Antony the Great: The Only-Begotten, the Very Mind of the Father and His Image, the Great Physician Friday, Jan 17 2014 

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

Truly, my beloved in the Lord, not at one time only did God visit His creatures; but from the foundation of the world, whenever any have come to the Creator of all by the law of His covenant implanted in them, God is present with each one of these in His bounty and grace by His Spirit.

But in the case of those rational natures in which that covenant grew cold, and their intellectual perception died, so that they were no longer able to know themselves according to their first condition; concerning them I say that they became altogether irrational, and worshipped the creation rather than the Creator.

But the Creator of all in His great bounty visited us by the implanted law of the covenant. For He is immortal substance.

And as many as became worthy of God and grew by His implanted law, and were taught by His Holy Spirit and received the Spirit of Adoption, these were able to worship their Creator as they ought: of whom Paul says that “they received not the promise” on account of us. (Heb. 11:39).

And the Creator of All, who repents not of His love, desiring to visit our sickness and confusion, raised up Moses the Lawgiver, who gave us the law in writing, and founded for us the House of Truth, which is the Catholic Church, that makes us one in God; for He desires that we should be brought back to our first beginning.

Moses built the house, yet did not complete it, but left it and went away. Then again God raised up the choir of the Prophets by His Spirit. And they also built on the foundation of Moses, but could not complete the house, and likewise left it and went away.

And all of them , being clothed with the Spirit, saw that the wound was incurable, and that none of the creatures was able to heal it, but only the Only-begotten, who is the very Mind of the Father and His Image, who after the pattern of His Image made every rational creature.

For these knew that the Saviour is the great physician; and they assembled all together, and offered prayer for their members, that is, for us, crying out and saying, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” (Jer. 8:22) “We would have healed her, but she is not healed: now therefore let us forsake her and go away.” (Jer.51:9)

Antony the Great (c.251-356): Letter 2 (trans. Derwas J. Chitty).

Macarius the Egyptian: The heart is Christ’s palace where Christ the King comes to rest Sunday, Nov 24 2013 

Macarius3Consider how the Lord has prepared for Christians the kingdom, and calls them to enter in, and they will not.

As for the gift which they are to inherit, one might say, if everyone from the creation of Adam to the end of the world strove against Satan and endured afflictions, he would do nothing great in comparison with the glory which he is to inherit.

For he will reign to ages without end with Christ. Glory to Him Who so loved a soul like this, for giving Himself and His grace and entrusting the soul therewith! Glory to His greatness!

[…] Suppose there were a very great palace, and this were deserted, and became full of every evil smell, and of many dead bodies.

Well, the heart is Christ’s palace, and it is full of all uncleanness, and of crowds of many wicked spirits. It must be refounded and rebuilt, and its store-chambers and bedrooms put in order.

For there Christ the King, with the angels and holy spirits, comes to rest, and   to dwell, and to walk in it, and to set His kingdom.

I tell you, it is like a ship furnished with plenty of tackle, where the captain disposes of all, and sets them their tasks, finding fault with some, and showing others their way about.

The heart has a captain in the mind, the conscience, which is ever judging us, thoughts accusing or else excusing one another.

[…] God and His angels came for thy salvation. The King, the King’s Son, held council with His Father, and the Word was sent, and put on the garment of flesh, and concealed His own Godhead, that like might be saved by like, and laid down His life upon the Cross.

So great is the love of God towards man. The Immortal chose to be crucified for thee. Consider then how God loved the world, because He gave His only begotten Son for them. How shall He not with Him freely give us all things?

In another place it says, Verily I say unto you that He shall make him ruler over all His goods. Elsewhere it shews the angels as ministers of the saints.

When Elias was in the mountain, and the foreigners came against him, the young servant said, “There are many coming against us, and we are by ourselves.” Then Elias answered, “Do you not see camps and multitudes of angels with us round about succouring us?”

You see that the Master and the multitudes of the angels are with His servants. How great then is the soul, and how much valued by God, that God and the angels seek after it for fellowship with themselves and for a kingdom!

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 15, 31; 33; 44, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Macarius the Egyptian: Crucified with the crucified, glorified with Him that is glorified Tuesday, Nov 12 2013 

Macarius3How can anyone be poor in spirit, especially when he is inwardly conscious that he is a changed man, and has made progress, and has come to a knowledge and understanding which he did not possess before?

Until a man acquires these things and makes progress, he is not poor in spirit, but has some opinion of himself.

But when he comes to this understanding and point of progress, grace itself teaches him to be poor in spirit.

This means that a man being righteous and chosen of God does not esteem himself to be anything, but holds his soul in abasement and disregard, as if he knew nothing and had nothing, though he knows and has.

This is a fixed thing, like a law of nature, in the mind of men. Do you not see how our forefather Abraham, elect as he was, described himself as dust and ashes (Gen. 18:27), and David, anointed to be king, had God with him, and yet what does he say? “I am a worm and no man, a very scorn of men, and the outcast of the people (Ps. 22:6).

Those therefore who desire to be fellow-heirs with these, and fellow-citizens of the heavenly city, and to be glorified with them, ought to have this humility of mind, and not to think themselves to be anything, but to keep the heart contrite.

[…] All the righteous have gone the straight and narrow way. […] And the Lord of prophets and apostles Himself, how did He fare, as if He had forgotten His divine glory? He was made an example for us; He wore in mockery a crown of thorns upon His head ; He submitted to spittings, buffets, and the cross.

If God so fared on earth, thou oughtest also to copy Him. The apostles and the prophets fared thus, and we, if we would be built upon the foundation of the Lord and of the apostles, ought to copy them.

The apostle says by the Holy Spirit, “Be ye imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” But if thou lovest the glories of men, and desirest to be worshipped, and seekest repose, thou art turned out of the way.

It behoves thee to be crucified with the Crucified, to suffer with Him that suffered, that so thou mayest be glorified with Him that is glorified. The bride must needs suffer with the Bridegroom, and so become partner and fellow-heir with Christ.

It is not feasible, without sufferings, and without the rough, straight, narrow way, to enter into the city of the saints, and be at rest, and reign with the King to ages without end.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 12, 3-5, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Mark the Hermit: To accept an affliction for God’s sake is a genuine act of holiness Friday, Oct 25 2013 

St Mark the AsceticDo good when you remember, and what you forget will be revealed to you; and do not surrender your mind to blind forgetfulness.

Scripture says: ‘Hell and perdition are manifest to the Lord’ (Prov. 15:11. LXX). This refers to ignorance of heart and forgetfulness.

Hell is ignorance, for both are dark; and perdition is forgetfulness, for both involve extinction.

Concern yourself with your own sins and not with those of your neighbour; then the workplace of your intellect will not be robbed.

Failure to do the good that is within your power is hard to forgive. But mercy and prayer reclaim the negligent.

To accept an affliction for God’s sake is a genuine act of holiness; for true love is tested by adversities.

Do not claim to have acquired virtue unless you have suffered affliction, for without affliction virtue has not been tested.

Consider the outcome of every involuntary affliction, and you will find it has been the destruction of sin.

Neighbors are very free with advice, but our own judgment is best.

If you want spiritual health, listen to your conscience, do all it tells you, and you will benefit.

God and our conscience know our secrets. Let them correct us.

He who toils unwillingly grows poor in every way, while he who presses ahead in hope is doubly rich.

Man acts so far as he can in accordance with his own wishes; but God decides the outcome in accordance with justice.

If you wish not to incur guilt when men praise you, first welcome reproof for your sins.

Each time someone accepts humiliation for the sake of Christ’s truth he will be glorified a hundredfold by other men. But it is better always to do good for the sake of blessings in the life to come.

When one man helps another by word or deed, let them both recognize in this the grace of God. He who does not understand this will come under the power of him who does.

[…] He who is ignorant of the enemy’s ambush is easily slain; and” he who does not know the causes of the passions is soon brought low.

Knowledge of what is good for him has been given to everyone by God; but self-indulgence leads to negligence, and negligence to forgetfulness.

A man advises his neighbor according to his own understanding; but in the one who listens to such advice, God acts in proportion to his faith.

Mark the Hermit (5th-6th c.): On The Spiritual Law, 60-78, 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. 114-115.

Macarius the Egyptian: God opens the locked doors of the heart and bestows on us the riches of heaven Monday, Oct 21 2013 

Macarius3One man maintains conflict and hardship and war against Satan. This man’s heart is contrite; he is in care and mourning and tears. Such a one has come to stand in two separate realms.

If, then, in this state of things he perseveres, the Lord is with him for the battle, and protects him; for he seeks in earnest, and knocks at the door till He opens to him.

Again, if you see here a good brother, it is grace which has established him.

But the man without foundation has no such fear of God. His heart is not contrite. He is in no fear, nor does he secure his heart and members, not to walk disorderly.

[…] There is then a difference between the man in conflict and hardship, and the man who does not know what battle is.

Even the seeds, when cast into the ground, undergo hardship with the frosts, with the winter, with the coldness of the air, and in due season the growth is quickened.

It sometimes happens that Satan talks in the heart, “See how many wrong things thou hast done! See how many follies thy soul is filled with, and thou art weighed down with sins, that thou canst not be saved.”

This he does, to reduce thee to despair, and to make thee think that thy repentance is not acceptable. For since by the transgression wickedness entered in, it talks with the soul every hour, like man with man.

Answer him then thou, “I have the testimonies of the Lord in writing, that say, I desire not the death of the sinner, but his repentance, and that he should turn from his wickedness and live.”

It was for this that He came down, to save sinners, to raise the dead, to quicken lost lives, to give light to those in darkness. In truth He came, and called us to the adoption of sons, to a holy city which is ever at peace, to the life that never dies, to glory incorruptible.

Only let us put a good finish to our beginning. Let us abide in poverty, in the condition of strangers, in suffering affliction, in petition to God, knocking importunately at the door.

Near as the body is to the soul, the Lord is nearer, to come and open the locked doors of the heart, and to bestow on us the riches of heaven.

He is good and kind to man, and His promises cannot lie, if only we continue seeking Him to the end. Glory be to the compassions of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost for ever. Amen.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 11,14-15, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Macarius the Egyptian: Christ enters into the deep gulf of the heart Sunday, Sep 22 2013 

Macarius3Just as if a man were bound hand and foot with chains, and someone came and loosed his bands, and let him walk free without interference, so the Lord looses from its bonds the soul that is bound with the chains of death, and lets it go, and sets the mind free to walk at ease and unhindered into God’s air.

Suppose a man were in the middle of a river in full flood, and overwhelmed by the water lay lifeless, drowned, with dreadful monsters all round him.

If another man, who is not used to swimming, should wish to save the one who fell in, he too is lost, and is drowned with him. Clearly there is need of a skilled swimmer, an expert, to go out into the depth of the water of the gulf, and dive, and bring up the drowned man there among the monsters.

The water itself, when it sees a man skilled and knowing how to navigate it, helps such a man, and bears him up to the surface.

The soul, in the same way, has been plunged and drowned in the abyss of darkness and the deep of death, and is dead and parted from God among dreadful monsters; and who is able to go down into those secret chambers and the depths of hell and death, except that expert Workman who fashioned the body?

In His own person He enters into two quarters, into the depth of hell, and into the deep gulf of the heart, where the soul with its thoughts is held fast by death, and brings up out of the darksome hole the Adam that lay dead.

And death itself, through practice, becomes an assistance to man, like the water to the swimmer. What difficulty is there to God in entering into death, or into the deep gulf of the heart either, and calling up the dead Adam from thence?

In the natural world there are houses and tenements where mankind dwell, and there are places where wild beasts dwell, lions, or dragons, or other venomous beasts.

If the sun, which is but a creature, enters in every direction, through windows, through doors, and into the dens of lions, and into the holes of serpents, and comes out again without taking any harm, how much more does the God and Lord of all enter into the holes and dwelling-places where death pitched his tent, and into souls, and rescue Adam from thence without being injured by death?

The rain, too, comes down from heaven, and reaches down into the lower parts of the earth, and there moistens and renews the dried roots, and makes there a new growth.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 11,12-13, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Nilus the Ascetic: What is Superior to Associating with God and Conversing with Him? Friday, Sep 20 2013 

Nilus_of_SinaiStrive in your prayer to never seek any evil to befall anyone, so that you do not destroy whatever you have built by making your prayer abhorrent.

Let the debtor of the ten thousand talents in the Gospel be an example to you.

If you do not forgive the person who has harmed you, neither will you attain the absolution of your sins; because the Gospel says of the debtor of the ten thousand talents who did not forgive his debtor that “he was delivered to his torturers” (Matt. 18:24-35).

It is appropriate that you do not pray only for yourself, but also for every fellowman, so that in this way, you will be emulating the angelic manner of praying.

Do not be sorrowed if you do not immediately receive from God that which you asked for, because He desires to benefit you even more through your patient perseverance in prayer.

Indeed, what is superior to associating with God and conversing with Him?

In wishing to teach His disciples that they must always pray and not be discouraged, the Lord narrated an appropriate parable (Luke 18:1-8).

In this parable a certain unfair judge said the following about a widow who was persistently demanding to be vindicated: “Even if I neither fear God nor feel any shame before people, however, because this woman continuously bothers me and demands to be vindicated, I shall do so.”

And the Lord then concluded: “So also shall God soon fulfill the wish of those who beseech Him day and night.”

That is, therefore, why you should not be discouraged or worried because you did not receive it, because you will receive it later. Be happy and persist, enduring the toil of holy prayer.

Overlook the needs of the body when you pray, so that you do not lose the greater gain of your prayer from the sting of a mosquito or the buzzing of a fly.

If you have diligence in prayer, be prepared for attacks by demons and endure their blows with bravery, because they shall charge at you like wild beasts, to torment you.

He who suffers sorrowful things will also attain joyful ones. He who perseveres during unpleasant things will also enjoy pleasant ones.

Nilus the Ascetic of Sinai (d. c.430): On Prayer, trans. Holy Monastery of the Paraklete Oropos, Attica (Greece).

Macarius the Egyptian: Christ comes into the deep of the heart-hell and breaks through the heavy stones that lie on the soul Saturday, Aug 17 2013 

Macarius3The Lord comes to death, and discourses with him, and bids him bring the souls out of hell and death, and give them back to Him.

Behold then, death, troubled at these things, goes in to his ministers, and gathers together all his powers; and the prince of wickedness produces the bond-deeds, and says, “See, these obeyed my words; see how men worshipped us.”

But God, who is a just judge, displays His justice here also, and says to him, “Adam obeyed thee, and thou didst take possession of all the hearts of him. Humanity obeyed thee.

“What is My body doing here? This is without sin. That body of the first Adam was under obligation to thee, and thou hast a right to keep the bond-deeds of it; but to Me all bear witness that I never sinned.

“I owe thee nothing, and all bear witness that I am the Son of God. […] I purchase the body that was sold to thee through the first Adam; I cancel thy bonds.

“I paid the debts of Adam, when I was crucified and descended into hell; and I command thee, O hell and darkness and death, bring out the imprisoned souls of Adam.”

Thus the evil powers, stricken with terror, give back the imprisoned Adam.

But when you hear that at that time the Lord delivered the souls from hell and darkness, and went down to hell, and did a glorious work, do not imagine that these things are so very far from your own soul.

Man is capable of admitting and receiving the evil one. Death keeps fast hold of the souls of Adam, and the thoughts of the soul lie imprisoned in the darkness.

When you hear of sepulchres, do not think only of visible ones; your own heart is a sepulchre and a tomb.

When the prince of wickedness and his angels burrow there, and make paths and thoroughfares there, on which the powers of Satan walk into your mind and thoughts, are you not a hell, a tomb, a sepulchre, a dead man towards God?

There it was that Satan coined reprobate silver. In this soul he sowed seeds of bitterness. It is leavened with old leaven; a fountain of mire springs there.

Well, then, the Lord comes into souls that seek after Him, into the deep of the heart-hell, and there lays His command upon death, saying, “Bring out the imprisoned souls that are seeking after Me, which thou detainest by force.”

So He breaks through the heavy stones that lie on the soul, opens the sepulchres, raises up the man that is dead indeed, brings out of the dark jail the imprisoned soul.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 11,10-11, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Macarius the Egyptian: Christ renews and forms a heavenly image, and makes a new thing of the soul Sunday, Jul 21 2013 

Macarius3Suppose there is a king, and he has goods and servants under him to minister to him, and he happens to be taken by his enemies and carried captive.

When he is taken and removed from his country, his ministers and servants cannot but follow after him.

Thus Adam was created pure by God for His service, and these creatures were given him to minister to his wants. He was appointed lord and king of all creatures.

But when the evil word came to him, and conversed with him, he first received it by the outward hearing, then it penetrated through his heart, and took possession of all his being.

When he was thus seized, creation, which served him and ministered to him, was seized with him. Through him death reigned over every soul, and defaced every image of Adam in consequence of his disobedience.

[…] At this point there comes in person He who fashioned body and soul, and undoes the whole business of the wicked one, and his works accomplished in men’s thoughts, and renews and forms a heavenly image, and makes a new thing of the soul, that Adam may again be king over death and lord of the creatures.

In the shadow of the law, Moses was called the Saviour of Israel, because he brought them out of Egypt. So now the true Redeemer, Christ, goes through into the hidden places of the soul, and brings it out of dark Egypt, and the heavy yoke, and the bitter bondage.

He commands us, therefore, to come out of the world, and to become poor of all visible things, and to have no earthly care, but night and day to stand at the door, and wait for the time when the Lord shall open the closed hearts, and shall pour upon us the gift of the Spirit.

He told us therefore to leave gold, silver, kinsfolk, to sell that which we have and distribute to the poor, and to treasure it up and seek it in heaven. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The Lord knew that in this quarter Satan prevails over the thoughts, to drag them down to anxiety for material, earthly things.

For this reason God, in providential care for your soul, told you to renounce all, in order that even against your will you might seek the heavenly riches, and keep your heart directed towards God.

For even if you should wish to return to the creaturely things, you find nothing visible in you possession….

You are compelled to send your mind to heaven, where you have treasured these things and laid them up; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 11, 5-7, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Macarius the Egyptian: That heavenly fire of the Godhead which Christians receive in their hearts Thursday, Jul 4 2013 

Macarius3That heavenly fire of the Godhead, which Christians receive in their hearts now in this present world, that same fire which now ministers inwardly in the heart becomes outward when the body is dissolved, and recomposes the members, and causes a resurrection of the members that had been dissolved.

As the fire that ministered on the altar at Jerusalem lay buried in a pit during the time of the captivity, and the selfsame fire, when peace came and the captives returned home, was renewed, as it were, and ministered in its accustomed manner (2 Maccabees 1:19ff), so now the heavenly fire works upon this body that is so near us, which after its dissolution turns to mire, and renews it, and raises up the bodies that had decayed.

The inward fire that now dwells in the heart becomes then external, and causes a resurrection of the body.

The fire in the furnace under Nabuchodonosor was no divine fire, but a creature; but the Three Children (Daniel 3), because of their righteousness, while they were in the visible fire, had in their hearts the divine and heavenly fire ministering within their thoughts and exerting its energy in them.

That very fire showed itself outside them. It stood between them and the visible fire, and restrained it, that it should not burn the righteous, nor do them any manner of hurt.

In like manner, when the mind of Israel and their thoughts were bent upon departing far from the living God and turning to idolatry, Aaron was compelled to tell them to bring their golden vessels and ornaments (Exodus 32). Then the gold and the vessels, which they cast into the fire, became an idol, and the fire, as it were, copied their intention.

That was a wonderful thing. They, secretly, in purpose and thought, determined upon idolatry, and the fire accordingly fashioned the vessels thrown upon it into an idol, and then they committed idolatry openly.

As, then, the Three Children, having thoughts of righteousness, received in themselves the fire of God, and worshipped the Lord in truth, so now faithful souls receive that divine and heavenly fire, in this world, in secret; and that fire forms a heavenly image upon their humanity.

As the fire formed the golden vessels, and they became an idol, so does the Lord, who copies the intentions of faithful and good souls, and forms an image even now in the soul according to their desire, and at the resurrection it appears external to them, and glorifies their bodies within and without.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]; Spiritual Homily 11,1-3, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

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