John Cassian: There are three things which enable men to control their faults Saturday, Oct 8 2016 

Sf-IoanCasianThen the blessed Chæremon spoke:

There are, said he, three things which enable men to control their faults;

viz., either the fear of hell or of laws even now imposed;

or the hope and desire of the kingdom of heaven;

or a liking for goodness itself and the love of virtue.

For then we read that the fear of evil loathes contamination: “The fear of the Lord hateth evil” (Prov. 9:13).

Hope also shuts out the assaults of all faults: for “all who hope in Him shall not fail” (Ps. 33:23).

Love also fears no destruction from sins, for “love never faileth” (1 Cor. 13), and again “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8).

And therefore the blessed Apostle confines the whole sum of salvation in the attainment of those three virtues, saying “Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three” (1 Cor. 13:13).

For faith is what makes us shun the stains of sin from fear of future judgment and punishment;

hope is what withdraws our mind from present things, and despises all bodily pleasures from its expectation of heavenly rewards;

love is what inflames us with keenness of heart for the love of Christ and the fruit of spiritual goodness, and makes us hate with a perfect hatred whatever is opposed to these.

And these three things although they all seem to aim at one and the same end (for they incite us to abstain from things unlawful) yet they differ from each other greatly in the degrees of their excellence.

For the two former belong properly to those men who in their aim at goodness have not yet acquired the love of virtue, and the third belongs specially to God and to those who have received into themselves the image and likeness of God.

For He alone does the things that are good, with no fear and no thanks or reward to stir Him up, but simply from the love of goodness. For, as Solomon says, “The Lord hath made all things for Himself” (Prov. 16:4).

For under cover of His own goodness He bestows all the fulness of good things on the worthy and the unworthy because He cannot be wearied by wrongs, nor be moved by passions at the sins of men, as He ever remains perfect goodness and unchangeable in His nature.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 11, 6.

Cyprian of Carthage: Waiting and patience are needful, that we may fulfil that which we have begun to be Friday, Sep 16 2016 

Saint-Cyprian-of-CarthagePatience is the wholesome precept of our Lord and Master:

“He that endureth,” saith He, “unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matt. 10:22);

and again, “If ye continue,” saith He, “in my word, ye shall be truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).

We must endure and persevere, beloved brethren, in order that, being admitted to the hope of truth and liberty, we may attain to the truth and liberty itself; for that very fact that we are Christians is the substance of faith and hope.

But that hope and faith may attain to their result, there is need of patience. For we are not following after present glory, but future, according to what Paul the apostle also warns us, and says,

“We are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he hope for? But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we by patience wait for it” (Rom. 8:24-25).

Therefore, waiting and patience are needful, that we may fulfil that which we have begun to be, and may receive that which we believe and hope for, according to God’s own showing.

Moreover, in another place, the same apostle instructs the righteous and the doers of good works, and them who lay up for themselves treasures in heaven with the increase of the divine usury, that they also should be patient; and teaches them, saying,

“Therefore, while we have time, let us labour in that which is good unto all men, but especially to them who are of the household of faith. But let us not faint in well-doing, for in its season we shall reap” (Gal. 6:10-9).

He admonishes that no man should impatiently faint in his labour, that none should be either called off or overcome by temptations and desist in the midst of the praise and in the way of glory…; as it is written,  “Hold that which thou hast, that another take not thy crown” (Rev. 3:11).

Which word exhorts us to persevere with patience and courage, so that he who strives towards the crown with the praise now near at hand, may be crowned by the continuance of patience.

But patience, beloved brethren, not only keeps watch over what is good, but it also repels what is evil.  In harmony with the Holy Spirit, and associated with what is heavenly and divine, it struggles with the defence of its strength against the deeds of the flesh and the body, wherewith the soul is assaulted and taken.

Cyprian of Carthage (d.258): On the Advantage of Patience, 13-14.

Leo the Great: Things which as yet have for the most part not come to pass must be reckoned as accomplished Wednesday, May 11 2016 

Saint_Leo_of_RomeContinued from here….

St. Paul…says “even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more” (2 Corinthians 5:16).

For the Lord’s Resurrection was not the ending, but the changing of the flesh, and His substance was not destroyed by His increase of power.

The quality altered, but the nature did not cease to exist. The body which it had been possible to crucify was made impassible. It was made incorruptible, though it had been possible to wound it.

And properly is Christ’s flesh said not to be known in that state in which it had been known, because nothing remained passible in it, nothing weak, so that it was both the same in essence and not the same in glory.

But what wonder if S. Paul maintains this about Christ’s body, when he says of all spiritual Christians wherefore henceforth we know no one after the flesh.

Henceforth, he says, we begin to experience the resurrection in Christ, since the time when in Him, Who died for all, all our hopes were guaranteed to us.

We do not hesitate in diffidence, we are not under the suspense of uncertainty, but having received an earnest of the promise, we now with the eye of faith see the things which will be, and rejoicing in the uplifting of our nature, we already possess what we believe.

Let us not then be taken up with the appearances of temporal matters, neither let our contemplations be diverted from heavenly to earthly things.

Things which as yet have for the most part not come to pass must be reckoned as accomplished: and the mind intent on what is permanent must fix its desires there, where what is offered is eternal.

For although “by hope we were saved” (Romans 8:24), and still bear about with us a flesh that is corruptible and mortal, yet we are rightly said not to be in the flesh, if the fleshly affections do not dominate us, and are justified in ceasing to be named after that, the will of which we do not follow.

And so, when the Apostle says “make not provision for the flesh in the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14), we understand that those things are not forbidden us, which conduce to health and which human weakness demands.

But because we may not satisfy all our desires nor indulge in all that the flesh lusts after, we recognize that we are warned to exercise such self-restraint as not to permit what is excessive nor refuse what is necessary to the flesh, which is placed under the mind’s control.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 71, 4-5.

Maximus the Confessor: He to whom it is granted to be worthy of God through love does away with self-love Monday, Apr 18 2016 

Maximus_ConfessorContinued from here….

This self-love is, and is known to be, the first sin, the first progeny of the devil and the mother of the passions that come after it.

He to whom it is granted to be worthy of God through love does away with it, and together with it the whole host of wickedness, which has no other foundation or cause of existence than self-love.

For such a one no longer knows pride, the mark of that vain opinion that opposes God, the monstrous, composite evil.

He does not know the glory that causes one to fall, and casts down from itself those who are puffed up with it.

He causes envy to waste away, which itself first rightly lays waste those who possess it, through voluntary goodwill making his own those who share the same nature. Anger, bloodthirstiness, wrath, guile, hypocrisy, dissembling, resentment, greed, and everything by which the one human person is divided up: all these he roots up.

For by plucking out self-love, which is, as they say, the beginning and mother of all evils, everything that comes from it and after it is plucked out as well. Once this is no more, absolutely no form or trace of evil can any longer subsist.

All the forms of virtue are introduced, fulfilling the power of love, which gathers together what has been separated, once again fashioning the human being in accordance with a single meaning and mode.

It levels off and makes equal any inequality or difference in inclination in anything, or rather binds it to that praiseworthy inequality, by which each is so drawn to his neighbour in preference to himself and so honours him before himself, that he is eager to spurn any obstacle in his desire to excel.

And for this reason each one willingly frees himself from himself, by separating himself from any thoughts or properties to which he is privately inclined, and is gathered to the one singleness and sameness, in accordance with which nothing is in anyway separated from what is common to all, so that each is in each, and all in all, or rather in God and in others, and they are radiantly established as one, having the one logos of being in themselves, utterly single in nature and inclination.

And in this God is understood: in him they are all beheld together and they are bound together and raised to him, as the source and maker. The logos of being of all beings by nature preserves itself pure and inviolate for our attention, who, with conscious zeal through the virtues and the toils that accompany them, have been purified from the passions that rebel against it.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Letter 2: On Love in Andrew Louth: Maximus the Confessor (Routledge, 1996), pp. 85.

John Chrysostom: The body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness Wednesday, Mar 30 2016 

Chrysostom3And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness (Romans 8:10).

Anyone who has the Spirit not only is called Christ’s, but even has Christ Himself.

For it cannot but be that where the Spirit is, there Christ is also.

For wheresoever one Person of the Trinity is, there the whole Trinity is present.

For It is undivided in Itself, and has a most entire Oneness.

What then, it may be said, will happen, if Christ be in us?

The body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

You see the great evils that come of not having the Holy Spirit; death, enmity against God, inability to satisfy His laws, not being Christ’s as we should be, the want of His indwelling.

Consider now also what great blessings come of having the Spirit: being Christ’s, having Christ himself, vying with the angels (for this is what mortifying the flesh is), and living an immortal life, holding henceforward the earnests of the Resurrection, running with ease the race of virtue.

For he does not say so little as that the body is henceforward inactive for sin, but that it is even dead, so magnifying the ease of the race. For such a one without troubles and labours gains the crown.

Then afterward for this reason he adds also, “[dead] to sin”, that you may see that it is the viciousness, not the essence of the body, that He has abolished at once.

For if the latter had been done, many things even of a kind to be beneficial to the soul would have been abolished also. This however is not what he says, but while it is yet alive and abiding, he contends, it is dead.

For this is the sign of our having the Son, of the Spirit being in us, that our bodies should be in no respect different from those that lie on the bier with respect to the working of sin.

But be not affrighted at hearing of mortifying. For in it you have what is really life, with no death to succeed it: and such is that of the Spirit.

It yields not to death any more, but wears out death and consumes it, and that which it receives, it keeps it immortal.

And this is why after saying the body is dead, he does not say, but the Spirit “lives”, but, “is life”, to point out that He (the Spirit) had the power of giving this to others also.

Then again to brace up his hearer, he tells him the cause of the Life, and the proof of it. Now this is righteousness; for where there is no sin, death is not to be seen either; but where death is not to be seen, life is indissoluble.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 13 (on Romans 8:10); [slightly adapted].

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.

Ambrose of Milan: This is the true fortitude of Christ’s warrior Saturday, Dec 5 2015 

ambrose_of_milanRightly is that called fortitude, when a man conquers himself, restrains his anger, yields and gives way to no allurements, is not put out by misfortunes, nor gets elated by good success, and does not get carried away by every varying change as by some chance wind.

[…] Fortitude of the mind can be regarded in two ways. First, as it counts all externals as very unimportant, and looks on them as rather superfluous and to be despised than to be sought after.

Secondly, as it strives after those things which are the highest, and all things in which one can see anything moral (or as the Greeks call it, πρέπον), with all the powers of the mind.

For what can be more noble than to train your mind so as not to place a high value on riches and pleasures and honours, nor to waste all your care on these?

When your mind is thus disposed, you must consider how all that is virtuous and seemly must be placed before everything else.

And you must so fix your mind upon that, that if aught happens which may break your spirit, whether loss of property, or the reception of fewer honours, or the disparagement of unbelievers, you may not feel it, as though you were above such things; nay, so that even dangers which menace your safety, if undertaken at the call of justice, may not trouble you.

This is the true fortitude which Christ’s warrior has, who receives not the crown unless he strives lawfully (2 Tim. 2:5). Or does that call to fortitude seem to you but a poor one: “Tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience, and experience, hope”? (Rom. 5:3-4). See how many a contest there is, yet but one crown!

[…] Think how St Paul teaches those who enter upon their duties in the Church that they ought to have contempt for all earthly things: “If, then, ye be dead with Christ from the elements of this world, why do ye act as though living in the world?” (Col. 2:20-21).

And further: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, not those things which are on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2). And again: “Mortify, therefore, your members which are on the earth” (Col. 3:5).

This, indeed, is meant for all the faithful. But you, especially, my son, he urges to despise riches and to avoid profane and old wives fables—allowing nothing but this: “Exercise thyself unto godliness, for bodily exercise profiteth a little, but godliness is profitable unto all things” (1 Tim. 4:8).

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On the Duties of the Clergy, book 1, chapter 36, 181-184.

Sulpicius Severus: His mind was always bent upon the things of heaven Wednesday, Nov 11 2015 

Martin-of-Tours_by-Aidan-HartFeast of St Martin of Tours.

Although his outward deeds could in some sort of way be set forth in words, no language, I truly own, can ever be capable of describing his inner life and daily conduct, and his mind always bent upon the things of heaven.

No one can adequately make known his perseverance and self-mastery in abstinence and fastings, or his power in watchings and prayers, along with the nights, as well as days, which were spent by him, while not a moment was separated from the service of God, either for indulging in ease, or engaging in business.

But, in fact, he did not indulge either in food or sleep, except in so far as the necessities of nature required.

I freely confess that, if, as the saying is, Homer himself were to ascend from the shades below, he could not do justice to this subject in words; to such an extent did all excellences surpass in Martin the possibility of being embodied in language.

Never did a single hour or moment pass in which he was not either actually engaged in prayer; or, if it happened that he was occupied with something else, still he never let his mind loose from prayer.

In truth, just as it is the custom of blacksmiths in the midst of their work to beat their own anvil as a sort of relief to the laborer, so Martin even when he appeared to be doing something else, was still engaged in prayer.

O truly blessed man in whom there was no guile — judging no man, condemning no man, returning evil for evil to no man!

He displayed indeed such marvelous patience in the endurance of injuries, that even when he was chief priest, he allowed himself to be wronged by the lowest clerics with impunity; nor did he either remove them from the office on account of such conduct, or, as far as in him lay, repel them from a place in his affection.

No one ever saw him enraged, or excited, or lamenting, or laughing; he was always one and the same: displaying a kind of heavenly happiness in his countenance, he seemed to have passed the ordinary limits of human nature.

Never was there any word on his lips but Christ, and never was there a feeling in his heart except piety, peace, and tender mercy.

Frequently, too, he used to weep for the sins of those who showed themselves his revilers— those who, as he led his retired and tranquil life, slandered him with poisoned tongue and a viper’s mouth.

Sulpicius Severus (c.363-425): On the Life of St Martin, 26-27. Icon of St Martin by the hand of Aidan Hart.

Isaac the Syrian: The beginning of the impulse of life Wednesday, Jun 3 2015 

Isaac the Syrian 3The first emotion that befalls a man by divine grace and draws the soul towards life strikes the heart with thought concerning the transitory character of this earthly nature.

This thought is naturally connected with contempt of the world. And then begin all the beautiful emotions which educate unto life.

That divine power which accompanies man makes as it were a foundation in him, which desires to reveal life in him.

As to this emotion which I mentioned, if a man does not extinguish it by clinging to the things of this world and to idle intercourse, and if he makes this emotion increase in his soul by perpetual concentration and by gazing at himself, he will bring himself near to that which no tongue is able to tell.

This thought is greatly hated by Satan and he strives with all his power to eradicate it from man.

And if he were able to give him the kingdom of the whole earth in order to efface by thought of it from his mind this deliberation, he would not do otherwise.

For Satan knows that if this recollection remains with him, his mind will no longer stay in this world of error, and his means will not reach man.

This sight is clad with fiery emotions and he that has caught it will no longer contemplate the world nor remain with the body.

Verily, my beloved, if God should grant this veracious sight unto the children of man for a short time, the course of the world would stand still.

It is a bond before which nature cannot stand upright. And he unto whim this intercourse with his soul is given — verily, it is a gift from God, stronger than all partial workings, which in this middle state are presented unto those who with an upright heart desire repentance.

It is especially given to him of whom God knows that he is worthy of the real transition from this world unto profitable life, because He finds good will in him.

It will increase and remain with a man through his dwelling alone by himself. Let us ask this gift in prayer; and for the sake of this gift let us make long vigils.

And as it is a gift without equal, let us keep watch with tears at the gate of our Lord, that He may give it us. Further we need not weary ourselves with the trouble of this world.

This is the beginning of the impulse of life, which will fully bring about in a man the perfection of righteousness.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Mystic Treatises, 47, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck, pp.225-226.

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.

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