Dorotheus of Gaza: Preservation of conscience Friday, Apr 4 2014 

Dorotheos2Continued from here….

Let us strive to preserve our conscience while we are in this world, let us not allow it to refuse us in any matter.

Let us not trample upon it in any way, even in the smallest thing.

Know that from disdaining this small thing which is in essence nothing, we go on to disdain also a great thing.

[…] One may begin to say, “What does it matter if I say this word? What does it matter if I eat this thing? What does it matter if I look at this or that thing?”

From this “what does it matter about this or that?” one falls into a bad habit and begins to disdain what is great and important and to trample down one’s conscience, and thus becoming hardened in evil, one is in danger of coming to complete lack of feeling.

Wherefore guard yourselves, O brethren, from disdaining what is small, guard yourself from trampling upon it, looking down upon it as something small and unimportant.

It is not small, for through it a bad habit is formed. Let us pay heed to ourselves and be concerned for what is light while it is still light, so that it will not become heavy: for both virtues and sins begin from the small and go on to become great good and evil.

Therefore the Lord commands us to preserve our conscience and, as it were, He especially exhorts each of us, saying: “Look what you are doing, unfortunate one! Come to yourself, be reconciled with your adversary [i.e. your conscience] while you are in the way with him.”

[…] In relation to God, a man preserves his conscience if he does not disdain God through His commandments; and even in what people do not see, and in what no one demands of us, he preserves his conscience towards God in secret.

For example, one may have grown lazy in prayer, or a passionate thought has entered his heart, and he did not oppose this and did not restrain himself, but accepted it; or when one has seen his neighbor doing or saying something and, as it often the case, he judged him.

In short, everything that happens in secret, which no one knows except God and our conscience, we must preserve; and this is preservation of the conscience in relation to God.

And the preservation of the conscience in relation to one’s neighbor demands that we do nothing at all which, as far as we know, offends or tempts our neighbor by deed, word, appearance, or a glance.

Dorotheos of Gaza (505-565 or 620): Conference 3 – On the Conscience @ Pravoslavie.

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Leo the Great: Charity Contains All Other Virtues and Covers a Multitude of Sins Thursday, Apr 3 2014 

leo1In the gospel of John the Lord says: In this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for each other.

In a letter of the same apostle we read: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God; he who does not love does not know God for God is love.

The faithful should therefore enter into themselves and make a true judgment on their attitudes of mind and heart.

If they find some store of love’s fruit in their hearts, they must not doubt God’s presence within them.

If they would increase their capacity to receive so great a guest, they should practice greater generosity in doing good, with persevering charity.

If God is love, charity should know no limit, for God cannot be confined.

Any time is the right time for works of charity, but these days of Lent provide a special encouragement.

Those who want to be present at the Lord’s Passover in holiness of mind and body should seek above all to win this grace, for charity contains all other virtues and covers a multitude of sins.

As we prepare to celebrate that greatest of all mysteries, by which the blood of Jesus Christ did away with our sins, let us first of all make ready the sacrificial offerings of works of mercy.

In this way we shall give to those who have sinned against us what God in his goodness has already given to us.

Let us now extend to the poor and those afflicted in different ways a more open-handed generosity, so that God may be thanked through many voices and the relief of the needy supported by our fasting.

No act of devotion on the part of the faithful gives God more pleasure than that which is lavished on his poor.  Where he finds charity with its loving concern, there he recognizes the reflection of his own fatherly care.

In these acts of giving do not fear a lack of means.  A generous spirit is itself great wealth. There can be no shortage of material for generosity where it is Christ who feeds and Christ who is fed.

In all this activity there is present the hand of him who multiplies the bread by breaking it, and increases it by giving it away.The giver of alms should be free from anxiety and full of joy.  His gain will be greatest when he keeps back least for himself.

The holy apostle Paul tells us: He who provides seed for the sower will also provide bread for eating; he will provide you with more seed, and will increase the harvest of your goodness,

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 48, 3-5 (10th Lenten sermon) @ Crossroads Initiative.

Maximus the Confessor: “If Someone Hits You on the Right Cheek, Turn to Him the Other Cheek…” Monday, Feb 24 2014 

Maximus_ConfessorIf you wish not to fall away from the love of God, do not let your brother go to bed feeling irritated with you, and do not go to bed yourself feeling irritated with him.

Reconcile yourself with your brother, and then come to Christ with a clear conscience and offer Him your gift of love in earnest prayer (cf. Matt. 5:24).

[…] If ‘love prevents us from harming our neighbour’ (Rom. 13:10), he who is jealous of his brother or irritated by his reputation, and damages his good name with cheap jibes or in any way spitefully plots against him, is surely alienating himself from love and is guilty in the face of eternal judgment.

If ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’ (Rom. 13:10), he who is full of rancour towards his neighbour and lays traps for him and curses him, exulting in his fall, must surely be a transgressor de­serving eternal punishment.

If ‘he who speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law, and judges the law’ (Jas. 4:11), and the law of Christ is love, surely he who speaks evil of Christ’s love falls away from it and is the cause of his own perdition.

Do not listen gleefully to gossip at your neighbour’s expense or chatter to a person who likes finding fault. Otherwise you will fall away from divine love and find yourself cut off from eternal life.

[…] ‘But I say to you,’ says the Lord, ‘love your enemies. . . do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you’ (Matt. 5: 44.). Why did He command this? To free you from hatred, irritation, anger and rancour, and to make you worthy of the supreme gift of perfect love.

And you cannot attain such love if you do not imitate God and love all men equally. For God loves all men equally and wishes them ‘to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim. 2:4).

‘But I say to you, do not resist evil; but if someone hits you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek as well. And if anyone sues you in the courts, and takes away your coat, let him have your cloak also. And if anyone forces you to go a mile, go with him for two miles’ (Matt. 5:39-41).

Why did He say this? Both to keep you free from anger and irritation, and to correct the other person by means of your forbearance, so that like a good Father He might bring the two of you under the yoke of love.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Four Hundred Texts on Love 53, 55-58, 61-62, Text  from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 2 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp.58-60.

Aphrahat the Persian: Love and Forgiveness Wednesday, Feb 5 2014 

ephrem-isaac-aphrahatLove is more excellent than anything else, and by it the righteous ones of the old times were perfected.

Scripture shows concerning Moses that he gave himself in behalf of the sons of his people, and he wished that he might be blotted out of the book of life if only the people might not be blotted out.

And also when they rose up against him to stone him, he offered up prayer before God in their behalf that they might be saved.

And David also showed an example of love when he was persecuted by Saul, and a trap was continually set for his life so that they might kill him.

David by love was generously performing acts of mercies in behalf of Saul his enemy, who was seeking his life.

Saul was twice delivered into the hands of David, and he did not kill him and repaid good in place of evil. Because of this good did not depart from his house, and he who forsook him was forsaken.

And Saul who repaid evil in place of good, evil did not depart from his house, and He called to God and He did not answer him, and he fell by the sword of the Philistines, and David wept over him bitterly.

And David fulfilled beforehand the precept of our Saviour, who said: “Love your enemies,” and “forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you.” Thus David loved and was loved, and forgave and it was forgiven unto him.

And Elisha also showed love in respect to this, when his enemies came against him to take him so that they might do evil to him, and he, doing good to them, set forth bread and water before them and sent them away from him in peace.

Elisha fulfilled the word which is written: “If thine enemy is hungry feed him, and if he thirsts give him to drink.”

And also Jeremiah the prophet in behalf of those who made him a captive in a pit and were continually putting him to torture, but he also prayed ardently for them before God.

By this example of those who went before our Saviour taught us that we should love our enemies and pray for those who hate us.

And if He commanded us to love our enemies and to pray for those who hate us, what shall be our excuse to Him in the day of judgment, who have hated our brothers and our own members?

Because we are of the Body of Christ and members of His members. For he who hates one of the members of Christ will be separated from the whole body, and he who hates his brother will be separated from the sons of God.

Aphrahat the Persian (c.270-c.345): Demonstrations, 2 – On Love (17; 18). (The icon accompanying this extract depicts Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Syrian, and Aphrahat).

Aphrahat the Persian: When Our Life-Giver Came He Showed the Eagerness of Love Tuesday, Jan 21 2014 

ephrem-isaac-aphrahatSurely, beloved, all the law and the prophets depend upon the two commandments, as our Saviour said:

“The law and the prophets are too little to convince him who will not be persuaded.”

Therefore our Saviour said: “On these two commandments hang the law and the prophets,” that is:

“A man shall love the Lord His God with all his soul, and with all his might, and with all his substance”; and that a man also “shall love his neighbor as himself.”

[…] In what was said before in my earlier discourse concerning faith, I have shown that this covenant in which we are established is founded upon faith.

Now in this second discourse…I have reminded you that all the law and the prophets depend upon two commandments – those which our Saviour spoke – and in these two commandments are included all the law and the prophets.

And in the law faith is included, and by faith true love is established, which is from those two commandments, that after a man loves the Lord his God he shall cherish his neighbor as himself.

Now hear, beloved, concerning the love which is produced from those two commandments.

For when our Life-giver came He showed the eagerness of love, for He said to His disciples: “This is My commandment that ye love one another.”

And again He said to them: “A new commandment I give you, that ye love one another.”

And again, when making clear concerning love, thus He warned them: “Love your enemies, and bless him who curses you; pray for those who deal hardly with you and persecute you.”

And this again He said to them: “If ye love him who loves you what is your reward? For if thou lovest him who loves thee thus also do the Gentiles, who loves them they love him.”

Again our Life-giver said: “If ye do good to him who does good unto you what is your reward? thus also do the publicans and sinners. But ye, because ye are called sons of God who is in heaven, be ye like Him who showeth mercy also upon those who renounce goodness.”

Again our Saviour said: “Forgive, and it shall be forgiven you; loose, and ye shall loosed; give, and it shall be given you.”

Again He spoke and put fear in us: “Unless ye forgive men who sin against you their sins, neither will the Father forgive you.”

For thus He warned and said: “If thy brother shall sin against thee, forgive him; and even if he shall sin against thee seven times in one day, forgive him.”

Aphrahat the Persian (c.270-c.345): Demonstrations, 2 – On Love (1; 11; 12). (The icon accompanying this extract depicts Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Syrian, and Aphrahat).

John Paul II: Heaven is Communion of Life and Love with the Trinity (2) Monday, Nov 25 2013 

jp2Continued from here…

The fatherhood of God, who is rich in mercy, is experienced by creatures through the love of God’s crucified and risen Son, who sits in heaven on the right hand of the Father as Lord.

After the course of our earthly life, participation in complete intimacy with the Father thus comes through our insertion into Christ’s paschal mystery.

St Paul emphasizes our meeting with Christ in heaven at the end of time with a vivid spatial image: “Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thes 4:17-18).

In the context of Revelation, we know that the “heaven” or “happiness” in which we will find ourselves is neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity.

It is our meeting with the Father which takes place in the risen Christ through the communion of the Holy Spirit. It is always necessary to maintain a certain restraint in describing these “ultimate realities” since their depiction is always unsatisfactory.

Today, personalist language is better suited to describing the state of happiness and peace we will enjoy in our definitive communion with God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up the Church’s teaching on this truth:

“By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has ‘opened’ heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ” (n. 1026).

This final state, however, can be anticipated in some way today in sacramental life, whose centre is the Eucharist, and in the gift of self through fraternal charity. If we are able to enjoy properly the good things that the Lord showers upon us every day, we will already have begun to experience that joy and peace which one day will be completely ours.

We know that on this earth everything is subject to limits, but the thought of the “ultimate” realities helps us to live better the “penultimate” realities.

We know that as we pass through this world we are called to seek “the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1), in order to be with him in the eschatological fulfilment, when the Spirit will fully reconcile with the Father “all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (Col 1:20).

John Paul II (1920-2005): Wednesday General Audience, 21st July 1999.

 

Leo the Great: When a Man Loves What God Loves, He is Deservedly Raised into His Kingdom Wednesday, Nov 13 2013 

leo1On account of the crafty designs of our ancient foe, the unspeakable goodness of Christ has wished us to know what was to be decreed about all mankind in the day of retribution.

In this life healing remedies are legitimately offered, restoration is not denied to the contrite, and those who have been long barren can at length be fruitful,

Nevertheless, the verdict on which justice has determined may be fore-stalled, and the picture of God’s coming to judge the world should never depart from the mind’s eye.

For the Lord  will come in His glorious Majesty, as He Himself has foretold, and there will be with Him an innumerable host of angel-legions radiant in their splendour.

Before the throne of His power will all the nations of the world be gathered; and all the men that in all ages and on all the face of the earth have been born, shall stand in the Judge’s sight.

Then shall be separated the just from the unjust, the guiltless from the guilty. […] Who would not tremble at this doom of eternal torment?  Who would not dread evils which are never to be ended?

But since this severity is only denounced in order that we may seek for mercy, we too in this present life must show such open-handed mercy that after perilous neglect returning to works of piety it may be possible for us to be set free from this doom.

For this is the purpose of the Judge’s might and of the Saviour’s graciousness, that the unrighteous may forsake his ways and the sinner give up his wicked habits.

Let those who wish Christ to spare them, have mercy on the poor; let them give freely to feed the wretched, who desire to attain to the society of the blessed.

Let no man consider his fellow vile, nor despise in any one that nature which the Creator of the world made His own.  For who that labours can deny that Christ claims that labour as done unto Himself?

Your fellow-slave is helped thereby, but it is the Lord who will repay.  The feeding of the needy is the purchase money of the heavenly kingdom and the free dispenser of things temporal is made the heir of things eternal.

But how has such small expenditure deserved to be valued so highly except because our works are weighed in the balance of love, and when a man loves what God loves, he is deservedly raised into His kingdom, whose attribute of love has in part become his?

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 9, 2.

Gregory the Great: When the Words of Exhortation have Established Truth in Our Minds, the Lord Comes to Live Within Us Friday, Oct 18 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistBeloved brothers, our Lord and Saviour sometimes gives us instruction by words and sometimes by actions.

His very deeds are our commands; and whenever he acts silently he is teaching us what we should do.

For example, he sends his disciples out to preach two by two, because the precept of charity is twofold-love of God and of one’s neighbour.

The Lord sends his disciples out to preach in two’s in order to teach us silently that whoever fails in charity toward his neighbour should by no means take upon himself the office of preaching.

Rightly is it said that he sent them ahead of him into every city and place where he himself was to go.

For the Lord follows after the preachers, because preaching goes ahead to prepare the way, and then when the words of exhortation have gone ahead and established truth in our minds, the Lord comes to live within us.

To those who preach Isaiah says: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God. And the psalmist tells them: Make a way for him who rises above the sunset.

The Lord rises above the sunset because from that very place where he slept in death, he rose again and manifested a greater glory. He rises above the sunset because in his resurrection he trampled underfoot the death which he endured.

Therefore, we make a way for him who rises above the sunset when we preach his glory to you, so that when he himself follows after us, he may illumine you with his love.

Let us listen now to his words as he sends his preachers forth: The harvest is great but the labourers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest.

That the harvest is good but the labourers are few cannot be said without a heavy heart, for although there are many to hear the good news there are only a few to preach it.

Indeed, see how full the world is of priests, but yet in God’s harvest a true labourer is rarely to be found; although we have accepted the priestly office we do not fulfil its demands.

Think over, my beloved brothers, think over his words: Pray the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest. Pray for us so that we may be able to labour worthily on your behalf, that our tongue may not grow weary of exhortation, that after we have taken up the office of preaching our silence may not bring us condemnation from the just judge.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Homily 17, 1-3, from the Office of Readings for the Feast of St Luke @ Universalis.  

 

Fulgentius of Ruspe: People who Love their Enemies will be Children of God Friday, Sep 27 2013 

Church FathersPeople who love their ene­mies and do good to those who hate them will be children of God! The blessed Apostle reveals the reward these children of God are to receive:

The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God. But if we are children then we are heirs as well: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.

Pay heed, then, Christians; pay heed, children of God; pay heed, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ: If you wish to receive your patrimony, love not only your friends but also your enemies.

Deny no one the love which all the righteous have as a common possession. Let everyone have it at once, and so that you may have it more fully, bestow it upon good and bad alike.

Such a sharing of good things in common is by no means an earthly virtue: it is heavenly. There is therefore nothing in it to restrict those who share in it.

Love increases as cupidity decreases; moreover, love never fails to free those whom worldly desires do not hold captive.

Love is a gift of God. As the Apostle says: God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Avarice is a snare of the devil, and not only a snare but a sword: by means of it he captures poor wretches and puts them to death.

Love is the root of all good; avarice is the root of all evil. Avarice brings ceaseless torment because it is never satisfied with its booty. Love, on the other hand, brings joy because the more it increases the more generously it gives.

Consequently, while their acquisitions impoverish those who desire evil, chari­table givers are enriched by their gifts. The greedy are troubled, seeking revenge for injuries inflicted on them; the charitable are at peace, delighting to forgive any harm done to them.

The avaricious avoid practising the works of mercy, while the chari­table perform them cheerfully The object of the avaricious is to injure their neighbours; the charitable do them no harm. By self-exaltation the greedy sink down into hell; by humbling themselves the charitable ascend to heaven.

But when shall I ever be able fittingly to sing the praises of love, which is not solitary in heaven or bereft on earth? For on earth it is fed by the words of God; in heaven it is filled by the words of God.

On earth it has the company of friends, in heaven the fellowship of angels. It toils in the world; it finds rest in heaven.

Fulgentius of Ruspe (462/467—527/533): Sermon 5.5-6 (CCL 91A:922-923); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Tuesday of the 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Maximus the Confessor: Soaring towards God through Pure Prayer, the Intellect Rises above the Realm of Created Beings Thursday, Sep 19 2013 

Maximus_ConfessorAll the virtues co-operate with the intellect to produce this intense longing for God, pure prayer above all. For by soaring towards God through this prayer the intellect rises above the realm of created beings.

When the intellect is ravished through love by divine knowledge and stands outside the realm of created beings, it becomes aware of God’s infinity.

It is then, according to Isaiah, that a sense of amazement makes it conscious of its own lowliness and in all sincerity it repeats the prophet’s words:

‘How abject I am, for I am pierced to the heart; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips; and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’ (Isa. 6:5).

The person who loves God cannot help loving every man as himself, even though he is grieved by the passions of those who are not yet purified. But when they amend their lives, his delight is in­describable and knows no bounds.

A soul filled with thoughts of sensual desire and hatred is unpurified. If we detect any trace of hatred in our hearts against any man whatsoever for committing any fault, we are utterly estranged from love for God, since love for God absolutely precludes us from hating any man.

He who loves Me, says the Lord, will keep My commandments (cf. John 14: 15, 23); and ‘this is My commandment, that you love one another’ (John 15:12). Thus he who does not love his neighbour fails to keep the commandment, and so cannot love the Lord.

Blessed is he who can love all men equally. Blessed is he who is not attached to anything transitory or corruptible. Blessed is the intellect that transcends all sensible objects and ceaselessly delights in divine beauty.

If you make provision for the desires of the flesh (cf. Rom. 13:14) and bear a grudge against your neighbour on account of something transitory, you worship the creature instead of the Creator.

[…] God, who is by nature good and dispassionate, loves all men equally as His handiwork. But He glorifies the virtuous man because in his will he is united to God. At the same time, in His goodness He is merciful to the sinner and by chastising him in this life brings him back to the path of virtue.

Similarly, a man of good and dispassionate judgment also loves all men equally. He loves the virtuous man because of his nature and the probity of his intention; and he loves the sinner, too, because of his nature and because in his compassion he pities him for foolishly stumbling in darkness.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Four Hundred Texts on Love 11-20, 25, Text  from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 2 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp.54-55.

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