December 17

The spiritual aspirant must restrain his senses through frugality and his intellect through the single-phrased Jesus Prayer. Having in this way detached himself from the passions, he will find himself caught up to the Lord during prayer.

When through continuous prayer the words of the psalms are brought down into the heart, then the heart like good soil begins to produce by itself various flowers: roses, the vision of incorporeal realities; lilies, the luminosity of corporeal realities; and violets, the many judgments of God, hard to understand.

~Ilias the Presbyter

December 16

The man engaged in ascetic practice cannot rise above ethical propriety, unless he goes beyond the natural law–as Abraham went forth from his own land–and beyond his own limited state of development–as Abraham left his kinsman (Genesis 12:1). In this way, as a mark of God’s approval, he will be liberated from the all-embracing hold of pleasure; for it is this veil of pleasure, wrapped around us from our birth, that prevents us from receiving complete freedom.

~Ilias the Presbyter

December 14

You must be governed by both ascetic practice and contemplation. Otherwise you will be like a ship voyaging without the right sails: either it risks being overturned by the violence of the winds because its sails are too large, or it fails to take advantage of the breeze because they are too small.

On account of his sufferings, the man engaged in ascetic practice wants to leave this life and to be with Christ; the contemplative, on the contrary, is quite content to remain in the flesh, both because of the joy that he receives from prayer, and because of the use that he can be to his fellow-men (Philippians 1:23-24).

~Ilias the Presbyter

December 5

When the ship of sinfulness is overwhelmed by the flood of tears, evil thoughts will react like people drowning in the waves and trying to grasp hold of something so as to keep afloat.

Thoughts gather about the soul according to its underlying quality: either they are like pirates and try to sink it, or they are like oarsmen and try to help it when it is in danger. The first tow it out into the open sea of sinful thoughts; the second steer it back to the nearest calm shore they can find.

~Ilias the Presbyter

December 4

The three most comprehensive virtues of the soul are prayer, silence and fasting. Thus you should refresh yourself with the contemplation of created realities when you relax from prayer; with conversation about the life of virtue when you relax from silence; and with such food as is permitted when you relax from fasting.

The paradise of dispassion hidden within us is an image of that in which the righteous will dwell. None the less, not all who fail to enter the first will be excluded from the second.

~Ilias the Presbyter


December 3

Until the intellect has seen God’s glory with ‘unveiled face’ (2 Corinthians 3:18), the soul cannot say from experience of that glory: ‘I shall exult in the Lord, I shall delight in His salvation (Psalm 35:9). For its heart is still shrouded in self-love, so that the world’s foundations–the inner essences of things–cannot be revealed to it. And it will not be free from this shroud until it has undergone both voluntary and involuntary sufferings.

~Ilias the Presbyter

December 1

There is nothing more fearful than the thought of death, or more wonderful than remembrance of God. For the first induces the grief that leads us to salvation, and the second bestows gladness. ‘I remembered God,’ says the prophet, ‘and I rejoiced’ (Psalm 77:3). And Sirach says: ‘Be mindful of your death and you will not sin’. You cannot possess the remembrance of God until you have experienced the astringency of the thought of death.

~Ilias the Presbyter

November 30

Spiritual work can exist even without bodily labor. Blessed, therefore, is the man who regards spiritual work as superior to physical work: through the first he makes up for any deficiency where the second is concerned, because he lives the hidden life of prayer that is manifest to God.

Strength to pray lies in the deliberate privation of food, and strength to go without food lies in not seeing or hearing about worldly things except when strictly necessary. He who is negligent in this fails to build his fasting on a firm foundation, and so he brings about the collapse of the whole edifice of prayer, which itself is based on fasting.

~Ilias the Presbyter