Leo the Great: When a Man Loves What God Loves, He is Deservedly Raised into His Kingdom Wednesday, Nov 13 2013 

leo1On account of the crafty designs of our ancient foe, the unspeakable goodness of Christ has wished us to know what was to be decreed about all mankind in the day of retribution.

In this life healing remedies are legitimately offered, restoration is not denied to the contrite, and those who have been long barren can at length be fruitful,

Nevertheless, the verdict on which justice has determined may be fore-stalled, and the picture of God’s coming to judge the world should never depart from the mind’s eye.

For the Lord  will come in His glorious Majesty, as He Himself has foretold, and there will be with Him an innumerable host of angel-legions radiant in their splendour.

Before the throne of His power will all the nations of the world be gathered; and all the men that in all ages and on all the face of the earth have been born, shall stand in the Judge’s sight.

Then shall be separated the just from the unjust, the guiltless from the guilty. […] Who would not tremble at this doom of eternal torment?  Who would not dread evils which are never to be ended?

But since this severity is only denounced in order that we may seek for mercy, we too in this present life must show such open-handed mercy that after perilous neglect returning to works of piety it may be possible for us to be set free from this doom.

For this is the purpose of the Judge’s might and of the Saviour’s graciousness, that the unrighteous may forsake his ways and the sinner give up his wicked habits.

Let those who wish Christ to spare them, have mercy on the poor; let them give freely to feed the wretched, who desire to attain to the society of the blessed.

Let no man consider his fellow vile, nor despise in any one that nature which the Creator of the world made His own.  For who that labours can deny that Christ claims that labour as done unto Himself?

Your fellow-slave is helped thereby, but it is the Lord who will repay.  The feeding of the needy is the purchase money of the heavenly kingdom and the free dispenser of things temporal is made the heir of things eternal.

But how has such small expenditure deserved to be valued so highly except because our works are weighed in the balance of love, and when a man loves what God loves, he is deservedly raised into His kingdom, whose attribute of love has in part become his?

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 9, 2.

Macarius of Optina: Sickness, Death and God’s Unutterable Mercy and Unlimited Love for Human Beings Tuesday, Sep 24 2013 

elder-macarius-portraitThe law of destruction was imprinted since my conception; on each newly developing member, death applied its menacing seal, saying: “This is mine.”

The links of my days are a chain of greater or lesser suffering; every new day of my life is a step that draws me closer to decay.

Sicknesses come, and my trembling heart asks them: “Are you just the forerunner of my death, or have you already been given the authority to separate my soul from my body with a dread and terrible parting?”

Sometimes my spiritual eye, distracted by the cares of life, abandons the contemplation of my sad destiny.

Yet, as soon as an unexpected sorrowful event strikes me, I quickly come back to my favorite teaching, like a baby to its mother’s breast, i.e., to a discourse on death, for in sincere grief is hidden true consolation, and the wise remembrance of death breaks the bonds of death.

Thou, Who by Thy unspeakable goodness hast created us, tell us, why didst Thou fill our lives with grief? Dost not Thy mercy make Thee pity our sufferings? Why dost Thou grant me being and later take it away through a painful death?

I do not enjoy, says God, your illnesses, O man. But, out of the seeds of your grief and sorrow, I want to bring forth for you fruits of eternal and majestic joy.

I imprinted the law of death and destruction not only in your body, but also in every object of this visible world.

I commanded the whole world, together with your body, to cry out to you that this life is not the true and real life, and there is nothing permanent here to which your heart should become attached through justifiable love.

When you do not hearken unto the threatening voice of the entire universe, then My paternal mercy, which always wishes you unlimited good, compels Me to lift the scepter of chastisement.

When I torment you with temptations, wear you out with illness, with pangs of remorse, it is that you might abandon your folly, become wise, cease seeking after shadows and return to the path of truth, and at the same time to the path of salvation.

My unutterable mercy and unlimited love for human beings compelled Me to take your flesh upon Myself; through My abasement I have revealed the greatness of God to the human race (cf. John 14:9).

By suffering on the Cross for the salvation of men, whom I desire to draw to Myself, I first afflict them with grief, and with these arrows of affliction I deaden their hearts to temporary pleasures.

The scepter of punishment is an emblem of My love for men.

Macarius of Optina (Orthodox Church; 1788-1860): extract from a letter of St Macarius here;  the complete text of the letter is contained in Elder Macarius of Optina by Fr. Leonid Kavelin, published by St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood.

Gregory the Great: Letting Go of the Decaying Things of this World Friday, Nov 30 2012 

St-Gregory-the-Dialogist(Feast of St Andrew)

Dearly beloved brethren, you have heard how that Peter and Andrew, having once heard the Lord call them, left their nets, and followed their Saviour.

As yet they had seen none of His miracles, as yet they had received no promise of their exceeding and eternal reward.

Nevertheless, at one word of the Lord they forgot all those things which they seemed to have.

We have seen many of His miracles.

We have received many of His gracious chastening.

Many times has He warned us of the wrath to come.

And yet Christ calls, and we do not follow.

He who calls us to be converted is now enthroned in heaven.

He has broken the necks of the Gentiles to the yoke of the faith.

He hath laid low the glory of the world.

And the wreckage of the world, falling ever more and more to decay, preaches unto us that the coming of that day when He is to be revealed as our Judge is drawing nigh.

And yet, our mind is so stubborn that we will not yet freely abandon those things on which, whether or not we wish to do so, we are in any case daily losing our grip.

Dearly beloved brethren, what shall we answer at His judgment-seat?

No lessons can persuade us.  No punishments can break us away from the love of this present world.

Faced with this question, someone might ask within his heart what Peter or Andrew had to lose by obeying the call of the Lord.

Dearly beloved brethren, we must consider here rather the intention than the loss incurred by their obedience.

He that keeps nothing whatsoever for himself, gives up much. He that sacrifices his all has sacrificed what is to him a great deal.

Beyond doubt, we cling to whatever we have, and what we have least, that we desire most. Peter and Andrew therefore gave up much when they gave up even the desire of possessing anything.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Homilies on the Gospels, 5, from Mattins of the Feast of St Andrew (November 30th).

Isaac the Syrian: The scourge of Love Friday, Nov 2 2012 

Isaac the Syrian 3In the future age…one will not receive from another the revelation of God’s glory unto the gladness and joy of his soul.

But to each by himself the Master will give according to the measure of his excellence and his worthiness, and he will not receive the gift from his comrade as he does here.

[…] For one is the Giver there, Who gives without mediation to those who receive; and those who win joy, procure it from Him.

For they do not perceive Him through diverse intellections, but by direct revelation of Him, without departing from Him through thoughts.

There the order of those who teach and those who learn ceases, and on One alone hangs the ardent love of all.

I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love.

Nay, what is so bitter and vehement as the torment of love?

I mean that those who have become conscious that they have sinned against love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment.

For the sorrow caused in the heart by sin against love is more poignant than any torment.

It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the love of God.

Love is the offspring of knowledge of the truth which, as is commonly confessed, is given to all.

The power of love works in two ways. It torments sinners, even as happens here when a friend suffers from a friend.

But it becomes a source of joy for those who have observed its duties.

Thus I say that this is the torment of Gehenna: bitter regret.

But love inebriates the souls of the sons of Heaven by its delectability.

Someone was asked, “When will a man know that he has received the remission of his sins?”

He answered, “When in his soul he becomes conscious that he has completely hated them with his whole heart, and when he governs himself in his external actions in a manner opposed to his former way of life.”

Such a man, as having already hated his sin, is confident that he has received remission of his sins by reason of the good witness of his conscience which he has acquired, after the saying of the Apostle, “A conscience uncondemned is a witness of itself” (Cf. Rom. 2:15).

And may we also gain remission of our sins by the grace and love for man of the unoriginate Father with His only‑begotten Son and the Holy Spirit, to Whom be glory unto the ages of ages.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Homily 28, from The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian, tr. Dana Miller (Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, Mass. 1984) @ Fr Luke Dysinger, OSB.