Ignatius Brianchaninov: The work of accepting salvation, given to us by God free and complete, the work of repentance Tuesday, Jan 28 2014 

Ignatius_Brianchaninov“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).

St. Simeon the New Theologian, who acquired his knowledge of truth through his holy experience…said: “The careful fulfillment of the commandments of Christ teaches a man his own infirmities.”

Exactly! As soon as one who believes in Christ begins to fulfill the all-holy commandments of the Gospel, or also, to perform the works of renewed nature, his fallen nature is instantly revealed to him, which had been hidden from sight until then, and it enters into a sustained battle with the Gospel.

The life of one who struggles for Christ is filled with unseen falls. He involuntarily confesses with the Apostle: “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am!” (Rom. 7: 22-24).

From such an observation of oneself, blessed poverty of spirit is engendered within a Christian, rational, spiritual mourning appears, and a broken and humble heart is established, which God will not destroy (Ps. 50: 20).

In living according to the Gospel, there appears in a man, as if naturally, the repentance commanded by the Gospel. Therefore, repentance is necessary not only in order to believe in Christ; it is necessary in order to have a living faith in Christ. “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

There remains to be explained: why is there such a close connection between the words of the Lord calling us to repent, and the announcing of the nearness of the Kingdom of heaven? Why is there not presented between them a kind of intermediate struggle, an intermediate condition?

The reason is that our Lord Jesus Christ is “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)—He has accomplished everything for our salvation. He has reconciled us with God; He has prepared and acquired for us the Heavenly Kingdom.

We, mankind, have been presented with one work in the matter of our salvation: the work of accepting salvation, given to us by God free and complete, the work of repentance. The Heavenly Kingdom and the Heavenly King are ineffably close to us—incomparably closer than we imagine.

“Behold, I stand at the door” of the heart of man, exclaims this King, and I knock at it with My all-holy and almighty Word: “if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me (Rev. 3:20). The opening of the doors of the heart to the Heavenly King is accomplished—with repentance. “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Homily for the Sunday after Theophany translated by Bishop George (Schaefer) @ Pravoslavie.

Ignatius Brianchaninov: The heavenly Father’s infinite and unspeakable mercy for repentant sinners Sunday, Mar 3 2013 

Ignatius_BrianchaninovWe learn from the Gospel parable [the story of the prodigal son] that for successful and fruitful repentance, a man needs to provide on his part: seeing his own sin, recognizing it, repenting of it, and confession of it.

God sees a person who has made this pledge in heart while he is yet a long way off; He sees him and runs to meet him, embraces and kisses him with His grace.

No sooner had the penitent pronounced his confession of his sin than the merciful Lord commanded the slaves—the servants of the altar and the holy Angels—to clothe him in bright garments of purity;

to place his ring upon his finger as a testimony of his renewed union with the Church both on earth and in heaven;

and to place shoes upon his feet, so that his actions would be protected from spiritual thorns by steadfast ordinances, for that is the meaning of the shoes—Christ’s commandments.

To complete the action of love, a feast of love is held for the returned son, for which a fatted calf is killed.

This feast signifies the Church feast to which the sinner is invited once he has made his peace with God—the spiritual, incorruptible food and drink—Christ—promised long ago to mankind, prepared through the unspeakable mercy of God for fallen man from the very moment of his fall.

[…] What more consoling news could there be for a sinner who stands trembling before the doors of repentance than this news about the Heavenly Father’s infinite and unspeakable mercy for repentant sinners?

This mercy is so great that it amazed the very Angels—the first-born sons of the Heavenly Father, who had never transgressed a single commandment of His.

Their bright, lofty minds could not fathom the unfathomable mercy of God for fallen mankind.

They needed a revelation from on High regarding this subject, and they learned from this revelation that it is meet for them to make merry, and be glad, for their lesser brother—the human race—was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found, through the Redeemer.

There is joy in the presence of the angels of God even over one sinner that repenteth.

[…] May our rejoicing be endless! May it be joined to the rejoicing of the holy Angels of God! May the joy of Angels and men be fulfilled and made perfect through their fulfilling the will of the Heavenly Father!

For, it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones—human beings, deprecated and humiliated by sin—should perish (Mt. 18:14).

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Instruction on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, on Repentance, translated by Nun Cornelia Rees @ Pravoslavie

Ignatius Brianchaninov: That all-powerful healing offered to us by the all-powerful doctor, God Monday, Feb 25 2013 

Ignatius_BrianchaninovFor the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).

Zacchaeus admits his greed and resolves to cleanse himself, to sanctify his property and his heart with abundant almsgiving. The Lord is quick to accept Zacchaeus’s repentance.

[…] Incomprehensible to fleshly minds was and still is the mystery of redemption, which heals all human sins with equal power and ease, both the little and the great, and wrenches sinners from any destroying abyss, no matter how deep that abyss may be.

For such an amazing work, faith in a Redeemer and sincere repentance is demanded of a person.

[…] Explaining the unfathomable, and revealing the boundless power of redemption, the Lord said: the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Having taken humanity upon Himself, God, whom man neither sought nor called, came out of His own inexpressible goodness to seek and to save the human race, lost because of its alienation from God.

He came to seek and to save every person drawn to destruction by sin, if only that person would not reject God, Who seeks and wishes to save him.

The Holy Gospels can be compared to a mirror. Each of us can see, if we so desire, the state of our soul reflected in them, and find that all-powerful healing offered to us by the all-powerful doctor, God.

The God-Son calls Himself the Son of man, because He took on human form and lived among human beings, not differing in appearance from them in any way. This is the result of infinite divine love and inexpressible divine humility.

The Son of man—we’ll say in the manner of humans—had the right to forgive all of people’s sins as One Who brought Himself, the all-perfect God, as a redeeming sacrifice for mankind; and as the One Who destroyed all human sins, of both little and great significance, at an immense, immeasurably significant, redeeming price.

The judgment of the Son of Man over people, as we see in the Gospels, is completely different from that of ordinary human beings, who judge their neighbors out of their own righteousness—a righteousness rejected of God and corrupted by sin.

The Savior has justified all sinners who received redemption through repentance and faith—although other people condemned them.

[…] We have seen this sinner, condemned by people, justified by God for his faith and true repentance. This is a consoling, encouraging scene!

And as He faithfully promised, the Savior still abides among us; He still heals our souls wounded by sin.

And His Divine ordinance has not passed away: The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Homily on the 32nd Sunday after Pentecost, on Zacchaeus, translated by Nun Cornelia Rees @ Pravoslavie

Ignatius Brianchaninov: The words of the gospels are spirit and life Wednesday, Jan 9 2013 

Ignatius_BrianchaninovThis is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him (Matthew 3:17; 17:5).

Thus did the voice of the pre-eternal God the Father speak to people about the pre-eternal God the Son, when the Son, at the behest of the Father, through the action of the Spirit, became incarnate of the Virgin and wrought the salvation of perishing mankind.

Brothers! Let us show obedience to the Son of God, as God desires of us, that Divine good will might abide with us.

Perhaps someone might say, “I would like to obey the Son of God; but how can this be done, when two thousand years have passed since our Lord Jesus Christ dwelt on earth in the flesh and preached His all-holy teaching?”

It is very easy for us to be continually with Christ, to ceaselessly hear His sweet voice, and to nourish ourselves with His life-giving teaching; for the Lord Jesus Christ still abides with us.

He abides with us in His Holy Gospels, through the Holy Mysteries of the Church; He abides through His omnipresence and omnipotence—bountifully, as befits the boundless, all-perfect God.

That the Lord abides with us is plainly proved by souls freed from the captivity of sin, the bestowal of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and by many signs and wonders.

Those who wish to approach the Lord and unite with Him in blessed union forever should begin this sacred work with scrupulous study of God’s words; they should begin by studying the Gospels, where Christ can be found, and from which Christ speaks and acts.

The words of the Gospels are spirit, and they are life (Jn. 6:63). They turn a fleshly man into a spiritual man, and revitalize a soul deadened by sin and the cares of life.

They are spirit, and they are life—beware of trying to explain the great word of the Spirit with your reason, which crawls upon the earth.

Beware of attempts to explain words filled with awesome Divine power in ways that might seem simpler to your deadened soul, deadened heart, and deadened mind.

A word spoken by the Holy Spirit can only be explained through the Holy Spirit.

Those who wish to approach the Lord in order to hear His Divine teaching, to be enlivened and saved by Him—come and stand before the Lord with utmost reverence and holy fear, as do the bright Angels, His Cherubim and Seraphim.

Your humility will turn the earth upon which you stand into heaven. The Lord will speak to you from His Holy Gospels as to His beloved disciples!

May the holy fathers who expound the Holy Gospels through the gift of the Holy Spirit be your guides to an exact and unmistaken understanding of the Holy Gospels.

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Spiritual Instruction on the Feast of the Theophany translated by Nun Cornelia Rees @ Pravoslavie.

Ignatius Brianchaninov: The Holy Spirit instils Christ in the inner man Tuesday, May 22 2012 

Ignatius_BrianchaninovAnd of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:16–17).

This means that Jesus Christ brought not some more or less detailed and clear understanding of grace and truth, but the grace itself, the truth itself, essentially bestowed upon people, instilled in people. We have been made partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).

Truth has a characteristic Spirit. This spirit is called the Spirit of Truth (cf. Jn. 15:26; 16:13).

It is Spirit, proceeding from the Father (cf. Jn. 15:26). It is the Holy Spirit of God (cf. Jn. 14:26). It is the Spirit of the Son (cf. Gal. 4:6), as inseparably close to the Son, as comprising together with the Father and the Son one undivided and unmingled Divine Essence.

Accepting the Truth, we also accept the Holy Spirit—that is why the All-Holy Truth says of Himself, that He will send the Holy Spirit from the Father to His disciples.

Naturally, the Holy Spirit of Truth will be present where Holy Truth acts, and will leave the effect of its action.

In like manner, where the Holy Spirit works, there will be an abundant manifestation of Truth, as the Lord also said to His disciples: Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth (Jn. 16:13).

Describing the wondrous relationship of the Divine Word to the Divine Spirit, the Lord said of the Spirit: He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine (Jn. 16:14–15).

The Spirit shows and manifests to people the Son co-natural to Him. The Holy Spirit spiritually forms the true Christian and transforms him into a dwelling place of God (cf. Eph. 2:22).

He represents Christ and instills Him in the inner man (cf. Eph. 3:16–17). He makes people God’s children by adoption, making them like unto Christ, establishing Christ-like qualities in them (cf. Jn. 14:6).

People who have been made children of God by adoption turn to Him in their prayers as to their Father, because the Holy Spirit very clearly and tangibly witnesses to the spirit of a person renewed by Him (cf. Rom 8:16) concerning that person’s union with God, his adoption by God.

And because ye are sons, says the Apostle, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father (Gal. 4:6).

Such worshippers are recognized as true worshippers of God! Such worshippers, who worship God in Spirit and in Truth, seek and receive God.

There is no knowledge of God outside of true Christianity, and no service of God.

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Homily on the Sunday of the Samaritan Women on Worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth translated by Nun Cornelia Rees @ Pravoslavie.

Ignatius Brianchaninov: “Who shall roll the stone from the tomb for us?” Thursday, May 3 2012 

Ignatius_BrianchaninovWho shall roll the stone from the tomb for us?

These words of the holy women have their own mysterious meaning.

[…] The tomb is our heart.

The heart was once a temple, but it became a tomb.

Christ enters it by means of the sacrament of Baptism, in order to dwell in us and work in us. Then the heart is consecrated as a temple to God.

[…] Brought in by Baptism, Christ continues to abide in us, but He is as if wounded and mortified by our behavior.

The temple of God not made by hands is turned into a cramped, dark tomb.

very great stone is rolled over its entrance.

The enemies of God set a guard over the tomb, and seal its entrance blocked by the stone.

They seal the stone to the cave so that in addition to the stone’s great weight, this famous seal forbids anyone to even touch the stone.

The enemies of God themselves watch over the preservation of this deadness!

They have thought through and set up all these obstacles in order to forestall the resurrection, to prevent it, and make it impossible.

The stone is the soul’s illness by which all the other spiritual illnesses are guarded incurably and which the holy fathers call insensibility.

[…] According to the fathers, insensibility is the deadening of spiritual feelings, the unseen death of the human soul with respect to spiritual things/

[…] When insensibility stagnates in the soul and becomes a property of it, then the world and its rulers place a seal on the stone.

[…] Who shall roll the stone from the tomb for us?

[…] The heart stricken by its former careless life as by a mortal wound does not discover any signs of life.

[…] It is asleep in a deep sleep, the sleep of death; it is asleep, drunken with sinful poison.

Who shall roll the stone from the tomb for us?

This stone is very great.

[…] An angel of God, at God’s command, comes down to help the laboring and troubled soul, rolls away the stone of hardness from the heart, fills the heart with compunction, announces to the soul the resurrection, which is the usual result of continual compunction.

Compunction is the first sign of a heart revived toward God and eternity….

Compunction is a person’s feeling of mercy and compassion toward himself, toward his grave state, his fallen state, a state of eternal death.

[…] Christ is resurrected in the person who is prepared for it, and the tomb—the heart—again becomes a temple of God. Arise, O Lord, save, O my God (Ps. 3:7).

In Thy mysterious and yet essential Resurrection is my salvation.

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Homily on the Sunday of the Myrrh Bearing Women on Spiritual Deadness translated by Nun Cornelia Rees @ Pravoslavie.

Ignatius Brianchaninov: When the heart is filled with a feeling of repentance… Thursday, Apr 5 2012 

Ignatius_BrianchaninovThe disciples of prayer who lean upon its breast—the holy Fathers—correct a major mistake that deprives the praying ascetic of all the fruits of his ascetic labor.

They instruct us to pronounce the words of short prayers and of all kinds of prayer without haste, observing scrupulous attention to the words of the prayers.

When the prayers are read unhurriedly, it is possible to have such attention, while hurried reading leaves no place for attention.

Prayer without attention is like a body which the soul has left: it has no fragrance of humility, it does not ascend to God.

Stricken and deadened by dispersed thoughts, it crawls along the earth of corruption and foul smell, imparting this corruption to those who pray carelessly and coldly.

Mental attention at prayer is reflected in the heart by blessed grief over sins, which is that very repentance that God commands us to have.

When the heart is filled with a feeling of repentance, it in turn draws the mind to increased attention.

Once there is attention and tender feeling, all the gifts of the Holy Spirit enter into the soul, making it a temple of God.

Let us provide our prayer with two qualities: attention and repentance. Let it fly up to the heavens with them as upon two wings, then appear before the face of God, and intercede for us to gain His mercy.

The blessed publican’s prayer had these two qualities. Penetrated by the awareness of his sinfulness, he did not have any hope in his own deeds to receive salvation; he had hope only in God’s mercy, which calls all sinners to repentance, and grants them salvation for repentance alone.

As a sinner who had no goodness of his own, the publican took the last place in the temple. As a sinner who is unworthy of heaven, he did not dare to lift his eyes unto heaven.

His eyes were directed toward the ground; and beating upon his heart with repentance from deep within his heart, he pronounced with his whole soul the prayer united with his confession: God be merciful to me, a sinner.

His prayer was so effective and strong, that the sinner left the temple of God justified.

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Homily on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee on Prayer and Repentance translated by Nun Cornelia Rees @ Pravoslavie.

Ignatius Brianchaninov: Explanation of the parable of the prodigal son Thursday, Mar 29 2012 

Ignatius_BrianchaninovAccording to the holy fathers, the younger son could also be an image of all fallen mankind and of every sinner.

The younger son’s inheritance is God’s gifts, with which every person is endowed, especially Christians.

The most supreme gifts of God are the mind and heart, and especially the grace of the Holy Spirit given to every Christian.

The son’s demand that the father give him his inheritance to use according his own will is man’s attempt to cast off his submission to God, and follow his own thoughts and desires.

The father ceding the inheritance is a portrayal of the self-governance with which God honored man for the use of His gifts.

The far country is a sinful life, distancing and alienating us from God.

The squandering of the inheritance is the exhaustion of the powers of our mind, heart and body; in particular the outrage against the Holy Spirit and its expulsion from ourselves through our sinful deeds.

The younger son’s poverty is the soul’s emptiness, which comes about from a sinful life.

The permanent inhabitants of the far country are the princes of the darkness this age, the fallen spirits, permanently fallen and alienated from God.

The sinner submits to their influence.

The herd of unclean animals [swine] is the sinful thoughts and feelings that roam in soul of the sinners, grazing on its pastures.

They are the inevitable consequence of sinful acts.

In vain does a man think to silence these thoughts and feelings by fulfilling them—they are most impossible to satisfy!

Man can carry out these passionate thoughts and dreams, but that does not destroy them—it only rouses them to redouble their strength.

Man is created for heaven; only true goodness can be his satisfying, life-giving food.

Evil, which attracts and seduces the heart’s taste damaged by the fall, is only capable of despoiling man’s nature.

How horrible is the emptiness of soul brought on by a sinful life!

Unbearable is the torment from passionate, sinful thoughts and feelings, when they roil like worms in the soul, when they tear at the soul that has submitted to them, the soul that has been violated by them!

Often a sinner who is tormented by fierce thoughts, dreams, and unfulfilled desires comes to despair.

He often tries to take his own life, both temporal and eternal.

Blessed is the sinner who comes to his senses during that terrible period and remembers the boundless love of the Heavenly Father, and the measureless spiritual riches overflowing in the house of the Heavenly Father—the holy Church.

Blessed is that sinner who, horrified by his own sinfulness, wants to be free of its oppressive weight through repentance.

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Instruction on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son on Repentance translated by Nun Cornelia Rees @ Pravoslavie.

Ignatius Brianchaninov: God’s mercy is nothing other than the grace of the All-Holy Spirit Sunday, Feb 26 2012 

Ignatius_BrianchaninovThroughout the forty days fast, at all the Church services, the prayer, God, have mercy on me, a sinner! is repeated aloud.

[…] What meaning do the verb phrases, have mercy, or be merciful contain in all these prayers?

It is man’s awareness that he is perishing;

it is the perception of the mercy and pity that the Lord commanded us to feel toward ourselves, but which very few actually do feel;

it is the rejection of our own self-opinion;

it is a request for God’s mercy, without which there is no hope of salvation for the one who is perishing.

God’s mercy is nothing other than the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, and we sinful ones should ceaselessly and unrelentingly ask it of God.

Have mercy, my Lord, upon the disastrous state into which I have fallen, having been deprived of Thy grace, and again make Thy grace to dwell in me.

Strengthen me with Thy governing spirit (Ps. 50:12), a spirit of Thy power, so that I might withstand the temptation brought against me by the devil, and the temptation that comes from my fallen nature.

Send me a spirit of chastity, so that I might come out of this state of delirium, and correct my moral steps.

Give me the Spirit of Thy fear, so that I might have [godly] fear of Thee, as it is proper for a weak creature to fear his great God and Creator, so that by my awe before Thee I might hold Thy commandments sacred.

Root love for Thee within my heart, so that I may never again be separated from Thee, nor be distracted by an irresistible attraction to loathsome sin.

Grant me Thy peace, that it might preserve my soul in unperturbed calm, not allowing my thoughts to wander over the entire universe without need and to my own injury, to my own confusion; that it might concentrate them in introspection, and bear them upwards thence to Thy throne.

Give me a Spirit of meekness, so that I might refrain from anger and malice, that I might be continually filled with goodness toward my brother.

Give me a Spirit of humility of mind, so that I would not be high-minded, or dream about myself, or seek praise and human glory; but that I might rather remember that I am earth and ashes, a fallen being, cast down to the earth for my unworthiness.

I must be taken from this body and world by death, and appear before Thy dread and impartial judgment.

God, be merciful to me a sinner! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me! Lord, have mercy!

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Homily on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee on Prayer and Repentance translated by Nun Cornelia Rees @ Pravoslavie.

Ignatius Brianchaninov: When true repentance begins to shudder in the soul Monday, Feb 20 2012 

Ignatius_BrianchaninovThe prayer of the publican is shown drawing God’s mercy to him. This prayer consisted of the following words: God be merciful to me a sinner (Lk. 18:13).

[…] This prayer is commended in the Gospels; it is set forth as an example of prayer, and it becomes our sacred duty to piously contemplate it.

Why didn’t the publican choose some majestic and moving psalm by which to pour out his heart before God, but instead had recourse to such a brief prayer?

[…] When true repentance begins to shudder in the soul, when humility and contrition of spirit arises there because one’s eyes have been opened to the soul’s sinfulness, then loquacity becomes unbearable, impossible.

Concentrating within itself, turning all its attention upon its disastrous condition, the soul begins to call out to God through some form of short, concise prayer.

When an encompassing view of his own sinfulness is granted to a person by God, it cannot be described by eloquent speech or an abundance of words.

More exactly, the person expresses this awareness by sighs and groaning of soul, clothed in very brief and simple words.

Whoever wishes to unfold a deep feeling of repentance within himself uses short prayer to reach that state, pronounced with as much attention and reverence as possible.

Abandoning excessive words, even though they be sacred words, allows the mind to completely free itself of distractions and to strive for introspection with all its strength.

“When you pray, do not permit yourself to use many words,” says St. John Climacus, “so that your mind might not be distracted from considering the words.

“One word from the publican brought him God’s mercy, and one faithful utterance saved the thief. Much speaking in prayer often brings the mind to distraction and dreaminess, while sparse words usually gather the thoughts.”

Because of the great benefit that brief, attentive, concentrated prayer brings, the Holy Church enjoins its children to timely learn some form of brief prayer.

One who has learned such a prayer possesses a ready ability to pray in any place, at any time. While traveling, in the refectory, doing handiwork, or in the company of others, he can cry out to God.

When it is not possible to pray with the lips, it is possible to pray with the mind.

The convenience of brief prayer is obvious in this regard: it is quite easy to lose the meaning and order of lengthy prayers when we are occupied with something else, while short prayer always preserves its integrity.

If it is left off for a time, one can return to it with little difficulty.

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Homily on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee on Prayer and Repentance translated by Nun Cornelia Rees @ Pravoslavie.