November 20

The principle and source of the virtues is a good disposition of the will, that is to say, an aspiration for goodness and beauty. God is the source and ground of all supernal goodness. Thus the principle of goodness and beauty is faith or, rather, it is Christ, the rock of faith, who is principle and foundation of all the virtues. On this rock we stand and on this foundation we build every good thing (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:11).

Christ is the capstone (cf. Ephesians 2:20) uniting us with Himself. He is the pearl of great price (cf. Matthew 13:46): it is this for which the monk seeks when he plunges into the depths of stillness and it is this for which he sells his own desires through obedience to the commandments, so that he may acquire it even in this life.

~St Gregory of Sinai

November 19

When God through his life-giving breath created the soul deiform and intellective, He did not implant in it anger and desire that are animal-like. But He did endow it with a power of longing and aspiration, as well as with a courage responsive to divine love. Similarly, when God formed the body He did not originally implant in it instinctual anger and desire. If was only afterwards, through the fall, that it was invested with these characteristics that have rendered it mortal, corruptible and animal-like. For the body, even though susceptive of corruption, was created, as theologians will tell us, free from corruption, and that is how it will be resurrected.

In the same way the soul when originally created was dispassionate. But soul and body have both been defiled, commingled as they are through the natural law of mutual interpenetration and exchange. The soul has acquired the qualities of the passions, or rather, of the demons; and the body, passing under the sway of corruption because of its fallen state, has become akin to instinct-driven animals. The powers of the body and soul have merged together and have produced a single animal, driven impulsively and mindlessly by anger and desire. That is how man has sunk to the level of animals, as Scripture testifies, and has become like them in every respect (cf. Psalm 49:20).

~St Gregory of Sinai

November 18

The passions of the incensive faculty are anger, animosity, shouting, bad temper, self-assertion, conceit, boastfulness, and so on. The passions of the appetitive faculty are greed, licentiousness, dissipation, insatiateness, self-indulgence, avarice and self-love, which is the worst of all. The passions of the flesh are unchastity, adultery, uncleanliness, profligacy, injustice, gluttony, listlessness, ostentation, self-adornment, cowardice and so on. The passions of the intelligence are lack of faith, blasphemy, malice, cunning, inquisitiveness, duplicity, abuse, backbiting, censoriousness, vilification, frivolous talk, hypocrisy, lying, foul talk, foolish chatter, deceitfulness, sarcasm, self-display, love of popularity, day-dreaming, perjury, gossiping and so on. The passions of the intellect are self-conceit, pomposity, arrogance, quarrelsomeness, envy, self-satisfaction, contentiousness, inattentiveness, fantasy, fabrication, swaggering, vainglory and pride, the beginning and end of all the vices. The passions of the reason are dithering, distraction, captivation, obfuscation, blindness, abduction, provocation, connivance in sin, bias, perversion, instability of mind and similar things. In short, all the unnatural vices commingle with the three faculties of the soul, just as all the virtues naturally coexist within them.

~St Gregory of Sinai

November 17

Distractive thoughts are the promptings of the demons and precursors of the passions, just as such promptings and mental images are also the precursors of particular actions. There can be no action, either for good or evil, that is not initially provoked by the particular thought of that action; for thought is the impulse, non-visible in form, that provokes us to act at all, whatever the action may be.

~St Gregory of Sinai

Unconditional Joy

The depth of my joy comes from sorrow,

the breadth of my smile flows from tears.

Joy built upon pleasure’s too narrow,

will fade, then be lost, year by year.

 

The joy of the soul that is lasting,

is founded on Christ and His cross.

It’s encountered through prayer without ceasing,

and embraced by the carrying of our cross.

 

Approaching the Lord in His glory,

exposes all of my shame.

Trusting our God in His mercy,

frees us forever from blame.

 

Unconditional joy’s wrought by suffering,

it’s divinely inspired and given.

Whereby pain is transformed into healing,

step by step ever closer to heaven.

 

~FS

November 15

The source and ground of our distractive thoughts is the fragmented state of our memory. The memory was originally simple and one-pointed, but as a result of the fall its natural powers have been perverted: it has lost its recollectedness in God and has become compound instead of simple, diversified instead of one-pointed.

We recover the original state of our memory by restoring it to its primal simplicity, when it will no longer act as a source of evil and destructive thoughts. For Adam’s disobedience has not only deformed into a weapon of evil the soul’s simple memory of what is good; it has also corrupted all its powers and quenched its natural appetite for virtue. The memory is restored above all by constant mindfulness of God consolidated through prayer, for this spiritually elevates the memory from a natural to a supranatural state.

~St Gregory of Sinai

November 14

Unless a man hates all the activity of this world, he cannot worship God. What then is meant by the worship of God? It means that we have nothing extraneous in our intellect* when we are praying to Him: neither sensual pleasure as we bless Him, nor malice as we sing His praise, nor hatred as we exalt Him, nor jealousy to hinder us as we speak to Him and call Him to mind. For all these things are full of darkness; they are a wall imprisoning our wretched soul, and if the soul has them in itself it cannot worship God with purity. They obstruct its ascent and prevent it from meeting God; they hinder it from blessing Him inwardly and praying to Him with the sweetness of heart, and so receiving His illumination. As a result the intellect is always shrouded in darkness and cannot advance in holiness, because it does not make the effort to uproot these thoughts by means of spiritual knowledge*.

~St Isaiah The Solitary (Philokalia, vol. 1, p. 24-25.)

 

*Intellect-the nous, the highest faculty in man, the organ of contemplation, the innermost aspect of the heart, through which, when purified, man can know God by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Not to be confused with reason.

 

*Spiritual Knowledge-knowledge of the intellect, inspired by God, linked with contemplation and immediate spiritual perception.

 

To hate the world is to reclaim our mind, our heart, our soul and our strength for Christ. We become one-pointed, unified and healed of that which causes dissipation, and distracts us from our true calling to worship God. We should strive to worship God in purity, living virtuously and removing whatever obstructs and hinders us from worshiping Him in spirit and in truth.

To this point also consider: “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you; leave your gift there before the altar and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5: 23-24).

And, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).

 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Wild Cravings

I have been like a ravenous beast,

eyes bulging,

seeking its prey.

 

I have not been at peace.

 

Scanning the earth,

grasping at comfort,

greedy for pleasure.

 

I’m out of my lair.

 

God once was my home,

green pastures for resting,

still waters for drinking.

 

No reason to roam.

 

Deceptive visions then lured me,

raging passions then drove me,

I became hungry and feral.

 

Domestic no more.

 

Now I roam and devour,

feeding and feeding,

upon worldly pleasure.

 

Eating and eating,

and for all my eating—

 

I starve.

 

~FS

November 13

Rapture means the total elevation of the soul’s powers towards the majesty of divine glory, disclosed as an undivided unity. Or again rapture is a pure and all-embracing ascent towards the limitless power that dwells in light. Ecstasy is not only the heavenward ravishing of the soul’s powers; it is also complete transcendence of the sense-world itself. Intense longing for God–there are two forms of it–is a spiritual intoxication that arouses our desire.

As just remarked, there are two main forms of ecstatic longing for God: one within the heart and the other an enravishment taking one beyond oneself. The first pertains to those who are still in the process of achieving illumination, the second to those perfected in love. Both, acting on the intellect, transport it beyond the sense-world. Such longing for the divine is truly a spiritual intoxication, impelling natural thoughts towards higher states and detaching the senses from their involvement with visible things.

~St Gregory of Sinai

November 12

To try to discover the meaning of the commandments through study and reading without actually living in accordance with them is like mistaking the shadow of something for its reality. It is only by participating in the truth that you can share in the meaning of truth. If you search for the meaning without participating in the truth and without having been initiated into it, you will find only a besotted kind of wisdom (cf. 1 Corinthians 1;20). You will be among those whom St. Jude categorized as ‘psychic’ or worldly because they lack the Spirit (cf. Jude 19), boast as they may of their knowledge of the truth.

~St Gregory of Sinai