The Evergetinos, compiled by St. Makarios of Corinth and first published by St. Nicodemos in 1783, is a companion volume of The Philokalia-indeed a precursor, of sorts, to that work. One of the classic collections of Orthodox spiritual writings, the Evergetinos is a source of inspiration, spiritual guidance, and insight into the lives of men and women who, during the first few centuries of Christianity, attained to the highest ideals of the spiritual life. In the spiritual laboratory of the Egyptian deserts, these seekers after salvation, enlightenment, and union with Christ brought into sharp focus the teachings of the Apostles and the message of Holy Writ in their daily lives and activities.
Divided up into many different “hypothesis” pertaining to a true Christian life, these books offer stories and advice taken from the lives of the Desert Fathers for each one.
In determining which Orthodox books to read,
Dr. Constantine Cavarnos shares a comment from an Athonite Father about these books
“Great value for the striver is also ascribed by the holy men of Athos to reading (a) the lives of saints, (b) The Evergetinos, and (c) The Philokalia. Once I asked a saintly monk, the hermit Gabriel who dwelt at Karoulia-the most secluded and inaccessible region of the Holy Mountain – whether he recommended The Philokalia to persons like me who live in the “world.” He replied: “The Philokalia is an excellent work, but it is for those advanced in the spiritual life. To use an analogy, it is ‘university education.’ First, one has to go to ‘grammar school,’ next to ‘high school,’ and only then is he ready to go to a ‘university.”
“Should one start with The Evergetinos?” I asked.
“No,” he replied. “this, too, is advanced. It is ‘high school.’ One must start with something more elementary. One should read simple lives of saints, in order to learn what kind of persons they were, how they lived, and what they did. Then one can proceed to the higher steps.”
Therefore, “we may say that simple lives of saints are “pure spiritual milk for spiritual babes;” the Evergetinos is a kind of mixed fare, comprising both spiritual milk and solid spiritual food; while the Philokalia provides only “solid food.”
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“A brother asked a certain Elder: ‘How does one become foolish for the sake of Christ?’ And the Elder replied to him: ‘There was a young boy in a monastery. He was given to an ascetic Elder to rear and to teach the word of God. So, the Elder said to the boy, “My child, when someone insults you, bless him; and when you are sitting at table, eat the spoiled food and leave the good. And when you have occasion to select articles of clothing, leave what is nice-looking and choose what is ugly.” The child then said to him, “Are you perhaps telling me to do these things, Abba, because I seem stupid?” And the Elder answered: “I told you to do these things so that you might become foolish for the sake of the Lord and so that the Lord might show you to be wise.” Behold the manner by which this Elder shows us that we can become foolish for the sake of the Lord.'”
-“Hypothesis I: That those who abase themselves are held in honor by God.”
That those who abase themselves are held in honor by God.
By nature, abasement invites humility, while honor invites pride; and so it is that those who are of humble mind, when they are scorned, rejoice, while they become sorrowful if they are shown homage.
That one should not be idle, but undertake physical labor, too; and that idleness is the cause of many ills.
To what end a monk should work and for what amount of time, and what kind of work he should perform.
That against which the brothers should take caution when they work together.
That in a coenobitic monastery no one should have any property of his own; for one who acquires anything, there is the danger that he will bring upon himself the severest punishment.
That he who shamelessly betrays or removes anything from among those things belonging to the monastery sins very greatly before God and will be punished more severely; for this reason we should care for these things as being dedicated to God and not despise the most insignificant things; and that negligence hurts everyone.
With what disposition we should serve or be served and what is the profit resulting from service.
When and by whom service is to be preferred to prayer.
One must eagerly rise up in the night in prayer and attend thereto. From where and for what reason prayer was appointed, from the beginning, at certain hours, and why we must not be remiss therein.
Regarding psalmody and prayers and the orderliness that one should maintain in them.
We should reprove those who talk idly or converse with each other in the Divine services; and if they do not correct themselves, we should sternly eject them from the Church.
That we should always keep vigil and should only sleep for as long as is necessary to keep our bodies healthy; and that beginners in asceticism should use any contrivance to accustom themselves to staying awake.
Concerning pathological self-love.
Concerning the benefit that comes from abstinence, the harm that comes from a lack of abstinence, and the damage caused by the immoderate consumption of wine.
How the Fathers loved fasting and how they were successful in it; and to what extent they were strict in their observance of it.
Various exploits of the Holy Fathers, which encourage us, in our infirmity, to exercise patience and which, in their hyperbole, teach us humility.
How we should care for the body and what constitutes proper asceticism and restraint.
How one who loves God should celebrate Feasts and what the food of the Fathers should be on Feasts.
That secret eating is a great evil, and that it by itself can lead a monastic to ruin.
That a monk should eat once a day, after the ninth hour, if he wishes to adhere to the exact practice observed by the Fathers, and not only anchorites, but also many among those who lived in coenobitic monasteries.
We should not eat for enjoyment, but out of bodily need; he who does not eat for enjoyment, even if the food is enjoyable, suffers no harm.
How and with what purpose a monk should sit in the refectory, how he should approach food, and what he should guard against after the meal.
Concerning food and drink: how at times we should not partake of certain kinds; and from which kinds we should abstain.
What the warfare of fornication is and how we should struggle against it.
That it is not possible for one to be delivered from warfare with fornication by any means, save by the aid of God, which comes to those who struggle. What perfect chastity is.
The honor of chastity and the dishonor of fornication; the reward and the recompense of each, both in the present life and in the future life.
That to accept evil thoughts and not to reject them immediately is worthy of chastisement, just as are looking inquisitively and saying or hearing shameful things; likewise, one who assents (to shameful thoughts) is punished in the same way as one who carries them out; the spirit of fornication assails us in many and various ways, and for this reason we should always be on our guard against it.
We must avoid associating with women and all else that arouses desire.
That a believer must never consent to listen to a flute or a guitar or any other theatrical instrument, but avoid these as ruinous.
That dreams (or nocturnal emissions) occur for various reasons.
How great is the work of contrition, what the manifold forms of contrition are, and what the different kinds of tears are.
That demons attack a man with greater intensity at the end of his life; for this reason, we should be all the more attentive at this time.
Nothing is so inappropriate for the believer as familiarity and laughter; this present hypothesis also treats of reverence and its characteristic features.
One should never become angry or shout at anyone; how anger is generated and how it can be cured.
For those who desire perfection, if their hearts are in any way stirred up against one who wrongs or insults them, let this not be deemed exempt from reproach.
A brother must be forbearing towards those who grieve him and must not take vengeance on those who wrong him.
A Christian must not only avoid defending himself against those who wrong him, but must endure injustice with long-suffering and shame them by his forbearance.
That to those who endure injustice with gratitude and do not avenge themselves, God becomes their avenger and recompenses them many times over for the wrongs which they have suffered.
That we must love our enemies, since they are very beneficial to us, and that we must do good to them and pray for their salvation.
That we should not hate any man.
That the remembrance of wrongs (rancor) is destructive, and that it not only renders spiritual labors useless, but even deflects God’s sympathy; and how we are to deal with it.
That we should not curse anyone.
That we not only should not insult anyone, but should even bless those who insult us and thereby curb their anger.
That we should not lie, but tell the truth.
That slander is a great sin, and that it redounds to the glory of those who are slandered, if they patiently put up with their slanderers; and that even in this life, punishment from God often comes upon slanderers.
Concerning speech and silence, how and when to make use of them, and that idle talk is a sin.
That simply taking an oath is sinful and that perjury is punished without fail; that we must renege on any oath which has been taken impetuously for the purpose of violating one of God’s commandments and repent for it.
That we should not only not calumniate anyone, but should not even put up with one who calumniates others; and that we should not whisper or murmur about others.
How brothers who live together should correct each other, when they fall into various sins; when, and concerning what kinds of sins, they should keep silent, and when, and concerning which ones, they should speak and not conceal them.
Glossary of General Terms in Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christianity
Index of Selected Names in Book II
Index of Selected Subjects in Book II