Benedict of Nursia: “The Thoughts of Man Shall Give Praise to Thee” Wednesday, Jul 11 2012 

The Holy Scripture crieth to us saying: “Every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Lk 14:11; 18:14).

[…] If we wish to reach the greatest height of humility, and speedily to arrive at that heavenly exaltation to which ascent is made in the present life by humility, then, mounting by our actions, we must erect the ladder which appeared to Jacob in his dream, by means of which angels were shown to him ascending and descending (cf Gen 28:12).

Without a doubt, we understand this ascending and descending to be nothing else but that we descend by pride and ascend by humility.

The erected ladder, however, is our life in the present world, which, if the heart is humble, is by the Lord lifted up to heaven.

For we say that our body and our soul are the two sides of this ladder; and into these sides the divine calling hath inserted various degrees of humility or discipline which we must mount.

The first degree of humility, then, is that a man always have the fear of God before his eyes (cf Ps 35[36]:2), shunning all forgetfulness.

[…]  And whilst he guardeth himself evermore against sin and vices of thought, word, deed, and self-will, let him also hasten to cut off the desires of the flesh.

Let a man consider that God always seeth him from Heaven, that the eye of God beholdeth his works everywhere, and that the angels report them to Him every hour.

The Prophet telleth us this when he showeth God thus ever present in our thoughts, saying: “The searcher of hearts and reins is God” (Ps 7:10). And again: “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of men” (Ps 93[94]:11).

And he saith: “Thou hast understood my thoughts afar off” (Ps 138[139]:3). And: “The thoughts of man shall give praise to Thee” (Ps 75[76]:11).

Therefore, in order that he may always be on his guard against evil thoughts, let the humble brother always say in his heart: “Then I shall be spotless before Him, if I shall keep myself from iniquity” (Ps 17[18]:24).

We are thus forbidden to do our own will, since the Scripture saith to us: “And turn away from thy evil will” (Sir 18:30). And thus, too, we ask God in prayer that His will may be done in us (cf Mt 6:10).

[…] As regards desires of the flesh, let us believe that God is thus ever present to us, since the Prophet saith to the Lord: “Before Thee is all my desire” (Ps 37[38]:10).

We must, therefore, guard thus against evil desires, because death hath his station near the entrance of pleasure.

St Benedict of Nursia (480-547): Rule of St Benedict, 7.

John Chrysostom: “The Lord has Done Great Things for Us” Sunday, Jun 17 2012 

When the Lord returned the captives to Zion, we were like people who are comforted.

If it was a comfort for them to be released from a barbaric nation, how much more should we not be glad and leap for joy at being set free from sin, and preserve that joy always, never destroying or disturbing it by falling again into the same faults?

Then our mouths were filled with joy and our tongues with gladness. Then they will say among the nations: the Lord has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for us.

To rejoice at deliverance from captivity helps not a little to inspire people with nobler sentiments. But who, you may ask, would not rejoice at this? The ancestors of these people did not.

When they were released from Egypt and set free from slavery, they were so un­grateful that in the midst of all their benefits they did nothing but grumble, and were angry and embittered and perpetually dis­traught.

But we are not like that, says the psalmist; we leap for joy.

Let us learn the reason for their joy. We do not only rejoice, they say, because of our deliverance from terrible suffering, but because it will make the whole world know God’s care for us.

For as the psalmist says: Then they will say among the nations: The Lord has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for us.

There is no repetition here; the words are meant to describe their joy. The first saying is that of the nations, the second is their own.

Notice this too: they did not say ‘He saved us’, or ‘He delivered us’, but ‘He did great things for us’, for they wanted to show the incredible event in all its wonder.

Can you not see that this people gave a lesson to the whole world when they were carried off into captivity as well as when they returned? For their return preached its own message.

News of them went round everywhere and made God’s love for humankind known to everyone, because the wonderful things he had done for them were truly great and incredible.

Cyrus himself, who had them in his power, set them free without anyone asking him because God made him relent.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on Psalm 125,1; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday of the Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time, Year 2.

Ambrose of Milan: Store in Your Mind the Water that is Christ, the Water that Praises the Lord Wednesday, Dec 7 2011 

[In the words of the Psalm], The rivers have lifted up their voice.

These are the rivers flowing from the heart of the man who is given drink by Christ and who receives from the Spirit of God.

When these rivers overflow with the grace of the Spirit, they lift up their voice.

There is also a stream which flows down on God’s saints like a torrent.

There is also a rushing river giving joy to the heart that is at peace and makes for peace.

Whoever has received from the fullness of this river, like John the Evangelist, like Peter and Paul, lifts up his voice.

Just as the apostles lifted up their voices and preached the Gospel throughout the world, so those who drink these waters begin to preach the good news of the Lord Jesus.

Drink, then, from Christ, so that your voice may also be heard.

Store up in your mind the water that is Christ, the water that praises the Lord.

Store up water from many sources, the water that rains down from the clouds of prophecy.

Whoever gathers water from the mountains and leads it to himself or draws it from springs, is himself a source of dew like the clouds.

Fill your soul, then, with this water, so that your land may not be dry, but watered by your own springs.

He who reads much and understands much, receives his fill. He who is full, refreshes others.

So Scripture says: If the clouds are full, they will pour rain upon the earth.

Therefore, let your words be rivers, clean and limpid, so that in your exhortations you may charm the ears of your people. And by the grace of your words win them over to follow your leadership.

Let your sermons be full of understanding. Solomon says: The weapons of the understanding are the lips of the wise; and in another place he says: Let your lips be bound with wisdom. That is, let the meaning of your words shine forth, let understanding blaze out.

See that your addresses and expositions do not need to invoke the authority of others, but let your words be their own defence.

Let no word escape your lips in vain or be uttered without depth of meaning.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): Letter 2, 1-2. 4-5.7:  from Office of Readings for the Memoria of St Ambrose, December 7th, @ Crossroads Initiative.

Augustine of Hippo: Let Us Sing Alleluia Here on Earth While We Are Anxious and Worrying Saturday, Nov 26 2011 

St Augustine of AfricaLet us sing alleluia here on earth, while we are still anxious and worrying, so that we may one day be able to sing it there in heaven, without any worry or care.

Why anxious and worrying here? You must want me to be anxious, Lord, when I read, Is not man’s life on earth a trial and a temptation?

[…] In this time that is still evil, let us sing alleluia to the good God, who does deliver us from evil.

Even here, among the dangers, among the trials and temptations of this life, both by others and by ourselves let alleluia be sung.

God is faithful, he says, and he will not permit you to be tempted beyond what you are able to endure. So even here let us sing alleluia.

Man is still a defendant on trial, but God is faithful. He did not say “he will not permit you to be tempted” but he will not permit you to be tempted beyond what you are able to endure; and with the temptation he will also make a way out, so that you may be able to endure it.

You have entered into temptation; but God will also make a way out so that you do not perish in the temptation; so that like a potter’s jar you may be shaped by the preaching and fired into strength by the tribulation.

But when you enter the temptation, bear in mind the way out: because God is faithful, God will watch over you and guard your going in and your coming out.

Furthermore, when this body has become immortal and imperishable, when all temptation has been done away with; because the body is dead – why is it dead? – Because of sin. But the spirit is life, because of justice.

So do we leave the body dead, then? No, but listen: But if the Spirit of him who raised Christ from the dead dwells within you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies.

So you see: now the body receives its life from the soul, but then it will receive it from the Spirit.

O! what a happy alleluia there, how carefree, how safe from all opposition, where nobody will be an enemy, where no-one will ever cease to be a friend!

God’s praises sung there, sung here – here, by the anxious; there, by the carefree – here, by those who will die; there, by those who will live for ever – here, in hope; there, in reality – here, on our journey; there, in our homeland.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Sermon 256, 1-3, taken from the Office of Readings for Saturday in the 34th Week of Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

Aelred of Rievaulx: Even My Earthly Body will be Filled with the Glory of the Lord. Thursday, Sep 22 2011 

Rievaulx Abbey

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the whole earth filled with his glory (Isaiah 6:1).

[…] I know that this earth I tread upon will be delivered from its enslavement to decay, and that there will be a new earth and a new heaven, and he who sits upon the throne will say: See, I am making all things new.

Even my earthly body will be filled with the glory of the Lord.

At present the earth yields thorns and thistles for me, since Adam’s crime brought a curse upon it.

My body is weak and languid, lazy and burdensome, subject to strong passions and prone to grave illnesses.

But why are you cast down, my soul; why groan within me? The whole earth will be filled with his glory.

But when will this be?

Undoubtedly, when the Lord takes his seat upon his throne, high and exalted, and refashions our lowly bodies to be like his own glorious body;

when that glory which was revealed in the body of the Lord at his transfiguration on the mountain shines forth in our earthly bodies, now risen from the dead and endowed with immortality.

Then a new song will be sung and cries of gladness and joy will be heard in the tents of the righteous, for winter is past, the rains are over and gone, and flowers have appeared in the countryside.

The cause of our joy will be the vision of the Creator in his creatures, the love of the Creator in his own being, and the praise of our Creator in both.

His train filled the Temple, says Isaiah. What Temple? Scripture says: God’s Temple is holy, and you are that Temple.

Now although our bodies are God’s Temple, nevertheless, because our souls control our bodies, our souls are God’s Temple in a special way.

This is the Temple in which during the present life we offer God the sacrifice of a humbled, contrite heart which he does not spurn.

This is the Temple in which, when the corruptible life of the body is over, and we have been carried to the kingdom of eternal glory where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, we shall offer God a sacrifice of praise.

As he himself says through the Prophet: A sacrifice of praise honours me.

Now, in the meantime, Lord, may our sacrifice of contrition placate you, so that, when you sit upon your throne, high and exalted, our sacrifice of praise may honour you.

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): Sermo de adventu Domini, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday in 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Athanasius of Alexandria: Singing the Psalms, Healing the Passions, and Possessing the Mind of Christ Tuesday, Aug 23 2011 

The Book of Psalms has a certain grace of its own.

For in addition to the other things in which it enjoys fellowship with the other books of the Bible, it possesses this marvel – that it contains all the emotions of each soul and their various changes.

Thus, through hear­ing, it teaches us not only not to disregard passion, but also how to heal passion through speaking and acting.

There is also this astonishing thing in the Psalms. After the prophecies about the Saviour and the nations, he who recites the Psalms is uttering the rest as his own words, and each sings them as if they were written concerning him.

And it seems to me that these words become like a mirror to the person singing them, so that he might per­ceive himself and the emotions of his soul.

For in fact he who hears the cantor receives the song that is recited as being about him, and either, when he is convicted by his conscience, he will repent, or hearing of the hope that resides in God, and how this kind of grace exists for him, he exults and begins to give thanks to God.

Therefore, when someone sings the third psalm, recognising his own tribulations, he considers the words in the psalm to be his own.

And then when someone sings the fiftieth, he is speaking the proper words of his own repentance.

If the point needs to be put more forcefully, let us say that the entire Holy Scripture is a teacher of virtue and the truths of faith, while the Book of Psalms presents the perfect image for the soul’s course of life.

[…] Just as the harmony that unites flutes effects a single sound, so also, seeing that different movements appear in the soul, reason intends man to be neither discordant in himself, nor to be at variance with himself.

Reason intends the soul possessing the mind of Christ to use this as a leader, and by it to be a master of its passions.

A man then becomes a stringed instrument and, devoting himself completely to the Spirit, obeys the mind of Christ, which acts like a plectrum in all his members and emotions, thus enabling him to serve the will of God.

The harmonious singing of the Psalms is a figure and type of such order and tranquillity.

For just as we discover the ideas of the soul and communicate them through the words we put forth, so also the Lord, wishing the melody of the words to be a symbol of the spiritual harmony in a soul, has ordered that the odes be chanted tunefully, and the Psalms recited with song.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Letter to Marcellinus 10-12, 14, 27-29; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Tuesday of the Twenty-First Week of Ordinary Time, Year I.

Ephrem the Syrian: We shall Acquire, through Praise, Life that Has No Measure Monday, Aug 15 2011 

Our generation is like a leaf whose time, once it falls, is over,
but though the limit of our life is short, praise can lengthen it,
for, corresponding to the extent of our love,
we shall acquire, through praise, life that has no measure.

For it is in our Lord that the root of our faith is grafted;
though far off, he is still close to us in the fusion of love.
Let the roots of our love be bound up in him,
let the full extent of his compassion be fused in us.

O Lord, may the body be a temple for him who built it,
may the soul be a palace full of praise for its architect!
Let not our body become a hollow cavity,
let our souls not be a harbour of loss.

And when the light of this temporal breath flickers out
do you relight in the morning the lantern that was extinguished in the night.
The sun arrives and with the warmth of its rising
it revives the frozen and relights what has been extinguished.

It is right that we should acknowledge that Light which illumines all,
for in the morning, when the sun has gone up, lanterns are extinguished,
but this new Sun has performed a new deed,
relighting in Sheol the lanterns that had been extinguished.

In place of death who has breathed the smell of mortality over all,
he who gives life to all exhales a life-giving scent in Sheol;
from his life the dead breathe in new life,
and death dies within them.

The scent of the buried Elisha who gave life to a dead man provides a type for this:
a man dead but a day breathed in life from him who was long dead;
the life-giving scent wafted from his bones and entered the dead corpse –
a symbol of him               who gives life to all.

Jesus has elucidated for us the symbols that took place at Elisha’s grave,
how from an extinguished lantern a lantern can be relit,
and how, while lying in the grave, he could raise up the fallen,
himself remaining there, but sending forth a witness to Christ’s coming.

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): The Harp of the Spirit, 77-78, tr. Sebastian Brock; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Saturday in Nineteenth Week of Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Alphonsus Liguori: “You shall Draw Waters with Joy out of the Saviour’s Fountains” Monday, Aug 1 2011 

Behold the source of every good, Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament, who says If any man thirst, let him come to Me (John 2:27).

Oh, what torrents of grace have the saints drawn from the fountain of the Most Blessed Sacrament!

For there Jesus dispenses all the merits of his Passion, as it was foretold by the Prophet: You shall draw waters with joy out of the Saviour’s fountains (Isaiah 12:3).

The Countess of Feria…on being asked how she employed the many hours thus passed in the presence of the Holy of Holies, answered:

“I could remain there for all eternity. And is not there present the very essence of God, who will be the food of the blessed?

“Am I asked what I do in his presence? Why am I not rather asked, what is not done there? “We love, we ask, we praise, we give thanks. We ask, what does a poor man do in the presence of one who is rich? What does a sick man do in the presence of his physician?

“What does a man do who is parched with thirst in the presence of a clear fountain? What is the occupation of one who is starving, and is placed before a splendid table?”

O my most amiable, most sweet, most beloved Jesus, my life, my hope, my treasure, the only love of my soul; oh, what has it cost Thee to remain thus with us in this Sacrament!

Thou hadst to die, that Thou mightest thus dwell amongst us on our altars; and then, how many insults hast Thou not had to endure in this Sacrament, in order to aid us by Thy presence!

Thy love, and the desire which Thou hast to be loved by us, have conquered all.

Come then, O Lord! Come and take possession of my heart; close its doors forever, that henceforward no creature may enter there, to divide the love which is due to Thee, and which it is my ardent desire to bestow all on Thee.

Do Thou alone, my dear Redeemer, rule me; do Thou alone possess my whole being.

[…] Grant that I may no longer seek for any other pleasure than that of giving Thee pleasure; that all my pleasure may be to visit Thee often on Thy altar.

[…] Let all who will, seek other treasures; the only treasure that I love, the only one that I desire, is that of Thy love; for this only will I ask at the foot of the altar.

Do Thou make me forget myself, that thus I may only remember Thy goodness.

Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787): The Holy Eucharist, pp. 127-128.

Anselm of Canterbury: I Give Thee Thanks and Praise, O My God, My Mercy Sunday, May 15 2011 

I give Thee thanks and praise, O my God, my Mercy, who hast vouchsafed to lead me unto the conception of Thee, and by the washing of holy baptism to number me among Thy children by adoption.

I give Thee thanks and praise, for that Thou hast patience with me in Thine unbounded goodness, waiting for amendment of life in me, who have abounded in sins from my childhood even unto this hour.

Thee I praise, Thee I glorify, who by the arm of Thy might hast often delivered me out of many distresses calamities and miseries, and hitherto hast spared me eternal pains and bodily torments.

I praise Thee and glorify Thee, for that Thou hast vouchsafed to grant unto me soundness of body, a quiet life, the love, affection and charity of Thy servants toward me, for all these things are the gifts of Thy goodness.

Holy of holies, who makest all things holy, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, I worship Thee, I give thanks to Thee.

Let all Thy creatures bless Thee, let all Thine angels and saints bless Thee.

Let me bless Thee in all the actions of my life. Let all my frame, without and within, glorify and bless Thee.

My salvation, my light, my glory, let mine eyes see Thee, which Thou hast created and prepared to look upon the beauty of Thine excellency.

My music, my delight, let mine ears bless Thee, which Thou hast created and prepared to hear the voice of Thy cheerful salvation.

My sweetness, my refreshment, let my nostrils bless Thee, which Thou hast made to live and take pleasure in the sweet odour of Thine ointments.

My praise, my new song, my rejoicing, let my tongue bless and magnify Thee, which Thou hast created and prepared to tell forth Thy wonderful works.

My wisdom, my meditation, my counsel, let my heart adore and bless Thee for ever, which Thou hast prepared and given unto me to discern Thine unspeakable mercies.

My life, my happiness, let my soul, sinful though she be, bless Thee, which Thou hast created and prepared to enjoy Thy goodness.

Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109): A Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving to God.

John Ruusbroec: The Holy Spirit Stirs the Heart and All the Powers of the Soul until they Boil Friday, May 13 2011 

From inward gratitude and praise there arises a twofold grief of the heart and torment of desire.

The first grief is that we feel ourselves to lag behind in thanking, praising, glorifying and serving God.

The second is, that we do not grow in charity, in virtue, in faith, and in perfect behaviour as much as we desire, that we may become worthy to thank and praise and serve God as it is proper to do.

This is the second grief. These two are root and fruit, beginning and end, of all inward virtues.

Inward grief and pain for our shortcomings in virtue and the praise of God, is the highest effect of this first degree of the inward exercise; and by it this degree is perfectly achieved.

Now consider in a similitude, how this inward exercise should be performed.

When the natural fire has by its heat and power stirred water, or some other liquid, until it bubbles up; then this is its highest achievement.

Then the water boils up and falls down to the bottom, and is then stirred again to the same activity by the power of the fire: so that the water is incessantly bubbling up, and the fire incessantly stirring it.

And so likewise works the inward fire of the Holy Spirit.

It stirs and goads and drives the heart and all the powers of the soul until they boil; that is, until they thank and praise God in the way of which I have told you.

And then one falls down to that very ground, where the Spirit of God is burning.

So that the fire of love ever burns, and the man’s heart ever thanks and praises God with words and with works and yet always abides in lowliness; esteeming that which he should do and would do to be great, and that which he is able to do to be small.

When summer draws near and the sun rises higher, it draws the moisture out of the earth through the roots, and through the trunks of the trees, into the twigs; and hence come foliage, flower, and fruit.

So likewise, when Christ the Eternal Sun rises and ascends in our hearts, so that it is summer in the adornment of our virtues, He gives His light and His heat to our desires.

He draws the heart from all the multiplicity of earthly things, and brings about unity and inwardness.

He makes the heart grow and bring forth the leaves of inward love, the flowers of ardent devotion, and the fruits of thanksgiving and praise.

He makes these fruits to endure eternally, in humble grief, because of our shortcomings.

John Ruusbroec (1293-1381): The Spiritual Espousals, 2,14-16.

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