Tuesday, 8 January 2013

St Macarius the Great: Man needs Christ

He who has chosen the eremitical life ought to regard all things in this world as strange and as the cross of Christ, denying all things, ‘even his own life also,’ (Luke 14.26). He ought to have his mind focused on the love of Christ and prefer the Lord to parents, brother, wife, children, friends, possessions. This the Lord taught, saying: ‘Everyone that has not left father or mother or brothers or wife or children or lands and does not follow me, is not worthy of me’ (Matthew 10.37). In nothing else is there found salvation for men and rest as we have heard.
How many kings have appeared from Adam’s race, possessing dominion over all the earth, thinking great things because of their kingly power! And yet none of them, for all that they had in their favour, had the power to know the evil which had infiltrated the soul because of the first man’s transgression and had darkened it. They did not know the change that had come over the mind that at first was pure and contemplated the Master and was held in honor. And now on account of its fall the mind is clothed with shame and the eyes of the heart are blinded so as not to see that glory which our father Adam before his disobedience beheld.
There have been diverse wise men according to the world, among whom some were noted for their ability in philosophy, others have been admired for their sophistic abilities, others for their oratorical skill, still others were men of letters and poets and composed summary histories. There also were various artisans who practiced the arts according to the world. Some carved in wood types of birds and fishes and images of men and in those they diligently sought to display their talent. Some fashioned by hand bronze statues similar to real humans and other things. Others build mighty and very beautiful buildings. Others dug out of the earth silver and gold that perish; others sought precious stones. Others possessed beauty of body and were pleased with their comeliness, and, all the more enticed by Satan, they fell into sin. And all of these artisans, being captured by the serpent dwelling within them and, not knowing the sin that abode in them, became slaves of the power of evil. They profited nothing from their knowledge and art.
Therefore, the world, filled with every variety, is likened to a rich man who possesses splendid and big houses, gold and silver and various possessions and all kind of service in abundance. But he is still seriously laden with sicknesses and afflictions and his whole family stands around, with all his riches, and is unable to relieve him of his infirmity. Thus no pursuit in this life, no brothers, no wealth, no courage, none of all the things mentioned above relieve man of sin, man who has been submerged in sin and cannot see things clearly. Only the presence of Christ can purify soul and body. Therefore, let us put aside every care of this life, and, crying out to the Lord night and day, let us devote ourselves to Him. This visible world and the rest found in it seem to comfort the body, but they aggravate all the more the passions of the soul and increase its suffering.
A certain prudent man desired to apply himself diligently. He strove with care to gain experience of all the things of this world, if he might be able to find some profit from them. He went to kings, potentates, rulers, and found no healing cure there to help his soul. And after spending much time with them, he found no improvement. He went again to the wise men of this world and the orators. He left them again in the same way, not having found any help. He toured the rounds of painters and those who mine gold and silver from the earth, and all the artisans, and he was unable to find any healing for his own wounds. Finally, having left them, he sought God for himself, the One who heals the sufferings and sicknesses of the soul. But as he was pondering about himself and meditated on these things, his mind was found wandering distractedly among those things from which he had visibly withdrawn out of hatred for them.
Take the example of a certain woman in the world who is rich with much money and a magnificent house, but she lacks any protection. And those who attack her to injure her and lay her buildings to waste are many. She, refusing the injury, goes out to seek a powerful husband, capable and educated in all respects. And after much struggle she finds such a man. She rejoices in him and has him as a strong wall. In the same way, the soul after transgression, and for a long time having been afflicted by the adverse power and having fallen into great devastation, ‘a widow and desolate’ (1 Timothy 5.5), was deserted by her heavenly Husband because of disobedience of the commandment. She was made fun of by all the opposing powers (for they drove her out of her mind and confused her in her heavenly knowledge), so she does not see what they have done to her, but only things she was born like this from the beginning. Then, after she had learned through hearing of her solitude and barrenness, she deplored her desolation before God, the Lover of mankind, and found life and salvation. Why? Because she went back to her family. For there is no other family tie and helpfulness like that between the soul and God and between God and the soul.
God made various kinds of birds. Some to fashion their nests in the earth and there to have their nourishment and rest. Others he ordained to build their nests under water and there to have life. He fashioned two worlds: one above for the ‘ministering spirits’ (Hebrews 1.14), and he arranged it that they have their communication there; the other world is below for men under this atmosphere. He created also sky and earth, sun and moon, waters, fruit-bearing trees, all kinds of animals. But in none of these did God rest. All creation is ruled by Him, and still He did not establish His throne in them nor did He enter into fellowship with them. But it was only with man that He was pleased, fellowshipping and resting in him. Do you see the relationship of God to man and of man to God? Therefore, the wise and prudent person, after passing through all creatures, took no rest in himself, but only in the Lord. And the Lord was well pleased in nothing except man alone.
If you raise your eyes to the sun, you find its orb in the sky, but its light and rays stretch to the earth and all the power of its light and its splendor is aimed at the earth. So also the Lord sits at the right hand of the Father ‘above all principality and power’ (Ephesians 1.21), but He casts His eye on the hearts of men on earth, in order that He may raise up to where He is those who accept help from Him. For this reason He says: ‘Where I am, there shall my servant also be’ (John 12.20). And again Paul says: ‘He has raised us up together with Him and made us sit together with Him at His right hand in heavenly places’ (Ephesians 2.6). Irrational animals are much more consistent than we. For they are all joined, each to its own nature, the wild animals to the wild and sheep to their own species. But you do not rise up toward your heavenly family with is the Lord, but you give yourself over and consent in your thoughts to the thoughts of evil. You make yourself a helper of sin and you wage war with it against yourself. Thus you make yourself a prey for the enemy, like a bird caught by the eagle and eaten up, or the sheep by the wolf, or an ignorant child that would be bitten by it and would be infected. For the parables act as models in the spiritual life.
As a wealthy maiden, espoused to a fiancé, may receive no matter how many gifts before the consummation, either ornaments or clothing or precious vessels, she is not satisfied with these until the time of the marriage arrives and she arrives at full communion, so the soul, betrothed as bride to the heavenly Bridegroom, receives as pledge from the Spirit gifts of healing or of knowledge or of revelation. But it is not satisfied with these until it reaches the perfect communion, that is, of love, which is unchangeable and unfailing. It makes those free from passion and agitation who have desired it. Or as an infant, decked out with pearls and costly clothing, when it is hungry, thinks nothing of the things it wears, but ignores them. It cares only for the breast of its nurse, how it may receive milk. So likewise consider it to be with the spiritual gifts of God to whom be glory forever. Amen.

St Macarius the Great. Homily 45

St Isaac the Syrian- On Repentance(Homily 10)

The encouragement which the Fathers give in their divine writings and the help for repentance which is found in the writings of the apostles and the prophets must not be employed by us as an aid for sinning and for breaking the Lord’s inviolable decrees. For by the power of God these things were decreed from ancient times through the mouth of all the saints in all their writings and legislations in order to abolish sin. But the fact that repentance furnishes hope should not be taken by us as a means to rob ourselves of the feeling of fear, so that one might more freely and fearlessly commit sin. For behold how God in every wise preached fear in all the Scriptures and showed Himself to be a hater of sin. Why indeed was the generation of men in the days of Noe drowned in the deluge? Was it not because of their lasciviousness when they raved over the beauty of the daughters of Cain? At that time there was no avarice, no idolatry, no sorcery, no wars. Why were the cities of the Sodomites consumed by fire? Was it not because they gave their members over to lust and impurity, such that it dominated over all of them in every abominable and unnatural act, even as they willed? Was it not because of the fornication of one man that in one instant five and twenty thousand of the sons of Israel, the firstborn of God, fell and died? Why was the mighty man Samson rejected by God, he who was set apart and consecrated to God while still in the womb; whose birth was announced by an angel, like John, the son of Zacharias; who was granted great power and worked great wonders and who by the supernatural strength which God poured into his body smote a thousand men with a jawboen of an ass and became a saviour and judge unto Israel? Was it not because he defiled his holy members by union with a harlot? For this reason God departed from him and surrendered him to his enemies. And David, who was a man after God’s own heart, who because of his virtues was found worthy to generate from his seed the promise of the Fathers, and to have Christ shine forth from himself for the salvation of all the world, was he not punished because of adultery with a woman, when he beheld her beauty with his eyes and was pierced in his soul by that arrow? For it was because of this that God raised up a war against him from within his own household, and he who came forth from his loins pursued him. These things befell him even after he had repented with many tears, such that he moistened his couch with his weeping, and after God had said to him through the prophet, “The Lord hath forgiven thy sin.”
I wish also to bring to mind certain men before David. For what reason did wrath and death come upon the house of the priest Eli, the righteous elder who was eminent for forty years in his priesthood? Was it not because of the iniquity of his sons? For neither did he sin, nor did thy with his assent, but it was because he did not have the zeal to demand from them the Lord’s vindication and he love dthem more than the statutes of the Lord. Lest anyone surmise that the Lord manifests His wrath only upon those who pass all the days of their life in iniquities, behold how for this unseemly sin He manifests His zeal against His genuine servants, against priests, judges, rulers, men consecrated to Him, to whom He entrusted the working of miracles, and He in no wise overlooks the transgressions of His statutes, as it is written in Ezekiel, “I said to the man whom I commanded to go into Jerusalem with an invisible sword: Begin at My sanctuary, and have no mercy upon the old man and the youth.” Thus he showed that His true servant and friends are those who walk before Him in fear and reverence and do His will, since virtuous deeds and purity of conscience are things holy and beloved of God. But when men repudiate His paths, the Lord repudiates them, casts them away from His face, and takes from them His grace. For why was the sentence against Baltasar issued so swiftly and why did it strike him down, as it were, by the form of a hand? Was it not because he acted with audacity toward the untouchable vessels of offering which he seized from Jerusalem, drinking out of them, both he and his concubines? In the same manner, those who have consecrated their members to God, but are so audacious as to use them once more for worldly deeds, the same perish, being smitten by an invisible blow.
Therefore, let us not disregard the oracles and threats of God by reason of our confidence in repentance and the good courage given us by the divine Writings, and so to make Him wrothful by our wicked deeds and defile our members that have been consecrated once and for all for the service of God. For lo, we have consecrated ourselves to Him, as Elias, Elisseus, the sons of the prophets, and all the other saints and virgins, who worked great wonders and spoke to God face to face. And further, as all those who came after them: John the Virgin, the holy Peter, and the other heralds and preachers of the New Testament, who consecrated themselves to the Lord, from Whom they received the knowledge of mysteries—some from His very mouth, others through revelation—and who became intercessors between God and men and receptacles of His revelations, and preachers of the Kingdom to the whole world.

St Isaac the Syrian. First Collection: Homily Ten

St Dorotheos of Gaza- On Relationships

Imagine a circle with its center and radii or rays going out from this center. The further these radii are from the center the more widely they are dispersed and separated from one another; and conversely, the closer they come to the center, the closer they are to one another.
Suppose now that this circle is the world, the very center of the circle is God, and the lines going from the center to the circumference or from the circumference to the center are the paths of men’s lives. Then here we see the same.
Insofar as the Saints move inward within the circle towards its center, wishing to come near to God, then, in the degree of their penetration, they come closer both to God and to one another; moreover, inasmuch as they come nearer to God, they come nearer to one another, and inasmuch as they come nearer to one another, they come nearer to God. It is the same with drawing away ….
Such is the property of love; inasmuch as we are outside and do not love God, so each is far from his neighbor. But if we love God, inasmuch as we come near to Him by love of Him, so we become united by love with our neighbors, and inasmuch as we become united by love with our neighbors, so we become united with God.

Saint Dorotheos of Gaza, Directions on Spiritual Training, 42
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