Theophan the Recluse: Everything is Illumined by this Grace-Filled Awakening Monday, Dec 16 2013 

Theophan the RecluseContinued from here…

Sin first enveloped man in blindness, insensitivity and indolence.

At the moment of grace’s influence, this three-layered, crystallized millstone falls from his fettered soul.

The person now sees well all his ugliness within, and not only sees it, but also feels it.

[…] Notice how necessary this action of grace is on the path of freeing the soul from the reign of sin.

The goal of awakening grace and its power extricates man from the jaws of sin and places him on the point of indifference between good and evil.

The scales of our will, on which the will leans toward one side or the other, should now be evenly weighted.

But this cannot happen if the sinner is not given at least a foretaste of the sweetness of goodness.

If this were not given, then the sweetness of sin, as we pointed out before, would attract him more strongly to itself than to goodness; and the choice would fall to the former, as happens with those who have contrived to change their lives without grace-filled awakening.

For this is a general law: what you do not know you will not desire.

But when grace-filled awakening allows him to taste the sweetness of goodness, it attracts him to itself, as we said, consciously and perceptively.

The scales are even. Now complete freedom to act is in the person’s hands. In this manner, as in a flash of lightning, everything within and around the person is illuminated by this grace-filled awakening.

For one instant it introduces the heart to that state from which sin has been cast out, and places man into that chain of creation from which he voluntarily exiled himself through sin.

That is why this act of grace is always signified by a sudden fright and jolt, like the way the abrupt sound of the word “stop!” jolts a person walking quickly but lost in thought.

If you look at this state from a psychological point of view, it is nothing other than an awakening of spirit.

It is natural for our spirit to acknowledge Divinity, and the higher world or order of things, to raise man above everything sensual, and carry him away to the purely spiritual realm.

But in the sinful state our spirit loses its strength and commingles with psychological emotionality, and through it with sensuality to the point of practically disappearing into it.

Now through grace it is extricated from this and placed as if on a candle stand within our inner temple, and it sheds light upon everything dwelling within and is visible from within.

Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894; Russian Orthodox); Excerpts from The Path to Salvation @ Kandylaki.

Justin Popovich: The Lives of the Saints are Holy Evangelical Truths Wednesday, Dec 11 2013 

Justin PopovichWhat are the “Acts of the Holy Apostles”? They are the acts of Christ which the Holy Apostles do by the power of Christ, or better still: they do them by Christ Who is in them and acts through them.

And what are the lives of the Holy Apostles? They are the living of Christ’s life which in the Church is transmitted to all faithful followers of Christ and is continued through them with the help of the holy mysteries and the holy virtues.

And what are the “Lives of the Saints”? They are nothing else but a certain kind of continuation of the “Acts of the Apostles.”

In them is found the same Gospel, the same life, the same truth, the same righteousness, the same love, the same faith, the same eternity, the same “power from on high,” the same God and Lord.

For “the Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever” (Heb. 13:8): the same for all people of all times, distributing the same gifts and the same Divine energies to all who believe in Him.

This continuation of all life-creating Divine energies in the Church of Christ from ages to ages and from generation to generation indeed constitutes living Holy Tradition.

This Holy Tradition is continued without interruption as the life of Grace in all Christians, in whom through the holy mysteries and the holy virtues, Jesus Christ lives by His Grace.

He is wholly present in His Church, for She is His fullness: “the fullness of Him who filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23).

And the God-man Christ is the all-perfect fullness of the Godhead: “for in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:4).

And Christians must, with the help of the holy mysteries and the holy virtues, fill themselves with “all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19).

The Lives of the Saints show forth those persons filled with Christ God, those Christ-bearing persons, those holy persons in whom is preserved and through whom is transmitted the holy tradition of that holy grace-filled life.

It is preserved and transmitted by means of holy evangelical living. For the lives of the saints are holy evangelical truths which are translated into our human life by grace and podvigs (asceticism).

There is no evangelical truth which cannot be transformed into human life. They were all brought by Christ God for one purpose: to become our life, our reality, our possession, our joy.

And the saints, all, without exception, live these Divine truths as the center of their lives and the essence of their being.

Justin Popovich (1894-1979; Orthodox Church): Introduction to the Lives of the Saints.

Theophan the Recluse: The Sleep of Sin and the Awakening of the Soul by Grace Thursday, Dec 5 2013 

Theophan the RecluseWhat is grace-filled awakening? Into what state does it put the sinner? And how does this state differ from other similar states?

It is necessary to know the characteristic traits of awakening in order not to let it go by fruitlessly, and so that you might not accept some natural state in its place.

The state of the soul awakened by grace can be discerned by comparing it to the opposite state of a soul lost in the sleep of sin.

Sin separates man from God. A person who has left God for sin does not perceive his dependence on God, lives as he pleases, as though he is not God’s and God is not his. He is like a self-willed slave who is running from his master.

Now his barrier is broken. The feeling of dependence on God returns. The person clearly realizes his total subservience to God and his absolute responsibility to Him.

Before, heaven for him was just a heavy, copper lid stretched over his head; but now some rays of light pass through this dark veil, showing him God the Master and Judge.

Within him is powerfully awakened the perception of the Divinity in all His perfection, and the Divinity irresistibly inhabits the soul, filling it entirely.

This is the foundation and potentiality for the future spiritual life. Sin first enveloped man in blindness, insensitivity and indolence.

At the moment of grace’s influence, this three-layered, crystallized millstone falls from his fettered soul. The person now sees well all his ugliness within, and not only sees it, but also feels it.

He also realizes the danger of his condition, begins to be ashamed of himself and takes care for his fate. Not only does shame fall into the soul, but with the feeling of responsibility for himself before God, fear, agony, and disappointment begin to powerfully attack his heart.

His conscience gnaws at him. Now he feels a certain sweetness in godly life. Sensing all the futility of a sinful life and nursing a revulsion for it as for a sea of evil, he also has a presentiment that joy and consolation are hidden in the realm of goodness, which is now being revealed to his spiritual eye.

It comes into his view like the promised land, as a most blessed haven from all disquiet. This presentiment in a sinful soul is ultimately a manifestation that man himself cannot produce. It is God’s blessing and is subject to His authority.

Thinking about it is not the same as feeling it. God Himself leads man’s spirit into His treasure-house and allows man to taste its blessings.

Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894; Russian Orthodox); Excerpts from The Path to Salvation @ Kandylaki.

Macarius the Egyptian: The heart is Christ’s palace where Christ the King comes to rest Sunday, Nov 24 2013 

Macarius3Consider how the Lord has prepared for Christians the kingdom, and calls them to enter in, and they will not.

As for the gift which they are to inherit, one might say, if everyone from the creation of Adam to the end of the world strove against Satan and endured afflictions, he would do nothing great in comparison with the glory which he is to inherit.

For he will reign to ages without end with Christ. Glory to Him Who so loved a soul like this, for giving Himself and His grace and entrusting the soul therewith! Glory to His greatness!

[…] Suppose there were a very great palace, and this were deserted, and became full of every evil smell, and of many dead bodies.

Well, the heart is Christ’s palace, and it is full of all uncleanness, and of crowds of many wicked spirits. It must be refounded and rebuilt, and its store-chambers and bedrooms put in order.

For there Christ the King, with the angels and holy spirits, comes to rest, and   to dwell, and to walk in it, and to set His kingdom.

I tell you, it is like a ship furnished with plenty of tackle, where the captain disposes of all, and sets them their tasks, finding fault with some, and showing others their way about.

The heart has a captain in the mind, the conscience, which is ever judging us, thoughts accusing or else excusing one another.

[…] God and His angels came for thy salvation. The King, the King’s Son, held council with His Father, and the Word was sent, and put on the garment of flesh, and concealed His own Godhead, that like might be saved by like, and laid down His life upon the Cross.

So great is the love of God towards man. The Immortal chose to be crucified for thee. Consider then how God loved the world, because He gave His only begotten Son for them. How shall He not with Him freely give us all things?

In another place it says, Verily I say unto you that He shall make him ruler over all His goods. Elsewhere it shews the angels as ministers of the saints.

When Elias was in the mountain, and the foreigners came against him, the young servant said, “There are many coming against us, and we are by ourselves.” Then Elias answered, “Do you not see camps and multitudes of angels with us round about succouring us?”

You see that the Master and the multitudes of the angels are with His servants. How great then is the soul, and how much valued by God, that God and the angels seek after it for fellowship with themselves and for a kingdom!

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 15, 31; 33; 44, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Ignatius of Antioch: Faith and Love towards Christ Jesus are the Beginning and the End of Life Wednesday, Oct 30 2013 

Ignatius_of_AntiochTake heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise.

For when ye assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith.

Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all war, both in heaven and earth, is brought to an end.

None of these things is hid from you, if ye perfectly possess that faith and love towards Christ Jesus which are the beginning and the end of life.

For the beginning is faith, and the end is love. Now these two. being inseparably connected together, are of God, while all other things which are requisite for a holy life follow after them.

No man truly making a profession of faith sins; nor does he that possesses love hate any one.

The tree is made manifest by its fruit; so those that profess themselves to be Christians shall be recognised by their conduct. For there is not now a demand for mere profession, but that a man be found continuing in the power of faith to the end.

It is better for a man to be silent and be a Christian, than to talk and not to be one. It is good to teach, if he who speaks also acts. There is then one Teacher, who spake and it was done; while even those things which He did in silence are worthy of the Father.

He who possesses the word of Jesus, is truly able to hear even His very silence, that he may be perfect, and may both act as he speaks, and be recognised by his silence.

There is nothing which is hid from God, but our very secrets are near to Him. Let us therefore do all things as those who have Him dwelling in us, that we may be His temples, and He may be in us as our God, which indeed He is, and will manifest Himself before our faces. Wherefore we justly love Him.

[…] For this end did the Lord suffer the ointment to be poured upon His head, that He might breathe immortality into His Church. Be not ye anointed with the bad odour of the doctrine of the prince of this world; let him not lead you away captive from the life which is set before you.

And why are we not all prudent, since we have received the knowledge of God, which is Jesus Christ? Why do we foolishly perish, not recognising the gift which the Lord has of a truth sent to us?

Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 – c. 107): Letter to the Ephesians, 13-17 @ Crossroads Initiative.

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.

Macarius the Egyptian: God opens the locked doors of the heart and bestows on us the riches of heaven Monday, Oct 21 2013 

Macarius3One man maintains conflict and hardship and war against Satan. This man’s heart is contrite; he is in care and mourning and tears. Such a one has come to stand in two separate realms.

If, then, in this state of things he perseveres, the Lord is with him for the battle, and protects him; for he seeks in earnest, and knocks at the door till He opens to him.

Again, if you see here a good brother, it is grace which has established him.

But the man without foundation has no such fear of God. His heart is not contrite. He is in no fear, nor does he secure his heart and members, not to walk disorderly.

[…] There is then a difference between the man in conflict and hardship, and the man who does not know what battle is.

Even the seeds, when cast into the ground, undergo hardship with the frosts, with the winter, with the coldness of the air, and in due season the growth is quickened.

It sometimes happens that Satan talks in the heart, “See how many wrong things thou hast done! See how many follies thy soul is filled with, and thou art weighed down with sins, that thou canst not be saved.”

This he does, to reduce thee to despair, and to make thee think that thy repentance is not acceptable. For since by the transgression wickedness entered in, it talks with the soul every hour, like man with man.

Answer him then thou, “I have the testimonies of the Lord in writing, that say, I desire not the death of the sinner, but his repentance, and that he should turn from his wickedness and live.”

It was for this that He came down, to save sinners, to raise the dead, to quicken lost lives, to give light to those in darkness. In truth He came, and called us to the adoption of sons, to a holy city which is ever at peace, to the life that never dies, to glory incorruptible.

Only let us put a good finish to our beginning. Let us abide in poverty, in the condition of strangers, in suffering affliction, in petition to God, knocking importunately at the door.

Near as the body is to the soul, the Lord is nearer, to come and open the locked doors of the heart, and to bestow on us the riches of heaven.

He is good and kind to man, and His promises cannot lie, if only we continue seeking Him to the end. Glory be to the compassions of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost for ever. Amen.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 11,14-15, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Gregory the Great: When the Words of Exhortation have Established Truth in Our Minds, the Lord Comes to Live Within Us Friday, Oct 18 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistBeloved brothers, our Lord and Saviour sometimes gives us instruction by words and sometimes by actions.

His very deeds are our commands; and whenever he acts silently he is teaching us what we should do.

For example, he sends his disciples out to preach two by two, because the precept of charity is twofold-love of God and of one’s neighbour.

The Lord sends his disciples out to preach in two’s in order to teach us silently that whoever fails in charity toward his neighbour should by no means take upon himself the office of preaching.

Rightly is it said that he sent them ahead of him into every city and place where he himself was to go.

For the Lord follows after the preachers, because preaching goes ahead to prepare the way, and then when the words of exhortation have gone ahead and established truth in our minds, the Lord comes to live within us.

To those who preach Isaiah says: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God. And the psalmist tells them: Make a way for him who rises above the sunset.

The Lord rises above the sunset because from that very place where he slept in death, he rose again and manifested a greater glory. He rises above the sunset because in his resurrection he trampled underfoot the death which he endured.

Therefore, we make a way for him who rises above the sunset when we preach his glory to you, so that when he himself follows after us, he may illumine you with his love.

Let us listen now to his words as he sends his preachers forth: The harvest is great but the labourers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest.

That the harvest is good but the labourers are few cannot be said without a heavy heart, for although there are many to hear the good news there are only a few to preach it.

Indeed, see how full the world is of priests, but yet in God’s harvest a true labourer is rarely to be found; although we have accepted the priestly office we do not fulfil its demands.

Think over, my beloved brothers, think over his words: Pray the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest. Pray for us so that we may be able to labour worthily on your behalf, that our tongue may not grow weary of exhortation, that after we have taken up the office of preaching our silence may not bring us condemnation from the just judge.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Homily 17, 1-3, from the Office of Readings for the Feast of St Luke @ Universalis.  

 

Tikhon of Zadonsk: The True Lover of Christ Cleaves to Him in His Heart and Uncomplainingly Endures the Cross with Him Tuesday, Oct 15 2013 

Tikhon_of_ZadonskThe true lover of God keeps God ever in mind, and His love toward us and His benefactions. We see this even in human love, for we often remember the one we love.

So whoever loves God remembers Him, thinks of Him, and finds consolation in Him, and is enrapt in Him.

For wherever his treasure is, there his heart is also (Mt. 6:21). To him the priceless and most beloved treasury is God.

Therefore his heart also holds itself inseparably before Him. Whence it is that he also remembers His holy name often and with love.

For the heart filled with the love of God reveals outward signs of love. From this we see that those who forget God do not love Him, for forgetfulness is a manifest sign of no love for God.

The lover can never forget his beloved. One who loves, desires never to be separated from the one he loves.

Many Christians desire to be with Christ the Lord when He is glorified, but they do not wish to be with Him in dishonor and reproach, nor to carry their cross.

They entreat Him that they may come into His Kingdom, but they do not wish to suffer in the world, and thereby they show that their heart is not right and that they do not truly love Christ.

And to tell the truth, they love themselves more than Christ. For this reason the Lord says, “He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me” (Mt. 10:38). A true friend is known in misfortune.

He is our true friend and one who loves us who does not forsake us in misfortune.

Likewise the true lover of Christ is he who abides with Christ in this world, and cleaves to Him in his heart, and uncomplainingly endures the cross with Him, and desires to be with Him inseparably in the age to come.

Such a one says unto Christ, “It is good for me to cleave unto God” (LXX Ps. 72:28).

A sign of the love of God is love for neighbor. He who truly loves God also loves his neighbor. He who loves the lover loves what is loved by him. The source of love for neighbor is love for God, but the love of God is known from love for neighbor.

[…] These are the signs of love for God hidden in the heart of a man. Dear Christians, let us repent and turn away from the vanity of the world, and cleanse our hearts with repentance and contrition, that the love of God may abide in us.

“God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 Jn. 4:16).
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) .

Symeon the New Theologian: Clothed with Christ Saturday, Oct 12 2013 

SYMEON-iconOctober 12th is the feast of St Symeon the New Theologian  (949–1022 AD).

Here I am again, writing against those who say they have the Spirit of God unconsciously, who think that they have Him in themselves as a result of divine Baptism and who, while they believe they have this treasure, yet recognize themselves as wholly deaf to Him.

[…] Nor are they the only ones, but I am also against those who say they have never had any perception of that gift in contemplation or in revelation, but that they still receive it by faith and thought alone, not by experience, and hold it within themselves as a result of hearing the scriptures.

[…] “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ,” says Paul, “have put on Christ” (Gal 3:27)…. If we are baptized, is it not then also clear that, as the Apostle says, we have put on Christ?

[…] If then He first deified the flesh which He had assumed with His own divinity, and so quickened us all not by corruptible flesh but by that flesh which had been deified, it was so that we should no longer recognize Him as in any way merely man.

It was so that we should recognize Him as one God perfect in two natures—for God is one—and recognize the corruptible as swallowed up by incorruption.

It was so that we should recognize the body not as destroyed by that which is bodiless but as wholly changed, remaining unconfused with yet ineffably permeated by and united in unmingled mingling with God Who is Three.

It was so that one God in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit may be worshipped—the Trinity—neither as taking on any addition due to the Economy [Incarnation] nor any passion due to the body.

[…] If the baptized have put on Christ, what is it that they have put on? God. He then who has put on God, will he not recognize with his intellect and see what he has clothed himself with?

The man who has clothed his naked body feels the garment that he sees, but the man who is naked in soul will not know that he has put on God?

If he who is clothed with God does not perceive Him, what has he put on in fact? According to you, God would be nothing at all. For, if He were something, those putting Him on would know it.

When we put nothing on, we feel nothing, but whenever we are clothed by ourselves or by others, so long as our sense are intact, we are quite aware of it.

Only the dead feel nothing when they are clothed, and I am very much afraid that those who say such things are the ones who are really and truly dead and naked.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD): Fifth Ethical Discourse, (slightly adapted); full translation and introduction @ Discerning Thoughts, from Saint Symeon the New Theologian: The Ethical Discourses, volume II (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Popular Patristics Series).

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