Irritability, or the anger part of our tripartite soul, is not given in order to be angry at our neighbors, but in order to have zeal against sin. When we become enraged with our neighbors, we do this contrary to our nature. Irritability is strong in us because of pride.
Friday, June 26, 2015
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
A continuously happy life produces extremely unhappy consequences. In nature we see that there are not always pleasant springs and fruitful summers, and sometimes autumn is rainy and winter cold and snowy, and there is flooding and wind and storms, and moreover the crops fail and there are famine, troubles, sicknesses and many other misfortunes. All of this is beneficial so that man might learn through prudence, patience and humility. For the most part, in times of plenty he forgets himself, but in times of various sorrows he becomes more attentive to his salvation.
Saturday, June 20, 2015
You see very clearly that it is extremely difficult, and without God’s grace and your own fervent prayer and abstinence, impossible, for you to change for the better. You feel within yourself the action of a multitude of passions: of pride, malice, envy, greediness, the love of money, despondency, slothfulness, fornication, impatience, and disobedience; and yet you remain in them, are often bound by them, whilst the long-suffering Lord bears with you, awaiting your return and amendment; and still bestows upon you all the gifts of His mercy.
Be then indulgent, patient, and loving to those who live with you, and who also suffer from many passions; conquer every evil by good, and, above all, pray to God for them, that He may correct them—that He may turn their hearts to Himself, the source of holiness. Do not help the Devil to spread his kingdom. Hallow the name of your Heavenly Father by your actions; help Him to spread His Kingdom on earth. ‘For we are laborers together with God.’Be zealous of the fulfillment of His will on earth, as it is in heaven. Forgive them that trespass against you with joy, as a good son rejoices when he has a chance of fulfilling the will of his beloved father.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
At the door of Your compassion do I knock, Lord; send aid to my scattered impulses which are intoxicated with the multitude of the passions and the power of darkness. You can see my sores hidden within me: stir up contrition—though not corresponding to the weight of my sins, for if I receive full awareness of the extent of my sins, Lord, my soul would be consumed by the bitter pain from them. Assist my feeble stirrings on the path to true repentance, and may I find alleviation from the vehemence of sins through the contrition that comes of Your gift, for without the power of Your grace I am quite unable to enter within myself, become aware of my stains, and so, at the sight of them be able to be still from great distraction.
Monday, June 15, 2015
A lamp cannot be kept burning without oil, nor can the light of spiritual gifts continue to shine unless one inwardly sustains it with actions and thoughts consonant with it. For every spiritual gift requires a corresponding inner quality in the recipient to feed it spiritually as though with oil, thus preserving its presence. Unless the light of spiritual knowledge present in God’s gifts is fed with divine intellections, it will go out.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Vandalism at the cathedral—remember also the faithful priest, Fr. Innocent Dresdow, his family & parishioners. May God be merciful to the perpetrator, bringing the person to repentance and salvation.
St. Herman of Alaska, pray for us!
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
St. John Chrysostom on Enmity
Here are presented excerpts from two homilies of St. John Chrysostom dealing with the passion of enmity. The first homily is on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, and the second concerns Onesimus, the runaway slave of Philemon.
“Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no place to the devil.” (Eph. 4:26-7)
So then, to be at war with one another is "to give place to the devil". While we all have need to be in close array, and to make our stand against him we have relaxed our enmity against him, and are giving a signal to turn against each other; for never has the devil such place as in our enmities. Numberless are the evils thereby. Stones in a dam, as long as they are closely fitted together and leave no opening, stand firm. However, if there is but a single needle's passage through them, or a crevice no broader than a hair, this destroys and ruins all: so is it with the devil. As long as we are closely set and compacted together, he cannot introduce one of his wiles, but when he causes us to relax a little he rushes in like a torrent. In every case he needs only a beginning, and this is the thing which it is difficult to accomplish; but once it is accomplished, he makes room for himself on all sides. For now he opens the ear to slanders, and they who speak lies are the more trusted since they have enmity which acts as an advocate, rather than truth which judges justly. And just as where friendship is, even those evils which are true appear false; so where there is enmity, even the false appear true. There is a different mind, a different manner of judgment which does not hear fairly, but hears instead with great bias and partiality.
As in a balance, if lead is cast into the scale, it will drag down the whole, so is it also here; but the weight of enmity is far heavier than that of lead. Therefore let us, I beseech you, do all that we can to extinguish our enmities before the going down of the sun. For if you fail to master it on the very first day, both on the following, and oftentimes even for a year, you will be protracting it; and the enmity will thenceforward augment itself, and will no longer require anything to aid it. For by causing us to suspect that words spoken in one sense were meant in another, and the same with gestures, and indeed in everything, it infuriates and exasperates us. It makes us more distempered than madmen, not enduring either to utter a name, or even to hear it, but saying everything in revilement and abuse.
How then are we to allay this passion? How shall we extinguish this flame? By reflecting on our own sins and on how much we have to answer for to God. By considering that we are wreaking vengeance, not on an enemy, but on ourselves. By reflecting that we are delighting the devil, and that we are strengthening our enemy - our real enemy - and that for him we are doing wrong to our own members.
Do you desire to be revengeful and be at enmity? Be at enmity; but be at enmity with the devil, and not with your own member. It is for this purpose that God has armed us with anger: not that we should thrust the sword against our own bodies, but that we should baptize the whole blade in the devil's breast. There bury the sword up to the hilt, yes, if you so desire, hilt and all, and never draw out again, but add yet another sword and another. And this actually comes to pass when we are merciful to those of our own spiritual family and peaceably disposed one towards another. Thus let us say to ourselves: let money perish, let glory and reputation perish; mine own member is dearer to me than they all....
In regard to his fellow men Paul never considered this—that it was the individual who had sinned and needed advocacy; but rather that it was a human being - the living thing most precious to God, and for whose sake the Father had not spared even His Only-Begotten Son. Don't tell me that this or that man is a runaway slave, or a robber or thief, or laden with countless faults. Nor that he is a beggar and abject, or of low value and worthy of no account, but consider that for his sake the Christ died and this suffices for you as a ground for all solicitude.
Consider what sort of person he must be, whom Christ valued at so high a price so as not to have spared even His own blood. If a king had chosen to sacrifice himself on anyone's behalf, would we seek out another demonstration of that person being someone great and of deep interest to the king? I think not, for the King’s death would be sufficient to show his love for the one for whom he had died. But as it is not man, nor angel, not archangel, but the very Lord of the heavens Himself, the Only-Begotten Son of God Himself, Who -having clothed Himself with flesh - freely gave Himself on our behalf. Shall we not do everything and take every trouble, so that the men that have been thus valued may enjoy every solicitude at our hands? Therefore let us not despise our brethren or look down upon them for any cause. But let us cast off such a shameful disposition and bring ourselves to compassion in order to persuade ourselves to care for our neighbors; and even more than this, let us ever look to the Master's death, which He voluntarily suffered for our sake.
Monday, June 8, 2015
The Lord does not send suffering to the servants of God without a purpose. It tests the genuineness of our love for God the Creator. Just as athletes win crowns struggling in the arena, Christians are perfected by the trial of their temptations if they patiently and gratefully accept what God sends them. Everything is ordained by the Lord’s love. We must not be distressed by anything that happens to us, even if it affects our present weaknesses. For although we don’t know why everything that happens to us is sent by God as a blessing, we should be convinced that everything that happens to us is for our good.
Saturday, June 6, 2015
On Needing God’s Kneading
Archimandrite Aimilianos in a lecture entitled “On The State That Jesus Confers,” says that the basic human problem is that we do not see God. In fact, most people cannot see God, but can only seek Him. This is because our eyes (both physical and the eyes of our souls) are earthly, they are trained to see, to think about and to contemplate only physical things and what can be deduced from physically perceptible things or what directly affects how we feel, that is, the emotional realities that are at work within us—although some people work hard to ignore even theses.
If, however, we want to see God, where do we begin? Archimandrite Aimilianos says that we must begin with what we can do. We can seek; we can come to God with longing. In other words, if you want to see God, you have to want to see God. I’m not being redundant. There is wanting, and then there is wanting. I can want to become a doctor, for example; but if I don’t want to become a doctor more than I want to play video games, more than I want to hang out with my friends and more than just about anything else, I will never become a doctor. There is wanting, and then there is really wanting: wanting so much that it is pretty much all I want. And so we might say that if you want to see God, you have to want to see God more than just about anything else.
Now I may be stating the obvious here, but I should probably make clear that the word “see” is a metaphor. Archimandrite Aimilianos is not talking about physical sight, neither is he talking about some sort of inner vision or soul sight within our imagination. Rather, by seeing God, he is referring to a knowing of and encounter with God that is so real that it is like seeing. He is saying that one can know and encounter God with such clarity and force that “seeing” is the only adequate word to describe the experience. Just as we say that we know something to be the case, to be true, if we see it ourselves, test it, feel it, try it and in many physical ways experience it, so also Archimandrite Aimilianos tells us we can encounter and experience and know God in ways that involve so much surety that this knowledge of God is more real to us than the evidence of our physical senses. In fact, he would say, that this knowledge of God is indeed more real than the whole world perceptible through my senses and my logic, more real because the God whom we can come to know is not merely real, but is the source and ground of all reality. All that is immediately perceptible through the physical senses or through logic or even human feeling are only contingent realities, realities contingent on the One, on the imperceptible God whom we can, nonetheless, come to perceive if we seek for Him.
And yet seeking God is not like seeking things that I can physically or logically see because in seeking for God, we cannot find God. God is not to be found. But, you might ask, if God is not to be found by seeking, why seek Him? Actually the answer is quite simple. God cannot be found, regardless of how diligently we seek Him, God cannot be found, but God does reveal Himself. But when God reveals Himself, if we are not seeking Him, we will not see Him or know him. There is a passage in the Prophet Jeremiah (17:6-8) in which the prophet compares those whose hearts are not turned toward the Lord to a shrub in the desert that doesn’t even know when the rain comes. That is, when we are not seeking God, when we are not longing to see or be touched by God, then when God does come, when God does reveal Himself to us, we don’t see it, we don’t perceive it.
And so if we want to see God, we must seek Him, but in seeking Him we will not find Him; but rather, by seeking Him, we prepare ourselves to see Him when He reveals Himself to us. Someone once explained it this way, “You can do absolutely nothing to make the sun rise, but you can be awake when it rises.”
Similarly, we can be awake, we can be watching, looking, seeking God so that when God reveals Himself we can perceive it. However, it is not as though God is one minute revealing Himself and the next minute not, as though God were playing hide and seek with us. God is continually revealing Himself to us, speaking to us and making Himself known to us in ways that can only be perceived as we allow our minds to be changed—or to use the biblical word—as we learn to repent. To repent means to change your mind, to think and perceive differently. In other words, God is only perceived by us as we change, or rather, as we allow ourselves to be changed. And the very seeking of God changes us because wanting one thing more than anything changes everything.
When we begin to seek God, according to Archimandrite Aimilianos, we ask God to satisfy our desires; and when He doesn’t, we think that He is ignoring us. We ask God to realize our hopes, and we are dismayed because they are not fulfilled. We ask God to let us feel His nearness, and God seems to stay far away. God does not answer these prayers because they are all, in a sense, requests to stay were we are, requests for God to strengthen what we already think, already envision, what we desire now. In fact, Archimandrite Aimilianos goes so far as to say that God does not answer these prayers because we are asking God to strengthen the very things that God, through repentance, wants to lead us out of.
And so we experience a kind of tribulation, a separating of the wheat from the chaff, a kind of suffering that takes us through what feels like a desert of God’s absence. But God is not absent. God is as near as He has ever been. God is near and is helping us change our minds, helping us to let go of inappropriate or immature ways of thinking about God and ourselves, helping us to let go of ways of knowing and feeling the nearness of God that rely primarily on our more shallow feelings or external serendipitous events that confirm our expectations, our hopes and our desires. God is forcing us to go deeper into ourselves so that we can come to know God more deeply. God is taking away what is familiar so that we can reach out to perceive and know God more as God is and thus to grow ourselves.
Archimandrite Aimilianos gives us a helpful image to understand how we begin to see God when we are seeking Him. He says that we do not begin by seeing God’s face or even his back, but we begin by first seeing God’s hands. We see God’s hands as God kneads us like dough. As our seeking brings us to Church, to the Tradition, to the people of God where we hope to find God, our expectations are thwarted in many ways, not the least of which are our expectations about what we expect from the Church. Instead of the Glory of God, a lot of what we see at first are jars of clay, broken, cracked and misshapen. We look to the place where God’s Glory dwells, and much of what we see in the beginning is the brokenness of others: foolishness, selfishness and hypocrisy—not greater than our own, mind you, if we are honest with ourselves. But still, we had hoped to find something different, we had hoped that people here would be different. And this very disappointment, for many, is the beginning of the kneading.
Disappointment leads to contemplation. We begin to think more deeply, and consequently, we begin to look more deeply, to seek more deeply, and through this contemplation, our eyes are adjusted, we begin to see things differently, we begin, first of all, to see ourselves as we hadn’t seen ourselves before, and thus we begin for the first time to see God, we see God’s hands pushing and pulling and pressing us, kneading us, changing us. Archimandrite Aimilianos puts it this way:
You contemplate the depths of your soul being kneaded by grace, like dough being kneaded into bread. Your soul is now a malleable lump kneaded by the hands of God. You see our soul being worked on, passing through His fingers…. All you see is His hand, as we see it in certain icons, emerging from a cloud in order to bless the saint standing below it. And now you are standing next to God, watching His hand as it kneads your soul.
And this is the real beginning of the spiritual life, of a life with God. Most of our spiritual journey is seeking, seeking and not finding much until we begin to see God: we see God’s hand. We see God’s hand opposing us, pushing us, kneading us, making us into bread. And when we can indeed begin to see God’s hand in all that we do not expect, in every disappointment, in every vicissitude of life, every uncomfortable change and unexpected outcome, when we see God’s fingerprints in everything that humbles us, everything that forces us to trust only in the mercy of God, when we see God’s hand here, we are now, according to Archimandrite Aimilianos, we are now beginning to see God, we are beginning to see the hand of God.
Friday, June 5, 2015
Sit in the presence of the Lord every moment of your life, as you think of Him and recollect Him in your heart. Otherwise, when you only see Him after a period of time, you will lack freedom of converse with Him, out of shame; for great freedom of converse is born out of constant association with Him. St. Isaac the Syrian
Our likeness to God requires our cooperation. When the intellect begins to perceive the Holy Spirit with full consciousness, we should realize that grace is beginning to paint the divine likeness over the divine image in us. If the intellect does not receive the perfection of the divine likeness through such illumination, although it may have almost every other virtue, it will still have no share in the perfect love.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Our effort and struggle against sin is powerless without the help of God. For this reason we must make an effort and pray that the Lord help us in this so important an endeavor. The Lord helps those that take care and labor. He strengthens those that struggle and crowns the victorious.
Monday, June 1, 2015
It is not necessary to roam heaven and earth after God or to send our mind to seek Him in different places. Purify your soul, O son of man, remove from yourself the thought of memories outside of nature; hang the veil of chastity and humility before your impulses. By means of these you will be able to find Him who is within you.