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Gorazd
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« on: May 23, 2012, 03:54:13 AM »

Hi all,

I am looking for any texts or quotes pointing out the importance and centrality of ascetism in Orthodox Christianity, by church fathers, saints, theologians etc.

If you have anything, please post a link or quote here!


Thanks in advance

Gorazd
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WeldeMikael
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« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2012, 04:32:53 AM »

Maybe the Philocalia can help you !

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philokalia

God bless,
WM
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« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2012, 12:48:06 PM »

Any specific quotes from the Philokalia that I could use?
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« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2012, 01:24:43 PM »

"The old man said, "Spiritual work is essential; it is for this we have come to the desert. It is very hard to teach with the mouth that which one does not practice in the body."
-The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers
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« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2012, 01:25:58 PM »

"Hence, after ascetic practice we need spiritual knowledge, total devotion to God in all things, and careful study of the divine Scriptures; for without these things no one can ever acquire virtue."
-St. Peter of Damaskos
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« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2012, 01:26:59 PM »

"Perseverance in prayer cleanses the intellect, illumines it, and fills it with the light of truth. The virtues, led by compassion, give the intellect peace and light. The cleansing of the intellect is not a dialectical, discursive and theoretical activity, but an act of grace through experience and is ethical in every respect. The intellect is purified by fasting, vigils, silence, prayer, and other ascetic practices."
-Quotes from St. Isaac the Syrian in The Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ by Fr. (St.) Justin Popovich
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« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2012, 01:27:48 PM »

"By throwing off the outer bonds, you throw off the inner as well. While you are freeing yourself from external concerns, your heart is freed from inner pain. It follows from this that the hard warfare you are compelled to wage with yourself is exclusively a means. As such it is neither good nor bad; the saints often liken it to a prescribed cure. However painful it may be to follow out, it nevertheless remains only a means to regain health."
-The Way of the Ascetics by Tito Colliander
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« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2012, 01:39:07 PM »

St. Anthony the Great

'Some have afflicted their bodies by asceticism, but they lack discernment, and so they are far from God.'

'Just as fish die if they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cells or pass their time with men of the world lose the intensity of inner peace.  So like a fish going towards the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we will lose our interior watchfulness.'

'He who wishes to live in solitude in the desert is delivered from three conflicts: hearing, speech, and
sight; there is only one conflict for him and that is with fornication.'

St. Agathon

"Which is better, bodily asceticism or interior vigilance?" The old man replied, "Man is like a tree, bodily asceticism is the foliage, interior vigilance is the fruit. According to that which is written, "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire" (Matt 3:10) it is clear that all our care should be directed towards the fruit, that is to say, gaurd of the spirit, but it needs protection and the embellishment of the foliage, which is bodily asceticism."

At one time Abba Agathon had two disciples each leading the anchoretic life according to his own measure. One day he asked the first, "How do you live in your cell?", He replied "I fast until the evening, then I eat two hard biscuits." He said to him "Your way of life is good, not overburdened with too much asceticism." Then he asked the other one, "And you, how do you live?" He replied, "I fast for two days, then I eat two hard biscuits." The old man replied "You work very hard by enduring two conflicts: it is a labor for someone to eat everyday without greed; there are others who wishing to fast for two days, are greedy afterwards; but you, after you fast for two days, are not greedy."


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« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2012, 01:52:22 PM »

A brother asked Abba Isidore the priest, "Why are the demons so frightened of you?" The old man said to him, "Because I have practiced asceticism since the day I became a monk, and not allowed anger to reach my lips."

Abba Poemen said, "Many of our Fathers have become very courageous in asceticism, but in fineness of perception there are very few."

Amma Syncletica, "If illness weighs us down, let us not be sorrowful as though, because of the illness and the prostration of our bodies we could not sing, for all these things are for our good, for the purification of our desires. Truly fasting and sleeping on the ground are set before us because of our sensuality. If illness then weakens this sensuality the reason for these practices is superfluous. For this is the great asceticism: to control oneself in illness and to sing hymns of thanksgiving to God."

Amma Syncletica, "As long as we are in the monastery, obedience is preferable to asceticism. The one teaches pride, the other humility."
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« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2012, 02:01:56 PM »

"Snow can never emit flame. Water can never issue fire. A thorn bush can never produce a fig. Just so, your heart can never be free from oppressive thoughts, words or actions until it has purified itself internally. Be eager, therefore, to walk this path. Watch your heart at all times; constantly say the prayer, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me’. Be humble, and set your soul in quietude."

- St Hesychios the Priest
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« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2012, 02:39:21 PM »

"Snow can never emit flame. Water can never issue fire. A thorn bush can never produce a fig. Just so, your heart can never be free from oppressive thoughts, words or actions until it has purified itself internally. Be eager, therefore, to walk this path. Watch your heart at all times; constantly say the prayer, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me’. Be humble, and set your soul in quietude."

- St Hesychios the Priest


I bought this part of the Philocalia (didn't find the entire Philocalia in French  Sad ) , because I have read on Monachos a quote of Saint Hesychios the Priest, and it "struck" me ; his letter is a very good guide for the Prayer. I highly recommend you to read his letter.

God bless,
WM
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« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2012, 03:10:09 PM »

There is a great Coptic hymn from either Lent or the pre-Lent about prayer and fasting. I only know it from the CD Metanoia--in English. Maybe someone else here more adroit in Coptic hymnology could help?
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« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2012, 03:46:42 PM »

"The ascetics are Orthodoxy's only missionaries. Asceticism is her only missionary school. Orthodoxy is ascetic effort and it is life, and it is thus by effort and by life that her mission is broadcast and brought about. The development of asceticism... this ought to be the inward mission of our Church amongst our people. The parish must become an ascetic focal point. But this can only be achieved by an ascetic priest. Prayer and fasting, the Church-oriented life of the parish, a life of liturgy: Orthodoxy holds these as the primary ways of effecting rebirth in its people. The parish, the parish community, must be regenerated and in Christ-like and brotherly love must minister humbly to Him and to all people, meek and lowly and in a spirit of sacrifice and self-denial. And such service must be imbued and nourished by prayers and the liturgical life. This much is groundwork and indispensible. But to this end there exists one prerequisite: that our bishops, priests, and our monks become ascetics themselves." - St. Justin Popovich, Source

And more from St. Justin, from his essay on The Theory of Knowlege of St. Isaac the Syrian, with context:

Quote
The sickness of the organs of understanding
The character of a man's knowledge depends on the disposition, nature, and condition of his organs of understanding. At all levels knowledge depends intrinsically on the means of understanding. Man does not make truth; the act of understanding is an act of making one's own a truth which is already objectively given. This integration has an organic character, not unlike that of the grafting of a slip onto a vine, or its life in and from the vine (cf. John 15:1-6). Understanding is, then, a fruit on the tree of the human person...
 
Analyzing man by his empirical gifts, St. Isaac the Syrian finds that his organs of understanding are sick. "Evil is a sickness of soul," whence all the organs of understanding are made sick. Evil has its perceptions, the passions, and "the passions are illnesses of the soul." Evil and the passions are not natural to the soul...
 
What are the passions in themselves? They are "a certain hardness or insensitivity of being."  Their causes are to be found in the things of life themselves. The passions are the desire for wealth and amassing of goods, for ease and bodily comfort; they are thirst for honor and exercise of power; they are luxury and frivolity; they are the desire for glory from men and fear for one's own body. All these passions have one common name--"the world." "The world means carnal conduct and a carnal mind." ...Divine grace is the only power capable of repulsing them. When the passions make their home in man, they uproot his soul. They confuse the mind, filling it with fantastic forms, images, and desires, so that his thoughts are disturbed and filled with fantasy. "The world is a prostitute," which, by means of its soul-destroying desires, beguiles the soul, undermines its virtues, and destroys its God-given purity. Then, the soul, having itself become impure and a prostitute, gives birth to impure knowledge.
 
A feeble soul, a diseased intellect, a weakened heart and will--in brief, sick organs of understanding--can only engender, fashion, and produce sick thoughts, sick feelings, sick desires, and sick knowledge.
 
The healing of the organs of understanding
...Since the passions are a sickness of the soul, the soul can only be healed by purification from the passions and from evil. The virtues are the health of the soul, as the passions are its sickness. The virtues are the remedies that progressively eliminate sickness from the soul and from the organs of understanding. This is a slow process, deamnding much effort and great patience.
 
...The virtues, however, are woven through with sorrow and afflictions. St. Isaac says that every virtue is a cross, and even that sorrow and afflictions are the source of the virtues. He therefore expressly advocates a love of oppression and sorrow, so that by them a man may be freed from the things of this world and have a mind that is detached from the world's confusion...
 
If a man resolves to treat and heal his soul, he must first apply himself to a careful examination of his whole being. He must learn to distinguish good from evil, the things of God fro those of the devil, for "discernment is the greatest of the virtues." The acquisition of the virtues is a progressive and organic process: one virtue follows another. Among the virtues there is not only an ontological order, but also a chronological one...
 
Faith
It is by the ascesis of faith that the treatment and cure of a soul which is sick with the passions is begun... But "until the soul becomes intoxicated with faith in God, until it comes to feel faith's power," it can neither be healed of the passions nor overcome the material world. There is both a negative side to the ascesis of faith, freedom from sinful matter, and a positive side, oneness with God.
 
The soul, which was dispersed by the senses among the things of this world, is brought back to itself by the ascesis of faith, by fasting from material things and by devoting itself to a constant remembrance of God. This is the foundation of all good things. Freedom from enslavement to sinful matter is essential for advancement in the spiritual life.
 
...In the ascesis of faith, man is asked to act according to a paradox that denies understanding: "Be dead in your life, and you will live after death". By faith the mind is healed and acquires wisdom. The soul becomes wise when it stops "consorting shamelessly with promiscuous thoughts." "Love of the body is a sign of unbelief." Faith frees the intellect from the categories of the senses and sobers it by means of fasting, by pondering on God, and by vigils. ...The knowledge of God cannot be found in a body that loves pleasure.
 
...Shame and the fear of God steady the tumult of the mind; the lack of this shame and this fear disturb the balance of the understanding, making it fickle and unstable. The mind is only on a firm foundation if it keeps the Lord's commadnments and is ready to endure suffering and affliction. It is enslaved by the things of life, it is darkened. Collecting himself through faith, a man awakens his intellect towards God, and by prayerful silence cleanses his mind and overcomes the passions...
 
Faith brings peace to the intellect and, in bringing it, uproots rebellious thoughts. Sin is the source of restlessness and strife in the thoughts and is also the source of man's struggle against heaven and with other men. "Be at peace with yourself, and you will bring peace to heaven and to earth." ...it is by faith that this fragmentation of the intellect is overcome.
 
...The passions can only be overcome by the practice of the virtues, and every passion must be fought to the death. Faith is the first and chief weapon in the struggle with the passions, for faith is the light of the mind that drives away the darkness of the passions and the strength of the intellect that banishes sickness from the soul. Faith bears within itself not only its own principle and substance, but the principle and substance of all the other virtues--developing as they do one from the other and encircling one another like the annual rings of a tree. If faith can be said to have a language, that language is prayer.
 
Prayer
It is by the ascesis of faith that a man conquers egotism, steps beyond the bounds of self, and enters into a new, transcendent reality which also transcends subjectivity. ...the ascetic of faith is led and guided by prayer; he feels, thinks, and lives by prayer. ...prayer is also a hard struggle, calling the whole person into action. Man crucifies himself in prayer, crucifying the passions and sinful thoughts that cling to his soul. "Prayer is the slaying of the carnal thoughts of man's fleshly life."
 
Patient perseverance in prayer is for man a very hard ascesis, that of the denial of self. This is fundamental to the work of salvation. Prayer is the fount of salvation and it is by prayer that all the other virtues--and all good things--are acquired. This is why a man of prayer is assailed by monstrous temptations from which he is protected and saved only by prayer.
 
The surest guardian of the intellect is prayer. It drives away the clouds of the passions and illumines the intellect, bringing wisdom to the mind. Unceasing abiding in prayer is a true sign of perfection. ...Begun thus by faith, the healing of the organs of human personality are pushed wider and wider, self-centeredness being progressively replaced by God-centeredness.
 
Love
"Love is born of prayer," just as prayer is born of faith. Love for God is a sign that the new reality into which a man is led by faith and prayer is far greater  than that which has gone before. Love for God and man is the work of prayer and faith; a true love for man is in fact impossible without faith and prayer.
 
By faith man changes worlds: he moves from the limited world to the limitless, where he lives no longer by the laws of the senses but by the laws of prayer and love. St. Isaac lays great emphasis on the conviction he came to through his ascetic experience: that love for God comes through prayer... One can receive love from God through prayer and cannot in any way acquire it without the struggle of prayer. Since man comes to the knowledge of God through faith and prayer, it is strictly true that "love is born of knowledge".
 
...Love is of God, "for God is love" (1 John 4:8). "He who acquires love puts on with it God himself." God has no bounds, and love is therefore boundless and without limit, so that "he who loves by and in God loves all things equally and without distinction." St. Isaac says of such a man that he has achieved perfection...
 
In the kingdom of love the antinomies of the mind disappear. The man who strives in love enjoys a foretaste of the harmony of Paradise in himself and in God's world around him, for he has been delivered from the hell of self-centeredness and has entered into the paradise of divine values and perfections...  
 
Freeing himself from the passions, man disengages himself step by step from that self-absorption that characterizes humanism. he leaves the sphere of death-dealing anthropocentrism and enters the sphere of the Holy Trinity. Here he receives into his soul the divine peace, wherein the oppositions and contradictions that arise from the categories of time and space lose their death-dealing power, and where he can clearly perceive his virtory over sin and death.
 
Humility
Faith has its own thought-forms, having as it does its own way of life. A Christian not only lives by faith (2 Cor. 5:7) but also thinks by faith. Faith represents a new way of thinking, through which is effected all the work of knowing in the believing man. This new way of thinking is humility. ...The pride of the intellect gives way to humility and modesty replaces presumption. The ascetic of faith protects all his thoughts through humility, and thereby also ensures for himself the knowledge of eternal truth.
 
Drawing its strength from prayer, humility goes on growing and growing without end. St. Isaac teaches that prayer and humility are always equally balanced, and that progress in prayer means progress also in humility and vice versa... Humility is upheld and protected by the Holy Spirit, and not only draws man to God but also God to man...
 
Humility is a mysterious, divine power which is given only to the saints, to those who are perfected in the virtues, and it is given by grace. It "contains all things within itself." By the grace of the Holy Spirit "the mysteries are revealed to the humble, and it is these humble ones who are thereby perfect in wisdom...
 
..When turned towards the world, a humble man reveals the whole of his personality through humility, imitating in this God incarnate. "Just as the soul is unknown and invisible to bodily sight, so a humble man is unknown among men." He not only seeks to be unnoticed by men but to be as utterly recollected within himself as is possible... A humble man belittles himself before all men, but God therefore glorifies him...
 
Grace and Freedom
...Man works with God and God with man (cf. 1 Cor. 3:9). Working within and around himself, the Christain gives himself entirely to ascesis, but he does this, and is able to do it, only through the ceaseless activity of the divine power that is grace. For the Christian no thought, no feeling, no action can come from the Gospel without the help of God's grace, and it is from this mutual activity, or synergy, that Christian personality is born.
 
On every rung of the ladder of perfection, grace is essential to the Christian. A man can make no single evangelical virtue his own without the help and support of God's grace. Everything in Christianity is by grace and free will, for all is the common work of God and man... The more grace God gives to the man of faith, the more He reveals to him the abysses of evil in the world and in man...
 
By working together in God's grace and his own will, a man grows in faith to perfect stature. This happens by degrees, for grace entres into the soul "little by little," being given before all else to the humble. The greater the humility, the greater the grace, and wisdom is contained within grace. "The humble are endowed with wisdom by grace."
 
Grace-filled wisdom gradually reveals the mysteries to the humble, one after the other, culminating in the mystery of suffering. The humble know why man suffers, for grace reveals to them the meaning of suffering...
 
The Purification of the Intellect
By an unceasing renewal of self through a grace-filled asceticism, a man gradually drives sin and the passions from his whole being and from his organs of understanding, in this way healing them of these death-dealing illnesses... Especial care must be taken with the chief organ of understanding, the intellect, for it has a particularly important role in the realm of human personality... Fasting is... the chief means of purifying the intellect... It is through prayer that the intellect is refined and rendered clear... Transforming himself with the help of grace-filled ascetic effort, a man acquires purity of intellect and with this purified intellect "comes to see the mysteries of God."
 
...Only the mind that has been cleansed by grace can offer pure, spiritual knowledge... Few there are who are able to return to man's original purity of mind. Perseverance in prayer cleanses the intellect, illumines it, and fills it with the light of truth... The cleansing of the intellect is not a dialectical, discursive and theoretical activity, but an act of grace through experience and is ethical in every respect. The intellect is purified by fasting, vigils, silence, prayer, and the other ascetic practices...
 
The Mystery of Knowledge
...According to St. Isaac the Syrian, there are two sorts of knowledge: that which precedes faith and that which is born of faith. The former is natural knoweldge and involves the discernment of good and evil. The latter is spiritual knowledge and is "the perception of the mysteries," "the perception of what is hidden," "the contemplation of the invisible." There are also two sorts of faith: the first comes through hearing and is confirmed and proven by the second, "the faith of contemplation," "the faith that is based on what has been seen." ... When a man begins to follow the path of faith, he must lay aside once and for all his old methods of knowing, for faith has its own methods...
 
The chief characteristic of natural knowledge is its approach by examination and experimentation. This is in itself "a sign of uncertainty about the truth." Faith, on the contrary, follows a pure and simple way of thought that is far removed from all guile and methodical examination.  These two paths lead in opposite directions... this natural knowledge, according to St. Isaac, is not at fault. It is not to be rejected. It is just that faith is higher than it is...
 
At its lowest level, knowledge "follows the desires of the flesh," concerning itself with riches, vainglory, dress, repose of body, and search for rational wisdom. This knowledge invents the arts and sciences and all that adorns the body in this visible world. But in all this, such knowledge is contrary to faith...  From the first and lowest degree of knowledge, man moves on to the second, when he begins both in body and soul to practice the virtues: fasting, prayer, almsgiving, the reading of Holy Scripture, the struggle with the passions, and so forth... The third degree of knowledge is that of perfection...
 
The first knowledge comes "from continual study and the desire to learn. The second comes from a proper way of life and a clearly held faith. The third comes from faith alone, for in it knowledge is done away, activity ceases, and the senses become superfluous." ...It is very difficult, and often impossible, to express in words the mystery and nature of knowledge. In the realm of human thought, there is no ready definition that can explain it completely... But the most profound, and to my mind the most exhaustive answer that man can give to this question is that given by St. Isaac in the form of a dialogue:
 
Question: What is knowledge?
Answer: The perception of eternal life.
Question: And what is eternal life?
Answer: To perceive all things in God. For love comes through understanding, and the knowledge of God is ruler over all desires. To the heart that receives this knowledge every delight that exists on earth is superfluous, for there is nothing that can compare with the delight of the knowledge of God.
 
For human knowledge the most vital problem is that of truth. Knowledge bears within itself an irresistible pull toward the infinite mystery, and this hunger for truth that is instinctive to human knowledge is never satisfied unto eternal and absolute Truth itself becomes the substance of human knowledge--until knowledge, in its own self-perception, acquires the perception of God, and it its own self- knowledge come to the knowledge of God. But this is given to man only by Christ, the God-Man, he who is the only incarnation and personification of eternal truth in the world of human realities...
 
What is truth? St. Isaac answers thus: "Truth is the eprception of things that is given by God." In other words: the perception of God is truth... In the philosophy of St. Isaac, the problem of the nature of knowledge becomes an ontological and ethical problem which, in the last resort, is seen to be the problem of human personality. The nature and character of knowledge depend ontologically, morally, and gnoseologically on the constitution of the human person, and especially on the constitution and state of its organs of knowledge. In the person of the ascetic of faith, knowledge , of its very nature, turns to contemplation...
 
Contemplation
...According to [St. Isaac], contemplation is the sense of divine mysteries hidden within things and events. Contemplation is found in the finest workings of the mind and in continual pondering on God. Its abode is unceasing prayer, and thus it illumines the spiritual part of the soul, the intellect... By the help of a good life lived in grace, the ascetic of faith ascends to contemplation... "After this there arises in him the sweetness of God and a burning love for God in his heart, a love that burns away the passions of both soul and body." ... Human nature is capable of true contemplation when it is cleansed from the passions by the exercize of the virtues.
 
Conclusion
St. Isaac's theory of knowledge is dominated by the conviction that the problem of knowledge is fundamentally a religious and an ethical one... One thing is certain: that knowledge, on all levels, depends on man's religious and moral state. The more perfect a man is from the religious and moral standpoint, the more perfect is his knowledge. Man has been made in such a way that knowledge and morality are always balanced within him.
 
There is no doubt that knowledge progresses through man's virtues and regresses through the passions. Knowledge is like a fabric woven by the virtues on the loom of the human soul. The loom of the soul extends through all the visible and invisible worlds. The virtues are not only powers creating knowledge; they are the principles and source of knowledge. By transforming the virtues into constituent elements of his being through ascetic endeavor, a man advances from knowledge to knowledge. It could even be possible to say that the virtues are the sense organs of knowledge. Advancing from one virtue to another, a man moves from one form of comprehension to another...
 
Healed and made whole by the religious and moral power of the virtues, a man gives expression to the purity and intergrity of his person particularly through the purity and integrity of his knowledge.  According to the evangelical, Orthodox understanding found in St. Isaac the Syrian, knowledge is an action, an ascesis, of the whole human person, and not of one part of his being--whether it be the intellect, the understanding, the will, the body, or the senses...
 
In this theanthropic way of life and knowledge, there is nothing that is unreal, abstract, or hypothetical. here all is real with an irresistible reality, for all is based on experience... This reality has no bounds, for the person of Christ is limitless.  


-- Trans. Asterios Gerostergios, Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, (Institute For Byzantine And Modern Greek Studies, 1997),  pp. 117-168

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« Reply #13 on: May 23, 2012, 04:24:30 PM »

I don't have Mor Isaac the Syrian in English,(This reminds me,I should get one  Undecided ) but if you can get it, I will dare to say that you will find in there all you need about asceticism in all its fullness.
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« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2012, 04:16:22 AM »

It's not a succinct quote, but if you want something novella length I like Way of the Ascetics
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« Reply #15 on: May 24, 2012, 04:17:32 AM »

It's not a succinct quote, but if you want something novella length I like Way of the Ascetics

+3

I'm slapping myself for not mentioning that...
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« Reply #16 on: May 24, 2012, 07:33:14 AM »

Fr. Georges Florovsky sees this as originating in the NT: (excerpts here http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/florov_nt.aspx. )
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« Reply #17 on: May 24, 2012, 07:44:43 AM »

Fr. Georges Florovsky sees this as originating in the NT: (excerpts here http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/florov_nt.aspx. )
Wouldn't such asceticism originate in the desert practices of the Hebrew prophets?
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LBK
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« Reply #18 on: May 24, 2012, 08:09:38 AM »

Fr. Georges Florovsky sees this as originating in the NT: (excerpts here http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/florov_nt.aspx. )
Wouldn't such asceticism originate in the desert practices of the Hebrew prophets?

Indeed. The life of Prophet Elijah is a sterling, and well-known, example of OT asceticism. It would not be difficult to find other such examples from among the righteous ones of the OT.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2012, 08:10:52 AM by LBK » Logged
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« Reply #19 on: December 30, 2012, 06:36:32 PM »

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« Reply #20 on: December 30, 2012, 09:32:16 PM »

"Fasting is good and so are vigils, ascetic practice and voluntary exile. But all of these things are but the start, the prelude to the citizenship of heaven, so that it is altogether senseless to put one's trust merely in them. It sometimes happens that we attain a certain state of grace but that evil, as we said above, lying in ambush within ourselves, plays a trick on us: it deliberately withdraws and remains inactive, thus making us think that the intellect has been cleansed. In this way it produces in us the self-conceit of perfection, whereupon it stealthily attacks us and carries us down to the lowest depths of the earth... Indeed, the cardinal rule of the Christian life is not to put one's trust in acts of righteousness even if one practices all of them, or to imagine that anyone has done anything great; and even if one participates in grace, one must not think that one has achieved anything or reached the goal. On the contrary, one should then hunger and thirst, grieve and weep even more, and be totally contrite in heart."

--St. Makarios of Egypt

"Human effort is profitless, says St. John Chrysostom, without help from above; but no one receives such help unless he himself chooses to make an effort. We need always both things; we need the human and the divine, ascetic practice and spiritual knowledge, fear and hope, inward grief and solace, fearfulness and humility, discrimination and love."

--St. Peter of Damaskos
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"As there is drunkenness for God, which doesn’t see the world in its ugliness, there is also a drunkenness of the world, which does not see in its ugliness the holiness of God." - Fr. Dumitru Staniloae
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