John Cassian: To adapt ourselves to some likeness of that bliss which is promised hereafter to the saints… Monday, Feb 29 2016 

Sf-IoanCasianAccording to the measure of its purity…, each mind is both raised and moulded in its prayers if it forsakes the consideration of earthly and material things so far as the condition of its purity may carry it forward and enable it – with the inner eyes of the soul – to see Jesus either still in His humility and in the flesh, or glorified and coming in the glory of His Majesty.

For those cannot see Jesus coming in His Kingdom who…cannot say with the Apostle: “And if we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more” (2 Cor. 5:16), but only those can look with purest eyes on His Godhead who rise with Him from low and earthly works and thoughts and go apart in the lofty mountain of solitude – which is free from the disturbance of all earthly thoughts and troubles, and secure from the interference of all sins, and which, being exalted by pure faith and the heights of virtue, reveals the glory of His Face and the image of His splendour to those who are able to look on Him with pure eyes of the soul.

But Jesus is seen as well by those who live in towns and villages and hamlets, i.e., who are occupied in practical affairs and works, but not with the same brightness with which He appeared to those who can go up with Him into the aforesaid mount of virtues, i.e., Peter, James, and John. For so in solitude He appeared to Moses and spoke with Elias.

And as our Lord wished to establish this and to leave us examples of perfect purity, although He Himself, the very fount of inviolable sanctity, had no need of external help and the assistance of solitude in order to secure it – for the fulness of purity could not be soiled by any stain from crowds, nor could He be contaminated by intercourse with men, who cleanses and sanctifies all things that are polluted – yet still He retired into the mountain alone to pray.

In this way He taught us by the example of His retirement that if we too wish to approach God with a pure and spotless affection of heart, we should also retire from all the disturbance and confusion of crowds, so that while still living in the body we may manage in some degree to adapt ourselves to some likeness of that bliss which is promised hereafter to the saints, and that “God may be” to us “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 10, 6 [slightly adapted].

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John Cassian: “And forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors” Friday, Feb 12 2016 

Sf-IoanCasian“And forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.”

O unspeakable mercy of God,

which has given us a form of prayer

and taught us a system of life acceptable to Him,

and by the requirements of the form given, in which He charged us always to pray,

has torn up the roots of both anger and sorrow,

and also gives to those who pray an opportunity and reveals to them a way

by which they may move a merciful and kindly judgment of God to be pronounced over them

and which somehow gives us a power by which we can moderate the sentence of our Judge,

drawing Him to forgive our offences by the example of our forgiveness:

when we say to Him: “Forgive us as we also forgive.”

And so without anxiety and in confidence from this prayer a man may ask for pardon of his own offences, if he has been forgiving towards his own debtors, and not towards those of his Lord.

For some of us, which is very bad, are inclined to show ourselves calm and most merciful in regard to those things which are done to God’s detriment, however great the crimes may be,

but to be found most hard and inexorable exactors of debts to ourselves even in the case of the most trifling wrongs.

Whoever then does not from his heart forgive his brother who has offended him, by this prayer calls down upon himself not forgiveness but condemnation,

and by his own profession asks that he himself may be judged more severely, saying: Forgive me as I also have forgiven.

And if he is repaid according to his own request, what else will follow but that he will be punished after his own example with implacable wrath and a sentence that cannot be remitted?

And so if we want to be judged mercifully, we ought also to be merciful towards those who have sinned against us.

For only so much will be remitted to us, as we have remitted to those who have injured us however spitefully.

[…] For as He does not wish to be found harsh and inexorable towards them, He has marked out the manner of His judgment, that just as we desire to be judged by Him,

so we should also judge our brethren, if they have wronged us in anything, for “he shall have judgment without mercy who hath shown no mercy” (James 2:13).

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 9, 22 [slightly adapted].

John Cassian: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” Friday, Nov 20 2015 

Sf-IoanCasianContinued from here….

The second petition of the pure heart desires that the kingdom of its Father may come at once.

This can refer to that kingdom whereby Christ reigns day by day in the saints.

This comes to pass when the devil’s rule is cast out of our hearts by the destruction of foul sins, and God begins to hold sway over us by the sweet odour of virtues, and, fornication being overcome, charity reigns in our hearts together with tranquillity, when rage is conquered; and humility, when pride is trampled underfoot.

Or it can refer to that kingdom which is promised in due time to all who are perfect, and to all the sons of God, when it will be said to them by Christ: “Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34), as the heart with fixed and steadfast gaze, so to speak, yearns and longs for it and says to Him “Thy kingdom come.” For it knows by the witness of its own conscience that when He shall appear, it will presently share His lot.

[…] The third petition is that of sons: “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth.”

There can now be no grander prayer than to wish that earthly things may be made equal with things heavenly: for what else is it to say “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth,” than to ask that men may be like angels and that as God’s will is ever fulfilled by them in heaven, so also all those who are on earth may do not their own but His will?

This too no one could say from the heart but only one who believed that God disposes for our good all things which are seen, whether fortunate or unfortunate, and that He is more careful and provident for our good and salvation than we ourselves are for ourselves.

Or at any rate it may be taken in this way: The will of God is the salvation of all men, according to these words of the blessed Paul: “Who willeth all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Of this will also the prophet Isaiah says in the Person of God the Father: “And all Thy will shall be done” (Is. 46:10).

When we say then “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth,” we pray in other words for this: that as those who are in heaven, so also may all those who dwell on earth be saved, O Father, by the knowledge of Thee.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 9, 19 & 20 [slightly adapted].

John Cassian: The mind, transporting and flinging itself into love for Him, addresses God most familiarly as its own Father Wednesday, Oct 28 2015 

Sf-IoanCasianContinued from here….

There follows after these different kinds of supplication a still more sublime and exalted condition.

This is brought about by the contemplation of God alone and by fervent love, by which the mind, transporting and flinging itself into love for Him, addresses God most familiarly as its own Father with a piety of its own.

And, that we ought earnestly to seek after this condition, the formula of the Lord’s prayer teaches us, saying “Our Father.”

When then we confess with our own mouths that the God and Lord of the universe is our Father, we profess forthwith that we have been called from our condition as slaves to the adoption of sons.

Next we add “Which art in heaven,” so that, by shunning with the utmost horror all lingering in the present life which we pass upon this earth as a pilgrimage and all that separates us by a great distance from our Father, we may the rather hasten with all eagerness to that country where we confess that our Father dwells.

[…] When we have advanced to this state and condition of sonship, we shall forthwith be inflamed with the piety which belongs to good sons, so that we shall bend all our energies to the advance not of our own profit, but of our Father’s glory.

Saying to Him: “Hallowed be Thy name,” we testify that our desire and our joy is His glory, and become imitators of Him who said: “He who speaks of himself seeks his own glory. But He who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him, the same is true and there is no unrighteousness in Him” (John 7:18)….

Being filled with this feeling, St Paul wished that he could be anathema from Christ (cf. Rom. 9:3), if only the people belonging to Him might be increased and multiplied, and the salvation of the whole nation of Israel accrue to the glory of His Father.

For with all assurance could he wish to die for Christ as he knew that no one perished for life. And again he says: “We rejoice when we are weak but ye are strong” (2 Cor. 13:9).

[…] But where it is said “Hallowed be Thy name,” it may also be very fairly taken in this way: “The hallowing of God is our perfection.”

And so when we say to Him “Hallowed be Thy name” we say in other words, make us, O Father, such that we may be able both to understand and take in what the hallowing of Thee is, or at any rate that Thou mayest be seen to be hallowed in our spiritual converse.

And this is effectually fulfilled in our case when “men see our good works, and glorify our Father Which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 9, 18 [slightly adapted].

Bede the Venerable: The death of St Aidan Monday, Aug 31 2015 

icon_bede-The feast of St Aidan, Enlightener of Northumbria, August 31st.

Aidan was in the king’s township…at the time when death caused him to quit the body, after he had been bishop sixteen years;

for having a church and a chamber in that place, he was wont often to go and stay there, and to make excursions from it to preach in the country round about, which he likewise did at other of the king’s townships, having nothing of his own besides his church and a few fields about it.

When he was sick they set up a tent for him against the wall at the west end of the church, and so it happened that he breathed his last, leaning against a buttress that was on the outside of the church to strengthen the wall.

[…] His body was. thence presently translated to the isle of Lindisfarne, and buried in the cemetery of the brethren.

Some time after, when a larger church was built there and dedicated in honour of the blessed prince of the Apostles, his bones were translated thither, and laid on the right side of the altar, with the respect due to so great a prelate. […]

It happened some years after, that Penda, king of the Mercians, coming into these parts with a hostile army, destroyed all he could with fire and sword, and the village where the bishop died, along with the church above mentioned, was burnt down;

but it fell out in a wonderful manner that the buttress against which he had been leaning when he died, could not be consumed by the fire which devoured all about it.

This miracle being noised abroad, the church was soon rebuilt in the same place, and that same buttress was set up on the outside, as it had been before, to strengthen the wall.

It happened again, some time after, that the village and likewise the church were carelessly burned down the second time. Then again, the fire could not touch the buttress; and, miraculously, though the fire broke through the very holes of the nails wherewith it was fixed to the building, yet it could do no hurt to the buttress itself.

When therefore the church was built there the third time, they did not, as before, place that buttress on the outside as a support of the building, but within the church, as a memorial of the miracle; where the people coming in might kneel, and implore the Divine mercy.

And it is well known that since then many have found grace and been healed in that same place, as also that by means of splinters cut off from the buttress, and put into water, many more have obtained a remedy for their own infirmities and those of their friends.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 3, 17.

John Cassian: These four kinds of supplication the Lord Himself by His own example vouchsafed to originate for us Thursday, Jul 23 2015 

Sf-IoanCasianContinued from here….

These four kinds of supplication the Lord Himself by His own example vouchsafed to originate for us, so that in this too He might fulfil that which was said of Him: “which Jesus began both to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1).

For He made use of the class of supplication when He said: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me”;

or this which is chanted in His Person in the Psalm: “My God, My God, look upon Me, why hast Thou forsaken me” (Matt. 26:39; Ps. 21:2) and others like it.

It is prayer where He says: “I have magnified Thee upon the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do”;

and this: “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself that they also may be sanctified in the truth” (John 17:4, 19).

It is intercession when He says: “Father, those Whom Thou hast given me, I will that they also may be with Me that they may see My glory which Thou hast given Me”;

or when He says: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (John 17:24; Luke 23:34).

It is thanksgiving when He says: “I confess to Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight”;

or when He says: “Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. But I knew that Thou hearest Me always” (Matt. 11:25-26; John 11:41-42).

But though our Lord made a distinction between these four kinds of prayers as to be offered separately and one by one according to the scheme which we know of, yet that they can all be embraced in a perfect prayer at one and the same time He showed by His own example in that prayer which at the close of S. John’s gospel we read that He offered up with such fulness.

[…] And the Apostle also in his Epistle to the Philippians has expressed the same meaning, by putting these four kinds of prayers in a slightly different order, and has shown that they ought sometimes to be offered together in the fervour of a single prayer, saying as follows:

“But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). And by this he wanted us especially to understand that in prayer and supplication thanksgiving ought to be mingled with our requests.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 9, 17.

John Cassian: Dejection Monday, Apr 7 2014 

Sf-IoanCasianWe have to resist the pangs of gnawing dejection.

For if this, through separate attacks made at random, and by haphazard and casual changes, has secured an opportunity of gaining possession of our mind, it keeps us back at all times from all insight in divine contemplation, and utterly ruins and depresses the mind that has fallen away from its complete state of purity.

It does not allow it to say its prayers with its usual gladness of heart, nor permit it to rely on the comfort of reading the sacred writings, nor suffer it to be quiet and gentle with the brethren;

it makes it impatient and rough in all the duties of work and devotion: and, as all wholesome counsel is lost, and steadfastness of heart destroyed, it makes the feelings almost mad and drunk, and crushes and overwhelms them with penal despair.

Wherefore if we are anxious to exert ourselves lawfully in the struggle of our spiritual combat we ought with no less care to set about healing this malady also. For “as the moth injures the garment, and the worm the wood, so dejection the heart of man.”

With sufficient clearness and appropriateness has the Divine Spirit expressed the force of this dangerous and most injurious fault. For the garment that is moth-eaten has no longer any commercial value or good use to which it can be put; and in the same way the wood that is worm-eaten is no longer worth anything for ornamenting even an ordinary building, but is destined to be burnt in the fire.

So therefore the soul also which is a prey to the attacks of gnawing dejection will be useless for that priestly garment which, according to the prophecy of the holy David, the ointment of the Holy Spirit coming down from heaven, first on Aaron’s beard, then on his skirts, is wont to assume: as it is said, “It is like the ointment upon the head which ran down upon Aaron’s beard, which ran down to the skirts of his clothing.”

Nor can it have anything to do with the building or ornamentation of that spiritual temple of which Paul as a wise master builder laid the foundations, saying, “Ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you:” and what the beams of this are like the bride tells us in the Song of Songs: “Our rafters are of cypress: the beams of our houses are of cedar.”

And therefore those sorts of wood are chosen for the temple of God which are fragrant and not liable to rot, and which are not subject to decay from age nor to be worm-eaten.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Institutes 9, 1-3.

Bede the Venerable: St Cuthbert and the Hermitage of Farne Thursday, Mar 20 2014 

icon_bede-March 20th is the feast of St Cuthbert….

When Cuthbert had remained some years in the monastery, he was rejoiced to be able at length, with the blessing of the abbot and brethren accompanying him, to retire to the secrecy of solitude which he had so long coveted.

He rejoiced that from the long conversation with the world he was now thought worthy to be promoted to retirement and Divine contemplation: he rejoiced that he now could reach to the condition of those of whom it is sung by the Psalmist: “The holy shall walk from virtue to virtue; the God of Gods shall be seen in Zion.”

At his first entrance upon the solitary life, he sought out the most retired spot in the outskirts of the monastery. But when he had for some time contended with the invisible adversary with prayer and fasting in this solitude, he then, aiming at higher things, sought out a more distant field for conflict, and more remote from the eyes of men.

There is a certain island called Farne, in the middle of the sea, not made an island, like Lindisfarne, by the flow of the tide…, and then restored to the mainland at its ebb, but lying off several miles to the East, and, consequently, surrounded on all sides by the deep and boundless ocean.

No one, before God’s servant Cuthbert, had ever dared to inhabit this island alone, on account of the evil spirits which reside there: but when this servant of Christ came, armed with the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, all the fiery darts of the wicked were extinguished, and that wicked enemy, with all his followers, were put to flight.

Christ’s soldier, therefore, having thus, by the expulsion of the tyrants, become the lawful monarch of the land, built a city fit for his empire, and houses therein suitable to his city.

The building is almost of a round form, from wall to wall about four or five poles in extent: the wall on the outside is higher than a man, but within, by excavating the rock, he made it much deeper, to prevent the eyes and the thoughts from wandering, that the mind might be wholly bent on heavenly things, and the pious inhabitant might behold nothing from his residence but the heavens above him.

The wall was constructed, not of hewn stones or of brick and mortar, but of rough stones and turf, which had been taken out from the ground within. Some of them were so large that four men could hardly have lifted them, but Cuthbert himself, with angels helping him, had raised them up and placed them on the wall.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Life of St Cuthbert, 17 @ Mediaeval Sourcebook.

Patrick: “An Epistle of Christ Written on Your Hearts with the Spirit of the Living God” Monday, Mar 17 2014 

PatrickI am presuming to try to grasp in my old age what I did not gain in my youth because my sins prevented me from making what I had read my own.

[…] I am unable to explain as the spirit is eager to do and as the soul and the mind indicate. But, had it been given to me as to others, in gratitude I should not have kept silent.

And if it should appear that I put myself before others, with my ignorance and my slower speech, in truth, it is written: ‘The tongue of the stammerers shall speak rapidly and distinctly.’

How much harder must we try to attain it, we of whom it is said: ‘You are an epistle of Christ in greeting to the ends of the earth…written on your hearts, not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.’

And again, the Spirit witnessed that the rustic life was created by the Most High. I am, then, first of all, countryfied, an exile, evidently unlearned, one who is not able to see into the future, but I know for certain, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and he that is mighty came and in his mercy raised me up and, indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall.

And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favours in this world and forever, that the mind of man cannot measure.

Therefore be amazed, you great and small who fear God, and you men of God, eloquent speakers, listen and contemplate. Who was it summoned me, a fool, from the midst of those who appear wise and learned in the law and powerful in rhetoric and in all things?

Me, truly wretched in this world, he inspired before others that I could be–if I would–such a one who, with fear and reverence, and faithfully, without complaint, would come to the people to whom the love of Christ brought me and gave me in my lifetime, if I should be worthy, to serve them truly and with humility.

According, therefore, to the measure of one’s faith in the Trinity, one should proceed without holding back from danger to make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, to spread God’s name everywhere with confidence and without fear, in order to leave behind, after my death, foundations for my brethren and sons whom I baptized in the Lord in so many thousands.

Patrick (387?-493?): The Confession of St Patrick, 10-14.

Bede the Venerable: St Hilda Sunday, Nov 17 2013 

November17th is the feast of St Hilda

icon_bede-When Hilda had governed this monastery [Whitby] many years, it pleased Him Who has made such merciful provision for our salvation, to give her holy soul the trial of a long infirmity of the flesh, to the end that, according to the Apostle’s example, her virtue might be made perfect in weakness.

Struck down with a fever, she suffered from a burning heat, and was afflicted with the same trouble for six years continually.

During all this time she never failed either to return thanks to her Maker, or publicly and privately to instruct the flock committed to her charge.

Taught by her own experience, she admonished all men to serve the Lord dutifully, when health of body is granted to them, and always to return thanks faithfully to Him in adversity, or bodily infirmity.

In the seventh year of her sickness, when the disease turned inwards, her last day came, and about cockcrow, having received the voyage provision of Holy Housel, she called together the handmaids of Christ that were within the same monastery.

She admonished them to preserve the peace of the Gospel among themselves, and with all others; and even as she spoke her words of exhortation, she joyfully saw death come, or, in the words of our Lord, passed from death unto life.

That same night it pleased Almighty God, by a manifest vision, to make known her death in another monastery, at a distance from hers.

[…]  A certain nun called Begu…was resting in the dormitory of the sisters, when on a sudden she heard in the air the well-known sound of the bell, which used to awake and call them to prayers, when any one of them was taken out of this world, and opening her eyes, as she thought, she saw the roof of the house open, and a light shed from above filling all the place.

Looking earnestly upon that light, she saw the soul of the aforesaid handmaid of God in that same light, being carried to heaven attended and guided by angels.

Then awaking, and seeing the other sisters lying round about her, she perceived that what she had seen had been revealed to her either in a dream or a vision.

And rising immediately in great fear, she ran to the virgin who then presided in the monastery in the place of the abbess, whose name was Frigyth.

With many tears and lamentations, and heaving deep sighs, she told her that the Abbess Hilda, mother of them all, had departed this life, and had in her sight ascended to the gates of eternal light, and to the company of the citizens of heaven, with a great light, and with angels for her guides.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 4, 23.

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