Saint Paisius the Athonite: Reasoning is the Salt of Virtue

We need reasoning in everything that we do, so that it pleases God, and in every virtue so that it is really a virtue. Reasoning is the salt of virtue. That is why Christ says in the Gospel, Every sacrifice shall be salted with salt (Mark 9:49). For example, how much reasoning is needed when it comes to doing something good! Man must take into account his own strength, his spiritual condition, and so on. If he is overloaded, he will be unable to do anything at all, which is to the detriment of his whole spiritual life. That is why Fathers say, “Excess is the devil’s success”.

One must check with oneself. If he sees that he’s not strong enough, let him eat more. “Find out your measure,” says St. Nilus of Sinai.

Christian Duty

We have to be careful to preserve some yeast. It is our Christian duty. We have no right to leave behind a bad legacy.

A few years ago, various theologians, university professors, and other eminent persons gathered in Geneva for a “pre-Council conference”. They decided to abolish the Nativity Fast and St. Peter’s Fast, and to make the Great Lent a couple of weeks shorter because people do not fast anyway. Our professors also took part in this meeting. When they came back from there, they visited me and started telling me about it. I got so outraged that I even yelled at them. “Do you understand what you’re doing?” I said. “If someone is sick, he has an excuse to eat non-lenten food. The general rules do not apply to him. If someone eats non-lenten food during a fast not because of illness, but because of [spiritual] weakness, then he should pray, “Forgive me, my God”. He should humble himself and say “I have sinned”. Jesus will not punish such a man. But if a man is healthy, he must fast. He who is indifferent still eats whatever he wants, and does not care about anything. Everything goes on its own anyway. It is true that most people do not fast and have no legitimate reason for that. So we want to cancel all fasts in order to please the majority, don’t we? How do we know what the next generation is going to be like? What if it is better than the present generation and can handle what the Church preaches without compromises? By whose authority will we cancel all this? After all, it is so simple! Catholics fast for one hour before Holy Communion. Are we going to cave in to the same spirit? Will we bless our weaknesses and our downfalls? We have no right to override Christianity because of our weaknesses. Even if there are only a handful of people who can keep the established order, it must be preserved for the sake of those few. If a sick man is among strangers, let him eat his non-lenten food so that others do not see him and are not tempted. Let him buy himself some sour cream and eat it in his room. “This is hypocrisy,” one of the professors replied. “Then why don’t you go to the square and sin there, to be more sincere?” I asked him.

One should do one’s best to become a good Christian. Then he will have the organ of spiritual feeling, then he will feel more or less pain for Orthodoxy and the Fatherland and realize his filial duty towards them.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds
Source: “Sayings”. Volume I. “With Pain and Love for the Modern Man.” Volume II. “Spiritual Awakening.”

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