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.”
||Table fo Contents
No one should despair ever, even if he has committed many sins, but should have hope that, through repentance, he shall be saved.
As long as we are in the present life, we must do good here and not delay until the future. For after death we cannot set things aright.
Concerning how we should repent.
That the afflicted should be guided slowly in the works of repentance.
That we must always call to mind death and the future judgment; for he who does not continually expect death and the future judgment is easily overcome by the passions.
The joy of Heaven is inexpressible, as is the glory which awaits the Saints; therefore, we must remember with our whole souls the joy of Heaven and the glory of the Saints. In all that we accomplish, nothing is equal to that joy and glory.
Many times the souls of virtuous people are made cheerful at the time of death by some Divine overshadowing, and thus they depart from the body.
Regarding those who die and come to life again, and how this happens by Divine Providence. And how many times sinners while still alive, beholding the torments of Hell and the demons, shudder with fear; and in this state of fear, their souls depart the body.
Proof of where the souls of the dying go and how they exist after their separation from the body.
The soul, after its departure from the body, undergoes testing in the air by evil spirits which encounter it and attempt to impede its ascent.
How, after death, souls are assigned to the same place as those souls which lived in a similar way on earth.
God-loving parents should rejoice and be thankful for the trials and temptations that their children endure for the sake of the Lord. As well, parents who love God should exhort their children to struggle and to risk all for the sake of virtue.
How one renouncing the world should go to a remote place; what constitutes a remote place and what benefit derives from it; and what places are most appropriate for living out the ascetic life.
From whence the fear and love of God are first engendered in man and to what extent he is obliged to fear and love God.
It is essential for those who have abandoned the world not to communicate with their relatives according to the flesh or to nurture the slightest interest in them.
We must love our relatives in the flesh equally with our other brothers, as long as our relatives lead a similar kind of life; if, however, they conduct themselves in a way discordant with that of our brothers, we must avoid them as harmful.
How he who becomes a monk must bare himself of all things, and how he must dispose of everything which belongs to him. That the existence of personal property for a monk in a cœnobitic monastery is clearly disastrous.
It is necessary for one who wishes to be saved to seek the company of virtuous people and, as a thing much beneficial, to question them with exceeding desire and flaming zeal, so as to learn from them all those things which are essential for the salvation of the soul.
Regarding the necessity of obedience: what benefits arise from it and how a man accomplishes it.
That one should not trust in himself in anything, but should heed the advice of the Fathers in all things and should clearly confess the secrets of his heart without hiding anything.
That we must confess our thoughts to those among the Fathers who are discerning and not entrust them to just anyone; how we are to confess and what we should ask our confessors; what faith we should place in the answers of the Fathers; and how, through this faith, we should work together with our confessors for the achievement of good.
Concerning the fact that he who wishes to be saved must avoid meetings with careless men and must avoid disturbances, and that estrangement from worldly affairs is necessary for him.
Concerning the fact that we must keep away from those who harm us, even if they are friends or are otherwise quite indispensable.
Concerning the fact that one who has renounced the world should not be entangled at all with earthly affairs, even if they seem justified, but should submit to Divine Providence in these matters also.
Concerning the fact that evil is easy, and that there are many who choose this, especially in our day; that virtue is demanding, and that there are few who pursue it; and that we must emulate the latter and pay no heed to the majority.
Those coming to the monastic life are received with much testing; those admitted after scrutiny are for the most part reliable; what tasks are entrusted to them.
Rejections of the world based on different circumstances should not be wholly turned aside; we should not immediately dismiss someone who comes to the monastic community and fervently seeks to remain with the brethren, before we have examined him in detail; rather, we should grant him some possibility of staying and test him in accordance with what we have written. After we have ascertained that he is abiding by his intention, and after testing him, we should accept him into the monastic community, unless something happens that is forbidden by the Divine laws.
From what point we should begin a life of asceticism; all who start need patience and need to put pressure on themselves, since virtue appears difficult at the beginning, on account of one’s passions and prejudices; but later on it proves to be much easier to acquire; a strong foundation at the beginning is very beneficial; it is impossible to follow Christ or to gain any virtue at all if one does not prepare himself as though his death were imminent.
The demons wage a furious war against him who struggles with all his strength, whereas they are uninterested in the negligent, since they have them at their beck and call; those who want the good find God to be their ally, Who permits wars for our spiritual profit.
We should not regard the demons as causes of all the sins we commit, but rather ourselves; for the demons are unable to harm those who are attentive, since the help that comes from God is great; and that God allows struggles in proportion to the strength of men.
One who has come to the ascetical life should only be clothed in monastic garb after he has been sufficiently trained in the virtues; the monastic schema is honorable, soul-profiting, and salvific.
The faithful monk should display a manner of life that is appropriate to his schema; for he who does not live in conformity with his schema is not faithful; likewise, a Godly old age is not characterized by length of time, but by the way in which a man lives.
The faithful monk should eagerly accept whatever his spiritual Father suggests to him, because all such suggestions are in his interest, even if they induce distress or are arduous; for mercy is given by God for this purpose and for the alleviation of afflictions.
We should be obedient to our superiors in the Lord, even unto death, and love and fear them.
We should be subject in simplicity to our superiors in the Lord and accept their orders as coming from God, without criticizing, examining, or correcting them, even if they do not seem for the time being to be of benefit.
What the sins of disobedience and grumbling against our teachers in the Lord are; the Christian should not object at all or justify himself, but should in all cases resist his own will and love reproof, not avoid it.
One should not condemn his teacher, even if his teacher does some things at variance with what he teaches; for many disciples have entrusted themselves to negligent teachers and, not having condemned them, but remaining subject to them in the Lord, have saved themselves and have become the cause of their teachers’ salvation.
How the Grace of God often teaches those who watch over themselves and entrust themselves to His Providence what they ought to do through simple people and strangers; the humble do not refuse to learn from anyone they may encounter.
The faithful Christian should not be confident in himself, but should believe that through his spiritual Father he is both saved and enabled to do everything good; and he should invoke the prayers of his Elder, for they have great power.
That one should not lightly go out of, or withdraw from, the monastery in which he has promised, in the sight of God, to remain until the end of his life; for the Fathers did not even go out of their cells, in which they found great benefit.
That for those who are not prepared, it is perilous to live alone.
That we should not gainsay anyone in a contentious manner even regarding those things that are considered good, but should be subject to our neighbor in everything.
That whatever happens, happens by the justice of God; for this reason the believer must always follow Divine Providence and must seek, not his own will, but the Will of God; for he who does or accepts all things in this manner has spiritual rest.
That humility is completely impregnable to demons, how humility is engendered, and what its power is; that humility, more than all the other virtues, is able, by itself, to save a man.
A distinctive mark of the humble man is that he blames and disparages himself and thinks that his good deeds, howsoever many and whatsoever they may be, amount to nothing; what the characteristic traits of humility are, and what are its fruits.
Concerning what profit there is in reproaching ourselves.
That we should not seek honor or desire privileges; for whatever men reckon to be honorable is an abomination to God.
That to appear humble, when this is done inopportunely or excessively, is not beneficial, but harmful; how we ought to act towards those who praise us, and that praise does no harm at all to one who is attentive.
Concerning how one should use clothing, what kind, and up to what point, in order to cover the body, and how the Fathers loved frugality in their very dress; the faithful should prefer frugality in every circumstance.
That we should not do anything to gratify ourselves or do anything out of a passionate craving.
Glossary of General Terms in Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christianity
Index of Selected Names in Book I
Index of Selected Subjects in Book I