On monastic life and life in the world
Although the holy fathers praised monasticism as the angelic state and although many of the greatest saints spent their lives and achieved perfection in the silent and lifeless desert, nevertheless the Orthodox Church does not recommend monasticism to all the faithful. “Neither will all those in the desert be saved, nor all those in the world be lost,” said one saint. To one city-dweller who, without any inclination to monasticism, had made up his mind to go to a monastery, St. Niphon said: “My son, a man is neither saved nor lost by the place he is in, but is saved or lost by his deeds. Neither a holy place nor a holy state is of use to him who does not fulfil the commandments of the Lord. Saul lived in regal luxury and perished. David lived in like luxury and received the wreath. Lot lived among the lawless Sodomites and was saved. Judas was among the apostles and went to hell. Whoever says that it is impossible to be saved with a wife and children is a deceiver. Abraham had a wife and children and three hundred and eighteen servants, and also much gold and silver and he was called the friend of God! Many servants of the Church have been saved, and many lovers of the desert; many aristocrats, and many soldiers; many craftsmen, and many farm laborers. Be devout towards God and loving towards men, and you will be saved.”
On the gifts of God
St. Peter Damascene writes thus of the general and the particular gifts of God: “The general gifts are the four elements, and all that come from them, all the wonderful and terrible works of God revealed in the Holy Scriptures. But the particular gifts are those which God gives to a man individually; be it wealth for acts of mercy, or poverty or for patience with thanksgiving; be it power for right judgement and the strengthening of virtue, or subjugation and slavery for the swift salvation of the soul; be it health for the helping of the infirm or weakness for the crown of patience; be it understanding and skill in gathering wealth for the sake of the virtues, or feebleness and clumsiness for submissive humility. All these; and though they may seem in contrast to one another they are all, as they are apportioned, very good.” He says in conclusion that we owe God gratitude for all His gifts, and must bear all infirmities and tribulations with patience and hope. For all that God gives us or brings upon us is for our salvation.