Charles Wesley: Come, Holy Ghost, All-Quickening Fire! Sunday, Jun 23 2013 

Charles_wesleyCome, Holy Ghost, all quickening fire!
Come, and my hallowed heart inspire,
Sprinkled with the atoning blood;
Now to my soul thyself reveal,
Thy mighty working let me feel,
And know that I am born of God.

Thy witness with my spirit bear,
That God, my God, inhabits there;
Thou, with the Father, and the Son,
Eternal light’s co-eval beam;
Be Christ in me, and I in him,
Till perfect we are made in one.

When wilt thou my whole heart subdue?
Come, Lord, and form my soul anew,
Emptied of pride, and wrath, and hell:
Less than the least of all thy store
Of mercies, I myself abhor;
All, all my vileness may I feel.

Humble, and teachable, and mild,
O may I, as a little child,
My lowly Master’s steps pursue!
Be anger to my soul unknown,
Hate, envy, jealousy, be gone;
In love create thou all things new.

Let earth no more my heart divide,
With Christ may I be crucified,
To thee with my whole soul aspire;
Dead to the world and all its toys,
Its idle pomp, and fading joys,
Be thou alone my one desire!

Be thou my joy, be thou my dread;
In battle cover thou my head,
Nor earth nor hell I then shall fear;
I then shall turn my steady face,
Want, pain defy, enjoy disgrace,
Glory in dissolution near.

My will be swallowed up in thee;
Light in thy light still may I see,
Beholding thee with open face;
Called the full power of faith to prove,
Let all my hallowed heart be love,
And all my spotless life be praise.

Come, Holy Ghost, all quickening fire!
My consecrated heart inspire,
Sprinkled with the atoning blood;
Still to my soul thyself reveal,
Thy mighty working may I feel,
And know that I am one with God.

Charles Wesley (1701-1778; Church of England): Hymns, 351.

Ambrose of Milan: Whoever Reads the Book of Psalms will Find a Medicine to Cure the Wounds Caused by His Own Particular Passions Saturday, Jun 15 2013 

ambrose_of_milanAlthough the whole of Scripture breathes God’s grace upon us, this is especially true of that delightful book, the book of the psalms.

Moses, when he related the deeds of the patriarchs, did so in a plain and unadorned style.

But when he had miraculously led the people of Israel across the Red Sea, when he had seen King Pharaoh drowned with all his army, he transcended his own skills (just as the miracle had transcended his own powers) and he sang a triumphal song to the Lord.

Miriam the prophetess herself took up a timbrel and led the others in the refrain: Sing to the Lord: he has covered himself in glory, horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.

History instructs us, the law teaches us, prophecy foretells, correction punishes, morality persuades; but the book of psalms goes further than all these.

It is medicine for our spiritual health.

Whoever reads it will find in it a medicine to cure the wounds caused by his own particular passions.

Whoever studies it deeply will find it a kind of gymnasium open for all souls to use, where the different psalms are like different exercises set out before him.

In that gymnasium, in that stadium of virtue, he can choose the exercises that will train him best to win the victor’s crown.

If someone wants to study the deeds of our ancestors and imitate the best of them, he can find a single psalm that contains the whole of their history, a complete treasury of past memories in just one short reading.

If someone wants to study the law and find out what gives it its force (it is the bond of love, for whoever loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law) let him read in the psalms how love led one man to undergo great dangers to wipe out the shame of his entire people; and this triumph of virtue will lead him to recognise the great things that love can do.

And as for the power of prophecy – what can I say? Other prophets spoke in riddles. To the psalmist alone, it seems, God promised openly and clearly that the Lord Jesus would be born of his seed: I promise that your own son will succeed you on the throne.

Thus in the book of psalms Jesus is not only born for us: he also accepts his saving passion, he dies, he rises from the dead, he ascends into heaven, he sits at the Father’s right hand.

The Psalmist announced what no other prophet had dared to say, that which was later preached by the Lord himself in the Gospel.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): Explanations of the Psalms (Psalm 1, 4.7-8; CSEL 64, 4-7) from the Office of Readings for Friday of the 10th Week in Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

Bede the Venerable: Augustine, Coming into Britain, Preached to the King of Kent Monday, May 27 2013 

icon_bede-Augustine, thus strengthened by the encouragement of the blessed Father Gregory, returned to the work of the Word of God, with the servants of Christ who were with him, and arrived in Britain. The powerful Ethelbert was at that time king of Kent

[…] They…signified that they were come from Rome, and brought a joyful message, which most undoubtedly assured to those that hearkened to it everlasting joys in heaven, and a kingdom that would never end, with the living and true God.

The king hearing this, gave orders that they, should stay in the island where they had landed, and be furnished with necessaries, till he should consider what to do with them.

For he had before heard of the Christian religion, having a Christian wife of the royal family of the Franks, called Bertha; whom he had received from her parents, upon condition that she should be permitted to preserve inviolate the rites of her religion with the Bishop Liudhard, who was sent with her to support her in the faith.

Some days after, the king came into the island, and sitting in the open air, ordered Augustine and his companions to come and hold a conference with him.

For he had taken precaution that they should not come to him in any house, lest, by so coming, according to an ancient superstition, if they practised any magical arts, they might impose upon him, and so get the better of him.

But they came endued with Divine, not with magic power, bearing a silver cross for their banner, and the image of our Lord and Saviour painted on a board; and chanting litanies, they offered up their prayers to the Lord for the eternal salvation both of themselves and of those to whom and for whom they had come.

[…] The king…gave them an abode in the city of Canterbury, which was the metropolis of all his dominions, and, as he had promised, besides supplying them with sustenance, did not refuse them liberty to preach.

It is told that, as they drew near to the city, after their manner, with the holy cross, and the image of our sovereign Lord and King, Jesus Christ, they sang in concert this litany:

“We beseech thee, Lord, for Thy great mercy, that Thy wrath and anger be turned away from this city, and from Thy holy house, for we have sinned. Hallelujah.”

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 2, 25.

A Monk of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow: How St Bede Ended his Life in Great Devotion and Peace Saturday, May 25 2013 

icon_bede-He was troubled with weakness and chiefly with difficulty in breathing, yet almost without pain, for about a fortnight before the day of our Lord’s Resurrection.

And thus he afterwards passed his time, cheerful and rejoicing, giving thanks to Almighty God every day and night, nay, every hour, till the day of our Lord’s Ascension…, and daily gave lessons to us, his disciples.

And whatsoever remained of the day he spent in singing psalms, as far as he was able; he also strove to pass all the night joyfully in prayer and thanksgiving to God, save only when a short sleep prevented it.

And then he no sooner awoke than he straightway began again to repeat the well-known sacred songs, and ceased not to give thanks to God with uplifted hands.

I declare with truth that I have never seen with my eyes, or heard with my ears, any man so earnest in giving thanks to the living God. O truly blessed man!

[…] He also sang antiphons for our comfort and his own. One of these is, ‘O King of Glory, Lord of all power, Who, triumphing this day, didst ascend above all the heavens, leave us not comfortless, but send to us the promise of the Father, even the Spirit of Truth—Hallelujah.’

And when he came to the words, ‘leave us not comfortless,’ he burst into tears and wept much. And an hour after, he fell to repeating what he had begun. And this he did the whole day, and we, hearing it, mourned with him and wept.

[…] He said, ‘…the time of my release is at hand; for my soul longs to see Christ my King in His beauty.’ Having said this and much more for our profit and edification, he passed his last day in gladness till the evening.

[…] And thus on the pavement of his little cell, chanting ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,’ and the rest, he breathed his last.

And without doubt we must believe that inasmuch as he had always been devout and earnest on earth in the praise of God, his soul was carried by angels to the joys of Heaven which he desired.

And all who heard him or beheld the death of our father Bede, said that they had never seen any other end his life in so great devotion and peace.

For, as thou hast heard, so long as the soul abode in the body, he chanted the Gloria Patri and other words to the glory of God, and with outstretched hands ceased not to give thanks to God.

Cuthbert (an 8th century monk of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow): Letter to Cuthwin on the death of The Venerable Bede (672/4-735).

Basil the Great: God Sees Into the Hearts of Those who Pray Friday, May 24 2013 

St-Basil-the-GreatGod sees into the hearts of those who pray.

What need then, someone will say, that we should ask God for what we need?  Does He not know already what we need?  Why then should we pray?

God does indeed know what things we need, and with generosity provides all we need for the refreshment of our bodies, and since He is good He sends down His rains upon the just and the unjust alike, and causes His sun to shine upon the good and the bad (Mt. 5:45), even before we ask Him.

But faith, and the power of virtue, and the kingdom of heaven, these you will not receive unless you ask for them in labouring and steadfastness.  We must first long for these things.

Then when you desire them, you must strive with all your heart to obtain them, seeking them with a sincere heart, with patience, and with faith, not being condemned by your conscience, as praying without attention or without reverence, and so in time, when God wills, you will obtain your request.

For He knows better than you when these things are expedient for you.  And perhaps He is delaying in giving them to you, designing to keep your attention fixed upon Him; and also that you may know that this is a gift of God, and may safeguard with fear what is given to you.

[…] Do not then lose heart if you do not speedily obtain your request.  For if it were known to Our Good Master that were you at once to receive this favour that you would not lose it, He would have been prepared to give it to you unasked.  But being concerned for you, He does not do this.

[…] Keeping this in mind, let us continue to give thanks to the Lord whether we receive speedily or slowly that which we pray for.  For all things whatsoever the Lord may do He orders all to the end of our salvation; only let us not through faintheartedness cease from our prayers.

It was because of this the Lord spoke the parable of the Widow who persuaded the judge through her steadfastness (Luke 18:2-5): that we also through our steadfastness in prayer may obtain what we ask for.

By this we also show our faith, and our love of God, since though we do not quickly receive what we ask for, yet we remain steadfast in praising Him and giving thanks.  Then let us give Him thanks at all times, so that we may be found worthy of receiving His everlasting gifts; since to Him all praise and glory is due for ever and ever.  Amen.

Basil the Great (330-379): Monastic Constitutions, ch. 1, 6-7 @ Lectionary Central.

Nikolai Velimirovich: “My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord” Sunday, Dec 23 2012 

StNikolaiVelimirovichAnd Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord (Luke 1:38)….

If a handmaid is she who, with intent and with complete attention, beholds her Lord, then again the Most-holy Virgin is the first among the handmaids of the Lord.

[…] She did not care to please the world, but only God; nor did she care to justify herself before the world, but only before God. She herself is obedience; she herself is service; she herself is meekness.

The Most-holy Virgin could in truth say to the angel of God: Behold the handmaid of the Lord.

The greatest perfection, and the greatest honor that a woman can attain on earth, is to be a handmaid of the Lord. Eve lost this perfection and honor in Paradise without effort, and the Virgin Mary achieved this perfection and this honor outside Paradise with her efforts.

My soul doth magnify the Lord (Luke 1:46).

Brethren, we have in total only a few words spoken by the Most-holy Theotokos recorded in the Gospels.

All of her words pertain to the magnification of God. She was silent before men but her soul conversed unceasingly with God. Every day and every hour, she found a new reason and incentive to magnify God.

If only we were able to know and to record all her magnifications of God throughout her whole life, oh, how many books would it take!

But, even by this one magnification, which she spoke before her kinswoman Elizabeth, the mother of the great Prophet and Forerunner John, every Christian can evaluate what a fragrant and God-pleasing flower was her most holy soul.

This is but one wonderful canticle of the soul of the Theotokos, which has come down to us through the Gospel. However, such canticles were without number in the course of the life of the Most-blessed One.

Even before she heard the Gospel from the lips of her Son, she knew how to speak with God and to glorify Him in accordance with the teaching of the Gospel.

This knowledge came to her from the Holy Spirit of God, whose grace constantly poured into her like clear water into a pure vessel.

Her soul magnified God with canticles throughout her whole life, and therefore God magnified her above the Cherubim and the Seraphim.

Likewise, small and sinful as we are, the same Lord will magnify in His Kingdom us who magnify her, if we exert ourselves to fill this brief life with the magnification of God in our deeds, words, thoughts and prayers.

O Most-holy, Most-pure and Most-blessed Theotokos, cover us with the wings of thy prayers.

Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956; Orthodox Church): Prologue from Ohrid, December 26th and 27th OS.

Humbert of Romans: A Heart Dedicated Unto God Saturday, Nov 3 2012 

Cast from your hearts idle thoughts, unworthy affections, bad intentions, violent actions, useless sadness, self-centered love and individual feelings.

Before the eyes of God be fearful of such thoughts, which you would blush to carry into action before human eyes.

Each of you should strive to have a heart that is like a garden abloom with trees of virtues, like a storeroom filled with the perfumes of holy affections, like a flower giving off a heavenly dew, like a box enclosing within it a marvellous treasure, like a fountain always flowing with streams of devotion, like a mirror depicting the image of God.

O happy heart which shows itself to be a throne on which God may sit, a chamber in which

God may rest, a seal on which the likeness of God is impressed, a cellar filled with God’s own vintage, a book in which God’s memories are written, gold which God moulds to any form.

Each of you should strive again and again to have a heart dedicated to God, discerning in its thoughts, wary in temptation, free of anger, separated from judgments, pining with longing for eternity, wounded with love, shining in intellect, careful in works, raised up by contemplation, concerned about the good, cut to pieces by sorrow for sin, holy in its manner of life, guarded by fear, adorned with grace.

Finally, brothers, let us strive most eagerly to turn away from sin with our whole heart by avoiding faults; let us turn to the Lord with our whole heart by doing penance.

Let us seek the Lord with our whole heart by begging pardon; let us cling to the Lord with our whole heart loving God above all things; let us serve the Lord with our whole heart with our praise; with our whole heart let us follow the path of the Lord by our pursuit.

We really owe all this to the Lord who gives our heart countless gifts.

The Lord illumines our hearts with wisdom, governs them with goodness, feeds them with delights, draws them with beauty, changes them with power, makes them one with love, allures them with promises, teaches them with harsh blows, shakes them with threats, and softens them with blessings.

Our most delightful God looks into our hearts by proving them, speaks by informing them, touches by stirring them, visits in consoling them, gives life by justifying them, and opens them by shedding light on them.

For all these gifts it behoves us to thank God tirelessly.

Humbert of Romans (c.1200-1277): From the letter On Regular Observance, from the Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers, feast of St Martin de Porres.

Maximus of Turin: Imitate the Tiniest Birds… Friday, Oct 26 2012 

A Christian worthy of the name will be intent on praising his Lord and Father throughout the whole day and on doing all things to his greater glory, in accordance with these words of the Apostle:

Whether you eat or drink, in fact whatever you do, let all of it be offered for God’s glory.

[…] Above all, says the Apostle, let all be done for the sake of God’s glory.

Christ wants our every act to be carried out in his own presence as companion and witness, and for this reason:

that his personal inspiration may influence us for good, while his constant partnership may cause us to refrain from evil.

Let us, then, give thanks to Christ on rising, and throughout the day let us begin our every deed with the Saviour’s sign.

[…] For you must realize that Christ’s one sign alone will guarantee the total success of every enterprise.

And whoever makes that sign at the sowing of his seed will reap the harvest of eternal life, whilst he who makes it at the outset of his journey will travel all the way to heaven.

Thus in Christ’s sign and name must all our actions be performed, and to it all life’s ups and downs must be referred, for has not the Apostle told us, in him we live and move and have our being?

But when evening’s shadows lengthen, we must sing to him in the psalmist’s words and declare his praises in melodious chants.

For, in having overcome our labours and our struggles, we, like conquerors, have deserved our rest and the oblivion of sleep as the reward of our toil.

Who, then, possessing human intelligence, would not be ashamed to end the day with no repetition of the psalms, when even the birds pour out their own sweet psalms in gratitude, and with no exultant hymns sung to the glory of him whom the birds praise in melodious song?

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, imitate the tiniest birds by giving thanks to the Creator in the early morning and at evening.

And if you are specially devout imitate the nightingale, for whom the day alone is not enough to fill with praise, and so it sings the whole night through as well!

You also, then, as you vanquish the day with your songs of praise, must add a nightly round to your office, and with a sequence of psalms console your sleepless diligence in the work which you have undertaken!

Maximus of Turin (d. between 408 and 423): Sermon 73.3-5 (CCL 23:305-307); ); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Saturday of the 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Year 2

Peter of Damascus: “In Everything Give Thanks” and “Pray Without Ceasing” Thursday, Sep 6 2012 

We should all give thanks to Him, as it is said: “In everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:18).

Closely linked to this phrase is another of St Paul’s injunctions: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), that is, be mindful of God at all times, in all places, and in every circumstance.

For no matter what you do, you should keep in mind the Creator of all things.

When you see the light, do not forget Him who gave it to you; when you see the sky, the earth, the sea and all that is in them, marvel at these things and glorify their Creator; when you put on clothing, acknowledge whose gift it is and praise Him who in His providence has given you life.

In short, if everything you do becomes for you an occasion for glorifying God, you will be praying unceasingly.

And in this way your soul will always rejoice, as St Paul commends (cf. 1 Thess. 5:15).

For as St Dorotheos explains, remembrance of God rejoices the soul; and he adduces David as witness: “I remembered God, and rejoiced” (cf. Ps. 77:3. LXX).

God has done all things for our benefit.

We are guarded and taught by the angels; we are tempted by the demons so that we may be humbled and have recourse to God, thus being saved from self-elation and delivered from negligence.

On the one hand, we are led to give thanks to our Benefactor through the good things of this world.

[…] We are led to love Him and to do what good we can, because we feel we have a natural obligation to repay God for His gifts to us by performing good works.

It is of course impossible to repay Him, for our debt always grows larger.

On the other hand, through what are regarded as hardships we attain a state of patience, humility and hope of blessings in the age to be.

[…]  Indeed, not only in the age to be, but even in this present age these things are a source of great blessing to us.

Thus God in His unutterable goodness has arranged all things in a marvellous way for us.

And if you want to understand this and to be as you should, you must struggle to acquire the virtues so as to be able to accept with gratitude everything that comes, whether it is good or whether it appears to be bad, and to remain undisturbed in all things.

Peter of Damascus (?12th Century): A Treasury of Divine Knowledge  Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 3 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 173-174.

Gregory the Great: Every Prayer of Patience Offered by the Sufferer in God’s Praise is a Dart Turned against the Enemy’s Breast Monday, Jul 16 2012 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistWhen Job lost everything, at Almighty’s God decree, to pre­serve his peace of mind he remembered the time when he did not yet possess the things he had now lost.

[…] To enhance his peace of mind he ponders yet more closely his origins, saying as he does so: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I shall return whence I came.

[…] Since therefore the things I have lost were only what I had received and must leave behind, what have I lost that really belonged to me?

But then, because consolation derives not only from thinking about one’s condition but also about the Crea­tor’s uprightness, he is right to add:

The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away; as it has pleased the Lord, so has he wrought.

He well says, as it has pleased the Lord. For since in this world we have to put up with things we do not like, it is necessary that we should accommodate our best endeavours to him who cannot will anything that is unjust.

If therefore we know that what is just and equitable pleases the Lord, and that we can suffer nothing but what is pleasing to him, then all our sufferings must for that reason be justly and fairly imposed: and it would therefore be very unjust of us to grumble at them.

We should note that, having got all that right, Job ends by praising God.

This was so that his adversary [the devil] might realise, over­come by shame at seeing Job’s plight, that his own attitude in his prosperity is one of contempt for God, the same God to whom even this man, now fallen on evil times, can never­theless sing a hymn of praise.

We should realise that the enemy of our race can smite us with as many of his darts as there are temptations for him to afflict us with.

For we do battle daily; and daily his onslaught of temptations rains down on us.

But we in turn can fire our darts against him if, while buried in our tribulations, we will but react in humility.

Thus Job, although suffering in material things, is still a blessed and happy man.

We should not think that our champion merely receives wounds without inflicting any in return.

Indeed, every prayer of patience offered by the sufferer in God’s praise is a dart turned against the enemy’s breast: and a much sharper blow is thereby struck than the one sustained.

For the man in his afflictions loses only earthly goods, whereas in bearing humbly with his afflictions he has increased many times over his stock in heaven.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 2.17.30-18.31 (SC 32bis:203-205);  from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday of the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time, Year 2.

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