Are Ascetics the Only Serious Christians?
A Reflection from The Prologue of Ohrid: A Monk on Monasticism (January 31)
Although the Holy Fathers praised monasticism as the angelic state, and although many of the greatest saints lived their lives and attained perfection in the soundless and lifeless desert, nevertheless, the Orthodox Church does not recommend the tonsure to all the faithful. "Neither were all those in the desert saved nor were all those in the world lost," said one saint. To a city dweller who, with no inclination for monasticism, desired to enter the monastery, St. Niphon said, "My child, a place neither saves nor destroys a man, but deeds save or destroy. For him who does not fulfill all the commandments of the Lord, there is no benefit from a sacred place or from a sacred rank. King Saul lived in the midst of royal luxury and he perished. King David lived in the same kind of luxury and he was saved. Judas was numbered among the apostles and he went to hades. Whoever says that it is impossible to be saved with a wife and children deceives himself. Abraham had a wife and children, 318 servants and handmaidens and much gold and silver, but, nevertheless, he was called the Friend of God. Oh, how many servants of the Church and lovers of the desert have been saved! How many aristocrats and soldiers! How many artisans and field-workers! Be pious and be a lover of men, and you will be saved!"
To Resist Temptation and Flee the Devil
A Reflection from The Prologue of Ohrid: A Monk on the Last Days (February 5)
The monks asked the great Abba Ischyrion, "What have we done?"
"We have fulfilled the commandments of God," Ischyrion replied.
"And what will those do who come after us?"
"They will do what we do, but only half as much."
"And those after them?"
"Before the end of time, they will not keep the monastic rule, but such misfortunes and temptations will befall them that, through their patience during those assaults and temptations, they will prove themselves greater than us and our fathers in the Kingdom of God."