Francis de Sales: Remedies for Sadness and Melancholy Tuesday, Nov 19 2013 

Franz_von_SalesThe Evil One delights in sadness and melancholy, because they are his own characteristics.

He will be in sadness and sorrow through all Eternity, and he would fain have all others the same.

The “sorrow of the world” disturbs the heart, plunges it into anxiety, stirs up unreasonable fears, disgusts it with prayer, overwhelms and stupefies the brain, deprives the soul of wisdom, judgment, resolution and courage, weakening all its powers.

In a word, it is like a hard winter, blasting all the earth’s beauty, and numbing all animal life; for it deprives the soul of sweetness and power in every faculty.

Should you, my daughter, ever be attacked by this evil spirit of sadness, make use of the following remedies.

[…] Prayer is a sovereign remedy, it lifts the mind to God, Who is our only Joy and Consolation.

But when you pray let your words and affections, whether interior or exterior, all tend to love and trust in God.

“O God of Mercy, most Loving Lord, Sweet Saviour, Lord of my heart, my Joy, my Hope, my Beloved, my Bridegroom.”

Vigorously resist all tendencies to melancholy, and although all you do may seem to be done coldly, wearily and indifferently, do not give in.

The Enemy strives to make us languid in doing good by depression, but when he sees that we do not cease our efforts to work, and that those efforts become all the more earnest by reason of their being made in resistance to him, he leaves off troubling us.

Make use of hymns and spiritual songs; they have often frustrated the Evil One in his operations, as was the case when the evil spirit which possessed Saul was driven forth by music and psalmody.

It is well also to occupy yourself in external works, and that with as much variety as may lead us to divert the mind from the subject which oppresses it, and to cheer and kindle it, for depression generally makes us dry and cold.

[…] Moderate bodily discipline is useful in resisting depression, because it rouses the mind from dwelling on itself; and frequent Communion is specially valuable; the Bread of Life strengthens the heart and gladdens the spirits.

Lay bare all the feelings, thoughts and longings which are the result of your depression to your confessor or director, in all humility and faithfulness; seek the society of spiritually-minded people, and frequent such as far as possible while you are suffering.

And, finally, resign yourself into God’s Hands, endeavouring to bear this harassing depression patiently, as a just punishment for past idle mirth. Above all, never doubt but that, after He has tried you sufficiently, God will deliver you from the trial.

Francis de Sales (1567-1622): Introduction to the Devout Life, 4, 12.

John Henry Newman: David and Goliath Wednesday, Sep 25 2013 

John_Henry_Newman_by_Sir_John_Everett_MillaisContinued from here…

And now, let us inquire who is our Goliath?

[…] The devil is our Goliath: we have to fight Satan, who…would to a certainty destroy us were not God with us; but praised be His Name, He is with us. “Greater is He that is with us, than he that is in the world.”

[…] When…Satan comes against you, recollect you are already dedicated, made over, to God; you are God’s property, you have no part with Satan and his works, you are servants to another, you are espoused to Christ.

When Satan comes against you, fear not, waver not; but pray to God, and He will help you.

Say to Satan with David, “Thou comest against me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts.”

Thou comest to me with temptation; thou wouldest allure me with the pleasures of sin for a season; thou wouldest kill me, nay, thou wouldest make me kill myself with sinful thoughts, words, and deeds…; but I know thee; thou art Satan, and I come unto thee in the name of the Living God, in the Name of Jesus Christ my Saviour.

That is a powerful name, which can put to flight many foes: Jesus is a name at which devils tremble. To speak it, is to scare away many a bad thought. I come against thee in His All-powerful, All-conquering Name.

David came on with a staff; my staff is the Cross—the Holy Cross on which Christ suffered, in which I glory, which is my salvation.

David chose five smooth stones out of the brook, and with them he smote the giant. We, too, have armour, not of this world, but of God; weapons which the world despises, but which are powerful in God.

David took not sword, spear, or shield; but he slew Goliath with a sling and a stone. Our weapons are as simple, as powerful. The Lord’s Prayer is one such weapon; when we are tempted to sin, let us turn away, kneel down seriously and solemnly, and say to God that prayer which the Lord taught us.

The Creed is another weapon, equally powerful, through God’s grace, equally contemptible in the eyes of the world. One or two holy texts, such as our Saviour used when He was tempted by the devil, is another weapon for our need.

The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is another such, and greater; holy, mysterious, life-giving, but equally simple. What is so simple as a little bread and a little wine? but, in the hands of the Spirit of God, it is the power of God unto salvation.

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890): Parochial and Plain Sermons vol. 8, 4: The Call of David.

Cyril of Alexandria: “He that Eats My Flesh and Drinks My Blood Dwells in Me and I in Him” Monday, Jul 8 2013 

cyril_alexandriaHe that eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood dwells in Me and I in him (John 6:56). 

[…] If one should join wax with other wax, he will surely see…the one in the other.

In like manner…he who receives the Flesh of our Saviour Christ and drinks His Precious Blood, as He says, is found one with Him.

He is commingled as it were and immingled with Him through the participation, so that he is found in Christ, and Christ again in him.

Thus was Christ teaching us in the Gospel too according to Matthew, saying, The Kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. 

[…] As then Paul says that a little leaven leaves the whole lump, so the least portion of the Blessing [i.e. the Sacrament] blends our whole body with itself, and fills it with its own mighty working, and so Christ comes to be in us, and we again in Him.

For one may truly say that the leaven is in the whole lump, and the lump by like reasoning is in the whole leaven: you have in brief the sense of the words.

And if we long for eternal life, if we pray to have the Giver of immortality in ourselves, let us not like some of the more heedless refuse to be blessed, nor let the devil, deep in wickedness, lay for us a trap and snare a perilous reverence….

For it is written, He that eats of the Bread, and drinks of the Cup unworthily, eats and drinks doom unto himself. 

And I, having examined myself, see that I am not worthy.

When then will you be worthy…when will you present yourself to Christ?

For if you are always going to be scared away by your stumblings, you will never cease from stumbling…, and will be found wholly without participation of that wholly-preserving sanctification.

Decide then to lead a holier life, in harmony with the law, and so receive the Blessing, believing that it has power to expel, not death only, but the diseases in us.

For Christ, coming to be in us in this way, lulls the law which rages in the members of the flesh, and kindles piety towards God, and deadens our passions, not imputing to us the transgressions in which we are, but rather, healing us, as sick.

For He binds up that which was crushed, He raises what had fallen, as a Good Shepherd and One that hath laid down His Life for His sheep.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St John’s Gospel, book 4, c.3 [on John 6:56].

John Chrysostom: The Body of Christ (2) – Destroying Death Tuesday, Jun 4 2013 

John_Chrysostom(Continued from here…)

Ask also Death, and say, “whence is it that thy sting hath been taken away? thy victory abolished? thy sinews cut out? and thou become the laughing-stock of girls and children, who wast before a terror even to kings and to all righteous men?”

And he will ascribe it to this Body. For when this was crucified, then were the dead raised up, then was that prison burst, and the gates of brass were broken, and the dead were loosed, and the keepers of hell-gate all cowered in fear.

And yet, had He [Christ] been one of the many, death on the contrary should have become more mighty; but it was not so. For He was not one of the many. Therefore was death dissolved.

And as they who take food which they are unable to retain, on account of that vomit up also what was before lodged in them; so also it happened unto death.

That Body, which he could not digest, he received: and therefore had to cast forth that which he had within him. Yea, he travailed in pain, whilst he held Him, and was straitened until He vomited Him up.

Wherefore saith the Apostle, “Having loosed the pains of death” (Acts 11:24.) For never woman labouring of child was so full of anguish as he [death] was torn and racked in sunder, while he held the Body of the Lord.

And that which happened to the Babylonian dragon, when, having taken the food it burst asunder in the midst, this also happened unto him.

For Christ came not forth again by the mouth of death, but having burst asunder and ripped up in the very midst, the belly of the dragon, thus from His secret chambers (Ps. 19:5) right gloriously He issued forth and flung abroad His beams not to this heaven alone, but to the very throne most high. For even thither did He carry it up.

This Body hath He given to us both to hold and to eat; a thing appropriate to intense love.

For those whom we kiss vehemently, we oft-times even bite with our teeth. Wherefore also Job, indicating the love of his servants towards him, said, that they ofttimes, out of their great affection towards him, said, “Oh! that we were filled with his flesh!” (Job 31:31).

Even so Christ hath given to us to be filled with His flesh, drawing us on to greater love.

Let us draw nigh to Him then with fervency and with inflamed love, that we may not have to endure punishment. For in proportion to the greatness of the benefits bestowed on us, so much the more exceedingly are we chastised when we show ourselves unworthy of the bountifulness.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homily 24, 7 on 1 Corinthians [on 1 Cor. 10:13].

John Chrysostom: The Body of Christ (1) – Triumphing Over the Principalities and Powers Tuesday, Jun 4 2013 

John_ChrysostomOne would not inconsiderately receive a king. Why say I a king? Nay, were it but a royal robe, one would not inconsiderately touch it with unclean hands.

Even though he should be in solitude, though alone, though no man were at hand,  and although the robe is nought but certain threads spun by worms…, nevertheless, one would not choose to venture on it with polluted hands.

If even a man’s garment be what one would not venture inconsiderately to touch, what shall we say of the Body of Him Who is God over all, spotless, pure, associate with the Divine Nature, the Body whereby we are, and live, whereby the gates of hell were broken down and the sanctuaries of heaven opened?

How shall we receive this with so great insolence? Let us not, I pray you, let us not slay ourselves by our irreverence, but with all awfulness and purity draw nigh to It.

And when thou seest It set before thee, say thou to thyself, “Because of this Body am I no longer earth and ashes, no longer a prisoner, but free. Because of this I hope for heaven, and to receive the good things therein, immortal life, the portion of angels, converse with Christ.

“This Body, nailed and scourged, was more than death could stand against; this Body the very sun saw sacrificed, and turned aside his beams; for this both the veil was rent in that moment, and rocks were burst asunder, and all the earth was shaken.

“This is even that Body, the blood-stained, the pierced, and that out of which gushed the saving fountains, the one of blood, the other of water, for all the world.”

Wouldest thou from another source also learn its power? Ask of her diseased with an issue of blood, who laid hold not of Itself, but of the garment with which It was clad; nay not of the whole of this, but of the hem.

Ask of the sea, which bare It on its back: ask even of the Devil himself, and say, “Whence hast thou that incurable stroke? whence hast thou no longer any power? Whence art thou captive? By whom hast thou been seized in thy flight?”

And he will give no other answer than this, “The Body that was crucified.” By this were his goads broken in pieces; by this was his head crushed; by this were the powers and the principalities made a show of.

“For,” saith St Paul, “having put off from himself principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” Col. 2:15.)

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homily 24, 7 on 1 Corinthians [on 1 Cor. 10:13].

Ambrose of Milan: The Body and Blood of Christ Saturday, Jun 1 2013 

ambrose_of_milanMoses was holding a rod, he cast it down and it became a serpent. Again, he took hold of the tail of the serpent and it returned to the nature of a rod.

[…] The people of the Hebrews were shut in on every side…; Moses lifted up his rod, the water divided and hardened like walls, and a way for the feet appeared between the waves.

Jordan being turned back, returned, contrary to nature, to the source of its stream.

[…] We observe, then, that grace has more power than nature, and yet so far we have only spoken of the grace of a prophet’s blessing.

But if the blessing of man had such power as to change nature, what are we to say of that divine consecration where the very words of the Lord and Saviour operate?

For that sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ.

But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements?

You read concerning the making of the whole world: “He spake and they were made, He commanded and they were created.”

Shall not the word of Christ, which was able to make out of nothing that which was not, be able to change things which already are into what they were not? For it is not less to give a new nature to things than to change them.

But why make use of arguments? Let us use the examples He gives, and by the example of the Incarnation prove the truth of the mystery.

Did the course of nature proceed as usual when the Lord Jesus was born of Mary? If we look to the usual course, a woman ordinarily conceives after connection with a man. And this body which we make is that which was born of the Virgin.

Why do you seek the order of nature in the Body of Christ, seeing that the Lord Jesus Himself was born of a Virgin, not according to nature?

It is the true Flesh of Christ which crucified and buried, this is then truly the Sacrament of His Body.

The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: “This is My Body.” Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified.

He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood.

And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On the Mysteries, 9, 51-54.

Seraphim of Sarov: The Holy Spirit Acts Within Us and Establishes in Us the Kingdom of God Wednesday, Jan 2 2013 

Seraphim_SarovskyIf we were never to sin after our baptism, we should remain forever saints of God, holy, blameless, and free from all impurity of body and spirit.

But the trouble is that we increase in stature, but do not increase in grace and in the knowledge of God as our Lord Jesus Christ increased.

On the contrary, we gradually become more and more depraved and lose the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God and become sinful in various degrees, and very sinful people.

But if a man is stirred by the wisdom of God, which seeks our salvation and embraces everything, and if he is resolved for its sake to devote the early hours of the day to God and to watch in order to find His eternal salvation, then, in obedience to its voice, he must hasten to offer true repentance for all his sins and must practice the virtues which are opposite to the sins committed.

Then through the virtues practiced for Christ’s sake, he will acquire the Holy Spirit Who acts within us and establishes in us the Kingdom of God.

The word of God does not say in vain: “The Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21), and it “suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt. 11:12)….

People who – in spite of the bonds of sin which fetter them and which by their violence and by inciting them to new sins prevent them from coming to…our Savior – …force themselves to break their bonds, despising all the strength of the fetters of sin…at last actually appear before the face of God made whiter than snow by His grace.

“Come, says the Lord: Though your sins be as purple, I will make you white as snow” (Is. 1:18).

Such people were once seen by the holy Seer John the Divine clothed in white robes (that is, in robes of justification) and with palms in their hands (as a sign of victory), and they were singing to God a wonderful song: Alleluia.

And no one could imitate the beauty of their song. Of them an Angel of God said: “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9-14).

They were washed with their sufferings and made white in the communion of the immaculate and life-giving Mysteries of the Body and Blood of the most pure and spotless Lamb – Christ – Who was slain before all ages by His own will for the salvation of the world (Rev..13:8), and Who is continually being slain and divided until now, but is never exhausted (in the Sacrament of Communion).

Seraphim of Sarov (Orthodox Church; 1759-1833): On the Acquisition of the Holy Spirit.

Albert the Great: “Do this in remembrance of Me” Thursday, Nov 15 2012 

Albertus_Magnus_Painting_by_Joos_van_Gent[Jesus says]: Do this in remembrance of me. Two things should be noted here.

The first is the command that we should use this sacrament, which is indicated when he says: Do this.

The second is that this sacrament commemorates the Lord’s going to death for our sake.

So he says, Do this. Certainly he would demand nothing more profitable, nothing more pleasant, nothing more beneficial, nothing more desirable, nothing more similar to eternal life.

We will look at each of these qualities separately.

This sacrament is profitable because it grants remission of sins; it is most useful because it bestows the fullness of grace on us in this life.

The Father of spirits instructs us in what is useful for us to receive his sanctification.

And his sanctification is in Christ’s sacrifice, that is, when he offers himself in this sacrament to the Father for our redemption, to us for our use. I consecrate myself for their sakes.

Christ, who through the Holy Spirit offered himself up without blemish to God, will cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

Nor can we do anything more pleasant. For what is better than God manifesting his whole sweetness to us.

You gave them bread from heaven, not the fruit of human labour, but a bread endowed with all delight and pleasant to every sense of taste.

For this substance of yours revealed your kindness toward your children, and serving the desire of each recipient, it changed to suit each one’s taste.

He could not have commanded anything more beneficial, for this sacrament is the fruit of the tree of life.

Anyone who receives this sacrament with the devotion of sincere faith will never taste death.

It is a tree of life for those who grasp it, and blessed is he who holds it fast. The man who feeds on me shall live on account of me.

Nor could he have commanded anything more lovable, for this sacrament produces love and union.

It is characteristic of the greatest love to give itself as food. Had not the men of my tent exclaimed: Who will feed us with his flesh to satisfy our hunger?

as if to say: I have loved them and they have loved me so much that I desire to be within them, and they wish to receive me so that they may become my members.

There is no more intimate or more natural means for them to be united to me, and I to them.

Nor could he have commanded anything which is more like eternal life. Eternal life flows from this sacrament because God with all sweetness pours himself out upon the blessed.

Albert the Great: (1193/1206–1280): Commentary on the Gospel according to Luke @ Universalis.

Henry Suso: This Can No Tongue Express, Nor Any Mind Conceive Sunday, Sep 30 2012 

Eternal Wisdom: Answer Me now a question. What is that of all lovely things which is most agreeable to a loving heart?

The Servant: Lord, to my understanding nothing is so agreeable to a loving heart as the beloved Himself and His sweet presence.

Eternal Wisdom: Even so. On this account, that nothing which belongs to true love might be wanting to those who love Me, did My unfathomable love, as soon as I had resolved to depart by death out of this world to My Father, compel Me to give Myself and My loving presence at the table of the last supper to My dear disciples, and in all future times to My elect, because I knew beforehand the misery which many a languishing heart would suffer for My sake.

The Servant: Oh, dearest Lord, and art Thou Thyself, Thy very Self, really here?

Eternal Wisdom: Thou hast Me in the sacrament, before thee and with thee, as truly and really God and Man, according to soul and body, with flesh and blood, as truly as My pure Mother carried Me in her arms, and as truly as I am in heaven in My perfect glory.

The Servant: […] Tender Lord, it is a marvel to me (if I may venture to say so) how the beautiful, the delightful and glorified body of my Lord in all its greatness, in all its divinity, can thus essentially conceal itself under the little shape of the bread which, relatively considered, is so out of all relation. […]

Eternal Wisdom: In what manner My glorified body and My soul, according to the whole truth, are in the Sacrament, this can no tongue express, nor any mind conceive, for it is a work of My omnipotence. Therefore oughtest thou to believe it in all simplicity, and not pry much into it.

[…] Why shouldst thou wish…to understand what surpasses all the earth, all the heavens, and all the senses? Or why wilt thou needs inquire into it?

Behold, all such wondering and prying thoughts proceed alone from grossness of sense, which takes divine and supernatural things after the likeness of things earthly and natural, and such is not the case.

If a woman were to give birth to a child in a dark tower, and it were to be brought up there, and its mother were to tell it of the sun and the stars, the child would marvel greatly, and would think it all against reason and incredible, which its mother, nevertheless, knows so well to be true.

Henry Suso (c. 1296 – 1366):The Little Book of Divine Wisdom, 2,23.

John Chrysostom: Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ Thursday, Jun 7 2012 

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion in the blood of Christ?

Do you seek, blessed Paul, to rouse your hearer to a sense of reverence when you mention tremendous mysteries, and call this fearful and awe-inspiring cup a cup of blessing?

Yes, he replies…. When I speak of blessing, I mean to unfold the whole treasure of God’s goodness to us, and call to mind his wonderful gifts.

It is in gratitude for these and all other such blessings that we approach the Sacrament.

[…] The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion in the blood of Christ? What great confidence and awe there is in these words!

Paul means that in the cup is the same blood that flowed from Christ’s side, and it is that of which we partake.

He called it a cup of blessing because, when we hold it in our hands, we raise our hearts to God in wonder and amazement at his unspeakable gift.

We praise him because Christ shed this very blood so that we might not remain in error; and not only did he shed his blood, but he gave all of us a share of it.

The bread which we break, is it not a communion in the body of Christ?

The Apostle did not say ‘a participation’, because he wanted to signify something more than this.

For when we communicate it is not merely a matter of sharing and partaking, but of being united.

In the same way as a body was united with Christ, so we are united with him by this bread.

But why did he add, which we break? This we can see is done at the Eucharist, but it was not so on the Cross; rather the contrary, for Scripture says: Not a bone of his shall be broken.

But although he did not suffer this on the Cross, he suffers it now in his offering on your behalf; he allows himself to be broken so that all may be filled.

Paul used the phrase: a communion in the body; but there is a difference between communicants and the body we receive in communion, and so he set about removing even this distinction, small as it might seem.

For after he had spoken of a communion in the body, he still sought to define his meaning more accurately, and therefore added, Because there is one bread, we although many are one body.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on The Epistles to the Corinthians 24.1-2 (PG 61:199-201); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday of the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time, Year I.

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