Mark the Hermit: Fire cannot last long in water, nor a shameful thought in a heart that loves God Sunday, Mar 6 2011 

Like a young calf which, in its search for grazing, finds itself on a ledge surrounded by precipices, the soul is gradually led astray by its thoughts.

When the intellect, having grown to full maturity in the Lord, wrenches the soul from long-continued prepossession, the heart suffers torments as if on the rack, since intellect and passion drag it in opposite directions.

Just as sailors, in the hope of gain, gladly endure the burning heat of the sun, so those who hate wickedness gladly accept reproof. For the former contend with the winds, the latter with passions.

[…] No one is as good and merciful as the Lord. But even He does not forgive the unrepentant.

Many of us feel remorse for our sins, yet we gladly accept their causes.

A mole burrowing in the earth is blind and cannot see the stars; and he who does not trust God in temporal things will not trust Him in eternal things.

[…] When a sinful soul does not accept the afflictions that come to it, the angels say: “We would have healed Babylon, but she was not healed” (Jer 51:9).

When an intellect forgets real knowledge, it fights with men for harmful things as though they were helpful.

Fire cannot last long in water, nor can a shameful thought in a heart that loves God. For every man who loves God suffers gladly, and voluntary suffering is by nature the enemy of sensual pleasure.

A passion which we allow to grow active within us through our own choice afterwards forces itself upon us against our will.

We have a love for the causes of involuntary thoughts, and that is why they come.

In the case of voluntary thoughts we clearly have a love not only for the causes but also for the objects with which they are concerned.

[…] When the devil sees that our intellect has prayed from the heart, he makes a powerful attack with subtle temptations; but he does not bother to destroy the lesser virtues by such powerful attacks.

When a thought lingers within a man, this indicates his attachment to it; but when it is quickly destroyed, this signifies his opposition and hostility to it.

Mark the Hermit (5th-6th c.): On Those who Think They Are Made Righteous by Works, 74-89, 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), online version here.

Macarius the Egyptian: The soul has inherited God in heaven, and He has inherited her upon earth Thursday, Feb 17 2011 

Macarius3When the soul is devoted to the Lord, and the Lord in mercy and love comes to her and is united with her, and when her intention thereafter remains continually in the grace of the Lord, then the soul and the Lord become one spirit, one unity, and one mind.

And though her body is prostrate on the earth, her mind lives wholly in the heavenly Jerusalem, mounting even to the third heaven, where it clings to the Lord and serves Him.

And He, while sitting on the throne of majesty on high, in the heavenly city, is wholly with the soul in her bodily existence.

For He has placed her image above, in Jerusalem, the heavenly city of the saints, and He has placed His own image, the image of the unspeakable light of his Godhead, in her body.

He ministers to her in the city of the body, while she ministers to Him in the heavenly city.

She has inherited Him in heaven, and He has inherited her upon earth.

The Lord becomes the soul’s inheritance, and the soul becomes the inheritance of the Lord.­

In heart and mind, sinners living in darkness can be far from the body, can live at a great distance from it; they can travel in a moment of time to remote lands, so that often, while the body lies stretched out upon the earth, the mind is in another country with its beloved, and sees itself as living there.

If then the soul of a sinner is so light and swift that his mind speeds without let or hindrance to far-away places, how much easier it must be for the soul from whom the veil of darkness has been lifted by the power of the Holy Spirit?

How much easier it must be for the soul whose mental eyes have been illuminated by heavenly light, who has been completely delivered from shameful passions and made pure by grace, to be at once wholly in heaven serving the Lord in Spirit, and wholly in the body serving Him?

The mental faculty of such a soul is so greatly expanded that she is present everywhere, and can serve Christ wherever and whenever she wishes.

[…] The Lord is found and revealed to the soul in knowledge, understanding, love and faith; He has placed in her intelligence, imagination, will, and reason to rule them.

He has given her the ability to come and go in a moment, and to serve Him in thought wherever the Spirit wills.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [this homily, like much of the Macarian corpus is generally attributed to the anonymous author known as Pseudo-Macarius]: Macarian Homilies 46.3-6 (PG 34:794-6); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday of the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time, Year I.

Mark the Hermit: Faith, works, intention Monday, Nov 15 2010 

Those who, because of the rigor of their own ascetic practice, despise the less zealous, think that they are made righteous by physical works.

But we are even more foolish if we rely on theoretical knowledge and disparage the ignorant. Even though knowledge is true, it is still not firmly established if unaccompanied by works. For everything is established by being put into practice.

Often our knowledge becomes darkened because we fail to put things into practice. For when we have totally neglected to practice something, our memory of it will gradually disappear.

For this reason Scripture urges us to acquire the knowledge of God, so that through our works we may serve Him rightly.

When we fulfil the commandments in our outward actions, we receive from the Lord what is appropriate; but any real benefit we gain depends on our inward intention.

If we want to do something but cannot, then before God, who knows our hearts, it

is as if we have done it. This is true whether the intended action is good or bad.

The intellect does many good and bad things without the body, whereas the body

can do neither good nor evil without the intellect. This is because the law of freedom applies to what happens before we act.

Some without fulfilling the commandments think that they possess true faith.

Others fulfil the commandments and then expect the kingdom as a reward due to them. Both are mistaken.

[…] When Scripture says ‘He will reward every man according to his works’ (Matt 16:27), do not imagine that works in themselves merit either hell or the kingdom.

On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself….

We who have received baptism offer good works, not by way of repayment, but to preserve the purity given to us.

Mark the Hermit (5th-6th c.): On Those who Think They Are Made Righteous by Works, 11-18; 22-23, 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), online version here.

Ambrose of Milan: Christ is the Eternal Brilliant Illumination of Souls Tuesday, Jul 27 2010 

Why do you turn your face away?

We think that God has turned his face away from us when we find ourselves suffering, so that shadows overwhelm our feelings and stop our eyes from seeing the brilliance of the truth.

All the same, if God touches our intellect and chooses to become present to our minds then we will be certain that nothing can lead us into darkness.

A man’s face shines out more than the rest of his body and it is by the face that we perceive strangers and recognize our friends.

How much more, then, is the face of God able bring illumination to whoever he looks at!

The apostle Paul has something important to say about this, as about so many other things. He is a true interpreter of Christ for us, bringing him to our understanding through well-chosen words and images.

He says: It is the same God that said, ‘Let there be light shining out of darkness’, who has shone in our minds to radiate the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, the glory on the face of Christ.

We have heard where Christ shines in us: he is the eternal brilliant illumination of souls, whom the Father sent into the world so that his face should shine on us and permit us to contemplate eternal and heavenly truths – we who had been plunged in earthly darkness.

What shall I say about Christ, when even the apostle Peter said to the man who had been lame from birth Look upon us?

The cripple looked at Peter and found light by the grace of faith: unless he had faithfully believed he could not have received healing.

When there was so much glory to be seen among the Apostles, Zachaeus, hearing that the Lord Jesus was passing by, climbed a tree because he was small and weak and could not see the Lord through the crowd.

He saw Christ and he found light. He saw Christ and instead of robbing others of their goods he began to give away his own.

Why do you turn your face away? Let us read it thus: even if you do turn your face away from us, Lord, its light is still imprinted upon us.

We hold it in our hearts and our innermost feelings are transformed by its light.

For if you truly turn your face away, Lord, no one can survive.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): from Explanations of the Psalms (Ps 43, 89-90), taken from Office of Readings for Thursday of the Week 16 of Ordinary Time, at Crossroads Initiative.

Cyril of Alexandria: His Spirit, Indwelling in the Saints, Accomplishes the Presence and the Power of Christ Himself Thursday, May 20 2010 

These things have I spoken unto you, while yet abiding with you. But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send unto you in My Name, He shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said (John 14:25-26).

When He says “These things have I spoken unto you, while yet abiding with you”, we must think that He there speaks as a man.

And since He was about to vanish from our sight, I mean according to the flesh, He says this when the preparation for His departure into heaven was complete.

And He says that the most perfect and complete revelation to us of the mystery is through the Comforter, that is the Holy Ghost, sent from the Father in His Name, I mean that of the Son.

For as His Spirit is Christ in us, therefore He says “He shall teach you all things that I said”.

For since He is the Spirit of Christ, and His mind, as it is written, which is nought else but what He is…He knows all that is in Him.

And Paul will be our witness, saying “For who knows the things of a man, save the spirit of the man which is in him? even so the things of God none knows save the Spirit of God”.

Wherefore as knowing what is in the counsel of the Only-begotten, He reports all things to us…knowing untaught all that belongs to Him of Whom and in Whom He is.

He reveals to the saints the divine mysteries; just as man’s mind too, knowing all things that are therein, ministers externally by uttered word the desires of the soul whose mind it is.

[…] The perfect knowledge then is begotten in the saints by the SpiritFor in the revelation of these things by the Spirit working in us in an unspeakable way, we see the deep meaning of the incarnation and the power of the hidden mystery.

His Spirit, indwelling in the saints, accomplishes the presence and the power of Christ Himself and teaches all things that He has spoken unto us.

[…] Furthermore, we must show that when He said that all would be revealed by the Spirit to the saints, He does not give them over to another master.

Instead, He keeps them by His side, through the Spirit, no longer seen by the eye of the flesh, but rather gazed upon as became a God by the intellectual vision of the heart.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on John, book 10.

Benedict XVI: Love Goes Beyond Reason Monday, Mar 22 2010 

Whereas for St. Augustine the intellectus, the seeing with reason and with the heart, is the ultimate category of knowledge, Pseudo-Dionysius takes still another step: in the ascent to God one can come to a point when reason no longer sees.

But in the night of the intellect, love still sees – it sees what remains inaccessible to reason. Love goes beyond reason, sees more, enters more profoundly into the mystery of God.

St. Bonaventure was fascinated by this vision, which met with his Franciscan spirituality. Precisely in the dark night of the cross appears all the grandeur of divine love; where reason no longer sees, love sees.

The conclusive words of his Journey of the Mind to God in a superficial reading, might seem an exaggerated expression of a devotion devoid of content; read, instead, in the light of the theology of the cross of St. Bonaventure, they are a clear and realistic expression of Franciscan spirituality:

“If now you yearn to know how that happens (that is, the ascent to God), ask grace, not doctrine; desire, not the intellect; the groan of prayer, not the study of the letter; … not light, but the fire that inflames everything and transports to God” (VII, 6).

All this is not anti-intellectual and anti-rational: it implies the way of reason but transcends it in the love of the crucified Christ.

With this transformation of the mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius, St. Bonaventure is placed at the beginning of a great mystical current, which greatly raised and purified the human mind: it is a summit in the history of the human spirit.

Hence, for St. Bonaventure, all our life is a “journey”, a pilgrimage – an ascent to God.

But with our own strength we cannot ascend to the loftiness of God. God himself must help us, must “pull” us on high.

That is why prayer is necessary. Prayer – so says the saint – is the mother and origin of the ascent – sursum actio, action that takes us on high, Bonaventure says.

Because of this, I conclude with the prayer, with which he begins his Journey: “Let us pray, therefore and say to our Lord God: ‘Lead me, Lord, on your way and I will walk in your truth. My heart rejoices in fearing your name’” (I,1).

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): On Theology According To Thomas And Bonaventure (translation by Zenit).

Thomas Aquinas: The Whole Trinity Dwells in the Mind Tuesday, Nov 24 2009 

The whole Trinity dwells in the mind by sanctifying grace, according to Jn. 14:23: “We will come to him, and will make Our abode with him.”

The soul is made like to God by grace. Hence for a divine person to be sent to anyone by grace, there must needs be a likening of the soul to the divine person Who is sent, by some gift of grace.

Because the Holy Ghost is Love, the soul is assimilated to the Holy Ghost by the gift of charity: hence the mission of the Holy Ghost is according to the mode of charity.

Whereas the Son is the Word, not any sort of word, but one Who breathes forth Love. Hence Augustine says (De Trin. ix 10): “The Word we speak of is knowledge with love.”

Thus the Son is sent not in accordance with every and any kind of intellectual perfection, but according to the intellectual illumination, which breaks forth into the affection of love, as is said (Jn. 6:45): “Everyone that hath heard from the Father and hath learned, cometh to Me,” and (Ps. 38:4): “In my meditation a fire shall flame forth.”

Thus Augustine plainly says (De Trin. iv, 20): “The Son is sent, whenever He is known and perceived by anyone.”

Now perception implies a certain experimental knowledge; and this is properly called wisdom [sapientia], as it were a sweet knowledge [sapida scientia], according to Ecclus. 6:23: “The wisdom of doctrine is according to her name.”

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): Summa Theologiae Ia, q. 43, a. 5 [corpus and ad 2].


John Ruusbroec: Zaccheus (2) Tuesday, Nov 10 2009 

[Continued from previous post…]

Here comes Jesus, and sees the man, and shows to him, in the light of faith, that He is according to His Godhead immeasurable and incomprehensible and inaccessible and abysmal, transcending every created light and every finite conception.

And this is the highest knowledge of God which any man may have in the active life: that he should confess in this light of faith that God is incomprehensible and unknowable.

And in this light Christ says to man’s desire: Make haste and come down, for to-day I must abide at thy house.

This hasty descent, to which he is summoned by God, is nothing else than a descent through desire and through love into the abyss of the Godhead, which no intelligence can reach in the created light.

But where intelligence remains without, desire and love go in. When the soul is thus stretched towards God, by intention and by love, above everything that it can understand, then it rests and dwells in God, and God in it.

When the soul climbs with desire above the multiplicity of creatures, and above the works of the senses, and above the light of nature, then it meets Christ in the light of faith, and becomes enlightened, and confesses that God is unknowable and incomprehensible.

When it stretches itself with longing towards this incomprehensible God, then it meets Christ, and is filled with His gifts. And when it loves and rests above all gifts, and above itself, and above all creatures, then it dwells in God, and God dwells in it.

John Ruusbroec (1293 – 1381): The Spiritual Espousals, 1,26.