St Peter of Damaskos,
Book1, A Treasury of Divine Knowledge The Second Stage of
Contemplation, Philokalia V3.112
Woe is me, unhappy that I am! What shall 1 do? I have sinned greatly; many
blessings are bestowed on me; I am very weak. Many are the temptations: sloth
overwhelms me, forgetfulness benights me and will not let me see myself and my
many crimes. Ignorance is evil; conscious transgression is worse; virtue is difficult
to achieve; the passions are many; the demons are crafty and subtle; sin is easy;
death is near; the reckoning is bitter. Alas, what shall I do? Where shall I flee
from myself? For I am the cause of my own destruction. I have been honoured
with free will and no one can force me. I have sinned, I sin constantly, and am
indifferent to any good thing, though no one constrains me. Whom can I blame?
God, who is good and full of compassion, who always longs for us to turn to Him
and repent? The angels, who love and protect me? Men, who also desire my
progress? The demons? They cannot constrain anyone unless, because of
negligence or despair, he chooses to destroy himself. Who is then to blame?
Surely it is myself?
I begin to see that my soul is being destroyed, and yet I make no effort ‘to
embark on a godly life. Why, O my soul, are you so indifferent about yourself?
Why, when you sin, are you not as ashamed before God and His angels as you are
before men? Alas, alas, for I do not feel the shame before my Creator and Master
that I feel before a man.
Before a man I cannot sin, but do all I can to appear to be acting righteously; yet
standing before God I think evil thoughts and often am not ashamed to speak of
them. What madness! Though I sin, I have no fear of God who watches me, and
yet I cannot tell to a single man what I have done so as to give him a chance to
correct me. Alas, for I know the punishment and yet am unwilling to repent.
I love the heavenly kingdom, and yet do not acquire virtue. I believe in God and
constantly disobey His commandments. I hate the devil, and yet do not stop doing
what he wants. If I pray, I lose interest and become unfeeling. If I fast, I become
proud, and damn myself all the more. If I keep vigil, I think I have achieved
something, and so I have no profit from it. If I read, I do one of two evil things in
my obduracy: either I read for the sake of profane learning and self-esteem, and
so am farther benighted; or by reading, and not acting in the spirit of what I read,
I simply increase my guilt.
If by God’s grace I happen to stop sinning in outward action, I do not stop sinning
continually in what I say. And if God’s grace should protect me also from this, I
continue to provoke His wrath by my evil thoughts.
Alas, what can I do? Wherever I go, I find sin. Everywhere there are demons.
Despair is worst of all. I have provoked God, I have saddened His angels, I have
frequently injured and offended men.
I would like, Lord, to erase the record of my sins by tears, and through repentance
to live the rest of my life according to Thy will. But the enemy deceives me and
battles with my soul. Lord, before I perish completely, save me.
I have sinned against Thee, Saviour, like the prodigal son; receive me, Father, in
my repentance and have mercy on me, O God.
I cry to Thee, O Christ my Saviour, with the voice of the publican: be gracious to
me, as to him, and have mercy upon me, O God.’
What will happen in the last days? What is to come afterwards? How hapless I
am! ‘Who will give water to my head and a fountain of tears to my eyes?’ (Jer. 9:
1. LXX). Who can grieve for me as I deserve? I cannot do so.
Come, mountains, cover me in my abjectness. What have I to say? 0 how many
blessings has God bestowed on me, blessings that only He knows of, and how
many terrible things in act, word and thought have I done in my ingratitude,
always provoking my Benefactor. And the more long-suffering He is, the more I
disdain Him, becoming harder in heart than lifeless stones. Yet I do not despair,
but acknowledge Thy great compassion.
I have no repentance, no tears. Therefore I entreat Thee, Saviour, to make me
turn back before I die and to grant me repentance, so that I may be spared
punishment.
O  Lord my God, do not abandon me, though I am nothing before Thee, though I
am wholly a sinner. How shall I become aware of my many sins? For unless I
become aware, severe is my condemnation. For me Thou hast created heaven and
earth, the four elements and all that is formed from them, as St Gregory the
Theologian says. I shall keep silence as to the rest, for I am unworthy to say
anything because of my many crimes. Who, even if he had the intellect of an
angel, could grasp all the countless blessings I have been given? Yet because I do
not change my ways I shall lose them all.