Mark 8:

34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”  And He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.”

“But He says not, a man should not spare himself, but what is more, that he should deny himself, as if he had nothing in common with himself, but face danger, and look upon such things as if another were suffering; and this is really to spare himself; for parents then most truly act kindly to their children, when they give them up to their masters, with an injunction not to spare them. Again, He shews the degree to which a man should deny himself, when He says, And take up his cross, by which He means, even to the most shameful death.”


A man that only dreams of this perishable life and does not think of the eternal, heavenly life! Consider–what is your transitory life? It is a constant laying in of fuel (meaning food) in order that the fire of our life may continue to burn and should not grow feeble, in order that our house (meaning the body) should keep warm, and that the continually changing life of our body should be restored by means of the nourishing parts of the organs of other living creatures, who are deprived of life in order to keep up the life of our body. Indeed, what an insignificant cobweb your life is, man! You are obliged twice daily to strengthen the interior of your body by means of supports to keep it sound (that is, you are obliged to fortify yourself twice every day by food and drink), and every night, daily, you must lock up your soul in your body, shutting up all the sensations of the body, like the shutters of a house, in order that the soul may not live outside the body, but within it, giving it warmth and life. What a cobweb your life is, and how easy it is to tear it asunder! Be humble and reverent before the Life eternal!


Let everybody remember constantly that he is God’s–soul and body–and that he depends on God for all his spiritual and bodily wants every moment of his life; and therefore let him turn to God every time that he feels a want of anything (either for the soul or for the body): when, for instance, he is oppressed in body or soul–that is, when he is stricken by sorrows (spiritual sickness) or by passions (bodily sickness); also when he is threatened by the inconstancy of the elements (of fire, water, air, storm); likewise when he is about to undertake anything. Let him then remember the Author of all things, Who created everything from nothing, and Who has bestowed various powers upon His creatures, so that they may accomplish many and various works.


Avoid such a mode of life as tends to living for carnal motives and desires only; that is, only to sleeping, eating, dressing, walking, then again, to eating, drinking, and walking. Such a mode of life at last completely kills a man’s spiritual life, making him quite earthly, and a creature of the earth; whilst the Christian, even during his life on earth, ought to be heavenly. “For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “Our Father, which art in heaven!” We ought to read the Word of God more frequently, pray more often at home and in church, and in every place, of course more inwardly than outwardly; to meditate more often on God, the creation, the calling and predestination of man; on God’s providence, the redemption, God’s unspeakable love to mankind, the lives and glorious deeds of the Saints, who pleased God by their manifold virtues, and on other subjects; also to fast, to examine our conscience, to repent sincerely and deeply of our sins, and so on!


Has each one of us a guardian angel? He has, and must have. The nature of a spirit is extraordinarily active, and cannot remain inactive; we see this in our soul. The nature of a good spirit necessarily seeks activity and the widening of the circle of this activity, and the spreading of the kingdom of truth and good; as, on the contrary, the nature of an evil spirit also seeks an activity corresponding to it, and the spreading of the kingdom of falsehood and of every evil. We…As we clearly feel the presence of the one, so we also feel the presence of the other, although, through self-love, we are in the habit of ascribing all good thoughts, feelings, dispositions, and intentions to ourselves and not to our guardian angel. Would the number of guardian angels be sufficient for every person to have a guardian angel? Abundantly sufficient.


Every place is the place of God’s presence and sovereignty. Hence it is undoubtedly true that the Lord looks upon us with the eyes of the holy icons as with His own, and can speak to us by the mouths of the holy icons as by His own. Also, owing to the fact that the Lord is in every place, His cross, His name work miracles. His icons show themselves to be wonder-working, and are in every case places of His gracious presence. My thought freely penetrates edifices and their walls, mountains, seas, heaven, and earth. By his thought man is the likeness of the Godhead, Which is an infinite and omnipresent Spirit. Does not God penetrate and fill all things, as the Creator of all?


Both learned and unlearned young men seldom go to church, and in general do not attend to their spiritual education, looking upon it as unnecessary and giving themselves up to worldly vanity. Attention must be paid to this. It is the fruit of pride, of want of spiritual development. They consider attendance at church and Divine service as the business of the common people and women, forgetting that, in the temple, Angels officiate with trembling, together with men, and regard this as their highest bliss. Does not coldness towards public worship, towards Divine service, proceed from the fact that some do not understand it, and that others, although they have studied the science of Divine service, have been taught it drily, without any examples, only according to the understanding? whilst Divine service, being the high contemplation of the mind, is at the same time, and pre-eminently, the peace, sweetness and blessedness of the heart.