St. Paisios about the writings of the fathers of the Orthodox church
The writings of the Fathers of our Church, are genuine, spiritual nourishment, and they lead safely and unmistakably down the spiritual path.
The people asked Saint Paisios: Elder, which spiritual books help the most? Saint Paisios responded: Many people benefit from the various books written by the Fathers of our Church, which nowadays, thanks be to God, are widely available for everyone to enjoy. In these books, someone finds what they want and what they need. These books are genuine, spiritual nourishment and they lead safely and unmistakably down the spiritual path. But to help the reader, they must be read with humility and devotion. The writings of our Fathers are similar to CT scans. You see CT scans depict the physical condition of a person, and similarly, the writings of the Fathers depict the condition of the soul of a person. In each sentence of the writings of our Fathers, there are multiple hidden messages, and everyone understands them according to their spiritual condition. Regardless, in order for someone to understand the Fathers, one must focus their mind and live a spiritual life, because the spirit of the Fathers is understood only in spirit. This is especially true for the book Ascetic Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian, which are very helpful, but it becomes necessary to study them, little by little, in order to effectively digest the rich spiritual nourishment that they provide. The Evergetinos (Collection of sayings of the Desert Fathers) is greatly beneficial to us because we can be introduced to the true spirit of the Holy Fathers. It helps because it describes, in systematic way, the struggles of the Fathers with every single vice of the human soul, and thus each reader can learn how the Fathers worked to conquer each vice which helps guide the reader in his/her own spiritual journey. The Synaxarion (The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church) is also a blessed reading and for this reason it is extremely helpful, especially for the children, but should not be read like a story.
We don’t need to have a lot of knowledge, to gain piety and devotion. If we ponder the few things we know then our heart will find spiritual fervor. One person can contemplate the words of a simple hymn and immediately reach heavens while another may know all the works of theology and feel nothing spiritually. This is because this person is unable to reside in the spiritual domain. So I urge you to read the works of the Fathers, even if it is one or two lines a day. They are like invigorating vitamins.
From the book of Saint Paisios of Mount Athos – The Spiritual Awakening, Sayings B. From the Hermitage of Saint John the Evangelist and Theologian in Souroti, Thessaloniki, Greece.
Translated by Elias and Argyrenia Pipinos