The Way to Salvation

Optina Patericon

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The beginning of our salvation consists in giving up our desires and understanding, and fulfilling what God desiresSt. Ambrose of Optina

Without winter there would be no spring, without spring there would be no summer. So it is in the spiritual life: a little consolation, and then a little sorrow, and thus little by little one’s path to salvation is formed... St. Anatoly of Optina

If man could teach the ways of the Lord, that is, teach how to live in order to be saved, then the learned theologians would be the first among the saved. However, in fact, this is not the way things turn out to be; that is, very many learned people do not walk the way of the Lord... But what does one require in order to learn the ways of the Lord? It is necessary that one be meek, humble, and then the Lord Himself will teach you how to walk the way of the Lord. To know this is especially important at the present time when the scarcity of mentors is so evident. With the help of God humble yourself, be meek, have no malice against your neighbors and prepare your soul for the reception of Divine teaching by means of a meek, good life, and the Lord Himself will teach you His ways.St. Nikon of Optina

If all you do is wait for favorable conditions for your salvation to come, you will never begin to lead a life pleasing to God.St. Nikon of Optina

When one learns to play the violin, then at first they make very unpleasant, wrong, sharp sounds... But gradually one gets the hang of it, begins to learn how to play, the sound becomes more and more correct, and, at last, gentle fine sounds of wonderful music pour forth. One succeeds in this more quickly, the other takes longer, while another, despite all effort, does not get better at his playing—every time it turns out sounding not as he would like it to be. One needs patience. It is the same way in the spiritual life. Man wants one thing, but in deed does something completely different, not that what he wants. His mind wants one thing, while his senses demand another. And a person sees and with pain feels that this is all wrong, he understands that what he’s doing is not good, that things are not as they should be, and even gets discouraged seeing that he is not succeeding in the struggle with the passions, that his spiritual life is not getting better. But no; one must not become despondent. We have to endure... We must patiently compel ourselves to fulfill every virtue for the sake of the Lord, soberly monitor all of our feelings, thoughts and deeds, call upon the help of the Lord our God, and come to a state of humility and realize that by our own deeds, without divine help, one will not succeed in anything. And when, at last, the vessel of the soul and body of man is prepared, when the strings of his psaltery are tuned in all manner of humility, patience and piety... then the time will come, and magnificent song will be heard, and the wonderful sound of the spiritual life will pour forth, and many shall see, and shall fear, and shall hope in the Lord (Ps. 39:4), for this unspeakable singing comes forth as a result of our union with the Lord.St. Nikon of Optina

The judgments of man are one thing, and the judgments of God are another. The Lord says through His prophet: For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts (Is. 55:9). According to human opinion, the way to salvation, it would seem, has to be a smooth, quiet and peaceful way, but according to the Gospel, it is sorrowful, strait, and narrow (Mt. 7:14). Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword (Mt. 10:34), in order to separate the God-loving from the indulgent, and the humble from the lovers of the world. And, as a matter of fact, our salvation, according to the words of St. Peter of Damascus, lies between fear and hope, so that we may neither be self-reliant nor despair, but with good faith and hope in the mercy and help of God may try to lead a life in the fulfillment of the commandments of God. You mistakenly seek a completely, perfectly peaceful state of soul on earth, being incited to do so by the one who tempts us from the left, opposing side; and, in addition to that, you think this way simply out of spiritual inexperience, for such a state is something that belongs to the future age, whereas in the world you will have tribulation (Jn. 16:33), said the Lord to his apostles and everyone else.St. Ambrose of Optina

You have a certain weakness: you branch out the simple way of the Lord into many different paths, while the Holy Scriptures and experience itself prove that it is necessary to simplify the Gospel way of life, combining the lesser commandments and virtues into larger ones. The Holy Psalmist David speaks of this thus: all the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth (Ps .24:10)... From hereon let’s lay a firm foundation and not branch out the way of Christ into many diverse parts, but gather together into one the most important things: to love the Lord with all our soul and to have peace and reverence with all, not thinking badly or suspiciously of anyone.St. Ambrose of Optina

Translation by Feodor Nemets


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