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

March 17

[Patient] endurance is like an unshakeable rock in the winds and waves of life. However the tempest batters him, the patient man remains steadfast and does not turn back; and when he finds relief and joy, he is not carried away by self-glory: he is always the same, whether things are hard or easy, and for this reason he is proof against the snares of the enemy.

When storms beset him, he endures them with joy, awaiting their end; and when the heavens smile on him, he expects temptation–until his last breath, as St Antony has said.

Such a person knows that nothing in life is unchangeable, and that all things pass. Thus he is not troubled or anxious about any of them, but leaves all things in the hands of God, for He has us in His care (1 Peter 5:7); and to Him belong all glory, honor and dominion throughout the ages. Amen.

~St Peter of Damaskos

March 13

The man seized by spiritual joy is astounded by the many blessings that God in his grace has bestowed on him, and he loves his Benefactor. But he who stubbornly indulges in luxury and splendor, like the rich man (Luke 16:19), thinks that those consumed by fear and facing trials and temptations suffer in this way because of their sins, and in his comfort and complacency he despises them. He imagines that he deserves his easy life, although in fact he does not deserve it at all; for, blinded by his inane love for the ephemeral, he has made himself unworthy of the life held in store.

~St Peter of Damaskos

March 10

…even the doing of what is good requires discrimination….for the good is not good unless its purpose is conformed to God’s will. On many occasions in divine Scripture God is grieved with someone who is doing something that appears to all to be good, and He looks favourably on someone who appears to be doing evil. A case in point is that of the prophet who asked someone to strike him; when the man refused he was eaten by a wild beast, although he had acted in a way that was ostensibly good (1 Kings 20:35-36).

St Peter, too, thought he was acting rightly when he refused to have his feet washed, but he was rebuked for this (John 13:8). Hence we should do all we can to discern the will of God and to do it, whether it corresponds to what we think good or not….in short, all that God arranges is admirable, beyond the grasp of intellect and thought.

~St Peter of Damaskos

March 8

When we make specific requests in our prayers, this is not so as to inform God, for He already knows our hearts; we make them so that we may be brought to contrition. We also do it because we desire to remain longer in His presence, attentively addressing yet more words to Him, giving thanks to Him, acknowledging the many blessings we have received from Him, for as long as we can, as St John Chrysostom says of the Prophet David….[it] is done out of longing and so that the word of divine Scripture should be imprinted in the intellect of whoever is reading or praying.

For God knows all things…we, however, have need of hearing things, so that we may know what we ask for and why we are praying, and may be filled with gratitude and cleave to God through our entreaties. It is through such repetition that we avoid being overcome by our enemies when we are troubled in thought, for then they will not find us unmindful of Him; and it is also through it that, helped by prayer and the study of divine Scripture, we may come to acquire the virtues about which the holy fathers have written in their various works, through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

~St Peter of Damaskos