Macarius the Egyptian: The grace of God writes the laws of the Spirit and the mysteries of Heaven on the tables of the heart Sunday, Jan 19 2014 

Macarius3January 19th is the feast of St Macarius the Egyptian (eastern calendar).

When the rich men of the earth have brought much fruit into their garners, they set to work again every day to get more, in order to have plenty, and not run short.

If they presume upon the wealth laid up in the garners, and take things easily and add no more, but use up what they have stored already, they soon sink into want and poverty.

So they have to labour and add, enlarging their intake, that they may not get behindhand.

In Christianity, to taste of the grace of God is like that. Taste, it says, and see how gracious the Lord is (Psalm 35:8).

This tasting is an effectual power of the Spirit in full certainty, ministering in the heart.

As many as are the sons of light, and of the ministry of the New Covenant in the Holy Ghost, these have nothing to learn from men; they are taught of God (1 Thess. 4:9).

Grace itself writes upon their hearts the laws of the Spirit.

They ought not therefore to rest their assurance only upon the scriptures that are written in ink; the grace of God writes the laws of the Spirit and the mysteries of heaven upon the tables of the heart as well (2 Cor. 3:2).

For the heart governs and reigns over the whole bodily organism; and when grace possesses the ranges of the heart, it reigns over all the members and the thoughts.

For there, in the heart, is the mind, and all the faculties of the soul, and its expectation; therefore grace penetrates also to all the members of the body.

On the other hand, as many as are sons of darkness, sin reigns over their heart, and penetrates to all their members, for out of their hearts proceed evil thoughts (Matt. 15:19), and thus diffused puts the man in darkness.

Those who say that evil is not born and bred in man, may have no anxiety about tomorrow, nor any desire either.

For a certain length of time, evil ceases to cause trouble in them by suggesting some object of desire, so that a man will affirm on oath, “Such a passion no longer assails me.”

After a short while he is consumed with the desire, so that he is found guilty of perjury into the bargain.

As water runs through a pipe, so does sin through the heart and thoughts.

As many as will not have this notion, are refuted and mocked by sin itself, even if sin did not wish to triumph; for evil endeavours to escape notice and to be hidden in the mind of man.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 15, 20-21, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Francis de Sales: The Magnet of our Heart Must Continually Point to the Love of God Tuesday, Dec 17 2013 

Franz_von_SalesThe order of God’s Providence maintains a perpetual vicissitude in the material being of this world.

[…] No two days are ever exactly alike. Some are foggy, rainy, some dry or windy; and this endless variety greatly enhances the beauty of the universe.

And even so precisely is it with man (who, as ancient writers have said, is a miniature of the world), for he is never long in any one condition, and his life on earth flows by like the mighty waters, heaving and tossing with an endless variety of motion;

one  raising him on high with hope, another plunging him low in fear; now turning him to the right with rejoicing, then driving him to the left with sorrows; and no single day, no, not even one hour, is entirely the same as any other of his life.

All this is a very weighty warning, and teaches us to aim at an abiding and unchangeable evenness of mind amid so great an uncertainty of events; and, while all around is changing, we must seek to remain immoveable, ever looking to, reaching after and desiring our God.

Let the ship take what tack you will, let her course be eastward or westward, northern or southern, let any wind whatsoever fill her sails, but meanwhile her compass will never cease to point to its one unchanging lodestar.

Let all around us be overthrown, nay more, all within us; I mean let our soul be sad or glad, in bitterness or joy, at peace or troubled, dry and parched, or soft and fruitful, let the sun scorch, or the dew refresh it;

but all the while the magnet of our heart and mind, our superior will, which is our moral compass, must continually point to the Love of God our Creator, our Saviour, our only Sovereign Good.

“Whether we live, we live unto the Lord, or whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord’s. Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ?”

Nay, verily, nothing can ever separate us from that Love;—neither tribulation nor distress, neither death nor life, neither present suffering nor fear of ills to come; neither the deceits of evil spirits nor the heights of satisfaction, nor the depths of sorrow; neither tenderness nor desolation, shall be able to separate us from that Holy Love, whose foundation is in Christ Jesus.

Such a fixed resolution never to forsake God, or let go of His Precious Love, serves as ballast to our souls, and will keep them stedfast amid the endless changes and chances of this our natural life.

Francis de Sales (1567-1622): Introduction to the Devout Life, 4, 13.

Basil the Great: Swimming Upwards to the Light Saturday, Nov 30 2013 

St-Basil-the-GreatIf you would speak of God, or hear of Him, go out from your body, put aside your bodily senses, leave this earth behind you, leave the sea behind you, set the skies beneath you, pass beyond the measuring of time, the procession of the seasons, the ordered perfection of the universe;

rise above the heavens, pass beyond the stars, and the wonders that relate to them, their ordered movement, their magnitude, their service to all the universe, their harmony, their shining splendour, their ordered station, their motion, their rotation one in respect of another.

Passing in mind beyond all these things, raised above them all, gaze in thought upon all the beauty there, upon the heavenly hosts, the Angelic Choirs, the Dignities of the Archangels, the Glory of the Dominations, the Seats of the Thrones, the Virtues, the Principalities, the Powers.

Passing beyond all these, reaching upwards in thought beyond every created thing, uplifting the mind beyond them, now contemplate the Divine Nature: stable, immovable, unchangeable, impassable, simple, indivisible, dwelling in light inaccessible (1 Tim. 6:10), surpassing glory, goodness the most desired, beauty inconceivable; which fastens fiercely upon the soul, wounding it, yet cannot fittingly be spoken of in words.

There are the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit: Nature Uncreated, Sovereign Majesty, Goodness Itself. The Father the beginning of all things, the Source of existence of all that is, the Root of all that lives. From Him comes forth the Fount of Life, Wisdom, Power, the perfect Image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), the Son Begotten of the Father, the Living Word, Who is God, Who is with God (Jn. 1:2).

[…] The mind then that has been able to purify itself of all earthly affections, and to leave behind it every known creature, and, like some fish from the deep, swim upwards to the light, now attaining to the purity of the beginning, with the Father and Son, there shall look upon the Holy Spirit, Who by reason of His essential Unity of Nature with Them shares also in their Goodness, Their Justice, Their Holiness, Their Life.

For Thy Spirit, it is written, is good (Ps. 142:10). And again, He is a right Spirit (Ps. 1:12). And again, He is Thy holy Spirit (5:13). And the Apostle also speaks of: The law of the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2). Of these things none has been received by Him, none afterwards added to Him; but as heat is inseparable from fire and radiance from light, so Sanctification cannot be separated from the Holy Spirit, nor the Giving of Life, nor Goodness, nor Justice.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15,1-3, Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D. (PG 31) @ Lectionary Central.

Augustine of Hippo: Jesus Brings to Light Things Hidden in Darkness and Makes Plain the Secrets of the Heart Friday, Nov 29 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaAnd we possess a more certain prophetic word to which you do well to attend, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (1 Peter 2:19).

When our Lord Jesus Christ comes and, as the apostle Paul says, brings to light things hidden in darkness and makes plain the secrets of the heart, so that everyone may receive his commendation from God, then lamps will no longer be needed.

When that day is at hand, the prophet will not be read to us, the book of the Apostle will not be opened, we shall not require the testimony of John, we shall have no need of the Gospel itself.

Therefore all Scriptures will be taken away from us, those Scriptures which in the night of this world burned like lamps so that we might not remain in darkness.

When all these things are removed as no longer necessary for our illumination, and when the men of God by whom they were ministered to us shall themselves together with us behold the true and dear light without such aids, what shall we see?

With what shall our minds be nourished? What will give joy to our gaze? Where will that gladness come from, which eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, which has not even been conceived by the heart of man? What shall we see?

I implore you to love with me and, by believing, to run with me; let us long for our heavenly country, let us sigh for our heavenly home, let us truly feel that here we are strangers.

What shall we then see? Let the gospel tell us: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. You will come to the fountain, with whose dew you have already been sprinkled.

Instead of the ray of light which was sent through slanting and winding ways into the heart of your darkness, you will see the light itself in all its purity and brightness. It is to see and experience this light that you are now being cleansed.

Dearly beloved, John himself says, we are the sons of God, and it has not yet been disclosed what we shall be; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

I feel that your spirits are being raised up with mine to the heavens above; but the body which is corruptible weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind.

I am about to lay aside this book, and you are soon going away, each to his own business. It has been good for us to share the common light, good to have enjoyed ourselves, good to have been glad together. When we part from one another, let us not depart from him.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Commentary on the Gospel of John, Tract. 35, 8-9 (CCL 36, 321-323) from the Roman Office of Readings for Tuesday in the 34th week in Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

John Cassian: An incomprehensible and all-devouring flame… Thursday, Nov 7 2013 

Sf-IoanCasianSupplication is an imploring or petition concerning sins, in which one who is sorry for his present or past deeds asks for pardon….

Prayers are those by which we offer or vow something to God….

Intercessions we offer up for others….

Thanksgivings the mind in ineffable transports offers up to God.

[…] Supplication seems to belong more especially to beginners, who are still troubled by the stings and recollection of their sins.

Prayers belong to those who have already attained some loftiness of mind in their spiritual progress and the quest of virtue.

Intercessions belong to those who fulfil the completion of their vows by their works, and are so stimulated to intercede for others also through the consideration of their weakness, and the earnestness of their love.

Thanksgivings belong to those who have already torn from their hearts the guilty thorns of conscience.

Being now free from care, they can contemplate with a pure mind the beneficence of God and His compassions, which He has either granted in the past, or is giving in the present, or preparing for the future.

Thus they are borne onward with fervent hearts to that ardent prayer which cannot be embraced or expressed by the mouth of men.

Sometimes however the mind which is advancing to that perfect state of purity and which is already beginning to be established in it, will take in all these at one and the same time.

Like some incomprehensible and all-devouring flame, it will dart through them all and offer up to God inexpressible prayers of the purest force.

The Spirit Itself, intervening with groanings that cannot be uttered, while we ourselves understand not, pours forth these prayers to God, grasping at that hour and ineffably pouring forth in its supplications things so great that they cannot be uttered with the mouth nor even at any other time be recollected by the mind.

And thence it comes that in whatever degree any one stands, he is found sometimes to offer up pure and devout prayers.

Even in that first and lowly station which has to do with the recollection of future judgment, he who still remains under the punishment of terror and the fear of judgment is so smitten with sorrow for the time being that he is filled with no less keenness of spirit from the richness of his supplications than he who through the purity of his heart gazes on and considers the blessings of God and is overcome with ineffable joy and delight.

For, as the Lord Himself says, he begins to love the more, who knows that he has been forgiven the more.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 9, 11-15.

Ambrose of Milan: Open Your Windows so that Your Whole House Shines with the Brightness of the True Sun Monday, Oct 28 2013 

ambrose_of_milanHow can God fail to be everywhere, when you read of the Spirit of God that the Spirit of the Lord has filled the whole world? 

For where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the Lord God. I fill heaven and earth, says the Lord. 

Where then can he fail to be who fills everything? Or how can we all share in his fullness unless he is near all of us?

So, knowing that God is everywhere, and fills the sky, the earth, and the sea, David says: Where can I escape from your Spirit, where flee from your face?

If I go up to heaven you are there; if I go down to Sheol you are there; if I take flight before dawn to dwell at the sea’s furthest end, even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast. 

In what few words he has shown that God is everywhere, and that wherever the Spirit of God is, there is God, and where God is there is his Spirit!

The union of the indivisible Trinity is portrayed here, since it is the Son of God who pro­nounced these words through the mouth of the prophet.

He spoke in his human nature, for he descended to earth in the incarnation, ascended to heaven in the resurrection, and through his bodily death went down to the underworld to free the prisoners.

[…] Since we know that the sun shines everywhere, can we doubt that the splendor of God’s glory and the image of his being shines everywhere?

What could the Word of God, the eternal splendor, not penetrate, when he illuminates even the hidden mind, which the sun itself cannot penetrate? He penetrates the soul, then, and illuminates it as with the brightness of eternal light.

But although his virtue is poured out among all and into all and over all, since he was born of the Virgin for the sake of all, both good and bad, just as he com­mands his sun to rise over good and bad, nevertheless he warms only those who come near to him.

For just as people shut out the sun’s brightness when they close the windows of their houses and choose to live in darkness, so those who turn their backs on the Sun of Righteousness cannot see its splendor.

They walk in darkness, and it is plain to everyone that they them­selves are the cause of their blindness. Open your windows, then, so that your whole house shines with the brightness of the true Sun; open your eyes so that you can see the Sun of Righteousness rising for you.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Psalm 118, 19, 36-39 (CSEL 62, 440-442); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time Year 1 @ Dom Donald’s Blog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ambrose of Milan: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil Saturday, Oct 5 2013 

ambrose_of_milanI shall not despoil Adam of all the virtues, so that he would appear to have attained no virtue in Paradise and would seem to have eaten nothing from the other trees, but had fallen into sin before he had obtained any fruit.

I shall…not despoil Adam lest I may despoil the whole human race, which is innocent before it acquires the capacity to know good and evil.

Not without reason was it said: ‘Unless you turn and become like this child, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt.18:3).

The child, when he is scolded, does not retaliate. When he is struck, he does not strike back. He is not conscious of the allurements of ambition and self-seeking.

The truth seems to be, then, that He commanded the tree not to be eaten, not even along with the fruit of the other trees.

Knowledge of good, in fact, although of no use to a perfect man, is, on the other hand, of no value to a man who is imperfect.

Paul speaks of himself as imperfect: ‘Not that I have already obtained this or already have been made perfect, but I press on hoping that I may lay hold of it already’ (Phil. 3:12).

Hence the Lord says to the imperfect: ‘Do not judge that you may not be judged’ (Matt. 7:1). Knowledge is, therefore, of no use to the imperfect. Hence we read: ‘I did not know sin unless the Law had said, thou shalt not lust’. And further on we read: ‘For without the Law sin is dead’ (Rom. 7:7-8).

What advantage is it to me to know what I cannot avoid? What avails it for me to know that the law of my flesh assails me? Paul is assailed and sees ‘the law of his flesh warring against that of his mind and making him prisoner to the law of sin.

He does not rely on himself, but by the grace of Christ is confident of his ‘deliverance from the body of death (Rom. 7:23-24). Do you think that anyone with knowledge of sin can avoid it?

Paul says: ‘For I do not the good that I wish, but the evil that I do not wish’ (Rom. 7:19). Do you consider that this knowledge which adds to the reproach of sin can be of help to man?

Granted, however, that the perfect man is unable to sin. God foresaw all men in the person of Adam. Hence it was not fitting that the human race in general should have a knowledge of good and evil – a knowledge which he could not utilize because of the weakness of the flesh.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Paradise, 12, 59-60 from Saint Ambrose: Hexameron, Paradise, Cain and Abel, translated by John J. Savage, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 42), pp. 340-342.

John Chrysostom: “With Every Spiritual Blessing in the Heavenly Places” Friday, Sep 13 2013 

John_ChrysostomWho hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

“With every spiritual blessing.” And what lackest thou yet? Thou art made immortal, thou art made free, thou art made a son, thou art made righteous.

Thou art made a brother, thou art made a fellow-heir, thou reignest with Christ, thou art glorified with Christ; all things are freely given thee. “How,” saith he, “shall He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).

Thy First-fruits is adored by Angels, by the Cherubim, by the Seraphim! What lackest thou yet? “With every spiritual blessing.” There is nothing carnal here.

Accordingly He excluded all those former blessings, when He said, “In the world ye have tribulation” (John 16:33), to lead us on to these.

For as they who possessed carnal things were unable to hear of spiritual things, so they who aim at spiritual things cannot attain to them unless they first stand aloof from carnal things. What again is “spiritual blessing in the heavenly places?”

It is not upon earth… – “Unto a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8). “The Lord shall bless thy land” (Deut. 7:13). Here we have nothing of this sort, but what have we? “If a man love Me, he will keep My word, and I and My Father will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).

“Every one therefore which heareth these words of Mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man which built his house upon the rock, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon the rock” (Mat. 7:24, 25).

And what is that rock but those heavenly things which are above the reach of every change? “Every one therefore who,” saith Christ, “shall confess Me before men, him will I also confess before My Father which is in Heaven: But whosoever shall deny Me, him will I also deny” (Mat. 10:32, 33).

Again, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mat. 5:8). And again, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” (Mat. 5:3). And again, “Blessed are ye which are persecuted for righteousness sake, for great is your reward in Heaven” (Mat. 5:1, 12).

Observe, how everywhere He speaketh of Heaven, nowhere of earth, or of the things on the earth. And again, “Our citizenship is in Heaven, from whence also we wait for a Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philip. 3:20). And again, “Not setting your mind on the things that are on the earth, but on the things which are above” (Col. 3:3).

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homily 1 on St Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians.

Basil the Great: “Blessed is the Man that hath not Stood in the Way of Sinners” Thursday, Sep 5 2013 

St-Basil-the-GreatBlessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners (Psalm 1:1).

‘Blessed, therefore, is he who has not stood in the way of sinners’.

[…] While we men were in our first age, we were neither in sin nor in virtue (for the age was unsusceptible of either condition); but, when reason was perfected in us, then that happened which was written: ‘But when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died’ (Rom. 7:9).

Wicked thoughts, which originate in our minds from the passions of the flesh, rise up.

In truth, if, when the command came, that is, the power of discernment of the good, the mind did not prevail over the baser thoughts but permitted its reason to be enslaved by the passions, sin revived, but the mind died, suffering death because of its transgressions.

Blessed, therefore, is he who did not continue in the way of sinners but passed quickly by better reasoning to a pious way of life.

For, there are two ways opposed to each other, the one wide and broad, the other narrow and close (cf. Matt. 7:13). And there are two guides, each attempting to turn the traveler to himself.

Now, the smooth and downward sloping way has a deceptive guide, a wicked demon, who drags his followers through pleasure to destruction, but the rough and steep way has a good angel, who leads his followers through the toils of virtue to a blessed end.

As long as each of us is a child, pursuing the pleasure of the moment, he has no care for the future; but, when he has become a man, after his judgment is perfected, he seems, as it were, to see his life divided for him between virtue and evil.

[…] Insofar as the future promises beautiful rewards, to that extent does the way of those saved offer the present toilsome works. On the other hand, the pleasant and undisciplined life does not hold out the expectation of later delights, but those already present.

So, every soul becomes dizzy and changes from one side to the other in its reasonings, choosing virtue when things eternal are in its thoughts, but, when it looks to the present, preferring pleasure.

[…] While, therefore, that which is truly good can be apprehended by the reason through faith (it has been banished far and the eye did not see it nor the ear hear it), yet, the sweetness of sin has pleasure ready and flowing through every sense.

Blessed is he who is not turned aside to his destruction through its incitements to pleasure, but eagerly awaits the hope of salvation through patient endurance, and in his choice of one of the two ways, does not go upon the way leading to the lower things.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 1 (on Psalm 1), 5, from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 159-161.

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