Self-Denial/Renunciation and Bearing One’s Cross

“If we abandon our own desires and opinions, and endeavor to fulfill God’s wishes and understanding, we will save ourselves, no matter what our position, no matter what our circumstance. But if we cling to our own desires and opinions, neither position nor circumstance will be of help. Even in Paradise, Eve transgressed God’s commandment, and life with the Savior Himself brought the unfortunate Judas no good. As we read in the Holy Gospels, we require patience and an inclination to pious living.”

~ St. Amvrossy of Optina
[Counsels of the Venerable Elder St. Amvrossy of Optina]


Everyone bears his cross, and you bear your cross, even though it is only the size of a finger; you still bear it. The bearing of a cross is absolutely necessary for every Christian for his salvation, and not only for monks. Yes, everyone ears a cross, and has borne a cross; even the Incarnate God bore a cross, and His Cross was the heaviest, as if combining in itself all the crosses of mankind. And take note: God is carrying the cross and a man (Simon the Cyrenian) helps Him. He takes the cross from Him and carries it himself. This means that by bearing our crosses we help the Lord to carry the cross, i.e., we are preparing to be His servants in heaven in the choir of bodiless Spirites… . What a high calling! -St. Barsanuphius of Optina

We seek and desire sweet, spiritual enjoyment; I do not argue, it is pleasant—but it is lower than the cross. It is granted to us through the cross and without the cross it cannot last. It comes to us and leaves us according to the degree that we travel the way of the cross and humility. -St. Macarius of Optina

To bear the cross does not mean only visible, external sorrows, but also internal spiritual ones. One must endure darkness, faintheartedness and similar things as well. For God sends this for the destruction of our pride and acquiring of humility. -St. Macarius of Optina

It has been so arranged by the Lord God, that in His care for the salvation of our soul, each person in this life has a cross which he must humbly carry to our Heavenly Father from his childhood, calling to Him from the depth of his soul: “Our Father! May Thy Holy Will be done in all things, only do not deprive me of Thy Heavenly Kingdom. -St. Anthony of Optina

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. –Romans 12:2

By the world, “world,” we understand everything which is subject to the passions, which is far from God. Here we are fine. Glory to God! We live in the desert of the world—we can go to church, we can converse with like-minded people. Glory to God! -St. Nikon of Optina

Beware of passionate attachments to the world. Although they deceive you with peace and comfort, they are so fleeting that you do not notice how you are deprived of them, and in their place come sorrow, longing, despondency, and no comfort whatsoever-St. Leo of Optina

Having recognized the truly useless vanity of the world, you should flee from it and seek for yourself a way to fulfill the will of God. But as long as we serve the world, we do not see the darkness of the passions, darkening our thoughts. Being in such a state of blindness, we do not care that by pleasing the world we become violators of the Divine Commandments, and we think by making a few minor corrections we will become true Christians; but in this way, we greatly deceive ourselves, not studying the teachings of the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ-St. Macarius of Optina

The man who is poor in spirit desires and says with his whole heart,Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.  It is as though he himself disappears; everywhere and in everything he wishes to see God–in himself and in others.  ‘Let everything by Thine, not mine.‘ -St. John of Krondstat

And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. -1 John 2:17

We abandon ourselves, we renounce ourselves, when we escape from what we were in our old state, and strive toward what we are called to be in our new one. Let us see how Paul, who said `It is no longer I who live’ renounced himself: the cruel persecutor was destroyed and the holy preacher began to live. But how was Paul, who said that he was no longer living, able to proclaim the message of truth? Immediately after saying `It is no longer I who live,’; he added, `but Christ lives in me.’ He means that he had indeed been destroyed by himself, since he no longer lived unspiritually, but in his essential being he was not dead since he was spiritually alive in Christ. -St. Gregory the Great

The chief evil with relation to the body is love for the body and pitying it. This takes away all the soul’s authority over the body and makes the soul the slave of the body. And on the contrary, one who does not spare the body will not be disturbed in whatever he does by apprehensions born of blind love of life. How fortunate is one who is trained to this from childhood! -St Theophan the Recluse

… The holy Fathers relate that when the thief of the Gospel, too, came to the gates of the Kingdom, the Archangel with the flaming sword wanted to chase him away, but he showed him the Cross. Immediately the fire-bearing Archangel himself withdrew and permitted the thief to enter. Understand here not the wooden cross. But which? The Cross in which the chief Apostle Paul boasts and concerning which he writes, ‘I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 6:17). -St. Anatoly of Optina

Do not the angels differs from us in this respect, that they do not want so many things as we do? Therefore the less we need, the more we are on our way to them; the more we need, the more we sink down to this perishable life. St. John Chrysostom

But it is not enough for us to abandon our possessions if we do not abandon ourselves as well. What does it mean to abandon ourselves? If we abandon ourselves, where shall we go outside of ourselves? And who is it who departs, if a person has forsaken himself? But we are one thing when we have fallen into sin, and another in the nature with which we were created; what we did is one thing, what we have become is another. Let us abandon the selves we have made by sinning, and let us continue to be the selves we have become by grace. -St. Gregory the Great

If you wish to see the blessings which “God has prepared for those who love Him” (I COR 2:9), then take up your abode in the desert of the renunciation of your own will, and flee the world. What world? The world of the lust of the eyes, of your fallen self (I JN 2:16), the presumptuousness of your own thoughts, the deceit of things you can see. Niketas Stethatos

The first duty of a Christian, of a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ, is to deny himself. To deny oneself means to give up one’s bad habits, to root out of the heart all that ties us to the world; not to cherish bad desires and thoughts; to quench and suppress bad thoughts; to avoid occasions of sin; not to do or desire anything from self-love but to do everything out of love for God. To deny oneself means, according to the Apostle Paul, to be dead to sin and the world, but alive to God. -St. Innocent of Alaska

The chef reason why so people attain to full Christian perfection is exactly their reluctance, through self-pity, to force themselves to deny themselves. -Bishop Theophan the Recluse

Then Jesus called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the Gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” -Mark 8:34-37

A man takes a little walk and sees something. His thoughts say to him, ‘Go over there and investigate’ and he says to his thoughts, ‘No! I won’t’ and he cuts off his desire. Again he finds someone gossiping and his thoughts say to him, ‘You go and have a word with them.’ and he cuts off his desire and does not speak. Or again his thoughts say to him, ‘Go and ask, the cook, what’s cooking?’ And he does not go but cuts off his desire. Then he sees something else and his thoughts say to him, ‘Go down and ask who brought it?’ And he does not ask. A man denying himself in this way comes little by little to form a habit of it so that from denying himself in little things he begins to deny himself in great without the least trouble. Finally he comes not to have any of these extraneous desires but whatever happens to him he is satisfied with it as if it were the very thing he wanted. -Abba Dorotheos of Gaza

If we mortify our desires, cut off harmful pleasures, and not only allow nothing to remain with us of this world’s goods but actually recognize that we are not our own masters, then we truly make our own the apostle’s words, ‘It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. -Abba Abraham

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. -Gal. 2:20

A man who gives way to his passions is like a man who is shot by an enemy, catches the arrow in his hands, and then plunges it into his own heart. A man who is resisting his passions is like a man who is shot by an enemy, and although the arrow hits him, it does not seriously wound him because he is wearing a breastplate. But the man who is uprooting his passions is like a man who is shot by an enemy, but who strikes the arrow and shatters it or turns it back into his enemies heart. -St. Dorotheos of Gaza