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 17, 2013

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

Before we get into this week's study, I would like to share with you a prayer from St. Thalassios which he wrote for all those struggling against the passions:

A PRAYER -- St. Thalassios

Christ, Master of all, free us from all these destructive passions and the thoughts born of them.

For Thy sake we came into being, so that we might delight in the paradise which Thou hast planted and in which Thou hast placed us.

We brought our present disgrace upon ourselves, preferring destruction to the delights of blessedness.

We have paid for this, for we have exchanged eternal life for death.

O Master, as once Thou hast looked on us, look on us now; as Thou becamest man, save all of us.

For Thou camest to save us who were lost. Do not exclude us from the company of those who are being saved.

Raise up our souls and save our bodies, cleansing us from all impurity.

Break the fetters of the passions that constrain us, as once Thou hast broken the ranks of the impure demons.

Free us from their tyranny, so that we may worship Thee alone, the eternal light,

Having risen from the dead and dancing with the angels in the blessed, eternal and indissoluble dance. Amen.


In this issue we will look at part four of our four-part series on St. Thalassios's four "centuries" on the spiritual life. We are dividing this fourth part into two sections due to the richness of their teachings and the length of the text. These are only excerpts as we do not have space for the full text. 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

-- Withdraw your soul from the perception of sense objects, and the intellect will find itself in God and in the realm of intelligible realities.

-- Intelligible natures that can be grasped only by the intellect belong to the realm of divinity, while the senses and sense objects have been created for the service of the intellect.

-- Use the senses and sense objects as a means to spiritual contemplation but, on the contrary, do not use what provokes the desire of the flesh as food for the senses.

-- You have been commanded to mortify the acts of the body (Colossians 3:5), so that when the soul has been made dead to pleasure you may bring it back to life through your ascetic labors.

-- Be ruled by God and rule over your senses; and, being on a higher level, do not give authority to what is inferior to you.

-- God, who is eternal, limitless and infinite, has promised eternal, limitless and inexpressible blessings to those who obey him.

-- The intellect's role is to live in God and to meditate on Him, His providence and His awesome judgments.

-- You have the power to incline either upwards or downwards: choose what is superior and you will bring what is inferior into subjection.

-- Because they are the work is of God, who is Himself good, the senses and sensible objects are good; but they cannot in any way be compared with the intellect and with intelligible realities.

-- The Lord has created intelligent and noetic beings with a capacity to receive the Spirit and to attain knowledge of Himself; He has brought into existence the senses and sense objects to serve such beings.

-- An intellect that does not control the senses will fall into evil because of them; deceived by the pleasure of sense objects, it depraves itself.

-- While controlling your senses, control your memory as well; for when its prepossessions are roused through the senses they stir up the passions.

-- Keep your body under control, and pray constantly; in this way you will soon be free from the thoughts that arise from your prepossessions.

-- Devote yourself ceaselessly to the words of God: application to them destroys the passions.

-- Spiritual reading, vigils, prayer and psalmody prevent the intellect from being deluded by the passions.

-- Keep the commandments, and you will find peace; love God, and you will attain spiritual knowledge.

-- As by nature the soul gives life to the body, so virtue and spiritual knowledge give life to the soul.

-- In controlling your self-esteem, beware of unchastity, so that you do not shun acclaim only to fall into dishonor.

-- Eschewing self-esteem, look to God, and beware lest you become presumptuous or unchaste.

-- A sign of self-esteem is an ostentatious manner; of pride, anger and scorn of others.

-- In cutting out gluttony, beware lest you seek the esteem of others, making a display of the pallor of your face.

-- To fast well is to enjoy simple food in small amounts and to shun other people's esteem.

-- After fasting until late in the day, do not eat your fill, lest in so doing you build up again what you have pulled down (Galatians 2:18).

-- If you do not drink wine, do not glut yourself with water either; for if you do you will be providing yourself with the same fuel for unchastity.

-- Pride deprives us of God's help, making us over-reliant on ourselves and arrogant towards other people.

-- Prayer with tears, and having no scorn for anyone, destroy pride; but so do chastisements inflicted against our will.

-- Chastisement through the trials imposed on us is a spiritual rod, teaching us humility when in our foolishness we think too much of ourselves.

-- The intellect's task is to reject any thought that secretly vilifies a fellow being.

-- Just as the gardener who does not weed his garden chokes his vegetables, so the intellect that does not purify its thoughts I wasting its efforts.

-- A wise man is one who accepts advice, especially that of a spiritual father counseling him in accordance with the will of God.

-- A man deadened by the passions is impervious to advice and will not accept any spiritual correction.

-- He who does not accept advice will never go by the straight path, but will always find himself among cliffs and gorges. END

from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware, trans., The Philokalia -- vol. II, (London: Faber and Faber, 1981), pp. 325 - 327.