When Abba Anthony thought about the depth of the judgments of God, he asked, “Lord, how is it that some die when they are young, while others drag on to extreme old age? Why are there those who are poor and those who are rich? Why do wicked men prosper and why are the just in need?” He heard a voice answering him, “Anthony, keep your attention on yourself; these things are according to the judgment of God, and it is not to your advantage to know anything about them.”
In the second century, Saint Clement of Alexandria taught:
Generally speaking, riches that are not under complete control are the citadel of evil. If the ordinary people look on them covetously, they will never enter the kingdom of heaven, because they are letting themselves become contaminated by the things of the world and are living above themselves in self-indulgence. Those concerned for their salvation should take this as their first principle, that, although the whole creation is ours to use, the universe is made for the sake of self-sufficiency, which anyone can acquire by a few things.
Priests and archpriests need a pious congregation in order to be understood. For this reason a priest or a bishop cannot be ordained to serve a community which has no Christians. There must be a parish or Diocese; there must be souls, even if only a handful, to whom the clergyman can administer. For such souls the God Man, the good shepherd, was sacrificed. The laity are not slaves, but brothers in Christ of the clergyman, and like brothers they, too, have rights in the Church.
In the last century, Bishop Nikolai of blessed memory surmised:
The centuries have shown two kinds of shepherds: those guided by their own passions, and those guided by fear of God, zeal, and service. The Church has suffered from the first, but has not been destroyed, while they have been. From the second, the Church has grown and advanced and shone forth in the world.
When offering a teaching on the importance of love of neighbor to his monastic community, Dorotheos of Gaza spoke thus:
Suppose that there is a circle of the earth, as if drawn by a compass. The centre is exactly the middle of the circle. Take care to understand what I mean. Let us suppose that this circle is the world and God is the centre. The straight lines drawn from the circumference to the centre are the lives of men. As far as the saints, desiring to approach God, move inward, they become near God and near each other and as far as they approach God, they approach each other. As far as they approach each other, they approach God. You should understand separation in the same way. When they move away from God and follow external things, it is evident that as far as they move away and become distant from God, they distance themselves from each other, and as they distance themselves from each other, they distance themselves from God. This is the very nature of love. In as far as we are outside and do not love God, each one of us is also distanced from his neighbor, but if we love God, the more we approach Him through love for Him, the more we are united to our neighbor through love, and as much as we are united to our neighbor, we are united to God.
Saint Ambrose of Milan concluded in the fourth century, “We do not deny that marriage has been sanctified by Christ since the Divine Word says, ‘The two shall become one flesh and one spirit.’” Although it is not denied that Christ sanctifies and the husband and wife become one, the means by which this takes place remains a mystery. Father Epiphanios of blessed memory explains:
Saint John Chrysostom reminds parents: “Having children is a matter of nature; but raising them and educating them in the virtues is a matter of mind and will.” Parents will have little problem nurturing children in the Christian faith, if they themselves have love for God. The Second Century saint, Bishop Irenaios of Lyons, explains: “If your heart overflows with faith and love for God, you will find a thousand and two ways to pass on these feelings to your child.”
Saint Clement of Alexandria begins his writing Christ the Educator with the words:
O you who are children! An indestructible cornerstone of knowledge, holy temple of the great God, has been hewn out especially for us as a foundation for the truth. This corner stone is noble persuasion, or the desire for eternal life…laid in the ground of our minds.
Saint Dimitry of Rostov, the 17th century Russian Saint once wrote:
First of all it must be understood that it is the duty of all Christians - especially of those whose calling dedicates them to the spiritual life - to strive always and in every way to be united with God, their creator, lover, benefactor, and their supreme good, by Whom and for Whom they were created. This is because the center and the final purpose of the soul, which God created, must be God Himself alone, and nothing else - God whom Whom the soul has received its life and its nature, and for Whom it must eternally live.
Saint Nicodemos the Hagiorite once wrote:
Just as in the physical heaven the fixed stars are divided into six orders and magnitudes, so also the saints who shine in the spiritual Heaven are distinguished into six orders: Apostles, Martyrs, Prophets, Hierarchs, Monastic Saints, and Righteous.