If you do not cut off the inner flow of evil thoughts by means of prayer and humility, but fight against them merely with the weapons of fasting and bodily hardship, you will labor in vain. But if through prayer and humility you sanctify the root, as we said, you will attain outward sanctity as well. This it seems to me is what St Paul counsels when he exhorts us to gird our loins with truth (cf. Ephesians 6:14).
One of the fathers has excellently interpreted this as signifying that when the contemplative faculty of the soul tightly girds the appetitive faculty it also girds the passions manifested through the loins and genitals. The body, nevertheless, is in need of hardship and moderate abstention from food, lest it become unruly and more powerful than the intelligence. Thus all the passions of the flesh are healed solely by bodily hardship and prayer issuing from a humble heart, which indeed is the poverty in spirit that the Lord called blessed.
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.310)
This same thing happens to those who practice virtue in order to be praised by others. While they are called to be citizens of heaven, they “degrade their glory to the dust” (Psalm 7:5), and make their dwelling there, thus drawing upon themselves the curse of the Psalmist. For their prayer does not rise to heaven, and their every endeavor falls to earth, since it is not supported by the wings of divine love that raise aloft the works we do upon the earth….
This passion is the subtlest of all the passions, and for this reason the person who fights against it must not merely be on guard against coupling with it or avoid assenting to it, but he must regard the very provocation as assent and must shield himself from it….
Yet even before this the passion for popularity brings such injury upon those it masters that it shipwrecks faith itself (cf. 1 Timothy 1:19). Our Lord confirms this when He says, “How can you have faith in Me when you receive honor from one another and do not seek for the honor that comes from the only God?” (cf. John 5:44).
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.308)
It is disbelief in God’s providence that makes it difficult for us to eradicate the passions that arise from our love of possessions, for such disbelief leads us to put our trust in material riches. “It is easier”, said the Lord, “for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). But if we trust in material riches, this means nothing to us; we long for worldly, perishable wealth, not for a kingdom that is heavenly and eternal.
And even when we fail to acquire that wealth, the mere desire for it is extremely pernicious….Yet when wealth comes, it proves itself to be nothing, since its possessors, unless they are brought to their senses by experience, still thirst after it as though they lacked it. This love that is no love does not come from need; rather the need arises from the love. The love itself arises from folly, the same folly that led Christ, the Master of all, justly to describe as foolish the man who pulled down his barns and built greater ones (cf. Luke 12:18-20).
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.305)
…the Lord blesses the opposite of what the world calls blessed, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens” (Matthew 5:3). In saying “Blessed are the poor”, why did He add “in spirit”? So as to show that He blesses and commends humility of soul. And why did He not say, “Blessed are those whose spirit is poor”, thus indicating the modesty of their manner of thinking, but “Blessed are the poor in spirit”? So as to teach us that poverty of body is also blessed and fosters the kingdom of heaven, but only when it is accomplished in accordance with the soul’s humility, when it is united to it and originates from it. By calling the poor in spirit blessed He wonderfully demonstrated what is the root, as it were, and mainspring of the outward poverty of the saints, namely, their humility of spirit. For from our spirit, once it has embraced the grace of the gospel teaching, flows a wellspring of poverty that ‘waters the whole face of the ground’ (cf. Genesis 2:6), I mean our outward self, transforming us into a paradise of virtues. Such, then, is the poverty that is called blessed by God.
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.303)
The Father, therefore, through the Son reconciles us to Himself, not taking into account our offenses (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19); and He calls us, not in so far as we are engaged in unseemly works, but in so far as we are idle; although idleness is also a sin, since we shall give an account even for an idle word (cf. Matthew 12:36). But, as I said, God overlooks former sins and calls us again and again. And what does He call us to do? To work in the vineyard, that is, to work on behalf of the branches, on behalf of ourselves. And afterwards–O the incomparable grandeur of His compassion!–He promises and gives us a reward for toiling on our own behalf. “Come”, He says,”receive eternal life, which I bestow abundantly; and as though in your debt I reward you in full for the labor of your journey and even for your very desire to receive eternal life from Me.”
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, pp.299-300)
If, then, the time of this life is time for repentance, the very fact that a sinner still lives is a pledge that God will accept whoever desires to return to Him. Free will is always part and parcel of this present life. And it lies within the power of free will to choose or to reject the road of life or the road of death that we have described above; for it can pursue whichever it wishes.
Where, then, are the grounds for despair, since all of us can at all times lay hold of eternal life whenever we want to? Do you not perceive the grandeur of God’s compassion? When we are disobedient He does not immediately condemn us, but He is longsuffering and allows us time for conversion. Throughout this period of longsuffering He gives us power to gain divine sonship if we so wish. Yet why do I say ‘gain sonship’? He gives us power to be united with Him and to become one spirit with Him (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:17).
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p. 299)
Where did true death–the death that produces and induces in soul and body both temporal and eternal death–have its origin? Was it not in the realm of life? Thus was man, alas, at once banished from God’s paradise, for he had imbued his life with death and made it unfit for paradise.
Consequently true life–the life that confers immortality and true life on both soul and body–will have its origin here, in this place of death. If you do not strive here to gain this life in your soul, do not deceive yourself with vain hopes about receiving it hereafter, or about God then being compassionate towards you….
Woe to him who hereafter experiences the Lord’s wrath, who has not acquired in this life the fear of God and so come to know the might of His anger, who has not through his actions gained a foretaste of God’s compassion!
For the time to do all this is the present life. That is the reason why God has accorded us this present life, giving us a place for repentance. Were this not the case a person who sinned would at once be deprived of this life. For otherwise of what use would it be to him?
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, pp. 298-299)