February 9

“Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He will nourish you” (Psalm 55:22). The more they place their hope in the Lord with regard to all things that concern them, whether of soul or body, the more they will find that the Lord provides for them. In the end they will regard themselves as lower than all other creatures because of God’s many gifts, visible and invisible, bestowed on both soul and body. So great grows their debt that they cannot feel proud about anything because of their shame at God’s generosity. The more they give thanks to Him and try forcibly to exert themselves for the sake of His love, the more God draws near to them through His gifts and longs to fill them with peace, making them value stillness and voluntary poverty more than all the kingdoms of this earth, without even taking account of any reward in the world to come.

~St Peter of Damaskos

February 7

The person who searches for the meaning of the Scriptures will not put forward his own opinion, bad or good; but, as St Basil the Great and St John Chrysostom have said, he will take as his teacher, not the learning of this world, but Holy Scripture itself. Then if his heart is pure and God puts something unpremeditated into it, he will accept it, providing he can find confirmation for it in the Scriptures, as St Antony the Great says.

For St Isaac says that the thoughts that enter spontaneously and without premeditation into the intellects of those pursuing a life of stillness are to be accepted; but that to investigate and then to draw one’s own conclusions is an act of self-will and results in material knowledge.

~St Peter of Damaskos

February 4

In all this, and in what has been said above, one should keep a proper order, and one should work on whatever one understands. For what one cannot understand one should give silent thanks, as St Isaac says, but should not presumptuously assume that one has understood it. And St Isaac, borrowing his words from Sirach, also says: “When you find honey, eat moderately, lest by over-indulging you make yourself sick” (Proverbs 25:16). As St Gregory the Theologian says, ‘Uncontrolled contemplation may well push us over the edge, when we seek for what is beyond our strength and are unwilling to say, ‘God knows this; but who am I?’

~St Peter of Damaskos

February 3

The humble man censures and blames himself and no one else when he suffers affliction. Consequently, he patiently awaits for God to release him, and when this happens, he rejoices and gratefully endures whatever comes; and through his experience of these things he gains spiritual knowledge. Recognizing his own ignorance and weakness, he seeks diligently for the Physician and, seeking, he finds Him, as Christ himself has said (Matthew 7:8). Having found God, he longs for Him; and the more he longs, the more God longs for him. Then, purifying himself as much as he can, he struggles to make room in himself for the Beloved for whom he longs. And the Beloved for whom he longs, finding room for Himself in this man, takes up His abode there, as the Gerontikon says. Dwelling there, He protects His home, and fills it with light. And the person thus filled with light knows and, knowing, he is known, as St John of Damaskos says.

~St Peter of Damaskos

February 2

If a person’s purpose is fixed in God with all humility and he patiently endures the trials that come upon him, God will resolve for him any question that perplexes him and perhaps even leads him into delusion. Then, greatly ashamed but full of joy, he turns back, seeking the path of the fathers….

The signs that he has done this are tears, contrition of soul before God, flight into stillness and patient recourse to God, a diligent enquiry into the Scriptures and a desire, based on faith, to accomplish God’s purpose. When, on the other hand, a person lacks patience and humility, the signs of this are doubt with regard to God’s help, being ashamed to ask questions humbly, avoidance of stillness and the reading of Scripture, a love of distraction and of human company, with the idea–entirely misguided–that one will attain a state of repose in this way. On the contrary, it is now that the passions find an opportunity to put down roots, and that trials and temptations grow stronger, while one’s own pusillanimity, ingratitude and listlessness wax because of one’s abounding ignorance.

~St Peter of Damaskos

February 1

As St John Chrysostom says, “In order to prevent the human intellect from thinking that it is God, God has subjected it to ignorance and forgetfulness, so that in this way it may acquire humility.” He also says that the Creator willed that there should be a separation in this natural intermixture of soul and body. The deiform soul, as St John Klimakos says, either ascends upward to heaven, or goes downward to Hades, while the earthly body returns to the earth from which it was taken. But through the grace of our Saviour Jesus Christ these two separated elements are once more joined together at His second coming, so that each of us may receive the due reward for his works.

Who can grasp but an inkling of this mystery without being astonished? God raises man again from the earth after he has committed so many terrible crimes, despising the divine commandments, and He bestows on man the same immortality that he possessed originally, even though man has disobeyed the commandment which preserves him from death and corruption, and in his arrogance has drawn death upon himself.

~St Peter of Damaskos

 

January 30

We should look on man with wonder, conscious that his intellect, being infinite, is the image of the invisible God; and that even if it is for a time limited by the body, as St Basil says, it can embrace all form, just as God’s providence embraces the whole universe. For the intellect has the ability to transform itself into everything, and is dyed with the form of the object it apprehends. But when it is taken up into God, who is formless and imageless, it becomes formless and imageless itself. Then we should marvel at how the intellect can preserve any thought or idea, and how an earlier thought need not be modified by later thoughts, or a later thought injured by earlier ones. On the contrary, the mind like a treasure-house tirelessly stores all thoughts. And these thoughts, whether new or long held in store, the intellect when it wishes can express in language; yet although words are always coming from it, it is never exhausted.

~St Peter of Damaskos

January 28

Vanity of vanities; all is vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2). St John of Damaskos says the same thing: ‘All human affairs, all that does not exist after death, are vanity. Riches vanish, glory leaves us. When death comes, all such things disappear.’ And again, ‘Truly all things are vanity; life is but a shadow and a dream, and every man born of the earth troubles himself in vain, as the Scriptures say (Psalm 39:6).’

‘By the time we have gained the whole world we shall be in the grave, where king and pauper are one.’

~St Peter of Damaskos

January 27

What is the point in amassing riches? Despite his unwillingness, the seeming possessor will have to surrender them, not just at the moment of his death, but often before this, with much shame, tribulation and pain. Wealth breeds innumerable trials–fear, anxiety, constant worry and troubles sought and unsought–and yet many have endured even death for its sake. But God’s holy commandment saves every man from all this and gives him complete freedom from anxiety and fear; often, indeed, it confers inexpressible delight on those who deliberately choose to rid themselves of possessions.

For what brings more delight than to achieve dispassion, and no longer to be under the sway of anger or the desire for worldly things? Regarding as nothing the things that most people value and rising above them, we live as in paradise, or rather as in heaven, set free from all constraints through our untroubled devotion to God.

~St Peter of Damaskos

January 26

We must make Christ our primary goal; for on those who choose Him He confers the kingdom of heaven. This means that in this present life we must rise spiritually above all things, subjecting them all to Him. We must rule not only over external things but also over the body, through our non-attachment to it, and over death, through the courage of our faith; then in the life to come we shall reign in our bodies eternally with Christ through the grace of the general resurrection. Death comes both to the righteous and to the sinner, but there is a great difference. As mortals both die, and there is nothing extraordinary in that. But the one dies without reward and possibly condemned; the other is blessed in this world and in the next.

The commandments of the Lord are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). Yet, abject as we are, we do not carry them out with any eagerness unless we are rewarded for it.

~St Peter of Damaskos