What gives Christian therapy its value and purpose is that it has as its standard the health and perfection of humanity such as Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, has shown us in His Person. What gives it its strength is that is is founded entirely on the grace of salvation and the deification acquired for mankind, in accordance with the Father’s good-will, by the Incarnation and the whole salvific work of the Son: grace that each person, by being united to Him in the Church, which is His body, is able to receive from the Holy Spirit–if only he wishes, with all his being, to turn to God.
~Dr. Jean-Claude Larchet (Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses vol.3, p.261)
Spiritual knowledge can be acquired by the illiterate, who are often more adept at attaining it than those who, seduced by their intellectual capabilities, become mired in the realm of pseudo-knowledge; spiritual knowledge reveals itself to all who, with the fear of God and by the practicing of the commandments in a life of asceticism, have attained purity, simplicity, and humility of heart. Moreover, there is a very close link between true knowledge/contemplation and humility, whereas on the contrary, pseudo-knowledge seems to be linked to pride, whence it proceeds and which it increases.
~Dr Jean-Claude Larchet (Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses vol.3, p.205)
St John Cassian explains: “All other vices dwindle as we overcome them, and day by day become weaker in defeat…But [vainglory] rises again from defeat more eager for the fight, and when you think it is extinct, it recovers from its death all the more lively. Other types of vice normally only attack those whom they might defeat, whereas this one presses hardest on its conquerors. The more successfully we elude it, the harder it assaults us through our very joy in victory.”
Thus, vainglory “is far more dangerously deceptive to the unwary warrior.” Whoever undertakes the therapy of vainglory, then, will have to employ great spiritual discernment and constant watchfulness from start to finish.
~Dr Jean-Claude Larchet (Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses vol.3, p.117)
One of the characteristic effects of godly sadness is its consoling gentleness, which paradoxically removes from mourning and affliction their painful character and appears as a clear sign of divine assistance and the presence of grace within the soul.
Thus St John Chrysostom observes: “The fruit [of] groans is great, and great is their persuasive and consoling gentleness…Indeed, constant groaning produces consolation.” And St John Climacus writes: “The abyss of mourning has seen comfort…Divine succour is the renewal of a soul depressed by grief which, in a wonderful way, transforms painful tears into painless ones.”
This naturally accords with the teaching of Christ: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”…
~Dr. Jean-Claude Larchet (Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses vol.3, p.66)
“Nothing awakens us to the spiritual and causes us to live on that level as does mourning.” [St. Isaac the Syrian] In other words, this virtue delivers the soul from the insensitivity, dryness, and hardness that sin had caused it to contract. It helps man to be constantly vigilant, and while always needing to be accompanied by prayer, it promotes prayer and contributes to making such intercession fertile.
~Dr Jean-Claude Larchet (Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses vol.3, p.65)
“Have you sinned? Be in mourning, and you will cause sin to disappear,” for “penthos erases sin.” “Sadness about sin purifies sin.” “If one is saddened after sinning, the sin disappears [and] the wrong is righted.” [St John Chrysostom]…this is the main and true end goal of sadness, and for this reason has God given it to man: “Its power is only for the destruction of sin by erasing it; God created it for no other reason.”
~Dr Jean-Claude Larchet (Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses vol.3, p.63)
Virtuous sadness, then, is not fundamentally of another nature than passionate sadness. It differs from the latter only in the aim which man assigns to it and the object on which it focuses….passionate sadness “is harsh, cruel, full of rancour and futile gloom, suffering in despair. When it seizes a man it breaks him and drags him away from any useful or salutary grief, being quite unreasonable”; but the “sorrow that works penance unto salvation…is obedient, genial, humble, docile, even-tempered and patient; it tirelessly applies itself to every sort of physical mortification and contrition of spirit, in its longing for perfection; it grows with a certain joy in hope of progress, and maintains that affable and tolerant even temper, for it contains within itself all the fruits of the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle enumerates them: ‘…charity, joy, peace, tolerance, goodness, kindness, faith, mildness, and self-control.'” [St. John Cassian]
~Dr. Jean-Claude Larchet (Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses vol.3 pp.58-59)
Jesus Christ “proclaims as blessed those who mourn, but not those who do so for any human reason, as for the loss of some transitory good, but those who have Christian compunction, mourn their sorrows, and expiate their sins and even those of others.”
As for St John Cassian, he writes: “Therefore, apart from that sorrow which arises for the sake of saving penance, or from the desire of perfection, or the longing for what is to come, all [sadness] must be equally resisted, being worldly and pernicious, and quite excluded from our hearts.”
Thus, it is not a matter of abolishing every form of sadness, but only of the passion of sadness. Here again, putting an end to the passion does not mean putting an end to the function itself, but rather healing it, in order to allow it to recover its natural and normal use and to be exercised once again in healthy fashion.
~Dr Jean-Claude Larchet (Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses vol.3, p.57-58)
In order to attach himself to spiritual goods, man must first of all have become aware that there exists “another beauty, other riches, other pleasures that are superior,” “true riches that procure immortal delights”, and that there is no wealth superior or worthy of preference to God’s Kingdom and glory. But this awareness, as St John Climacus points out, is only possible through the experience of spiritual realities. Man can attain to this experience only when he stops living an utterly carnal life and unites himself to God through love and the practice of the commandments. Only “the taste of God,” as St John Climacus states in very concrete terms, allows man to ascertain (in comparison to divine goods) the scant value of sensual “goods.”
~Dr Jean-Claude Larchet (Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses vol.3, p.37)
Bodily asceticism does not only contribute to purifying the mind: it also hones it, making it lighter and more apt for all its proper spiritual functions. Fasting and vigils in particular have this effect. By purifying and refining the mind, bodily asceticism contributes to moving it towards contemplation. The suffering linked to this ascetic practice is merely the provisional condition for attaining to the delight in the good things of the Kingdom, which will infinitely compensate for this pain: “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).”
~Dr Jean-Claude Larchet (Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses vol.2, p.271)