“He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love” (I John 4:8). So explains St John, Beloved of Christ. Love is at the center of our Orthodox faith, and indeed as the epistle reminds us, at the center of being itself. Assembled here is a selection of short sayings or aphorisms from St Paisios of Mt Athos, whose love for God, for his fellow humanity, and for creation itself is unsurpassed in modern times.
- Spiritual love is superior to the love between natural brothers and sisters because one relates to another through Christ and not a common mother. Those who possess this pure (noble) love are full of kindness, because they have Christ inside them and the Godhead is depicted on their faces. Naturally, it is impossible for Christ’s love to enter within us unless we separate our self from our love, offer it to God and His images, and give ourselves to others without wanting them to commit themselves to us.
- Those who suffer deeply for the salvation of the whole world and help in their own way (as strugglers) and humbly entrust themselves to the hands of God, feel the greatest joy in the world. Their life is a constant doxology, for they flutter about internally like angels, glorifying God day and night. Those, however, who neglect the salvation of their souls and try to find joy and rest in this vain life, are continually tortured and entangled in endless worldly machinery and live in hell in this life.
- Those who have philotimo,1 because they move within the heavenly sphere of doxology, joyfully accept their trials as well as their blessings, and glorify God for them. Thus, they are continuously receiving God’s blessing from everything and are melting internally out of gratitude towards God, which they express in every spiritual way possible, like children of God.
- Although the Good God gives us abundant blessings, acts always for our own good and has made everything to be of service to us and to be sacrificed for us, from plants to animals and birds, whether big or small, and even though God Himself sacrificed His life to redeem man, many of us remain indifferent and wound Him with our great ingratitude and insensitivity. And, all of this even though He has given us our conscience as an inheritance together with all His other blessings.
- Conscience is the first law of God, which He deeply carved in the hearts of the First Created, and consequently, each one of us takes it as a “photocopy” from his parents when he is born. Those who have managed to sensitize their consciences through the daily study of themselves feel themselves estranged from this world; and, as a result, worldly people are dumfounded by their discerning behavior. Those, however, who do not examine their consciences are neither benefited by spiritual study nor by the advice of the Elders, nor are they even able to keep God’s commandments, since they quickly become insensitive.
- Those who are sensitive and have philotimo, and who observe everything with precision, are usually wronged by the insensitive ones due to the constant concessions they make for them out of love. However, God’s love is always on their side. Oftentimes, they wrong themselves due to their hypersensitivity, overemphasizing their minor sins or bearing the burden of others’ faults; but once again, God comforts them with His heavenly kindness and, at the same time, strengthens them spiritually.
- Those who wrong or wound sensitive people inwardly are not human.
- Those who claim they are sensitive, loving, and discreet and endure the injustices of others, but say, “Let them receive theirs from God,” are fooled by the deceiver without realizing it, since this is a way to curse politely. In this life everyone takes exams in order to pass on to eternal life, Paradise. It is my feeling that this polite curse is below the spiritual passing mark.
- Those who wrong others wrong themselves eternally; those who joyfully accept the injustice of others are entitled to an eternal reward with interest.
- Naturally, every person will be paid by the boss for whom he worked. Those who work for Christ shall receive a hundredfold now in this time and, in the world to come, eternal life (Mark 10:30); and those who work for the dark boss will receive darkness even now.
- Those who work for Christ but are prideful pollute their virtues, just as fried eggs are contaminated when bird’s droppings fall on them. They then can only be thrown in the trash along with the frying pan.
- All those, however, who work humbly, acquire virtues and share their hidden experiences out of humility and love, are the greatest benefactors, because they give spiritual charity and positively help souls which are weak and unsound in the Faith. Those who throw even their own selves to the world, out of love, after having driven out the world from within them, fly into Heaven and are not caught by the world.
- Love with external poverty greatly assists in acquiring the inner poverty of the passions. These two kinds of poverty make man rich in God’s kindness.
- Good people do not keep evil in their hearts, but neither do they keep their kindness to themselves. For this reason, they do not possess elegant things and are not moved by the world’s beauties. In this, their fervent faith in God as well as their great love is made manifest.
- There is no man more intelligent than the merciful one who gives away earthly, perishable things and buys imperishable, heavenly things. Likewise, there is no greater fool in the world than the greedy one who gathers things continually and yet is deprived continually, finally buying hell with his collected savings. Those, naturally, who are lost in material things are totally lost, for they have also lost Christ.
- Sadness and stress always dominate the person who is dominated by material things, for sometimes he fears that people will take away his possessions, and other times he is afraid they will take away his soul. The miser, whose hand has become numb from squeezing it too hard, has also constricted his heart and turned it into stone. In order to be cured, he must visit destitute people and sympathize with them, so he will be forced to slowly open up his hand. Consequently, his stony heart will soften and become humane, and thus the gates of Paradise will also open for him.
- Kindness softens and opens up the heart, as oil opens a rusty lock.
- Those who come close to people in pain, naturally draw near to God, because God is always by the side of His children who are in pain.
- God spiritually strengthens His children who have philotimo, who help their fellow men carry their crosses, and He relieves them from their own crosses (trials).
- Those who think about the heavy crosses of the righteous, never worry about their own small trials, for, although they have made more mistakes in their life, they suffer less than the righteous.
- Those who suffer trials unjustly imitate Christ; and those who face hardships due to their sins are blessed, because they are forgiven their sins in this life.
- Those who do not co-suffer with those in pain, suffer from a fatal spiritual illness: mercilessness. Those who are annoyed by the moaning of sick people and react angrily because they cannot concentrate, suffer from many spiritual illnesses.
- Those who truly love and struggle correctly, can also endure with love, sacrifice themselves, and give rest to their neighbor, who is Christ.
- Those who wish others to provide for them but offer nothing in return, are constantly asking things from God without giving anything to Him, not even their sins (by repentance). Such people are completely estranged from God and deliver themselves of their own accord into the hands of the manslayer (the devil). Because they have only cultivated love for their own selves, it follows that great anguish will then develop in them and that they will suffer hell, in part, already in this life.
- Those who do not put themselves in the place of their suffering fellow man are deserted by God, experience a terrible fall, and learn to feel pain. Those, on the other hand, who feel compassion, care for other people, and ignore their own selves, are protected by God and are looked after both by God and by men.
- When someone gives his heart to God, then the mind of this man is also seized by the love of God. He is indifferent towards worldly things and continually thinks about the Heavenly Father, and being divinely in love, he glorifies his Creator day and night like an angel.
- Merely the thought of God’s benevolent acts is enough to make the heart of a person who has philotimo break; yet even more so, when he thinks of his numerous sins and the great mercy of God.
- Those who struggle and sense their sinfulness as well as God’s loving-kindness and who trust in His great mercy, elevate their souls to Paradise with great confidence and little physical effort, if they have good intentions.
- People who struggle hard, with much devotion, and have reached the angelic state to a certain extent and are nurtured with celestial honey, nevertheless offer nothing significant to God compared with what He has offered us. For they eat honey while offering Him wax. They eat sweet fruits and offer God tree resin with the censer. Therefore, we do nothing and offer nothing to God, compared with His great loving-kindness. For, while the Good God produces beautiful fruit with our rubbish or even with manure, in order to feed us, we wretched people turn beautiful fruit into manure.
- As the kindness of God renders everything useful for a good purpose, so too must we, His creatures, make good use of everything in order to be benefited and benefit others.
- Kind people naturally derive benefit even from their fellow men’s failings, for they use them as a strong brake on themselves in order to take care not to be derailed. But those who are deceitful, unfortunately, are not benefited, not even by other people’s virtues, because they interpret them with their wily lexicon, being darkened by the gloom of the manslayer. They spiritually wrong themselves and others, and are always upset and continually upset others with their spiritual darkness; whereas, actual cloudy weather causes sadness only to people who suffer from grief.
- Kindness is one of God’s many qualities; therefore, it always spreads joy, drives away the clouds, and opens up hearts like the spring sunshine which makes the earth blossom. It even warms up snakes and takes them out of their cold holes so they, too, can enjoy God’s kindness.
- Ill-tempered people are always strangled by thoughts, and with their frozen hearts they freeze and choke afflicted people who have come to them for consolation. Good-tempered people, on the other hand, with their spiritual (noble) love, being contrite with pain, strangle demons, liberate souls, and spread divine consolation to their fellow men.
- Fervent spiritual love renders sensitive people more sensitive, and makes insolent ones more insolent.
- An orphan, especially if it has lost its mother, and even if it is a little porcupine, must be embraced with pain and fervent love, so as to first feel warmth, take courage, and open up its heart.
- The fervent love of Christ nourishes more than any other material food and gives many calories to the soul and body. Oftentimes, it even cures incurable diseases without medication and brings rest to souls.
- Those who do not sacrifice their physical health for the love of Christ, scorning their bodily rest, will not find spiritual rest, either in this life or in the next, eternal life.
- Those who, out of pure love, sacrifice even their own lives to protect their fellow men, imitate Christ. These people are, of course, the greatest heroes, because even death trembles before them, since they defy death out of love. Thus, they triumph with immortality, and, taking the key to eternity out from beneath the gravestone, they proceed freely to eternal blessedness.
- It is preferable for a sensitive person to be himself killed once, out of love, in order to protect his fellow man, than to cop out or back out and be constantly slaughtered by his conscience for the rest of his life.
- Sacrifice for our fellow man conceals our great love for Christ. Those who have good intentions to give alms, but have nothing and on this account are afflicted, give charity with the blood of their hearts.
- Those who want to be martyred for the love of Christ when martyrdom is not an option, can manifest this love that burns within them through bodily asceticism for the sake of the souls of the reposed which are burning, so that these souls will find a little rest.
- Indifferent and merciless people, who think only of their own selves, insensitively satisfying themselves, simultaneously fill their hearts with much anguish. Within them works the little worm of a troubled conscience, and they are tormented already in this life. Merciful people, on the other hand, since they are always filling others with love, are always filled with the love of God and His abundant blessings.
1.The Greek word philotimo is often considered to be untranslatable. St Paisios elsewhere characterizes it as the “distillation of goodness; the radiant love of the humble man bereft himself, but with a heart full of gratitude to God and his fellow man; because of his spiritual sensitivity he tries to repay even the slightest good that others do to him.”
About the Author
Saint Paisios of Mount Athos (Greek: Ὅσιος Παΐσιος ὁ Ἁγιορείτης) (1924–1994), was a well-known Greek Eastern Orthodox ascetic from Mount Athos, who originated from Pharasa, Cappadocia. He was respected for his spiritual guidance and ascetic life. Venerable Elder Paisios was canonized on 13 January 2015 by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the church commemorates his feast day on July 12