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Appendix

A FEW OF THE COMPARISONS EMPLOYED BY ST. JOHN.

1. As it is impossible for the serpent to cast off its skin, unless it creep through some small aperture; so is it equally impossible for us to forsake our evil habits, to put off the polluted garment of the old man, and to renew the youth of our soul, unless we walk in the narrow and painful way of fasting and humiliation.

2. As it is difficult for birds that are plump and well fed to soar high upon the wing; so is it an arduous task for those who are fond of good cheer and fare sumptuously, to lift up their minds and hearts to heaven by pious thoughts and aspirations.

3. As mire, which has become dry and hard by the beams of the sun, is unfit for pigs to roll and wallow in; so when our flesh, which is but clay, has become dry and shrunk by the austerity of penance, it is no longer suitable for the harbour of demons.

4. As a great quantity of wood often stifles and quenches the flame, whilst it increases the smoke of the fire; so an excessive sadness fills the soul with darkness and obscurity, and dries up the source of tears.

5. As a blind man is not a person to shoot at a target; so a disciple that is blind enough to contradict his spiritual father, is not fit for the kingdom of heaven.

6. As iron well tempered will sharpen that which is softer; so a fervent solitary, by his example, may be the means of salvation to one that is slothful.

7. As eggs concealed in a dunghill may be hatched by the heat thereof and produce chickens; so pious thoughts hidden in the mind, and unknown to the world, may be impregnated with life, and afterwards produce the most virtuous and heroic actions.

8. As horses that run together animate each other in the race; so the religious that live together in community, animate each other in their exercises of penance.

9. As clouds obscure the light of the sun; so bad thoughts obscure the light of the mind, and surround it with the darkness of the grave.

10. As the criminal who is led to execution, speaks not of games and diversions; so he who truly deplores his sins, thinks not of sumptuous and dainty fare.

11. As the poor, when they behold the vast treasures of a king, see in a stronger light, and are more sensible of their own poverty; so the religious, who reads of the great and wonderful virtues of the holy fathers, conceives a profound humility in comparing his own spiritual poverty with the riches of those eminent saints.

12. As the magnet by a secret and mysterious influence attracts steel with irresistible power; so they who have long indulged their passions are chained and dragged along by the tyrannical power of vicious habits.

13. As oil calms the troubled and boisterous waves of the sea; so fasting quenches the ardour of sensuality even in its greatest violence.

14. As water which is compressed and confined within a tube below its own level, will ascend with considerable force high into the air; so the soul which is oppressed and surrounded by dangers, will frequently ascend to God by penance, in which it finds eternal salvation.

15. As he who uses perfumes is easily recognised by the ordour which they exhale; so he in whose heart dwells the Spirit of God, is readily known both by his conversation and humble demeanour.

16. As we have not much desire to partake at table of dishes which are unknown to us; so they who have preserved the virginity of the body, have this great comfort in their happy ignorance of sensual pleasures, that they can thereby preserve more readily the purity and tranquility of their souls.

17. As the wind agitates the sea; so anger more than any other passion disturbs the mind.

18. As robbers cannot easily steal from those places which are guarded by a military force; so neither can demons, that are ever seeking whom they may devour, easily plunder those who have already in their hands the arms of prayer.

19. It is not more impossible for fire to produce snow, than for him who seeks the glory of earth to enjoy that of heaven.

20. A small spark is sufficient to set on fire and consume a large forest; so one good action by way of satisfaction can consume many sins.

21. As we cannot kill a wild beast without weapons; so neither can we conquer anger without humility.

22. As the life of the body cannot be preserved without food; so neither can the life of the soul be preserved without constant vigilance to the end of life.

23. A single ray of the sun shining through a crevice is sufficient to light up a room and show the smallest atom floating in the air; so in like manner, when the fear of God enters a soul, it floods it with so much light that the smallest faults may be readily detected.

24. As crawfish are easily taken, because they frequently turn back in the path they are pursuing; so he who is at one time dissipated, and at another melted into tears through compunction for his sins, is easily surprised by the devil, and derives no fruit from the few good works which he performs amidst all his fickleness.

25. As they who are buried in sleep may be easily robbed; so they who yield to spiritual supineness, by engaging in worldly occupations after their profession of the religious state, may be easily plundered of all their virtue.

26. As he who fights with a lion cannot for a moment withdraw his eyes from those of the enraged animal without losing his life; so neither can he who is combatting with his flesh turn away the eyes of his soul a moment by relaxation, without imminent danger to his salvation.

27. As he who mounts a ladder, the staves of which are rotten, runs the risk of falling; so the honour, the glory, and the power of the world, being opposed to Christian humility, are the unsafe rungs of a ladder, which easily break with the weight of those that attempt to climb them.

28. As it is not possible for a hungry man to forget the bread which is to allay the cravings of his appetite; so in like manner, it is not possible for one labouring earnestly in the business of his salvation to forget that it is appointed for him once to die, and after that the judgment.

29. As water effaces writing, so do tears blot out sin.

30. As they who have no water employ other means to efface that which is written; so they who have no tears employ sighs, groans, and poignant grief of heart to erase the guilt of their offences.

31. As large heaps of manure produce innumerable worms and insects; so many viands at table lead to many falls,, to many bad thoughts and dreams.

32. As they whose feet are fettered cannot walk; so they who allow themselves to be bound by the chains of avarice, cannot ascend the mountain of the Lord.

33. A new wound is easily closed and healed; but the old wounds of the soul are cured--if ever--with great difficulty.

34. As a dead body is motionless; so he who despairs of salvation, can take no steps to attain it.

35. The Orthodox Christian who commits deadly sin, is like to a face without eyes.

36. He who performs good works without faith, is like the man that draws water from a well and pours it into a sieve.

37. As a vessel that is steered by an able pilot and propelled by favourable winds, soon reaches port, so a soul which is guided by a skillful director, easily sails into the haven of eternal rest, whatever may have been its former transgressions.

38. As he who journeys in unknown ways without a guide easily wanders, notwithstanding all his prudence, from the right path; so he likewise who undertakes to guide himself in a religious life may very readily lose himself, though he possesses all the wisdom and knowledge of the world.

39. Let him who has committed grievous sins, and who has a weak and sickly body, walk in the way of humility; and let him adopt the disposition and demeanor proper to that virtue, as the only means by which he can save his soul.

40. As it cannot be expected that no one after a long sickness should recover his health in a moment, so neither must we deem it possible to cure at once the wounds inflicted by our evil and long indulged propensities.

41. To part with gold for clay cannot be termed an exchange, but an absolute loss; so to discourse on spiritual things through ostentation and vanity, is not to gain anything, but to lose the whole profit of our labour.

42. Many have received in an instant the pardon of their sins; but no one has received in an instant that sovereign peace which always reigns victoriously over the passions. For this blessed virtue is acquired by a slow process, by much labour, and by singular graces from heaven.

43. Let us observe which are the demons that, like so many birds of the air, watch their opportunity to steal from us the good grain graciously sown by the Divine Mercy in our souls; which, again, are they that devour it when it has sprung up; and, finally, which are they that carry it off when it is ready for the harvest. With these observations before us, we may, instead of being defeated, lay our snares for the overthrow of our enemies.

44. As he who sought to terminate the pains of a violent fever by an act of suicide, would be both unjust and cruel towards himself; so, in like manner, a Christian would be unjust both to God and himself, if as long as life remained, he should plunge into despair, in order to deliver himself from the weight of his sins.

45. As he who went directly from the funeral ceremonies of his father to his marriage feast, would violate all the rules of decorum and respect due to society; so is it equally shameful for those who have been lamenting their sins, to seek the esteem of men, the glory of the world, and the delights of this present life.

46. As the houses of citizens are very different places of abode from the prisons of the guilty; so the life of penitents, weeping over their past offences, should likewise be different from that of the innocent.

47. As a king would not discharge a soldier, who, whilst fighting in his service, had received a severe wound that disfigured his person; but would promote him to some honourable post and allow him a pension; so the King of heaven crowns the solitary, who, in the battles which he has fought with the spirits of darkness, has oftentimes exposed himself to their buffets and their violent outrages.

48. Feeling is a property of the soul. But sin strikes at this feeling most forcibly, and deals it a fatal blow. A deep sense and remorse of sin produce either its cessation or diminution. Remorse springs from conscience. Conscience is the interior reprehension, when we have done wrong, of our guardian angel, who was appointed by God to watch over us from the time of our baptism. Hence we know from experience, that they who have not received the grace of baptism, are struck with much less remorse, when they do evil, than they who have received this holy sacrament.

49. The abatement of the power of sin leads to the complete cessation of sin. The cessation of sin is the commencement of penance. The commencement of penance is the commencement of salvation. The commencement of salvation is the firm resolution to lead a good life. This firm resolution begets a generous endurance of labour. This generous endurance of labour has virtue for its groundwork and principle. Virtue in due time produces the beautiful flower of a good will. This good will yields the fruit of praiseworthy actions. These actions repeated establish a custom. But custom and renewed exercise grow into a habit. Habit makes piety natural to the soul. But piety, when natural and familiar, engenders the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord ensures the observance of His precepts. The observance of His precepts is the testimony of our love of God. This love springs from a profound humility. Profound humility is the mother of that blessed peace which reigns supremely over the soul. But this sovereign peace is the perfection and the crown of love, or a perfect plenitude of the Spirit of God, dwelling in the souls of those who, by this happy tranquility, have entered into the possession of purity of heart. For, according to the Gospel: “Blessed are the clean of heart; for they shall see God,”1 to Whom be glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.


  1. Matt. v. 8.



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Archbishop Gregory
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