March 6

Finally, after long labors and exertions, The Christian principles appear victorious, reigning without opposition; they penetrate the whole composition of human nature, dislodging from it, demands and inclinations hostile to themselves, and place it in a state of passionlessness and purity, making it worthy of the blessedness of the pure in heart–to see God in themselves, in sincerest communion with Him.

Such is the place in us of the Christian life. This life has three stages which may be called: 1. turning to God; 2. purification or self-amendment; 2. sanctification.

In the first stage a man turns from darkness to light, from the domain of Satan to God; in the second, he cleanses the chamber of his heart from every impurity, in order to receive Christ the Lord Who is coming to him; in the third, the Lord comes, takes up His abode in his heart, and communes with him. This is the state of blessed communion with God–the goal of all labors and ascetic endeavors.

~St Theophan the Recluse

March 5

The sowing and development of the Christian life are different in essence from the sowing and development of natural life, owing to the special character of the Christian life and its relation to our nature.

A man is not born a Christian…[and] since the natural man is injured and opposed by the demand of Christianity…the beginning of a true Christian life in a man is a kind of re-creation…this seed of life (this resolution) is not surrounded in a man by elements favorable to him, and besides this the whole man, his body and soul, remain unadapted to the new life, unsubmissive to the yoke of Christ.

Therefore from this moment begins in a man a labor of sweat–to educate his whole self, all his faculties, according to the Christian standard…in a Christian it is a battle with oneself involving much labor, intense and sorrowful, and he must dispose his faculties for something for which they have no inclination: like a soldier, he must take every step of land…from his enemies by means of warfare…of forcing himself and opposing himself.

~St Theophan the Recluse

March 4

True, one may know man’s final goal: communion with God; and one may describe the path to it: faith, and walking in the commandments, with the aid of Divine grace. One need only say in addition: here is the path–start walking! This is easily said; but how to do it?

For the most part the very desire to walk is lacking. The soul, attracted by some passion or other, stubbornly repulses every compelling force and every call; the eyes turn away from God and do not want to look at Him. The law of Christ is not to one’s liking; there is no disposition even to listen to it….

But suppose someone has turned toward God, suppose he has come to love His law…will [we] be successful merely because we desire it to be? No. Besides the desire one must also have the strength and knowledge to act…he who begins with the aid of grace to strive toward God on the path of Christ’s law, will inevitably be threatened by the danger of losing his way at the crossroads…of imagining himself saved. These crossroads are unavoidable because of the sinful inclination and disorder of one’s faculties, which are capable of presenting things in a false light–to deceive and destroy a man….

These general considerations which are unavoidable to all on the path of salvation render indispensable certain guiding rules of the Christian life by which it should be determined: how to attain to the saving desire for communion with God and the zeal to remain in it, and how to reach God without misfortune amidst all the crossroads…in other words, how to begin to live the Christian life and how, having begun, to perfect oneself in it.

~St Theophan the Recluse



March 3

You, of course, know how the spiritual life goes. When someone yields to passions then he doesn’t see them in himself, and he doesn’t restrain himself from them because he lives in them and with them. But when the grace of God moves him, he becomes aware of his passions and his sins, confesses them, repents, and makes the decision to abstain from them. The struggle begins.

At first a person wages war against deeds, but when he rids himself of these he starts the struggle against bad thoughts and feelings….although he doesn’t commit them any more, his soul still thinks of them with enjoyment….the attention which he pays to himself continuously reveals to him the whole tangled web of sinful thoughts which swarm in him. Discovering this disorder, he begins to drive away bad thoughts and to suppress passions. He learns to discern which thought is passionate, as well as how it begins, steals up, attracts and captivates the soul.

At the same time, he learns how to vanquish it, drive it away and extinguish it. The struggle continues–more and more passions get forced out of the heart….Forced out!

~St Theophan the Recluse


March 2

It is true that the world’s charms are close to you, but that does not mean that you should be captivated by them. When a temptation comes, must you necessarily succumb? When you meet an enemy, must you surrender to him just because you have met him? It is the same with you: Let the world display its charms before you; you should see in them only a reason for repulsing it, for fighting and overcoming, not for being captivated by it….

Every time you come across a temptation, overcome it; don’t indulge yourselves and succumb, and soon you will become experienced…how does a warrior acquire skill? By often engaging his enemies.

~St Theophan the Recluse


March 1

All distress begins from thoughts. Thoughts begin to wander; they arouse suspicion, mistrust, and condemnation, slacken the work, and produce discord and disobedience. Therefore one must keep watch and not allow them to wander at their own will. Those who control their thoughts have everything in order. The ascetic practice of keeping thoughts under control is called mental vigilance.

One cannot live without thinking, because the mind is given to us for this purpose. But we may have good, bad or idle thoughts. Keeping vigilance over our mind consists in casting away bad or idle thoughts and keeping only the good ones which are in accord with the will of God and His holy commandments, and doing this in every action or situation which may occur.

The measure of good thoughts is the word of God. In every case, keep your thoughts in accordance with Holy Scripture. If you do so, you will have order in your mind; and if your mind is in order, so will be your actions, and you will have harmony among yourselves.

~St Theophan the Recluse

February 28

Accustom yourself to the labor of prayer, drawing near to the House of God….prayer is the proof of accomplishment and the means of progress. The more intensive is your prayer, the more pure is your soul. A flaming prayerful spirit is the result of its communion with God, Who is Himself fire and kindles the spirit of everyone who comes in contact with Him…..

go from praying both day and night while standing or kneeling, to staying with all your heart before God in constant prayer.

~St Theophan the Recluse


February 19

Even if you had the wisdom of Solomon, the faith of Abraham, the patience of Job, the fiery spirit of David, it would still be little in comparison to what still must be acquired. Conscious of this, those great righteous men said of themselves: I am earth and ashes; not a man but a worm, a defamation of men and the humiliation of the people….

When you have this feeling, then you will have a feeling of need and crisis; and when you have that, you will have a need for prayer. If this need would remain permanently in your soul, it would teach you further through the very work of prayer. Necessity teaches everything.

The need for prayer teaches one to pray. Where can one get wisdom and quick understanding? Either in solitude or at common prayer, in the cell or on the road, in church, at the table or at your handiwork….

Just don’t think that the act of prayer is somehow complex and confusing. When a child wants to eat he comes to his mother and says, ‘Give me some bread.’…the same goes for prayer to God….

When you feel the need, come and tell the Lord about it with a simple heart.

~St Theophan the Recluse


February 14

You must know that peace and tranquility and fulfillment are either the crown of perfection or a state of extreme fall, in which all spiritual striving and needs are extinguished. As the first state is the fullness of life, so the last state is spiritual death. The state of those who are progressing towards perfection, however, is a state of struggle–intense, laborious and full of tribulation. This state of progressing–is the narrow path.

From these signs, judge for yourselves where you are. Of course, one would wish that all would be on the side of good, but not all have the wisdom. May the Lord make you wise unto salvation. Amen!

~St Theophan the Recluse

February 12

Do you ever notice how one word gives rise to a whole series of other words, each word to a series of thoughts; a series of thoughts turns into a series of beginnings, and deeds both good and evil? He who speaks about empty things has emptiness in his head and heart, emptiness also in his life….He who speaks about good things becomes more and more enflamed towards the good and enriches himself by it.

~St Theophan the Recluse