Macarius the Egyptian: Crucified with the crucified, glorified with Him that is glorified Tuesday, Nov 12 2013 

Macarius3How can anyone be poor in spirit, especially when he is inwardly conscious that he is a changed man, and has made progress, and has come to a knowledge and understanding which he did not possess before?

Until a man acquires these things and makes progress, he is not poor in spirit, but has some opinion of himself.

But when he comes to this understanding and point of progress, grace itself teaches him to be poor in spirit.

This means that a man being righteous and chosen of God does not esteem himself to be anything, but holds his soul in abasement and disregard, as if he knew nothing and had nothing, though he knows and has.

This is a fixed thing, like a law of nature, in the mind of men. Do you not see how our forefather Abraham, elect as he was, described himself as dust and ashes (Gen. 18:27), and David, anointed to be king, had God with him, and yet what does he say? “I am a worm and no man, a very scorn of men, and the outcast of the people (Ps. 22:6).

Those therefore who desire to be fellow-heirs with these, and fellow-citizens of the heavenly city, and to be glorified with them, ought to have this humility of mind, and not to think themselves to be anything, but to keep the heart contrite.

[…] All the righteous have gone the straight and narrow way. […] And the Lord of prophets and apostles Himself, how did He fare, as if He had forgotten His divine glory? He was made an example for us; He wore in mockery a crown of thorns upon His head ; He submitted to spittings, buffets, and the cross.

If God so fared on earth, thou oughtest also to copy Him. The apostles and the prophets fared thus, and we, if we would be built upon the foundation of the Lord and of the apostles, ought to copy them.

The apostle says by the Holy Spirit, “Be ye imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” But if thou lovest the glories of men, and desirest to be worshipped, and seekest repose, thou art turned out of the way.

It behoves thee to be crucified with the Crucified, to suffer with Him that suffered, that so thou mayest be glorified with Him that is glorified. The bride must needs suffer with the Bridegroom, and so become partner and fellow-heir with Christ.

It is not feasible, without sufferings, and without the rough, straight, narrow way, to enter into the city of the saints, and be at rest, and reign with the King to ages without end.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 12, 3-5, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

John Cassian: An incomprehensible and all-devouring flame… Thursday, Nov 7 2013 

Sf-IoanCasianSupplication is an imploring or petition concerning sins, in which one who is sorry for his present or past deeds asks for pardon….

Prayers are those by which we offer or vow something to God….

Intercessions we offer up for others….

Thanksgivings the mind in ineffable transports offers up to God.

[…] Supplication seems to belong more especially to beginners, who are still troubled by the stings and recollection of their sins.

Prayers belong to those who have already attained some loftiness of mind in their spiritual progress and the quest of virtue.

Intercessions belong to those who fulfil the completion of their vows by their works, and are so stimulated to intercede for others also through the consideration of their weakness, and the earnestness of their love.

Thanksgivings belong to those who have already torn from their hearts the guilty thorns of conscience.

Being now free from care, they can contemplate with a pure mind the beneficence of God and His compassions, which He has either granted in the past, or is giving in the present, or preparing for the future.

Thus they are borne onward with fervent hearts to that ardent prayer which cannot be embraced or expressed by the mouth of men.

Sometimes however the mind which is advancing to that perfect state of purity and which is already beginning to be established in it, will take in all these at one and the same time.

Like some incomprehensible and all-devouring flame, it will dart through them all and offer up to God inexpressible prayers of the purest force.

The Spirit Itself, intervening with groanings that cannot be uttered, while we ourselves understand not, pours forth these prayers to God, grasping at that hour and ineffably pouring forth in its supplications things so great that they cannot be uttered with the mouth nor even at any other time be recollected by the mind.

And thence it comes that in whatever degree any one stands, he is found sometimes to offer up pure and devout prayers.

Even in that first and lowly station which has to do with the recollection of future judgment, he who still remains under the punishment of terror and the fear of judgment is so smitten with sorrow for the time being that he is filled with no less keenness of spirit from the richness of his supplications than he who through the purity of his heart gazes on and considers the blessings of God and is overcome with ineffable joy and delight.

For, as the Lord Himself says, he begins to love the more, who knows that he has been forgiven the more.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 9, 11-15.

Seraphim of Sarov: The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins and the Acquisition of the Holy Spirit Monday, Sep 23 2013 

Seraphim_SarovskyOn the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matthew 15:1-13).

I think that what they were lacking was the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God.

These virgins practiced the virtues, but in their spiritual ignorance they supposed that the Christian life consisted merely in doing good works.

By doing a good deed they thought they were doing the work of God, but they cared little whether they acquired the grace of God’s Spirit.

These ways of life, based merely on doing good, without carefully testing whether they bring the grace of the Spirit of God, are mentioned in the patristic books: “There is another way which is deemed good in the beginning, but ends at the bottom of hell.”

[…] The acquisition of the Holy Spirit is, in a manner of speaking, the oil, which the foolish virgins lacked.

They were called foolish just because they had forgotten the necessary fruit of virtue, the grace of the Holy Spirit, without which no one is or can be saved, for: “Through the Holy Spirit every soul is quickened and through purification is exalted and illumined by the Triune Unity in a Holy mystery.”

The oil in the lamps of the wise virgins could burn brightly for a long time. So these virgins, with their bright lamps were able to meet the Bridegroom, who came at midnight.

With Him, they could enter the bridal chamber of joy. But the foolish ones, though they went to market to buy more oil, when their lamps were going out, were unable to return in time, for the door was already shut.

The market is our life; the door of the bridal chamber, which was shut and barred the way to the Bridegroom is human death; the wise and foolish virgins are Christian souls; the oil is not the good deeds, but the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God which is obtained through good deeds and which changes souls from one state to another

– such as, from a corruptible state to incorruptible state, from spiritual death to spiritual life, from darkness to light, from the stable of our being (where the passions are tied up like dumb animals and wild beasts) into a temple of the Divinity, the shining bridal chamber of eternal joy in Christ Jesus our Lord, the Creator, Redeemer and eternal Bridegroom of our souls.

How great is God’s compassion on our misery, that is to say, our inattention to His care for us, when God says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Rev. 3:20), meaning by “door” the course of our life which has not yet been closed by death! Oh, how I wish…that in this life you may always be in the Spirit of God!

Seraphim of Sarov (Orthodox Church; 1759-1833): On the Acquisition of the Holy Spirit.

Cyril of Jerusalem: The Coming of the Holy Spirit Wednesday, Jul 3 2013 

Cyril-of-JerusalemMany things are called spirits.

Thus an angel is called spirit, our soul is called spirit, and this wind which is blowing is called spirit.

Great virtue also is spoken of as spirit; and impure practice is called spirit; and a devil our adversary is called spirit.

[…] Concerning our soul the Scripture says, His spirit shall go forth, and he shall return to his earth….

And of the angels it is said in the Psalms, Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire.

[…]  And of good doctrine the Lord Himself says, The words that I have spoken unto you, they are spiritand they are life; instead of, “are spiritual.”

But the Holy Spirit is not pronounced by the tongue; but He is a Living Spirit, who gives wisdom of speech, Himself speaking and discoursing.

[…] But sin also is called spirit…, only in another and opposite sense…. The name “spirit” is given also to the unclean spirit, the devil; but with the addition of, “the unclean;” for to each is joined its distinguishing name, to mark its proper nature.

[…] Such is not the Holy Ghost; God forbid!  For His doings tend the contrary way, towards what is good and salutary.

First, His coming is gentle; the perception of Him is fragrant; His burden most light; beams of light and knowledge gleam forth before His coming.

He comes with the bowels of a true guardian:  for He comes to save, and to heal, to teach, to admonish, to strengthen, to exhort, to enlighten the mind, first of him who receives Him, and afterwards of others also, through him.

And as a man, who being previously in darkness then suddenly beholds the sun, is enlightened in his bodily sight, and sees plainly things which he saw not, so likewise he to whom the Holy Ghost is vouchsafed, is enlightened in his soul, and sees things beyond man’s sight, which he knew not; his body is on earth, yet his soul mirrors forth the heavens.

He sees, like Esaias, the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up; he sees, like Ezekiel, Him who is above the Cherubim; he sees like Daniel, ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; and the man, who is so little, beholds the beginning of the world, and knows the end of the world, and the times intervening, and the successions of kings—things which he never learned:  for the True Enlightener is present with him.

The man is within the walls of a house; yet the power of his knowledge reaches far and wide, and he sees even what other men are doing.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 16, 13,15,16.

Athanasius of Alexandria: We are Renewed in the Holy Spirit Tuesday, Apr 23 2013 

AthanasiusSt Paul says… ‘I myself with the mind serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin.’

[…] This God promised by Ezekiel, saying: ‘A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh, and I will put my Spirit within you.’

When has this been fulfilled, save when the Lord came and renewed all things by grace? … Our spirit is renewed; but the Holy Spirit is not simply spirit, but God says it is his Spirit, whereby ours is renewed.

As the Psalmist says in Psalm 103: ‘Thou shalt take away their spirit, and they shall die and return to their dust. Thou shalt put forth thy Spirit, and they shall be created, and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.’

But if it is by the Spirit of God that we are renewed, then the spirit here said to be created is not the Holy Spirit but our spirit…; the Holy Spirit is not created, but…it is our spirit which is renewed in him.

Of this spirit David also prayed in the Psalm: ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.’ Here he is said to create it, but aforetime, as Zechariah says, he formed it: ‘Stretching forth the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and forming the spirit of man within him.’

For when that which he formed aforetime had fallen he remade it, coming himself in the creature, when the Word became flesh; so that, in the words of the Apostle, ‘He might create in himself of the twain one new man, who after God had been created in righteousness and holiness of truth’.

For it was not as if another man had been created, other than he who from the beginning was made in God’s image.

But he was counselling them to receive the mind that was remade and renewed in Christ; as is once more made clear through Ezekiel, when he says: ‘Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God.’

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Letters to Serapion, 1.8-9.

John Maximovitch: Have You Ever Observed the Life of the Heart? Thursday, Mar 14 2013 

Saint John Maximovich Tobolsk editedFocus on the Eternal.

Just as a basic concern is to be careful of anything that might be harmful to our physical health, so our spiritual concern should watch out for anything that might harm our spiritual life and the work of faith and salvation.

Therefore, carefully and attentively assess your inner impulses: are they from God or from the spirit of evil?

Beware of temptations from this world and from worldly people; beware of hidden inner temptations that come from the spirit of indifference and carelessness in prayer, from the waning of Christian love.

If we turn our attention to our mind, we notice a torrent of successive thoughts and ideas.

This torrent is uninterrupted; it is racing everywhere and at all times: at home, in church, at work, when we read, when we converse.

“It is usually called thinking,” writes Bishop Theophan the Recluse, “But in fact it is a disturbance of the mind, a scattering, a lack of concentration and attention.”

The same happens with the heart. Have you ever observed the life of the heart? Try it even for a short time and see what you find.

Something unpleasant happens, and you get irritated; some misfortune occurs, and you pity yourself;

you see someone whom you dislike, and animosity wells up within you;

you meet one of your equals who has now outdistanced you on the social scale, and you begin to envy him;

you think of your talents and capabilities, and you begin to grow proud.

And all of this can pass through the heart in a matter of minutes.

For this reason one ascetic, who was extremely attentive to himself, was quite right in saying that “man’s heart is filled with poisonous serpents. Only the hearts of saints are free from these serpents, the passions.”

But such freedom is attained only through a long and difficult process of self-knowledge, working on oneself and being vigilant towards one’s inner life, i.e., the soul.

Be careful. Watch out for your soul! Turn your thoughts away from what will soon pass away and turn them toward what is eternal.

Here you will find the happiness that your soul seeks, that your heart thirsts for.

John Maximovitch (Orthodox Church; 1896-1966): Translated from Pravoslavnaya Rus and taken from Orthodox America, Vol. XIV, No. 2-3. Sept – Oct. 1993 @ Kandylaki.

Antony the Great: The Holy Spirit Teaches the Mind how to Heal all the Wounds of the Soul Thursday, Jan 17 2013 

saints_101_anthonyThese things I have said to you, beloved, that you may know how it is required of a man to repent in body and soul, and to purify them both.

And if the mind conquers in this contest, then it prays in the Spirit, and begins to expel from the body the passions of the soul which come to it from its own will.

Then the Spirit has a loving partnership with the mind, because the mind keeps the commandments which the Spirit has delivered to it.

And the Spirit teaches the mind how to heal all the wounds of the soul, and to rid itself of every one, those which are mingled in the members of the body, and other passions which are altogether outside the body, being mingled in the will.

And for the eyes it sets a rule, that they may see rightly and purely, and that in them there may be no guile.

After that is sets a rule also for the ears, how they may hear in peace, and no more thirst or desire to hear ill speaking, nor about the falls and humiliations of men;

but how they may rejoice to hear about good things, and about the way every man stands firm and about the mercy shown to the whole creation, which in these members once was sick.

Then again the Spirit teaches the tongue its own purity, since the tongue was sick with a great sickness.

For the sickness which afflicted the soul was expressed in speech through the tongue, which the soul used as its organ, and in this way a great sickness and wound was inflicted upon it, and especially through this member – the tongue – was the soul stricken.

The Apostle James testifies to us and says, “If any man thinketh himself to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (Jas. 1:26), And in another place he says, “The tongue is a little member, and defileth the whole body” (Jas. 3:5) – and much besides, which I cannot all quote now.

But if the mind is strengthened with the strength that it receives from the Spirit, first it is purified and sanctified, and learns discrimination in the words that it delivers to the tongue, that they may be without partiality and without self-will.

And so the saying of Solomon is fulfilled, “My words are spoken from God, there is nothing froward nor perverse in them” (Prov. 8:8). And in another place he says, “The tongue of the wise is healing” (Prov. 12:18); and much besides.

Antony the Great (c.251-356): Letter 1.

John of Karpathos: God, who does not despair of our salvation, says to us ‘You shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord’ Monday, Jan 14 2013 

johnkarpathosSometimes our soul grows despondent at the huge swarm of its sins and temptations, and says, ‘Our hope is gone and we are lost’ (Ezek. 37:11; LXX).

Yet God, who does not despair of our salvation, says to us: ‘You shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord’ (Ezek. 37:6).

To the soul that doubts how it can ever give birth to Christ through great acts of holiness, these words are said: ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon you’ (Luke 1:35).

Where the Holy Spirit is present, do not expect any more the sequence and laws of nature and habit.

The Holy Spirit whom we worship is all-powerful, and in an astonishing way He brings into existence what does not as yet exist within us.

The intellect (Greek: ὁ νοῦς)** [see footnote] that was previously defeated He now makes victorious: for the Paraclete who in compassion comes upon us from above ‘is higher than all’ (John 3:31), and He raises us above all natural impulses and demonic passions.

Struggle to preserve unimpaired the light that shines within your intellect.

If passion begins to dominate you when you look at things, this means that the Lord has left you in darkness; He has dropped the reins with which He was guiding you, and the light of your eyes is gone from you (cf. Ps. 38:10).

Yet even if this happens, do not despair or give up, but pray to God with the words of David: ‘O send out Thy light and Thy truth to me in my gloom, for Thou art the salvation of my countenance and my God’ (cf. Ps. 43:3, 5); ‘Thou shalt send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created; and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth’ (Ps. 104: 30; LXX).

Blessed is he who, with a hunger that is never satisfied, day and night throughout this present life makes prayer and the psalms his food and drink, and strengthens himself by reading of God’s glory in Scripture.

Such communion will lead the soul to ever-increasing joy in the age to come.

Do all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should not fall. But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest.

Even if you fall a thousand times because of the withdrawal of God’s grace, rise up again each time, and keep on doing so until the day of your death.

For it is written, ‘If a righteous man falls seven times’ – that is, repeatedly throughout his life – seven times ‘shall he rise again’ (Prov. 24: 16; LXX).

John of Karpathos (7th century): For the Encouragement of the Monks in India, 81-84, 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).

John Ruusbroec: By Gentleness and Kindness, Charity is Kept Quick and Fruitful Monday, Nov 26 2012 

From the renunciation of self-will springs patience.

[…] Patience is a peaceful endurance of all things that may befall a man either from God or from the creatures.

Nothing can trouble the patient man; neither the loss of earthly goods, of friends and kinsmen, nor sickness, nor disgrace, nor life, nor death, nor purgatory, nor devil, nor hell.

For he has abandoned himself in perfect charity to the will of God, and…everything that God imposes on him, in time and in eternity, is light to him.

By this patience a man is also adorned and armed against peevishness and sudden wrath, and impatience in suffering which often stir a man from within and from without, and lay him open to many temptations.

From this patience there spring meekness and kindliness, for none can be meek in adversity save the patient man.

Meekness gives a man peace and rest in all things.

For the meek man can bear provoking words and ways…and every kind of injustice towards himself and his friends, and yet in all things remain in peace; for meekness is peaceful endurance.

By meekness the irascible…power remains unmoved, in quietude; the desirous power is uplifted toward virtue; the rational power, perceiving this, rejoices.

And the conscience, tasting it, rests in peace; for the second mortal sin – anger, fury, or wrath – has been cast out.

For the Spirit of God dwells in the humble and the meek; and Christ says: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth – that is, their own nature and all earthly things…, and after that the Country of Life in Eternity.

Out of the same source wherein meekness takes its rise springs kindliness, for none can be kind save the meek man.

This kindness makes a man show a friendly face, and give a cordial response, and do compassionate deeds, to those who are quarrelsome, when he hopes that they will come to know themselves and mend their ways.

By gentleness and kindness, charity is kept quick and fruitful in man, for a heart full of kindness is like a lamp full of precious oil,

For the oil of mercy enlightens the erring sinner with good example, and with words and works of comfort it anoints and heals those whose hearts are wounded or grieved or perplexed.

And it is a fire and a light for those who dwell in the virtues, in the fire of charity; and neither jealousy nor envy can perturb it.

John Ruusbroec (1293-1381): The Spiritual Espousals, 1, 15-17.

Gregory of Nyssa: Dead to Sin and Alive in the Spirit Tuesday, Aug 28 2012 

Ecclesiastes says: There is a time to be born and a time to die.

[…] May we also receive the grace to be born at the right time and die at the opportune moment.

[…] It is necessary to inquire about what is the birth that happens at a right time and what is the death that comes at an opportune moment.

I believe that a birth is right and not out of its time when – as Isaiah says – someone has conceived out of the fear of God and through the travails of the soul in birth generates his own salvation.

For we are in a certain sense our own parents, when through the good disposition of our soul and complete freedom of our will we form and generate and bring ourselves to the light.

We do this by the fact that we bring God into ourselves, having become children of God, children of virtue, and children of the Most High.

On the other hand, we bring ourselves into the world out of due time and form ourselves in an imperfect and immature manner when there has not been formed in us the image of Christ, to use the words of the Apostle.

For it is necessary that the man of God be without reproach and perfect.

If the manner in which we are born at the right time is evident, equally clear to all is the way we die at the opportune moment and the way every moment was, in the eyes of Saint Paul, opportune for a good death.

For he cries out in his writing, pronouncing in a certain way an oath when he says: For your sake we are being slain all the day long. And we bear within our very selves the sentence of death.

Furthermore, the manner in which Paul dies each day is not obscure; he never lives in sin.

He always mortifies the members of the flesh and ever bears within him the mortification of the body of Christ, for he is always crucified with Christ and never lives for himself but ever has Christ living in him.

This in my opinion was the favourable death which was leading to true life.

In fact, he says: I will put to death and give life; in order that he may persuade others that it is really a gift of God to be dead to sin and to be alive in the Spirit.

The divine word – precisely because he has put to death – promises to give life.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): On Ecclesiastes 6 (PG 44:701-703); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Tuesday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2

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