On the Scriptures and Patristics

St. Paisius Velichkovsky 1722-1794

…[A]las for our times, whose woeful state our God-bearing Fathers foresaw by the Holy Spirit, and out of pity, as to their children, set forth for all of us in their holy writings to strengthen us. Thus, the divine Symeon the New Theologian says: ‘Rare are they, in truth, and especially now, who know how to shepherd and treat skillfully rational souls. For many, perhaps, have pretended to acquire, or in deed have acquired, fasting, vigil, and the appearance of reverence, and with ease can speak from the breast and teach how to multiply words; but very few are they who cut off the passions by means of humility of wisdom and constant lamentation and tears, and who acquire the ruling virtues inseparably from themselves.’ In confirmation of his words he quotes the most ancient Holy Fathers, and speaks thus: ‘For our divine Fathers say: he who wishes to acquire virtues, acquires them by means of lamentation. For it is evident that a monk who does not weep every day neither cuts off the passions nor performs the virtues, nor is he ever a partaker of [spiritual] gifts; for one thing,’ he says, ‘is virtue, and another is gifts.’

Likewise, the God-bearing father so near to us, the Russian luminary, Nilus of Sora, having examined all this with much care in the Divine Scriptures and seen the woeful state of these ties and the present unconcern of men, in the foreword to his book counsels zealots in this manner: ‘With great pains one must seek out an undeceived instructor; and if we do not find one, then the Holy Fathers have commanded us,’ he says, ‘to take instruction from the Divine Scriptures and the teaching of the Holy Fathers, hearing the Lord Himself, Who said: Search the Scriptures, and in them ye shall find eternal life’ (Jn. 5:39). And if this saint spoke thus only concerning the mental work [of the Jesus Prayer], then how much more is there need to find a skilled practitioner and undeceived instructor for the deliverance of the soul from all evil passions and instruction in the right path of doing God’s commandments? Wherefore, O brother, we have extreme need now to learn day and night, with much pain and many tears, from the Divine and Patristic writings, and to be instructed in the commandments of God and in the doings of our Holy Fathers by taking counsel of like-minded zealots among our eldest Fathers. And thus, by the mercy of Christ and by forcing ourselves, we can receive salvation. (Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky: The Man Behind the Philokalia pp. 66-67)