Albert the Great: “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you” Thursday, Nov 19 2015 

Albertus_Magnus_Painting_by_Joos_van_GentThere, in the presence of Jesus Christ, with everything, in general and individually, excluded and wiped out, the mind alone turns in security confidently to the Lord its God with its desire.

In this way it pours itself forth into him in full sincerity with its whole heart and the yearning of its love, in the most inward part of all its faculties, and is plunged, enlarged, set on fire and dissolved into him.

Certainly, anyone who desires and aims to arrive at and remain in such a state must needs above all have eyes and senses closed and not be inwardly involved or worried about anything.

He should not be  concerned or occupied with anything, but should completely reject all such things as irrelevant, harmful and dangerous.

Then he should withdraw himself totally within himself and not pay any attention to any object entering the mind except Jesus Christ, the wounded one, alone.

And so he should turn his attention with care and determination through him into him – that is, through the man into God, through the wounds of his humanity into the inmost reality of his divinity.

Here he can commit himself and all that he has, individually and as a whole, promptly, securely and without discussion, to God’s unwearying providence, in accordance with the words of Peter, cast all your care upon him (1 Peter 5.7), who can do everything.

And again, In nothing be anxious (Philippians 4.6), or what is more, Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you (Psalm 55.22).

[…]  The bride too in the Song of Songs says, I have found him whom my soul loves, (Canticle 3.4) and again, All good things came to me along with her (Wisdom 7.11).

This, after all, is the hidden heavenly treasure, none other than the pearl of great price, which must be sought with resolution, esteeming it in humble faithfulness, eager diligence, and calm silence before all things, and preferring it even above physical comfort, or honour and renown.

For what good does it do a religious if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his soul? Or what is the benefit of his state of life, the holiness of his profession, the virtue of his habit and tonsure, or the outer circumstances of his way of life if he is without a life of spiritual humility and truth in which Christ abides through a faith created by love.

This is what Luke means by, the Kingdom of God (that is, Jesus Christ) is within you (Luke 17.21).

Albert the Great (1193/1206–1280) [attributed]: On Cleaving to God, 1 & 2.

Sulpicius Severus: His mind was always bent upon the things of heaven Wednesday, Nov 11 2015 

Martin-of-Tours_by-Aidan-HartFeast of St Martin of Tours.

Although his outward deeds could in some sort of way be set forth in words, no language, I truly own, can ever be capable of describing his inner life and daily conduct, and his mind always bent upon the things of heaven.

No one can adequately make known his perseverance and self-mastery in abstinence and fastings, or his power in watchings and prayers, along with the nights, as well as days, which were spent by him, while not a moment was separated from the service of God, either for indulging in ease, or engaging in business.

But, in fact, he did not indulge either in food or sleep, except in so far as the necessities of nature required.

I freely confess that, if, as the saying is, Homer himself were to ascend from the shades below, he could not do justice to this subject in words; to such an extent did all excellences surpass in Martin the possibility of being embodied in language.

Never did a single hour or moment pass in which he was not either actually engaged in prayer; or, if it happened that he was occupied with something else, still he never let his mind loose from prayer.

In truth, just as it is the custom of blacksmiths in the midst of their work to beat their own anvil as a sort of relief to the laborer, so Martin even when he appeared to be doing something else, was still engaged in prayer.

O truly blessed man in whom there was no guile — judging no man, condemning no man, returning evil for evil to no man!

He displayed indeed such marvelous patience in the endurance of injuries, that even when he was chief priest, he allowed himself to be wronged by the lowest clerics with impunity; nor did he either remove them from the office on account of such conduct, or, as far as in him lay, repel them from a place in his affection.

No one ever saw him enraged, or excited, or lamenting, or laughing; he was always one and the same: displaying a kind of heavenly happiness in his countenance, he seemed to have passed the ordinary limits of human nature.

Never was there any word on his lips but Christ, and never was there a feeling in his heart except piety, peace, and tender mercy.

Frequently, too, he used to weep for the sins of those who showed themselves his revilers— those who, as he led his retired and tranquil life, slandered him with poisoned tongue and a viper’s mouth.

Sulpicius Severus (c.363-425): On the Life of St Martin, 26-27. Icon of St Martin by the hand of Aidan Hart.

John Chrysostom: “Reflecting the Lord’s Glory, We are Refashioned to His Likeness” Sunday, Mar 16 2014 

John_ChrysostomWhat does it mean, to say (as Saint Paul does) that: Reflecting the Lord’s glory, we are refashioned transformed to his likeness (2 Corinthians 3;18)?

This was clearer in evidence when the grace of miracles was actively at work; but it is not hard to see even now, for anyone with the eyes of faith.

For on receiving baptism the soul shines brighter than the sun, being purified by the Holy Spirit; and not only do we behold God’s glory, but from it we receive a certain gleam ourselves.

Just as bright silver, when struck by beams of light, can send out beams in its turn, not simply of its own nature but from the sun’s brilliance, so also the soul, once purified and become brighter than silver, receives a beam from the glory of the Holy Spirit and sends that on.

That is why he says, Reflecting, we are refashioned he same pattern from – or of, or by – his glory, that of the Holy Spirit, into a glory, our own, which is contingent, modelled on the Spirit of the Lord.

See how he calls the Spirit “Lord,” or “Master.” He it is who transforms us, who does not permit us to conform to this world, the maker and first cause of creation as he is. As he says: You have been established in Christ Jesus.

This can be explained in more concrete terms from the apostles. We think of St. Paul, whose very clothes were activated; of St. Peter, whose very shadow had power.

That could never have been, if they had not borne the king’s likeness; if they had not had something of his unapproachable brightness – so much, it appears, that their clothes and their shadows worked wonders.

See how that brightness shines through their bodies! Gazing on the face of Stephen, he says, they seemed to see the face of an angel.

But that was nothing to the glory shining like lightning within. What Moses bore on his face, they carried in their souls, but to a much higher degree.

The mark on Moses was more tangible; but this was incorporeal. Dimly glowing bodies catch fire from brighter ones close by and pass on to others their own incandescence.

All that resembles what happens to the faithful. In this way they detach themselves from the world and have their converse only in the things of heaven.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407):  From a Homily by Saint John Chrysostom on 2 Corinthians 3 @ Dom Donald’s Blog.

A Greek Writer of the Fourth Century: Filled through the Holy Spirit to the Complete Fullness of Christ Monday, Feb 10 2014 

Fathers_of_the_ChurchThose who have been found worthy to become children of God and also to be born again through the Holy Spirit, those who carry Christ within them, shining within them and renewing them – these people are guided by the Spirit in various ways and led forward by grace working invisibly in the inner peace of their hearts.

Sometimes they are, as it were, in mourning and lamentation for the whole human race.

They utter prayers for all mankind and fall back in tears and lamentation. They are on fire with spiritual love for all humanity.

Sometimes they burn, through the Spirit, with such love and exultation that they would embrace all mankind if they could, without discrimination, good and bad alike.

Sometimes they are cast down by humility, down below the least of men, as they consider themselves to be in the lowest, the most abject of conditions.

Sometimes the Spirit keeps them in a state of inextinguishable and unspeakable gladness.

Sometimes they are like some champion who puts on a full suit of royal armour and plunges into battle, combats his enemies fiercely and at length vanquishes them.

For in the same way the spiritual champion, wearing the heavenly armour of the Spirit, attacks his enemies and, winning the battle, treads them underfoot.

Sometimes their soul is in the deepest silence, stillness and peace, experiencing nothing but spiritual delight and ineffable power: the best of all possible states.

Sometimes their soul is in a state of understanding and boundless wisdom and attention to the inscrutable Spirit, taught by grace things that neither tongue nor lips can describe.

And sometimes their soul is in a state just like anyone else’s.  Thus grace is poured into them in different ways, and by different paths it leads the soul, renewing it according to God’s will.

It guides it by various paths until it is made whole, sinless and stainless before the heavenly Father.

Therefore let us pray to God, pray with great love and hope, that he may give us the heavenly grace of the Spirit.

Let us pray that the Spirit may guide us and lead us, following God’s will in every way, and may re-make us in stillness and in quiet.

Thanks to his guidance and spiritual strengthening, may we be found worthy to attain the perfection and fullness of Christ.

As St Paul says: that you may be filled to the complete fullness of Christ.

Anonymous Greek Writer (4th Century): Homily 18, 7-11 (PG 34, 639-642), from the Office of Readings for Friday of the 4th Week in Ordinary Time @ Universalis.

John of Karpathos: Let the fire of your prayer burn always on the altar of your soul Tuesday, Oct 22 2013 

johnkarpathosSo as not to be deceived and carried away by the vain and empty things that the senses bring before us, we should listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah:

‘Come, my people, enter into your inner room’ — the shrine of your heart, which is closed to every conception derived from the sensible world, that image-free dwelling-place illumined by dispassion and the overshadowing of God’s grace;

‘shut your door’ — to all things visible;

‘hide yourself for a brief moment’ — the whole of man’s life is but a moment;

‘until the Lord’s anger has passed by’ (Isa.26:20 LXX); or, as the Psalms put it, ‘until iniquity has passed’ (Ps. 57:1).

This anger of the Lord and this iniquity may be caused by demons, passions and sins; as Isaiah says to God, ‘Behold, Thou art angry, for we have sinned’ (Isa.64:5).

A man escapes this anger by keeping his attention fixed continually within his heart during prayer, and by striving to remain within his inner sanctuary.

As it is written, ‘Draw wisdom into your innermost self’ (Job 28:18 LXX); ‘all the glory of the king’s daughter is within’ (Ps. 45:13 LXX).

Let us, then, continue to struggle until we enter the holy place of God, ‘the mountain of Thine inheritance, the dwelling, O Lord, which Thou hast made ready, the sanctuary which Thy hands have prepared’ (Exod. 15:17).

[…] Once you have realized that the Amorite within you is ‘as strong as an oak’, you should pray fervently to the Lord to dry up ‘his fruit from above’ — that is, your sinful actions, and ‘his roots from beneath’ — that is, your impure thoughts.

Ask the Lord in this way to ‘destroy the Amorite from before your face’ (Amos 2:9 LXX).

[…] When there is no wind blowing at sea, there are no waves; and when no demon dwells within us, our soul and body are not troubled by the passions.

If you always feel the warmth of prayer and divine grace you may apply to yourself the words of Scripture: you have ‘put on the armour of light’ (Rom. 13:12) and ‘your garments are warm’ (Job 37:17). But  your enemies are ‘clothed with shame’ (Ps. 109:29) and with the darkness of hell.

When recalling your sins, do not hesitate to beat your breast. With these blows you will dig into your hardened heart and discover within it the gold-mine of the publican (cf. Luke 18:13); and this hidden wealth will bring you great joy.

Let the fire of your prayer, ascending  upwards as you meditate on the oracles of the Spirit, burn always on the altar of your soul.

John of Karpathos (7th century): For the Encouragement of the Monks in India, 91, 93, 95-98, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, P. Sherrard, and K. Ware, The Philokalia, vol. 1 (Faber and Faber, London & Boston: 1979 @ J B Burnett.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gregory of Sinai: Calling on the Name of Jesus Friday, Aug 30 2013 

Gregory of SinaiNo one can master the intellect [nous]** unless he himself is mastered by the Spirit.

For the intellect is uncontrollable, not because it is by nature ever-active, but because through our continual remissness it has been given over to distraction and has become used to that.

When we violated the commandments of Him who in baptism regenerates us we separated ourselves from God and lost our conscious awareness of Him and our union with Him.

Sundered from that union and estranged from God, the intellect is led captive everywhere; and it cannot regain its stability unless it submits to God and is stilled by Him, joyfully uniting with Him through unceasing and diligent prayer and through noetically confessing all our lapses to Him each day.

God immediately forgives everything to those who ask forgiveness in a spirit of humility and contrition and who ceaselessly invoke His holy name. As the Psalmist says, “Confess to the Lord and call upon His holy name” (Psalms 105:1).

Holding the breath also helps to stabilize the intellect, but only temporarily, for after a little it lapses into distraction again. But when prayer is activated, then it really does keep the intellect in its presence, and it gladdens it and frees it from captivity.

But it may sometimes happen that the intellect, rooted in the heart, is praying, yet the mind wanders and gives its attention to other things; for the mind is brought under control only in those who have been made perfect by the Holy Spirit and who have attained a state of total concentration upon Christ Jesus.

In the case of a beginner in the art of spiritual warfare, God alone can expel thoughts, for it is only those strong in such warfare who are in a position to wrestle with them and banish them. Yet even they do not achieve this by themselves, but they fight against them with God’s assistance, clothed in the armor of His grace.

So when thoughts invade you, in place of weapons call on the Lord Jesus frequently and persistently and then they will retreat; for they cannot bear the warmth produced in the heart by prayer and they flee as if scorched by fire.

St. John Climacus tells us, “Lash your enemies with the name of Jesus,” because God is a fire that cauterizes wickedness (Deuteronomy 4:24 and Hebrews 12:29). The Lord is prompt to help, and will speedily come to the defense of those who wholeheartedly call on Him day and night (Luke 18:7).

Gregory of Sinai (1260s–1346): On Prayer, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 4 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 276-278.

**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from Gregory 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).

John of Karpathos: You have barbarian cave-dwellers living within you Tuesday, Aug 27 2013 

johnkarpathosDo all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should not fall.

But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest.

Even if you fall a thousand times because of the withdrawal of God’s grace, rise up again each time, and keep on doing so until the day of your death.

For it is written, ‘If a righteous man falls seven times’ — that is, repeatedly throughout his life — seven times shall he rise again’ (Prov. 24:16, LXX).

[…] It is more serious to lose hope than to sin.

The traitor Judas was a defeatist, inexperienced in spiritual warfare; as a result he was reduced to despair by the enemy’s onslaught, and he went and hanged himself.

Peter, on the other hand, was a firm rock: although brought down by a terrible fall, yet because of his experience in spiritual warfare he was not broken by despair, but leaping up he shed bitter tears from a contrite and humiliated heart.

And as soon as our enemy saw them, he recoiled as if his eyes had been burnt by searing flames, and he took to flight howling and lamenting.

[…] There was once a king of Israel who subdued cave-dwellers and other barbarian tribes by using the psalms and music of David.

You, too, have barbarian cave-dwellers living within you: the demons who have gained admittance to your senses and limbs, who torment and inflame your flesh.

Because of them lust is in your eyes when you look at things; as you listen or use your sense of smell, passion dominates you; you indulge in dirty talk; you are full of turmoil inwardly and outwardly, like the city of Babylon.

With great faith, then, and with ‘Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs’ (Eph. 5:19), you too must destroy the cave-dwellers who work evil within you.

The Lord desires one man to be saved through another, and in the same way Satan strives to destroy one man through another. So do not spend your time with somebody who is sloppy, a mischief-maker, not guarding his tongue, lest you be sent with him into punishment.

It is hard enough for one who associates with a good man to attain salvation. If you do not watch yourself, but consort with people of evil character, you will be infected with their leprosy and destroyed.

How can anyone expect pity if he recklessly approaches a poisonous snake? You should avoid those who cannot control their tongue, who are quarrelsome and full of agitation inwardly or outwardly.

John of Karpathos (7th century): For the Encouragement of the Monks in India, 84-88, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, P. Sherrard, and K. Ware, The Philokalia, vol. 1 (Faber and Faber, London & Boston: 1979 @ J B Burnett.

John Chrysostom: Praying in the Presence of God Tuesday, Jul 2 2013 

John_ChrysostomHannah continued praying in the presence of the Lord… (1 Samuel 1:12).

The writer bears witness here to ­two virtues in the woman: her perseverance in prayer and her attentiveness.

He refers to the first by saying, She continued, and to the second by adding, in the presence of the Lord; for we all pray, but not all of us pray in the presence of the Lord.

Though our bodies may be in an attitude of prayer and our mouths babbling some pious formula, can we really claim to be praying in the presence of God when our minds are wandering hither and thither in home and market-place?

Those people pray in the presence of the Lord who pray with complete recollection; who, having no worldly attachments, have removed from earth to heaven and banished all human preoccupations, just as this woman did then.

Recollecting herself completely and concentrating her mind, she called upon ­God in her deep distress.

But why does Scripture say she continued praying when actually her prayer was very short?

[…] She said the same thing over and over again; she spent a long time ceaselessly repeating the same words.

That ­indeed is how Christ also commanded us to pray in the Gospels. When he told his disciples not to pray like the Gentiles and not to use empty repetitions, he also taught them the right way to pray, showing them that it is not a multiplicity of words but mental ­alertness that wins us a hearing.

Why then, you may ask, if prayer should be brief, did Christ tell them a parable to show that it should be continuous? There was a widow, he said, who by her persistent requests, by her going to him again and again, overcame a cruel and inhuman judge who neither feared God nor regarded other people.

And why does Paul also urge us to keep praying, to pray without ceasing? Is it a contra­diction to tell us not to make long speeches, and yet to pray continually?

No…! The two commands are in complete agreement. Christ and Paul com­manded us to make our prayers short, and to say them frequently, at brief intervals.

For if you spin out your words to any length you are often inattentive, and so give the devil freedom to approach and trip you up and divert your mind from what you are saying.

But if you pray continuously and frequently, repeating your prayer at brief intervals, you can easily remain recollected and fully alert as you pray.

That indeed is just what this woman did, not making long speeches but drawing near to God frequently, at brief inter­vals. That is true prayer, when its cries come from the depths of one’s being.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): De Anna, Sermon 2.2; (Bareille 8:419-21); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Tuesday of the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time, Year I.

Gregory of Sinai: Prayer Is God, Who Accomplishes Everything In Everyone Monday, Jun 24 2013 

Gregory of SinaiFor beginners prayer is like a joyous fire kindled in the heart; for the perfect it is like a vigorous sweet-scented light.

Or again, prayer is the preaching of the Apostles, an action of faith or, rather, faith itself, ‘that makes real for us the things for which we hope’ (Heb. 11:1),

active love, angelic impulse, the power of the bodiless spirits, their work and delight, the Gospel of God,

the heart’s assurance, hope of salvation, a sign of purity, a token of holiness, knowledge of God,

baptism made manifest, purification in the water of regeneration, a pledge of the Holy  Spirit,

the exultation of Jesus, the soul’s delight, God’s mercy, a sign of reconciliation, the seal of Christ,

a ray of the noetic sun, the heart’s dawn-star, the confirmation of the Christian faith, the disclosure of reconciliation with God,

God’s grace, God’s wisdom or, rather, the origin of true and absolute Wisdom; the revelation of God, the work of monks, the life of hesychasts, the source of stillness, and expression of the angelic state.

Why say more? Prayer is God, who accomplishes everything in everyone (cf 1 Cor. 12:6), for there is a single action of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, activating all things through Christ Jesus.

[…] ‘As the body without the spirit is dead’ (Jas. 2:26) and insensate, so if you have been deadened by the passions through neglecting the commandments after your baptism the Holy Spirit and the grace of Christ cease to operate in you and to enlighten you;

for though you possess the Spirit, since you have faith and have been regenerated through baptism, yet the Spirit is quiescent and inactive within you because of the deadness of your soul.

[…] The Spirit of Christ is present with integral wholeness in all who are members of Christ, activating and generating life in all capable of participating in it; and in His compassion He still sustains even those who through some weakness do not actively participate in the life of the Spirit.

In this way each of the faithful participates, by virtue of his faith, in adoption to sonship through the Spirit; but should he grow negligent and fail to sustain his faith he will become inert and benighted, deprived of Christ’s life and light.

Such is the state of each of the faithful who, though a member of Christ and possessing the Spirit of Christ, fails to activate this Spirit within himself and so is stagnant, incapable of participating positively in the life of grace.

Gregory of Sinai (1260s–1346): On Commandments and Doctrines, chs 113, 129, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 4 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 237-238; 248.

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