Symeon the Metaphrast: In Prayer the Saints Experience Communion in the Hidden Energy of God’s Holiness Saturday, Sep 22 2012 

The crown of every good endeavour and the highest of achievements is diligence in prayer.

Through this, God guiding us and lending a helping hand, we come to acquire the other virtues.

It is in prayer that the saints experience communion in the hidden energy of God’s holiness and inner union with it, and their intellect itself is brought through unutterable love into the presence of the Lord.

“Thou hast given gladness to my heart”, wrote the psalmist (Ps. 4:7); and the Lord Himself said that “the kingdom of heaven is within you” (cf Luke 17:21).

And what does the kingdom being within mean except that the heavenly gladness of the Spirit is clearly stamped on the virtuous soul?

For already in this life, through active communion in the Spirit, the virtuous soul receives a foretaste and a prelude of the delight, joy and spiritual gladness which the saints will enjoy in the eternal light of Christ’s kingdom.

This is something that St Paul also affirms: “He consoles us in our afflictions, so that we can console others in every affliction through the consolation with which we ourselves have been consoled by God” (2 Cor. 1:4).

And passages in the Psalms likewise hint at this active gladness and consolation of the Spirit, such as: “My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God” (Ps. 84:2. LXX): and: “My soul will be filled with marrow and fatness” (Ps. 63:5).

[…] Not only does St Paul instruct us to pray without ceasing and to persist in prayer (cf. 1 Thess. 5:17; Rom. 12:12), but so also does the Lord when He says that God will vindicate those who cry out to Him day and night (cf. Luke 18:7) and counsels us to “watch and pray” (Matt. 26 : 41). We must therefore pray always and not lose heart (cf. Luke 18:1).

To put things more succinctly: he who persists in prayer has to struggle greatly and exert himself  relentlessly if he is to overcome the many obstacles with which the devil tries to impede his diligence –

obstacles such as sleep, listlessness, physical torpor, distraction of thought, confusion of intellect, debility, and so on, not to mention afflictions, and also the attacks of the evil spirits that violently fight against us, opposing us and trying to prevent the soul from approaching God when it truly and ceaselessly seeks Him.

Symeon the Metaphrast (10th century?): Paraphrase of the Homilies St Makarios of Egypt, 1,18; 20. Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 3 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979). 

Symeon the Metaphrast: Devoted to Remembrance of God, Engrossed in His Love and in Unutterable and Boundless Longing for Him Monday, Jul 9 2012 

As has been said, love for God can be attained through the intellect’s great struggles and labors in holy meditation and in unremitting attention to all that is good.

The devil, on the contrary, impedes our intellect, not letting it devote itself to divine love through the remembrance of what is good, but enticing the senses with earthly desires.

For the intellect that dwells undistractedly in the love and remembrance of God is the devil’s death and, so to say, his noose.

Hence it is only through the first commandment, love for God, that genuine love for one’s brother can be established, and that true simplicity, gentleness, humility, integrity, goodness, prayer and the whole beautiful crown of the virtues can be perfected.

Much struggle is needed, therefore, and much inward and unseen travail, much scrutiny of our thoughts and training of our soul’s enfeebled organs of perception, before we can discriminate between good and evil, and strengthen and give fresh life to the afflicted powers of our soul through the diligent striving of our intellect towards God.

For by always cleaving to God in this way our intellect will become one spirit with the Lord, as St Paul puts it (cf 1 Cor. 6:17).

Those aspiring to the state of virtue must strive to fulfill the commandments by sustaining this inward struggle, travail and meditation unceasingly night and day, whether praying or serving, eating or drinking, or doing anything else.

In this way, if any good comes about it will be to God’s glory and not to their own.

The fulfillment of the commandments presents no difficulty or trouble to us when it is facilitated by the love of God and when this love relieves it of all that is burdensome.

As has been said, the whole effort of the enemy is directed towards distracting the intellect from the remembrance, fear and love of God, and to turning it by means of earthly forms and seductions away from what is truly good towards what appears to be good.

[…] The first and highest elements of our constitution – the intellect, the conscience, the loving power of the soul – must initially be offered to God as a holy sacrifice.

The firstfruits and the highest of our true thoughts must be continually devoted to remembrance of Him, engrossed in His love and in unutterable and boundless longing for Him.

In this way we can grow and move forward day by day, assisted by divine grace.

Then the burden of fulfilling the commandments will appear light to us, and we will carry them out faultlessly and irreproachably, helped by the Lord Himself on account of our faith in Him.

Symeon the Metaphrast (10th century?): Paraphrase of the Homilies St Makarios of Egypt, 1,13-15. Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 3 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979). 

Symeon the Metaphrast: Purification and Sanctification of the Heart through Fully Experienced Participation in the Spirit Tuesday, Jun 12 2012 

We receive salvation by grace and as a divine gift of the Spirit.

But to attain the full measure of virtue we need also to possess faith and love, and to struggle to exercise our free will with integrity.

In this manner we inherit eternal life as a consequence of both grace and justice.

We do not reach the final stage of spiritual maturity through divine power and grace alone, without ourselves making any effort.

But neither on the other hand do we attain the final measure of freedom and purity as a result of our own diligence and strength alone, apart from any divine assistance.

“If the Lord does not build the house”, it is said, “and protect the city, in vain does the watchman keep awake, and in vain do the laborer and the builder work” (cf . Ps. 127:1-4).

What is the will of God that St Paul urges and invites each of us to attain (cf. 1 Thess. 4:3)?

It is total cleansing from sin, freedom from the shameful passions and the acquisition of the highest virtue.

In other words, it is the purification and sanctification of the heart that comes about through fully experienced and conscious participation in the perfect and divine Spirit.

“Blessed are the pure in heart”, it is said, “for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8); and again: “Become perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

And the psalmist says: “Let my heart be unerring in Thy statutes, so that I am not ashamed” (Ps. 119:80); and again: “When I pay attention to all Thy commandments, then I will not be ashamed” (Ps. 119:6).

And to the person that asked, “Who will ascend the Lord’s hill, or who will stand in His holy place?” the psalmist replied: “He that has clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:3-4), that is to say, he who has completely destroyed sin in act and thought.

The Holy Spirit, knowing that the unseen and secret passions are hard to get rid of – for they are as it were rooted in the soul – shows us through the psalmist how we can purify ourselves from them.

“Cleanse me from my secret faults”, writes the psalmist (Ps. 19:12), as though to say that through much prayer and faith, and by turning completely to God, we are able, with the help of the Spirit, to conquer them.

But this is on condition that we too strive against them and keep strict watch over our heart (cf  Prov. 4:23).

Symeon the Metaphrast (10th century?): Paraphrase of the Homilies St Makarios of Egypt, 1,1-3. Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 3 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979).