Isaac the Syrian: The ladder unto the kingdom is hidden within you and within your soul Tuesday, Jan 28 2014 

Isaac the Syrian 3January 28th is the feast of St Isaac the Syrian.

Gratefulness on the part of the recipient spurs on the giver to bestow gifts larger than before….

The sick one who is acquainted with his sickness is easily to be cured; and he who confesses his pain is near to health.

Many are the pains of the hard heart; and when the sick one resists the physician, his torments will be augmented.

There is no sin which cannot be pardoned except that one which lacks repentance, and there is no gift which is not augmented save that which remains without acknowledgement.

For the portion of the fool is small in his eyes.

Think constantly of those who are superior to you in excellence, so you may see yourself at all times as being less than they are.

And be aware at all times of the heavy troubles of those whose vexations are difficult and serious, so that you may become grateful for your own small ones and be able to bear them with joy.

When you are in a state of subjection and are languid and dejected, and thou art hound and fettered before your foe in mournful wretchedness and laborious service of sin, then recall to mind the previous times of firmness….

Then, by these and similar recollections, your soul will be aroused as from the depth and be clad with the flame of zeal; and it will rise from its immersion as if from the dead, and stretch itself and return to its former state, in hot strife against Satan and sin….

Be a persecutor of yourself; then your foe will be driven away from you. Be on peaceful terms with your soul; then heaven and earth will be on peaceful terms with you.

Be zealous to enter the treasury within you; then you will see that which is in heaven. For the former and the latter are one, and, entering, you will see both.

The ladder unto the Kingdom is hidden within you and within your soul.

Dive into yourself, freed from sin; there you wilt find steps along which you can ascend.

What the things of the world-to-be are, the scriptures do not explain. How we may acquire the faculty to perceive their delight even now, without change of nature or local transition, they teach us plainly.

Though they call these things by beloved names of glorious things which are delightful and esteemed by us, in order to spur us on, still by saying that “the eye has not seen, nor the ear heard” (1 Cor.2:9) and so on, they show us that the things-to-be are not equal to any of the present things, by their being incomprehensible.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Six Treatises on the Behaviour of Excellence, 1, 2, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck, pp. 7-8 (slightly modified)

John Cassian: The saints who keep a firm hold of the recollection of God may be compared to rope dancers Thursday, Aug 1 2013 

Sf-IoanCasianLittle children, love not the world, neither the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of God is not in him: for everything that is in the world is the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, which is not of the Father but of the world. And the world perisheth and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever (1 John 2:15-17).

The saints therefore scorn all those things on which the world exists, but it is impossible for them never to be carried away to them by a brief aberration of thoughts, and even now no man, except our Lord and Saviour, can keep his naturally wandering mind always fixed on the contemplation of God so as never to be carried away from it through the love of something in this world.

As Scripture says: “Even the stars are not clean in His sight,” and again: “If He puts no trust in His saints, and findeth iniquity in His angels,” or as the more correct translation has it: “Behold among His saints none is unchangeable, and the heavens are not pure in His sight.”

I should say then that the saints who keep a firm hold of the recollection of God and are borne along, as it were, with their steps suspended on a line stretched out on high, may be rightly compared to rope dancers, commonly called funambuli, who risk all their safety and life on the path of that very narrow rope.

[…] And while with marvellous skill they ply their airy steps through space, if they keep not their steps to that all too narrow path with careful and anxious regulation, the earth which is the natural base and the most solid and safest foundation for all, becomes to them an immediate and clear danger, not because its nature is changed, but because they fall headlong upon it by the weight of their bodies.

So also that unwearied goodness of God and His unchanging nature hurts no one indeed, but we ourselves by falling from on high and tending to the depths are the authors of our own death, or rather the very fall becomes death to the faller.

[…] Scripture says: “thine own wickedness shall reprove thee, and thy apostasy shall rebuke thee. Know thou and see that it is an evil and a bitter thing for thee to have left the Lord thy God;” for “every man is bound by the cords of his sins.” To whom this rebuke is aptly directed by the Lord: “Behold,” He says, “all you that kindle a fire, encompassed with flames, walk ye in the light of your fire and in the flames which you have kindled.”

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 23, 8-9.

John Chrysostom: Praying in the Presence of God Tuesday, Jul 2 2013 

John_ChrysostomHannah continued praying in the presence of the Lord… (1 Samuel 1:12).

The writer bears witness here to ­two virtues in the woman: her perseverance in prayer and her attentiveness.

He refers to the first by saying, She continued, and to the second by adding, in the presence of the Lord; for we all pray, but not all of us pray in the presence of the Lord.

Though our bodies may be in an attitude of prayer and our mouths babbling some pious formula, can we really claim to be praying in the presence of God when our minds are wandering hither and thither in home and market-place?

Those people pray in the presence of the Lord who pray with complete recollection; who, having no worldly attachments, have removed from earth to heaven and banished all human preoccupations, just as this woman did then.

Recollecting herself completely and concentrating her mind, she called upon ­God in her deep distress.

But why does Scripture say she continued praying when actually her prayer was very short?

[…] She said the same thing over and over again; she spent a long time ceaselessly repeating the same words.

That ­indeed is how Christ also commanded us to pray in the Gospels. When he told his disciples not to pray like the Gentiles and not to use empty repetitions, he also taught them the right way to pray, showing them that it is not a multiplicity of words but mental ­alertness that wins us a hearing.

Why then, you may ask, if prayer should be brief, did Christ tell them a parable to show that it should be continuous? There was a widow, he said, who by her persistent requests, by her going to him again and again, overcame a cruel and inhuman judge who neither feared God nor regarded other people.

And why does Paul also urge us to keep praying, to pray without ceasing? Is it a contra­diction to tell us not to make long speeches, and yet to pray continually?

No…! The two commands are in complete agreement. Christ and Paul com­manded us to make our prayers short, and to say them frequently, at brief intervals.

For if you spin out your words to any length you are often inattentive, and so give the devil freedom to approach and trip you up and divert your mind from what you are saying.

But if you pray continuously and frequently, repeating your prayer at brief intervals, you can easily remain recollected and fully alert as you pray.

That indeed is just what this woman did, not making long speeches but drawing near to God frequently, at brief inter­vals. That is true prayer, when its cries come from the depths of one’s being.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): De Anna, Sermon 2.2; (Bareille 8:419-21); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Tuesday of the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time, Year I.

Teresa of Avila: The Lord Is Within Us – We Should Be There With Him Monday, Oct 15 2012 

Our Father, who art in heaven…

Consider now what your Master says next: “Who art in the Heavens.”

Do you suppose it matters little what Heaven is and where you must seek your most holy Father?

I assure you that for minds which wander it is of great importance not only to have a right belief about this but to try to learn it by experience, for it is one of the best ways of concentrating the mind and effecting recollection in the soul.

You know that God is everywhere; and this is a great truth, for, of course, wherever the king is, or so they say, the court is too: that is to say, wherever God is, there is Heaven.

No doubt you can believe that, in any place where His Majesty is, there is fulness of glory.

Remember how Saint Augustine tells us about his seeking God in many places and eventually finding Him within himself.

Do you suppose it is of little importance that a soul which is often distracted should come to understand this truth and to find that, in order to speak to its Eternal Father and to take its delight in Him, it has no need to go to Heaven or to speak in a loud voice?

However quietly we speak, He is so near that He will hear us: we need no wings to go in search of Him but have only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon Him present within us.

Nor need we feel strange in the presence of so kind a Guest; we must talk to Him very humbly, as we should to our father, ask Him for things as we should ask a father, tell Him our troubles, beg Him to put them right, and yet realize that we are not worthy to be called His children.

[…] It would not be humility on your part if the King were to do you a favour and you refused to accept it; but you would be showing humility by taking it, and being pleased with it, yet realizing how far you are from deserving it.

[…] Have nothing to do with that kind of humility, daughters, but speak with Him as with a Father, a Brother, a Lord and a Spouse—and, sometimes in one way and sometimes in another, He will teach you what you must do to please Him.

[…] Remember how important it is for you to have understood this truth— that the Lord is within us and that we should be there with Him.

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582): Way of Perfection, 28.

Basil the Great: He Is So Good, He Asks No Recompense Except Our Love Tuesday, Jan 24 2012 

St-Basil-the-GreatGod fashioned man in his own image and likeness. He gave him knowledge of himself. He endowed him with the ability to think which raised him above all living creatures.

He permitted him to delight in the unimaginable beauties of paradise, and gave him dominion over everything upon earth.

Then, when man was deceived by the serpent and fell into sin, which led to death and to all the sufferings associated with death, God still did not forsake him.

He first gave man the law to help him; he set angels over him to guard him; he sent the prophets to denounce vice and to teach virtue; he restrained man’s evil impulses by warnings and roused his desire for virtue by promises.

Frequently, by way of warning, God showed him the respective ends of virtue and of vice in the lives of other men. Moreover, when man continued in disobedience even after he had done all this, God did not desert him.

No, we were not abandoned by the goodness of the Lord. Even the insult we offered to our Benefactor by despising his gifts did not destroy his love for us.

On the contrary, although we were dead, our Lord Jesus Christ restored us to life again, and in a way even more amazing than the fact itself, for his state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave.

He bore our infirmities and endured our sorrows. He was wounded for our sake so that by his wounds we might be healed.

He redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for our sake, and he submitted to the most ignominious death in order to exalt us to the life of glory.

Nor was he content merely to summon us back from death to life; he also bestowed on us the dignity of his own divine nature and prepared for us a place of eternal rest where there will be joy so intense as to surpass all human imagination.

How, then, shall we repay the Lord for all his goodness to us? He is so good that he asks no recompense except our love: that is the only payment he desires.

To confess my personal feelings, when I reflect on all these blessings I am overcome by a kind of dread and numbness at the very possibility of ceasing to love God and of bringing shame upon Christ because of my lack of recollection and my preoccupation with trivialities.

Basil the Great (330-379): Detailed Rules for Monks (Resp. 2, 2-4: PG 31, 914-915), taken from the Office of Readings for Tuesday of the Third week of Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

Teresa of Avila: Acquiring the Habit of Prayer and Recollection Monday, Mar 7 2011 

Continued from here, where Teresa is discussing interior battles with thoughts and passions.

By the blood which our Lord shed for us, I implore those who have not yet begun to enter into themselves, to stop this warfare.

I beg those already started in the right path, not to let the combat turn them back from it.

They should confide in God’s mercy, trusting nothing in themselves; then they will see how His Majesty will lead them from one mansion to another, and will set them in a place where these wild beasts can no more touch or annoy them….

Then, even in this life, they will enjoy a far greater happiness than they are able even to desire….

I have explained elsewhere how you should behave when the devil thus disturbs you.

I also told you that the habit of recollection is not to be gained by force of arms, but with calmness, which will enable you to practise it for a longer space of time.

[…] The only remedy for having given up a habit of recollection is to recommence it, otherwise the soul will continue to lose it more and more every day, and God grant it may realize its danger.

[…] “He that loves danger shall perish by it” (Sirach 3:27) and the door by which we must enter this castle is prayer.

Remember, we must get to heaven, and it would be madness to think we could do so without sometimes retiring into our souls so as to know ourselves, or thinking of our failings and of what we owe to God, or frequently imploring His mercy.

Our Lord also says “No man cometh to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6)…and “He that sees Me sees the Father also” (John 14:9).

If we never look up at Him and reflect on what we owe Him for having died for us, I do not understand how we can know Him, or perform good deeds in His service.

What value is there in faith without works?

And what are they worth if they are not united to the merits of Jesus Christ, our only good?

What would incite us to love our Lord unless we thought of Him?

May He give us grace to understand how much we cost Him;

that “the servant is not above his lord” (Matt. 10:24);

that we must toil for Him if we would enjoy His glory;

and prayer is a necessity to prevent us from constantly falling into temptation (Matt. 26:41).

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582): Interior Castle 2,1,17-20.