Tikhon of Zadonsk: This healing plaster of the Gospel is applied to your wounded souls Thursday, Oct 27 2016 

Tikhon_of_ZadonskTo whom is the Gospel preached?

Christ answers us, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for Whose sake He hath anointed Me to preach to the poor, He hath sent Me to heal the broken hearted” (Lk.4:18).

In other words, to those people who, acknowledging their sins, see their poverty, misfortune, and wretchedness, and have a contrite heart with fear of God’s judgement and sorrow, to them the Gospel is rightly preached as a healing plaster is applied to a wounded body.

Hear, you sorrowful and contrite souls, hear the most sweet voice of the Gospel! “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost!”

This healing plaster of the Gospel most sweet is applied to your wounded souls. By this saving medicine heal your broken hearts. “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.”

He seeks you and saves you, because you are one of those that He came to seek. Accept and confess yourselves to be sinners before God. Your sins are also forgiven for Christ’s name’s sake.

Repent of your sins and lament for God, for salvation is prepared for you, too, by God. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am the chief” (1 Tim. 1:15).

The Holy Spirit speaks to you through His servant, “The sacrifice unto God is a broken spirit, a heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise” (LXX-Ps. 50:19 [KJV-Ps. 51:17]).

This sacrifice is offered to God from a repentant and contrite heart and is more acceptable to Him than any other offering. God looks mercifully upon such a sacrifice and sends His grace down upon it.

And so you see, O Christian, that the Gospel is not intended for those Christians who…do not recognize their sins, poverty and misfortune, and do not have a contrite heart. For of what use is oil to a rock? A plaster is applied to a wound, and healing is given to him who recognizes and admits his weakness.

To such people is it said, “Repent, be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy into heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up” (Jas. 4:9-10).

[…] Sinners! Let us fear the judgement of God and endeavor to have a contrite and humble heart, that we also may draw from the Gospel as from a saving font of living water of refreshment and consolation, and that we may water our souls and so receive everlasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Tikhon of Zadonsk (1724-1783; Russian Orthodox): extract @ Kandylaki from Journey to Heaven: Counsels On the Particular Duties of Every Christian by Our Father Among the Saints, Tikhon of Zadonsk, Bishop of Voronezh and Elets (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2004).

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Theodore the Studite: Let us do all that we have been commanded Sunday, Feb 21 2016 

Theodore_the_StuditeIf…it frequently happens that the soul grows slack and is defiled by unseemly thoughts – for who will boast that they have a pure heart? – let it be quickly made clean again and brought back to its former condition, lest by delaying in evil it gives birth to death.

And let no one ever say that they cannot be made clean again, stained as they are by many sins, when they listen to the One who said, “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them white as snow. Though they are like crimson, I will make them white as wool” (Isaias 1:18).

Do you see God’s ineffable love for humankind? Not only has he promised to purify, but to bring the one who repents to the pinnacle of loveliness.

And examples are manifest. David was a prophet and, when he fell into the crime of adultery and murder, he did not give up, but after he had swiftly had recourse to repentance, he received the grace of prophecy once again.

[…] The prince of the Apostles, after his denial, by the medicine of tears took up again the burden of the apostolate. Mary of Egypt, to pass over the numberless others, had reached the uttermost limit of debauchery, but once she had come to a remarkable repentance, she attained the highest degree of virtue.

[…] We hear the words, “Why would you die, house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 18:31), and why do we choose everlasting death rather than immortal life that is set before us? Our good Master cries out each day, “Come to me all you that toil and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). And we are unwilling to get rid of the heavy load of our sins.

The same Master cries, “I am the light of the world. One who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). But we turn to the opposite, proclaiming by our actions, “We do not want to know your ways” (Job 2:14).

All that remains is for us to hear, “Walk by the light of your fire and the flame you have kindled” (Isaias 50:11). And Scripture says, “Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21).

But God forbid that such things should be said of us. “For you are may friends, says the Lord, if you do all that I command you” (John 15:14). So then, let us do all that we have been commanded, that we may be worthy to be called friends, to inherit the kingdom of heaven, in Christ our Lord.

Theodore the Studite: (759-826): Catechesis 20 trans. Archimandrite Ephrem Lash @ Anastasis.

John Chrysostom: “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted” Monday, Nov 23 2015 

Chrysostom3Continued from here….

“Blessed are they that mourn” (Matt. 5:4).

Here too again Christ designated not simply all that mourn, but all that do so for sins.

Since surely that other kind of mourning is forbidden, and that earnestly, which relates to anything of this life.

This Paul also clearly declared, when he said “The sorrow of the world worketh death, but godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of” (2 Cor. 7:10).

These then He too Himself calls blessed, whose sorrow is of that kind. Yet He does not simply designate those who sorrow did He designate, but those who sorrow intensely.

Therefore He did not say “they that sorrow” but “they that mourn.” For this commandment again is fitted to teach us entire self-control.

Those who grieve for children, or wife, or any other relation gone from them, have no fondness for gain or pleasure during that period of their sorrow.

They aim not at glory, are not provoked by insults, nor led captive by envy, nor beset by any other passion, their grief alone wholly possessing them.

This being so, how much more will they who mourn for their own sins, as they ought to mourn, show forth a self-denial greater than this?

Next, what is the reward for these? “For they shall be comforted,” He says.

Where shall they be comforted? Both here and there. For since the thing enjoined was exceeding burdensome and galling, He promised to give that, which most of all made it light.

Wherefore, if you wish to be comforted, mourn, and think not this a dark saying. For when God comforts, though sorrows come upon you by thousands like snow-flakes, you wilt be above them all.

Since in truth, the returns which God gives are always far greater than our labours…, He declares those who mourn to be blessed – not after the value of what they do, but after His own love towards man.

For they that mourn, mourn for misdoings, and to such it is enough to enjoy forgiveness, and obtain wherewith to answer for themselves.

But forasmuch as He is full of love towards man, He does not limit His recompense either to the removal of our punishments, or to the deliverance from our sins, but He makes them even blessed, and imparts to them abundant consolation.

But He bids us mourn, not only for our own, but also for other men’s misdoings.

And of this temper were the souls of the saints. Such was that of Moses, of Paul, of David; yea, all these many times mourned for evils not their own.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on the Gospel According to St Matthew, 15, 4 (on Matthew 5:4); slightly adapted.

Cyril of Jerusalem: The swift relenting of a merciful God Tuesday, Oct 27 2015 

Cyril-of-JerusalemGreat as he was, David fell.

After his sleep, walking in the eventide on the housetop, he cast a careless look, and felt a human passion.

His sin was completed, but there died not with it his candour concerning the confession of his fault.

Nathan the Prophet came, a swift accuser, and a healer of the wound.

The Lord is wroth, he says, and thou hast sinned (2 Sam. 12). So spake the subject to the reigning king.

But David the king was not indignant, for he regarded not the speaker, but God who had sent him.

He was not puffed up by the array of soldiers standing round,  for he had seen in thought the angel-host of the Lord, and he trembled as seeing Him who is invisible (Heb. 11:27).

And to the messenger, or rather by him in answer to God who sent him, he said, I have sinned against the Lord (2 Sam. 12:13).

[…] Because he candidly confessed, he received a most speedy cure.  For Nathan the Prophet who had uttered the threat, said immediately, The Lord also hath put away thy sin.

Thou seest the swift relenting of a merciful God.

He says, however, Thou hast greatly provoked the enemies of the Lord.

Though thou hadst many enemies because of thy righteousness, thy self-control protected thee; but now that thou hast surrendered thy strongest armour, thine enemies are risen up, and stand ready against thee.

Thus then did the Prophet comfort him, but the blessed David, for all he heard it said the Lord hath put away thy sin, did not cease from repentance, king though he was, but put on sackcloth instead of purple, and instead of a golden throne, he sat, a king, in ashes on the ground.

He not only sat in ashes, but also had ashes for his food, even as he saith himself, I have eaten ashes as it were bread (Ps. 101:10).

His lustful eye he wasted away with tears saying, Every night will I wash my couch, and water my bed with my tears (Ps. 7:7).  When his officers besought him to eat bread he would not listen.  He prolonged his fast unto seven whole days.

[…] Again, after Absalom’s insurrection, though there were many roads for him to escape, David chose to flee by the Mount of Olives, in thought, as it were, invoking the Redeemer who was to go up thence into the heavens  (2 Sam. 16:10-11).

And when Shimei cursed him bitterly, he said, Let him alone, for he knew that “to him that forgiveth it shall be forgiven.”

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 2, 11-12.

Cyprian of Carthage: “And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors” Wednesday, Sep 16 2015 

Saint-Cyprian-of-CarthageAnd forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors (Matthew 6:12).

After the supply of food, pardon of sin is also asked for, that he who is fed by God may live in God, and that not only the present and temporal life may be provided for, but the eternal also, to which we may come if our sins are forgiven.

And these the Lord calls debts, as He says in His Gospel, “I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me” (Matt. 18:32).

And how necessarily, how providently and salutarily, are we admonished that we are sinners, since we are compelled to entreat for our sins, and while pardon is asked for from God, the soul recalls its own consciousness of sin!

Lest anyone should flatter himself that he is innocent, and by exalting himself should more deeply perish, he is instructed and taught that he sins daily, in that he is bidden to entreat daily for his sins.

Thus, moreover, John also in his epistle warns us, and says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:8).

In his epistle he has combined both, that we should entreat for our sins, and that we should obtain pardon when we ask. Therefore he said that the Lord was faithful to forgive sins, keeping the faith of His promise; because He who taught us to pray for our debts and sins, has promised that His fatherly mercy and pardon shall follow.

He has clearly joined herewith and added the law, and has bound us by a certain condition and engagement, that we should ask that our debts be forgiven us in such a manner as we ourselves forgive our debtors, knowing that that which we seek for our sins cannot be obtained unless we ourselves have acted in a similar way in respect of our debtors.

Therefore also He says in another place, “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matt. 7:2). And the servant who, after having had all his debt forgiven him by his master, would not forgive his fellow-servant, is cast back into prison; because he would not forgive his fellow-servant, he lost the indulgence that had been shown to himself by his lord.

And these things Christ still more urgently sets forth in His precepts with yet greater power of His rebuke. “When ye stand praying,” says He, “forgive if ye have aught against any, that your Father which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).

Cyprian of Carthage (d.258): On The Lord’s Prayer, 22-23.

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.

John of Karpathos: Through repentance a man regains his true splendour, just as the moon after the period of waning clothes itself once more in its full light Wednesday, Aug 26 2015 

johnkarpathosThe King of all reigns for ever, and there is neither beginning nor end to His kingdom.

To those, then, who choose to serve Him and who for His sake strive to attain holiness, He grants a reward infinitely greater than that given by any earthly ruler.

The honours of this present life, however splendid, come to an end when we die — but the honours bestowed by God on those whom He regards as worthy are incorruptible and so endure for ever.

David in one of his Psalms describes the praise offered to God by the whole of creation (cf. Ps. 104).

He speaks of the angels and all the invisible powers, but he also descends to the earth and includes wild animals, cattle, birds and reptiles.

All of them, he believes, worship the Creator and sing His praise; for it is God’s will that everything He has made should offer Him glory.

How, then, can the monk, who may be compared to the gold of Ophir (cf. 1Kgs. 10:11), allow himself to be sluggish or apathetic when singing God’s praise?

Just as the bush burned with fire but was not consumed (cf. Exod. 3:2), so those who have received the gift of dispassion are not troubled or harmed, either physically or in their intellect (Greek: ὁ νοῦς)** [see footnote], by the heat of their body, however ponderous or fevered it may be.

For the voice of the Lord holds back the flames of nature (cf. Ps.29:7): God’s will and His word separate what by nature is united.

The moon as it waxes and wanes illustrates the condition of man: sometimes he does what is right, sometimes he sins and then through repentance returns to a holy life.

The intellect of one who sins is not destroyed (as some of you think), just as the physical size of the moon does not diminish, but only its light.

Through repentance a man regains his true splendour, just as the moon after the period of waning clothes itself once more in its full light.

If a man believes in Christ, ‘even though he dies, he shall live’ (John 11:25); he shall know that ‘I the Lord have spoken, and will do it’ (Ezek.17:24 LXX).

[…] The demons in their malice revive and rekindle the unclean passions within us, causing them to increase and multiply. But the visitation of the divine Logos [Word], especially when accompanied by our tears, dissolves and kills the passions, even those that are inveterate.

It gradually reduces to nothing the destructive and sinful impulses of soul and body, provided we do not grow listless but cling to the Lord with prayer and with hope that is unremitting and unashamed.

John of Karpathos (7th century): For the Encouragement of the Monks in India, 1-4, 6, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, P. Sherrard, and K. Ware, The Philokalia, vol. 1 (Faber and Faber, London & Boston: 1979 @ J B Burnett.

**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from John 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).

Gregory the Great: The soul is the inner face of man, by which same we are known, that we may be regarded with love by our Maker Monday, Jul 13 2015 

St-Gregory-the-Dialogist

If the iniquity which is in thine hand thou put far from thee, and wickedness dwell not in thy tabernacle, then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot, yea thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear (Job 11:13-15).

Every sin is either committed in thought alone, or it is done in thought and deed together.  Therefore ‘iniquity in the hand’ is offence in deed; but ‘wickedness in the tabernacle,’ is iniquity in the heart.

[…] Zophar…bids that ‘iniquity’ be removed from the ‘hand,’ and afterwards that ‘wickedness’ be cut off from the ‘tabernacle’.

For whosoever has already cut away from himself all wicked deeds without, must of necessity in returning to himself probe himself discreetly in the purpose of his heart, lest sin, which he no longer has in act, still hold out in thought.

[…] Now if we thoroughly wipe away these two, we then directly ‘lift our face without spot’ to God.  For the soul is the inner face of man, by which same we are known, that we may be regarded with love by our Maker.

Now we are to lift up this same face, to raise the soul in God by appliance to the exercises of prayer.  But there is a spot that pollutes the uplifted face, when consciousness of its own guilt accuses the mind intent; for it is forthwith dashed from all confidence of hope, if when busied in prayer it be stung with recollection of sin not yet subdued.

For it distrusts its being able to obtain what it longs for, in that it bears in mind its still refusing to do what it has heard from God.

Hence it is said by John, Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God; and whatsoever we ask we shall receive of Him (1 John 3:21. 22).  Hence Solomon saith, He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination (Prov. 28:9).

For our heart blames us in offering up our prayers, when it calls to mind that it is set in opposition to the precepts of Him, and…when there is a ‘turning away’ from the control of the law; in that verily it is meet that a man should be a stranger to the favours of Him, to Whose bidding he will not be subject.

Wherein there is this salutary remedy, if when the soul reproaches itself upon the remembrance of sin, it first bewail that in prayer, wherein it has gone wrong, that whereas the stain of offences is washed away by tears, in offering up our prayers the face of the heart may be viewed unspotted by our Maker.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 10, 26-28 (on Job 11:13-15) @ Lectionary Central.

Ambrose of Milan: The Lord Jesus refreshes, and does not shut out nor cast off Friday, Jul 10 2015 

ambrose_of_milanIf the highest end of virtue is that which aims at the advancement of most, gentleness is the most lovely of all, which does not hurt even those whom it condemns, and usually renders those whom it condemns worthy of absolution.

Moreover, it is the only virtue which has led to the increase of the Church which the Lord sought at the price of His own Blood, imitating the lovingkindness of heaven, and aiming at the redemption of all, seeks this end with a gentleness which the ears of men can endure, in presence of which their hearts do not sink, nor their spirits quail.

For he who endeavours to amend the faults of human weakness ought to bear this very weakness on his own shoulders, let it weigh upon himself, not cast it off.

For we read that the Shepherd in the Gospel (Luke 15:5) carried the weary sheep, and did not cast it off. And Solomon says: “Be not overmuch righteous” (Eccles. 7:17); for restraint should temper righteousness.

For how shall he offer himself to you for healing whom you despise, who thinks that he will be an object of contempt, not of compassion, to his physician?

Therefore had the Lord Jesus compassion upon us in order to call us to Himself, not frighten us away. He came in meekness, He came in humility, and so He said: “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you” (Matt. 11:28).

So, then, the Lord Jesus refreshes, and does not shut out nor cast off, and fitly chose such disciples as should be interpreters of the Lord’s will, as should gather together and not drive away the people of God.

Whence it is clear that they are [St Ambrose is speaking of the Novatianists] not to be counted amongst the disciples of Christ, who think that harsh and proud opinions should be followed rather than such as are gentle and meek; persons who, while they themselves seek God’s mercy, deny it to others….

What can show more pride than this, since the Scripture says: “No one is free from sin, not even an infant of a day old” (Job 14:4 [LXX]).  And David cries out: “Cleanse me from my sin” (Ps. 50:2).

Are they more holy than David, of whose family Christ vouchsafed to be born in the mystery of the Incarnation, whose descendant is that heavenly Hall which received the world’s Redeemer in her virgin womb?

For what is more harsh than to inflict a penance which they do not relax, and by refusing pardon to take away the incentive to penance and repentance? Now no one can repent to good purpose unless he hopes for mercy.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Repentance, book 1, chapter 1, 1-4.

John Chrysostom: Such is the loving-kindness of God – He never turns his face away from a sincere repentance Monday, Jul 6 2015 

John_ChrysostomSuch is the loving-kindness of God; He never turns his face away from a sincere repentance.

But, if anyone has pushed on to the very extremity of wickedness, and chooses to return thence towards the path of virtue, God accepts and welcomes, and does everything so as to restore him to his former position.

And He does what is yet more merciful; for even should anyone not manifest complete repentance, he does not pass by one which is small and insignificant, but assigns a great reward even to this.

This is evident from what Esaias the prophet says concerning the people of the Jews, speaking on this wise:

“On account of his sin I put him to pain for a little while, and smote him, and turned my face away from him, and he was pained, and walked sorrowfully, and then I healed him, and comforted him” (Isaiah 57;17-18).

[…]  And after this again, Manasses, having…subverted the legal form of worship, and shut up the temple, and caused the deceit of idolatry to flourish, and having become more ungodly than all who were before him, when he afterwards repented, was ranked amongst the friends of God.

Now if, looking to the magnitude of his own iniquities, he had despaired of restoration and repentance, he would have missed all which he afterwards obtained.

But as it was, looking to the boundlessness of God’s tender mercy instead of the enormity of his transgressions, and having broken in sunder the bonds of the devil, he rose up and contended with him, and finished the good course (2 Chron. 33:10-19).

And not only by what was done to these men, but also by the words of the prophet does God destroy the counsels of despair, speaking on this wise: “To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation” (Psalm 94:9).

Now that expression “to-day,” may be uttered at every time of life, even on the verge of old age, if you desire it: for repentance is judged not by quantity of time, but by disposition of the soul.

For the Ninevites did not need many days to blot out their sin, but the short space of one day availed to efface all their iniquity.

And the robber also did not take a long time to effect his entrance into Paradise, but in such a brief moment as one might occupy in uttering a single word, did he wash off all the sins which he had committed in his whole life, and received the prize bestowed by the divine approval even before the Apostles.

And we also see the martyrs obtain glorious crowns for themselves in the course, not of many years, but of a few days, and often in a single day only.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): An exhortation to Theodore after his fall, 1, 6.

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