Peter of Damascus: We ought all of us always to give thanks to God Friday, Nov 27 2015 

peter_of_damascusMen have four different attitudes towards sensible realities.

Some, like the demons, hate God’s works, and they commit evil deliberately.

Others, like the irrational animals, love these works because they are attractive, but their love is full of passion and they make no effort to acquire natural contemplation or to show gratitude.

Others, in a way that befits men, love God’s works in a natural manner, with spiritual knowledge and gratitude, and they use everything with self-control.

Finally, others, like the angels, love these works in a manner that is above and beyond nature, contemplating all things to the glory of God and making use of them only in so far as they are necessary for life, as St Paul puts it (cf. 1 Tim. 6:8).

We ought all of us always to give thanks to God for both the universal and the particular gifts of soul and body that He bestows on us.

The universal gifts consist of the four elements and all that comes into being through them, as well as all the marvelous works of God mentioned in the divine Scriptures.

The particular gifts consist of all that God has given to each individual.

These include wealth, so that one can perform acts of charity;

poverty, so that one can endure it with patience and gratitude;

authority, so that one can exercise righteous judgment and establish virtue;

obedience and service, so that one can more readily attain salvation of soul;

health, so that one can assist those in need and undertake work worthy of God;

sickness, so that one may earn the crown of patience;

spiritual knowledge and strength, so that one may acquire virtue;

weakness and ignorance, so that, turning one’s back on worldly things, one may be under obedience in stillness and humility;

unsought loss of goods and possessions, so that one may deliberately seek to be saved and may be helped when incapable of shedding all one’s possessions or even of giving alms;

ease and prosperity, so that one may voluntarily struggle and suffer to attain the virtues and thus become dispassionate and fit to save other souls;

trials and hardship, so that those who cannot eradicate their own will may be saved in spite of themselves, and those capable of joyful endurance may attain perfection.

All these things, even if they are opposed to each other, are nevertheless good when used correctly; but when misused, they are not good, but are harmful for both soul and body.

Better than them all, however, is the patient endurance of afflictions; and he who has been found worthy of this great gift should give thanks to God in that he has been all the more blessed.

For he has become an imitator of Christ, of His holy apostles, and of the martyrs and saints.

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. 171-172.

Tikhon of Zadonsk: Remember Your Unseen Benefactor Everywhere and Always with Love Wednesday, Feb 19 2014 

Tikhon_of_ZadonskTake care not to forget your Benefactor when you enjoy His benefactions, lest you appear ungrateful to Him; for forgetfulness of a benefactor is a clear sign of ingratitude.

God is your creator, deliverer, supreme benefactor, and good provider.

He created you just as He gives you every good thing, since without His goodness you could not live even for a minute.

You do not see your Benefactor with these eyes, but you see the benefits He has given you.

You see the sun, the moon and His stars which illumine you.

You see the fire that warms you and cooks your food.

You see the food which satisfies you, you see the clothing by which your naked body is covered.

You see all other countless blessings which He gave you for your needs and comfort.

Seeing, then, and receiving these benefits, remember your unseen Benefactor everywhere and always with love, and thank Him for all His benefits with a pure heart.

The greatest and highest of all His blessings is that by His good will Christ, His Only-Begotten Son, came to us and redeemed us by His precious Blood and suffering from the devil, hell, and death.

In this work He showed us His unspeakable goodness to us. We must, then, always gaze with faith upon this great work of God so incomprehensible to the mind, and remember God Who so loved us unworthy ones.

We must thank Him from our whole heart, worship Him, praise, hymn, and glorify Him with our heart and lips.

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David” (Lk. 1:68-69).

You, too, should always remember this great work of God and marvel at it, and thank God from your heart, and live as it pleases God, Who came into the world to save sinners, lest you offend Him with your ingratitude.

He desires to save you, since He came into the world for your sake, and suffered and died in His holy flesh. You should fulfil His holy will, then, and take care for the salvation of your soul with all diligence.

Be thankful to Him, and live in the world humbly, with love, meekly and patiently, as He Himself lived. He also desires the same of you.

Endeavor to please God with faith and obedience, that is, do what He desires and what is pleasing to Him, and do not do what He does not desire and what is not pleasing to Him. Without obedience, whatever a man may do is not pleasing to God.

Tikhon of Zadonsk (1724-1783; Russian Orthodox): extract @ Kandylaki  from Journey to Heaven: Counsels On the Particular Duties of Every Christian by Our Father Among the Saints, Tikhon of Zadonsk, Bishop of Voronezh and Elets (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2004) .

Isaac the Syrian: The ladder unto the kingdom is hidden within you and within your soul Tuesday, Jan 28 2014 

Isaac the Syrian 3January 28th is the feast of St Isaac the Syrian.

Gratefulness on the part of the recipient spurs on the giver to bestow gifts larger than before….

The sick one who is acquainted with his sickness is easily to be cured; and he who confesses his pain is near to health.

Many are the pains of the hard heart; and when the sick one resists the physician, his torments will be augmented.

There is no sin which cannot be pardoned except that one which lacks repentance, and there is no gift which is not augmented save that which remains without acknowledgement.

For the portion of the fool is small in his eyes.

Think constantly of those who are superior to you in excellence, so you may see yourself at all times as being less than they are.

And be aware at all times of the heavy troubles of those whose vexations are difficult and serious, so that you may become grateful for your own small ones and be able to bear them with joy.

When you are in a state of subjection and are languid and dejected, and thou art hound and fettered before your foe in mournful wretchedness and laborious service of sin, then recall to mind the previous times of firmness….

Then, by these and similar recollections, your soul will be aroused as from the depth and be clad with the flame of zeal; and it will rise from its immersion as if from the dead, and stretch itself and return to its former state, in hot strife against Satan and sin….

Be a persecutor of yourself; then your foe will be driven away from you. Be on peaceful terms with your soul; then heaven and earth will be on peaceful terms with you.

Be zealous to enter the treasury within you; then you will see that which is in heaven. For the former and the latter are one, and, entering, you will see both.

The ladder unto the Kingdom is hidden within you and within your soul.

Dive into yourself, freed from sin; there you wilt find steps along which you can ascend.

What the things of the world-to-be are, the scriptures do not explain. How we may acquire the faculty to perceive their delight even now, without change of nature or local transition, they teach us plainly.

Though they call these things by beloved names of glorious things which are delightful and esteemed by us, in order to spur us on, still by saying that “the eye has not seen, nor the ear heard” (1 Cor.2:9) and so on, they show us that the things-to-be are not equal to any of the present things, by their being incomprehensible.

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. 7-8 (slightly modified)

John of Kronstadt: Love calms and agreeably expands the heart and vivifies it Sunday, Dec 16 2012 

john_kronstadtOur soul is, so to say, a reflection of God’s countenance, and the brighter this reflection is, the clearer and calmer is the soul; and the less bright this reflection is, the darker, the more disturbed is the soul.

And as our soul is our heart it is necessary that every truth of God should be reflected in it through feeling, through gratitude, and that there should be no reflection in it of any lie.

Feel God’s love in the most pure mysteries, feel the truth of all prayers. Our heart is a mirror; as the objects of the outer world are reflected in an ordinary mirror, so ought the truth to be reflected with all exactitude in our hearts.

It is good, very good indeed, to be virtuous; the virtuous man is at peace himself, is pleasing to God and agreeable to other people.

The virtuous man involuntarily attracts everyone’s attention. Why is it so? Because fragrance involuntarily attracts attention and makes everyone wish to breathe it.

[…] Pay attention to his speech; from it there comes still greater fragrance: here you are as if face to face with his soul, and are enraptured with his sweet converse.

Love calms and agreeably expands the heart and vivifies it, whilst hatred painfully contracts and disturbs it.

Those who hate others torture and tyrannise over themselves; therefore they are the most foolish of the foolish ones.

[…] There are innumerable and various ways by means of which the Devil enters into our soul and removes it from God, pressing upon it with all his being, dark, hateful, and destroying.

[…]  Likewise there are innumerable and various ways for the Holy Ghost to enter it: the way of sincere faith, of true humility, of love to God and to our neighbour, and so on.

But, to our misfortune, the destroyer of men from time immemorial makes every effort to obstruct, by all possible means, all these ways for the Holy Ghost to enter the soul.

The most usual way to God for us sinners, who have strayed from Him into a far-away land, is the way of painful suffering and bitter tears.

Both the Holy Scriptures and actual experience testify that, in order to draw near to God, it is necessary for the sinner to suffer, weep, shed tears, and to amend his deceitful heart: “Draw nigh to God …. be afflicted, and mourn, and weep.”

Tears have power to cleanse the wickedness of our heart, and sufferings and affliction are necessary, because through suffering the sinful expansion of the heart is salutarily contracted, and when the heart is thus contracted, tears more easily flow.

John of Kronstadt (1829-1908; Russian Orthodox): My Life in Christ.

Irenaeus of Lyons: The Loving Kindness of God Thursday, Jun 28 2012 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonGod was long-suffering when man became a defaulter, foreseeing that victory which should be granted to him through the Word.

For, when strength was made perfect in weakness, it showed the kindness and transcendent power of God.

He patiently suffered Jonah to be swallowed by the whale not that he should be swallowed up and perish altogether.

Rather, He did this so that, having been cast out again, Jonah might be the more subject to God, and might glorify Him the more who had conferred upon him such an unhoped-for deliverance;

and that he might bring the Ninevites to a lasting repentance, so that they should be converted to the Lord, who would deliver them from death, having been struck with awe by that portent which had been wrought in Jonah’s case.

The Scripture says of them, “And they returned each from his evil way, and the unrighteousness which was in their hands, saying, Who knoweth if God will repent, and turn away His anger from us, and we shall not perish?

So also, from the beginning, did God permit man to be swallowed up by the great whale, who was the author of transgression.

He did so not that man should perish altogether when so engulfed, but He arranged and prepared the plan of salvation, which was accomplished by the Word, through the sign of Jonah.

[…] This was done that man, receiving an unhoped-for salvation from God, might rise from the dead, and glorify God, and repeat that word which was uttered in prophecy by Jonah:

“I cried by reason of mine affliction to the Lord my God, and He heard me out of the belly of hell.”

And it was done so that he might always continue glorifying God, and giving thanks without ceasing, for that salvation which he has derived from Him: “that no flesh should glory in the Lord’s presence.”

[…] For he Satan thus rendered man more ungrateful towards his Creator, obscured the love which God had towards man, and blinded his mind not to perceive what is worthy of God, comparing himself with, and judging himself equal to, God.

This, therefore, was the object of the long-suffering of God: that man,…learning by experience what is the source of his deliverance, may always live in a state of gratitude to the Lord, and that, having obtained from Him the gift of incorruptibility, he might love Him the more.

For “he to whom more is forgiven, loveth more,” and that he may know himself, how mortal and weak he is.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses, 3,20, 1-2.

John Ruusbroec: We Should Thank God Here on Earth that Hereafter We may Thank Him in Eternity Monday, Mar 14 2011 

Inward devotion often brings forth gratitude; for none can thank and praise God so well as the inward and devout man.

And it is just that we should thank and praise God, because He has created us as reasonable creatures, and has ordained and destined heaven and earth and the angels to our service;

and because He became man for our sins, and taught us, and lived for our sake, and showed us the way;

and because He has ministered to us in humble raiment, and suffered an ignominous death for the love of us, and promised us His eternal kingdom and Himself also for our reward and for our wage.

And He has spared us in our sins, and has forgiven us or will forgive us;

and has poured His grace and His love into our souls, and will dwell and remain with us, and in us, throughout eternity.

And He has visited us and will visit us all the days of our lives with His noble sacraments, according to the need of each;

and has left us His Flesh and His Blood for food and drink, according to the desire and the hunger of each;

and has set before us nature and the Scriptures and all creatures, as examples, and as a mirror, that therein we may look and learn how we may turn all our deeds to works of virtue;

and has given us health and strength and power, and sometimes for our own good has sent us sickness;

and in outward need has established inward peace and happiness in us;

[…] For all these things we should thank God here on earth, that hereafter we may thank Him in eternity.

We should also praise God by means of everything that we can offer to Him.

To praise God, means that all his life long a man glorifies, reverences and venerates the Divine Omnipotence.

The praise of God is the meet and proper work of the angels and the saints in heaven, and of loving men on earth.

God should be praised by desire, by the lifting up of all our powers, by words, by works, with body and with soul, and faith whatsoever one possesses; in humble service, from without and from within.

He who does not praise God while here on earth shall in eternity be dumb.

To praise God is the dearest and most joyous work of every loving heart; and the heart which is full of praise desires that every creature should praise God.

The praise of God has no end, for it is our bliss; and most justly shall we praise Him in eternity.

John Ruusbroec (1293-1381): The Spiritual Espousals, 2,13.