The Shepherd, October 2005

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“GOD DOES NOT JUDGE men with inexorable severity. He bears in mind the weakness of their nature. He does not measure their inconsistency and lightness with the immutability of His own Divinity; but, essentially just and merciful, He only requires of them what He knows to be in proportion to their strength.”

St Hilary of Poitiers, + 368 A.D.

“HOW MUCH we ought to admire the profound wisdom of our Divine Legislator,Who, willing to guide us in the paths of virtue, shows us that the first step towards learning to do well is to ‘cease to do evil.’ Had He begun by exhorting us to perfection, we should scarcely have had the courage even to make the attempt; but in proposing to us what is comparatively easily done, He tries our strength by degrees. It is with piety as with the mysterious ladder that was shown to the Patriarch Jacob, the foot of which rested on the earth but the summit of reached the skies. It is only by degrees that we can ascend, but it is by degrees that we can finally arrive at the highest elevation of which our nature is capable. The first step that we take in mounting a ladder is that which disengages our foot from the earth, so, in the scale of religion, the first step towards the attainment of good is the estranging ourselves from the practice of evil.”

Saint Basil the Great, + 379 A.D.

“THE SCRIPTURES do not deprive us of anything given by God for our use, but curb immoderation and correct lack of judgment. In other words they do not forbid eating, bearing children or having money and spending it rightly, but they do forbid gluttony, adultery and so on. They do not even forbid us to think of these things - for they are made to be thought about - but they forbid thinking passionately of them.”

Ven. Maximus the Confessor, + 662 A.D.

“THE WAR AT SODOM (Genesis, chapter 14) can be seen as an allegory on the five senses. The five kings are the five senses which, up to the twelfth year of childhood, enjoy the bodily pleasures and, in a sense, pay tribute to the Assyrian devil and his three associate kings, who are the three initial and universal passions of forgetfulness, ignorance and laziness. As soon as the mind begins to have discretion between good and evil, and to understand the harm one suffers, then the five senses are checked by the mind and they no longer want to pay tribute to the enemy, - that is, they do not want to give free reign to the passionate pleasure. This is why the enemy renews his attack, seeking to incite the senses to their usual pleasures, and overcomes them. Jesus, the Descendent of Abraham, when called upon to help, hears and responds. He strengthens the mind through His grace and liberates the senses from being completely overrun by the enemy.”

Ven. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, + 1809 A.D.

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