behind me and I ‎cannot see them, and, even, have come to this day to judge shortcomings which are not mine.” And when they heard ‎this they set free that brother and said nothing further to him.‎

[Apophthegmata Patrum]

The working tools of the soul – Abba Poemen

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Abba Poemen said, “Being on the alert, paying attention to oneself, and discretion – these three virtues are the working tools of the soul.”

[Apophthegmata Patrum]

Light the divine fire within yourself – Amma Syncletica

ImageThe blessed Syncletica said, “It is a struggle and great toil at first for those who approach God, but then it is unspeakable joy. Just as they who want to start a fire are engulfed in smoke and reduced to tears at first and in this way attain the desired object, so too – for it says, “Our God is a consuming fire” [Heb 12:29] – must we start the divine fire within ourselves with tears and toil.”

[Apophthegmata Patrum]

Words to live by – Abba Anthony the Great

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Somebody asked Abba Anthony, “By observing which [precept] shall I be well pleasing to God?” The elder answered, “Observe what I am telling you: Always have God before your eyes wherever you go. Whatever you are doing, have the testimony from Holy Scripture to hand. Wherever you are living, do not be in a hurry to move away. Observe these three [precepts] and you will be saved.”

[Abba Anthony the Great, the Father of Monks, Apophthegmata Patrum]