Hesychios the Priest: Rebuttal bridles evil thoughts, but the invocation of Jesus Christ drives them from the heart Thursday, Sep 24 2015 

HesychiosJust as it is impossible to cross the sea without a boat, so it is impossible to repulse the provocation of an evil thought without invoking Jesus Christ. Rebuttal bridles evil thoughts, but the invocation of Jesus Christ drives them from the heart.

[…] And if our intellect (Greek: ὁ νοῦς)** [see footnote] is experienced, well-trained and used to guarding itself, and to examining clearly and openly the seductive fantasies and deceits of the demons, it will instantly ‘quench the fiery darts of the devil’ (cf. Eph. 6:16), counter-attacking by means of its power of rebuttal and the Jesus Prayer.

It will not allow the impassioned fantasy to consort with it or allow our thoughts passionately to conform themselves to the fantasy, or to become intimate with it, or be distracted by it, or give assent to it.

If anything like this happens, then evil actions will follow as surely as night follows day.

If our intellect is inexperienced in the art of watchfulness it at once begins to entertain whatever impassioned fantasy appears in it, and plies it with illicit questions and responds to it illicitly. Then our own thoughts are conjoined to the demonic fantasy, which waxes and burgeons until it appears lovely and delectable to the welcoming and despoiled intellect.

The intellect then is deceived in much the same way as lambs when a stray dog comes into the field in which they happen to be: in their innocence they often run towards the dog as though it were their mother, and their only profit in coming near it is that they pick up something of its stench and foulness.

In the same way our thoughts run ignorantly after demonic fantasies that appear in our intellect and, as I said, the two join together and one can see them plotting to destroy the city of Troy like Agamemnon and Menelaus. For they plot together the course of action they must take in order to bring about, in practice and by means of the body, that purpose which the demons have persuaded them is sweet and delectable.

In this way sins are produced in the soul: and hence the need to bring out into the open what is in our hearts. The intellect, being good-natured and innocent, readily goes in pursuit of lawless fantasies: and it can be restrained only on condition that its intelligence, the ruler of the passions always bridles it and holds it back.

Contemplation and spiritual knowledge are indeed the guides and agents of the ascetic life; for when the mind is raised up by them it becomes indifferent to sensual pleasures and to other material attractions, regarding them as worthless.

Hesychios the Priest (?6th-9th century): On Watchfulness and Holiness chs 142-146,  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), pp. 186-187.

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

Bernard of Clairvaux: Thy Name is Music to the Heart, Inflaming It with Love Saturday, Jan 4 2014 

Heiligenkreuz_Bernard_of_ClervauxJanuary 3rd was the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest Name,
O Savior of mankind!

O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.

Jesus, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize will be;
Jesus be Thou our glory now,
And through eternity.

O Jesus, King most wonderful
Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou sweetness most ineffable
In Whom all joys are found!

When once Thou visitest the heart,
Then truth begins to shine,
Then earthly vanities depart,
Then kindles love divine.

O Jesus, light of all below,
Thou fount of living fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire.

Jesus, may all confess Thy Name,
Thy wondrous love adore,
And, seeking Thee, themselves inflame
To seek Thee more and more.

Thee, Jesus, may our voices bless,
Thee may we love alone,
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.

O Jesus, Thou the beauty art
Of angel worlds above;
Thy Name is music to the heart,
Inflaming it with love.

Celestial Sweetness unalloyed,
Who eat Thee hunger still;
Who drink of Thee still feel a void
Which only Thou canst fill.

O most sweet Jesus, hear the sighs
Which unto Thee we send;
To Thee our inmost spirit cries;
To Thee our prayers ascend.

Abide with us, and let Thy light
Shine, Lord, on every heart;
Dispel the darkness of our night;
And joy to all impart.

Jesus, our love and joy to Thee,
The virgin’s holy Son,
All might and praise and glory be,
While endless ages run.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): translated by Edward Caswall (1814-1878) @ CyberHymnal.

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 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 Palamas: The Prayer of the Publican: “God Be Merciful to Me a Sinner” Tuesday, Mar 5 2013 

Gregory_PalamasAnd the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner (Luke 18:13).

See the extent of his humility, faith and self-reproach. See the utter abasement of his thoughts and feelings, and, at the same time, contrition of heart mingled with this publican’s prayer.

When he went up into the Temple to pray for the remission of his sins, he brought with him good advocates before God: unashamed faith, un-condemned self-reproach, contrition of heart that is not despised and humility that exalts.

[…] Without any other intention or thought he paid attention only to himself and God, turning over and repeating the supplication of a single thought,’ the most effective of all prayers.

“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven” (Luke 18:13).

As he stood he bowed down, and his bearing was not only that of a lowly servant, but also of a condemned man. It also proclaims a soul delivered from sin.

Although still far from God, without the boldness towards Him that comes from good works, it hopes to draw near to him because it has already renounced evil and is intent on good.

[…] He saw himself as unworthy either of heaven or of the earthly Temple, so he stood on the threshold of the Temple, not daring even to turn his gaze towards heaven, still less towards the God of heaven.

In his intense contrition he smote upon his breast to show he was worthy of punishment. He sighed in deepest mourning, bowing his head like a condemned man, calling himself a sinner and begging with faith for forgiveness, saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner”.

For he believed Him Who said, “Turn ye unto me, and I will turn unto you” (Zech. 1:3), and the Prophet who bore witness, “I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my heart” (cf. Ps. 32:5).

What happened then? “This man”, says the Lord, “went down to his house justified rather than the other, for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

[…] Humility is the chariot by which we ascend to God, like those clouds which are to carry up to God those who would dwell for endless ages with Him…

Humility is the same as such a cloud. It is formed by repentance, releases streams of tears; brings out the worthy from among the unworthy and leads them up to unite them with God, justified by His free gift for the gratitude of their free disposition.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily on the Publican and the Pharisee, 13-15, from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009) @ Kandylaki.

Hesychios the Priest: The Name of Jesus, repeated over and over in the heart as flashes of lightning… Tuesday, Nov 13 2012 

When in fear, trembling and unworthiness we are yet permitted to receive the divine, undefiled Mysteries of Christ, our King and our God, we should then display even greater watchfulness, strictness and guard over our hearts, so that the divine fire, the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, may consume our sins and stains, great and small.

For when that fire enters into us, it at once drives the evil spirits from our heart and remits the sins we have previously committed, leaving the intellect free from the turbulence of wicked thoughts.

And if after this, standing at the entrance to our heart, we keep strict watch over the intellect, when we ace again permitted to receive those Mysteries the divine body will illumine our intellect still more and make it shine like a star.

Forgetfulness can extinguish our guard over our intellect as water extinguishes fire; but the continuous repetition of the Jesus Prayer combined with strict watchfulness uproots it from our heart.

The Jesus Prayer requires watchfulness as a lantern requires a candle.

We should strive to preserve the precious gifts which preserve us from all evil, whether on the plane of the senses or on that of the intellect.

These gifts are the guarding of the intellect with the invocation of Jesus Christ, continuous insight into the heart’s depths, stillness of mind unbroken even by thoughts which appear to be good, and the capacity to be empty of all thought.

In this way the demons will not steal in undetected; and if we suffer pain through remaining centered in the heart, consolation is at hand.

The heart which is constantly guarded, and is not allowed to receive the forms, images and fantasies of the dark and evil spirits, is conditioned by nature to give birth from within itself to thoughts filled with light.

For just as coal engenders a flame, or a flame lights a candle, so will God, who from our baptism dwells in our heart, kindle our mind to contemplation when He finds it free from the winds of evil and protected by the guarding of the intellect.

The name of Jesus should be repeated over and over in the heart as flashes of lightning are repeated over and over in the sky before rain.

Hesychios the Priest (?6th-9th century): On Watchfulness and Holiness chs 101-105, 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), pp. 179-180.

Basil the Great: The Continual Remembrance of God is a Holy Thing Thursday, Aug 23 2012 

St-Basil-the-GreatThe continual remembrance of God is a holy thing, and of this pious remembrance there can never be enough for the soul that loves God.

But to put into words the things of God is a bold undertaking.

For our mind falls far below what is needed for this; while at the same time, words but feebly convey the thoughts of the mind.

If therefore our understanding is left so far behind by the greatness of the things of God, and if our words are weaker than our understanding, how should we not be silent, for fear that the wonders of the things of God should be in danger through the feebleness of our words?

Though the desire to give glory to God is implanted by nature in every rational creature, nevertheless we all alike are unable to praise Him fittingly.

But though we differ one from another in our desire to praise and serve God, yet there is no one so blinds himself, so deceives himself, as to think that he has attained to the summit of human understanding.

Rather, the further we advance in knowledge, the more clearly we perceive our own insignificance.

So it was with Abraham. So it was with Moses. For when it was given to them to see God, as far as man can see God, then especially did they humble themselves:

Abraham spoke of himself as dust and ashes (Gen. xviii. 27), and Moses said he was a stammerer and slow of tongue (Exod. iv. 10).

For he knew the poverty of his tongue, and that it was unable to serve the greatness of the things he had grasped with his mind.

But since every ear is now open to hear me speak of the things of God, and since there is never enough in the Church of hearing of these things…, we must therefore speak as best we can.

But we shall speak, not of God as He is, but of God as far as it is possible for us to know Him.

For though we cannot with mortal eyes see all that lies between heaven and earth, yet there is no reason why we should not look upon what we can see.

So with our few words we shall now endeavour to fulfil what is required of us in the service of God.

But in every word of ours we humbly bow before the majesty of His Divine Nature.

For not even the tongue of Angels, whatever they may be, nor the tongues of Archangels, joined to those of every reasoning creature, would be able to describe its least part, much less attain to speak of the Whole.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15,1, Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D. (PG 31) @ Lectionary Central.

Diadochus of Photiké: We Pray in the Spirit Who Teaches Us to Cry Without Ceasing “Abba, Father” Saturday, Jun 2 2012 

diadochus-of-photikeInitiatory joy is one thing, the joy of perfection is another. The first is not exempt from fantasy, while the second has the strength of humility.

Between the two joys comes a ‘godly sorrow’ (2 Cor. 7:10) and active tears; ‘For in much wisdom is much knowledge; and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow’ (Eccles. 1:18).

The soul…is first summoned to the struggle by the initiatory joy and then rebuked and tested by the truth of the Holy Spirit, as regards both its past sins and the vain distractions in which it still indulges.

[…] The soul is tested by divine rebuke as in a furnace, and through fervent remembrance of God it actively experiences the joy exempt from fantasy.

When the soul is disturbed by anger, confused by drunkenness, or sunk in deep depression, the intellect cannot hold fast to the remembrance of God no matter how hard we try to force it.

Completely darkened by the violence of the passions, it loses totally the form of perception which is proper to it.

Thus our desire that our intellect should keep the remembrance of God cannot make any impression, because the recollective faculty of our mind has been hardened by the rawness of the passions.

But, on the other hand, when the soul has attained freedom from these passions, then, even though the intellect is momentarily deprived by forgetfulness of the object of its longing, it at once resumes its proper activity.

The soul now has grace itself to share its meditation and to repeat with it the words ‘Lord Jesus’, just as a mother teaches her child to repeat with her the word ‘father’, instead of prattling in his usual way, until she has formed in him the habit of calling for his father even in his sleep.

This is why the Apostle says: ‘Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities; for we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with cries that cannot be uttered’ (Rom. 8:26).

Since we are but children as regards perfection in the virtue of prayer, we have need of the Spirit’s aid so that all our thoughts may be concentrated and gladdened by His inexpressible sweetness, and so that with all our being we may aspire to the remembrance and love of our God and Father.

For, as St Paul says, it is in the Spirit that we pray when we are taught by Him to cry without ceasing to God the Father, ‘Abba, Father’ (Rom. 8:15).

Diadochus of Photiké (c.400-before 486): On Spiritual Perfection chs 60-61, 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).

 

Ignatius Brianchaninov: When the heart is filled with a feeling of repentance… Thursday, Apr 5 2012 

Ignatius_BrianchaninovThe disciples of prayer who lean upon its breast—the holy Fathers—correct a major mistake that deprives the praying ascetic of all the fruits of his ascetic labor.

They instruct us to pronounce the words of short prayers and of all kinds of prayer without haste, observing scrupulous attention to the words of the prayers.

When the prayers are read unhurriedly, it is possible to have such attention, while hurried reading leaves no place for attention.

Prayer without attention is like a body which the soul has left: it has no fragrance of humility, it does not ascend to God.

Stricken and deadened by dispersed thoughts, it crawls along the earth of corruption and foul smell, imparting this corruption to those who pray carelessly and coldly.

Mental attention at prayer is reflected in the heart by blessed grief over sins, which is that very repentance that God commands us to have.

When the heart is filled with a feeling of repentance, it in turn draws the mind to increased attention.

Once there is attention and tender feeling, all the gifts of the Holy Spirit enter into the soul, making it a temple of God.

Let us provide our prayer with two qualities: attention and repentance. Let it fly up to the heavens with them as upon two wings, then appear before the face of God, and intercede for us to gain His mercy.

The blessed publican’s prayer had these two qualities. Penetrated by the awareness of his sinfulness, he did not have any hope in his own deeds to receive salvation; he had hope only in God’s mercy, which calls all sinners to repentance, and grants them salvation for repentance alone.

As a sinner who had no goodness of his own, the publican took the last place in the temple. As a sinner who is unworthy of heaven, he did not dare to lift his eyes unto heaven.

His eyes were directed toward the ground; and beating upon his heart with repentance from deep within his heart, he pronounced with his whole soul the prayer united with his confession: God be merciful to me, a sinner.

His prayer was so effective and strong, that the sinner left the temple of God justified.

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Homily on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee on Prayer and Repentance translated by Nun Cornelia Rees @ Pravoslavie.

Hesychios the Priest: Let the Name of Jesus adhere to your breath Thursday, Mar 15 2012 

A certain God-given equilibrium is produced in our intellect through the constant remembrance and invocation of our Lord Jesus Christ, provided that we do not neglect this constant spiritual entreaty or our close watchfulness and diligence.

Indeed, our true task is always the same and is always accomplished in the same way: to call upon our Lord Jesus Christ with a burning heart so that His holy name intercedes for us.

In virtue as in vice, constancy is the mother of habit; once acquired, it rules us like nature.

When the intellect is in such a state of equilibrium, it searches out its enemies like a hound searching for a hare in a thicket. But the hound searches in order to get food, the intellect in order to destroy.

Whenever we are filled with evil thoughts, we should throw the invocation of our Lord Jesus Christ into their midst. Then, as experience has taught us, we shall see them instantly dispersed like smoke in the air.

Once the intellect is left to itself again, we can renew our constant attentiveness and our invocation. Whenever we are distracted, we should act in this way.

Just as it is impossible to fight battles without weapons, or to swim a great sea with clothes on, or to live without breathing, so without humility and the constant prayer to Christ it is impossible to master the art of inward spiritual warfare or to set about it and pursue it skillfully.

That great spiritual master David said to the Lord: “I shall preserve my strength through Thee” (cf. Ps.59:9 LXX). So the strength of the heart’s stillness, mother of all the virtues, is preserved in us through our being helped by the Lord.

For He has given us the commandments, and when we call upon Him constantly He expels from us that foul forgetfulness which destroys the heart’s stillness as water destroys fire.

Therefore… do not “sleep unto death” (Ps. 13:3. LXX) because of your negligence; but lash the enemy with the name of Jesus and, as a certain wise man has said, let the name of Jesus adhere to your breath, and then you will know the blessings of stillness.

Hesychios the Priest (?6th-9th century): On Watchfulness and Holiness chs 97-100,  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), pp. 178-179.

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