Tag Archives: Forsaking the World

St. Isaac the Syrian: A humble man is . . .

Icon of St. Isaac the SyrianA humble man is never rash, hasty or perturbed, never has any hot and volatile thoughts, but at all times remains calm. Even if heaven were to fall and cleave to the earth, the humble man would not be dismayed. Not every quiet man is humble, but every humble man is quiet. There is no humble man who is not self-constrained; but you will find many who are self-constrained without being humble. This is also what the meek humble Lord meant when He said, ‘Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’ [Matt 11:29]  For the humble man is always at rest, because there is nothing which can agitate or shake his mind. Just as no one can frighten a mountain, so the mind of a humble man cannot be frightened. If it be permissible and not incongruous, I should say that the humble man is not of this world. For he is not troubled and altered by sorrows, nor amazed and enthused by joys, but all his gladness and his real rejoicing are in the things of his Master. Humility is accompanied by modesty and self-collectedness: that is, chastity of the senses; a moderate voice; mean speech; self-belittlement; poor raiment; a gait that is not pompous; a gaze directed towards the earth; superabundant mercy; easily flowing tears; a solitary soul; a contrite heart; imperturbability to anger; undistributed senses; few possessions; moderation in every need; endurance; patience; fearlessness; manliness of heart born of a hatred of this temporal life; patient endurance of trials; deliberations that are ponderous, not light, extinction of thoughts; guarding of the mysteries of chastity; modesty, reverence; and above all, continually to be still and always to claim ignorance.

+ St. Isaac the Syrian,  “Homily 72: On the Vision of the Nature of Incorporeal Beings, in Questions and Answers,” Ascetical Homilies of St Isaac the Syrian

 

St. Isaac the Syrian: Do not reckon as a truly wise man . . .

Icon of St. Isaac the Syrian“Do not reckon as a truly wise man that one whose mind is subject to fear on account of temporal life.”

+ St. Isaac the Syrian, “Six Treatises on the Behaviour of Excellence”, Mystical Treatises by Isaac of Nineveh

St. Isaac the Syrian: Oppose no man in anything; do not quarrel, and do not lie . . .

Icon of St. Isaac the Syrian“Oppose no man in anything; do not quarrel, and do not lie, and do not swear by the name of the Lord your God. Be despised, and do not despise. Be wronged, and do not wrong. It is better for things of the body to perish with the body than for something pertaining to the soul to be hurt. Go to court with no man, but endure to be condemned, being uncondemned.”

+ St. Isaac the Syrian, The Ascetical Homilies, Homily 17

 

St. Symeon the New Theologian: . . . are you not ashamed of playing with shadows and hoarding transitory things . . .

“If you know that all visible things are a shadow and all pass away, are you not ashamed of playing with shadows and hoarding transitory things? Like a child you draw water with a bucket full of holes; do you not realize it and take it into account, my dear friend? As though there were nothing more serious than appearance and illusion, as though reality has been taken from them?”

+ St. Symeon the New Theologian, Symeon the New Theologian: The Discourses (Classics of Western Spirituality), XIX Symeon’s Spiritual Concern

St. Theognostos: Let no one deceive you, brother: without holiness . . . no one can see God

Icon of Jesus“Let no one deceive you, brother: without holiness, as the apostle says, no one can see God (cf. Heb. 12:14).

For the Lord, who is more than holy and beyond all purity, will not appear to an impure person.

Just as he who loves father or mother, daughter or son (cf. Matt. 10:37) more than the Lord is unworthy of Him, so is he who loves anything transient and material.

Even more unworthy is the person who chooses foul and fetid sin to preference to love for the Lord; for God rejects whoever does not repudiate all filthiness: ‘Corruption does not inherit incorruption’ (1 Cor. 15:50). ”

+St. Theognostos, On the Practice of the Virtues, Contemplation and the Priesthood

St. John Chrysostom: Wherefore, if you desire to become equal to the apostles, there is nothing to hinder you. . . .

Icon ApostlesWherefore, if you desire to become equal to the apostles, there is nothing to hinder you. For to have arrived at this virtue only suffices for your not at all falling short of them. Let no one therefore wait for miracles. For though the evil spirit is grieved, when he is driven out of a body, yet much more so, when he sees a soul delivered from sin. For indeed this is his great power. [Acts 8:10] This power caused Christ to die, that He might put an end to it. Yea, for this brought in death; by reason of this all things have been turned upside down. If then thou remove this, you have cut out the nerves of the devil, you have bruised his head, you have put an end to all his might, you have scattered his host, you have exhibited a sign greater than all signs.

The saying is not mine, but the blessed Paul’s. For when he had said, Covet earnestly the best gifts, and yet show I unto you a more excellent way; [1 Corinthians 12:31] he did not speak next of a sign, but of charity, the root of all our good things. If then we practice this, and all the self-denial that flows from it, we shall have no need of signs; even as on the other hand, if we do not practice it, we shall gain nothing by the signs.

Bearing in mind then all this, let us imitate those things whereby the apostles became great. And whereby did they become great? Hear Peter, saying, Behold we have forsaken all, and followed You; what shall we have therefore? [Matthew 19:27] Hear also Christ saying to them, ‘You shall sit upon twelve thrones, and, every one that has forsaken houses, or brethren, or father, or mother, shall receive an hundredfold in this world, and shall inherit everlasting life.’ From all worldly things, therefore, let us withdraw ourselves, and dedicate ourselves to Christ, that we may both be made equal to the apostles according to His declaration, and may enjoy eternal life; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.

Book Complete Church Father Series+ St. John Chrysostom, Homily 46, Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew

For less than the price of a cup of fancy coffee, you can get The Complete Ante-Nicene & Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers Collection which can be read with the the free Kindle reading app. This includes 3 Series, 37 Volumes, 65 Authors, 1,000 Books, 18,000 Chapters, 16 Million Words.

 

 

St. Macarius the Great: . . . Unless the man who is under the influence of the passions will come to God, denying the world, and will believe with patience and hope to receive a good thing . . .

Icon of St. Macarius the Great“Whatever the soul may think fit to do itself, whatever care and pains it may take, relying only upon its own power, and thinking to be able to effect a perfect success by itself, without the co-operation of the Spirit, it is greatly mistaken. It is of no use for the heavenly places; it is of no use for the kingdom – that soul, which supposes that it can achieve perfect purity of itself, and by itself alone, without the Spirit. Unless the man who is under the influence of the passions will come to God, denying the world, and will believe with patience and hope to receive a good thing foreign to his own nature, namely the power of the Holy Spirit, and unless the Lord shall drop upon the soul from on high the life of the Godhead, such a man will never experience true life, will never recover from the drunkenness of materialism; the enlightenment of the Spirit will never shine in that benighted soul, or kindle in it a holy daytime; it will never awake out of that deepest sleep of ignorance, and so come to know God of a truth through God’s power and the efficacy of grace.”

+ St. Macarius the Great, Spiritual Homilies, Homily 24

St. Justin Popovich: What is it that the God-man gives to man which no one else is capable of giving? . . .

Icon of St. Justin Popovich“What is it that the God-man gives to man which no one else is capable of giving? It is victory over death, over sin, and over the devil, Eternal Life, Eternal Truth, Eternal Justice, Eternal Virtue, Eternal Love, Eternal Joy: the entire fullness of the Godhead and of Divine Perfection. As the Apostle tells us: the God-man gives to men ‘those things which God has prepared for those who love Him, which no eye has seen, which no ear has heard, and which have not entered the heart of man’ (1 Cor. 2:9).

In fact only He, the wondrous God-man, is the ‘one thing that is needed’ (cf. Luke 10:42) by man in all his worlds and in his every life. Therefore, only the God-man is justified in asking of us that which no one else has ever dared to ask: that we love Him more than we love parents, siblings, children, friends, the earth, the angels, anyone and everyone in all the worlds, visible and invisible (Matth. 10:37-39; Luke 14:26, Rom. 8 31-39).”

— St. Justin Popovich, Orthodox Faith & Life in Christ, “Reflections on the Infallibility of European Man”

Fr. Seraphim Rose: This weekend, at the Sunday Vigil of the Prodigal Son . . .

By the rivers of Babylon, painting by Gebhard Fugel, circa 1920

By the rivers of Babylon, painting by Gebhard Fugel, circa 1920

This weekend, at the Sunday Vigil of the Prodigal Son, we will sing Psalm 136.[1]

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion”.

In these words of the Lenten Psalm, we Orthodox Christians, the New Israel, remember that we are in exile. For Orthodox Russians, banished from Holy Russia,[2] the Psalm has a special meaning; but all Orthodox Christians, too, live in exile in this world, longing to return to our true home, Heaven.

For us the Great Fast is a session of exile ordained for us by our Mother, the Church, to keep fresh in us the memory of Zion from which we have wandered so far. We have deserved our exile and we have great need of it because of our great sinfulness. Only through the chastisement of exile, which we remember in the fasting, prayer and repentance of this season.

Do we remain mindful of our Zion?

“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…”

Weak and forgetful, even in the midst of the Great Fast we live as though Jerusalem did not exist for us. We fall in love with the world, our Babylon; we are seduced by the frivolous pastimes of this “strange land” and neglect the services and discipline of the Church which remind us of our true home. Worse yet, we love our very captors – for our sins hold us captive more surely than any human master – and in their service we pass in idleness the precious days of Lent when we should be preparing to meet the Rising Sun of the New Jerusalem, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is still time; we must remember our true home and weep over the sins which have exiled us from it. Let us take to heart the words of St. John of the Ladder: “Exile is separation from everything in order to keep the mind inseparable from God. An exile loves and produces continual weeping.” Exiled from Paradise, we must become exiled from the world if we hope to return.

This we may do by spending these days in fasting, prayer, separation from the world, attendance at the services of the Church, in tears of repentance, in preparation for the joyful Feast that is to end this time of exile; and by bearing witness to all in this “strange land” of our remembrance of that even greater Feast that shall be when our Lord returns to take His people to the New Jerusalem, from which there shall be no more exile, for it is eternal.Book Father Seraphim Rose

+ Fr. Seraphim Rose, March 1965

Read about the life of Fr. Seraphim Rose

Footnotes:

[1] “By the Waters of Babylon” is the entire Psalm 136, sung to a plaintive melody, after the Polyelos Psalm during Matins. It is only sung in church the three Sundays that precede Great Lent: Sunday of the Prodigal Son, The Last Judgment (Meatfare) and Forgivensss (Cheesefare) It is significant that this same hymn is chanted at the beginning of the service of monastic tonsure.
[2] This homily was written in 1965, when the church in Russia was still under captivity to the Communist regime.