Ambrose of Milan: When can the upright man be alone, since he is always with God? Thursday, Apr 14 2016 

ambrose_of_milanThe prophet David taught us that we should go about in our heart as though in a large house; that we should hold converse with it as with some trusty companion.

He spoke to himself, and conversed with himself, as these words show: “I said, I will take heed to my ways” (Psalm 38:1).

Solomon his son also said: “Drink water out of thine own vessels, and out of the springs of thy wells” (Prov. 5:15); that is: use thine own counsel.

For: “Counsel in the heart of a man is as deep waters” (Prov. 20:5).

“Let no stranger,” it says, “share it with thee. Let the fountain of thy water be thine own, and rejoice with thy wife who is thine from thy youth. Let the loving hind and pleasant doe converse with thee” (Prov. 5:17-19).

[…] Moses…when silent, was crying out (Ex. 14:16); who, when he stood at ease, was fighting, nay, not merely fighting but triumphing over enemies whom he had not come near.

[…] Moses in his silence spoke, and in his ease laboured hard. And were his labours greater than his times of quiet, who, being in the mount for forty days, received the whole law? (Ex. 24:17). And in that solitude there was One not far away to speak with him.

Whence also David says: “I will hear what the Lord God will say within me” (Ps. 84:18). How much greater a thing is it for God to speak with any one, than for a man to speak with himself!

[…] When can the upright man be alone, since he is always with God? When is he left forsaken who is never separated from Christ?

“Who,” it says, “shall separate us from the love of Christ? I am confident that neither death nor life nor angel shall do so” (Rom. 8:35, 38).

And when can he be deprived of his labour who never can be deprived of his merits, wherein his labour receives its crown? By what places is he limited to whom the whole world of riches is a possession?

By what judgment is he confined who is never blamed by anyone? For he is “as unknown yet well known, as dying and behold he lives, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things” (2 Cor. 6:9ff).

For the upright man regards nothing but what is consistent and virtuous. And so although he seems poor to another, he is rich to himself, for his worth is taken not at the value of the things which are temporal, but of the things which are eternal.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On the Duties of the Clergy, book 3, chapter 1, 1-2,7.

Ignatius of Antioch: Faith and Love towards Christ Jesus are the Beginning and the End of Life Wednesday, Oct 30 2013 

Ignatius_of_AntiochTake heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise.

For when ye assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith.

Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all war, both in heaven and earth, is brought to an end.

None of these things is hid from you, if ye perfectly possess that faith and love towards Christ Jesus which are the beginning and the end of life.

For the beginning is faith, and the end is love. Now these two. being inseparably connected together, are of God, while all other things which are requisite for a holy life follow after them.

No man truly making a profession of faith sins; nor does he that possesses love hate any one.

The tree is made manifest by its fruit; so those that profess themselves to be Christians shall be recognised by their conduct. For there is not now a demand for mere profession, but that a man be found continuing in the power of faith to the end.

It is better for a man to be silent and be a Christian, than to talk and not to be one. It is good to teach, if he who speaks also acts. There is then one Teacher, who spake and it was done; while even those things which He did in silence are worthy of the Father.

He who possesses the word of Jesus, is truly able to hear even His very silence, that he may be perfect, and may both act as he speaks, and be recognised by his silence.

There is nothing which is hid from God, but our very secrets are near to Him. Let us therefore do all things as those who have Him dwelling in us, that we may be His temples, and He may be in us as our God, which indeed He is, and will manifest Himself before our faces. Wherefore we justly love Him.

[…] For this end did the Lord suffer the ointment to be poured upon His head, that He might breathe immortality into His Church. Be not ye anointed with the bad odour of the doctrine of the prince of this world; let him not lead you away captive from the life which is set before you.

And why are we not all prudent, since we have received the knowledge of God, which is Jesus Christ? Why do we foolishly perish, not recognising the gift which the Lord has of a truth sent to us?

Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 – c. 107): Letter to the Ephesians, 13-17 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Ambrose of Milan: “Who Shall Separate Us from the Love of Christ?” Monday, Sep 2 2013 

ambrose_of_milanDavid taught us that we should go about in our heart as though in a large house; that we should hold converse with it as with some trusty companion.

[…] Scipio…was not the first to know that he was not alone when he was alone, or that he was least at leisure when he was at leisure.

For Moses knew it before him, who, when silent, was crying out; who, when he stood at ease, was fighting, nay, not merely fighting but triumphing over enemies whom he had not come near.

So much was he at ease, that others held up his hands; yet he was no less active than others, for he with his hands at ease was overcoming the enemy, whom they that were in the battle could not conquer.

Thus Moses in his silence spoke, and in his ease laboured hard. And were his labours greater than his times of quiet, who, being in the mount for forty days, received the whole law?

And in that solitude there was One not far away to speak with him. Whence also David says: “I will hear what the Lord God will say within me.”

How much greater a thing is it for God to speak with any one, than for a man to speak with himself!

[…] Elisha rested in one place while the king of Syria waged a great war against the people of our fathers, and was adding to its terrors by various treacherous plans, and was endeavouring to catch them in an ambush.

But the prophet found out all their preparations, and being by the grace of God present everywhere in mental vigour, he told the thoughts of their enemies to his countrymen, and warned them of what places to beware.

[…] Elisha was ever active. In solitude he divided Jordan on passing over it, so that the lower part flowed down, whilst the upper returned to its source. On Carmel he promises the woman, who so far had had no child, that a son now unhoped for should be born to her.

He raises the dead to life, he corrects the bitterness of the food, and makes it to be sweet by mixing meal with it. Having distributed ten loaves to the people for food, he gathered up the fragments that were left after they had been filled. … He changes leprosy for cleanness, drought for rain, famine for plenty.

When can the upright man be alone, since he is always with God? When is he left forsaken who is never separated from Christ? “Who,” it says, “shall separate us from the love of Christ? I am confident that neither death nor life nor angel shall do so.”

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On the Duties of the Clergy 3,1.

Peter Damian: St Romuald – Summit of Perfection Wednesday, Jun 19 2013 

PeterDamianRomuald lived in the vicinity of the city of Parenzo for three years.

In the first year he built a monastery and appointed an abbot with monks. For the next two years he remained there in seclusion.

In that setting, divine holiness transported him to such a summit of perfection that, breathed upon by the Holy Spirit, he foresaw many future events and comprehended with the rays of his intelligence hidden mysteries of the Old and New Testament.

Frequently he was seized by so great a contemplation of divinity that he would be reduced to tears with the boiling, indescribable heat of divine love.

In this condition he would cry out: Beloved Jesus, beloved, sweet honey, indescribable longing, delight of the saints, sweetness of the angels, and other things of this kind.

We are unable to express the ecstasy of these utterances, dictated by the Holy Spirit. Wherever the holy man might arrange to live, he would follow the same pattern.

First he would build an oratory with an altar in a cell; then he would shut himself in and forbid access.

Finally, after he had lived in many places, perceiving that his end was near, he returned to the monastery he had built in the valley of Castro.

While he awaited with certainty his approaching death, he ordered a cell to be constructed there with an oratory in which he might isolate himself and preserve silence until death.

Accordingly the hermitage was built, since he had made up his mind that he would die there. His body began to grow more and more oppressed by afflictions and was already failing, not so much from weakness as from the exhaustion of great age.

One day he began to feel the loss of his physical strength under all the harassment of increasingly violent afflictions. As the sun was beginning to set, he instructed two monks who were standing by to go out and close the door of the cell behind them; they were to come back to him at daybreak to celebrate matins.

They were so concerned about his end that they went out reluctantly and did not rest immediately. On the contrary, since they were worried that their master might die, they lay hidden near the cell and watched this precious treasure. For some time they continued to listen attentively until they heard neither movement nor sound.

Rightly guessing what had happened, they pushed open the door, rushed in quickly, lit a candle and found the holy man lying on his back, his blessed soul snatched up into heaven. As he lay there, he seemed like a neglected heavenly pearl that was soon to be given a place of honour in the treasury of the King of kings.

Peter Damian (c.1007-1072): Life of St Romuald, chapters 39 and 61 @ Universalis.

Humbert of Romans: Through Silence the Heart is Quieted and the Mind is Raised More Quickly to Contemplation. Friday, Oct 19 2012 

“Peace is preserved by silence and the mind raised up by contemplation.”

A brother should never pass over in silence what needs to be said, nor say what should not he spoken.

When a brother intends to speak, Let him first consider his words in his heart that he may express honorably, moderately, truthfully and kindly what it is he wishes to say.

For the tongue is deceitful, puffed up, inflamed with duplicity, and hateful to God and humankind.

Dearly beloved, consider carefully what you say, to whom, when or where, how or how much, and certainly why you say it.

Otherwise, if the proper circumstances are lacking, your speech may give rise to a bad conscience in your own heart or to scandal in the heart of your hearer.

[…] Do not do battle with words, nor worry about gaining victory in disputes. Always avoid words which are damaging to the speaker or to the listener.

One should keep away from speech which is not a credit to the one who speaks, or to the one who listens, or to the one about whom a person speaks.

[…] When another has begun to speak, we should be silent, lest we appear to interrupt what the person has to say.

When we sense that our audience is not prepared for what we have to say, we should refrain from speech.

At times we should keep silence to avoid loquaciousness or because we have not yet formulated in a suitable manner what we wish to say.

[…] When we wish to speak for our own edification, let us speak of those whose teaching

can lead us to virtue. When we speak for the edification of others, let us turn to those

whom we hope can be converted by our exhortation.

[…] May you avoid every word that is bitter, proud, disparaging, flattering, vicious, sworn by oaths, superfluous, or careless.

As you ought not speak ill of those who are absent, so you should not laugh at those who are present. Do not jest with those who are senseless, nor envy the learned.

Keep silent about trivialities; speak about what will bear fruit. In your conversation do not keep your heart on your tongue, but rather check your tongue with your heart.

Surely when you come to speak, you can offer a few words that are intelligible. Love quiet

reflection; flee the business of the world.

Through silence the heart is quieted, pain is avoided, peace is maintained, and the mind is raised more quickly to contemplation.

The more you withdraw from the noise of business, the closer will God be to you.

Humbert of Romans (c.1200-1277): From the letter On Regular Observance, from the Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers.

Bernard of Clairvaux: Christ Demands Solitude of the Spirit Monday, Aug 20 2012 

“Thy cheeks are beautiful as the turtledove’s, thy neck as jewels” (Song of Songs 1:9).

To seek God for his own sake alone, this is to possess two cheeks made most beautiful by the two elements of intention.

This is the bride’s own special gift, the source of that unique prerogative by which she may be told with all propriety: “Your cheeks are beautiful as the turtle dove’s.”

But why as the turtle dove’s? This is a chaste little bird that leads a retired life, content to live with one mate; if it loses this mate it does not seek another but lives alone thenceforward.

[…] You who are moved by the urgings of the Holy Spirit and long to perform all that is required of one who would be the bride of God should strive to ensure that both elements of your intention are like two beautiful cheeks.

Then, in imitation of that most chaste of birds, and following the advice of the Prophet, abide in solitude because you have raised yourself above yourself.

You are well above yourself when espoused to the Lord of angels; surely you are above yourself when joined to the Lord and become one spirit with him?

Live alone therefore like the turtle dove. Avoid the crowds, avoid the places where men assemble; forget even your people and your father’s house and the king will desire your beauty.

Holy soul, remain alone, so that you might keep yourself for him alone whom you have chosen for yourself out of all that exist.

Avoid going abroad, avoid even the members of your household; withdraw from friends and those you love, not excepting the man who provides for your needs.

Can you not see how shy your Love is, that he will never come to you when others are present?

Therefore you must withdraw, mentally rather than physically, in your intention, in your devotion, in your spirit.

For Christ the Lord is a spirit before your face, and he demands solitude of the spirit more than of the body, although physical withdrawal can be of benefit when the opportunity offers, especially in time of prayer.

To do this is to follow the advice and example of the Bridegroom, that when you want to pray you should go into your room, shut the door and then pray.

And what he said he did. He spent nights alone in prayer, not merely hiding from the crowds but even from his disciples and familiar friends.

He did indeed take three of his friends with him when the hour of his death was approaching; but the urge to pray drew him apart even from them.

You too must act like this when you wish to pray.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermons on the Song of Songs, 40, 4.

Aelred of Rievaulx: “They shall Beat their Swords into Ploughshares and their Spears into Sickles” Friday, Dec 2 2011 

Rievaulx Abbey

Our way of life is a strongly fortified city surrounded on all sides by sound observances which, like walls and towers, rise up to prevent our enemy from deceiving us and enticing us away from our Emperor’s army.

What a wall poverty is! How well it defends us against the pride of the world, against harmful and ruinous vanities and superfluities.

What a tower silence is! It repels the assaults of contention, quarrelling, dissension, and detraction.

What about obedience, humility, cheap clothing? What about a restricted diet? They are walls, they are towers against vices, against the attacks of our enemies.

In this city we declare ourselves, not Romans, but angelic beings. For these observances demonstrate that we belong to the fellowship of the angels and are not among the slaves of the Romans.

When we make profession of this way of life the words of Isaiah are fulfilled: They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles.

Then he goes on: Nation shall not lift sword against nation nor ever again be trained for war.

[…] Let us think about the sword of which the Lord said: Everyone who takes up the sword will perish by the sword, and the ploughshares by which the earth of our heart is broken, in accordance with the text: Rend your hearts and not your garments.

And we shall see at the present time countless persons changing their swords into ploughshares.

The sword is wrongdoing. With this sword a person wounds himself before he does anyone else; as Saint Augustine says:

‘Every person who is a wrongdoer harms himself before he harms anyone else because, even before he injures the other person, by making up his mind to injure someone else he injures himself, slaying himself with the sword of wrongdoing.

This is the sword of which the Lord says to Peter: Everyone who takes up the sword will perish by the sword.

How many there are, brothers, who at the present time are beating this sword of wrongdoing into the ploughshare of compunction!

Many who have previously killed their soul with the sword of sin now rend their heart by the compunction of penance.

Many today are also changing their spears – that is, the subtlety of their wits by which they used to drag many others down into sin with them – into sickles with which they are reaping a spiritual harvest so that they may come to meet the Lord bearing in their hands the sheaves of justice and salvation.

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): The Liturgical Sermons 3.7-13, tr. Berkeley & Pennington (2001), from Cistercian Fathers 58, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Monday in 1st Week of Advent, Year 2.

Guerric of Igny: The Eternal Word Constrains Himself to Silence Saturday, Oct 1 2011 

GuerricOf all the human weaknesses or injuries which God deigned to bear for us, the first in time and, one might say, the greatest in humility, was, I think, that the majesty which knows no bounds allowed itself to be conceived in the womb and to be confined in the womb for the space of nine months.

Where else did he so empty himself out, or when was he seen so completely eclipsed?

For so long a time Wisdom says nothing, Power works nothing that can be discerned.

The majesty which lies hidden and enclosed is not betrayed by any visible sign. He was not seen so weak on the Cross.

What was weak in him immediately appeared stronger than all men, when he glorified the thief as he died and with his last breath breathed faith into the centurion.

The sorrow of the hour of his passion not only made the elements of creation suffer with him but also subjected the opposing powers to a passion of timeless sorrow.

On the other hand in the womb he is as if he were not. Almighty power lies idle as if it could do nothing. The eternal Word constrains himself to silence.

But to you, brethren, to you that silence of the Word speaks, to you it cries out, to you to be sure it recommends the discipline of silence.

For in silence and hope shall be your strength as Isaiah promises, a man who defined the pursuit of justice as silence.

As that Child in the womb advanced towards birth in a long, deep silence, so does the discipline of silence nourish, form and strengthen a man’s spirit, and produce growth which is the safer and more wholesome for being the more hidden.

Mere man with his natural gifts, who does not take in the thoughts of God’s Spirit, does not know the way of the Spirit and how bones are built up in the womb of a woman with child.

But my body was not hidden from you, the Holy Man tells God, the body you made for me in the mind’s hidden depth under the pall of silence.

Neither from you is this mystery hidden, my brethren.

You have shared your experience with me and have told me how a quiet and dis­ciplined spirit is strengthened, grows fat and flourishes in silence, and how on the contrary by speaking it is broken up and dislocated as if by paralysis, grows thin and withers and dries up.

If there was not strength in silence Solomon would not have said: Like an open city without any encompassing walls, so is the man who cannot restrain his spirit from speaking.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Third Sermon for the Annunciation, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Monday in 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Gregory the Great: The Wall of Silence and the City of the Mind Saturday, Feb 26 2011 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistContinued from here…

Those who spend time in much speaking are to be admonished that they vigilantly note from what a state of rectitude they fall away when they flow abroad in a multitude of words.

For the human mind, after the manner of water, when closed in, is collected unto higher levels, in that it seeks again the height from which it descended.

And, when let loose, it falls away in that it disperses itself unprofitably through the lowest places.

For by as many superfluous words as it is dissipated from the censorship of its silence, by so many streams, as it were, is it drawn away out of itself.

Whence also it is unable to return inwardly to knowledge of itself, because, being scattered by much speaking, it excludes itself from the secret place of inmost consideration.

But it uncovers its whole self to the wounds of the enemy who lies in wait, because it surrounds itself with no defence of watchfulness.

Hence it is written, As a city that lies open and without environment of walls, so is a man that cannot keep in his spirit in speaking (Prov. 25;28).

For, because it has not the wall of silence, the city of the mind lies open to the darts of the foe.

And, when by words it casts itself out of itself, it shows itself exposed to the adversary.

And he overcomes it with so much the less labour as with the more labour the mind itself, which is conquered, fights against itself by much speaking.

Moreover, since the indolent mind for the most part lapses by degrees into downfall, while we neglect to guard against idle words we go on to hurtful ones.

So that at first it pleases us to talk of other men’s affairs; afterwards the tongue gnaws with detraction the lives of those of whom we talk; but at last breaks out even into open slanders.

Hence are sown pricking thorns, quarrels arise, the torches of enmities are kindled, the peace of hearts is extinguished.

[…] Hence James says, If any man thinks himself to be religious, and bridles not his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is vain (James 1:26).

Hence the Truth in Person admonishes us, saying, Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment (Matt. 12:36).

[…] If then an account is required of idle discourse, let us weigh well what punishment awaits much speaking, in which there is also the sin of hurtful words.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Pastoral Rule, 3,14.

Gregory the Great: When Thought is Kept under Guard, the Heart which was Wont to Fly Away is Found Tuesday, Feb 15 2011 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistIt ought to be insinuated to the over-silent that while they shun some vices unadvisedly, they are, without its being perceived, implicated in worse.

For often from bridling the tongue overmuch they suffer from more grievous loquacity in the heart; so that thoughts seethe the more in the mind from being straitened by the violent guard of indiscreet silence.

And for the most part they overflow all the more widely as they count themselves the more secure because of not being seen by fault-finders without.

Whence sometimes a man’s mind is exalted into pride, and he despises as weak those whom he hears speaking.

And, when he shuts the mouth of his body, he is not aware to what extent through his pride he lays himself open to vices.

For his tongue he represses, his mind he exalts; and, little considering his own wickedness, accuses all in his own mind by so much the more freely as he does it also the more secretly.

The over-silent are therefore to be admonished that they might study anxiously to know, not only what manner of men they ought to exhibit themselves outwardly, but also what manner of men they ought to show themselves inwardly.

They must learn to fear more a hidden judgment in respect of their thoughts than the reproof of their neighbours in respect of their speeches.

For it is written, My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my prudence, that thou mayest guard thy thoughts (Prov. 5:1).

For, indeed, nothing is more fugitive than the heart, which deserts us as often as it slips away through bad thoughts.

For hence the Psalmist says, My heart hath failed me (Ps. 39:13).

And, when he returns to himself, he says, Thy servant hath found his heart to pray to Thee (2 Sam. 7:27).

When, therefore, thought is kept under guard, the heart which was wont to fly away is found.

Moreover, the over-silent for the most part, when they suffer some injustices, come to have a keener sense of pain from not speaking of what they endure.

For, were the tongue to tell calmly the annoyances that have been caused, the pain would flow away from the consciousness.

For closed sores torment the more; since, when the corruption that is hot within is cast out, the pain is opened out for healing.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Pastoral Rule, 3,14.

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