Diadochus of Photiké: Through peace of soul we must make ourselves a dwelling-place for the Holy Spirit Sunday, May 29 2016 

diadochus-of-photikeOnly the Holy Spirit can purify the intellect, for unless a greater power comes and overthrows the despoiler, what he has taken captive will never be set free (cf Luke 11:21-22).

In every way, therefore, and especially through peace of soul, we must make ourselves a dwelling-place for the Holy Spirit.

Then we shall have the lamp of spiritual knowledge burning always within us;

and when it is shining constantly in the inner shrine of the soul, not only will the intellect (Greek: ὁ νοῦς)** [see footnote] perceive all the dark and bitter attacks of the demons, but these attacks will be greatly weakened when exposed for what they are by that glorious and holy light.

That is why the Apostle says: ‘Do not quench the Spirit’ (1 Thess. 5:19), meaning: ‘Do not grieve the goodness of the Holy Spirit by wicked actions or wicked thoughts, lest you be deprived of this protecting light.’

The Spirit, since He is eternal and life-creating, cannot be quenched; but if He is grieved – that is if He withdraws – He leaves the intellect without the light of spiritual knowledge, dark and full of gloom.

The loving and Holy Spirit of God teaches us, as we have said, that the perceptive faculty natural to our soul is single; indeed, even the five bodily senses differ from each other only because of the body’s varying needs.

But this single faculty of perception is split because of the dislocation which, as a result of Adam’s disobedience, takes place in the intellect through the modes in which the soul now operates.

Thus one side of the soul is carried away by the passionate part in man, and we are then captivated by the good things of this life, but the other side of the soul frequently delights in the activity of the intellect and, as a result, when we practice self-restraint, the intellect longs to pursue heavenly beauty.

If, therefore, we learn persistently to be detached from the good things of this world, we shall be able to unite the earthly appetite of the soul to its spiritual and intellectual aspiration, through the communion of the Holy Spirit who brings this about within us.

For unless His divinity actively illumines the inner shrine of our heart, we shall not be able to taste God’s goodness with the perceptive faculty undivided, that is, with unified aspiration.

Diadochus of Photiké (c.400-before 486): On Spiritual Perfection chs 28-29, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979).

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

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Gregory Palamas: “God is glorious in his saints” Saturday, Nov 14 2015 

Gregory_PalamasLet us call to mind the martyrs’ superhuman struggles, how in the weakness of their flesh they put to shame the evil one’s strength, disregarding pain and wounds…, and keeping the confession of faith in Christ in its integrity – complete, unharmed and unshaken.

As a result there were bestowed on them the incontrovertible wisdom of the Spirit and the power to work miracles.

Let us consider the patience of holy men and women, how they willingly endured long periods of fasting, vigil and various other physical hardships as though they were not in the body, battling to the end against evil passions and all sorts of sin, in the invincible inner warfare against principalities, powers and spiritual wickedness (Eph. 6:12).

They wore away their outer selves and made them useless, but their inner man was renewed and deified by Him from whom they also received gifts of healing and mighty works.

When we think on these matters and understand that they surpass human nature, we are filled with wonder and glorify God who gave them such grace and power. For even if their intentions were good and noble, without God’s strength they could not have gone beyond the bounds of their nature and driven away the bodiless enemy while clothed in their bodies.

That is why, when the psalmist and prophet declared “God is glorious in his saints”, he went on to say, “he giveth strength and power unto his people” (Ps. 68:35 LXX). Carefully consider the force of these prophetic words. Whereas God, according to the psalmist, gives all his people strength and power – for He shows no partiality (cf. Acts 10:34) – He is glorified only in His saints.

The sun pours down its rays abundantly upon all alike, but they are visible only to those with open eyes. Those with clear-sighted, pure eyes benefit from the pure light of the sun, not those whose vision is dimmed because illness, mist or something similar has afflicted their eyes. In the same way, God richly bestows His help on all, for He is the ever-flowing, enlightening and saving fount of mercy and goodness.

But not everyone takes advantage of His grace and power to practise and perfect virtue or show forth miracles – only those with a good intent, who demonstrate their love and faith towards God by good works (cf. Jas. 2:20-26), who turn away completely from everything base, hold fast to God’s commandments and lift up the eyes of their understanding to Christ the Sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2).

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 15, @ Diakonima, from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (2009 and 2014) and On the Saints: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas (2008).

John Cassian: Dejection Monday, Apr 7 2014 

Sf-IoanCasianWe have to resist the pangs of gnawing dejection.

For if this, through separate attacks made at random, and by haphazard and casual changes, has secured an opportunity of gaining possession of our mind, it keeps us back at all times from all insight in divine contemplation, and utterly ruins and depresses the mind that has fallen away from its complete state of purity.

It does not allow it to say its prayers with its usual gladness of heart, nor permit it to rely on the comfort of reading the sacred writings, nor suffer it to be quiet and gentle with the brethren;

it makes it impatient and rough in all the duties of work and devotion: and, as all wholesome counsel is lost, and steadfastness of heart destroyed, it makes the feelings almost mad and drunk, and crushes and overwhelms them with penal despair.

Wherefore if we are anxious to exert ourselves lawfully in the struggle of our spiritual combat we ought with no less care to set about healing this malady also. For “as the moth injures the garment, and the worm the wood, so dejection the heart of man.”

With sufficient clearness and appropriateness has the Divine Spirit expressed the force of this dangerous and most injurious fault. For the garment that is moth-eaten has no longer any commercial value or good use to which it can be put; and in the same way the wood that is worm-eaten is no longer worth anything for ornamenting even an ordinary building, but is destined to be burnt in the fire.

So therefore the soul also which is a prey to the attacks of gnawing dejection will be useless for that priestly garment which, according to the prophecy of the holy David, the ointment of the Holy Spirit coming down from heaven, first on Aaron’s beard, then on his skirts, is wont to assume: as it is said, “It is like the ointment upon the head which ran down upon Aaron’s beard, which ran down to the skirts of his clothing.”

Nor can it have anything to do with the building or ornamentation of that spiritual temple of which Paul as a wise master builder laid the foundations, saying, “Ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you:” and what the beams of this are like the bride tells us in the Song of Songs: “Our rafters are of cypress: the beams of our houses are of cedar.”

And therefore those sorts of wood are chosen for the temple of God which are fragrant and not liable to rot, and which are not subject to decay from age nor to be worm-eaten.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Institutes 9, 1-3.

Bede the Venerable: St Cuthbert and the Hermitage of Farne Thursday, Mar 20 2014 

icon_bede-March 20th is the feast of St Cuthbert….

When Cuthbert had remained some years in the monastery, he was rejoiced to be able at length, with the blessing of the abbot and brethren accompanying him, to retire to the secrecy of solitude which he had so long coveted.

He rejoiced that from the long conversation with the world he was now thought worthy to be promoted to retirement and Divine contemplation: he rejoiced that he now could reach to the condition of those of whom it is sung by the Psalmist: “The holy shall walk from virtue to virtue; the God of Gods shall be seen in Zion.”

At his first entrance upon the solitary life, he sought out the most retired spot in the outskirts of the monastery. But when he had for some time contended with the invisible adversary with prayer and fasting in this solitude, he then, aiming at higher things, sought out a more distant field for conflict, and more remote from the eyes of men.

There is a certain island called Farne, in the middle of the sea, not made an island, like Lindisfarne, by the flow of the tide…, and then restored to the mainland at its ebb, but lying off several miles to the East, and, consequently, surrounded on all sides by the deep and boundless ocean.

No one, before God’s servant Cuthbert, had ever dared to inhabit this island alone, on account of the evil spirits which reside there: but when this servant of Christ came, armed with the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, all the fiery darts of the wicked were extinguished, and that wicked enemy, with all his followers, were put to flight.

Christ’s soldier, therefore, having thus, by the expulsion of the tyrants, become the lawful monarch of the land, built a city fit for his empire, and houses therein suitable to his city.

The building is almost of a round form, from wall to wall about four or five poles in extent: the wall on the outside is higher than a man, but within, by excavating the rock, he made it much deeper, to prevent the eyes and the thoughts from wandering, that the mind might be wholly bent on heavenly things, and the pious inhabitant might behold nothing from his residence but the heavens above him.

The wall was constructed, not of hewn stones or of brick and mortar, but of rough stones and turf, which had been taken out from the ground within. Some of them were so large that four men could hardly have lifted them, but Cuthbert himself, with angels helping him, had raised them up and placed them on the wall.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Life of St Cuthbert, 17 @ Mediaeval Sourcebook.

Mark the Hermit: Sin is a blazing fire: the less fuel you give it, the faster it dies down Wednesday, Mar 5 2014 

St Mark the AsceticMarch 5th is the feast of St Mark the Hermit (Mark the Ascetic).

When you sin, blame your thought, not your action.

For had your intellect not run ahead, your body would not have followed.

[…] He who secretly mingles his own wishes with spiritual counsel is an adulterer, as the Book of Proverbs indicates (cf. Prov. 6:32-33); and because of his stupidity he suffers pain and dishonor.

Just as water and fire cannot be combined, so self -justification and humility exclude one another.

He who seeks forgiveness of his sins loves humility, but if he condemns another he seals his own wickedness.

Do not leave unobliterated any fault, however small, for it may lead you on to greater sins.

If you wish to be saved, welcome words of truth, and never reject criticism uncritically.

[…] To accept words of truth is to accept the divine Word; for He says: ‘He that receives you receives me’ (Matt. 10:40).

[…] Those engaged in spiritual warfare practice self-control in everything, and do not desist until the Lord destroys all ‘seed from Babylon’ (Jer. 27:16. LXX).

[…] Sin is a blazing fire. The less fuel you give it, the faster it dies down: the more you feed it, the more it bums.

When elated by praise, be sure disgrace will follow; for it is said: ‘Whoever exalts himself will be abased’ (Luke 14:11).

When we have freed ourselves from every voluntary sin of the mind, we should then fight against the passions which result from prepossession.

Prepossession is the involuntary presence of former sins in the memory.

At the stage of active warfare we try to prevent it from developing into a passion; after victory it is repulsed while still but a provocation.

A provocation is an image-free stimulation in the heart.

Like a mountain-pass, the experienced take control of it ahead of the enemy.

Once our thoughts are accompanied by images we have already given them our assent; for a provocation does not involve us in guilt so long as it is not accompanied by images.

Some people flee away from these thoughts like ‘a brand plucked out of the fire’ (Zech. 3:2); but others dally with them, and so get burnt.

Do not say: ‘I don’t want it, but it happens.’ For even though you may not want the thing itself, yet you welcome what causes it.

He who seeks praise is involved in passion; he who laments afflictions is attached to sensual pleasure.

The thoughts of a self-indulgent man vacillate, as though on scales; sometimes he laments and weeps for his sins, and sometimes he fights and contradicts his neighbor, justifying his own sensual pleasures.

Mark the Hermit (5th-6th c.): On The Spiritual Law, 119, 124-128, 130, 134, 136-144, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp. 118-120.

Nil Sorsky: Godly Sorrow Produces a Repentance that Leads to Salvation; Worldly Sorrow Produces Death Wednesday, Mar 5 2014 

Nil_SorskyWe have a great struggle to wage against the evil spirit of sorrow, which brings the soul into despair and perdition.

If the sorrow is occasioned by other people, we have to suffer it with joy, and pray for those who have saddened us, as I said before, bearing in mind that whatever befalls us does so with God’s sanction.

Whatever the Lord sends us, He does only for the benefit and salvation of our soul.

It may be that, in the beginning, it doesn’t seem to bring us any benefit, but later we’ll realize that what God has allowed us to go through has been better for us than what we ourselves would have wanted to happen.

So we shouldn’t think in human terms, but should believe with certainty that the unsleeping eye of God sees all things and that nothing happens without His will.

It’s from the wealth of His mercy that these situations and temptations happen to us, so that we can earn our heavenly reward through our patience.

Because without temptations, no-one has ever been crowned.

This is why we should offer glory to God for everything, because He is our Dispenser and Saviour, as Saint Isaac the Syrian says: “The mouth that glorifies God is acceptable to God, and grace dwells in the heart which thanks God from its depths”.

Besides, we should avoid complaints and judgements against those who’ve saddened us and should pray for them, as the same saint says: God puts up with all the weaknesses that people have, but those who continually censure other people won’t go without correction.

Though we must have the soul-saving sorrow over the sins we commit, with hope in our repentance to God and in the knowledge that there’s no sin which defeats God’s love for us, since He forgives everyone who repents sincerely and prays to Him.

This sorrow is linked to joy (joyful sadness) and kindles in people the desire for everything spiritual and gives them patience in their trials. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death”, says Saint Paul (2 Cor. 7, 10).

So we should seek godly sorrow, because it brings internal repose, whereas the grief that proceeds from Satan should be expelled from our hearts, together with all the other passions, through prayer, the study of sacred texts and the receiving of Holy Communion.

Grief which is not from God and for the love of God is the cause of all evils, and, unless we free ourselves from it, despair will overcome us and our soul will be devoid of grace, overwhelmed with sloth and won’t even want to pray or read our sacred books.

Nil Sorsky (Russian Orthodox; c. 1433–1508): The Passions of Avarice, Anger, Sorrow and Sloth @ Pemptousia.

A Greek Writer of the Fourth Century: Filled through the Holy Spirit to the Complete Fullness of Christ Monday, Feb 10 2014 

Fathers_of_the_ChurchThose who have been found worthy to become children of God and also to be born again through the Holy Spirit, those who carry Christ within them, shining within them and renewing them – these people are guided by the Spirit in various ways and led forward by grace working invisibly in the inner peace of their hearts.

Sometimes they are, as it were, in mourning and lamentation for the whole human race.

They utter prayers for all mankind and fall back in tears and lamentation. They are on fire with spiritual love for all humanity.

Sometimes they burn, through the Spirit, with such love and exultation that they would embrace all mankind if they could, without discrimination, good and bad alike.

Sometimes they are cast down by humility, down below the least of men, as they consider themselves to be in the lowest, the most abject of conditions.

Sometimes the Spirit keeps them in a state of inextinguishable and unspeakable gladness.

Sometimes they are like some champion who puts on a full suit of royal armour and plunges into battle, combats his enemies fiercely and at length vanquishes them.

For in the same way the spiritual champion, wearing the heavenly armour of the Spirit, attacks his enemies and, winning the battle, treads them underfoot.

Sometimes their soul is in the deepest silence, stillness and peace, experiencing nothing but spiritual delight and ineffable power: the best of all possible states.

Sometimes their soul is in a state of understanding and boundless wisdom and attention to the inscrutable Spirit, taught by grace things that neither tongue nor lips can describe.

And sometimes their soul is in a state just like anyone else’s.  Thus grace is poured into them in different ways, and by different paths it leads the soul, renewing it according to God’s will.

It guides it by various paths until it is made whole, sinless and stainless before the heavenly Father.

Therefore let us pray to God, pray with great love and hope, that he may give us the heavenly grace of the Spirit.

Let us pray that the Spirit may guide us and lead us, following God’s will in every way, and may re-make us in stillness and in quiet.

Thanks to his guidance and spiritual strengthening, may we be found worthy to attain the perfection and fullness of Christ.

As St Paul says: that you may be filled to the complete fullness of Christ.

Anonymous Greek Writer (4th Century): Homily 18, 7-11 (PG 34, 639-642), from the Office of Readings for Friday of the 4th Week in Ordinary Time @ Universalis.

Guerric of Igny: “From the Days of John the Baptist Until Now the Kingdom of Heaven Suffereth Violence” Saturday, Feb 8 2014 

GuerricOn Genesis 32:22-33 and Matthew 11:12 (“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force”).

See also here (Gregory the Great) and here (Charles Wesley).

Did not the untiring wrestler, the patriarch Jacob, do violence to God?

As it is written, he was strong against God and prevailed, wrestled with him until morning perseveringly and with all his might held fast to him when he asked to be let go.

I will not let you go, he said, unless you bless me.

I say that he wrestled with God, for God was in the angel with whom he wrestled. Otherwise the angel would not say: Why do you ask for my name? and Jacob would not say: I have seen the Lord face to face.

It was a good sort of violence then that extorted a blessing; happy the wrestling in which God yielded to man and the vanquished rewarded the victor with the grace of a blessing and the honour of a holier name.

What if he touched the sinew of his thigh and it withered, and so he went limping? A man will readily sacrifice his body and soon be comforted for the harm done when it is compensated for by such a gift, especially the man who could say: I have loved wisdom more than health and all beauty.

Would that not only the sinew of my thigh but the strength of my whole body would wither, provided I might win but one blessing from an angel.

Would that I might not only limp with Jacob but also die with Paul so as to obtain the grace and name of Israel as an everlasting gift.

Jacob bears a withered hip, but Paul a dead body, because the mortification of the body’s members begun by the first practices of the prophets was brought to completion by the gospel.

Jacob goes limping, because in part his thoughts dwell on the things of the world while his other foot he bears raised up from the earth.

Paul’s thoughts dwell only on the things of God whether in the body or out of the body I know not, God knows; he is wholly free in spirit and flies up to heaven.

So to you, brethren, we say, you whose set purpose it is to win heaven by force, you who have come together to wrestle with the angel who guards the way to the tree of life, to you we say: it is wholly necessary that you should wrestle perseveringly and without remission.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 2 on the Feast of the Nativity of St  John the Baptist (PL 185, 167-169), @ Dom Donald’s Blog.

Silouan the Athonite: Lord will give you His Grace, and you will know Him through the Holy Spirit Tuesday, Feb 4 2014 

Silouan the AthoniteThe Lord is love; and He commanded us to love one another and to love our enemies.

And the Holy Spirit teaches us this love.

The soul that has not come to know the Holy Spirit does not understand how it is possible to love one’s enemies, and will not receive this commandment.

But in the Lord is pity for all men, and he who would be with the Lord must love his enemies.

How may we know whether the Lord loves us or no?

Here are tokens: If you battle firmly against sin the Lord loves you.

If you love your enemies you are even more beloved of God.

And if you lay down your life for others you are greatly beloved of the Lord, who Himself laid down His life for us.

The man who has known the Lord through the Holy Spirit becomes like unto the Lord, as St John the Divine said: ‘We shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.’ And we shall behold his glory.

Many numbers of people, you say, are suffering every kind of adversity and from evil men.

But I entreat you: Humble yourself beneath the strong hand of God, and grace will be your teacher and you yourself will long to suffer for the sake of the love of the Lord.

That is what the Holy Spirit, whom we have come to know in the Church, will teach you.

But the man who cries out against evil men, who does not pray for them will never know the grace of God.

If you would know of the Lord’s love for us, hate sin and wrong thoughts, and day and night pray fervently.

The Lord will then give you His grace, and you will know Him through the Holy Spirit, and after death, when you enter into paradise, there too you will know the Lord through the Holy Spirit, as you knew Him on earth.

We do not need riches or learning in order to know the Lord: we must simply be obedient and sober, have a humble spirit and love our fellow-men.

The Lord will love a soul that does this, and of His own accord make Himself manifest to her and instruct her In love and humility, and give her all things necessary for her to find rest in God.

Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938; Eastern Orthodox): from St. Silouan, Wisdom From Mount Athos – The Writings of Staretz Silouan 1866-1938, by Sofronii (Archimandrite), trans. Rosemary Edmonds, (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY 1974) pp. 19-23 @ Kandylaki.

Mark the Hermit: Love of Christ is tested by adversity Monday, Feb 3 2014 

St Mark the AsceticEvery thought has its weight and measure in God’s sight.

For it is possible to think about the same thing either passionately or objectively.

After fulfilling a commandment expect to be tempted: for love of Christ is tested by adversity.

Never belittle the significance of your thoughts, for not one escapes God’s notice.

[…] The enemy, understanding how the justice of the spiritual law is applied, seeks only the assent of our mind.

Having secured this, he will either oblige us to undergo the labors of repentance or, if we do not repent, will torment us with misfortunes beyond our control.

Sometimes he encourages us to resist these misfortunes so as to increase our torment, and then, at our death, he will point to this impatient resistance as proof of our lack of faith.

Many have fought in various ways against circumstances; but without prayer and repentance no one has escaped evil.

Evils reinforce each other; so do virtues, thus encouraging us to still greater efforts.

The devil belittles small sins; otherwise he cannot lead us into greater ones.

Praise from others engenders sinful desire, while their condemnation of vice, if not only heard but accepted, engenders self-restraint.

[…]  All vice is caused by self-esteem and sensual pleasure; you cannot overcome passion without hating them.

‘Avarice is the root of all evil’ (1 Tim. 6:10); but avarice is clearly a product of these two components.

The intellect is made blind by these three passions: avarice, self-esteem and sensual pleasure.

Scripture calls these three the daughters of the horseleech, dearly loved by their mother folly (cf. Prov. 30:15, LXX).

These three passions on their own dull spiritual knowledge and faith, the foster-brothers of our nature.

It is because of them that wrath, anger, war, murder and all other evils have such power over mankind.

We must hate avarice, self-esteem and sensual pleasure, as mothers of the vices and stepmothers of the virtues.

Because of them we are commanded not to love ‘the world’ and ‘the things that are in the world’ (1 John 2:15); not so that we should hate God’s creation through lack of discernment, but so that we should eliminate the occasions for these three passions.

‘The soldier going to war’, it is said, ‘does not entangle himself in the affairs of this world’ (2 Tim. 2:4).

For he who entangles himself with the passions while trying to overcome them is like a man who tries to put out a fire with straw.

Mark the Hermit (5th-6th c.): On The Spiritual Law, 87-89, 91-95, 99-107, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp. 116-117.

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