He who does not understand God's judgments walks on a ridge like a knife-edge and is easily unbalanced by every puff of wind. When praised, he exults; when criticized, he feels bitter. When he feasts, he makes a pig of himself; and when he suffers hardship, he moans and groans. When he understands, he shows off; and when he does not understand, he pretends that he does. When rich, he is boastful; and when in poverty, he plays the hypocrite. Gorged, he grows brazen; and when he fasts, he becomes arrogant. He quarrels with those who reprove him; and those who forgive him he regards as fools.
St. Mark the Ascetic, On Those who Think They Are Made Righteous by Works 193 (5th-6th c.)
Abba Marcellus told us, „Believe me, children, there is nothing which troubles, incites, irritates, wounds, destroys, distresses and excites the demons and the supremely evil Satan himself against us, as the constant study of the Psalms. The entire Holy Scripture is beneficial to us and not a little offensive to the demons, but none of it distresses them more than the Psalter. In public affairs, when one party sings the praises of the emperor, the other party is not distressed, nor does it move to attack the first party. But if that party begins reviling the emperor, then the other will turn on it. Thus it is that the demons are not so much troubled and distressed by the rest of Holy Scripture as they are by the Psalms. For when we meditate upon the Psalms; on the one hand, we are praying on our own account, while, on the other hand, we are bringing down curses on the demons.‰
John Moschos, Leimonarion (The Spiritual Meadow), 152 early 7th century
I shall recall Maron, (of Syria) for he too adorned the godly choir of the saints. Embracing the open-air life, he repaired to a hill-top formerly honored by the impious (with a pagan temple). Consecrating to God the precinct of demons on it, he lived there, pitching a small tent which he seldom used. He practiced not only the usual labors; he devised others as well, heaping up the wealth of philosophy (asceticism).
The Umpire (God) measured out grace according to his labors: so the munificent one gave in abundance the gift of healing, with the result that his fame circulated everywhere, attracted everyone from every side and taught by experience the truth of the report. One could see fevers quenched by the dew of his blessing, shivering quieted, demons put to flight, and varied diseases of every kind cured by a single remedy; the progeny of physicians apply to each disease the appropriate remedy, but the prayer of the saint is a common antidote for every distress.
He cured not only infirmities of the body, but applied suitable treatment to souls as well, healing this man's greed and that man's anger, to this man supplying teaching in self-control and to that providing lessons in justice, correcting this man's intemperance and shaking up another man's sloth. Applying this mode of cultivation, he produced many plants of philosophy, and it was he who planted for God the garden that now flourishes in the region of Cyrrhus. A product of his planting was the great James, to whom one could reasonably apply the prophetic utterance, "the righteous man will flower as the palm tree, and be multiplied like the cedar of Lebanon," and also all the others whom, with God's help, I shall recall individually.
Theodoret of Cyrrhus, History of the Monks of Syria 16 St. Maron of Syria, commemorated 14 February
Not only should we observe moderation with food, but we must also abstain from every other sin so that just as we fast with our stomach, we should fast with our tongue. Likewise, we should fast with our eyes; i.e. not look at agitating things, not allow your eyes freedom to roam, not to look shamelessly and without fear. Similarly, arms and legs should be restrained from doing any evil acts.
The devil appeared to a brother disguised as an angel of light and said to him, "I am Gabriel and I have been sent by the Most High to you." The brother said to him, "There has been some mistake. Surely it is to someone else that you have been sent. As for me, I am not worthy of it" - and immediately the devil vanished.
An Athonite elder said, "A monk does not just study dogmas; he lives by them. When he reads the Holy Scripture or the patristic writings, he is not doing it to gain knowledge but to learn a language of ineffable words with which God speaks through one‚s prayer."
An old man much given to austerities questioned Abba Ammonas: "Three thoughts occupy me, either, should I wander in the deserts, or should I go to a foreign land where no one knows me, or should I shut myself up in a cell without opening the door to anyone, eating only every second day?" Abba Ammonas replied, "It is not right for you to do any of these three things. Rather, sit in your cell (kellion) and eat a little every day, keeping the word of the Publican („God, be merciful to me, a sinner!") always in your heart, and you may be saved."
And the Christians agreed and in secret elected Mar Abraham, that he lead the church of God during the time when Ioannes, the soldier of the Lord, was to be in prison. However, many times the Megu›es (Zoroastrian priests) also went against this man, intending to seize him; because they noticed that another bishop had been elected by the Christians. And this displeased them. But Mar Abraham hid for a month in a house of one of the Christians and he was saved from the blood-drooling teeth of the voracious wolf. And in these days as the great king (Shapur II) was in Bet Lapat (Gondç›âpûr), he sent a courier to Piroz Tam›abor, the mauhapta (governor), that he should come to him posthaste. This man, in order to show himself obedient and submissive to the order of the shahan‚shah (king of kings) and that he avert any impending scorn and please him, he brought with him Ioannes and Jacob his priest. And they came to Bet Lapat, they were pressured to recognize the sun as the highest deity. But they did not submit and despise the Creator due to the creation, and that they interchange the Creator with a mere created object. The great king ordered it, and their heads were chopped off with a sword on the first day of the later Te›rin. May their memories be blessed and be help for us through their prayers.
Piroz Tam›abor, however, because he regarded himself free of the orders of the great king, was removed by the great king from his office and it was given to another man, whose name was Adorparrah, who had formerly been a military commander. They collected many foot-soldiers in our land and planned to lead a powerful war with the Romans so that with one blow the Christians would be robbed of the priesthood and the kingship. This mauhapta was even more brutal than the earlier and sharpened his tusks for blood; and he swore for murder with his entire heart. And as Abraham heard that this blood-thirsty lion came into his land, he fled immediately to the village of Tenejaha, so that perhaps he could escape and leave, in order that he would not unnecessarily provide an audacious booty for the rapacious lion. The mauhapta rather dispatched many people against him. And as they pressured him with merciless beatings to deny Christ, his Lord, he instead despised their beatings and tortures, and they cut off his head in the village, into which he had fled, on the fifth day in the month of ‹epat (February 4th). And the Christians once again gathered round in secret and called upon Maran Zeka, the priest (to be their next bishop).
from the Chronicle of Arbela 13 (6th? century) St. Abraham of Arbela (Irbil, Northern Iraq / Kurdistan) commemorated 4 February
What is the spiritual battle? Well, the soul is a garden divided into two parts. On one half are planted thorny bushes, and on the other half, flowers. We also have a water pump with two taps and two channels. The one guides the water to the thorns and the other to the flowers. I always have the choice to open one or the other tap. I leave the thorns without water and they dry up; I water the flowers and they blossom.