Eastern Orthodox texts preserved

The Philokalia Volume 4a

On Faith VOLUME 4: Page 16


One Hundred and Fifty -three Practical and Theological Texts 25


Attributed to St Symeon the New Theologian:


The Three Methods of Prayer 67


[V4] 12, [V4] 13, [V4]14, [V4] 15


[V4] 16


St Symeon the New Theologian

On Faith


Brethren and fathers, it is good that we make God's mercy known to all and speak to those close to us of the

compassion and inexpressible bounty He has shown us. For as you know 1 neither fasted, nor kept vigils, nor slept

on bare ground, but - to borrow the Psalmist's words - '1 humbled myself and, in short, 'the Lord saved me'.


Or, to put it even more briefly, 1 did no more than believe and the Lord accepted me (cf. Ps. 116:6, 10; 27:10.

LXX). Many things stand in the way of our acquiring humility, but there is nothing that prevents us from having




faith. For if we want it with all our heart, it will immediately become active in us, since it is God's gift to us and a

pre-eminent characteristic of our nature, even though it is also subject to our individual power of free will. That is

why even Scythians and other outlandish peoples have faith in each other's words. Yet to demonstrate through actual

facts the effect of our deeply rooted faith and to confirm what I have just said, I will tell you a story related to me by

someone who was entirely trustworthy.


A man by the name of George, young in age - he was about twenty - was living in Constantinople during our own

times. He was good-looking, and so studied in dress, manners and gait, that some of those who take note only of

outer appearances and harshly judge the behavior of others began to harbor malicious suspicions about him. This

young man, then, made the acquaintance of a holy monk who lived in one of the monasteries in the city; and to him

he opened his soul and from him he received a short rule which he had to keep in mind. He also asked him for a

book giving an account of the ways of monks and their ascetic practices; so the elder gave him the work of Mark the

Monk, On the Spiritual Law. This the young man accepted as though it had been sent by God Himself, and in the

expectation that he would reap richly from it he read it from end to end with eagerness




[V4] 17


St Symeon the New Theologian

On Faith


and attention. And though he benefited from the whole work, there were three passages only which he fixed in his



The first of these three passages read as follows: 'If you desire spiritual health, listen to your conscience, do all it

tells you, and you will benefit.' The second passage read: 'He who seeks the energies of the Holy Spirit before he has

actively observed the commandments is like someone who sells himself into slavery and who, as soon as he is

bought, asks to be given his freedom while still keeping his purchase -money.' And the third passage said the

following: 'Blind is the man crying out and saying: "Son of David, have mercy upon me" (Luke 18:38). He prays

with his body alone, and not yet with spiritual knowledge. But when the man once blind received his sight and saw

the Lord, he acknowledged Him no longer as the Son of David but as the Son of God, and worshipped Him' (cf.

John 9:38).


On reading these three passages the young man was struck with awe and fully believed that if he examined his

conscience he would benefit, that if he practiced the commandments he would experience the energy of the Holy

Spirit, and that through the grace of the Holy Spirit he would recover his spiritual vision and would see the Lord.

Wounded thus with love and desire for the Lord, he expectantly sought His primal beauty, however hidden it might

be. And, he assured me, he did nothing else except carry out every evening, before he went to bed, the short rule

given to him by the holy elder. When his conscience told him, 'Make more prostrations, recite additional psalms, and

repeat "Lord, have mercy" more often, for you can do so', he readily and unhesitatingly obeyed, and did everything

as though asked to do it by God Himself. And from that time on he never went to bed with his conscience

reproaching him and saying, 'Why have you not done this?" Thus, as he followed it scrupulously, and as daily it

increased its demands, in a few days he had greatly added to his evening office.


During the day he was in charge of a patrician's household and each day he went to the palace, engaging in the




tasks demanded by such a life, so that no one was aware of his other pursuits. Every evening tears flowed from his

eyes, he multiplied the prostrations he made with his face to the ground, his feet together and rooted to the spot on





[V4] 18


St Symeon the New Theologian

On Faith


he stood. He prayed assiduously to the Mother of God with sighs and tears, and as though the Lord was physically

present he fell at His most pure feet, while like the blind man he besought mercy and asked that the eyes of his soul

should be opened. As his prayers lasted longer every evening, he continued in this way until midnight, never

growing slack or indolent during this period, his whole body under control, not moving his eyes or looking up. He

stood still as a statue or a bodiless spirit.


One day, as he stood repeating more in his intellect than with his mouth the words, 'God, have mercy upon me, a

sinner' (Luke 18:13), suddenly a profuse flood of divine light appeared above him and filled the whole room. As this

happened the young man lost his bearings, forgetting whether he was in a house or under a roof; for he saw nothing

but light around him and did not even know that he stood upon the earth. He had no fear of falling, or awareness of

the world, nor did any of those things that beset men and bodily beings enter his mind. Instead he was wholly united

to non-material light, so much so that it seemed to him that he himself had been transformed into light. Oblivious of

all else, he was filled with tears and with inexpressible joy and gladness. Then his intellect ascended to heaven and

beheld another light, more lucid than the first. Miraculously there appeared to him, standing close to that light, the

holy, angelic elder of whom we have spoken and who had given him the short rule and the book.


When I heard this story, I thought how greatly the intercession of this saint had helped the young man, and how

God had chosen to show him to what heights of virtue the holy man had attained.


When this vision was over and the young man, as he told me, had come back to himself, he was struck with joy

and amazement. He wept with all his heart, and sweetness mingled with his tears. Finally he fell on his bed, and at

that moment the cock crowed, announcing the middle of the night. Shortly after the church bells rang for matins and

he got up as usual to chant the office, not having had a thought of sleep during the whole night.


As God knows - for He brings things about according to decisions of which He alone is aware - all this happened

without the young man having done anything more than you have heard. But what he did he did with true faith and

unhesitating expectation. And let it not be said that he did these things by way of an experiment, for he had never

spoken or thought of acting in such a spirit. Indeed, to make


[V4] 19


St Symeon the New Theologian

On Faith


experiments and to try things out is evidence of a lack of faith. On the contrary, after rejecting every passion-

charged and self-indulgent thought this young man, as he himself assured me, paid such attention to what his




conscience said that he regarded aU material things of hfe with indifference, and did not even find pleasure in food

and drink, or want to partake of them frequently.


You have heard, my brethren, what great things faith in God can bring about when it is confirmed by actions. You

will have realized that youth is not to be despised and that without understanding and fear of God old age is useless.

You have learnt that the heart of a city cannot prevent us from practicing God's commandments so long as we are

diligent and watchful, nor can stillness or withdrawal from the world be of any benefit if we are lazy and negligent.

We have certainly all heard of David, and we admire him and say that he is unique and there cannot be another like

him. Yet here, lo and behold, is something more than David. For David was specially chosen by God: he was

anointed to be prophet and king; he was inspired by the Holy Spirit; and he was granted many revelations

concerning God. Thus when he sinned and was deprived of the grace of the Spirit and of his gift of prophecy, and

was estranged from his usual communion with God, is there anything astonishing in the fact that he should recall the

state of grace from which he had fallen and should ask to enjoy those privileges once more (cf Ps. 51:1 1-12)? But

our young man had never even conceived of any of these things. He was devoted only to what is transient and

worldly, and he could imagine nothing superior to such things. Yet - how unpredictable are Thy ways. Lord - he had

only to hear of these divine realities and he believed in them immediately; indeed, he believed so surely that he

implemented his faith in corresponding action. It was thanks to this action that his mind took wing and rose to

heaven, drawing to it the compassion of Christ's Mother. Through her intercession God was appeased and bestowed

on him the grace of the Spirit. This gave him the strength to rise to heaven and to behold the light that everyone

longs for but very few attain.


This young man had not observed long fasts or slept on the ground, worn a hair shirt or shaved his head, nor had

he shunned the world physically, though he had in spirit, by keeping a few vigils; yet he appeared to be superior to

Lot, so renowned in Sodom (cf. Gen. 19). Or, rather, although in a body, he was an angel, constrained yet

unconstrained, visible but transcending physicality, human in appearance


[V4] 20


St Symeon the New Theologian

On Faith


but immaterial when perceived spiritually, outwardly all things to all men (cf. 1 Cor. 9:22) but inwardly solely

present to God alone, the knower of all things. Thus when the visible sun set, he found that its place was taken by

the tender light of spiritual luminosity, which is the pledge and foretaste of the unceasing light that is to succeed it.

And this was as it should be; for the love of that for which he was searching took him out of the world, beyond

nature and all material things, filling him wholly with the Spirit and transforming him into light. And all this

happened to him while he was living in the middle of the city, and was steward of a house, having in his charge

slaves and free men and carrying out all the tasks incumbent on such a life.


Enough has been said in praise of this young man and to stimulate you to a similar longing, in imitation of him.

Or would you still like me to speak of other things, greater than these - things which perhaps you might not be able

to take in? Yet what can be greater or more perfect than the fear of God? Indeed, nothing is greater than this. It is as

St Gregory of Nazianzos has written: "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 1 :7). For where there is

fear, there the commandments are kept, and where the commandments are kept the flesh is purified, together with




the cloud that envelops the soul and prevents it from clearly seeing the divine radiance. Where there is this

purification there is illumination, and illumination is the fulfillment of the longing of those who desire the greatest of

all supernal things or even that which is above all greatness." With these words he showed that illumination by the

Spirit is the endless end of every virtue, and that whoever attains it has finished with everything sensory and has

begun to experience the knowledge of spiritual realities.


Such, my brethren, are the wonders of God. And God reveals His hidden saints so that some may emulate them

and others have no excuse for not doing so. Provided they live a worthy life, both those who choose to dwell in the

midst of noise and hubbub and those who dwell in monasteries, mountains and caves can achieve salvation. Solely

because of their faith in Him God bestows great blessings on them. Hence those who because of their laziness have

failed to attain salvation will have no excuse to offer on the day of judgment. For He who promised to grant us

salvation simply on account of our faith in Him is not a liar. So show mercy to yourselves and to us who love you


[V4] 21


St Symeon the New Theologian

On Faith


and often grieve and shed tears far you - for this is what the merciful and compassionate God has asked us to do.

Trust in the Lord with all your soul. Leave the world and everything that passes away, and draw close to God and

cleave to Him; for in a little while 'heaven and earth will pass away' (Matt. 24:35), and apart from Him there will be

no firm ground on which to stand, no limit, nothing to check the fall of sinners. God is infinite and cannot be

grasped. Tell me, then, if you can, what place there will be for those who fall away from His kingdom?


I grieve, I exhaust my heart, I pine for you when I bring to mind that we have a Lord so bountiful and

compassionate that simply if we have faith in Him He grants us gifts beyond our imagination - gifts we have never

heard or thought of and that 'man's heart has not grasped' (1 Cor. 2:9). Yet we, like beasts, prefer the earth and the

things of the earth that through His great mercy it yields in order to supply our bodily needs; and if we use these

things modestly, then our soul may ascend unhampered towards divine realities, nourished spiritually by the Holy

Spirit according to the degree of our purification and to the level to which we have ascended.


This is our purpose, for this we were created and brought forth: that after having received lesser blessings in this

world we may through our gratitude to God and our love for Him enjoy great and eternal blessings in the life to

come. But, alas, far from having any concern for the blessings in store, we are even ungrateful for those at hand, and

we are like the demons, or - if trath be told - even worse. Thus we deserve greater punishment than they, for we

have been given greater blessings. For we know that God became for our sakes like us in everything except sin, so

that He might deliver us from delusion and free us from sin. But what is the use of saying this? The truth is that we

believe in all these things only as words, while we deny them where our acts are concerned. Is not Christ's name

uttered everywhere, in towns and villages, in monasteries and on mountains? Search diligently, if you will, and find

out whether anyone keeps His commandments. Among thousands and myriads you will scarcely find one who is a

Christian both in word and in act. Did not our Lord and God say in the Gospel, 'He that believes in Me will also do

what I do - indeed, he will do greater things' (John 14:12)? But which of us dares to say, 'I do Christ's work and I

truly believe in Christ?' Do you not see, brethren, that on the day of judgment we risk being classed among the




[V4] 22


St Symeon the New Theologian

On Faith


unbelievers and will be chastised more severely even than those ignorant of Christ? Inevitably either we must be

chastised as unbelievers or Christ is a liar - and that, my brethren, is impossible.


I have written this not to dissuade you from withdrawing from the world or to encourage you to live in the midst

of it. Rather I have written it so that all who happen to read it may be assured that whoever wants to act rightly will

receive from God the power so to do, wherever he may be. In fact, the tale I have told actually encourages

withdrawal. For if the young man in question, who lived in the world and never had a thought of renouncing it, or of

shedding his possessions, or of submitting to the rule of obedience, received such mercy from God simply because

he trusted in Him and called on Him with his whole soul, how much greater blessings should those hope to attain

who have abandoned all worldly things and all worldly relationships and who as God commanded have for His sake

surrendered their very souls to death (cf Luke 14:26)? Moreover, if, unhesitating in your faith and wholehearted in

your determination, you do begin to act rightly and to experience the blessing that comes from so doing, you will of

your own accord realize that worldly cares and living in the world are a great obstacle to those who wish to live in

conformity with God. What we have related about this young man is amazing and unexpected, and we have never

heard of anything like it happening to anyone else. Even though it may have happened to others or may happen in

the future, they should realize that they will lose the blessing they have received unless they do promptly abandon

the world. This is exactly what I learnt from that young man.


I subsequently met him after he had become a monk, in the third or fourth year of his monastic life. He was then

thirty -two. I knew him very well: we had been friends from childhood and had been brought up together. On account

of this he also told me the following: 'A few days after that incredible change in my life and the more than human

help I received, I was continually attacked by the temptations of my worldly life - temptations that thwarted my

secret activities and that little by little deprived me of the blessings I had been given. As a result I longed to get

completely away from the world and in solitude to seek out Him who had appeared to me. For, brother, I was

convinced that He had appeared to me solely in order to draw me, unworthy as I was, to Himself and to separate me

entirely from the world. Yet lacking the strength to respond straight away I gradually forgot everything I have


[V4] 23


St Symeon the New Theologian

On Faith


told you about and fell into utter darkness, to such an extent that 1 no longer remembered or even thought of

anything, major or minor, connected with those experiences. Rather, I plunged into evil ways more deeply than ever

before and ended up in such a state that it was as if I had never understood or heard Christ's holy words. Even the

saint who had once shown me such mercy and who had given me that short rule and had sent me that book became

for me merely someone I had happened to meet, and I gave no thought to the things I had seen because of him. I am

telling you this,' he continued, 'so you can see quite clearly the pit of perdition into which I fell, contemptible as I

was, because of my sloth and negligence, and so you will be filled with amazement at the inexpressible blessings




that God subsequently bestowed on me.


'For - though I do not know how to explain it - unknown to myself love and trust toward that saintly elder had

remained in my unhappy heart; and it was I think for this reason that, as a result of his prayers, after many years God

in His compassion had mercy on me. Through him God again dragged me out of my chronic state of delusion and

rescued me from the pit of evil. In spite of my unworthmess I had not completely broken with the elder, but when I

was in the city I often visited him in his cell and confessed to him what had happened to me, although, without

conscience as I was, I did not carry out any of his instructions. But now, as you see, the merciful God has forgiven

my many sins, and through that same saintly elder has granted me the grace to become a monk and - in spite of my

being truly unworthy of it - has permitted me to be constantly with him. After .great labors and many tears,

combined with strict solitude, total obedience, the complete elimination of my own will and many other rigorous

practices and actions, I have been going forward resolutely and unremittingly along my path, and have again been

granted a vision, faint as it is, of a small ray of that most gentle divine light, although up to now I have not been

privileged to see it as I saw it on that original occasion.'


This and many other things he told me with tears. And I, hapless that I am, as I listened to his holy words realized

that he was entirely filled with divine grace and was truly wise, despite his lack of worldly wisdom. Moreover, since

he had acquired his unerring knowledge of spiritual realities through actual experience, I asked him to tell me how

faith could bring about such miracles and to instruct me by setting it


[V4] 24


St Symeon the New Theologian

On Faith


down in writing. He began to speak to me about these matters and was quite ready to write down his observations.

Not to lengthen this present text, I have set forth what he said elsewhere for the delight of those who seek with Faith

to learn from such writings.


Thus I beg you, brethren in Christ, let us also diligently follow the path of Christ's commandments, so that our

faces are not covered in shame (cf Ps. 34:5). To everyone who knocks resolutely He opens the gates of His

kingdom, and on him who asks He at once bestows the Holy Spirit (cf. Luke 11:13). Nor is it possible for the person

who seeks with all his soul not to find (cf. Matt. 7:7-8) and not to be enriched with the richness of His gifts. Thus

you, too, will be nourished by the inexpressible blessings that He has prepared for those who love Him (cf. 1 Cor.

2:9). Here, in this present life, you will enjoy them in part, in accordance with His supernal wisdom; while in the life

to come you will enjoy them fully, in company with the saints of all time, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be

glory throughout the ages. Amen.




[V4] 25


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


1 . To have faith is to die for Christ and for His commandments; to believe that this death brings life; to regard

poverty as wealth, and lowliness and humiliation as true glory and honor; to believe that by not possessing anything

one possesses everything (cf. 2 Cor. 6:9-10) or, rather, that not possessing anything is to possess the 'unsearchable




riches' of the knowledge of Christ (Eph. 3:8); and to look upon all visible things as dross and smoke.


2. To have faith in Christ means not only to stand aloof from the delights of this life, but also to endure patiently

every temptation and test that brings upon us distress, affliction and misfortune, for as long as God wishes and until

He comes to us. 'I waited patiently for the Lord and He heard me' (Ps. 40: 1).


3. Those who in any way esteem their parents above the commandments of God do not possess faith in Christ (cf

Matt. 10:37). Their own conscience will certainly accuse them - if their conscience is still alive to their lack of faith.

People who possess faith never transgress at any point the commandment of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.


4. Faith in God engenders desire, for spiritual blessings and fear of punishment. Desire for spiritual blessings and

fear of punishment induce a strict keeping of the commandments. The strict keeping of the commandments teaches

us our own weakness. Awareness of our true weakness generates mindfulness of death. The person who is mindful

of death will insistently strive to discover what awaits him after his exit from this present life. But he who seeks to

know what is to come should first of all detach himself from the things of this world; for whoever is constrained by

an attachment, however small, to these


[V4] 26


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


things cannot acquire full knowledge of his post-mortal state. Even should God in His mercy give him some taste of

this knowledge, it will be taken away from him unless he speedily severs his worldly attachments and dedicates

himself wholly to it, not willingly giving thought to anything extraneous to it.


5. The renunciation of and total separation from this world - which includes self-alienation from all material

things, from the modes, attitudes and forms of this present life, as well as the denial of one's own body and will -

swiftly brings great rewards whenever it is zealously accomplished.


6. If you are intent on renouncing the world, do not permit yourself the solace of dwelling in it for the time being,

even if all your relatives and friends try to compel you to do so. It is the demons who provoke them in this way in

order to extinguish the ardor of your heart; for even if they cannot thwart your purpose completely, they will try to

slacken and enfeeble it.


7. When you are courageously impervious to all the pleasures of this life, then the demons will promote in your

relatives a spurious compassion for you, making them weep and lament over you before your eyes. You will realize

that it is spurious when you stick firmly to your purpose, for you will then see them becoming suddenly infuriated

with you: they will no longer want to set eyes on you and will reject you as if you were an enemy.


8. When you see the pain which your parents, relatives and friends experience because of you, mock the demon

who in his subtlety has provoked these feelings against you. Withdraw with fear and determination, and entreat God

insistently to bring you swiftly into His haven, where He will give rest to your tired and over-burdened soul. The sea

of life nourishes many forms of danger and even of utter destruction.


9. He who would hate the world must love God from the depths of his soul and always have Him in mind;

nothing else leads us to abandon the world more joyfully and to turn away from it as though it were so much trash.




10. Once called, do not seek to remain in the world for any reason at all, good or bad; obey the call straight away.

God rejoices at nothing so much as our promptitude; and swift obedience involving a life of frugality is better than

procrastination amidst great wealth.


1 1. If the world and everything in it passes away, while God alone is

[V4] 27


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


eternal and immortal, then rejoice, since for His sake you have renounced what is corruptible. Not merely wealth

and possessions, but every sensual pleasure and sinful enjoyment are corruptive. Only the commandments of God

are light and life, and everyone acknowledges them as such.


12. If, brother, consumed by spiritual ardor you have entered a monastery or placed yourself under a spiritual

father, do not indulge in baths, food or other bodily consolations, even if urged to do so by your spiritual father

himself or by your monastic brethren. On the contrary, always be ready to fast, to endure hardship, to exercise the

utmost self-control. If, however, your spiritual father insists that you should enjoy some comfort, you will obey him,

not even in such a case acting according to your own will. But if he does not insist, then gladly endure what you

have freely chosen to do, and your soul will benefit. By keeping to this rule, you will find that always, in every

situation, you are abstinent and self-controlled, prompt to renounce your own will in all things. Moreover, you will

keep alight in your heart that flame which constrains you to stand aloof from everything.


13. When the demons have done all they can to shake our resolve to live a spiritual life and to hinder us from

carrying it out, and have failed in their efforts, they enter pious hypocrites and through them try to obstruct us. First,

as if moved by love and compassion, they exhort us to give our bodies some relaxation, on the grounds that

otherwise we will become physically exhausted and listless. Then they invite us to join in useless discussions,

making us waste whole days in them. If we pay attention to these hypocrites and model ourselves on them, the

demons change tactics, mocking us for falling in this way; but if we take no notice of their suggestions, and hold

ourselves aloof from all, recollected and reserved, they are consumed with jealousy and do everything they can until

they have driven us from the monastery. Arrogance cannot bear to see itself scorned and humility held in honor.


14. A man full of self-esteem suffers torture when he sees a humble person weeping and being doubly

compensated: by God, who is moved to pity because of his tears, and by men, who are moved to give him praise that

he never sought.


15. Once you have entrusted yourself wholly to your spiritual father, you will find yourself alienated from all

things human, worldly or material, that might lead you astray. Without his consent you will


[V4] 28


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts




not have any desire to concern yourself with such things; nor wiU you ask him to allow you anything, great or small,

unless he himself on his own initiative either tells you to take it or gives it to you with his own hands.


16. Without the permission of your spiritual father, do not give alms from the money you brought with you, and

do not even allow an agent acting on your behalf to distribute any of your wealth. It is better for others to regard you

as poor and destitute than to distribute your wealth to those in need while you are still a novice. A person of pure

faith will entrust everything to the decision of his spiritual father as if putting it into the hands of God.


17. Even if you are burning with thirst, do not ask for a drink of water until on his own initiative your spiritual

father urges you to drink. Constrain yourself, force yourself in all things, prevail over yourself, saying to yourself: 'If

God wills. ..." And if you deserve a drink, God will certainly reveal this to your spiritual father and he will say to

you, 'Drink.' Thus you will drink with a pure conscience, even if it is not the correct moment to do so.


18. Someone with experience of spiritual grace and possessing an unadulterated faith once said, invoking God as

witness of its truth: 'I resolved never to ask for anythmg to eat or drink from my spiritual father, or to take anything

at all without his consent, but to wait until God prompted him to give me an order. Acting in this way, I never

deviated from my aim.'


19. Whoever possesses unclouded faith in his spiritual father will, on seeing him, think that he is seeing Christ

Himself; when with him or following him, he will firmly believe that he is with and following Christ. Such a person

will never want to associate with anyone else, nor will he value anything in the world more than his thought of him

and his love for him. For what is finer or more profitable in this world or in the next than to be with Christ? What is

more gracious or beautiful than the sight of Him? If someone is privileged to enjoy His companionship, he draws

from this eternal life.


20. If you truly love and pray for those who slander and maltreat you, who hate and defraud you, you will make

rapid progress, for when your heart is fully aware that this is happening, your thoughts and, indeed, your whole soul

with all its three powers are drawn down into the depths of humility and washed with tears. This in its turn raises

your intellect to the heaven of dispassion, conferring on it the


[V4] 29


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


gift of contemplation. Because you have tasted such blessing, you come to regard all the things in this life as mere

dross, so that you do not even take food or drink with pleasure or any frequency.


2 1 . The spiritual contestant must not only abstain from evil actions, but must also strive to be free from hostile

thoughts and notions. He should always concentrate on ideas of a soul-nourishing and spiritual nature, thus

remaining detached from worldly cares.


22. A person who strips his whole body bare, but keeps his eyes covered with a cloth, cannot see the light despite

his nakedness. Similarly a person detached from all things, including possessions, and even delivered from the

passions themselves, will never see the spiritual light - our Lord and God, Jesus Christ - until he frees his soul's eye

from worldly concerns and evil thoughts.




23. Worldly thoughts and material concerns blind the mind, or eye of the soul, like a cloth that covers the physical

eyes: so long as we are not free of them, we cannot see. But once they are removed by mindfulness of death, then we

clearly see the true light, that which illumines everyone who attains the spiritual world.


24. The person blind from birth will not recognize or believe the significance of what I have just written; but the

person privileged with sight will bear witness that what I have said is true.


25. The person who sees with physical eyes knows when it is night and when it is day; the blind man is unaware

of both. The person who has come to see with the eyes of the spirit, and who has beheld the true and quenchless

light, is consciously aware when he is deprived of it should he return, out of laziness, to his former blindness; and he

will not be ignorant of why this has happened. But the person blind from birth, and remaining so, knows nothing of

these things from personal experience of their operation. He knows about them only from hearsay, but has never

actually seen them; and if he tells others what he has heard, neither he nor his audience will know what he is talking



26. We cannot both sate ourselves with food and spiritually enjoy divine and noumenal blessings; the more we

pander to the stomach the less can we experience such enjoyment. But to the degree that we discipline the body we

are filled with spiritual nourishment and grace.


27. We should abandon all that is earthly. We should not only renounce riches and gold and other material things,

but should also expel desire for such things completely from our soul We should hate


[V4] 30


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


not only the body's sensual pleasure, but also its mindless impulses;


and we should strive to mortify it through suffering. For it is through the body that our desires are roused and stirred

into action; and so long as it is alive, our soul will inevitably be dead, slow to respond and even impervious to every

divine command.


28. Just as a flame always rises no matter in what direction one turns the wood on which it bums, so the heart of

an arrogant person cannot humble itself; the more one says to help him, the greater his self-inflation. Corrected or

admonished, he reacts violently; and when praised or encouraged, his exultation knows no bounds.


29. A person in the habit of contradicting others becomes a two-edged sword to himself. Unwittingly he destroys

his own soul and alienates it from eternal life.


30. A contentious person is like someone who deliberately gives himself over to the enemies of his king.

Contentiousness is a trap whose bait is self-justification; deceived by it we swallow the hook of sin. Then our

unhappy soul is caught, tongue and 'throat, by the demons. Sometimes they exalt it to the heights of pride and

sometimes cast it down into the depths of sin, to be judged with those who have fallen from heaven.


3 1 . A person who suffers bitterly when slighted or insulted should recognize from this that he still harbors the

ancient serpent in his breast. If he quietly endures the insult or responds with great humility, he weakens the serpent

and lessens its hold. But if he replies acrimoniously or brazenly, he gives it strength to pour its venom into his heart

and to feed mercilessly on his guts. In this way the serpent becomes increasingly powerful; it destroys his soul's




strength and his attempts to set himself right, compelhng him to live for sin and to be completely dead to



32. If you want to renounce the world and to be instructed in life according to the Gospels, do not place yourself

in the hands of an inexperienced master or one subject to the passions; for then you will be taught, not the ways of

the Gospels, but those of the devil. Good masters impart good teaching, but the evil teach evil. Bad seed produces

rotten fruit.


33. Implore God with prayers and tears to send you a guide who is dispassionate and holy. But you yourself

should also study the divine writings - especially the works of the fathers that deal with the practice of the virtues -

so that you can compare the teachings of your




St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


master with them; for thus you will see and observe them as in a mirror. Take to heart and keep in mind those of his

teachings that agree with the divine writings, but separate out and reject those that are false and mcongruent.

Otherwise you will be led astray. For in these days there are all too many deceivers and false prophets.


34. A blind person who undertakes to guide others is a deceiver plunging into the pit of destruction those who

follow him. As the Lord said: 'If the blind lead the blind, both wiU fall into the pit' (Matt. 15:14).


35. The person blind to the One is utterly blind to everything; but he who sees in the One contemplates all things.

He abstains from the contemplation of all things and at the same time enters into the contemplation of all things

while remaining outside what he contemplates. Being .in the One he sees all things; and being in all things he sees

nothing. The person who sees in the One perceives through the One both himself and all men and all things; hidden

in the One, he sees nothing of anything.


36. The person who has not consciously invested his intelligence and intellect with the image of our Lord Jesus

Christ, the heavenly one, man and God, is still but flesh and blood. He cannot perceive spiritual glory solely through

his intelligence, just as those blind from birth cannot know the sun's light solely through their intelligence.


37. Whoever hears, sees and feels through his intelligence will know the meaning of what has just been said,

because he already bears the image of the heavenly one (cf 1 Cor. 15:49) and has attained that perfect manhood

which is the fullness of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:13). Such a person can also guide God's flock aright in the way of His

commandments. But if someone does not understand what has been said, it is clear that the perceptive organs of his

soul are neither purified nor in good health, and that it would be better for him to be led than to lead others at their



38. He who looks upon his teacher and guide as if he were God cannot call him into question. If he thinks and

says that he can, he should know that he deceives himself, being ignorant of the attitude of holy men towards God.


39. If you believe that your life and death are in the hands of your spiritual guide you will never contradict him.

Ignorance of this engenders contentiousness, and this brings about spiritual and eternal death.




[V4] 32


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


40. Before the accused receives his sentence, he is given an opportunity to speak in his own defense before the

judge about what he has done; but once the facts have been established and the judge has given his verdict, the

accused can say nothing, whether important or trivial, to those who execute his punishment.


41 . Before a monk has entered this court and has revealed what he has in his heart, he may perhaps argue with his

spiritual guide, either out of ignorance or because he thinks he can keep things about himself hidden. But after he

has revealed and sincerely confessed his thoughts, he cannot argue with the man who, after God, will be his judge

and master until death. For when a monk has once entered this court and laid bare the secrets of his heart, he will

know from the start - if he has any understanding at all - that he deserves a thousand deaths. He will believe that

through humility and obedience he can be saved from all punishment and chastisement, if indeed he has truly

grasped the nature of this mystery.


42. If you keep these things indelibly in mind, your heart will never rebel when you are disciplined or

admonished or criticized. But whoever falls victim to the evils of contentiousness and disbelief with respect to his

spiritual father and teacher is while yet living dragged down pitifully into the depths of Hades. Being disobedient

and a son of perdition he becomes the dwelling-place of Satan and all his unclean brood.


43. I exhort you, who are under obedience, to meditate on these things constantly and to make every effort not to

plunge into these infernal evils of which I have spoken. Entreat God fervently each day with these words: 'God and

Lord of all, master of everything that has breath and soul, who alone canst cure me, hear my prayer, abject as I am.

Root out of me and destroy through the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit the serpent that dwells in me. Make me

worthy, poor though I am and bereft of virtue, of falling with tears at the feet of my spiritual father. Move his holy

soul to have mercy on me; and. Lord, bestow humility on my heart and give me such thoughts as befit a sinner who

has resolved to repent before Thee. Do not abandon for ever a soul that has once submitted and has confessed to

Thee, that has chosen and honored Thee above all me world. Thou knowest that I wish to be saved, even if my bad

habits hinder me. But to Thee, Lord, are possible all things that are impossible to men' (cf Luke 18:27).


44. Those who with fear and trembling have laid a good foundation

[V4] 33


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


of faith and hope in the court of devotion; who have planted their feet firmly on the rock of obedience to their

spiritual father; who listen to his counsel as if it came from the mouth of God; and who with humility of soul build

all this on the basis of obedience - such people will succeed immediately. They will achieve that great and primary

task of denying themselves. For to fulfill the will of another and not one's own entails not only the denial of one's

own soul, but also mortification towards the whole world.


45. The demons rejoice when a person argues with his spiritual father, but angels marvel at him when he humbles




himself to the point of death. For then he performs God's work, making himself like the Son of God who was

obedient to His Father unto death, the death on the cross (cf Phil. 2:8).


46. Contrition of heart, when excessive and untimely, troubles and darkens the mind, destroying the soul's

humility and pure prayer, and paining the heart. This induces a hardening to the point of total insensibility; and by

means of this the demons reduce spiritual people to despair.


47. As you are a monk, such things may happen to you. If they do, you may still feel a great desire and eagerness

for perfection, longing to fulfill all God's commandments and not wanting to err or sin even by uttering a single idle

word (cf. Matt. 12:36), or to fall short of the saints of old in the practice of virtue, in spiritual knowledge and in

contemplation. But then you may find yourself hampered by someone who sows tares of despondency. He tries to

prevent you from climbing to such heights of holiness by discouraging you with various thoughts. For instance, he

will tell you that it is impossible for you to be saved and to keep every single one of God's commandments while

you live in this world. When this happens you should sit down in a solitary place by yourself, collect yourself,

concentrate your thoughts and give good counsel to your soul, saying: 'Why, my soul, are you dejected, and why do

you trouble me? Put your hope in God. for I will give thanks to Him; for my salvation lies not in my actions but in

God (cf Ps. 42:5). Who will be vindicated by actions done according to the law (cf Gal. 2:16)? No living person

will be vindicated before God (cf. Ps. 143:2). Yet by virtue of my faith in God I hope that in His ineffable mercy He

will give me salvation. Get behind me, Satan (cf. Matt. 4:10; 16:23). I worship the Lord my God (cf. Matt. 4:10;

Luke 4:8) and serve Him from my youth; for He is able to save me simply


[V4] 34


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


through His mercy. Go away from me. The God who created me in His image and likeness will reduce you to



48. The only thing God requires of us is that we do not sin. But this is achieved, not by acting according to the

law, but by carefully guarding the divine image in us and our supernal dignity. When we thus live in our natural

state, wearing the resplendent robe of the Spirit, we dwell in God and God dwells in us. Then we are called gods by

adoption and sons of God, sealed by the light of the knowledge of God (cf Ps. 4:6. LXX).


49. Bodily listlessness and torpor, which affect the soul as a result of our laziness and negligence, not only make

us abandon our normal rule of prayer, but also darken the mind and fill it with despondency. Then blasphemous and

cowardly thoughts arise in the heart. Indeed, the person tempted by the demon of listlessness cannot even enter his

usual place of prayer; he grows sluggish, and absurd thoughts directed against the Creator of all things arise in his

mind. Aware of the cause of all this and why it has happened to you, resolutely enter your normal place of prayer

and, falling down before the God of love, ask with a compunctive and aching heart, full of tears, to be freed from the

weight of listlessness and from your pernicious thoughts. If you knock hard and insistently, this release will soon be

given to you.


50. The person who has attained purity of heart has triumphed over cowardice. The person still in the process of

being purified sometimes overcomes it and sometimes is overcome by it. The person not even engaged in spiritual




warfare is either completely unaware that he is the ally of his own passions and of the demons and that he is sick

with pride and presumption, thinking he is something when he is not; or else he is the slave and servant of

cowardice, trembling like a baby and fearing fear where, for those who fear the Lord, there is no fear (cf Ps. 14:5.

LXX) nor any occasion for cowardice.


5 1 . Whoever fears the Lord will not fear the sickly attacks of demons or the threats of evil people. Like a flame or

a burning fire, he goes about day and night through dark and hidden places, and instead of fleeing from the demons

he makes them flee from him, so as not to be scorched by the flaming rays of divine fire that pour from him.


52. Whoever goes in the fear of God is not afraid when surrounded by evil men, for he has the fear of God within

him and wears the invincible amour of faith. This gives him strength to do all things, even those that seem to most

people difficult or impossible. Like a giant


[V4] 35


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


among monkeys or a roaring lion among dogs and foxes, he is resolute in the Lord, unnerving his enemies with the

constancy of his purpose and filling their minds with terror; for he wields God's wisdom like a rod of iron (cf. Ps.



53. Not only the hesychast, living alone, or the monk under obedience, but also the abbot, the spiritual director of

many, and even a monk charged with specific duties, need to be detached and completely free from all worldly

cares. For if we are not detached, we transgress the commandment of God which says, 'Do not be anxious about

your life, what you will eat or drink, or what you will wear; for it is the heathen who worry about all these things'

(Matt. 6:25, 32). And again, 'Take care that your heart is not weighed down by dissipation, drunkenness and worldly

cares' (Luke 21:34).


54. A person full of anxiety about worldly things is not free: he is dominated and enslaved by this anxiety,

whether it is about himself or about others. But he who is free from such things is untroubled by worldly concerns,

whether they relate to himself or to others; and this is so, even if he is a bishop, abbot or priest. However, he will not

be idle, or neglect even the most insignificant and trivial details; but all he does he will do for the glory of God,

accomplishing everything in his life without anxiety.


55. Do not pull down your own house because you want to build a house for your neighbor. Think how

exhausting and difficult the task will be. Otherwise you may make your decision only to find that, having destroyed

your own house, you lack the strength to build a house for someone else.


56. Unless you are completely detached from worldly affairs and possessions, do not voluntarily assume

responsibility for such things. Otherwise you may become caught up in them and, instead of receiving the reward for

your services, may find yourself accused of theft and sacrilege. But if your abbot compels you to act as a steward, be

like someone who holds in his hands a flaming fire; and if you ward off the attacks of your own evil thoughts

through repentance and confession, you will be kept unharmed through the prayers of your superior.


57. Unless you have become dispassionate you cannot know what dispassion is, and will not believe that a

dispassionate person exists anywhere on earth. For unless someone has first denied himself, readily giving his blood




for the sake of a life that is truly blessed, how

[V4] 36


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


can he imagine that anyone else has done this in order to attain the state of dispassion? It is the same with someone

who thinks that he possesses the Holy Spirit while in fact he possesses nothing of the kind. When he hears about the

workings of the Spirit in those who do possess Him, he refuses to believe that there is anyone in our generation who

is energized and motivated by the Holy Spirit, or who consciously and experientially enjoys the vision of Him, in the

same way as Christ's apostles and the saints from the beginning of the world. For each judges whether his neighbor's

condition is virtuous or vicious according to his own state.


58. A dispassionate soul is one thing, a dispassionate body is another. For the soul, when dispassionate, sanctifies

the body with its own luminosity and with the radiance of the Holy Spirit. But bodily dispassion by itself confers no

benefit on the person who possesses it.


59. A person who is raised by the king from extreme poverty to wealth, who is invested by him with high office

and a splendid uniform and commanded to stand in his presence, will be full of devotion for the king and will revere

him as his benefactor. He will be fully aware of his splendid robes, of his high office and the wealth he has been

given. Similarly, if a monk has truly withdrawn from the world and its affairs and has come to Christ, if he is fully

conscious of his calling and has been raised to the heights of spiritual contemplation through the practice of the

commandments, then he will look unwaveringly on God and be well aware of the change that has taken place in

him. He will see the grace of the Spirit always illuminating him - the grace that is called a garment, the royal purple

or, rather, that is Christ Himself, if it is indeed true that those who believe in Christ are clothed in Christ (cf Gal.



60. Many read the Holy Scriptures and hear them read. But few can grasp their meaning and import. For some

what is said in the Scriptures is impossible, for others it is altogether beyond belief. Some again interpret them

wrongly: they apply things said about the present to the future, and things said about the future to the past or else to

what happens daily. In this way they reveal a lack of true judgment and discernment in things both human and



6 1 . We, the faithful, should look upon all the faithful as one single being, and should consider that Christ dwells

in each of them. We should have such love for each of them that we are willing to lay down our lives for him. Nor

should we ever think or say that anyone is evil:


[V4] 37


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


we should look on everyone as good, as I have already said. Even should you see someone overwhelmed by some

passion, execrate, not him, but the passions that fight against him. And if he is mastered by desires and




prepossessions, have even greater compassion for him; for you too may be tempted, subject as you are to the same

fluctuations of beguihng materiahty.


62. A person false through hypocrisy, or culpable because of his actions, or easily shattered by some passion, or

who lapses slightly through negligence, must not be left in the company of those who are working together in

harmony. On the contrary he must be excluded from their society as still corrupt and reprobate. Otherwise at some

crucial moment he might break their chain of union, causing division where there should be none and distress both

to those who are at the head of the chain - for they will be grieved for those who follow after them - and to those at

the tail of the chain, who will suffer because they are cut off from those in front of them.


63. Earth thrown on a fire puts it out. Similarly, worldly concerns and attachment to even the smallest and most

insignificant thing quell the fervor initially burning in our hearts.


64. If you are pregnant with the fear of death you will feel disgust for all food and drink and smart clothing. You

will not even find pleasure in eating bread or drinking water. You will give your body only what it needs to keep

alive; and you will not only renounce all self-will, but at the discretion of those to whom you are obedient you will

become the servant of all.


65. The person who from fear of punishment hereafter has placed himself as a slave in the hands of his spiritual

fathers will not choose, even if commanded to do so, relief for his heart's suffering or deliverance from the bonds of

his fear. Nor will he listen to those who out of friendship, or flattery, or in virtue of their authority, encourage him to

seek such relief and freedom. On the contrary, he will choose what increases his suffering and heightens his fear,

and will look with love on whatever helps another to inflict these things on him. Moreover, he will endure as though

he never expected to be released; for hope of deliverance lightens one's burden, and this is harmful for someone who

is repenting fervently.


66. Fear of punishment hereafter and the suffering it engenders are beneficial to all who are starting out on the

spiritual way. Whoever imagines that he can make a start without such suffering and fear, and


[V4] 38


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


without someone to inflict them, is not merely basing his actions on sand but thinks that he can build in the air

without any foundations at all; and this of course is utterly impossible, indeed, the suffering is the source of nearly

all our joy, while the fear breaks the grip of all our sins and passions, and the one who inflicts these things brings us

not death but eternal life.


67. He who does not attempt to evade the suffering engendered by the fear of eternal punishment, but accepts it

wholeheartedly, and even adds to it as he can, will rapidly advance into the presence of the King of kings. And as

soon as he has beheld the glory of God, however obscurely, his bonds will be loosed: fear, his tormenter, will leave

him, and his heart's suffering will be turned to joy. It will become a spring from which unceasing tears will flow

visibly and which will fill him spiritually with peace, gentleness and inexpressible sweetness, as well as with

courage and the capacity to submit to God's commandments freely and unreservedly. This is something impossible

for those who are still- beginners, for it is the characteristic of such as are in the middle of their spiritual journey. As




for the perfect, this spring becomes a hght within their hearts, suddenly changed and transformed as they are.


68. The person inwardly illumined by the light of the Holy Spirit cannot endure the vision of it, but falls face

down on the earth and cries out in great fear and amazement, since he has seen and experienced something that is

beyond nature, thought or conception. He becomes like someone suddenly inflamed with a violent fever: as though

on fire and unable to endure the flames, he is beside himself, utterly incapable of controlling himself. And though he

pours forth incessant tears that bring him some relief, the flame of his desire kindles all the more. Then his tears

flow yet more copiously and, washed by their flow, he becomes even more radiant When, totally incandescent, he

has become like light, then the saying is fulfilled, 'God is united with gods and known by them', in the sense perhaps

that He is now united to those who have joined themselves to Him, and revealed to those who have come to know



69. 'Let no one deceive you with vain words' (Eph. 5:6), and let us not deceive ourselves: before we have

experienced inward grief and


[V4] 39


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


tears there is no true repentance or change of mind in us, nor is there any fear of God in our hearts, nor have we

passed sentence on ourselves, nor has our soul become conscious of the coming judgment and eternal torments. Had

we accused ourselves and realized these things in ourselves, we would have immediately shed tears; for without

tears our hardened hearts cannot be mollified, our souls cannot acquire spiritual humility, and we cannot be humble.

If we do not attain such a state we cannot be united with the Holy Spirit. And if we have not been united with the

Holy Spirit through purification, we cannot have either vision or knowledge of God, or be initiated into the hidden

virtues of humility.


70. Those who simulate virtue and who, because of the sheepskin of the monastic habit, appear to be one thing

outwardly but are something else inwardly - steeped perhaps in iniquity, jealousy, ambition, and foul pleasures - are

revered by most people as saintly and dispassionate; for in most people the soul's eye is unpurified, and so they

cannot recognize these impostors by their fruits (cf Matt. 7:15-16). Those, on the other hand, who are full of

devoutness, virtue and simplicity of heart, and who are truly saints, are judged by most people to be like other men;

and they pass them by with disdain, counting them as nothing.


71. The garrulous and ostentatious man is thought by these people to be a spiritual master; but the quiet man,

careful not to waste words, they regard as uncouth and inarticulate.


72. The arrogant, sick with diabolic pride, reject anyone inspired by the Holy Spirit as if this saintly man were

himself arrogant and filled with pride; for his words strike them like blows, yet do not move them to compunction.

But whoever uses his inborn talents or education to spin long phrases, and who tells lies to people about their

salvation, is welcomed by them and praised to the skies; and so no one among them is able to see the situation as it

is and judge it accordingly.


73. 'Blessed are the pure in heart,' says God, 'for they shall see God' (Matt. 5:8). But purity of heart cannot be

realized through one virtue alone, or through two, or ten; it can only be realized through all of them together, as if




they formed but a single virtue brought to perfection. Even so the virtues cannot by themselves purify the heart

without the presence and inner working of the Spirit. For just as the bronzesmith demonstrates his skill through his

tools, but cannot make anything without the activity of fire, so a man using the virtues as tools


[V4] 40


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


can do everything, given the presence of the fire of the Spirit; but without this presence these took remain useless

and ineffective, not removing the stain that befouls the soul.


74. Through holy baptism we are granted remission of our sins, are freed from the ancient curse, and are

sanctified by the presence of the Holy Spirit. But we do not as yet receive the perfection of grace, as described in the

words of Scripture, 'I will dwell in them, and move in them' (2 Cor. 6:16); for that is true only of those who are

steadfast in faith and have demonstrated this through what they do. If after we have been baptized we gravitate

towards evil and foul actions, we lose the sanctification of baptism completely. But through repentance, confession

and tears we receive a corresponding remission of our former sins and, in this way, sanctification accompanied by

the grace of God.


75. Through repentance the filth of our foul actions is washed away. After this, we participate in the Holy Spirit,

not automatically, but according to the faith, humility and inner disposition of the repentance in which our whole

soul is engaged. In addition, we must also have received complete remission of our sins from our spiritual father.

For this reason it is good to repent each day, in accordance with the commandment that tells us to do this; for the

words, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near' (Matt. 3:2), indicate that the act of repentance is



76. The grace of the Holy Spirit is given as a pledge to souls that are betrothed to Christ; and just as without a

pledge a woman cannot be sure that her union with her man will take place, so the soul will have no firm assurance

that it will be joined for all eternity with its Lord and God, or be united with Him mystically and inexpressibly, or

enjoy His unapproachable beauty, unless it receives the pledge of His grace and consciously possesses Him within



77. Just as an engagement is not binding unless the documents of the contract bear the signatures of trustworthy

witnesses, so the illumination of grace is dependent upon the practice of the commandments and the actualization of

the virtues. What witnesses are to a contract, the virtues and the practice of the commandments are to spiritual

betrothal: through them everyone who is going to be saved secures the consummation of the pledge.


78. It is as if the contract were written through the practice of the commandments and then signed and sealed by

the virtues. Only then


[V4] 41


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts




does Christ, the bridegroom, give His ring - the pledge of the Holy Spirit - to the soul that is His bride-to-be.


79. Before the marriage the bride-to-be receives nothing but the pledge given by her future husband; she waits

until after the marriage to receive the dowry that has been agreed upon and the gifts promised with it. So the Church

- the bride-to-be composed of all me faithful - and the soul of each of us first receive from Christ, the bridegroom-

to-be, only the pledge of the Spirit. The eternal blessings and the kingdom of heaven are given subsequent to this

earthly life, though both the Church and the individual soul have the assurance of them through the pledge they have

received, in which, as in a mirror, what has been agreed is disclosed and confirmed by their Lord and God.


80. If the bridegroom-to-be is delayed abroad or kept away by other business, and puts off the marriage for a

while, and if the bride-to-be, indignant, rejects his love, erasing or tearing up the document that contains the pledge,

she immediately loses all right to what she expected from him. The same is true where the soul is concerned. For if a

person engaged in spiritual warfare should say 'How long must I suffer?' and begin to evade the rigor of the ascetic

life and, as it were, to erase or tear up the contract through neglect of the commandments and by abandoning the

constant task of repentance, then at once he forfeits completely the pledge given and his hope in God.


81. Should the bride-to-be transfer her love from the man to whom she is affianced to another, sharing his bed,

whether publicly or not, not only does she not receive anything of what her betrothed had promised her, but she may

rightly expect the censure and punishment of the law. The same is true in our own case. If someone shifts the love

he has for Christ, his betrothed, to the desire for some other thing, whether openly or in secret, and his heart is

possessed by mat thing, he will become hateful and abhorrent to Christ, and unworthy of being united with Him. For

it is written, 'I love them that love me' (Prov. 8:17).


82. Each of us should be able to understand from these signs whether or not he has received the pledge of the

Spirit from Christ, our Lord and Betrothed. If he has received it, he should strive to retain it; and if he has not yet

been privileged to receive it, he should strive through good works and actions, and through fervent repentance, to

receive it, and then to keep it through the practice of the commandments and the acquisition of the virtues.


[V4] 42


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


83. The roof of a house rests on its foundations and walls; correspondingly the foundations themselves are laid in

the manner required for them to serve as support for the roof. A roof cannot stand without foundations, and

foundations without a roof serve no living or practical purpose. Similarly, God's grace is preserved through the

practice of the commandments, while the practice of the commandments is as it were the foundation for the divine

gift. The grace of the Spirit will not remain with us without the practice of the commandments, nor will the practice

of the commandments serve any useful purpose without the grace of God.


84. A house left without a roof through the neglect of the builder is not only useless, but brings ridicule on the

builder. Similarly, a person who has laid foundations through the practice of the commandments, and has raised

walls through the acquisition of the higher virtues, remains incomplete, and an object of pity to the perfect, if he

does not receive the grace of the Spirit in the form of contemplation and spiritual knowledge. He will have been

denied this grace for one of two reasons: either he has failed to repent; or, daunted by the serried ranks of the virtues




as by a boundless forest, he may have overlooked one of them - one that may seem trivial to us, but is indispensable

if the house of the virtues is to be completed, since without it that house cannot be roofed by the grace of the Spirit.


85. The Son of God, God Himself, came down to earth in order to reconcile us. His enemies, to His Father, and to

unite us consciously to Himself through His holy and coessential Spirit. How, then, can someone who lacks this

grace of the Spirit achieve any other form of grace? Certainly he has not been reconciled to Christ, nor has he been

united to Christ through participation in the Spirit.


86. The person who participates in the Holy Spirit is freed from impassioned desires and sensual pleasures, but he

is not divorced from his natural bodily needs. In virtue of his deliverance from the bonds of impassioned desire and

his union with immortal tenderness and glory, he strives unflaggingly to attain the heights, to dwell there with God,

and not to lose even for a moment his vision of God and his insatiable delight. But because he is fastened to the

body and to corruption, he is dragged down and pulled along by them, and is turned towards earthly things. His

distress at this must be as great, I imagine, as that of a sinner's soul when it is separated from the body.


87. For someone who loves the body, mortal life, sensual pleasure,

[V4] 43


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


and the material world, separation from them is death; but for someone who loves holiness. God. the immaterial

world and virtue, true death is for the mind to be separated from them even briefly. If the eyes of a person who can

see sensible light are closed for an instant or covered by someone else, he suffers and is distressed and cannot bear

it, especially if he was looking at something important or unusual. But if someone is illumined by the Holy Spirit

and, whether asleep or awake, sees spiritually those blessings that 'the eye has not seen, and the ear has not heard,

and man's heart has not grasped' (1 Cor. 2:9), and 'that angels long to glimpse' (1 Pet. 1:12), how much more will he

suffer and be tormented if he is torn away from the vision of these things? For this will seem to him like death, a

veritable exclusion from eternal life.


88. Many have called the eremitic life blessed, others, the communal or coenobitic life. Others again have

described in this way leadership of the faithful, or the counseling, teaching and administration of churches. All of

these are activities that provide people with nourishment in body and soul. But for my part I would not judge any

one of them to be better than the others, nor would I say that one merits praise and another censure. But in every

case, whatever our work or activity, it is the life led for God and according to God that is most blessed.


89. Man's material life is based upon a variety of sciences and skills, each person practicing one or another of

them and making his contribution. Thus, by giving and taking from one another, men satisfy their natural bodily

needs. One can see the same thing among spiritual people, where one person pursues one virtue while another

follows another path. But all are moving towards a single goal.


90. The goal of all who pursue the spiritual path is to do the will of Christ, their God, to be reconciled with the

Father through communion in the Spirit, and so to achieve their salvation. For only in this way is the soul's salvation

attained. And if it is not attained, our labor is fatuous and our work vain. Every path of life is pointless that does not

lead the person pursuing it to this consummation.




91. The person who, totally forsaking the world, retires to the mountains as though in pursuit of stillness and who

then showily writes to those in the world, blessing some and praising and flattering others, is like someone who,

after divorcing a foul and slatternly whore of a wife and going off to a distant land to expunge even his memory of


[V4] 44


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


her, then forgets why he came there and longs to write to those living with that whore, and sullied by her, even

deeming them happy. If not bodily, at least in heart and in intellect he shares their passions, inasmuch as he

deliberately condones their commerce with that woman.


92. Those who purify their senses and hearts from every evil desire while living in the world indeed deserve

praise and are surely blessed. Correspondingly, those who dwell in mountains and caves, but who pursue human

praise and blessing, deserve censure and rejection. In the eyes of God, diviner of our hearts, they are adulterers. For

the person who wants his life and name and ascetic practice to be known in the world prostitutes himself in God's

sight, as, according to David, the Jewish people once did (cf Ps. 106:39).


93. Whoever renounces the world and worldly things with unhesitating faith in God believes that the Lord is

compassionate and merciful and that He receives those who come to Him in repentance. But he knows, too, that God

honors His servants with dishonor, enriches them with the utmost poverty, and glorifies them by means of insults

and scorn, making them through death participants and inheritors of eternal life. Through such trials the servant of

God is impelled like a panting hart to the deathless fountain (cf. Ps. 42: 1);


and through them he climbs upwards, as though up a ladder on which angels ascend and descend (cf. Gen. 28:12;

John 1:51) in order to help those who are mounting. God is enthroned above, observing the strength of our intention

and diligence, not because He enjoys seeing us struggle, but because He wishes, compassionate as He is, to give us

our reward as if it were something He owed us.


94. The Lord never allows those who come to Him unhesitatingly to fall completely. When He sees them

faltering He helps them in their efforts, stretching a hand of power down to them and drawing them up to Himself.

He works with them visibly and invisibly, consciously and unconsciously, until, having climbed every step of the

ladder, they draw near Him, wholly united with Him in His wholeness and forgetting all that is earthly. Whether

they are there with Him in the body or out of the body, 1 cannot tell (cf. 2 Cor. 12:2); but they dwell with Him and

enjoy His ineffable blessings.


95. It is right for us to place the yoke of Christ's commandments on our shoulders from the start; and we should

not resist or hang back. On the contrary, we should walk straight ahead wholeheartedly


[V4] 45


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


obedient to them, making ourselves in truth the new paradise of God, until the Son comes to dwell in us with the

Father through the Holy Spirit. Then, when He totally indwells us and is our master, whomever of us He commands

and whatever ministry He entrusts us with, we will take it in hand and carry it out sedulously, as seems best to Him.

But we must not seek this ministry prematurely, or consent to accept it when given by men; but we must persevere

in the commandments of our Lord and God and await His orders.




96. If, after we have committed ourselves to some form of ministry within the Church and have performed it

honorably, the Spirit should then direct us to some other ministry or work or activity, we should not resist. For God

does not want us to be idle, but neither does He want us to be confined for ever to the first work in which we

engaged. On the contrary. He wants us to advance, moving always towards the realization of something better,

acting in accordance with His will and not our own.


97. Whoever strives to mortify his own will should' follow the will of God; and in the place of his own will he

should put God's will, planting it in himself and grafting it into his heart. Moreover, he should carefully observe

whether what he has planted has put down deep roots, whether what he has grafted has healed over so as to make a

single tree, and whether it has grown and flowered and borne good, sweet fruit in such a way that he no longer

recognizes the earth into which the seed was sown or the stock onto which the graft was made, so incomprehensible

and miraculous is the life-bearing tree that has grown up.


98. If through fear of God you cut off your own will - inexplicably, for you do not know how this happens - God

will give you His will. You will keep it indelibly in your heart, opening the eyes of your mind so that you recognize

it; and you will be given the strength to fulfill it. The grace of the Holy Spirit operates these things: without it,

nothing is accomplished.


99. If you have received the remission of all your sins, either through confession or through putting on the holy

and angelic habit, this will be a great source of love, thanksgiving and humility for you. For not only have you been

spared the countless punishments that you deserved, but you have been granted sonship, glory and the kingdom of

heaven. Bear this in mind and continually meditate on it, taking care never to dishonor Him who honored you and

has forgiven you ten


[V4] 46


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


thousand sins; glorify and honor Him in all you do, so that in return He will glorify you even more - you whom He

has honored above all visible creation and has called His true friend.


100. As the soul is more precious than the body, so man endowed with intelligence excels the whole world. When

you contemplate the grandeur of the created things with which the world is filled, do not think that they are more

precious than you are; but keeping in mind the grace that has been given you, and aware of the value of your

deiform soul, celebrate the God who has honored you above all visible things.


101. Let us consider how we should glorify God. We cannot glorify Him in any way other than that in which He

was glorified by the Son; for in the same way as the Son glorified the Father, the Son in turn was glorified by the

Father. Let us, then, diligently use these same means to glorify Him who allows us to call Him 'our Father in

heaven', so that we may be glorified by Him with the glory that the Son possesses with the Father prior to the world

(cf John 17:5). These means are the cross, or death to the whole world, the afflictions, the trials and the other

sufferings undergone by Christ. If we endure them with great patience, we imitate Christ's sufferings; and through

them we glorify our Father and God, as His sons by grace and as coheirs of Christ.


102. A soul not consciously and completely free from ties and attachments to the visible world is not able to




endure serenely the calamities and ravages with which both men and demons assail it. Bound by its attachment to

human concerns, it is lacerated by the loss of material things, suffers when deprived of possessions, and is full of

distress when its body is afflicted.


103. A person who has delivered his soul from its ties with and desires for sensible things, and has bound it to

God, will not only scorn property and possessions, accepting their loss painlessly, as if they belonged to others and

were not his own; he will also endure bodily distress with joy and gratitude. In the words of St Paul, he sees the

outward self perishing, but the inward self being renewed day by day (cf. 2 Cor. 4: 16). Otherwise it is impossible

joyfully to bear the afflictions permitted by God, for this requires perfect knowledge and spiritual wisdom. He who

lacks these things walks at all times in the darkness of ignorance and hopelessness, totally incapable of beholding

the light of patience and benediction.


104. Anyone who thinks himself intelligent because of his scholarly

[V4] 47


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


or scientific learning will never be granted insight into divine mysteries unless he first humbles himself and becomes

a fool (cf 1 Cor. 3:18), discarding both his presumption and the knowledge that he has acquired. But if he does this

and with unhesitating faith allows himself to be led by those wise in divine matters, he will enter with them into the

city of the living God. Guided and illumined by the divine Spirit, he will see and learn what others cannot ever see

or learn. He will then be taught by God (cf. John 6:45).


105. Those taught by God will be regarded as fools by the disciples of such as are wise in the wisdom of this

world. But in fact it is the worldly-wise that are fools, spouting an inane secular wisdom, the stupidity of which God

has demonstrated (cf. 1 Cor. 1 :20) and which Scripture condemns as material, unspiritual, devilish, filled with strife

and malice (cf. Jas. 3:15). Since these people are blind to the divine light, they cannot see the marvels it contains;

they regard as deluded those who dwell in that light and see and teach others about what is within it. On the

contrary, it is they themselves that are deluded, not having tasted the ineffable blessings of God.


106. Even now, living in our midst, there are people who are dispassionate and saintly, filled with divine light;

who have so mortified whatever in them pertains to the earth (cf. Col. 3:5), freeing it from all impurity and

impassioned desire, that not only do they themselves not think or act maliciously, but even when drawn in this

direction by another they are unwavering in their dispassion. Those who accuse these saints of folly, and who do not

believe them when in the wisdom of the Spirit they teach about divine matters, would have recognized them had

they understood the sacred writings that are read and sung daily. For if they possessed a mature knowledge of the

Holy Scriptures they would have believed in the blessings spoken of and bestowed on us by God. But because out of

self-conceit and negligence they do not share in these blessings, in their unbelief they slander those who do share in

them and who teach others about them.


107. For this reason those filled with grace and perfect in spiritual knowledge and wisdom will meet and see

people living in the world only in order to benefit them in some way through reminding them of God's

commandments or by doing good; there is a chance that some will listen, understand, and be persuaded. For those




not led by the Spirit of God walk in darkness and do not know where they are going

[V4] 48


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


(of. John 12:35) or what are the obstacles that make them stumble. Yet perhaps one day they may recover from their

presumption and accept the true teaching of the Holy Spirit; learning about the will of God in all its purity and

integrity, they may repent, carry out this will and receive some share in spiritual grace. But if these holy people

cannot in this way benefit those living in the world, they return to their cells, lamenting the hardness of heart they

have encountered; and they pray day and night for the salvation of such as are still in darkness. To those who dwell

constantly with God and are more than abundantly filled with every blessing, this is the only thing that causes



108. What is the purpose of the Incarnation of the Divine Logos which is proclaimed throughout the Scriptures,

about which we read and which yet we do not recognize? Surely it is that He has shared in what is ours so as to

make us participants of what is His. For the Son of God became the Son of man in order to make us human beings

sons of God, raising us up by grace to what He is by nature, giving us a new birth in the Holy Spirit and leading us

directly into the kingdom of heaven. Or, rather. He gives us the grace to possess this kingdom within ourselves (cf .

Luke 17:21), so that not merely do we hope to enter it but, being in full possession of it, we can affirm: 'Our life is

hid with Christ m God' (Col. 3:3).


109. Baptism does not take away our free will or freedom of choice, but gives us the freedom no longer to be

tyrannized by the devil unless we choose to be. After baptism it is in our power either to persist willingly in the

practice of the commandments of Christ, into whom we were baptized, and to advance in the path of His ordinances,

or to deviate from this straight way and to fall again into the hands of our enemy, the devil.


110. Whoever after baptism deliberately submits to the will of the devil and carries out his wishes, estranges

himself - to adapt David's words - from the holy womb of baptism (cf. Ps. 58:3). None of us can be estranged or

alienated from the nature with which we are created. We are created good by God - for God creates nothing evil -

and we remain unchanging in our nature and essence as created. But we do what we choose and want, whether good

or bad, of our own free will. Just as a knife does not change its nature, but remains iron whether used for good or for

evil, so we, as has been said, act and do what we want without departing from our own nature.


[V4] 49


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


in. To be merciful to just one person will not save you, but to scorn just one person will send you to the fire

(cf.Matt. 18:10). The words, 'I was hungry' and 'I was thirsty' (Matt. 25:35), were spoken with reference not merely

to a single occasion or to a single day, but to the whole of our life. Thus our Lord and God has declared that He

accepts from His servants food, drink, clothing and so on, not once only but always and in all things.




1 12. Even though we may have been charitable to a hundred people, if there were others from whom we turned

away when they asked for food and drink and we could have given it to them, we will be judged by Christ as having

refused Him nourishment. For Christ, whom we nourish in the humblest of people, is in all those to whom we

refused our charity.


113. He who today gives to all everything they need and tomorrow, though still in the position to act in a similar

way, neglects some of his fellow beings and allows them to perish of hunger, thirst or cold, has scorned and allowed

to die Him who said, 'Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these My kindred, you have done it to Me' (Matt.



1 14. Christ takes on the appearance of each of the poor and assimilates Himself to all of them so that no one who

believes in Him will be arrogant towards his fellow being. On the contrary, he will look on his fellow being and his

neighbor as his God, regarding himself as least of all in comparison just as much with his neighbor as with his

Creator, honoring his neighbor as if he were his Creator, and exhausting his all in his service, just as Christ our God

poured out His blood for our salvation.


1 15. We who have been commanded to regard our neighbor as ourself (cf. Lev. 19:18; Luke 10:27) should do so

not for one day only, but for our whole life. Similarly, we who have been told to give to all who ask (cf. Matt. 5:42)

are told to do this for our whole life. And if we would like others to do good to us, we should ourselves act in the

same way towards them (cf. Matt. 7:12).


1 16. Whoever regards his neighbor as himself cannot bear to possess more than his neighbor. On the other hand,

if he has more and does not give unstintingly until he himself becomes as poor as his neighbor, he fails to fulfill the

Lord's commandment. And if someone wishes to give to all who ask, but rejects one of them while he still has a

penny or a scrap of bread, or if he does not act towards his neighbor


[V4] 50


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


as he would like other people to act towards him, he too is failing to fulfill the Lord's commandment. Similarly if

you provide for even the humblest of the poor, and give him drink, and clothe him, and so on, but ignore a single

person whom you know to be hungry and thirsty, you will be regarded as having ignored Christ our God when He

was hungry and thirsty.


117. This may seem extremely severe, and you may well say to yourself: 'Who can do all this? Who can care and

provide for everyone, and not ignore anyone?' But let us listen to what St Paul explicitly states: 'For the love of

Christ impels us to pronounce this judgment: that, since one has died for all, therefore all have died' (2 Cor. 5:14).


118. Just as the more comprehensive commandments contain within themselves all the more particular

commandments, so the more comprehensive virtues contain in themselves the more particular virtues. For he who

sells what he has and distributes it to the poor (cf. Matt. 19:21), and who once and for all becomes poor himself, has

fulfilled at once all the more particular commandments: he no longer has to give alms to the person who asks him

for them, nor does he have to-refrain from rejecting the man who wishes to borrow from him (cf. Matt. 5:42). So,

too, someone who prays continuously (cf. 1 Thess. 5:17) has in this act included everything and is no longer obliged




to praise the Lord seven times a day (of. Ps. 119:164), or in the evening, in the morning, and at noonday (of. Ps.

55:17): he has already done all that we do by way of prayer and psalmody according to the regulations and at

specific times and hours. Similarly, he who has acquired consciously within himself the Teacher of spiritual

knowledge (cf. Ps. 94:10) has gone through all Scripture, has gained all that is to be gained from reading, and will

no longer have need to resort to books. How is this? The person who is in communion with Him who inspired those

who wrote the Divine Scriptures, and is initiated by Him into the undivulged secrets of the hidden mysteries, will

himself be an inspired book to others - a book containing old and new mysteries and written by the hand of God; for

he has accomplished all things and in God, the principle of perfection, he rests from all his labors.


1 19. Emission of semen in sleep may be produced by many factors. It may be due to gluttony, or self-esteem, or

the envy of the demons. It may occur after long vigils when the body is sluggish and ready for sleep. It may happen

because of the fear that it may happen, especially


[V4] 51


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


if one is a priest due to celebrate the Liturgy, or intends to receive holy communion: filled with anxious thoughts

that this might happen, one falls asleep only to have it happen. This, too, is brought about by the envy of the

demons. Or it may be that after seeing a lovely face during the day, one then recalls it mentally, and falls asleep full

of unchaste thoughts which one fails to repel because of one's sluggishness: thus one lapses while asleep, or even

while lying awake in bed. Or certain individuals - negligent, as 1 see it - may sit and talk, perhaps impassionately,

perhaps not, about things involving the passions; then, when they go to bed, they turn those things over in their

minds, drop off to sleep while thinking about them, and come under their spell during sleep. It may even happen

during the conversation itself, one person being perverted by another. We should therefore always be attentive to

ourselves and reflect on the prophet's words: '1 have set the Lord always before me, because He is at my right hand,

so that 1 shall not be shaken' (Ps. 16:8); and we should not listen to such talk. Often even those engrossed in prayer

are physically aroused, as 1 have stated in the text on prayer.


120. Brother, at the beginning of your renunciation of the world, try hard to implant in yourself noble virtues, so

that you become useful to the community and so that the Lord may finally exalt you. Do not try to be familiar with

the abbot, as we have already said elsewhere, or request any honor from him. Do not seek friendship with the senior

members of the community, and do not hang about their cells; for if you do, not only will the passion of self-esteem

begin to take root in you, but you will be disliked by the superior. Why this is so will be clear if you think about it.

Sit peacefully in your cell, whatever it is like. If someone wants to contact you, do not spurn him on the grounds that

he disturbs your devotions. Provided that you meet him with the consent of your spiritual father, you will come to no

harm, even if the visitor has been sent to you by the enemy. But if you see that no good comes from the meeting,

you should follow the path that is of profit to you.


121. At all times you should fear God, and every day you should examine yourself to see what good things you

have done and what bad things. And you should forget what was good, lest you succumb to the passion of self-

esteem. But where what was bad is concerned you should weep, confess, and pray intensely. This self-examination





[V4] 52


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


take place as follows: when the day has ended and evening has come, ask yourself how, with God's help, you have

passed the day. Did you judge anyone, speak harshly of anyone, or offend anyone? Did you look nnpassionately at

anyone, or did you disobey your superior with regard to your duties and neglect them? Did you become angry with

anyone, or occupy your mind with useless things while in church? Or, overcome by lethargy, did you leave church

or depart from your rule of prayer? When you see that you are guiltless on all counts - which is impossible, for 'no

one is free from stain, not even for a single day of his life' (cf. Job 14:4-5. LXX), and 'who will boast that his heart is

pure?' (cf. Prov. 20:9) - then cry out to God, full of tears: 'Lord, forgive me all my sins, in thought or act, conscious

or unwitting.' For we offend in many ways, and do not know it.


122. Each day you should reveal all your thoughts to your spiritual father; and you should accept with complete

confidence what he says to you, as if it came from the mouth of God. Do not speak of any of this to anyone else,

saying: 'When I asked my spiritual father such and such a thing, he said this or that; was that good counsel or not?

And what should I do to heal myself?' Words like these display lack of trust in your spiritual father and injure the

soul. Mostly they occur in the case of beginners.


123. You should look on all who are in the monastery as saints and regard only yourself as a sinner and as the

least of all, thinking that on that day all will be saved and you alone will be punished. And when you are in church

reflecting about these things, weep bitter tears of compunction, taking no account of those who will be shocked by

this or mock such behavior. But if you see that as a result of this you are slipping into self-esteem, leave the church

and weep in secret, returning as soon as you can to your place. This is particularly valuable in the case of beginners,

especially during the six psalms, the psalter, the readings, and the Divine Liturgy. Be careful not to condemn

anyone, but keep it in mind that all who see your distress will think that you are a great sinner and will pray for your

salvation. If you think of this at all times and carry it out constantly, you will be greatly helped, attracting to yourself

God's grace and becoming a participant in His divine blessings.


[V4] 53


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


124. Do not visit the cell of anyone except the abbot, and this rarely. Even if you want to ask the abbot about

some thought, do this in church. After the service return at once to your cell; from there go to carry out your duties.

After compline, prostrate yourself before the abbot's door, ask for his prayers, and then, head down, hurry silently

back to your cell. For it is better to repeat the Tnsagion prayer once with attention before going to bed than to pass a

four-hour vigil in idle talk. Where there are compunction and spiritual grief, there is also divine illumination; when

this is present in you, listlessness and sickness are dispelled.


125. Do not permit yourself to feel special love for anyone, in particular for a novice, even if his way of life




seems excellent, and much more so if it is suspect. Generally such love, even if initially spiritual, changes into an

impassioned love, and results in useless afflictions. This tends to happen especially to those engaged in spiritual

warfare, as one may learn through humility and constant prayer. This is not the right occasion for me to speak about

these matters in detail, but he who has understanding will understand.


126. Be a stranger to every brother in the monastery - and even more to all whom you know in the world. Love

everyone equally and look on all those devoutly engaged in spiritual warfare as saints. For those who are negligent,

as we ourselves are, we must pray intensely; but nevertheless, as I said above, we should regard all as saints, and

should strive through inward grief to be purified of our passions, so that, illumined by grace, we may look on all as

equals and attain the blessing of those who are pure in heart (cf Matt. 5:8).


127. Brother, regard perfect withdrawal from the world first as the complete mortification of your own will; in the

second place regard it as detachment from and abjuration of parents, family and friends.


128. In the third place you must divest yourself of all that belongs to you and give it to the poor, in accordance

with the words, 'Sell all you have and give it to the poor' (Matt. 19:21). Then you must forget all with whom you

enjoyed a particular relationship of love, whether physical or spiritual.


129. You must confess all the secrets of your heart, all that you have done from your infancy until this very hour,

to your spiritual father or to the abbot as if to God himself, the diviner of hearts and


[V4] 54


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


minds. Do this in the knowledge that John baptized with the baptism of repentance and that all came to him

confessing their sins (cf Matt. 3:6). As a result of this your soul will experience great joy and your conscience will

find relief, in accordance with the words of the Prophet: 'First declare your sins, so that you may be set free' (cf. Isa.



130. Be fully persuaded that after your entry into the monastery your parents and all your friends are dead; and

regard solely God and the abbot as your father and mother. Never ask anything of parents or friends on account of

some bodily need. If in their concern they send you something, accept it and be grateful for their solicitude, but give

whatever they send to the guest-house or to the hospital. Do this with humility; for it is not a sublime but an

insignificant act.


131. Do everything good with humility, keeping in mind Him who said, 'When you have done everything, say,

"We are useless servants; we have only done what was our duty" ' (Luke 17:10).


1 32. Take care never to receive communion while you have anything against anyone, even if this is only a hostile

thought. Not until you have brought about reconciliation through repentance should you communicate. But you will

learn this, too, through prayer.


133. You should be ready each day to receive all kinds of afflictions, regarding them as your release from many

sins; and you should thank God for them. Through them you may acquire a close and unimpeachable communion

with God, in accordance with St Paul's words: 'Afflictions produce patient endurance; patient endurance, strength of




character; and strength of character, hope; and hope does not disappoint' (Rom. 5:3-5). For the things that 'the eye

has not seen, and the ear has not heard, and man's heart has not grasped' ( 1 Cor. 2:9) - these things belong, according

to the infaUible promise, to those who, with the help of God's grace, patiently endure affliction. Without God's grace

we can of course do nothing.


134. Have nothing material in your cell, not even a needle, except for a rush mat, your sheepskin, your cloak, and

whatever else you wear. If possible, do not have a stool there. There is much to be said on this matter; but let him

who has understanding understand.


135. Again, do not ask the abbot for any appurtenances other than those prescribed; and take these only when he

calls you and himself gives them to you. Resist any thought of exchanging them for others. Accept them as they are

with thanksgiving, as if they had been given by


[V4] 55


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


God, and manage with them. It is not permitted to buy others. You should wash your outer garment twice a year if it

becomes dirty; and, like some unknown beggar, you should ask your brother in all humility for something to wear

until it has been washed and dried in the sun. Then you should return what you have borrowed with thanks. You

should do the same with your cloak and any other clothing.


136. Perform the various duties assigned to you as well as you can; in your cell persevere in prayer with

compunction, attentiveness and constant tears. You should not think that because you have worked exceptionally

hard today you should reduce your prayer on account of bodily exhaustion. For however greatly you exert yourself

in performing your duties, you should be aware that you have lost something of great value if you deprive yourself

of prayer. For this is in fact the case.


137. You should arrive first at the church services, especially matins and the Liturgy, and leave last, unless forced

to do otherwise.


138. You should be completely obedient to your abbot, from whom you received the tonsure, and should fulfill

his orders uncritically until your death, even if they seem impossible to you. In this way you will imitate Him who

was obedient 'to the point of death, even death on the cross' (Phil. 2:8). You should obey in everything not only the

abbot, but all the brotherhood, and whoever is in charge of the various tasks that have to be done; and if you are told

to do something beyond your power, make a prostration and ask forgiveness. Should this be refused, remember that

'the kingdom of heaven is entered forcibly, and those who force themselves take possession of it' (Matt. 1 1 : 12); and

apply force to yourself.


139. Whoever with a contrite heart prostrates himself before the entire brotherhood as a person of no account,

utterly inconspicuous, a nonentity, and who lives in this way throughout his life, will receive, I declare, the gift of

insight, and will foretell many things about the future with the help of God's grace. Such a person will also grieve

for the faults of others; moreover, he will be undistracted by attachment to material things, since the intensity of his

love for what is divine and spiritual will not permit him to stumble because of them. There is nothing marvelous

about foretelling things of the future: often, indeed, it is prompted by the demons, as he who has understanding will




understand. But if a person begins to hear confessions, he may perhaps be deprived of these gifts, since he wiU then

be busied with the examination of other people's thoughts. If, on the other hand, out of


[V4] 56


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


great humihty he stops hearing confessions and giving counsel, he may again recover his previous gift of insight But

God atone has knowledge of these things; as for myself, constrained by fear I dare not speak of them.


140. You should always direct your intellect towards God, whether asleep or awake, eating or talking, engaged in

your handiwork Or in any other activity. Thus you will fulfill the saying of the prophet, 'I have set the Lord always

before me' (Ps. 16:8). Reckon yourself a greater sinner than anyone else. For if you persist in this state of

recollectedness, illumination will enter your mind like a ray of light. And the more you aspire to such illumination,

attentive and undistracted, striving and tearful, the more clearly it will shine. When it shines, it is loved; and when it

is loved, it purifies; and as it purifies, it makes one godlike, enlightening one and teaching one to distinguish good

from evil. But, my brother, much hard work is needed, and God's help, before this radiance indwells totally in your

soul and illumines it as the moon illumines the darkness of the night. You must also pay attention to the thoughts of

arrogance and presumption which attack you, and not condemn anyone when you see him doing something wrong.

For when the demons see the soul freed from passions and temptations through the indwelling of grace and the

resulting state of peace, they attack it through such thoughts. But help comes from God. Let your inward grief be

continuous and your tears unquenchable. Yet take care not to harm yourself because of your great joy and

compunction: recognize that they are the result not of your own labor but of God's grace. Otherwise they may be

taken from you and, when you urgently seek them again in prayer, you will not be able to recover them. You will

then know what a gift it is that you have lost. May we never, Lord, be deprived of Thy grace.


Yet if this does happen to you, my brother, cast your weakness before the Lord and, standing up, stretch forth

your hands and pray, saying, 'Lord, have mercy on me a sinner, abject and weak as I am; and grant me Thy grace,

not allowing me to be tested beyond my capacity. See, Lord, to what despondency and bad thoughts my sins have

led me. Lord, even if I wish to I cannot measure the loss of Thy benediction,' brought about by the demons and my

own presumption. I know that the demons range themselves against those who zealously fulfill Thy will. But since I

daily do what they want, how is it that I am afflicted by them? I am tried constantly by my own sins. Yet now. Lord,

if it is Thy


[V4] 57


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


will and to my benefit, let Thy grace enter Thy servant once again, so that, aware of it, I may rejoice with tears and

compunction, illumined by its eternal radiance. Guard me from unclean thoughts, from everything evil, from the sins

I commit daily in word or act, consciously or unwittingly. May I be given the confidence to call upon Thee freely,




Lord, from amidst all the afflictions that I suffer daily at the hands of men and demons; and, cutting off my own

will, may I be mindful of the blessings stored up for those that love Thee. For Thou hast said. Lord, that he who asks

receives, that he who seeks finds, and that the door will be opened to whoever knocks'(cf Matt. 7 : 8). In addition to

saying these and other things that God puts into your mind, persevere in prayer, not allowing yourself to grow slack

through listlessness. And God in His love will not abandon you.


141. Persevere until the end in the cell initially allotted to you by your superior. If you are troubled because of its

age or dilapidation, make a prostration before your superior and humbly mention the matter to him. If he hears you

sympathetically, rejoice; if not, give thanks anyway, remembering our Lord who had nowhere to lay His head (cf.

Matt. 8:20). For if you disturb the superior about this a second time, then a third and fourth time, insolence will

result, then lack of trust, and finally disdain. So if you want to lead a quiet and peaceful life, do not ask your superior

for any bodily comfort. For it was not to this that you dedicated yourself when originally making your monastic

vows; but you consented to be despised and scorned by all, in accordance with our Lord's commandment, and to

endure manfully. If you want to maintain your trust in and love for your superior, and to look on him as a saint,

make sure of these three things: that you do not ask him for any comfort; that you do not take any liberties when

speaking with him; and that you do not keep visiting him, as some do, on the grounds that he helps them. This is not

perseverance, but human failing. On the other hand, I do not condemn the practice of not hiding from him any

distractive thought that comes into your mind; for if you maintain this practice you will pass over the sea of life

smoothly and will regard your spiritual father, whatever he may be like, as a saint. Should you approach him in

church in order to question him about a distractive thought, but find that someone else has anticipated you for the

same purpose, or for some other reason, and that you are therefore ignored for a short while, do not take it amiss or

think anything hostile; stand by


[V4] 58


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


yourself with hands folded until the other person has finished and you are called forward. The fathers often act in

this way, perhaps deliberately, testing us and releasing us from sins we have committed.


142. You should observe the great Lenten fast by eating every third day (not counting Saturdays and Sundays),

unless there is a major feast. During the other two main fasts - before Christmas and before the Feast of the

Dormition - you should eat every other day. On the remaining days of the year you should eat once only, except on

Saturday and Sunday and on feast days; but do not eat to repletion.


143. Strive to become for the whole community a good example of every virtue: of humility, gentleness, active

compassion, obedience even in the least of things, freedom from anger, detachment, unpossessiveness and

compunction, guilelessness and unmquisitiveness, of simplicity and estrangement from the world. Visit the sick,

console the distressed, and do not make your longing for prayer a pretext for turning away from anyone who asks for

your help; for love is greater than prayer. Show sympathy towards all, do not be arrogant or over-familiar, do not

find fault with others, or ask for anything from the abbot or from those in charge of various monastic tasks; be

respectful towards all priests, attentive in prayer, frank and loving towards everyone; and do not ransack the

Scriptures for the sake of glory. Prayer accompanied by tears and illumination given by grace will teach you how to




accomplish all this.


Whoever it may be who seeks your assistance and asks for your guidance, with great humility and self-

effacement give advice as God's grace inspires you about the different forms of holy action, using your own life as

the model but referring to it as though it were that of someone else. And do not reject anyone who seeks your help

with regard to some distractive thought, but listen to his sins, whatever they may be, weeping and praying for him;

for this, too, is a sign of love and perfect compassion. Do not repel someone who comes to you on the grounds that

you might be harmed by hearing what he has to say: with the help of God's grace, you will not be harmed in any

way. So that no one else may be scandalized, you should speak in some secluded place. Being human, you may be

attacked by some distractive thought; but if God's grace is present in you, such a thing will not happen to you. In any

case, we are


[V4] 59


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


taught to seek not our own good but that of others, so that they may be saved (cf 1 Cor. 10:24, 33).


As we have already said, you should keep your life free from worldly concerns and possessions. You may

recognize that grace is active within you when you truly feel that you are a greater shmer than all other men. How

this happens, not I, but only God can say.


144. When keeping vigil you should read for two hours, pray for two hours with tears and compunction, go

through whatever you choose of your own rule of prayer, and repeat, if you wish, the twelve psalms. Psalm 119, and

the prayer of St Eustratios. Do this when the nights are long. When they are shorter, abbreviate the sequence of

prayers and readings in accordance with the strength given you by God. For without Him nothing good is

accomplished: as the prophet says, 'The steps of a man are guided by the Lord' (Ps. 37:23. LXX). And our Savior

Himself has said, 'Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).


Never go to communion without tears.


145. You should eat what is put in front of you, no matter what it is; and take wine with uncomplaining self-

restraint. If because of sickness you are having your meals by yourself, eat raw vegetables with olives. But if one of

the brethren should send you something to eat, receive it with humility and thanks, as if you were a guest, and eat

some of it, whatever it may be, sending what is left over to another brother, poor and pious. Should someone invite

you to a meal, partake of all that is put in front of you, but eat only a little, maintaining your self-control in

accordance with the commandment. Then, having stood up and bowed before him as though you were destitute and

a stranger, thank him. Saying, 'May God give you your reward, holy father.' Be careful to say nothing else, even

though it might possibly be of help.


146. If some brother, badly upset by the abbot, or the steward, or by someone else, should come to you, encourage

him in this way:


'Believe me, brother, this has happened in order to test you; for the same thing has happened to me in various ways,

and because of my




[V4] 60


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


faint-heartedness I was grieved. But once I realized that these things occur in order to test us, I have endured them

gratefully. You should do the same now, and be glad for such trials.' Even if he then begins to abuse you, still do not

turn away from him, but console him in whatever way God's grace enables you to do so. We have to distinguish

between many different situations. According to your knowledge of your brother's state and his thoughts, talk to

him, and do not let him go away unhealed.


147. If one of the brethren falls ill and you visit him only after some time, first send him a message: 'Holy father,

I learnt about your illness only today, and I ask your forgiveness.' Then go and see him; and, after making a

prostration and receiving his blessing, say to him: 'How has God helped you, holy father?' Then, sitting down with

your hands folded, be silent. Even if there are others visiting him at the same time, be careful not to say anything

either about the Scriptures or about his health, especially when not asked, so that you will not be troubled

afterwards. For this is what happens generally to the more simple brethren.


148. If you are having a meal with your brethren, eat unhesitatingly of what is presented to you, whatever it may

be. If, however, you have been told not to eat fish or some other food, and it is offered to you, should the person who

gave you the order be close at hand, go to him and request him to let you partake; but should he not be present, or if

you know that he would not give his permission, and at the same time you do not wish to offend your hosts, tell him

what you have done after you have eaten, and ask his forgiveness. If you are unwilling to do either of these things, it

is better for you not to visit your brethren. For in this way you will be the gainer in two respects: you will escape the

demon of self-esteem, and at the same time spare them offence and distress. If the foods offered to you are on the

rich side, keep to your rule; yet even in this case it is better to take a little of everything. In short, when you are

invited somewhere, apply the principle laid down by St Paul: 'Eat all that is set before you without raising questions

of conscience' (cf. i Cor. 10:25).


149. If one of the brethren knocks on your door while you are praying in your cell, open it for him and sit down

and talk with him humbly, provided he proposes a topic of conversation that has some positive purpose. If he is

distraught, do what you can, through word or act, to rally him. But when he has gone, close your door and take up


[V4] 61


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


your prayer again, and complete it. To comfort those who visit you is a form of reconciliation. But you should not

act in this way with regard to non-monks; in their case you should complete your prayer and then speak with them.


150. If, while you are praying, you feel frightened, or hear some noise, or if a light shines around you, or

something else happens, do not be troubled, but concentrate all the more fully on your prayer. Demonic

disturbances, alarms and excursions occur so that you will lose heart and give up your prayer; then, if this happens




regularly, you will fall into the demons' power. But if as you pray another light, beyond description, appears to you,

and your soul is filled with joy, and you feel a desire for higher things, and tears of compunction flow, know that

this is a divine visitation and succor. Should this state continue for a long time, recapture your intellect in case

something more happens to you because of the anguish of your tears, and submit it to some physical activity,

thereby humbling yourself. If it is your enemies that are trying to frighten you, take care not to abandon your prayer.

Be as the child who, frightened by some hobgoblin, dispels his terror by flying into the arms of his mother or father:

resort to God through prayer and you will find that you escape the fear which the demons provoke.


151. If, while you are sitting in your cell, one of the brothers comes to you and asks about carnal warfare, do not

turn him away. But with compunction help him, using what God's grace has given you and what you have yourself

learnt through your own experience; and then dismiss him. As he leaves, however, make a prostration before him

and say, 'Believe me, brother, I have hope that through God's love this war you wage will end; only do not give in or

relax.' When he has gone, stand up, recall his struggle and, lifting your hands with tears towards God, pray with all

your heart for your brother, saying, '0 Lord God, who do not desire the death of a sinner, act as You know how and

as will benefit this brother.' And God, who knows your brother's faith in you, and your compassion bom of love, and

the genuineness of your prayer on his behalf, will diminish this warfare for him.


152. All those things, brother, help you to acquire compunction. They should be carried out with a contrite heart,

patience, and thanksgiving. They will cause you to shed tears, cleansing you of your passions, and will bring you to

the kingdom of heaven. 'For the kingdom of heaven is entered forcibly, and those who force themselves


[V4] 62


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


take possession of it' (Matt. 11:12). If you can accomplish these things you will leave your former way of life

completely behind, and may even be freed from the attacks of distractive thoughts. For darkness gives way to light,

and a shadow to the sun. But should someone at the start of the spiritual path neglect these things, growing sluggish

in thought and full of curiosity, he will be deprived of grace. Then, falling a victim to evil passions, he will come to

know his own weakness and be filled with fear. Yet the person who successfully accomplishes these things should

realize that this is the result not of his own efforts but of God's grace. He should purify himself first, in accordance

with the saying, 'First purify yourself and then speak to Him who is pure.' For he who through many tears has

purified his intellect and has received the illumination of the divine light - light that would grow no less even if

everyone received it - will dwell spiritually in the age to come.


153. St Symeon the New Theologian was once asked what a priest ought to be like, and he replied as follows:


'I am not worthy to be a priest; but I know very well what someone who is to celebrate the sacred mysteries of

God should be like. In the first place, he should be chaste, not only in body but also in soul, and he should be free of

all sin. Secondly, he should be humble both in his external manner and in the inner State of his soul. Then, when he

stands before the holy altar, while gazing with his physical eyes on the holy gifts, spiritually - and with total

certainty - he should perceive the Godhead. Moreover, his heart should be consciously aware of Him who is

invisibly present and dwelling in the gifts, so that he may offer the petitions with confidence; and when, like a friend

speaking to a friend, he says, 'Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name' (Matt. 6:9), the way in which




he recites the prayer will show that he has dwelling within him the true Son of God, together with the Father and the

Holy Spirit. I have seen such priests. Forgive me, fathers and brethren.'


He also spoke the following words, as if about someone else, thereby concealing himself so as to avoid human

adulation, even though because of his love for others he felt at the same time compelled to reveal himself:


'A certain priest-monk, who had full confidence in me as his friend, once told me this: "I have never celebrated

the Liturgy without seeing the Holy Spirit, just as I saw Him come upon me when I was ordained


[V4] 63


St Symeon the New Theologian

One Hundred and Fifty-Three Practical and Theological Texts


and the metropolitan said the prayer while the service-book rested on my head. " When I asked him how he saw it at

that time, and in what form, he said: "Undifferentiated and without form, except as light. At first I was astonished,

beholding what I had never beheld before; and as I was asking myself what it might be, the light said to me, its voice

heard only by the intellect: 'Thus have I appeared to all the prophets and apostles, and to those who are now the

saints and the elect of God; for I am the Holy Spirit of God.' " To Him be glory and power through all the ages.



[V4] 64, [V4] 65, [V4] 66




[V4] 67


St Symeon the New Theologian

The Three Methods of Prayer


There are three methods of prayer and attentiveness, by means of which the soul is either uplifted or cast down.

Whoever employs these methods at the right time is uplifted, but whoever employs them foolishly and at the wrong

time is cast down. Vigilance and prayer should be as closely linked together as the body to the soul, for the one

cannot stand without the other. Vigilance first goes on ahead like a scout and engages sin in combat. Prayer then

follows afterwards, and instantly destroys and exterminates all the evil thoughts with which vigilance has already

been battling, for attentiveness alone cannot exterminate them. This, then, is the gate of life and death. If by means

of vigilance we keep prayer pure, we make progress; but if we leave prayer unguarded and permit it to be defiled,

our efforts are null and void.


Since, then, as we said, there are three methods of attentiveness and prayer, we should explain the distinctive

features of each, so that he who aspires to attain life and wishes to set to work may with firm assurance select what

suits him best; otherwise through ignorance he may choose what is worse and forfeit what is better.




The First Method of Prayer


The distinctive features of the first method of prayer are these. When a person stands at prayer, he raises hands,

eyes and intellect heavenwards, and fills his intellect with divine thoughts, with images of celestial beauty, of the

angelic hosts, of the abodes of the righteous. In brief, at the time of prayer he assembles in his intellect all that he



[V4] 68


St Symeon the New Theologian

The Three Methods of Prayer


heard from Holy Scripture and so rouses his soul to divine longing as he gazes towards heaven, and sometimes he

sheds tears. But when someone prays in this way, without him realizing it his heart grows proud and exalted, and he

regards what is happening to him as the effect of divine grace and entreats God to allow him always to be engaged

in this activity. Such assumptions, however, are signs of delusion, because the good is not good when it is not done

in the right way.


If, then, such a person is pursuing a life of stillness and seclusion, he will almost inevitably become deranged.

And even if this does not happen to him, it will be impossible for him to attain a state of holiness or dispassion.

Those who adopt this method of prayer have also been deluded into thinking that they see lights with their bodily

eyes, smell sweet scents, hear voices, and so on. Some have become completely possessed by demons and wander

from place to place in their madness. Others fail to recognize the devil when he transforms himself into an angel of

light (cf. 2 Cor. 1 1:14); and, putting their trust in him, they continue in an incorrigible state of delusion until their

death, refusing to accept the counsel of anyone else. Still others, incited by the devil, have committed suicide,

throwing themselves over a precipice or hanging themselves.


Indeed, who can describe all the various forms of deception employed by the devil? Yet from what we have said

any sane person can understand the kind of harm that may result from this first method of attentiveness. Even if

someone who has adopted this method may perhaps avoid the evils we have mentioned because he lives in a

community - for it is solitaries who are especially subject to them - none the less he will pass his entire life without

making any progress.




The Second Method of Prayer


The second form of prayer is this. A person withdraws his intellect from sensory things and concentrates it in

himself, guards his senses, and collects all his thoughts; and he advances oblivious of the vanities of this world.

Sometimes he examines his thoughts, sometimes pays


[V4] 69


St Symeon the New Theologian

The Three Methods of Prayer


attention to the words of the prayer he is addressing to God, and sometimes drags back his thoughts when they have




been taken captive; and when he is overcome by passion he forcefuUy strives to recover himself.


One who struggles in this way, however, can never be at peace or win the crown of victory. He is like a person

fighting at night: he hears the voices of his enemies and is wounded by them, but he cannot see clearly who they are,

where they come from, and how and for what purpose they assail him. Such is the damage done to him because of

the darkness in his intellect. Fighting in this manner, he cannot ever escape his noetic enemies, but is worn out by

them. For all his efforts he gains nothing. Falsely imagining that he is concentrated and attentive, he falls victim

unawares to self-esteem. Dominated and mocked by it, he despises and criticizes others for their lack of

attentiveness. Imagining that he is capable of becoming the shepherd of sheep, he is like the blind man who

undertakes to lead the blind (cf Matt. 15:14).


Such are the characteristics of the second method of prayer, and every one striving after salvation can see what

harm it does. Yet this second method is better than the first, just as a moonlit night is better than a night that is pitch-

dark and starless.




The Third Method of Prayer


Let us now begin to speak about the third method of prayer, which is truly astonishing and hard to explain. For

those ignorant of it, it is not only difficult to understand but virtually incredible, and there are very few to be found

who practice it. It seems to me that it has deserted us along with the virtue of obedience. For it is the love of

obedience that delivers us from entanglement with this evil world, rendering us free from anxiety and impassioned

craving. It makes us wholehearted and unflagging in pursuit of our aim - provided, of course, that we find an

unerring guide. For if through obedience you make yourself dead to every worldly and bodily attachment, how can

anything transient enslave your intellect? If you entrust all the care of your soul and body to God and to your

spiritual father, no longer living for yourself or desiring the good opinion of others, what anxiety can distract 'you?


[V4] 70


St Symeon the New Theologian

The Three Methods of Prayer


This third method, then, destroys the invisible wiles of the demons, with which as with ropes they seek to drag

down the intellect into all manner of devious droughts. Set at liberty, the intellect wages war with its full strength,

scrutinizing the thoughts insinuated by the enemy and with masterful dexterity expelling them, while the heart in its

purity offers prayers to God. This is the beginning of a life of true seclusion, and those who fail to make such a

beginning exhaust themselves in vain.


The starting-point of this third method of prayer is not to gaze upwards, to raise one's hands aloft, to concentrate

one's thoughts and to call down help from heaven. These, as we said, are the marks of the first form of delusion. Nor

does it begin, as the second method does, by keeping guard over the senses with the intellect, while failing to

observe the enemies who attack from within. In such a case, a person is struck by the demons instead of striking

them; when wounded he is unaware of it; taken captive, he cannot retaliate against his captors. His enemies

constantly attack him, from behind and even face to face, and fill him with self-esteem and arrogance.


If you desire to embark on this light-giving and joyful task, begin as follows. You must first practice exact




obedience, as described above, and so act always with a pure conscience; for without obedience it is impossible for

your conscience to be pure. And you must keep your conscience pure in three respects: first, with respect to God;

second, with respect to your spiritual father; and third, with respect to other people and to material things. With

respect to God you must keep your conscience pure by refraining from doing anything that conflicts with the

worship due to Him. With respect to your spiritual father do everything he tells you to do, neither more nor less, and

be guided by his purpose and will. With respect to other people, you must keep your conscience pure by not doing to

them anything that you hate (cf. Tobit 4:15) and that you do not want them to do to you. With respect to material

things, you must take care not to misuse them, whether food, drink or clothing. In brief, do everything as if you were

in the presence of God, so that your conscience does not rebuke you in any way.


Having cleared the ground and indicated in a preliminary way the true character of attentiveness, let us now speak

clearly and concisely about its characteristics. True and unerring attentiveness and prayer mean that the intellect

keeps watch over the heart while it prays; it


[V4] 71


St Symeon the New Theologian

The Three Methods of Prayer


should always be on patrol within the heart, and from within - from the depths of the heart - it should offer up its

prayers to God. Once it has tasted within the heart that the Lord is bountiful (cf. Ps. 34:8. LXX), then the intellect

will have no desire to leave the heart, and it will repeat the words of the Apostle Peter, 'It is good for us to be here'

(Matt. 17:4). It will keep watch always within the heart, repulsing and expelling all thoughts sown there by the

enemy. To those who have no knowledge of this practice it appears extremely harsh and arduous; and indeed it is

oppressive and laborious, not only to the uninitiated, but also to those who, although genuinely experienced, have

not yet felt the delight to be found in the depths of the heart. But those who have savored this delight proclaim with

St Paul, 'Who will separate us from the love of Christ?' (Rom. 8:35).


Our holy fathers hearkened to the Lord's words, 'Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries,

unchastity, thefts, perjuries, blasphemies; these are the things that defile a man' (Matt. 15:19-20); and they also

hearkened to Him when He enjoins us to cleanse the inside of the cup so that the outside may also be clean (cf. Matt.

23:26). Hence they abandoned all other forms of spiritual labor and concentrated wholly on this one task of guarding

the heart, convinced that through this practice they would also possess every other virtue, whereas without it no

virtue could be firmly established. Some of the fathers have called this practice stillness of the heart, others

attentiveness, others the guarding of the heart, others watchfulness and rebuttal, and others again the investigation of

thoughts and the guarding of the intellect. But all of them alike worked the earth of their own heart, and in this way

they were fed on the divine manna (cf. Exod. 16: 15).


Ecclesiastes is referring to this when he says, 'Rejoice, young man, in your youth; and walk in the ways of your

heart' (Eccles. 11:9), blameless, expelling anger from your heart; and 'if the spirit of the ruler rises up against you, do

not desert your place' (Eccles. 10:4), by 'place' meaning the heart. Similarly our Lord also says, 'Out of the heart

proceed evil thoughts' (Matt. 15:19), and 'Do not be distracted' (Luke 12:29). And again, 'Strait is the gate and

narrow is the way that leads to life' (Matt. 7:14). Elsewhere He also says, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3);

that is to say, blessed are those who are destitute of every worldly thought. St Peter says likewise, 'Be watchful, be

vigilant, because your adversary, the devil.




[V4] 72


St Symeon the New Theologian

The Three Methods of Prayer


walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour' (1 Pet. 5:8). And St Paul writes very plainly to the

Ephesians about the guarding of the heart, "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood' (Eph. 6:12), and so on. And

our holy fathers have also spoken in their writings about guarding the heart, as those who wish can see for

themselves by reading what St Mark the Ascetic, St John Khmakos, St Hesychios the Priest, St Philotheos of Sinai,

St Isaiah the Solitary and St Varsanuphios, and the entire book known as The Paradise of the Fathers, have to say

about the subject.


In short, if you do not guard your intellect you cannot attain purity of heart, so as to be counted worthy to see God

(cf. Matt. 5:18). Without such watchfulness you cannot become poor in spirit, or grieve, or hunger and thirst after

righteousness, or be truly merciful, or pure in heart, or a peacemaker, or be persecuted for the sake of justice (cf.

Matt. 5:3-10). To speak generally, it is impossible to acquire all the other virtues except through watchfulness. For

this reason you must pursue it more diligently than anything else, so as to learn from experience these things,

unknown to others, that I am speaking to you about. Now if you would like to learn also about the method of prayer,

with God's help I will tell you about this too, in so far as I can.


Above all else you should strive to acquire three things, and so begin to attain what you seek. The first is freedom

from anxiety with respect to everything, whether reasonable or senseless - in other words, you should be dead to

everything. Secondly, you should strive to preserve a pure conscience, so that it has nothing to reproach you with.

Thirdly, you should be completely detached, so that your thoughts incline towards nothing worldly, not even your

own body.


Then sit down in a quiet cell, in a comer by yourself, and do what I tell you. Close the door, and withdraw your

intellect from everything worthless and transient. Rest your beard on your chest, and focus your physical gaze,

together with the whole of your intellect, upon the centre of your belly or your navel. Restrain the drawing-m of

breath through your nostrils, so as not to breathe easily, and search inside yourself with your intellect so as to find

the place of the heart, where


[V4] 73


St Symeon the New Theologian

The Three Methods of Prayer


all the powers of the soul reside. To start with you will find there darkness and an impenetrable density. Later, when

you persist and practice this task day and night, you will find, as though miraculously, an unceasing joy. For as soon

as the intellect attains the place of the heart, at once it sees things of which it previously knew nothing. It sees the

open space within the heart and it beholds itself entirely luminous and full of discrimination. From then on, from

whatever side a distractive thought may appear, before it has come to completion and assumed a form, the intellect

immediately drives it away and destroys it with the invocation of Jesus Christ. From this point onwards the intellect

begins to be full of rancor against the demons and, rousing its natural anger against its noetic enemies, it pursues

them and strikes them down. The rest you will learn for yourself, with God's help, by keeping guard over your




intellect and by retaining Jesus in your heart. As the saying goes, 'Sit in your cell and it will teach you everything. '


Question: Why cannot the monk attain perfection by means of the first and second form of keeping guard?


Answer. Because he does not embark on them in the proper order. St John Klimakos likens these methods to a

ladder, saying, 'Some curtail their passions; others practice psalmody, persevering most of the time in this; others

devote themselves to prayer; and others turn their gaze to the depths of contemplation. When examining this

question let us use the analogy of a ladder. Now those who want to ascend a ladder do not start at the top and climb

down, but start at the bottom and climb up. They ascend the first step, then the second, and so the rest in turn. In this

way we can ascend from earth to heaven. If, then, we wish to attain the perfect stature of the fullness of Christ, like

children who are growing up we must start to climb the ladder set before us, until progressing step by step we reach

the level of a full-grown man and then of an old man.


The first age in the monastic state is to curtail the passions. This is the stage of beginners.


The second rung or stage whereby a person grows up spiritually from adolescence to youth is assiduously to

practice psalmody. For when the passions have been curtailed and laid to rest, psalmody brings


[V4] 74


St Symeon the New Theologian

The Three Methods of Prayer


delight to the tongue and is welcomed by God, since it is not possible to sing to the Lord in a strange land (cf. Ps.

137:4), that is to say, from an impassioned heart. This is the mark of those who are beginning to make progress.


The third rung or stage in life, marking the spiritual transition from youth to manhood, is to persevere in prayer.

This is the stage of those who are already well advanced. Prayer differs from psalmody just as the full-grown man

differs from the youth and the adolescent, according to the scheme that we are following.


In addition there is a fourth rung or stage in spiritual life, that of the old man with grey hairs. This signifies

undeviating absorption in contemplation, and this is the state of the perfect. So the journey is complete and the top

of the ladder has been reached.


Since this is the way in which matters have been appointed and arranged by the Spirit, it is not possible for a child

to grow up to manhood and to attain old age except by mounting the first rung of the ladder and so climbing up to

perfection by the four steps in succession.


For someone who desires spiritual rebirth, the first step towards the light is to curtail the passions, that is to say, to

guard the heart; for it is impossible otherwise to curtail the passions. The next stage is to devote oneself to

psalmody; for when the passions have been curtailed and laid to rest through the heart's resistance against them,

longing for intimate union with God inflames the intellect. Strengthened by this longing the intellect repulses all

distractive thoughts that encircle the heart, attempting to get in, and it rebuffs them through attentiveness. So it

applies itself assiduously to the second stage, that of attentiveness and prayer. This then stirs up the evil spirits, and

the blasts of passion violently agitate the depths of the heart. But through the invocation of the Lord Jesus Christ

they are utterly routed and all the tumult melts like wax in the fire. But though they have been driven out of the heart

the demons continue to disturb the intellect externally through the senses. However, because they can only trouble it

superficially, the intellect soon regains its serenity; none the less, it can never be completely free from the attacks of




the demons. Such freedom is to be found only among those who have attained fuU manhood - who are totaUy

detached from everything visible and who devote themselves unceasingly to giving attention to the heart. After that,

those who have achieved attentiveness are raised little by little to the wisdom of old


[V4] 75


St Symeon the New Theologian

The Three Methods of Prayer


age, that is to say, they ascend to contemplation; and this is the stage of the perfect.


Thus if you practice all this in due sequence, completing each phase at the right time, your heart will first be

cleansed of the passions, and you will then be able to concentrate wholly on psalmody; you will be able to wage war

against the thoughts that are roused by the senses and disturb the surface of the intellect and you will gaze

heavenwards, if need be, alike with your physical and your spiritual eyes, and will pray in true purity. Yet you

should gaze upwards only occasionally because of the enemies that lie in ambush in the air.


God asks only this of us, that our heart be purified through watchfulness. As St Paul says, if the root is holy, so

also will the branches and the fruit be holy (cf Rom 1 1 : 16). But if without following the sequence of which we have

spoken you raise eyes and intellect to heaven in the hope of envisaging noetic realities you will see fantasies rather

than the truth. Because our heart is still unpunfied, as we have said many times, the first and the second methods of

attentiveness do not promote our progress. When we build a house we do not put on the roof before laying the

foundations - this is impossible. We first lay the foundations, then build the house, and finally put on the roof. We

must do the same in relation to spiritual matters. First we must lay the spiritual foundations of the house, that is to

say, we must watch over the heart and curtail the passions arising from it. Then we must build the walls of the

spiritual house, that is to say, through the second form of attentiveness we must repulse the turbulence of the evil

spirits that fight us by means of the external senses, and must free ourselves as quickly as possible from their

attacks. Then we must put on the roof, that is to say, detach ourselves entirely from all things and give ourselves

wholly to God. In this way we complete our spiritual house in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory throughout

all the ages. Amen.


[V4] 76


Nikitas Stithatos


(llth century)

(I'olume 4, pp. 76-174)


Introductory Note


Nikitas Stithatos, the disciple and biographer of St Symeon the New Theologian, is far less well known to us

than St Symeon himself.^ Bom around the beginning of the eleventh century, at an early age (c. 1020) Nikitas

entered the monastery of Studios at Constantinople, and here he remained as a monk for the rest of his life, being

ordained in due course to the priesthood. His personal contact with the New Theologian cannot have lasted very

long, for the latter died in 1022. Before his death St Symeon commissioned Nikitas to make copies of his writings;

and some years later, as a result of a vision in which the saint appeared to him, Nikitas prepared an edition of




Symeon's works which was widely circulated. He acquired the sobriquet 'Stithatos', meaning 'the Courageous',

because of his outspoken opposition during the early 1040's to the illicit relations of the Emperor Constantine IX

Monomachos with his mistress Skliraina. At the time of the confrontation between Cardinal Humbert and Patriarch

Michael Kiroularios of Constantinople in 1054, Nikitas wrote in defence of the Orthodox Church against the Latins.

It is possible that he became abbot of the Studios monastery in his extreme old age, at some point in the period

1076-92. The date of his death is unknown.


In addition to his polemical works against the Latins and his biography of St Symeon, Nikitas wrote theological

treatises on the soul, on paradise, and on the correlation between the angelic and the ecclesiastical hierarchies."

The three Centuries of texts included in The Philokalia deal respectively, so the titles indicate, with the three main

stages on the spiritual way: the practice of the commandments (praktiki), the contemplation of the inner essences

of created things (physiki), and 'theology' or the knowledge of God (gnosis). Here Nikitas


' On the life and writings of Nikitas, see A. Solignac in Dictionnaire de Spiiitualite, xi (1981), cols 224-30.

^ Edited by J. Darrouzes in Sources chretiennes 81 (Paris, 1961).


[V4] 77


Nikitas Stithatos

Introductory Note


is following the classic triadic pattern devised by Evagrios of Pontos^ and used by, among many others, St

Maximos the Confessor." But in fact the contents of the Centuries do not correspond at all exactly to these titles,

and Nikitas includes in each Century material relating to all three stages on the spiritual journey. While employing

most frequently the Evagrian-Maximian scheme, Nikitas occasionally combines this with the somewhat different

sequence proposed by St Dionysios the Areopagite, in which the three stages are described as the purgative, the

illuminative and the mystical (III, 41-4). Elsewhere he adopts the threefold classification found in St Isaac the

Syrian: carnal, psychic and spiritual (II, 3-7).


Although his style is more complex and his approach more abstract than are those of St Symeon the New

Theologian, Nikitas shares in common with his master many dominant themes. There are frequent references to

the divine light (II, 2, 5, 43, 45, etc.), but at the same time Nikitas places more emphasis than does his master upon

St Dionysios the Areopagite's symbolism of divine darkness (I, 1, 42; II, 50-1; III, 39, 53). Like St Symeon,

Nikitas underlines the role of the spiritual father (I, 35; II, 10, 53-4) and maintains that a life of holiness is always

possible, whatever a person's outward situation; it is not necessary to withdraw physically into the desert (I, 72),

for the true 'flight from the world' is the inner renunciation of our self-will (I, 2, 75-6). Faithful to the example set

by the New Theologian, Nikitas insists that those initiated into the divine mysteries must then act as 'missionaries',

telling others about the gifts of grace which they have received (II, 96; III, 13, 27-8, etc.); and he agrees with St

Symeon the Studite that love for others is higher than prayer (II, 76).


One theme in particular that Nikitas derives from St Symeon the New Theologian is the vital significance of

tears and compunction (katanyxis) within the spiritual life. The two are commonly mentioned together, although a

distinction is also drawn between them (I, 71). A modem reader might easily assume that both of these things are

primarily negative and penitential in character, but this is to misunderstand Nikitas' viewpoint. Following St John

Klimakos, ^ he


' See The Philokalia, vol. i (London and Boston, 1979), p. 57; and compare the Glossary, 'Contemplation'.


^ See The Philokalia, vol. ii (London and Boston, 1981), pp. 64, 90.


' See The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 1 passim, and also the Introduction to the E.T., pp. 23-7.


[V4] 78


Nikitas Stithatos

Introductory Note




is careful to distinguish two types of tears: those that produce 'an acrid and painful feeling', and the 'joyous tears' that are full

of 'delight and a sense of jubilation'. The first are caused by repentance and inner grief, the second by compunction (I, 69-70).

By the same token compunction has also a bitter-sweet character: it is linked with repentance and contrition (II, 92; III, 81), but

at the same time it brings sweetness, joy and light, so that Nikitas speaks of the 'intoxication' and the healing 'oil' of

compunction (II, 39, 68), and describes it as a spring from Eden, a shower of rain from the Holy Spirit (II, 44; III, 84.). Tears

and compunction, then, are caused not just by a realization of our own sinfulness, but also and much more fundamentally by a

grateful and tender recognition of God's forgiving love.


In his basic approach, Nikitas Stithatos remains always positive, although never blandly optimistic. Our human nature is

essentially good, and sanctity is nothing else than a return through grace to our natural state (I, 15; II, 12, 66). The material

world is likewise intrinsically good and beautiful, and forms a sacrament of God's presence, a means of ascent to the divine

realm: 'Recognize the delightfulness of the Lord from the beauty of creation ... in purity ascending to the Creator through the

beauty of His creatures' (I, 74, 90).






On the Practice of the Virtues:


One Hundred Texts Volume 4, Page 79


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect: One Hundred Texts




On Spiritual Knowledge, Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts 139




[V4] 79


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


1 . Those who have passed the mid-point of the first stage of the spiritual path, and who have attained the triad of

mystical theology, are prompted to write in a profitable manner by, it seems to me, four factors inherent in the faith,

hope and love that constitute the perfect triad of the virtues. The first is the freedom - that is to say, the dispassion -

of soul, which as a result of ascetic practice raises the aspirant to the contemplation of the spiritual essences of the

created world and then inducts him into the divine darkness of theology. The second is the purity of intellect that

arises from prayer and tears, a purity that gives birth to the consciousness of grace and from which streams of

intellection flow. The third is the indwelling of the Holy Trinity within us, which produces in each of those

undergoing purification the bountiful illumination of the Spirit, revealing to them the mysteries of the kingdom of

heaven and disclosing the treasures of God hidden in the soul. The fourth is the constraint which as a result of God's

threatening words is imposed upon all who have received the talent of the consciousness of spiritual knowledge; for

God says, 'You wicked, slothful servant, you should have deposited My money with the bankers, and then when 1

came 1 would have received My capital with interest' (Matt. 25:26-27). It was certainly because of this that David in

great fear wrote, 'Behold, 1 will not seal my lips, as Thou, Lord, knowest. 1 have not hidden Thy righteousness

within my heart; 1 have declared Thy truth and Thy salvation; 1 have not concealed Thy mercy and Thy truth from




the great congregation' (Ps. 40:9-10).


2. A life in harmony with God begins with complete flight from the world. 'Flight from the world' means the

denial of the soul's desires and the transformation of the mundane will. Reverting in this way to


[V4] 80


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


the will of God, from being worldlings we become spiritual: dead to the fallen self and to the world, we are

quickened in soul and spirit in Christ.


3. When a soul has true esteem for God, deeply -rooted faith combined with detachment from visible things, and

an ascetic practice free from all self-love, it possesses, to use Solomon's phrase, a 'threefold cord' (Eccles. 4:12), not

easily broken by the spirits of wickedness.


4. In faith we hope to receive reward for our labors, and on this account we readily endure the hardship of

practicing the virtues. But when we experience the pledge of the Holy Spirit, we are winged with love towards God.


5. To be troubled by unclean thoughts does not mean that we are already of the devil's party. But when the soul

becomes slack, when the intellect, because of our dissolute and unnily life, is filled with turbid and obscure images,

and when our practice of the virtues lapses because of our laxity in meditation and prayer, then, even if not actively

engaged in evil, we are ranked among those who deliberately crawl in sensual pleasures.


6. As soon as the bridle of the higher senses is removed, our passions at once revolt and the baser, more slavish

senses are stirred into action; for when these latter in their mindlessness are loosed from the bonds of self-control,

their habit is to light upon the sources of the passions and to feed on them as upon poisonous weeds. And the longer

the laxity continues, the more they do this. For such being their natural appetite they cannot refrain from indulging it

once they are free to do so.


7. Among the senses, sight and hearing possess a certain noetic quality and are more intelligent and masterful than

the other three senses, taste, smell and touch, which are mindless and gross, and wait on the higher senses. For we

first see and hear, and then, through the agency of the mind, we lay hold of what is before us and, smelling it, finally

taste it. Thus taste, smell and touch are more animal-like or, quite simply, baser and more slavish than sight and

hearing. The more gluttonous and rattish animals, both tame and wild, are especially afflicted by them, and day and

night either fill themselves with food or indulge in copulation.


8. If you refer the activities of the outer senses back to their inner counterparts - exposing your sight to the

intellect, the beholder of the




[V4] 81


Nikitas Stithatos

On the Practice of the Virtues:




One Hundred Texts


light of life, your hearing to the judgment of the soul, your taste to the discrimination of the intelligence, your

sense of smell to the understanding of the intellect, and relating your sense of touch to the watchfulness of the heart -

you will lead an angelic life on earth; while being and appearing as a man among men, you will also be an angel

coexisting with angels and spiritually conscious in the same way as they are.


9. Through the intellect, beholder of the light of divine life, we receive knowledge of God's hidden mysteries.

Through the soul's faculty of judgment we winnow in the light of this knowledge the thoughts that arise within the

heart, distinguishing the good from the bad. Through the discrimination of the intelligence we savor our conceptual

images. Those that spring from a bitter rout we transform into sweet nourishment for the soul, or else we reject them

entirely; those that spring from a virtuous and vigorous stock we accept. In this way we take every thought captive

and make it obey Christ (cf 2 Cor. 10:5). Through the understanding of the intellect we smell the spiritual unguent

of the grace of the Holy Spirit, our hearts filled with joy and gladness. Through the watchfulness of the' heart we

consciously perceive the Spirit, who refreshes the flame of our desire for supernal blessings and warms our spiritual

powers, numbed as they have been by the frost of the passions.


10. Just as in the body there are five senses - sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch - so in the soul there are five

senses: mtellect, reason, noetic perception, intuitive knowledge, and cognitive insight. These are united in three

psychic activities: intellection, ratiocination, and noetic perception. By means of intellection we apprehend spiritual

intentions, by means of ratiocination we interpret them, and through noetic perception we grasp the images of divine

insight and spiritual knowledge.


11. If your intellect clearly distinguishes the intentions of its thoughts and in its purity gives its assent only to

those that are divine; if your reason can interpret the physical movements of the whole of visible creation - that is to

say, can clearly elucidate the inner essences of things; if noetically you can perceive heavenly wisdom and spiritual

knowledge: then through the light of the Sun of righteousness you have transcended all sense -perception and have

attained what lies beyond it, and you savor the delight of things unseen.


12. The intellect comprises four principal facilities: judgment,

[V4] 82


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


sagacity, noetic apprehension, perspicacity. If you conjoin these with the four principal virtues of the soul, linking

restraint of soul to the judgment of the intellect, sound understanding to sagacity, righteousness to noetic

apprehension, and courage to perspicacity, you build for yourself a two-fold fiery heaven-coursing chariot that will

protect you against the three major principalities and powers of the mustered passions: avarice, self-indulgence and

love of praise.


13. To master the mundane will of the fallen self you have to fulfill three conditions. First, you have to overcome

avarice by embracing the law of righteousness, which consists in merciful compassion for one's fellow beings;




second, you have to conquer self-indulgence through prudent self-restraint, that is to say, through all-inclusive self-

control; and, third, you have to prevail over your love of praise through sagacity and sound understanding, in other

words through exact discrimination in things human and divine, trampling such love underfoot as something

cloddish and worthless. All this you have to do until the mundane will is converted into the law of the spirit of life

and liberated from domination by the law of the outer fallen self. Then you can say, 'I thank God that the law of the

spirit of life has freed me from the law and dominion of death' (cf. Rom. 8:2).


14. If you aspire to the spuriousness of human praise as though it were something authentic, wallow in self-

indulgence because of your soul's insatiability, and through your greed entwine yourself with avarice, you will either

make yourself demonic through self-conceit and arrogance, or degenerate into bestiality through the gratification of

belly and genitals, or become savage to others because of your gross inhuman avarice. In this way your faith in God

will lapse, as Christ said it would when you accept human praise (cf. John 5:44.); you will abandon self-restraint and

purity because your lower organs are unsatedly kindled and succumb to unbridled appetence; and you will be shut

out from love because you minister solely to yourself and do not succor your fellow beings when they are in need.

Like some polymorphic monster compounded thus out of multifarious self-antagonistic parts, you will be the

implacable enemy of God, man and the animals.


15. If when aroused and active a man's mcensive, appetitive and intelligent powers spontaneously operate in

accordance with nature, they make him wholly godlike and divine, sound in his actions and never in any way

dislodged from nature's bedrock. But if, betraying his


[V4] 83


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


own nature, he follows a course that is contrary to nature, these same powers will turn him, as we have said, into

a polymorphic monster, compounded of many self-antagonistic parts.


16. Our mcensive power lies between the appetitive' and intelligent aspects of our soul; for both of them it serves

as a weapon, whether it is acting in a way that accords with or is contrary to nature. When our desire and

intelligence, in a way that accords with nature, aspire to what is divine, then our mcensiveness is for both of them a

weapon of righteousness wielded solely against the hissing serpent that would persuade them to indulge in fleshly

pleasures and to relish men's praise. But when we fail to act according to nature and direct our desire and

intelligence to what is contrary to nature, transferring attention from what is divine to purely human matters, then

our incensive power becomes a weapon of iniquity in the service of sin, and we use it to attack and fight against

those who would restrain the passions and appetites of the other powers of our soul. Thus, whether we are engaged

in ascetic practice or are contemplatives and theologians, when we act according to nature we prove; ourselves to be

among the faithful members of the Church, and when we act contrary to nature we become bestial, savage and



17. Unless through the labor of repentance and assiduous ascetic practice we first restore the soul's powers to the

state in which they were when God originally formed Adam and breathed into him the breath of life (cf Gen. 2:7),

we will never be able to know ourselves; nor will we be able to acquire a disposition that is master of the passions.




free from arrogance, not over-curious, guileless, simple, humble, without jealousy or malice, and that takes every

thought captive and makes it obey Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 10:5). Nor will our soul be enkindled with God's love, never

transgressing the bounds of self-control, but content with what is given to it and longing for the serenity of the

saints. And if we do not achieve such a state we can never acquire a heart that is gentle, peaceful, free from anger,

kind, uncontentious and filled with mercy and joy; for our soul will be divided against itself and because of the

turbulence of its powers will remain impervious to the rays of the Spirit.


18. If we do not regain the beauty of our original high estate, continually renewing the impress of the image of

Him who created us in His likeness (cf. Gen. 1:26-27), but instead distance ourselves from Him through the

disparity of our qualities, how can we ever enter


[V4] 84


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


into union with Him? How can we enter into union with Him who is light when we have blotted out the light and

have embraced its opposite? And if we are not united to Him from whom we have received the source of our being,

and through whom we have come into existence from things that are not and have been made preeminent over things

that are; and if, because of our unlikeness to our Creator we are severed from Him, where will we be cast? This will

be clear to those who can see, even if I am silent.


19. So long as we have the raw material of the passions within ourselves and, instead of repudiating it,

deliberately nurture it, the passions will prevail over us, deriving their strength from us. But when we cast this raw

material out, cleansing our hearts with the tears of repentance and abhorring the deceitfulness of visible things, then

we share in the presence of the Paraclete: we see God in eternal light and are seen by Him.


20. Those who have broken the bonds of worldly sense -perception are free from all servitude to the senses: they

live solely in the Spirit, communing with Him, impelled by Him, and brought through Him in some measure into

union with the Father and the Logos who are one in essence with Him; and so they become a single spirit with God,

as St Paul says (cf 1 Cor. 6:17). Not only are they exempt from the dominion of the demons but they actually fill

them with terror, since they share in the divine fire and are in fact called fire.


21 . Our sense of touch is not partial in the sense that its activity is restricted to one part of the body, as is that of

the other senses; it is a general, all-over sense belonging to the whole body. Thus if while still addicted to the

lubricity of things we touch some object unnecessarily, passion-charged thoughts perturb the intellect; but if, after

renouncing such addiction and rising above the realm of sense, we touch something in accordance with a need

inherent in our nature, then our sense of touch has no tendency to seduce the soul's organs of perception.


22. When the intellect is established in the realm of what is beyond nature, the senses, assuming their natural role,

commune dispassionately with the springs of the passions; they seek out only their underlying essences and natures,

unerringly distinguishing their activities and qualities while not being addicted to them or adventitiously attracted by

them in a manner that is contrary to nature.


23. Spiritual struggles and labors generate gladness in the soul.




[V4] 85


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


so long, that is, as the passions have been stilled; for what is difficult for those who are still dominated by the

senses is easy and even delightful for an aspiring soul that through its holly exertions has acquired a longing for God

and is smitten with desire for divine knowledge. For the sense-dominated, the labors and struggles for virtue,

opposed as they are to bodily ease and indulgence in sensual pleasure, are difficult and seem very harsh, for in such

people the brackish taste of pleasure has not yet been washed away by the flow of tears. But the soul that abominates

pain-inducing pleasure and has rejected comfort along with the self-love of the body, feels the need for and

embraces such labor and struggles. One thing alone distresses it: slackness in its labors and indolence in its

struggles. Thus what for those still dominated by the senses is the source of bodily content is for the soul that aspires

to what is divine a cause of distress. And what for the aspiring soul is a cause of spiritual gladness is for the sense-

dominated the cause of pain and anguish.


24. Ascetic toil is initially painful for all those newly engaged in spiritual warfare; but for those exercised in the

growth of virtue and who have reached the mid-point of their path, such toil is pleasurable and produces a strange

sense of relief. When the mortal will of the flesh is swallowed up by the immortal life (cf 2 Cor. 5:4) conferred

through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in those truly striving towards the perfection of virtue, they are filled with

unspeakable joy and gladness, for a pure spring of tears has opened within them, and streams of sweet compunction

flow down on them from above.


25. If you wish to advance to the frontiers of virtue and to find unerringly the path that leads to God, do not allow

your eyes to sleep or let your eyelids droop or give rest to your brow (cf. Ps. 132:4) until, with your soul riven by

toil and tears, you have attained the land of dispassion and have entered into the sanctuary of the knowledge of God.

For then, aloof from all that is below, in your great thirst you will have climbed like a stag to the high mountains of

contemplation and through God's personalized Wisdom you will have descried the ultimate reaches of human life.


26. For those newly engaged in spiritual warfare the swift path to the recovery of virtue consists in the silencing of

the lips, the closure of the eyes and the stopping of the ears; for once the intellect has achieved this kind of

intermission and has sealed off the external entrances to itself, it begins to understand itself and its own activities.


[V4] 86


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


It immediately sets about interrogating the ideas swimming in the noetic sea of its thought, trying to discern

whether the concepts that irrupt into the mind's crucible are pure, alloyed with no bitter seed, and conferred by an

angel of light, or whether they are tares, hybridized, trashy, emanating from the devil. Standing thus like a masterful




sovereign in the midst of its thoughts, judging them and separating the better from the worse, the intellect accepts

those that are well-tested in the fire of the Spirit and saturated with divine water, absorbing them into its actions and

practice and storing them up in its spiritual treasure-house; for by these thoughts it is nourished, strengthened and

filled with light. The other thoughts it casts into the depths of oblivion, eradicating their bitterness. This is the work

only of someone who has spiritually embarked upon the path that leads unerringly to the heavens and to God, and

who has stripped off the lugubrious cloak of the dark passions.


27. Once the soul has divested itself of malice and of its futile propensity to cheap arrogance, and through the

indwelling of the Paraclete has adorned the heart with simplicity and innocence, it will immediately be restored to

God and to itself And since it has now passed beyond the hellish pits of incredulity and malevolence, it will

unhesitatingly accept what it hears and sees as trustworthy and true.


28. Deep-rooted faith is pre-eminent among the virtues, since such faith strips the soul of doubt and rids it

completely of self-love. For nothing so prevents someone newly engaged in spiritual warfare from practicing the

commandments as this pernicious vice of self-love. It even prevents the progress of those well advanced on the

spiritual path, for it suggests illnesses to them and malignant bodily ailments, so that their ardor wanes and they are

persuaded to give up ascetic toil on the grounds that in their susceptible state it is dangerous. Self-love is inane amity

for the body, which ends by making the monk a lover of himself - of his own soul and body - and so estranges him

from God and from God's kingdom, in accordance with the gospel phrase, 'He who loves his life will destroy it'

(John 12:25).


29. He who diligently begins to practice God's commandments, and with ardent longing shoulders the light yoke

of asceticism (cf Matt. 1 1:30), does not spare his body's health, or flinch at virtue's harsh demands, or shrink from

exertion, or heed the laziness and negligence of others. Rather, whatever the hardship, he fervently ploughs the

furrow of the virtues, attending only to himself and to the


[V4] 87


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


commandments of God. Each day with tears he tills and sows the land of the living (cf. Ps. 126:5) until the first

shoots of dispassion germinate within him, wax into divine knowledge, bear the grain of the Logos and fructify in

His righteousness.


30. Nothing, I think, so promotes the soul's swift progress as faith - not just faith in God and in His only -begotten

Son, but faith that is deeply rooted. With this faith we believe in the truth of Christ's promises, made and kept in

readiness for those who love Him (cf. 1 Cor. 2:19), just as we also believe in the truth of the threats and the infernal

punishments prepared for the devil and his accomplices (cf. Matt. 25:41). This faith inspires the striving soul with

the hope that it will attain the state of the saints, their blessed dispassion, climbing the heights of their holiness and

becoming a coheir with them of God's kingdom. With such assurance the soul assiduously and unwaveringly

augments its practice of the commandments, imitating the labors of the saints and pursuing their perfection by

means of similar struggles.




31. The external appearance of the face changes in accordance with the inner state of the soul: whatever the soul's

noetic activity, it will be reflected in the face. Disposed and changed according to the thoughts within the soul, the

face brightens when the heart rejoices in the upsurge of good thoughts and in its meditation on God, but is downcast

and glum when the heart is embittered by unnatural thoughts. In both cases, what is happening is quite evident to

those in whom the soul's organs of perception are well trained. Either it is a change brought about by 'the right hand

of the Most High' (Ps. 77:10. LXX), and this is obvious to them because it is something familiar and dear to them

whereby they are reborn in the Spirit and become light and salt to others near them (cf. Matt. 5:13-14); or else is a

change brought about by the discord of evil powers and the tumult of our thoughts, and this too is evident to them,

since they resist such change, the impress of the image of the Son of God within them having been burnished to the

highest degree by the rays of divine grace.


32. A soul receives either blessings or penalties and punishment according to its inner activities. If it concerns

itself with things divine and tills the ground of humility, tears fall on it like rain from heaven, and it cultivates love

for God, faith and compassion for others. And when in this way the soul is renewed in the beauty of Christ's image,

it becomes a light to others; attracting their attention with the rays of its virtue, it inspires them to glorify God. But if

the soul devotes itself to




[V4] 88


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


mundane and merely human matters, stirring and agitating the fetid waters of sin, it nourishes hatred and repels

what is good and beautiful. Deformed in this way according to the mundane, ugly image of fallen man, it becomes a

thing of darkness to others; and through its evil talk and depravity it corrupts immature and fickle souls, inducing

them to blaspheme God. Thus the soul receives its reward according to the state it is in when death overtakes it.


33. If you husband evil thoughts your face will be morose and sullen; your tongue will be incapable of praising

God and you will be surly towards others. But if you husband in your heart what is deathless and holy, your face

will radiate joy and gladness, you will lift up your voice in prayer and be most gentle in speech. Thus it will be quite

clear to all whether you are still subject to unclean passions and to the law of the mundane will, or whether you are

free from such servitude and live according to the law of the Spirit. In the words of Solomon, 'A glad heart makes

the face radiant; but a doleful heart makes it sullen' (cf. Prov. 15:13).


34. Passions acted out can be cured by action. Dissipation, sensuality, gluttony and a dissolute, profligate life

produce a passion-charged state of soul and impel it to unnatural actions. On the other hand, restraint and self-

control, ascetic labor and spiritual struggle translate the soul from its passion-charged state to a state of dispassion.


35. If after strenuous ascetic labor you receive great gifts from God on account of your humility, but are then

dragged down and handed over to the passions and to the chastisement of the demons, you must know that you have

exalted yourself, have thought much of yourself, and have disparaged others. And you will find no cure for or

release from the passions and demons that afflict you unless you make use of a good mediator and through humility

and awareness of your limitations you repent and return to your original state. Such humility and self-knowledge

lead all who are firmly rooted in virtue to look upon themselves as the lowest of created things.




36. In the eyes of God and of those who hve a Christ-hke hfe, to act with passion because of one's dissolute

character and to take pride in one's virtues through a spirit of self-conceit are each as evil as the other. In the first

case it is shameful even to speak of the things that those enslaved to the passions do in secret (cf Eph. 5:12); in the

second case the self -vaunting of the heart is an abomination to God. The dissolute person alienates himself from

God, for he is 'flesh' (cf Gen. 6:3),


[V4] 89


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


while the person who takes pride in his virtue is unclean in God's sight because of his self-conceit.


37. A passion is not the same thing as a sinful act: they are quite distinct. A passion operates in the soul, a sinful

act involves the body. For example, love of pleasure, avarice and love of praise are three particularly noxious

passions of the soul; but unchastity, greed and wrong-doing are sinful acts of the flesh. Lust anger and arrogance are

passions of the soul produced when the soul's powers operate in a way that is contrary to nature. Adultery, murder,

theft, drunkenness and whatever else is done through the body, are smful and noxious actions of the flesh.


38. The three most general passions are self-indulgence, avarice and love of praise; and three are the ranks of men

that fight against them and overcome them: those newly embarked on the spiritual path, those in mid-course, and

those who have attamed its goal.


39. The battle waged by those in the three stages of the spiritual path against these three principles and powers of

the prince of this world is not one and the same, but at each stage the battle is different. At each stage there is a

different way of fighting against these passions, and each way makes lawful and natural use of the power of

righteous indignation.


40. If it is but recently that you have embarked on the struggle for holiness and ranked yourself against the

passions, you must battle unremittingly and through every kind of ascetic hardship against the spirit of self-

indulgence. You must waste your flesh through fasting, sleeping on the ground, vigils and night-long prayer; you

must bring your soul into a state of contrition through thinking on the torments of hell and through meditation on

death; and you must through tears of repentance purge your heart of all the defilement that comes from coupling

with impure thoughts and giving your assent to them.


41 . When you approach the mid-point of the initial stage of the spiritual path you will experience the first form of

dispassion, and through it the strain of your exertions against the spirit of self-indulgence will be eased. Your eyes

opened, you will begin to perceive the inner nature of things, and will now take up the weapons of faith against the

spirit of perfidious avarice. You will exalt your intellect through meditation on things divine and quicken your

thought with the inner essences of the created world, elucidating their true nature.




[V4] 90


Nikitas Stithatos




On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


In faith you will lead your soul from what is visible to the heights of the invisible, assured that God, who brings

all things from non-existence into existence, provides for all that He has created. In this way your whole aspiration

will be directed towards life in God.


42. When through contemplation and dispassion you have passed the half-way mark of the spiritual journey and

have transcended the deceitfulness of worldly sense-perception, you will now enter the divine darkness of theology,

guided by the consciousness of spiritual knowledge and by God's personalized Wisdom. It is at this point that with

the strength of humility you raise your weapons against the spirit of self-glory and the love of praise. Your soul will

be spurred by holy revelations and painlessly you will pour forth tears; you will be humbled in your will through the

recognition of human weakness, and exalted by intimations of divine knowledge.


43. By means of fasting, vigils, prayer, sleeping on the ground, bodily labors and the amputation of our desires

through humility of soul, we inactivate the spirit of self-indulgence. We overcome it through tears of repentance

and, shackling it with self-control, render it immobile and ineffective; for we are now among those proficient in

spiritual warfare.


44. Repulsing and finally slaying the spirit of avarice with the weapons of faith and 'the sword of the Spirit, which

is the word of God' (Eph. 6 : 1 7), we now approach, thanks to the consciousness of Wisdom, the contemplation of the

inner essences of created beings. Illumined with the consciousness of spiritual knowledge, we pass beyond the lowly

region of visible things and attain the realms of love, rich in God-inspired hope.


45. Winged by dispassion and humility, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, we enter the sphere of mystical theology

and the abyss of the knowledge of God's mysteries. The spirit of self-gloiy is now consumed in the lightning of

divine thought and doctrine. Weeping and filled with compunction we perceive the consummation of things human,

and scatter that spirit's minions, who attack us through presumption, self-esteem and arrogance.


46. He who wholeheartedly hates and renounces 'the desire of the fallen self, the desire of the eyes, and the false

pretentions of this life' (1 John 2:16) - that whole 'world of iniquity' (Jas. 3:6) through the love of which we become

the enemies of God (cf Jas. 4:4) - has crucified the world to himself and himself to the world: he has




[V4] 91


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


destroyed in his flesh the enmity between God and his soul, and has made peace between the two (cf Eph. 2: 15).

For he who has died to these things through effacing the will of the flesh has reconciled himself to God. He has

eradicated the enmity of this world by obliterating sensual pleasure through a life crucified to the world, and has

embraced friendship with Jesus. He is no longer God's enemy because of his love for the world, but is a friend of

God, crucified to the world and able to say, 'The world is crucified to me, and I to the world' (Gal. 6:14).


47. God deserts those engaged in spiritual warfare for three reasons: because of their arrogance, because they




censure others, and because they are so cock-a-hoop about their own virtue. The presence of any of these vices in

the soul prompts God to withdraw; and until they are expelled and replaced by radical humility, the soul will not

escape just punishment.


48. It is not only passion-charged thoughts that sully the heart and defile the soul. To be elated about one's many

achievements, to be puffed up about one's virtue, to have a high idea of one's wisdom and spiritual knowledge, and

to criticize those who are lazy and negligent - all this has the same effect, as is clear from the parable of the publican

and the Pharisee (cf Luke 18:10-14).


49. Do not imagine that you will be delivered from your passions, or escape the defilement of the passion-charged

thoughts which these generate, while your mind is still swollen with pride because of your virtues. You will not see

the courts of peace, your thoughts full of loving-kindness, nor, generous and calm in heart, will you joyfully enter

the temple of love, so long as you presume on yourself and on your own works.


50. If your soul is allured by comeliness of body and usurped by the passion-imbued thoughts that it seems to

evoke, do not assume that such comeliness is the cause of your agitated and impassioned state. The cause lies hidden

in your soul, and it is your soul's passionate disposition and evil habits that, as a magnet attracts iron, attracts to itself

such impurity from the beauty it perceives. For all things are created by God and all, as He Himself says, are 'wholly

good and beautiful' (Gen. 1:31), providing no ground at all for impugning His creation.


51. Just as seasickness is due, not to the sea's nature, but to the already existing disorder of the body's humors, so

the soul's




[V4] 92


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


confusion and turmoil are due, not to the beauty of countenance in the person that it perceives, but to its pre-

existing evil disposition.


52. The soul's apprehension of the nature of things changes in accordance with its own inner state. Thus when its

spiritual organs of perception operate in a way that accords with nature and the intellect unerringly penetrates to the

inner essences of things, clearly and cogently elucidating their nature and function, then it perceives things and

persons and every material body as they are according to nature, and is aware that no seed of impurity or vitiation

lies hidden within them. But when its powers operate in a way that is contrary to nature, and are in a state of self-

antagonism, it perceives things likewise in a way that is not in accord with nature; their natural beauty does not exalt

it to an understanding of their Maker, but because of its own impassioned proclivities engulfs it in self-destruction.


53. If while you are engaged in ascetic labor and hardship God withdraws from you because of some bodily lapse,

or lapse of tongue or thought, do not take this to be strange or untoward. The lapse is yours and due to yourself. Had

you not yourself first indulged in some new-fangled, overweening and obnoxious thought about yourself, or had you

not in arrogance treated someone disdainfully or criticized him for his human weakness, you would have recognized

your own fallibility and God in His righteous judgment would not have withdrawn from you. Learn from this not to

judge (cf Matt. 7:1), not to think too highly of yourself (cf Rom. 12:3), and not to look down on others (cf. 1 Cor.






54. When you have faUen into the depths of wickedness, do not despair of your recaU, even if you have been

brought down to the nethermost reaches of hell. For if through the practice of the virtues you have already

established your ascetic life on a firm basis, God will not forget your former labors and hardships even if the stones

of virtue you have set in place should be shaken to the ground by the most impassioned of vices. Only you must

bring to Him a heart full of contrition for your lapse, and you must 'remember the days of old' (cf. Ps. 143:5),

recalling your fall with deep sorrow before Him. He will then swiftly visit you as you tremble at His words (cf. Isa.

66:2), and invisibly will touch the eyes of your grieving heart, recognizing the basis of virtue you have already

established through your labors; and together with fervor of spirit He will give you strength that is greater and more

perfect than your former strength. In this way the house of


[V4] 93


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


virtue, patiently built up but then destroyed through the devil's malice, will in a spirit of humility be restored more

splendidly than before as His eternal dwelling-place.


55. Everything that brings disgrace upon us, whether prompted by man or demons, occurs through God's just

judgment in order to humble the overweening vanity of our soul. For God, the helmsman of our lives, wishes that we

should always be humble and have not an exaggerated but a modest view of ourselves (cf. Rom. 12:3); that we

should not have great ideas about ourselves, but should look to Christ and imitate, so far as we can. His blessed

humility; for He was 'gentle and humble in heart' (Matt. 1 1:29). He who for our sake endured a disgraceful, unjust

death desires us to be like this, for there is nothing so dear to Him or that in its true virtue so fully accords with Him

- nothing so apt to raise us from the dunghill of the passions - as gentleness and humility and love for our fellow

beings. If these are not present with us as we cultivate the virtues, all our labor is in vain and all our ascetic

endeavors are useless and unacceptable.


56. Those newly embarked on the ascetic life are assisted in the practice of the commandments and in their escape

from evil by fear of punishment. But in those who through virtue have advanced to the contemplation of God's glory

this fear is followed by another fear - a pure fear (cf Ps. 19:9) - which, because it is caused by love, fills them with

great dread. This helps them to stand unshaken in their love for God, instilling in them terror at falling away from

such love. If beginners in spiritual warfare lapse, but then repent and recover, they are filled once more with the first

fear, accompanied now by auspicious hope. But when those who have attained the heights of contemplation fall

from them as a result of the devil's malice, they do not at once recover the second kind of fear. A grey mist and a

palpable darkness (cf Exod. 10:21) envelop them, and they are filled with despondency, pain and bitterness,

together with their earlier fear of punishment. And if the Lord of hosts did not curtail those days of unbearable pain,

none who fall from the heights of contemplation would be rescued (cf. Matt. 24:22).


57. When our soul is freed from the persistent importunities of impassioned thoughts, and the flame that torments

the flesh dies away, we should recognize that the Holy Spirit is actively present within us, disclosing that our past

sins are forgiven and bestowing dispassion on us. But so long as we are still aware of the constant




[V4] 94


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


importunity of such thoughts and our lower organs are enkindled as a result, we may be sure that the sweet

fragrance of the Spirit is far from our soul, and that our soul is wholly subject to the unbroken bonds of the passions

and the senses.


58. 'I have seen under the sun', remarked the sage (cf. Eccles. 1:3; 9:11), 'a man who thought he was intelligent,

who though mortal presumed on his own works and had a high opinion of his own human, worldly and psychic

wisdom. Because of this not only did he look down on simple men, but he ridiculed the divinely-appointed Christian

teachers and mocked them on account of their peculiar form of speech, their deliberate eschewing of the polished

diction of academics, and the lack of rhythmical dexterity in their writings. To such a man, ignorant that God prefers

clarity of thought to well-turned phrases or sonorous words, I would commend the maxims: "Better a living dog than

a dead lion" (Eccles. 9:4), and "Better a poor and wise child than an old and foolish king, who no longer knows how

to pay attention" ' (Eccles. 4:13. LXX).


59. Blasphemy is a frightful passion, difficult to combat, for its origin lies in the arrogant mind of Satan. It

troubles all who live in virtue and in accord with God, but especially those advancing in prayer and in the

contemplation of things divine. Hence we must guard the senses with great diligence, and reverence all the awe-

inspiring mysteries of God, the holy images and holy words, and watch out for the attacks of this spirit. For it lies in

wait for us while we pray and chant, and when we are inattentive it discharges through our lips curses against

ourselves and strange blasphemies against God the Most High, introducing them into the verses of the psalms and

into the words of our prayers. When it brings some such thing to our lips or sows it in our minds, we should turn

against it the words of Christ and say, 'Get behind me, Satan, full of every foul odor and condemned to eternal fire;

may your blasphemy fall upon your own head' (cf. Luke 4:8; Matt. 25:41). Then, concentrating our thoughts, we

should at once occupy our intellect with some other matter, either divine or human, and with tears raise it towards

God; and so with God's assistance we will be relieved of the burden of blasphemy.


60. Dejection is a passion that corrupts soul and body, affecting even the marrow of one's bones - I mean that

cosmic dejection induced by the transitoriness of things and often resulting in death. The sorrow prompted by God,

however, is extremely salutary.




[V4] 95


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


enabling one patiently to endure hardships and trials. It is a source of compunction for those struggling and

thirsting for God's righteousness (cf. Matt. 5:6), and nourishes their heart with tears. In such people is the saying of

David fulfilled, 'Thou shalt feed us with the bread of tears and give us tears to drink in great measure' (Ps. 80:5) - the




wine of compunction.


6 1 . Sorrow prompted by God is an excellent tonic for those parts of the soul corrupted by evil actions, and it

restores them to their natural state. It dissolves through tears the storm-clouds of passion and sin and dispels them

from the soul's spiritual firmament, so that at once a clear sky appears in the thoughts of our intellect, the sea of the

mind grows calm, gladness rises in the heart and a change comes over our face. When this is now seen by those

skilled in discerning our inner state from our outward appearance, they will exclaim, as did David, 'This change is

from the right hand of the Most High' (Ps. 77: 10. LXX).


62. Do not keep company with those who enkindle in you suspicions about your fellow beings, for such

suspicions are false, destructive and utterly deceitful. They are ploys through which the demons try to engulf the

souls of those progressing in virtue. For there is only one way in which the demons can thrust them into the pit of

perdition and active sin, and that is by persuading them to harbor evil suspicions about the outward behavior and

inner state of their neighbor. By this means the demons contrive to have them condemned along with the world, in

the manner indicated by St Paul's phrase, 'If we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged; but when we are

judged, we are chastened by the Lord, so that we should not be condemned with the world' (1 Cor. 1 1 :31-32).


63. When because of our laxity we allow the demons to beguile us with suspicious thoughts about other people -

that is to say, when we fail to control the abduction of our eyes - then they incite us to pronounce judgment on

others, sometimes even those who are perfect in virtue. If someone is affable, with a cheerful, smiling face, we think

him prone to pleasure and the passions; and we assume that anyone who looks downcast and sullen is filled with

arrogance and anger. But we ought not to concern ourselves with people's appearance. Everyone is likely to judge

wrongly in this respect; for men have various characters, temperaments and bodily features, the true assessment and

study of which pertain only to those in whom the spiritual eye of the


[V4] 96


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


soul has been cleansed through deep compunction, who are filled with the boundless light of divine life, and to

whom it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God (cf Matt. 13:11).


64. When we act basely in obedience to our fallen self, we serve the soul's appetitive and mcensive powers in a

way that is contrary to nature. We defile the flesh with the noxious flux of sin, darken the soul with embittered anger

and estrange ourselves from the Son of God. We should therefore cleanse the stain deriving from the body's intrinsic

serosity with floods of heartfelt tears. In this way the body soiled by sensual indulgence on account of its natural

serosity will, because of our remorse, in its turn be purified through the natural flow of tears; and we will dispel with

the luminosity of compunction and the sweetness of a godlike love the cloud that darkens our soul because of our

embittered anger. Thus we shall once again be united with Him from whom we had been estranged.


65. Just as the stain produced by sensual indulgence presupposes a satanic desire to fulfill the shabby act it

involves, so the purification that comes from our remorse presupposes heartfelt longing for the grief and tears which

purification demands. In accordance with God's supernal goodness and providence, we expel and purge sensual

indulgence through grief, and the flesh's baneful serosity through the flow of tears. In this way we expunge the




imprint of vilifying actions from the intellect and squalid images from the soul, disclosing ever more fully the

splendor of its natural beauty.


66. Prompted by the devil, the libertine reaps fleshly pleasure, and his ugly actions induce self-pollution.

Prompted by the Holy Spirit, the man of God reaps joy of soul, and his acts of beauty induce purification through

tears, rebirth and union with God.


67. There are in us two natural fluids which come from the same source in our being: semen and our tears.

Through the first we may sully our soul's garment, through the second we may cleanse it again. The stain that comes

from our being has to be washed away with the tears that come from the same source. Otherwise it is impossible for

us to cleanse this self-generated defilement.


68. The discordant soul, prompted by what is base, always acts in a manner that ends up in some fleeting pleasure;

but the soul purged of vicious habits labors to attain enduring bliss. It is marvelous how the second form of pleasure

restrains the first, mollifying the pain engendered by self-indulgence.


[V4] 97


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


69. Sometimes the How of tears produces an acrid and painful feeling in the heart's organ of spiritual perception,

sometimes it induces delight and a sense of jubilation. Thus when through repentance we are in the process of

cleansing ourselves from the poison and stain of sin and, enkindled by divine (ire, hot tears of repentance flow from

us, and when our conscience is as it were smitten by the heart's anguish, then we experience this acrid feeling and

painfulness both spiritually and perceptibly. But when we have been largely cleansed by such tears and have

attained freedom from the passions, then - refreshed by the divine Spirit, our heart pure and tranquil - we are filled

with inexpressible tenderness and delight by the joyous tears provoked by compunction.


70. Tears of repentance are one thing, tears that flow because of divine compunction another. The first are like a

river in spate that sweeps away all the bastions of sin; the second are to the soul like rain or snow to a field, making

it yield a bountiful crop of spiritual knowledge.


7 1 . Tears are not the same thing as compunction, and there is a great difference between them. Tears come from

the transformation of our manner of life and the remembrance of our past lapses, as if fire and boiling water were

purifying the heart. Compunction descends from above as the divine dew of the Spirit, comforting and refreshing the

soul that has but recently entered with fervor into the depths of humility and attained the contemplation of the

unapproachable light, crying out with joy as David cried, 'We went through fire and water; and Thou hast brought us

out into a place where the soul is refreshed' (Ps. 66: 12. LXX).


72. I have heard people say that one cannot achieve a persistent state of virtue without retreating far into the

desert, and I was amazed that they should think that the unconfmable could be confined to a particular locality. For

the state of virtue is the restitution of the soul's powers to their former nobility and the convergence of the principal

virtues in an activity that accords with nature. Such a state is not achieved adventitiously, by external influences; it is

implanted within us at our creation by virtue of our endemic divine and spiritual consciousness; and when we are

impelled by this inner consciousness in accordance with our true nature we are led into the kingdom of heaven




which, in our Lord's words, is 'within us' (cf. Luke 17:21). Thus the desert is in fact superfluous, since we can enter

the kingdom




[V4] 98


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


simply through repentance and the strict keeping of God's commandments. Entry into the kingdom can occur, as

David states, 'in all places of His dominion': for he says, 'In all places of His dominion bless the Lord, my soul'

(Ps. 103:22).


73. If you are in the ranks of the imperial army, fighting together with others under the command of generals and

captains, and yet you fail to do anything noble or bold in battle against the enemy or even put a single one of them to

flight, how will you be able to fight alone among so many enemies or perform any feat of brilliant strategy,

inexperienced as you are in warfare? And if this is impossible in human affairs, it is all the more so where things

divine are concerned. If you flee into the desert, how will you recognize the attacks of the demons, the open and

covert assaults of the passions? How will you be able to attack them yourself, unless you have first been well trained

in thwarting your own will by dwelling with a group of brethren under a leader experienced in such invisible and

spiritual warfare? And if you are incapable of fighting even on your own behalf, then it is clearly inconceivable that

you should do so on behalf of others and teach them how to defeat their invisible enemies.


74. Expunge from yourself the disgrace of negligence and the ignominy of disdaining God's commandments.

Dispel self-love and battle with your fallen self unsparingly. Seek out the judgments of the Lord and His

testimonies. Scorn glory and dishonor. Hate the titillating appetites of the body. Avoid overeating, because this

enkindles your lower organs. Embrace poverty and hardship. Resist the passions. Introvert your senses towards your

soul. Inwardly assent to the doing of what is more noble. Be deaf to human affairs. Expend all your strength in

practicing the commandments. Mourn, sleep on the ground, fast, endure hardship, be still and, last of all, know, not

the things around you, but yourself. Transcend the lowly state of visible things. Open your spiritual eye to the

contemplation of God and recognize the dehghtfulness of the Lord from the beauty of creation. And when you

descend from these heights of contemplation, speak to your brethren about eternal life and the mysteries of God's

kingdom. This is the purpose of flight from men through the strictest asceticism, and the ultimate goal of the life of



75. If you wish to see the blessings 'that God has prepared for those who love Him' ( 1 Cor. 2:9), then take up your

abode in the desert of the renunciation of your own will and flee the world. What world?


[V4] 99


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts




The world of the lust of the eyes, of your fallen self (cf. 1 John 2:16), the presumptuousness of your own thoughts,

the deceit of things visible. If you flee from this world, then light will dawn for you, you will see the life that is in

God, and the medicine of your soul - that is, tears - will swiftly well up in you. You will experience the change

brought about by the right hand of the Most High'(Ps. 77: 10), and from that time the 'plague' of the passions will not

'come near your dwelling' (Ps. 91:10). In this way, living in the world and among people, you will be like a man

living in the desert and seeing no one. If you do not flee the world in such a manner, you will gain nothing as

regards the perfecting of virtue and union with God simply by flight from the visible world.


76. To become a monk does not mean to abandon men and the world, but to renounce the will of the flesh, to be

destitute of the passions. If it was once said to a great spiritual master, 'Flee men and you will be saved', it was said

in precisely this spirit: for even after he fled, he dwelt among men and lived in inhabited regions along with his

disciples. But because he so assiduously fled in a spiritual sense at the same time as he fled visibly, he suffered no

harm from being with other men. And another great monk cried as he came out of a meeting, 'Flee, my brethren!'

And when asked what he meant by this, he pointed to his mouth.


77. Living together in one place is safer than living alone. The sacred words of Jesus our God bear witness to the

necessity of living together; for He says, 'Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am in the midst of

them' (Matt. 18:20). Likewise Solomon speaks about the danger of living alone when he says, 'Alas for him who is

alone when he falls; for he has no one to help him up' (Eccles. 4:10). And David calls those who praise God in love

and concord blessed when he says, 'Blessed is the people that sing aloud together' (Ps. 89: 15); and he commends life

in community, saying: 'Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together' (Ps. 133:1). And among

the disciples of our Lord there was but a single soul and a single heart (cf Acts 4:32); and even God's incarnation

did not take place in the wilderness, but in inhabited areas and among




[V4] 100


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


sinful men. Thus we have need of the concord of communal life. Isolation is treacherous and full of danger.


78. 'Offensive provocations have to come.' said the Lord, 'but alas for him through whom such provocation

comes!' (Matt. 18:7). The monk who loses his sense of reverence and behaves insolently, without awe for God, in

the company of his brethren scandalizes many of the more simple among them. He does this by his acts, bearing and

bad habits, and by his words and vicious talk. He corrupts their souls and undermines their probity.


79. If you keep God's commandments you will not become a stumbling-block to others, for there will be nothing

offensive or provocative in you. 'Great peace have they who love Thy law, and for them there is no stumbling-block'

(Ps. 1 19:165. LXX). Rather they are light, salt and life, in conformity with the Lord's words, 'You are the light of the

world, and the salt of the earth' (cf Matt. 5:13-14). Light, because they are virtuous in life, lucid in speech, and wise

in thought; salt, because they are rich in divine knowledge and strong in the wisdom of God; life, because through

their words they bring to life those slain by the passions, raising them up from the pit of despair. Through the light

of their righteous works they shine before men and illumine them; with the sweet astrmgency of their words they

brace those softened by sluggishness and free them from the putrescence of the passions; and by the life present in




what they say they give hfe to souls deadened by sin.


80. The passion of self-esteem is a three -pronged barb heated and forged by the demons out of vanity,

presumption and arrogance. Yet those who dwell under the protection of the God of heaven (cf. Ps. 91:1) detect it

easily and shatter its prongs; for through their humility they rise above such vices and find repose in the tree of life.


81. While you are progressing in virtue this unclean and wily demon of self-esteem may attack you and predict

that you will have a throne in heaven, reminding you of all your labor, extolling it above that of others, and even

suggesting that you are capable of guiding souls. If this happens, and you have been given power from on high to

enable you to do so, seize hold of him spiritually and do not let him escape. Once you have caught him, consider

what unworthy act of yours has provoked his attack; and confronting him with this act, say to him: 'Are those who

behave in this way worthy of ascending to such privileged heights, and do you regard them as qualified to guide





[V4] 101


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


and lead them to salvation in Christ? Tell me, for I shall be silent.' Since he will have nothing to say to you in reply,

out of shame he will disappear like smoke and will no longer greatly trouble you. And even if you have not done or

said anything unworthy of the transcendent life you have embraced, yet compare yourself with the commandments

and the sufferings of the Lord, and you will find that you fall as short of perfection as a basinful of water falls short

of the sea. For man's righteousness is as far from the righteousness of God as the earth is in size from the heavens or

a flea from a lion.


82. He who has been deeply smitten by the love of God will find that his bodily strength is not equal to his desire,

for there are no limits to the ascetic labor in which he yearns to engage. He is like someone consumed by thirst, and

the fire of his desire is insatiable. He longs to labor night and day, but is thwarted by his body's lack of strength. I

think that Christ's martyrs were not aware of the pain they suffered precisely because they were overpowered by

such an enormous passion. Mastering themselves through their burning love for God, they could not have their fill

of the torments inflicted on them, and felt that their desire to suffer was never assuaged.


83. He who in any way compares himself with his fellow ascetics or with the brethren who live with him is

unaware that he deceives himself and treads a path alien to God. Either he does not know himself or he has deviated

from the path that leads heavenwards. But by following this path in modesty of mind, those more spiritually

advanced surmount the devil's ploys and, winged by dispassion and adorned with humility, they attain the heights of

spiritual illumination.


84. If you are puffed up and full of presumption you will never be illumined by compunction or attain the grace of

humility. It is through this that the light of God's wisdom is bestowed on those with contrite hearts, in accordance

with the words, 'In Thy light shall we see light' (Ps. 36:9). On the contrary, you will be swaddled in the night of the

passions, in which all the beasts in the forest of man's nature prowl around, and in which the clamorous whelps of

presumption - by which I mean the demons of self-esteem and unchastity - seek whom they may devour and

dispatch into the maw of despair (cf Ps. 104:20-21; 1 Pet. 5:8).




85. For the man who lives as most men, prompted by the spirit of presumption, this present hfe becomes a sea

embroiled by the powers of evil; the noetic aspect of his soul is flooded with the brine of sensual




[V4] 102


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


pleasure, its triple powers assailed by the fierce waves of the passions. The ship of his soul, and its rudder, are

shattered by carnal self-indulgence; the intellect, his pilot, sinks into the depths of sin and spiritual death; and he is

engulfed in a slough of despondency. Only the deep calm of humility can quell those malignant waves, and only

under the gentle flow of tears can the brine of sensual pleasures be changed into the luminosity of compunction.


86. If you have enslaved yourself to bodily pleasure and indulgence to the point of repletion, you will need a

corresponding measure of ascetic labor and hardship. Thus one form of repletion will counter another, pain will

counter pleasure, bodily labor will counter bodily ease, and you will enjoy unmeasured felicity and repose,

delighting in the fragrance of purity and chastity, and relishing the indescribable savor of the deathless fruits of the

Spirit. In a similar way we apply cleansing unguents to the stains on our clothing when they have penetrated so

deeply that we cannot wear it any longer.


87. To those newly engaged in spiritual warfare illness is salutary, for it contributes to reducing and subduing the

ebullience of the flesh. It greatly debilitates the flesh and attenuates the soul's materialistic propensities, while at the

same time it invigorates and braces the soul, in accordance with St Paul's words, 'When I am weak, then I am strong'

(2 Cor. 12:10). Yet the benefits that it brings to beginners are equaled by the harm that it does to those who have

progressed in the labors of virtue and have now transcended the world of the senses and entered into the realm of

spiritual contemplation. It hinders their devotion to things divine and coarsens their soul's consciousness with

distress and affliction, darkening it with despondency and drying up its compunction in the drought of its suffering.

Paul knew this well when, attentive to himself in conformity with the law of discrimination, he said, 'I discipline my

body through hardship and bring it into subjection through healing remedies, lest after preaching to others I myself

should be cast away' (cf 1 Cor. 9:27).


88. It often happens that illness occurs as a result of an irregular and unbalanced regimen, as when those proficient

in spiritual warfare fast Or extend their ascetic labors excessively and indiscreetly, or when they become prone to

gluttony and repletion, the enemies of nature. Thus self-control is necessary both for those who are newly embarked

on the spiritual path and for those who, now beyond mid-course, aspire to the higher reaches of contemplation; for





[V4] 103


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts




is the mother of heahh, the friend of purity and the beloved consort of humihty.


89. Dispassion is of two kinds and takes two main forms in those weU advanced on the spiritual path. They attain

the first kind of dispassion when they have become adept in the practice of the virtues. This dispassion, arising in

various ways as a result of their toil in practicing the commandments, at once mortifies the passions and cuts off the

impulses of the fallen self; at the same time it induces the powers of the soul to act in a way that accords with nature,

and restores the intellect to conscious meditation on things divine. Subsequently, when they embark on the

contemplation of the inner essences of created things, they attain in their wisdom the second and more perfect kind

of dispassion. Bringing inner stillness to their thoughts, this dispassion raises them to a state of intellectual peace,

making their intellect visionary and prophetic to the highest degree: visionary in matters divine, in insight into

supernal realities, and in the disclosure of God's mysteries; prophetic in matters human, destined to happen in the

distant future. In both these forms of dispassion one and the same Spirit is at work (cf 1 Cor. 12:11): through the

first He controls and sustains, through the second He dispenses the freedom of eternal life.


90. When you approach the frontiers of dispassion - attaining a right view of God and the nature of things, and

according to your growth in purity ascending to the Creator through the beauty of His creatures - you will be

illumined by the Holy Spirit. Entertaining kindly feelings about all men and always thinking good of all, you will

look on all as pure and holy and will rightly esteem things both human and divine. You will desire none of the

material things that men seek but, divesting yourself of worldly sense -perception by means of the intellect, you will

ascend towards heaven and towards God, free from all impurity and from every form of servitude, aware in spirit

only of God's blessings and His beauty. Thus, full of reverence and joy, and in indescribable silence, you will dwell

in the divine realm of God's blessed glory, all your senses transformed, and at the same time you will live spiritually

among men like an angel in a material body.


91. Five senses characterize the ascetic life: vigilance, meditation, prayer, self-control and stillness. Once you

have linked your five outward senses to them, joining sight to vigilance, hearing to meditation, smell to prayer, taste

to self-control and touch to stillness.




[V4] 104


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


you will swiftly purify your soul's intellect: refining it by means of them, you will make it dispassionate and



92. A dispassionate intellect is one that has gained control over its own passions and risen above both dejection

and joy. It is neither subject to bouts of depression nor ebullient with high spirits, but is joyful in affliction,

restrained when cheerful, and temperate in all things.


93. The demons rage violently against those who are progressing in contemplation, lying in wait for them night

and day. Through fellow-ascetics they provoke formidable trials, while through their own direct action they terrify

them with noises. Even when they are asleep they attack them, grudging them any rest. They harass them in various

ways, even though they cannot injure those who have surrendered themselves to God. If an angel of the Lord God

did not protect them, they could not escape the demons' attack and the snares of death.




94. If you are energetically struggling to practice the virtues, watch out for the ploys of the pernicious demons.

The more you advance towards the heights of virtue and the more divine light increases in your prayers, and the

closer you come to revelations and ineffable visions through the Spirit, the more they will gnash their teeth as they

see you mounting towards heaven, and craftily spread their many nets of iniquity through the intellectual firmament.

For not only will the demons of lust and anger, flesh-avid and bestial, breathe on you, but with acrid malice the

demons of blasphemy will also rise up against you. In addition, the visible and invisible powers and principalities

that wing through the air, in naked fancy changing themselves into strange and frightening forms, will batten on you

and do you as much harm as they can. But if, with the eye of your intellect vigilant, you devote yourself to the

spiritual work of prayer and to contemplation of the inner essences of God's creation, you will not be frightened by

their 'arrow that flies by day' (Ps. 91:5), nor will they be able to invade your inner sanctuary; for like darkness they

will be repulsed by the light that is in you and consumed in divine fire.


95. The spirits of evil are extremely frightened of the grace of the divine Spirit, especially when it is abundantly

present in us or when we have been cleansed through meditation and pure prayer. Not daring to invade our inner

sanctuary when we are illumined from that source, they try to alarm and trouble us by means of fantasies, fearful

noises and meaningless screams, so as to divert us from vigil and prayer. They




[V4] 105


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


do not spare us even when we allow ourselves a little sleep on the ground: begrudging us the slightest rest from

our labors, they set upon us and dash sleep from our eyes with some commotion or other, thinking by such means to

make our life more difficult and painful.


96. As we can learn from experience, the spirits of darkness seem to take on a subtle bodily form. This may be an

illusion that they produce by deceiving our senses, or it may be that they are condemned to take such a form as the

result of their age-old fall. In any case, they impetuously intertwine themselves with the struggling soul as our

servile body draws it towards sleep. This seems to me to be a kind of testing for a soul that has but recently

transcended the body's low estate: it provides an opportunity for the incensive and virile aspect of the soul to prove

its mettle by reacting with wrath and violence against the demons that threaten it so formidably. The soul smitten

with intense love for God and braced by .the principal virtues will not only oppose the demons with righteous

indignation, but will actually strike back at them - if, that is, having become so entirely earth-bound as a result of

their fall from the primal divine light, they do have a perceptible appearance.


97. Before mtenneshmg with the soul and defeating it, the demons often disturb the soul's organs of perception

and snatch sleep from our eyes. Yet the soul filled with manly courage by the Holy Spirit will pay no heed to the

bitter fury of their attack, but will dispel their fantasies and put them to flight solely by means of the life-giving sign

of the cross and the invocation of Jesus our God.


98. If you have embarked on the task of despoiling the hostile spirits through the practice of the virtues, see that

you are thoroughly armed with the weapons of the Spirit. Are you aware of who it is you want to despoil? They are

enemies, to be sure, but noetic and fleshless, while you are still doing battle with the body under the King of the




spirits and our God. You must realize that they will fight against you more bitterly than before and that there will be

many who will deploy their tricks against you. If, then, you fail to notice them and to strip them of their spoils they

will take you prisoner, filling your soul with great bitterness; or else they will subject you to evil and distressing

temptations, acting as a grievous thorn in your flesh (cf 2 Cor. 12:7).


99. A good spring does not produce turbid, foul-smelling water, redolent of worldly matter; nor can a heart that is

outside the kingdom




[V4] 106


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Practice of the Virtues:

One Hundred Texts


of heaven gush with streams of divine life, giving out the sweet savor of spiritual myrrh. 'Does a spring from the

same opening gush with sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree bear olives, or an olive tree acorns?' (cf Jas. 3:11-

12). In the same way a single spring in the heart cannot produce simultaneously both good and bad images. Rather,

'a good man out of the good treasure-house of his heart brings forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the

evil treasure-house of his heart brings forth that which is evil', as the Lord has said (Luke 6:45).


100. Just as it is impossible without oil and flame for a lamp to bum and thus to give light to those in the house,

so it is impossible without the divine fire and Spirit for a soul to speak clearly about divine matters and to illumine

others. For every perfect gift bestowed on the devout soul 'is from above . . . from the Father of lights, in whom

there is no variableness or shadow due to change' (Jas. 1:17).




[V4] 107


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


1. Love for God begins with detachment from things human and visible. Purification of heart and intellect marks

the intermediate stage, for through such purification the eye of the intellect is spiritually unveiled and we attain

knowledge of the kingdom of heaven hidden within us (cf. Luke 17:21). The final stage is consummated in an

irrepressible longing for the supernatural gifts of God and in a natural desire for union with God and for finding

one's abode in Him.


2. Where there is intense longing for God, noetic labor, and participation in the unapproachable light, there too the

soul's powers will be at peace, the intellect will be purified, and the Holy Trinity will dwell within us; for it is

written, 'He who loves Me will fulfill My teaching, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and take

up Our abode in him' (John 14:23).


3. Our teaching recognizes three modes of living: the carnal, the psychic and the spiritual. Each of these is




characterized by its own particular attitude to life, distinctive to itself and dissimilar to that of the others.


4. The carnal mode of life is one wholly devoted to the pleasures and enjoyments of this present life, and has

nothing to do with the psychic and spiritual modes of life, and does not even have any wish to acquire them. The

psychic mode, which is situated on the borderline between evil and virtue, is preoccupied with the care and

strengthening of the body and with men's praise; it not only repudiates the labors required for virtue, but also rejects

carnal indulgence. It avoids both virtue and vice but for opposite reasons: virtue because this requires toil and

discipline; vice because that would entail forfeiting


[V4] 108


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


men's praise. The spiritual mode of life, on the other hand, has nothing in common with these two other modes, and

on this account is not implicated in the evil that pertains to either: it is entirely free in every way from both the one

and the other. Invested with the wings of love and dispassion, it soars above them both, doing nothing that is

forbidden and not being hamstrung by evil.


5. Those who pursue the carnal mode of life and in whom the will of the flesh is imperious - who are, quite

simply, carnal - are not able to conform to God's will (cf Rom. 8:8). Their judgment is eclipsed and they are totally

impervious to the rays of divine light: the engulfing clouds of the passions are like high walls that shut out the

resplendence of the Spirit and leave them without illumination. Their soul's senses maimed, they cannot aspire to

God's spiritual beauty and see the light of the true life and so transcend the lowliness of visible things. It is as if they

had become beasts conscious only of this world, with the dignity of their intelligence fettered to things sensory and

human. They strive only for what is visible and corruptible, on this account fighting among themselves and even

sacrificing their lives for such things, avid for wealth, glory and the pleasures of the flesh, and regarding the lack of

any of these things as a disaster. To such people applies the prophetic statement that comes from God's own mouth:

'My Spirit shall not remain in these men, for they are flesh' (Gen. 6:3. LXX).


6. Those who pursue the psychic mode of life and are therefore called 'psychic' are like the mentally defective

whose limbs do not function properly. They never exert themselves on behalf of virtue or in the practice of God's

commandments, and they refrain from acting reprehensibly simply in order to gain the esteem of other people. They

are completely under the sway of self-love, nurse of the destructive passions, and they seek out whatever fosters

physical health and pleasure. They repudiate all tribulation, effort and hardship embraced for the sake of virtue, and

they cosset our enemy the body more than they should. Through such life and behavior their passion-imbued

intellect grows cloddish and becomes impervious to the divine and spiritual realities whereby the soul is plucked

from the world of matter and soars into the noetic heaven. This happens to them because they are still possessed by

the spirit of matter, love themselves, and choose to do what they themselves want. Void of the Holy Spirit, they have

no share in His gifts. As a result they exhibit no godly fruit - love for God and for their fellow men - no joy in the

midst of poverty and




[V4] 109


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


tribulation, no peace of soul, no deeply-rooted faith, no all-embracing self-control. Neither do they experience

compunction, tears, humility or compassion, but they are altogether filled with conceit and arrogance. Hence they

are totally incapable of plumbing the depths of the Spirit, for there is no guiding light in diem to open their intellect

to the understanding of the Scriptures (cf Luke 24:45); indeed, they cannot endure even to hear other people talking

about such things. St Paul was quite right when he said that 'the psychic man cannot grasp spiritual things: they are

folly to him; he is unaware that the law is spiritual and must be discerned spiritually' (cf. 1 Cor. 2: 14).


7. Those who 'cleave to the Spirit' (Gal. 5:25) and are totally committed to the spiritual life live in accordance with

God's will, dedicated to Him as were the Nazirites (cf. Num. 6:2-8; Judg. 13:5). At all times they labor to purify

their soul and to keep the Lord's commandments, expending their blood in their love for Him. They purify the flesh

through fasts and vigils; they refine the heart's dross with tears; they mortify their materialistic tendencies through

ascetic hardship; they fill the intellect with light through prayer and meditation, making it translucid; and by

renouncing their own wills they sunder themselves from passionate attachment to the body and adhere solely to the

Spirit. As a result everyone recognizes them as spiritual, and rightly refers to them as such. As they approach the

state of dispassion and love, they ascend to the contemplation of the inner essences of created things; and from this

they acquire the knowledge of created being that is bestowed by the hidden wisdom of God (cf. 1 Cor. 2:7) and

given only to those who have risen above the body's low estate. Thus it is that when they have passed beyond all

sensory experience of this world and have entered with an illumined mind into the realms that are above sense-

perception, their intelligence is enlightened and they utter righteous words from a pure heart in the midst of the

Church of God and the great congregation of the faithful (cf. Ps. 40 : 9-10). For other people they are salt and light,

as the Lord says of them: 'You are the light of the world and the salt of (he earth' (cf. Matt. 5: 13-14).


8. 'Devote yourselves to stillness and know that 1 am God' (Ps. 46:10). This is the voice of the divine Logos and is

experienced as such by those who put the words into practice. Thus once you have renounced the turmoil and

frightening vanity of life you should in stillness scnitinize yourself and the inner reality of things with the




[V4] 110


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


utmost attentiveness and should seek to blow more fully the God within yourself, for His kingdom is within us (cf.

Luke 17 : 21). Yet even if you do this over a long period of time it will be difficult for you to erase the imprint of




evil from your soul and to restore it wholly to its Creator in all its primal beauty.


9. Since we are so greatly imbued with the poison of evil we are in a correspondingly great need of the cleansing

fire of repentant tears and voluntary ascetic labor. For we are purged of the stains of sin either through embracing

such labor willingly or through afflictions that come unsought. If we first engage in voluntary ascetic labor, we will

be spared the unsought afflictions; but if we fail to cleanse 'the inside of the cup and the dish' (cf. Matt. 23:26)

through ascetic labor, the afflictions will restore us to our original state with a greater harshness. So the Creator has



10. If you do not enter the way of renunciation in the right spirit -if, that is to say, from the start you refuse to

accept a teacher and guide but, regarding yourself as an adept, rely on your own judgment - you will make a

mockery of the religious life and in turn will be mocked by what happens to you.


1 1 . Just as you cannot know exactly the causes and cures of bodily afflictions without great medical experience

and skill, so you cannot know those of psychic afflictions without great spiritual training and practice. The diagnosis

of bodily illnesses is a tricky business and only a few are truly versed in it; but the diagnosis of psychic illnesses is

far more tricky. The soul is superior to the body, and correspondingly its afflictions are greater and harder to

understand than those of the body, which is visible to all.


12. The principal and primary virtues were co-created with man as part of his nature. From them the rivers of all

the other virtues are filled as from four well-heads, and they water the city of God, which is the heart cleansed and

refreshed by tears. If you keep these four principal virtues impregnable to the spirits of malice, or if they fall but you

raise them up again through the travails of repentance, you will build yourself a royal palace in which the King of

All may make His abode (cf. John 14:2]), lavishly bestowing His lofty gifts on those who have thus prepared the



13. Life is short, the age to come is long, and little the length of our present existence. Man, this great but petty

being, to whom the scant present has been allotted, is weak. Time is scant, man weak, but the


[V4] 1 1 1


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


contest set before him, with its prize, is great, even if it is full of thorns and puts our trivial life at risk.


14. God does not wish the labors of those well advanced on the spiritual path to go untested, but wants them to be

well tried. Consequently He casts upon them the fire of temptation and withdraws for a short time the grace given

them, allowing the tranquility of their thoughts to be perturbed for a while by the spirits of malice. In this manner He

sees which way the soul will turn, and whether it will favor its own Creator and Benefactor or the senses of this

world and the lure of pleasure. Depending on their proclivity He will either augment His grace in them as they

advance in love of Him, or lash them with temptation and tribulation if they indulge in worldly thoughts and actions,

continuing this until they come to hate the unstable whirl of visible things and with tears wash away the bitterness of

its pleasures.




15. When the peace of your thoughts is disturbed by the spirits of malice, then those huntsmen - the flesh-loving

demons - will at once assault your swiftly -mounting intellect with the fiery arrows of desire (cf Eph. 6:16). As a

result its upward motion is thwarted and it succumbs to unseemly, corrupt impulses; the flesh licentiously begins to

revolt against the spirit, through titivation and incitement seeking to drag the intellect down into the pit of pleasure.

And if the Lord of hosts did not curtail those days and grant His servants the strength to endure, 'no flesh would be

saved' (cf Matt. 24:22).


16. The highly experienced and wily demon of unchastity is for some a pitfall, for others a well-merited scourge,

for others a test or trial of soul. He is a pitfall for those newly engaged in spiritual warfare, who still bear the ascetic

yoke slackly and negligently; a scourge for those who have advanced midway along the path of virtue but then relax

in their efforts; a test or trial for those who on the wings of the intellect have already entered the sphere of

contemplation and who now aspire to the more perfect form of dispassion. Each category is thus divinely guided in

the way that suits it best.


17. The demon of unchastity is a pitfall for those who live the ascetic life perfunctorily. It kindles their limbs with

sensual desire and suggests ways of carrying out the will of me flesh even without intercourse with other flesh,

something of which it is shameful even to speak or think (cf. Eph. 5:12). Such people defile the flesh (cf. Jude 8)

and devour the fruits of bitter pleasure, blinding themselves and


[V4] 112


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


deservedly slipping from the higher realms. If they wish for healing, they will find it in the fervor of repentance and

the tearful compunction' that flows from it. This will make them flee from evil and will cleanse their soul from its

impurity, making it an heir of God's mercy. In his wisdom Solomon referred to this cryptically when he said,

'Healing puts an end to great offences' (cf. Eccles. 10:4. LXX).


18. This demon is a well-merited scourge for those who through the practice of the virtues have attained the first

degree of dispassion and are now progressing to what lies beyond this and is more perfect. For when out of

sluggishness they slacken the tension of their ascetic practice and deviate, albeit slightly, towards unguarded

preoccupation with the sensible world, longing to involve themselves in human affairs, then, as a result of God's

great goodness towards them, this demon acts as scourge: it begins to assail those who deviate in this way with

thoughts tainted by carnal desire. Unable to bear this, they swiftly revert to their stronghold of intense ascetic

practice and attentiveness, performing with ever greater eagerness and even more strenuously the tasks that will save

them. In His bounteousness, God does not wish the soul that has reached this stage to turn completely to the world

of the senses; on the contrary. He wants it to progress continuously and to embrace zealously ever more perfect

works, so that no plague will come near its dwelling (cf. Ps. 91:10. LXX).


1 9. Through God's economy, this same demon is a test, a thorn and a trial for those who, having attained the first,

aspire to the second degree of dispassion. So long as the demon troubles them, they recall the weakness of their

nature and do not become conceited because of the 'abundance of the revelations' (2 Cor. 12:7) that they have




received through contemplation. Rather, keenly aware, of the law that wars against the law of the intellect (cf . Rom.

7:23), they repudiate even the passion-free recollection of sin, lest by recalling it they re -experience the defilement it

engenders and thereby let the eye of the intellect lapse from the heights of contemplation.


20. Only those who through the Spirit have been privileged to receive the life-quickening deadness of the Lord

(cf. 2 Cor. 4:10) in their limbs and thoughts can keep their intellect untroubled even by the passion-free memory of

sin. Their flesh is dead to sin, while through the righteousness that is in Christ Jesus they have enriched their spirit

with life (cf. Rom. 8:10). Those who through their consciousness of wisdom have received the intellect of Christ

will also




[V4] 113


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


experience the untroubled life-quickening deadness that comes from knowledge of God.


21. The spirit of desire and anger is liable to invade souls but recently purified. To do what? To shake down the

fruits of the Holy Spirit burgeoning within them. For the joy of freedom produces a certain confusion in such souls;

they tend to exalt themselves over others because of their great freedom and the richness of their gifts, and also to

think that they have attained this great palace of peace through their own strength and understanding. Hence the

Wisdom that orders all things for good, and seeks always to attract these souls to itself by means of its gifts and to

keep them unshaken in their humility, withdraws from them slightly and so permits this spirit of desire and anger to

attack them. Plunged as a result into the fear of falling, they once more keep guard over blessed humility; and,

recognizing that they are bound to flesh and blood, they search in accordance with their true nature for the inner

stronghold where by the power of the Holy Spirit they can sustain themselves unharmed.


22. The vehemence of our trials and temptations depends upon the degree to which we are debilitated by the

passions and infected by sin; and the bitter cup of God's judgment varies accordingly. If the nature of the sin within

us is such that it is easily treated and cured - if, that is to say, it consists of thoughts that are self-indulgent or worldly

- then the Healer of our souls in His compassion adds but a mild dose of wormwood to the cup of trial and

temptation He administers, since these are merely human ailments by which we are afflicted. But if the sin is deep-

seated and hard to cure - a lethal infection of pretentious arrogant thoughts - then in the keenness of His wrath He

gives us the cup undiluted, so that, dissolved and refined in the fire of successive trials and the humility they induce,

the sickness may be removed from our soul and we may wash away our brackish thoughts with tears, thus

presenting ourselves pure in the light of humility to our Healer.


23. Those engaged in spiritual warfare can escape from the cycle of trial and temptation only by recognizing their

weakness, and regarding themselves as strangers to righteousness and unworthy of any solace, honor, or repose.

God, the doctor of our souls, wishes us to be always humble and modest, detached from our fellow-men and

imitators of His sufferings. For He was 'gentle and humble in heart' (Matt. 1 1 :29), and wants us to pursue the path of

His commandments with a similar gentleness and humility of heart.




[V4] 114


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


24. Humility is not achieved by means of a scraggy neck, squalid hair, or filthy, ragged and unkempt clothing, to

which the generality of men ascribe the sum total of this virtue. It comes from a contrite heart and a spirit of self-

abasement. As David said, 'God will not scorn a contrite spirit, and a contrite and humble heart' (cf. Ps. 51:19.



25. To speak humbly is one thing, to act humbly is another, and to be inwardly humble is something else again.

Through all manner of hardship and through the outward labors of virtue those engaged in spiritual warfare can

attain the qualities of speaking and acting humbly, for these qualities require-no more than bodily effort and

discipline. But because the soul of such people often lacks inner stability, when temptation confronts them they are

easily shaken. Inward humility, on the other hand, is something exalted and divine, bestowed through the indwelling

of the Paraclete only on those who have passed the midpoint of the spiritual way - who have, that is to say, through

acting in all humility traversed the rigorous path of virtue.


26. The soul is so distressed and oppressed when inner humility like a weighty stone has penetrated its depths,

that it loses all its strength because of the tears which it uncontrollably sheds; while the intellect, cleansed of every

defiling thought, attains like Isaiah to the vision of God. Under that divine mfluence it too confesses, 'How abject 1

am - 1 am pierced to the heart; because 1 am a man of unclean lips, and 1 dwell among a people of unclean lips; and

my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts' (Isa. 6:5).


27. When the ability to speak humbly is firmly established within you, then you will no longer indulge in boastful

talk; when you act spontaneously in humbleness of heart, then you will cease from humble speech, whether

superficial or profound; and when you are enriched by God with inner humility then both humility of outward action

and humility of the tongue will no longer have any place in you. It is as St Paul said: 'But when that which is perfect

comes, that which is partial is done away with' (1 Cor. 13:10).


28. Genuine humility of speech is as remote from genuine humility of action as East is from West. And as heaven

surpasses earth, or the soul the body, so the inner humility given to the saints through the Holy Spirit excels genuine

humility of action.


29. Do not readily assume that someone who in outward appearance and dress, and in manner of speech, seems to

be humble is




[V4] 115


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts




actually humble at heart; and do not assume - unless you have put it to the test - that someone who speaks exaltedly

of high things is full of boastfulness and vanity. For 'you shall' know them by their fruits' (Matt. 7:16).


30. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, goodness, long-suffering, kindness, faith, gentleness, self-

control (cf. Gal. 5:22-23). The fruits of the spirit of evil are hatred, worldly despondency, restlessness of soul, a

troubled heart, guile, inquisitive -ness, negligence, anger, lack of faith, envy, gluttony, drunkenness, abusiveness,

censoriousness, the lust of the eyes (cf. 1 John 2:16), vanity and pretentiousness of soul. By these fruits you may

know the tree (cf. Matt. 12:33), and in this way you will certainly recognize what kind of spirit you have to deal

with. An even clearer indication of these things is given by the Lord Himself when He says, 'A good man out of the

good treasury of his heart brings forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasury of his heart brings forth

evil things' (Matt. 12:35). For as the tree, so is the fruit.


3 1 . God dwells in those in whom the fruits of the Holy Spirit are evident and, whether they speak of lowly or

exalted things, from them flows, full of wisdom and knowledge, the unsullied spring of the Logos. Those who

display the fruits and gifts not of the Holy Spirit but of the spirit of evil are on the other hand benighted with

ignorance of God and swarm with the passions and hostile spirits; and this is so whether they speak and dress

humbly, or whether they speak exaltedly, wear fine clothes, and bear themselves with an outward show of pomp.


32. Truth is not evinced by looks, gestures or words, and God reposes not in these things but in a contrite heart, a

humble spirit and a soul illumined by the knowledge of God. Sometimes we see someone speaking to all comers in

an outwardly obsequious and humble manner, while inwardly he pursues the praise of men and is filled with self-

conceit, guile, malice and rancor. And there are times when we see someone fighting for righteousness outwardly

with lofty words of wisdom, taking a stand against falsehood or the transgression of God's laws, and looking only to

the truth, while within he is all modesty, humility, and love for his fellow-men. Sometimes also we see such a

person glorying in the Lord after the manner of St Paul, who when he gloried in the Lord said, 'I will glory in my

infirmities' (2 Cor. 12:9).


33. God looks not at the outward form of what we say or do, but at

[V4] 116


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


the disposition of our soul and the purpose for which we perform a visible action or express a thought. In the same

way those of greater understanding than others look rather to the inward meaning of words and the intention of

actions, and unfalteringly assess them accordingly. Man looks at the outward form, but God looks on the heart (cf. 1

Sam. 16:7).


34. God has judged it right that from generation to generation His prophets and friends should be equipped by the

Spirit for the building up of His Church (cf. Eph. 4:11-13). For since the old serpent still devastates men's souls by

spewing the poison of sin into their ears, how could He who fashioned our hearts one by one (cf. Ps. 33: 15) not raise

the needy from the earth of humility and lift them from the dunghill of the passions (cf. Ps. 113:7), assisting His




inheritance with 'the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God' (Eph. 6:17)? Rightly, then, do those who begin

with humility, and deny themselves, rise to the heights of spiritual knowledge, receiving from on high the teachings

of wisdom through the power of God, so that they may proclaim the Gospel of salvation to His Church.


35. 'Know thyself: this is true humility, the humility that teaches us to be inwardly humble and makes our heart

contrite. Such humility you must cultivate and guard. For if you do not yet know yourself you cannot know what

humility is, and have not yet embarked truly on the task of cultivating and guarding. To know oneself is the goal of

the practice of the virtues.


36. If having achieved a state of purity you advance to the knowledge of the essences of created beings, you will

have fulfilled the injunction, 'Know thyself If on the other hand you have not yet attained a knowledge of the inner

essences of creation and of things both divine and human, you may know what is outside and around you, but you

will still be totally ignorant of your own self.


37. What 1 am is not at all the same as that which characterizes me; nor is what characterizes me the same as that

which relates to my situation; nor is what relates to my situation the same as that which is external to me. In each

case the one is distinct from the other. What 1 am is an image of God manifest in a spiritual, immortal and intelligent

soul, having an intellect that is the father of my consciousness and that is consubstantial with the soul and

inseparable from it That which characterizes me, and is regal and sovereign, is the power of intelligence and free

will. That which relates to my situation is what I


[V4] 117


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


may choose in exercising my free will, such as whether to be a farmer, a merchant, a mathematician or a

philosopher. That which is external to me is whatever relates to my ambitions in this present life, to my class status

and worldly wealth, to glory, honor, prosperity and exalted rank, or to their opposites, poverty, ignominy, dishonor

and misfortune.


38. When you know yourself you cease from all outward tasks undertaken with a view to serving God and enter

into the very sanctuary of God, into the noetic liturgy of the Spirit, the divine haven of dispassion and humility. But

until you come to know yourself through humility and spiritual knowledge your life is one of toil and sweat. It was

of this that David cryptically spoke when he said, 'Toil lies before me until 1 enter the sanctuary of God' (Ps. 73:16-

17. LXX).


39. To know yourself means that you must guard yourself diligently from everything external to you; it means

respite from worldly concerns and cross-examination of the conscience. Once you come to know yourself a kind of

super rational divine humility suddenly descends upon the soul, bringing contrition and tears of fervent compunction

to the heart. Acted upon in this way you regard yourself as earth and ashes (cf Gen. 18:27), and as a worm and no

man (cf. Ps. 22:6). Indeed, because of this overwhelming gift of God, you think you are unworthy of even this

wormlike form of life. If you are privileged to remain in this state for some time you will be filled with a strange.




unspeakable intoxication - the intoxication of compunction - and will enter into the depths of humility. Rapt out of

yourself, you take no account of food, drink or clothing beyond the minimum needed; for you are as one who has

experienced the blessed change that comes from 'the right hand of the Most High' (Ps. 77: 10. LXX).


40. Humility is the greatest of the virtues. If as a result of sincere repentance it is implanted in you, you will also

be given the gift of prayer and self-control, and will be freed from servitude to the passions. Peace will suffuse your

powers, tears will cleanse your heart, and through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit you will be filled with

tranquility. When you have attained this state, your consciousness of me knowledge of God will grow lucid and you

will begin to contemplate the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven and the inner essences of created things. The more

you descend into the depths of the Spirit, the more you plumb the abyss of humility. Correspondingly


[V4] 118


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


you gain greater knowledge of your own Imitations and recognize the weakness of human nature; at the same time

your love for God and your fellow beings waxes until you think that sanctification flows simply from a greeting or

from the proximity of those with whom you live.


41. Nothing so inspires the soul with longing for God and love for one's fellow beings as humility, compunction

and pure prayer. Humility shatters the spirit and engenders tears, while by making us aware of the shortness of

human life it teaches us to know the frailty of our limitations. Compunction purifies the intellect of materiality,

illumines the eye of the heart, and makes the soul completely radiant. Pure prayer binds the whole person to God,

making us share the life of the angels, allowing us to taste the sweetness of the immortal blessings of God, and

bestowing on us the treasures of the great mysteries. Enkindling us with love, it gives us the courage to lay down our

life for our friends (cf John 15:13), for we have transcended the body's low estate.


42. Protect the pledge of enriching humility that has been entrusted to you, for in it are stored the hidden treasures

of love and the pearls of compunction. In it, too, the King, Christ our God, reposes as on a golden throne, bestowing

the gifts of the Holy Spirit on those it nourishes and giving them His great glories: consciousness of His divine

knowledge. His ineffable wisdom, the vision of supernal realities, the prevision of human realities, the life-

quickening deadness induced by dispassion, and union with Himself, so that we co-reign with Him in the kingdom

of God the Father. For this accords with the petition He made to the Father, when He said on our behalf, 'Father, I

desire that those whom Thou hast given Me should be with Me wherever I am' (John 17:24).


43. If while striving to practice the commandments you suddenly feel an inexpressible secret joy that strangely

and unaccountably transforms you, alleviates the body's weight and puts from your mind all thought of food, sleep

and the other necessities of nature, then you must know that all this is because God has come to dwell within you,

inducing in you a life -quickening deadness and here and now raising you to the angelic state. The operative power

behind this blessed life is humility; its mother and nurse, holy compunction; its friend and sister, the contemplation

of the divine light; its throne, dispassion; its consummation. God the Holy Trinity.




[V4] 119


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


44. Once you have achieved this lofty state you cannot be constrained by sensory attachment to things. You are

not distracted by any of the delectations of this life, nor do you regard some people as holy and others as unholy; but

just as God makes the rain fall and the sun shine equally on the just and on the unjust, on the evil and on the good

(cf. Matt 5:45), so you irradiate love and diffuse its rays to all men. Pregnant though you are with love for

everything, yet your heart feels no distress or, rather, you are distressed and straitened because you cannot help

others as much as you would wish. As from Eden, from you flows another spring of compunction, divided into the

four streams of humility, chastity, dispassion and undistracted prayer; and it waters the face of God's entire spiritual

creation (cf Gen. 2:10).


45. Those who have not tasted the sweetness of the tears of compunction and are ignorant of its grace and of how

it operates, think that such tears differ in no way from those shed for the dead; and they invent all manner of

specious reasons and pretexts for thinking this, such as might naturally occur to us. But when what was haughty in

our intellect inclines towards humility, and when me soul has closed its eyes to the deceitfulness of visible things

and aspires solely to the contemplation of the immaterial, primal light, repudiating all that derives from sense

perception and receiving the grace bestowed by the Spirit, then as water from a spring tears at once gush from it and

sweeten its senses, filling the mind with all manner of joy and divine light. More than this, they shatter the heart and

make the intellect humble in its contemplation of the higher world. These things cannot happen to those who lament

and mourn in another way.


46. Without the deepest humility you cannot release the spring of tears within you, nor can you be humble

without the compunction that is quickened through the abiding presence of the Spirit. For humility engenders

compunction and compunction engenders humility through the Holy Spirit. It is as if these were strung together by a

single grace, linked by the unbreakable bond of the Spirit.


47. The light that enters the soul through the agency of the divine Spirit is liable to withdraw as a result of our

laxity, negligence or perfunctormess in matters of food or speech. Carelessness over what we eat and an unstable

diet, as well as an uncontrolled tongue and unguarded eyes, will naturally drive the light from the soul and plunge us

info darkness. And once we are filled with darkness all the beasts in the wild places of our heart and our whelp-like



[V4] 120


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts




thoughts rove raucously through it, seeking to feed on our impassioned prochvities and to despoil the treasure

garnered in us by the Spirit (cf Ps. 104 : 20-21). But the self-control that is truly dear to us and the prayer that

makes us angels not only prevent such things from ranging through the soul; they also preserve unquenched the light

of the Spirit that encircles the intellect, pacify the heart and liberate the pure spring of divine compunction, opening

the soul to the love of God and binding it through joy and virginity entirely to Christ.


48. There is nothing so kindred to the divine Logos as the soul's purity and chasteness. Their mother is a devout

all-embracing self-control; and the father of this is fear. For once fear has changed to longing and is imbued with

desire for things divine, it makes the soul not only fearless and full of love for God, but also the very mother of the

divine Logos.


49. Once impregnated by fear, the soul becomes through repentance pregnant with the Logos of divine judgment;

the birth-pangs of hell encompass it, heartfelt anguish and travail afflict it as it reflects on the retribution due for the

evil it has done. Then, having through copious tears and labors gestated in the mind's womb the Spirit of salvation it

has conceived, it brings it forth into the world of the heart. Thus liberated from the pangs of hell and the anguish of

judgment, the soul is joyously filled with longing for the blessings in store for it; purity and chasteness attend on it

and, spurred by intense desire, unite it with God. Through this union it experiences an ineffable delight and sheds

the sweet pleasureful tears of compunction. Exempt from the ordinary forms of perception and as though in ecstasy

following the Bridegroom, it cries voicelessly, 'I pursue Thee in the fragrance of Thy myrrh; tell me, Thou whom

my soul loves, where Thou feedest Thy flock, where Thou givest it rest. In the noon-day of pure contemplation? Let

me not be rejected from the flock of the righteous. With Thee are the illuminations of the great mysteries' (cf. Song

of Songs 1:4-7). Once the Bridegroom has led the soul into the sanctuary of His hidden mysteries. He will initiate it

with wisdom into the contemplation of the inner essences of created things.


50. Do not say in your heart, it is now impossible for me to acquire a virginal purity, for I have succumbed in so

many ways to the seduction and delirium of the body. For once the soul engages fervently and strenuously in the

labors of repentance and we shed tears of compunction, then the prison-house is razed to the ground,


[V4] 121


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


the fire of the passions is extinguished, we are spiritually reborn through the abiding presence of the Paraclete, and

once again the soul becomes a palace of purity and virginity. God, who is above nature, descends with light and

ineffable joy into the soul and sits on the heights of its intellect as upon a throne of glory, bestowing peace on all its

inner powers and saying: 'Peace be with you, peace from hostile passions. I give you My peace, so that you may act

according to your true nature. I leave My peace with you, so that you may be perfected into what is beyond nature'

(cf. John 14:27). Through His threefold gift of peace He heals the soul's three powers, brings it into triadic

perfection and unites it with Himself. Thus He refashions it and makes it at one stroke wholly virginal, good and

beautiful through the fragrance of the myrrh of purity. Then he says to it, 'Arise. Come near to me, dove of

loveliness, through the practice of the virtues; for behold, the storm of the passions has passed. The downpour of




sensual pleasure-laden droughts is over, it has gone its way. The flowers of the virtues, redolent with intellections,

have appeared in the soil of your heart (of Song of Songs, 2:10-12). Arise, come near to Me in the knowledge

gleaned from the contemplation of the essences of created beings. Come, my dove, on your own wing into the over-

canopying darkness of mystical theology, to the faith rooted rock-like in Me, your God.'


5 1 . Blessed in my eyes is the man who, changed through the practice of the virtues, transcends the encompassing

walls of the passion-embroiled state and rises on the wings of dispassion - wings silver-toned with divine knowledge

(cf. Ps. 68:13) - to the spiritual sphere in which he contemplates the essences of created things, and who from there

enters the divine darkness of theology where in the life of blessedness he ceases from all outward labors and reposes

in God. For he has become a terrestrial angel and a celestial man; he has glorified God in himself, and God will

glorify him (cf. John 13:31-32).


52. 'Great peace have they who love God's law, and for them there is no stumbling-block' (cf Ps. 119:165). For

not all things congenial to men accord with God; and some things that do not appear good are seen, by those who

know the inner essences of things and events, to be by nature most excellent.


53. It behooves us to die to the world and live in Christ. Otherwise we cannot be spiritually bom anew - and, as

the Lord says, 'Unless you


[V4] 122


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


are bom anew, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven' (cf John 3:3). Such a rebirth comes through obedience to a

spiritual father, for if we do not first become pregnant with the seed of the Logos through the teaching of such a

father and through him become children of God, we cannot be spiritually reborn. For in this way the twelve were

bom of one, that is, of Christ; and the seventy were bom of the twelve and were made children of God the Father,

according to our Lord's words, 'You are the children of My heavenly Father' (cf. Matt. 5:45). Thus St Paul, too, says

to us, 'For though you have ten thousand instructors, you have not many fathers; I have begotten you; be imitators of

me'(cf ICor. 4:15-16).


54. If you are not obedient to a spiritual father in imitation of the Son who was obedient to the Father even unto

death and the cross (cf. Phil. 2:8), you cannot be spiritually bom anew. If you do not become the beloved son of a

holy father, and if you have not been bom anew in the Logos and the Spirit, how will you yourself become a holy

father and give birth to holy children who conform to the holiness of their father? And if this does not happen - well,

'the tree is known by its fruit' (cf. Matt. 12:33).


55. Lack of faith is evil, the most diabolic issue of diabolic avarice and envy. And if it is evil, how much the more

so is the avarice that gives birth to it. For avarice impels men to love money more than they love Christ, to esteem

what is material more highly than God, to worship creation rather than the Creator, and to pervert God's truth into a

lie (cf. Rom. 1:25). If this disease is so evil that it can be called a second idolatry (cf. Col. 3:5). what exorbitance of

evil will the soul willingly sick with such a disease not surpass?




56. If you aspire to friendship with Christ, you wiU hate money and the gluttonous love of money; for money

lures towards itself the mind of whoever loves it and diverts it from love for Jesus, a love which, I think, is

expressed not in words but in action, in the carrying out of His commandments (cf. John 14:15). If, alas, what you

want is money, you will hoard away as much of it as you can, setting this desire for money above love for Christ,

and regarding wealth as a gain and not as the greatest disaster that can befall you. You should realize, however, that

money is in fact disastrous to you, and the disaster will be all the greater because you will also lose your true wealth,

God, without whom the life of salvation is impossible.


57. If you love money you do not love Christ; if you do not love

[V4] 123


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


Christ, but love money, think to whose likeness that tyrant will reduce you: it will make you like the disciple who

was unfaithful, who appeared to be a friend but was a traitor, who acted viciously towards the Master of All, and

who fell miserably from both faith and love, plunging into the depths of despair. Fear his example and listen to my

counsel: spurn money and love for money, so that you may gain the love of Christ. If not, well, you know the place

prepared for those who have fallen.


58. If you are not called by God to a high status, never try to attain it through money or human support or by

demanding it, even if you know you can help others. For if you do, three things lie in wait for you, and of them one

will surely happen: either God's anger and wrath will fall upon you in the form of diverse assaults and misfortunes -

for not only men but virtually the whole of creation will turn on you, and your life will be full of anguish; or your

enemies will gain the upper hand and expel you from your position in deep disgrace; or you will die before your

time, cut off from this present life.


59. You cannot be indifferent to both fame and disgrace, or rise above pleasure and pain, unless you are enabled

by grace to perceive the upshot of all worldly preoccupations. For when you realize that the resultant of fame,

pleasure, indulgence, wealth and prosperity is naught, since death and decay await them, then you will recognize the

blatant vanity of all things worldly and will turn your eyes to the consummation of things divine. You will cleave to

the realities that truly exist and cannot perish; and, making these things your own, you will rise above pain and

pleasure: above pain in that you have defeated that which in your soul loves pleasure, fame and money; above

pleasure, in that you have become impervious to worldly sensations. Thus you are the same whether you are

honored or scorned, attacked by bodily pain or endued with bodily ease. In all things you will give thanks to God

and you will not be cast down.


60. Those who have attained spiritual maturity can also analyze, the impulsions and proclivities of the soul, and

can guide and guard their inner state, on the basis of dreams. For bodily impulsions and the images in our intellect

depend upon our inner disposition and preoccupations. If your soul hankers after pleasure and material things, you

will dream about acquiring possessions and having money, about the female figure and sexual intercourse - all of

which leads to the soiling and defilement of soul and body. If you are haunted by images




[V4] 124


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


of greed and avarice, you will see money everywhere, will get hold of it, and will make more money by lending it

out at interest and storing the proceeds in the bank, and you will be condemned for your callousness. If you are hot-

tempered and vicious, images of poisonous snakes and wild beasts will plague you and overwhelm you with terror.

If you are fall of self-esteem, you will dream of popular acclaim and mass-meetings, government posts and high

office; and even when awake you will imagine that these things, which as yet you lack, are already yours, or soon

will be. If you are proud and pretentious, you will see yourself being carried along in a splendid coach and even

sometimes airborne, while everyone trembles at your great power. Similarly, if you are devoted to God, diligent in

the practice of the virtues, scrupulous in the struggle for holiness and with a soul purged of material preoccupations,

you will see in sleep the outcome of events and awe-inspiring visions will be disclosed to you. When you wake from

sleep you will always find yourself praying with compunction and in a peaceful state of soul and body, and there

will be tears on your cheeks, and on your lips words addressed to God.


6 1 . The images that visit us during sleep are either dreams, or visions, or revelations. To the category of dreams

belongs everything in the image -forming faculty of the intellect that is mutable - all that makes it confused and

subject to constantly altering states. We have nothing to gain from such images and if we are sensible we should

ignore them - indeed, they disappear of their own accord as soon as we awake. Visions on the other hand are

constant; the one does not change into another, but they remain imprinted upon the intellect unforgettably for many

years. Those that disclose the upshot of things to come, and assist the soul by inspiring it with compunction and the

sight of fearful wonders, make the beholder reflective and strike him with awe on account of their constancy and

their fearsome nature. Hence they are treated with great seriousness by those skilled in spiritual matters. Revelations

occur when the purified and illumined soul is able to contemplate in a way that transcends normal sense-perception.

They have the force of things and thoughts miraculous and divine, initiating us into the hidden mysteries of God,

showing us the outcome of our most important problems and the universal transformation of things worldly and



62. The first category - that of dreams - pertains to materialistic sensually -minded people who worship their belly

(cf Phil. 3:19) and


[V4] 125


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


are brash in their over-indulgence. Their dissolute, passion-polluted mode of life darkens their intellect, and they are




mocked and spellbound by the demons. The second category - that of visions -pertains to those well advanced on the

spiritual path, who have cleansed the soul's organs of perception. Beneficially assisted by things visible they ascend

to the ever-increasing apprehension of things divine. The third category - that of revelations - pertains to those who

are perfect, who are energized by the Holy Spirit, and whose soul through mystical prayer is united to God.


63. Things seen in sleep are true and imprinted on the spiritual intellect in the case, not of everyone, but only of

those whose intellect is purified, who have cleansed the soul's organs of perception and who are advancing toward

the contemplation of the inner essences of created things. Such people do not worry about day-to-day matters, nor

are they troubled about this present life. Through long fasts they have acquired an all-embracing self-control and

through exertion and hardship they' have attained the sanctuary of God, the spiritual knowledge of created being and

the wisdom of the higher world. Their life is the life of angels and is hidden in God (cf Col. 5:3), their progress is

based upon holy stillness and on the prophets of God's Church. It is of them that God has spoken through Moses,

when He said, 'If there be a prophet among you, I will appear to him in his sleep and will speak to him in a vision'

(cf. Num. 12:6); and through Joel, when He said, 'And it will come to pass after these things that I will pour out My

spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your

young men shall see visions' (Joel 2:28).


64. Stillness is an undisturbed state of the intellect, the calm of a free and joyful soul, the tranquil unwavering

stability of the heart in God, the contemplation of light, the knowledge of the mysteries of God, consciousness of

wisdom by virtue of a pure mind, the abyss of divine intellections, the rapture of the intellect, intercourse with God,

an unsleeping watchfulness, spiritual prayer, untroubled repose in the midst of great hardship and, finally, solidarity

and union with God.


65. If the soul, its powers disordered, is still at war with itself and has not yet become receptive to the divine rays,

if it is still enslaved to the will of the flesh and without peace; and if its battle with the rebellious passions has but

recently come to an end, it needs to


[V4] 126


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


preserve strict silence, so that with David it too can say: 'But I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man

who does not open his mouth' (Ps. 38: 13). It should always be full of grief and should walk son'owfully along the

road of Christ's commandments; for it is still afflicted by the enemy and awaits the coming of the Paraclete, through

whom it will receive the prize of true freedom for its compunction and cleansing tears.


66. If you generate the honey of the virtues in stillness, you will through struggle and self -discipline transcend the

lowly estate of man's fallen condition and by overcoming your presumption you will restore the soul's powers to

their natural state. Your heart purified by tears, you will now become receptive to the rays of the Spirit, will clothe

yourself in the incomiption of the life-quickenmg deadness of Christ (cf 1 Cor. 15:53; 1 Cor. 4:10), and will receive

the Paraclete in tongues of fire in the upper room of your stillness (cf. Acts 2:3). You will then be under an

obligation to speak unreservedly of the wonderful works of God (cf. Acts 2:11) and to 'declare His righteousness in




the great congregation' (cf. Ps. 40:10), for you will have received inwardly the law of the Spirit (cf. John 7:38; Rom.

8:2); otherwise, like the wicked servant who hid the talent of his own master, you will be cast into eternal fire (cf.

Matt. 25:30). Thus it was with David, when he washed away his sin through repentance and received once more the

gift of prophecy; unable to conceal the blessings that he had received, he said to God, 'Behold, I will not seal my

lips, as Thou, Lord, knowest. 1 have not hidden Thy righteousness within my heart; 1 have declared Thy truth and

Thy salvation; 1 have not concealed Thy mercy and Thy truth from the great congregation' (Ps. 40:9-10).


67. An intellect totally purged of impurities is like a star-filled sky that illumines the soul with lucid intellections;

and the Sun of righteousness (cf. MaL 4:2) shines within it, enlightening the world with divine knowledge. Cleansed

in this way, the consciousness brings forth from the depths of wisdom the creative principles of things and the

transparent revelations of what is hidden, and in their pure and unalloyed state it sets them before the intellect, so

that it knows the depth, height and breadth of the knowledge of God (cf. Eph. 3:18). When the intellect has

interiorized these principles and revelations and made them part of its own nature, then it will elucidate the

profundities of the Spirit to all who possess God's Spirit within


[V4] 127


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


themselves, exposing the guile of the demons and expounding the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.


68. Bodily desires and the impulses of the flesh are checked by self-control, fasting and spiritual struggle. Psychic

ferments and the overweeningness of the heart are allayed by the reading of the Divine Scriptures and humbled by

constant prayer, while compunction like oil assuages them altogether.


69. Nothing so puts you in communion with God and unites you with the divine Logos as pure noetic prayer,

when you pray undistractedly in the Spirit, your soul cleansed by tears, mellowed by compunction and illumined by

the light of the Spirit.


70. Quantity is very important in the prayerful recitation of psalms, provided that it is accompanied by

perseverance and attentiveness; but the quality of our recitation is what gives life to the soul and makes it fruitful.

Quality in psalmody and prayer consists in praying with the Spirit and with the intellect (cf 1 Cor. 14:15). We pray

with the intellect when, as we say prayers and recite psalms, we perceive the meaning hidden in the Holy Scriptures

and thence gamer in the heart a harvest of ever more exalted divine thoughts. Rapt spiritually by these thoughts into

the regions of light, the soul shines with a clear radiance, is further purified, rises wholly to the heavens, and beholds

the beauty of the blessings held in store for the saints. Out of ardent longing for these blessings, tears - the fruit of

prayer - at once flow from our eyes, induced by the light-creating energy of the Spirit, their taste so sweet that in

experiencing them one may even forget to eat. This is the fruit of prayer, begotten through the quality of their

psalmody in the soul of those who pray.


71. Where the fruit of the Spirit is present in a person, prayer is of a like quality; and where there is such quality,

quantity in the recitation of psalms is excellent. Where there is no spiritual fruit, the quality is sapless. If the quality




is arid, quantity is useless: even if it disciplines the body, for most people there is no gain to be got from it.


72. As you pray and sing psalms to the Lord, watch out for the guile of the demons. Either they deceive us into

saying one thing instead of another, snatching the soul's attention and turning the verses of the psalms into

blasphemies, so that we say things that we should not say; or, when we have started with a psalm, they cause us to

skip to the end of it, distracting the intellect from what lies between; or else they make us return time and again to

the same verse, through absent-


[V4] 128


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


mindedness preventing us from going on to what comes next; or, when we are in the middle of a psalm, they

suddenly blank out the intellect's memory of the sequence of the verses, so that we cannot even remember what

verse of the psalm it was that we were saying, and thus we repeat it once more. This they do to make us neglectful

and listless, and to deprive us of the fruits of our prayer by persuading us that we cannot go on because of the

lateness of the hour. We should persevere strongly, however, and continue the psalm more slowly, so that through

contemplation we may reap the profit of prayer from the verses and become rich with the light of the Holy Spirit that

fills the souls of those who pray.


73. If something like this happens to you when you are 'singing with understanding' (cf Ps. 47:7), do not become

cursory or listless. Do not opt for bodily rest rather than the soul's profit, justifying this on the grounds that the hour

is late. But when you realize that your intellect has become distracted, stop the recitation; and although you may be

near the end of the psalm, bravely go back to the beginning, diligently resume it, and recite it over again, even if,

because of distraction, you have to repeat this process several times in a single hour. If you do this the demons,

unable to bear your patient perseverance and your ardor, will be put to shame and will leave you.


74. Unceasing prayer is prayer that does not leave the soul day or night. It consists not in what is outwardly

perceived - outstretched hands, bodily stance, or verbal utterance - but in our inner concentration on the intellect's

activity and on mindfulness of God bom of unwavering compunction; and it can be perceived noetically by those

capable of such perception.


75. You can devote yourself constantly to prayer only when your thoughts are mustered under the command of

the intellect, delving in profound peace and reverence into the depths of God and seeking therein to taste the sweet

waters of contemplation. When this peace is not present, such prayer is impossible. Only when your soul's powers

are pacified through spiritual knowledge can you attain constant prayer.


76. If while you are singing a song of prayer to God, one of your brethren knocks at the door of your cell, do not

opt for the work of prayer rather than that of love and ignore your brother, for so to act would be alien to God. God

desires love's mercy, not the sacrifice of prayer (cf. Hos. 6:6). Rather, put aside the gift of prayer and speak




[V4] 129


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


with healing love to your brother. Then with tears and a contrite heart once more offer your gift of prayer to the

father of the spiritual powers, and a righteous spirit will be renewed within you (cf. Matt. 5:23-24: Ps. 51:10, 17).


77. The mystery of prayer is not consummated at a certain specific time or place. For if you restrict prayer to

particular times or places, you will waste the rest of the time in vain pursuits. Prayer may be defined as the intellect's

unceasing intercourse with God. Its task is to engage the soul totally in things divine, its fulfillment - to adapt the

words of St Paul (cf. 1 Cor. 6:17) - lies in so wedding the mind to God that it becomes one spirit with Him.


78. Even though you have died to your worldly self, and even though life has been generated in your soul by the

Holy Spirit and God has granted you supernal gifts, you should still not leave your mind unoccupied. Accustom it to

think continually on your past sins and the torments of hell, and regard yourself as one condemned. If you concern

yourself with these things and look on yourself in this way, you will preserve a contrite spirit and within you a

spring of compunction will flow with divine grace. God will have regard for your heart and will support it with His



79. Controlled fasting, accompanied by vigils, meditation and prayer, quickly brings you to the frontiers of

dispassion. At this point your great humility releases the spring of tears within you and you bum with love for God.

When you have reached this state, you enter the peace of the Spirit that transcends every dauntless intellect (cf . Phil.

4:7) and through love you are united to God.


80. No king so rejoices over his glory and kingdom, or so exults in his power, as does a monk over the dispassion

of his soul and over his tears of compunction. For the king's jubilation will wither with his kingdom, while the monk

will be accompanied for limitless ages by the blessed dispassion and the joy he has attained. He moves like a wheel

among men during this present life, touching only lightly the earth and the things upon it - and then simply because

his bodily needs demand it; his intellect ascending through this circling movement entirely into the celestial sphere,

in his beginning is his end: and, crowned with humility, he bears in himself the fruits of grace. His table is replete

with the contemplation of the essences of created things, his drink is from the cup of Wisdom and his repose is in



81. If you willingly engage in the labors of virtue and zealously

[V4] 130


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


pursue the ascetic path, you will be granted great gifts by God. As you approach the halfway mark, you will receive




divine revelations and visions, and the greater your struggles the more full of tight and wisdom you will become. At

the same time, the greater the heights of contemplation you reach, the more you will provoke the destructive envy of

the demons, for they cannot bear to see a human being attain an angelic nature. Hence they will deceitfully attack

you with thoughts of presumption. But if you perceive their wiliness and, admonishing yourself, take refuge in the

stronghold of humility, you will escape the havoc of pride and enter the haven of salvation. Failing this, and

abandoned by God, you will be given over to punitive spirits; and because you did not willingly put yourself to the

test, they will chastise you against your will. Carnal and pleasure-loving, full of guile and rage, these spirits will

cruelly humiliate you with their attacks until you recognize your own weakness and, stricken with grief, free

yourself from the rack, saying with David: 'It is good for me that Thou hast humiliated me, so that I may learn Thy

commandments' (Ps. 119:71. LXX).


82. God does not want us always to be humiliated by the passions and to be hunted down by them like hares,

making Him alone our rock and refuge (cf Ps. 104: 18); otherwise He would not have affirmed, 'I have said, you are

gods; and all of you are children of the Most High' (Ps. 82:6). But He wants us to run as deer on the high mountains

of His commandments (cf. Ps. 104:18. LXX), thirsting for the life-creating waters of the Spirit (cf. Ps. 42:1). For,

they say, it is the deer's nature to eat snakes; but by virtue of the heat they generate through being always on the

move, they strangely transform the snakes' poison into musk and it does them no harm. In a similar manner, when

passion-imbued thoughts invade our mind we should bring them into subjection through our ardent pursuit of God's

commandments and the power of the Spirit, and so transform them into the fragrant and salutary practice of virtue.

In this way we can take every thought captive and make it obey Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 10:5). For the celestial world must

be filled, not with people who are materialistic and imperfect, but with those who are spiritual and perfect - those

who have advanced to the stature of perfect manhood in the fullness of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:13).


83. A person who keeps turning round and round on the same spot and does not want to make any spiritual

progress is like a mule that


[V4] 131


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


walks round and round a well-head operating a water-wheel. Always to be battling with your carnal proclivities and

to be concerned only with disciplining the body through various forms of ascetic labor is to mistake God's purpose

and unwittingly to inflict great damage on yourself. 'The gain to be derived from bodily discipline is but limited',

says St Paul (1 Tim. 4:8) - at any rate as long as the earth-bound will of the flesh has not been swallowed up in tears

of repentance, as long as the life-quickening deadness of the Spirit has not supervened in our body, and the law of

the Spirit does not reign in our mortal flesh. But trae devotion of soul attained through the spiritual knowledge of

created things and of their immortal essences is as a tree of life within the spiritual activity of the intellect: it is

'profitable in all things' (cf. 1 Tim. 4:8) and everywhere, bestowing purity of heart, pacifying the soul's powers,

giving light to the intellect and chastity to the body, and conferring restraint, all-embracing self-control, humility,

compunction, love, holiness, heavenly knowledge, divine wisdom, and the contemplation of God. If, then, as a result

of great spiritual discipline you have attained such perfection of true devotion you will have crossed the Red Sea of




the passions and will have entered the promised land, from which flow the milk and the honey of divine knowledge

(cf. Exod. 3:8), the inexhaustible delight of the saints.


84. If you persist in acting in a manner that is one-sided and of but limited profit and do not choose to do what is

beneficial in every way, you still - in conformity to God's high decree - eat coarse bread in the sweat of your brow

(cf. Gen. 3:19). Your soul feels no appetite for the spiritual manna and the honey that flows for Israel from the

cloven rock (cf. Deut. 32:13; Ps. 81:16). If, however, you have heard the words, 'Arise, let us go hence' (John

14:31); if, in answer to the Master's call, you lay aside assiduous labor and stop eating the bread of pain, repudiating

merely material perception and tasting the bowl of God's wisdom, then you will know that Christ is the Lord; for,

having fulfilled the law of the commandments through ministering to the divine Logos, you will have ascended into

the upper chamber and will be awaiting the coming of the Paraclete (cf. Acts 2:1-4).


85. We must ever progress according to the ranks and nmgs of a life dedicated to wisdom and rise assiduously

towards the higher world, always advancing towards God and never static in our aspiration towards supernal beauty.

We must advance from ascetic practice to the contemplation of the essences of created beings, and


[V4] 132


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


thence to the mystical knowledge of the divine Logos. There we may relinquish all external forms of bodily

discipline, since we will have risen above the body's lowly state and will have been granted the lucidity of true

discrimination. If we have not yet been granted that lucidity we will not know how to take the next step and pursue

what is more perfect. We will be in an even worse condition than those 'in the world'; for many of them do not set

any limit to their ambitions, and do not halt in their ascent, until they have reached the highest rank of all; and only

then do they rest satisfied.


86. Cleansed through fervent ascetic labor, the soul is illumined by divine light and begins little by little to

perceive the natural beauty which God originally bestowed on it and to expand in love for its Creator. And as

through its purification the rays of the Sun of righteousness grow more lucid in it, and as its natural beauty is

increasingly revealed to it and recognized, so in order to become yet more pure it extends its ascetic practice. In this

way it acquires a clear vision of the glory of the gift it has received, regains its former nobility and restores to its

Creator His own image pure and unalloyed. And it continues to add to its labors until it has cleansed itself of every

stain and impurity and is privileged to contemplate and commune with God.


87. 'Open my eyes and I will perceive the wonders of Thy law' (Ps. 119:18). So he who is still bedarkened by his

earth-bound will cries out to God. For the ignorance of the worldly mind, all murk and obscurity, blots out the soul's

vision, so that it cannot grasp things either divine or human; it cannot perceive the rays of divine light or enjoy the

blessings that 'the eye has not seen, and the ear has not heard, and man's heart has not grasped' (1 Cor. 2:9). But

when through repentance its vision has been restored, it sees these things clearly, hears them with understanding and

intuits them intellectually. Not only this, but it also assimilates more exalted things which, prompted by these

intellections, arise in its heart; and, having tasted their sweetness, its knowledge grows more lurid. It can then, in the




light of God's wisdom, explain to all the nature of the divine blessings 'that God has prepared for those who love

Him' (1 Cor. 2:9); and it exhorts all to follow the path of struggle and tears in order to share in them.


88. Scripture enumerates seven gifts of the Spirit, beginning with wisdom and ending with the divine fear of the

Spirit; for it speaks of


[V4] 133


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


'the spirit of wisdom, the spirit of understanding, the spirit of counseling, the spirit of strength, the spirit of divine

knowledge, the spirit of reverence, the spirit of the fear of God' (cf. Isa. 1 1 :2). But we for our part should begin with

the fear that purifies - that is to say, with the fear of punishment; in this way, first repudiating evil and through

repentance expunging the squalor of sin, we may attain the pure fear of the Spirit. Having once attained it, we may

lay aside all our struggles for virtue.


89. If you begin with fear of judgment and through tears of repentance advance towards purity of heart, you will

first be filled with wisdom, since, as it is written, fear is 'the beginning of wisdom' (Prov. 1:7). You will then be filled

simultaneously with the spirit of understanding and of counseling, and this will enable you to resolve matters in the

way that is best for yourself. Having reached this stage through the practice of the commandments, you then

advance to the spiritual apperception of created being and receive the most exact comprehension of things divine

and human. Thereafter, entirely transformed into a tabernacle of holiness, you ascend to the citadel of love and are

made perfect. At once the pure fear of the Spirit lays hold of you, so that you may guard the treasure of the kingdom

of heaven of which you have become the repository. Such tear possesses great saving power; for when you have

been exalted to the pinnacle of God's love it makes you fearful and full of disquiet lest you lapse from this love and

are cast once more into the terrible fear of punishment.


90. The reading of the Scriptures means one thing for those who have but recently embraced the life of holiness,

another for those who have attained the middle state, and another for those who are moving rapidly towards

perfection. For the first, the Scriptures are bread from God's table, strengthening their hearts (cf. Ps. 104:15) in the

holy struggle for virtue and filling them with forcefulness, power and courage in their battle against the spirits that

activate the passions, so that they can say, 'For me Thou hast prepared a table with food against my enemies' (Ps.

23:5). For the second, the Scriptures are wine from God's chalice, gladdening their hearts (cf. Ps. 104:15) and

transforming them through the power of the inner meaning, so that their intellect is raised above the letter that kills

and led searchmgly into the depths of the Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 3:6; 1 Cor. 2:10), In this way they are enabled to discover

and give birth to the inner meaning, so that fittingly they can exclaim, 'Thy chalice makes me drunk as with


[V4] 134


Nikitas Stithatos




On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


the strongest wine' (Ps. 23:5. LXX). Finally, for those approaching perfection the Scriptures are the oil of the Holy

Spirit (cf. Ps. 104: 15), anointing the soul, making it gentle and humble through the excess of the divine illumination

they bestow, and raising it wholly above the lowliness of the body, so that in its glory it may cry, 'Thou hast

anointed my head with oil' (Ps. 23:5) and 'Thy mercy shall follow me all the days of my life' (Ps. 23:6).


9 1 . So long as we dedicate ourselves to God through keeping the commandments in the sweat of our brow, and in

this way diminish the passions of the flesh, the Lord sups with us at the table of His gifts on the heart-strengthening

daily bread that is cultivated through the practice of the virtues. But when by attaining dispassion we hallow His

name (cf. Matt. 6:9), and He Himself reigns in all the faculties of our soul, having brought under control and

pacified what was in a state of schism - having, that is to say, subjected our lower consciousness to our higher

consciousness - and when in this way His will is done in us as it is in heaven (cf. Matt. 6: 10), then He drinks with us

in His kingdom - which is now actively present within us - an inconceivable new drink (cf Mark 14:25), the drink of

the wisdom of the Logos mingled with compunction and the knowledge of the great mysteries. And once we have

become partakers of the Holy Spirit, transformed through the renewing of our intellect (cf. Rom. 12:2), then as God

He will dine with us as gods: for He renders immortal what He has made His own.


92. When the unbridled water of the intellect's passion-charged thoughts has been bridled through the abiding

presence of the Holy Spirit, and the brine-bitter abyss of indecent images and desires has been brought into

subjection through self-control and meditation on death, then the divine spirit of repentance begins to blow and the

waters of compunction pour forth; and our God and Master, channeling them into the basin of repentance, washes

our spiritual feet, making them worthy to walk in the courts of His kingdom.


93. The Logos of God, having taken flesh and given our nature subsistence in Himself, becoming perfect man,

entirely free from sin, has as perfect God refashioned our nature and made it divine. As Logos of the primal Intellect

and God, He has united Himself to our intelligence, giving it wings so that it may conceive divine, exalted thoughts.

Because He is fire. He has with true divine fire steeled the incensive power of the soul against hostile passions and





[V4] 135


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


Aspiration of all intelligent being and slaker of all desire. He has in His deep-seated love dilated the appetitive

aspect of the soul so that it can partake of the blessings of eternal life. Having thus renewed the whole man in

Himself, He restores it in an act of re-creation that leaves no grounds for any reproach against the Creator-Logos.


94. Performing in Himself the sacred mystery of our re-creation, the Logos offered Himself up on our behalf

through His death on the cross, and He continually offers Himself up, giving His immaculate body to us daily as a

soul-nourishing banquet, so that by eating it and by drinking His precious blood we may through this participation




consciously grow in spiritual stature. Communicating in His body and blood and refashioned in a purer form, we are

united to the twofold divine -human Logos in two ways, in our body and in our deiform soul; for He is God incarnate

whose flesh is the same in essence as our own. Thus we do not belong to ourselves, but to Him who has united us to

Himself through this immortal meal and has made us by adoption what He Himself is by nature.


95. If, then, tested in the labors of virtue and purified by tears, we come forward and eat of this bread and drink of

this cup, the divine-human Logos in His gentleness is commixed with our two natural faculties, with our soul and

body; and as God incarnate, one with us in essence as regards our human nature. He totally refashions us in Himself,

wholly deifying us through divine knowledge and uniting us with Himself as His brothers, conformed to Him who is

God coessential with the Father. If, however, we are denied with the materiality of the passions and soiled with sin.

He visits us with His natural sin-devouring fire, igniting and consuming us entirely, and cutting us off from life, not

because in His goodness He wishes to do this, but because He is constrained to do it by our indifference and lack of

spiritual perception.


96. Invisibly the Lord draws near to all who by practicing the virtues have begun to travel the path of His

commandments, and He keeps them company even though they are as yet imperfect in understanding and still

unsure as to the true nature of virtue. Rightly are the eyes of their soul impeded, so that they do not recognize their

own progress even though the Lord accompanies them, co-operates with them in their efforts to be liberated from

the passions, and assists them in the attainment of every form of virtue. For although they advance in the struggle for

holiness, and through humility approach


[V4] 136


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


the state of dispassion, the Logos does not want them to come to a hah, exhausted by their labors; rather He wishes

them to advance still further and to rise to the state of contemplation. Thus, having nourished them in moderation on

the bread of tears. He blesses them with the light of compunction and opens their intellect so that they can

understand the profundities of Holy Scripture and thus perceive the nature and inner essence of everything that

exists. At this point He abruptly withdraws from them so that they will be put on their mettle and will seek more

zealously to learn what is meant by the spiritual knowledge of things and what is the exaltation that it brings.

Prompted thus to pursue this knowledge more diligently, they become ministers of the Logos in a yet higher way

and proclaim to all the resurrection consummated through the practice of the virtues and the contemplation of the

Logos (cf Luke 24: 13-35).


97. The Logos justifiably rebukes the tardiness of those who drag out their time in the practice of the virtues and

do not wish to advance beyond this and rise to the higher state of contemplation. 'Fools and slow of heart,' He calls

them (Luke 24:25) - slow to place their trust in Him who can reveal the meaning of the contemplation of the inner

principles of the created world to all who spiritually explore the depths of the Spirit. For not to wish to progress

from the initial struggles to those that are more advanced, and to pass from the 'exterior' or literal meaning of Holy

Scripture to its inner or spiritual meaning, is a sign of the sluggish soul, one with no taste for spiritual profit and




extremely resentful about its own advancement. Such a soul, since its lamp has gone out, will not only be told to go

and buy oil from those that sell it; but, finding the bridal chamber closed to it, it will also hear the words, 'Go away, I

do not know you or whence you come' (cf. Matt. 25: 9,12).


98. When the Logos of God enters a fallen soul - as He entered the city of Bethany (cf. John 1 1 : 17) - in order to

resurrect its intellect, sin-slain and buried under the corruption of the passions, then sound understanding and justice,

plunged into grief by the intellect's death, come as mourners to meet Him, and they say, 'Hadst Thou been here with

us, guarding and keeping watch, our brother intellect would not have died because of sin' (cf. John 11:32). Then

justice will anxiously tend the Logos through the practice of the virtues and will want to prepare a menu of various

kinds of hardship; but sound understanding, laying aside all other concerns and ascetic endeavors,


[V4] 137


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


will devote itself solely to spiritual labor, cleaving to the spiritual discourse of the Logos and attentive to the

intellections arising from its contemplation of Him. Thus although the Logos acknowledges justice and its efforts to

nourish Him generously through various forms of practical activity. He still rebukes it for always being anxious

about so many outward labors and for engaging in what is of but limited profit (cf 1 Tim. 4:8). One thing only is

needed in order to serve the Logos, and that is the subjection, through the labors of virtue, of the lower

consciousness to the higher consciousness, and the transformation of the soul's earth-bound propensity into spiritual

aspiration. Sound understanding, however, the Logos praises, and unites with Himself in a manner that accords with

His nature, for it has chosen 'the better portion' - the knowledge of the Spirit whereby, transcending things human, it

penetrates into the depths of the Divine. Here to its great profit it procures the pearl of the Logos (cf. Matt. 13:45-

46), beholds the hidden treasures of the Spirit (cf. Matt. 13:44), and is filled with an inexpressible joy that will not

be taken away from it (cf. Luke 10:38-42).


99. The intellect that has been slain by the passions and again brought to life by the indwelling presence of the

divine Logos has thrown off the grave-stone of torpid insensibility and has been freed from the shroud of sin and

from corrupting thoughts by the servants of the Logos, fear of punishment and ascetic labor. Having tasted the light

of eternal life, it is released into dispassion (cf. John 1 1 :38-43). Henceforward it enthrones itself over the senses and,

having in purity celebrated the mystery of initiation, consorts with Christ the Logos, rising with Him from the earth

to heaven, and reigning with Him in the kingdom of God the Father, all its desires quenched.


100. The restitution that will be consummated in the age to come after the dissolution of the body becomes clearly

evident even now, through the inspiration and inner activity of the Spirit, in those who have truly striven, have

traversed the midpoint of the spiritual path, and been made perfect according to 'the measure of the stature of the

fullness of Christ' (Eph. 4:13). Their joy is eternal, in eternal light and their blessedness is of that final state. For

ceaseless joy possesses the hearts of those who in this present life are rightly fighting the spiritual fight, and the

gladness of the Holy Spirit embraces them - a gladness which, according to our Lord's words, will not be taken away

from them (cf. Luke 10:42). Thus he who in this present life is




[V4] 138


Nikitas Stithatos


On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect:


One Hundred Texts


privileged to experience the abiding presence of the Paraclete, and through the cultivation of the virtues delights in

His fruits and is enriched by His divine gilts, is filled with joy and with all love, for fear has entirely left him.

Joyously is he released from the bonds of the body and joyously he transcends the world of visible things, being

already freed from his sensory attachment to them. He reposes in the inexpressible joy of the light m which dwell all

who rejoice (cf. Ps. 87:7. LXX), even if his body often experiences pain at its dissolution and at the severing of its

union with the soul, and suffers in various ways, as a woman does during a difficult childbirth.




[V4] 139


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts


1 . God is dispassionate Intellect, beyond every intellect and beyond every form of dispassion: He is Light and the

source of blessed light. He is Wisdom, Intelligence and spiritual Knowledge, and the giver of wisdom, intelligence

and spiritual knowledge. If on account of your purity these qualities have been, bestowed on you and are richly

present in you, then that Within you which accords with the image of God has been safely preserved and you are

now a son of God guided by the Holy Spirit; for 'all who are guided by the Spirit of God are sons of God' (Rom.



2. Those who through ascetic practice cleanse themselves 'from all pollution of the flesh and spirit' (2 Cor. 7:1)

receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and so become vessels of immortal reality. Having attained this level they are

filled with the light of glory. Their hearts now serene and at peace, they utter blessed words, and God's wisdom -

knowledge of things divine and human - flows from their tips, while their intelligence undisturbed interprets the

profundities of the Holy Spirits Once they have been united with God and have experienced a blessed

transformation, the law is no longer binding on such people (cf Gal. 5:23).


3. He who wholeheartedly and assiduously directs himself towards God attains such virtue of soul and body that

he becomes a mirror of the divine image. He is so commixed with God, and God with him, that each reposes in the

other. Because of the richness of the gifts of the Spirit that he has received, henceforth he is and appears to be an

image of divine blessedness and god by adoption, God being the perfector of his perfection.


4. Only in ignorance would one claim that man is created in the image of God with respect to the organic




structure of his body. He is in

[V4] 140


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts


the image by virtue of the spiritual nature of his intellect, which is not circumscribed by the dead weight of the body.

Since the divine nature is outside every created being and all material grossness, it is not circumscribed, but is

unlimited and incorporeal, beyond substance and all condition, without qualities, impalpable, unquantifiable,

invisible, immortal, incomprehensible and totally beyond our grasp. Similarly, the spiritual nature given to us by

God is uncircumscnbed and outside the material grossness of this world, and so is incorporeal, invisible, impalpable,

incomprehensible, and an image of His immortal and eternal glory.


5. Since God, as sovereign King of all, is primordial Intellect, He possesses within Himself His Logos and His

Spirit, coessential and coetemal with Him. He is never without the Logos and the Spirit because the divine nature is

one and indivisible; nor is He to be confused with Them, for the three hypostases in God are distinct and

unconfusable. Hence in naturally begetting the Logos from His essence, the Father is not Severed from Him, since

He is Himself indivisible. The coetemal Logos, not severed from His Begetter, possesses the Spirit, who proceeds

eternally from the Father (cf. John 15:26) and shares with the Logos the same unoriginate nature. For the nature of

both Logos and Spirit is one and undivided, even though by virtue of the distinction of hypostases the one God is

divided into persons and is glorified as die Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yet the persons, since They

constitute one nature and one God, are never separated from the co-eternal essence and nature. Observe, then, an

image of this trihypostatic and single divine nature in man, who is created by this nature and is the image of it, not

according to his visible self but according to his spiritual self, not according to what is mortal and perishable in him

but according to what is immortal and ever the same.


6. God is Intellect and transcends the creatures that in His Wisdom He has created; yet He also changelessly

begets the Logos as their dwelling-place, and, as Scripture says (cf. John 14:26), sends the Holy Spirit to endow

them with power. He is thus both outside everything and within everything. Similarly, man participates in the divine

nature, and according to his spiritual self-that is to say, as a spiritual, incorporeal and immortal soul - is an image of

God, and possesses an intellect which naturally begets consciousness from its essence; and by virtue of all this he

maintains the power of the body.


[V4] 141


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts




He is thus both outside matter and visible things and within them. And just as the Father who created man is

inseparable from the other two hypostases - that is, from the Logos and the Spirit - so man's soul is indivisible from

his intellect and his consciousness, for they are of one nature and essence - an essence uncircumscnbed by the body.


7. Since the Deity is worshipped in the three hypostases of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the image fonned by Him

- man, that is - also subsists in a tripartite division, worshipping God, the Creator of all things out of things that are

not, with soul, intellect and consciousness. Thus, things by nature coetemal and coessential within God are also

intrinsic to and coessential with His image. They constitute the divine image in us and through them I am an image

of God, even though I am a composite of clay and divine image.


8. The image of God is one thing, and that which is contemplated in the miage is another. For the image of God is

the noetic soul, the intellect and the consciousness, which form one indivisible nature. What is contemplated in the

image is that which is sovereign, royal and self-determinative. Thus the glory of the intellect is one thing, its dignity

is another, its being in the image of God is another, and its being in His likeness is another (cf. Gen. 1 :26). The glory

of the intellect is its power of ascent, its constant movement upwards, its acuity, purity, understanding, wisdom and

immortality. The dignity of the intellect lies in its intelligence, its royal and sovereign nature, and its power of self-

determination. Its being in the image of God resides in the self-subsistence of soul, intellect and consciousness and

in their coessentiality, indivisibility and inseparability. For intellect and consciousness belong to the incorporeal,

immortal, divine and noetic soul; these three are coessential and coetemal, and can never be divided or separated

from each other. The intellect's being in the likeness of God resides in its justice, truthfulness, love, sympathy and

compassion. When these qualities are energized and guarded in a person, that which is in the image and likeness of

God is clearly manifest in him; he acts, that is to say, in accordance with nature and enjoys a higher dignity than



9. The tripartite deiform soul possesses two aspects, the one noetic and the' other passible. The noetic aspect,

being in the image of the soul's Creator, is not conditioned by the senses, is invisible to them and is not limited by

them, since it is both outside them and within them. It is by virtue of this aspect that the soul communicates with

spiritual and


[V4] 142


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts


divine powers and, through the sacred knowledge of created beings, ascends naturally to God as to its archetype,

thus entering into the enjoyment of His divine nature. The passible aspect is split up among the senses and is subject

to passions and prone to self-indulgence. It is by virtue of this aspect that the soul communicates with the world that

is perceptible to the senses and that fosters nutrition and growth; and in this way it breathes the air, experiences cold

and heat, and receives sustenance for self-preservation, life, growth and health. Since the passible aspect is modified

by what it comes into contact with, it is sometimes incited by impulses contrary to nature and develops disordered

desires; at other times it is provoked and carried away by mindless anger, or is subject to hunger and thirst, to sorrow

and pain, and finally to physical dissolution; it luxuriates in self-indulgence, but shrinks back from affliction. Thus it




is rightly called the passible aspect of the soul, since it is to be found in the company of the passions. When the

noetic aspect of the soul holds sway and this mortal aspect is swallowed up by the Logos of life (cf 2 Cor. 5:4), then

the life of Jesus is also manifested in our mortal flesh (cf. 2 Cor. 4:11), producing in us the life-quickening deadness

of dispassion, and conferring the mcormption of immortality in response to our spiritual aspiration.


10. Prior to His creation of all things out of nothing, the Creator possessed in Himself the knowledge and the

intrinsic principles and essences of all that He brought into existence, for He is sovereign over the ages and has

foreknowledge of them all. Correspondingly, when in His own image He fashioned man as the sovereign of

creation. He endowed him with the knowledge and the intrinsic principles and essences of all created things. Thus

through his creation man possesses the dry and cold qualities of the body's gastric fluid from the earth, the warm and

moist qualities of blood from air and fire, the moist and cold qualities of phlegm from water, the power of growth

from plants, the power of nutrition from zoophytes, his passible aspect from the animals, his spiritual and noetic

aspect from the angels, and finally, in order to exist and live, his immaterial breath - his incorporeal and immortal

soul, understood as intellect, consciousness and the power of the Holy Spirit - from God.


11. God created us in His image and likeness (cf. Gen. 1:26). We are in His likeness if we possess virtue and

understanding; for 'His virtue covered the heavens, and the earth was full of His




[V4] 143


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts


understanding' (cf. Hab. 3:3). The virtue of God is His justice, holiness and truth: as David says, 'Thou an just,

Lord, and Thy truth is round about Thee' (cf. Ps. 89:8. LXX); and again. The Lord is just and holy' (cf. Ps. 145:17).

We are also in the likeness of God if we possess uprightness and goodness, for 'good and upright is the Lord' (Ps.

25:8); or if we are conscious of wisdom and spiritual knowledge, for these are within Hun and He is called Wisdom

and Logos; or if we possess holiness and perfection, since He Himself said, 'You must be perfect, as your heavenly

Father is perfect' (Matt. 5:48), and, 'You must be holy, for I am holy' (Lev. 1 1 :44; 1 Pet. 1:16); or if we are humble

and gentle, for it is written, 'Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your

souls' (Matt. 11:29).


12. Since our intellect is an image of God, it is true to itself when it remains among- the things that are properly

its own and does not divagate from its own dignity and nature. Hence it loves to dwell among things proximate to

God, and seeks to unite itself with Him, from whom it had its origin, by whom it is activated, and towards whom it

ascends by means of its natural capabilities; and it desires to imitate Him in His compassion and simplicity. Such an

intellect even begets the Logos, and it recreates like new heavens the souls akin to it, strengthening them in the

patient practice of the virtues; and it bestows life on them through the spiritual power of its counsel, providing them

with the strength to resist destructive passions. If, then, it truly imitates God, it becomes itself also a creator both of

the noetic world and of the macrocosm, and clearly hears God's words, 'He who extracts what is precious from what

is vile will be as My mouth' (cf. Jer. 15:19).




13. He who staunchly adheres to those activities of the intellect which accord with its nature and affirms the

dignity of the intelligence, is kept unsullied by material preoccupations, is invested with gentleness, humility, love

and compassion, and is illumined by the Holy Spirit. His attention focused on the higher spheres of contemplative

activity, he is initiated into the hidden mysteries of God, and through his words of wisdom he lovingly ministers to

those who are capable of learning about these things. In this way he does not use his talent solely for his own

benefit, but also shares its benediction with his fellow-men.


14. Exalt the One over the dyad - the single over the dual - and

[V4] 144


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts


free its nobility from all commerce with dualism, and you will consort immaterially with immaterial spirits; for you

will yourself have become a noetic spirit, even though you appear to dwell bodily among other men.


15. Once you have brought bondage to the dyad into subjection to the dignity and nature of the One, you will

have subjected the whole of creation to God; for you will have brought into unity what was divided and will have

reconciled all things.


16. So long as the nature of the powers within us is in a state of inner discord and is dispersed among many

contrary things, we do not participate in God's supernatural gifts. And if we do not participate in these gifts, we are

also far from the mystical euchanst of the heavenly sanctuary, celebrated by the intellect through its spiritual

activity. When through assiduous ascetic labor we have purged ourselves of the crudity of evil and have reconciled

our inner discord through the power of the Spirit, we then participate in the ineffable blessings of God, and worthily

concelebrate the divine mysteries of the intellect's mystical eucharist with God the Logos in His supracelestial and

spiritual sanctuary; for we have become initiates and priests of His immortal mysteries.


17. Our fallen self desires in a way that opposes our spiritual self, our spiritual self in a way that opposes our

fallenself(cf Gal. 5:17);


and in this relentless warfare between the two each strives for victory and control over the other. This contrariety

within us is also called 'discord', 'turning point', 'balance' and 'twofold struggle'; and if the intellect tips the balance

towards an act of human passion the soul is split asunder.


18. So long as we are reft by the turmoil of our thoughts, and so long as we are ruled and constrained by our fallen

self, we are self -fragmented and cut off from the divine Monad, since we have not made our own the riches of its

unity. But when our mortality is swallowed up by the unifying power of the Monad and acquires a supernatural

detachment, when the intellect becomes master of itself, illumined by its wisdom-engendering intellections, then the

soul, in sacred embrace with the One, is freed from discord and becomes a unity: enfolded into the divine Monad, it

is unified in a godlike simplicity. Such is the nature of the soul's restoration to its original state and such our renewal

in a state yet more exalted.


19. Ignorance is terrible and more than terrible, a truly palpable




[V4] 145


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts


darkness (cf. Exod. 10:21). Souls suckled on ignorance are tenebrous, their thought is fragmented, and they are cut

off from union with God. Its upshot is inanity, since it makes the whole person mindless and insensate. Waxing

gross, it plunges the soul into the depths of hell, where there is every kind of punishment and pain, distress and

anguish. Conversely, divine knowledge is luminous and endlessly illuminating: souls in which it has been

engendered because of their purity possess a godlike radiance, for it fills them with peace, serenity, joy, ineffable

wisdom and perfect love.


20. Simple and unified, the presence of divine light gathers within itself the souls that participate in it and

converts them to itself, uniting them with its own unity, and perfecting them with its own perfection. It leads them to

descry the depths of God, so that they contemplate the great mysteries and become initiates and mystagogues.

Aspire, then, to be punned utterly through ascetic labor, and you will see these mysteries dear to God - of which 1

have spoken - actually at work within you.


21. The rays of primordial Light that illumine purified souls with spiritual knowledge not only fill them with

benediction and luminosity; they also, by means of the contemplation of the inner essences of created things, lead

them up to the noetic heavens. The effects of the divine energy, however, do not stop here; they continue until

through wisdom and through knowledge of indescribable things they unite purified souls with the One, bringing

them out of a state of multiplicity into a state of oneness in Him.


22. We must first purge ourselves of the vicious materiality prompted in us by the demons - this is the stage of

purification; then, through the stage of illumination, we must make our spiritual eyes lucid and ever light-filled, and

this is accomplished by means of the mystical wisdom hidden in God. In this way we ascend to the cognition of

sacred knowledge, which through the intelligence imparts things new and old to those who have ears to hear. Then

we in our turn must pass on to others images and intimations of this knowledge, conveying its hidden meaning to the

purified while withholding it from the profane, lest holy things be given to dogs, or the pearl of the Logos be cast

before swine-like souls that would defile it (cf. Matt. 7:6).


23. When you become aware of increasing ardency in your inner faith and love for God, then you should know

that you are bringing Christ to birth within yourself, and that it is He who exalts your soul


[V4] 146


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts




above terrestrial and visible things and prepares a dwelling-place for it in heaven. When you perceive that your heart

is replete with joy, and poignantly longs for God's unutterable blessings, then you should realize that you are

activated by the divine Spirit. And when you sense that your intellect is full of ineffable light and the intellections of

supernal Wisdom, then you should recognize that the Paraclete is present in your soul, disclosing the treasures of the

kingdom of heaven hidden within you; and you should guard yourself strictly as a palace of God and as a dwelling-

place of the Spirit.


24. Guardianship of the hidden treasure of the Spirit consists in that state of detachment from human affairs

which is properly termed stillness. When through purity of heart and Joyful compunction this stillness kindles a yet

fiercer longing for God's love, it releases the soul from the bonds of the senses and impels it to embrace the life of

freedom. Recalled to its natural state, the soul reorientates its powers, restoring them to their original condition.

Thus it is evident that none of the evil that afflicts us as a result of our deviation and lapse from the divine image

may be imputed to God. who creates only what is good.


25. It is stillness, full of wisdom and benediction, that leads us to this holy and godlike state of perfection - when,

that is, it is practiced and pursued genuinely. If an apparent hesychast has not attained this eminence and perfection,

his stillness is not yet this noetic and perfect stillness. Indeed, until he has attained this eminence, he will not even

have stilled the inner turbulence of the anarchic passions. All he will have is a body consisting of teguments, vents

and cavities, and wasted by a disordered and deluded mind.


26. Souls that have attained total purity, and have reached the heights of wisdom and spiritual knowledge,

resemble the Cherabim. By virtue of their unmediated cognition they draw close to the source of all beauty and

goodness, and in this way they are directly and folly initiated into the vision of secret things. Among the spiritual

powers it is said that only the Cherubim are illuminated in this direct manner by the source of divinity itself and thus

possess this vision in the highest degree.


27. Among the highest angelic powers, some are more ardent and clear-sighted in their devotion to the divine

realities around which they


[V4] 147


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts


unceasingly circle; others are more contemplative, gnostic and imbued with wisdom, this being the divine state that

impels them unceasingly to circle around these realities. Similarly, angel-like souls are ardent and clear-sighted in

their devotion to the divine realities, as well as wise, gnostic and exalted in mystical contemplation. Potentially and

actually they too unceasingly circle around things divine, firmly rooted in them alone. Immutably receptive of divine

illuminations, and thus participating in Him who truly is. they also unstmtmgly communicate His irradiance and

grace to others through their teaching.


28. God is Intellect and the activating agent of everything. All intellects have both their permanent abode and

their eternal mobility in this primary Intellect. Such is the experience of all whose activity is not adulterated by




materiality but is pure and unsullied as a result of sacred ascetic labor. They experience this when, ardent with

divine love, they communicate to each other and to themselves the illumination bestowed on them by the Divinity,

generously transmitting to others the wisdom of God's mysteries concealed within it; and in this way they

unceasingly extol the divine love that inspires them.


29. Souls whose intelligence has been freed from material preoccupation, and in whom the self -warring appetitive

and incensive aspects have been restored to harmony and harnessed to their heaven-bound well-reined chariot, both

revolve around God and yet stand fixedly. They revolve incessantly around God as the centre and cause of their

circular movement. They stand steadfast and unwavering as fixed points on the circumference of the circle, and

cannot be diverted from this fixed position by the sense-world and the distraction of human affairs. This is therefore

the perfect consummation of stillness, and it is to this; that stillness leads those who truly achieve it, so that while

moving they are stationary, and while steadfast and immobile they move around the divine realities. So long as we

do not experience this we can only be said to practice an apparent stillness, and our intellect is not free from

materiality and distraction.


30. When through great diligence and effort we recover the original beauty of the intelligence, and through the

abiding presence of the Holy Spirit participate in supernal wisdom and knowledge, we can then perceive things as

they are by nature and hence can recognize that the source and cause of all things is itself wise and beautiful We see

that we cannot hold it in any way responsible for the evil that destroys created things when they deviate towards

what is base. When we are




[V4] 148


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts


so deflected and dragged downwards, we are sundered from the pristine beauty of the Logos and forfeit our

deification, while the evil that has invaded us disfigures us mto its own obtuse and witless form.


3 1 . When through the practice of the virtues we attain a spiritual knowledge of created things we have achieved

the first stage on the path of deification. We achieve the second stage when - initiated through the contemplation of

the spiritual essences of created things -we perceive the hidden mysteries of God. We achieve the third stage when

we are united and interfused with the primordial light. It is then that we reach the goal of all ascetic and

contemplative activity.


32. By means of these three stages all intellects are brought, in a way that accords with their own nature, into

unity with themselves and with Him who truly is. They can then illumine their fellow-intellects, initiating them into

divine realities, through celestial wisdom perfecting them as spirits already purified, and uniting them with

themselves and with the One.


33. Deification in this present life is the spiritual and truly sacred rite in which the Logos of unutterable wisdom

makes Himself a sacred offering and gives Himself, so far as is possible, to those who have prepared themselves.

God, as befits His goodness, has bestowed this deification on beings endowed with intelligence so that they may




achieve the union of faith. Those who as a resuh of their purity and their knowledge of things divine participate in

this dignity are assimilated to God, 'conformed to the image of His Son' (Rom. 8:29) through their exalted and

spiritual concentration upon the divine. Thus they become as gods to other men on earth. These others in their turn,

perfected in virtue by purification through their divine intelligence and through sacred intercourse with God,

participate according to their proficiency and the degree of their purification in the same deification as their brethren

and they commune with them in the God of unity. In this way all of them, joined together in the union of love, are

unceasingly united with the one God; and God, the source of all holy works and totally free from any indictment

because of His work of creation, abides in the midst of gods (cf. Ps. 82:1. LXX), God by nature among gods by



34. You cannot be assimilated to God and participate in His ineffable blessings - in so far as this is possible -

unless you first through fervent tears and through the practice of Christ's sacred commandments strip away the

interposing foulness and disfigurement


[V4] 149


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts


of sin. If you want spiritually to taste the sweetness and delight of things spiritual you must renounce all mundane

sense-experience, and in your aspiration for the blessings held in store for the saints you must devote yourself to the

contemplation of the inner reality of created beings.


35. Assimilation to God, conferred upon us through intense purification and deep love for God, can be maintained

only through an unceasing aspiration towards Him on the part of the contemplative intellect. Such aspiration is bom

within the soul through the persistent stillness produced by the acquisition of the virtues, by ceaseless and

undistracted spiritual prayer, by total self-control, and by intensive reading of the Scriptures.


36. We must strive not only to bring the soul's powers into a state of peace, but also to acquire a longing for

spiritual serenity. For through the pacifying of our thoughts every aspiration for what is good is strengthened, while

divine heaven-sent dew heals and revives the heart wounded by Spirit-enkindled celestial fire.


37. Once a soul deeply wounded by divine longing has experienced the balm of God's noetic gifts, it cannot

remain static or fixed in itself, but will aspire to rise ever further towards heaven. The higher it rises through the

Spirit and the farther it penetrates into the depths of God, the more it is consumed by the fire of desire; and it

explores in all their immensity the yet deeper mysteries of God, anxious to attain the blessed light where every

intellect is rapt out of itself and where - its goal achieved - it reposes in heartfelt joy.


38. When you come to participate in the Holy Spirit and recognize His presence through a certain ineffable

energy and fragrance withm yourself - this fragrance even spreading over the surface of your body - you can no

longer be content to remain within the bounds of the created world. On the contrary, having experienced the noble

conversion wrought by the 'right hand of the Most High' (Ps. 77:10. LXX), you forget food and sleep, transcend

bodily needs, ignore physical repose and, after spending the whole day to ascetic toil, are yet unaware of stress or




duress, of hunger, thirst, sleep, or of any other physical need. For with unutterable joy God's love is poured out

invisibly into your heart (cf. Rom. 5:5). Wrapped the whole night in an illumination of fire, you accomplish spiritual

work through the body and feast on the immortal fruits of the noetic paradise. It was into this paradise that St Paul,

too, was caught up when he heard the


[V4] 150


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts


inexpressible words which no one is permitted to hear (cf. 2 Cor. 12:4) if still attached to the sense -world of visible



39. Once the body has been fired in the furnace of ascetic practice and tempered by the water of tears, it is no

longer dulled by hardship, for it is now exempt from outward labors and ceases from the great toil they demand.

Immersed in the silence and serenity of inward peace, it becomes full of a new power, a new vigor, a new spiritual

strength. When the soul works hand in hand with such a body - one, that is to say, whose state transcends the need

for bodily discipline - it changes its physical labors into spiritual warfare. It promptly begins to perform spiritual

work, and guards in itself the immortal fruits of the noetic paradise, where the rivers of godlike intellection have

their source, and where stands the tree of divine knowledge (cf. Gen. 2:9-10), bearing the fruits of wisdom, joy,

peace, kindness, goodness, long-suffering and ineffable love (cf. Gal. : : 22). Working assiduously in this manner

and guarding what it harvests, the soul goes out of the body and enters into the darkness of mystical theology. It

leaves everything behind, not held back by anything belonging to the visible world; and, united with God, it ceases

from toil and grief.


40. Those engaged in spiritual warfare confront the question of which in us is the more noble: the visible or the

intelligible? If it is the visible, there is nothmg in us more to be preferred or desired than what is corruptible, nor is

the soul more noble than the body. If it is the intelligible then we must recognize that 'God is spirit, and those who

worship Him must worship in spirit and in tnith' (John 4:24). Thus once the soul is firmly established in spiritual

work, freed from the downward pull of the body and rendered entirely spiritual through union with what is superior

to it, then bodily discipline is superfluous.


41. There are three stages on the spiritual path: the purgative, the illuminative and finally the mystical, through

which we are perfected. The first pertains to beginners, the second to those in the intermediate stage, and the third to

the perfect. It is through these three consecutive stages that we ascend, growing in stature according to Christ and

attaining 'mature manhood, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ'(Eph. 4:13).


42. The purgative stage pertains to those newly engaged in spiritual warfare. It is characterized by the rejection of

the materialistic self, liberation from material evil, and investiture with the regenerate self, renewed by the Holy

Spirit (cf. Col. 3:10). It involves hatred of




[V4] 151


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts


materiality, the attenuation of the flesh, the avoidance of whatever incites the mind to passion, repentance for sins

committed, the dissolving with tears of the bitter sediment left by sin, the regulation of our life according to the

generosity of the Spirit, and the cleansing through compunction of the inside of the cup (cf Matt. 23:26) - the

intellect - from every defilement of flesh and spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 7:1), so that it can then be filled with the wine of the

Logos that gladdens the heart of the purified (cf. Ps. 104:15), and can be brought to the King of the celestial powers

for Him to taste. Its final goal is that we should be forged in the fire of ascetic struggle, scouring off the rust of sin,

and steeled and tempered in the water of compunction, so that sword-like we may effectively cut off the passions

and the demons. Reaching this point through long ascetic struggle, we quench the fire within us, muzzle the brute-

like passions, become strong in the Spirit instead of weak (cf. Heb. 11:33-34), and like another Job conquer the

tempter through our patient endurance.


43. The illuminative stage pertains to those who as a result of their struggles have attained the first level of

dispassion. It is characterized by the spiritual knowledge of created beings, the contemplation of their inner essences

and communion in the Holy Spirit. It involves the intellect's purification by divine fire, the noetic opening of the

eyes of the heart, and the birth of the Logos accompanied by sublime intellections of spiritual knowledge. Its final

goal is the elucidation of the nature of created things by the Logos of Wisdom, insight into divine and human affairs,

and the revelation of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Luke 8 : 10). He who has reached this point

through the inner activity of the intellect rides, like another Elijah (cf. 2 Kgs. 2:1 1), in a chariot of fire drawn by the

quatemity of the virtues; and while still living he is raised to the noetic realm and traverses the heavens, since he has

risen above the lowliness of the body.


44. The mystical and perfective stage pertains to those who have already passed through all things and have come

to 'the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ' (Eph. 4:13). It is characterized by the transcending of the

sphere of demonic powers and of all sublunar things, by our attaining to the higher celestial ranks, approaching the

primordial light and plumbing the depths of God through the Spirit. It involves immersing our contemplative

intellect in the inner principles of providence, justice and truth, and also the interpretation of the


[V4] 152


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts


arcane symbolism, parables and obscure passages in Holy Scripture. Its final goal is our initiation into the hidden

mysteries of God and our being filled with ineffable wisdom through union with the Holy Spirit, so that each




becomes a wise theologian in the great Church of God, illuminating others with the inner meaning of theology. He

who has reached this point through the deepest humility and compunction has, like another Paul, been caught up into

the third heaven of theology, and has heard indescribable things which he who is still dominated by the sense-world

is not permitted to hear (cf. 2 Cor. 12:4); and he experiences unutterable blessings, such as no eye has seen or ear

heard (cf 1 Cor. 2:9). He becomes a steward of God's mysteries (cf 1 Cor. 4:1), for he is God's mouthpiece, and

through words he communicates these mysteries to other people; and in this he finds blessed repose. For he is now

perfected in the perfect God, united in the company of other theologians with the supreme angelic powers of the

Cherubim and Seraphim, in whom dwells the principle of wisdom and spiritual knowledge.


45. Human life is divided into two forms, while its goals are subsumed under three categories. One form is social

and within the world, the other is solitary and transcends the world. Social life is characterized either by self-

restraint or by insatiability; the solitary life is subdivided into three modes: the practice of the virtues, the spiritual

cognition of created beings, and the indwelling of supernatural energy. Social life may be characterized by justice, in

which case it accords with nature, or by injustice, in which case it is contrary to nature. The solitary life either

aspires towards its goal in accordance with monastic precept and rule, and - perfected in a manner that transcends

nature - attains the Infinite; or else it is prompted by presumption and so is balked of its purpose, debases the mind,

and fails to attain perfection.


46. The Spirit is light, life and peace. If consequently you are illumined by the Spirit your own life is imbued with

peace and serenity. Because of this you are filled with the spiritual knowledge of created beings and the wisdom of

the Logos; you are granted the intellect of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 2:16); and you come to know the mysteries of God's

kingdom (cf. Luke 8:10). Thus you penetrate into the depths of the Divine and daily from an untroubled and

illumined heart you utter words of life for the benefit of others; for you yourself are full of benediction, since you

have within you Goodness itself that utters things new and old (cf. Matt. 13:52).


[V4] 153


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts


47. God is Wisdom, and by deifying through the spiritual knowledge of created beings those who live in the

Logos and in Wisdom He unites them with Himself through light and makes them gods by adoption. Since God has

created all things out of nothing through Wisdom, He directs and administers all that is in the world through

Wisdom, and likewise in Wisdom brings about the salvation of all who turn towards Him and draw near to Him.

Similarly, whoever as a result of his purity has been enabled to participate in the highest Wisdom always as an

image of God acts in Wisdom, and in Wisdom carries out the divine will. Withdrawing himself from what is

external and multiple, each day he raises his intelligence anagogically through the knowledge of unutterable things

to a life that is truly angelic. Having unified his own life as far as possible, he unites himself with the angelic powers

that move in a unified way around God, and under their good guidance is elevated to the first Principle and Cause.


48. Once you have united yourself through the higher Wisdom with the angelic powers and have thereby been

united with God, through love of Wisdom you enter into communion with all men, since you have achieved God's




likeness. Through divine power you sever those so disposed from their attachment to what is external and multiple,

and as an imitator of God you concentrate them in spirit, elevating them as you are elevated to a unified life through

wisdom, spiritual knowledge and the illumination of divine mysteries, until they come to contemplate the glory of

the unique primordial light. When you have united them with the essences and orders that surround God, you induct

them - wholly irradiated by the Spirit - to the unity of God Himself


49. Linked to the four cardinal virtues there is a group of eight natural and general virtues. Each cardinal virtue is

accompanied by two virtues from the second category, thus composing a triad. Sound understanding is accompanied

by spiritual knowledge and wise contemplation; justice by discrimination and sympathetic understanding; courage

by patience and firm resolution; self-restraint by purity and virginity. From the throne of the intellect, in His wisdom

God presides like an architect and mystagogue over these twelve virtues divided into triads, and sends out the Logos

to create them within us. From their underlying principles the Logos takes the substance of each of the virtues and

creates in the soul a numinous noetic world. He places sound understanding in the soul like a star-filled sky from



[V4] 154


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts


two great luminaries - divine knowledge and contemplation of spiritual essences - irradiate it with their light. He

makes justice its firm foundation, rich like the earth with every kind of sustenance. He puts self-restraint within it as

the air, cooling and refreshing it with a life free from all impurity. He sets courage like a sea around the weakness of

our nature, enabling us to undermine the strongholds and citadels of the enemy. In thus establishing this world the

Logos fills the soul with the power of the Holy Spirit, so as to maintain it in unceasing noetic activity and in

indissoluble and enduring unity. As the Psalmist expresses it, 'By the Logos of the Lord are the heavens established,

and all their power lies in the Spirit that comes from Him' (Ps. 33:6. LXX).


50. Our spiritual growth corresponds to the different stages in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. While we are

infants in need of milk (cf. Heb. 5:12) we are suckled on the milk of the introductory virtues acquired through bodily

discipline; yet this is of but limited profit (cf. 1 Tim. 4:8) to us once we begin to grow in virtue and gradually leave

our infancy behind. When we attain adolescence and are nourished by the solid food of the contemplation of the

spiritual essences of things - for our soul's organs of perception are now well attuned (cf. Heb. 5:14) - it may be said

that we increase in stature and in grace (cf. Luke 2:52), and sit among the elders (cf. Luke 2:46), disclosing to them

things hidden in the depths of darkness (cf. Job 12:22). When we have reached 'mature manhood, the measure of the

stature of the fullness of Christ' (Eph. 4:13), we proclaim to all the meaning of repentance, teach others about the

kingdom of heaven (cf Matt. 4:17) and press on towards the Passion (cf. Luke 12:50). For this is the ultimate goal

of everyone who has reached perfection in the practice of the virtues: after passing through all the different ages of

Christ he finally undergoes the trials that Christ suffered on the cross.


51. So long as we are learning the basic principles of bodily discipline, watching ourselves carefully when we

taste food, or touch things, or gaze at beautiful objects, or listen to music, or smell fragrances, we are under




guardians and trustees; for we are still infants, even though we are also heirs and lords of all that belongs to the

Father. But when the time of such training is over and we have attained dispassion, the Logos is bom within us as a

result of our purity of mind, and He submits to the law of the Spirit, so that He may redeem us who are under the

law of the will of the flesh and may grant us the status of sonship. When this has taken place, the Spirit cries in our





[V4] 155


Nikitas Stithatos


On Spiritual Knowledge,

Love and the Perfection of Living:


One Hundred Texts


'Abba! Father!', making this status known to us and revealing to us our intimate communion with the Father. And He

abides in us and converses with us as sons and heirs of God through Christ, free from servitude to the senses (cf.

Gal. 4:1-6).


52. For those who like Peter have advanced in faith, and like James have been restored in hope, and like John

have achieved perfection in love, the Lord ascends the high mountain of theology and is transfigured (cf. Matt.

17:1). Through the disclosure and expression of His pure teaching He shines upon them as the sun, and with the

intellections of His unutterable wisdom He becomes radiant with light. They see the Logos standing between Moses

and Elijah - between law and prophecy - promulgating the law and teaching it to them, and at the same time

revealing to them through vision and prophecy the depths and the hidden treasures of wisdom. The Holy Spirit

overshadows them like a luminous cloud, and from the cloud they hear the voice of mystical theology, initiating

them into the mystery of the tri-hypostatic Divinity and saying, 'This is My beloved, the Logos of perfection made

manifest, in whom I take delight. Become for Me perfect sons in the perfect Spirit' (cf . Matt. 17:1-5).


53. A soul that disdains everything unspiritual and that is wholly wounded by love for God undergoes a strange

divine ecstasy. Having clearly grasped the inner nature and essence of created beings, as well as the upshot of

matters human, it cannot bear to be imprisoned or circumscribed by anything. On the contrary, surpassing its own

limitations, rebelling against the fetters of the senses and transcending all creatureliness, it penetrates the divine

darkness of theology in unutterable silence and - to the degree that grace permits - it perceives in the intellective

light of inexpressible wisdom the beauty of Him who truly is. Reverentially entering ever more deeply into

intellective contemplation of that beauty, it savors, in loving awe, the fruits of immortality - the visionary

intellections of the Divine. Never withdrawing from these back into itself, it is able to express perfectly their

magnificence and glory. Activated, as it were, in a strange way by the Spirit, it experiences this admirable passion in

unspeakable joy and silence; yet how it is activated, or what it is that impels it, and is seen by it, and secretly

communicates to it unutterable mysteries, it cannot explain.


54. If you sow tears of compunction in yourself for the sake of righteousness you will gather a harvest of life -

inexpressible joy (cf. Ps. [V4] 156