Warnings for the spiritual life: final remarks (Part 3)

Avoid spiritual gluttony

It is quite difficult for anyone to read for extensive periods of time such as > 60 mins without any break. It is difficult to digest the spiritual food like that not giving our bodies a break and letting our minds rest.


We probably do better in having a variety of work to do in order to return to work with a renewed body and greater enthusiasm. Do not think you can foolishly obtain much knowledge through reading much, all in one go. Knowledge from reading comes gradually over the years, simply through nourishing and deliberate daily reading, striving to apply what we read.

The quantity of the reading is determined by one’s strength and circumstances. It is unnecessary to weigh-down one’s mind with an excessive reading of prayers and Scripture; likewise, is it unnecessary to neglect one’s needs in order to practice immoderate prayer and reading. Just as the excessive use of foodstuffs weakens the belly, so too does the immoderate use of spiritual food weaken the mind and create in it a revulsion to pious practices, leading it to despair. (St Isaac the Syrian)

Read with discretion

We need to read what we read with GREAT wisdom and discernment. We must very consciously acknowledge that the time in which the things we read of and the circumstances of the writer, for example being a solitary monk, or writing for monks in a community, are very different to ours i.e. living in society.

Instead, what is more practical is that we can VERY WISELY ADAPT their writings according to our circumstances, time availability and our current spiritual level. For example if a hermit taught about solitude then perhaps we can increasingly and very gradually train ourselves to spend more time at home reading and praying instead of going out all the time.

Heed St Ignatius Brianchanninov good warnings…

It is absolutely necessary that the reading correspond to one’s way of life. Otherwise you will be filled with thoughts which, although holy, will be unfulfillable in the actual deed and will arouse you to fruitless activity in only the imagination and desire; the work of piety which does correspond to your way of life will slip out of your hands.

Not only will you become a fruitless dreamer – your thoughts, being in constant opposition to your sphere of activity, will without fail give birth to turmoil in your heart, and to uncertainty in your conduct, which are burdensome and harmful for you and for your neighbors. By an incorrect reading of Holy Scripture and the Holy Fathers, one can easily deviate from the saving path into impassable thickets and deep abysses, which has happened with many. Amen. 

Read according circumstances (St Ignatius Brianchannov)-1.jpg

Technically speaking, you should be able to read whatever you like, but make sure to read them with a BRAIN and common sense.

Further references

All these quotes were taken again from the Arena, which I’ve recommended twice already in previous posts. Great book – you must read it! Check out this link for another short piece of warnings for reading patristic books – again from the arena.

2 thoughts on “Warnings for the spiritual life: final remarks (Part 3)

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