Spiritual Counsels of the Elders of Optina


Saint Sophia Cathedral

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Topic of the Week- Spiritual Counsels of the Elders of Optina

“We must entrust everything to the will of God, even our being separated from each other. The Lord enlightens us in order that we not become attached to the things of this world, no matter how precious they might seem, in order that we might strive for the heavenly, saving our souls. Strive only to save your soul, for everything else is vanity. Everything of this world is ephemeral. Our thoughts must be with God, in the future life. Everything of this world will pass.” – St. Nikon

You should not oppose and struggle against people who cause evil, not only be word and deed, but even in your thoughts. Otherwise the demons will be victorious. You should pray for such people. Then the Lord will help and the demons will withdraw. A [person] must prepare for death; therefore you must think about meeting death, at peace with everyone.” – St. Nikon

“Not every “good” deed is actually good, but only that good deed which is done for the sake of God. The externals of a particular action are not its essence; God alone sees a person’s heart. We need to humble ourselves, realizing that every good deed is mixed with some passion.” – St. Nikon

Excerpted from Living Without Hypocrisy – The Sayings of the Optina Elders (p32, 104, 38)

For more information about the Elders of Optina, read here: Optina Elders


If someone, relying on his own understanding, thinks that he has no need of a guide, he very quickly will stray from the correct path. Therefore, we must implore the Lord God with tears that He grant to us a wise instructor; owing to the seriousness of our malady, a physician who is experienced and skillful is needed. Therefore, the one who is ill must seek not so much a large and peaceful hospital, as he should a skillful physician.” – St. Anthony

On the path of life, one unfailingly meets sorrows and temptations. One must be ready for them. Our human weakness does not want them and often forgets that they are inevitable, and wants only earthly happiness.” – St. Nikon

Excerpted from Living Without Hypocrisy – The Sayings of the Optina Elders (pp43-44, 49)


“Before doing anything, pray and thinkwould this be wise and pleasing to God?” – St. Nikon

There is physical blindness and deafness. It is difficult to endure them, but spiritual deafness and blindness are much worseMay the Lord deliver us from these– St. Barsauphius


“Avoid evil and do good; at first out of fear of God, then later you will acquire the love of God.” – St. Macarius

One should not be angry at others to the point of remembrance of wrongs. In accord with the commandment of the Lord, force yourself to pray for all those who hate and offend you!” – St. Anatoly

Excerpted from Living Without Hypocrisy – The Sayings of the Optina Elders (p20, 43, 37, 104)

Middle School

You become upset and malice against everyone boils in your soul; this is from self-love and vainglory. Always strive to consider yourself to be worse and more sinful than anyone on the earth in the sight of God. During such a time, fervently say, “Lord have mercy on us sinners,” which will include you and those with whom you have become angry. – St. Joseph

“In the spiritual life, this always happens: either consolation comes before sorrows, or sorrows come just before consolationThese changes give birth to hope and humility. Sorrows are manifested in different ways: physical and spiritual, but it is yet too early for you to know about this. Just accept whatever God send to you with gratitude and equanimity; do not be exalted from feelings of consolation and do not despair in times of sorrow.” – St. Macarius

We must strive so that all our life, as a whole, and not certain hours and days, is based on the Law of God. We must arrange all of our activities so that they are in agreement with the will of God. Only under these conditions will our heart be pure and only the pure in heart will see God (Matt. 5:8). – St. Nikon

Excerpted from Living Without Hypocrisy – The Sayings of the Optina Elders (p31, 42, 53)

High School

“It would be difficult to exist on this earth if there were no one who could help us to understand life. But you know that the Lord Almighty, Who is over us, is Love itself. Trust in the will of the Lord, and He will not discredit you. Show your trust not with words, but with deeds. Life has become difficult because people have complicated it with their own reasonings, and instead of turning to God for help, they turn to their own understanding and rely solely on itDo not fear sorrows or sickness or sufferings or any kind of trials for all this is a visitation from God and is for your benefit.” – St. Anatoly

The merciful Lord accomplishes and does everything through His will for our benefit, even though the means and results may seem to be in opposition to us. With the help of the most Merciful Lord God, we will be patient, and we will see…” – St. Leo

If you say something evil about your brother or sister, even if it is true, your soul suffers an unhealable wound. You can reveal the sins of another only when the sole intention in your heart is the benefit of the soul of the sinner– St. Nikon


In every situation, always try to be pleasant, that is maintain a peaceful and humble spiritDo not judge, or grieve anyone, striving so that your words, according to the commandments of the apostles, will be mixed with spiritual salt.” – St. Ambrose


Excerpted from Living Without Hypocrisy – The Sayings of the Optina Elders (p23, 23, 56, 42)


A Message from Maria Spanos

I am passionate about our Orthodox Christian faith and seek to help others learn as much as they can about it. My purpose here is to share online resources that help strengthen our relationship with Christ and bind us closer to His Church. I believe they are invaluable in learning about our precious Orthodox Tradition, and are a great aid for teaching family members, friends and others about Orthodoxy. ~Maria

Two of my favorite quotes:

“A true Christian behaves in this life so that it may be a preparation for the future one and not only a life here below. In his actions, he does not think what will be said of him here but of what will be said there in heaven; he represents to himself that he is always in the presence of God, of the angels and all the saints, and remembers that someday they will bear witness of his thoughts, words, and deeds.”  — Saint John of Kronstadt


Of all the holy works, the education of children is the most holy.”
— St. Theophan the Recluse