December 30

Listlessness–a most difficult passion to overcome–makes the body sluggish. And when the body is sluggish, the soul also grows sluggish. When both have become thoroughly lax, self-indulgence induces a change in the body’s temperament. Self-indulgence incites the appetite, appetite gives rise to pernicious desire, desire to the spirit of revolt, revolt to dormant recollections, recollection to imaginings, imagining to mental provocation, provocation to coupling with the thought provoked, and coupling to assent. Such assent to a diabolic provocation leads to actual sinning, either through the body or in various other ways. Thus we are defeated and thus we lapse.

~St Gregory of Sinai

December 29

According to St Maximos the Confessor there are three motives for writing which are above reproach and censure: to assist one’s memory, to help others, or an an act of obedience. It is for the last reason that most spiritual writings have been composed, at the humble request of those who have need of them. If you write about spiritual matters simply for pleasure, fame or self-display, you will get your desserts, as Scripture says (cf. Matthew 6:5,16), and will not profit from it in this life or gain any reward in the life to come. On the contrary, you will be condemned for courting popularity and for fraudulently trafficking in God’s wisdom.

~St Gregory of Sinai

December 27

There are three degrees of eating: self-control, sufficiency and satiety. Self-control is to be hungry after having eaten. Sufficiency is to be neither hungry nor weighed down. Satiety is to be slightly weighed down. To eat again after reaching the point of satiety is to open the door of gluttony, through which unchastity comes in. Attentive to these distinctions, choose what is best for you according to your powers, not overstepping the limits. For according to St Paul only the perfect can be both hungry and full, and at the same time be strong in all things (cf. Philippians 4:12).

~St Gregory of Sinai

December 25

The main cause of warfare–arising in us through every kind of object or situation–are three: our inner disposition, the misuse of created things and, by God’s leave, the malice and onslaught of the demons. As the fallen self rises in protest against the soul, and the soul against the fallen self (cf. Galatians 5:17), so in the same way our inner disposition and our mode of acting make the passions of the fallen self war against the soul, and the valiant powers of the soul wage war against the fallen self.

And sometimes our enemy, shameless as he is, has the audacity to fight against us in his own person, without cause or warnings. Thus, my friend, do not let this blood-loving leech bleed your arteries, and then spit out the blood he has sucked from you. Do not glut the snake and the dragon, and then you will easily trample on the insolence of the lion and the dragon (cf. Psalm 91:13). Lament until you have stripped off the passions and clothed yourself in your heavenly dwelling-place (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:2), and are refashioned according to the likeness of Jesus Christ, who made you in His image (cf. Colossians 3:10).

~St Gregory of Sinai

December 23

There are many other forms of spiritual work, yet not one in itself is all-sufficient; but prayer of the heart, according to St John Klimakos, is pre-eminent and all-embracing, the source of the virtues and catalyst of all goodness. “There is nothing more fearful than the thought of death,” says St Maximos, “or more wonderful than mindfulness of God,” indicating the supremacy of this activity.

But some do not even wish to know that we can attain a state of active grace in this present life, so blinded and weak in faith are they because of their ignorance and obduracy.

~St Gregory of Sinai

December 22

…let our aim be to make the energy of prayer alone active in our hearts, for it brings warmth and joy to the intellect, and sets the heart alight with an ineffable love for God and man. It is on account of this that humility and contrition flow richly from prayer. For prayer in beginners is the unceasing noetic activity of the Holy Spirit. To start with it rises like a fire of joy from the heart; in the end it is like light made fragrant by divine energy.

~St Gregory of Sinai

December 21

“We are the body of Christ,” says St Paul, “and each of us is one of its members” (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:27). And elsewhere he says, ” You are one body and one spirit, even as you have been called” (Ephesians 4:4). For “as the body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26) and insensate, so if you have been deadened by the passions through neglecting the commandments after your baptism the Holy Spirit and the grace of Christ cease to operate in you and to enlighten you; for though you possess the Spirit, since you have faith and have been regenerated through baptism, yet the Spirit is quiescent and inactive within you because of the deadness of your soul.

Although the soul is one and the members of the body are many, the soul sustains them all, giving life and movement to those that can be animated. Should some of them have withered because of some disease and become as if dead and inert, yet they are still sustained by the soul, even in their lifeless and insensate state.

Similarly, the Spirit of Christ is present with integral wholeness in all who are members of Christ, activating and generating life in all capable of participating in it; and in His compassion He still sustains even those who through some weakness do not actively participate in the life of the Spirit. In this way each of the faithful participates, by virtue of his faith, in adoption to sonship through the Spirit; but should he grow negligent and fail to sustain his faith he will become inert and benighted, deprived of Christ’s life and light. Such is the state of each of the faithful who, though a member of Christ and possessing the Spirit of Christ, fails to activate this Spirit within himself and so is stagnant, incapable of participating positively in the life of grace.

~St Gregory of Sinai.

 

December 20

Those who write and speak and who wish to build up the Church, while lacking the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are ‘psychic’ or worldly people void of the Spirit, as St Jude observes (cf. Jude 19). Such people come under the curse which says, “Woe to those who are wise in their own sight, and esteem themselves as possessors of knowledge” (Isaiah 5:21); for they speak from themselves and it is not the Spirit of God that speaks in them (cf. Matthew 10:20). For those who speak what are simply their own thoughts before they have attained purity are deluded by the spirit of self-conceit. It is to them that Solomon refers when he says, “I knew a man who regarded himself as wise; there is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 26:12 LXX); and again, “Do not be wise in you own sight” (Proverbs 3:7).

St Paul himself endorses this when he says, “We are not qualified to form any judgment on our own account; our qualification comes from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5), and, “As men sent from God, we speak before God in the grace of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:17).

What people say when they speak on their own account is repellent and murksome, for their words do not come from the living spring of the Spirit, but are spawned from the morass of their own heart, a bog infested with the leeches, snakes and frogs of desire, delusion and dissipation; the water of their knowledge is evil-smelling, turbid and torpid, sickening to those who drink it and filling them with nausea and disgust.

~St Gregory of Sinai

December 19

We are led and guided towards God-given humility by seven different qualities, each of which generates and complements the others: silence, humbleness in thought, in speech, in appearance, self-reproach, contrition and looking on oneself as the least of men. Silence consciously espoused gives birth to humbleness in thought. Humbleness in thought produces three further modes of humility, namely, humbleness in speech, bearing oneself in a simple and humble way, and constant self-belittlement.

These three modes give birth to contrition; this arises within us when God allows us to suffer temptations–when, that is, we are disciplined by providence and humbled by the demons. Contrition readily induces the soul to feel the lowest and least of all, and the servant of all. Contrition and looking on oneself as the least of all bring about the perfect humility that is the gift of God, a power rightly regarded as the perfection of all the virtues. It is a state in which one ascribes all one’s achievements to God.

Thus the first factor leading to humility is silence, from which humbleness of thought is born. This gives birth to the three further modes of humility. These three generate the single quality of contrition. The quality of contrition gives birth to the seventh mode, the primal humility of regarding oneself as the least of men, which is also called providential humility. Providential humility confers the true and God-given humility that is perfect and indescribable.

Primal humility comes thus: when you are abandoned, overcome, enslaved and dominated by every passion, distractive thought and evil spirit, and can find no help in doing good works, or in God, or in anything at all, so that you are ready to fall into despair, then you are humbled in everything, are filled with contrition and regard yourself as the least of all things, the slave of all, and worse even than the demons, since you are dominated and vanquished by them. This is providential humility. Once acquired, through it God bestows the ultimate humility. This is a divine power that activates and accomplishes all things. With its aid a man always sees himself as an instrument of divine power, and through it he accomplishes the miraculous works of God.

~St Gregory of Sinai

December 17

Faith, like active prayer, is a grace. For prayer, when activated by love through the power of the Spirit, renders true faith manifest–the faith that reveals the life of Jesus. If, then, you are aware that such faith is not at work within you, that means your faith is dead and lifeless. In fact you should not even speak of yourself as one of the ‘faithful’ if your faith is merely theoretical and is not actualized by the practice of the commandments or by the Spirit. Thus faith must be evidenced by progress in keeping the commandments, or it must be actualized and translucent in what we do. This is confirmed by St James when he says, “Show me your faith through your works and I will show you the works that I do through my faith” (cf. James 2:18).

In saying this he makes it clear that grace-inspired faith is evidenced by the keeping of the commandments, just as the commandments are actualized and made translucent by grace-inspired faith. Faith is the root of the commandments or, rather, it is the spring that feeds their growth. It has two aspects–that of confession and that of grace–though it is essentially one and indivisible.

~St Gregory of Sinai