Contemplation on the 11th hour of Holy Tuesday (1)

The punishment of the wicked (Matt 25:30)

In this parable, the nobleman going into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return, is none other than Christ going into another country to receive the kingdoms of this world and the things in it; those who receive the ten talents are those who have been entrusted with the dispensation of the Word which has been committed unto them; His citizens who did not wish Him to reign over them when He was a citizen in the world in respect of His incarnation, are perhaps Israel who disbelieved Him, and perhaps also the Gentiles who disbelieved Him.

God continually shows us in nature that there will be a resurrection

Let us consider, beloved, how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the Lord Jesus Christ the first-fruits by raising Him from the dead. Let us contemplate, beloved, the resurrection which is at all times taking place. Day and night declare to us a resurrection. The night sinks to sleep, and the day arises; the day [again] departs, and the night comes on. Let us behold the fruits [of the earth], how the sowing of grain takes place. The sower goes forth, and casts it into the ground; and the seed being thus scattered, though dry and naked when it fell upon the earth, is gradually dissolved. Then out of its dissolution the mighty power of the providence of the Lord raises it up again, and from one seed many arise and bring forth fruit.

Taken from Chap. XXIV. of the first epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. From "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland beginning in 1867. (ANF 1, Roberts and Donaldson). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.

Love of Christ

Souls that love truth and God, that long with much hope and faith
to put on Christ completely, do not need so much to be put in re
membrance by others, nor do they endure, even for a while, to be
deprived of the heavenly desire and of passionate affection to the
Lord; but being wholly and entirely nailed to the cross of Christ,
they perceive in themselves day by day a sense of spiritual
advance towards the spiritual Bridegroom.

Lustful Temptations

The old men used to say that the temptation to lust is like a hook.  If it is suggested to us and we do not let ourselves be overcome by it, it is easily cut off; but if, once it is presented, we take pleasure in it and let ourselves be overcome, it transforms itself and becomes like iron and is difficult to cut off.  Thus discernment is needed about these thoughts, because for those who allow themselves to be seduced there is no hope of salvation, whereas crowns are prepared for the others.

Contemplation on the 6th hour of the Eve of Great Friday

"Sit here while I pray"

His disciples were clinging to Him inseparably. So He said to His disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." (Matt 26:36) For it was usually with Him to pray apart from them. He did this to teach us how to pray, how to use silence and solitude to pray for great matters. And taking with Him the three, He said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with Me." (Matt 26:38) Why does He not take all of them with Him? that they might not be more sorrowful. He took only thode who had been spectators of His glory. 

The sleeping brother

Some old men went to Abba Poemen and asked,"If we see brothers sleeping during the common prayer, should we wake them?"Abba Poemen answered,"If I see my brother sleeping, I put his head on my knees and let him rest."Then one old man spoke up,"And how do you explain yourself before God?" Abba Poemen replied,"I say to God: You have said, 'First take the beam out of your own eye and then you will be able to remove the splinter from the eye of your brother.' "

God crowns us for resisting even the small temptations

There was an old man in the Thebaid who lived in a cave and who had an experienced disciple. Now it was the old man’s custom to give him some advice for his benefit every evening and then to say a prayer and send him to bed. One day, knowing the old man’s great ascesis, some devout seculars went to see him and he edified them. When they had gone, the old man sat down again in the evening, according to custom, and admonished the brother, but while he was speaking to him, he fell asleep. The brother waited for the old man to wake up and say the prayer. Having sat for a long time, when the old man did not awaken, he was troubled by the thought of going to rest without being sent, but he did violence to himself, resisted the thought, and remained. Later the same thought assailed him, but he did not go away, and thus he resisted this temptation seven times. After this, the night being well advanced, the old man awoke and found him sitting beside him. He said to him, “Haven’t you gone yet?” He said, “No, abba, for you haven’t sent me.” And the old man aid, “Why did you not wake me up?” He siad “I did not dare to wake you, so as not to disturb you.” They arose and recited the dawn prayers, and after the synaxis the old man dismissed the brother and sat down alone. At that time he was rapt in ecstasy, and someone showed him a wonderful place where there was a throne and on the throne seven crowns. He asked him who was showing, “Whose is that?” He said to him, “It is your disciple’s; God has granted this place and the throne to him because os his obedience; as for the seven crowns, he wore them this night.” When he heard this the old man was filled with wonder, and in his astonishment he called the brother and said to him, “Tell me what you have done this night.” The other said, “Forgive, abba, I have done nothing.” Thinking that through humility he did not want to say anything, the old man said to him, “I will not let you go till you have told me what you have done and what you have thought this night.” The brother, who thought he had not done anything, did not know what to say. So he said to his father, “Abba, I have done nothing except this: Seven times I was oppressed by the thought of going away before you had dismissed me, and I did not go.” When he heard this the old man understood that God had crowned him as many times as he had resisted the temptation. He said nothing to the brother, but he related it to the spiritual Fathers for their benefit, so that we may know that God grants us crowns even for small things. Truly it is good to constrain oneself for God’s sake. In truth the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take possession of it. (Matt 11:12)

On the subject of Discernment

A brother said to a great old man, “Abba, I wan to find an old man to my liking and die with him.” And the old man said to him, “My lord, much good may your search do you!” But the brother was profoundly convinced that it really was good, and did not ponder the old man’s saying. When the old man saw that he thought he was really looking for something good, he said to him, “if you find an old man after your own mind,will you stay with him?” The other said, “Yes, altogether, if I find him to my liking.” The old man said to him, “perhaps it is not that you will follow the old man’s will, but that he will follow yours, that will give you peace?” The the brother arose, realizing what he said, bowed before him and said, “Forgive me, I was conceited thinking I had said something good when it was actually nothing.”

On thoughts of the mind

Be attentive to the thoughts of the mind. If some evil thought passes through you, do not get upset, for it is not the transient thoughts of your mind that the knowledge of the Lord of all observes, rather He looks at the depths of the mind to see if you take pleasure in that evil thought which resides there; for hateful thoughts float over the surface of the mind, but it is the senses that are lower down which can chase away hateful thoughts, which the Lord of all examines. He does not judge what just passes over the mind, but rather the thoughts that are lower down than those hateful ones, namely those which appear in the depths of the mind, which can drive them away with its hidden hand. For He does not pardon the thoughts which spring up from the depth of the mind, for it is they which should be chasing away those which pass over the surface of the mind; He judges those thoughts which have a passage into the heart.

On Fearing God

A brother came to see an old man and asked him, "abba, why is my heart so hard, and why do I not fear God?" The old man said to him, "in my opinion, if a man bears in mind the reproaches he deserves, he will acquire the fear of God." The brother said to him, "What does this reproach consist of?" The old man said to him, "In all he does, a man should restrain his own soul, saying to it, "Remember that you must come before God", and he should also say to himself, "What have I to do with the others?"  I think that if someone lives in this way, the fear of God will come to him.

Should I care what people say of me?

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A brother came to see Avva Macarius the Egyptian, and said to him, "Abba, give me a word, that I may be saved." So the old man said, "Go to the cemetery and abuse the dead." The brother went there, abused them and threw stones at them; then he returned and told the old man about it.

The latter said to him, "Didn't they say anything to you?" He replied, "No." The old man said, "Go back tomorrow and praise them." So the brother went away and praised them, calling them, "Apostles, saints, and righteous men." He returned to the old man and said to him, "Did they not answer you?" The brother said, "No."

The old man said to him, "You know how you insulted them and they did not reply, and how you praised them and they did not speak; so you too, if you wish to be saved, must do the same and become a dead man. Like the dead, take no account of either the scorn of men or their praises, and you can be saved."