Peter of Damascus: “I remembered God, and I rejoiced” Wednesday, Jul 13 2016 

peter_of_damascus“Rejoice in the Lord”, said St Paul (Phil. 3:1). And he was right to say, “in the Lord”.

For if our joy is not in the Lord, not only do we not rejoice, but in all probability we never shall.

Job, as he described the life of men, found it full of every kind of affliction (cf. Job 7:1-21), and so also did St Basil the Great.

St Gregory of Nyssa said that birds and other animals rejoice because of their lack of awareness, while man, being endowed with intelligence, is never happy because of his grief; for, he says, we shall not been found worthy even to have knowledge of the blessings we have lost.

For this reason nature teaches us rather to grieve, since life is full of pain and effort, like a state of exile dominated by sin.

But if a person is constantly mindful of God, he will rejoice: as the psalmist says, “I remembered God, and I rejoiced” (Ps. 77:3. LXX).

For when the intellect is gladdened by the remembrance of God, then it forgets the afflictions of this world, places its hope in Him, and is no longer troubled or anxious.

Freedom from anxiety makes it rejoice and give thanks; and the grateful offering of thanks augments the gifts of grace it has received. And as the blessings increase, so does the thankfulness, and so does the pure prayer offered with tears of joy.

Slowly the man emerges from the tears of distress and from the passions, and enters fully into the state of spiritual joy.

Through the things that bring him pleasure, he is made humble and grateful; through trials and temptations his hope in the world to come is consolidated; in both he rejoices, and naturally and spontaneously he loves God and all men as his benefactors.

He finds nothing in the whole of creation that can harm him. Illumined by the knowledge of God he rejoices in the Lord on account of all the things that He has created, marveling at the care He shows for His creatures.

The person who has attained spiritual knowledge not only marvels at visible things, but also is astounded by his perception of many essential things invisible to those who lack experience of this knowledge. Thus he looks with wonder not only on the light of day, but also at the night.

[…] In the words of the psalmist, “As you lie in bed, repent of what you say in your heart” (Ps. 4:4. LXX), that is, repent in the stillness of the night, remembering the lapses that occurred in the confusion of the day and disciplining yourself in hymns and spiritual songs (cf Col. 3:16).

Peter of Damascus (?12th Century): Twenty -Four Discourses: XXII – Joy; 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: 1979ff), pp. 260-261.

**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from Peter 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).

Albert the Great: “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you” Thursday, Nov 19 2015 

Albertus_Magnus_Painting_by_Joos_van_GentThere, in the presence of Jesus Christ, with everything, in general and individually, excluded and wiped out, the mind alone turns in security confidently to the Lord its God with its desire.

In this way it pours itself forth into him in full sincerity with its whole heart and the yearning of its love, in the most inward part of all its faculties, and is plunged, enlarged, set on fire and dissolved into him.

Certainly, anyone who desires and aims to arrive at and remain in such a state must needs above all have eyes and senses closed and not be inwardly involved or worried about anything.

He should not be  concerned or occupied with anything, but should completely reject all such things as irrelevant, harmful and dangerous.

Then he should withdraw himself totally within himself and not pay any attention to any object entering the mind except Jesus Christ, the wounded one, alone.

And so he should turn his attention with care and determination through him into him – that is, through the man into God, through the wounds of his humanity into the inmost reality of his divinity.

Here he can commit himself and all that he has, individually and as a whole, promptly, securely and without discussion, to God’s unwearying providence, in accordance with the words of Peter, cast all your care upon him (1 Peter 5.7), who can do everything.

And again, In nothing be anxious (Philippians 4.6), or what is more, Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you (Psalm 55.22).

[…]  The bride too in the Song of Songs says, I have found him whom my soul loves, (Canticle 3.4) and again, All good things came to me along with her (Wisdom 7.11).

This, after all, is the hidden heavenly treasure, none other than the pearl of great price, which must be sought with resolution, esteeming it in humble faithfulness, eager diligence, and calm silence before all things, and preferring it even above physical comfort, or honour and renown.

For what good does it do a religious if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his soul? Or what is the benefit of his state of life, the holiness of his profession, the virtue of his habit and tonsure, or the outer circumstances of his way of life if he is without a life of spiritual humility and truth in which Christ abides through a faith created by love.

This is what Luke means by, the Kingdom of God (that is, Jesus Christ) is within you (Luke 17.21).

Albert the Great (1193/1206–1280) [attributed]: On Cleaving to God, 1 & 2.

Augustine of Hippo: Almsgiving and Forgiveness Thursday, Apr 10 2014 

St Augustine of AfricaBe particularly mindful of the poor, so that what you take from yourself by living sparingly you may lay away in heavenly treasures.

Let the needy Christ receive that of which the fasting Christian deprives himself.

Let the self-restraint of the willing soul be the sustenance of the one in need.

Let the voluntary neediness of the one possessing an abundance become the necessary abundance of the one in need.

Let there be a merciful readiness to forgive in a conciliatory and humble soul. Let him who has done wrong seek pardon and let him who suffered the wrong give pardon, so that we may not be possessed by Satan who gloats over the disagreements of Christians.

For this is a very profitable way of giving alms, namely, to cancel the debt of one’s fellow servant so that one’s own debt may be cancelled by the Lord.

The heavenly Master commended both deeds as good when He said: ‘Forgive, and you shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given to you’ (Luke 6:37-38).

Recall how that servant, whose entire debt had been cancelled by his master, received a double punishment because he did not show to a fellow servant owing him a hundred denarii the same mercy which he had received in regard to his debt of 10,000 talents (cf. Matthew 18:26-35).

In this kind of good work, where good will is the sole requisite, there is no excuse possible. Someone may say: ‘I cannot fast without upsetting my stomach.’

He may even say: ‘I wish to give to the poor, but I do not have the means to do so,’ or ‘I have so little that I run the risk of being in need myself if I give to others.’

Even in these matters men sometimes make false excuses for themselves, because they do not find true ones.

Nevertheless, who is there who would say: ‘I did not pardon the one seeking forgiveness from me because ill health prevented me,’ or ‘because I had not a hand with which to embrace him’?

Forgive, that you may be forgiven (cf. Luke 6:37). Here there is no work of the body; no member of the body is lifted up to help a soul, so that what is asked may be granted.

All is done by the will; all is accomplished by the will. Act without anxiety; give without anxiety. You will experience no physical indisposition; you will have nothing less in your home.

Now in truth, my brethren, see what an evil it is that he who has been commanded to love even his enemy does not pardon a penitent brother.

Since this is so and since it is written in the Scriptures; ‘Do not let the sun go down upon your anger’ (Ephesians 4:26), consider my dear brethren, whether he ought to be called a Christian who, at least in these days, does not wish to put an end to enmities which he should never have indulged.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Homily 210, 10,  from Saint Augustine: Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons, Homilies, translated by Sister Mary Sarah Muldowney, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 38), pp. 107-8.

Francis de Sales: Strive Above All Else to Keep a Calm and Restful Spirit Thursday, Jan 24 2013 

Franz_von_SalesAnxiety of mind is not so much an abstract temptation, as the source whence various temptations arise.

Sadness, when defined, is the mental grief we feel because of our involuntary ailments—whether the evil be exterior, such as poverty, sickness or contempt; or interior, such as ignorance, dryness, depression or temptation.

Directly that the soul is conscious of some such trouble, it is downcast, and so trouble sets in.

Then we at once begin to try to get rid of it, and find means to shake it off; and so far rightly enough, for it is natural to us all to desire good, and shun that which we hold to be evil.

If anyone strives to be delivered from his troubles out of love of God, he will strive patiently, gently, humbly and calmly, looking for deliverance rather to God’s Goodness and Providence than to his own industry or efforts.

But if self-love is the prevailing object he will grow hot and eager in seeking relief, as though all depended more upon himself than upon God. I do not say that the person thinks so, but he acts eagerly as though he did think it.

Then if he does not find what he wants at once, he becomes exceedingly impatient and troubled, which does not mend matters, but on the contrary makes them worse, and so he gets into an unreasonable state of anxiety and distress, till he begins to fancy that there is no cure for his trouble.

Thus you see how a disturbance, which was right at the outset, begets anxiety, and anxiety goes on into an excessive distress, which is exceedingly dangerous.

[…] Just as internal commotions and seditions ruin a commonwealth, and make it incapable of resisting its foreign enemies, so if our heart be disturbed and anxious, it loses power to retain such graces as it has, as well as strength to resist the temptations of the Evil One, who is all the more ready to fish (according to an old proverb) in troubled waters.

Anxiety arises from an unregulated desire to be delivered from any pressing evil, or to obtain some hoped-for good. Nevertheless nothing tends so greatly to enhance the one or retard the other as over-eagerness and anxiety.

Birds that are captured in nets and snares become inextricably entangled therein, because they flutter and struggle so much.

Therefore, whensoever you urgently desire to be delivered from any evil, or to attain some good thing, strive above all else to keep a calm, restful spirit,—steady your judgment and will, and then go quietly and easily after your object, taking all fitting means to attain thereto.

Francis de Sales (1567-1622): Introduction to the Devout Life, 4, 11.

Mark the Hermit: Who puts his trust in Christ and yet worries or quarrels about transitory things? Sunday, Oct 16 2011 

Ample room in the heart denotes hope in God; congestion denotes bodily care.

The grace of the Spirit is one and unchanging, but energizes in each one of us as He wills (cf. 1 Cor 12:11).

When rain falls upon the earth, it gives life to the quality inherent in each plant: sweetness in the sweet, astringency in the astringent.

Similarly, when grace falls upon the hearts of the faithful, it gives to each the energies appropriate to the different virtues without itself changing.

To him who hungers after Christ grace is food; to him who is thirsty, a reviving drink; to him who is cold, a garment; to him who is weary, rest; to him who prays, assurance; to him who mourns, consolation.

When you hear Scripture saying of the Holy Spirit that He ‘rested upon each’ of the

Apostles (Acts 2:3), or ‘came upon’ the Prophet (1 Sam 11:6), or ‘energizes’ (1 Cor 12:11), or is ‘grieved’ (Eph 4:30), or is ‘quenched’ (1 Thess 5:19), or is ‘vexed’ (Is 63:10), and again, that some ‘have the first fruits’ (Rom 8:23), and that others are ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:4), do not suppose that the Spirit is subject to somekind of division, variation or change; but be sure that…He is unvarying, unchanging and all-powerful.

Therefore in all His energies He remains what He is, and in a divine manner He gives to each person what is needful.

On those who have been baptized He pours Himself out in His fullness like the sun.

Each of us is illumined by Him to the extent to which we hate the passions that darken us and get rid of them.

But in so far as we have a love for them and dwell on them, we remain in darkness.

He who hates the passions gets rid of their causes. But he who is attracted by their causes is attacked by the passions even though he does not wish it.

When evil thoughts become active within us, we should blame ourselves and not ancestral sin.

The roots of evil thoughts are the obvious vices, which we keep trying to justify in our words and actions.

We cannot entertain a passion in our mind unless we have a love for its causes.

For what man, who cares nothing about being put to shame, entertains thoughts of self-esteem? Or who welcomes contempt and yet is disturbed by dishonor?

And who has ‘a broken and a contrite heart’ (Ps 51:17) and yet indulges in carnal pleasure?

Or who puts his trust in Christ and yet worries or quarrels about transitory things?

Mark the Hermit (5th-6th c.): On Those who Think They Are Made Righteous by Works,114-123, 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), online version here.

Evagrius the Solitary: Prayer is Intimate Conversation of the “Nous” with God Tuesday, Sep 20 2011 

Prayer is intimate conversation of the nous (intellect) with God.

So then, what stable state must the nous possess to be able to stretch out unalterably toward its own Master and converse with him without any intermediary?

If Moses was hindered when he attempted to approach the bush burning on earth, until he had taken off the shoes from his feet (Exod. 3:2-5), do you not think that, if you wish to both see the One who is above every concept and perception and to converse with him, you should cast away from yourself every impassioned mental concept (noema)?

First of all pray that you may receive tears, so that by means of sorrow (penthos) you may be able to calm the wildness within your soul; and by confessing your iniquity to the Lord, obtain forgiveness from him.

Make use of tears to realize every petition, for it delights your Master to receive prayer offered with tears.

Even if you weep rivers of tears at your prayer, on no account be inwardly haughty, as if you were superior to others.

For your prayer has received this help so that you may be able to more easily confess your sins and propitiate the Lord by means of tears.

So do not turn into passion the antidote to passions, lest you anger all the more the One who gave you this grace.

[…] Stand patiently toiling, and pray well-toned, and put to flight the assaults of anxieties an [tempting thoughts: they disturb and trouble you in order to make you relax your tone.

 When the demons see that you are eager to truly pray, they insinuate mental concepts (noemata) of certain affairs that seem to demand attention.

And within a short time they arouse the memory of these things and move the nous to seek them out. And failing to find them, it becomes very sorrowful and disheartened.

Then when the nous stands for prayer, the demons remind it of the matters it had sought and remembered, so as to make it halfheartedly seek knowledge of them and thus lose the fruitfulness of prayer.

Exert your nous to stand at the time of prayer [as if] deaf and dumb, and [then] you will be able to pray.

Whenever you encounter temptation, contradiction, or yearning; or when indignation (thumos) moves you to take revenge on your opponent or to break out yelling.

Remember prayer and the judgment that attends on prayer, and immediately the unruly movement within you will be quieted.

Evagrius the Solitary (345-399): On Prayer, 3-12, translated by Luke Dysinger OSB.

H.E. Manning: Anxiety of Heart and the Presence of Christ Thursday, Jun 23 2011 

The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:5-7).

St Paul…bids the Christians in Philippi to carry all their sorrows and fears to the throne of Christ.

He specially bids them remember the nearness of our Lord; and the freedom we may use in speaking with Him.

And in so doing he has taught us a great and blessed truth, needful for all men, in all ages: I mean, that a life of prayer is a life of peace.

It is not in times of persecution only, but at all times, that the presence and fellowship of Christ are the peace and consolation of the Church.

We are born into a world of perturbations; we carry them in our own heart.

The world is the counterpart of man’s fallen nature, turbulent, restless, and distracted.

Every man gives in his contribution of disquietude; and the life of most men is made up of cares and doubts, perplexities and forebodings, of fruitless regrets for follies past, and of exaggerated thoughts of trials yet to come.

On men who live without God in the world these things press sorely. They fret and wear them without alleviation.

This is the “sorrow of the world” that “worketh death.” It is a bitter and embittering disquiet of heart.

The plague of evil thoughts, inordinate cravings, disappointments and losses, vain hopes and wearing fears, these are by nature the portion of us all.

[…] St Paul here tells us, first of all, that there is One, ever near us, who can fulfil all our desire, and over-rule all things in our behalf. “The Lord is at hand.”

How soon He may reveal Himself in person we know not; but soon or late, it is certain, that although unseen, He is ever near us.

His presence departed not from the Church when He ascended into heaven.

He is withdrawn from the eyes of our flesh; but in the sight of our hearts He is always visible.

Though He be at the right hand of God, yet He is in the Church, and in our secret chamber.

Though He is the Lord of heaven and earth, yet He is ever in the midst of us, watching and guiding, disposing all things for the perfection of His kingdom, and, in it, of each one of us.

He is both able and willing to fulfil all our hearts’ desires; and nothing is hid from His sight.

H.E. Cardinal Manning (1808-1892): Sermons, vol. 3, serm. 13 (“A Life of Prayer a Life of Peace”).

John Cassian: Your Soul will be Carried Forward to the Ark of the Divine Covenant and to the Priestly Kingdom Saturday, Oct 23 2010 

You must by all means strive to get rid of all anxiety and worldly thoughts, and give yourself over…continuously, to sacred reading.

Then continual meditation will fill your heart, and fashion you so to speak after its own likeness, making of it, as it were:

Firstly, an ark of the testimony, which has within it two tables of stone – the constant assurance of the two testaments;

Secondly, a golden pot – a pure and undefiled memory – which preserves by a constant tenacity the manna stored up in it – the enduring and heavenly sweetness of the spiritual sense and the bread of angels;

Thirdly, the rod of Aaron – the saving standard of Jesus Christ our true High Priest, that ever buds with the freshness of immortal memory.

This is the rod which after it had been cut from the root of Jesse, died and flourished again with a more vigorous life.

All these are guarded by two Cherubim – the fulness of historical and spiritual knowledge. For the Cherubim mean a multitude of knowledge.

These continually protect the mercy seat of God – the peace of your heart – and overshadow it from all the assaults of spiritual wickedness.

And so your soul will be carried forward not only to the ark of the Divine Covenant, but also to the priestly kingdom.

Owing to its unbroken love of purity being as it were engrossed in spiritual studies, it will fulfil the command given to the priests, enjoined as follows by the giver of the Law:

And he shall not go forth from the sanctuary, lest he pollute the Sanctuary of God (Lev. 21:12) – that is, his heart, in which the Lord promised that he would ever dwell, saying: I will dwell in them and will walk among them (2 Cor. 5:16).

Wherefore the whole series of the Holy Scriptures should be diligently committed to memory and ceaselessly repeated.

This continual meditation will bring us a twofold fruit:

First, that while the attention of the mind is taken up in reading and preparing the lessons it cannot possibly be taken captive in any snares of bad thoughts.

Second, that those things which were read over and frequently repeated and which, while we were trying to commit them to memory, we could not understand (because the mind was at that time taken up), we can afterward see more clearly, when we are free from the distraction of all acts and visions, and especially when we reflect on them in silence in our meditation by night.

So that when we are at rest, and as it were plunged in the stupor of sleep, there is revealed to us the understanding of the most secret meanings, of which in our waking hours we had not the remotest conception.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 14,10.

Ambrose of Milan: The Joys that are to be Found in the Will of the Lord Lead to an Enduring, an Eternal World Friday, Oct 8 2010 

Beloved brethren, you have heard in the present reading how St Paul says I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord.

For the salvation of our souls God in his goodness calls us to the joys of everlasting blessedness.

The joys of this world lead to eternal sorrow; but those who persevere in following the joys that are to be found in the will of the Lord will find themselves led to an enduring, an eternal world.

So St Paul says again, I repeat, what I want is your happiness.

He is urging us to grow in the joy that leads to God and to the fulfilment of God’s commandments.

The more we strive to obey the precepts of our Lord God in this world, the more blessed we shall be in the life to come and the greater will be the glory that we receive in God’s presence.

Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: that is, the holiness of your behaviour should not only be clear to God but also to men.

It should be an example of modesty and self-discipline to all who share this earth with you. It should leave nothing but good memories, both for God and for man.

The Lord is very near, there is no need to worry: the Lord is always near to anyone who calls on him in truth, with right faith, with firm hope, with perfect love.

He himself knows what you need before you ask it of him: he is always ready to give his faithful servants whatever help they need.

When bad things happen to us we should not be greatly worried, because we should know that we have God close to us as our defender.

The Lord is close to those with contrite hearts; those with a broken spirit he will save. Many are the tribulations of the just; the Lord will free them of all their troubles.

If we fight to fulfil and keep his precepts, he will not be slow to give us the aid he has promised.

If there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving: When we are afflicted with tribulations let us not bear them sadly or grumble about them – certainly not! – but let us be patient and cheerful, giving thanks to God always, in all circumstances.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): from Commentary on St Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, taken from Office of Readings for Friday of the Week 26 of Ordinary Time, at Crossroads Initiative.

Jean-Pierre de Caussade: Conformity with God’s Will Tuesday, Nov 17 2009 

At the beginning of each day, and of meditation, Mass, and Communion, declare to God that you desire to belong to Him entirely, and that you will devote yourself wholly to acquiring the spirit of prayer and of the interior life.

Make it your chief study to conform yourself to the will of God even in the smallest things, saying in the midst of the most annoying contradictions and with the most alarming prospects for the future:

“My God, I desire with all my heart to do Your holy will, I submit in all things and absolutely to Your good pleasure for time and eternity; and I wish to do this, Oh my God, for two reasons:

“first: because You are my Sovereign Lord and it is but just that Your will should be accomplished;

“secondly: because I am convinced by faith, and by experience that Your will is in all things as good and beneficent as it is just and adorable, while my own desires are always blind and corrupt.

“They are blind because I know not what I ought to desire or to avoid, and they are corrupt because I nearly always long for what would do me harm.

“Therefore, from henceforth, I renounce my own will to follow Yours in all things; dispose of me, Oh my God, according to Your good will and pleasure.”

This continual practice of submission will preserve that interior peace which is the foundation of the spiritual life, and will prevent you from worrying about your faults and failings.

You will put up with them instead, with a humble and quiet submission which is more likely to cure them than an uneasy distress, only calculated to weaken and discourage you…

…To escape the distress caused by regret for the past or fear about the future, this is the rule to follow: leave the past to the infinite mercy of God, the future to His good Providence, give the present wholly to His love by being faithful to His grace.

Jean Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751): Spiritual Counsels, 1.