John Cassian: There are three things which enable men to control their faults Saturday, Oct 8 2016 

Sf-IoanCasianThen the blessed Chæremon spoke:

There are, said he, three things which enable men to control their faults;

viz., either the fear of hell or of laws even now imposed;

or the hope and desire of the kingdom of heaven;

or a liking for goodness itself and the love of virtue.

For then we read that the fear of evil loathes contamination: “The fear of the Lord hateth evil” (Prov. 9:13).

Hope also shuts out the assaults of all faults: for “all who hope in Him shall not fail” (Ps. 33:23).

Love also fears no destruction from sins, for “love never faileth” (1 Cor. 13), and again “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8).

And therefore the blessed Apostle confines the whole sum of salvation in the attainment of those three virtues, saying “Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three” (1 Cor. 13:13).

For faith is what makes us shun the stains of sin from fear of future judgment and punishment;

hope is what withdraws our mind from present things, and despises all bodily pleasures from its expectation of heavenly rewards;

love is what inflames us with keenness of heart for the love of Christ and the fruit of spiritual goodness, and makes us hate with a perfect hatred whatever is opposed to these.

And these three things although they all seem to aim at one and the same end (for they incite us to abstain from things unlawful) yet they differ from each other greatly in the degrees of their excellence.

For the two former belong properly to those men who in their aim at goodness have not yet acquired the love of virtue, and the third belongs specially to God and to those who have received into themselves the image and likeness of God.

For He alone does the things that are good, with no fear and no thanks or reward to stir Him up, but simply from the love of goodness. For, as Solomon says, “The Lord hath made all things for Himself” (Prov. 16:4).

For under cover of His own goodness He bestows all the fulness of good things on the worthy and the unworthy because He cannot be wearied by wrongs, nor be moved by passions at the sins of men, as He ever remains perfect goodness and unchangeable in His nature.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 11, 6.

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Augustine of Hippo: “The purpose of our instruction is to arouse the love that comes from a pure heart, and clear conscience, and a genuine faith” Friday, Oct 7 2016 

St Augustine of AfricaSpeak that by hearing those whom you address may believe, and that belief may give them hope, and hope inspire them to love

In everything we say we should bear in mind that the purpose of our instruction is to arouse the love that comes from a pure heart, and clear conscience, and a genuine faith.

This is the end to which we should relate all our words, and toward which we should also move and direct the thoughts of those for whose instruction we are speaking.

The chief reason for Christ’s coming was so that we should know how much God loves us, and knowing this be on fire with love for him who loved us first, and for our neighbour at the bidding and after the example of him who became our neighbour by loving us when we were not his neighbours, but had wandered far from him.

Moreover, all inspired Scripture written before the Lord’s coming was written to foretell that coming, and all that was later committed to writing and ratified by divine authority speaks of Christ and teaches us to love.

It is clear therefore that upon these two commandments, love of God and of our neighbour, depend not only the whole of the Law and the Prophets, which was all that made up holy Scripture when the Lord spoke these words, but also all the divinely inspired books which were later written for our salvation and handed down to us.

In the Old Testament, then, the New is concealed, and in the New the Old is revealed. Insofar as the New Testament is con­cealed, worldly people, who interpret Scripture in a worldly way, are now as in the past subject to the fear of punishment.

But insofar as the Old Testament has been revealed, spiritual people, who interpret Scripture spiritually, are set free by the gift of love; that is to say, both those of old to whose devout knocking hidden things were made known, and those of today who seek without pride, for fear that even what is manifest may be hidden from them.

And so, since nothing is more contrary to love than envy, and the mother of envy is pride, to cure our boundless conceit by a more powerful antidote, the Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, became both the proof of God’s love for us, and the example of humility among us. Great is the misery of human pride, but even greater is the mercy of divine humility.

With this love before you, then, you have something to which you may relate everything you say; so speak that by hearing those whom you address may believe, and that belief may give them hope, and hope inspire them to love.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): De catechizandis rudibus I, 6-8  (CCL 46:124, 126-128); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesrday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2.

Maximus the Confessor: He to whom it is granted to be worthy of God through love does away with self-love Monday, Apr 18 2016 

Maximus_ConfessorContinued from here….

This self-love is, and is known to be, the first sin, the first progeny of the devil and the mother of the passions that come after it.

He to whom it is granted to be worthy of God through love does away with it, and together with it the whole host of wickedness, which has no other foundation or cause of existence than self-love.

For such a one no longer knows pride, the mark of that vain opinion that opposes God, the monstrous, composite evil.

He does not know the glory that causes one to fall, and casts down from itself those who are puffed up with it.

He causes envy to waste away, which itself first rightly lays waste those who possess it, through voluntary goodwill making his own those who share the same nature. Anger, bloodthirstiness, wrath, guile, hypocrisy, dissembling, resentment, greed, and everything by which the one human person is divided up: all these he roots up.

For by plucking out self-love, which is, as they say, the beginning and mother of all evils, everything that comes from it and after it is plucked out as well. Once this is no more, absolutely no form or trace of evil can any longer subsist.

All the forms of virtue are introduced, fulfilling the power of love, which gathers together what has been separated, once again fashioning the human being in accordance with a single meaning and mode.

It levels off and makes equal any inequality or difference in inclination in anything, or rather binds it to that praiseworthy inequality, by which each is so drawn to his neighbour in preference to himself and so honours him before himself, that he is eager to spurn any obstacle in his desire to excel.

And for this reason each one willingly frees himself from himself, by separating himself from any thoughts or properties to which he is privately inclined, and is gathered to the one singleness and sameness, in accordance with which nothing is in anyway separated from what is common to all, so that each is in each, and all in all, or rather in God and in others, and they are radiantly established as one, having the one logos of being in themselves, utterly single in nature and inclination.

And in this God is understood: in him they are all beheld together and they are bound together and raised to him, as the source and maker. The logos of being of all beings by nature preserves itself pure and inviolate for our attention, who, with conscious zeal through the virtues and the toils that accompany them, have been purified from the passions that rebel against it.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Letter 2: On Love in Andrew Louth: Maximus the Confessor (Routledge, 1996), pp. 85.

Maximus the Confessor: Bringing about union with him and of human beings with one another, God renewed the power of love, the adversary of self-love Thursday, Jan 21 2016 

Maximus_ConfessorSince the deceitful devil at the beginning contrived by guile to attack humankind through his self-love, deceiving him through pleasure, he has separated us in our inclinations from God and from one another, and turned us away from rectitude.

He has divided nature at the level of mode of existence, fragmenting it into a multitude of opinions and imaginations.

He has set up the means through which each vice may be discovered, and with time established a law, to which all our powers are devoted, introducing into everything a wicked support for the continuance of vice— namely, irreconcilable inclinations.

By this he has prevailed on humankind to turn from the natural movement he once had and to move his longing from what is permitted to what is forbidden.

Thus humankind has brought into being from itself the three greatest, primordial evils, and (to speak simply) the begetters of all vice: ignorance, I mean, and self-love and tyranny, which are interdependent and established one through another.

For out of ignorance concerning God there arises self-love. And out of this comes tyranny towards one’s kin: of this there is no doubt. For by the misuse of our own powers—reason, desire and the incensive power—these evils are established.

For reason, instead of being ignorant, ought to be moved through knowledge to seek solely after God; and desire, pure of the passion of self-love, ought to be driven by yearning for God alone; and the incensive power, separated from tyranny, ought to struggle to attain God alone.

And the divine and blessed love, which is fashioned from these and through which these come to be, will embrace God and manifest the one who loves God to be God himself.

Since these have turned out evil, because of man’s own will and the devil’s deceit with regard to human beings, God, who made nature and wisely healed it when it was sick through wickedness, through his love towards us, emptied himself, taking the form of a slave (Phil. 2:7), and without change united himself to this [nature] hypostatically.

For our sake and from us and through us he became wholly man to such a degree that unbelievers thought that he was not God, while existing as God to such a degree that to believers was granted the ineffable and true meaning of reverent religion.

In this way the works of the devil were dissolved, and nature restored to its pure powers, and by again bringing about union with him and of human beings with one another, God renewed the power of love, the adversary of self-love.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Letter 2: On Love in Andrew Louth: Maximus the Confessor (Routledge, 1996), pp. 84-85.

Maximus the Confessor: Bringing about union with him and of human beings with one another, God renewed the power of love, the adversary of self-love Monday, Nov 16 2015 

Maximus_ConfessorContinued from here….

Since the deceitful devil at the beginning contrived by guile to attack humankind through his self-love, deceiving him through pleasure, he has separated us in our inclinations from God and from one another, and turned us away from rectitude.

He has divided nature at the level of mode of existence, fragmenting it into a multitude of opinions and imaginations.

He has set up the means through which each vice may be discovered, and with time established a law, to which all our powers are devoted, introducing into everything a wicked support for the continuance of vice — namely, irreconcilable inclinations.

By this he has prevailed on humankind to turn from the natural movement he once had and to move his longing from what is permitted to what is forbidden.

Thus humankind has brought into being from itself the three greatest, primordial evils, and (to speak simply) the begetters of all vice: ignorance, I mean, and self-love and tyranny, which are interdependent and established one through another.

For out of ignorance concerning God there arises self-love. And out of this comes tyranny towards one’s kin: of this there is no doubt. For by the misuse of our own powers — reason, desire and the incensive power — these evils are established.

For reason, instead of being ignorant, ought to be moved through knowledge to seek solely after God; and desire, pure of the passion of self-love, ought to be driven by yearning for God alone; and the incensive power, separated from tyranny, ought to struggle to attain God alone.

And the divine and blessed love, which is fashioned from these and through which these come to be, will embrace God and manifest the one who loves God to be God himself.

Since these have turned out evil, because of man’s own will and the devil’s deceit with regard to human beings, God, who made nature and wisely healed it when it was sick through wickedness, through his love towards us, emptied himself, taking the form of a slave (Phil. 2:7), and without change united himself to this [nature] hypostatically.

For our sake and from us and through us he became wholly man to such a degree that unbelievers thought that he was not God, while existing as God to such a degree that to believers was granted the ineffable and true meaning of reverent religion.

In this way the works of the devil were dissolved, and nature restored to its pure powers, and by again bringing about union with him and of human beings with one another, God renewed the power of love, the adversary of self-love.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Letter 2: On Love in Andrew Louth: Maximus the Confessor (Routledge, 1996), pp. 84-85.

Maximus the Confessor: Nothing is more truly Godlike than divine love, nothing more apt to raise up human beings to deification Monday, Oct 26 2015 

Maximus_ConfessorNothing is more truly Godlike than divine love, nothing more mysterious, nothing more apt to raise up human beings to deification.

For it has gathered together in itself all good things that are recounted by the logos of truth in the form of virtue, and it has absolutely no relation to anything that has the form of wickedness, since it is the fulfilment of the law and the prophets.

For they were succeeded by the mystery of love, which out of human beings makes us gods, and reduces the individual commandments to a universal meaning [logos].

Everything is circumscribed by love according to God’s good pleasure in a single form, and love is dispensed in many forms in accordance with God’s economy.

For what form of good things does love not possess?

Neither faith, the first premiss in matters concerning true religion, assuring the one who possesses it of the existence of God and of divine matters, and that much more surely than the eye by attending to the appearances of sensible things furnishes an opinion concerning them for those who see;

nor hope, which establishes the truly subsisting good, and that much more effectively than the hand does to even the most solid of material things that fall beneath its touch.

For does not love grant enjoyment of those things believed in and hoped for, by itself making present the things to come?

[…] Faith is the foundation of everything that comes after it, I mean hope and love, and firmly establishes what is true. Hope is the strength of the extremes, I mean faith and love, for it appears as faithful by itself and loved by both, and teaches through itself to make it to the end of the course.

Love is the fulfilment of these, wholly embraced as the final last desire, and furnishes them rest from their movement. For love gives faith the reality of what it believes and hope the presence of what it hopes for, and the enjoyment of what is present.

Love alone, properly speaking, proves that the human person is in the image of the Creator, by making his self-determination submit to reason, not bending reason under it, and persuading the inclination to follow nature and not in any way to be at variance with the logos of nature.

In this way we are all, as it were, one nature, so that we are able to have one inclination and one will with God and with one another, not having any discord with God or one another, whenever by the law of grace, through which by our inclination the law of nature is renewed, we choose what is ultimate.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Letter 2: On Love in Andrew Louth: Maximus the Confessor (Routledge, 1996), pp. 82-84.

Irenaeus of Lyons: “Gladly therefore shall I rather glory in infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me” Tuesday, Oct 13 2015 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonWe learn by experience that we possess eternal duration from the excelling power of this Being, not from our own nature.

This is so that we may neither undervalue that glory which surrounds God as He is, nor be ignorant of our own nature, but that we may know what God can effect, and what benefits man receives.

Thus we should never wander from the true comprehension of things as they are, that is, both with regard to God and with regard to man.

[…] The Apostle Paul has…in the most lucid manner, pointed out that man has been delivered over to his own infirmity, lest, being uplifted, he might fall away from the truth.

Thus he says in the second Epistle to the Corinthians: And lest I should be lifted up by the sublimity of the revelations, there was given unto me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me.

And upon this I besought the Lord three times, that it might depart from me. But he said unto me, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for strength is made perfect in weakness”.

Gladly therefore shall I rather glory in infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me (2 Cor. 12:7–9).

[…] Did the Lord wish, in that case, that His apostles should thus undergo buffeting, and that he should endure such infirmity?

Even so it was; the word says it. For strength is made perfect in weakness, rendering him a better man who by means of his infirmity becomes acquainted with the power of God.

For how could a man have learned that he is himself an infirm being, and mortal by nature, but that God is immortal and powerful, unless he had learned by experience what is in both?

For there is nothing evil in learning one’s infirmities by endurance; yea, rather, it has even the beneficial effect of preventing him from forming an undue opinion of his own nature.

But [man’s] being lifted up against God, and taking His glory to one’s self, rendering man ungrateful, has brought much evil upon him.

And thus, I say, man must learn both things by experience, that he may not be destitute of truth and love either towards himself or his Creator.

But the experience of both confers upon him the true knowledge as to God and man, and increases his love towards God. Now, where there exists an increase of love, there a greater glory is wrought out by the power of God for those who love Him.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses 5,2,3 & 5,3,1 [slightly adapted].

Silouan the Athonite: The sweetness of the Holy Spirit regenerates the entire man Thursday, Jul 30 2015 

Silouan the AthoniteThis is true freedom – to be in God.

And I did not know this before.

Until I was seven and twenty I simply believed that God was, but I did not know Him;

but when my soul knew Him by the Holy Spirit I was consumed with longing for Him, and now day and night I seek Him with burning heart.

The Lord wants us to love one another: in this – in love towards God and our fellow-man – lies freedom.

In this lie both freedom and equality.  With society as it is graduated on this earth, there can be no equality; but that is of no importance to the soul.

Not everyone can be an emperor or a prince; not everyone can be a patriarch or an abbot, or a leader; but in every walk of life we can love God and be pleasing to Him, and only this is important.

And the man who loves God most in this world will have the most glory in the Kingdom.

He who loves most will the most strongly yearn and reach for God, and be closest to Him.

Each will be glorified according to the measure of his life. And I have discovered that love varies in strength.

When a man fears God lest he grieve Him in some way – that is the first degree of love.

He who keeps his mind pure of intrusive thoughts knows the second degree of love, which is greater than the first.

The third and still greater kind of love is when a man is sensible of grace in his soul.

The fourth and perfect kind of love for God exists when a man possesses the grace of the Holy Spirit both in soul and body.

The body is then hallowed, and after death the earthly remains become relics.  This is what happened in the case of the holy Martyrs and Prophets and venerable Fathers.

[…] The sweetness of the Holy Spirit regenerates the entire man and teaches him to love God to the utmost.

In the fulness of her love for God, the soul has no contact with the world; though a man live on earth among other men, in his love for God he forgets everything that is of this world.

But our trouble is that through the pride of our mind we do not continue in this grace, and so grace forsakes us, and the soul seeks it, weeping and sobbing and saying, “My soul longs for the Lord.’

Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938; Eastern Orthodox): from St. Silouan, Wisdom From Mount Athos – The Writings of Staretz Silouan 1866-1938, by Archimandrite Sophrony, trans. Rosemary Edmonds, (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY 1974) @ Kandylaki.

Dorotheus of Gaza: Ascending from one step to the next you will attain with God’s help even the top of the ladder Monday, Jun 15 2015 

Dorotheos2Scripture says, Love thy neighbor as thyself (Lev. 19:18, Matt. 19:19).

Pay no attention to how short you fall of this virtue, lest you become fearful and say, “How can I love my neighbor as myself?

Can I be concerned for his sorrows as my own, and especially for those secret ones in his heart, which I do not see and do not know?”

Do not entertain such thoughts, do not think that the virtue exceeds your strength and is impossible to fulfill, but only place a beginning with hope in God, show Him your goodwill and your effort, and you will see the help He will give you to perform the virtue.

Imagine two ladders, one leading above to Heaven and the other going down to hell, and you stand on the earth between these two ladders.

Do not think and do not say, “How can I fly up from the earth and be suddenly in the heights of Heaven—that is, at the top of the ladder?” This is impossible and God does not demand this from you.

However, be careful at least not to go down.

Do not do evil to your neighbor, do not offend him, do not slander him, do not speak evil of him, do not belittle him, do not reproach him, and in this way you will begin with time, little by little, to do good also to your brother, consoling him by words, being compassionate to him or giving him what he needs.

Thus, ascending from one step to the next you will attain with God’s help even the top of the ladder.

For little by little, helping your neighbor, you will ascend to the stage of desiring his profit as your own, and his success as your own.

This is what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.

If we seek we will find, and if we ask God He will enlighten us; for in the Holy Gospel it is said, Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you (Matt. 7:7).

It is said, “Ask,” so that we might call upon God in prayer; and “seek” means that we should experience how virtue itself comes to us, what brings it, and what we should do in order to acquire it; therefore try to know what is meant also by “seek and ye shall find.”

“Knock” means to fulfill the commandments, for everyone who knocks does so with his hands—and hands signify activity. So, we should not only ask, but seek and act, striving, as the Apostle said, that ye may abound unto every good work (II Cor. 9:8, II Tim. 2:21).

Dorotheos of Gaza (505-565 or 620): Conference 14 – On the Building and Construction of the Soul’s House of Virtues @ Pravoslavie.

Ambrose of Milan: As the love of the Father and the Son is one, so this love of God is shed abroad by the Holy Spirit Sunday, May 17 2015 

ambrose_of_milanWhat is the love of the Son, but that He offered Himself for us, and redeemed us with His own blood (Eph. 5:2).

But the same love is in the Father, for it is written: “God so loved the world, that He gave His Only-begotten Son” ( John 3:16).

So, then, the Father gave the Son, and the Son gave Himself.

Love is preserved and due affection is not wronged, for affection is not wronged where there is no distress in the giving up.

He gave one Who was willing, He gave One Who offered Himself, the Father did not give the Son to punishment but to grace.

If you enquire into the merit of the deed, enquire into the description of the affection.

The vessel of election shows plainly the unity of this divine love, because both the Father gave the Son and the Son gave Himself.

The Father gave, Who “spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32).

And of the Son he [St Paul] also says: “Who gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

“Gave Himself,” he says. If it be of grace, what do I find fault with. If it be that He suffered wrong, I owe the more.

But learn that in like manner as the Father gave the Son, and the Son gave Himself, so, too, the Holy Spirit gave Him. For it is written: “Then was Jesus led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1).

So, too, the loving Spirit gave the Son of God.

For as the love of the Father and the Son is one, so, too, we have shown that this love of God is shed abroad by the Holy Spirit, and is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, because “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience” (Gal. 5:22).

And that there is communion between the Father and the Son is plain, for it is written: “And our communion is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

And in another place: “The communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14).

If, then, the peace of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one, the grace one, the love one, and the communion one, the working is certainly one, and where the working is one, certainly the power cannot be divided nor the substance separated.

For, if so, how could the grace of the same working agree?

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397):  On the Holy Spirit, Book 1, 12, 128-131.

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