January 17

Woe is me, a sinner! What has happened to me? Alas, what was I and what have I become! What have I lost, what found? Instead of paradise, this perishable world. Instead of God, and life in the company of angels, the devil and the demons of impurity. In the place of rest, hard labor; in the place of gladness and joy, the sorrows and tribulations of this world; instead of peace and endless felicity, fear and tears of sorrow. In the place of virtue and justice, injustice and sin. Instead of goodness and dispassion, evil and passion; instead of wisdom and intimacy with God, ignorance and exile; instead of detachment and freedom, a life full of worries and the worst kind of slavery….

“Forsake me not, O Lord my God, be not far from me; make haste to help me, O Lord of my salvation.” (Psalm 38:21-22)

~St Peter of Damaskos

January 15

Stillness alone engenders knowledge of God, for it is of the greatest help even to the weakest and to those most subject to the passions. It enables them to live without distraction and to withdraw from human society, from the cares and encounters that darken the intellect. I mean not simply worldly cares but also those that appear insignificant and sinless. As St John Klimakos says, ‘A small hair will irritate the eye.’ And St Isaac says, ‘Do not think that avarice consists simply in the possession of silver or gold; it is present whenever our thought is attached to something.’

~St Peter of Damakos

January 13

Let us then, like those living in the world, devote at least a small part of the day and night to God; and let us consider what we are going to say in our defense before our righteous Judge on the terrible day of judgment. Let us trouble over this, for it is essential in view of the threat of agelong punishment; and let us not be troubled about how we shall live if we are poor or how we can grow rich so as to give alms, thus stupidly devoting all our attention to worldly matters. We have to work, St John Chrysostom says; but we need not concern or trouble ourselves about many things, as our Lord told Martha (Luke 10:41). For concern with this life prevents that concern with one’s own soul and its state which is the purpose of the man who devotes himself to God and is attentive to himself. It is said in the Law, “Be attentive to yourself” (Deuteronomy 15:9). St Basil the Great has written about this text with marvelous wisdom.

~St Peter of Damaskos

January 12

Yet it is impossible to discover the will of God unless we keep the commandments, thereby cutting off all pleasure and personal will, and unless we endure all the pain that this involves. As has been said, pleasure and pain are born of folly, and they give rise to all evil. For the foolish man loves himself and cannot love his brother or God; he can neither refrain from pleasure or from the desires that give him satisfaction, nor can he endure pain. Sometimes he gets what he wants, and then he is filled with pleasure and elation; sometimes he does not get it and, completely dominated by the pain which this engenders, he is cast down and dejected, experiencing a foretaste of hell.

~St Peter of Damaskos

January 8

Stillness, which is the basis of the soul’s purification, makes the observance of the commandments relatively painless. “Flee”, it has been said,”keep silence, be still, for herein lie the roots of sinlessness”. Again it has been said: ‘Flee men and you will be saved.’ For human society does not permit the intellect to perceive either its own faults or the wiles of the demons, so as to guard itself against them. Nor, on the other hand, does it allow the intellect to perceive God’s providence and bounty, so as to acquire in this way knowledge of God and humility.

~St Peter of Damaskos

January 4

Briefly, we may say that in the nature of things, if someone wants to be saved, no person and no time, place or occupation can prevent him. He must not, however, act contrary to the objective that he has in view, but must with discrimination refer every thought to the divine purpose.

Things do not happen out of necessity: they depend upon the person through whom they happen. We do not sin against our will, but we first assent to an evil thought and so fall into captivity. Then the thought itself carries the captive forcibly and against his wishes into sin. The same is true of sins that occur through ignorance: they arise from sins consciously committed. For unless a man is drunk with either wine or desire, he is not unaware of what he is doing; but such drunkenness obscures the intellect and so it falls and dies as a result.

Yet that death has not come about inexplicably: it has been unwittingly induced by the drunkenness to which we consciously assented. We will find many instances, especially in our thoughts, where we fall from what is within our control to what is outside it, and from what we are consciously aware of to what is unwitting. But because the first appears unimportant and attractive, we slip unintentionally and unawares into the second. Yet if from the start we had wanted to keep the commandments and to remain as we were when baptized, we would not have fallen into so many sins or have needed the trials and tribulations of repentance.

~St Peter of Damaskos

January 2

Man stands at the crossroads between righteousness and sin, and chooses whichever path he wishes. But after that, the path which he has chosen to follow, and the guides assigned to it, whether angels and saints or demons and sinners, will lead him to the end of it, even if he has no wish to go there. The good guides lead him toward God and the kingdom of heaven, the evil guides toward the devil and agelong punishment. But nothing and no one is to blame for his destruction except his own free will. For God is the God of salvation, bestowing on us, along with being and well-being, the knowledge and strength that we cannot have without the grace of God. Not even the devil can destroy a man, compelling him to choose wrongly, or reducing him to impotence or enforced ignorance, or anything else: he can only suggest evil to him.

~St Peter of Damaskos

January 1

We do not all receive blessings in the same way. Some, on receiving the fire of the Lord, that is, His word, put it into practice and so become softer of heart, like wax, while others through laziness become harder than clay and altogether stone-like. And no one compels us to receive these blessings in different ways. It is as with the sun whose rays illumine all the world: the person who wants to see it can do so, while the person who does not want to see it is not forced to, so that he alone is to blame for his light-less condition. For God made both the sun and man’s eyes, but how man uses them depends on himself. Similarly, then, God irradiates knowledge to all and at the same time He gives us faith as an eye through which we can perceive it.

~St Peter of Damaskos

December 31

This is the beginning of our salvation; by our free choice we abandon our own wishes and thoughts and do what God wishes and thinks. If we succeed in doing this, there is no object, no activity or place in the whole of creation that can prevent us from becoming what God from the beginning has wished us to be: that is to say, according to His image and likeness, gods by adoption through grace, dispassionate, just, good and wise, whether we are rich or poor, married or unmarried, in authority and free or under obedience and in bondage–in short, whatever our time, place or activity. That is why, alike before the Law, under the Law and under grace, there have been many righteous men–men who preferred the knowledge of God and His will to their own thoughts and wishes. Yet there were also many who have perished in these same times and in the same circumstances, because they preferred their own thoughts and wishes to those of God.

~St Peter of Damaskos