st maximos the confessor
by Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas
... Saint Maximus writes in the preface to his "400 Chapters on Love", which he addressed to "Elpidius the Presbyter", who, as it appears, asked him for this discourse: "I request that you not be annoyed by anything that is said; I have simply fulfilled an obligation."
At first he clarifies that everything mentioned in this text are not reflections of his intellect, but selections from the wisdom of the Holy Fathers, whose words he investigated, and then tells the recipient of this discourse the way it should be studied to be benefited spiritually. While studying it, he will need to look for the benefit which comes from the words, overlooking the style which lacks charm, and to pray for the author. Out of humility he adds that the author of this essay is bereft of spiritual profit. Further, he emphasizes that the study of this essay must not be out of curiosity, but with the fear of God and love, because without the Grace of God one cannot see the depth of what is read to benefit from it.
"Perhaps it might happen that something useful to the soul will be revealed out of them. This will happen completely by the Grace of God to the one who reads with an uncomplicated mind, with the fear of God and with love. But if someone reads this or any other book whatever not for the spiritual profit but to hunt for phrases to reproach the author so that he might then set himself up in his own opinion as wiser than he, such a person will never receive any profit of any kind."