Jerome: A Soul which Cherishes an Ardent Love of Wisdom is Freely Infilled by the Spirit of God Monday, Oct 7 2013 

St.-Jerome-of-StridoniumOn Daniel 2:19-22

Verse 19. “And Daniel blessed the God of heaven, and spoke, saying….

In contrast to those who occupy themselves with this world and delude the earthly minded with demonic arts and illusions, Daniel blessed the God of heaven. For the gods who did not create heaven and earth will pass away.

Verse 21. […] “He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who acquire learning.” 

This accords with the scripture: “The wise man will hear and increase his wisdom” (Prov. 1:5). “For he who has, to him it shall be given” (Matt. 25:29).

A soul which cherishes an ardent love of wisdom is freely infilled by the Spirit of God. But wisdom will never penetrate a perverse soul (Wisdom 3).

Verse 22. “It is He who reveals deep and hidden things, and He knows what is placed in the darkness, and with Him is the light.” 

A man to whom God makes profound revelations and who can say, “O the depth of the riches of the knowledge and wisdom of God!” (Rom. 11:33), is one who, by the indwelling Spirit, probes even into the deep things of God, and digs the deepest of wells in the depths of his soul.

He is a man who has stirred up the whole earth, which is wont to conceal the deep waters, and he observes the command of God, saying: “Drink water from thy vessels and from the spring of thy wells” (Prov. 5:15).

As for the words which follow, “He knows what is placed in the darkness, and with Him is the light,” the darkness signifies ignorance, and the light signifies knowledge and learning. Therefore as wrong cannot hide God away, so right encompasses and surrounds Him.

Or else we should interpret the words to  mean all the dark mysteries and deep things concerning God, according to what we read in Proverbs: “He understands also the parable and the dark saying.”

This in turn is equivalent to what we read in the Psalms: “Dark waters in the clouds of the sky” (Ps. 17:12).

For one who ascends to the heights and forsakes the things of earth, and like the birds themselves seeks after the most rarified atmosphere and everything ethereal, becomes like a cloud to which the truth of God penetrates and which habitually showers rain upon the saints.

Replete with a plenitude of knowledge, he contains in his breast many dark waters enveloped with deep darkness, a darkness which only Moses can penetrate (Ex. 23) and speak with God face to face, of Whom the Scripture says: “He hath made darkness His hiding-place” (Ps. 17:12).

Jerome (347-420): Commentary on Daniel 2:19-22.

Ambrose of Milan: “Who Shall Separate Us from the Love of Christ?” Monday, Sep 2 2013 

ambrose_of_milanDavid taught us that we should go about in our heart as though in a large house; that we should hold converse with it as with some trusty companion.

[…] Scipio…was not the first to know that he was not alone when he was alone, or that he was least at leisure when he was at leisure.

For Moses knew it before him, who, when silent, was crying out; who, when he stood at ease, was fighting, nay, not merely fighting but triumphing over enemies whom he had not come near.

So much was he at ease, that others held up his hands; yet he was no less active than others, for he with his hands at ease was overcoming the enemy, whom they that were in the battle could not conquer.

Thus Moses in his silence spoke, and in his ease laboured hard. And were his labours greater than his times of quiet, who, being in the mount for forty days, received the whole law?

And in that solitude there was One not far away to speak with him. Whence also David says: “I will hear what the Lord God will say within me.”

How much greater a thing is it for God to speak with any one, than for a man to speak with himself!

[…] Elisha rested in one place while the king of Syria waged a great war against the people of our fathers, and was adding to its terrors by various treacherous plans, and was endeavouring to catch them in an ambush.

But the prophet found out all their preparations, and being by the grace of God present everywhere in mental vigour, he told the thoughts of their enemies to his countrymen, and warned them of what places to beware.

[…] Elisha was ever active. In solitude he divided Jordan on passing over it, so that the lower part flowed down, whilst the upper returned to its source. On Carmel he promises the woman, who so far had had no child, that a son now unhoped for should be born to her.

He raises the dead to life, he corrects the bitterness of the food, and makes it to be sweet by mixing meal with it. Having distributed ten loaves to the people for food, he gathered up the fragments that were left after they had been filled. … He changes leprosy for cleanness, drought for rain, famine for plenty.

When can the upright man be alone, since he is always with God? When is he left forsaken who is never separated from Christ? “Who,” it says, “shall separate us from the love of Christ? I am confident that neither death nor life nor angel shall do so.”

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On the Duties of the Clergy 3,1.

Gregory the Great: The Soul Rapt in the Light of God is Dilated in the Divine Perfections Thursday, Aug 22 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistWhile as yet the monks were at rest, the man of God, Benedict, being diligent in watching, rose up before the night office and stood at the window making his prayer to Almighty God about midnight.

Suddenly, looking forth, he saw a light glancing from above, so bright and resplendent that it not only dispersed the darkness of the night, but shone more clear than the day itself.

Upon this sight a marvellous strange thing followed, for, as he afterwards related, the whole world, compacted as it were together, was represented to his eyes in one ray of light.

As the venerable Father had his eyes fixed upon this glorious lustre, he beheld the soul of Germanus, Bishop of Capua, carried by angels to Heaven in a fiery globe.

Then, for the testimony of so great a miracle, with a loud voice he called upon Servandus the Deacon, who…looked forth, and saw a little stream of light then disappearing, and wondered greatly at this miracle.

[…] It fell out so, that he who was sent found the most reverend Bishop Germanus dead, and on enquiring more exactly, he learned that his departure was the very same moment in which the man of God had seen him ascend.

[…] In a soul that beholds the Creator, all creatures appear but narrow; for, should we partake never so little of the light of the Creator, whatsoever is created would seem very little.

Because the soul is enlarged by this beatific vision, and so dilated in the Divine perfections, that it far transcends the world and itself also.

The soul thus rapt in the light of God is in her interior lifted up, and enabled above itself, and while thus elevated it contemplates itself, and it easily comprehends how little that is which before it was not able to conceive.

So the blessed man who saw the globe of fire with the Angels returning to Heaven could not possibly have beheld those things but only in the light of God.

What wonder then if he saw the world at one view who was in mind exalted above the world?

But whereas I said that the whole world compacted as it were together was represented before his eyes, it is not meant that heaven and earth were straitened by contraction, but that the mind of the beholder was dilated, which, rapt in the sight of God might, without difficulty, see all that is under God.

Therefore, in that light which appeared to his outward eyes, the inward light which was in his soul ravished the mind of the beholder with higher things, and shewed how mean are all inferior things.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Life of Our Most Holy Father Benedict, 35.

Maximus the Confessor: Moses, Elijah and the Mystery of the Transfiguration (2) Monday, Aug 5 2013 

Maximus_ConfessorContinued from here…

Then they [Peter, James and John] are taught through them [Moses and Elijah] about wisdom and kindness dwelling with Him.

It is in accordance with wisdom that the word is declaratory of things made and prohibitory of things not made, and of this Moses is the type, for we believe the grace of law-giving to belong to wisdom.

And it is in accordance with kindness that the word invites and causes to return to the divine life those who have slipped away from it, and of this Elijah is the type, through himself manifesting the complete prophetic gift.

For the conversion through love for humankind of those who have erred is a characteristic of divine kindness, and the heralds of this we know as the prophets.

[And they are also taught about] knowledge and education. Knowledge is the source in human beings of the understanding of good and evil.

“For I have set before your face”, he says, “life and death” (Deut. 30:19), the one you are to elect, the other to flee, and lest through ignorance you disguise the worse with the good,

Moses proclaims what is to be done, prefiguring in himself the symbols of the truth. Education is needed for those who without restraint do what is contrary and indiscriminately mix what should not be mixed. In Israel the great Elijah was their teacher, the scourge of indifference, who, like reason, led to understanding and sense the mindlessness and hardness of those who were utterly addicted to evil.

[And they are also taught about] ascetic struggle and contemplation. Ascetic struggle destroys evil and through the demonstration of the virtues cuts off from the world those who are completely led through it in their disposition, just as Moses led Israel out of Egypt and educated her persuasively through the divine laws of the Spirit.

Contemplation seizes them as it were from matter and form, like Elijah on his chariot of fire, leading them to God through knowledge and uniting them with Him, so that they are no longer weighed down by the flesh because of the setting aside of its law, nor burning with zeal for the fulfillment of the commandments, because of the grace of poverty of spirit mixed with all real virtues.

Again, they learnt from the Word the mysteries of marriage and celibacy: through Moses, how one is not prevented by marriage from being a lover of divine glory; and through Elijah, how he remained completely pure from any marital intercourse, and how the Word and God proclaims that those who direct themselves in these things by reason according to the laws that are divinely laid down concerning them are made to enter into Himself in a hidden way.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662):  Eighteen Spiritual Interpretations of the Tranfiguration, From Maximus the Confessor by Andrew Louth (Routledge: London 1999) pp. 128-134 @ Mystagogy here and here.

Maximus the Confessor: Moses, Elijah and the Mystery of the Transfiguration (1) Sunday, Aug 4 2013 

Maximus_ConfessorBut going back to what has already been contemplated, let us turn our attention according to our means to the rest of the meaning of the Transfiguration, so that the excellence of the Saints in everything and their genuine separation from the flesh and matter may be seen.

And let us note that they do not contemplate either creation or Scripture like us in a material or lowly way.

They do not acquire the blessed knowledge of God only by sense and appearances and forms, using letters and syllables, which lead to mistakes and bafflement over the judgment of the truth, but solely by the mind [nous], rendered most pure and released from all material mists.

Since therefore we want to judge reverently and see clearly and intelligibly the meanings of those things perceived by the senses, we must look carefully to the inerrant knowledge concerning God and divine things and rightly proceed along the straight path.

Therefore it was said above that through the luminous brightness that shone from the face of the Lord on the mount, the thrice-blessed apostles were secretly led in an ineffable and unknowable manner to the power and glory of God which is completely incomprehensible to every being, for they learnt that the light that appeared to their senses is a symbol of what is hidden and beyond any manifestation.

For as the ray of the light that came to pass here overwhelmed the strength of the eyes and remained beyond their grasp, so also their God transcends all the power and strength of the mind and leaves no kind of trace for the mind to experience.

The white garments teach, in a divinely fitting way, at one and the same time both the magnificence that lies in creatures proportionately to the logoi [symbols of the divine plan] according to which they have come into being and the mysterious revelation found in the understanding of the words of Holy Scripture, so that the written power in the Spirit and the wisdom and knowledge manifested together in creatures are displayed together for the knowledge of God, and through them again he is proportionately manifested.

Through Moses and Elijah, who were with Him on either side, they are taught many various conceptions which are put forward as figures of mysteries: through true contemplation of them they found ways of knowing. It is this that must now be examined.

And first they received through Moses and Elijah the most reverent notion about how the legal and the prophetic word had always to be present with God the Word, as they are and proclaim from Him and concerning Him and they are established around Him.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662):  Eighteen Spiritual Interpretations of the Tranfiguration, From Maximus the Confessor by Andrew Louth (Routledge: London 1999) pp. 128-134 @ Mystagogy.

John Cassian: The saints who keep a firm hold of the recollection of God may be compared to rope dancers Thursday, Aug 1 2013 

Sf-IoanCasianLittle children, love not the world, neither the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of God is not in him: for everything that is in the world is the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, which is not of the Father but of the world. And the world perisheth and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever (1 John 2:15-17).

The saints therefore scorn all those things on which the world exists, but it is impossible for them never to be carried away to them by a brief aberration of thoughts, and even now no man, except our Lord and Saviour, can keep his naturally wandering mind always fixed on the contemplation of God so as never to be carried away from it through the love of something in this world.

As Scripture says: “Even the stars are not clean in His sight,” and again: “If He puts no trust in His saints, and findeth iniquity in His angels,” or as the more correct translation has it: “Behold among His saints none is unchangeable, and the heavens are not pure in His sight.”

I should say then that the saints who keep a firm hold of the recollection of God and are borne along, as it were, with their steps suspended on a line stretched out on high, may be rightly compared to rope dancers, commonly called funambuli, who risk all their safety and life on the path of that very narrow rope.

[…] And while with marvellous skill they ply their airy steps through space, if they keep not their steps to that all too narrow path with careful and anxious regulation, the earth which is the natural base and the most solid and safest foundation for all, becomes to them an immediate and clear danger, not because its nature is changed, but because they fall headlong upon it by the weight of their bodies.

So also that unwearied goodness of God and His unchanging nature hurts no one indeed, but we ourselves by falling from on high and tending to the depths are the authors of our own death, or rather the very fall becomes death to the faller.

[…] Scripture says: “thine own wickedness shall reprove thee, and thy apostasy shall rebuke thee. Know thou and see that it is an evil and a bitter thing for thee to have left the Lord thy God;” for “every man is bound by the cords of his sins.” To whom this rebuke is aptly directed by the Lord: “Behold,” He says, “all you that kindle a fire, encompassed with flames, walk ye in the light of your fire and in the flames which you have kindled.”

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 23, 8-9.

Peter Damian: St Romuald – Summit of Perfection Wednesday, Jun 19 2013 

PeterDamianRomuald lived in the vicinity of the city of Parenzo for three years.

In the first year he built a monastery and appointed an abbot with monks. For the next two years he remained there in seclusion.

In that setting, divine holiness transported him to such a summit of perfection that, breathed upon by the Holy Spirit, he foresaw many future events and comprehended with the rays of his intelligence hidden mysteries of the Old and New Testament.

Frequently he was seized by so great a contemplation of divinity that he would be reduced to tears with the boiling, indescribable heat of divine love.

In this condition he would cry out: Beloved Jesus, beloved, sweet honey, indescribable longing, delight of the saints, sweetness of the angels, and other things of this kind.

We are unable to express the ecstasy of these utterances, dictated by the Holy Spirit. Wherever the holy man might arrange to live, he would follow the same pattern.

First he would build an oratory with an altar in a cell; then he would shut himself in and forbid access.

Finally, after he had lived in many places, perceiving that his end was near, he returned to the monastery he had built in the valley of Castro.

While he awaited with certainty his approaching death, he ordered a cell to be constructed there with an oratory in which he might isolate himself and preserve silence until death.

Accordingly the hermitage was built, since he had made up his mind that he would die there. His body began to grow more and more oppressed by afflictions and was already failing, not so much from weakness as from the exhaustion of great age.

One day he began to feel the loss of his physical strength under all the harassment of increasingly violent afflictions. As the sun was beginning to set, he instructed two monks who were standing by to go out and close the door of the cell behind them; they were to come back to him at daybreak to celebrate matins.

They were so concerned about his end that they went out reluctantly and did not rest immediately. On the contrary, since they were worried that their master might die, they lay hidden near the cell and watched this precious treasure. For some time they continued to listen attentively until they heard neither movement nor sound.

Rightly guessing what had happened, they pushed open the door, rushed in quickly, lit a candle and found the holy man lying on his back, his blessed soul snatched up into heaven. As he lay there, he seemed like a neglected heavenly pearl that was soon to be given a place of honour in the treasury of the King of kings.

Peter Damian (c.1007-1072): Life of St Romuald, chapters 39 and 61 @ Universalis.

Gregory the Great: The Solitude of the Heart Friday, Jun 14 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistTo whom I have given a house in the solitude? (Job 30:6).

Ought we in this place to understand the solitude of the body, or the solitude of the heart?

But what avails the solitude of the body, if the solitude of the heart be wanting?

For he who lives bodily removed from the world, but yet plunges into the tumults of human conversation with the thoughts of worldly desires, is not in solitude.

But if anyone be bodily oppressed with crowds of people, and yet suffers from no tumults of worldly cares in his heart, he is not in a city.

To those therefore of good conversation solitude of mind is first granted, in order that they may keep down within the rising din of worldly desires,

that they may restrain by the grace of heavenly love the cares of the heart which bubble up from its lowest depths,

and drive away from the eyes of the mind with the hand of gravity, all the motions of trifling thoughts which importunately present themselves, as flies which are flitting around them:

and may seek for themselves some secret spot with the Lord within, there to speak with Him silently by their inward longings, when the noise is still from without.

Of this secret place of the heart it is said elsewhere; There became silence in heaven for about half an hour (Rev. 8:1).

For the Church of the Elect is called ‘heaven,’ which, as it rises to eternal and sublime truths by the elevation of contemplation, abates the tumults of thoughts which are springing up from below, and makes a kind of silence within itself for God.

[…] But it ought to be known that we do not at all reach the height of contemplation, if we cease not from the oppression of outward care.

We do not at all look into ourselves, so as to know that there is within us one rational part that rules, another animal part which is ruled, unless we are made dead to all outward disturbance by returning to the secrecy of this silence.

[…] In this silence of the heart, then, while we are awake inwardly by contemplation, we are sleeping, as it were, outwardly.

Because then men who are separated, that is who are freed from carnal desires, inhabit this silence of the heart, the Lord gave to this wild ass a house in the solitude, that he might not be oppressed with a crowd of temporal desires.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 30, 52-54 (on Job 39:6) @ Lectionary Central.

Gregory the Great: God Transcends All Things by the Incomprehensibility of His Spiritual Nature Thursday, May 30 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistHe is higher than heaven, what canst thou do?  Deeper than hell, what canst thou know?  His measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea (Job 11:8-9).

He is ‘higher than heaven,’ in that He transcends all things by the Incomprehensibility of His spiritual Nature.

He is ‘deeper than hell,’ in that in transcending He sustains beneath.

He is ‘longer than the earth,’ in that He exceeds the measure of created being by the everlasting continuance of His Eternity.

He is ‘broader than the sea,’ in that He so possesses the waves of temporal things in ruling them, that in confining He encompasses them beneath the every way prevailing presence of His Power.

[…] He is ‘higher than the heaven,’ in that the very elect spirits themselves do not perfectly penetrate the vision of His infinite loftiness?

He is ‘deeper than hell,’ in that He judges and condemns the craft of evil spirits with far more searching exactness than they had ever thought.

He is ‘longer than the earth,’ in that He surpasses our long-suffering by the patience of Divine long-suffering, which both bears with us in our sins, and welcomes us when we are turned from them to the rewards of His recompensing.

He is ‘wider than the sea,’ in that he everywhere enters into the doings of sinners by the presence of His retributive power, so that even when He is not seen present by His appearance, He is felt present by His judgment.

Yet all the particulars may be referred to man alone, so that he is himself ‘heaven,’ when now in desire he is attached to things above;

himself ‘hell,’ when he lies grovelling in things below, confounded by the mists of his temptations;

himself ‘earth,’ in that he is made to abound in good works through the fertility of a stedfast hope;

himself ‘the sea,’ for that on some occasions he is shaken with alarm, and agitated by the breath of his feebleness.

But God is ‘higher than heaven,’ in that we are subdued by the mightiness of His power, even when we are lifted above our own selves.

He is ‘deeper than hell,’ in that He goes deeper in judging than the very human mind looks into its own self in the midst of temptations.

He is ‘longer than the earth,’ in that those fruits of our life which He gives at the end, our very hope at the present time comprehends not at all.

He is ‘wider than the sea,’ in that the human mind being tossed to and fro throws out many fancies concerning the things that are coming, but when it now begins to see the things that it had made estimate of, it owns itself to have been too stinted in its reckoning.

Therefore He is made ‘higher than heaven,’ since our contemplation itself fails toward Him.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Moralia on Job, 10, 14-15 (on Job 11:8-9) @ Lectionary Central.

Gregory Nazianzen: The Word Partakes of My Flesh to Save the Image and to Make the Flesh Immortal (2) Thursday, Dec 6 2012 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenContinued from here…

This being He placed in Paradise, whatever the Paradise may have been.

And He honoured him with the gift of Free Will – in order that God might belong to him as the result of his choice, no less than to Him who had implanted the seeds of it,

and in order to till the immortal plants, by which is meant perhaps the Divine Conceptions, both the simpler and the more perfect.

And the man was naked in his simplicity and inartificial life, and without any covering or screen; for it was fitting that he who was from the beginning should be such.

Also He gave the man a Law, as a material for his free will to act upon.  This Law was a Commandment as to what plants he might partake of, and which one he might not touch.

This latter was the Tree of Knowledge. It was forbidden to the man to touch this not because it was evil from the beginning when planted, nor because God grudged it to us. (Let not the enemies of God wag their tongues in that direction, or imitate the Serpent.)

But it would have been good if partaken of at the proper time, for the tree was, according to my theory, Contemplation, upon which it is only safe for those who have reached maturity of habit to enter.

But this Contemplation is not good for those who are still somewhat simple and greedy in their habit; just as solid food is not good for those who are yet tender, and have need of milk.

But when through the devil’s malice and the woman’s caprice, to which she succumbed as the more tender, and which she brought to bear upon the man, as she was the more apt to persuade, alas for my weakness! (for that of my first father was mine), he forgot the Commandment which had been given to him.

He yielded to the baleful fruit; and for his sin he was banished, at once from the Tree of Life, and from Paradise, and from God; and put on the coats of skins…that is, perhaps, the coarser flesh, both mortal and contradictory.

This was the first thing that he learnt—his own shame; and he hid himself from God.  Yet here too he makes a gain, namely death, and the cutting off of sin, in order that evil may not be immortal.

Thus his punishment is changed into a mercy; for it is in mercy, I am persuaded, that God inflicts punishment.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 38, 12.

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