Nikolai Velimirovich: When the Holy Spirit of God Enters Into Us the Kingdom of God has Arrived Thursday, Jun 12 2014 

Nikolai Velimirovich“We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).

Brethren, the spirit of this world is the spirit of pride and cruelty and the Spirit of God is the Spirit of meekness and gentleness.

The apostle of God asserts that the followers of Christ did not receive the spirit of this world rather the Spirit “which is of God,”

i.e., who proceeds from God the Father as a sweet-smelling fragrance as from flowers and as a good fragrance pours out on the soul of man making it mighty, bright, peaceful, thankful and pleasant.

Men by nature are meek and gentle. St. Tertulain writes: “the soul of man by nature is Christian.” But, by the spirit of this world, it is irritable and enraged.

The spirit of this world made wolves out of lambs, while the Spirit Who is from God makes lambs out of wolves.

The apostle still adds that we received the Spirit of God “that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).

Therefore, that we may know what is from God in us and what is not from God and that we may sense the sweetness of that which is from God and the bitterness from that which is not from God, rather from the spirit of this world.

As long as man is outside of his nature, beneath his nature, he considers bitterness as sweetness and sweetness as bitterness. But, when by the Spirit of God he returns to his true nature, then he considers sweet as sweetness and bitter as bitterness.

Who can return man to God? Who can heal man of poisonous sinful bitterness? Who can teach him by experience to distinguish true sweetness from bitterness? No one except the Spirit Who is from God.

Therefore brethren, let us pray that God grants us His Holy Spirit as He granted the Holy Spirit to His apostles and saints.

And when that Holy Spirit of God enters into us, the kingdom of God has arrived in which is all sweetness itself, only good, only light, only meekness and only gentleness.

O Holy Spirit, the Spirit of meekness and gentleness, come and abide in us.

Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956; Orthodox Church): Prologue from Ohrid, May 21st.

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Elder Sophrony: When We Choose Christ We are Carried Beyond Time and Space, Beyond the Reach of what is Termed “Tragedy” Friday, Mar 28 2014 

SophronyContinued from here….

In refusing to accept Christ as Eternal Man and, more importantly, as True God and our Saviour – whatever the form the refusal takes, and whatever the pretext – we lose the light of life eternal.

‘Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovest me before the founda­tion of the world’ (John 17.24).

There, in the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, must our mind dwell. We must hunger and thirst to enter into this wondrous Kingdom.

Then we shall overcome in ourselves the sin of refusing the Father’s love as revealed to us through the Son (cf. John 8.24).

When we choose Christ we are carried beyond time and space, beyond the reach of what is termed ‘tragedy’.

The moment the Holy Spirit grants us to know the hypostatic form of prayer we can begin to break the fetters that shackle us.

Emerging from the prison cell of selfish individualism into the wide expanse of life in the image of Christ, we perceive the nature of the personalism of the Gospel.

[…] It is a recognised fact that the ego is the weapon in the struggle for existence of the individual who refuses Christ’s call to open our hearts to total, universal love.

The persona, by contrast, is inconceivable without all-embracing love either in the Divine Being or in the human being.

Prolonged and far from easy ascetic effort can open our eyes to the love that Christ taught, and we can apprehend the whole world through ourselves, through our own sufferings and searchings.

We become like a world-wide radio receiver and can identify ourselves with the tragic element, not only in the lives of individual people but of the world at large, and we pray for the world as for our own selves.

In this kind of prayer the spirit beholds the depths of evil, the sombre result of having eaten of the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’.

But it is not only evil that we see – we make con­tact, too, with Absolute Good, with God, Who translates our prayer into a vision of Uncreated Light.

The soul may then forget the world for whom she was praying, and cease to be aware of the body. The prayer of divine love becomes our very being, our body.

The soul may return to this world. But the spirit of man, having experienced his resurrection and come near existentially to eternity, is even further persuaded that tragedy and death are the consequence of sin and that there is no other way to salvation than through Christ.

Elder Sophrony (1896-1993; Orthodox): from His Life Is Mine, London 1977, p. 37-40 @ Pemptousia.

Gregory Palamas: Love of God and Love of the World Sunday, Mar 16 2014 

Gregory_PalamasWhereas love for God is the source and starting point of every virtue, love for the world is the cause of all evil.

For that reason these two loves are at enmity with each another and destroy each other.

As the Lord’s brother declares: “Friendship of the world is enmity to God. Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4).

And John, whom Christ loved, says, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, is not of the Father” (cf. 1 John 2: 15-16).

Let us take heed, brethren, lest by loving evil desires and being arrogant to one another, we fall away from our heavenly Father’s love. For these two evils include every passion which separates us from God.

The foundation, origin and cause of these two opposing roots, love for God and love for the world, is another pair of implacably opposed loves.

Love for the world springs from love for the body, since we love the world because of our body’s well-being. On the other hand, love for God comes from love for our spirit, our soul, for we love God on account of the comfort and good fortune our souls will have in the world to come.

The great Paul bears witness to the fact that these two attitudes are at enmity with each other by saying, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit”, meaning the soul, “and the Spirit against the flesh” (Gal. 5: 17).

[…] Because they yearn to attain to divine, unfading delight and are afraid of suffering in that fire, they break their ties with everything passionate, blameworthy and earthly, and strive to cleave to God through intense prayer.

[….] In this way they acquire love for God, and as they become more perfectly united with God through this love, they gain all the virtues as well. When God is at work in us, every kind of virtue becomes our own….

Those who truly act virtuously are aware of this, and do not pride themselves on any of their achievements, but humbly glorify God, the Fount of virtues, by Whom they are filled with the light that bestows goodness.

When the air is full of sunlight, the glory and radiance it displays are not its own but the sun’s. So those who are united with God through fulfilling His commandments are, according to Paul, the sweet savour of Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 2:15).

They have Christ’s fragrance, and proclaim the virtues of Him Who called them “out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 33 – Virtues and their Opposite Passions, 4-5, 7, from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009), @ Kandylaki (fuller version)

Saint Symeon the New Theologian: How fortunate are those who embraced divine Love! Wednesday, Mar 12 2014 

SYMEON-iconMarch 12th is the Feast of St Symeon the New Theologian (also October 12th).

Continued from here….

Love desired, how fortunate are those who have embraced you, for they will no longer have a yearning to embrace any human beauty.

How fortunate are they who are moved by divine love to cling to you: they’ll deny the whole world, and, to whatever degree they associate with others, they won’t be spoiled.

How fortunate are those who caress your beauty and delight in it with great desire, for their souls will be sanctified by the undefiled blood and water which issue from you.

How fortunate are those who passionately embrace you, for they will be altered for the better in spirit and will exult in their souls, because you are inexpressible joy.

How fortunate are they who gain possession of you, for they will count the treasures of the world as nothing, for you are indeed wealth “beyond the dreams of avarice”.

How blessed and thrice-blessed are they whom you accept, for though they be apparently without any glory, they will be more glorious than those who are glorious, more honoured than those who are honoured.

How worthy of praise are those who pursue you; even more so those who have found you.

Most blessed are those who are loved by you, received by you, taught by you, those who have dwelt in you and been fed by you with immortal food, that is the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Love divine, where are you holding Christ? Where are you concealing Him​? Why have you taken the Redeemer of the world and departed from us?

Open a wicket gate for us, so that we also may see Christ Who suffered for us, and so hope in His mercy that we’ll die no more when we once have seen Him. Open up to us, you who became the door allowing Him to be made manifest in the flesh.

Love, you who’ve forced the unforced and abundant compassion of our Master to bear the sins and infirmities of all people, do not reject us by saying, “I do not know you”. Be with us, so that you may come to know us, for we are not known to you.

Dwell in us, so that, for your sake, the Master may visit even us, who are lowly; go before us to meet Him, since we are wholly unworthy. So that He will pause on His way, to converse with you and will permit even us sinners to fall at His unblemished feet.

You’ll intercede on our behalf and plead with Him to forgive the debt of our sins, so that through you we may again be found worthy to serve Him, our Master, and be sustained and nourished by Him.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD): In Praise of Those Who Have Love in Their Hearts @ Pemptousia.

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.

Gregory the Great: Our Life shall be Resplendent in the Glory of the Eternal Sun Sunday, Dec 8 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistOn Luke 21:25-33.

When these things come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand (Luke 21:28).

It is as if the Truth openly warns His elect by saying: when the evils of this world mount up, when dread of the judgment is shown even by the trembling powers, lift up your heads, that is, be joyful in your hearts, because the world, of which you are not friends, is drawing to its end; the redemption you have been seeking is coming close.

[…] Whoever does not rejoice at the approaching end of the world, testifies that he is its friend, and by this he is revealed as an enemy of God.

But let this be far from the faithful, far from the hearts of those who believe through their faith that there is another life, and who love it in very deed.

Let them grieve over the ruin of the world who have planted the roots of their hearts deep in the love of it, who neither look for the life to come, nor are even aware that it is.

But we who have learned of the joys of our heavenly home must hasten to it as speedily as we may.  We should desire to go there with all haste, and to arrive by the shortest way.

And with what miseries does not the world urge us forward?  What sorrow, what misfortune is there, that does not press upon us?  What is this mortal life but a way?  And what folly would it be, let you carefully consider, to be weary with the fatigue of the way, and yet not eager to finish the journey!

That the world is to be trodden on, and despised, Our Redeemer then teaches us, by a timely similitude: Behold the fig tree and all the trees: when they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh. So you also when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. 

This is as if he were openly to say: as from the fruit on the trees you know that summer is near, so from the ruin of the world you may know that the kingdom of God is likewise near.

From which it may be truly gathered that the fruit of the world is ruin. To this end it arises, that it may fall. To this end it germinates, that whatever it has brought forth from seed will be consumed in disaster.

But happily is the Kingdom of God compared to summer, because then the clouds of our sadness will pass away, and the days, of our life shall be resplendent in the glory of the eternal Sun.

Gregory the Great (c. 540-604): Homilies on the Gospel  (PL 76, 1077-1081; Homily 1), Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D. @ Lectionary Central.

Ignatius of Antioch: I Desire the Bread of God, the Heavenly Bread, the Bread of Life, which is the Flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God Thursday, Oct 17 2013 

Ignatius_of_Antioch October 17th is the feast of St Ignatius of Antioch

Let no one, of things visible or invisible, envy me that I should attain to Jesus Christ.

Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings, breakings, and dislocations of bones.

Let cutting off of members; let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ.

All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing.

It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth.

“For what shall a man be profited, if he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?”

Him I seek, who died for us: Him I desire, who rose again for our sake. This is the gain which is laid up for me.

Pardon me, brethren: do not hinder me from living, do not wish to keep me in a state of death; and while I desire to belong to God, do not ye give me over to the world.

Suffer me to obtain pure light: when I have gone thither, I shall indeed be a man of God. Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of my God.

If any one has Him within himself, let him consider what I desire, and let him have sympathy with me, as knowing how I am straitened.

The prince of this world would fain carry me away, and corrupt my disposition towards God. Let none of you, therefore, who are [in Rome] help him; rather be ye on my side, that is, on the side of God.

Do not speak of Jesus Christ, and yet set your desires on the world.

Let not envy find a dwelling-place among you; nor even should I, when present with you, exhort you to it, be ye persuaded to listen to me, but rather give credit to those things which I now write to you.

For though I am alive while I write to you, yet I am eager to die.

My love has been crucified, and there is no fire in me desiring to be fed; but there is within me a water that liveth and speaketh, saying to me inwardly, Come to the Father.

I have no delight in corruptible food, nor in the pleasures of this life.

I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham.

And I desire the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.

Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 – c. 107): Letter to the Romans, 5-7 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Gregory the Great: “Will the Rhinoceros be Willing to Serve Thee?” (2) Tuesday, Sep 3 2013 

St-Gregory-the-Dialogist(September 3rd is the feast of St Gregory the Great)

Following on from here…

Will the rhinoceros be willing to serve thee? (Job 39:9).

But at the very beginning of the rising Church – when the might of the wealthy was raising itself against her, and was panting for her death – who could then believe that she would subdue those stiff and stubborn necks of the haughty, and would bind them, with the gentle bands of faith, when tamed by the yoke of holy fear?

For she was tossed about, for a long while, in her beginnings, by the horn of this rhinoceros, and was struck by it, as though to be utterly destroyed. But by the dispensation of Divine grace, she both gained life and strength by death, and this rhinoceros, wearied with striking, bowed down his horn.

And that which was impossible to men, was not difficult to God, who crushed the stubborn powers of this world, not by words, but by miracles. For behold we observe daily the rhinoceroses becoming slaves, when we see the mighty of this world, who had before, with foolish pride, relied on their own strength, now subject to God.

The Lord was speaking, as it were, of a certain untamed rhinoceros, when He was saying; A rich man will hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:23). And when it was replied to Him; And who will be able to be saved? He immediately added; With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matt. 25:26).

As if He were saying: This rhinoceros cannot be tamed by human strength, but yet it can be subdued by Divine miracles. Whence it is here also fitly said to blessed Job, as representing Holy Church; Will the rhinoceros be willing to serve thee? i.e. As Myself, Who bore for a long while with his resisting the preaching of men, but yet suddenly overpowered him with miracles, when thus I willed it.

As if He said more plainly; Are they who are proud with foolish haughtiness, subjected to thy preaching, without My assistance? Consider therefore by Whom thou prevailest, and in every thing wherein thou prevailest bow down thy feeling of pride.

Or certainly, what wondrous works are wrought at last by the Apostles, who subject the world to God, and bend the pride of the mighty of this world, when subdued to His power, is brought before the notice of blessed Job, to bring down his confidence, in order that blessed Job may think the less highly of himself, the more he beholds such stubborn souls gathered together to God by others.

Let Him say then; Will the rhinoceros be willing to serve thee? i.e. As it will serve Me, by means of those, whom I shall have sent.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 31, 1-2 (on Job 39:9) @ Lectionary Central.

Gregory the Great: The Soul Rapt in the Light of God is Dilated in the Divine Perfections Thursday, Aug 22 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistWhile as yet the monks were at rest, the man of God, Benedict, being diligent in watching, rose up before the night office and stood at the window making his prayer to Almighty God about midnight.

Suddenly, looking forth, he saw a light glancing from above, so bright and resplendent that it not only dispersed the darkness of the night, but shone more clear than the day itself.

Upon this sight a marvellous strange thing followed, for, as he afterwards related, the whole world, compacted as it were together, was represented to his eyes in one ray of light.

As the venerable Father had his eyes fixed upon this glorious lustre, he beheld the soul of Germanus, Bishop of Capua, carried by angels to Heaven in a fiery globe.

Then, for the testimony of so great a miracle, with a loud voice he called upon Servandus the Deacon, who…looked forth, and saw a little stream of light then disappearing, and wondered greatly at this miracle.

[…] It fell out so, that he who was sent found the most reverend Bishop Germanus dead, and on enquiring more exactly, he learned that his departure was the very same moment in which the man of God had seen him ascend.

[…] In a soul that beholds the Creator, all creatures appear but narrow; for, should we partake never so little of the light of the Creator, whatsoever is created would seem very little.

Because the soul is enlarged by this beatific vision, and so dilated in the Divine perfections, that it far transcends the world and itself also.

The soul thus rapt in the light of God is in her interior lifted up, and enabled above itself, and while thus elevated it contemplates itself, and it easily comprehends how little that is which before it was not able to conceive.

So the blessed man who saw the globe of fire with the Angels returning to Heaven could not possibly have beheld those things but only in the light of God.

What wonder then if he saw the world at one view who was in mind exalted above the world?

But whereas I said that the whole world compacted as it were together was represented before his eyes, it is not meant that heaven and earth were straitened by contraction, but that the mind of the beholder was dilated, which, rapt in the sight of God might, without difficulty, see all that is under God.

Therefore, in that light which appeared to his outward eyes, the inward light which was in his soul ravished the mind of the beholder with higher things, and shewed how mean are all inferior things.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Life of Our Most Holy Father Benedict, 35.

Germanus of Constantinople: “It is Time, My Mother”, Says the Lord, “to Take You to Myself” Thursday, Aug 15 2013 

Germanus of ConstantinopleIt is time, my Mother, (says the Lord), to take you to myself. Just as you have filled the earth and all who dwell in it with joy, O you who enjoy such grace, come, and make the heavens joyful once again.

Make my Father’s dwelling-place radiant; be a spiritual guide for the souls of the saints.

For when they see your glorious passage here to my side, escorted by angels, they will be convinced in their faith that their own place, too, through you, will be to dwell here in my light.

Come, then, in exultation; rejoice now, as you rejoiced at the angel’s greeting. In every way you now have the dignity of your title, ‘full of grace.’

As when you were about to conceive me you were invited to rejoice, so rejoice again in my desire to take you to myself.

Do not be disturbed at leaving behind the corruptible world, with all its desires. Forget about its power of corruption.

For you will not leave those who live in the world bereft of your protection; but just as I, who am not of the world, watch over those who live in it and take care of them, so your patronage will not be taken away from those who live in the world, until its consummation.

The extravagant demands of the flesh will no longer disturb you. You are ascending to a fuller life, to joyful rest, to unconquerable peace, to an existence untroubled by cares, to delights free of passion, to permanent freedom from distraction, to unending enjoyment, to a light that never fades, to a day without evening—to me, the creator of all that is, including you.

Where I am, there is eternal life, incomparable joy, a dwelling-place without parallel, an indestructible city. Where I am, then, you will be also: a mother inseparably one with her undivided Son. Where God is, there is all goodness of heart, all delight, all brilliance.

No one who knows my glory wants to abandon it. No one who comes to my rest seeks again the things of the corruptible world. Ask Peter if there was any comparison or likeness between the world and Mount Tabor, when he gazed for a short time on my glory.

When you lived in the world of corruptible things, I revealed my power to you in visions; now that you are passing from that life, I will show myself to you face to face. Give the earth what belongs to it, without anxiety.

Germanus of Constantinople (c.634–c.733): excerpt from An Encomium on the Holy and Venerable Dormition of Our Most Glorious Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary, in On the Dormition of Mary: Early Patristic Homilies, SVS Press, 1998, pp.170-172); fuller extract @ Priest Matthew Jackson.

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