Leo the Great: The form of the divine goodness reflected in us as in a mirror Monday, Nov 30 2015 

leo1If, dearly beloved, we comprehend faithfully and wisely the beginning of our creation, we shall find that man was made in God’s image, to the end that he might imitate his Creator, and that our race attains its highest natural dignity, by the form of the Divine goodness being reflected in us, as in a mirror.

And assuredly to this form the Saviour’s grace is daily restoring us, so long as that which, in the first Adam fell, is raised up again in the second.

And the cause of our restoration is naught else but the mercy of God, Whom we should not have loved, unless He had first loved us, and dispelled the darkness of our ignorance by the light of His truth.

And the Lord foretelling this by the holy Isaiah says, “I will bring the blind into a way that they knew not, and will make them walk in paths which they were ignorant of.  I will turn darkness into light for them, and the crooked into the straight.  These words will I do for them, and not forsake them” (Is. 42:16).

And again he says, “I was found by them that sought Me not, and openly appeared to them that asked not for Me” (Isaiah 65:1).

And the Apostle John teaches us how this has been fulfilled, when he says, “We know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and may be in Him that is true, even His Son” (1 John 5:20), and again, “let us therefore love God, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Thus it is that God, by loving us, restores us to His image, and, in order that He may find in us the form of His goodness, He gives us that whereby we ourselves too may do the work that He does, kindling that is the lamps of our minds, and inflaming us with the fire of His love, that we may love not only Himself, but also whatever He loves.

For if between men that is the lasting friendship which is based upon similarity of character notwithstanding that such identity of wills is often directed to wicked ends, how ought we to yearn and strive to differ in nothing from what is pleasing to God.

Of which the prophet speaks, “for wrath is in His indignation, and life in His pleasure” (Ps. 29:5 (LXX), because we shall not otherwise attain the dignity of the Divine Majesty, unless we imitate His will.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 12:1.

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John Cassian: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” Friday, Nov 20 2015 

Sf-IoanCasianContinued from here….

The second petition of the pure heart desires that the kingdom of its Father may come at once.

This can refer to that kingdom whereby Christ reigns day by day in the saints.

This comes to pass when the devil’s rule is cast out of our hearts by the destruction of foul sins, and God begins to hold sway over us by the sweet odour of virtues, and, fornication being overcome, charity reigns in our hearts together with tranquillity, when rage is conquered; and humility, when pride is trampled underfoot.

Or it can refer to that kingdom which is promised in due time to all who are perfect, and to all the sons of God, when it will be said to them by Christ: “Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34), as the heart with fixed and steadfast gaze, so to speak, yearns and longs for it and says to Him “Thy kingdom come.” For it knows by the witness of its own conscience that when He shall appear, it will presently share His lot.

[…] The third petition is that of sons: “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth.”

There can now be no grander prayer than to wish that earthly things may be made equal with things heavenly: for what else is it to say “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth,” than to ask that men may be like angels and that as God’s will is ever fulfilled by them in heaven, so also all those who are on earth may do not their own but His will?

This too no one could say from the heart but only one who believed that God disposes for our good all things which are seen, whether fortunate or unfortunate, and that He is more careful and provident for our good and salvation than we ourselves are for ourselves.

Or at any rate it may be taken in this way: The will of God is the salvation of all men, according to these words of the blessed Paul: “Who willeth all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Of this will also the prophet Isaiah says in the Person of God the Father: “And all Thy will shall be done” (Is. 46:10).

When we say then “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth,” we pray in other words for this: that as those who are in heaven, so also may all those who dwell on earth be saved, O Father, by the knowledge of Thee.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 9, 19 & 20 [slightly adapted].

John of Kronstadt: “He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him” Wednesday, Jul 22 2015 

john_kronstadtBegin to fulfil the commandments relating to small things, and you will come to fulfil the commandments relating to great things.

Small things everywhere lead to great ones.

Begin by fulfilling the commandment of fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, or the tenth commandment relating to evil thoughts and desires, and you will eventually learn to fulfil all the commandments.

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10).

[…] Take the trouble to spend only one single day according to God’s commandments, and you will see yourself, you will feel by your own heart, how good it is to fulfil God’s will (and God’s will in relation to us is our life, our eternal blessedness).

Love God with all your heart at least as much as you love your father, your mother, and your benefactors. Value with all your strength His love and His benefits to you. Go over them mentally in your heart.

Think how He gave you existence and with it all good things, how endlessly long He bears with your sins, how endlessly He forgives you them for the sake of your hearty repentance…, what blessedness He has promised you in eternity, if you are faithful to Him.

Enumerate besides His mercies, which are endlessly great and manifold.

Furthermore, love every man as yourself – that is, do not wish him anything that you would not wish for yourself. Think, feel for him just as you would think and feel for your own self.

Do not wish to see in him anything that you do not wish to see in yourself. Do not let your memory keep in it any evil caused to you by others, in the same way as you would wish that the evil done by yourself should be forgotten by others.

Do not intentionally imagine either in yourself or in another anything guilty or impure. Believe others to be as well-intentioned as yourself, in general, if you do not see clearly that they are evilly disposed.

Do unto them as you would to yourself, or even do not do unto them as you would not do unto yourself, and then you will see what you will obtain in your heart – what peace, what blessedness!

You will be in paradise before reaching it – that is, before the paradise in heaven you will be in the paradise on earth.

“The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21), says the Lord. “He that dwelleth in love,” teaches the Apostle, “dwelleth in God and God in him” (1 John 4:16).

John of Kronstadt (1829-1908; Russian Orthodox): My Life in Christ, part 1, pp.33-35.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silouan the Athonite: The Lord enlightens every soul that has surrendered to the will of God Wednesday, May 27 2015 

Silouan the AthoniteNothing troubles the man who is given over to the will of God, be it illness, poverty or persecution.

He knows that the Lord in His mercy is solicitous for us. The Holy Spirit, whom the soul knows, is witness therefore.

But the proud and the self-willed do not want to surrender to God’s will because they like their own way, and that is harmful for the soul.

Abba Pimen said: ‘Our own will is like a wall of brass between us and God, preventing us from coming near to Him or contemplating His mercy.’

We must always pray the Lord for peace of soul that we may the more easily fulfil the Lord’s commandments; for the Lord loves those who strive to do His will, and thus they attain profound peace in God.

He who does the Lord’s will is content with all things, though he be poor or sick and suffering, because the grace of God gladdens his heart.

But the man who is discontent with his lot and murmurs against his fate, or against those who cause him offence, should realize that his spirit is in a state of pride, which has taken from him his sense of gratitude towards God.

But if it be so with you, do not lose heart but try to trust firmly in the Lord and ask Him for a humble spirit; and, when the lowly spirit of God comes to you, you will then love Him and be at rest in spite of all tribulations.

The soul that has acquired humility is always mindful of God, and thinks to herself: ‘God has created me. He suffered for me. He forgives me my sins and comforts me. He feeds me and cares for me. Why then should I take thought for myself, and what is there to fear, even if death threaten me?’

The Lord enlightens every soul that has surrendered to the will of God, for He said: Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.

No one on this earth can avoid affliction; and although the afflictions which the Lord sends are not great, men imagine them beyond their strength and are crushed by them. This is because they will not humble their souls and commit themselves to the will of God.

But the Lord Himself guides with His grace those who are given over to God’s will, and they bear all things with fortitude for the sake of God Whom they have so loved and with Whom they are glorified for ever.

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

Silouan the Athonite: The Lord loves us much, quickening all things by his Grace Monday, May 4 2015 

Silouan the AthoniteIt is a great good to give oneself up to the will of God.  Then the Lord alone is in the soul.

No other thought can enter in, and the soul feels God’s love, even though the body be suffering.

When the soul is entirely given over to the will of God, the Lord Himself takes her in hand and the soul learns directly from God.

Whereas, before, she turned to teachers and to the Scriptures for instruction.

But it rarely happens that the soul’s teacher is the Lord Himself through the grace of the Holy Spirit, and few there are that know of this, save only those who live according to God’s will.

[…] O God of Mercy, Thou knowest our infirmity. I beseech Thee, grant me a humble spirit, for in Thy mercy Thou dost enable the humble soul to live according to Thy will.

[…] How are you to know if you are living according to the will of God?

Here is a sign:  if you are distressed over anything it means that you have not fully surrendered to God’s will, although it may seem to you that you live according to His will.

He who lives according to God’s will has no cares.  If he has need of something, he offers himself and the thing he wants to God, and if he does not receive it, he remains as tranquil as if he had got what he wanted.

The soul that is given over to the will of God fears nothing….  Whatever may come, ‘Such is God’s pleasure,’ she says.

If she falls sick she thinks, ‘This means that I need sickness, or God would not have sent it.’  And in this wise is peace preserved in soul and body.

The man who takes thought for his own welfare is unable to give himself up to God’s will, that his soul may have peace in God.

But the humble soul is devoted to God’s will, and lives before Him in awe and love; in awe, lest she grieve God in any way; in love, because the soul has come to know how the Lord loves us.

The best thing of all is to surrender to God’s will and bear affliction, having confidence in God. The Lord, seeing our affliction, will never give us too much to bear.

If we seem to ourselves to be greatly afflicted, it means that we have not surrendered to the will of God.

The soul that is in all things devoted to the will of God rests quiet in Him, for she knows of experience and from the Holy Scriptures that the Lord loves us much and watches over our souls, quickening all things by His grace in peace and love.

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

John Damascene: The Breath of God Monday, Jun 9 2014 

John-of-Damascus_01The Word must also possess Spirit [the Greek term Πνεῦμα denotes both “breath” and “spirit”].

For in fact even our word is not destitute of spirit; but in our case the spirit is something different from our essence.

For there is an attraction and movement of the air which is drawn in and poured forth that the body may be sustained.

And it is this which in the moment of utterance becomes the articulate word, revealing in itself the force of the word.

But in the case of the divine nature, which is simple and uncompound, we must confess in all piety that there exists a Spirit of God, for the Word is not more imperfect than our own word.

Now we cannot, in piety, consider the Spirit to be something foreign that gains admission into God from without, as is the case with compound natures like us.

When we heard of the Word of God, we considered it to be not without subsistence, nor the product of learning, nor the mere utterance of voice, nor as passing into the air and perishing, but as being essentially subsisting, endowed with free volition, and energy, and omnipotence.

So also, when we have learnt about the Spirit of God, we contemplate it as the companion of the Word and the revealer of His energy, and not as mere breath without subsistence.

For to conceive of the Spirit that dwells in God as after the likeness of our own spirit, would be to drag down the greatness of the divine nature to the lowest depths of degradation.

But we must contemplate it as an essential power, existing in its own proper and peculiar subsistence, proceeding from the Father and resting in the Word, and shewing forth the Word,

neither capable of disjunction from God in Whom it exists, and the Word Whose companion it is, nor poured forth to vanish into nothingness,

but being in subsistence in the likeness of the Word, endowed with life, free volition, independent movement, energy, ever willing that which is good, and having power to keep pace with the will in all its decrees, having no beginning and no end.

For never was the Father at any time lacking in the Word, nor the Word in the Spirit.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 1, 7.

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.

Gregory Palamas: Spiritual Circumcision of the Heart Tuesday, Apr 1 2014 

Gregory_PalamasEven when your body does nothing, sin can be active in your mind.

When your soul inwardly repulses the evil one’s attack by means of prayer, attention, remembrance of death, godly sorrow and mourning, the body, too, takes its share of holiness, having acquired freedom from evil actions.

This is what the Lord meant by saying that someone who cleans the outside of a cup has not cleansed it inside, but clean the inside, and the whole cup will be clean (Matthew 23:25-26).

“Strive as hard as you can to ensure that your inner labour is according to God’s will, and you will conquer the outward passions” (Abba Arsenios, Apophthegmata Pateron 9).

If the root is holy, so are the branches (John 15:5). If the yeast is holy, so is the dough (Galatians 5:9).

“Walk in the spirit”, says Paul, “and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Christ did not abolish the Jewish circumcision but fulfilled it. He Himself says, “I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil” (Matthew 5.17).

How did He do this? It was a seal, a sign and a symbolic way of teaching about cutting off evil thoughts in the heart….

The Jews…were reproached by the prophets for being uncircumcised in their hearts (cf.  Jeremiah 9:26; Romans 2:25).

Man looks at the outward person, but God regards the heart, and if it is full of foul or evil thoughts, that man deserved to have God turn away from him.

That is why the apostle exhorts us to pray without wrath and doubting (1 Timothy 2:8).

To teach us to strive for the spiritual circumcision of our hearts, the Lord pronounces the pure in heart and the poor in spirit blessed.

He stresses that the reward for this purity of heart is seeing God, and He promises the kingdom of heaven to the poor (Matthew 5:8, 3). By the poor He means those who live frugally and in need.

But it is not only such people whom He calls blessed, but also those who are like them in spirit, those who, because of their inner humility of heart and their good purpose, have arranged their outward life accordingly.

He forbids not just murder but anger, and commands us to forgive from our hearts those who sin against us. Nor will He accept the gift we offer unless we are first reconciled with one another and let go of anger (Matthew 5:21-24).

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Lent,  from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009).

Gregory of Nyssa: Moses and the Burning Bush Monday, Mar 10 2014 

Gregory_of_Nyssa[When]…we are living at peace, the truth will shine upon us and its radiance will illuminate the eyes of our soul.

Now this truth is God. Once in an ineffable and mysterious vision it manifested itself to Moses, and it is not without significance for us that the flame from which the soul of the Prophet was illuminated was kindled from a thorn-bush.

If truth is God and if it is also light – two of the sublime and sacred epithets by which the Gospel describes the God who manifested himself to us in the flesh – it follows that a virtuous life will lead us to a knowledge of that light which descended to the level of our human nature.

It is not from some luminary set among the stars that it sheds its radiance, which might then be thought to have a material origin, but from a bush on the earth, although it outshines the stars of heaven.

This also symbolizes the mystery of the Virgin, from whom came the divine light that shone upon the world without damaging the bush from which it emanated or allowing the virgin shoot to wither.

This light teaches us what we must do to stand in the rays of the true light, and that it is impossible with our feet in shackles to run toward the mountain where the light of truth appears.

We have first to free the feet of our soul from the covering of dead skins in which our nature was clad in the beginning when it disobeyed God’s will and was left naked.

To know that which is, we must purify our minds of assumptions regarding things which are not. In my opinion the definition of truth is an unerring comprehension of that which is.

He who is immutable, who does not increase or diminish, who is subject to no change for better or worse, but is perfectly self-sufficient; he who alone is desirable, in whom all else par­ticipates without causing in him any diminution, he indeed is that which truly is, and to comprehend him is to know the truth.

It is he whom Moses approached and whom today all approach who like Moses free themselves from their earthly coverings and look toward the light coming from the bramble bush, at the ray shining on us from the thorns, which stand for the flesh, for as the Gospel says, that ray is the real light and the truth.

Then such people will also be able to help others find salvation. They will be capable of destroying the forces of evil and of restoring those enslaved by them to liberty.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): The Life of Moses, 2.17-26 (SC 1:36-39); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Tuesday of the First Week in Lent, Year 2

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