Gregory the Great: The soul is the inner face of man, by which same we are known, that we may be regarded with love by our Maker Monday, Jul 13 2015 

St-Gregory-the-Dialogist

If the iniquity which is in thine hand thou put far from thee, and wickedness dwell not in thy tabernacle, then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot, yea thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear (Job 11:13-15).

Every sin is either committed in thought alone, or it is done in thought and deed together.  Therefore ‘iniquity in the hand’ is offence in deed; but ‘wickedness in the tabernacle,’ is iniquity in the heart.

[…] Zophar…bids that ‘iniquity’ be removed from the ‘hand,’ and afterwards that ‘wickedness’ be cut off from the ‘tabernacle’.

For whosoever has already cut away from himself all wicked deeds without, must of necessity in returning to himself probe himself discreetly in the purpose of his heart, lest sin, which he no longer has in act, still hold out in thought.

[…] Now if we thoroughly wipe away these two, we then directly ‘lift our face without spot’ to God.  For the soul is the inner face of man, by which same we are known, that we may be regarded with love by our Maker.

Now we are to lift up this same face, to raise the soul in God by appliance to the exercises of prayer.  But there is a spot that pollutes the uplifted face, when consciousness of its own guilt accuses the mind intent; for it is forthwith dashed from all confidence of hope, if when busied in prayer it be stung with recollection of sin not yet subdued.

For it distrusts its being able to obtain what it longs for, in that it bears in mind its still refusing to do what it has heard from God.

Hence it is said by John, Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God; and whatsoever we ask we shall receive of Him (1 John 3:21. 22).  Hence Solomon saith, He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination (Prov. 28:9).

For our heart blames us in offering up our prayers, when it calls to mind that it is set in opposition to the precepts of Him, and…when there is a ‘turning away’ from the control of the law; in that verily it is meet that a man should be a stranger to the favours of Him, to Whose bidding he will not be subject.

Wherein there is this salutary remedy, if when the soul reproaches itself upon the remembrance of sin, it first bewail that in prayer, wherein it has gone wrong, that whereas the stain of offences is washed away by tears, in offering up our prayers the face of the heart may be viewed unspotted by our Maker.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 10, 26-28 (on Job 11:13-15) @ Lectionary Central.

Advertisements

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.

Dorotheus of Gaza: The light of conscience Saturday, Mar 22 2014 

Dorotheos2When God created man He sowed in him something divine, a certain thought which has in itself, like a spark, both light and warmth; a thought which enlightens the mind and indicates to it what is good and what is evil—this is called conscience, and it is a natural law.

This is that well which, as the Holy Fathers interpret it, Isaac dug and the Philistines covered up (Gen. 26:18). Following this law, that is, conscience, the Patriarchs and all the saints pleased God before the written Law.

But when men through the fall of sin buried and trampled upon it, then the written Law became necessary, the Holy Prophets became necessary, the very Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ became necessary in order to reveal and move it (the conscience)—in order that this buried spark might again be ignited by the keeping of His Holy Commandments.

Now it is in our power either to again bury it or to allow it to shine in us and illuminate us, if we shall submit to it. For when our conscience tells us to do something and we disdain it, and when it again speaks, and we do not do what it says, but rather continue to trample upon it, then we bury it and it can no longer speak clearly to us from the weight that lies upon it.

But like a lamp which hangs behind a curtain, it begins to show us things more darkly. And just as no one can recognize his own face in water that is obscured by many weeds, so after the transgression, we also do not understand what our conscience tells us—so that it seems to us that we have no conscience at all.

However, there is no man who has no conscience, for it is, as we have already said, something divine and never perishes. It always reminds us of what is profitable, but we do not feel it because, as has already been said, we disdain it and trample upon it.

Wherefore the Prophet laments over Ephraim and says (Hosea 5:11) Ephraim altogether prevailed against his adversary, he trod judgment under foot. By adversary was meant the conscience. […] But why is the conscience called the adversary?

It is called adversary because it always opposes our evil will and reminds us what we must do but do not do; and again, what we should not do but do, and for this it judges us, which is why the Lord calls it the adversary and commands us saying, Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him (Matt. 25:26). The way, as St. Basil the Great says, is this world.

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

Isaac the Syrian: God’s affection for the repentant sinner Sunday, Dec 15 2013 

Isaac the Syrian 3Those, in whom the light of faith truly shines, never reach such unashamedness as to ask God: “Give us this,” or — “Remove from us this.”

Because their spiritual eyes — with which they were blessed by that genuine Father, Who with His great love, countlessly transcends any fatherly love — continually view the Father’s Providence, they are not concerned in the slightest about themselves.

God can do more than anyone else, and can assist us by a far greater measure than we could ever ask for, or even imagine.

[…] Not having distinctly experienced God’s patronage, the heart is in no condition to commune with Christ.

A person cannot acquire a reliance on God if, prior to this, he hasn’t fulfilled His will according to one’s own strength.

Because hope in God and fortitude is born from witness of the conscience (in God): and only with genuine witness of our mind (in God) can we have trust in Him.

God demands not only the fulfillment of the commandments but also — more importantly — reformation of the soul, which is the reason why the commandments were given.

The body participates equally in good as well as bad deeds, and reason, by its behavior, becomes either righteous or sinful, judging by its disposition.

Life in this temporary world is akin to writing letters on a tablet. Everyone, when he wants to, can add or delete words on it or rearrange the letters.

But the future life is akin to a manuscript, written on a clean sheet, on which it is forbidden to add or delete and stamped with the king’s seal. That’s why while we are in this inconstant world, let us be attentive to ourselves.

And while we have authority over the earthly manuscript, on which we write with our own hand, let us endeavor to make good additions from a righteous life, and delete on it all the failings of our past actions.

This is because while we are in this world, God does not affix His stamp — neither to the virtuous nor to the evil — up to the hour of our leaving this life.

When in remembering his sins a person punishes himself, God looks upon him with affection. God is pleased that for turning away from His path, the individual has conferred punishment upon himself — this serves as a sign of genuine repentance.

And the harder the sinner compels himself, the greater the increase in God’s affection for him.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Selections from the Homilies @ Orthodox Photos.

Gregory of Nyssa: Bethlehem and Golgotha and Olivet and the Scene of the Resurrection are Really in the God-Containing Heart Wednesday, Nov 27 2013 

Gregory_of_Nyssa(From a letter to the most discreet and devout Sisters, Eustathia and Ambrosia, and to the most discreet and noble Daughter, Basilissa, recalling a visit to the Holy Places).

The meeting with the good and the beloved, and the memorials of the immense love of the Lord for us men, which are shown in your localities, have been the source to me of the most intense joy and gladness.

Doubly indeed have these shone upon divinely festal days:

both in beholding the saving tokens of the God who gave us life, and in meeting with souls in whom the tokens of the Lord’s grace are to be discerned spiritually in such clearness, that one can believe that Bethlehem and Golgotha, and Olivet, and the scene of the Resurrection are really in the God-containing heart.

For when through a good conscience Christ has been formed in any, when any has by dint of godly fear nailed down the promptings of the flesh and become crucified to Christ,

when any has rolled away from himself the heavy stone of this world’s illusions, and coming forth from the grave of the body has begun to walk as it were in a newness of life,

abandoning this low-lying valley of human life, and mounting with a soaring desire to that heavenly country with all its elevated thoughts,

where Christ is, no longer feeling the body’s burden, but lifting it by chastity, so that the flesh with cloud-like lightness accompanies the ascending soul

—such an one, in my opinion, is to be counted in the number of those famous ones in whom the memorials of the Lord’s love for us men are to be seen.

When, then, I not only saw with the sense of sight those Sacred Places, but I saw the tokens of places like them, plain in yourselves as well, I was filled with joy so great that the description of its blessing is beyond the power of utterance.

But because it is a difficult, not to say an impossible thing for a human being to enjoy unmixed with evil any blessing, therefore something of bitterness was mingled with the sweets I tasted:

and by this, after the enjoyment of those blessings, I was saddened in my journey back to my native land, estimating now the truth of the Lord’s words, that “the whole world lieth in wickedness,” so that no single part of the inhabited earth is without its share of degeneracy.

For if the spot itself that has received the footprints of the very Life is not clear of the wicked thorns, what are we to think of other places where communion with the Blessing has been inculcated by hearing and preaching alone.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): Letter 17.

Macarius the Egyptian: The heart is Christ’s palace where Christ the King comes to rest Sunday, Nov 24 2013 

Macarius3Consider how the Lord has prepared for Christians the kingdom, and calls them to enter in, and they will not.

As for the gift which they are to inherit, one might say, if everyone from the creation of Adam to the end of the world strove against Satan and endured afflictions, he would do nothing great in comparison with the glory which he is to inherit.

For he will reign to ages without end with Christ. Glory to Him Who so loved a soul like this, for giving Himself and His grace and entrusting the soul therewith! Glory to His greatness!

[…] Suppose there were a very great palace, and this were deserted, and became full of every evil smell, and of many dead bodies.

Well, the heart is Christ’s palace, and it is full of all uncleanness, and of crowds of many wicked spirits. It must be refounded and rebuilt, and its store-chambers and bedrooms put in order.

For there Christ the King, with the angels and holy spirits, comes to rest, and   to dwell, and to walk in it, and to set His kingdom.

I tell you, it is like a ship furnished with plenty of tackle, where the captain disposes of all, and sets them their tasks, finding fault with some, and showing others their way about.

The heart has a captain in the mind, the conscience, which is ever judging us, thoughts accusing or else excusing one another.

[…] God and His angels came for thy salvation. The King, the King’s Son, held council with His Father, and the Word was sent, and put on the garment of flesh, and concealed His own Godhead, that like might be saved by like, and laid down His life upon the Cross.

So great is the love of God towards man. The Immortal chose to be crucified for thee. Consider then how God loved the world, because He gave His only begotten Son for them. How shall He not with Him freely give us all things?

In another place it says, Verily I say unto you that He shall make him ruler over all His goods. Elsewhere it shews the angels as ministers of the saints.

When Elias was in the mountain, and the foreigners came against him, the young servant said, “There are many coming against us, and we are by ourselves.” Then Elias answered, “Do you not see camps and multitudes of angels with us round about succouring us?”

You see that the Master and the multitudes of the angels are with His servants. How great then is the soul, and how much valued by God, that God and the angels seek after it for fellowship with themselves and for a kingdom!

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 15, 31; 33; 44, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Mark the Hermit: To accept an affliction for God’s sake is a genuine act of holiness Friday, Oct 25 2013 

St Mark the AsceticDo good when you remember, and what you forget will be revealed to you; and do not surrender your mind to blind forgetfulness.

Scripture says: ‘Hell and perdition are manifest to the Lord’ (Prov. 15:11. LXX). This refers to ignorance of heart and forgetfulness.

Hell is ignorance, for both are dark; and perdition is forgetfulness, for both involve extinction.

Concern yourself with your own sins and not with those of your neighbour; then the workplace of your intellect will not be robbed.

Failure to do the good that is within your power is hard to forgive. But mercy and prayer reclaim the negligent.

To accept an affliction for God’s sake is a genuine act of holiness; for true love is tested by adversities.

Do not claim to have acquired virtue unless you have suffered affliction, for without affliction virtue has not been tested.

Consider the outcome of every involuntary affliction, and you will find it has been the destruction of sin.

Neighbors are very free with advice, but our own judgment is best.

If you want spiritual health, listen to your conscience, do all it tells you, and you will benefit.

God and our conscience know our secrets. Let them correct us.

He who toils unwillingly grows poor in every way, while he who presses ahead in hope is doubly rich.

Man acts so far as he can in accordance with his own wishes; but God decides the outcome in accordance with justice.

If you wish not to incur guilt when men praise you, first welcome reproof for your sins.

Each time someone accepts humiliation for the sake of Christ’s truth he will be glorified a hundredfold by other men. But it is better always to do good for the sake of blessings in the life to come.

When one man helps another by word or deed, let them both recognize in this the grace of God. He who does not understand this will come under the power of him who does.

[…] He who is ignorant of the enemy’s ambush is easily slain; and” he who does not know the causes of the passions is soon brought low.

Knowledge of what is good for him has been given to everyone by God; but self-indulgence leads to negligence, and negligence to forgetfulness.

A man advises his neighbor according to his own understanding; but in the one who listens to such advice, God acts in proportion to his faith.

Mark the Hermit (5th-6th c.): On The Spiritual Law, 60-78, 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. 114-115.

Gregory Palamas: God has Made the Whole of this Perceptible Universe a Mirror of Heaven Wednesday, Sep 18 2013 

Gregory_PalamasBefore creating us our Maker brought this whole universe into being from nothing for the sustenance of our bodily exist­ence.

But as for improving our conduct and guiding us toward virtue, what has the Lord in his love of goodness not done for us?

He has made the whole of this perceptible universe a kind of mirror of heaven, so that by spiritual contemplation of the world around us we may reach up to heavenly things as if by some wonderful ladder.

He has implanted in us the natural law, as an inflexible rule, an infallible judge and an unerring teacher: this is our conscience.

If we look deep within ourselves, then, we shall need no other teacher to show us what is good, and if we look outside ourselves we shall find the invisible God visible in the things he has made, as the Apostle says.

After providing a school of virtue in our own nature and in the created world, God gave us the angels to protect us, he raised up the Patriarchs and Prophets to guide us, he showed us signs and wonders to lead us to faith, and gave us the written Law as a supplement to the law of our rational soul and the teaching of the world around us.

Then at last, when we had scorned all this in our indolence – how different from his own continuing love and care for us! – he gave himself to us for our salvation.

He poured out the wealth of his divinity into our lowly condition; he took our nature and became a human being like us, and was with us as our teacher.

He teaches us the greatness of his love and proves it by word and deed, at the same time persuading those who obey him not to be hard-hearted, but to imitate his compassion.

Those who manage worldly affairs have a certain love for them, as do shepherds for their flocks and owners for their personal possessions, but this cannot be compared with the love of those who share the same flesh and blood, and especially the love of parents for their children.

Therefore, to make us realize how much he loves us, God called himself our Father; for our sake he became man, and then, through the grace of the Holy Spirit conferred in baptism, he caused us to be born anew.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 3 (PG 151:36); ; from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Wednesday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John of Karpathos: It is Christ Himself that we breathe Monday, Jan 23 2012 

What is it that so distresses you? No stain is intrinsic.

If a man has tar on his hands, he removes it with a little cleansing oil; how much more, then, can you be made clean with the oil of God’s mercy.

You find no difficulty in washing your clothes; how much easier is it for the Lord to cleanse you from every stain, although you are bound to be tempted every day.

When you say to the Lord, ‘I have sinned’, He answers: ‘Your sins are forgiven you; I am He who wipes them out and I will remember them no more’(Matt. 9:2; Isa.43:25);

‘as far as the east is from the west, so far have I removed your sins from you; and as a father shows compassion to his sons, so will I show compassion to you’ (Ps.103:12-13).

Only do not rebel against Him who has called you to pray and recite psalms, but cleave to Him throughout your life in pure and intimate communion, reverent yet unashamed in His presence, and always full of thanksgiving.

It is God who, by a simple act of His will, cleanses you. For what God chooses to make clean not even the great Apostle Peter can condemn or call unclean.

For he is told: ‘What God has cleansed, do not call unclean’ (Acts 10:15). For has not God in His love acquitted us? ‘Who then will condemn us?’ (Rom. 8:33-34).

When we call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is not hard for our conscience to be made pure, and then we are no different from the prophets and the rest of the saints.

For God’s purpose is not that we should suffer from His anger, but that we should gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us.

So then, whether we are watchful in virtue or sometimes fall asleep, as is likely to happen because of our failings, yet shall we live with Christ.

As we look up to Him with cries of distress and continual lamentation, it is Christ Himself that we breathe.

[…] The great Physician of the sick is here beside us, He that bore our infirmities, that healed and still heals us by His wounds (Isa.53:5); He is here beside us and even now administers the medicine of salvation.

‘For’, He says’, I have afflicted you by My absence, but I will also heal you. So do not fear: for when My fierce anger has passed, I will heal you again.

[…] ‘For if a bird devotes itself with tender love to its nestlings, visiting them every hour, calling to them and feeding them, how much greater is My compassion towards My creatures!

John of Karpathos (7th century): For the Encouragement of the Monks in India, Supplement, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, P. Sherrard, and K. Ware, The Philokalia, vol. 1 (Faber and Faber, London & Boston: 1979) @ J B Burnett.

Next Page »