Sunday, 25 November 2012

St. Silouan The Athonite-ON LOVE

“The soul cannot know peace unless she prays for her enemies. The soul that has learned of God’s grace to pray, feels love and compassion for every created thing, and in particular for mankind, for whom the Lord suffered on the Cross, and His soul was heavy for every one of us.
The Lord taught me to love my enemies. Without the grace of God we cannot love our enemies. Only the Holy Spirit teaches love, and then even devils arouse our pity because they have fallen from good, and lost humility in God.
I beseech you, put this to the test. When a man affronts you or brings dishonor on your head, or takes what is yours, or persecutes the Church, pray to the Lord, saying: “O Lord, we are all Thy creatures. Have pity on Thy servants and turn their hearts to repentance,” and you will be aware of grace in your soul. To begin with, constrain your heart to love enemies, and the Lord, seeing your good will, will help you in all things, and experience itself will shoe you the way. But the man who thinks with malice of his enemies has not God’s love within him, and does not know God.
If you will pray for your enemies, peace will come to you; but when you can love your enemies – know that a great measure of the grace of God dwells in you, though I do not say perfect grace as yet, but sufficient for salvation. Whereas if you revile your enemies, it means there is an evil spirit living in you and bringing evil thoughts into your heart, for, in the words of the Lord, out of the heart proceed evil thoughts – or good thoughts.
The good man thinks to himself in this wise: Every one who has strayed from the truth brings destruction on himself and is therefore to be pitied. But of course the man who has not learned the love of the Holy Spirit will not pray for his enemies. The man who has learned love from the Holy Spirit sorrows all his life over those who are not saved, and sheds abundant tears for the people, and the grace of God gives him strength to love his enemies.
Understand me. It is so simple. People who do not know God, or who go against Him, are to be pitied; the heart sorrows for them and the eye weeps. Both paradise and torment are clearly visible to us: We know this through the Holy Spirit. And did not the Lord Himself say, “The kingdom of God is within you”? Thus eternal life has its beginning here in this life; and it is here that we sow the seeds of eternal torment.
Where there is pride there cannot be grace, and if we lose grace we also lose both love of God and assurance in prayer. The soul is then tormented by evil thoughts and does not understand that she must humble herself and love her enemies, for there is no other way to please God.
What shall I render unto Thee, O Lord, for that Thou hast poured such great mercy on my soul? Grant, I beg Thee, that I may see my iniquities, and ever weep before Thee, for Thou art filled with love for humble souls, and dost give them the grace of the Holy Spirit.
O merciful God, forgive me. Thou seest how my soul is drawn to Thee, her Creator. Thou hast wounded my soul with Thy love, and she thirsts for Thee, and wearies without end, and day and night, insatiable, reaches toward Thee, and has no wish to look upon this world, though I do love it, but above all I love Thee, my Creator, and my soul longs after Thee.
O my Creator, why have I, Thy little creature, grieved Thee so often? Yet Thou hast not remembered my sins.
Glory be to the Lord God that He gave us His Only-begotten Son for the sake of our salvation. Glory be to the Only-begotten Son that He deigned to be born of the Most Holy Virgin, and suffered for our salvation, and gave us His Most Pure Body and Blood to eternal life, and sent His Holy Spirit on the earth.
O Lord, grant me tears to shed for myself, and for the whole universe, that the nations may know Thee and live eternally with Thee, O Lord, vouchsafe us the gift of Thy humble Holy Spirit, that we may apprehend Thy glory.”

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, GUARDING THE SENSE OF HEARING

The second sense is that of hearing and one must be careful to guard it from corrupt melodies, which are composed for pleasure and which pour out the sweet honey of sound unto the ears. It seems to me that there are three evils that come from such melodies. First, these hedonistic and worldly songs tend to weaken the manly and proud bearing of the soul so that it becomes effeminate and lethargic as it listens to these sweet sounds. Secondly, these sensual songs tend to fill up the mind with the many passionate images which they describe. Thirdly, let us suppose that even if the persons doing the singing are not seen -- and especially when these may be women -- nevertheless the songs themselves are capable of impressing the imagination, moving the desire of the heart and drawing out an asset from the soul. This is why St. Basil taught us: “Do not submit your souls to corrupt melodies that come to us through the ears. Many passions that enslave us have been caused to grow in our natures by this sort of music.” St. Gregory the Theologian in one of his paschal homilies said: “Let us not have the flute played to our hearing.” And in his Iambic Poetry he wrote, “Block your ears with wax, and foolish words hear not, nor pleasant songs or thrilling melodies…”
You must definitely shut your ears to slanderous remarks against other persons, as is commanded by God: “You shall not utter a false report” (Exodus 23:1). You must be especially careful to oppose the slanders leveled against the clergy. St. Paul when writing to Timothy said: “Never admit any charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses” (I Timothy 5:19). Open therefore only one of your ears to hear the words of slander according to the example of Alexander the Macedonian. Do not by any means allow yourself to open both ears to the slanderers and to draw your conclusions and decisions on the basis of what they alone have to say, and thereby judging the case “in absentia” without the presence of the person slandered to defend himself.
Oftentimes many unjust and irrational decisions have followed from slanderous accusations. St. Basil noted that each slanderer is unjust to three different persons: to himself for lying, to the hearers who may be misled and deceived, and to the person slandered for destroying his good reputation and honor. “For this very reason then I beseech your love in Christ not to accept the slanders presented onesidedly as at all true. For, as it is written, the law does not judge anyone unless the judge listens and finds out what indeed the defendant has done.
It is therefore necessary not to keep silent before such slanders, not that we will avenge ourselves through controversy, but rather because by not conceding (to the slanderer) we do not promote falsehood and do not allow those deceived to fall into harm. He who slanders does harm to three persons at the same time. First of all he is unjust to the person he has slandered; he also harms those persons who have to listen to his slander; finally the slanderer harms himself… “
It goes without saying, of course, that while one must avoid the many abuses of hearing, one must also be more inclined to utilize this important sense of hearing for the many positive ways available to us in our Christian way of life; to listen to the word of God, to attend and participate in the worship services of the Church, to sing hymns of praise and thanksgiving to God, to listen with compassion and understanding to the concerns of your fellow human beings, and to do so many other positive things with our wonderful sense of hearing.
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