April 12

If someone seeks for success and pleasure, comfort and glory in this world, then he loves the wisdom of this world. But if someone struggles for what is contrary to these things–if he suffers, practices self-control, and endures all kinds of affliction and disgrace for the sake of the kingdom of heaven–then he loves the wisdom of God. The first longs to attain material benefits, secular learning and secular power, and often suffers on this account; but the second shares the sufferings of Christ. Thus the first places all his hopes in the things of this world, desiring to possess them even though they are transitory and hard to come by; while the second is hidden from ‘the eyes of the foolish’, as Holy Scripture puts it, but is clearly revealed in the world to come, when everything hidden is disclosed.

…the intention of divine Scripture is to speak of things that can save the soul, and to reveal to us the mysteries it contains in itself, as well as the inner principles of created beings, that is, the purpose for which each thing was created. In this way it aims to illumine our intellect with the love of God, and to enable it to perceive His greatness and His inexpressible wisdom and providence, as they are revealed in His care for His creation. Such knowledge makes us afraid of breaking His commandments and conscious of our own weakness and ignorance. This in its turn makes us humble and teaches us to love God and not to despise His commandments, as do those who lack effective knowledge of Him.

…the aim of the teachers of secular wisdom is different, for each is eager to defeat the other and to appear wiser; hence they do not discover Christ, nor do those who emulate them, in spite of all their efforts. For, as St John Klimakos says, God reveals Himself, not in response to our exertions, but in response to the humility and simplicity that come through faith, that is, through the contemplation of the Scriptures and of created beings. On this account the Lord said, ‘How can you have faith when you receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?’ (John 5:44). This is that great faith which makes it possible for us to put all our cares into the hands of God. The apostle calls it the foundation (Hebrews 6:1), St John Klimakos, the mother of stillness, and St Isaac, the faith of contemplation and the gateway of the mysteries. He who possesses this faith is completely free from worry and anxiety, as were all the saints.

~St Peter of Damaskos

April 4

‘Rejoice in the Lord’, said St Paul (Philippians 3:1). And he was right to say, ‘in the Lord’. For if our joy is not in the Lord, not only do we not rejoice, but in all probability we never shall. Job, as he described the life of men, found it full of every kind of affliction (Job 7:1-21), and so also did St Basil the Great. St Gregory of Nyssa said that birds and other animals rejoice because of their lack of awareness, while man, being endowed with intelligence, is never happy because of his grief….since life is full of pain and effort, like a state of exile dominated by sin.

But if a person is constantly mindful of God, he will rejoice: as the psalmist says, ‘I remembered God, and I rejoiced’ (Psalm 77:3). For when the intellect is gladdened by the remembrance of God, then it forgets the afflictions of this world, places its hope in Him, and is no longer troubled or anxious. Freedom from anxiety makes it rejoice and give thanks; and the grateful offering of thanks augments the gifts of grace it has received. And as the blessings increase, so does the thankfulness, and so does the pure prayer offered with tears of joy.

~St Peter of Damaskos

April 3

…each of us faithful is attacked and led astray by the passions; but if he is at peace with God and with his neighbor he overcomes them all. These passions are the ‘world’ which St John the Theologian told us to hate (1 John2:15), meaning that we are to hate, not God’s creatures, but worldly desires. The soul is at peace with God when it is at peace with itself and has become wholly deiform. It is also at peace with God when it is at peace with all men, even if it suffers terrible things at their hands.

Because of its forbearance it is not perturbed, but bears all things (1 Corinthians 13:7), wishes good to all, loves all, both for God’s sake and for the sake of their own nature. It grieves for unbelievers because they are destroying themselves, as our Lord and the apostles grieved for them.

It prays for the faithful and labors on their behalf, and in this way its own thoughts are filled with peace and it lives in a state of noetic contemplation and pure prayer to God. To Him be glory through all the ages. Amen.

~St Peter of Damaskos

March 31

How can anything be accomplished without moral judgment? It is born of the intelligence and constitutes the mean between craftiness–that is, excessive astuteness–and thoughtlessness. Craftiness pulls moral judgment towards cunning and guile, and injures the soul of the possessor and as many other people as it can; lack of thought makes one obtuse and trivial, and does not allow the intellect to concentrate on divine matters or on something of profit to one’s soul or to one’s neighbor….

The man of moral judgment…neither climbs arrogantly upward seeking to harm others, nor descends foolishly only to be harmed by someone else. Choosing the middle way, he keeps to this with the help of Christ our Lord; to whom be glory and dominion throughout the ages, Amen.

~St Peter of Damaskos

March 29

To speak of love is to dare to speak of God; for, according to St John the Theologian, ‘God is love; and he who dwells in love dwells in God’ (1 John 4:16)….’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might’ (Deuteronomy 6:5)….’with all your soul’ means with the intelligent, incensive and desiring powers of the soul, because it is of these three powers that the soul is composed. Thus the intellect should think at all times about divine matters, while the desire should long constantly and entirely, as the Law says, for God alone and never for anything else; and the incensive power should actively oppose only what obstructs this longing, and nothing else….

~St Peter of Damaskos

March 28

The Lord Himself said that the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of the kingdom of heaven (Luke 16:8). And He was quite right: for the children of this world long to make good and to grow rich, to be clever and to win praise, to gain power and so on; and even though they are likely to fail in their aspirations and their effort will prove vain, they still exert more than human strength to attain these things.

But the children of the kingdom aspire to things that are completely different, and because of this they often receive in this world a foretaste of the blessings held in store. Like the children of this world they exert themselves, but they do this so that by grace their intellect may be liberated and may thereby become unforgettingly mindful of God. In this way it comes to know the divine thoughts to which the Holy Scriptures and those with experience in spiritual knowledge bear witness; or else in its perplexity it realizes that in spite of its great knowledge it is still ignorant of them.

~St Peter of Damaskos


March 27

St John Chrysostom says that it is a great blessing from God that some parts of the Scriptures are clear while others are not. By means of the first we acquire faith and ardor and do not fall into disbelief and laziness because of our utter inability to grasp what is said. By means of the second we are roused to inquiry and effort, thus both strengthening our understanding and learning humility from the fact that everything is not intelligible to us.

Hence, if we take stock of the gifts conferred on us, we will reap humility and longing for God from both what we understand and what we do not.

~St Peter of Damaskos

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 21

[Solomon] himself describes how God has sent subtle temptations to the sons of men, so that they might be distracted by vain things (Ecclesiastes 1:13) and thus prevented from turning towards what is even worse. All this is clear from the very nature of things. For if, when there are thousands of distractions, some still find opportunity to commit sins, how much more would this be the case if our lives were without distractions?

In such circumstances, it is better for us to be superficially distracted, and so prevented from devoting ourselves to holy things and holy thoughts, rather than for us to do many other things which are in fact worse.

~St Peter of Damaskos

March 18

The Lord said: ‘He who endures patiently to the end will be saved’ (Matthew 10:22). Patient endurance is the consolidation of all the virtues, because without it not one of them can subsist. For whoever turns back is not ‘fit for the kingdom of heaven’ (Luke 9:62)….Patient endurance kills the despair that kills the soul; it teaches the soul to take comfort and not to grow listless in the face of its many battles and afflictions….

He, then, who knows what is to his benefit should struggle to acquire this virtue before anything else, according to St Basil the Great. St Basil advises us not to fight against all the passions at once, since if we are unsuccessful we might turn back and no longer be fit for the kingdom of heaven. Rather we should fight the passions one at a time, and start by patiently enduring whatever befalls us. This is right; for the person who lacks patient endurance will never be able to stand fast.

…in spiritual warfare it is impossible to find a place anywhere in creation in which a battle is not being waged. In the desert there are wild beasts and demons and other malefic and terrifying things; in places of solitude and stillness there are demons, trials and temptations; in the midst of human company there are demons and men who try one and tempt one. There is no place anywhere where one is unmolested; and, because of this, without patient endurance it is impossible to find peace.

~St Peter of Damaskos