Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Spiritual Fire.
Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov.

Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov.

God is the teacher of prayer; true prayer is the gift of God. To him who prays constantly with contrition of spirit, with the fear of God and with attention, God Him­self gives gradual progress in prayer. From humble and attentive prayer, spiritual action and spiritual warmth make their appearance and quicken the heart. The quick­ened heart draws the mind to itself and becomes a temple of grace-given prayer and a treasury of the spiritual gifts which are procured by such prayer as a matter of course.
“Labor away”, say great ascetics and teachers of prayer, with pain of heart to obtain warmth and prayer, and God will grant you to have them always. Forgetfulness expels them, and it is born of sloth and carelessness. If you want to be delivered from forgetfulness and captivity, you will not be able to attain it otherwise than by acquiring within you the spiritual fire; only from the warmth of the fire of the Spirit forgetfulness and captivity vanish. This fire is obtained by desire of God.
Brother! Unless your heart seeks the Lord day and night with pain, you will not be able to succeed. But if you abandon everything else and occupy yourself with this, you will attain it, as Scripture says: Be still and realize (Ps. 45.11).
Brother! Implore the goodness of Him Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2.4) to give you spiritual vigilance which kindles the spiritual fire. The Lord of heaven and earth came to earth to pour that fire upon it (Luke 12.49).
According to my power I shall pray with you that God Who gives grace to all who ask with fervor and toil may grant you that vigilance. When it comes it will guide you to the truth. It enlightens the eyes, directs the mind, banishes the sleep of languor and negli­gence, restores luster to the weapon covered with rust in the earth of sloth, restores radiance to clothes defiled by captivity to barbarians, and inspires a desire to be satisfied with the great sacrifice offered by our great High Priest. This sacrifice of which it was revealed to the Prophet that it cleanses sins and takes away iniquities (Isa. 6.7), forgives those who weep, and gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3. 34), manifests itself in the worthy, and by it they inherit eternal life, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Spiritual vigilance or sobriety is a spiritual art which completely delivers a man, with the help of God, from sin­ful actions and passionate thoughts and words when fer­vently practiced for a considerable time. It is silence of heart; it is guarding of the mind; it is attention to oneself without any other thought which always, incessantly and unceasingly calls upon Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and God, which breathes by Him, with Him courageously takes up arms against the enemies, and which confesses Him. This is the definition of spiritual vigilance that St. Hesy­chius of Jerusalem gives. The rest of the Fathers agree with him.
When the fire descends into the heart, says St John of the Ladder, it revives prayer. And when prayer has risen and ascended to heaven, then the descent of the fire takes place into the cenacle of the soul. It is evident that the Saint is speaking from his own blessed experience. Some­thing similar happened in the case of Saint Maximus Kapsokalivitis. “From my youth”, he told St Gregory the Sinaite, “I had great faith in my Lady, the Mother of God, and besought her with tears to grant me the grace of mental prayer. Once I came to her temple as usual and fervently prayed to her for this. I went up to her icon and reverently kissed her image. Suddenly I felt as if there fell into my breast and heart a warmth which did not burn, but be­dewed and delighted me, and stirred my soul to compunc­tion. From that moment my heart began to say the prayer within itself, and my mind began to delight in the remem­brance of my Jesus and the Mother of God and to have Him, the Lord Jesus, constantly within itself. Since then the prayer has never ceased in my heart".
The prayer of grace appeared suddenly, unexpectedly, as a gift from God. The Saint's soul had been prepared to receive the gift of prayer by fervent, attentive, humble, constant prayer. The prayer of grace did not stay in the Saint without its usual concomitants, quite unknown and uncongenial to the carnal and natural state.
An abundant manifestation of spiritual fire in the heart, the fire of divine love, is described by George, the recluse of Zadonsk, from his own experience. But before that, he was sent the divine gift of penitence which purified his heart to receive love (the gift which acts like fire and con­sumes all that defiles the courts of the Holy and Mighty Lord), and even took all the strength from his body. “The holy and heavenly fire”, says St John of the Ladder, “scorches some on account of their defective purity; but others it enlightens as having attained perfection. The same fire is called a consuming fire and an illuminating light. For this reason some leave their prayer as if it were a hotly heated bath-house, feeling a certain relief from defilement and earthliness; while others go out shining with light and arrayed in a double garment of joy and humility. But those who after prayer feel neither of these two effects are still praying bodily, and not spiritually."! Prayer inspired by divine grace is here called spiritual prayer, while prayer performed by one's own efforts without the obvious assis­tance of grace is called bodily prayer. The latter kind of prayer is indispensable, as St John of the Ladder says, in order that grace-given prayer may be granted in its time. But how does the prayer of grace intimate its coming? It intimates its coming by supernatural weeping - and the man enters the gates of God's sanctuary (his heart) with unspeakable thankfulness!.


On the Prayer of Jesus. Ignatius Brianchaninov.(1965)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

L’image de L’Image.
Archimandrite Zacharias(Zacharou).

La création de l'homme.
Fresque dans la Cathédrale
de Sicile. 12ème siècle.

Le repentir est le moyen par lequel nous purifions le miroir de notre âme, qui est l'image de Dieu en nous, et cette purification nous conduit finalement à la ressemblance de Dieu. Le Livre de la Genèse enseigne que l'homme fut créé à l'image et selon la ressemblance de Dieu. L'image consiste en ce que Dieu a implanté en lui, en ce qu'Il a insufflé en lui, tandis que la ressemblance représente la potentialité de l'homme qui est réalisée dans la mesure où il vit selon les commandements de Dieu. Et c'est justement en raison de sa création à l'image et à la ressemblance de Dieu que l'homme a la possibilité de se repentir. Si l'homme ne portait pas en lui une telle parenté avec Dieu, il lui serait impossible d'entreprendre l'ascèse du repentir et de s'engager dans la voie du Seigneur. Mais puisque telles furent la parole et l'œuvre du Seigneur (car Sa parole est acte: « Il a dit, et tout a été fait»), il est possible à l'homme d’œuvrer à l'accomplissement de sa ressemblance à Dieu. De même, si le Seigneur n'avait pas dit: « Prenez, mangez, ceci est mon corps, buvez en tous, car ceci est mon sang », cet événement l'Eucharistie ne serait jamais devenu le contenu réel de la Divine Liturgie. Le fondement de tout être est la parole du Seigneur, et ceci se reflète dans la prière de l'Église dans le Saint-Esprit.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Saints Sergius and Bacchus.

Saints Sergius and Bacchos.
Byzantine icon,  Monastery of Saint Catherine, Sinai.
          Saints Sergius and Bacchus, were officers of high rank in the "Schola Gentilium" which was an equestrian body of men from all races. Sergius was one of the commanding officers of that equestrian body, and Bacchus was his second in command. According to their official functions and to their direct relation with the Emperor whose trust they had gained, these two young officers of high rank enjoyed great influence at the palace, and their prestige was felt in all the Orient, so much so that Antiochus, the commanding officer had been appointed to his post thanks to the influence of Saint Sergius.
          We do not know whether Saints Sergius and Bacchus were born Christians; but it is certain that they were so when they commanded that equestrian body. They had news about the martyrs, and listened to their stories with emotion. They may have seen martyrs being tormented, condemned and put to death; and it is possible that some of these military martyrs were their comrades.
          It is certain that there were many jealous fanatic pagans, or weak people paid by the authorities, who were ready to denounce the Christians to their persecutors. The Emperor learned that his devoted friends, these faithful military chiefs, these noble figures so familiar to him, whom he fully trusted, were Christians.