March 23

Ascetic practice is a good thing, but only when done with the right goal in mind. We ought to think of it not as the real task, but as a preparation for the real task; not as the fruit, but as the earth that can, with time, labor, and the help of God, bear trees from which the fruit will come–the fruit that is purity of intellect [the innermost depth of the heart] and union with God. To Him be glory throughout the ages. Amen.

~St Peter of Damaskos

Prayer requires the inseparable presence and cooperation of the attention. With attention, prayer becomes the inalienable property of the person praying; in the absence of attention, it is extraneous to the person praying. With attention, it bears abundant fruit; without attention, it produces thorns and thistles [thorns and thistles represent conceit and hypocrisy, self-delusion and formality].

The fruit of prayer consists in illumination of mind and compunction of heart, in the quickening of the soul with the life of the Spirit.

~Ignatius Brianchaninov

March 22

Prayer is the daughter of the fulfillment of the Gospel commandments, and is at the same time the mother of all the virtues…it is impossible for a person to turn with all his thought, with all his strength, and with all his being toward God, except by the action of prayer…regularity, progress, and proficiency in prayer are opposed by our corrupt nature and by the fallen angels who strive their utmost to keep us in their slavery, in the fallen state of aversion from God which is common to men and fallen angels.

~Ignatius Brianchaninov

March 20

Through humility in your dealings with your neighbor, and through love for your neighbor, hardness and callousness is expelled from the heart. It is rolled away like a heavy rock from the entrance to a tomb, and the heart revives for spiritual relations with God for which it has been hitherto dead.

A new vista opens to the gaze of the mind: the multitudinous wounds of sin with which the whole of fallen nature is riddled. It begins to confess its wretched state to God and implore Him for mercy. The heart assists the mind with mourning and compunction. This is the beginning of true prayer.

~Ignatius Brianchaninov

March 19

Love for our neighbor is preceded and accompanied by humility in our human relationships. Hatred toward our neighbor is preceded by condemnation and criticism of him, detraction and disparagement, slander and backbiting, scorn for him; in other words, by pride.

…[constantly] remember Christ’s words: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” [do not] stop to consider whether [your] neighbor deserves [your] respect or not; [pay] no attention to his numerous and obvious defects.

[Let your attention be] taken up with seeing that you do not somehow fail to realize that your neighbor is the image of God, and that Christ accepts what we do to our neighbor as if it were done to Him.

~Ignatius Brianchaninov

March 16

Direct all your attention to the acquisition of love for your neighbor as the basis of your life…love your neighbor according to the dictates of the commandments of the Gospel, not at all according to the dictates and impulses of your heart….

Love your neighbor in the following way: do not get angry with him and do not bear resentment or a grudge against him. Do not allow yourself to say to your neighbor any reproachful, abusive, sarcastic, or caustic words.  Maintain peace with him as far as possible. Humble yourself in his presence….get out of the habit of arguing and quarreling, and reject it as a sign of pride and self-love….

Pray for those who cause you various offenses, wrongs, temptations, persecutions. Whatever you do, on no account condemn anyone; do not even try to judge whether a person is good or bad, but keep your eyes on that one evil person for whom you must give an account before God–yourself.

~Ignatius Brianchaninov

March 14

It is essential to convince oneself that God rules the destiny of the world and the destiny of every individual. The experiences and trials of life will not be slow to confirm and establish this teaching of the Gospel. A consequence of the acceptance by faith of this teaching is a humble submission to God, the flight of troubles and worries, peace of soul, the power of fortitude. He who thus accepts the teaching of the Gospel takes ‘the shield of faith with which [he] will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one’ (Ephesians 6:16)….

Why is our spirit troubled by the judgments and providences of God? Because we do not honor God as God; because we do not surrender ourselves to God as God; because we do not give ourselves our proper place before God; because of our pride, our blindness, our fallen, spoilt, perverse will is not mortified and renounced by us.

~Ignatius Brianchaninov


March 12

If you deny yourself and constantly renounce your own opinions, your own will, your own righteousness–or what amounts to the same thing: the knowledge, understanding, will and righteousness of fallen nature–in order to plant within you the knowledge of God, the will of God, and the righteousness of God taught us in the holy Gospel by God Himself, then fallen nature will open fire within you and declare a savage war against the Gospel and against God. Fallen spirits will come to the help of fallen nature.

Do not fall into despondency on this account. By your firmness in the struggle, show the tenacity of your purpose and the stability of your free will. When thrown down, get up. When duped and disarmed, rearm yourself afresh. When defeated, again rush to the fight. It is extremely good for you to see within yourself both your own fall and the fall of the whole of mankind.

It is essential for you to recognize and study this fall in your own experience, in your heart and mind. It is essential for you to see the infirmity of your knowledge and intellect, and the weakness of your will.

~Ignatius Brianchaninov