Isaac the Syrian: The burning of the heart unto the whole creation Friday, Apr 11 2014 

Isaac the Syrian 3What is repentance? To desist from former sins and to suffer on account of them.

And what is the sum of purity? A heart full of mercy unto the whole created nature.

And what is perfection? Depth of humility, namely giving up all visible and invisible things….

Another time the same father was asked: What is repentance? He answered: A broken heart.

And what is humility? He replied: Embracing a voluntary mortification regarding all things.

And what is a merciful heart? He replied:

The burning of the heart unto the whole creation, man, fowls and beasts, demons and whatever exists so that by the recollection and the sight of them the eyes shed tears on account of the force of mercy which moves the heart by great compassion.

Then the heart becomes weak, and it is not able to bear hearing or examining injury or any insignificant suffering of anything in the creation.

And therefore even in behalf of the irrational beings and the enemies of truth and even in behalf of those who do harm to it, at all times he offers prayers with tears that they may be guarded and strengthened; even in behalf of the kinds of reptiles, on account of his great compassion which is poured out in his heart without measure, after the example of God.

[…] The sum of all is God, the Lord of all, who from love of His creatures, has delivered His Son to death on the cross. For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son for it.

Not that He was not able to save us in another way, but in this way it was possible to show us His abundant love abundantly, namely by bringing us near to Him by the death of His son.

If He had anything more clear to Him, He would have given it us, in order that by it our race might be His.

And out of His great love He did not even choose to urge our freedom by compulsion, though He was able to do so. But His aim was, that we should come near to Him by the love of our mind.

And our Lord obeyed His Father out of love unto us, taking upon Him scorn and suffering joyfully, as Scripture says: “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.”

Therefore our Lord said in the night in which He was betrayed: “This is my body which is given for the salvation of the world unto life. And this is my blood which is shed for all for the remission of sins. In behalf of them I offer myself.”

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Mystic Treatises, 74, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck).

Guerric of Igny: “From the Days of John the Baptist Until Now the Kingdom of Heaven Suffereth Violence” Saturday, Feb 8 2014 

GuerricOn Genesis 32:22-33 and Matthew 11:12 (“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force”).

See also here (Gregory the Great) and here (Charles Wesley).

Did not the untiring wrestler, the patriarch Jacob, do violence to God?

As it is written, he was strong against God and prevailed, wrestled with him until morning perseveringly and with all his might held fast to him when he asked to be let go.

I will not let you go, he said, unless you bless me.

I say that he wrestled with God, for God was in the angel with whom he wrestled. Otherwise the angel would not say: Why do you ask for my name? and Jacob would not say: I have seen the Lord face to face.

It was a good sort of violence then that extorted a blessing; happy the wrestling in which God yielded to man and the vanquished rewarded the victor with the grace of a blessing and the honour of a holier name.

What if he touched the sinew of his thigh and it withered, and so he went limping? A man will readily sacrifice his body and soon be comforted for the harm done when it is compensated for by such a gift, especially the man who could say: I have loved wisdom more than health and all beauty.

Would that not only the sinew of my thigh but the strength of my whole body would wither, provided I might win but one blessing from an angel.

Would that I might not only limp with Jacob but also die with Paul so as to obtain the grace and name of Israel as an everlasting gift.

Jacob bears a withered hip, but Paul a dead body, because the mortification of the body’s members begun by the first practices of the prophets was brought to completion by the gospel.

Jacob goes limping, because in part his thoughts dwell on the things of the world while his other foot he bears raised up from the earth.

Paul’s thoughts dwell only on the things of God whether in the body or out of the body I know not, God knows; he is wholly free in spirit and flies up to heaven.

So to you, brethren, we say, you whose set purpose it is to win heaven by force, you who have come together to wrestle with the angel who guards the way to the tree of life, to you we say: it is wholly necessary that you should wrestle perseveringly and without remission.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 2 on the Feast of the Nativity of St  John the Baptist (PL 185, 167-169), @ Dom Donald’s Blog.

Gregory Nazianzen: Let Us Purify Ourselves and Receive the Elementary Initiation of the Word Wednesday, Jan 8 2014 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenWherefore we must purify ourselves first, and then approach this converse with the Pure;

unless we would have the same experience as Israel (Exod. 34:30), who could not endure the glory of the face of Moses, and therefore asked for a veil (2 Cor. 3:7),

or like the Centurion (Matt. 8:8) would seek for healing, but would not, through a praiseworthy fear, receive the Healer into his house.

Let each one of us also – as long as he is still uncleansed, and is a Centurion still, commanding many in wickedness, and serving in the army of Cæsar, the World-ruler of those who are being dragged down – speak thus: “I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof.”

Let each one look upon Jesus, though he be little of stature like Zaccheus (Luke 19:3) of old, and climb up on the top of the sycamore tree by mortifying his members which are upon the earth (Col. 3:5).

Let each one rise above the body of humiliation. Then he shall receive the Word, and it shall be said to him, This day is salvation come to this house (Luke 19:9).

Then let him lay hold on the salvation, and bring forth fruit more perfectly, scattering and pouring forth rightly that which as a publican he wrongly gathered.

For the same Word is on the one hand terrible through its nature to those who are unworthy, and on the other, through its loving kindness, can be received by those who are thus prepared.

These are they who have driven out the unclean and worldly spirit from their souls, and have swept and adorned their own souls by self-examination […], who, besides fleeing from evil, practise virtue, making Christ entirely, or at any rate to the greatest extent possible, to dwell within them.

This they do so that the power of evil cannot meet with any empty place to fill it again with himself, and make the last state of that man worse than the first, by the greater energy of his assault, and the greater strength and impregnability of the fortress.

Having guarded our soul with every care, and having appointed goings up in our heart (Ps. 84:5), and broken up our fallow ground (Jer. 4:3), and sown unto righteousness (Prov. 11:18), as David and Solomon and Jeremiah bid us, let us enlighten ourselves with the light of knowledge, and then let us speak of the Wisdom of God that hath been hid in a mystery (2 Cor. 2:6), and enlighten others.

Meanwhile let us purify ourselves, and receive the elementary initiation of the Word, that we may do ourselves the utmost good, making ourselves godlike, and receiving the Word at His coming; and not only so, but holding Him fast and shewing Him to others.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 39 (on the Holy Lights), 9-10. Another extract from this Oration can be read here….

Basil the Great: The Glory of Man is to Seek for the Glory of the Lord of Glory Saturday, Aug 10 2013 

St-Basil-the-GreatNo truly prudent man will think himself great because of his own wisdom…, but will attend…to the excellent counsel of…the prophet Jeremias:

Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, and let not the strong man glory in his strength, and let not the rich man glory in his riches (Jer. 9:23).

But in what shall man glory: and in what is man great? Let him that glorieth glory in this, he said, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord. 

This is the grandeur of man, this his glory and greatness, truly to know Him Who is great, to cling to Him, and to seek for the glory of the Lord of glory.

For the Apostle says to us: He that glorieth, may glory in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31) where he declares: But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and justice, and  sanctification, and redemption: That, as it was written: He that glorieth, may glory in the Lord.

This is complete and perfect glorying in God, when a man is uplifted, not because of his own justice, but because he knows he is empty of true glory, and made just only through his faith in Christ.

In this Paul gloried, that he thought nothing of his own justice; that he sought that justice alone which comes through Christ, which is from God, justice in faith (Phil. 3:9); and that he might know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the sharing of His sufferings, and be made like Him in His death, if by any means he might himself attain to the resurrection which is from the dead.

It is here that the whole top-loftiness of arrogance falls down.  Nothing is left to you to glory in, O man; whose true glorying and whose hope is in mortifying yourself in all things, and in seeking for that future life in Christ, of which we have already a foretaste when we live wholly in the love and in the grace of God.

And it is God who worketh in you both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will (Phil. 2:13).  And God has made known to us His own wisdom, through His Spirit, for our glory (1 Cor. 2:7,10).

And in all our efforts it is God who gives us strength.  I have laboured more abundantly than all they, says Paul, yet not I, but the grace of God with me (1 Cor. 15:10).  And God has delivered us from danger, and beyond all human expectation.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 28, 3 @ Lectionary Central.

Basil the Great: Types and Shadows, Adam and Christ, Exodus and Baptism Wednesday, Jan 2 2013 

St-Basil-the-GreatThe nature of the divine is very frequently represented by the rough and shadowy outlines of the types.

But because divine things are prefigured by small and human things, it is obvious that we must not therefore conclude the divine nature to be small.

The type is an exhibition of things expected, and gives an imitative anticipation of the future.  So Adam was a type of “Him that was to come.”

Typically, “That rock was Christ;” and the water a type of the living power of the word; as He says, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.”

The manna is a type of the living bread that came down from heaven; and the serpent on the standard, of the passion of salvation accomplished by means of the cross, wherefore they who even looked thereon were preserved.

So in like manner, the history of the exodus of Israel is recorded to shew forth those who are being saved through baptism.

For the firstborn of the Israelites were preserved, like the bodies of the baptized, by the giving of grace to them that were marked with blood.

For the blood of the sheep is a type of the blood of Christ; and the firstborn, a type of the first-formed.

And inasmuch as the first-formed of necessity exists in us, and, in sequence of succession, is transmitted till the end, it follows that “in Adam” we “all die,” and that “death reigned” until the fulfilling of the law and the coming of Christ.

And the firstborn were preserved by God from being touched by the destroyer, to show that we who were made alive in Christ no longer die in Adam.

The sea and the cloud for the time being led on through amazement to faith, but for the time to come they typically prefigured the grace to be.

“Who is wise and he shall understand these things?”—how the sea is typically a baptism bringing about the departure of Pharaoh, in like manner as this washing causes the departure of the tyranny of the devil.

The sea slew the enemy in itself: and in baptism too dies our enmity towards God.

From the sea the people came out unharmed:  we too, as it were, alive from the dead, step up from the water “saved” by the “grace” of Him who called us.

And the cloud is a shadow of the gift of the Spirit, who cools the flame of our passions by the “mortification” of our “members.”

Basil the Great (330-379): On the Holy Spirit 14, 31.

Theodore the Studite: Resting in Spirit through the Grace-Filled Breath of the Holy Spirit Monday, Nov 12 2012 

Continued from here…

Below, on the earth, the Holy Spirit comforts us in many ways.

[…] Having such a Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Invincible Power, Great Defender—God and Co-fighter, we shall not be afraid of the enemy and shall not be frightened by opposing powers.

Rather, we shall courageously and steadfastly hasten to the struggle and fight, experiencing them day after day, not being deluded by the deceptions of the snake, and not growing weary from his ceaseless attacks.

Sinful desire is not pleasure and joy, and a dangerous and fearsome sickness is not sweetness, but rather delirium and wicked darkening of the mind.

They know this, who have tamed the fury of the flesh, cleansed its defilement, and cleaved with all their hearts to the One God.

This manner of life is the most pleasant and happy; for in it, although a man be in the flesh in the world, in spirit he abides in the unseen, resting in spirit through the grace-filled breath of the Holy Spirit.

Why do we allow love of pleasure to conquer us, to so debase us, and by such deviations to cause us who, brought low to the earth, to flesh and blood, to be completely alienated from our Most Good God?

Let us flee, brothers, from all the passions. Let us flee love of money, which is the root of all evil.

Let us flee every other passion that enslaves our soul—anger, envy, hatred, vanity, self-will; so that death may not find us unprepared and distance us from God.

Alienation from God is alienation also from the Kingdom of Heaven. Condemnation and punishment will come to those who do not do works pleasing to God.

There is no flesh that can endure this condemnation, for the mere thought of it, even before consignment to torments, is already a torment.

In order that we might escape the wrath of God, which comes upon the children of disobedience (Eph. 5:6), let us do good works, that the Lord may rejoice in His works (Ps. 103:33).

Let us begin unfailingly to please God, to purify ourselves, and renew our souls. Take courage: The Lord is nigh unto all that call upon Him, to all that call on Him in truth (Ps. 144:19).

Let us repent daily, and God will forgive us our sins, comfort us, and grant us Life Eternal—which may we receive in Christ the Lord Himself; to Him is due glory and sovereignty, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

Theodore the Studite: (759-826) @ Pravoslavie.

Elizabeth of the Trinity: “I Die Daily” Thursday, Nov 8 2012 

Quotide morior exclaimed St. Paul, “I die daily!”

This doctrine of dying to self is the law for every Christian, for Christ said: “If anyone wants to follow Me, let him take up his cross and deny himself.”

But this doctrine which seems so austere, takes on a delightful sweetness when we consider the outcome of this death – life in God in place of our life of sin and misery.

That is what St. Paul meant when he wrote: “Strip off the old man and clothe yourselves anew in the image of Him who created you.”

This image is God Himself.  Do you recall His wish which He so clearly expressed on the day of creation: “Let us make man in our image and likeness”?

[…] St Peter writes… “we have been made sharers in His divine nature.”

And St. Paul recommends that “we hold firm to the end this beginning of His existence which He has given us.”

[…]  If anyone were to ask me the secret of happiness, I would say it is to no longer think of self, to deny oneself always.

That is a good way to kill pride: let it starve to death!

You see, pride is love of ourselves; well, love of God must be so strong that it extinguishes all our self-love.

St. Augustine says we have two cities within us, the city of God and the city of self.

To the extent that the first increases, the second will be destroyed.

A soul that lives by faith in God’s presence, that has this “single eye” that Christ speaks of in the Gospel, that is, a purity of “intention” that seeks only God; this soul, it seems to me, would also live in humility.

It would recognize His gifts to it – for humility is truth – but it would attribute nothing to itself, referring all to God as the Blessed Virgin did.

All the movements of pride that you feel within yourself only become faults when the will takes part in them!

[…] What God asks of you is never to entertain deliberately any thought of pride, and never to act on the inspiration of pride, for this is wrong.

And yet, if you find yourself doing either of these, you must not become discouraged, for again, it is pride which is irritated.

You must “display your misery” like Magdalene at the Master’s feet, and ask Him to set you free.

He so loves to see a soul recognize its weakness.

Then, as a great saint said, “The abyss of God’s immensity encounters the abyss of the creature’s nothingness,” and “God embraces this nothingness”

Elizabeth of the Trinity (1880-1906); from Complete Works,  Volume I, ICS Publications, pp.124-126 quoted on Praise of Glory.

Fulgentius of Ruspe: Mortify your Base Desires, Mend your Ways, and you shall Set Free your Mind and Heart Saturday, Oct 27 2012 

Church FathersTurn your thoughts to yourself, to your own state, mortal man.

Look for the accusation against you yourself: then for the defence; and then, what about the judgement itself?

For now, you alone are accuser, defender, and judge.

Enter the secret recesses of your mind and heart, where the eyes of the Lord alone can see you.

Accuse yourself there, that you may be defended of the charge.

Try your­self there, that you may carry off the victory.

Condemn yourself there, in your own mind, that you may merit absolution.

Do not treat yourself as a special case when criticising your own conduct.

Instead, take apart and analyse your misdeeds with rigour; be strict in condemning the sins you acknowledge as yours; and in con­demning them as your own, do them to death as well.

Do them to death: that means, not to yield in the slightest, ever after, to sinful urges.

Not being one who commits sin, you will then be one who has killed it off.

And if you are a sound judge of your own sin you will go free of God’s just judgement.

But that you may rejoice in a just judgement delivered on yourself, take note of St Paul’s counsel, teaching what actions of ours we need to mortify so as to arrive at the true life.

For he says this: Mortify your own bodies as they walk the earth; as for fornication and all impurity, evil desires and prurience, avarice and slavery to the idols of materialism, all these call down the wrath of God on the children of disbelief.

That tells us, then, what is objectionable in ourselves, what we should condemn there, what needs mortifying.

Make the judgement on yourself – and you will not be judged.

So condemn – and you will not be condemned.

Mortify yourself – and you will not be finally mortified, with the death of the soul.

Here and now be the strictest judge, a veritable butcher in cutting out defects in the flesh.

Take careful thought and be abject in mortification.

For if you have properly weighed your sins you have made the judgement; then by casting them off, you have killed them.

To defend yourself, then, self-accusation has to come first; to secure your pardon, judgement and self-criticism; so as to conduct your cause victoriously, exami­nation of conscience.

Acknowledge your iniquity, mortify your base desires, mend your ways – and so by judging aright you shall set free your mind and heart, your very soul.

Fulgentius of Ruspe (462/467—527/533): Sermon 10.2-3 (CCL 91A:938-939); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Friday of the 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Year 2.

John Tauler: “Today Salvation has Come to This House” Wednesday, Oct 24 2012 

“It is fitting that I stay in your house”….

On this feast of the Dedication of a Church we read about Zacchaeus who greatly desired to see the Lord but was unable to do so because he was short in stature. So he climbed a sycamore tree.

Similarly someone may desire to view more closely the one who has stirred up these inner wonders and powerful feelings, but because of short stature is unable to do so.

What, therefore, should be done? Surely that person should climb a sycamore tree – that is, put into practice…the mortification of the senses and our human nature.

Thus, one lives in that interior self with whom God walks….

Among the wise of this world such conduct is reputed to be the greatest foolishness that they have ever heard. But consider it certain, most dear ones, that this is the foolishness that God prefers.

Listen to the Lord who says: I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have

hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to children.

But to Zacchaeus already lodged in the tree let us see what the Lord will say. He says,

Zacchaeus, hurry down.

So now, by all means, you should come down here; that is, from all these things do not keep even a tiny bit for yourself, but come down to your barest nothingness, possess nothing, and consider nothing as your own.

Christ adds: Today I must stay at your house, for that is the one thing necessary for me.

If perchance someone has already climbed into the tree and perceived a certain glimmer of truth, but has not possessed it or properly grasped it, it may be that such a person may yet have a natural inclination toward or an adhesion to that same truth.

Both nature and grace together might yet operate within that person, even though a true spirit of resignation has not been attained.

Truly, whatever operates by nature always has a certain stain and is not perfectly pure.

For this reason God bids Zacchaeus to come down, that is, to deny, lose, to leave behind and to mortify his nature in all those ways by which he might cling to a spirit of ownership.

Christ said: Today I must stay at your house. This “today” means eternity.

Thus, he later adds: Today salvation has come to this house, a salvation bestowed on all of us by the kindness and mercy of our Creator, who is blessed for all ages.

John Tauler (c.1300-1361): Sermon for the Feast of the Dedication of a Church from the Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers.

Theophan the Recluse: The Spiritual Exaltation of the Cross in the Heart Friday, Sep 28 2012 

The Exaltation of the Lord’s Cross has arrived.

Then the Cross was erected on a high place, so that the people could see it and render honor to it.

Now, the cross is raised in the churches and monasteries.

But this is all external.

There is a spiritual exaltation of the cross in the heart.

It happens when one firmly resolves to crucify himself, or to mortify his passions—something so essential in Christians that, according to the Apostle, they only are Christ’s who have crucified their flesh with its passions and lusts (cf. Gal. 5:24).

Having raised this cross in themselves, Christians hold it exalted all their lives.

Let every Christian soul ask himself if this is how it is, and let him hearken to the answer that his conscience gives him in his heart.

Oh, may we not hear, “You only please your flesh in the passions; your cross is not exalted—it is thrown into the pit of the passions, and is rotting there in negligence and contempt!”

When the Lord was taken down from the Cross, the Cross remained on Golgotha, and then it was thrown into the pit that was in that place, where this instrument of execution was usually thrown, together with other refuse.

Soon Jerusalem was razed and all of its edifices were leveled to the ground. The pit containing the Cross of Christ was also filled over.

When the pagans rebuilt the city (the Jews were forbidden to come near the place where it was), it happened that on the place where the Cross of Christ was hidden, they placed an idol of Venus, the pagan Goddess of fornication and all manner of lusts.

This is what the enemy suggested to them. This is how it is with our inner cross.

When the enemy destroys the spiritual order in the soul, this is our mental Jerusalem, and then the spiritual cross is thrown down from the Golgotha of the heart and is covered over with the garbage of the affections and lusts.

Lustful self-pleasure then rises like a tower over all our inner peace, and everything in us bows down to it and fulfills its commands until grace shines upon us, inspiring us to cast down the idol and lift up the cross of self-crucifixion.

Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894; Russian Orthodox); Letters on the Spiritual Life, translated from the Russian by by

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