Tag Archives: Illumining the Mind

St. Ephraim the Syrian: According to thy mercy, pour out . . .

Icon of St. Ephraim the SyrianAccording to thy mercy, pour out upon me, who am miserable, at least one small drop of grace to make me understand and be converted, that I might make at least some small effort to correct myself. For if thy grace does not illumine my soul, I will not be able to see the carelessness and negligence that the passions have produced in  me through my apathy and recklessness.

+ St. Ephraim the Syrian, “69: The Wiles of the Enemy and the Resources of Sin,” A Spiritual Psalter or Reflections on God

Aposticha, Vespers on the evening of the Sunday of the Last Judgement: Through greed we underwent the first stripping . . .

Icon Expulsion from Paradise 2Through greed we underwent the first stripping, overcome by the bitter tasting of the fruit, and we became exiles from God. But let us turn back to repentance and, fasting from the food that gives us pleasure, let us cleanse our senses on which the enemy makes war. Let us strengthen our hearts with the hope of grace, and not with foods which brought no benefit to those who trusted in them. Our food shall be the Lamb of God, on the holy and radiant night of His Awakening: the Victim offered for us, given in communion to the disciples on the evening of the Mystery, who disperses the darkness of ignorance by the Light of His Resurrection.

— Aposticha, Vespers on the evening of the Sunday of the Last Judgement, Lenten Triodion, p. 166

Four Stichera at the Praises, Matins, Saturday before Meatfare: Come, brethren, before the end, and let us all look upon our clay . . .

Icon Adam Created 3Come, brethren, before the end, and let us all look upon our clay, upon the infirmity and meanness of our nature. Let us behold our end, and the organs of the vessel of our flesh. Let us see that man is dust, food for worms, and corruption; that our bones grow dry, and have no breath of life within them. Let us gaze on the tombs. Where is man’s glory? Where his outward beauty? Where is the eloquent tongue? Where the noble brow, and where the eye? All is dust and shadow. Therefore, Saviour, spare us all.

Why does man deceive himself and boast? Why does he trouble himself in vain? For he is earth, and soon to the earth he will return. Why does the dust not reflect that it is formed from clay, and cast out as rottenness and corruption? Yet though we men are clay, why do we cling so closely to the earth? For if we are Christ’s kindred, should we not run to him, leaving all this mortal and fleeting life, And seeking the life incorruptible, Which is Christ himself, the illumination of our souls?

Thou hast formed Adam with thine hand, O Saviour, and set him on the border between incorruption and mortality; thou hast made him share in life through grace, freeing him from corruption and translating him to the life that he enjoyed at first. Give rest, O Master, to thy servants thou hast taken from us; may they dwell with the righteous in the choir of thine elect; write their names in the book of life; raise them with the sound of the Archangel’s trump, and count them worthy of thy heavenly Kingdom.

Christ is risen, releasing from bondage Adam the first-formed man and destroying the power of hell. Be of good courage, all ye dead, for death is slain and hell despoiled; the crucified and risen Christ is King. He has given incorruption to our flesh; he raises us and grants us resurrection, and He counts worthy of his joy and glory all who, with a faith that wavers not, have trusted fervently in him.

— Four Stichera at the Praises, Matins, Saturday before Meatfare, Lenten Triodion, p. 139

St. John of Kronstadt: Sermon on the Nativity of Jesus Christ (Part 5)

Icon of St. John of Kronstadt“Human nature is deified for the sake of the boundless compassion of the Son of God; and its sins are purified; the defiled are sanctified. The ailing are healed. Upon those in dishonour are boundless honour and glory bestowed. Those in darkness are enlightened by the Divine light of grace and reason.”

+ St. John of Kronstadt, Sermon on the Nativity of Jesus Christ

Read Full Sermon at Pravoslavie

From the Russian text appearing in Chapter 2 of “Solntse Pravdy: O Zhizni i Uchenii Gospoda Nashego, Iisusa Khrista” [“The Sun of Righteousness: On the Life and Teaching of Our Lord, Jesus Christ”], by Protopriest [Saint] Ioann [John] (Sergiev) of Kronstadt, pp. 4-6. Translated into English by G. Spruksts.

St. Silouan the Athonite: If the Lord has left us ignorant of the ordering of many things in this world . . .

Icon of St. Silouan the Athonite“If the Lord has left us ignorant of the ordering of many things in this world, then it means it is not necessary for us to know: we cannot compass all creation with our minds. But the Creator Himself of heaven and earth and every created thing gives us to know Him in the Holy Spirit.

+ St. Silouan the Athonite, Wisdom from Mount Athos: The Writings of Staretz Silouan, 1866-1938

St. Cyril of Alexandria: Jesus tells us that His holy Disciples will be more courageous and more understanding when they would be, as the Scripture says, Endowed with power from on high . . .

Icon of St. Cyril of Alexandria“Jesus tells us that His holy Disciples will be more courageous and more understanding when they would be, as the Scripture says, Endowed with power from on high (Luke 24:49), and that when their minds would be illuminated by the torch of the Spirit they would be able to see into all things, even though no longer able to question Him bodily present among them. The Saviour does not say that they would no longer as before need the light of His guidance, but that when they received His Spirit, when He was dwelling in their hearts, they would not be wanting in any good thing, and their minds would be filled with most perfect knowledge.”

+ St. Cyril of Alexandria

St. Gregory Palamas: If from one burning lamp someone lights another, then another from that one . . .

Icon of St. Gregory of Palamas“If from one burning lamp someone lights another, then another from that one, and so on in succession, he has light continuously. In the same way, through the Apostles ordaining their successors, and these successors ordaining others, and so on, the grace of the Holy Spirit is handed down through all generations and enlightens all who obey their shepherds and teachers.”

+ St. Gregory Palamas, “On how the Holy Spirit was manifested and shared out at Pentecost”

St. Nicodemos: Having read Holy Scripture very carefully, you should also read the holy Fathers . . .

Icon of St. Nikodemus of Mt. Athos“Having read Holy Scripture very carefully, you should also read the holy Fathers who interpret the Scriptures. You will receive no less delight from reading the Fathers than you do from the Scriptures. The Fathers develop the hidden meanings in Scripture and with their own writings help us to understand what we did not before. Because of that philosophic axiom that all men by nature seek knowledge, we must say that great delight follows naturally when we learn about hidden and unknown matters. This is why there will be ineffable joy and gladness that will come to your soul from the interpretations and the words of the holy Fathers. You too will be shouting, as did David, those enthusiastic words in the Psalms.”

+ St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain, A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: Why are Vigil Lamps Lit Before Icons?

Why are vigil lamps lit before icons?

1. Because our faith is light.  Christ said: I am the light of the world (John 8:12).  The light of the vigil lamp reminds us of that light by which Christ illumines our souls.

2. In order to remind us of the radiant character of the saint before whose icon we light the vigil lamp, for saints are called sons of light (John 12:36, Luke 16:8).

3. In order to serve as a reproach to us for our dark deeds, for our evil thoughts and desires, and in order to call us to the path of evangelical light; and so that we would more zealously try to fulfill the commandments of the Saviour: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works” (Matt. 5:16).

4. So that the vigil lamp would be our small sacrifice to God, Who gave Himself completely as a sacrifice for us, and as a small sign of our great gratitude and radiant love for Him from Whom we ask in prayer for life, and health, and salvation and everything that only boundless heavenly love can bestow.

5. So that terror would strike the evil powers who sometimes assail us even at the time of prayer and lead away our thoughts from the Creator. The evil powers love the darkness and tremble at every light, especially at that which belongs to God and to those who please Him.

6. So that this light would rouse us to selflessness. Just as the oil and wick burn in the vigil lamp, submissive to our will, so let our souls also burn with the flame of love in all our sufferings, always being submissive to God’s will.

7. In order to teach us that just as the vigil lamp cannot be lit without our hand, so too, our heart, our inward vigil lamp, cannot be lit without the holy fire of God’s grace, even if it were to be filled with all the virtues.  All these virtues of ours are, after all, like combustible material, but the fire which ignites them proceeds from God.

8. In order to remind us that before anything else the Creator of the world created light, and after that everything else in order: And God said, let there be light: and there was light (Genesis 1:3).  And it must be so also at the beginning of our spiritual life, so that before anything else the light of Christ’s truth would shine within us.  From this light of Christ’s truth subsequently every good is created, springs up and grows in us.

May the Light of Christ illumine you as well!

Prayer before the Gospel: Illumine our Hearts . . .

“Illumine our hearts, O Master Who lovest mankind, with the pure light of Thy divine knowledge. Open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of Thy gospel teachings. Implant also in us the fear of Thy blessed commandments, that trampling down all carnal desires, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing such things as are well-pleasing unto Thee. For Thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God, and unto Thee we ascribe glory, together with Thy Father, Who is from everlasting, and Thine all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”

— Prayer read silently by the priest before the reading of the Gospel