Spiritual nectar: reflections on specific patristic sayings
Posted 21 August 2008 - 10:40 AM
from An Athonite Gerontikon
The late Athonite Father Tychon used to say: The prayer, "Lord Jesus have mercy on us" is worth one hundred drachmas, but "Glory to God" is worth one thousand. Glorifying God is more valuable than anything else, because in the first instance, people often say the Jesus Prayer when needing something; but when one glorifies God in the midst of suffering, it is an ascesis."
(sent by email)
Posted 27 August 2008 - 07:57 AM
Amma Syncletica said, “Just as a treasure that is exposed tarnishes, so a virtue which is know vanishes; just as wax melts when it is near fire, so the soul is destroyed by praise and loses all the results of its labor.(from email)
I love these pearls of wisdom...how difficult it is for us to not want praise in all things...perhaps in learning new things, it is necessary, such as when we are students or children...but in matters of the soul, and our Christian acts, it is necessary for us, perhaps to do the opposite--and to continuously tell ourselves that we are not good enough and that others are better than us...that is what I do, and though in the beginning it may have felt contrived, I am now convinced of my sorry self that relies totally on God and His mercy. If I am told that some work has been positive I remind myself that it is not enough...and that I am simply using one measly talent or gift that God has given me for His glory--and I remember how many more spiritual gifts others have which I do not have.
When I tell my priest that his sermon was good or that he is doing a good job and/or that he rendered a beautiful service, he looks down and does his cross and says that he is unworthy. I do this is because I think that he needs some encouragement because parish priests in Greek Orthodox churches in the U.S. often get so many nasty, discouraging, and often disparaging remarks about everything they do and say by people, or else I would not do it. Fortunately, he accepts the encouragement with humility.
Posted 27 August 2008 - 02:13 PM
I sometimes wonder if one of the reasons I always crave praise is because I was never told I was good at anything. But then, when I did receive praise for a few things, like doing well in school, I had mixed feelings about it... I wondered if my parents would still be proud of me and love me if I didn't make good grades that allowed them to hold their heads up in public. Every time another student did better than I did, I always felt really good. And when I finally failed in all my lessons in once semester, I was very proud of myself. Such is my twisted mind.
But I've been practicing doing things in secret lately. It has sort of turned into a game in my mind. Sort of like planning a surprise birthday party. So I don't tell anyone of the hidden things that I do. And it's a fun challenge to find ways of hiding the more public things. But it's very hard, even though it's 'fun'. =) It also helps me practice keeping secrets in general!! =) And the other side of that is, it has also curbed my curiosity to always be finding out what others are doing and talking about. I let them keep their secrets. They might be planning a surprise for me, and I don't want to ruin it. =)
Love in Christ,
Posted 28 August 2008 - 02:36 AM
I think it is best if we can accept either praise or insult in the same manner, as simply meaningless words thrown in our direction. We don't have to catch them if we don't want to, just let them fly by with a simple "thank you" regardless.
Like water off a duck's back. I work with alot of different persoanlities. I have to remember whether people are mad at me or not, happy with me or not, most are caught up in their own world and just need someone to "take it out on". I am pretty good at not taking things personally. I do however dwell too much on my own shortfalls. SO I suppose this internalization is just as bad as allowing others praise or insult to get to me.
Back to the drawing board
Posted 28 August 2008 - 11:53 AM
An elder told his disciple to go to the cemetery and throw stones at the tombs of the dead people and when he came back the elder asked: "What happened?"
"Nothing." - said the disciple.
"Ok. Now go there again and praise them and tell them the best words you can."
When the disciple came back the elder asked him again:
"Nothing." - responded the disciple again.
"Learn from the example of the dead in the tombs and do not be affected by insults, or praise." said the elder.
Posted 07 October 2008 - 09:41 PM
Abba Leontius of the community of our holy father Theodosius (in Palestine) told us: After I took up residence in the lavra, one Sunday I went to the church to make my communion. When I went in, I saw an angel standing at the right side of the altar. After I had received my communion I went back to my cell and a voice came to me saying, “From the moment that the altar was consecrated I was commanded to remain
Posted 08 October 2008 - 01:16 PM
A priest from the region of Samosota came a great distance to (St. Simeon Stylites). He told him about a spring in his village which irrigated all their fields and from which by the Lord’s design their lives were sustained. All of a sudden it failed and dried up, and they were exhausted from thirst and hunger. They had brought workmen. They had dug and labored and spent a good deal of money and they did not find one drop of water in it. When the priest came and told the whole matter just as it was, the saint said, “I trust in the Lord Jesus that when you start to leave this enclosure our Lord will make it return to normal. But go, keep vigil, and celebrate the Eucharist and give thanks to our Lord.” The priest noted the time the saint spoke to him and our Lord did a favor. The priest went and found that the spring had gushed forth and overflowed and irrigated all the fields of the village. When he asked the villagers they told him that on such and such a day it suddenly gave a violent sound and gushed forth and watered all the fields of the village double what it used to. He took out the note he had written and saw that the spring had gushed forth into its canal at the very moment the saint blessed him. Then the priest led all his congregation and they came and ministered before the saint for three days. Then they returned rejoicing and praising God.
Life of St. Simeon Stylites, 85
Posted 10 October 2008 - 02:10 PM
"It is written: 'Not everyone who says to me: 'Lord, Lord' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father' (Matt. 7:21). The will of the Father is indicated in the words: 'You who love the Lord, hate evil' (Ps. 97:10). Hence we should both pray the Prayer of Jesus Christ and hate our evil thoughts. In this way we do God's will."
St. Hesychios the Priest
Posted 21 October 2008 - 02:53 PM
from An Athonite Gerontikon
“Anytime there are temptations and troubles, there are also laurels of victory,” the pious Elder Gregorios would say to Hieromonk Ioakim Spetsieris, and then he would add: “If it were possible to find a monastery filled with angels, and they placed you as one of the brothers in it, still you would not be saved, because no one would bother you, and you would be living an easy life and this saying would be suitable to your situations, ‘In your lifetime you received your good things.’” (Luke 16:20-25)
Posted 24 October 2008 - 12:26 AM
It was said that some philosophers came one day to test the monks. One monk, a Libyan, passed by, and they said to him, “You old scoundrel of a monk, come here,” and they compelled him to come. They gave him a box on the ear, but he offered them the other cheek. At once the philosophers arose and prostrated themselves before him, saying, “Truly this is a monk.” Then they sat him down in their midst and questioned him, “What do you, in the desert, do more than we? You fast, and we also fast; you keep vigil, and we also keep vigil; and all you do, we do also. What more do you who live in the desert do?” The old man said to them, “We hope in the grace of God and guard our thoughts.” They said to him, “We are not able to do that.” Edified, they took their leave.
Posted 29 October 2008 - 02:18 AM
"The prophet Jeremiah, speaking in the place of God, tells us that from above there comes the very fear of God by which we may cling to Him. 'I shall give them one heart and one way so that they may fear Me during all their days, so that all will be well for them and for their sons after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them and I shall not cease to do good things for them and, as a gift, I shall put fear of Me in their hearts so that they may never go away from Me' (Jer. 32:39-40)… Quite obviously all this teaches us that the first good stirring of the will in us comes under the Lord’s inspiration. He brings us along the road to salvation either Himself or by way of the exhortation of some man or through necessity. And our virtues are perfected also as a gift from Him. Our task is, laxly or zealously, to play a role which corresponds to His grace and our reward or our punishment will depend on whether we strove or neglected to be at one, attentive and obedient, with the kindly dispensation of His providence toward us."
Posted 06 November 2008 - 03:38 AM
…from the instant we are baptized, grace is hidden in the depths of the intellect, concealing its presence even from the perception of the intellect itself. When someone begins, however, to love God with full resolve, then in a mysterious way, by means of intellectual perception, grace communicates something of its riches to the soul. Then, if he really wants to hold fast to this discovery, he joyfully starts longing to be rid of all his temporal goods, so as to acquire the field in which he has found the hidden treasure of life (cf. Mt. 13:44). This is because, when someone rids himself of all worldly riches, he discovers the place where the grace of God is hidden. For as the soul advances, divine grace more and more reveals itself to the intellect.
Posted 07 November 2008 - 02:26 AM
Ilias the Presbyter
The intellect cannot be peaceful during prayer unless it has acquired self-control and love. With God's help the first strives to put an end to the body's hostility towards the soul, the second to our hostility towards our fellow-men.
Posted 08 November 2008 - 12:03 AM
This holy Macarius (of Egypt) told me this also, for he was a priest: "I had noticed that at the time of the distribution of the Mysteries (Holy Communion) I never had to give the Sacrament to Mark the ascetic, but rather an angel administered to him from the altar. I say only the wrist of the heavenly minister's hand." This Mark was a young man who knew by heart the Old and New Testaments. He was as gentle as can be and reserved in his manner.
Palladius Hist. Laus. 18.25
Posted 14 November 2008 - 03:34 PM
"To describe it with the boldest expression, prayer is a conversation with God. Even if we speak with a low voice, even if we whisper without opening the lips, even if we call to Him only from the depths of the heart, our unspoken word always reaches God and God always hears. Sometimes, however, besides speaking, we lift our head and raise our arms to heaven. In this way we are underlining the desire that the spirit has for the spiritual world. We are striving with the word to raise our body above the earth. We are giving wings to the soul for it to reach the good things on high."
St. Clement of Alexandria
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