Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Wisdom of the Pilgrim

The following are some interesting quotes I collected quite a while ago while reading The Candid Narrations of a Pilgrim to His Spiritual Father. The story, more commonly known in English as The Way of the Pilgrim, is of a 19th century Russian mendicant practitioner of hesychasm. In addition to being a wonderful tale and an edifying spiritual text, the narrative offers an enticing look into the Russian tradition of hesychasm and the idiosyncrasies of Slavic monasticism with its emphasis on starets. I imagine, were I to take it up again, I would find many more inspirational quotes. Below are simply the notes I had from some years ago:

By the grace of God I am a Christian, by my deeds a great sinner, and by calling a homeless rover of the lowest status in life.

And one of the most lamentable things is the vanity of elementary knowledge which drives people to measure the Divine by a human yardstick.

...from now on call on the name of Jesus without counting. Submit yourself to the will of God in humility, looking to Him for assistance. I firmly believe that He will not abandon you but direct your steps.

And now, I am wandering about repeating incessantly the Prayer of Jesus. To me it has greater value than anything else on earth. Occasionally I walk seventy versts or so and do not feel it at all. I am conscious of only one thing, my prayer. When biter cold pierces me, I say it more eagerly and warm up in no time. When I am hungry I begin to call on the Name of Jesus more often and forget about food. When I am ill and rheumatic pains set in my back and legs, I concentrate on the prayer and no longer notice the discomfort. When people to me wrong, my wrath and indignation are quickly forgotten as soon as I remember the sweetness of the prayer of Jesus. In a way I have become a half-witted person; I have no anxiety and no interest in the vanities of the world, for which I care no longer.

And when I prayed in my heart bearing all this in mind, everything about me appeared to be pleasing and lovely. It was as though the trees, the grass, the birds, the earth, the air and the light were saying they existed for the sake of man, in testimony and proof of the love of God for mankind. It was as if they were saying that everything prayed and praised God.
A soldier's response to a monk who suggested reading the Gospels as a cure for alcoholism:

I listened to him and Said: 'How can your Gospels help me when my own efforts and medical treatment have failed to stop me from drinking?" I spoke in that way because I never read the Gospels. 'Don't say that,' answered the monk. 'I am sure it will help you.' And he brought me this very book the following day. As I glanced at it and tried to read a little, I said to the monk: 'No, I won't take it. I can't understand it and I am not familiar with Church Slavonic.' The monk, however, insisted that there is grace-giving power in the words of the Gospels, for they relate what our Lord himself said. 'It is unimportant if you do not understand; just go on reading,' he urged me. 'A saint said once upon a time: you may not understand the Word of God, but the devils do, and tremble.'

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