Gregory of Nyssa: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” Tuesday, Feb 16 2016 

Gregory_of_NyssaThe forgiveness of debts is a unique and special prerogative of God.

It was said: “No one can forgive sins but God alone” (Mk 2:7).

[…] A person obtains confidence in prayer by willingly imitating every conceivable attribute of God who is both kind and gentle, the source of all blessings and the dispenser of mercies to all.

It is not becoming that an evil person should enjoy intimacy with a good person, nor that a person who wallows in impure thoughts should have communion with one who is pure and undefiled.

In like manner, hardness of heart separates the supplicant from the love of God.

Whoever holds someone else in bitter bondage because of outstanding debts has by his own conduct excluded himself from divine love.

What communion can there be between love and cruelty, kindness and harshness, or any attribute and its opposite that is evil? Mutual opposition keeps them separated. For whoever is possessed by any particular attribute is necessarily estranged from its opposite.

Just as one who dies no longer lives, and the one who lives is estranged from death, so also he who approaches the love of God must necessarily be removed from every disposition of callousness.

Whoever is free of all those dispositions understood as being evil, he becomes in some way god by reason of his condition having achieved in himself what reason understands to be attributes of God.

Do you see to what greatness the Lord exalts those who hear Him through the words of the prayer? He transforms human nature in some way to be closer to the divine. He decrees that those who approach God should become gods.

Why do you come to God, He says, in a slavish manner, trembling in fear and plagued by your own conscience? Why do you exclude yourself from the confidence which coexists with the freedom of the soul from the beginning and which is intrinsic to the essence of your nature?

Why do you use flattery with Him who cannot be flattered? Why do you direct fawning and flattering words to the One who looks at deeds?

Every blessing that comes from God is permissible to you. You can possess it with a free spirit. Be your own judge. Cast the saving vote for yourself. Do you ask God to forgive your debts? Forgive the debts of others and God will cast his favorable ballot.

You yourself are the lord of judgment concerning your neighbor. This judgment, whatever it maybe, will bring an equal decision upon you. For whatever you decide to do, will be ratified by the divine judgment in your case, too.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): Fifth Homily on The Lord’s Prayer.

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John Cassian: “And forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors” Friday, Feb 12 2016 

Sf-IoanCasian“And forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.”

O unspeakable mercy of God,

which has given us a form of prayer

and taught us a system of life acceptable to Him,

and by the requirements of the form given, in which He charged us always to pray,

has torn up the roots of both anger and sorrow,

and also gives to those who pray an opportunity and reveals to them a way

by which they may move a merciful and kindly judgment of God to be pronounced over them

and which somehow gives us a power by which we can moderate the sentence of our Judge,

drawing Him to forgive our offences by the example of our forgiveness:

when we say to Him: “Forgive us as we also forgive.”

And so without anxiety and in confidence from this prayer a man may ask for pardon of his own offences, if he has been forgiving towards his own debtors, and not towards those of his Lord.

For some of us, which is very bad, are inclined to show ourselves calm and most merciful in regard to those things which are done to God’s detriment, however great the crimes may be,

but to be found most hard and inexorable exactors of debts to ourselves even in the case of the most trifling wrongs.

Whoever then does not from his heart forgive his brother who has offended him, by this prayer calls down upon himself not forgiveness but condemnation,

and by his own profession asks that he himself may be judged more severely, saying: Forgive me as I also have forgiven.

And if he is repaid according to his own request, what else will follow but that he will be punished after his own example with implacable wrath and a sentence that cannot be remitted?

And so if we want to be judged mercifully, we ought also to be merciful towards those who have sinned against us.

For only so much will be remitted to us, as we have remitted to those who have injured us however spitefully.

[…] For as He does not wish to be found harsh and inexorable towards them, He has marked out the manner of His judgment, that just as we desire to be judged by Him,

so we should also judge our brethren, if they have wronged us in anything, for “he shall have judgment without mercy who hath shown no mercy” (James 2:13).

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 9, 22 [slightly adapted].

John Climacus: You will heal yourself and your neighbour with one plaster Thursday, Feb 11 2016 

ClimacusSome girls do wrong without shame, and there are others who secretly and with apparently great modesty behave still worse than the former; and it is the same with shameful passions.

There are many insincere maidens, such as: hypocrisy, vice, melancholy, the remembrance of injuries, disparagement of others in one’s heart.

They appear to propose one thing, but they have something else in view.

I have heard people slandering, and I have rebuked them. And these doers of evil replied in self-defence that they were doing so out of love and care for the person whom they were slandering.

I said to them: ‘Stop that kind of love, otherwise you will be condemning as a liar him who said: “Him who secretly slanders his neighbour, him I drove away” (Palm 100:5).

If you say you love, then pray secretly, and do not mock the man. For this is the kind of love that is acceptable to the Lord.

But I will not hide this from you (and of course think about it, and do not judge the offender): Judas was in the company of Christ’s disciples, and the Robber was in the company of murderers. And what a reversal when the crisis came!’

He who wants to overcome the spirit of slander, should not ascribe the blame to the person who falls, but to the demon who suggests it. For no one really wants to sin against God, even though we do all sin without being forced to do so.

I have known a man who sinned openly and repented secretly. I condemned him as a profligate, but he was chaste before God, having propitiated Him by a genuine conversion.

Do not regard the feelings of a person who speaks to you about his neighbour disparagingly, but rather say to him: ‘Stop, brother! I fall into graver sins every day, so how can I criticize him?’

In this way you will achieve two things: you will heal yourself and your neighbour with one plaster. This is one of the shortest ways to the forgiveness of sins; I mean, not to judge. ‘Judge not, that you be not judged’ (Luke 6:37).

Fire and water are incompatible; and so is judging others in one who wants to repent. If you see someone falling into sin at the very moment of his death, even then do not judge him, because the Divine judgment is hidden from men.

Some have fallen openly into great sins, but they have done greater good deeds in secret; so their critics were tricked, getting smoke instead of the sun.

John Climacus (c.575-c.650): The Ladder of Divine Ascent, step 10 “on slander or calumny”, 3-8, translated by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore (Harper & Brothers, 1959) @ Prudence True.

Cyprian of Carthage: “If ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive you your trespasses” Monday, Dec 7 2015 

Saint-Cyprian-of-CarthageContinued from here….

Christ still more urgently sets forth in His precepts with yet greater power of His rebuke.

“When ye stand praying,” says He, “forgive if ye have aught against any, that your Father which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

“But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).

There remains no ground of excuse in the day of judgment, when you will be judged according to your own sentence; and whatever you have done, that you also will suffer.

For God commands us to be peacemakers, and in agreement, and of one mind in His house.

And such as He makes us by a second birth, such He wishes us when new-born to continue, that we who have begun to be sons of God may abide in God’s peace, and that, having one spirit, we should also have one heart and one mind.

Thus God does not receive the sacrifice of a person who is in disagreement, but commands him to go back from the altar and first be reconciled to his brother, that so God also may be appeased by the prayers of a peace-maker.

Our peace and brotherly agreement is the greater sacrifice to God—and a people united in one in the unity of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

For even in the sacrifices which Abel and Cain first offered, God looked not at their gifts, but at their hearts, so that he was acceptable in his gift who was acceptable in his heart.

Abel, peaceable and righteous in sacrificing in innocence to God, taught others also, when they bring their gift to the altar, thus to come with the fear of God, with a simple heart, with the law of righteousness, with the peace of concord.

With reason did he [Abel], who was such in respect of God’s sacrifice, become subsequently himself a sacrifice to God; so that he who first set forth martyrdom, and initiated the Lord’s passion by the glory of his blood, had both the Lord’s righteousness and His peace.

Finally, such as are crowned by the Lord, such will be avenged with the Lord in the day of judgment; but the quarrelsome and disunited, and he who has not peace with his brethren, in accordance with what the blessed apostle and the Holy Scripture testifies…, shall not be able to escape the crime of fraternal dissension.

Cyprian of Carthage (d.258): On The Lord’s Prayer, 23-24.

Cyprian of Carthage: “And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors” Wednesday, Sep 16 2015 

Saint-Cyprian-of-CarthageAnd forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors (Matthew 6:12).

After the supply of food, pardon of sin is also asked for, that he who is fed by God may live in God, and that not only the present and temporal life may be provided for, but the eternal also, to which we may come if our sins are forgiven.

And these the Lord calls debts, as He says in His Gospel, “I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me” (Matt. 18:32).

And how necessarily, how providently and salutarily, are we admonished that we are sinners, since we are compelled to entreat for our sins, and while pardon is asked for from God, the soul recalls its own consciousness of sin!

Lest anyone should flatter himself that he is innocent, and by exalting himself should more deeply perish, he is instructed and taught that he sins daily, in that he is bidden to entreat daily for his sins.

Thus, moreover, John also in his epistle warns us, and says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:8).

In his epistle he has combined both, that we should entreat for our sins, and that we should obtain pardon when we ask. Therefore he said that the Lord was faithful to forgive sins, keeping the faith of His promise; because He who taught us to pray for our debts and sins, has promised that His fatherly mercy and pardon shall follow.

He has clearly joined herewith and added the law, and has bound us by a certain condition and engagement, that we should ask that our debts be forgiven us in such a manner as we ourselves forgive our debtors, knowing that that which we seek for our sins cannot be obtained unless we ourselves have acted in a similar way in respect of our debtors.

Therefore also He says in another place, “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matt. 7:2). And the servant who, after having had all his debt forgiven him by his master, would not forgive his fellow-servant, is cast back into prison; because he would not forgive his fellow-servant, he lost the indulgence that had been shown to himself by his lord.

And these things Christ still more urgently sets forth in His precepts with yet greater power of His rebuke. “When ye stand praying,” says He, “forgive if ye have aught against any, that your Father which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).

Cyprian of Carthage (d.258): On The Lord’s Prayer, 22-23.

Silouan the Athonite: The Lord does not desire the death of a sinner, and on him who repents He bestows the grace of the Holy Spirit Wednesday, Jul 1 2015 

Silouan the AthoniteO all ye peoples of the earth, I fall on my knees to you, beseeching you with tears to come to Christ.

I know His love for you.  I know and therefore I cry to the whole world.

If one does not know a thing, how could one speak of it?

‘But how may I know God?’ you will ask.

And I say that we have seen the Lord by the Holy Spirit.

If you humble yourself, the Holy Spirit will show our Lord to you too; and you too will want to proclaim Him to all the world.

I am an old man awaiting death. I write the truth for love of God’s people over whom my soul grieves.

If I should help but a single soul to salvation, I will give thanks to God;

but my heart aches for the whole world, and I pray and shed tears for the whole world, that all may repent and know God and live in love, and delight in freedom in God.

O all ye peoples of the earth, pray and weep for your sins, that the Lord may forgive them.

Where there is forgiveness of sins there is freedom of conscience and love, even if but a little.

The Lord does not desire the death of a sinner, and on him who repents He bestows the grace of the Holy Spirit, which gives peace to the soul and freedom for the mind and heart to dwell in God.

When the Holy Spirit forgives us our sins we receive freedom to pray to God with an undistracted mind, and we can freely think on God and live serene and joyous in Him.

And this is true freedom. But without God there can be no freedom, for the enemy agitates the soul with evil thoughts.

O my brethren the world over, repent while there is still time. God mercifully awaits our repentance.

And all heaven and all the Saints look for our repentance.  As God is love, so the Holy Spirit in the Saints is love.

Ask, and the Lord will forgive. And when you receive forgiveness of sins there will be joy and gladness in your souls, and the grace of the Holy Spirit will enter into your souls, and you will cry:

‘This is true freedom. True freedom is in God and of God.’

The grace of God does not take away freedom, but merely helps man to fulfil God’s commandments.

Adam knew grace but he could still exercise his will. Thus too the angels abide in the Holy Spirit and yet are not deprived of free will.

Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938; Eastern Orthodox): from St. Silouan, Wisdom From Mount Athos – The Writings of Staretz Silouan 1866-1938, by Archimandrite Sophrony, trans. Rosemary Edmonds, (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY 1974) @ Kandylaki.

John Chrysostom: If God punishes, he does this not with wrath, but with tender care, and much loving-kindness Monday, Jun 22 2015 

John_ChrysostomAnd speak not to me of those who have committed small sins, but suppose the case of one who is filled full of all wickedness, and let him practice everything which excludes him from the kingdom.

[…] I will not approve even of this man despairing of himself, although he may have gone on to extreme old age in the practice of this great and unspeakable wickedness.

For if the wrath of God were a passion, one might well despair as being unable to quench the flame which he had kindled by so many evil doings.

But since the Divine nature is passionless, even if He punishes, even if He takes vengeance, he does this not with wrath, but with tender care, and much loving-kindness.

Therefore it behoves us to be of much good courage, and to trust in the power of repentance.

For even those who have sinned against Him He is not wont to visit with punishment for His own sake; for no harm can traverse that divine nature.

But He acts with a view to our advantage, and to prevent our perverseness becoming worse by our making a practice of despising and neglecting Him.

One who places himself outside the light inflicts no loss on the light, but inflicts the greatest loss upon himself being shut up in darkness.

He who has become accustomed to despise that almighty power does no injury to the power, but inflicts the greatest possible injury upon himself.

And for this reason God threatens us with punishments, and often inflicts them, not as avenging Himself, but by way of attracting us to Himself.

For a physician also is not distressed or vexed at the insults of those who are out of their minds, but yet does and contrives everything for the purpose of stopping those who do such unseemly acts, not looking to his own interests but to their profit.

And if they manifest some small degree of self-control and sobriety he rejoices and is glad, and applies his remedies much more earnestly, not as revenging himself upon them for their former conduct, but as wishing to increase their advantage, and to bring them back to a purely sound state of health.

Even so God when we fall into the very extremity of madness, says and does everything, not by way of avenging Himself on account of our former deeds; but because He wishes to release us from our disorder.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): An exhortation to Theodore after his fall, 1, 4 (slightly adapted).

Cyril of Jerusalem: God is loving to man, and loving in no small measure Saturday, Mar 28 2015 

Cyril-of-JerusalemGod is loving to man, and loving in no small measure.

Say not “I have committed fornication and adultery:  I have done dreadful things, and not once only, but often;  will He forgive?  Will He grant pardon?”

Hear what the Psalmist says:  How great is the multitude of Thy goodness, O Lord!

Thine accumulated offences surpass not the multitude of God’s mercies:  thy wounds surpass not the great Physician’s skill.

Only give thyself up in faith:  tell the Physician thine ailment.

Say thou also, like David:  I said, I will confess me my sin unto the Lord, and the same shall be done in thy case, which he says forthwith:  And thou forgavest the wickedness of my heart.

Wouldest thou see the loving-kindness of God, O thou that art lately come to the catechising?

Wouldest thou see the loving-kindness of God, and the abundance of His long-suffering?

Hear about Adam.  Adam, God’s first-formed man, transgressed:  could He not at once have brought death upon him?

But see what the Lord does, in His great love towards man.

He casts him out from Paradise, for because of sin he was unworthy to live there.

But He puts him to dwell over against Paradise,  so that seeing whence he had fallen, and from what and into what a state he was brought down, he might afterwards be saved by repentance.

Cain the first-born man became his brother’s murderer, the inventor of evils, the first author of murders, and the first envious man.

Yet after slaying his brother to what is he condemned?  Groaning and trembling shalt thou be upon the earth.  How great the offence, the sentence how light! Even this then was truly loving-kindness in God, but little as yet in comparison with what follows.

For consider what happened in the days of Noah.  The giants sinned, and much wickedness was then spread over the earth, and because of this the flood was to come upon them. And in the five hundredth year God utters His threatening; but in the six hundredth He brought the flood upon the earth.

Seest thou the breadth of God’s loving-kindness extending to a hundred years?  Could He not have done immediately what He did then after the hundred years?

But He extended (the time) on purpose, granting a respite for repentance.

Seest thou God’s goodness?  And if the men of that time had repented, they would not have missed the loving-kindness of God.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 2, 6-8.

Augustine of Hippo: Almsgiving and Forgiveness Thursday, Apr 10 2014 

St Augustine of AfricaBe particularly mindful of the poor, so that what you take from yourself by living sparingly you may lay away in heavenly treasures.

Let the needy Christ receive that of which the fasting Christian deprives himself.

Let the self-restraint of the willing soul be the sustenance of the one in need.

Let the voluntary neediness of the one possessing an abundance become the necessary abundance of the one in need.

Let there be a merciful readiness to forgive in a conciliatory and humble soul. Let him who has done wrong seek pardon and let him who suffered the wrong give pardon, so that we may not be possessed by Satan who gloats over the disagreements of Christians.

For this is a very profitable way of giving alms, namely, to cancel the debt of one’s fellow servant so that one’s own debt may be cancelled by the Lord.

The heavenly Master commended both deeds as good when He said: ‘Forgive, and you shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given to you’ (Luke 6:37-38).

Recall how that servant, whose entire debt had been cancelled by his master, received a double punishment because he did not show to a fellow servant owing him a hundred denarii the same mercy which he had received in regard to his debt of 10,000 talents (cf. Matthew 18:26-35).

In this kind of good work, where good will is the sole requisite, there is no excuse possible. Someone may say: ‘I cannot fast without upsetting my stomach.’

He may even say: ‘I wish to give to the poor, but I do not have the means to do so,’ or ‘I have so little that I run the risk of being in need myself if I give to others.’

Even in these matters men sometimes make false excuses for themselves, because they do not find true ones.

Nevertheless, who is there who would say: ‘I did not pardon the one seeking forgiveness from me because ill health prevented me,’ or ‘because I had not a hand with which to embrace him’?

Forgive, that you may be forgiven (cf. Luke 6:37). Here there is no work of the body; no member of the body is lifted up to help a soul, so that what is asked may be granted.

All is done by the will; all is accomplished by the will. Act without anxiety; give without anxiety. You will experience no physical indisposition; you will have nothing less in your home.

Now in truth, my brethren, see what an evil it is that he who has been commanded to love even his enemy does not pardon a penitent brother.

Since this is so and since it is written in the Scriptures; ‘Do not let the sun go down upon your anger’ (Ephesians 4:26), consider my dear brethren, whether he ought to be called a Christian who, at least in these days, does not wish to put an end to enmities which he should never have indulged.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Homily 210, 10,  from Saint Augustine: Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons, Homilies, translated by Sister Mary Sarah Muldowney, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 38), pp. 107-8.

Peter of Damascus: God’s Grace will Give Us Gentleness so that We Begin to Imitate Christ Tuesday, Apr 8 2014 

peter_of_damascusGod’s grace, our universal mother, will give us gentleness, so that we begin to imitate Christ.

This constitutes the third commandment; for the Lord says, ‘Blessed are the gentle” (Matt. 5:5).

Thus we become like a firmly-rooted rock, unshaken by the storms and tempests of life, always the same, whether rich or poor, in ease or hardship, in honor or dishonor.

In short, at every moment and whatever we do we will be aware that all things, whether sweet or bitter, pass away, and that this life is a path leading to the future life.

We will recognize that, whether we like it or not, what happens happens; to be upset about it is useless, and moreover deprives us of the crown of patience and shows us to be in revolt against the will of God.

For whatever God does is “wholly good and beautiful’ (Gen. 1:31), even if we are unaware of this. As the psalm puts it: ‘He will teach the gentle how to judge’ (Ps. 25: 9. LXX) or, rather, how to exercise discrimination.

Then, even if someone gets furious with us, we are not troubled; on the contrary, we are glad to have been given an opportunity to profit and to exercise our understanding, recognizing that we would not have been tried in this way were there not some cause for it.

Unwittingly or wittingly we must have offended God, or a brother, or someone else, and now we are being given a chance to receive forgiveness for this. For through patient endurance we may be granted forgiveness for many sins.

Moreover, if we do not forgive others their debts, the Father will not forgive us our debts (cf Matt. 6:14). Indeed, nothing leads more swiftly to the forgiveness of sins than this virtue or commandment: “Forgive, and you will be forgiven’ (cf. Matt. 6:14).

This, then, is what we realize when we imitate Christ, growing gentle through the grace of the commandment.

But we are distressed for our brother, because it was on account of our sins that this brother was tempted by the common enemy and so became a remedy for the healing of our weakness.

Every trial and temptation is permitted by God as a cure for some sick person’s soul. Indeed, such trials not only confer on us forgiveness of our past and present sins, but also act as a check on sins not yet committed.

[…] God, being self-sufficient and giving to each what is to his profit, does indeed deserve our thanks, since He patiently suffers both the devil and the wickedness of men, and yet bestows His blessings upon those who repent both before and after they sin.

Peter of Damascus (?12th Century): A Treasury of Divine Knowledge  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: 1979ff), pp. 94-96.

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