"Thus therefore it is, and thus we believe. But after receiving the knowledge of the truth and winning regeneration and adoption as sons, and tasting of the divine mysteries, we must strive hard to keep our feet lest we fall. For to fall becometh not the athlete, since many have fallen and been unable to rise. Some, opening a door to sinful lusts, and clinging obstinately to them, have no more had strength to hasten back to repentance; and others, being untimely snatched by death, and having not made speed enough to wash them from the pollution of their sin, have been damned. And for this cause it is parlous to fall into any kind of sinful affection whatsoever. But if any man fall, he must at once leap up, and stand again to fight the good fight: and, as often as there cometh a fall, so often must there at once ensue this rising and standing, unto the end. For, `Turn ye unto me, and I will turn unto you,' saith the Lord God."
To this said Ioasaph, "But how, after baptism, shall a man keep himself clear from all sin? For even if there be, as thou sayest, repentance for them that stumble, yet it is attended with toil and trouble, with weeping and mourning; things which, methinks, are not easy for the many to accomplish. But I desired rather to find a way to keep strictly the commandments of God, and not swerve from them, and, after his pardoning of my past misdeeds, never again to provoke that most sweet God and Master."
Barlaam answered, "Well said, my lord and king. That also is my desire; but it is hard, nay quite impossible, for a man living with fire not to be blackened with smoke: for it is an uphill task, and one not easy of accomplishment, for a man that is tied to the matters of this life and busied with its cares and troubles, and liveth in riches and luxury, to walk unswervingly in the way of the commandments of the Lord, and to preserve his life pure of these evils. `For,' saith the Lord, `no man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.' So also writeth the beloved Evangelist and Divine in his Epistle, thus saying, `Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.'
"These things were well understood by our holy and inspired fathers; and mindful of the Apostle's word that we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, they strove, after holy baptism, to keep their garment of immortality spotless and undefiled. Whence some of them also thought fit to receive yet another baptism; I mean that which is by blood and martyrdom. For this too is called baptism, the most honourable, and reverend of all, inasmuch as its waters are not polluted by fresh sin; which also our Lord underwent for our sakes, and rightly called it baptism. So as imitators and followers of him, first his eyewitness, disciples, and Apostles, and then the whole band of holy martyrs yielded themselves, for the name of Christ, to kings and tyrants that worshipped idols, and endured every form of torment, being exposed to wild beasts, fire and sword, confessing the good confession, running the course and keeping the faith. Thus they gained the prizes of righteousness, and became the companions of Angels, and fellow-heirs with Christ. Their virtue shone so bright that their sound went out into all lands, and the splendour of their good deeds flashed like lightning into the ends of the earth. Of these men, not only the words and works, but even the very blood and bones are full of all sanctity, mightily casting out devils, and giving to such as touch them in faith the healing of incurable diseases: yea, and even their garments, and anything else that hath been brought near their honoured bodies, are always worthy of the reverence of all creation. And it were a long tale to tell one by one their deeds of prowess.
"But when those cruel and brutal tyrants brought their miserable lives to a miserable end, and persecution ceased, and Christian kings ruled throughout the world, then others too in succession emulated the Martyrs' zeal and divine desire, and, wounded at heart with the same love, considered well how they might present soul and body without blemish unto God, by cutting off all the workings of sinful lusts and purifying themselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit. But, as they perceived that this could only be accomplished by the keeping of the commandments of Christ, and that the keeping of his commandments and the practice of the virtues was difficult to attain in the midst of the turmoils of the world, they adopted for themselves a strange and changed manner of life, and, obedient to the voice divine, forsook all, parents, children, friends, kinsfolk, riches and luxury, and, hating everything in the world, withdrew, as exiles, into the deserts, being destitute, afflicted, evil entreated, wandering in wildernesses and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth, self-banished from all the pleasures and delights upon earth, and standing in sore need even of bread and shelter. This they did for two causes: firstly, that never seeing the objects of sinful lust, they might pluck such desires by the root out of their soul, and blot out the memory thereof, and plant within themselves the love and desire of divine and heavenly things: and secondly, that, by exhausting the flesh by austerities, and becoming Martyrs in will, they might not miss the glory of them that were made perfect by blood, but might be themselves, in their degree, imitators of the sufferings of Christ, and become partakers of the kingdom that hath no end. Having then come to this wise resolve, they adopted the quiet of monastic life, some facing the rigours of the open air, and braving the blaze of the scorching heat and fierce frosts and rain-storms and tempestuous winds, others spending their lives in the hovels which they had builded them, or in the hiding of holes and caverns. Thus, in pursuit of virtue, they utterly denied themselves all fleshly comfort and repose, submitting to a diet of uncooked herbs and worts, or acorns, or hard dry bread, not merely saying good-bye to delights in their quality, but, in very excess of temperance, extending their zeal to limit even the quantity of enjoyment. For even of those common and necessary meats they took only so much as was sufficient to sustain life. Some of them continued fasting the whole week, and partook of victuals only of a Sunday: others thought of food twice only in the week: others ate every other day, or daily at eventide, that is, took but a taste of food. In prayers and watchings they almost rivalled the life of Angels, bidding a long farewell to the possession of gold and silver, and quite forgetting that buyings and sellings are concerns of men.
"But envy and pride, the evils most prone to follow good works, had no place amongst them. He that was weaker in ascetic exercises entertained no thought of malice against him of brighter example. Nor again was he, that had accomplished great feats, deceived and puffed up by arrogance to despise his weaker brethren, or set at nought his neighbour, or boast of his rigours, or glory in his achievements. He that excelled in virtue ascribed nothing to his own labours, but all to the power of God, in humility of mind persuading himself that his labours were nought and that he was debtor even for more, as saith the Lord, `When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, "We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."' Others again persuaded themselves that they had not done even the things which they were commanded to do, but that the things left undone outnumbered the things already well done. Again, he that was far behind in austerity, perchance through bodily weakness, would disparage and blame himself, attributing his failure to slothfulness of mind rather than to natural frailty. So each excelled each, and all excelled all in this sweet reasonableness. But the spirit of vain glory and pleasing of men -- what place had it among them? For they had fled from the world, and were dwelling in the desert, to the end that they might show their virtues not to men, but to God, from whom also they hope to receive the rewards of their good deeds, well aware that religious exercises performed for vain glory go without recompense; for these are done for the praise of men and not for God. Whence all that do thus are doubly defrauded: they waste their body, and receive no reward. But they who yearn for glory above, and strive thereafter, despise all earthly and human glory.
"As to their dwellings, some monks finish the contest in utter retirement and solitude, having removed themselves far from the haunts of men throughout the whole of their earthly life-time, and having drawn nigh to God. Others build their homes at a distance one from another, but meet on the Lord's Day at one Church, and communicate of the Holy Mysteries, I mean the unbloody Sacrifice of the undefiled Body and precious Blood of Christ, which the Lord gave to the Faithful for the remission of sins, for the enlightenment and sanctification of soul and body. They entertain one another with the exercises of the divine Oracles and moral exhortations, and make public the secret wiles of their adversaries, that none, through ignorance of the manner of wrestling, may be caught thus. Then turn they again, each to his own home, eagerly storing the honey of virtue in the cells of their hearts, and husbanding sweet fruits worthy of the heavenly board.
"Others again spend their life in monasteries. These gather in multitudes in one spot, and range themselves under one superior and president, the best of their number, slaying all self-will with the sword of obedience. Of their own free choice they consider themselves as slaves bought at a price, and no longer live for themselves, but for him, to whom, for Christ his sake, they have become obedient; or rather, to speak more properly, they live no more for themselves, but Christ liveth in them, whom to follow, they renounce all. This is retirement, a voluntary hatred of the world, and denial of nature by desire of things above nature. These men therefore live the lives of Angels on earth, chanting psalms and hymns with one consent unto the Lord, and purchasing for themselves the title of Confessors by labours of obedience. And in them is fulfilled the word of the Lord, when he saith, `Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.' By this number he limiteth not the gathering together in his name, but by `two or three' signifieth that the number is indefinite. For, whether there be many, or few, gathered together because of his holy name, serving him with fervent zeal, there we believe him to be present in the midst of his servants.