Thérèse of the Child Jesus: I Am Not Always Faithful, but I Never Lose Courage Tuesday, Oct 1 2013 

St.-ThereseIt pleases Jesus to lavish His gifts on certain souls in order to draw yet others to Himself; in His Mercy He humbles them inwardly and gently compels them to recognize their nothingness and His Almighty Power.

Now this sentiment of humility is like a kernel of grace which God hastens to develop against that blessed day, when, clothed with an imperishable beauty, they will be placed, without danger, on the banqueting-table of Paradise.

Dear little sister, sweet echo of my soul, Thérèse is far from the heights of fervour at this moment; but when I am in this state of spiritual dryness, unable to pray, or to practise virtue, I look for little opportunities, for the smallest trifles, to please my Jesus: a smile or a kind word, for instance, when I would wish to be silent, or to show that I am bored.

If no such occasion offer, I try at least to say over and over again that I love Him. This is not hard, and it keeps alive the fire in my heart. Even should the fire of love seem dead, I would still throw my tiny straws on the ashes, and I am confident it would light up again.

It is true I am not always faithful, but I never lose courage. I leave myself in the Arms of Our Lord. He teaches me to draw profit from everything, from the good and from the bad which He finds in me.

He teaches me to speculate in the Bank of Love, or rather it is He Who speculates for me, without telling me how He does it – that is His affair, not mine. I have but to surrender myself wholly to Him, to do so without reserve, without even the satisfaction of knowing what it is all bringing to me….

After all, I am not the prodigal child, and Jesus need not trouble about a feast for me, because I am always with Him. I have read in the Gospel that the Good Shepherd leaves the faithful ones of His flock in the desert to hasten after the lost sheep. This confidence touches me deeply.

You see He is sure of them. How could they stray away? They are the prisoners of Love. In like manner does the Beloved Shepherd of our souls deprive us of the sweets of His Presence, to give His consolations to sinners; or if He lead us to Mount Thabor it is but for one brief moment … the pasture land is nearly always in the valleys, “it is there that He takes His rest at midday” (Cant. 1:6).

Thérèse of the Child Jesus (1873-1897): Letters of Saint Thérèse to Her Sister Celine, 16.

Ambrose of Milan: The Parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son Monday, Jun 10 2013 

ambrose_of_milan(on Luke 15)

The Merciful Judge does not withhold the hope of His forgiveness, and has as a Good Physician made known to you the remedies even against going astray.

And so it was not without design that the holy Luke places in order before us three parables:

that of the sheep that strayed and was found,

that of the silver piece that was lost and also was found,

that of the son who was dead (through sin) and who returned to life;

so that sustained by this threefold cure we may seek to cure our own wounds: for a triple rope does not break.

Who are these three persons: the shepherd, the woman, the father? Is not Christ the Shepherd, the Church the woman, and God the Father?

Christ Who took upon Himself your sins bears you upon His own Body; the Church searches for you; the Father receives you back.

As a shepherd He brings us back, as a mother He looks for us, as a father He clothes us.

First, mercy, second, intercession, third, reconciliation; each to each; the Redeemer comes to our aid, the Church intercedes for us, the Creator restores us to Himself.

It is the same divine mercy in each operation; but grace varies according to our merits.

The sheep that strayed is brought back by the Shepherd. The silver piece that was lost is found. The son turns back fully repentant from his sinful wanderings, and retraces his footsteps to his father.

[…] Let us therefore rejoice because that sheep which had fallen by the way in Adam is uplifted in Christ…; the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10); that is, all men: for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive (I Cor. 15:22).

Rich then is that Shepherd of whose portion all we are but a hundredth part. For He has besides the innumerable flocks of the Archangels, of the Dominations, of the Powers, of the Thrones and all the rest whom He left upon the mountains.

[…] Neither is it without significance that the woman rejoices because of the silver piece that was found. For this is no ordinary piece of silver, upon which is the figure of the Prince. And because of this, the Image of the King is the wealth of the Church.

We are His sheep; let us pray that He will place us amid the waters of His refreshment (Ps. 22:2). We are, I say, His sheep; let us seek of Him a place of pasture.  

We are pieces of silver; let us jealously cherish our value.

We are children; let us hasten to our Father.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): Commentary on St Luke, ch. 15, Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D. @ Lectionary Central.

Ignatius Brianchaninov: The heavenly Father’s infinite and unspeakable mercy for repentant sinners Sunday, Mar 3 2013 

Ignatius_BrianchaninovWe learn from the Gospel parable [the story of the prodigal son] that for successful and fruitful repentance, a man needs to provide on his part: seeing his own sin, recognizing it, repenting of it, and confession of it.

God sees a person who has made this pledge in heart while he is yet a long way off; He sees him and runs to meet him, embraces and kisses him with His grace.

No sooner had the penitent pronounced his confession of his sin than the merciful Lord commanded the slaves—the servants of the altar and the holy Angels—to clothe him in bright garments of purity;

to place his ring upon his finger as a testimony of his renewed union with the Church both on earth and in heaven;

and to place shoes upon his feet, so that his actions would be protected from spiritual thorns by steadfast ordinances, for that is the meaning of the shoes—Christ’s commandments.

To complete the action of love, a feast of love is held for the returned son, for which a fatted calf is killed.

This feast signifies the Church feast to which the sinner is invited once he has made his peace with God—the spiritual, incorruptible food and drink—Christ—promised long ago to mankind, prepared through the unspeakable mercy of God for fallen man from the very moment of his fall.

[…] What more consoling news could there be for a sinner who stands trembling before the doors of repentance than this news about the Heavenly Father’s infinite and unspeakable mercy for repentant sinners?

This mercy is so great that it amazed the very Angels—the first-born sons of the Heavenly Father, who had never transgressed a single commandment of His.

Their bright, lofty minds could not fathom the unfathomable mercy of God for fallen mankind.

They needed a revelation from on High regarding this subject, and they learned from this revelation that it is meet for them to make merry, and be glad, for their lesser brother—the human race—was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found, through the Redeemer.

There is joy in the presence of the angels of God even over one sinner that repenteth.

[…] May our rejoicing be endless! May it be joined to the rejoicing of the holy Angels of God! May the joy of Angels and men be fulfilled and made perfect through their fulfilling the will of the Heavenly Father!

For, it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones—human beings, deprecated and humiliated by sin—should perish (Mt. 18:14).

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Instruction on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, on Repentance, translated by Nun Cornelia Rees @ Pravoslavie

Archimandrite Zacharias: Prodigal Sons Sunday, Nov 1 2009 

The great tragedy of our times lies in the fact that we live, speak, think, and even pray to God, outside our heart, outside our Father’s house.

And truly our Father’s house is our heart, the place where “the spirit of glory and of God” would find repose, that Christ may “be formed in us”.

Indeed, only then can we be made whole, and become hypostases in the image of the true and perfect Hypostasis, the Son and Word of God, Who created and redeemed us by the precious Blood of His ineffable sacrifice.

Yet as long as we are held captive by our passions, which distract our mind from our heart and lure it into the ever-changing and vain world of natural and created things, thus depriving us of all spiritual strength, we will not know the new birth from on High that makes us children of God and gods by grace.

In fact, in one way or another, we are all “prodigal sons” of our Father in heaven, because as the Scriptures testify, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. Sin has separated our mind from the life-giving contemplation of God and led it into a “far country”.

In this “far country” we have been deprived of the honour of our Father’s embrace and, in feeding swine, we have been made subject to demons. We gave ourselves over to dishonourable passions and the dreadful famine of sin, which then established itself by force, becoming the law of our members.

But now we must come out of this godless hell and return to our Father’s house, so as to uproot the law of sin that is within us and allow the law of Christ’s commandments to dwell in our heart.

For the only path leading out of the torment of hell to the everlasting joy of the Kingdom is that of the divine commandments: with our whole being we are to love God and our neighbours with a heart that is free of all sin.

Archimandrite Zacharias (Zacharou), The Hidden Man of the Heart (Essex, Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 2007) 12-15.

Hat tip to Sr Macrina Walker OSCO (A Vow of Conversation)