Isaac the Syrian: Passionate prayer and mourning of the heart Saturday, Mar 8 2014 

Isaac the Syrian 3Protect the sinner without doing him wrong. But strengthen his courage for life; then the mercy of the Lord will bear you.

Support with your word the weak and the distressed in spirit whenever you can; then the hand that bears the universe will support you.

Participate with those who are suffering in heart, in passionate prayer and mourning of the heart; then before your demand a fountain of grace will be opened.

Be strenuous in prayer at all time before God, with a heart full of chaste deliberations mingled with passion; then He will preserve your mind from impure thoughts, so that the way of God be not disordered in you.

Occupy your gaze with constant intercourse with intelligent recitation of the scriptures, lest, on account of idleness, the sight of foreign things defile your look.

Do not tempt your mind, for the sake of examination, by consideration of impure seductive thoughts, thinking that you  shall not he vanquished; even wise men have been perturbed in this place and deviated.

Do not take fire in your bosom….

Without severe bodily trouble, it is hard for the untrained youth to be bound under the yoke of saintliness.

The sign of the beginning of darkness of mind manifests itself in the soul by dejection, in the first place with regard to service and prayer. For it is not possible that the way in your soul towards error should be opened if you had not fallen in this point first.

Then, being bereft of God’s help — which otherwise affords a way unto Him — you will easily fall into the hands of the foes. And further, being without care for the matters of excellence, you will be carried towards the contrary things in every manner. Departing, from any side, is the beginning of approaching to the opposite one.

Let the service of excellence be firm in your soul; meditate on it and so on. Show your weakness before God at all times, lest strangers come to examine your strength while you are separated from your helper.

The service of the cross is a double one. And this is in accordance with its twofold nature which is divided into two parts: patience in face of bodily troubles, which is accomplished through the instrumentality of the anger of the soul; this is called practice; and the subtle intellectual service, in intercourse with God, constant prayer and so on, which is performed with the desiring part and called theory.

The one purifies the affectable part by the strength of zeal; the other clears the intellectual part by the influence of the love of the soul, which is the natural appetite.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Six Treatises on the Behaviour of Excellence, 1, 2, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck, pp. 9-10 (slightly modified).

John Climacus: At the Fragrance of Humility All Anger and Bitterness Vanishes Thursday, Mar 6 2014 

ClimacusFreedom from anger, or placidity, is an insatiable appetite for dishonour, just as in the vainglorious there is an unbounded desire for praise.

Freedom from anger is victory over nature and insensibility to insults, acquired by struggles and sweat.

Meekness is an immovable state of soul which remains unaffected whether in evil report or in good report, in dishonour or in praise.

The beginning of freedom from anger is silence of the lips when the heart is agitated;

the middle is silence of the thoughts when there is a mere disturbance of soul;

and the end is an imperturbable calm under the breath of unclean winds.

Anger is a reminder of hidden hatred, that is to say, remembrance of wrongs.

Anger is a desire for the injury of the one who has provoked you.

Irascibility is the untimely blazing up of the heart.

Bitterness is a movement of displeasure seated in the soul.

Peevishness is a changeable movement of one’s disposition and disorder of soul.

As with the appearance of light, darkness retreats, so at the fragrance of humility all anger and bitterness vanishes.

Some who are prone to anger are neglectful of the healing and cure of this passion.

But these unhappy people do not give a thought to him who said: ‘The moment of his anger is his fall’ (Ecclesiasticus 1:22).

There is a quick movement of a millstone which in one moment grinds and does away with more spiritual grain and fruit than another crushes in a whole day.

And so we must, with understanding, pay attention. It is possible to have such a blaze of flame, suddenly fanned by a strong wind, as will ruin the field of the heart more than a lingering flame.

And we ought not to forget, my friends, that the wicked demons sometimes suddenly leave us, so that we may neglect our strong passions as of little importance, and then become incurably sick.

As a hard stone with sharp corners has all its sharpness and hard formation crushed by knocking and rubbing against other stones, and is made round, and in the same way a sharp and curt soul, by living in community and mixing with hard, hot-tempered men, undergoes one of two things:

either it cures its wound by its patience, or by retiring it will certainly discover its weakness, its cowardly flight making this clear to it as in a mirror.

An angry person is a wilful epileptic, who on a casual pretext keeps breaking out and falling down.

Nothing is so inappropriate to penitents as an agitated spirit, because conversion requires great humility, and anger is a sign of every kind of presumption.

John Climacus (c.575-c.650): The Ladder of Divine Ascent, step 8 “on freedom from anger and on meekness”, 2-12, translated by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore (Harper & Brothers, 1959) @ Prudence True.

Macarius the Egyptian: The grace of God writes the laws of the Spirit and the mysteries of Heaven on the tables of the heart Sunday, Jan 19 2014 

Macarius3January 19th is the feast of St Macarius the Egyptian (eastern calendar).

When the rich men of the earth have brought much fruit into their garners, they set to work again every day to get more, in order to have plenty, and not run short.

If they presume upon the wealth laid up in the garners, and take things easily and add no more, but use up what they have stored already, they soon sink into want and poverty.

So they have to labour and add, enlarging their intake, that they may not get behindhand.

In Christianity, to taste of the grace of God is like that. Taste, it says, and see how gracious the Lord is (Psalm 35:8).

This tasting is an effectual power of the Spirit in full certainty, ministering in the heart.

As many as are the sons of light, and of the ministry of the New Covenant in the Holy Ghost, these have nothing to learn from men; they are taught of God (1 Thess. 4:9).

Grace itself writes upon their hearts the laws of the Spirit.

They ought not therefore to rest their assurance only upon the scriptures that are written in ink; the grace of God writes the laws of the Spirit and the mysteries of heaven upon the tables of the heart as well (2 Cor. 3:2).

For the heart governs and reigns over the whole bodily organism; and when grace possesses the ranges of the heart, it reigns over all the members and the thoughts.

For there, in the heart, is the mind, and all the faculties of the soul, and its expectation; therefore grace penetrates also to all the members of the body.

On the other hand, as many as are sons of darkness, sin reigns over their heart, and penetrates to all their members, for out of their hearts proceed evil thoughts (Matt. 15:19), and thus diffused puts the man in darkness.

Those who say that evil is not born and bred in man, may have no anxiety about tomorrow, nor any desire either.

For a certain length of time, evil ceases to cause trouble in them by suggesting some object of desire, so that a man will affirm on oath, “Such a passion no longer assails me.”

After a short while he is consumed with the desire, so that he is found guilty of perjury into the bargain.

As water runs through a pipe, so does sin through the heart and thoughts.

As many as will not have this notion, are refuted and mocked by sin itself, even if sin did not wish to triumph; for evil endeavours to escape notice and to be hidden in the mind of man.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 15, 20-21, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Augustine of Hippo: Jesus Brings to Light Things Hidden in Darkness and Makes Plain the Secrets of the Heart Friday, Nov 29 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaAnd we possess a more certain prophetic word to which you do well to attend, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (1 Peter 2:19).

When our Lord Jesus Christ comes and, as the apostle Paul says, brings to light things hidden in darkness and makes plain the secrets of the heart, so that everyone may receive his commendation from God, then lamps will no longer be needed.

When that day is at hand, the prophet will not be read to us, the book of the Apostle will not be opened, we shall not require the testimony of John, we shall have no need of the Gospel itself.

Therefore all Scriptures will be taken away from us, those Scriptures which in the night of this world burned like lamps so that we might not remain in darkness.

When all these things are removed as no longer necessary for our illumination, and when the men of God by whom they were ministered to us shall themselves together with us behold the true and dear light without such aids, what shall we see?

With what shall our minds be nourished? What will give joy to our gaze? Where will that gladness come from, which eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, which has not even been conceived by the heart of man? What shall we see?

I implore you to love with me and, by believing, to run with me; let us long for our heavenly country, let us sigh for our heavenly home, let us truly feel that here we are strangers.

What shall we then see? Let the gospel tell us: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. You will come to the fountain, with whose dew you have already been sprinkled.

Instead of the ray of light which was sent through slanting and winding ways into the heart of your darkness, you will see the light itself in all its purity and brightness. It is to see and experience this light that you are now being cleansed.

Dearly beloved, John himself says, we are the sons of God, and it has not yet been disclosed what we shall be; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

I feel that your spirits are being raised up with mine to the heavens above; but the body which is corruptible weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind.

I am about to lay aside this book, and you are soon going away, each to his own business. It has been good for us to share the common light, good to have enjoyed ourselves, good to have been glad together. When we part from one another, let us not depart from him.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Commentary on the Gospel of John, Tract. 35, 8-9 (CCL 36, 321-323) from the Roman Office of Readings for Tuesday in the 34th week in Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

Augustine of Hippo: Pilgrims Absent from the Lord Saturday, Oct 26 2013 

St Augustine of Africa

To Proba, a devoted handmaid of God….

In the darkness…of this world, in which we are pilgrims absent from the Lord as long as “we walk by faith and not by sight,” the Christian soul ought to feel itself desolate, and continue in prayer, and learn to fix the eye of faith on the word of the divine sacred Scriptures, as “on a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts.”

For the ineffable source from which this lamp borrows its light is “the Light which shineth in darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not.”

In order to seeing this Light our hearts must be purified by faith; for “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”; and “we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, foe we shall see Him as He is.”

Then after death shall come the true life, and after desolation the true consolation, that life shall deliver our “souls from death “that consolation shall deliver our “eyes from tears,” and, as follows in the psalm, our feet shall be delivered from falling; for there shall be no temptation there.

Moreover, if there be no temptation, there will be no prayer; for there we shall not be waiting for promised blessings, but contemplating the blessings actually bestowed.

Therefore he adds, “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living,” where we shall then be — not in the wilderness of the dead, where we now are: “For ye are dead,” says the apostle, “and your life is hid with Christ in God; when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.”

For that is the true life on which the rich are exhorted to lay hold by being rich in good works; and in it is the true consolation, for want of which, meanwhile, a widow is “desolate” indeed, even though she has sons and grandchildren, and conducts her household piously, entreating all dear to her to put their hope in God.

And in the midst of all this, she says in her prayer, “My soul thirsteth for Thee; my flesh longeth in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;” and this dying life is nothing else than such a land, however numerous our mortal comforts, however pleasant our companions in the pilgrimage, and however great the abundance of our possessions.

You know how uncertain all these things are; and even if they were not uncertain, what would they be in comparison with the felicity which is promised in the life to come!

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Letter to Proba (Letter 130), II,5 @ Crossroads Initiative.

John Henry Newman: The True Christian Pierces Through the Veil of This World and Sees the Next Wednesday, Oct 9 2013 

John_Henry_Newman_by_Sir_John_Everett_MillaisContinued from here…

Afterwards, in the same Epistle [Galatians], he tells us first that nothing avails but faith working by love; but soon after, he calls this same availing principle a new creature: so that the new birth and a living faith are inseparable.

Never, indeed, must it be supposed, as we are indolently apt to suppose, that the gift of grace which we receive at baptism is a mere outward privilege, a mere outward pardon, in which the heart is not concerned;

or as if it were some mere mark put on the soul, distinguishing it indeed from souls unregenerate, as if by a colour or seal, but not connected with the thoughts, mind, and heart of a Christian.

This would be a gross and false view of the nature of God’s mercy given us in Christ. For the new birth of the Holy Spirit sets the soul in motion in a heavenly way: it gives us good thoughts and desires, enlightens and purifies us, and prompts us to seek God.

In a word (as I have said), it gives a spiritual life; it opens the eyes of our mind, so that we begin to see God in all things by faith, and hold continual intercourse with Him by prayer;

and if we cherish these gracious influences, we shall become holier and wiser and more heavenly, year by year, our hearts being ever in a course of change from darkness to light, from the ways and works of Satan to the perfection of Divine obedience.

These considerations may serve to impress upon our minds the meaning of the precept in the text, and others like it which are found in St. Paul’s Epistles. For instance, he enjoins the Ephesians to “pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.”

To the Philippians he says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known unto God” (Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6). To the Colossians, “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.” To the Romans, “Continue instant in prayer” (Col. 4:2; Rom. 12:12).

Thus the true Christian pierces through the veil of this world and sees the next. He holds intercourse with it; he addresses God, as a child might address his parent, with as clear a view of Him, and with as unmixed a confidence in Him;

with deep reverence indeed, and godly fear and awe, but still with certainty and exactness: as St. Paul says, “I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim. 1:12). with the prospect of judgment to come to sober him, and the assurance of present grace to cheer him.

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890): Parochial and Plain Sermons vol. 7, 15: Mental Prayer.

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.

Gregory the Great: The Church is Rightly the Dawn because It Deserts the Shadows of Sin and Sparkles in the Light of Righteousness Thursday, Jun 6 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistSince the dawn goes from darkness into light, it is right that the Church of the elect should be called “dawn” or “first light.”

As it is led from the night of disbelief into the light of faith, it is opened up to the splendour of heavenly brightness just as the dawn bursts into day after darkness.

How right are the words of the Song of Songs: Who is she who is coming up like the dawn?

The holy Church seeks the rewards of heavenly life and is rightly called the dawn because it deserts the shadows of sin and sparkles in the light of righteousness.

There is something subtler to learn from this, on considering the nature of the dawn. Dawn, or first light, proclaims that the night is over but does not yet manifest the full brightness of the day.

It dispels night, it gives a beginning to the day, but still it is a mixture of light and darkness. All of us who follow the truth in this life, are we not exactly like the dawn?

Some of the things we do are truly works of the light, but others are not entirely free of the remnants of darkness.

No man is virtuous before you, says the psalmist, and again Scripture says we have all done wrong in many ways.

This is why Paul does not say “the night has passed and day has come,” but night has passed and day is approaching, showing beyond doubt that he is still in the dawn, after the end of darkness but still before rising of the sun.

The Church of the elect will be fully day only when the darkness of sin is no longer mixed in with it. It will be fully day only when it shines with the perfect warmth of a light that comes from within.

God shows that we are still going through this dawn when he says to Job, Have you ever sent the dawn to its post?

Something that is being sent somewhere is being sent from one place or state to another. What is the destined place of the dawn if not the perfect brightness of the eternal vision?

And when it has reached its place, will it still have any of the darkness of the night that has passed?

The dawn was intent on reaching its destined place when the psalmist said My soul thirsts for the living God; when shall I appear before the face of God?

The dawn was hurrying to the place it knew to be its destiny when Paul said that he wanted to die and to be with Christ, and when he said For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Moralia on Job, book 3, 15-16 (PL 75, 606-608),  from the Office of Readings for Thursday of the 9th week in Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

Gregory Nazianzen: Christ is the True Light that Lightens Every Man that Comes into the World Sunday, Jan 13 2013 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenThe Holy Day of the Lights…, which we are celebrating to-day, has for its origin the Baptism of my Christ.

He is the true Light that lightens every man that comes into the world, and effects my purification, and assists that light which we received from the beginning from Him from above, but which we darkened and confused by sin.

[…] “The Light shines in darkness”, in this life and in the flesh, and is chased by the darkness, “but is not overtaken by it”.

I mean, it is not overtaken by the adverse power which leaps up in its shamelessness against the visible Adam, but which encounters God and is defeated.

This happens so that we, putting away the darkness, may draw near to the Light, and may then become perfect Light, the children of perfect Light.

See the grace of this Day; see the power of this mystery.

[…] At His birth we duly kept festival, both I, the leader of the Feast, and you, and all that is in the world and above the world.

With the star we ran, and with the magi we worshipped, and with the shepherds we were illuminated, and with the angels we glorified Him.

With Symeon we took Him up in our arms, and with Anna the aged and chaste we made our responsive confession.

[…]  Now, we come to another action of Christ, and another mystery.  I cannot restrain my pleasure; I am rapt into God.

Almost like John I proclaim good tidings; for though I am not a Forerunner, yet am I from the desert.

Christ is illumined, let us shine forth with Him.  Christ is baptized, let us descend with Him that we may also ascend with Him.

[…] John baptizes, Jesus comes to Him…, perhaps to sanctify the Baptist himself, but certainly to bury the whole of the old Adam in the water.

And before this, and for the sake of this, He comes to sanctify Jordan; for as He is spirit and flesh, so He consecrates us by Spirit and water.

[…] But further—Jesus goeth up out of the water…, for with Himself He carries up the world….

He sees the heaven opened which Adam had shut against himself and all his posterity, as the gates of Paradise by the flaming sword.

And the Spirit bears witness to His Godhead, for he descends upon One that is like Him, as does the voice from heaven (for He to Whom the witness is borne came from thence).

He descends like a dove, for He honours the body (for this also was God, through its union with God) by being seen in a bodily form.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 39, 1-2; 14-16.

Nikolai Velimirovich: Walking in the Vanity of the Mind Saturday, Dec 1 2012 

StNikolaiVelimirovichThe gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart (Ephesians 4:17-18).

What is vanity, my brethren? All that is seen outside God, cut off from God and done without the fear of God. What is vanity of the mind, my brethren?

To live and interpret life, not by God’s law but rather by one’s own passing thoughts and desires. Whence, my brethren, does this evil come to men?

From hardness of heart and from inner ignorance. What does hardness of heart mean, brethren?

It means a heart empty of love for God and fear of God, and filled with lustfulness and fear of everything for the body’s sake.

Brethren, what is born of hardness of heart? Ignorance-complete ignorance of divine things, divine ways and divine laws; a heart completely dulled to spiritual life and spiritual thought.

What is the final consequence, brethren, of hardness of heart and ignorance of divine truth? A darkened understanding and alienation from the Living God.

Darkened understanding occurs when the mind of man becomes as darkened as the body, and the light that is in man becomes darkness.

Oh, such a darkness! A darkened understanding is a darkened mind. A darkened mind knows the meaning of nothing, or denies the meaning of everything.

In such a condition, a man is alienated from the life of God, and he withers and dies like a body part cut off from the body.

Such are the pagans, such are the godless, and such are those of little faith or false Christians. But even dry wood, when it is watered with the life-creating water of Christ, comes to life and bursts forth in greenery.

Even the dried-up pagan world was raised up and brought to life by Christ the Lord. How much more so would it be for repentant Christian sinners!

Let us look at ourselves, my brethren. Let us do so every day. Let us ask ourselves every day whether we have become darkened and alienated from the life of God because of our vanity.

Soon there will be death, the end and judgment. The dry wood will be cast into the unquenchable fire.

O Lord Jesus, our Mind and our Life, help us to think with Thee, and to live with Thee. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956; Orthodox Church): Prologue from Ohrid, November 30th.

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