Peter of Damascus: “I remembered God, and I rejoiced” Wednesday, Jul 13 2016 

peter_of_damascus“Rejoice in the Lord”, said St Paul (Phil. 3:1). And he was right to say, “in the Lord”.

For if our joy is not in the Lord, not only do we not rejoice, but in all probability we never shall.

Job, as he described the life of men, found it full of every kind of affliction (cf. Job 7:1-21), and so also did St Basil the Great.

St Gregory of Nyssa said that birds and other animals rejoice because of their lack of awareness, while man, being endowed with intelligence, is never happy because of his grief; for, he says, we shall not been found worthy even to have knowledge of the blessings we have lost.

For this reason nature teaches us rather to grieve, since life is full of pain and effort, like a state of exile dominated by sin.

But if a person is constantly mindful of God, he will rejoice: as the psalmist says, “I remembered God, and I rejoiced” (Ps. 77:3. LXX).

For when the intellect is gladdened by the remembrance of God, then it forgets the afflictions of this world, places its hope in Him, and is no longer troubled or anxious.

Freedom from anxiety makes it rejoice and give thanks; and the grateful offering of thanks augments the gifts of grace it has received. And as the blessings increase, so does the thankfulness, and so does the pure prayer offered with tears of joy.

Slowly the man emerges from the tears of distress and from the passions, and enters fully into the state of spiritual joy.

Through the things that bring him pleasure, he is made humble and grateful; through trials and temptations his hope in the world to come is consolidated; in both he rejoices, and naturally and spontaneously he loves God and all men as his benefactors.

He finds nothing in the whole of creation that can harm him. Illumined by the knowledge of God he rejoices in the Lord on account of all the things that He has created, marveling at the care He shows for His creatures.

The person who has attained spiritual knowledge not only marvels at visible things, but also is astounded by his perception of many essential things invisible to those who lack experience of this knowledge. Thus he looks with wonder not only on the light of day, but also at the night.

[…] In the words of the psalmist, “As you lie in bed, repent of what you say in your heart” (Ps. 4:4. LXX), that is, repent in the stillness of the night, remembering the lapses that occurred in the confusion of the day and disciplining yourself in hymns and spiritual songs (cf Col. 3:16).

Peter of Damascus (?12th Century): Twenty -Four Discourses: XXII – Joy; Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 3 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 260-261.

**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from Peter 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: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” Monday, Dec 14 2015 

Chrysostom3Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice….

The Lord is at hand. In nothing be anxious;

but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God (Philippians 4:4-6).

“Blessed are they that mourn” and “woe unto them that laugh” (Matt. 5:4; Luke 6:25), says Christ.

How then does Paul say “rejoice in the Lord always”?

“Woe to them that laugh,” said Christ, the laughter of this world which arises from the things which are present.

He blessed also those that mourn, not simply for the loss of relatives, but those who are pricked at heart, who mourn their own faults, and take count of their own sins, or even those of others.

This joy is not contrary to that grief, but from that grief it too is born. For he who grieves for his own faults, and confesses them, rejoices. Moreover, it is possible to grieve for our own sins, and yet to rejoice in Christ.

Because…they were afflicted by their sufferings – “for to you it is given not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Philip. 1:29) – therefore does he say “rejoice in the Lord.”

For this can but mean: “if you exhibit such a life that you may rejoice”. Or “when your communion with God is not hindered, rejoice”. Or else the word “in” may stand for “with” – as if he had said “with the Lord.”

“Always; again I will say, Rejoice.” These are the words of one who brings comfort; as, for example, he who is in God rejoices always. Although he be afflicted, whatever he may suffer, such a man always rejoices.

Hear what Luke says, that “they returned from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be scourged for His name” (Acts 5:41).

If scourging and bonds, which seem to be the most grievous of all things, bring forth joy, what else will be able to produce grief in us?

[…] Behold another consolation, a medicine which heals grief, and distress, and all that is painful. And what is this? Prayer, thanksgiving in all things.

And so He wills that our prayers should not simply be requests, but thanksgivings too for what we have. For how should he ask for future things, who is not thankful for the past? “But in everything by prayer and supplication.”

Wherefore we ought to give thanks for all things, even for those which seem to be grievous, for this is the part of the truly thankful man. In the other case the nature of the things demands it; but this springs from a grateful soul, and one earnestly affected toward God.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on St Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, 14, 4 (on Philippians 4:4-6); slightly adapted).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seraphim of Sarov: The Spirit of God fills with joy whatever He touches Monday, May 18 2015 

Seraphim_SarovskyWhen the Spirit of God comes down to man and overshadows him with the fullness of His inspiration, then the human soul overflows with unspeakable joy, for the Spirit of God fills with joy whatever He touches.

This is that joy of which the Lord speaks in His Gospel: A woman when she is in travail has sorrow, because her hour is come; but when she is delivered of the child, she remembers no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.

In the world you will be sorrowful; but when I see you again, your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you (Jn. 16:21-22).

Yet however comforting may be this joy which you now feel in your heart, it is nothing in comparison with that of which the Lord Himself by the mouth of His Apostle said that that joy eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for them that love Him (I Cor. 2:9).

Foretastes of that joy are given to us now, and if they fill our souls with such sweetness, well-being and happiness, what shall we say of that joy which has been prepared in heaven for those who weep here on earth? And you, my son, have wept enough in your life on earth; yet see with what joy the Lord consoles you even in this life!

Now it is up to us, my son, to add labours to labours in order to go from strength to strength (Ps. 83:7), and to come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13), so that the words of the Lord may be fulfilled in us: 

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall grow wings like eagles; and they shall run and not be weary (Is. 40:31); they will go from strength to strength, and the God of gods will appear to them in the Sion (Ps. 83:8) of realization and heavenly visions.

Only then will our present joy (which now visits us little and briefly) appear in all its fullness, and no one will take it from us, for we shall be filled to overflowing with inexplicable heavenly delights.

Seraphim of Sarov (Orthodox Church; 1759-1833): On the Acquisition of the Holy Spirit.

Nikolai Velimirovich: Thus Did The One Ascend To Heaven Who Held Heaven Within Himself Friday, May 30 2014 

Nikolai VelimirovichThus did the One ascend to Heaven Who held heaven within Himself.

He who carries hell within himself will end up in hell, but he who bears heaven within his soul will ascend to heaven.

And truly, no one can ascend to heaven other than those who have heaven within; and no one can end up in hell besides those who have hell within.

The familiar is drawn to what is familiar and unites with the familiar; but it rejects what is not familiar.

Matter submits to the spirit to the extent that the human soul is filled with the Divine Spirit; and the laws of nature are obedient to moral laws, which govern the world.

Because the Lord Jesus Christ is the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the perfection of moral law, to Him is subject all matter—the entire physical world, with all the laws of nature.

Any person, as a spirit, can be victorious in his life over a certain law of nature, with the help of another law of nature—that is, he can overcome it with his own spirit.

Christ, as the God-Man, could subject the laws of nature to Himself through the law of the Spirit, which is the supreme law of the created world.

However, this concept, just as any other spiritual concept, can be but partially explained by ordinary earthly conceptualizations and reasoning—and that only by examples and comparisons.

Spiritual things only become clear beyond a doubt when the spirit sees them and perceives them.

In order to see and feel the manifestations of the spiritual world, long and exhausting spiritual practice is needed, after which, by God’s grace, spiritual vision may be opened in a person; this vision allows him to see what seems unbelievable and impossible to ordinary mortals.

Nevertheless, a person must first believe those who have seen the unbelievable, and strengthen their faith from day to day, striving to see what is inaccessible to the common gaze.

Not in vain does the Lord say, Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed (Jn. 20:29).

[…]  But the day will come—and that day is not far off—when all the righteous mean and women who firmly believed in Him throughout their lives will see Him.

And around Him in the heavens will gather all those who were baptized on earth in His name—not only with water, but also with the Spirit and Fire.

And they will enter into His joy, which the Heavenly Father has prepared for all His chosen, and will inherit a joy that they have never known before.

Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956; Orthodox Church): The Ascension of the Lord @ Pravoslavie.

Athanasius of Alexandria: Preparing to Eat the Passover Saturday, Apr 5 2014 

AthanasiusWho then will lead us to such a company of angels as this?

[…] ‘Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord?’

‘Who shall stand in His holy place, but he that hath clean hands, and a pure heart, who hath not devoted his soul to vanity, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbour.’

‘For he,’ as the Psalmist adds, when he goes up, ‘shall receive a blessing from the Lord’ (Ps. 24:3).

Now this clearly also refers to what the Lord gives to them at the right hand, saying, ‘Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you’ (Matt. 25:34).

But the deceitful, and he that is not pure of heart, and possesses nothing that is pure…shall assuredly, being a stranger, and of a different race from the saints, be accounted unworthy to eat the Passover, for ‘a foreigner shall not eat of it’ (Exod. 12:43).

[…] Wherefore let us not celebrate the feast after an earthly manner, but as keeping festival in heaven with the angels.

Let us glorify the Lord, by chastity, by righteousness, and other virtues. And let us rejoice, not in ourselves, but in the Lord, that we may be inheritors with the saints.

Let us keep the feast then, as Moses. Let us watch like David who rose seven times, and in the middle of the night gave thanks for the righteous judgments of God.

Let us be early, as he said, ‘In the morning I will stand before Thee, and Thou wilt look upon me: in the morning Thou wilt hear my voice’ (Ps. 5:3).

Let us fast like Daniel; let us pray without ceasing, as Paul commanded; all of us recognising the season of prayer…, so that having borne witness to these things, and thus having kept the feast, we may be able to enter into the joy of Christ in the kingdom of heaven.

Israel, when going up to Jerusalem, was first purified in the wilderness, being trained to forget the customs of Egypt, the Word by this typifying to us the holy fast of forty days.

So also let us first be purified and freed from defilement, so that when we depart hence, having been careful of fasting, we may be able to ascend to the upper chamber (cf. Luke 14:15) with the Lord, to sup with Him; and may be partakers of the joy which is in heaven.

In no other manner is it possible to go up to Jerusalem, and to eat the Passover, except by observing the fast of forty days.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Sixth Festal Letter, 11-12.

John Chrysostom: St Joseph and the Flight into Egypt Wednesday, Mar 19 2014 

John_ChrysostomNow the angel having thus appeared, talks not with Mary, but with Joseph, and says… “Arise, and take the young Child and His mother, and flee into Egypt” (Matthew 2:13).

And he mentions the cause of the flight: “For Herod,” he says, “will seek the young Child’s life.”

Joseph, when he had heard these things, was not offended, and did not say, “The thing is hard to understand; did you not say just now that He would save His people? and now He saves not even Himself, but we must fly, and go far from home, and be a long time away – the facts are contrary to the promise.”

Joseph does not say any of these things (for the man was faithful); neither is he curious about the time of his return; and this though the angel had put it indefinitely thus: “Be thou there until I tell thee.”

But nevertheless, not even at this did he shudder, but submits and obeys, undergoing all the trials with joy. And this because God, who is full of love to man, mingled pleasant things with these hardships.

This indeed is His way with regard to all the saints, making neither their dangers nor their refreshment continual, but weaving the life of all righteous men, out of both the one and the other.

This very thing He did here also. For consider, Joseph saw the Virgin with child. This cast him into agitation and the utmost trouble, for he was suspecting the damsel of adultery.

But straightway the angel was at hand to do away his suspicion, and remove his fears; and seeing the young child born, he reaped the greatest joy.

Again, no trifling danger succeeds this joy, the city being troubled, and the king in his madness seeking after Him that was born. But this trouble was again succeeded by another joy: the star, and the adoration of the wise men.

Again, after this pleasure, fear and danger: “For Herod,” saith he, “is seeking the young Child’s life,” and He must needs fly and withdraw Himself as any mortal might; the working of miracles not being seasonable as yet.

For if from His earliest infancy He had shown forth wonders, He would not have been accounted a Man. Because of this, let me add, neither is a temple framed at once; but a regular conception takes place, and a time of nine months, and pangs, and a delivery, and giving suck, and silence for so long a space, and He awaits the age proper to manhood; that by all means acceptance might be won for the mystery of His Economy.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on the Gospel According to St Matthew, 8, 4.

 

Saint Symeon the New Theologian: How fortunate are those who embraced divine Love! Wednesday, Mar 12 2014 

SYMEON-iconMarch 12th is the Feast of St Symeon the New Theologian (also October 12th).

Continued from here….

Love desired, how fortunate are those who have embraced you, for they will no longer have a yearning to embrace any human beauty.

How fortunate are they who are moved by divine love to cling to you: they’ll deny the whole world, and, to whatever degree they associate with others, they won’t be spoiled.

How fortunate are those who caress your beauty and delight in it with great desire, for their souls will be sanctified by the undefiled blood and water which issue from you.

How fortunate are those who passionately embrace you, for they will be altered for the better in spirit and will exult in their souls, because you are inexpressible joy.

How fortunate are they who gain possession of you, for they will count the treasures of the world as nothing, for you are indeed wealth “beyond the dreams of avarice”.

How blessed and thrice-blessed are they whom you accept, for though they be apparently without any glory, they will be more glorious than those who are glorious, more honoured than those who are honoured.

How worthy of praise are those who pursue you; even more so those who have found you.

Most blessed are those who are loved by you, received by you, taught by you, those who have dwelt in you and been fed by you with immortal food, that is the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Love divine, where are you holding Christ? Where are you concealing Him​? Why have you taken the Redeemer of the world and departed from us?

Open a wicket gate for us, so that we also may see Christ Who suffered for us, and so hope in His mercy that we’ll die no more when we once have seen Him. Open up to us, you who became the door allowing Him to be made manifest in the flesh.

Love, you who’ve forced the unforced and abundant compassion of our Master to bear the sins and infirmities of all people, do not reject us by saying, “I do not know you”. Be with us, so that you may come to know us, for we are not known to you.

Dwell in us, so that, for your sake, the Master may visit even us, who are lowly; go before us to meet Him, since we are wholly unworthy. So that He will pause on His way, to converse with you and will permit even us sinners to fall at His unblemished feet.

You’ll intercede on our behalf and plead with Him to forgive the debt of our sins, so that through you we may again be found worthy to serve Him, our Master, and be sustained and nourished by Him.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD): In Praise of Those Who Have Love in Their Hearts @ Pemptousia.

Nil Sorsky: Godly Sorrow Produces a Repentance that Leads to Salvation; Worldly Sorrow Produces Death Wednesday, Mar 5 2014 

Nil_SorskyWe have a great struggle to wage against the evil spirit of sorrow, which brings the soul into despair and perdition.

If the sorrow is occasioned by other people, we have to suffer it with joy, and pray for those who have saddened us, as I said before, bearing in mind that whatever befalls us does so with God’s sanction.

Whatever the Lord sends us, He does only for the benefit and salvation of our soul.

It may be that, in the beginning, it doesn’t seem to bring us any benefit, but later we’ll realize that what God has allowed us to go through has been better for us than what we ourselves would have wanted to happen.

So we shouldn’t think in human terms, but should believe with certainty that the unsleeping eye of God sees all things and that nothing happens without His will.

It’s from the wealth of His mercy that these situations and temptations happen to us, so that we can earn our heavenly reward through our patience.

Because without temptations, no-one has ever been crowned.

This is why we should offer glory to God for everything, because He is our Dispenser and Saviour, as Saint Isaac the Syrian says: “The mouth that glorifies God is acceptable to God, and grace dwells in the heart which thanks God from its depths”.

Besides, we should avoid complaints and judgements against those who’ve saddened us and should pray for them, as the same saint says: God puts up with all the weaknesses that people have, but those who continually censure other people won’t go without correction.

Though we must have the soul-saving sorrow over the sins we commit, with hope in our repentance to God and in the knowledge that there’s no sin which defeats God’s love for us, since He forgives everyone who repents sincerely and prays to Him.

This sorrow is linked to joy (joyful sadness) and kindles in people the desire for everything spiritual and gives them patience in their trials. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death”, says Saint Paul (2 Cor. 7, 10).

So we should seek godly sorrow, because it brings internal repose, whereas the grief that proceeds from Satan should be expelled from our hearts, together with all the other passions, through prayer, the study of sacred texts and the receiving of Holy Communion.

Grief which is not from God and for the love of God is the cause of all evils, and, unless we free ourselves from it, despair will overcome us and our soul will be devoid of grace, overwhelmed with sloth and won’t even want to pray or read our sacred books.

Nil Sorsky (Russian Orthodox; c. 1433–1508): The Passions of Avarice, Anger, Sorrow and Sloth @ Pemptousia.

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.

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