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, July 10, 2013

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

In this issue we will continue our 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.

- by St. Thalassios the Libyan

-- The soul's health consists in dispassion and spiritual knowledge; no slave to sensual pleasure can attain it.

-- Self-love -- that is, friendship for the body -- is the source of evil in the soul.

-- It is an insult to the intelligence to be subject to what lacks intelligence and to concern itself with shameful desires.

-- You were commanded to keep the body as a servant, not to be unnaturally enslaved to its pleasures.

-- Break the bonds of your friendship for the body and give it only what is absolutely necessary.

-- The greatest weapons of someone striving to lead a life of inward stillness are self-control, love, prayer, and spiritual reading.

-- Let us strive to fulfill the commandments so that we may be freed from the passions; and let us struggle to grasp the divine doctrine so that we may be found worthy of spiritual knowledge.

-- The soul's immortality resides in dispassion and spiritual knowledge; no slave to sensual pleasure can attain it.

-- Fear of the Lord conquers desire, and distress that accords with God's will repulses sensual pleasure.

-- The Scriptures contain four things: commandments, doctrines, threats, and promises.

-- Self-control and strenuous effort curb desire; stillness and intense longing for God wither it.

-- Long-suffering and readiness to forgive curb anger; love and compassion wither it.

-- Woman symbolizes the soul engaged in ascetic practice; through union with it the intellect begets the virtues.

-- The study of divine principles teachers knowledge of God to the person who lives in truth, longing and reverence.

-- What light is to those whose and to what is seen, God is to intellective beings and to what is intelligible.

-- Do not neglect the practice of the virtues; if you do, your spiritual knowledge will decrease, and when famine occurs you will go down into Egypt (Genesis 41:57, 46:6).

-- Spiritual freedom is release from the passions; without Christ's mercy you cannot attain it.

-- The Egypt of the spirit is the darkness of the passions; no one goes down to Egypt unless he is overtaken by famine.

-- If you make a habit of listening to spiritual teaching, your intellect will escape from impure thoughts.

-- Control your stomach, sleep, anger, and tongue, and you will not "dash your foot against a stone" (Psalms 91:12).

-- Strive to love every man equally, and you will simultaneously expel all the passions.

-- The intellect cannot devote itself to intelligible realities unless you sunder its attachment to the senses and to sensible things.

-- A sign that the intellect is devoted to the contemplation of intelligible realities is its disdain for all that agitates the senses.

-- When the intellect is rich in the knowledge of the One, the senses will be completely under control.

-- The intellect becomes a stranger to the things of this world when its attachment to the senses has been completely sundered.

-- The intellect is perfect when transformed by spiritual knowledge; the soul is perfect when permeated by the virtues.

-- We are sons of God or of Satan according to whether we conform to goodness or to evil.

-- A wise man is one who pays attention to himself and is quick to separate himself form all defilement.

-- An obdurate soul does not notice when it is whipped and so is unaware of its benefactor.

-- He who fears God will pay careful attention to his soul and will free himself from communion with evil.

-- If you abandon God and are a slave to the passions you cannot reap God's mercy.

-- A soul defiled by the passions becomes obdurate: it has to undergo knife and cautery before it recovers its faith.

-- Concern for one's soul means hardship and humility, for through these God forgives us all our sins.

-- Just as desire and rage multiply our sins, so self-control and humility erase them.

-- All sin is due to sensual pleasure, all forgiveness to hardship and distress.

-- If you are not willing to repent through freely choosing to suffer, unsought sufferings will providentially be imposed on you.

-- Struggle until death to fulfill the commandments: purified through them, you will enter into life.

-- Make the body serve the commandments, keeping it so far as possible free from sickness and sensual pleasure.

-- Blessed stillness gives birth to blessed children: self- control, love and pure prayer.

-- Spiritual reading and prayer purify the intellect, while love and self-control purify the soul's passible aspect.

-- If you lay down rules for yourself, do not disobey yourself; for he who cheats himself is self-deluded.

-- Spiritual poverty is complete dispassion; when the intellect has reached this state it abandons all worldly things.

from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware, trans., The Philokalia -- vol. II, (London: Faber and Faber, 1981), pp. 313 - 318.