Isaac the Syrian: The burning of the heart unto the whole creation Friday, Apr 11 2014 

Isaac the Syrian 3What is repentance? To desist from former sins and to suffer on account of them.

And what is the sum of purity? A heart full of mercy unto the whole created nature.

And what is perfection? Depth of humility, namely giving up all visible and invisible things….

Another time the same father was asked: What is repentance? He answered: A broken heart.

And what is humility? He replied: Embracing a voluntary mortification regarding all things.

And what is a merciful heart? He replied:

The burning of the heart unto the whole creation, man, fowls and beasts, demons and whatever exists so that by the recollection and the sight of them the eyes shed tears on account of the force of mercy which moves the heart by great compassion.

Then the heart becomes weak, and it is not able to bear hearing or examining injury or any insignificant suffering of anything in the creation.

And therefore even in behalf of the irrational beings and the enemies of truth and even in behalf of those who do harm to it, at all times he offers prayers with tears that they may be guarded and strengthened; even in behalf of the kinds of reptiles, on account of his great compassion which is poured out in his heart without measure, after the example of God.

[…] The sum of all is God, the Lord of all, who from love of His creatures, has delivered His Son to death on the cross. For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son for it.

Not that He was not able to save us in another way, but in this way it was possible to show us His abundant love abundantly, namely by bringing us near to Him by the death of His son.

If He had anything more clear to Him, He would have given it us, in order that by it our race might be His.

And out of His great love He did not even choose to urge our freedom by compulsion, though He was able to do so. But His aim was, that we should come near to Him by the love of our mind.

And our Lord obeyed His Father out of love unto us, taking upon Him scorn and suffering joyfully, as Scripture says: “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.”

Therefore our Lord said in the night in which He was betrayed: “This is my body which is given for the salvation of the world unto life. And this is my blood which is shed for all for the remission of sins. In behalf of them I offer myself.”

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Mystic Treatises, 74, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck).

Advertisements

Gregory Palamas: Spiritual Circumcision of the Heart Tuesday, Apr 1 2014 

Gregory_PalamasEven when your body does nothing, sin can be active in your mind.

When your soul inwardly repulses the evil one’s attack by means of prayer, attention, remembrance of death, godly sorrow and mourning, the body, too, takes its share of holiness, having acquired freedom from evil actions.

This is what the Lord meant by saying that someone who cleans the outside of a cup has not cleansed it inside, but clean the inside, and the whole cup will be clean (Matthew 23:25-26).

“Strive as hard as you can to ensure that your inner labour is according to God’s will, and you will conquer the outward passions” (Abba Arsenios, Apophthegmata Pateron 9).

If the root is holy, so are the branches (John 15:5). If the yeast is holy, so is the dough (Galatians 5:9).

“Walk in the spirit”, says Paul, “and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Christ did not abolish the Jewish circumcision but fulfilled it. He Himself says, “I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil” (Matthew 5.17).

How did He do this? It was a seal, a sign and a symbolic way of teaching about cutting off evil thoughts in the heart….

The Jews…were reproached by the prophets for being uncircumcised in their hearts (cf.  Jeremiah 9:26; Romans 2:25).

Man looks at the outward person, but God regards the heart, and if it is full of foul or evil thoughts, that man deserved to have God turn away from him.

That is why the apostle exhorts us to pray without wrath and doubting (1 Timothy 2:8).

To teach us to strive for the spiritual circumcision of our hearts, the Lord pronounces the pure in heart and the poor in spirit blessed.

He stresses that the reward for this purity of heart is seeing God, and He promises the kingdom of heaven to the poor (Matthew 5:8, 3). By the poor He means those who live frugally and in need.

But it is not only such people whom He calls blessed, but also those who are like them in spirit, those who, because of their inner humility of heart and their good purpose, have arranged their outward life accordingly.

He forbids not just murder but anger, and commands us to forgive from our hearts those who sin against us. Nor will He accept the gift we offer unless we are first reconciled with one another and let go of anger (Matthew 5:21-24).

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Lent,  from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009).

Maximus the Confessor: Soaring towards God through Pure Prayer, the Intellect Rises above the Realm of Created Beings Thursday, Sep 19 2013 

Maximus_ConfessorAll the virtues co-operate with the intellect to produce this intense longing for God, pure prayer above all. For by soaring towards God through this prayer the intellect rises above the realm of created beings.

When the intellect is ravished through love by divine knowledge and stands outside the realm of created beings, it becomes aware of God’s infinity.

It is then, according to Isaiah, that a sense of amazement makes it conscious of its own lowliness and in all sincerity it repeats the prophet’s words:

‘How abject I am, for I am pierced to the heart; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips; and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’ (Isa. 6:5).

The person who loves God cannot help loving every man as himself, even though he is grieved by the passions of those who are not yet purified. But when they amend their lives, his delight is in­describable and knows no bounds.

A soul filled with thoughts of sensual desire and hatred is unpurified. If we detect any trace of hatred in our hearts against any man whatsoever for committing any fault, we are utterly estranged from love for God, since love for God absolutely precludes us from hating any man.

He who loves Me, says the Lord, will keep My commandments (cf. John 14: 15, 23); and ‘this is My commandment, that you love one another’ (John 15:12). Thus he who does not love his neighbour fails to keep the commandment, and so cannot love the Lord.

Blessed is he who can love all men equally. Blessed is he who is not attached to anything transitory or corruptible. Blessed is the intellect that transcends all sensible objects and ceaselessly delights in divine beauty.

If you make provision for the desires of the flesh (cf. Rom. 13:14) and bear a grudge against your neighbour on account of something transitory, you worship the creature instead of the Creator.

[…] God, who is by nature good and dispassionate, loves all men equally as His handiwork. But He glorifies the virtuous man because in his will he is united to God. At the same time, in His goodness He is merciful to the sinner and by chastising him in this life brings him back to the path of virtue.

Similarly, a man of good and dispassionate judgment also loves all men equally. He loves the virtuous man because of his nature and the probity of his intention; and he loves the sinner, too, because of his nature and because in his compassion he pities him for foolishly stumbling in darkness.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Four Hundred Texts on Love 11-20, 25, Text  from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 2 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp.54-55.

**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from Maximus and by other Greek authors: INTELLECT (nous): the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St Diadochos). The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Macarian Homilies).

John Chrysostom: The Grace of the Holy Spirit should be Instead of Books to Our Souls Saturday, Jul 27 2013 

John_ChrysostomIt were indeed meet for us not at all to require the aid of the written Word, but to exhibit a life so pure, that the grace of the Spirit should be instead of books to our souls, and that as these are inscribed with ink, even so should our hearts be with the Spirit.

But, since we have utterly put away from us this grace, come, let us at any rate embrace the second best course.

For that the former was better, God hath made manifest, both by His words, and by His doings. Since unto Noah, and unto Abraham, and unto his offspring, and unto Job, and unto Moses too, He discoursed not by writings, but Himself by Himself, finding their mind pure.

But after the whole people of the Hebrews had fallen into the very pit of wickedness, then and thereafter was a written word, and tables, and the admonition which is given by these.

And this one may perceive was the case, not of the saints in the Old Testament only, but also of those in the New.

For neither to the apostles did God give anything in writing, but instead of written words He promised that He would give them the grace of the Spirit; for “He,” says our Lord, “shall bring all things to your remembrance” (John 14:26).

And that you may learn that this was far better, hear what He says by the Prophet: “I will make a new covenant with you, putting my laws into their mind, and in their heart I will write them,” and, “they shall be all taught of God” (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Isaiah 54:13; Hebrews 8:8-11; John 6:45).

And Paul too, pointing out the same superiority, said, that they had received a law “not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart” (2 Corinthians 3:3).

But since in process of time they made shipwreck, some with regard to doctrines, others as to life and manners, there was again need that they should be put in remembrance by the written word.

Reflect then how great an evil it is for us, who ought to live so purely as not even to need written words, but to yield up our hearts, as books, to the Spirit, now that we have lost that honor, and are come to have need of these, to fail again in duly employing even this second remedy.

For if it be a blame to stand in need of written words, and not to have brought down on ourselves the grace of the Spirit, consider how heavy the charge of not choosing to profit even after this assistance, but rather treating what is written with neglect, as if it were cast forth without purpose, and at random.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on the Gospel According to St Matthew, 1, 1-2.

John Climacus: When the Whole Man is Commingled with the Love of God… Wednesday, May 22 2013 

ClimacusIf the face of a loved one clearly and completely changes us, and makes us cheerful, happy and carefree, what will the Face of the Lord not do when He makes His Presence felt invisibly in a pure soul?

Fear when it is an inner conviction of the soul destroys and devours impurity, for it is said: Nail down my flesh with the fear of Thee (Psalm 118:120).

And holy love consumes some, according to him who said: Thou hast ravished our heart, Thou hast ravished our heart (Song of Songs 4:9).

But sometimes it makes others bright and joyful, for it is said: My heart trusted in Him and I have been helped; even my flesh has revived (Psalm 27:7); and: When the heart is happy the face is cheerful (Proverbs 15:13).

So when the whole man is in a manner commingled with the love of God, then even his outward appearance in the body, as in a kind of mirror, shows the splendour of his soul.

That is how Moses who had looked upon God was glorified (cf. Exodus 34; 2 Corinthians 3:14).

Those who have reached such an angelic state often forget about bodily food. I think that often they do not even feel any desire for it. And no wonder, for frequently a contrary desire knocks out the thought of food.

I think that the body of those incorruptible men is not even subject to sickness any longer, because it has been rendered incorruptible; for they have purified the inflammable flesh in the flame of purity.

I think that even the food that is set before them they accept without any pleasure. For there is an underground stream that nourishes the root of a plant, and their souls too are sustained by a celestial fire.

The growth of fear is the beginning of love, but a complete state of purity is the foundation of theology.

He who has perfectly united his feeling to God is mystically led by Him to an understanding of His words. But without this union it is difficult to speak about God.

The engrafted Word (cf. James 1:21) perfects purity, and slays death by His presence; and after the slaying of death, the disciple of divine knowledge is illumined.

The Word of the Lord which is from God the Father is pure, and remains so eternally. But he who has not come to know God merely speculates.

Purity makes its disciple a theologian, who of himself grasps the dogmas of the Trinity.

John Climacus (c.575-c.650): The Ladder of Divine Ascent, step 30, 16-24, translated by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore (Harper & Brothers, 1959) @ Prudence True.

Nicholas Cabasilas: Mary constructed a dwelling-place for Him who is able to save and fashioned a beautiful house for God Monday, Apr 8 2013 

nicholas_cabasilasThe “middle wall and barrier of enmity” (Ephesians 2:14) were of no account to her; indeed, everything that divided the human race from God was abolished as far as she was concerned.

Even before the common reconciliation, she alone had made peace with God; or rather, she was never in any need of reconciliation, since from the very beginning she stood foremost in the choir of the friends of God.

However, such a reconciliation was made for the rest of mankind. And she was, before the Comforter, “an advocate for us before God” (Cf. Romans 8:34), as Paul puts it, not lifting up her hands to Him on behalf of mankind, but holding out her life as an olive branch.

The virtue of a single soul was sufficient to put a stop to all of the evil committed by men from the beginning of time.

And, just as the Ark, which saved man during the general shipwreck of the inhabited earth, was not itself subject to the calamities that befell the entire world, and just as it preserved for the human race the resources for its continuation, so also did it happen in the case of the Virgin.

And, as if no man had dared to commit even one single sin, but all had abided by the Divine commandments and were still occupying their ancient habitation, thus did she ever keep her mind inviolate; and she had no awareness of the wickedness that had, so to speak, been diffused in every direction.

The cataclysm of evil, which held all things in its grip, closed Heaven and opened up Hades, started a war between God and men, drove the Good One from the earth and introduced the Evil One in His stead, was yet completely powerless against the blessed Virgin.

Although evil had dominion over the entire inhabited earth and had everywhere wrought confusion, commotion, and havoc, it was defeated by a single thought and a single soul, and it yielded not only to her, but also, on account of her, to the entire human race.

This was the contribution that the Virgin made to the common salvation of mankind, even before that day arrived on which God was to bow the Heavens and descend.

As soon as she was born, she constructed a dwelling-place for Him Who is able to save and fashioned a beautiful house for God—and one that would be worthy of Him.

The King could not find any fault with His palace; and indeed, not only did she provide a dwelling fit for His royal majesty, but she also prepared from herself His purple robe and cincture, and the majesty, strength, and the Kingdom itself.

Nicholas Cabasilas (1319/1323–after 1391): On the Occasion of the Feast of the Annunciation, 3, Translated from the Greek text in “Homélies Mariales Byzantines (II),” ed. M. Jugie, in Patrologia Orientalis, Vol. XIX, pp. 484-495@ Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Greece.

Antony the Great: The Holy Spirit Teaches the Mind how to Heal all the Wounds of the Soul Thursday, Jan 17 2013 

saints_101_anthonyThese things I have said to you, beloved, that you may know how it is required of a man to repent in body and soul, and to purify them both.

And if the mind conquers in this contest, then it prays in the Spirit, and begins to expel from the body the passions of the soul which come to it from its own will.

Then the Spirit has a loving partnership with the mind, because the mind keeps the commandments which the Spirit has delivered to it.

And the Spirit teaches the mind how to heal all the wounds of the soul, and to rid itself of every one, those which are mingled in the members of the body, and other passions which are altogether outside the body, being mingled in the will.

And for the eyes it sets a rule, that they may see rightly and purely, and that in them there may be no guile.

After that is sets a rule also for the ears, how they may hear in peace, and no more thirst or desire to hear ill speaking, nor about the falls and humiliations of men;

but how they may rejoice to hear about good things, and about the way every man stands firm and about the mercy shown to the whole creation, which in these members once was sick.

Then again the Spirit teaches the tongue its own purity, since the tongue was sick with a great sickness.

For the sickness which afflicted the soul was expressed in speech through the tongue, which the soul used as its organ, and in this way a great sickness and wound was inflicted upon it, and especially through this member – the tongue – was the soul stricken.

The Apostle James testifies to us and says, “If any man thinketh himself to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (Jas. 1:26), And in another place he says, “The tongue is a little member, and defileth the whole body” (Jas. 3:5) – and much besides, which I cannot all quote now.

But if the mind is strengthened with the strength that it receives from the Spirit, first it is purified and sanctified, and learns discrimination in the words that it delivers to the tongue, that they may be without partiality and without self-will.

And so the saying of Solomon is fulfilled, “My words are spoken from God, there is nothing froward nor perverse in them” (Prov. 8:8). And in another place he says, “The tongue of the wise is healing” (Prov. 12:18); and much besides.

Antony the Great (c.251-356): Letter 1.

Isaiah the Solitary: The Remembrance of God and Praying with Sweetness of Heart Friday, Aug 24 2012 

Our teacher Jesus Christ, out of pity for mankind and knowing the utter mercilessness of the demons, severely commands us: ‘Be ready at every hour, for you do not know when the thief will come; do not let him come and find you asleep’ (cf Matt. 24:42-43).

[…] Stand guard, then, over your heart and keep a watch on your senses; and if the remembrance of God dwells peaceably within you, you will catch the thieves when they try to deprive you of it.

When a man has an exact knowledge about the nature of thoughts, he recognizes those which are about to enter and defile him, troubling the intellect with distractions and making it lazy.

Those who recognize these evil thoughts for what they are remain undisturbed and continue in prayer to God.

[…] What…is meant by the worship of God?

It means that we have nothing extraneous in our intellect when we are praying to Him: neither sensual pleasure as we bless Him, nor malice as we sing His praise, nor hatred as we exalt Him, nor jealousy to hinder us as we speak to Him and call Him to mind.

For all these things are full of darkness; they are a wall imprisoning our wretched soul, and if the soul has them in itself it cannot worship God with purity.

They obstruct its ascent and prevent it from meeting God: they hinder it from blessing Him inwardly and praying to Him with sweetness of heart, and so receiving His illumination.

As a result the intellect is always shrouded in darkness and cannot advance in holiness, because it does not make the effort to uproot these thoughts by means of spiritual knowledge.

When the intellect rescues the soul’s senses from the desires of the flesh and imbues them with dispassion, the passions shamelessly attack the soul, trying to hold its senses fast in sin; but if the intellect then continually calls upon God in secret.

He, seeing all this, will send His help and destroy all the passions at once.

I entreat you not to leave your heart unguarded, so long as you are in the body.

[…] Up to his last breath [a man] cannot know what passion will attack him; so long as he breathes, therefore, he must not leave his heart unguarded, but should at every moment pray to God for His help and mercy.

Isaiah the Solitary (d. 489/491): On Guarding the Intellect, 12-15, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979). 

Note: The word intellect in the Philokalia translates the Greek nous, which the translators define as follows:

the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St Diadochos). The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Makarian Homilies).

Cyril of Jerusalem: That Prayer which the Saviour Delivered to His Own Disciples (1) Sunday, Jul 15 2012 

Then, after these things, we say that Prayer which the Saviour delivered to His own disciples, with a pure conscience entitling God our Father, and saying, Our Father, which art in heaven.

O most surpassing loving-kindness of God!  On them who revolted from Him and were in the very extreme of misery has He bestowed such a complete forgiveness of evil deeds, and so great participation of grace, as that they should even call Him Father.

Our Father, which art in heaven; and they also are a heaven who bear the image of the heavenly, in whom is God, dwelling and walking in them.

Hallowed be Thy Name.  The Name of God is in its nature holy, whether we say so or not.

However, it is sometimes profaned among sinners, according to the words, Through you My Name is continually blasphemed among the Gentiles.

Therefore we pray that in us God’s Name may be hallowed – not that it comes to be holy from not being holy, but because it becomes holy in us, when we are made holy, and do things worthy of holiness.

Thy kingdom come.  A pure soul can say with boldness, Thy kingdom come; for he who has heard Paul saying let not therefore sin reign in your mortal body, and has cleansed himself in deed, and thought, and word, will say to God, Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth.  God’s divine and blessed Angels do the will of God, as David said in the Psalm, Bless the Lord, all ye Angels of His, mighty in strength, that do His pleasure.

So then in effect thou meanest this by thy prayer, “as in the Angels Thy will is done, so likewise be it done on earth in me, O Lord.”

Give us this day our substantial bread.  This common bread is not substantial bread, but this Holy Bread is substantial, that is, appointed for the substance of the soul.

For this Bread goeth not into the belly and is cast out into the draught, but is distributed into thy whole system for the benefit of body and soul.

But by this day, he means, “each day,” as also Paul said, While it is called to-day.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 23, 11-15.

John Cassian: The End of Our Profession is the Kingdom of Heaven; the Immediate Goal is Purity of Heart Wednesday, Jun 13 2012 

Sf-IoanCasianThe end of our way of life is…the kingdom of God.

But what is the immediate goal you must earnestly ask, for if it is not in the same way discovered by us, we shall strive and wear ourselves out to no purpose.

[…] The end of our profession…is the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven.

But the immediate aim or goal is purity of heart, without which no one can gain that end. Fixing our gaze then steadily on this goal, as if on a definite mark, let us direct our course as straight towards it as possible.

And, if our thoughts wander somewhat from this, let us revert to our gaze upon it, and check them accurately as by a sure standard.

This will always bring back all our efforts to this one mark, and will show at once if our mind has wandered ever so little from the direction marked out for it.

[…] The end which we have set before us is, as St Paul says, eternal life, as he declares, “having indeed your fruit unto holiness, and the end eternal life.”

But the immediate goal is purity of heart, which he not unfairly terms “sanctification,” without which the afore-mentioned end cannot be gained.

It is as if he had said in other words: “having your immediate goal in purity of heart, but the end life eternal.”

Of this goal the same blessed Apostle teaches us, and significantly uses the very term, i.e., [in Greek] skopos, saying as follows:

“Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those that are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of the Lord.”

This is more clearly put in Greek… “I press toward the mark,” as if he said, “With this aim, with which I forget those things that are behind, i.e., the faults of earlier life, I strive to reach as the end the heavenly prize.”

Whatever then can help to guide us to this object; viz., purity of heart, we must follow with all our might, but whatever hinders us from it, we must shun as a dangerous and hurtful thing.

[…] For the mind, which has no fixed point to which it may return, and on which it may chiefly fasten, is sure to rove about from hour to hour and minute to minute in all sorts of wandering thoughts, and from those things which come to it from outside, to be constantly changed into that state which first offers itself to it.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 1,4-5.

Next Page »