The Joy of Remembering God: Selected Sayings of St. Anthony of Optina



Do not be confused because dark thoughts often trouble you, for dark thoughts, like autumn clouds, come one after another and darken everything. But then they pass and the sky remains clear and pleasant. And so our thoughts wander, they wander around the wide world, but the mind remains planted in its place, and then it is quiet, and the soul becomes joyful. But our mind, from wandering here and there, becomes accustomed to the brief but often repeated prayer of Jesus, which may God grant you the habit of saying, and then your days will be bright.


When Christ the Savior Himself was obedient, it was not for a brief period of time, but unto death. Therefore, if we are always obedient we will always be happy. But to our sorrow, the cruel passion of self-love has made our will iron, i.e., unbending to obedience: often it seems to us that we are smart, and that we can see things better than others can, etc.


The Holy Church cries out: fasting is not avoiding food, but putting away all evil, controlling the tongue from idle talking and gossip, forbearing from anger, and abstaining from lust, falsehood, and flattery. Whoever fasts in this way, his fast is pleasing to God.


The continuation of our life is the continuation of God’s mercy to man, and therefore birthdays and name days should be conducted not so much with noise and dissipated celebrations as much as with piety.


It is very salutary to nourish your soul with the Eternal and Holy Bread. If a person should die on the very day when he has communed of the Holy Mysteries, the Holy Angels will receive his soul into their hands, for the sake of communion, and he will pass safely through the heavenly toll-gates.


There is joy in frequent remembrance of God, as it is written: I remembered God and I was gladdened (Ps. 76:4).


You must make every effort to restrain yourself, so as not to acquire the unfortunate habit of losing your temper. This unbearable vice is not as noticeable in oneself as it is in others, and those who become angry over nothing are deserving of the fire of Gehenna.


Complaining against God occurs mostly with people who are haughty or foolish.

Whatever might happen to us does not happen without God’s permission, as said by the Righteous Job: as it seemed good to the Lord, so has it come to pass (Job 1:21). And therefore like him we must endure unpleasant experiences in life and restrain ourselves from complaining, and not say: “Why is it this way, and not that way?”


It is impossible, in a short time, to acquire the habit of cutting off our will in word alone without the shedding of blood, i.e., without labors, since our previous life until now has passed in self-will.

If you sincerely desire to have freedom from the passions and from all spiritual ailments and blasphemous thoughts, and learn humility, you must spit out all your rebellious pride and trample it with your own feet. Through this your youth will be renewed as an eagle, and from a self-willed and sinful man you will be made an Angel of God, or at least smaller than the smallest of the angels, i.e., without wings.


Married life is a life blessed by God, and monastic life is a holy and angelic life; both of these ways of life are pleasing to God.

We must consider not marriage, but adultery to be vile, filthy, cursed and offensive to God. His Angels, and pious people. Adultery must be abhorred as a great abomination before men. It is better to agree to die a hundred deaths than to defile yourself with such a foul vice and anger God and be deprived of His Heavenly Kingdom. Therefore, all of us, both men and women, at gatherings must avoid amorous and adulterous glances, double entendres, bold movements of the body, and immodest attire, but we must at all times maintain modesty and good Christian propriety.


If you want to find consolation amid sorrows, with your heart quickly turn to the Lord, the One Comforter. Try yourself, according to the word of God, i.e., repent, correct yourself, believe in Jesus Christ with your heart and soul and flee to Him, as your only Savior. The more you pray to God in time of sorrow, the sooner you will feel sweet consolation.

That life goes on without sorrow—what can you do? For there has never been a person on earth so fortunate that has spent his whole life without sorrows and without tears, since we live not in the Kingdom of Heaven but in the valley of tears. But there is hope that they who sow with tears will reap with joy. Therefore cast your sorrows on the Lord and He will nourish you.

I advise you to cheer up with prayer, even if it is brief, and the trust that, just as after winter and severe bad weather, pleasant springtime arrives, so also after boredom pleasant delights quickly appear; and therefore console yourself with this hope.


The affairs of the world are so numerous that they could hardly be completed in a hundred years, and so important that they will not allow any kind of delay. To our misfortune, only God-pleasing works can be set aside without fear, some until morning, some until next year, and some even until old age, for which reason it often happens that they remain unfulfilled. I sincerely sympathize but cannot help in any way.

Can you place your hope in the world? Whom has it not deceived? To whom has it not lied? It promises much, but gives very little. Only those who hope in the Lord, according to the words of the Prophet David, do not sin, i.e., they are not deceived in their hope!


I ask you to pray for those who have offended you, saying: “O Lord, Who lovest mankind, forgive those who hates us and offend us, Thy servants (their names), for they know not what they do, and warm their heart to love us unworthy ones.”


That which is done with a blessing is greatly pleasing to God, so let us live that every small step of our lives is blessed.


Your spirit should not grow weary, but should become warm from spiritual reading, from it should come thoughts about eternity, and from prayer, even though it may be brief. Say to the Lord: “Gather my scattered mind, O Lord and humble my hardened heart with fear of Thee, and have mercy on me!” For without Divine help we are powerless; we cannot even deal with pesky flies, must less invisible enemies.


In the depths of His unfathomable wisdom, the Lord does not always fulfill our petitions immediately, but puts them off for some time. However, He does not leave unrewarded anything good done in His name. If He does not reward the mother and father, then He generously rewards their children and descendants, for the Lord is righteous, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.


When a man acquires a courageous spirit, then in times of all infirmities and physical ailments he can be peaceful and content with his situation.

What can you do? For the Lord has already established that our temporary life will not pass without sorrows, and it is said, “Always be mindful of your sickness and be sorrowful in your heart.” But what is more amazing is that not one holy man, no matter how holy and perfect he may have been, did not pass his life without having to endure something—and this so that man be not puffed up with pride. And if the saints endured, how much must we endure!

Bodily illness is sent to man from God not always as punishment for sin, but sometimes through His kindness for freeing or preserving us from spiritual sicknesses, which are incomparably more dangerous than physical ones.


Whoever overcomes one passion conquers one demon, and whoever overcomes tow passions conquers two demons, and whoever forsakes ten or more passions defeats a whole regiment of demons and from then on will enjoy spiritual peace.


If someone, relying on his own understanding, thinks that he has no need of a guide, he very quickly will stray from the correct path. Therefore, we must implore the Lord God with tears that He grant to us a wise instructor; owing to the seriousness of our malady, a physician who is experienced and skillful is needed. Therefore, the one who is ill must seek not so much a large and peaceful hospital, as he should a skillful physician.

Fathers are not only fathers when they pat their children on the head and pamper them, but they are also called fathers when they instruct and punish the child.

Like medical physicians, spiritual physicians do not all act in the same way. Some will allow the patient to eat and drink everything, while others will order them to keep to a strict diet. It is similar with spiritual fathers; there are those who absolve and forgive everything, while there are others who will interrogate you and who will impose a penance on you for everything; but the aim of them all is the same: to heal you.

See also
May the Lord Rule in Your Heart: Selected Sayings of St. Nektary of Optina May the Lord Rule in Your Heart: Selected Sayings of St. Nektary of Optina
St. Nektary of Optina
May the Lord Rule in Your Heart: Selected Sayings of St. Nektary of Optina May the Lord Rule in Your Heart: Selected Sayings of St. Nektary of Optina
St. Nektary of Optina
Take this advice for your whole life: if the superiors or those older than you suggest something, then no matter how difficult or how lofty it might seem, do not refuse. God will help you for your obedience.
Life is Blessedness! Selected sayings of St. Barsanuphius of Optina Life is Blessedness! Selected sayings of St. Barsanuphius of Optina
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Life is Blessedness! Selected sayings of St. Barsanuphius of Optina Life is Blessedness! Selected sayings of St. Barsanuphius of Optina
St. Barsanuphius of Optina
Life becomes blessedness for us when we learn to fulfill Christ’s commandments and to love Christ. Then it will be a joy to live, a joy to endure the afflictions that come upon us, while before us will glow the ineffable light of the Sun of Righteousness—the Lord. All the Gospel commandments begin with the word, “blessed:” blessed are the meek, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the peacemakers … From this it follows, as a truth, that the fulfilling of the commandment offers people the highest happiness.
 Counsels to a Christian on Unceasing Watchfulness over Oneself Counsels to a Christian on Unceasing Watchfulness over Oneself
St. Ambrose of Optina
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St. Ambrose of Optina
On June 27/July 10, the Church celebrates the uncovering of the relics of St. Ambrose of Optina. We offer to our readers a letter from the forthcoming book by Pokrov Publications, St. Ambrose of Optina. Letters to Laymen.
peter12/5/2018 7:31 pm
can you please pray for johanna
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