Mark the Hermit: Accept present afflictions for the sake of future blessings Saturday, Mar 5 2016 

St Mark the AsceticMarch 5th is the feast of St Mark the Hermit (Mark the Ascetic).

He who tests all things and ‘holds fast that which is good’ (1 Thess. 5:21) will in consequence refrain from all evil.

‘A patient man abounds in understanding’ (Prov. 14: 29); and so does he who listens to words of wisdom.

Without remembrance of God, there can be no true knowledge but only that which is false.

Deeper spiritual knowledge helps the hard-hearted man: for unless he has fear, he refuses to accept the labor of repentance.

Unquestioning acceptance of tradition is helpful for a gentle person, for then he will not try God’s patience or often fall into sin.

[…] Do not listen to talk about other people’s sins. For through such listening the form of these sins is imprinted on you.

When you delight in hearing evil talk, be angry with yourself and not with the speaker. For listening in a sinful way makes the messenger seem sinful.

[…] Accept present afflictions for the sake of future blessings; then you will never weaken in your struggle.

[…] All good things come from God providentially, and those who bring them are the servants of what is good.

Accept with equanimity the intermingling of good and evil, and then God will resolve all inequity.

It is the uneven quality of our thoughts that produces changes m our condition. For God assigns to our voluntary thoughts consequences which are appropriate but not necessarily of our choice.

[…] From a pleasure-loving heart arise unhealthy thoughts and words; and from the smoke of a fire we recognize the fuel.

Guard your mind, and you will not be harassed by temptations. But if you fail to guard it, accept patiently whatever trial comes.

Pray that temptation may not come to you; but when it comes, accept it as your due and not undeserved.

Reject all thoughts of greed, and you will be able to see the devil’s tricks.

He who says he knows all the devil’s tricks falls unknowingly into his trap.

The more the intellect withdraws from bodily cares, the more clearly it sees the craftiness of the enemy.

A man who is carried away by his thoughts is blinded by them; and while he can see the actual working of sin, he cannot see its causes.

It can happen that someone may in appearance be fulfilling a commandment but is in reality serving a passion, and through evil thoughts he destroys the goodness of the action.

When you first become involved in something evil, don’t say: ‘It will not overpower me.’ For to the extent that you are involved you have already been overpowered by it.

Mark the Hermit (5th-6th c.): On The Spiritual Law, 145-149, 152-153, 156, 158-160, 161-170, 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), pp. 120-121.

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Macarius the Egyptian: “He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit” Tuesday, Jan 19 2016 

Macarius3The mind that is never off the search of itself and the quest of the Lord avails to gain possession of its own soul – the soul that was in the perdition of the passions – by always bringing itself into captivity to the Lord with main force and earnestness, and by cleaving to Him only, as it is said, “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5); that by means of such striving and longing and seeking the mind may attain to become with the Lord one Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17) of the gift and grace of Christ.

[…] Lovely it is, when the soul, devoting herself wholly to the Lord, and cleaving to Him only, and dwelling mindfully in His commandments, and worthily honouring the Spirit of Christ which has come upon her and overshadowed her, is permitted to be one Spirit and one composition with Him, as the apostle says, He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17).

But if a man gives himself away to cares, or glory, or power, or human honours, and seeks after these things, and his soul is mixed up and enters into composition with earthly considerations, or is bound and held by anything belonging to this age, and if such a soul longs to transfer itself and escape and get away from the darkness of passions, in which it is held by the evil powers, it cannot do so, because it loves and does the will of darkness, and does not perfectly hate the practices of wickedness.

Let us therefore prepare ourselves to travel to the Lord with an undivided will and purpose, and to become followers of Christ, to accomplish whatever He wills, and to think upon His commandments to do them (Psalm 102/103:18). Let us sever ourselves altogether from the love of the world, and attach our souls to Him only, and keep in mind Him only as our business and care and quest.

If we have to be somewhat busied also in body, with the business laid upon us, and with obedience for God’s sake, let not the mind be parted from its love and quest and longing after the Lord; so that striving in such a mind, and journeying along the way of righteousness with an upright intention, and always taking heed to ourselves, we may obtain the promise of His Spirit, and may through grace be delivered from the perdition of the darkness of the passions, by which the soul is exercised, that we may be made meet for the eternal kingdom, and permitted to enjoy all eternity with Christ, glorifying the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit forever.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 9, 11-13, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Antony the Great: Whoever you may be, always keep God before your eyes Sunday, Jan 17 2016 

saints_101_anthonyJanuary 17th is the feast of St Antony the Great.

When the holy Abba Anthony was living in the desert, he was in a state of melancholy (ακηδια) and his mind was darkened by a multitude of imagined things (λογισμων), and he said to God:

“Lord, I want to be saved, but these thoughts will not leave me alone. What shall I do in my trouble? How will I be saved?”

A little later, when he went outside, Anthony saw someone like himself, sitting and working, then rising from work and praying, and again sitting and plaiting a rope, then again rising for prayer.

It was an angel of the Lord, sent for the correction and insurance against stumbling of Anthony.

And he heard the angel saying, “Do this, and you will be saved.” And when he heard this, he had great joy and courage, and did this, and was saved.

When Abba Anthony meditated upon the depth of the judgments of God, he asked, saying, “Lord, how is it that some perish when short-lived, and some live to extreme old age? And why are some poor, and yet others rich? And why are the unrighteous rich, and yet the righteous are poor?”

And he heard a voice saying to him, “Anthony, keep your attention on yourself, for these things are the judgments of God, and they will not benefit you to learn them.”

Someone asked Abba Anthony, saying, “What must we keep in order to be pleasing to God?”

And the elder answered, saying, “Keep what I tell you. Whoever you may be, always keep God before your eyes. And whatever you do, do it from the witness of the Holy Scriptures. And in whatever place you live, do not leave quickly. Keep these three things, and you will be saved.”

Abba Anthony said to Abba Poimen that this is the great work of man: “always to reproach himself for his own faults before God, and expect temptation until the last breath.”

The same said, “No one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven untempted.” He said, “Remove the temptations, and no one would be saved.”

Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, “What should I do?” The elder said to him, “Do not put your trust in your righteousness, nor regret past actions, but control your tongue and stomach.”

Abba Anthony said, “I saw all the traps of the enemy spread over the earth,” and groaning, said, “What can get through these?” And I heard a voice saying to me, “Humility.”

Antony the Great (c.251-356): Thirty Eight Sayings, 1-7 @ Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension.

Macarius the Egyptian: The fire of the love of Christ Thursday, Oct 29 2015 

Macarius3God’s grace in man, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is vouchsafed to a faithful soul, proceeds with much contention, with much endurance and longsuffering, and temptations and trials, the man’s free will being tried by all manner of afflictions.

And when it does not grieve the Spirit in anything, but is agreeable to grace through all commandments, then it is permitted to obtain freedom from passions, and receives the fulfilment of the Spirit’s adoption, spoken of in a mystery, and of the spiritual riches, and of the intelligence which is not of this world, whereof true Christians are made partakers.

For this reason they are for all purposes superior to all the men of prudence, intelligence, and wisdom, who have the spirit of the world. For such an one judgeth all men (1 Cor. 2:15)…..

He knows each man, from whence he speaks, and where he stands, and what measures he is in; but not a man of those that have the spirit of the world is able to know and judge him, but only he that has the like heavenly Spirit of the Godhead knows his like, as the apostle says:

Comparing spiritual things with spiritual; but the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness unto him: but he that is spiritual judgeth all men, yet he himself is judged by none (1 Cor. 2:13ff).

Such an one looks upon all things that the world holds glorious, its riches, its luxury, and all its enjoyments yea, and even its knowledge and all things belonging to this age, as loathsome and hateful.

As one that is possessed and burning with a fever loathes and rejects the sweetest food or drink that you offer him, because he burns with the fever and is vehemently exercised by it, so those who burn with the heavenly, sacred, solemn longing of the Spirit, and are smitten in soul with love of the love of God, and are vehemently exercised by the divine and heavenly fire which the Lord came to send upon the earth, and desire that it should speedily be kindled (Luke 12:49), and are aflame with the heavenly longing for Christ, these, as we said before, consider all the glorious and precious things of this age contemptible and hateful by reason of the fire of the love of Christ.

The love of Christ holds them fast and inflames them and burns them with a Godward disposition and with the heavenly good things of love; from which love nothing of all that are in heaven and earth and under the earth shall be able to separate them, as the apostle Paul testified, saying, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom. 8:35).

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 9, 7-9, trans. by A.J. Mason  [slightly adapted].

Macarius the Egyptian: The inner man regards all men with a pure eye Sunday, Sep 6 2015 

Macarius3Continued from here….

The case stands thus, as if some foggy power hangs over and forms a light screen, like a dense air, though the lamp is burning and shining all the while, even as a veil hangs over yonder light.

So this man confesses that he is not perfect or altogether free from sin.

He says that the middle wall of partition has been broken through and shattered, and yet, at some point not wholly broken, nor at all times.

There are moments when grace kindles up and comforts and refreshes more fully; there are moments when it retreats and clouds over, according as grace itself manages for the man’s advantage.

But who is there that has come to the perfect measure at particular seasons, and has tasted and had direct experience of that world?

A perfect Christian man, one completely free, I have not yet seen.

Although one and another is at rest in grace, and enters into mysteries and revelations and into much sweetness of grace, still sin is yet present within.

By reason of the exceeding grace and of the light that is in them, men consider themselves free and perfect; but inexperience deceives them. They are under the influence of grace, but I have never yet seen a man that is free.

I myself at times have in part come to that measure, and I have learned to know that it does not constitute a perfect man.

Question. Tell us, if thou wilt, what measures thou art in?

Answer. After the sign of the cross, grace now acts thus. It calms all the members and the heart, so that the soul, for much joy, appears like an innocent child, and the man no longer condemns Greek or Jew, sinner or worldling.

The inner man regards all men with a pure eye, and the man rejoices over all the world, and desires that all should worship and love, Greeks and Jews.

At another moment, like the king’s son, he is as bold in the Son of God as in a father, and doors are opened to him, and he enters within to many mansions (John 14:2).

And the further he goes in, doors are again opened in progression, a hundred mansions leading to a hundred beyond, and he is rich, and the richer he is, other new wonders are again disclosed to him.

And he is entrusted, as a son and an heir, with things that cannot be told by mankind or put into syllables by mouth and tongue. Glory to God. Amen.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 8, 5-6 @ Pravoslavie.

Macarius the Egyptian: The light shining in the heart Thursday, Jul 2 2015 

Macarius3Continued from here….

To some…the sign of the cross has appeared in light and fastened itself upon the inward man.

[…]  At another time there was brought as it were a shining garment, such as there is none on earth in the course of this world, nor is it possible for human hands to make the like;

for as when the Lord went up into the mountain with Peter and John, He changed the fashion of His raiment and made it to flash with light, so was it with this garment, and the man who was clothed with it wondered and was amazed.

Another while, the light shining in the heart disclosed the inner, deeper, hidden light, so that the man, swallowed up in the sweetness of the contemplation, was no longer master of himself, but was like a fool or a barbarian to this world by reason of the surpassing love and sweetness, by reason of the hidden mysteries;

so that the man for that season was set at liberty, and came to perfect measures, and was pure and free from sin; yet afterwards grace retreated, and the veil of the adverse power came; notwithstanding, grace still shews itself in part, and he stands on the first and lowest step of perfection.

There are twelve steps, we might say, which a man has to pass before he reaches perfection. For a season that measure has been attained, and perfection entered upon; and then grace gives in, and he comes down by one step, and stands on the eleventh.

Here and there one man rich in grace has stood always, night and day, in perfect measures, at liberty and in purity, always captive and aloft.

Well now, if the man to whom those marvelous things were shewn, of which he has had actual experience, were to have them always present with him, he would be unable to undertake the dispensation of the word and the burden of it, nor could he endure to listen to, or take any interest in, any ordinary thing, concerning himself, or concerning the morrow, but only to sit in a corner, aloft and intoxicated.

So the perfect measure has not been given, in order that he may be free to take an interest in his brethren, and in the ministry of the word. Nevertheless the middle wall of partition has been broken through (Ephesians 2:14) and death is overcome.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 8, 3-4 @ Pravoslavie.

Macarius the Egyptian: A man goes in to bend the knee… Monday, Jun 1 2015 

Macarius3A man goes in to bend the knee, and his heart is filled with the divine influence,

and his soul rejoices with the Lord, like bride with bridegroom, according to that word of the prophet Esaias which says

As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall the Lord rejoice over thee (Isaiah 62:5),

and it comes to pass that being all day engaged he gives himself to prayer for an hour,

and the inward man is rapt in prayer into the unfathomable deep of that other world in great sweetness, so that his whole mind is up aloft, rapt away thither, and estranged from things below.

For the time being forgetfulness comes into him with regard to the interests of the earthly mind, because his thoughts are filled and taken captive to divine and heavenly things,

–to things infinite and past comprehension, to wonderful things which no human lips can express, so that for that hour he prays and says, “Would God that my soul might pass along with my prayer!”

Question. Can anyone enter into these things at all times?

Answer. Grace is constantly present, and is rooted in us, and worked into us like leaven, from our earliest years, until the thing thus present becomes fixed in a man like a natural endowment, as if it were one substance with him.

But, for the man’s own good, it manages him in many different ways, after its own pleasure.

Sometimes the fire flames out and kindles more vehemently; at other times more gently and mildly.

The light that it gives kindles up at times and shines with unusual brightness; at others it abates and burns low.

The lamp is always burning and shining, but when it is specially trimmed, it kindles up with intoxication of the love of God; and then again by God’s dispensation it gives in, and though the light is always there, it is comparatively dull.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 8, 1-2 @ Pravoslavie.

Mark the Hermit: Sin is a blazing fire: the less fuel you give it, the faster it dies down Wednesday, Mar 5 2014 

St Mark the AsceticMarch 5th is the feast of St Mark the Hermit (Mark the Ascetic).

When you sin, blame your thought, not your action.

For had your intellect not run ahead, your body would not have followed.

[…] He who secretly mingles his own wishes with spiritual counsel is an adulterer, as the Book of Proverbs indicates (cf. Prov. 6:32-33); and because of his stupidity he suffers pain and dishonor.

Just as water and fire cannot be combined, so self -justification and humility exclude one another.

He who seeks forgiveness of his sins loves humility, but if he condemns another he seals his own wickedness.

Do not leave unobliterated any fault, however small, for it may lead you on to greater sins.

If you wish to be saved, welcome words of truth, and never reject criticism uncritically.

[…] To accept words of truth is to accept the divine Word; for He says: ‘He that receives you receives me’ (Matt. 10:40).

[…] Those engaged in spiritual warfare practice self-control in everything, and do not desist until the Lord destroys all ‘seed from Babylon’ (Jer. 27:16. LXX).

[…] Sin is a blazing fire. The less fuel you give it, the faster it dies down: the more you feed it, the more it bums.

When elated by praise, be sure disgrace will follow; for it is said: ‘Whoever exalts himself will be abased’ (Luke 14:11).

When we have freed ourselves from every voluntary sin of the mind, we should then fight against the passions which result from prepossession.

Prepossession is the involuntary presence of former sins in the memory.

At the stage of active warfare we try to prevent it from developing into a passion; after victory it is repulsed while still but a provocation.

A provocation is an image-free stimulation in the heart.

Like a mountain-pass, the experienced take control of it ahead of the enemy.

Once our thoughts are accompanied by images we have already given them our assent; for a provocation does not involve us in guilt so long as it is not accompanied by images.

Some people flee away from these thoughts like ‘a brand plucked out of the fire’ (Zech. 3:2); but others dally with them, and so get burnt.

Do not say: ‘I don’t want it, but it happens.’ For even though you may not want the thing itself, yet you welcome what causes it.

He who seeks praise is involved in passion; he who laments afflictions is attached to sensual pleasure.

The thoughts of a self-indulgent man vacillate, as though on scales; sometimes he laments and weeps for his sins, and sometimes he fights and contradicts his neighbor, justifying his own sensual pleasures.

Mark the Hermit (5th-6th c.): On The Spiritual Law, 119, 124-128, 130, 134, 136-144, 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), pp. 118-120.

Mark the Hermit: Love of Christ is tested by adversity Monday, Feb 3 2014 

St Mark the AsceticEvery thought has its weight and measure in God’s sight.

For it is possible to think about the same thing either passionately or objectively.

After fulfilling a commandment expect to be tempted: for love of Christ is tested by adversity.

Never belittle the significance of your thoughts, for not one escapes God’s notice.

[…] The enemy, understanding how the justice of the spiritual law is applied, seeks only the assent of our mind.

Having secured this, he will either oblige us to undergo the labors of repentance or, if we do not repent, will torment us with misfortunes beyond our control.

Sometimes he encourages us to resist these misfortunes so as to increase our torment, and then, at our death, he will point to this impatient resistance as proof of our lack of faith.

Many have fought in various ways against circumstances; but without prayer and repentance no one has escaped evil.

Evils reinforce each other; so do virtues, thus encouraging us to still greater efforts.

The devil belittles small sins; otherwise he cannot lead us into greater ones.

Praise from others engenders sinful desire, while their condemnation of vice, if not only heard but accepted, engenders self-restraint.

[…]  All vice is caused by self-esteem and sensual pleasure; you cannot overcome passion without hating them.

‘Avarice is the root of all evil’ (1 Tim. 6:10); but avarice is clearly a product of these two components.

The intellect is made blind by these three passions: avarice, self-esteem and sensual pleasure.

Scripture calls these three the daughters of the horseleech, dearly loved by their mother folly (cf. Prov. 30:15, LXX).

These three passions on their own dull spiritual knowledge and faith, the foster-brothers of our nature.

It is because of them that wrath, anger, war, murder and all other evils have such power over mankind.

We must hate avarice, self-esteem and sensual pleasure, as mothers of the vices and stepmothers of the virtues.

Because of them we are commanded not to love ‘the world’ and ‘the things that are in the world’ (1 John 2:15); not so that we should hate God’s creation through lack of discernment, but so that we should eliminate the occasions for these three passions.

‘The soldier going to war’, it is said, ‘does not entangle himself in the affairs of this world’ (2 Tim. 2:4).

For he who entangles himself with the passions while trying to overcome them is like a man who tries to put out a fire with straw.

Mark the Hermit (5th-6th c.): On The Spiritual Law, 87-89, 91-95, 99-107, 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), pp. 116-117.

Macarius the Egyptian: The grace of God writes the laws of the Spirit and the mysteries of Heaven on the tables of the heart Sunday, Jan 19 2014 

Macarius3January 19th is the feast of St Macarius the Egyptian (eastern calendar).

When the rich men of the earth have brought much fruit into their garners, they set to work again every day to get more, in order to have plenty, and not run short.

If they presume upon the wealth laid up in the garners, and take things easily and add no more, but use up what they have stored already, they soon sink into want and poverty.

So they have to labour and add, enlarging their intake, that they may not get behindhand.

In Christianity, to taste of the grace of God is like that. Taste, it says, and see how gracious the Lord is (Psalm 35:8).

This tasting is an effectual power of the Spirit in full certainty, ministering in the heart.

As many as are the sons of light, and of the ministry of the New Covenant in the Holy Ghost, these have nothing to learn from men; they are taught of God (1 Thess. 4:9).

Grace itself writes upon their hearts the laws of the Spirit.

They ought not therefore to rest their assurance only upon the scriptures that are written in ink; the grace of God writes the laws of the Spirit and the mysteries of heaven upon the tables of the heart as well (2 Cor. 3:2).

For the heart governs and reigns over the whole bodily organism; and when grace possesses the ranges of the heart, it reigns over all the members and the thoughts.

For there, in the heart, is the mind, and all the faculties of the soul, and its expectation; therefore grace penetrates also to all the members of the body.

On the other hand, as many as are sons of darkness, sin reigns over their heart, and penetrates to all their members, for out of their hearts proceed evil thoughts (Matt. 15:19), and thus diffused puts the man in darkness.

Those who say that evil is not born and bred in man, may have no anxiety about tomorrow, nor any desire either.

For a certain length of time, evil ceases to cause trouble in them by suggesting some object of desire, so that a man will affirm on oath, “Such a passion no longer assails me.”

After a short while he is consumed with the desire, so that he is found guilty of perjury into the bargain.

As water runs through a pipe, so does sin through the heart and thoughts.

As many as will not have this notion, are refuted and mocked by sin itself, even if sin did not wish to triumph; for evil endeavours to escape notice and to be hidden in the mind of man.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 15, 20-21, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

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