On the World and our Relationship to it

     We Christians, young men, hold that this human life is not a supremely precious thing, nor do we recognize anything as unconditionally a blessing which benefits us in this life only. Neither pride of ancestry, nor bodily strength, nor beauty, nor greatness, nor the esteem of all men, nor kingly authority, nor, indeed, whatever of human affairs may be called great, do we consider worthy of desire, or the possessors of them as objects of envy; but we place our hopes upon the things which are beyond, and in preparation for the life eternal do all things that we do. Accordingly, whatever helps us towards this we say that we must love and follow after with all our might, but those things which have no bearing upon it should be held as naught.

St. Basil the Great: Address to Young Men on the Right use of Greek Literature

    For if a man refuses to satisfy even the basic needs of the body, but rejects them in order to travel along the strait and narrow road, how can he ever fall victim to the love of possessions? Love of possessions consists not merely in owning many things, but also in attachment to them, or in their misuse or excessive use. For many of the saints of old, such as Abraham, Job, David and many others, had extensive possessions, but they were not attached to them: they held them as a gift from God and sought to please Him all the more through their use of them. Nevertheless the Lord, being beyond perfection and being wisdom itself, strikes at the root: for He urges those who would follow Him through the imitation of supreme virtue to renounce not only material goods or possessions, but even their own soul (cf. Luke 14 : 26), that is to say, their own thoughts and will.

St. Peter of Damascus: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge


    Nowadays, however, whether we are under obedience or in authority, we are not willing to abandon our own will, and so none of us makes any progress. None the less, it is still possible to escape from human society and from worldly affairs, and to take the 'royal way' through living the life of stillness with one or two others, studying the commandments of Christ and all the Scriptures day and night. By this means, through being tested in all things by our conscience and application, by reading and by prayer, we may perhaps attain the first commandment, the fear of God, which comes through faith and the study of the Holy Scriptures; and through this we may achieve inward grief, and so arrive at the commandments of which St Paul spoke: faith, hope and love (cf. I Cor. I3 : (3). For he who has faith in the Lord fears chastisement; and this fear prompts him to keep the commandments. The keeping of the commandments leads him to endure affliction; and the enduring of affliction produces hope in God. Such hope separates the intellect from all material attachment; and the person freed from such attachment possesses love for God. Whoever follows this sequence will be saved.
    Stillness, which is the basis of the soul's purification, makes the observance of the commandments relatively painless. 'Flee,' it has been said, 'keep silence, be still, for herein lie the roots of sinlessness.' Again it has been said: 'Flee men and you will be saved.' For human society does not permit the intellect to perceive either its own faults or the wiles of the demons, so as to guard itself against them. Nor, on the other hand, does it allow the intellect to perceive God's providence and bounty, so as to acquire in this way knowledge of God and humility. That is why whoever wishes to travel the shortest road to Christ - the road of dispassion and spiritual knowledge - and joyfully to attain perfection, should not turn either to the right or to the left, but in his whole way of life should journey diligently along the royal way. He should steer a middle course between excess and insufficiency, as both engender pleasure. He should not obscure the intellect with excessive food and conviviality, making himself blind through such distractions; but neither should he cloud his mind through prolonged fasts and vigils. Rather, he should carefully and patiently practise the seven forms of bodily discipline [ie stillness, fasting, vigils, psalmody, spiritual prayer, spiritual reading, discerning our thoughts] as though climbing a ladder, mastering them once and for all and advancing towards that moral state in which, as the Lord has said (cf. Matt. 13 : 11-12), by God's grace the different stages of spiritual contemplation are given to the believer.

St. Peter of Damascus:
A Treasury of Divine Knowledge


    Whoever is aware of all this [that God has done for us] recognizes that there is nothing incidental or evil in creation, and that even what takes place against God's will is miraculously changed by God into something good. For example, the fall of the devil was not God's will, yet it has been turned to the advantage of those being saved. For the devil is permitted to tempt the elect - according to the strength of each, as St Isaac says - so that he may be mocked and, with God's help, defeated by them. And these people, who have achieved equality with the angels, include not only men, but also great numbers of women. Because of their patient endurance and faith in the divine Judge they receive, by His grace and compassion, crowns of immortality: for God has defeated and continues to defeat the murderous and insolent snake.

St. Peter of Damascus: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge

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