Practical Christian Basics
by Joseph Barabbas Theophorus
άπλους means single, simple, and unified
οφθαλμους is a metaphor for the eye of the mind, or νους
πονηρος, the word used for evil, literally means distracted
So let your eye be single, with no distraction!
Nothing should obtrude on the mind: neither face, nor activity, nor object. -St. Theophan the Recluse
Where is your treasure? Or more simply, what is your mind focused on?
The Builder of the world tells you the world will soon fall, and will you not believe it? -St. Augustine
Mammon is Aramaic for "confidence personified"
Do you talk about your abilities, ideas, and opinions, or do you talk about God?
But if this is shocking, its taking place in our deeds…is much more shocking. -St. John Chrysostom
1 Maccabees 2:20–22
No compromise, large or small, even in the face of death.
Let all your life, all your works, all your thoughts, and all your desires be founded upon truth. -St. John of Kronstadt
A Look at Life
St. John Cassian and the Eight Vices
Causes: Lack of self-control, giving into desires
Cures: Fast, deny oneself
A clear rule for self-control handed down by the Fathers is this: stop eating while still hungry. -St. John Cassian
Fornication (Lusts of the Flesh)
Causes: The flesh itself, sometimes even innocent thoughts
Cures: Be vigilant, control thoughts and feelings
He who cherishes his stomach and hopes to overcome the spirit of fornication, is like one who tries to put out a fire with oil. -St. John Climacus
Causes: Love of "things", ultimately love of the world
Cures: Die to the world and give it no thought, love God
The presence of the passion of avarice reveals itself when a person enjoys receiving but resents having to give. -St. Maximus the Confessor
Causes: Judgment of others, selfishness
Cures: Stop judging others, instead judge oneself (see 1 Corinthians 11:31)
Anger is tamed and becomes transformed into benevolence only through courage and mercy. -St. Gregory of Sinai
Causes: False hope, distraction, worldliness
Cures: Don't place hope in the world or worldly things, have a "single eye"
Prayer is a remedy against grief and depression. -Abba Nilus
Causes: High-mindedness, idealism, worrying
Cures: Be obedient, focus on the tasks at hand, control thoughts
[Acedia] is very often one of the branches of talkativeness, and its first child. -St. John Climacus
Vainglory (Spiritual Delusion)
Causes: Feeling of being right or good, wanting praise
Cures: Have a sober mind, judge oneself, attribute things to God
Many have performed truly great labors of virtue, but have ruined themselves through folly. It would not be surprising if the same thing were to happen to you too; if, for example, having cooled towards active work, you begin to imagine that you already possess virtues. For there you have already fallen into that devilish disease (high opinion of yourself), thinking that you are close to God and are in the light, whereas in actual fact you are in darkness. -St. Anthony the Great
Pride (Love of Self)
Causes: Idolatry of self, sometimes the mere acknowledgement of self
Cures: Die to self and do nothing it desires, be humble, love others
A man who is deeply wounded in his heart by provocation and abuse shows thereby that deep in himself he harbors the old serpent. If he bears the blows in silence or answers with great humility, he will render this serpent weak and powerless (or will kill it altogether). But if he argues with bitterness or speaks with arrogance he will give the serpent an added strength to pour poison into his heart. -St. Symeon the New Theologian
A proud [person] has no need of a devil; he has become a devil and enemy to himself. -St. John Climacus
The Most Excellent Way
Why should we love?
1 John 4:19
1 John 4:8, 16
The main name of our God is love…Just as we love our God, let us also love our brother.
-St. Kosmas Aitolos
What is love?
1 Corinthians 13:4–7
- Long-suffering, or enduring at any cost
- Kind, literally mild (χρηστηυομαι)
- Generous and giving
- Acts only for others
- Rejoices only in truth
- Silently protects
- Convicted of a higher law (πιστηυο)
- Confident in God
- Never flees trials or misfortunes (ΰπομηνο)
He who has no love cannot be called a Christian…The whole Gospel is summarized in compassion. And this secures immortality and eternal life to man. -Fr. Justin Popvitch
- Stay focused on God alone by having a single eye and never compromising.
- Overcome common and destructive passions by denying oneself, sober judgment of oneself, and through complete humility (1 Timothy 1:15–17).
- God is love, and love never fails. Always follow that most excellent way.
Every work which does not have love as its beginning and root, is nothing. -St. John Chrysostom