John of Karpathos: Through repentance a man regains his true splendour, just as the moon after the period of waning clothes itself once more in its full light Wednesday, Aug 26 2015 

johnkarpathosThe King of all reigns for ever, and there is neither beginning nor end to His kingdom.

To those, then, who choose to serve Him and who for His sake strive to attain holiness, He grants a reward infinitely greater than that given by any earthly ruler.

The honours of this present life, however splendid, come to an end when we die — but the honours bestowed by God on those whom He regards as worthy are incorruptible and so endure for ever.

David in one of his Psalms describes the praise offered to God by the whole of creation (cf. Ps. 104).

He speaks of the angels and all the invisible powers, but he also descends to the earth and includes wild animals, cattle, birds and reptiles.

All of them, he believes, worship the Creator and sing His praise; for it is God’s will that everything He has made should offer Him glory.

How, then, can the monk, who may be compared to the gold of Ophir (cf. 1Kgs. 10:11), allow himself to be sluggish or apathetic when singing God’s praise?

Just as the bush burned with fire but was not consumed (cf. Exod. 3:2), so those who have received the gift of dispassion are not troubled or harmed, either physically or in their intellect (Greek: ὁ νοῦς)** [see footnote], by the heat of their body, however ponderous or fevered it may be.

For the voice of the Lord holds back the flames of nature (cf. Ps.29:7): God’s will and His word separate what by nature is united.

The moon as it waxes and wanes illustrates the condition of man: sometimes he does what is right, sometimes he sins and then through repentance returns to a holy life.

The intellect of one who sins is not destroyed (as some of you think), just as the physical size of the moon does not diminish, but only its light.

Through repentance a man regains his true splendour, just as the moon after the period of waning clothes itself once more in its full light.

If a man believes in Christ, ‘even though he dies, he shall live’ (John 11:25); he shall know that ‘I the Lord have spoken, and will do it’ (Ezek.17:24 LXX).

[…] The demons in their malice revive and rekindle the unclean passions within us, causing them to increase and multiply. But the visitation of the divine Logos [Word], especially when accompanied by our tears, dissolves and kills the passions, even those that are inveterate.

It gradually reduces to nothing the destructive and sinful impulses of soul and body, provided we do not grow listless but cling to the Lord with prayer and with hope that is unremitting and unashamed.

John of Karpathos (7th century): For the Encouragement of the Monks in India, 1-4, 6, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, P. Sherrard, and K. Ware, The Philokalia, vol. 1 (Faber and Faber, London & Boston: 1979 @ J B Burnett.

**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from John and by other Greek authors: INTELLECT (nous): the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St Diadochos). The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Macarian Homilies).

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John of Karpathos: Let the fire of your prayer burn always on the altar of your soul Tuesday, Oct 22 2013 

johnkarpathosSo as not to be deceived and carried away by the vain and empty things that the senses bring before us, we should listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah:

‘Come, my people, enter into your inner room’ — the shrine of your heart, which is closed to every conception derived from the sensible world, that image-free dwelling-place illumined by dispassion and the overshadowing of God’s grace;

‘shut your door’ — to all things visible;

‘hide yourself for a brief moment’ — the whole of man’s life is but a moment;

‘until the Lord’s anger has passed by’ (Isa.26:20 LXX); or, as the Psalms put it, ‘until iniquity has passed’ (Ps. 57:1).

This anger of the Lord and this iniquity may be caused by demons, passions and sins; as Isaiah says to God, ‘Behold, Thou art angry, for we have sinned’ (Isa.64:5).

A man escapes this anger by keeping his attention fixed continually within his heart during prayer, and by striving to remain within his inner sanctuary.

As it is written, ‘Draw wisdom into your innermost self’ (Job 28:18 LXX); ‘all the glory of the king’s daughter is within’ (Ps. 45:13 LXX).

Let us, then, continue to struggle until we enter the holy place of God, ‘the mountain of Thine inheritance, the dwelling, O Lord, which Thou hast made ready, the sanctuary which Thy hands have prepared’ (Exod. 15:17).

[…] Once you have realized that the Amorite within you is ‘as strong as an oak’, you should pray fervently to the Lord to dry up ‘his fruit from above’ — that is, your sinful actions, and ‘his roots from beneath’ — that is, your impure thoughts.

Ask the Lord in this way to ‘destroy the Amorite from before your face’ (Amos 2:9 LXX).

[…] When there is no wind blowing at sea, there are no waves; and when no demon dwells within us, our soul and body are not troubled by the passions.

If you always feel the warmth of prayer and divine grace you may apply to yourself the words of Scripture: you have ‘put on the armour of light’ (Rom. 13:12) and ‘your garments are warm’ (Job 37:17). But  your enemies are ‘clothed with shame’ (Ps. 109:29) and with the darkness of hell.

When recalling your sins, do not hesitate to beat your breast. With these blows you will dig into your hardened heart and discover within it the gold-mine of the publican (cf. Luke 18:13); and this hidden wealth will bring you great joy.

Let the fire of your prayer, ascending  upwards as you meditate on the oracles of the Spirit, burn always on the altar of your soul.

John of Karpathos (7th century): For the Encouragement of the Monks in India, 91, 93, 95-98, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, P. Sherrard, and K. Ware, The Philokalia, vol. 1 (Faber and Faber, London & Boston: 1979 @ J B Burnett.

John of Karpathos: You have barbarian cave-dwellers living within you Tuesday, Aug 27 2013 

johnkarpathosDo all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should not fall.

But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest.

Even if you fall a thousand times because of the withdrawal of God’s grace, rise up again each time, and keep on doing so until the day of your death.

For it is written, ‘If a righteous man falls seven times’ — that is, repeatedly throughout his life — seven times shall he rise again’ (Prov. 24:16, LXX).

[…] It is more serious to lose hope than to sin.

The traitor Judas was a defeatist, inexperienced in spiritual warfare; as a result he was reduced to despair by the enemy’s onslaught, and he went and hanged himself.

Peter, on the other hand, was a firm rock: although brought down by a terrible fall, yet because of his experience in spiritual warfare he was not broken by despair, but leaping up he shed bitter tears from a contrite and humiliated heart.

And as soon as our enemy saw them, he recoiled as if his eyes had been burnt by searing flames, and he took to flight howling and lamenting.

[…] There was once a king of Israel who subdued cave-dwellers and other barbarian tribes by using the psalms and music of David.

You, too, have barbarian cave-dwellers living within you: the demons who have gained admittance to your senses and limbs, who torment and inflame your flesh.

Because of them lust is in your eyes when you look at things; as you listen or use your sense of smell, passion dominates you; you indulge in dirty talk; you are full of turmoil inwardly and outwardly, like the city of Babylon.

With great faith, then, and with ‘Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs’ (Eph. 5:19), you too must destroy the cave-dwellers who work evil within you.

The Lord desires one man to be saved through another, and in the same way Satan strives to destroy one man through another. So do not spend your time with somebody who is sloppy, a mischief-maker, not guarding his tongue, lest you be sent with him into punishment.

It is hard enough for one who associates with a good man to attain salvation. If you do not watch yourself, but consort with people of evil character, you will be infected with their leprosy and destroyed.

How can anyone expect pity if he recklessly approaches a poisonous snake? You should avoid those who cannot control their tongue, who are quarrelsome and full of agitation inwardly or outwardly.

John of Karpathos (7th century): For the Encouragement of the Monks in India, 84-88, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, P. Sherrard, and K. Ware, The Philokalia, vol. 1 (Faber and Faber, London & Boston: 1979 @ J B Burnett.

John of Karpathos: God, who does not despair of our salvation, says to us ‘You shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord’ Monday, Jan 14 2013 

johnkarpathosSometimes our soul grows despondent at the huge swarm of its sins and temptations, and says, ‘Our hope is gone and we are lost’ (Ezek. 37:11; LXX).

Yet God, who does not despair of our salvation, says to us: ‘You shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord’ (Ezek. 37:6).

To the soul that doubts how it can ever give birth to Christ through great acts of holiness, these words are said: ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon you’ (Luke 1:35).

Where the Holy Spirit is present, do not expect any more the sequence and laws of nature and habit.

The Holy Spirit whom we worship is all-powerful, and in an astonishing way He brings into existence what does not as yet exist within us.

The intellect (Greek: ὁ νοῦς)** [see footnote] that was previously defeated He now makes victorious: for the Paraclete who in compassion comes upon us from above ‘is higher than all’ (John 3:31), and He raises us above all natural impulses and demonic passions.

Struggle to preserve unimpaired the light that shines within your intellect.

If passion begins to dominate you when you look at things, this means that the Lord has left you in darkness; He has dropped the reins with which He was guiding you, and the light of your eyes is gone from you (cf. Ps. 38:10).

Yet even if this happens, do not despair or give up, but pray to God with the words of David: ‘O send out Thy light and Thy truth to me in my gloom, for Thou art the salvation of my countenance and my God’ (cf. Ps. 43:3, 5); ‘Thou shalt send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created; and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth’ (Ps. 104: 30; LXX).

Blessed is he who, with a hunger that is never satisfied, day and night throughout this present life makes prayer and the psalms his food and drink, and strengthens himself by reading of God’s glory in Scripture.

Such communion will lead the soul to ever-increasing joy in the age to come.

Do all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should not fall. But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest.

Even if you fall a thousand times because of the withdrawal of God’s grace, rise up again each time, and keep on doing so until the day of your death.

For it is written, ‘If a righteous man falls seven times’ – that is, repeatedly throughout his life – seven times ‘shall he rise again’ (Prov. 24: 16; LXX).

John of Karpathos (7th century): For the Encouragement of the Monks in India, 81-84, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, P. Sherrard, and K. Ware, The Philokalia, vol. 1 (Faber and Faber, London & Boston: 1979), @ J B Burnett.

**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from John and by other Greek authors: INTELLECT (nous): the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St Diadochos). The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Macarian Homilies).

John of Karpathos: It is Christ Himself that we breathe Monday, Jan 23 2012 

What is it that so distresses you? No stain is intrinsic.

If a man has tar on his hands, he removes it with a little cleansing oil; how much more, then, can you be made clean with the oil of God’s mercy.

You find no difficulty in washing your clothes; how much easier is it for the Lord to cleanse you from every stain, although you are bound to be tempted every day.

When you say to the Lord, ‘I have sinned’, He answers: ‘Your sins are forgiven you; I am He who wipes them out and I will remember them no more’(Matt. 9:2; Isa.43:25);

‘as far as the east is from the west, so far have I removed your sins from you; and as a father shows compassion to his sons, so will I show compassion to you’ (Ps.103:12-13).

Only do not rebel against Him who has called you to pray and recite psalms, but cleave to Him throughout your life in pure and intimate communion, reverent yet unashamed in His presence, and always full of thanksgiving.

It is God who, by a simple act of His will, cleanses you. For what God chooses to make clean not even the great Apostle Peter can condemn or call unclean.

For he is told: ‘What God has cleansed, do not call unclean’ (Acts 10:15). For has not God in His love acquitted us? ‘Who then will condemn us?’ (Rom. 8:33-34).

When we call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is not hard for our conscience to be made pure, and then we are no different from the prophets and the rest of the saints.

For God’s purpose is not that we should suffer from His anger, but that we should gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us.

So then, whether we are watchful in virtue or sometimes fall asleep, as is likely to happen because of our failings, yet shall we live with Christ.

As we look up to Him with cries of distress and continual lamentation, it is Christ Himself that we breathe.

[…] The great Physician of the sick is here beside us, He that bore our infirmities, that healed and still heals us by His wounds (Isa.53:5); He is here beside us and even now administers the medicine of salvation.

‘For’, He says’, I have afflicted you by My absence, but I will also heal you. So do not fear: for when My fierce anger has passed, I will heal you again.

[…] ‘For if a bird devotes itself with tender love to its nestlings, visiting them every hour, calling to them and feeding them, how much greater is My compassion towards My creatures!

John of Karpathos (7th century): For the Encouragement of the Monks in India, Supplement, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, P. Sherrard, and K. Ware, The Philokalia, vol. 1 (Faber and Faber, London & Boston: 1979) @ J B Burnett.

John of Karpathos: Lifted by the wings of the Spirit Wednesday, Oct 19 2011 

johnkarpathosMake every effort… never through your own negligence to be deprived of grace, even for a single moment.

If you manage to avoid falling, if you succeed in leaping over the barrier formed by impassioned thoughts, and if you overcome the unclean provocations that the enemy in his ingenuity continually suggests to you, do not ignore the gift conferred on you from above.

As the Apostle says, ‘It was not I but the grace of God which was with me’ (1Cor. 15:10) that won this victory, raising me above the impure thoughts that assailed me.

It was His grace that ‘delivered me from the wicked man’ (cf. Ps. 18:48 LXX), that is, from the devil and from the ‘old man’ within me (cf. Rom.6:6).

Lifted by the wings of the Spirit and freed from the weight of my body, I was able to soar above the predatory demons, who catch man’s intellect with the bird-lime of sensual indulgence, tempting it in a forcible and violent manner.

It was God who brought me out from the land of Egypt, that is, from the soul-destructiveness of the world.

It was God who fought on my behalf and with His unseen hand put Amalek to flight (cf. Exod. 17:816), thus giving me cause to hope that He will also drive out the other tribes of impure passions before me.

He is our God, and will give us both ‘wisdom and power’ (Dan. 2:23); for some have received wisdom but not the power of the Spirit to defeat their enemies.

He will ‘lift up your head above your enemies’ (cf. Ps. 27:6); He will give you ‘the wings of a dove’, so that you can ‘fly away and be at rest’ with God (Ps. 55:6).

The Lord will make your arms as a ‘bow of bronze’ (Ps. 18:34 LXX), giving you strength and endurance against the enemy, subduing under your feet all that rise against you (cf. Ps. 18:39).

It is to the Lord, then, that you should ascribe the grace of purity, for He did not surrender you to the desires of your flesh and your blood, and to the impure spirits that trouble and corrupt them; but He guarded you with His own right hand.

Build Him, then, an altar as Moses did after defeating Amalek (cf. Exod. 17:15). ‘Therefore will I give thanks to Thee, O Lord, and sing praises to Thy name’ (Ps. 18:49), glorifying Thy mighty acts;

for Thou hast ‘redeemed my life from destruction’ (Ps. 103:4).

John of Karpathos (7th century): For the Encouragement of the Monks in India, 5, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, P. Sherrard, and K. Ware, The Philokalia, vol. 1 (Faber and Faber, London & Boston: 1979) @ J B Burnett.