Isaac the Syrian: Trials and temptations Wednesday, Apr 2 2014 

Isaac the Syrian 3Hardships for the sake of the good are loved as the good itself.

Nobody can acquire real renunciation save him that is determined in his mind to bear troubles with pleasure.

Nobody can bear trouble save him that believes that there is something more excellent than bodily consolation which he shall acquire in reward for trouble.

Everyone that has devoted himself to renunciation, will first perceive the love of trouble stir within himself; thereupon the thought of renouncing all worldly things will take shape in him.

Everyone who comes near unto trouble will at first be confirmed in faith; then he will come near unto trouble.

He that renounces worldly things without renouncing the senses, sight and hearing, he prepares twofold trouble for himself and he will find tribulation in a twofold measure.

Or rather: while he refrains from the use of things, he delights in them through the senses; and by the affections which they cause he experiences the same from them that he had to endure in reality before; because the recollection of their customs is not effaced from the mind.

If then imaginary representations existing in the mind alone can torture man, apart from the things corresponding to them in reality, what shall we say when the real things are close at hand?

[…] The hard temptations into which God brings the soul are in accordance with the greatness of His gifts.

If there is a weak soul which is not able to bear a very hard temptation and God deals meekly with it, then know with certainty that, as it is not capable of bearing a hard temptation, so it is not worthy of a large gift.

As great temptations have been withdrawn from it, so large gifts are also withdrawn from it. God never gives a large gift and small temptations.So temptations are to be classed in accordance with gifts.

Thus from the hardships to which you have been subjected you may understand the measure of the greatness which your soul has reached. In accordance with affection is consolation.

What then? Temptation, then gifts ; or gifts and afterwards temptation? Temptation does not come if the soul has not received secretly greatness above its previous rank, as well as the spirit of adoption as sons.

We have a proof of it in the temptation of our Lord and of the Apostles; for they were not allowed to be tempted before they had received the Comforter. Those who partake of good have also to bear temptations.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Mystic Treatises, 39, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck (slightly adapted).

John Cassian: The Three Renunciations, and the Joining of the Soul to God Wednesday, Oct 20 2010 

We must now speak of the renunciations, of which tradition and the authority of Holy Scripture show us three, and which every one of us ought with the utmost zeal to make complete:

The first is that by which as far as the body is concerned we make light of all the wealth and goods of this world;

The second, that by which we reject the fashions and vices and former affections of soul and flesh;

The third, that by which we detach our soul from all present and visible things, and contemplate only things to come, and set our heart on what is invisible.

And we read that the Lord charged Abraham to do all these three at once, when He said to him “Get thee out from thy country, and thy kinsfolk, and thy father’s house” (Gen. 12:1). First He said “from thy country,” i.e., from the goods of this world, and earthly riches;

Secondly, “from thy kinsfolk,” i.e., from this former life and habits and sins, which cling to us from our very birth and are joined to us as it were by ties of affinity and kinship;

Thirdly, “from thy father’s house,” i.e., from all the recollection of this world, which the sight of the eyes can afford.

[…] And this happens when being dead with Christ to the rudiments of this world, we no longer, as the Apostle says, regard “the things which are seen, but those which are not seen, for the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).

Instead, going forth in heart from this temporal and visible home, we turn our eyes and heart towards that in which we are to remain for ever.

And this we shall succeed in doing when, while we walk in the flesh, we are no longer at war with the Lord according to the flesh, proclaiming in deed and actions the truth of that saying of the blessed Apostle “Our conversation is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).

To these three sorts of renunciations the three books of Solomon suitably correspond:

For Proverbs answers to the first renunciation, as in it the desires for carnal things and earthly sins are repressed;

To the second Ecclesiastes corresponds, as there everything which is done under the sun is declared to be vanity;

To the third the Song of Songs, in which the soul soaring above all things visible, is actually joined to the word of God by the contemplation of heavenly things.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 3,6.

Lawrence of the Resurrection: Beginning to Live in God’s Presence Saturday, Nov 14 2009 

Lawrence2

Lawrence of the Resurrection

Having found in many books different methods of going to God, and divers practices of the spiritual life, I thought this would serve rather to puzzle me, than facilitate what I sought after, which was nothing but how to become wholly God’s.

This made me resolve to give the all for the All: so after having given myself wholly to God, to make all the satisfaction I could for my sins, I renounced, for the love of Him, everything that was not He; and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world.

Sometimes I considered myself before Him as a poor criminal at the feet of his judge; at other times I beheld Him in my heart as my Father, as my God: I worshipped Him the oftenest that I could, keeping my mind in His holy presence, and recalling it as often as I found it wandered from Him.

I found no small pain in this exercise, and yet I continued it, notwithstanding all the difficulties that occurred, without troubling or disquieting myself when my mind had wandered involuntarily.

I made this my business, as much all the day long as at the appointed times of prayer; for at all times, every hour, every minute, even in the height of my business, I drove away from my mind everything that was capable of interrupting my thought of God….

…When we are faithful to keep ourselves in His holy presence, and set Him always before us, this not only hinders our offending Him, and doing anything that may displease Him, at least wilfully, but it also begets in us a holy freedom, and if I may so speak, a familiarity with God, wherewith we ask, and that successfully, the graces we stand in need of.

In fine, by often repeating these acts, they become habitual, and the presence of God is rendered as it were natural to us.

Lawrence of the Resurrection (1614-1691): Practice of the Presence of God; Letter 1.

 

John of the Cross: The Doctrine that the Son of God Came to Teach Wednesday, Oct 28 2009 

From what has been said it may be seen in some measure how great a distance there is between all that the creatures are in themselves and that which God is in Himself, and how souls that set their affections upon any of these creatures are at as great a distance as they from God; for, as we have said, love produces equality and likeness….

Wherefore, it is supreme ignorance for the soul to think that it will be able to pass to this high estate of union with God if first it void not the desire of all things, natural and supernatural, which may hinder it, according as we shall explain hereafter.

For there is the greatest possible distance between these things and that which comes to pass in this estate, which is naught else than transformation in God. For this reason Our Lord, when showing us this path, said through Saint Luke “he that renounces not all things that he possesses with his will cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:33).

And this is evident; for the doctrine that the Son of God came to teach was contempt for all things, whereby a man might receive as a reward the Spirit of God in himself. For, as long as the soul rejects not all things, it has no capacity to receive the Spirit of God in pure transformation.

John of the Cross (1542-1591): Ascent of Mount Carmel, 2,5.