Friday, September 18, 2009

Saints Barsanuphius and John

One of the most profitable books I have read this year has been Guidance Toward Spiritual Life: Answers to the Questions of Disciples by Saints Barsanuphius and John (selected and translated by Fr. Seraphim Rose.)

"Fr. Seraphim found that many of the questions posed to Saints Barsanuphius and John in Guidance Toward Spiritual Life were not unlike those asked by Christian strugglers of today; and the answers of the Elders cut right through common fantasies and misconceptions. The elders expose the nature of the vices--feigned humility, cold-hearted calculation, judgment, idleness, lack of inward vigilance, carnal imaginings, vainglory--and show how to overcome them and acquire virtue." (from the Preface)

A few selections:

...the will of God consists of abandoning not only what is demonic, but also what is natural...

#62 who is concerned for his salvation should by no means ask questions in order to obtain knowledge only, for for knowledge puffeth up (1 Cor. 8:1)....but to ask concerning the passions, and concerning how one should pass his life, that is, how to be saved, is most fitting; for this is necessary and leads one to humility. And humility is a shortened path to salvation...

The will inspired by the demons consists of justifying oneself and believing oneself, and then a man is caught by them.

...we who dwell outside of every concern and care do not even wish to consider that in actual fact we are earth and dust; and we have grown old, nourishing in ourselves vainglory. For to think that what we do is pleasing to God, that our dwelling in silence instructs others, and that we have been delivered form judgments and condemnations; all this is extreme vainglory and nothing else.

If, according to the example of Abraham and Job, we think that we are earth and ashes (cf. Gen 18:27 and Job 42:6) then we shall never be robbed.

In all cases let us hasten to humility; for the humble one lies on the ground, and where can one fall who lies on the ground?

Humility consists of considering oneself earth and ashes--in deed, and not in words only--and in saying: "Who am I? And who considers me to be something?"

...there is no need to write to you separately concerning every passion, for I have assigned you the treatment for them in one word: The Lord saith, "I will come to dwell int he humble" (cf. Isaiah 57:15).

...if a man can cut off his own will in everything, and have a humble heard, and death always before his eyes--he can be saved, by God's grace; and wherever he might be, fear does not take possession of him...

...what hinders you from entering into contrition is your own will; for if a man will not cut off his own will, he cannot acquire pain of heart. And what prevents you from cutting off your own will is unbelief, and unbelief proceeds from the fact that we desire human glory....Behold your previous transgressions are already forgiven; and yet you strengthen yourself by the wisdom of self-justification to enter into worse ones.

Repentance for a sin demands that one do it no more, and withdrawal from evil consists in abandoning it. May your previous sins not cause you offense; and do not decline from the service of God with fear and trembling. Remember, that this (service) is the sanctification of your soul.

When a man is tempted by his own lust, this may be known from the fact that he is careless about himself and allows his heart to reflect about what he has done before; and then a man himself draws passion unto himself through his own lust....If one allows thoughts to pay heed in this, warfare will increase until a fall, albeit not in body but in spirit, in agreement with thoughts; and it turns out that such a man lights the fire himself in his own substance....Tame your steed with the bridle of knowledge, lest, looking here and there, he become inflamed with lust toward women and men and throw you, the horseman, to the ground. Pray to God, that He may turn your eyes, lest they see vanity (Ps. 118:37). And when you acquire a manful heart, warfare will depart from you. Cleanse yourself, as wine cleanses wounds, and do not allow stench and filthiness to accumulate in you.

...labor against thoughts so as not to fall into negligence and vainglory, not to do anything according to your own will, and not to accept the thoughts of self-justification which arise in not think that you have done anything good,m and your reward will be preserved whole. Above this, remember that you will not remain long in the body, and strive so that you might be able to say with boldness in that hour: I prepared myself and was not disturbed (Ps. 118:60).

Humility consists in this: Never, in any circumstance, to consider yourself to be something; to cut off your will in everything; to be subject to everyone; and to bear without disturbance everything that comes to you from outside. That is true humility in which there is no room for vainglory. One who has humility of wisdom should not strive to express his humility in word,s but it sufficient for him to say: "Forgive me, " or "Pray for me."

If we suffer with Him, we will be glorified with Him (Rom. 8:17). Do not be deceived: there is no path to salvation apart from this.

God gives us humility, and we refuse it and again say: Pray that God might grant me humility. Humility is the cutting off of one's will in everything and having cares over nothing. And to cut off the root of those passions, as you said, means to cut off your will, cause offense to yourself as much as possible, and compel the organs of the senses to keep their order, and not misuse them; through this the root not only of these, but also of other (passions) is cut off.

As much as you can, wear yourself out, but according to your strength; and have hope not in this, but in love from God and in His protection, and do not give yourself over to despondency, for despondency serves as the beginning of every evil.

The sign of the forgiveness of sins consists in hating them and not doing them anymore. But when a man reflects on them and his heart takes enjoyment in them, or he performs them in deed: this is a sign that his sins are not forgiven him, but that he is still accused of them.


Hilarius said...


Thank you.

In Xp,

Eric John

Ian Climacus said...

Thanks from me too. I think I need to write out #62 and #241 in particular 100 times... Though they all hit the mark in some way.