02 June 2009

'Preserve the Harmony of the Soul's Virtues'—St Thalassius the Libyan

Today, 20 May, we celebrate the memory of St Thalassius the Libyan (c. 660). One of the few accounts of St Thalassius I can find online is here, at the Holy Trinity calendar page, so I will post it in full:

The Monk Thalassios, head of a monastery in Libeia, pursued asceticism during the VII Century. He was a friend of Saint Maximos the Confessor (Comm. 21 January), with whom for many years he corresponded. The holy ascetics, as their letters testify, addressed themselves to dealing with difficulties in the spiritual life. The Monk Thalassios, well versed in Holy Scripture, combined deep knowledge with the spiritual enlightenment of believers. He expounded his theological positions under the guise of instructive aphorisms in his work, ‘On Love, Temperance and the Spiritual Life’. The composition of Abba Thalassios consists of 400 chapters, each of which is written in the form of an acrostic, which evidences the obvious literary talent of the author. In this composition, together with spiritual ethics there are stated questions of dogmatic character: concerning the Incarnation of God the Word, and concerning the redemption of mankind. The Monk John Damascene (Comm. 4 December) in his theological works makes use of the composition of the Monk Thalassios. The fundamental thought of the Monk Thalassios is concentrated upon the inner spiritual effort, involved in the struggle with the passions. ‘If thou dost wish,—he says,—to be freed totally from every evil, then make renunciation from the mother of evils—self-love. Self-love precedeth all the passions, and behind all of them there follows, finally, bitterness. The three primary thoughts of lust are begotten from the passion of self-love, behind which follow all the other passionate thoughts, but not all together’. The Monk Thalassios died in old age in about the year 660, and his relics were glorified by a flow of fragrant myrh.

Here are a few of the sentences that I’ve underlined in St Thalassius’s ‘Centuries’ in the second volume of the Philokalia (The Philokalia, The Complete Text: Volume 2, trans. and ed. G.E.H. Palmer, et al. [London: Faber, 1984]):

First Century

6. A person who does not tolerate suspicion or disparagement of others possesses true love.

11. Love and self-control purify the soul, while pure prayer illumines the intellect. (p. 307)

15. Guard yourself from hatred and dissipation, and you will not be impeded at the time of prayer.

22. Seal your senses with stillness and sit in judgment upon the thoughts that attack your heart.

24. Stillness, prayer, love and self-control are a four-horsed chariot bearing the intellect to heaven.

30. The proper activity of the intellect is to be attentive at every moment to the words of God. (p. 308)

47. The man to whom wisdom has been given knows the inward essences of immaterial things and what is the origin and consummation of the world. (p. 309)

65. Yoke the powers of the soul to the virtues and they will be freed from the tyrrany of the passions.

66. Curb the impulses of desire by means of self-control and those of anger with spiritual love. (p. 310)

72. Only those who have reached the extremes of virtue or of evil are not judged by their consciences.

76. Kingship, goodness and wisdom belong to God; he who attains them dwells in heaven. (p. 311)

Second Century

5. The intelligence by nature submits to the Logos and disciplines and subjugates the body.

11. The greatest weapons of someone striving to lead a life of inward stillness are self-control, love, prayer and spiritual reading. (p. 313)

29. What light is to those who see and to what is seen, God is to intellective beings and to what is intelligible.

30. The sensible firmament symbolizes the firmament of faith in which all the saints shine like stars. (p. 314)

60. A wise man is one who pays attention to himself and is quick to separate himself from all defilement.

68. A wise man pays careful attention to himself, and by freely choosing to suffer escapes the suffering that comes unsought. (p. 316)

86. If you lay down rules for yourself, do not disobey yourself; for he who cheats himself is self-deluded. (p. 317)

91. Preserve the harmony of the soul’s virtues, and it will bring forth the fruit of righeousness. (p. 318)

Third Century

1. Think good thoughts about what is good by nature, and think well of every man. (p. 319)

57. If you share secretly in the joy of someone you envy, you will be freed from your jealousy; and you will also be freed from your jealousy if you keep silent about the person you envy. (p. 322)

75. The thoughts of a wise man are devoted to wisdom, and his words enlighten those who hear them. (p. 323)

Fourth Century

8. Be ruled by God and rule over your senses; and, being on a higher level, do not give authority to what is inferior to you. (p. 325)

54. Search the Scriptures and you will find the commandments; do what they say and you will be freed from your passions. (p. 328)

75. According to the degree to which the intellect is stripped of the passions, the Holy Spirit initiates the intellect itno the mysteries of the age to be. (p. 329)

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