Silouan the Athonite: The Lord does not desire the death of a sinner, and on him who repents He bestows the grace of the Holy Spirit Wednesday, Jul 1 2015 

Silouan the AthoniteO all ye peoples of the earth, I fall on my knees to you, beseeching you with tears to come to Christ.

I know His love for you.  I know and therefore I cry to the whole world.

If one does not know a thing, how could one speak of it?

‘But how may I know God?’ you will ask.

And I say that we have seen the Lord by the Holy Spirit.

If you humble yourself, the Holy Spirit will show our Lord to you too; and you too will want to proclaim Him to all the world.

I am an old man awaiting death. I write the truth for love of God’s people over whom my soul grieves.

If I should help but a single soul to salvation, I will give thanks to God;

but my heart aches for the whole world, and I pray and shed tears for the whole world, that all may repent and know God and live in love, and delight in freedom in God.

O all ye peoples of the earth, pray and weep for your sins, that the Lord may forgive them.

Where there is forgiveness of sins there is freedom of conscience and love, even if but a little.

The Lord does not desire the death of a sinner, and on him who repents He bestows the grace of the Holy Spirit, which gives peace to the soul and freedom for the mind and heart to dwell in God.

When the Holy Spirit forgives us our sins we receive freedom to pray to God with an undistracted mind, and we can freely think on God and live serene and joyous in Him.

And this is true freedom. But without God there can be no freedom, for the enemy agitates the soul with evil thoughts.

O my brethren the world over, repent while there is still time. God mercifully awaits our repentance.

And all heaven and all the Saints look for our repentance.  As God is love, so the Holy Spirit in the Saints is love.

Ask, and the Lord will forgive. And when you receive forgiveness of sins there will be joy and gladness in your souls, and the grace of the Holy Spirit will enter into your souls, and you will cry:

‘This is true freedom. True freedom is in God and of God.’

The grace of God does not take away freedom, but merely helps man to fulfil God’s commandments.

Adam knew grace but he could still exercise his will. Thus too the angels abide in the Holy Spirit and yet are not deprived of free will.

Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938; Eastern Orthodox): from St. Silouan, Wisdom From Mount Athos – The Writings of Staretz Silouan 1866-1938, by Archimandrite Sophrony, trans. Rosemary Edmonds, (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY 1974) @ Kandylaki.

John Chrysostom: If God punishes, he does this not with wrath, but with tender care, and much loving-kindness Monday, Jun 22 2015 

John_ChrysostomAnd speak not to me of those who have committed small sins, but suppose the case of one who is filled full of all wickedness, and let him practice everything which excludes him from the kingdom.

[…] I will not approve even of this man despairing of himself, although he may have gone on to extreme old age in the practice of this great and unspeakable wickedness.

For if the wrath of God were a passion, one might well despair as being unable to quench the flame which he had kindled by so many evil doings.

But since the Divine nature is passionless, even if He punishes, even if He takes vengeance, he does this not with wrath, but with tender care, and much loving-kindness.

Therefore it behoves us to be of much good courage, and to trust in the power of repentance.

For even those who have sinned against Him He is not wont to visit with punishment for His own sake; for no harm can traverse that divine nature.

But He acts with a view to our advantage, and to prevent our perverseness becoming worse by our making a practice of despising and neglecting Him.

One who places himself outside the light inflicts no loss on the light, but inflicts the greatest loss upon himself being shut up in darkness.

He who has become accustomed to despise that almighty power does no injury to the power, but inflicts the greatest possible injury upon himself.

And for this reason God threatens us with punishments, and often inflicts them, not as avenging Himself, but by way of attracting us to Himself.

For a physician also is not distressed or vexed at the insults of those who are out of their minds, but yet does and contrives everything for the purpose of stopping those who do such unseemly acts, not looking to his own interests but to their profit.

And if they manifest some small degree of self-control and sobriety he rejoices and is glad, and applies his remedies much more earnestly, not as revenging himself upon them for their former conduct, but as wishing to increase their advantage, and to bring them back to a purely sound state of health.

Even so God when we fall into the very extremity of madness, says and does everything, not by way of avenging Himself on account of our former deeds; but because He wishes to release us from our disorder.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): An exhortation to Theodore after his fall, 1, 4 (slightly adapted).

Silouan the Athonite: The man in whom the Holy Spirit lives feels that he has paradise within him Tuesday, Jun 16 2015 

Silouan the AthoniteWhen the Mother of God stood at the foot of the Cross, the depth of her grief was inconceivable, for she loved her Son more than any one can realize.

And we know that the greater the love the greater the suffering.

By the laws of human nature, the Mother of God could not possibly have borne her affliction;

but she had submitted herself to the will of God, and the Holy Spirit sustained her and gave her the strength to bear this affliction.

And later, after the Ascension of the Lord, she became a great comfort to all God’s people in their distress.

The Lord gave us the Holy Spirit, and the man in whom the Holy Spirit lives feels that he has paradise within him.

Perhaps you will say, ‘Why is it I have not grace like that?’  It is because you have not surrendered yourself to the will of God but live in your own way.

Look at the man who likes to have his own way.  His soul is never at peace and he is always discontented: this is not right and that is not as it should be.

But the man who is entirely given over to the will of God can pray with a pure mind, his soul loves the Lord, and he finds everything pleasant and agreeable.

Thus did the Most Holy Virgin submit herself to God: ‘Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word.’

And were we to say likewise — ‘Behold the servant of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word’ — then the Lord’s words written in the Gospels by the Holy Spirit would live in our souls, and the whole world would be filled with the love of God, and how beautiful would life be on earth!

And although the words of God have been heard the length and breadth of the universe for so many centuries, people do not understand and will not accept them.

But the man who lives according to the will of God will be glorified in heaven and on earth.

We all suffer here on earth and seek freedom, but few there are who know the meaning of freedom and where it is to be found.

I too want freedom and seek it day and night.  I learnt that freedom is with God and is given of God to humble hearts who have repented and sacrificed their wills before Him.

To those who repent the Lord gives His peace and freedom to love Him.  There is nothing better in the world than to love God and one’s fellow man.  In this does the soul find rest and joy.

Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938; Eastern Orthodox): from St. Silouan, Wisdom From Mount Athos – The Writings of Staretz Silouan 1866-1938, by Archimandrite Sophrony, trans. Rosemary Edmonds, (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY 1974) @ Kandylaki.

Isaac the Syrian: The beginning of the impulse of life Wednesday, Jun 3 2015 

Isaac the Syrian 3The first emotion that befalls a man by divine grace and draws the soul towards life strikes the heart with thought concerning the transitory character of this earthly nature.

This thought is naturally connected with contempt of the world. And then begin all the beautiful emotions which educate unto life.

That divine power which accompanies man makes as it were a foundation in him, which desires to reveal life in him.

As to this emotion which I mentioned, if a man does not extinguish it by clinging to the things of this world and to idle intercourse, and if he makes this emotion increase in his soul by perpetual concentration and by gazing at himself, he will bring himself near to that which no tongue is able to tell.

This thought is greatly hated by Satan and he strives with all his power to eradicate it from man.

And if he were able to give him the kingdom of the whole earth in order to efface by thought of it from his mind this deliberation, he would not do otherwise.

For Satan knows that if this recollection remains with him, his mind will no longer stay in this world of error, and his means will not reach man.

This sight is clad with fiery emotions and he that has caught it will no longer contemplate the world nor remain with the body.

Verily, my beloved, if God should grant this veracious sight unto the children of man for a short time, the course of the world would stand still.

It is a bond before which nature cannot stand upright. And he unto whim this intercourse with his soul is given — verily, it is a gift from God, stronger than all partial workings, which in this middle state are presented unto those who with an upright heart desire repentance.

It is especially given to him of whom God knows that he is worthy of the real transition from this world unto profitable life, because He finds good will in him.

It will increase and remain with a man through his dwelling alone by himself. Let us ask this gift in prayer; and for the sake of this gift let us make long vigils.

And as it is a gift without equal, let us keep watch with tears at the gate of our Lord, that He may give it us. Further we need not weary ourselves with the trouble of this world.

This is the beginning of the impulse of life, which will fully bring about in a man the perfection of righteousness.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Mystic Treatises, 47, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck, pp.225-226.

John Climacus: Prayer upholds the world and brings about reconciliation with God Sunday, May 10 2015 

ClimacusPrayer by reason of its nature is the converse and union of man with God, and by reason of its action upholds the world and brings about reconciliation with God;

it is the mother and also the daughter of tears, the propitiation for sins, a bridge over temptations, a wall against afflictions, a crushing of conflicts, work of angels, food of all the spiritual beings, future gladness, boundless activity;

it is the spring of virtues, the source of graces, invisible progress, food of the soul, the enlightening of the mind, an axe for despair, a demonstration of hope, the annulling of sorrow, the wealth of monks, the treasure of solitaries;

it is the reduction of anger, the mirror of progress, the realization of success, a proof of one’s condition, a revelation of the future, a sign of glory.

[…] Let us rise and listen to what that holy queen of the virtues cries with a loud voice and says to us: Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take My yoke upon you, and you shall find rest for your souls and healing for your wounds. For My yoke is easy and is a sovereign remedy for great sins.

[…] When you are going to stand before the Lord, let the garment of your soul be woven throughout with the thread that has become oblivious of wrongs. Otherwise, prayer will bring you no benefit.

Let your prayer be completely simple. For both the publican and the prodigal son were reconciled to God by a single phrase.

[…] Before all else let us list sincere thanksgiving first on our prayer-card. On the second line we should put confession, and heartfelt contrition of soul.

Then let us present our petition to the King of all. This is the best way of prayer, as it was shown to one of the brethren by an angel of the Lord.

Do not be over-sophisticated in the words you use when praying, because the simple and unadorned lisping of children has often won the heart of their heavenly Father.

Do not attempt to talk much when you pray lest your mind be distracted in searching for words. One word of the publican propitiated God, and one cry of faith saved the thief.

Loquacity in prayer often distracts the mind and leads to phantasy, whereas brevity makes for concentration.

If you feel sweetness or compunction at some word of your prayer, dwell on it; for then our guardian angel is praying with us.

John Climacus (c.575-c.650): The Ladder of Divine Ascent, step 28 “on prayer”, 1-11, translated by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore (Harper & Brothers, 1959) @ Prudence True.

Cyril of Jerusalem: God is loving to man, and loving in no small measure Saturday, Mar 28 2015 

Cyril-of-JerusalemGod is loving to man, and loving in no small measure.

Say not “I have committed fornication and adultery:  I have done dreadful things, and not once only, but often;  will He forgive?  Will He grant pardon?”

Hear what the Psalmist says:  How great is the multitude of Thy goodness, O Lord!

Thine accumulated offences surpass not the multitude of God’s mercies:  thy wounds surpass not the great Physician’s skill.

Only give thyself up in faith:  tell the Physician thine ailment.

Say thou also, like David:  I said, I will confess me my sin unto the Lord, and the same shall be done in thy case, which he says forthwith:  And thou forgavest the wickedness of my heart.

Wouldest thou see the loving-kindness of God, O thou that art lately come to the catechising?

Wouldest thou see the loving-kindness of God, and the abundance of His long-suffering?

Hear about Adam.  Adam, God’s first-formed man, transgressed:  could He not at once have brought death upon him?

But see what the Lord does, in His great love towards man.

He casts him out from Paradise, for because of sin he was unworthy to live there.

But He puts him to dwell over against Paradise,  so that seeing whence he had fallen, and from what and into what a state he was brought down, he might afterwards be saved by repentance.

Cain the first-born man became his brother’s murderer, the inventor of evils, the first author of murders, and the first envious man.

Yet after slaying his brother to what is he condemned?  Groaning and trembling shalt thou be upon the earth.  How great the offence, the sentence how light! Even this then was truly loving-kindness in God, but little as yet in comparison with what follows.

For consider what happened in the days of Noah.  The giants sinned, and much wickedness was then spread over the earth, and because of this the flood was to come upon them. And in the five hundredth year God utters His threatening; but in the six hundredth He brought the flood upon the earth.

Seest thou the breadth of God’s loving-kindness extending to a hundred years?  Could He not have done immediately what He did then after the hundred years?

But He extended (the time) on purpose, granting a respite for repentance.

Seest thou God’s goodness?  And if the men of that time had repented, they would not have missed the loving-kindness of God.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 2, 6-8.

John Climacus: The sponge of God-loving sorrow and the cool water of devout tears wipes out the record of our sins Friday, Mar 27 2015 

ClimacusMourning, according to God, is sadness of soul, and the disposition of a sorrowing heart, which ever madly seeks that for which it thirsts;

and when it fails in its quest, it painfully pursues it, and follows in its wake grievously lamenting.

Or thus: mourning is a golden spur in a soul which is stripped of all attachment and of all ties, fixed by holy sorrow to watch over the heart.

[…] A characteristic of those who are still progressing in blessed mourning is temperance and silence of the lips;

and of those who have made progress—freedom from anger and patient endurance of injuries;

and of the perfect—humility, thirst for dishonours, voluntary craving for involuntary afflictions, non-condemnation of sinners, compassion even beyond one’s strength.

The first are acceptable, the second laudable; but blessed are those who hunger for hardship and thirst for dishonour, for they shall have their fill of the food that does not cloy.

[…]  Theology will not suit mourners, for it is of a nature to dissolve their mourning. For the theologian is like one who sits in a teacher’s seat, whereas the mourner is like one who spends his days on a dung heap and in rags.

That is why David, so I think, although he was a teacher and was wise, replied to those who questioned him when he was mourning: ‘How shall I sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’—that is to say, the land of passions.

Both in creation and in compunction there is that which moves itself and that which is moved by something else.

When the soul becomes tearful, moist and tender without effort or trouble, then let us run, for the Lord has come uninvited, and is giving us the sponge of God-loving sorrow and the cool water of devout tears to wipe out the record of our sins.

Guard these tears as the apple of your eye until they withdraw. Great is the power of this compunction—greater than that which comes as a result of our effort and meditation.

He who mourns when he wishes has not attained the beauty of mourning, but rather he who mourns on the subjects of his choice, and not even on these, but on what God wants.

The ugly tears of vainglory are often interwoven with mourning which is pleasing to God. Acting devoutly, we shall find this out by experiment when we see ourselves mourning and still doing evil.

[…] When our soul leaves this world we shall not be blamed for not having worked miracles, or for not having been theologians or contemplatives. But we shall certainly have to give an account to God of why we have not unceasingly mourned.

John Climacus (c.575-c.650): The Ladder of Divine Ascent, step 7 “on mourning which causes joy”, 1, 4, 24-26, 70, translated by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore (Harper & Brothers, 1959) @ Prudence True.

Andrew of Crete: Have compassion on us, O Lover of men, and to those who ask with faith grant forgiveness Thursday, Mar 26 2015 

AndrewofcreteYou, my soul, have become like Hagar the Egyptian of old. You have become enslaved by your own choice and have a new Ishmael – stubborn self-will (Genesis 16:15).

You know, my soul, of the Ladder shown to Jacob reaching from earth to Heaven. Why have you not clung to the sure step of piety? (Genesis 28:12).

Imitate that Priest of God and solitary King who was an image of the life of Christ in the world among men (cf. Melchizedek: Hebrews 7:1-4; Genesis 14:18).

Be converted and groan, wretched soul, before the pageant of life comes to an end, before the Lord shuts the door of the bridal hall.

Do not be a pillar of salt, my soul, by turning back; but let the example of the Sodomites frighten you, and take refuge up in Zoar (Genesis 19:26).

Reject not the prayer of those who praise Thee, O Lord; but have compassion on us, O Lover of men, and to those who ask with faith grant forgiveness.

[…] Boastful I am, and hard-hearted, all in vain and for nothing. Condemn me not with the Pharisee, but rather grant me the humility of the Publican, O only merciful and just Judge, and number me with him (Luke 18:9-14).

I have sinned, I know, O merciful Lord, and outraged the vessel of my flesh, but accept me in penitence and recall me to awareness of Thee. May I never be the possession or food of the enemy. O Savior, have compassion on me.

I am become my own idol, and have injured my soul with passions, O merciful Lord, but accept me in penitence and recall me to awareness of Thee. May I never be the possession or food of the enemy. O Savior, have compassion on me.

I have not listened to Thy voice, I have disobeyed Thy Scripture, O Lawgiver, but accept me in penitence and recall me to awareness of Thee. May I never be the possession or food of the enemy. O Savior, have compassion on me.

[…] Imitate, my soul, the woman bent earthward; come and fall down at the feet of Jesus, that He may straighten you to walk upright in the footsteps of the Lord (Luke 13:11).

Though Thou art a deep well, O Lord, pour on me streams from Thy immaculate wounds, that like the Samaritan woman I may drink and thirst no more; for from Thee gush rivers of life (John 4:13-15).

May my tears be for me a Siloam, O Sovereign Lord, that I may wash the eyes of my soul and mentally see Thee Who art that light which was before creation (John 9:7; Genesis 1:2-19).

Andrew of Crete (c.650-740[?]): The Great Canon, Thursday of the First Week, Odes 3, 4, 5 @ Pravoslavie.

Symeon the New Theologian: We receive the Word and the Spirit in our hearts Saturday, Jun 14 2014 

SYMEON-iconEveryone of us believes in him who is the Son of God and son of Mary, ever-virgin and mother of God.

And as believers we faithfully welcome his gospel into our hearts, confessing in words our belief, and repenting with all our soul of our past sins.

Then immediately, just as God the Word of the Father entered the Virgin’s womb, so also in ourselves the word which we receive in learning right belief appears like a seed.

You should be amazed when you hear of such an awe-inspiring mystery, and because the word is reliable you should receive it with full conviction and faith.

In fact we receive him not bodily, as the Virgin and Mother of God received him, but both spiritually and substantially.

And the very one whom the chaste Virgin also received, we hold in our own hearts, as Saint Paul says: It is God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shown in our hearts to reveal the knowledge of his Son. 

In other words: he has become wholly substantial in us. And that he actually meant this, he made clear in the next verse: But we contain this treasure in earthenware pots, calling the Holy Spirit a treasure.

But elsewhere he also calls the Lord Spirit: The Lord is the Spirit, he says. And he tells us this so that if you hear the words the Son of God, you should think of and hear the words the Spirit at the same time.

Again, if you hear the Spirit mentioned you should join the Father to the Spirit in thought, because con­cerning the Father too it is said: God is Spirit. 

You are constantly taught that the Holy Trinity is inseparable and of the same substance, and that where the Son is the Father is also, and where the Father is the Spirit is also, and where the Holy Spirit is the whole of the deity in three persons is, the one God and Father with Son and Spirit of the same substance, “who is praised for ever. Amen.”

So if we wholeheartedly believe and ardently repent, we receive the Word of God in our hearts, as has been said, like the Virgin, if of course we bring with us our own souls chaste and pure.

And just as the fire of the deity did not consume the Virgin since she was supremely pure, so neither does it consume us if we bring with us chaste and pure hearts; on the contrary it becomes in us the dew from heaven, a spring of water, and a stream of immortal life.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD): Traites Theologiques et Ethiques J, 10: se 122, 252-254 @ Dom Donald’s Blog.

Theophylact of Ohrid: The Healing at the Pool of Bethesda Saturday, May 10 2014 

Theophylact_the_Bulgarian (1)On John 5:1-15.

Understand the sheep’s pool to represent the grace of Baptism, in which the Sheep sacrificed for us, the Lord Jesus, was washed when He was baptized for our sake.

This pool has five porches, symbolizing the four great virtues plus the divine contemplation of dogma which are revealed in Baptism.

Human nature, paralyzed in all its spiritual powers, lay sick for thirty-eight years.

It was not sound in its belief in the Holy Trinity (i.e. 3), nor did it have a sure belief in the eighth age (i.e. 8), that is, the general Resurrection and the Last Judgement.

This is why it could not find healing, for it did not have any man to put it into the pool.

That is to say, the Son of God, Who intended to heal through Baptism, had not yet been made man.

But when He was made man, then He healed our nature and commanded us to take up our bed, that is, lift up our body from the earth, making it light and free, not weighted down by flesh and earthly cares, and raising it from slothfulness so that it is able to walk, which means, active in doing good.

The troubling of the water in the pool suggests the stirring up the evil spirits lurking in the waters of Baptism, crushing and choking them by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

May we also obtain healing, for we are paralyzed and motionless in the doing of anything good; we also have no man, that is, no human and rational thought, which distinguishes us from the irrational beasts, to carry us into the pool of tears of repentance, in which the first who enters is healed.

He who procrastinates and puts off his repentance until later, and does not hurry to repent now, does not obtain healing. Hasten to be the first to enter this pool, lest death overtake you.

And there is an angel which troubles this pool of repentance. What angel is it? The Angel of Great Counsel of the Father, Christ the Saviour. (see Is. 9:6).

For unless the divine Word touches our heart and troubles it with thought of the torments of the age to come, this pool cannot become active and effective, and there is no healing for the paralyzed soul.

The pool of repentance may also fittingly be called a sheep’s pool; for in it are washed like sheep the inward parts and thoughts of the saints who are made ready to become a living sacrifice pleasing to God, making them innocent and guileless.

May we also obtain healing, and afterwards be found in God’s holy temple, no longer stained by unholy thoughts, lest a worse thing, the eternal torments, come unto us.

Theophylact of Ohrid (1055-1107): Explanation of the Gospel of St John, on John 5:1-15 @ Chrysostom Press.

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