Peter of Damascus: “I remembered God, and I rejoiced” Wednesday, Jul 13 2016 

peter_of_damascus“Rejoice in the Lord”, said St Paul (Phil. 3:1). And he was right to say, “in the Lord”.

For if our joy is not in the Lord, not only do we not rejoice, but in all probability we never shall.

Job, as he described the life of men, found it full of every kind of affliction (cf. Job 7:1-21), and so also did St Basil the Great.

St Gregory of Nyssa said that birds and other animals rejoice because of their lack of awareness, while man, being endowed with intelligence, is never happy because of his grief; for, he says, we shall not been found worthy even to have knowledge of the blessings we have lost.

For this reason nature teaches us rather to grieve, since life is full of pain and effort, like a state of exile dominated by sin.

But if a person is constantly mindful of God, he will rejoice: as the psalmist says, “I remembered God, and I rejoiced” (Ps. 77:3. LXX).

For when the intellect is gladdened by the remembrance of God, then it forgets the afflictions of this world, places its hope in Him, and is no longer troubled or anxious.

Freedom from anxiety makes it rejoice and give thanks; and the grateful offering of thanks augments the gifts of grace it has received. And as the blessings increase, so does the thankfulness, and so does the pure prayer offered with tears of joy.

Slowly the man emerges from the tears of distress and from the passions, and enters fully into the state of spiritual joy.

Through the things that bring him pleasure, he is made humble and grateful; through trials and temptations his hope in the world to come is consolidated; in both he rejoices, and naturally and spontaneously he loves God and all men as his benefactors.

He finds nothing in the whole of creation that can harm him. Illumined by the knowledge of God he rejoices in the Lord on account of all the things that He has created, marveling at the care He shows for His creatures.

The person who has attained spiritual knowledge not only marvels at visible things, but also is astounded by his perception of many essential things invisible to those who lack experience of this knowledge. Thus he looks with wonder not only on the light of day, but also at the night.

[…] In the words of the psalmist, “As you lie in bed, repent of what you say in your heart” (Ps. 4:4. LXX), that is, repent in the stillness of the night, remembering the lapses that occurred in the confusion of the day and disciplining yourself in hymns and spiritual songs (cf Col. 3:16).

Peter of Damascus (?12th Century): Twenty -Four Discourses: XXII – Joy; Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 3 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 260-261.

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

Philoxenus of Mabbug: For the giving of thanks have we received speech from God our Creator Sunday, Jun 5 2016 

philoxenos_of_mabbugFaith…makes certain that God is, and enquires not.

It holds His words to be sure and seeks not to investigate His nature.

It hearkens to His words, and judges not His deeds and actions.

[…] When it is God Himself who speaks, and the Lord of the universe Who says that He will perform it, it is necessary for us to believe.

For it is sufficient for the persuading of our faith that it is God Himself Who speaks and will perform.

And man has not the power to judge His will; for how can man who hath been made judge the will of Him that created him?

For as the vessel cannot chide the handicraftsman and ask why he hath thus formed it, or judge any of his works, so also is it with man who is a rational vessel, and has no power to chide the Workman Who made him.

And although man possesses the speech of knowledge, it was given to him not so that he could  judge the will of Him that made him, but that he might be a panegyrist of the knowledge which formed him.

For the rational man is farther removed from the power of scrutinizing His Creator than is the speechless vessel from the power of criticising him that made it.

For the giving of thanks have we received speech from God our Creator, and in order that we may admire His created things He has placed in us thoughts of knowledge.

He has made us to possess a sense of wisdom so that we may perceive Him and He has placed within our soul the sense of discernment so that we may receive a foretaste of His gracious acts.

He has given to us the eye of faith which can see deeply into His secret things so that we may see Him in His works.

God is too great to be investigated by the thoughts, and His dispensation surpasses the seeking out of speech. And with His nature go also His works. For, as His nature is inscrutable, so also the deeds and actions of His nature cannot be sought out.

[…] As He cannot be judged by us as to why He has made us in this form, and why He has formed us, and placed us in the world in this order of constitution, so also none of His wishes can be found fault with by us, either as to why He willed thus, or why He performed thus.

Philoxenus of Mabbug (d. 523): Discourse 2 – on Faith [adapted].

Isaac the Syrian: Prayer is a joy that gives place to thanksgivings Thursday, Jan 28 2016 

Isaac_the_SyrianPrayer is a joy that gives place to thanksgivings.

[…] This prayer that gives place to thanksgiving, in which a man does not pray nor act as in the other passionate prayers which he prayed, perceiving grace, consists therein that in the heart, which is filled with joy and ecstasy, frequently emotions of thanksgivings and gratitude stir themselves, in the silence of kneelings.

Then, on account of the inner ardour, which is set in motion by wonder at the understanding of God’s bounties, he will of a sudden raise up his voice and praise without being wearied, while the inner ardour gives place to thanksgivings also of the tongue; and so he will give utterance to his feelings long and wonderfully.

Whoever has experienced these things clearly, not dimly, and has noted them with intelligence, will understand when I say that it occurs without variation, for it has been experienced many times.

And furthermore such a man will leave idle things and be constantly with God, without a break, in constant prayer, fearing that he will be bereft of the current of its helping forces.

All these beautiful things are born from a man’s perceiving his own weakness. For from this, because of his longing for help, he turns to God with beseechings. And as he brings near his spirit unto God, God comes nigh unto him with His gifts.

And He does not take away from him His inspiration, because of his great humility. For as a widow unto the judge, he cries at all times: avenge me on my adversary. Therefore God, the merciful, necessarily will delay his petitions, that he have the better reason to approach unto Him.

And because of his need he will constantly remain at the fountain of help, while God grants some of his demands quickly, others not: He grants those concerning which He knows that they are necessary for life, the rest He delays.

And in some cases He withholds from him the ardour of his enemies, and in others He gives an opening to temptations, that this, as I have said, should be a cause for approaching unto God, and that he should become prudent by temptations.

And this is what is said in the scripture: The Lord left many peoples and He did not destroy them at once, nor did He give them into the hand of Joshua, in order to test Israel by them so that the generations of the children of Israel should learn war (cf. Judges 3:1-2).

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Mystic Treatises, 8, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck, pp. 72-73.

John Chrysostom: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” Monday, Dec 14 2015 

Chrysostom3Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice….

The Lord is at hand. In nothing be anxious;

but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God (Philippians 4:4-6).

“Blessed are they that mourn” and “woe unto them that laugh” (Matt. 5:4; Luke 6:25), says Christ.

How then does Paul say “rejoice in the Lord always”?

“Woe to them that laugh,” said Christ, the laughter of this world which arises from the things which are present.

He blessed also those that mourn, not simply for the loss of relatives, but those who are pricked at heart, who mourn their own faults, and take count of their own sins, or even those of others.

This joy is not contrary to that grief, but from that grief it too is born. For he who grieves for his own faults, and confesses them, rejoices. Moreover, it is possible to grieve for our own sins, and yet to rejoice in Christ.

Because…they were afflicted by their sufferings – “for to you it is given not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Philip. 1:29) – therefore does he say “rejoice in the Lord.”

For this can but mean: “if you exhibit such a life that you may rejoice”. Or “when your communion with God is not hindered, rejoice”. Or else the word “in” may stand for “with” – as if he had said “with the Lord.”

“Always; again I will say, Rejoice.” These are the words of one who brings comfort; as, for example, he who is in God rejoices always. Although he be afflicted, whatever he may suffer, such a man always rejoices.

Hear what Luke says, that “they returned from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be scourged for His name” (Acts 5:41).

If scourging and bonds, which seem to be the most grievous of all things, bring forth joy, what else will be able to produce grief in us?

[…] Behold another consolation, a medicine which heals grief, and distress, and all that is painful. And what is this? Prayer, thanksgiving in all things.

And so He wills that our prayers should not simply be requests, but thanksgivings too for what we have. For how should he ask for future things, who is not thankful for the past? “But in everything by prayer and supplication.”

Wherefore we ought to give thanks for all things, even for those which seem to be grievous, for this is the part of the truly thankful man. In the other case the nature of the things demands it; but this springs from a grateful soul, and one earnestly affected toward God.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on St Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, 14, 4 (on Philippians 4:4-6); slightly adapted).

Peter of Damascus: We ought all of us always to give thanks to God Friday, Nov 27 2015 

peter_of_damascusMen have four different attitudes towards sensible realities.

Some, like the demons, hate God’s works, and they commit evil deliberately.

Others, like the irrational animals, love these works because they are attractive, but their love is full of passion and they make no effort to acquire natural contemplation or to show gratitude.

Others, in a way that befits men, love God’s works in a natural manner, with spiritual knowledge and gratitude, and they use everything with self-control.

Finally, others, like the angels, love these works in a manner that is above and beyond nature, contemplating all things to the glory of God and making use of them only in so far as they are necessary for life, as St Paul puts it (cf. 1 Tim. 6:8).

We ought all of us always to give thanks to God for both the universal and the particular gifts of soul and body that He bestows on us.

The universal gifts consist of the four elements and all that comes into being through them, as well as all the marvelous works of God mentioned in the divine Scriptures.

The particular gifts consist of all that God has given to each individual.

These include wealth, so that one can perform acts of charity;

poverty, so that one can endure it with patience and gratitude;

authority, so that one can exercise righteous judgment and establish virtue;

obedience and service, so that one can more readily attain salvation of soul;

health, so that one can assist those in need and undertake work worthy of God;

sickness, so that one may earn the crown of patience;

spiritual knowledge and strength, so that one may acquire virtue;

weakness and ignorance, so that, turning one’s back on worldly things, one may be under obedience in stillness and humility;

unsought loss of goods and possessions, so that one may deliberately seek to be saved and may be helped when incapable of shedding all one’s possessions or even of giving alms;

ease and prosperity, so that one may voluntarily struggle and suffer to attain the virtues and thus become dispassionate and fit to save other souls;

trials and hardship, so that those who cannot eradicate their own will may be saved in spite of themselves, and those capable of joyful endurance may attain perfection.

All these things, even if they are opposed to each other, are nevertheless good when used correctly; but when misused, they are not good, but are harmful for both soul and body.

Better than them all, however, is the patient endurance of afflictions; and he who has been found worthy of this great gift should give thanks to God in that he has been all the more blessed.

For he has become an imitator of Christ, of His holy apostles, and of the martyrs and saints.

Peter of Damascus (?12th Century): A Treasury of Divine Knowledge  Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 3 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 171-172.

Basil the Great: That your life be made one ceaseless and uninterrupted prayer… Thursday, Nov 26 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great

Ought we to pray without ceasing?  Is it possible to obey such a command?

[…] Prayer is a petition for good addressed by the pious to God.  But we do not rigidly confine our petition to words.

Nor yet do we imagine that God requires to be reminded by speech.  He knows our needs even though we ask Him not.

What do I say then?  I say that we must not think to make our prayer complete by syllables.

The strength of prayer lies rather in the purpose of our soul and in deeds of virtue reaching every part and moment of our life.

“Whether ye eat,” it is said, “or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

As you take your seat at table, pray.  As you lift the loaf, offer thanks to the Giver.  When you sustain your bodily weakness with wine, remember Him Who supplies you with this gift, to make your heart glad and to comfort your infirmity.

Has your need for taking food passed away?  Let not the thought of your Benefactor pass away too.  As you are putting on your tunic, thank the Giver of it.

As you wrap your cloak about you, feel yet greater love to God, Who alike in summer and in winter has given us coverings convenient for us, at once to preserve our life, and to cover what is unseemly.

Is the day done?  Give thanks to Him Who has given us the sun for our daily work, and has provided for us a fire to light up the night, and to serve the rest of the needs of life.

Let night give the other occasions of prayer.  When you look up to heaven and gaze at the beauty of the stars, pray to the Lord of the visible world; pray to God the Arch-artificer of the universe, Who in wisdom has made them all.

When you see all nature sunk in sleep, then again worship Him Who gives us even against our wills release from the continuous strain of toil, and by a short refreshment restores us once again to the vigour of our strength.

[…] Let your slumbers be themselves experiences in piety; for it is only natural that our sleeping dreams should be for the most part echoes of the anxieties of the day.  As have been our conduct and pursuits, so will inevitably be our dreams.

Thus will you pray without ceasing, if you not only pray in words, but unite yourself to God through all the course of life so that your life be made one ceaseless and uninterrupted prayer.

Basil the Great (330-379): Panegyrical Homily 5 (on Julitta the Martyr) [slightly adapted], quoted in the introduction to St Basil’s homilies in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series II Volume 8.

John Cassian: These four kinds of supplication the Lord Himself by His own example vouchsafed to originate for us Thursday, Jul 23 2015 

Sf-IoanCasianContinued from here….

These four kinds of supplication the Lord Himself by His own example vouchsafed to originate for us, so that in this too He might fulfil that which was said of Him: “which Jesus began both to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1).

For He made use of the class of supplication when He said: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me”;

or this which is chanted in His Person in the Psalm: “My God, My God, look upon Me, why hast Thou forsaken me” (Matt. 26:39; Ps. 21:2) and others like it.

It is prayer where He says: “I have magnified Thee upon the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do”;

and this: “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself that they also may be sanctified in the truth” (John 17:4, 19).

It is intercession when He says: “Father, those Whom Thou hast given me, I will that they also may be with Me that they may see My glory which Thou hast given Me”;

or when He says: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (John 17:24; Luke 23:34).

It is thanksgiving when He says: “I confess to Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight”;

or when He says: “Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. But I knew that Thou hearest Me always” (Matt. 11:25-26; John 11:41-42).

But though our Lord made a distinction between these four kinds of prayers as to be offered separately and one by one according to the scheme which we know of, yet that they can all be embraced in a perfect prayer at one and the same time He showed by His own example in that prayer which at the close of S. John’s gospel we read that He offered up with such fulness.

[…] And the Apostle also in his Epistle to the Philippians has expressed the same meaning, by putting these four kinds of prayers in a slightly different order, and has shown that they ought sometimes to be offered together in the fervour of a single prayer, saying as follows:

“But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). And by this he wanted us especially to understand that in prayer and supplication thanksgiving ought to be mingled with our requests.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 9, 17.

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.

Peter of Damascus: God’s Grace will Give Us Gentleness so that We Begin to Imitate Christ Tuesday, Apr 8 2014 

peter_of_damascusGod’s grace, our universal mother, will give us gentleness, so that we begin to imitate Christ.

This constitutes the third commandment; for the Lord says, ‘Blessed are the gentle” (Matt. 5:5).

Thus we become like a firmly-rooted rock, unshaken by the storms and tempests of life, always the same, whether rich or poor, in ease or hardship, in honor or dishonor.

In short, at every moment and whatever we do we will be aware that all things, whether sweet or bitter, pass away, and that this life is a path leading to the future life.

We will recognize that, whether we like it or not, what happens happens; to be upset about it is useless, and moreover deprives us of the crown of patience and shows us to be in revolt against the will of God.

For whatever God does is “wholly good and beautiful’ (Gen. 1:31), even if we are unaware of this. As the psalm puts it: ‘He will teach the gentle how to judge’ (Ps. 25: 9. LXX) or, rather, how to exercise discrimination.

Then, even if someone gets furious with us, we are not troubled; on the contrary, we are glad to have been given an opportunity to profit and to exercise our understanding, recognizing that we would not have been tried in this way were there not some cause for it.

Unwittingly or wittingly we must have offended God, or a brother, or someone else, and now we are being given a chance to receive forgiveness for this. For through patient endurance we may be granted forgiveness for many sins.

Moreover, if we do not forgive others their debts, the Father will not forgive us our debts (cf Matt. 6:14). Indeed, nothing leads more swiftly to the forgiveness of sins than this virtue or commandment: “Forgive, and you will be forgiven’ (cf. Matt. 6:14).

This, then, is what we realize when we imitate Christ, growing gentle through the grace of the commandment.

But we are distressed for our brother, because it was on account of our sins that this brother was tempted by the common enemy and so became a remedy for the healing of our weakness.

Every trial and temptation is permitted by God as a cure for some sick person’s soul. Indeed, such trials not only confer on us forgiveness of our past and present sins, but also act as a check on sins not yet committed.

[…] God, being self-sufficient and giving to each what is to his profit, does indeed deserve our thanks, since He patiently suffers both the devil and the wickedness of men, and yet bestows His blessings upon those who repent both before and after they sin.

Peter of Damascus (?12th Century): A Treasury of Divine Knowledge  Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 3 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 94-96.

Patrick: “An Epistle of Christ Written on Your Hearts with the Spirit of the Living God” Monday, Mar 17 2014 

PatrickI am presuming to try to grasp in my old age what I did not gain in my youth because my sins prevented me from making what I had read my own.

[…] I am unable to explain as the spirit is eager to do and as the soul and the mind indicate. But, had it been given to me as to others, in gratitude I should not have kept silent.

And if it should appear that I put myself before others, with my ignorance and my slower speech, in truth, it is written: ‘The tongue of the stammerers shall speak rapidly and distinctly.’

How much harder must we try to attain it, we of whom it is said: ‘You are an epistle of Christ in greeting to the ends of the earth…written on your hearts, not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.’

And again, the Spirit witnessed that the rustic life was created by the Most High. I am, then, first of all, countryfied, an exile, evidently unlearned, one who is not able to see into the future, but I know for certain, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and he that is mighty came and in his mercy raised me up and, indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall.

And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favours in this world and forever, that the mind of man cannot measure.

Therefore be amazed, you great and small who fear God, and you men of God, eloquent speakers, listen and contemplate. Who was it summoned me, a fool, from the midst of those who appear wise and learned in the law and powerful in rhetoric and in all things?

Me, truly wretched in this world, he inspired before others that I could be–if I would–such a one who, with fear and reverence, and faithfully, without complaint, would come to the people to whom the love of Christ brought me and gave me in my lifetime, if I should be worthy, to serve them truly and with humility.

According, therefore, to the measure of one’s faith in the Trinity, one should proceed without holding back from danger to make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, to spread God’s name everywhere with confidence and without fear, in order to leave behind, after my death, foundations for my brethren and sons whom I baptized in the Lord in so many thousands.

Patrick (387?-493?): The Confession of St Patrick, 10-14.

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