December 29

Those who exhort us, imperfect as we are, to indulge the pleasures of the palate, act like people who encourage us to reopen wounds that are healed, or to scratch an itch because of the enjoyment it gives, or to eat foods which increase fever, or to fence off our spiritual vineyard but to allow the impulses of the flesh to enter like a wild boar and devour our good thoughts like grapes. We must not give way to them; nor must we yield to the importunate flattery of men and passions. Rather, we must strengthen the fence through self-control, until the wild animals–the carnal passions–stop their howling, and vain thoughts no longer descend like birds and despoil the vineyard of our soul, rich as it is with the contemplative vision bestowed on it by our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him be glory throughout the ages. Amen.

Fear is the son of faith and the shepherd of the commandments. He who is without faith will not be found worthy to be a sheep of the Lord’s pasture.

~Ilias the Presbyter

December 28

Many ascend the cross of mortification, but few consent to be nailed to it. For many submit to hardships and afflictions of their own choosing; but only those who have died completely to this world and to the respite it offers readily submit to the sufferings that come against their will.

Land cannot make a farmer wealthy merely by yielding the equivalent to the grain which he has sown, or even by adding to it slightly; it can do so only by multiplying it. Similarly, the achievements of one engaged in ascetic practice cannot make him righteous unless his diligence towards God exceeds his natural propensity.

~Ilias the Presbyter

December 27

The intellect cannot be peaceful during prayer unless it has acquired self-control and love. With God’s help the first strives to put an end to the body’s hostility towards the soul, the second to our hostility towards our fellow-men. Upon the man who has in this way established peace within himself, ‘the peace that surpasses the intellect’ (Philippians 4:7) then descends and, according to God’s promise, takes up its abode in him.

~Ilias the Presbyter

December 26

A person released from long captivity is not so full of joy as the intellect freed from its attachment to sensible things and winging its way towards the heavenly realm that is its native land.

No one can pray purely if he is constrained by the passions of ostentation and ambition. For the attachments and frivolous thoughts in which these passions involve him will twine around him like ropes and during prayer will drag his intellect down like a fettered bird that is trying to fly.

~Ilias the Presbyter

December 24

Within the visible world, man is as it were a second world; and the same is true of thought within the intelligible world. for man is the herald of heaven and earth, and of all that is in them; while thought interprets the intellect and sense-perceptions, and all that pertains to them. Without man and thought both the sensible and the intelligible worlds would be inarticulate.

~Ilias the Presbyter

December 23

Raindrops moisten the furrows, and tear-laden sighs rising from the heart soften the soul’s state during prayer.

It is less hard to check the downward flow of a river than for one who prays to check the turbulence of the intellect when he wishes, preventing it from fragmenting itself among visible things and concentrating it on the higher realities kindred to it. This is so in spite of the fact that to check the flow of a river is contrary to nature, while to check the turbulence of the intellect accords with nature.

~Ilias the Presbyter

December 22

The soul still engaged in ascetic struggle, trying to hold fast to the words of prayer and not being able to do so, cries out like the soul in the Song: ‘By night on my bed I sought Him whom I love; I sought Him but I did not find Him; I called Him, but He did not listen to me. I will rise now through more strenuous prayer and will go about the city, in the wide streets and the marketplaces, and will look for my Beloved. Perhaps I shall find Him who is present in all things and beyond all things; and I will feast on the vision of His glory.’ (Song of Songs 3:1-2)

~St Ilias the Presbyter

December 21

A soldier casts off his arms when he has ceased fighting; the contemplative casts off thoughts when he returns to the Lord.

When the stage of ascetic practice has been fulfilled, spiritual visions flood the intellect like the sun’s rays coming over the horizon; even though they are native to it, and embrace it because of its purity, they appear to come from outside.

~Ilias the Presbyter

December 20

When listlessness is expelled from the soul, and malice from the mind, then the intellect, naked in simplicity, innocent and totally stripped of the veil of shame, sings a new song to God, with joyful gratitude celebrating the forefeast and inauguration of the life to come.

As a soldier returning from war unburdens himself of his arms, so the man engaged in ascetic practice unburdens himself of thoughts when he attains to contemplation. For as the first has no need of arms except in time of war, so the second had no need of thoughts unless he reverts to the things apprehended by the senses.

~Ilias the Presbyter

December 18

Those who indulge their passions, being materially-minded, are distracted during prayer by their thoughts as by frogs. Those who restrain their passions are gladdened during prayer by the changing forms of contemplation, which are like nightingales moving from one branch to another. But in the dispassionate there is silence and great quiescence of both thought and intellection during prayer.

A flame gives light so long as it is wedded to matter. But the soul becomes God’s shrine only when free from matter. The flame rises up so long as it has something to burn on; the soul is raised upward until it is consummated in divine love.

~Ilias the Presbyter