Isaac the Syrian: His mind will stand still and his heart will follow God as a captive Thursday, Jul 16 2015 

Isaac the Syrian 3Continued from here….

When a man follows his discipline perfectly and when he has succeeded in rising above the degree of repentance,

and when he is near to taste the contemplation of his service,

when it is given him from above to taste the delight of spiritual knowledge,

a second working, after the first, will take its origin here.

In the first place man is assured concerning God’s care for him and illuminated concerning His love of the creatures — rational creatures — and His manifold care for the things which regard them.

Then there arises in him that sweetness of God and the flame of His love which burns in the heart and kindles all the affections of body and of soul.

And this power he will perceive in all the species of the creation and all things which he meets.

From time to time he will become drunk by it as by wine; his limbs will relax, his mind will stand still and his heart will follow God as a captive.

And so he will be, as I have said, like a man drunk by wine.

And according as his inner senses are strengthened, so this sight will be strengthened and according as he is careful about discipline and watchfulness and applies himself to recitation and prayer, so the power of sight will be founded and bound in him.

In truth, my brethren, he that reaches this from time to time, will not remember that he is clad with a body, nor will he know that he is in the world.

This is the beginning of spiritual sight in a man, and this is the principle of all intellectual revelations.

By this the intellect will be educated unto hidden things and become mature, and by this he will be gradually elevated unto other things which are higher than human nature.

In short, by this will be conducted unto man all divine visions and spiritual revelations which the saints receive in this world.

Thus nature can become acquainted with the gift of revelations that happen in this life. This is the root of our apperception in our Creator.

Blessed is he that has preserved this good seed when it fell in his soul, and has made it to increase, without destroying it by idle things and by the distraction of that which is transitory.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Mystic Treatises, 47, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck, pp.226-227.

Tikhon of Zadonsk: God is everywhere and in every place, and the doors to Him are always open Wednesday, Jul 15 2015 

Tikhon_of_ZadonskLiving faith is inspired in the human heart by contemplation of the word of God and by the Holy Spirit.

For this reason we should read and heed the word of God and pray that God Himself ignite the lamp of faith in our heart.

The fear of God arises most often from contemplation of the omnipresence of God and His omniscience.

God is in essence everywhere present; and wherever we may be, He is with us; and whatever we may do, say, think, and undertake, we do, say, think, and undertake all before His holy eyes.

And He knows our deeds far better than we do ourselves. Think about this, O Christian, and heed it, and with God’s help the fear of God will be born in you.

[…] Keep God, then, before your spiritual eyes and you will have the fear of God, imitating the Psalmist, “I beheld the Lord ever before me” (Ps. 15:8).

[…] While standing in church attend diligently to the reading and singing. This gives birth to compunction, true prayer, heartfelt singing and thanksgiving.

Avoid, then, standing bodily in church while wandering outside the church in mind, and standing bodily before God while wandering about in spirit in worldly affairs, lest that saying be applied to you, “his people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me” (Mt. 15:8).

While standing bodily in church, then, stand with heart and spirit as you stand before God. When you look upon the icons of the saints, call to mind that One is the Creator that created them and you, and that His purpose was the same for them as it is for you, that is, to save both them and you.

They are glorified, and before you lies the same glory, only imitate their lives and you shall be saved.

Prayer consists not only in standing and bowing before God in body, and in reading written prayers, but even without that it is possible to pray in mind and spirit at all times and in everyplace.

You can do it while walking, sitting, reclining, among people, and in solitude. Raise up your mind and heart to God, and so beg mercy and help from Him.

For God is everywhere and in every place, and the doors to Him are always open, and it is easy to approach Him, not as with man.

And we can approach Him with faith and with our prayer everywhere and at all times, and in every need and circumstance. We can say to Him mentally at any time, “Lord, have mercy, Lord help!” and so on.

Tikhon of Zadonsk (1724-1783; Russian Orthodox): extract @ Kandylaki  from Journey to Heaven: Counsels On the Particular Duties of Every Christian by Our Father Among the Saints, Tikhon of Zadonsk, Bishop of Voronezh and Elets (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2004) .

Gregory the Great: The soul is the inner face of man, by which same we are known, that we may be regarded with love by our Maker Monday, Jul 13 2015 

St-Gregory-the-Dialogist

If the iniquity which is in thine hand thou put far from thee, and wickedness dwell not in thy tabernacle, then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot, yea thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear (Job 11:13-15).

Every sin is either committed in thought alone, or it is done in thought and deed together.  Therefore ‘iniquity in the hand’ is offence in deed; but ‘wickedness in the tabernacle,’ is iniquity in the heart.

[…] Zophar…bids that ‘iniquity’ be removed from the ‘hand,’ and afterwards that ‘wickedness’ be cut off from the ‘tabernacle’.

For whosoever has already cut away from himself all wicked deeds without, must of necessity in returning to himself probe himself discreetly in the purpose of his heart, lest sin, which he no longer has in act, still hold out in thought.

[…] Now if we thoroughly wipe away these two, we then directly ‘lift our face without spot’ to God.  For the soul is the inner face of man, by which same we are known, that we may be regarded with love by our Maker.

Now we are to lift up this same face, to raise the soul in God by appliance to the exercises of prayer.  But there is a spot that pollutes the uplifted face, when consciousness of its own guilt accuses the mind intent; for it is forthwith dashed from all confidence of hope, if when busied in prayer it be stung with recollection of sin not yet subdued.

For it distrusts its being able to obtain what it longs for, in that it bears in mind its still refusing to do what it has heard from God.

Hence it is said by John, Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God; and whatsoever we ask we shall receive of Him (1 John 3:21. 22).  Hence Solomon saith, He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination (Prov. 28:9).

For our heart blames us in offering up our prayers, when it calls to mind that it is set in opposition to the precepts of Him, and…when there is a ‘turning away’ from the control of the law; in that verily it is meet that a man should be a stranger to the favours of Him, to Whose bidding he will not be subject.

Wherein there is this salutary remedy, if when the soul reproaches itself upon the remembrance of sin, it first bewail that in prayer, wherein it has gone wrong, that whereas the stain of offences is washed away by tears, in offering up our prayers the face of the heart may be viewed unspotted by our Maker.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 10, 26-28 (on Job 11:13-15) @ Lectionary Central.

Athanasius of Alexandria: The Psalms reveal the pattern of Christ’s life and teaching Sunday, Jul 5 2015 

AthanasiusContinued from here….

Every other Psalm is spoken and composed by the Spirit in the selfsame way:

just as in a mirror, the movements of our own souls are reflected in them and the words are indeed our very own, given us to serve both as a reminder of our changes of condition and as a pattern and model for the amendment of our lives.

This is the further kindness of the Saviour that, having become man for our sake, He not only offered His own body to death on our behalf, that He might redeem all from death, but also, desiring to display to us His own heavenly and perfect way of living, He expressed this in His very self.

It was as knowing how easily the devil might deceive us, that He gave us, for our peace of mind, the pledge of His own victory that He had won on our behalf. But He did not stop there: He went still further, and His own self performed the things He had enjoined on us.

Every man therefore may both hear Him speaking and at the same time see in His behaviour the pattern for his own, even as He himself has bidden, saying, Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart (Mt 11:29).

Nowhere is more perfect teaching of virtue to be found than in the Lord’s own life. Forbearance, love of men, goodness, courage, mercy, righteousness, all are found in Him; and in the same way no virtue will be lacking to him who fully contemplates this human life of Christ.

It was as knowing this that Saint Paul said, Be ye imitators of me, even as I myself am of Christ (1 Cor 11:1). The Greek legislators had indeed a great command of language; but the Lord, the true Lord of all, Who cares for all His works, did not only lay down precepts but also gave Himself as model of how they should be carried out, for all who would to know and imitate.

And therefore, before He came among us, He sketched the likeness of this perfect life for us in words, in this same book of Psalms; in order that, just as He revealed Himself in flesh to be the perfect, heavenly Man, so in the Psalms also men of good-will might see the pattern life portrayed, and find therein the healing and correction of their own.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Letter to Marcellinus in Athanasius: The Life Of Antony And The Letter To Marcellinus, translated by Robert C. Gregg; Paulist Press, New York; pp. 101-129; 1980 @ Athanasius.com

Augustine of Hippo: “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” Saturday, Jul 4 2015 

St Augustine of AfricaRecollecting your request and my promise, that…I would write you something on the subject of prayer to God, I feel it my duty now to discharge this debt, and in the love of Christ to minister to the satisfaction of your pious desire.

[…] What could be more suitably the business of your widowhood than to continue in supplications night and day, according to the apostle’s admonition, “She that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications night and day”?

It might, indeed, appear wonderful that solicitude about prayer should occupy your heart and claim the first place in it, when you are, so far as this world is concerned, noble and wealthy, and the mother of such an illustrious family, and, although a widow, not desolate, were it not that you wisely understand that in this world and in this life the soul has no sure portion.

Wherefore He who inspired you with this thought is assuredly doing what He promised to His disciples when they were grieved, not for themselves, but for the whole human family, and were despairing of the salvation of any one, after they heard from Him that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

He gave them this marvellous and merciful reply: “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” He, therefore, with whom it is possible to make even the rich enter into the kingdom of heaven, inspired you with that devout anxiety which makes you think it necessary to ask my counsel on the question how you ought to pray.

For while He was yet on earth, He brought Zaccheus, though rich, into the kingdom of heaven, and, after being glorified in His resurrection and ascension, He made many who were rich to despise this present world, and made them more truly rich by extinguishing their desire for riches through His imparting to them His Holy Spirit.

For how could you desire so much to pray to God if you did not trust in Him? And how could you trust in Him if you were fixing your trust in uncertain riches, and neglecting the wholesome exhortation of the apostle:

“Charge them that are rich in this world that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation, that they may lay hold on eternal life”?

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Letter to Proba, I, 1-2 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Macarius the Egyptian: The light shining in the heart Thursday, Jul 2 2015 

Macarius3Continued from here….

To some…the sign of the cross has appeared in light and fastened itself upon the inward man.

[…]  At another time there was brought as it were a shining garment, such as there is none on earth in the course of this world, nor is it possible for human hands to make the like;

for as when the Lord went up into the mountain with Peter and John, He changed the fashion of His raiment and made it to flash with light, so was it with this garment, and the man who was clothed with it wondered and was amazed.

Another while, the light shining in the heart disclosed the inner, deeper, hidden light, so that the man, swallowed up in the sweetness of the contemplation, was no longer master of himself, but was like a fool or a barbarian to this world by reason of the surpassing love and sweetness, by reason of the hidden mysteries;

so that the man for that season was set at liberty, and came to perfect measures, and was pure and free from sin; yet afterwards grace retreated, and the veil of the adverse power came; notwithstanding, grace still shews itself in part, and he stands on the first and lowest step of perfection.

There are twelve steps, we might say, which a man has to pass before he reaches perfection. For a season that measure has been attained, and perfection entered upon; and then grace gives in, and he comes down by one step, and stands on the eleventh.

Here and there one man rich in grace has stood always, night and day, in perfect measures, at liberty and in purity, always captive and aloft.

Well now, if the man to whom those marvelous things were shewn, of which he has had actual experience, were to have them always present with him, he would be unable to undertake the dispensation of the word and the burden of it, nor could he endure to listen to, or take any interest in, any ordinary thing, concerning himself, or concerning the morrow, but only to sit in a corner, aloft and intoxicated.

So the perfect measure has not been given, in order that he may be free to take an interest in his brethren, and in the ministry of the word. Nevertheless the middle wall of partition has been broken through (Ephesians 2:14) and death is overcome.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 8, 3-4 @ Pravoslavie.

Hilary of Poitiers: We achieve the perfection of happiness by unbroken and unwearied meditation in the Law Friday, Jun 26 2015 

St_Hilary_of_Poitiers_cassienBlessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence. But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).

The Prophet, in portraying in the likeness of God the man that is perfect—one who may serve as a noble example of eternal happiness—points to the exercise by him of no commonplace virtues, and to the words, But his will hath been in the Law of the Lord, for the attainment of perfect happiness.

To refrain from what has gone before is useless unless his mind be set on what follows, But his will hath been in the Law of the Lord. The Prophet does not look for fear.

The majority of men are kept within the bounds of Law by fear; the few are brought under the Law by will: for it is the mark of fear not to dare to omit what it is afraid of, but of perfect piety to be ready to obey commands.

This is why that man is happy whose will, not whose fear, is in the Law of God. But then sometimes the will needs supplementing; and the mere desire for perfect happiness does not win it, unless performance wait upon intention.

The Psalm, you remember, goes on: And in His Law will he meditate day and night. The man achieves the perfection of happiness by unbroken and unwearied meditation in the Law.

Now it may be objected that this is impossible owing to the conditions of human infirmity, which require time for repose, for sleep, for food: so that our bodily circumstances preclude us from the hope of attaining happiness, inasmuch as we are distracted by the interruption of our bodily needs from our meditation by day and night.

Parallel to this passage are the words of the Apostle, Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). As though we were bound to set at naught our bodily requirements and to continue praying without any interruption!

Meditation in the Law, therefore, does not lie in reading its words, but in pious performance of its injunctions; not in a mere perusal of the books and writings, but in a practical meditation and exercise in their respective contents, and in a fulfilment of the Law by the works we do by night and day, as the Apostle says: Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

The way to secure uninterrupted prayer is for every devout man to make his life one long prayer by works acceptable to God and always done to His glory: thus a life lived according to the Law by night and day will in itself become a nightly and daily meditation in the Law.

Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-368): On the Psalms, Psalm 1, 11-12.

John of Kronstadt: The frequent deliverance from affliction of heart through the intercession and patronage of the saints Thursday, Jun 25 2015 

john_kronstadtGod’s saints are near to believing hearts and, like the truest and kindest of friends, are ready in a moment to help the faithful and pious who call upon them with faith and love.

We have for the most part to send, and have sometimes to wait long for earthly helpers, whilst we have not to send for nor wait long for spiritual helpers:

the faith of Him who prays can place them close to his very heart in a moment, and he will as speedily receive through faith full spiritual help.

In saying this, I speak by experience;

by this I mean the frequent deliverance from affliction of heart through the intercession and patronage of the saints, and especially through the intercession of Our Lady, the Holy Virgin Mary.

Probably some would say that this is the action of simple and firm faith, and a determined assurance in our deliverance from affliction, and not the intercession of the saints for us before God.

No, it is not so. How can this be proved?

It can be proved by the fact that if I do not call upon the saints known to me in hearty prayer, without making any distinction, if I do not see them with my spiritual vision, then I shall obtain no help, however great assurance I may have felt of being saved without their help.

I recognise, I feel clearly, that I receive help through the names of those saints upon whom I have called, because of my lively faith in them. This happens just as everything happens in the usual order of earthly things.

First, I see my helpers by means of earnest faith; then, seeing them, I pray to them also with my whole heart, invisibly but intelligibly to myself;

after this, having received invisible help in quite an imperceptible manner, but sensibly to my soul, I simultaneously receive a strong conviction that this help has been obtained from them, just as a sick man, cured by a doctor, is convinced that he has been cured precisely by that doctor, and not by anyone else; that his illness has passed away not by itself, but through the help of this particular doctor.

All this comes to pass so simply that it is only necessary to have eyes in order to see. I am a man–and the grace, the truth and the righteousness of God are continually working within me.

It is God Who at one time cherishes and comforts me, and at another punishes and afflicts me with sorrows for any inward motion of the soul adverse to Him.

But the earth is full of men like me. Therefore, in them also God manifests His mercy, truth and righteousness, as in myself. “He worketh all in all.”

John of Kronstadt (1829-1908; Russian Orthodox): My Life in Christ, part 1, pp.31-32.

Augustine of Hippo: “The Spirit maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” Sunday, Jun 21 2015 

St Augustine of Africa“With Him is the fountain of life, and in His light we shall see light” —

— when our desire shall be satisfied with good things, and when there shall be nothing beyond to be sought after with groaning, but all things shall be possessed by us with rejoicing.

At the same time, because this blessing is nothing else than the “peace which passeth all understanding,” even when we are asking it in our prayers, we know not what to pray for as we ought.

For inasmuch as we cannot present it to our minds as it really is, we do not know it, but whatever image of it may be presented to our minds we reject, disown, and condemn;

we know it is not what we are seeking, although we do not yet know enough to be able to define what we seek.

There is therefore in us a certain learned ignorance, so to speak — an ignorance which we learn from that Spirit of God who helps our infirmities.

For after the apostle said, “If we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it,” he added in the same passage:

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is in the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

This is not to be understood as if it meant that the Holy Spirit of God, who is in the Trinity, God unchangeable, and is one God with the Father and the Son, intercedes for the saints like one who is not a divine person;

for it is said, “He maketh intercession for the saints,” because He enables the saints to make intercession, as in another place it is said, “The Lord your God proves you, that He may know whether ye love Him,” i.e. that He may make you know.

He therefore makes the saints intercede with groanings which cannot be uttered, when He inspires them with longings for that great blessing, as yet unknown, for which we patiently wait.

For how is that which is desired set forth in language if it be unknown, for if it were utterly unknown it would not be desired; and on the other hand, if it were seen, it would not be desired nor sought for with groanings?

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Letter to Proba, XIV, 27; XV, 28 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Athanasius of Alexandria: The Psalms move our hearts and voice our deepest thoughts Wednesday, Jun 17 2015 

AthanasiusIn the other books of Scripture we read or hear the words of holy men as belonging only to those who spoke them, not at all as though they were our own.

And in the same way the doings there narrated are to us material for wonder and examples to be followed, but not in any sense things we have done ourselves.

With this book [the Psalms], however, though one does read the prophecies about the Saviour in that way, with reverence and with awe, in the case of all the other Psalms it is as though it were one’s own words that one read.

And anyone who hears them is moved at heart, as though they voiced for him his deepest thoughts.

[…] No one would ever speak the patriarchs’ words as though they were his own, or dare to imitate the utterance of Moses or use the words of Abraham concerning the great Isaac, or about Ishmael and the home-born slave, as though they were his own, even though like necessity oppressed him.

Neither, if any man suffer with those that suffer or be gripped with desire of some better thing, would he ever say as Moses said, Show me Thyself (Ex 33:13), or If Thou remittest their sin; then remit it; but if not, then blot me out of Thy book that Thou hast written (Ex 32:32).

No more would any one use the prophets’ words of praise or blame as though they were his own, or say, The Lord lives, in Whose sight I stand today. For he who reads those books is clearly reading not his own words but those of holy men and other people about whom they write.

But the marvel with the Psalter is that, barring those prophecies about the Saviour and some about the Gentiles, the reader takes all its words upon his lips as though they were his own.

Each one sings the Psalms as though they had been written for his special benefit, and takes them and recites them, not as though someone else were speaking or another person’s feelings being described, but as himself speaking of himself, offering the words to God as his own heart’s utterance, just as though he himself had made them up.

Not as the words of the patriarchs or of Moses and the other prophets will he reverence these: no, he is bold to take them as his own and written for his very self.

Whether he has kept the Law or whether he has broken it, it is his own doings that the Psalms describe; every one is bound to find his very self in them and, be he faithful soul or be he sinner, each reads in them descriptions of himself.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Letter to Marcellinus in Athanasius: The Life Of Antony And The Letter To Marcellinus, translated by Robert C. Gregg; Paulist Press, New York; pp. 101-129; 1980 @ Athanasius.com (slightly adapted).

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