Feast of St John the Russian of Evia
MANY WHO practice the commandments think they are following the spiritual path. But they have not yet reached the city, and in fact remain outside it. For they travel foolishly, deviating unawares from the straight highway into side-roads, not realizing how close the vices are to the path of virtue. For the true fulfillment of the commandments demands that we do neither too little nor too much but simply pursue a course acceptable to God and in accordance with His will. Otherwise we labor in vain and do not make straight the paths of the Lord (cf. Is. 40.3). For in everything we do we must be clear about the goal we are pursuing.
To be on the spiritual path means seeking the Lord in your heart through fulfilling the commandments. For when you listen to John the Baptist, crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight” (Matt. 3.3), you must understand that he is referring to the commandments and their fulfillment both in the heart and in actions. It is impossible to “make straight” the path of the commandments and to act rightly unless your heart too is straight and upright.
When Scripture speaks of rod and staff (cf. Ps. 23.4), you should take these to signify in the prophetic sense judgment and providence, and in the moral sense psalmody and prayer. For when we are chastened by the Lord with the rod of correction (cf. 1 Cor. 11.32), this is so that we may learn how to mend our ways. And when we chasten our assailants with the rod of dauntless psalmody, we become established in prayer. Since we thus wield the rod and the staff of spiritual action, let us not cease to chasten and be chastened until we are wholly in the hands of providence and escape judgment both now and hereafter.
—St Gregory of Sinai, On Commandments and Doctrines