Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Vineyard of Our Heart.
Saint Isaac the Syrian.

Saint Isaac the Syrian.
When the intellect is renewed and the heart is sanctified, all the motions of desire that move in the heart are set astir in accord with the nature of that world which a man enters. First there arises in him fervent love for things divine and he ardently yearns for communion with the angels and the revelations of the mysteries of spiritual knowledge. His intellect perceives the spiritual knowledge of created things, and the divine vision of the mysteries of the Holy Trinity together with the mysteries of the worshipful economy on our behalf shines forth in him; then he becomes one through the completeness of the knowledge of the hope of future things.
If a soul confined in the realm of the passions could truly love God, she would have much need to ask questions and to learn the mysteries of the spiritual world. But it is clear that learning and knowledge bring no profit amid the passions, nor do they suffice to open the door closed in the face of purity. But if the passions are removed from the soul, the intellect is illumined, stands firmly in the pure region of its nature, and has no need of questioning, since it distinctly beholds the good things treasured in this region. Our out­ward senses do not perceive by learning and questioning the natures and the things that are kindred to them, but each sense naturally, and not by questioning, perceives what con­fronts it. Indeed, instruction does not mediate between the senses and things perceived. However, much one may tell a blind man about the glorious light of the sun, the moon, and the choir of the stars, and of the lustre of precious stones. He can grasp, judge, and conceive of their beauty only by their appellation, yet his knowledge and his discerning faculty remain divorced from the sweetness of their sight. In the same manner I conceive of the divine vision of the spirit. For if the intellect, which beholds hidden spiritual mys­teries, is in its natural state of health, it distinctly beholds the glory of Christ. It does not question or receive instruction, but more than in the freedom of the will it delights in the sweetness of the mysteries of the new world according to the fervour of its faith and hope in Christ. Even so the blessed Paul wrote "That which we see, why do we yet hope for? With patience we wait for it".  
We ought, therefore, earnestly to wait and persevere in a solitary manner with sim­plicity with regard to our inner man, wherein there are no impressions of thoughts or sight of complex objects. For in relation to what the intellect sees, it receives patterns.
When it looks toward the world, the intellect receives impressions and representations according to the diversity of the forms which it ponders. These stir up thoughts in the in­tellect in proportion to their multiplicity and the diversity of their variations. And when the thoughts are set in motion, they place their seal upon the intellect. But if the intellect looks steadfastly into the inner man, where there is nothing which could give rise to changing forms and no distinction of complex objects differing from one another by their shapes, but Christ is all in all, it is clear that the intellect will enjoy simple divine vision. There is nothing which so makes the soul's depths fragrant and is wont to give her such boldness in the hour of prayer as this, for simple theoria is the nourishment of the soul. When the soul stands firmly in the realm of the knowledge of the truth, she has no need of questioning. For just as the eye of the body does not question when it sees the sun, so the eye of the soul does not first investigate and afterward behold spiritual knowledge. It is in this manner also, O holy man that the mystical divine vision for which you yearn is revealed in the intellect after the soul has returned to health. But intellectual vision, which endeavours to learn such mysteries through investigation and inquiry, is [nothing but] folly of soul. The blessed Paul did not say that by instruction or in a material place he saw and heard mysteries and "unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter, but in rapture he was caught up into the spiritual realm and beheld the revelation of mysteries."
"labour in the vineyard of your heart"
Therefore, O holy man if you love purity, by love cut yourself off from all love that is poured out toward all things, and having entered, labour in the vineyard of your heart, pluck out the passions from your soul, and strive to be ignorant of human wickedness. Purity which sees God does not arise and blossom forth in the soul by searching for it, but by being ignorant of every man's wickedness. But if you wish your heart to be a dwelling ­place of the mysteries of the new world, first become rich in the works of the spirit, soul, and body; fasting, vigil, liturgy, ascetical struggle, patience, purging of thoughts, and so forth. Fetter your intellect by reading the Scriptures and pondering upon them, inscribe the commandments before your eyes, and pay the debt of the passions when you are de­feated and when you are victorious? By the constant converse of prayer and supplica­tion and by your rumination therein, uproot from your heart every image and every like­ness which you have received afore time. Accustom your intellect always to muse upon the mysteries of our Saviour's Economy; leave off your search for knowledge and divine vision, which, in their time and place, exceed all verbal description; pursue the practice of the commandments and labours on behalf of purity; and beg the Lord in heartfelt prayer that the very same fire which He set into the hearts of the Apostles, the Martyrs, and the knowledge cannot comprehend are received by us through faith, and we gain knowledge of them in that divine vision which we enjoy after purification.
For the sake of the mys­teries of the Spirit, which are above knowledge and cannot be apprehended by the senses of the body or by the reasoning power of the intellect, God has given us faith, whereby we know only that these mysteries exist. But this faith gives birth in us to hope for them. By faith we profess that God is the Lord, Master, Creator, and Fashioner of all things. By knowledge we determine that we must keep His commandments and understand that fear keeps the old commandments, but love keeps the life-giving commandments of Christ, as He Himself said, "I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." It is evident that the Son does not keep the commandments of His Father from fear, but from love. For this reason He admonishes us that we should also keep His commandments out of love when He says: "If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will entreat the Father and He shall give another Comforter". By the coming of the Comforter He in­dicates the gifts of the revelation of the mysteries of the Spirit, since it was by the recep­tion of the Spirit that the apostles received the perfection of spiritual knowledge. The Lord promised to ask His Father to give the Comforter to them, to abide with them unto the ages, after the doing of the commandments and purification. Do you see that by the keeping of the commandments the intellect is accounted worthy of the gift of mystical divine vision and the revelations of spiritual knowledge? Indeed, it is not as your wisdom supposed, namely, that the work of keeping the commandments is a hindrance to the divine vision of the divine mysteries which are accomplished in stillness.
Therefore I entreat you, if you perceive in your soul that you have reached the realm of love, keep the new commandments of love for Him Who decreed them, and not from fear, even as the blessed Paul said when he was aflame with divine love: "Who shall sepa­rate me from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or prison, or persecution...” Furthermore he adds, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord."Amen.

The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian. Holy Transfiguration Monastery. (1984)

Saturday, September 21, 2019

L'amour des ennemis chez Saint Silouane.
Jean-Claude Larchet.

Fresque de Saint Silouane l'Athonite.
Monastère Saint Jean-Baptiste, Liban. 
L'amour des ennemis chez Saint Silouane implique non seulement que l'on supporte les afflictions que ceux-ci nous font endurer, mais encore qu'on les supporte avec joie à cause de Dieu. Il implique corrélativement que l'on remercie Dieu de toutes ces afflictions: elles contribuent en effet, nous l'avons vu, à notre progrès spirituel, et doivent à cet égard être reçues comme un don providentiel, de Dieu qui a en vue notre salut.
L'amour des ennemis implique aussi que l'on garde, face aux violences que l'on subit, la paix de l'âme et du corps, autrement dit, comme nous l'avons noté précédemment, que non seulement on ne s'irrite pas en retour, mais que l'on reste sans trouble .
Le Starets recommande aussi, non seulement de ne pas accuser nos ennemis, mais encore de ne pas penser de mal d'eux et même de ne pas les juger du tout. Plutôt que d'accuser les autres, il convient de se sentir soi-même coupable.
L'amour des ennemis suppose bien entendu, pour le Starets, qu'on leur pardonne leurs offenses et que l'on prie pour eux. Néanmoins le pardon n'est pas encore l'amour, et la prière peut précéder l'amour et n'en être pas encore une manifestation : « Lorsque j'étais encore dans le monde», confesse saint Silouane, «j'aimais de bon cœur pardonner; je pardonnais facilement et je priais volontiers pour ceux qui m'avaient offensé; mais quand je vins au monastère, alors que j'étais encore novice, je reçus une grande grâce et elle m'apprit à aimer mes ennemis».

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Orthodoxy and Salvation.
Father James Bernstein.

Father James Bernstein.

Father James Bernstein: Raised in Queens, New York by formerly Orthodox Jewish parents whose faith had been undermined by the Holocaust, Arnold Bernstein went on his own personal quest for spiritual meaning. He was ready to accept God in whatever form He chose to reveal Himself and that form turned out to be Christ. But Bernstein soon perceived discrepancies in the various forms of Protestant belief that surrounded him, and so his quest continued -- this time for the true Church.  In 1981 he and his family were received into the canonical Orthodox Christian Church in America. In 1997 Father James was made Dean of the Pacific Northwest Deanery of the Antiochian Archdiocese, and in 1999 was elevated to the rank of archpriest. In 2017 Fr. James retired as pastor of St. Paul and became priest Emeritus.
Orthodoxy introduces us to a whole spectrum of terminology that spoke of salvation in a non-juridical manner. The Orthodox understand that in Christ's death and Resurrection we are united with Him, not in a legal, positional, or virtual sense, but in a very real, literal sense. This is possible because in the Incarnation, Christ took upon Himself our human nature and united it to His Person. In His Passion, death, Resurrection, and Ascension, the common human nature He shares with us is now glorified.
The Scripture uses imagery that reinforces this concept of organic participation and unity with Christ in His human nature. For example, unity with Christ is presented as being like that between parts of a body. St. Paul often speaks about salvation as being included within the Body of Christ.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

La Mère de la Beauté.
Saint André de Crète.

“Réjouie-Toi beauté des apôtres”.
Fresque au Monastère Saint Jean-Baptiste, Douma, Liban.

       Aujourd’hui comme pour des noces, l’Église se pare de la perle inviolée, de la vraie pureté.
      Aujourd’hui, dans tout l’éclat de sa noblesse immaculée, l’humanité retrouve, grâce aux mains divines, son premier état et son ancienne beauté. Les hontes du péché avaient obscurci la splendeur et les charmes de la nature humaine ; mais, lorsque naît la Mère de celui qui est la Beauté par excellence, cette nature recouvre en elle ses anciens privilèges, elle est façonnée suivant un modèle parfait et entièrement digne de Dieu. Et cette formation est une parfaite restauration et cette restauration est une divinisation et cette divinisation, une assimilation à l’état primitif ...
       Aujourd’hui est apparu l’éclat de la pourpre divine.
       Aujourd’hui, la misérable nature humaine a revêtu la dignité royale.
       Aujourd’hui, selon la prophétie, le sceptre de David a fleuri en même temps que le rameau toujours vert d’Aaron, qui, pour nous a produit le Christ, rameau de la force.
       Aujourd’hui, une jeune vierge est sortie de Juda et de David, portant la marque du règne et du sacerdoce de Celui qui a reçu, suivant l’ordre de Melchisédech, le sacerdoce d’Aaron...
       Aujourd’hui commence la régénération de notre nature, et le monde vieilli, soumis à une transformation divine, reçoit les prémices de la seconde création.

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