35 Thoughts by Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

From Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica  (St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood (December 19, 2011)

The book, published by St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, is highly recommended. Here is a brief description of the book from St. Herman Press: Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica was one of the most renowned spiritual guides of Serbia in the twentieth century. As a novice he lived in obedience to Elder Ambrose of Miljkovo Monastery, a disciple of the Optina Elders. From him Fr. Thaddeus learned the Prayer of the Heart and the selfless love that came to characterize his whole ministry to the suffering Serbian people. Born in 1914, Elder Thaddeus lived through all the suffering endured by Serbia in the twentieth century. Over the course of two World Wars, during the Communist takeover, and through the nato bombings of 1999, he co-suffered with his people. He taught, counseled, and prayed for all who came to him in pain and sorrow. His words of love and hope provided spiritual balm for people from all classes of society. In 2002 Elder Thaddeus reposed, leaving behind a large collection of his teachings, preserved by his faithful spiritual children. His life, teachings, and spiritual conversations are here presented for the first time in English (see St. Herman Press).

1) "Our thoughts determine our whole life. If our thoughts are destructive, we will have no peace. If they are quiet, meek, and simple, our life will be the same, and we will have peace within us. It will radiate from us and influence all beings around us."

2) “Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture. If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that is what our life is like. If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility.”

3) “Our starting point is always wrong. Instead of beginning with ourselves,we always want to change others first and ourselves last. If everyone would begin first with themselves, then there would be peace all around!”

4) "I realized that we all worry about ourselves too much and that only he who leaves everything to the will of God can feel truly joyous, light, and peaceful."

5) "We must learn to ease the burden of thoughts that bears down upon us. As soon as we feel burdened, we must turn to the Lord and give our worries over to Him, as well as the worries and cares of our loved ones."

6) "The Lord has taken all of our sufferings and cares upon Himself, and He has said that He will provide for all our needs, yet we hold on to our cares so tightly that we create unrest in our hearts and minds, in our families, and all around us."

7) "The Lord is present everywhere, and nothing happens without His will or His permission, either in this life or in eternity. When we accept this idea, everything is made easier. If God would allow us to do everything the way we desire and when we desire, this would certainly result in catastrophe."

8) "We cannot achieve salvation unless we change our thoughts and make them different.... This is achieved by the the work of Divine power in us. Our minds thus become deified, free of passions, and holy. Only a mind which has God within it and a constant remembrance of the Lord can be deified. By knowing that He is in us and we are in Him, we can move around like fish in the water. He is everywhere, and we, like the fish, swim in Him. As soon as we leave Him, we die spiritually."

9) "A man who has within him the Kingdom of Heaven radiates holy thoughts, Divine thoughts. The Kingdom of God creates within us an atmosphere of heaven, as opposed to the atmosphere of hell that is radiated by a person when hades abides in his heart. The role of Christians in the world is to filter the atmosphere on earth and expand the atmosphere of the Kingdom of God."

10) "We can keep guard over the whole world by keeping guard over the atmosphere of heaven within us, for if we lose the Kingdom of Heaven, we will save neither ourselves nor others. He who has the Kingdom of God in himself will imperceptibly pass it on to others. People will be attracted by the peace and warmth in us; they will want to be near us, and the atmosphere of heaven will gradually pass on to them. It is not even necessary to speak to people about this. The atmosphere of heaven will radiate from us even when we keep silence or talk about ordinary things. It will radiate from us even though we may not be aware of it."

11) "A person who is entrapped in the vicious cycle of chaotic thoughts, in the atmosphere of hades, or has only so much as touched it, feels the torments of hell. For example, we read the newspapers or take a walk in the streets, and afterwards we suddenly feel that something is not quite right in our souls; we feel an atmosphere; we feel sadness. That is because by reading all sorts of things, our mind becomes distracted and the atmosphere of hades has free access to our minds."

12) "The Holy Fathers tell us to let our attention be on the Lord immediately upon waking, to let our thoughts be united with Him during the entire day, and to remember Him at every moment. The Holy Fathers prayed to be delivered from forgetfulness, for we often get carried away by the things of this world and forget the Lord.... We forget that He is everywhere and that any job we do and any task we perform is His."

13) "Your thoughts are burdened because you are influenced by the thoughts of your fellow men. Pray to the Lord that He might take this burden from you. These are the thoughts of others which differ from yours. They have their plan, and the plan is to attack you with their thoughts. Instead of letting go, you have allowed yourself to become part of their plan, so of course you suffer. Had you ignored the attack, you would have kept your peace. They could have thought or said anything at all about you, yet you would have remained calm and at peace."

14) "Why does the Lord command us to love our enemies and to pray for them? Not for their sake, but for ours! For as long as we bear grudges, as long as we dwell on how someone offended us, we will have no peace."

15) "This is how we must live - controlling our thoughts. It is not good to dwell on every thought that comes to us; otherwise we lose our peace. If we learn to refuse such proposals, we are quiet. We do not fantasize or create any images in our mind."

16) "While praying, a person should not have any thoughts, but rather become selfless.... When praying, we should not be preoccupied with ourselves, because in that case we are so absorbed in our own needs that we ourselves are detrimental to our prayer.... Let us say someone is threatening us, or trying to talk us into doing something bad. Let him do so; this person has a will of his own. Let him do his job, and we will do ours, which is to preserve our inner peace."

17) "One should preach not from one's rational mind but rather from the heart. Only that which is from the heart can touch another heart. One must never attack or oppose anyone. If he who preaches must tell people to keep away from a certain kind of evil, he must do so meekly and humbly, with fear of God."

18) "The Holy Fathers have written much about . . . how to control one's mind and heart. They have said that we must endeavor to perform every task, every kind of work, from the heart, because feelings come from the heart, not from the head. We think with the head, but when everything proceeds from the heart, this is a concentration of all the powers of the mind in the heart. When we pray, we must do so from the heart, for God is the Lord of the heart."

19) "God reveals Himself only to the meek and humble.... He who is not obedient cannot attain humility."

20) "We should not think too much about who our superiors are, or who our employer is. What we should bear in mind is that every type of work on earth and in all the universe is God's work, and as such it should be performed from the heart, without reservation."

21) "When our neighbor comes to us with his troubles, we take part in them, but if we do not know how to relax - to give all our infirmities and those of our neighbor to the Lord - then we bear this cumbersome burden in our own minds and hearts and, over time, we become unbearably stressed and nervous.... This is because we have not taught ourselves to let go of our thoughts. When our thoughts are at peace, our body rests too."

22) "Our plans and interests often interfere with our lives. We make all these plans, believing that we will never succeed in anything unless we arrange everything meticulously. We truly must try to do everything as our conscience tells us, but we must not do anything in haste. It is when we are in a hurry that the enemy traps us. In haste we cannot be aware of whether we have said something to offend our fellow man or whether we have ignored him, because we have no time to think of him; we are too busy with the plans inside our head. In this manner it is easy to sin against our neighbor. And when we sin against our neighbor, we are actually sinning against God, for God is everywhere. He dwells in the souls of each and every one of us. Our relationship toward our fellow men defines our relationship toward God."

23) "When we are among a large number of people, say at our workplace, people often argue there, especially at large meetings. It is always best to keep silent at large gatherings. Let the others bring out their suggestions. We should keep silent. If you absolutely must say something, then say it so as not to offend anyone's dignity. It is better not to become involved. Mind your own business and try to keep your peace."

25) "When we pray without attentiveness, then we are not praying in spirit and in truth, or in our thoughts. However, when we are attentive to what we ask for in prayer, we are concentrated on the words we speak and on that which we are asking for."

26) "The Holy Fathers say that everyone, when they pray to God, can find a word that can touch their hearts, whether it be in the Psalter or in some soul-edifying book."

27) "There are very few people who come to their senses, very few who understand life. We pray with our lips only, and we hurry through our prayers to 'get it over with' as soon as possible, and then we lose peace. Fasting and prayer are a means of embellishing our soul and bringing it back to its original state."

28) "The Holy Fathers have taught us how to fast. Those who are physically weak and sick do not need to fast; they can take Holy Communion without fasting. But we who are physically healthy must prepare for Communion by fasting. This means that we eat less and only certain kinds of food, for by doing so we discipline our bodies and our thoughts. When the body is humbled, our thoughts become more peaceful, too. This is the purpose of fasting. God is present in a mysterious way in every being, most especially in the heart, which is the center of life. It is impossible to unite with God when the stomach is full, for a full stomach causes many cares and worries. All our thoughts, all our emotions, and all our will must be concentrated. When they are not, we are restless and lose our peace."

29) "St. Isaac the Syrian says, 'Preserve your inner peace at all costs and do not trade it for anything in this world.'

30) "We should say the words of the prayers knowing that the Lord sees us and that He is listening to us. When something 'moves' in the heart while we are at prayer, we should hold on to it and try to preserve that feeling."

31) "Death, the Judgment, heaven, and hell. We must have a remembrance of these things all the time. As for our attention, it must be focused on the words of the prayer."

32) "It is God's all-encompassing love that manifests itself in us. When this happens we see no difference between people - everyone is good, everyone is our brother, and we consider ourselves to be the worst of men, servants of every created thing. In this kind of love we are humbled; our soul is at peace and in humility. And humility is the perfection of the Christian life. It is not in the raising of the dead or in working miracles that Christian perfection lies, but in extreme humility. When we are illumined by the Grace of the Holy Spirit in the fullness of Divine love, then we want to serve everyone and help everyone. Even when we see a little ant struggling, we want to help him. So, love is sacrifice. Love sacrifices itself for its neighbor."

33) "Let us fall down before the Lord with an innocent heart, using our own words in addition to the prayer rule that we all adhere to and which we very much need (for if we have no prayer rule, then the evil one will give us his own rule - all kinds of thoughts). That's why we need prayer, no matter how short. As soon as we are out of bed, let us give thanks to God for having allowed us to live through the night. When evening comes, let us give thanks for everything, for the Lord is the Giver of life and the Giver of all things."

34) "The heart is always cold when the thoughts are scattered. It is only when the thoughts are gathered and centered in the heart that the heart begins to burn."

35) "If we turn toward the Fountain of Life - God - then He will give us the strength to become rooted in good thoughts - quiet, peaceful, and kind thoughts, full of love. Our sincere repentance will shine through, for good thoughts, good wishes, and feelings of love radiate peace and give comfort to every being.... Repentance is a complete turning of one's heart toward Absolute Goodness, and not only of the heart but also of the mind, the feelings, the body, and one's whole being. Repentance is the unbreakable union of love with our Father and Creator."

Source: http://www.fatherarseny.com/elder-thaddeus.html