The Desert Fathers: Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Desert

The Desert Fathers: Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Desert
The Monastery of St. Paul of Thebes, Red Sea Desert, Egypt (1990)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

THE WAY OF THE ASCETICS - Fasting is Important for Every Christian


Today's selection is about fasting.  We will continue reading from "Way of the Ascetics" which is a FANTASTIC book -- we highly recommend to everyone that they obtain and read this book every year. It provides wonderful Lenten reading -- as well as good spiritual instruction throughout the year -- and cannot be read too often. That said, enjoy the following selection!

BEGIN: Fasting, neither above nor below your ability, will help you in your vigil. One should not ponder divine matters on a full stomach, say the ascetics. For the well-fed, even the most superficial secrets of the Trinity lie hidden. Christ Himself set the example with His long fast; when He drove out the devil, He had fasted for forty days. Are we better than He? "Behold, angels came and ministered unto him (Matthew 4:11)." They are waiting to minister to you, too.

Fasting tempers loquacity, says St. John Climacus. it is an outlet for compassion and a guard upon obedience; it destroys evil thoughts and roots out the insensibility of the heart. Fasting is a gate to paradise; when the stomach is constricted, the heart is humbled. He who fasts prays with a sober mind, but the mind of the intemperate person is filled with impure fancies and thoughts.

Fasting is an expression of love and devotion, in which one sacrifices earthly satisfaction to attain the heavenly. Altogether too much of one's thoughts are taken up with care for sustenance and the enticements of the palate; one wishes to be free from them. Thus fasting is a step on the road of emancipation and an indispensable support in the struggle against selfish desires. Together with prayer, fasting is one of humanity's greatest gifts, carefully cherished by those who once have participated in it.

During fasting, thankfulness grows toward him who has given humanity the possibility of fasting. Fasting opens the entrance to a territory that you have scarcely glimpsed; the expressions of life and all the events around you and within you get a new illumination, the hastening hours a new, wide-eyed and rich purpose. The vigil of groping thought is replaced by a vigil of clarity; troublesome searching is changed to quiet acceptance in gratitude and humility. Seemingly large, perplexing problems open their centers like the ripe calyces of flowers; with prayer, fasting and vigil in union, we may knock on the door we wish to see opened.

Here we find the reason that fasting is often used as a measuring-stick by the Holy Fathers; he who fasts much is he who loves much, and he who has loved much is forgiven much (Luke 7:47). He who fasts much also receives much.

The Holy Fathers recommend "moderate" fasting; one ought not to allow the body to be weakened too much, for then the soul, too, is harmed. Nor ought one to undertake fasting too suddenly; everything demands practice, and each one should look to his own nature and occupation. To choose among different kinds of food is to be condemned; all food is God-given, but it is advisable to avoid such kinds as add to the body's weight and appetite; strong spices, meat, spirituous drinks and such foods as are solely for the palate's enjoyment. For the rest, one may eat what is cheap and most easily available, they say. But by "moderate" they mean one meal a day, and that one light enough not to fill the stomach to satiety. END

from "Way of the Ascetics," by Tito Colliander (New York: Harper & Row, 1982, pp. 75-77)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

ST. MARK THE ASCETIC - To Those Who Think To Be Justified by Deeds


Today we will study some of the many writings of St. Mark the Ascetic, one of the most famous Egyptian Desert Fathers.  Little is known of the circumstances of his life, but we do know that Palladius knew him personally, that he lived to be over a hundred years old, and that he died at the beginning of the fifth century.  St. Mark studied the Scriptures from his youth so much that he eventually learned both the Old and New Testaments by heart.  He reached a very high degree of spiritual perfection in his life, teaching and writing extensively.  Unfortunately, only a few of his writings have survived to this day.

Today we will look at excerpts from “To Those Who Think to be Justified by Deeds,” in which St. Mark explains the relationship between faith and deeds and that deeds alone are not enough for salvation.

BEGIN: Wishing to show that, although every commandment is obligatory, none the less it is by His blood that sonship is granted to men, the Lord says: “When you have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10).  Thus the kingdom of heaven is not a reward for deeds, but a gift of the Lord prepared for faithful servants.

-- “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3), and He grants freedom to those who serve Him well.  For He says: “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of the Lord” (Matthew 25:23).

-- He is not yet a faithful servant who bases himself on bare knowledge alone; a faithful servant is he who professes his faith by obedience to Christ, Who gave the commandments.

-- He who reveres the Lord does what is commanded, and if he commits some sin or disobeys Him, endures whatever he has to suffer for this as being his desert.

-- If you love knowledge, love also work, for bare knowledge puffs a man up.

-- Knowledge without corresponding practice is still insecure, even if it is true.  All is made firm by practice.

-- He who wants to do something and cannot is, in the eyes of God who sees our hearts, as though he has done it.  This should be understood as being so in relation to good and evil alike.

-- Some think they believe rightly, while not practicing the commandments; others, while practicing them, expect the kingdom as a just reward.  Both sin against truth.

-- We who have been granted the bath of eternal life do good works not for the sake of reward, but to preserve the purity which was given us.

-- Every good deed we perform by our own natural powers, although it removes us further from the (evil deed) opposed to it, cannot make us holy without grace.

-- The abstinent withdraws from gluttony, the uncovetous from covetousness, the silent from wordiness, the pure from attachment to sensory pleasures, the chaste from fornication, he who is content with what he has from love of money, the meek from agitation (anger), the humble from vanity, the obedient from objection, he who is honest with himself from hypocrisy; equally, he who prays withdraws from despair, the willing pauper from acquisitiveness, he who professes his faith from denying it, the martyr from idolatry - so you see that each virtue, performed even unto death, is nothing but withdrawal from sin; and withdrawal from sin is a natural action, not an action which could be rewarded by the kingdom.

-- When the mind forgets the purpose of piety, then visible works of virtue become useless.

-- He who does good and seeks a reward works not for God but for his own desire.

-- Some say that we can do nothing good until we actively receive the grace of the Holy Spirit.  This is not true.

-- To him who has been baptized into Christ grace has been mysteriously given already.  But it acts in proportion to his fulfillment of commandments.  Although this grace never ceases to help us in secret, it lies in our power to do or not to do good according to our own will.

-- In the first place, it fittingly arouses conscience, through which even evil-doers have been accepted by God when they repented.

-- Again, it may be concealed in the advice of a brother.  Sometimes it follows thought during reading and teaches its truth to the mind by means of a natural deduction (from that thought).  Thus, if we do not bury this talent bestowed upon us on these and similar occasions, we shall in truth enter into the joy of the Lord.

-- If you will keep in mind that, according to the Scriptures, the Lord’s “judgments are in all the earth” (Psalms 104:7), then every event will teach you knowledge of God.

-- If, according to the scriptures, the cause of all that is involuntary lies in what is voluntary, no one is a man’s greater enemy than himself.

-- If you wish to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth, always urge yourself to rise above sensory things and to cling with hope to God alone.  Thus compelling yourself to turn inwards, you will meet principalities and powers, which wage war against you by suggestions in thoughts.  If you overcome them by prayer and remain in good hope, you will receive Divine grace, which will free you from the wrath to come.  END

from “Early Fathers From the Philokalia,” trans. by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 86 - 90.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

ANONYMOUS DESERT FATHER - Satan's Rejoicing Over the Fall of a Monk


Today's selection illustrates how Satan fears the monastic life. You will see a number of teachings over the coming weeks on fasting and its role in the spiritual life. We hope you will find this series especially rewarding.

BEGIN: An old man from Thebes used to say:

"I was the son of a priest of idols. When I was young I lived in the temple and I have on many occasions seen my father go into the temple to perform sacrifices to the idols. Once I went in secretly after him, and I saw Satan sitting there with his whole army before him and, behold, one of his devils came and did homage to him. And Satan answered and said unto him, 'From where do you come?' And the devil answered, saying, "I was in such and such a country and I stirred up many wars and revolts and I caused the shedding of blood and I have come to tell you these things." Satan said unto him, 'How long did it take you to do this?' And the devil said, "Thirty days." Then Satan commanded him to be beaten, saying unto him, 'Is this all that you have done in so long a time?'

And, behold, another devil came and worshipped him, and to him he said, 'Where do you come from?' And the devil answered and said, "I was in the sea, where I stirred up storms, and sank ships and drowned many men, and I have come that I may inform you of these things." Then Satan answered and said unto him, 'How long did it take you to do this?' The devil answered and said unto him, "In twenty days," and Satan commanded that he also should be beaten, saying unto him, 'Why is it that in all these days you have done only what you say?'

And when he said this, behold, a third devil came and worshipped Satan, who answered and said unto him also, 'And where do you come from?' The devil answered and said unto him, "I have been in such and such a city wherein there was a marriage feast and I stirred up a war there, and caused the shedding of much blood and the death of the bridegroom and the bride; as soon as I had done this I came to inform you." And Satan said unto him, 'How long did it take you to do this?' And the devil said, "Ten days," and Satan commanded that he should be beaten, saying, 'In all these days you have done only this?'

Then afterwards, behold, a fourth devil came and worshipped him, and Satan answered and said unto him, 'And where do you come from?' And he who was asked answered and said unto him, "I have been in the desert for forty years struggling with a monk and tonight I have hurled him into fornication." When Satan heard this, he rose up immediately and embraced and kissed that devil, and he took the crown off his own head, and placed it upon the other devil and made him sit by his side upon the throne, saying, 'And so you have been able to do so great a work as this in so short a time! For there is nothing which I prize so highly as the fall of a monk.'"

And the old man went on to say, "When I saw these things I said to myself, "Yes, so great then is the army of the monks! And by the Will of God, Who desired my redemption, I came forth and became a monk." END

from "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers," trans. by E. A. Wallis Budge, (Seattle: St. Nectarios Press, 1984), pp. 146-147

Sunday, June 17, 2012

ST. THEOPHAN THE RECLUSE - War With Passions, Part VII


Today we will conclude our seven-part series of teachings by St. Theophan the Recluse, a Russian father of the 19th century who lived in the frozen deserts of the Russian north.  Although he is a modern saint in chronological terms, he is spiritually at one with the ancient Desert Fathers of Egypt and Palestine. Today’s concluding chapter is, “Humility and Love.”  Much of St. Theophan’s teachings come to us in the form of letters he wrote to lay persons so his advice is very practical and down-to-earth for those who are trying to grow spiritually.  Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are from St. Theophan.

BEGIN: You say that you have no humility or love.  So long as these are absent, everything spiritual is absent.  What is spiritual is born when they are born and grows as they grow.  They are the same for the soul as mastery of the flesh is for the body.  Humility is acquired by acts of humility, love by acts of love.

-- Keep both eyes open.  This is the measure of humility: if a man is humble he never thinks that he has been treated worse than he deserves.  He stands so low in his own estimation that no one, however hard they try, can think more poorly of him than he thinks himself.  This is the whole secret of the matter.

-- The Lord sometimes leaves in us some defects of character in order that we should learn humility.  For without them we would immediately soar above the clouds in our own estimation and would place our throne there.  And herein lies perdition.

-- There is no need for me to repeat to you that the invincible weapon against all our enemies is humility.  It is not easily acquired.  We can think ourselves humble without having a trace of true humility.  And we cannot think ourselves humble merely by thinking about it.  The best, or rather, the only sure way to humility is by obedience and the surrender of our own will.  Without this it is possible to develop a satanic pride in ourselves, while being humble in words and in bodily postures.  I beg you to pay attention to this point and, in all fear, examine the order of your life.  Does it include obedience and surrender of your will?  Out of all the things you do, how many are done contrary to your own will, your own ideas and reflections?  Do you do anything unwillingly, simply because you are ordered, through sheer obedience?  Please examine it all thoroughly and tell me.  If there is nothing of this type of obedience, the kind of life you lead will not bring you to humility.  No matter how much you may humble yourself in thought, without deeds leading to self-abasement humility will not come.  So you must think carefully how to arrange for this.

-- Spiritual unrest and passions harm the blood and effectively damage our health.  Fasting and a general abstinence in our daily life are the best way to preserve our health sound and vigorous.

Prayer introduces the human spirit into God’s realm where the rock of life dwells; and the body also, led by the spirit, partakes of that life.  A contrite spirit, feelings of repentance, and tears - these do not diminish our physical strength but add to it, for they bring the soul to a state of comfort.

You wish that contrition and tears would never leave you, but you had better wish that the spirit of deep humility should always reign in you.  This brings tears and contrition, and it also prevents us from being puffed up with pride at having them.  For the enemy manages to introduce poison even through such things as these.

There is also spiritual hypocrisy which may accompany contrition.  True contrition does not interfere with pure spiritual joy, but can exist in harmony with it, concealed behind it.

And what of self-appreciation?  Take up the sword of humility and meekness, hold it always in your hand, and mercilessly cut off the head of our chief foe.  END

From "The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology," (London: Faber & Faber, 1966), pp. 271 - 274.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

ABBA SILVANUS - One Must Work in Order to Eat


Today's selection is from the life of Abba Silvanus, a Palestinian by birth, who headed a community with twelve disciples. Around 380, they moved from Scetis to Syria, settling in the region of Gaza. There they lived in a "lavra" with scattered cells and a central church where the community gathered each Saturday and Sunday for worship. Abba Silvanus died around 414.


BEGIN: A brother went to see Abba Silvanus on the mountain of Sinai. When he saw the brothers working hard, he said to the old man, "Do not labor for the food which perishes (John 6:27). Mary has chosen the good portion (Luke 10:42)."

The old man said to his disciple, "Zacharias, give the brother a book and put him in a cell without anything else." So, when the ninth hour came the visitor watched the door expecting someone would be sent to call him to the meal.

When no one called him he got up, went to find the old man and said to him, "Have the brothers not eaten today?" The old man replied that they had. Then he said, "Why did you not call me?" The old man said to him, "Because you are a spiritual man and do not need that kind of food. We, being carnal, want to eat, and that is why we work. But you have chosen the good portion and read the whole day long and you do not want to eat carnal food."

When he heard these words the brother made a prostration saying, "Forgive me, Abba." The old man said to him, "Mary needs Martha. It is really thanks to Martha that Mary is praised." END

from "The Desert Christian," by Benedicta Ward, (New York: MacMillan, 1975), p. 223

Sunday, June 10, 2012

ST. THEOPHAN THE RECLUSE - War With Passions, Part VI


Today we will continue with the writings of a more recent "Desert Father," namely St. Theophan the Recluse, a Russian father of the 19th century who lived in the frozen deserts of the Russian north.  Although he is a modern saint in chronological terms, he is spiritually at one with the ancient Desert Fathers of Egypt and Palestine.  Today’s theme is very important in these times of intellectual confusion, namely “Illusion.”  Much of St. Theophanís teachings come to us in the form of letters he wrote to lay  persons so his advice is very practical and down-to-earth for those who are trying to grow spiritually.  Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are from St. Theophan.

BEGIN: The true beginning of prayer is warmth of heart, which scorches the passions and fills the soul with joy and gladness, strengthening the heart with an unshakeable love and with a firm assurance that leaves no room for doubt.  The Fathers say that whatever enters the soul, whether visible or invisible, is not from God so long as the heart is in doubt about it and so does not accept it: in such cases, it is something that comes from the enemy.  In the same way if you see your mind attracted by some invisible force to wander outside or to soar on high, do not trust it and do not allow the mind to be enticed by it; but immediately force your mind to continue with its proper work.  Whatever is of God comes by itself, says St. Isaac, whilst you are ignorant even of the time of its coming.  Thus the enemy tries to produce an illusion of some spiritual experience within us, offering us a mirage instead of the real thing - unruly burning instead of true spiritual warmth, and instead of joy, irrational excitement and physical pleasure which in turn give rise to pride and conceit - and he even succeeds in concealing himself from the inexperienced behind such seducements, so that they think his diabolic illusion is really the working of grace.  Yet time, experience, and feeling will reveal him to those who are not altogether ignorant of his evil wiles.  “The palate discriminates between different foods,” say the Scriptures.  In the same way spiritual taste shows all things as they are, without any illusion.  (from St. Gregory of
Sinai)

-- To make progress in prayer and to escape from illusion, self-denial is needed, which teachers us that nothing should be sought in prayer except attention.  The work of prayer will become more simple and easy.  Temptations will also become less strong, although they always accompany any endeavor.  St. Nil Sorski and other Holy Fathers tell us that powerful temptations coming from the devil - temptations far beyond our strength - attack us if we seek to experience in ourselves the fruits of prayer of the heart prematurely.  We seek these fruits too soon because - unknown to ourselves - we suffer from an exaggerated opinion of our own abilities, and from conceit masquerading as zeal.  (from Bishop Ignatii)

-- Many people understand about the ultimate effects of illusion, for these are clearly manifest.  What is more important is to learn how this illusion originally arises.  It starts from a false thought, which serves as the foundation of all the delusions and all the disastrous infirmities that afflict the soul.  A false thought in the mind already contains the whole structure of illusion, just as a seed sown in the earth contains the whole plant which will grow out of it.  (from Bishop Ignatii)

-- If a man holds fast to tears of contrition, to prevent himself being carried away by the joy which he experiences in prayer, and so forming a high opinion of himself, then he possesses a mighty weapon against the enemy.  He who preserves this joyful sorrow will escape all harm.  True prayer, free from illusion, is prayer in which spiritual warmth, coupled with the Jesus Prayer, brings fire into the depths of our heart and burns up the passions like tares.  Such prayer brings gladness and peace to the soul, and comes neither from right nor left, nor even from above, but wells up in the heart like a spring of water from the life-giving Spirit.  This kind of prayer and this alone should you love and seek to keep in your heart, always preserving your mind from dreaming.  Fear nothing once you have it, for He who said, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid” (Matthew 14:27), is Himself with us.  Whoever is attuned to this inner harmony and lives righteously and sinlessly, who has turned his back upon sycophancy and arrogance, will stand firm and suffer no ill even if a whole army of devils rises against him and brings innumerable temptations.

-- You ask why illusion comes during the practice of the Jesus Prayer? (NOTE: The “Jesus Prayer” is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”)  It comes not from the prayer itself but from the manner in which it is practised - and here we should observe the directions prescribed in the “Philokalia.”  These directions should be followed under the eye of a teacher who knows the correct way of performing the Prayer.  But if anyone tries to practice it by himself, merely from descriptions in books, he cannot escape illusion.  In any description only an external outline of the work is given: a book cannot provide all the detailed advice which is supplied by the “staretz,” who understands the inner state that should accompany the Prayer, and so can watch over the beginner and give him the further guidance that he needs.  He who practices this method of prayer without a guide to help him, is of course left with only the external activity and the various physical exercises.  He conscientiously performs everything laid down in the books about the posture of the body, breathing, and looking into the heart.  But since methods of this kind naturally lead to a certain degree of concentrated attention and warmth, whoever does not have by him a reliable judge, capable of explaining to him the nature of the change that has taken place in him, may come to imagine that this limited warmth is indeed what he is seeking and that grace has descended upon him, whereas in fact it is not there as yet.  And so he begins to think that he possesses grace, without actually having it.  Such is the nature of illusion; and this illusion will thereupon distort all the subsequent course of his inner life.  That is why nowadays we find the “startsi” (Russian plural of “staretz”) advising people not to undertake these physical methods at all, because of the danger involved in them.  By themselves they cannot give anything of grace, for grace is not connected with external exercises, but comes down only into the inner being: on the other hand, the proper inner state will attract the action of grace even without such methods.

This proper inner state consists in practicing the Jesus Prayer in such a way that we walk in God’s presence: at the same time we must kindle to fervor within ourselves the feelings of adoration and the fear of God, ceasing to pander to ourselves in anything, listening to our conscience always and in everything, keeping it unpolluted and at peace, and placing the whole of our life, both inner and outer, in God’s hands.  When these spiritual elements are present, the grace of God, coming in its own time and absorbing them all into one, kindles from them the spiritual fire which is the token of the presence of grace in the heart.  If we follow this way, it is difficult to fall into self-conceit.  But even so it is better to have a guide whom we meet personally and who can see our face and hear our voice; for these two things reveal what is within.  END

From "The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology," (London: Faber & Faber, 1966), pp. 264 - 269.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

ANONYMOUS DESERT FATHER - Generosity in the Face of Need


Today's selection is from an anonymous father of the Egyptian Desert:

BEGIN: An old man and a brother led their life together. Now the old man was charitable. It happened that there was a famine and the people came to his door seeking alms, and in charity the old man gave to all who came. Seeing what was happening, the brother said to the old man, "Give me my share of the loaves, and do what you like with yours." The old man divided the loaves and gave alms from his share.

Now many people hastened to the old man, learning that he supplied everyone, and God -- seeing that he supplied everyone -- blessed these loaves. But when the brother had consumed his own food he said to the old man, "Since I have only a little food left, Abba, take me back into the common life again." The old man said, "I will do as you wish." So they began to again to live in common.

When scarcity came again, the needy came back seeking alms. Now one day the brother came in and saw they were short of loaves. A poor man came, and the old man told the brother to give him alms. He said, "It is no longer possible, father." The old man said to him, "Go in and look." The brother went inside and found the bin full of loaves. When he saw that, he was filled with fear, and taking some he gave to the poor. In this way he learned the faith and virtue of the old man, and he gave glory to God. END

from "The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers," by Benedicta Ward, (Oxford: SLG Press, 1985), p. 42

Sunday, June 3, 2012

ST. THEOPHAN THE RECLUSE - War With Passions, Part V


Today we will continue with the writings of a more recent "Desert Father," namely St. Theophan the Recluse, a Russian father of the 19th century who lived in the frozen deserts of the Russian north.  Although he is a modern saint in chronological terms, he is spiritually at one with the ancient Desert Fathers of Egypt and Palestine. Much of St. Theophan’s teachings come to us in the form of letters he wrote to lay persons so his advice is very practical and down-to-earth for those who are trying to grow spiritually.  Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are from St. Theophan.

BEGIN: -- The abiding of our soul with the Lord, which is the whole essence of inner work, is not something that depends upon us.  The Lord visits the soul, and the soul dwells with Him; the soul rejoices before Him and He fills it with spiritual warmth.  Then the Lord withdraws and at once the soul is empty, nor does it lie at all within its power to make the Good Visitor of souls return.  The Lord withdraws to put the soul to the test, or sometimes to punish it, not so much for external trespasses but for some inner evil to which the soul has granted admission.  When the Lord withdraws to put the soul to the test, He quickly returns once more when it begins to call out to Him.  But when He withdraws as a punishment, He does not soon return ñ not until the soul has realized the sin it has committed, has repented, has wept over it and done penance.

-- Above all, watch carefully when the soul grows cool.  This is a bitter and dangerous state.  The Lord uses it as one of His means of guidance, instruction, and correction.  But it can also be a kind of punishment.  The reason is usually an open sin, but since in your case no such sin is in evidence, the cause should be sought in inner feelings and dispositions.  It may be that a high opinion of yourself has stolen into you, and you think that you are not like the others?  Maybe you are planning to tread the path of salvation by yourself and to ascend on high by your own efforts?

-- You undertake different tasks, so you tell me, “in most cases unwillingly and without any eagerness I have to force myself.”  But this, after all, is a basic principle in the spiritual life to set yourself in opposition to what is bad and to force yourself to do what is good.  This is the meaning of the Lord’s words, “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).  This is why following the Lord is a yoke.  If all were done eagerly, where would be the yoke?  Yet in the end it so comes about that everything is done easily and willingly. . . .

-- As soon as you turn away, however slightly, from God, and no longer place your trust in Him, things go awry; for then the Lord withdraws, as though saying, “You have put your trust in something else; very well, rely on that instead.”  And whatever it may be it proves utterly worthless.

-- You see how cold it is without grace, and how listless and inert the soul is towards anything spiritual.  This is the state of good pagans, of Jews faithful to the Law, and of Christians who lead blameless lives but do not think about their inner life and its relation to God.  Yet they do not feel an ache like yours, because (unlike you) they know nothing of the effects of grace.  Since from time to time it falls to their lot to experience a kind of spiritual consolation - natural, not grace-given - they remain at peace.

What keeps grace in the soul more than anything else?  Humility.  What makes it withdraw more than anything else?  Feelings of pride, a high opinion of oneself, self-reliance.  Grace departs as soon as it senses this evil stench of inner pride.

-- We grow cold within when our heart is distracted, when it cleaves to something other than God, worrying about different things, getting angry and blaming someone when we are discontented and pander to the flesh, wallowing in luxury and wandering thoughts.  Guard against these things, and the coldness will diminish.

As to the heart - where else is life if not in the heart?

-- How many times already have you been made aware of the duty which your conscience dictates to you - the duty to remain with the Lord, not preferring anything else to Him?  Perhaps your awareness of this duty no longer ever leaves you.  May the actual practice of it likewise prevail constantly within you; for this, after all, is our true aim.  When we are with the Lord, the Lord too is with us; and everything is bright.  When the window curtains are drawn apart in a room and the sun shines, the room is full of light.  If you draw the curtain over one window it will be darker, and when you draw them all the room will be in total darkness.  It is the same with the soul.  When it is turned towards God with all its powers and feelings, everything in it is bright, joyful, and calm.  But when it turns its attention and feeling to something else this brightness diminishes. The greater the number of things that occupy the soul, the greater the darkness that invades it; and then complete darkness may result.  It is not so much thoughts that bring this darkness, as feelings; while a single instance of being carried away by the feelings is less likely to bring darkness than is a continued passionate attachment to some object.  The greatest darkness of all comes from external acts of sin.  END

From "The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology," (London: Faber & Faber, 1966), pp. 257 - 261