How to treat your enemy?

“A man who is wrathful with us is a sick man; we must apply a plaster to his heart – love; we must treat him kindly, speak to him gently, lovingly.

“And if there is not deeply-rooted malice against us within him, but only a temporary fit of anger, you will see how his heart, or his malice, will melt away through your kindness and love – how good will conquer evil.

“A Christian must always be kind, gracious and wise in order to conquer evil by good.”

Remembering the Blessed Resurrection

 Abba Evagrius said, "Sit in your cell, collecting your thoughts. Remembering the day of your death. See then what the death of your body will be; let your spirit be heavy, take pains, condemn the vanity of the world, so as to be able to live always in the peace you have in view without weakening. Remember also what happens in hell and think about the state of the souls down there, their painful silence, their most bitter groanings, their fear, their strife, their waiting. Think of their grief without end and the tears their souls shed eternally.
"But keep the day of resurrection and of presentation to God in remembrance also. Imagine the fearful and terrible judgment. Consider the fate kept for sinners, their shame before the face of God and the angels and archangels and all men, that is to say, the punishments, the eternal fire, worms that rest not, the darkness, gnashing of teeth, fear and supplications. Consider also the good things in store for the righteous: confidence in the face of God the Father and His Son, the angels and archangels and all the people of the saints, the kingdom of heaven, and the gifts of that realm, joy and beatitude.

"Keep in mind the remembrance of these two realities. Weep for the judgment of sinners, afflict yourself for fear lest you too feel those pains. But rejoice and be glad at the lot of the righteous. Strive to obtain those joys but be a stranger to those pains. Whether you be inside or outside your cell, be careful that the remembrance of these things never leaves you, so that, thanks to their remembrance, you may at least flee wrong and harmful thoughts."

from "The Desert Christian," by Sr. Benedicta Ward, (New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1975), pp. 63-64
 

What are your virtues?

One day, while St. Antony was sitting with a certain Abba, a virgin came up and said to the Elder: ‘Abba, I fast six days of the week and I repeat by heart portions of the Old and New Testament daily.

To which the Elder replied: ‘Does poverty mean the same to you as abundance?’ ‘No’, she answered. ‘Or dishonour the same as praise?’ ‘No, Abba.’ ‘Are your enemies the same for you as your friends?’ ‘No’, she replied.

At that the wise Elder said to her: ‘Go, get to work; you have accomplished nothing.’

Contemplation on the 1st hour of Great Friday (1)

Why didn't He defend Himself? Why was He silent?

The Lord became the defender of truth, and came in silence before Pilate, on behalf of truth which had been oppressed (John 18:37-38). Others gain victory through making defenses, but our Lord gained victory through His silence, because the recompense of His death through divine silence was the victory of true teaching. He spoke inorder to teach, but kept silent in the tribunal. He was not silent over that which was exalting us, but He did not stuggle against those who were provoking Him. The worlds of His accusers, like a crown on His head, were a source of redemption. He kept silent so that His silence would make them shout even louder, and so that His crown would be made more beautiful through all his clamor.

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 – The role of women (2)

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as also saith the law.

Having abated the disturbance both from the tongues and from the prophesyings; and having made a law to prevent confusion, that they who speak with tongues should do this in turn, and that they who prophesy should be silent when another begins; he next in course proceeds to the disorder which arose from the women, cutting off their unseasonable boldness of speech: and that very opportunely. For if to them that have the gifts it is not permitted to speak inconsiderately, nor when they will, and this, though they be moved by the Spirit; much less to those women who prate idly and to no purpose. Continue reading Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 – The role of women (2)

Concerning what followed the Resurrection

After Christ was risen from the dead He laid aside all His passions, I mean His corruption or hunger or thirst or sleep or weariness or such like. For, although He did taste food after the resurrection, yet He did not do so because it was a law of His nature (for He felt no hunger), but in the way of economy, in order that He might convince us of the reality of the resurrection, and that it was one and the same flesh which suffered and rose again.

But He laid aside none of the divisions of His nature, neither body nor spirit, but possesses both the body and the soul intelligent and reasonable, volitional and energetic, and in this wise He sits at the right hand of the Father, using His will both as God and as man in behalf of our salvation, energising in His divine capacity to provide for and maintain and govern all things, and remembering in His human capacity the time He spent on earth, while all the time He both sees and knows that He is adored by all rational creation. For His Holy Spirit knows that He is one in substance with God the Word, and shares as Spirit of God and not simply as Spirit the worship accorded to Him. Moreover, His ascent from earth to heaven, and again, His descent from heaven to earth, are manifestations of the energies of His circumscribed body. For He shall so come again to you, saith he, in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven.

Book IV. Chapter I. Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Books III-IV by Saint John of Damascus
Taken from “The Early Church Fathers and Other Works” originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (LNPF II/IX, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD. 

 

 

Contemplation on the Liturgy of the blessing of the water (1)

Why water?

But if any one wishes to know why the grace is given by water and not by a different element, let him take up the Divine Scriptures and he shall learn. For water is a grand thing, and the noblest of the four visible elements of the world. Heaven is the dwelling place of Angels, but the heavens are from the waters: the earth is the place of men, but the earth is from the waters: and before the whole six days' formation of the things that were made, the Spirit of God moves upon the face of the water.  The water was the beginning of the world, and Jordan the beginning of the Gospel tidings: for Israel deliverance from Pharoh was through the sea, and for the world deliverance from sins by the washing of water with the word of God. Where a covenant is made with any, there is water also. After the flood, a covenant was made with Noah: a covenant for Israel from Mount Sinai, but with water, and scarlet wool and hyssop. Elias is taken up, but not apart from water: for first he crosses the Jordan, then in a chariot mounts the heaven. The high-priest is first washed, then offers incense; for Aaron first washed, then was made high-priest: for how could one who had not yet been purified by water pray for the rest? Also as a symbol of Baptism there was a laver set apart within the Tabernacle.

Contemplation on the 9th hour of the Eve of Great Friday (1)

The Kiss

And the traitor says to Jesus, “Master.” Indeed, all heretics, like Judas, address Jesus in the same way, “Master.” They kiss Him even as Judas did. Jesus speaks peacefully to them all, since they are all Judases who betray Him: “Judas, is it with a kiss that you betray the Son of Man?” As for Judas, he is approached by Christ for his false friendship. “Friend, why are you here?” We hear of no one who is good called by that name in the Scriptures. Moreover, to the wicked and the one not weaing a garment he says, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment.” (Matt 22:12) Wicked too is that man in the parable of the denarius who hears the words, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I chose to give to this last as I give to you.” (Matt 20:13-14)

Contemplation on the 6th hour of Holy Wednesday (1)

The soul heated like a burning fire will not be quenched until it is consumed; a man who commits fornication with his near of kin will never cease until the fire burns him up. 17 To a fornicator all bread tastes sweet; he will never cease until he dies" (Sirach 23:16-17)

Youthful lust is wild, but requires many governors, teachers, directors, attendants, and tutors. After all these, it is happiness if it is restrained. For as a horse not broken in, or a wild beast untamed, such is youthful lust. But if from the beginning, from the earliest age, we fix it in good rules, much pains will not be required afterwards; for good habits formed will be to them as a law. Let us not suffer them to do anything which is agreeable, but injurious; nor let us indulge them, as forsooth but children. Especially let us train them in chastity, for there is the very bane of youth. For this many struggles, much attention will be necessary. Let us take wives for them early, so that their brides may receive their bodies pure and unpolluted, so their loves will be more ardent. He that is chaste before marriage, much more will he be chaste after itl and he that practiced fornication before, will practice it after marriage. "All bread," it is said. "is sweet to the fornicator." (Sirach 23:17) Garlands are wont to be worn on the heads of bridegrooms, as a symbol of victory, betokening that they approach the marriage bed unconquered by pleasure. But if captivated by pleasure he has given himself up to harlots, why does he wear a garland, since he has been subdued?

Commentary on John 20:1-9

John 20:1-9 Now on the first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, while it was yet dark, unto the tomb, and seeth the stone taken away from the tomb. She runneth, therefore, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we know not where they have laid Him. Peter therefore went forth, and the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. And they ran both together: and the other disciple outran Peter, and came first to the tomb; and stooping and looking in, he seeth the linen cloths lying; yet entered he not in. Simon Peter therefore cometh, following him, and entered into the tomb; and he beholdeth the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, that was upon His Head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself. Then entered in therefore the other disciple also, which came first to the tomb, and he saw and believed. For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

This excellent and pious woman would never have endured to remain at home and leave the sepulchre, had not her fear of the law for the Sabbath, and the penalty which impended upon those who transgressed it, curbed the vehemence of her zeal, and had she not, allowing ancient custom to prevail, thought she ought to withdraw her thoughts from the object of her most earnest longings. But, when the Sabbath was already past, and the dawn of the next day was appearing, she hurried back to the spot, and then, when she saw the stone rolled away from the mouth of the tomb, well-grounded suspicions seized her mind, and, calling to mind the ceaseless hatred of the Jews, she thought that Jesus had been carried away, accusing them of this crime in addition to their other misdeeds. While she was thus engaged, and revolving in her mind the probabilities of the case, the woman returned to the men who loved the Lord, anxious to obtain the co-operation of the most intimate of His disciples in her quest. And so deep-rooted and impregnable was her faith that she was not induced to esteem Christ less highly because of His death upon the cross, but even when He was dead called Him Lord, as she had been wont to do, thereby showing a truly God-loving spirit. When these men (I mean Peter, and John the writer of this book, for he gives himself the name of the other disciple) heard these tidings from the woman's mouth, they ran with all the speed they could, and came to the sepulchre in haste, and saw the marvel with their own eyes, being in themselves competent to testify to the event, for they were two in number, as the Law enjoined. As yet they did not meet Christ risen from the dead, but infer His Resurrection from the bundle of linen clothes, and henceforth believed that He had burst asunder the bonds of death, as Holy Writ had long ago proclaimed that He would do. When, therefore, they looked at the issues of events in the light of the prophecies which turned out true, their faith was henceforth rooted on a firm basis.

Who is Saint John Chrysostom?

Doctor of the Church (A.D. 407)

Introduction

Saint John Chrysostom's life gives us a sense of the awesome cost of Christian discipleship and of the truth that with God all things are possible. This incomparable teacher, on account of the fluency and sweetness of his eloquence, obtained the surname Chrysostom, or Golden Mouth.

His Earlier Life

He was born about the year 347 at Antioch in Syria, the only son of Secundus, commander of the imperial troops. His mother, Anthusa, who was left a widow at twenty, divided her time between the care of her family and her exercises of devotion. Her example made such an impression on her son's master that he could not forbear crying out, “What wonderful women are found among Christians!'' Anthusa provided for John the ablest masters. Eloquence was esteemed the highest accomplishment, and John studied that art under Libanius, the most famous orator of the age; and such was his proficiency that even in his youth he excelled his masters. Libanius being asked on his deathbed who ought to succeed him in his school, “John'', said he, “would have been my choice, had not the Christians stolen him from us.''

According to the common custom of those days young John was not baptized till he was over twenty years old, being at the time a law student. Soon after, he suddenly turned against the teachings of Libanius and decided to become a monk. He attended a school for monks under Diodorus; and in 374 he joined a community of hermits among the mountains south of Antioch. He passed four years under the direction of an old Syrian monk called Hesychius (quietness); and it was quietness that he wanted to deaden the pain of his mother's death, to put away the temptations of Antioch, to bury forever his love of physical pleasure. Later, he decided to practice self-mortification in a cave as a solitary. He denied himself sleep, read the Bible continually and spent two years without lying down. The result was inevitable; his stomach shrivelled up and the dampness of this abode damaged his kidneys. His digestion permanently impaired, unable to doctor himself, he was obliged to come down the mountain and walk to Antioch in 381. Shortly afterward he was appointed as an acolyte and then received priesthood.

His Early Service at Antioch

The aged Bishop Flavian constituted him his preacher when he was about forty, and he remained in this office for twelve years. The instruction and care for the poor he regarded as the first obligation of all, and he never ceased in his sermons to recommend their cause and to impress on the people the duty of almsgiving. Antioch, at the time, had 100,000 Christians and as many pagans; these he fed with the word of God, preaching several days in the week, and frequently several times on the same day. He had no care in the world except that Antioch should be brought to Christ, but in the middle of his preaching came the crash of tragedy.

In the tenth year of the reign of Theodosius (the fifth of that of Arcadius his son, the same year that Saint Augustine received baptism from the hands of Saint Ambrose in Milan) Antioch rioted against a newly levied tax. The mob revolted, tore down the statues of the Emperor and waited breathless for the punishment — the destruction of the city. In spite of his age, Bishop Flavian, a man of eighty years, set out in the worst weather and made his way through eight hundred miles of snow to Constantinople, to implore the imperial clemency for his flock and the Emperor was touched by his appeal; an amnesty was accorded to the delinquent citizens of Antioch.

During the absence of Bishop Flavian, during the Lent of 387, Saint John could not contain himself seeing the executions of the Antiochenes. He began to deliver a long series of sermons known as “On the Statues'' in which he said very little about the statues. In those twenty one homilies, he spoke of God's mercy, how there are things far more dreadful than death or slavery, and his hope that the people should embrace death, if they had to, or life, with equal courage. He says of Flavian “God will not suffer this errand to be fruitless. This is the holy season. This is the season when we remember how Christ died for the sins of the world. Flavian will remind the Emperor of the prayer `Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them who trespass against us.' He will bring to his memory that in this city the faithful were first called Christians by name. Let us assist him with our prayers; let us supplicate; let us make an embassy to the King who reigns above, an embassy of tears. And remember how it is written of repentant Nineveh, `God saw their works,' `They turned every one from their evil ways, and the Lord repented of the evil that he had said he would do unto them.''' Saint John kept excoriating the people for their past vices, their addiction to wealth, their love of the theatre, their sensual enjoyments. If they had lived more strictly, they would not have behaved like wild beasts, and if they were true Christians they would have not possessed this abject fear of the Emperor.

These staggering homilies delivered daily kept the flock together and hope filled the air despite the continuing tortures and imprisonment. After the storm he continued his labors with unbeaten energy, but before very long God was pleased to call him to glorify His name upon a new stage.

Archbishop of the See of Constantinople

Nectarius, Archbishop of Constantinople, died in 397, and the Emperor Arcadius, at the suggestion of Eutropius, his chamberlain, elected Saint John for the see of the city. He therefore dispatched an order to the count of the East, enjoining him to send John to Constantinople, but to do so without making the news public. The count repaired to Antioch and desiring the Saint to accompany him out of the city to the tombs of the martyrs, he there delivered him to an officer who conveyed him speedily to the imperial city. Theophilus, Archbishop of Alexandria, had come thither to recommend a nominee of his own for the vacancy; but he was forced to enthrone Saint John on February 26 in 398 as Patriarch of Constantinople. He who hated power was now in the seat of power. He who fought against luxury and despised the kings of this world lived in a luxurious palace close to that of the Emperor.

It was from that time that he was the unwilling victim of all those who feared his power. From this point onward he assumed the fiercer colors of Constantinople. He began to sweep Constantinople with his broom. He emptied the episcopal palace of the costly plate and furniture and sold the newly purchased marble columns and built a hospital with the money. He reformed the life of the clergy who, within three months, were up in arms against him.

After a tumultuous horse race held on Good Friday, attended by many Christians, he delivered a sermon “Against the Games and the Theatres.'' He ridiculed the wealth of Constantinople: the marble floors dusted with gold, the rich carpets, the silver couches, the ivory doors and the golden horse bits. He objected strongly to dancing girls and singers who accompanied the bride and the bridegroom home after a Christian marriage, singing indecent songs. He objected as firmly to female mourners at funerals, wailing dirges. He spoke against slavery and on behalf of the equality of women. He must have known that the weapon would one day be turned against him for his exhortations seemed in their severity to have been lacking tact.

The Empress Eudoxia, who previously sent magnificent gifts to the churches and the poor and spent long hours listening to Saint John, turned against Saint John when he was wrongly accused of referring to her as “Jezebel''. Knowing the sense of grievance entertained by Theophilus of Alexandria, Eudoxia, conspired with him to depose Saint John Chrysostom in 403. For three days Constantinople was in uproar, after which Saint John surrendered himself and was exiled but soon to return after an earthquake shook the city. Then again, a silver statue of the Empress was erected before the great church of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), to which Saint John objected and spoke loudly against. He was deposed again two months after Easter and was banished. He spent the last three years of his life from exile to exile where his health suffered from many illnesses. He uttered his last words, “Glory be to God for all things'', and gave up his soul to God on September 14, 407. His body was returned to Constantinople in 438 with great glory, while the Emperor Theodosius II and his sister were begging forgiveness of their parents who had so blindly persecuted the servant of God.

Lust

In Lower Egypt there was an anchorite who was well-known because he dwelt in a solitary cell in the desert. Now by the power of Satan, a shameless woman who had heard of him said to some young men, “What would you give me if I could cause your anchorite to fall?”  They agreed to give her something of value. In the evening she went out and came to his cell as though she had lost her way, and when she knocked the anchorite came out.  When he saw her he was troubled and said, “How have you come here?”  Weeping, she said, “I came here because I have lost my way.”  Filled with compassion, he made her come into the entry, and he returned to his cell and shut it, but the unfortunate creature began to cry out, “Abba, the wild animals are eating me.” He was uneasy again, but fearing the judgment of God, he said, “What is the source of this hardness of mine?” and he opened the door and made her come inside.  Then the devil attempted to attack him with his arrows.  Pondering the warfare of the enemy, he said, “The ways of the enemy are darkness, whereas the Son of God is light”, and he rose and lit the lamp.  Burning with desire, he said, “Those who commit such acts go to the punishment; try then, and see if you can bear the everlasting fire”, and put his finger into the lamp and burnt it without feeling it, so extreme was the sensual flame.  he went on doing this until morning, burning all his fingers.  The unfortunate woman, seeing what he was doing, was petrified with fear.  In the morning the young men came to see the anchorite and said to him, “Did a woman come here last night?” He said, “Yes, she is inside, asleep.” They entered and found her dead, and they said to him, “Abba, she is dead.” Then uncovering his hands, he showed them to them, saying, “Look what the daughter of the devil has done to me; she has destroyed my fingers”, and he told them what had happened and said, “It is written, “Do not render evil for evil”, and he prayed and awoke her , and she went away an lived wisely the rest of her life.”

Sermon on the Resurrection by Saint John Chrysostom

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

If any man is a devout lover of God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man is a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of the Lord. If any has labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any has wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any has come at the third hour, let him have no misgivings; because he will in no wise be deprived thereof. If any has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any has tarried even until the eleventh hour let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; He give rest to him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as to him who has wrought from the first hour. And he shows mercy on the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he giveth, and upon the other he bestoweth gifts. And he accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast you all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go away hungry. All of you, enjoy the feast of faith: receive all the riches of loving-kindness. Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shone forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He who was held prisoner of it, has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, he has made Hell captive. He angered it when it tasted of his flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was angered, when it encountered You in the lower regions. It was angered for it was abolished. It was angered, for it was mocked. It was angered, for it was slain. It was angered for it was overthrown. It was angered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen. O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the Angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.

Dealing with spiritual depression or anxiety

The weather shifts from cloudy to clear and then back to rain; thus it is with human nature. One must always expect clouds to hide the sun sometimes. Even the saints have had their dark hours, days and weeks. They say then that “God has left them” in order that they may know truly how utterly wretched they are of themselves, without His support. These times of darkness, when all seems meaningless, ridiculous and vain, when one is beset by doubt and temptations, are inevitable. But even these times can be harvested for good. Continue reading Dealing with spiritual depression or anxiety

Prayer and Meditation

A brother asked one of the Fathers, What shall I do? My thoughts are always turned to lust without allowing me an hour’s respite, and my soul is tormented by it. He said to him, Every time the demons suggest these thoughts to you, do not argue with them. For the activity of demons always is to suggest, and suggestions are not sins, for they cannot compel; but it rests with you to welcome them, or not to welcome them. Do you know what the Midianites did? They adorned their daughters and presented them to the Israelites. They did not compel anyone, but those who consented, sinned with them, while the others were enraged and put them to death. It is the same with thoughts.

The brother answered the old man, What shall I do, then, for I am weak and passion overcomes me?? He said to him, Watch your thoughts, and every time they begin to say something to you, do not answer them but rise and pray; kneel down, saying, Son of God, have mercy on me.

Then the brother said to him, Look, Abba, I meditate, and there is no compunction in my heart because I do not understand the meaning of the words. The other said to him, Be content to meditate. Indeed, I have learned that Abba Poemen and many other Fathers uttered the following saying, The magician does not understand the meaning of the words which he pronounces, but the wild animal who hears it understands, submits, and bows to it. So it is with us also; even if we do not understand the meaning of the words we are saying, when the demons hear them, they take fright and go away.