St. Nicholas Kabasilas: Doubting the Mysteries

“But, you will say, the priests who make the offerings are not always good men; some of them are guilty of the worst vices; so we are in the same doubt as we were before. When both the offerers are displeasing to God (and this does happen) where do the offerings receive the grace to be acceptable to God and accepted, consecrated and sanctifying? Surely, they cannot receive such grace; they must be truly unacceptable. We must therefore always be in doubt, since we can know nothing of the spiritual state either of the offerer or of the priest. ‘For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man which is in him’ (1 Cor. 2:11); therefore we have serious mistrust and doubt concerning the holy mysteries, and no confidence in them. And of what use is participation in the holy mysteries to the faithful if they lack firm belief?

Such arguments might be justified, and such doubts legitimate, if one regarded the priest as sovereign lord of the offering of the gifts; but he is not. That which brings about their offering is the grace which sanctifies them, since for them, to be offered is to be sanctified […]

Grace works all; the priest is only a minister, and that very ministry comes to him by grace; he does not hold it on his own account. For the priesthood is nothing other than a ministerial power over sacred things. But from what has been said it is clear that all the offerings sanctify the faithful always, since they are always accepted by God.”

Excerpt from A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy.

St. Syncletica on thoughts

“The soul, like a ship, when it is swallowed up by external waves, is overwhelmed by internal bilge water. Certainly, we are destroyed sometimes by external actions, and other times we are led astray by internal thoughts. Therefore, we must watch out for encounters with external spirits, and drain out the impurities of internal thoughts; and always be vigilant of thoughts, for they occur continuously. In reference to the external waves, when sailors cry out, often their salvation occurs by means of the nearest boat. But the bilge waters, often while the sea is silent and the sailors are sleeping, come in and drown them.”

St. Isaac of Syria on editing our life

“For so long as we are in this world, God does not affix His seal either to what is good or to what is evil…”

Life in the world is like a manuscript of writings that is still in rough draft. When a man wishes or desires to do so, he can add something or subtract from it, and make changes in the writings. But the life in the world to come is like documents written on clean scrolls and sealed with the royal seal, where no addition or deletion is possible. Therefore, so long as we are found in the midst of change, let us pay heed to ourselves; and while we have power over the manuscript of our life, which we have written by our own hand, let us strive earnestly to add to it by leading a good manner of life, and let us erase form it the failings of our former life. We have power to erase our debts from it as long as we are here. And God will take into account every change we make in it, so that we may be deemed worthy of eternal life before we go before the King and He sets His seal upon it. For so long as we are in this world, God does not affix His seal either to what is good or to what is evil, even up to the moment of our departure when the service of our fatherland is completed and we set out upon our journey.

St. Isaac of Syria. The Ascetical Homilies. Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 2011. Homily 62. [Text and image.]