Gregory the Great: “Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” Thursday, Oct 6 2016 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistThose that are at variance are to be admonished to know most certainly that, in whatever virtues they may abound, they can by no means become spiritual if they neglect becoming united to their neighbours by concord.

For it is written, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace (Gal. 5:22).  He then that has no care to keep peace refuses to bear the fruit of the Spirit.

Hence Paul says, Whereas there is among you envying and strife, are ye not carnal (1 Cor. 3:3)?  Hence again he says also, Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).

Hence again he admonishes, saying, Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace:  there is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling (Eph. 4:3-4).  The one hope of our calling, therefore, is never reached, if we run not to it with a mind at one with our neighbours.

But it is often the case that some, by being proud of some gifts that they especially partake of, lose the greater gift of concord; as it may be if one who subdues the flesh more than others by bridling of his appetite should scorn to be in concord with those whom he surpasses in abstinence.

But whoso separates abstinence from concord, let him consider the admonition of the Psalmist, Praise him with timbrel and chorus (Ps. 150:4).  For in the timbrel a dry and beaten skin resounds, but in the chorus voices are associated in concord.  Whosoever then afflicts his body, but forsakes concord, praises God indeed with timbrel, but praises Him not with chorus.

Often, however, when superior knowledge lifts up some, it disjoins them from the society of other men; and it is as though the more wise they are, the less wise are they as to the virtue of concord.

[…] To such it is rightly said through James, But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.  This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable (James 3:14, 15, 17).  Pure, that is to say, because its ideas are chaste; and also peaceable, because it in no wise through elation disjoins itself from the society of neighbours.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Pastoral Rule, 3, 22.

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Diadochus of Photiké: Through peace of soul we must make ourselves a dwelling-place for the Holy Spirit Sunday, May 29 2016 

diadochus-of-photikeOnly the Holy Spirit can purify the intellect, for unless a greater power comes and overthrows the despoiler, what he has taken captive will never be set free (cf Luke 11:21-22).

In every way, therefore, and especially through peace of soul, we must make ourselves a dwelling-place for the Holy Spirit.

Then we shall have the lamp of spiritual knowledge burning always within us;

and when it is shining constantly in the inner shrine of the soul, not only will the intellect (Greek: ὁ νοῦς)** [see footnote] perceive all the dark and bitter attacks of the demons, but these attacks will be greatly weakened when exposed for what they are by that glorious and holy light.

That is why the Apostle says: ‘Do not quench the Spirit’ (1 Thess. 5:19), meaning: ‘Do not grieve the goodness of the Holy Spirit by wicked actions or wicked thoughts, lest you be deprived of this protecting light.’

The Spirit, since He is eternal and life-creating, cannot be quenched; but if He is grieved – that is if He withdraws – He leaves the intellect without the light of spiritual knowledge, dark and full of gloom.

The loving and Holy Spirit of God teaches us, as we have said, that the perceptive faculty natural to our soul is single; indeed, even the five bodily senses differ from each other only because of the body’s varying needs.

But this single faculty of perception is split because of the dislocation which, as a result of Adam’s disobedience, takes place in the intellect through the modes in which the soul now operates.

Thus one side of the soul is carried away by the passionate part in man, and we are then captivated by the good things of this life, but the other side of the soul frequently delights in the activity of the intellect and, as a result, when we practice self-restraint, the intellect longs to pursue heavenly beauty.

If, therefore, we learn persistently to be detached from the good things of this world, we shall be able to unite the earthly appetite of the soul to its spiritual and intellectual aspiration, through the communion of the Holy Spirit who brings this about within us.

For unless His divinity actively illumines the inner shrine of our heart, we shall not be able to taste God’s goodness with the perceptive faculty undivided, that is, with unified aspiration.

Diadochus of Photiké (c.400-before 486): On Spiritual Perfection chs 28-29, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979).

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

Nektarios the Wonderworker: Blessed are they who hope in the Lord Monday, Nov 9 2015 

St NektariosContinued from here….

Those who hope in the Lord enjoy extreme peace; serenity reigns in their heart and their soul is governed by tranquillity.

When they have God as their helper, what shall they fear? What shall make them quake?

Should war arise against them, they will not founder, for they hope in the Lord.

If they are persecuted by evil-doers, they will not fear, for they know that all things are under the control of the Lord.

They do not hope in their bow nor their quiver, nor does their salvation depend on the sword, but on their Lord and God, Who is able to wrest them from the hands of those who war against them, from the trap of the sinner and from the tempest.

They are convinced of the power of the Lord and of “His high right arm” and the Lord will save them.

Those who hope in the Lord walk calmly in the struggle of life and stride along the path with no concern for tribulations.

They toil unceasingly for the good, the pleasing and the perfect, and God blesses their works. They sow with a blessing and reap the rich rewards of their efforts.  They have boldness before the Lord and are not diverted by the temptations which surround them.

Before the trials of life they do retreat, but hope, because when things seem at their most dire, that is when God shows the way through.

Through their faith, they also await the hope of righteousness. Those who hope in the Lord do not hope in riches, nor in the extent of their power, but are content with the assistance that the Lord will provide.

Those who hope in the Lord are full of faith and love towards God, they live with confidence in their pure conscience, they appear with the boldness of one of His children before their heavenly Father and call upon Him to send His kingdom to earth and ensure that His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

Those who hope in the Lord are absolutely devoted to Him and raise their hearts to the good and immortal God. They ask of Him the supreme good, and immortality in the kingdom of Heaven. And God hears them.

Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Nektarios of Aegina (Orthodox Church; 1846-1920): Το γνώθι σαυτόν [To know yourself], Athos publications, pp.101-4 @ Pemptousia.

John of Kronstadt: Jesus Christ is the consolation, the joy, the life, the peace and the breadth of our hearts Monday, Oct 19 2015 

john_kronstadtObserve the difference between the presence of the life-giving spirit and the presence of the spirit that deadens and destroys your soul.

When there are good thoughts in your soul you feel happy and at ease;

when peace and joy are in your heart, then the spirit of good, the Holy Ghost, is within you;

whilst when evil thoughts or evil motions of the heart arise within you, you feel ill at ease and oppressed;

when you are inwardly troubled, then the spirit of evil, the crafty spirit, is within you.

When the spirit of evil is in us, then, together with oppression of heart and disturbance, we generally feel a difficulty in drawing near to God in our heart, because the evil spirit binds our soul, and will not let it raise itself to God.

The evil spirit is a spirit of doubt, unbelief–of passions, oppression, grief and disturbance; whilst the spirit of good is one of undoubting faith, of virtue, of spiritual freedom and breadth–a spirit of peace and joy.

Know by these tokens when the Spirit of God is within you, and when the spirit of evil, and, as often as possible, raise your grateful heart to the most Holy Spirit that gives you life and light, and flee with all your power from doubt, unbelief, and the passions through which the evil serpent, the thief and destroyer of our souls, creeps in.

Sometimes in the lives of pious Christians there are hours when God seems to have entirely abandoned them–hours of the power of darkness; and then the man from the depths of his heart cries unto God:

“Why hast Thou turned Thy face from me, Thou everlasting Light? For a strange darkness has covered me…. Turn me, O Saviour, to the light of Thy commandments and make straight my spiritual way, I fervently pray Thee.”

If you do not yourself experience the action of the wiles of the evil spirit, you will not know, and will not appreciate and value as you ought, the benefits bestowed upon you by the Holy Spirit: not knowing the spirit that destroys, you will not know the Spirit that gives life.

Only by means of direct contrasts of good and evil, of life and death, can we clearly know the one and the other: if you are not subjected to distresses and dangers of bodily or spiritual death, you will not truly know the Saviour, the Life-Giver, who delivers us from these distresses and from spiritual death.

Jesus Christ is the consolation, the joy, the life, the peace and the breadth of our hearts!

John of Kronstadt (1829-1908; Russian Orthodox): My Life in Christ, part 1, pp.37-38.

Silouan the Athonite: The Lord loves us much, quickening all things by his Grace Monday, May 4 2015 

Silouan the AthoniteIt is a great good to give oneself up to the will of God.  Then the Lord alone is in the soul.

No other thought can enter in, and the soul feels God’s love, even though the body be suffering.

When the soul is entirely given over to the will of God, the Lord Himself takes her in hand and the soul learns directly from God.

Whereas, before, she turned to teachers and to the Scriptures for instruction.

But it rarely happens that the soul’s teacher is the Lord Himself through the grace of the Holy Spirit, and few there are that know of this, save only those who live according to God’s will.

[…] O God of Mercy, Thou knowest our infirmity. I beseech Thee, grant me a humble spirit, for in Thy mercy Thou dost enable the humble soul to live according to Thy will.

[…] How are you to know if you are living according to the will of God?

Here is a sign:  if you are distressed over anything it means that you have not fully surrendered to God’s will, although it may seem to you that you live according to His will.

He who lives according to God’s will has no cares.  If he has need of something, he offers himself and the thing he wants to God, and if he does not receive it, he remains as tranquil as if he had got what he wanted.

The soul that is given over to the will of God fears nothing….  Whatever may come, ‘Such is God’s pleasure,’ she says.

If she falls sick she thinks, ‘This means that I need sickness, or God would not have sent it.’  And in this wise is peace preserved in soul and body.

The man who takes thought for his own welfare is unable to give himself up to God’s will, that his soul may have peace in God.

But the humble soul is devoted to God’s will, and lives before Him in awe and love; in awe, lest she grieve God in any way; in love, because the soul has come to know how the Lord loves us.

The best thing of all is to surrender to God’s will and bear affliction, having confidence in God. The Lord, seeing our affliction, will never give us too much to bear.

If we seem to ourselves to be greatly afflicted, it means that we have not surrendered to the will of God.

The soul that is in all things devoted to the will of God rests quiet in Him, for she knows of experience and from the Holy Scriptures that the Lord loves us much and watches over our souls, quickening all things by His grace in peace and love.

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.

John Climacus: If the Holy Spirit is Peace of Soul, and if Anger is Disturbance of Heart… Saturday, Mar 15 2014 

ClimacusIf it is a mark of extreme meekness even in the presence of one’s offender to be peacefully and lovingly disposed towards him in one’s heart, then it is certainly a mark of hot temper when a person continues to quarrel and rage against his (absent) offender both by words and gestures, even when by himself.

If the Holy Spirit is peace of soul, as He is said to be, and as He is in reality, and if anger is disturbance of heart, as it actually is and as it is said to be, then nothing so prevents His presence in us as anger.

Though we know very many intolerable fruits of anger, we have only found one, its involuntary offspring, which, though illegitimate, is nevertheless useful.

I have seen people flaring up madly and vomiting their long-stored malice, who by their very passion were delivered from passion, and who have obtained from their offender either penitence or an explanation of the long standing grievance.

I have seen others who seemed to show a brute patience, but who were nourishing resentment within them under the cover of silence. And I considered them more pitiable than those given to raving, because they were driving away the holy white Dove with black gall. We need great care in dealing with this snake; for it too, like the snake of physical impurities, has nature collaborating with it.

[…] Sometimes singing, in moderation, successfully relieves the temper. But sometimes, if untimely and immoderate, it lends itself to the lure of pleasure. Let us then appoint definite times for this, and so make good use of it.

[…] It is bad to disturb the eye of the heart by anger, according to him who said: ‘My eye is troubled from anger.’ But it is still worse to show in words the turmoil of the soul.

[…] If you want, or rather intend, to take a splinter out of another person, then do not hack at it with a stick instead of a lancet for you will only drive it deeper. And this is a stick—rude speech and rough gestures. And this is a lancet—tempered instruction and patient reprimand. ‘Reprove,’ says the Apostle, ‘rebuke, exhort,’ but he did not say ‘beat’.

John Climacus (c.575-c.650): The Ladder of Divine Ascent, step 8 “on freedom from anger and on meekness”, 13-15, 17, 19-20, translated by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore (Harper & Brothers, 1959) @ Prudence True.

Gregory of Nyssa: Moses and the Burning Bush Monday, Mar 10 2014 

Gregory_of_Nyssa[When]…we are living at peace, the truth will shine upon us and its radiance will illuminate the eyes of our soul.

Now this truth is God. Once in an ineffable and mysterious vision it manifested itself to Moses, and it is not without significance for us that the flame from which the soul of the Prophet was illuminated was kindled from a thorn-bush.

If truth is God and if it is also light – two of the sublime and sacred epithets by which the Gospel describes the God who manifested himself to us in the flesh – it follows that a virtuous life will lead us to a knowledge of that light which descended to the level of our human nature.

It is not from some luminary set among the stars that it sheds its radiance, which might then be thought to have a material origin, but from a bush on the earth, although it outshines the stars of heaven.

This also symbolizes the mystery of the Virgin, from whom came the divine light that shone upon the world without damaging the bush from which it emanated or allowing the virgin shoot to wither.

This light teaches us what we must do to stand in the rays of the true light, and that it is impossible with our feet in shackles to run toward the mountain where the light of truth appears.

We have first to free the feet of our soul from the covering of dead skins in which our nature was clad in the beginning when it disobeyed God’s will and was left naked.

To know that which is, we must purify our minds of assumptions regarding things which are not. In my opinion the definition of truth is an unerring comprehension of that which is.

He who is immutable, who does not increase or diminish, who is subject to no change for better or worse, but is perfectly self-sufficient; he who alone is desirable, in whom all else par­ticipates without causing in him any diminution, he indeed is that which truly is, and to comprehend him is to know the truth.

It is he whom Moses approached and whom today all approach who like Moses free themselves from their earthly coverings and look toward the light coming from the bramble bush, at the ray shining on us from the thorns, which stand for the flesh, for as the Gospel says, that ray is the real light and the truth.

Then such people will also be able to help others find salvation. They will be capable of destroying the forces of evil and of restoring those enslaved by them to liberty.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): The Life of Moses, 2.17-26 (SC 1:36-39); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Tuesday of the First Week in Lent, Year 2

John Climacus: At the Fragrance of Humility All Anger and Bitterness Vanishes Thursday, Mar 6 2014 

ClimacusFreedom from anger, or placidity, is an insatiable appetite for dishonour, just as in the vainglorious there is an unbounded desire for praise.

Freedom from anger is victory over nature and insensibility to insults, acquired by struggles and sweat.

Meekness is an immovable state of soul which remains unaffected whether in evil report or in good report, in dishonour or in praise.

The beginning of freedom from anger is silence of the lips when the heart is agitated;

the middle is silence of the thoughts when there is a mere disturbance of soul;

and the end is an imperturbable calm under the breath of unclean winds.

Anger is a reminder of hidden hatred, that is to say, remembrance of wrongs.

Anger is a desire for the injury of the one who has provoked you.

Irascibility is the untimely blazing up of the heart.

Bitterness is a movement of displeasure seated in the soul.

Peevishness is a changeable movement of one’s disposition and disorder of soul.

As with the appearance of light, darkness retreats, so at the fragrance of humility all anger and bitterness vanishes.

Some who are prone to anger are neglectful of the healing and cure of this passion.

But these unhappy people do not give a thought to him who said: ‘The moment of his anger is his fall’ (Ecclesiasticus 1:22).

There is a quick movement of a millstone which in one moment grinds and does away with more spiritual grain and fruit than another crushes in a whole day.

And so we must, with understanding, pay attention. It is possible to have such a blaze of flame, suddenly fanned by a strong wind, as will ruin the field of the heart more than a lingering flame.

And we ought not to forget, my friends, that the wicked demons sometimes suddenly leave us, so that we may neglect our strong passions as of little importance, and then become incurably sick.

As a hard stone with sharp corners has all its sharpness and hard formation crushed by knocking and rubbing against other stones, and is made round, and in the same way a sharp and curt soul, by living in community and mixing with hard, hot-tempered men, undergoes one of two things:

either it cures its wound by its patience, or by retiring it will certainly discover its weakness, its cowardly flight making this clear to it as in a mirror.

An angry person is a wilful epileptic, who on a casual pretext keeps breaking out and falling down.

Nothing is so inappropriate to penitents as an agitated spirit, because conversion requires great humility, and anger is a sign of every kind of presumption.

John Climacus (c.575-c.650): The Ladder of Divine Ascent, step 8 “on freedom from anger and on meekness”, 2-12, translated by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore (Harper & Brothers, 1959) @ Prudence True.

Theodore the Studite: From Glory to Glory, from Knowledge to Knowledge, from Our Citizenship to a Citizenship Meet for God Thursday, Feb 27 2014 

Theodore_the_StuditeThe abundant cornfield delights the heart of the husbandman on his approach.

Much more is the ruler of souls gladdened by the spiritual fruitfulness of those under his charge.

Thus do you bring joy to me, my children, you who are the field of my labours and a plantation of God, by the increase, and as it were the blossoming forth of your virtues.

And I rejoice to see the zeal of each one about his business, the industry and care of each in working out his salvation:

the gentleness of one; the laborious industry, even beyond measure, of another; the reverence and caution of a third;

the skill of a fourth in replying to the attacks of adversaries, without cessation or weariness;

the peaceable character of a fifth, unmoved by passions — result of peace and calm within, not of outward forcing;

in another, confidence in me, for all my unworthiness, and the disposition to regard me as better than I am;

in yet another, a disposition untouched by earthly longings or any love of the world.

In a word, I delight to see the growth and fruitfulness in the spirit as shown by all of you in all divers ways.

Are we not thus all walking together and knit together by our heavenly impulse, and by the holy prayers of my father.

I wonder not a little, and surely this is worthy of wonder. Yet I tremble above measure every day.

For what if God, seeing how idle and unprofitable is my service, and waxing wroth against my sins, were to withdraw His favourable hand from the midst of us?

For then there might come upon us what to speak were unfitting, or even to think, such a thing as discord, or slackness of soul, or a falling away, whether secret or manifest.

To the end, therefore, that you may confirm me — unworthy as I am — and yourselves, in the lot of the saints and the inheritance of the righteous, and in all good repute,

keep to these same things, my children, or rather press on further still, in discipline and in zeal, from glory to glory,

from knowledge to knowledge, from our citizenship to a citizenship meet for God;

swerving not from what you have resolved and agreed upon in the presence of God and of the angels, and of my humble self.

Let us not become slack, nor lose heart if the time seems long — though in truth it is not long — for our life is but a dream and a shadow.

Theodore the Studite (759-826): Great Catechesis, Discourse 61 in Alice Gardner, Theodore of Studium: His Life and Times (1905), pp. 89-90.

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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