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September - October 2011

SPIRITUAL COUNSELS OF THE
BLESSED ELDER PAISIOS THE ATHONITE (+1994)

That daily spiritual reading is essential to the health of our souls.

"We profit when we understand what we read, when we censure ourselves and discipline ourselves by applying it: 'What does this mean? Where do I stand in reaction to this spiritual truth? What must I do now?' After all: the more we learn, the more responsibility we have to live up to what we have learned. I am not saying that we should not read, so that we can plead ignorance and therefore be free of responsibility; for this is a cunning deception. I am saying that we should not read merely to pass our time pleasantly."

"The bad thing is that if someone reads a lot and has a strong memory, he may remember many things; and even talk a lot about what he has read, and thus deceive himself into thinking that he also personally observes the many things that he reads. So he has created an illusion towards himself and others. Therefore, don't be comforted by the fact that you read a lot. Instead, turn your attention to applying what you have read. Much reading alone will only educate you encyclopedically. Isn't that what they call it?"

"Novels, newspapers and television have no value in developing a spiritual life. Quite often, even some religious periodicals are damaging to Christians; because they stir a foolish zealousness that leads to confusion. Take care. Do not read unnecessary things during your free time. Some reading matter is completely hollow - like looking in a haystack to find a kernel of wheat."

"The various patristic texts, which - thank God - are available by the thousands today, are very helpful. One can find whatever one needs and desires in these books. They are authentic spiritual nourishment, and a sure guide on the spiritual path. However, in order to be of benefit to us, they have to be read with humility and prayer."

"Patristic texts reveal the inner spiritual condition of the soul, much as axial tomography (imaging by sections) reveals the inner structures of the body. Each sentence of the patristic text contains a multitude of meanings, and each person can interpret them according to his own spiritual state of being. ... In order to understand the writings of the Fathers, one must constrain oneself - focus and live spiritually; for the spirit of the Fathers is perceived through - and by - the spirit only."

"Especially helpful are the Ascetical Homilies by St. Isaac the Syrian, but they must be studied slowly; so that they can be assimilated, little-by-little, as spiritual food. The Evergetinos [A collection of ascetic and patristic sayings and incidents in four volumes now available in English] is truly of great benefit, because it gives us insight into the whole spirit of the Holy Fathers. It is helpful, because if describes the struggles of the Fathers against each and every one of the passions; and, by learning how they worked on the spiritual life, the soul is greatly assisted. Also the ... Lives of the Saints are sacred history and very helpful, especially for young people; but they should not be read as stories."

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