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)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

ST. THALASSIOS THE LIBYAN - Four Centuries on the Spiritual Life -- Part I

In this issue we will begin a new study of the writings of St. Thalassios the Libyan, abbot of a monastery in Libya in the late sixth and early seventy centuries. There is little information in his biography beyond saying that he was a contemporary and friend of St. Maximos the Confessor (580 - 662). St. Maximos wrote his largest work as a theological treatise addressed to St. Thalassios.

Over the next four posts, we will look at St. Thalassios's four "centuries" on the spiritual life. These are only excerpts as we do not have space for the full text.

- by St. Thalassios the Libyan

-- An all-embracing and intense longing for God binds those who experience it both to God and to one another.

-- An intellect that has acquired spiritual love does not have thoughts unworthy of this love about anyone.

-- He who has acquired love endures calmly and patiently the injuries and sufferings that his enemies inflict on him.

-- A person who does not tolerate suspicion or disparagement of others possesses true love.

-- If you tell your brother how someone else denigrates him you conceal your own envy in the guise of goodwill.

-- Worldly virtues promote human glory, spiritual virtues the glory of God.

-- A strong man is one who repels evil through the practice of the virtues and with spiritual knowledge.

-- If you wish to overcome impassioned thoughts, acquire self- control and love for your neighbor.

-- Firmly control anger and desire, and you will speedily rid yourself of evil thoughts.

-- Inner work destroys self-esteem and if you despise no one you will repel pride.

-- The genuineness of a friend is shown at a time of trial, if he shares the distress you suffer.

-- Waste your body with fasting and vigils, and you will repulse the lethal thoughts of pleasure.

-- The proper activity of the intellect is to be attentive at every moment to the words of God.

-- It is God's task to administer the world and the soul's task to guide the body.

-- Hardship and distress, whether of our own choosing or providential, destroy sensual pleasure.

-- The amassing of money fuels the passions, for it leads to increasing indulgence in all kinds of sensual pleasure.

-- How God treats you depends upon how you treat your body.

-- Virtue and spiritual knowledge lead to immortality, their absence is the mother of death.

-- If you wish to attain salvation, renounce sensual pleasure and learn self-control, love and how to pray with concentration.

-- There are three ways through which thoughts arise in you: through the senses, through the memory, and through the body's temperament. Of these the most irksome are those that come through the memory.

-- The intellect freed from the passions becomes like light, unceasingly illumined by the contemplation of created beings.

-- He who stands in awe of God searches for the divine principles that God has implanted in creation; the lover of truth finds them.

-- Stillness and prayer are the greatest weapons of virtue, for they purify the intellect and confer on it spiritual insight.

-- Only spiritual conversation is beneficial; it is better to preserve stillness than to indulge in any other kind.

-- The person who is unaffected by the things of this world loves stillness; and he who loves no human thing loves all men.

-- The conscience is a true teacher, and whoever listens to it will not stumble.

-- Only those who have reached the extremes of virtue or of evil are not judged by their consciences.

-- Spiritual commerce consists in being detached equally from the pleasures and the pains of this life for the sake of the blessings held in store.

-- Love and self-control strengthen the soul; pure prayer and contemplation, the intellect.

-- When you hear something to your benefit, do not condemn the speaker; for if you do you will nullify his helpful admonition.

-- A pure conscience rouses the soul, but an impure thought debases it.

-- If you want to be free of all the passions, practice self- control, love, and prayer.

-- Forgiveness of sins is betokened by freedom from the passions; he who has not yet been granted freedom from the passions has not yet received forgiveness. END

from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware, trans., The Philokalia -- vol. II,  (London: Faber and Faber, 1981), pp. 307 - 312.