Diadochus of Photiké: Through peace of soul we must make ourselves a dwelling-place for the Holy Spirit Sunday, May 29 2016 

diadochus-of-photikeOnly the Holy Spirit can purify the intellect, for unless a greater power comes and overthrows the despoiler, what he has taken captive will never be set free (cf Luke 11:21-22).

In every way, therefore, and especially through peace of soul, we must make ourselves a dwelling-place for the Holy Spirit.

Then we shall have the lamp of spiritual knowledge burning always within us;

and when it is shining constantly in the inner shrine of the soul, not only will the intellect (Greek: ὁ νοῦς)** [see footnote] perceive all the dark and bitter attacks of the demons, but these attacks will be greatly weakened when exposed for what they are by that glorious and holy light.

That is why the Apostle says: ‘Do not quench the Spirit’ (1 Thess. 5:19), meaning: ‘Do not grieve the goodness of the Holy Spirit by wicked actions or wicked thoughts, lest you be deprived of this protecting light.’

The Spirit, since He is eternal and life-creating, cannot be quenched; but if He is grieved – that is if He withdraws – He leaves the intellect without the light of spiritual knowledge, dark and full of gloom.

The loving and Holy Spirit of God teaches us, as we have said, that the perceptive faculty natural to our soul is single; indeed, even the five bodily senses differ from each other only because of the body’s varying needs.

But this single faculty of perception is split because of the dislocation which, as a result of Adam’s disobedience, takes place in the intellect through the modes in which the soul now operates.

Thus one side of the soul is carried away by the passionate part in man, and we are then captivated by the good things of this life, but the other side of the soul frequently delights in the activity of the intellect and, as a result, when we practice self-restraint, the intellect longs to pursue heavenly beauty.

If, therefore, we learn persistently to be detached from the good things of this world, we shall be able to unite the earthly appetite of the soul to its spiritual and intellectual aspiration, through the communion of the Holy Spirit who brings this about within us.

For unless His divinity actively illumines the inner shrine of our heart, we shall not be able to taste God’s goodness with the perceptive faculty undivided, that is, with unified aspiration.

Diadochus of Photiké (c.400-before 486): On Spiritual Perfection chs 28-29, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979).

**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from Diadochus and by other Greek authors: INTELLECT (nous): the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St Diadochos). The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Macarian Homilies).

Advertisements

Gregory the Great: The fowls of the air Thursday, Apr 21 2016 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistWhence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air (Job 28:20-21).

In Holy Scripture ‘birds’ are sometimes given to be understood in a bad sense, and sometimes in a good sense.

Since by ‘the birds of the air’ occasionally the powers of the air are denoted, being hostile to the settled purposes of good men.

Whence it is said by the mouth of Truth, And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it (Matt. 13:4); in this way, because evil spirits besetting the minds of men, whilst they bring in bad thoughts, pluck the word of life out of the memory.

Hence again it is said to a certain rich man full of proud thoughts; the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head (Matt. 8:20l Luke 9:58).

For foxes are very cunning animals, that hide themselves in ditches and caves; and when they face the light, they never run in straight courses, but always by crooked doublings. But the birds as we know with lofty flight lift themselves into the air.

So, then, by the name of ‘foxes,’ the crafty and cunning demons, and by the title of the ‘birds of the air’ these same proud demons are denoted.

As if he said, ‘The deceitful and uplifted demons find their habitation in your heart; i.e. in the imagination of pride,’ ‘but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head,’ i.e. ‘My humility findeth not rest in your proud mind.’

For as by a kind of flight that first bird lifted itself up, which said in the uplifted imagination of the heart; I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the North.  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.  I will be like the Most High (Is. 14:13).

Mark how he in flying sought the regions on high with pride.  This same flight also he recommended to the first of human kind [Adam and Eve] as well.  For they themselves by flying as it were tried to go above their own selves, when it was told them that they should taste and be like gods.

And while they seek after the likeness of the Deity, they lost the blessings of immortality, which same would not by dying have gone into the earth, if they had been willing to stand with humility upon the earth.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 19, 2 (on Job 28:20-21) @ Lectionary Central.

Basil the Great: “But the counsel of the Lord standeth for ever; the thoughts of his heart to all generations” Saturday, Nov 7 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great‘The Lord bringeth to nought the counsels of nations; and he rejecteth the devices of people’ (Psalm 32:10).

God created those who believe in Him in consequence of His bringing to nought the foolish counsels which the people held about idolatry and all vanity, and in consequence of His rejection of the counsels of princes.

And it is possible to refer these things to the time of His passion when they thought that they were crucifying the King of Glory, but He through the economy of the Cross was renewing humanity.

For, in the Resurrection, the counsel of nations, of Pilate and his soldiers, and of whoever was active in the matter of the Cross, was brought to nought; the counsels of the princes were rejected, and also those of the high priests and scribes and kings of the people.

In fact, the Resurrection destroyed their every device. If you will read the things in each history which God did to the faithless nations, you will find that the statement has much force even according to our corporeal intelligence.

[…] ‘But the counsel of the Lord standeth for ever: the thoughts of his heart to all generations’ (Psalm 3:11).

Do you not see the teachings of the nations, this empty philosophy, how subtle and farfetched they are concerning the inventions of their teachings, both in the rational speculations and in the moral injunctions, and in certain natural sciences and the other so-called esoteric teachings?

How all things have been scattered and rendered useless, and the truths of the Gospel alone now hold place in the world?

For, many are the counsels in the hearts of men, but the counsel of the Lord has prevailed. And it is necessary, at least if the counsel from God is to remain in our souls firm and steadfast, for the human thoughts which we formerly held, first to be rejected.

Just as he who intends to write on wax, first smooths it down and thus puts on whatever forms he wishes, so also the heart which is to admit clearly the divine words must be made clean of the opposite thoughts.

‘The thoughts of his heart to all generations’. Since, then, there are two chosen peoples, and two testaments were given to them according to the saying ‘The thoughts of his heart to all generations (eis genean kai genein),’ since ‘generation’ is named twice, there can be understood also two thoughts, the one, according to which we received the previous testament, but the second, bestowing upon us the new and saving teaching of Christ.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15 (on Psalm 32[33]), 6-7,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 239-241.

John of Kronstadt: Jesus Christ is the consolation, the joy, the life, the peace and the breadth of our hearts Monday, Oct 19 2015 

john_kronstadtObserve the difference between the presence of the life-giving spirit and the presence of the spirit that deadens and destroys your soul.

When there are good thoughts in your soul you feel happy and at ease;

when peace and joy are in your heart, then the spirit of good, the Holy Ghost, is within you;

whilst when evil thoughts or evil motions of the heart arise within you, you feel ill at ease and oppressed;

when you are inwardly troubled, then the spirit of evil, the crafty spirit, is within you.

When the spirit of evil is in us, then, together with oppression of heart and disturbance, we generally feel a difficulty in drawing near to God in our heart, because the evil spirit binds our soul, and will not let it raise itself to God.

The evil spirit is a spirit of doubt, unbelief–of passions, oppression, grief and disturbance; whilst the spirit of good is one of undoubting faith, of virtue, of spiritual freedom and breadth–a spirit of peace and joy.

Know by these tokens when the Spirit of God is within you, and when the spirit of evil, and, as often as possible, raise your grateful heart to the most Holy Spirit that gives you life and light, and flee with all your power from doubt, unbelief, and the passions through which the evil serpent, the thief and destroyer of our souls, creeps in.

Sometimes in the lives of pious Christians there are hours when God seems to have entirely abandoned them–hours of the power of darkness; and then the man from the depths of his heart cries unto God:

“Why hast Thou turned Thy face from me, Thou everlasting Light? For a strange darkness has covered me…. Turn me, O Saviour, to the light of Thy commandments and make straight my spiritual way, I fervently pray Thee.”

If you do not yourself experience the action of the wiles of the evil spirit, you will not know, and will not appreciate and value as you ought, the benefits bestowed upon you by the Holy Spirit: not knowing the spirit that destroys, you will not know the Spirit that gives life.

Only by means of direct contrasts of good and evil, of life and death, can we clearly know the one and the other: if you are not subjected to distresses and dangers of bodily or spiritual death, you will not truly know the Saviour, the Life-Giver, who delivers us from these distresses and from spiritual death.

Jesus Christ is the consolation, the joy, the life, the peace and the breadth of our hearts!

John of Kronstadt (1829-1908; Russian Orthodox): My Life in Christ, part 1, pp.37-38.

Isaac the Syrian: And as soon as man has become humble, mercy will surround and envelop him Tuesday, Oct 6 2015 

Isaac_the_SyrianBlessed is the man who knows his weakness.

This knowledge becomes for him the foundation and the beginning of his coming unto all good and beautiful things.

When a man knows and perceives that he really and in truth is weak, then he restrains his soul from profuseness which is dissipation of knowledge and he will augment the watchfulness of his soul.

Unless a man has been remiss in some small thing, and a slight negligence has appeared in him, and tempters have surrounded him either with temptations that arouse bodily affections or with temptations which stir the affectable power of the soul, he cannot perceive his own weakness.

Then, however, he recognizes the greatness of God’s help by comparing it with his own weakness.

Thus if he sees that his heart does not rest from fear…, he understands and knows that this whole impulse of his heart denotes some other thing which is lacking and which is very necessary to him, viz. that he needs other help.

For the heart testifies to this within, by the fear that moves in it, denoting the lack of something. And therefore he cannot remain in confidence. For the help of God is necessary for deliverance.

When he knows that he needs divine help, he will frequently pray. And by much beseeching the heart becomes humble, for there is no man who is needy and asking, without being humble. And God will not despise a broken and contrite heart!

Until the heart has become humble, it will not rest from distraction. Humility restrains the heart. And as soon as man has become humble, mercy will surround and envelop him. And when mercy draws near, the heart will perceive help at once, because some confidence and force will also move in it.

When it perceives that divine help approach unto it and that He is its support and its helper, then the heart will be filled with faith at once.

Then it will see and understand that prayer is the port of help, the fountain of salvation, the treasure of confidence, the sheet-anchor amidst the storms, the light in the darkness, the stick of the weak, the shelter at the time of temptations, the medicine at the time of illness, the shield of protection in the battle, the sharp arrow against the enemies.

And because by prayer he has found the entrance unto all this good, he will delight in prayer of faith for ever more, while his heart exults in confidence, not blindly and with words only, as it had been till then.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Mystic Treatises, 8, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck, pp. 70-72.

Tikhon of Zadonsk: God is everywhere and in every place, and the doors to Him are always open Wednesday, Jul 15 2015 

Tikhon_of_ZadonskLiving faith is inspired in the human heart by contemplation of the word of God and by the Holy Spirit.

For this reason we should read and heed the word of God and pray that God Himself ignite the lamp of faith in our heart.

The fear of God arises most often from contemplation of the omnipresence of God and His omniscience.

God is in essence everywhere present; and wherever we may be, He is with us; and whatever we may do, say, think, and undertake, we do, say, think, and undertake all before His holy eyes.

And He knows our deeds far better than we do ourselves. Think about this, O Christian, and heed it, and with God’s help the fear of God will be born in you.

[…] Keep God, then, before your spiritual eyes and you will have the fear of God, imitating the Psalmist, “I beheld the Lord ever before me” (Ps. 15:8).

[…] While standing in church attend diligently to the reading and singing. This gives birth to compunction, true prayer, heartfelt singing and thanksgiving.

Avoid, then, standing bodily in church while wandering outside the church in mind, and standing bodily before God while wandering about in spirit in worldly affairs, lest that saying be applied to you, “his people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me” (Mt. 15:8).

While standing bodily in church, then, stand with heart and spirit as you stand before God. When you look upon the icons of the saints, call to mind that One is the Creator that created them and you, and that His purpose was the same for them as it is for you, that is, to save both them and you.

They are glorified, and before you lies the same glory, only imitate their lives and you shall be saved.

Prayer consists not only in standing and bowing before God in body, and in reading written prayers, but even without that it is possible to pray in mind and spirit at all times and in everyplace.

You can do it while walking, sitting, reclining, among people, and in solitude. Raise up your mind and heart to God, and so beg mercy and help from Him.

For God is everywhere and in every place, and the doors to Him are always open, and it is easy to approach Him, not as with man.

And we can approach Him with faith and with our prayer everywhere and at all times, and in every need and circumstance. We can say to Him mentally at any time, “Lord, have mercy, Lord help!” and so on.

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) .

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

St-Gregory-the-Dialogist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basil the Great: “Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright” Wednesday, Jul 8 2015 

St-Basil-the-GreatRejoice in the Lord, O ye just; praise becometh the upright (Ps. 32:1).

The voice of exultation is familar in the Scripture, betokening a very bright and happy state of soul in those deserving of happiness.

‘Rejoice,’ therefore, ‘in the Lord, O ye just,’ not when the interests of your home are flourishing, not when you are in good health of body, not when your fields are filled with all sorts of fruits, but, when you have the Lord – such immeasurable Beauty, Goodness, Wisdom.

Let the joy that is in Him suffice for you. He who exults with joy and happiness in anything that is much desired, seems thus to rejoice in Him.

Therefore, Scripture urges the just to be aware of their dignity, because they have been considered worthy to be the servants of so great a Master, and to glory in His service with inexpressible joy and exultation, since the heart is, as it were, bounding with ecstasy of love of the good.

If at any time a light, for example, falling upon your heart, produced a continuous thought of God and illumined your soul, so that you loved God and despised the world and all things corporeal, understand from that faint and brief resemblance the whole state of the just, who are enjoying God steadily and uninterruptedly.

At some rare times by the dispensation of God that transport of joy seizes you in order that through a little taste He may remind you of what you have been deprived. But, for the just man the divine and heavenly joy is lasting, since the Holy Spirit dwells in him once for all.

‘But the firstfruit of the Spirit is: charity, joy, peace’ (Gal. 5:22). Therefore, ‘rejoice in the Lord, O ye just.’ The Lord is like a place capable of containing the just, and there is every reason for one who is in Him to be delighted and to make merry.

Moreover, the just man becomes a place for the Lord, when he receives Him in himself. He who sins gives place to the devil, taking no heed of him who said: ‘Do not give place to the devil’ (Eph. 4:27), nor to Ecclesiastes, ‘If the spirit of him that hath power, ascend upon thee, leave not thy place’ (Eccles. 10:4).

Let us, then, who are in the Lord and who, as much as we are able, observe closely His wonders, so draw joy to our hearts from the contemplation of them.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15 (on Psalm 32[33]), 1,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 227-228.

Isaac the Syrian: The beginning of the impulse of life Wednesday, Jun 3 2015 

Isaac the Syrian 3The first emotion that befalls a man by divine grace and draws the soul towards life strikes the heart with thought concerning the transitory character of this earthly nature.

This thought is naturally connected with contempt of the world. And then begin all the beautiful emotions which educate unto life.

That divine power which accompanies man makes as it were a foundation in him, which desires to reveal life in him.

As to this emotion which I mentioned, if a man does not extinguish it by clinging to the things of this world and to idle intercourse, and if he makes this emotion increase in his soul by perpetual concentration and by gazing at himself, he will bring himself near to that which no tongue is able to tell.

This thought is greatly hated by Satan and he strives with all his power to eradicate it from man.

And if he were able to give him the kingdom of the whole earth in order to efface by thought of it from his mind this deliberation, he would not do otherwise.

For Satan knows that if this recollection remains with him, his mind will no longer stay in this world of error, and his means will not reach man.

This sight is clad with fiery emotions and he that has caught it will no longer contemplate the world nor remain with the body.

Verily, my beloved, if God should grant this veracious sight unto the children of man for a short time, the course of the world would stand still.

It is a bond before which nature cannot stand upright. And he unto whim this intercourse with his soul is given — verily, it is a gift from God, stronger than all partial workings, which in this middle state are presented unto those who with an upright heart desire repentance.

It is especially given to him of whom God knows that he is worthy of the real transition from this world unto profitable life, because He finds good will in him.

It will increase and remain with a man through his dwelling alone by himself. Let us ask this gift in prayer; and for the sake of this gift let us make long vigils.

And as it is a gift without equal, let us keep watch with tears at the gate of our Lord, that He may give it us. Further we need not weary ourselves with the trouble of this world.

This is the beginning of the impulse of life, which will fully bring about in a man the perfection of righteousness.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Mystic Treatises, 47, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck, pp.225-226.

Macarius the Egyptian: A man goes in to bend the knee… Monday, Jun 1 2015 

Macarius3A man goes in to bend the knee, and his heart is filled with the divine influence,

and his soul rejoices with the Lord, like bride with bridegroom, according to that word of the prophet Esaias which says

As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall the Lord rejoice over thee (Isaiah 62:5),

and it comes to pass that being all day engaged he gives himself to prayer for an hour,

and the inward man is rapt in prayer into the unfathomable deep of that other world in great sweetness, so that his whole mind is up aloft, rapt away thither, and estranged from things below.

For the time being forgetfulness comes into him with regard to the interests of the earthly mind, because his thoughts are filled and taken captive to divine and heavenly things,

–to things infinite and past comprehension, to wonderful things which no human lips can express, so that for that hour he prays and says, “Would God that my soul might pass along with my prayer!”

Question. Can anyone enter into these things at all times?

Answer. Grace is constantly present, and is rooted in us, and worked into us like leaven, from our earliest years, until the thing thus present becomes fixed in a man like a natural endowment, as if it were one substance with him.

But, for the man’s own good, it manages him in many different ways, after its own pleasure.

Sometimes the fire flames out and kindles more vehemently; at other times more gently and mildly.

The light that it gives kindles up at times and shines with unusual brightness; at others it abates and burns low.

The lamp is always burning and shining, but when it is specially trimmed, it kindles up with intoxication of the love of God; and then again by God’s dispensation it gives in, and though the light is always there, it is comparatively dull.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 8, 1-2 @ Pravoslavie.

Next Page »