We came from Palestine to Egypt and went to see one of the fathers. He offered us hospitality and we said, “Why do you not keep the fast when visitors come to see you? In Palestine they keep it.” He replied, “Fasting is always with me but I cannot always have you here. It is useful and necessary to fastbut we choose whether we will fast or not. What God commands is perfect love. I receive Christ in you and so I must do everything possible to serve you with love. When I have sent you on your way, then I can continue my rule of fasting. The sons of the bridegroom cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them; when he is taken away from them, then they will fast.”
One of the beloved of Christ who had the gift of mercy used to say, “The one who is filled with mercy ought to offer it in the same manner in which he has received it, for such is the mercy of God.”
Bishop Nikolai writes: “Once Christ enters by faith into the heart of man, that man experiences the inexpressible taste of the love of Christ. He creates us from love, takes flesh from love, endures shame and death from love, and from love opens the heavens and reveals the deathless glory that has been prepared for us.”
At that time a meeting was held at Sketis about a brother who had sinned. The Fathers spoke, but Abba Pior kept silent. Later, he got up and went out. He took a sack and filled it with sand and carried it on his shoulder; then he put a little sand into a small bag that he carried in front of him. When the Fathers asked him what this meant he said, ‘In this sack which contains much sand, are my sins which are many; I have put them behind me so that I might not be troubled about them and so that I might not weep. And behold, here are the little sins of my brother which are in front of me, and I spend my time judging them. This is not right. Rather, I ought to carry my sins in front of me and concern myself with them, begging God to forgive me.’ The Fathers stood up and said, ‘Verily, this is the way of salvation.’
A brother sinned, and the presbyter ordered him to go out of church. But Abba Bessarion rose up and went out with him, saying: “I too am a sinner.”
When [a monk] realizes that he is not only worse than others, but that he is responsible to all men for all and everything, for all human sins, national and individual, only then the aim of our seclusion is attained. For know, dear ones, that every one of us is undoubtedly responsible for all men and everything on earth, not merely through the general sinfulness of creation, but each one personally for all mankind and every individual man. This knowledge is the crown of life for the monk and for every man. For monks are not a special sort of men, but only what all men ought to be. Only through that knowledge, our heart grows soft with infinite, universal, inexhaustible love.
In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Father Zosima
Stichera at the Praises, Matins, Meatfare Sunday, Lenten Triodion
Daniel the prophet, a man greatly beloved, when he saw the power of God, cried out: “The court sat for judgment, and the books were opened.” Consider well, my soul: dost thou fast? Then despise not thy neighbor. Dost thou abstain from food? Condemn not thy brother, lest thou be sent away into the fire, there to burn as wax. But may Christ lead thee without stumbling into his kingdom.
Let us cleanse ourselves, brethren, with the queen of the virtues: for behold, she is come, bringing us a wealth of blessings. She quells the uprising of the passions, and reconciled sinners to the Master. Therefore let us welcome her with gladness, and cry aloud to Christ our God: O risen from the dead, who alone art free from sin, guard us uncondemned as we give thee glory.