Dorotheus of Gaza: God, who is so merciful, does not disdain the least of our sorrows Saturday, Feb 13 2016 

Dorotheos2Whatever is God’s providence is completely good and serves for the profit of the soul, for everything that God does with us He does for our benefit, for He love us and has mercy on us.

And we should…give thanks always for all things (Eph. 5:20, 1 Thess. 5:18) to His goodness and never become sad nor grow fainthearted over what happens to us, but rather receive everything that happens to us without disturbance, with humility of wisdom and with hope in God, believing…that everything that God does with us He does in His goodness, out of love for us.

He does it for the good, and it could not be good in any other way than this.

[…] If one has a friend who he is convinced loves him, then if he should suffer something from this friend, even something very difficult, he reckons that it was done out of love, and never does he believe that his friend had wished to do him harm.

All the more then should we attribute this to God, Who created us and brought us out of non-being into being. He became man for our sake and died for us, He does everything to us out of His goodness and love for us.

As for the friend, one thinks, “He has done this out of love and pity for me, but he does not have sufficient understanding to arrange things well concerning me, and therefore it happens that he has injured me without wishing to do so.”

However, we cannot say this about God, for He is the source of wisdom, knows everything that is profitable for us, and arranges everything concerning us, even the least insignificant.

Again one may say of a friend that although he loves and pities us and has sufficient understanding to arrange things concerning us, nonetheless he has not the strength to help us with this matter in which he thinks to bring benefit to us.

But this cannot be said about God either, for to Him all is possible and for Him there is nothing impossible. And thus we know of God that He loves and pities His creation, that He is the source of wisdom and knows how to arrange everything concerning us, and that there is nothing impossible for Him, but everything serves His will.

We should likewise know that everything that He does He does for our benefit, and we should accept this in accordance with what has been said above, with thanksgiving as from a Benefactor and a good Master, even though what occurs might be painful.

For everything happens in accordance with righteous judgment, and God who is so merciful does not disdain the least of our sorrows.

Dorotheos of Gaza (505-565 or 620): Conference 13 – That one must bear temptation with thanksgiving and without disturbance @ Pravoslavie.

Basil the Great: “Let all the earth fear the Lord, and let all the inhabitants of the world be in awe of Him” Wednesday, Oct 14 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great“Gathering together the waters of the sea, as a vessel; laying up the depths in storehouses” (Psalm 32:7).

If you seek to know…why there are shipwrecks, earthquakes, droughts, heavy rains, why things destructive of men are created, consider that the judgments of God are the depths and, because they are enclosed in the divine storehouses, are not easily grasped by those encountering them.

To him who believes, a promise is given by God: ‘I will give thee hidden treasures, unseen ones’ (Isaiah 45:3).

When we have been deemed worthy of knowledge face to face, we shall see also the depths in the storehouses of God.

If you will gather together the sayings in Scripture about vessels, you will better comprehend the prophetic meaning.

Those, then, who are renewed day by day and who take new wine from the true vine, are said in the Gospel to be new vessels.

But, they who have not yet put off the old man are old vessels, unable to be trusted for the reception of new wine.

For, no one puts new wine into old wineskins, lest the wine be spilt, and those skins be entirely ruined, inasmuch as they are considered worthy of no excuse hereafter, if they spill the good new wine.

New wine must be poured into fresh skins (cf. Matt. 9:17).

The new and spiritual wine and that which is glowing with the Holy Spirit, the perception of truth which never becomes old, must be put in the new man, who, because ‘he always bears about in his body the dying of Jesus’ (cf. 2 Cor. 4:10), might justly be said to be a new vessel.

‘Let all the earth fear the Lord, and let all the inhabitants of the world be in awe of Him (Psalm 32:8).

Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, let those who are earthly minded be taught through fear.

In fact, fear is necessarily employed as introductory to true religion, but love, now taking over, brings to perfection those who have been prepared by a fear that is capable of knowledge.

To the whole earth, therefore, Scripture advises fear. ‘Let all the inhabitants of the world’ it says, ‘be in awe of him.’

Let them make every movement, as it were, whether effected by the mind or by bodily action, according to the will of God. At least I understand the words, ‘Let them be in awe of him’ in this way.

For example, let neither the eye be moved without God, nor the hand be put in motion without God, nor the heart think on things not well pleasing to God.

In short, let them be in awe of no one else, and let nothing move them except the fear of God.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15 (on Psalm 32[33]), 5-6,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 236-238.

John Damascene: We ought to be filled with wonder at all the works of Providence Saturday, Sep 5 2015 

John-of-Damascus_01We ought to be filled with wonder at all the works of Providence, and praise them all, and accept them all without enquiry, even though they are in the eyes of many unjust.

For the Providence of God is beyond our ken and comprehension, while our reasonings and actions and the future are revealed to His eyes alone.

And by “all” I mean those that are not in our hands: for those that are in our power are outside the sphere of Providence and within that of our Free-will.

Now the works of Providence are partly according to the good-will [κατ᾽ εὐδοκίαν] of God and partly according to permission [κατὰ συγχώρησιν].

Works of good-will include all those that are undeniably good, while there are many forms of concession.

For Providence often permits the just man to encounter misfortune in order that he may reveal to others the virtue that lies concealed within him, as was the case with Job (Job 1:11).

At other times it allows something strange to be done in order that something great and marvellous might be accomplished through the seemingly-strange act, as when the salvation of men was brought about through the Cross.

In another way it allows the pious man to suffer sore trials in order that he may not depart from a right conscience nor lapse into pride on account of the power and grace granted to him, as was the case with Paul (2 Cor. 2:7).

One man is forsaken for a season with a view to another’s restoration, in order that others when they see his state may be taught a lesson, as in the case of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19). For it belongs to our nature to be cast down when we see persons in distress.

Another is deserted by Providence in order that another may be glorified, and not for his own sin or that of his parents, just as the man who was blind from his birth ministered to the glory of the Son of Man (John 9:1).

Again another is permitted to suffer in order to stir up emulation in the breasts of others, so that others by magnifying the glory of the sufferer may resolutely welcome suffering in the hope of future glory and the desire for future blessings, as in the case of the martyrs.

Another is allowed to fall at times into some act of baseness in order that another worse fault may be thus corrected, as for instance when God allows a man who takes pride in his virtue and righteousness to fall away into fornication in order that he may be brought through this fall into the perception of his own weakness and be humbled and approach and make confession to the Lord.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 2, 29.

Nil Sorsky: Godly Sorrow Produces a Repentance that Leads to Salvation; Worldly Sorrow Produces Death Wednesday, Mar 5 2014 

Nil_SorskyWe have a great struggle to wage against the evil spirit of sorrow, which brings the soul into despair and perdition.

If the sorrow is occasioned by other people, we have to suffer it with joy, and pray for those who have saddened us, as I said before, bearing in mind that whatever befalls us does so with God’s sanction.

Whatever the Lord sends us, He does only for the benefit and salvation of our soul.

It may be that, in the beginning, it doesn’t seem to bring us any benefit, but later we’ll realize that what God has allowed us to go through has been better for us than what we ourselves would have wanted to happen.

So we shouldn’t think in human terms, but should believe with certainty that the unsleeping eye of God sees all things and that nothing happens without His will.

It’s from the wealth of His mercy that these situations and temptations happen to us, so that we can earn our heavenly reward through our patience.

Because without temptations, no-one has ever been crowned.

This is why we should offer glory to God for everything, because He is our Dispenser and Saviour, as Saint Isaac the Syrian says: “The mouth that glorifies God is acceptable to God, and grace dwells in the heart which thanks God from its depths”.

Besides, we should avoid complaints and judgements against those who’ve saddened us and should pray for them, as the same saint says: God puts up with all the weaknesses that people have, but those who continually censure other people won’t go without correction.

Though we must have the soul-saving sorrow over the sins we commit, with hope in our repentance to God and in the knowledge that there’s no sin which defeats God’s love for us, since He forgives everyone who repents sincerely and prays to Him.

This sorrow is linked to joy (joyful sadness) and kindles in people the desire for everything spiritual and gives them patience in their trials. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death”, says Saint Paul (2 Cor. 7, 10).

So we should seek godly sorrow, because it brings internal repose, whereas the grief that proceeds from Satan should be expelled from our hearts, together with all the other passions, through prayer, the study of sacred texts and the receiving of Holy Communion.

Grief which is not from God and for the love of God is the cause of all evils, and, unless we free ourselves from it, despair will overcome us and our soul will be devoid of grace, overwhelmed with sloth and won’t even want to pray or read our sacred books.

Nil Sorsky (Russian Orthodox; c. 1433–1508): The Passions of Avarice, Anger, Sorrow and Sloth @ Pemptousia.

Francis de Sales: The Magnet of our Heart Must Continually Point to the Love of God Tuesday, Dec 17 2013 

Franz_von_SalesThe order of God’s Providence maintains a perpetual vicissitude in the material being of this world.

[…] No two days are ever exactly alike. Some are foggy, rainy, some dry or windy; and this endless variety greatly enhances the beauty of the universe.

And even so precisely is it with man (who, as ancient writers have said, is a miniature of the world), for he is never long in any one condition, and his life on earth flows by like the mighty waters, heaving and tossing with an endless variety of motion;

one  raising him on high with hope, another plunging him low in fear; now turning him to the right with rejoicing, then driving him to the left with sorrows; and no single day, no, not even one hour, is entirely the same as any other of his life.

All this is a very weighty warning, and teaches us to aim at an abiding and unchangeable evenness of mind amid so great an uncertainty of events; and, while all around is changing, we must seek to remain immoveable, ever looking to, reaching after and desiring our God.

Let the ship take what tack you will, let her course be eastward or westward, northern or southern, let any wind whatsoever fill her sails, but meanwhile her compass will never cease to point to its one unchanging lodestar.

Let all around us be overthrown, nay more, all within us; I mean let our soul be sad or glad, in bitterness or joy, at peace or troubled, dry and parched, or soft and fruitful, let the sun scorch, or the dew refresh it;

but all the while the magnet of our heart and mind, our superior will, which is our moral compass, must continually point to the Love of God our Creator, our Saviour, our only Sovereign Good.

“Whether we live, we live unto the Lord, or whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord’s. Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ?”

Nay, verily, nothing can ever separate us from that Love;—neither tribulation nor distress, neither death nor life, neither present suffering nor fear of ills to come; neither the deceits of evil spirits nor the heights of satisfaction, nor the depths of sorrow; neither tenderness nor desolation, shall be able to separate us from that Holy Love, whose foundation is in Christ Jesus.

Such a fixed resolution never to forsake God, or let go of His Precious Love, serves as ballast to our souls, and will keep them stedfast amid the endless changes and chances of this our natural life.

Francis de Sales (1567-1622): Introduction to the Devout Life, 4, 13.

Isaac the Syrian: God’s affection for the repentant sinner Sunday, Dec 15 2013 

Isaac the Syrian 3Those, in whom the light of faith truly shines, never reach such unashamedness as to ask God: “Give us this,” or — “Remove from us this.”

Because their spiritual eyes — with which they were blessed by that genuine Father, Who with His great love, countlessly transcends any fatherly love — continually view the Father’s Providence, they are not concerned in the slightest about themselves.

God can do more than anyone else, and can assist us by a far greater measure than we could ever ask for, or even imagine.

[…] Not having distinctly experienced God’s patronage, the heart is in no condition to commune with Christ.

A person cannot acquire a reliance on God if, prior to this, he hasn’t fulfilled His will according to one’s own strength.

Because hope in God and fortitude is born from witness of the conscience (in God): and only with genuine witness of our mind (in God) can we have trust in Him.

God demands not only the fulfillment of the commandments but also — more importantly — reformation of the soul, which is the reason why the commandments were given.

The body participates equally in good as well as bad deeds, and reason, by its behavior, becomes either righteous or sinful, judging by its disposition.

Life in this temporary world is akin to writing letters on a tablet. Everyone, when he wants to, can add or delete words on it or rearrange the letters.

But the future life is akin to a manuscript, written on a clean sheet, on which it is forbidden to add or delete and stamped with the king’s seal. That’s why while we are in this inconstant world, let us be attentive to ourselves.

And while we have authority over the earthly manuscript, on which we write with our own hand, let us endeavor to make good additions from a righteous life, and delete on it all the failings of our past actions.

This is because while we are in this world, God does not affix His stamp — neither to the virtuous nor to the evil — up to the hour of our leaving this life.

When in remembering his sins a person punishes himself, God looks upon him with affection. God is pleased that for turning away from His path, the individual has conferred punishment upon himself — this serves as a sign of genuine repentance.

And the harder the sinner compels himself, the greater the increase in God’s affection for him.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Selections from the Homilies @ Orthodox Photos.

Augustine of Hippo: God Promised Men Divinity, Mortals Immortality, Sinners Justification, Outcasts Glory Thursday, Dec 12 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaGod had a time for making his promises and a time for fulfilling them.

His time for making promises was from the days of the prophets until the coming of John the Baptist.

His time for fulfilling them was from then until the end of the world. God is faithful and he has put himself in our debt, not by receiving anything from us but by promising so much.

Nor was a promise sufficient for him; he even bound himself in writing, giving us as it were a pledge in his own hand.

He wanted us to see from Scripture, when the time for fulfilment came, how he was carrying out his promises one by one.

God promised us eternal salvation, everlasting bliss with the angels, an incorruptible inheritance, endless glory, the joyful vision of his face, his holy dwelling in heaven, and after the resurrection from the dead no further fear of dying.

This is what he holds out to us at the end as the goal of all our striving. When we reach it we shall ask for nothing more. But as to how we are to reach our final goal, he revealed this too by promises and prophecies.

God promised men divinity, mortals immortality, sinners justification, outcasts glory.

But because his promise that we who are mortal, corruptible, weak and of low estate, mere dust and ashes, were to be equal to the angels seemed incredible, God not only made a written covenant with us to win our faith, but he also gave us a mediator of his pledge.

This mediator was not a prince, an angel, or an archangel, but his only Son; through his own Son he meant both to show us and give us the way by which he would lead us to the promised goal.

He was not satisfied with sending his Son to show us the way. He made him the way itself. God’s only Son, then, was to come among us, take our human nature, and in this nature be born as a man.

He was to die, to rise again, to ascend into heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Father, and to fulfil his promises among the nations.

After that he was also to fulfil his promise to come again, to demand what he had previously requested, to separate those deserving his anger from those deserving his mercy, to give the wicked what he had threatened and the just what he had promised.

All this had to be prophesied, foretold, and impressed on us as an event in the future so that we should not be terrified by its happening unexpectedly, but wait for it with faith.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Commentary on Psalm 109, 1-3 (CSEL 40:1601-1603); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Thursday of the 2nd Week in Advent, Year 1.

Dorotheus of Gaza: Like rotten bread, externally good, inwardly all mouldy… Thursday, Sep 12 2013 

Dorotheos2Again there is the case of a man minding his own business, sitting at peace and quiet; and when a brother comes up and says an annoying word to him, he is put out by it.

And from the circumstances he thinks that he is justifiably angered, and he speaks against the one who troubled him, saying, “If he had not come and spoken to me and annoyed me I should not have been sinned.”

This is a diabolic delusion! Could it really be that the one who spoke a word to him put that passion into him? He only showed that it already existed in him; so that he could, if he chose, repent of it.

But the man referred to above is like rotten bread, externally good, but inwardly all mouldy, and when someone crushes it, its corruption is revealed.

He was sitting at peace, as we were saying, but he had this anger inside him and he did not know it. One word to him from the other and the corruption hidden inside him showed itself.

If, therefore, he wants to receive mercy, then let him repent, purify himself, and spiritually progress; let him see that he should rather thank that brother, who had been an occasion of spiritual help to him.

Temptations would no longer vanquish him in the same way, but in proportion to his advance in this custom he would find that they became easier to bear.

For to the degree that a soul advances it becomes stronger and has the power to bear anything that comes upon it.

In the same way, if your beast of burden is strong you put a heavy load on it and he carries it; if he does happen to stumble, he gets up quickly and doesn’t seem to notice his fall.

But if he is a sickly animal the same load weighs him down. If he falls down it takes a lot of help to get him up.

So it is with the soul: if it goes on sinning it becomes sickly. Sin makes a man sickly and he has become weak and unsound because of it, for sin weakens and undermines the strength of those who give themselves over to it.

Therefore the slightest thing that happens to him will weigh him down; but if a man is advancing all the time in goodness, what happens to him becomes less and less difficult to bear in proportion to the ground he has gained.

And so this habit of accusing ourselves will work out well for us and bring us peace and much profit, especially since nothing can happen to us apart from the providence of God.

Dorotheos of Gaza (505-565 or 620): Conference 7 – How We Must Accuse Ourselves And Not Our Neighbours @ Pravoslavie.

Francis de Sales: Strive Above All Else to Keep a Calm and Restful Spirit Thursday, Jan 24 2013 

Franz_von_SalesAnxiety of mind is not so much an abstract temptation, as the source whence various temptations arise.

Sadness, when defined, is the mental grief we feel because of our involuntary ailments—whether the evil be exterior, such as poverty, sickness or contempt; or interior, such as ignorance, dryness, depression or temptation.

Directly that the soul is conscious of some such trouble, it is downcast, and so trouble sets in.

Then we at once begin to try to get rid of it, and find means to shake it off; and so far rightly enough, for it is natural to us all to desire good, and shun that which we hold to be evil.

If anyone strives to be delivered from his troubles out of love of God, he will strive patiently, gently, humbly and calmly, looking for deliverance rather to God’s Goodness and Providence than to his own industry or efforts.

But if self-love is the prevailing object he will grow hot and eager in seeking relief, as though all depended more upon himself than upon God. I do not say that the person thinks so, but he acts eagerly as though he did think it.

Then if he does not find what he wants at once, he becomes exceedingly impatient and troubled, which does not mend matters, but on the contrary makes them worse, and so he gets into an unreasonable state of anxiety and distress, till he begins to fancy that there is no cure for his trouble.

Thus you see how a disturbance, which was right at the outset, begets anxiety, and anxiety goes on into an excessive distress, which is exceedingly dangerous.

[…] Just as internal commotions and seditions ruin a commonwealth, and make it incapable of resisting its foreign enemies, so if our heart be disturbed and anxious, it loses power to retain such graces as it has, as well as strength to resist the temptations of the Evil One, who is all the more ready to fish (according to an old proverb) in troubled waters.

Anxiety arises from an unregulated desire to be delivered from any pressing evil, or to obtain some hoped-for good. Nevertheless nothing tends so greatly to enhance the one or retard the other as over-eagerness and anxiety.

Birds that are captured in nets and snares become inextricably entangled therein, because they flutter and struggle so much.

Therefore, whensoever you urgently desire to be delivered from any evil, or to attain some good thing, strive above all else to keep a calm, restful spirit,—steady your judgment and will, and then go quietly and easily after your object, taking all fitting means to attain thereto.

Francis de Sales (1567-1622): Introduction to the Devout Life, 4, 11.

Peter of Damascus: Reading the Scriptures so as to Become Worthy of God’s Indwelling Friday, Jul 27 2012 

Spurious knowledge, or “knowledge falsely so called” (1 Tim. 6:20), is that which a man possesses when he thinks he knows what he has never known.

It is worse than complete ignorance, says St John Chrysostom, in that its  victim will not accept correction from any teacher because he thinks that this worst kind of ignorance is in fact something excellent.

For this reason the fathers say that we ought to search the Scriptures assiduously, in humility and with the counsel of experienced men, learning not merely theoretically but by putting into practice what we read; and that we ought not to inquire at all into what is passed over in silence by Holy Scripture.

Such enquiry is senseless, St Antony the Great tells us, speaking with reference to those who want to know about the future rather than renouncing any claim to such knowledge on the grounds of their unworthiness.

If God in His providence does impart such knowledge, as He did to Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Dan. 2:31-45) and Balaam (cf. Num. 23:8-10), He imparts it for the benefit of all, even if some of the recipients are unworthy of the gift.

[…] We are not told much about these things, lest we search the Scriptures simply – with our minds and then out of pride think that we have grasped something.

For the Lord commands that we should search the Scriptures above all by means of bodily and moral actions, and in this way find eternal life (cf. John 5:39-40).

In particular we should bear in mind that things have been hidden from us for our greater humility, and so that we may not be condemned for sinning knowingly.

The man who has been enabled by grace to acquire spiritual knowledge should struggle to study the divine Scriptures and this knowledge with deep dedication, humility, attention and fear of God;

for unless he does this he will be deprived of his knowledge and threatened with punishment, as unworthy of what God has given him, in the same way as Saul was deprived of his kingdom, as St Maximos explains.

But he who devotes himself to spiritual knowledge and struggles to attain it, St Maximos states, should call upon God at all times, as did David, saying: “Create in me a pure heart, God, and renew an upright Spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).

In this way he may become worthy of God’s indwelling, like the apostles who received grace “at the third hour” (Acts 2:15).

For the Spirit came down on the apostles, as St Luke declares, at the third hour of the day.

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. 191-192.

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