Orthodox River

Fourth Century

  1. The person who has broken the bonds of his intellect’s fawning friendship for the flesh has slain the body’s evil acts through the life-giving Spirit.

  2. Do not think that the intellect is free from its attachment to the flesh so long as it is still troubled by the activities that pertain to the flesh.

  3. Just as the senses and sensible objects pertain to the flesh, so the intellect and intelligible realities pertain to the soul.

  4. Withdraw your soul from the perception of sense objects, and the intellect will find itself in God and in the realm of intelligible realities.

  5. Intelligible natures that can be grasped only by the intellect belong to the realm of divinity, while the senses and sense objects have been created for the service of the intellect.

  6. Use the senses and sense objects as a means to spiritual contemplation but, on the contrary, do not use what provokes the desire of the flesh as food for the senses.

  7. You have been commanded to mortify the acts of the body (cf. Col. 3:5) so that when the soul has been made dead to pleasure you may bring it back to life through your ascetic labors.

  8. Beruled by God and rule over your senses; and, being on a higher level, do not give authority to what is inferior to you.

  9. God, who is eternal, limitless and infinite, has promised eternal, limitless and inexpressible blessings to those who obey him.

  10. The intellect’s role is to live in God and to meditate on Him, His providence and His awesome Judgments.

  11. You have the power to incline either upwards or downwards: choose what is superior and you will bring what is inferior into subjection.

  12. Because they are the works of God, who is Himself good, the senses and sensible objects are good: but they cannot in any way be compared with the intellect and with intelligible realities.

  13. The Lord has created intelligent and noetic beings with a capacity to receive the Spirit and to attain knowledge of Himself, He has brought into existence the senses and sense objects to serve such beings.

  14. Just as it is absurd to subject a good master to a worthless servant, so it is absurd to subject the deiform intellect to the corruptible body.

  15. An intellect that does not control the senses will fall into evil because of them: deceived by the pleasure of sense objects, it depraves itself.

  16. While controlling your senses, control your memory as well; for when its prepossessions are roused through the senses they stir up the passions.

  17. Keep your body under control, and pray constantly; in this way you will soon be free from the thoughts that arise from your prepossessions.

  18. Devote yourself ceaselessly to the words of God: application to them destroys the passions.

  19. Spiritual reading, vigils, prayer and psalmody prevent the intellect from being deluded by the passions.

  20. Just as spring stimulates the growth of plants, so dispassion stimulates the intellect to attains spiritual knowledge of created beings.

  21. Keep the commandments, and you will find peace; love God, and you will attain spiritual knowledge.

  22. You have been sentenced to eat the bread of spiritual knowledge with toil, struggle and the sweat of your face (cf. Gen. 3:19).

  23. Negligence led our first forefather to transgress, and instead of enjoying paradise he was condemned to die (cf. Gen. 3:22).

  24. You, too, should keep control of Eve; and you should watch out for the serpent, lest she is deceived by it and gives you the fruit of the tree (cf. Gen. 3:1-5).

  25. As by nature the soul gives life to the body, so virtue and spiritual knowledge give life to the soul.

  26. A conceited intellect is a waterless cloud (cf. Jude, verse 12) carried along by the winds of self-esteem and pride.

  27. In controlling your self-esteem, beware of unchastity, so that you do not shun acclaim only to fall into dishonor.

  28. Eschewing self-esteem, look to God, and beware lest you become presumptuous or unchaste.

  29. A sign of self-esteem is an ostentatious manner; of pride, anger and scorn of others.

  30. In cutting out gluttony, beware lest you seek the esteem of others, making a display of the pallor of your face.

  31. To fast well is to enjoy simple food in small amounts and to shun other people’s esteem.

  32. After fasting until late in the day, do not eat your fill, lest in so doing you build up again what you have pulled down (cf. Gal. 2:18).

  33. If you do not drink wine, do not glut yourself with water either; for if you do you will be providing yourself with the same fuel for unchastity.

  34. Pride deprives us of God’s help, making us over-reliant on ourselves and arrogant towards other people.

  35. There are two remedies against pride; and if you do not avail yourself of them you will find yourself given a third, far more painful to bear.

  36. Prayer with tears, and having no scorn for anyone, destroy pride; but so do chastisements inflicted against our will.

  37. Chastisement through the trials imposed on us is a spiritual rod, teaching us humility when in our foolishness we think too much of ourselves.

  38. The intellect’s task is to reject any thought that secretly vilifies a fellow being.

  39. Just as the gardener who does not weed his garden chokes his vegetables, so the intellect that does not purify its thoughts is wasting its efforts.

  40. A wise man is one who accepts advice, especially that of a spiritual father counseling him in accordance with the will of God.

  41. A man deadened by the passions is impervious to advice and will not accept any spiritual correction.

  42. He who does not accept advice will never go by the straight path, but will always find himself among cliffs and gorges.

  43. The truly monk-like intellect is one that has renounced the senses and cannot stand even the thought of sensual pleasure.

  44. The truly physician-like intellect is one that first heals itself and then heals others of the diseases of which it has been cured.

  45. Search after virtue and do not be deprived of it, lest you live sordidly and die a wretched death.

  46. Our Lord Jesus has given light to all men, but those who do not trust in Him bring darkness upon themselves.

  47. Do not think that the loss of virtue is a minor matter, for it was through such a loss that death came into the world.

  48. Obedience to the commandments is the resurrection of the dead, for by nature life follows upon virtue.

  49. When the intellect was deadened by the breaking of the commandment, the death of the body was a necessary consequence.

  50. Just as Adam through transgressing became subject to death, so the Savior through obedience put death to death.

  51. Put evil to death so that you will not rise up dead and thus pass from a minor to a major death.

  52. Because of Adam’s transgression the Savior became man, so that by nullifying the sentence passed on us He might resurrect all of us.

  53. He who has put his passions to death and overcome ignorance goes from life to life.

  54. Search the Scriptures and you will find the commandments; do what they say and you will be freed from your passions.

  55. Obedience to a commandment purifies the soul, and purification of the soul leads to its participation in light

  56. The tree of life is the knowledge of God; when, being purified, you share in that knowledge you attain immortality.

  57. The first step in the practice of the virtues is faith in Christ; its consummation, the love of Christ.

  58. Jesus is the Christ, our Lord and our God, who grants us faith in Him so that we may live.

  59. He manifested Himself to us in soul, body and divinity so that, as God, He could deliver soul and body from death.

  60. Let us acquire faith so that we may attain love: for love gives birth to the illumination of spiritual knowledge.

  61. The acquisition of faith leads successively to fear of God, restraint from sensual pleasure, the patient endurance of suffering, hope in God, dispassion and love.

  62. Genuine love gives birth to the spiritual knowledge of the created world. This is succeed by the desire of all desires: the grace of theology.

  63. When (he intellect controls the passions it is doubtless. out of fear that it does so, for it believes is God’s threats and promises.

  64. When you have been given faith, self-control is demanded from you; when self-control has become habitual, it rives birth to patient endurance, a disposition that gladly accepts suffering.

  65. The sign of patient endurance is delight in suffering; and the intellect, trusting in this patient endurance, hopes to attain what is promised and to escape what is threatened.

  66. The expectation of the blessings held in store links the intellect with what it expects. When it continually meditates on these blessings, it forgets the things of this world.

  67. He who has tasted the things for which he hopes will spurn the things of this world: all his longing will be spent on what he hopes for.

  68. It is God who has promised the blessings held in store; and the self-disciplined person who has faith in God longs for what is held in store as though it were present.

  69. The sign that the intellect dwells among the blessings for which it hopes is its total oblivion to worldly things and the growth in its knowledge of what is held in store.

  70. The dispassion taught by the God of truth is a noble quality; through it He fulfils the aspirations of the devout soul.

  71. The blessings that lie in store for the inheritors of the promise are beyond eternity, before all ages, and transcend both intellect and thought.

  72. Let us regulate our lives according to the rules of true faith, so that we do not deviate into the passions and thus fail to attain what we hope for.

  73. Jesus is the Christ, one of the Holy Trinity. You are destined to be His heir.

  74. If God has taught you a spiritual knowledge of created beings, you will not doubt the words of Scripture concerning the blessings held in store.

  75. According to the degree to which the intellect is stripped of the passions, the Holy Spirit initiates the intellect into the mysteries of the age to be.

  76. The more the intellect is purified, the more the soul is granted spiritual knowledge of divine principles.

  77. He who has disciplined his body and dwells in a state of spiritual knowledge finds that through this knowledge he is purified still further.

  78. The intellect that begins to pursue divine wisdom starts with faith; it then passes through the intermediate stages until it arrives once more at faith, though this time of the highest type.

  79. Initially our search for wisdom is prompted by fear; but as we attain our goal we are led forward by love.

  80. The intellect that begins its search for divine wisdom with simple faith will eventually attain a theology that transcends the intellect and that is characterized by unremitting faith of the highest type and the contemplation of the invisible.

  81. The divine principles contemplated by the saints do not reveal God’s essence, but the qualities that appertain to Him.

  82. Of the principles that appertain to God, some are to be understood affirmatively and others negatively.

  83. For example, being, divinity, goodness and whatever else we attribute to God in a positive manner, or cataphatically, are to be understood affirmatively. Unoriginateness, infinity, indefinable-ness and so on are to be understood in a negative manner, or apophatically.

  84. Since the inmost divinity of the Holy Trinity is a single essence transcending intellect and thought, what has just been said, and other similar statements, refer to the qualities that appertain to the essence, and not to the essence itself.

  85. Just as we speak of the single Godhead of the Holy Trinity, so we glorify the three Persons, or hypostases, of the one Godhead.

  86. The affirmative and negative qualities mentioned above are to be understood as common to the holy and coessential Trinity, and not as indicating the individual characteristics of the three Persons. Most of these individual characteristics are to be understood affirmatively, although some are to be understood negatively.

  87. The individual characteristics of the divine Persons are fatherhood, sonship, procession, and whatever else can be said of them individually.

  88. A person may be defined as an essence with individual characteristics. Thus each person possesses both what is common to the essence and what belongs individually to the person.

  89. Of the qualities common to the Holy Trinity, those predicated of it negatively apply more aptly than those ascribed to it positively. But this is not the case with the individual characteristics. As we noted, some of these are expressed affirmatively and others negatively, ‘begottenness’ and ‘unbegottenness’ respectively are examples of both. Thus unbegottenness’ differs from “begot-tenness’ only as regards its meaning, not as regards its aptness: the first term expresses the fact that the Father was not begotten and the second that the Son was begotten.

  90. Verbs and nouns are used, as we said, to indicate the principles that in contemplation we apprehend as appertaining to the essence of the Holy Trinity, but do not refer to the essence itself. For the principles of the essence cannot be known by the intellect or expressed in words: they are known only to the Holy Trinity.

  91. Just as the single essence of the Godhead is said to exist in three Persons, so the Holy Trinity is confessed to have one essence.

  92. We regard the Father as unoriginate and as the source: as unoriginate because He is unbegotten, and as the source because He is the begetter of the Son and the sender forth of the Holy Spirit, both of whom are by essence from Him and in Him from all eternity.

  93. Paradoxically, the One moves from itself into the Three and yet remains One, while the Three return to the One and yet remain Three.

  94. Again, the Son and the Spirit are regarded as not unoriginate, and yet as from all eternity. They are not unoriginate because the Father is their origin and source, but They are eternal in that They coexist with the Father, the one begotten by Him and the other proceeding from Him from all eternity.

  95. The single divinity of the Trinity is undivided and the three Persons of the one divinity are unconfused.

  96. The individual characteristics of the Father are described as unoriginateness and unbegottenness; of the Son, as co-presence in the source and as being begotten by it; and of the Holy Spirit, as co-presence in the source and as proceeding from it. The origin of the Son and Holy Spirit is not to be regarded as temporal: how could it be? On the contrary, the term ‘origin’ indicates the source from which Their existence is eternally derived, as light from the sun For They originate from that source according to Their essence, although They are in no sense inferior or subsequent to it.

  97. Each Person preserves His individual characteristics im-mutably and irremovably; and the common nature of Their essence, that is to say, Their divinity, is indivisible.

  98. We confess Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, divided but without division and united but with distinctions.

  99. The Father is the sole origin of all things. He is the origin of the Son and the Spirit as Their begetter and source, coeternal, co-infinite, limitless, coessential and undivided. He is the origin of created things, as the one who produces, provides for, and judges them through the Son in the Holy Spirit. ‘For all things are from Him and through Him, and have Him as their goal. To Him be glory throughout the ages. Amen’ (Rom. 11:36).

  100. Again, the Son and the Holy Spirit are said to be coeternal with the Father, but not co-unoriginate with Him. They are coeternal in that They coexist with the Father from eternity; but They are not co-unoriginate in that They are not without source: as has already been said, They are derived from Him as the light from the sun, even though They are not inferior or subsequent to Him. They are also said to be unoriginate in the sense that They do not have an origin in time. If this were not the case. They would be thought of as subject to time, whereas it is from Them that time itself derives. Thus They are unoriginate not with regard to Their source, but with regard to time. For They exist prior to, and transcend, all time and all the ages; and it is from Them that all time and all the ages are derived, together with everything that is in time and in the ages. This is because They are, as we said, coeternal with the Father; to Him, with Them, be glory and power through all the ages.