Isaac the Syrian: The Burning of the Heart unto the Whole Creation Friday, Apr 11 2014 

OsiosIsaakSyros07What is repentance? To desist from former sins and to suffer on account of them.

And what is the sum of purity? A heart full of mercy unto the whole created nature.

And what is perfection? Depth of humility, namely giving up all visible and invisible things….

Another time the same father was asked: What is repentance? He answered: A broken heart.

And what is humility? He replied: Embracing a voluntary mortification regarding all things.

And what is a merciful heart? He replied:

The burning of the heart unto the whole creation, man, fowls and beasts, demons and whatever exists so that by the recollection and the sight of them the eyes shed tears on account of the force of mercy which moves the heart by great compassion.

Then the heart becomes weak, and it is not able to bear hearing or examining injury or any insignificant suffering of anything in the creation.

And therefore even in behalf of the irrational beings and the enemies of truth and even in behalf of those who do harm to it, at all times he offers prayers with tears that they may be guarded and strengthened; even in behalf of the kinds of reptiles, on account of his great compassion which is poured out in his heart without measure, after the example of God.

[...] The sum of all is God, the Lord of all, who from love of His creatures, has delivered His Son to death on the cross. For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son for it.

Not that He was not able to save us in another way, but in this way it was possible to show us His abundant love abundantly, namely by bringing us near to Him by the death of His son.

If He had anything more clear to Him, He would have given it us, in order that by it our race might be His.

And out of His great love He did not even choose to urge our freedom by compulsion, though He was able to do so. But His aim was, that we should come near to Him by the love of our mind.

And our Lord obeyed His Father out of love unto us, taking upon Him scorn and suffering joyfully, as Scripture says: “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.”

Therefore our Lord said in the night in which He was betrayed: “This is my body which is given for the salvation of the world unto life. And this is my blood which is shed for all for the remission of sins. In behalf of them I offer myself.”

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Mystic Treatises, 74, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck).

Theodore the Studite: We shall be a Holy Temple to God, Beautified with Gifts upon Gifts Friday, Mar 14 2014 

Theodore_the_StuditeContinued from here….

And since we should become yet more humble and obedient by the study of the inspired Scriptures, let us beware lest we be puffed up in the vanity of our mind, so as to make our knowledge an occasion of evil, and like-wise also our power in speech and argument, our experience, our skill, our correctness in framing and uttering our words; our good reading, or maybe our subtlety, our skill of hand, our psalmody, our learning, our skill in music, our culture, and the like.

But let the gift of these things be to us rather a cause of fear and of self-abasement before God who has given them. For thus we shall find God merciful, — or rather bountiful, and ready to give us yet more, that we may be filled with good things. And we shall be a holy temple to God, beautified with gifts upon gifts.

But if we shall become presumptuous towards God, and seek to lord it over our brethren, stretching up, as it were, the neck of our souls, and raising our eyebrows and hoisting our shoulders and walking boastfully, seeking this or that, judging others in our pride and foolishness: — asking ever “why are not things otherwise?” or “why have not I the charge of this matter?” or “why should this man have the management of that business?” if we act thus, we are indeed vain and foolish, and are like those in the proverb who pour water into leaky vessels.

Not so, my brethren, not so. Let us not make our opportunities a cause of destruction or the day of work a day of loss; nor, when we may mount the walls of virtue, slip down into vice. Our opportunity is great, our days are delightful. For they are spent in following the commandments of God, in attaining everlasting wealth, in purchasing the kingdom of Heaven. Let us run, let us hasten.

I exhort you, I beseech you. I would kneel before you and implore you as my inmost life and all my joy, my boasting and my crown, my glory and praise. Those who have affirmed and those who have denied; those who have followed the way for long and those who are new to it; those from distant folds and those bred among us; all now of one herd and one flock, of one fold and one charge, nurslings of one shepherd ! Let us think no more of evil that might come. May you live thus and strive thus and be perfected thus in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be the glory and the power with the Father and the Holy Spirit now and for ever. Amen.

Theodore the Studite (759-826): Great Catechesis, Discourse 61 in Alice Gardner, Theodore of Studium: His Life and Times (1905), pp. 90-91.

Albert the Great: Plunged, Enlarged, Set on Fire and Dissolved into God Saturday, Feb 22 2014 

Albertus_Magnus_Painting_by_Joos_van_GentI have had the idea of writing something for myself on and about the state of complete and full abstraction from everything and of cleaving freely, confidently, nakedly and firmly to God alone, so as to describe it fully (in so far as it is possible in this abode of exile and pilgrimage), especially since the goal of Christian perfection is the love by which we cleave to God.

In fact everyone is obligated, to this loving cleaving to God as necessary for salvation, in the form of observing the commandments and conforming to the divine will, and the observation of the commandments excludes everything that is contrary to the nature and habit of love, including mortal sin.

Members of religious orders have committed themselves in addition to evangelical perfection, and to the things that constitute a voluntary and counselled perfection by means of which one may arrive more quickly to the supreme goal which is God.

The observation of these additional commitments excludes as well the things that hinder the working and fervour of love, and without which one can come to God, and these include the renunciation of all things, of both body and mind, exactly as one’s vow of profession entails.

Since indeed the Lord God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth, in other words, by knowledge and love, that is, understanding and desire, stripped of all images.

This is what is referred to in Matthew 6.6, ‘When you pray, enter into your inner chamber,’ that is, your inner heart, ‘and having closed the door,’ that is of your senses, and there with a pure heart and a clear conscience, and with faith unfeigned, ‘pray to your Father,’ in spirit and in truth, ‘in secret.’

This can be done best when a man is disengaged and removed from everything else, and completely recollected within himself. There, in the presence of Jesus Christ, with everything, in general and individually, excluded and wiped out, the mind alone turns in security confidently to the Lord its God with its desire.

In this way it pours itself forth into him in full sincerity with its whole heart and the yearning of its love, in the most inward part of all its faculties, and is plunged, enlarged, set on fire and dissolved into him.

Albert the Great (1193/1206–1280) [attributed]: On Cleaving to God, 1.

Georges Florovsky: Gregory of Nyssa on the Appearance of God to Moses on Mount Sinai Friday, Jan 10 2014 

FlorovskyJanuary 10th is the feast of St Gregory of Nyssa (OrthooxWiki here; Pope Benedixt XVI here and here; Georges Florovsky here).

Gregory sees an example of the mystical ascent to God in the figure of Moses the Lawgiver and in the appearance of God on Mount Sinai.

The people were ordered to purify themselves, and the mountain was covered with a cloud and illuminated by fire.

“By the power of God alone and without any other implement the air formed itself into individual words. These words were not only distinct, but they proclaimed the divine commandments.”

The people were afraid to ascend the mountain to listen, and only Moses entered the cloud.

He himself became invisible when he penetrated the ineffable mystery of the Divinity and was in communion with the Invisible One.”

The appearance of God begins with light, and Moses had once seen God in His radiance in the Burning Bush. Now, having become closer to perfection, he saw God in a cloud and, sheltered by a cloud, he participated in eternal life.

In Gregory’s interpretation the first steps away from the path of error are light. A closer examination of that which is hidden leads into a cloud, which replaces visible things.

Finally the soul enters the innermost sanctuary of the knowledge of God “which is enveloped on all sides by the divine cloud. Everything that can be seen and comprehended remains outside, and all that is left for the vision of the soul is that which is invisible and incomprehensible. In this cloud is God.”

The Divinity is “beyond the reach of the understanding.” As man ascends, the “inaccessible nature of Divinity” gradually becomes revealed to him and reason sees God in “the invisible and incomprehensible,” in “a radiant cloud.”

Even when it reaches this cloud the soul realizes that it is as far from perfection as if it had never set out. According to Gregory, it is exactly this that is the highest truth of all.

Our true knowledge is that we do not and cannot know because that which we seek is beyond our cognition. By its very nature the Divinity is higher than knowledge and comprehension.

The first principle of theology must be that God is inaccessible. That which can be contemplated cannot be conceptually expressed.

Whoever claims that God can be known merely shows that he has abandoned the One Who truly exists in favor of something which exists only in the imagination and which does not contain true life, for this life cannot be expressed by concepts.

Georges Florovsky (1893-1979; Eastern Orthodox): “St Gregory of Nyssa” in The Eastern Fathers of the Fourth Century.

Benedict XVI: Gregory of Nyssa – Pressing Onwards Towards Perfection Friday, Jan 10 2014 

Pope_Benedictus_XVIJanuary 10th is the feast of St Gregory of Nyssa (OrthooxWiki here; Pope Benedixt XVI here and here; Georges Florovsky here).

Gregory of Nyssa had a very lofty concept of human dignity.

Man’s goal, the holy Bishop said, is to liken himself to God, and he reaches this goal first of all through the love, knowledge and practice of the virtues, “bright beams that shine from the divine nature”, in a perpetual movement of adherence to the good like a corridor outstretched before oneself.

In this regard, Gregory uses an effective image already present in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: épekteinómenos (3: 13), that is, “I press on” towards what is greater, towards truth and love.

This vivid expression portrays a profound reality: the perfection we desire to attain is not acquired once and for all; perfection means journeying on, it is continuous readiness to move ahead because we never attain a perfect likeness to God; we are always on our way.

The history of every soul is that of a love which fills every time and at the same time is open to new horizons, for God continually stretches the soul’s possibilities to make it capable of ever greater goods.

God himself, who has sown the seeds of good in us and from whom every initiative of holiness stems, “models the block…, and polishing and cleansing our spirit, forms Christ within us”.

Gregory was anxious to explain: “In fact, this likeness to the Divine is not our work at all; it is not the achievement of any faculty of man; it is the great gift of God bestowed upon our nature at the very moment of our birth”. For the soul, therefore, “it is not a question of knowing something about God but of having God within”.

Moreover, as Gregory perceptively observes, “Divinity is purity, it is liberation from the passions and the removal of every evil: if all these things are in you, God is truly in you”.

When we have God in us, when man loves God, through that reciprocity which belongs to the law of love he wants what God himself wants; hence, he cooperates with God in fashioning the divine image in himself, so that “our spiritual birth is the result of a free choice, and we are in a certain way our own parents, creating ourselves as we ourselves wish to be, and through our will forming ourselves in accordance with the model that we choose”.

To ascend to God, man must be purified. [...] In this journey of spiritual ascesis Christ is the Model and Teacher, he shows us the beautiful image of God. Each of us, looking at him, finds ourselves “the painter of our own life”, who has the will to compose the work and the virtues as his colours.

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): St Gregory of Nyssa (General Audience, 5th September 2007.

Aphrahat the Persian: Christ is the Temple, and Christians are a Temple for a Dwelling-Place of Christ Wednesday, Jul 17 2013 

ephrem-isaac-aphrahatThe true Stone, our Lord Jesus Christ, is the foundation of all our faith.

[...] And now hear concerning faith that is based upon the Stone, and concerning the structure that is reared up upon the Stone.

For first a man believes, and when he believes, he loves.  When he loves, he hopes.  When he hopes, he is justified.  When he is justified, he is perfected.  When he is perfected, he is consummated.

And when his whole structure is raised up, consummated, and perfected, then he becomes a house and a temple for a dwelling-place of Christ, as Jeremiah the Prophet said:

The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are ye, if ye amend your ways and your works.

And again He said through the Prophet: I will dwell in them and walk in them.  And also the Blessed Apostle thus said: Ye are the temple of God and the Spirit of Christ dwelleth in you.

And also our Lord again thus said to His disciples: Ye are in Me and I am in you.

And when the house has become a dwelling-place, then the man begins to be anxious as to that which is required for Him Who dwells in the building.

[...] In a house that is void of all good things, the King will not lodge, nor will he dwell in the midst of it; but all that is choicest in the house is required for the King and that nothing in it be deficient.

[...]  So also let the man, who becomes a house, yea a dwelling-place, for Christ, take heed to what is needed for the service of Christ, Who lodges in him, and with what things he may please Him.

[...]  If Christ is set for the foundation, how does Christ also dwell in the building when it is completed?  For both these things did the blessed Apostle say.

For he said: I as a wise architect have laid the foundation.  And there he defined the foundation and made it clear, for he said as follows: No man can lay other foundation than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

And that Christ furthermore dwells in that building is the word that was written above—that of Jeremiah who called men temples and said of God that He dwelt in them.  And the Apostle said: The Spirit of Christ dwelleth in you.  And our Lord said: I and My Father are one.

And therefore that word is accomplished, that Christ dwells in men, namely, in those who believe on Him, and He is the foundation on which is reared up the whole building.

Aphrahat the Persian (c.270-c.345): Demonstrations, 1 – On Faith (1-5). (The icon accompanying this extract depicts Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Syrian, and Aphrahat.)

Peter Damian: St Romuald – Summit of Perfection Wednesday, Jun 19 2013 

PeterDamianRomuald lived in the vicinity of the city of Parenzo for three years.

In the first year he built a monastery and appointed an abbot with monks. For the next two years he remained there in seclusion.

In that setting, divine holiness transported him to such a summit of perfection that, breathed upon by the Holy Spirit, he foresaw many future events and comprehended with the rays of his intelligence hidden mysteries of the Old and New Testament.

Frequently he was seized by so great a contemplation of divinity that he would be reduced to tears with the boiling, indescribable heat of divine love.

In this condition he would cry out: Beloved Jesus, beloved, sweet honey, indescribable longing, delight of the saints, sweetness of the angels, and other things of this kind.

We are unable to express the ecstasy of these utterances, dictated by the Holy Spirit. Wherever the holy man might arrange to live, he would follow the same pattern.

First he would build an oratory with an altar in a cell; then he would shut himself in and forbid access.

Finally, after he had lived in many places, perceiving that his end was near, he returned to the monastery he had built in the valley of Castro.

While he awaited with certainty his approaching death, he ordered a cell to be constructed there with an oratory in which he might isolate himself and preserve silence until death.

Accordingly the hermitage was built, since he had made up his mind that he would die there. His body began to grow more and more oppressed by afflictions and was already failing, not so much from weakness as from the exhaustion of great age.

One day he began to feel the loss of his physical strength under all the harassment of increasingly violent afflictions. As the sun was beginning to set, he instructed two monks who were standing by to go out and close the door of the cell behind them; they were to come back to him at daybreak to celebrate matins.

They were so concerned about his end that they went out reluctantly and did not rest immediately. On the contrary, since they were worried that their master might die, they lay hidden near the cell and watched this precious treasure. For some time they continued to listen attentively until they heard neither movement nor sound.

Rightly guessing what had happened, they pushed open the door, rushed in quickly, lit a candle and found the holy man lying on his back, his blessed soul snatched up into heaven. As he lay there, he seemed like a neglected heavenly pearl that was soon to be given a place of honour in the treasury of the King of kings.

Peter Damian (c.1007-1072): Life of St Romuald, chapters 39 and 61 @ Universalis.

Thérèse of the Child Jesus: To Know Him as He Knows Himself, and to Become Ourselves Divine Tuesday, Jun 26 2012 

St.-ThereseYou are right – life is often burdensome and bitter.

It is painful to begin a day of toil, especially when Jesus hides Himself from our love.

What is this sweet Friend about?

Does He not see our anguish and the burden that weighs us down?

Why does He not come and comfort us?

Be not afraid…. He is here at hand. He is watching, and it is He who begs from us this pain, these tears….

He needs them for souls, for our souls, and He longs to give us a magnificent reward.

I assure you that it costs Him dear to fill us with bitterness, but He knows that it is the only means of preparing us to know Him as He knows Himself, and to become ourselves Divine!

Our soul is indeed great and our destiny glorious. Let us lift ourselves above all things that pass, and hold ourselves far from the earth!

Up above, the air is so pure … Jesus may hide Himself, but we know that He is there.

My dearest sister, do not let your weakness make you unhappy.

When, in the morning, we feel no courage or strength for the practice of virtue, it is really a grace: it is the time to “lay the axe to the root of the tree” (Matt. 3:10), relying upon Jesus alone.

If we fall, an act of love will set all right, and Jesus smiles.

He helps us without seeming to do so; and the tears which sinners cause Him to shed are wiped away by our poor weak love.

Love can do all things. The most impossible tasks seem to it easy and sweet.

You know well that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.

What, then, have we to fear? You wish to become a Saint, and you ask me if this is not attempting too much.

Céline, I will not tell you to aim at the seraphic holiness of the most privileged souls, but rather to be “perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Apoc. 21:4).

You see that your dream – that our dreams and our desires – are not fancies, since Jesus Himself has laid their realisation upon us as a commandment.

Thérèse of the Child Jesus (1873-1897): Letters of Saint Thérèse to Her Sister Celine, 1 & 2.

Diadochus of Photiké: We Pray in the Spirit Who Teaches Us to Cry Without Ceasing “Abba, Father” Saturday, Jun 2 2012 

Initiatory joy is one thing, the joy of perfection is another. The first is not exempt from fantasy, while the second has the strength of humility.

Between the two joys comes a ‘godly sorrow’ (2 Cor. 7:10) and active tears; ‘For in much wisdom is much knowledge; and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow’ (Eccles. 1:18).

The soul…is first summoned to the struggle by the initiatory joy and then rebuked and tested by the truth of the Holy Spirit, as regards both its past sins and the vain distractions in which it still indulges.

[...] The soul is tested by divine rebuke as in a furnace, and through fervent remembrance of God it actively experiences the joy exempt from fantasy.

When the soul is disturbed by anger, confused by drunkenness, or sunk in deep depression, the intellect cannot hold fast to the remembrance of God no matter how hard we try to force it.

Completely darkened by the violence of the passions, it loses totally the form of perception which is proper to it.

Thus our desire that our intellect should keep the remembrance of God cannot make any impression, because the recollective faculty of our mind has been hardened by the rawness of the passions.

But, on the other hand, when the soul has attained freedom from these passions, then, even though the intellect is momentarily deprived by forgetfulness of the object of its longing, it at once resumes its proper activity.

The soul now has grace itself to share its meditation and to repeat with it the words ‘Lord Jesus’, just as a mother teaches her child to repeat with her the word ‘father’, instead of prattling in his usual way, until she has formed in him the habit of calling for his father even in his sleep.

This is why the Apostle says: ‘Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities; for we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with cries that cannot be uttered’ (Rom. 8:26).

Since we are but children as regards perfection in the virtue of prayer, we have need of the Spirit’s aid so that all our thoughts may be concentrated and gladdened by His inexpressible sweetness, and so that with all our being we may aspire to the remembrance and love of our God and Father.

For, as St Paul says, it is in the Spirit that we pray when we are taught by Him to cry without ceasing to God the Father, ‘Abba, Father’ (Rom. 8:15).

Diadochus of Photiké (c.400-before 486): On Spiritual Perfection chs 60-61, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979).

 

Columba Marmion: Christ Must Reign in Our Hearts, and All Within Us Must Be Subject to Him Monday, May 21 2012 

You will notice that during Paschal time, the Church frequently speaks to us of life, not only because Christ, by His Resurrection, has vanquished death, but above all because He has reopened to souls the fountains of eternal life.

It is in Christ that we find this life: Ego sum vita [I am the life] (Jn. XIV, 6).

This is why, likewise frequently, the Church makes us read over again on these blessed days, the parable of the Vine: “I the vine,” says Jesus, “you are the branches; abide in Me and I in you, for without Me you can do nothing” (Jn. XV, 4-5).

We must abide in Christ and He in us, in order that we may bear much fruit (Cf. Jn. 5).

How is this accomplished?

By His grace, by the faith that we have in Him, and by the virtues whereof He is the Exemplar and which we imitate.

When, having renounced sin, we die to ourselves, as the grain of wheat dies in the earth before producing fruitful ears (Jn. XII, 25),

when we no longer act save under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and in conformity with the precepts and maxims of the Gospel of Jesus,

then it is Christ’s divine life that blossoms forth in our souls, it is Christ Who lives in us: Vivo ego, jam non ego, vivit vero in me Christus [I live, yet it is not I who live, but Christ Who lives in me] (Gal. II, 20).

Such is the ideal of perfection: Viventes Deo in Christo Jesu [living unto to God in Christ Jesus].

We cannot attain it in a day; holiness, ingrafted in us at baptism, is only developed little by little, by successive stages.

Let us try to act in such a way that each Easter, each day of this blessed season which extends from the Resurrection to Pentecost, may produce within us a more complete death to sin, to the creature, and a more vigorous and more abundant increase of the life of Christ.

Christ must reign in our hearts, and all within us must be subject to Him.

Since the day of Christ’s triumph, He gloriously lives and reigns in God, in the bosom of the Father: Vivit et regnat Deus [He lives and reigns as God].

Christ only lives where He reigns, and He lives in us in the same degree as He reigns in our soul.

He is King as He is High Priest. When Pilate asked Him if He was a King, Our Lord answered Him: Tu dicis quia rex sum ego [you say that I am a King] (Jn. XVIII, 37); “I am, but My kingdom is not of this world.”

Columba Marmion (1858-1923): Christ in His Mysteries, 15, 4.

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 312 other followers