Nil Sorsky: Godly Sorrow Produces a Repentance that Leads to Salvation; Worldly Sorrow Produces Death Wednesday, Mar 5 2014 

Nil_SorskyWe have a great struggle to wage against the evil spirit of sorrow, which brings the soul into despair and perdition.

If the sorrow is occasioned by other people, we have to suffer it with joy, and pray for those who have saddened us, as I said before, bearing in mind that whatever befalls us does so with God’s sanction.

Whatever the Lord sends us, He does only for the benefit and salvation of our soul.

It may be that, in the beginning, it doesn’t seem to bring us any benefit, but later we’ll realize that what God has allowed us to go through has been better for us than what we ourselves would have wanted to happen.

So we shouldn’t think in human terms, but should believe with certainty that the unsleeping eye of God sees all things and that nothing happens without His will.

It’s from the wealth of His mercy that these situations and temptations happen to us, so that we can earn our heavenly reward through our patience.

Because without temptations, no-one has ever been crowned.

This is why we should offer glory to God for everything, because He is our Dispenser and Saviour, as Saint Isaac the Syrian says: “The mouth that glorifies God is acceptable to God, and grace dwells in the heart which thanks God from its depths”.

Besides, we should avoid complaints and judgements against those who’ve saddened us and should pray for them, as the same saint says: God puts up with all the weaknesses that people have, but those who continually censure other people won’t go without correction.

Though we must have the soul-saving sorrow over the sins we commit, with hope in our repentance to God and in the knowledge that there’s no sin which defeats God’s love for us, since He forgives everyone who repents sincerely and prays to Him.

This sorrow is linked to joy (joyful sadness) and kindles in people the desire for everything spiritual and gives them patience in their trials. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death”, says Saint Paul (2 Cor. 7, 10).

So we should seek godly sorrow, because it brings internal repose, whereas the grief that proceeds from Satan should be expelled from our hearts, together with all the other passions, through prayer, the study of sacred texts and the receiving of Holy Communion.

Grief which is not from God and for the love of God is the cause of all evils, and, unless we free ourselves from it, despair will overcome us and our soul will be devoid of grace, overwhelmed with sloth and won’t even want to pray or read our sacred books.

Nil Sorsky (Russian Orthodox; c. 1433–1508): The Passions of Avarice, Anger, Sorrow and Sloth @ Pemptousia.

John Cassian: An incomprehensible and all-devouring flame… Thursday, Nov 7 2013 

Sf-IoanCasianSupplication is an imploring or petition concerning sins, in which one who is sorry for his present or past deeds asks for pardon….

Prayers are those by which we offer or vow something to God….

Intercessions we offer up for others….

Thanksgivings the mind in ineffable transports offers up to God.

[…] Supplication seems to belong more especially to beginners, who are still troubled by the stings and recollection of their sins.

Prayers belong to those who have already attained some loftiness of mind in their spiritual progress and the quest of virtue.

Intercessions belong to those who fulfil the completion of their vows by their works, and are so stimulated to intercede for others also through the consideration of their weakness, and the earnestness of their love.

Thanksgivings belong to those who have already torn from their hearts the guilty thorns of conscience.

Being now free from care, they can contemplate with a pure mind the beneficence of God and His compassions, which He has either granted in the past, or is giving in the present, or preparing for the future.

Thus they are borne onward with fervent hearts to that ardent prayer which cannot be embraced or expressed by the mouth of men.

Sometimes however the mind which is advancing to that perfect state of purity and which is already beginning to be established in it, will take in all these at one and the same time.

Like some incomprehensible and all-devouring flame, it will dart through them all and offer up to God inexpressible prayers of the purest force.

The Spirit Itself, intervening with groanings that cannot be uttered, while we ourselves understand not, pours forth these prayers to God, grasping at that hour and ineffably pouring forth in its supplications things so great that they cannot be uttered with the mouth nor even at any other time be recollected by the mind.

And thence it comes that in whatever degree any one stands, he is found sometimes to offer up pure and devout prayers.

Even in that first and lowly station which has to do with the recollection of future judgment, he who still remains under the punishment of terror and the fear of judgment is so smitten with sorrow for the time being that he is filled with no less keenness of spirit from the richness of his supplications than he who through the purity of his heart gazes on and considers the blessings of God and is overcome with ineffable joy and delight.

For, as the Lord Himself says, he begins to love the more, who knows that he has been forgiven the more.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 9, 11-15.

Bernard of Clairvaux: Jesus is a Physician Who Heals the Broken-Hearted and Binds Their Wounds Tuesday, Aug 20 2013 

Heiligenkreuz_Bernard_of_ClervauxThe person who…smarts at the remembrance of past deeds and says to God in bitterness of soul: “Do not condemn me,” or who may still be caught up in the snare of his own evil propensities, still perilously tempted, this person needs a physician, not a bridegroom; hence kisses and embraces are not for him, but only oil and ointments, remedies for his wounds.

Is not this how we too often feel? Is not this our experience at prayer, we who are tempted daily by our passions and filled with remorse for our past sins?

Good Jesus, from what great bitterness have you not freed me by your coming, time after time? When distress has made me weep, when untold sobs and groans have shaken me, have you not anointed my wounded conscience with the ointment of your mercy and poured in the oil of gladness?

How often has not prayer raised me from the brink of despair and made me feel happy in the hope of pardon? All who have had these experiences know well that the Lord Jesus is a physician indeed, “who heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”

And those who cannot lay claim to experience must for that very reason put their trust in him when he says: “The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me, he has sent me to bring good news to the humble, to bind up the broken-hearted.”

And if they should still be in doubt, let them draw near and put it to the test and so learn by inward experience what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”

[…] When men grow weary of studying spiritual doctrine and become lukewarm ~ when their spiritual energies are drained away, then they walk in sadness along the ways of the Lord. T

hey fulfill the tasks enjoined on them with hearts that are tired and arid, they grumble without ceasing, they complain of the long days and the long nights in words like those of Job: “When I lie down I say: ‘When shall I arise?’ And then I shall be waiting for evening.”

If when we are subject to these moods, the compassionate Lord draws near to us on the way we are traveling, and being from heaven begins to talk to us about heavenly truths, sings our favourite air from among the songs of Zion, discourses on the city of God, on the peace of that city, on the eternity of that peace and on the life that is eternal, I assure you that this happy discourse will bear along as in a carriage the man who has grown tired and listless; it drives all trace of aversion from the hearer’s mind and weariness from his body.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermons on the Song of Songs, 32, 3-4.

Silouan the Athonite: The love and grief of the Mother of God are boundless and beyond our understanding Friday, Mar 29 2013 

Silouan the AthoniteWhen the soul abides in the love of God – how good and gracious and festive all things are!

But even with God’s love sorrows continue, and the greater the love the greater the sorrow. Never by a single thought did the Mother of God sin, nor did she ever lose grace, yet vast were her sorrows.

When she stood at the foot of the Cross her grief was as boundless as the ocean and her soul knew torment incomparably worse than Adam’s when he was driven from Paradise, in that the measure of her love was beyond compare greater than the love which Adam felt when he was in Paradise.

That she remained alive was only because the Lord’s might sustained her, for it was His desire that she should behold His Resurrection, and live on after His Ascension to be the comfort and joy of the Apostles and the new Christian peoples.

We cannot attain to the full the love of the Mother of God, so we cannot thoroughly comprehend the grief. Her love was complete. She had an illimitable love for God and her Son, but she loved the people too with great love.

What, then, must she have felt when those same people whom she loved so dearly, and whose salvation she desired with all her being, crucified her beloved Son?

We cannot fathom such things, since there is little love in us for God and man.

Just as the love of the Mother of God is boundless and passes our understanding, so is her grief boundless and beyond our understanding.

O holy Virgin Mary, tell us, thy children, of thy love on earth for thy Son and God. Tell us how thy spirit rejoiced in God thy Savior.

Tell us of how thou didst look upon His fair countenance, and reflect that this was He whom all the heavenly hosts wait upon in awe and love.

Tell us what thy soul felt when thou didst bear the wondrous Babe in thine arms.

Tell us of how thou didst rear Him, how, sick at heart, thou and Joseph sought Him three long days in Jerusalem.

Tell us of thine agony when the Lord was delivered up to be crucified, and lay dying on the Cross.

Tell us what joy was thine over the Resurrection.

Tell us how thy soul languished after the Lord’s Ascension.

We long to know of thy life on earth with the Lord, but thou wast not minded to commit all these things to writing, and didst veil thy secret heart in silence.

Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938; Eastern Orthodox): from St. Silouan the Athonite, by Archimandrite Sophrony, pp. 390-391 @ Mystagogy.

Silouan the Athonite: Adam wept: “what hinders Him from dwelling in me?” Sunday, Mar 24 2013 

Silouan the AthoniteAdam knew great grief when he was banished from paradise, but when he saw his son Abel slain by Cain his brother, Adam’s grief was even heavier. His soul was heavy, and he lamented and thought:

Peoples and nations will descend from me, and multiply, and suffering will be their lot, and they will live in enmity and seek to slay one another.

And his sorrow stretched wide as the sea, and only the soul that has come to know the Lord and the magnitude of His love for us can understand.

I, too, have lost grace and call with Adam:

Be merciful unto me, O Lord! Bestow on me the spirit of humility and love.


O love of the Lord! He who has known Thee seeks Thee, tireless, day and night, crying with a loud voice:

I pine for Thee, O Lord, and seek Thee in tears.
How should I not seek Thee?
Thou didst give me to know Thee by the Holy Spirit,
And in her knowing of God my soul is drawn to seek Thee in tears.


Adam wept:

The desert cannot pleasure me; nor the high mountains, nor meadow nor forest, nor the singing of birds.
I have no pleasure in any thing.
My soul sorrows with a great sorrow:
I have grieved God.
And were the Lord to set me down in paradise again,
There, too, would I sorrow and weep – ‘O why did I grieve my beloved God?’


The soul of Adam fell sick when he was exiled from paradise, and many were the tears he shed in his distress. Likewise every soul that has known the Lord yearns for Him, and cries:

Where art Thou, O Lord? Where art Thou, my Light?
Why hast Thou hidden Thy face from me?
Long is it since my soul beheld Thee,
And she wearies after Thee and seeks Thee in tears.
Where is my Lord?
Why is it that my soul sees Him not?
What hinders Him from dwelling in me?
This hinders Him: Christ-like humility and love for my enemies art not in me.
God is love insaturable, love impossible to describe.


Adam walked the earth, weeping from his heart’s manifold ills, while the thoughts of his mind were on God; and when his body grew faint, and he could no longer shed tears, still his spirit burned with longing for God, for he could not forget paradise and the beauty thereof; but even more was it the power of His love which caused the soul of Adam to reach out towards God.

Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938; Eastern Orthodox): Adam’s Lament (extract), from St. Silouan the Athonite, by Archimandrite Sophrony @ Mystagogy.

John Chrysostom: To Forgive not Merely with the Lips, but from the Heart Tuesday, Nov 13 2012 

God requires two things of us here: to condemn ourselves for our sins, and to forgive others.

And we are to do the former for the sake of the latter, that this may become easier (for he who considers his own sins is more indulgent to his fellow-servant).

And we are to forgive not merely with the lips, but from the heart.

Let us not then thrust the sword into ourselves by being revengeful.

For what grief has he who has grieved you inflicted upon you which is as bad as that which you will work unto yourself by keeping your anger in mind, and drawing upon yourself the sentence from God to condemn you?

If you are watchful, and keep yourself under control, the evil will come round upon his head, and it will be he that will suffer harm.

But if you should carry on being indignant and displeased, then you yourself will undergo the harm – not from him, but from yourself.

Say not then that he insulted you, and slandered you, and did unto you ills beyond number; for the more you say, so much the more do you declare him a benefactor.

For he has given you an opportunity to wash away your sins – so that the greater the injuries he has done you, so much more has he become for you a cause of a greater remission of sins.

For if we be willing, no one shall be able to injure us, but even our enemies shall benefit us in the greatest degree.

And why do I speak of men? For what can be more wicked than the devil? Yet nevertheless, even hence have we a great opportunity of approving ourselves, as the case of Job shows us.

But if even the devil has become a cause of obtaining crowns, why are you afraid of a man as an enemy?

See then how much you gain, bearing meekly the spiteful acts of your enemies.

First and greatest, you obtain deliverance from sins;

secondly, fortitude and patience;

thirdly, mildness and benevolence;

[…] fourthly, to be free from anger continually, to which nothing can be equal.

For of him that is free from anger, it is quite clear that he is delivered also from the despondency arising from anger, and will not spend his life on vain labours and sorrows.

For he that does not know how to hate, likewise does not know how to grieve, but will enjoy pleasure, and ten thousand blessings.

Accordingly, we punish ourselves by hating others, even as on the other hand we benefit ourselves by loving them.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homily 61,5 on St Matthew’s Gospel.

Isaac the Syrian: The scourge of Love Friday, Nov 2 2012 

Isaac the Syrian 3In the future age…one will not receive from another the revelation of God’s glory unto the gladness and joy of his soul.

But to each by himself the Master will give according to the measure of his excellence and his worthiness, and he will not receive the gift from his comrade as he does here.

[…] For one is the Giver there, Who gives without mediation to those who receive; and those who win joy, procure it from Him.

For they do not perceive Him through diverse intellections, but by direct revelation of Him, without departing from Him through thoughts.

There the order of those who teach and those who learn ceases, and on One alone hangs the ardent love of all.

I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love.

Nay, what is so bitter and vehement as the torment of love?

I mean that those who have become conscious that they have sinned against love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment.

For the sorrow caused in the heart by sin against love is more poignant than any torment.

It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the love of God.

Love is the offspring of knowledge of the truth which, as is commonly confessed, is given to all.

The power of love works in two ways. It torments sinners, even as happens here when a friend suffers from a friend.

But it becomes a source of joy for those who have observed its duties.

Thus I say that this is the torment of Gehenna: bitter regret.

But love inebriates the souls of the sons of Heaven by its delectability.

Someone was asked, “When will a man know that he has received the remission of his sins?”

He answered, “When in his soul he becomes conscious that he has completely hated them with his whole heart, and when he governs himself in his external actions in a manner opposed to his former way of life.”

Such a man, as having already hated his sin, is confident that he has received remission of his sins by reason of the good witness of his conscience which he has acquired, after the saying of the Apostle, “A conscience uncondemned is a witness of itself” (Cf. Rom. 2:15).

And may we also gain remission of our sins by the grace and love for man of the unoriginate Father with His only‑begotten Son and the Holy Spirit, to Whom be glory unto the ages of ages.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Homily 28, from The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian, tr. Dana Miller (Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, Mass. 1984) @ Fr Luke Dysinger, OSB.

Columbanus: We Are Exiles from the Lord Friday, Jun 8 2012 

It is natural for travellers to hasten toward their native land, and natural too that they should have trouble on the way and safety at home.

So let us who are on the way to it hasten toward our native land; for our whole life is like a single day’s journey.

And therefore let us devote ourselves to divine rather than human affairs, and like exiles be always sighing for our native land and longing for it.

For the journey’s end must always be wished and longed for by travellers, and so because we ourselves are travellers and exiles in the world we should always be thinking of the journey’s end, that is, the end of our life, for our journey brings us to our native land.

But, there, all who have been travelling the world get different lots according to their merits.

The good travell­ers come home because they love the journey. Let us not love the journey to our native land, so that we do not lose our eternal home, for that is the kind of home we have, and which we must love.

Let this, then, be our constant aim: to live our way like travellers, exiles, visitors to the world, without clinging to any worldly ambitions or longing to fulfil any worldly desires, but to fill our minds entirely with heavenly and spiritual images, singing in thought and deed: When shall I come and appear before the face of my God?

For, my soul thirsts for the strong and living God. And saying with Paul: I long to die and be with Christ.

Let us realise that although We are exiles from the Lord as long as we are in the body, we are present in the sight of God.

Therefore spurning all laziness, putting away all lukewarmness, let us do our best to please him who is present everywhere.

Then, with a good conscience, we may pass happily from our journey in this world to the holy and eternal home of our eternal Father, from the present to the absent, from sorrow to joy, from transitory to eternal, from earth to heaven, from the region of the dead to that of the living.

And then we shall see, face to face, the world of heaven and the king of kings, our Lord Jesus Christ, ruling his kingdom with right government, to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Columbanus (540-615): Instr. De compunctione, VIII.1-2 (PL 80:244-246); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time Year 2.

Jerome: Do Not Despair of His Mercy, for Great Mercy Will Take Away Great Sins Friday, Aug 26 2011 

St.-Jerome-of-StridoniumReturn to me with all your heart and show a spirit of repentance with fasting, weeping and mourning; so that while you fast now, later you may be satisfied, while you weep now, later you may laugh, while you mourn now, you may some day enjoy consolation.

It is customary for those in sorrow or adversity to tear their garments…. I bid you not to tear your garments but rather to rend your hearts which are laden with sin. Like wine skins, unless they have been cut open, they will burst of their own accord.

After you have done this, return to the Lord your God, from whom you had been alienated by your sins. Do not despair of his mercy, no matter how great your sins, for great mercy will take away great sins.

For the Lord is gracious and merciful and prefers the conversion of a sinner rather than his death. Patient and generous in his mercy, he does not give in to human impatience but is willing to wait a long time for our repentance.

So extraordinary is the Lord’s mercy in the face of evil, that if we do penance for our sins, he regrets his own threat and does not carry out against us the sanctions he had threatened. So by the changing of our attitude, he himself is changed.

[…]  In like manner, given all that we have said above – that God is kind and merciful, patient, generous with his forgiveness, and extraordinary in his mercy toward evil – lest the magnitude of his clemency make us lax and negligent, he adds this word through his prophet: Who knows whether he will not turn and repent and leave behind him a blessing?

In other words, he says: “I exhort you to repentance, because it is my duty, and I know that God is inexhaustibly merciful, as David says: Have mercy on me, God, according to your great mercy, and in the depths of your compassion, blot out all my iniquities.

“But since we cannot know the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and knowledge of God, I will temper my statement, expressing a wish rather than taking anything for granted, and I will say: Who knows whether he will not turn and repent?”

[…] To these words the prophet adds: Offerings and tribulations for the Lord our God. What he is saying to us in other words is that, God having blessed us and forgiven us our sins, we will then be able to offer sacrifice to God.

Jerome (347-420): Commentary on Joel, from the Office of Readings for Friday in the 21st week of Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

Bernard of Clairvaux: “Why So Downcast, My Soul? Why Do You Sigh Within Me?” Tuesday, Aug 2 2011 

(following on from here)

Who indeed can comprehend what an abundance of goodness is contained in that brief expression: “God will be all in all”?

Not to speak of the body, I discern in the soul three faculties, the reason, the will, the memory, and these three may be said to be identified with the soul itself.

Everyone who is guided by the Spirit realizes how greatly in the present life these three are lacking in integrity and perfection.

And what reason can there be for this, except that God is not yet “all in all”?

Hence it comes about that the reason very often falters in its judgments, the will is agitated by a fourfold perturbation and the memory confused by its endless forgetfulness.

Man, noble though he be, was unwillingly been subjected to this triple form of futility, but hope nonetheless was left to him.

For he who satisfies with good the desire of the soul will one day himself be for the reason, fullness of light, for the will, the fullness of peace, for the memory, eternity’s uninterrupted flow.

Truth! Love! Eternity! Oh blessed and beatifying Trinity!

To you the wretched trinity that I bear within me sends up its doleful yearnings because of the unhappiness of its exile.

Departing from you, in what errors, what pains, what fears it has involved itself!

[…] And still, why so downcast, my soul, why do you sigh within me?

Put your hope in God. I shall praise him yet, when error will have gone from the reason, pain from the will, and every trace of fear from the memory.

Then will come that state for which we hope, with its admirable serenity, its fullness of delight, its endless security.

The God who is truth is the source of the first of these gifts; the God who is love, of the second; the God who is all-powerful, of the third.

And so it will come to pass that God will be all in all, for the reason will receive unquenchable light, the will imperturbable peace, the memory an unfailing fountain from which it will draw eternally.

I wonder if it seems right to you that we should assign that first operation to the Son, the second to the Holy Spirit, the last to the Father.

[…] Consider too that the children of this world experience a corresponding threefold temptation from the allurements of the flesh, the glitter of life in the world, the self-fulfillment patterned on Satan.

These three include all the artifices by which the present life deceives its unhappy lovers, even as St John proclaimed: “All that is in the world is the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.”

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermons on the Song of Songs, 11, 5-6.

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