brethren once asked Abba Arsenios, "What is the
meaning of the words which one of the elders spoke, saying, 'He who
dwells with men, because of the commotion of worldly affairs is
unable to see his sins; but if he dwell in the silent repose of the
desert he will be able to see God in a pure manner?'"
Arsenios said, ‘The virtues which are cultivated in the world, and
to which our Lord refers to in the Gospel , are, loving kindness,
peace-making and other similar commandments, and it is quite
possible for such virtues to be cultivated in the world by certain
strenuous persons. But the purity of heart which sees God, and to
which our Lord ascribed blessing, saying, 'Blessed are the pure in
heart, for they shall see God,' cannot be acquired without dwelling
in the desert and solitary and silent contemplation. The monk must
acquire it in the following way.
First of all a man must go forth
from the world, and dwell in a monastery, and after his training in
a monastery and having gone into his cell, he must die through
contemplation in silence, and through the other labours of his body,
and through striving against the passions, and through conflict with
Then through the tranquility of mind (which he will
acquire) in silent contemplation, he will remember his sins, and
when he learns to hate his passions, and has petitioned for the
remission of his sins, and has suppressed his thoughts, and has
become constant in pure prayer, and has cleansed his heart from
abhorrent thoughts, then shall he be worthy to see in his heart,
even as in a polished mirror, the light of the revelation of our
Lord (shining) upon it, even as the Fathers say.
then, did that holy man say to those brethren, 'Visit the sick,
reconcile the men of wrath,' for he who cultivates
spiritual excellences in the world cannot, by reason of the
commotion of the affairs thereof, see his sins; but if he continues
in silent contemplation and prayer he shall see God."