December 31

In whatever work we engage, patience gives birth to courage, courage to commitment, commitment to perseverance, and perseverance to an increase in the work done. Such additional labor quells the body’s dissolute impulses and checks the desire for sensual indulgence. Thus checked, desire gives rise to spiritual longing, longing to love, love to aspiration, aspiration to ardor, ardor to self-galvanizing, self-galvanizing to assiduousness, assiduousness to prayer, and prayer to stillness.

Stillness gives birth to contemplation, contemplation to spiritual knowledge, and knowledge to the apprehension of the mysteries. The consummation of the mysteries is theology, the fruit of theology is perfect love, of love humility, of humility dispassion, and of dispassion foresight, prophesy and foreknowledge. No one possesses the virtues perfectly in this life, not does he cut off evil all at once. On the contrary, by small increases of virtue evil gradually ceases to exist.

~St Gregory of Sinai

December 30

Listlessness–a most difficult passion to overcome–makes the body sluggish. And when the body is sluggish, the soul also grows sluggish. When both have become thoroughly lax, self-indulgence induces a change in the body’s temperament. Self-indulgence incites the appetite, appetite gives rise to pernicious desire, desire to the spirit of revolt, revolt to dormant recollections, recollection to imaginings, imagining to mental provocation, provocation to coupling with the thought provoked, and coupling to assent. Such assent to a diabolic provocation leads to actual sinning, either through the body or in various other ways. Thus we are defeated and thus we lapse.

~St Gregory of Sinai

December 29

According to St Maximos the Confessor there are three motives for writing which are above reproach and censure: to assist one’s memory, to help others, or an an act of obedience. It is for the last reason that most spiritual writings have been composed, at the humble request of those who have need of them. If you write about spiritual matters simply for pleasure, fame or self-display, you will get your desserts, as Scripture says (cf. Matthew 6:5,16), and will not profit from it in this life or gain any reward in the life to come. On the contrary, you will be condemned for courting popularity and for fraudulently trafficking in God’s wisdom.

~St Gregory of Sinai

Reorient Us

When I say Glorify God!

I have sometimes meant, glorify me, instead.

Though you wouldn’t know it by my words.

 

Turn me back to You, oh Lord.

 

I’ve read the beautiful words of John Chrysostom, been inspired,

and tried to emulate them.

But rather than expressing pure words from a golden mouth,

like he did,

I’ve uttered deceit, more befitting the one with a forked tongue.

Words may sound fragrant, though the motive for saying them can still stink.

 

Reorient me, oh Lord.

 

I know of the beatific attitudes, and that they lead to You,

to the summation and summit of all being.

But I’ve gone my own way, with attitudes that lead to nothingness,

to non-being.

 

I’ve turned purity of heart to corruption,

mourning into self-exaltation,

meekness and peace into warfare,

attempting to overcome my brothers and sisters.

 

Turn me back to You.

Turn me away from evil.

Turn me back to life.

Reorient me, oh Lord of the eternal morning!

 

Sometimes I am so tired of asking,

embarrassed, and weary for all of my incessant sins.

But who else can I turn to for help?

We all are turned in a myriad of wrong directions,

so how can my brother, who is currently walking into a ditch,

save me, who am presently walking off a cliff?

 

You are our only help.

Reorient us all, oh Lord.

Turn us back to You, in all we say and do.

And turn us back to You, in spirit and in truth!

 

~FS

December 27

There are three degrees of eating: self-control, sufficiency and satiety. Self-control is to be hungry after having eaten. Sufficiency is to be neither hungry nor weighed down. Satiety is to be slightly weighed down. To eat again after reaching the point of satiety is to open the door of gluttony, through which unchastity comes in. Attentive to these distinctions, choose what is best for you according to your powers, not overstepping the limits. For according to St Paul only the perfect can be both hungry and full, and at the same time be strong in all things (cf. Philippians 4:12).

~St Gregory of Sinai

The Nativity Challenge

Here’s the challenge—

Our forefather in Eden could not be obedient to God in the Spirit.

Can we now be obedient to God in the flesh?

 

Emmanuel, God is with us.

Do you believe?

 

Can you believe in the incarnate God—

born of flesh and Spirit: a man and God?

Will you obey the God-man, Jesus Christ?

 

Be obedient, not to yourself,

to not merely a Spirit,

to not an inhabitant of a heavenly realm,

but to This Human who walked among us.

 

Man loves a challenge,

especially when it builds his pride and self-esteem,

but how will you do, with a greater challenge—

a challenge that tramples your pride underfoot,

the challenge that is poison to your ambition?

 

Can you find the narrow gate,

and once found,

will you enter therein;

dying to all that you were,

and following the One who is greater than you?

 

Would you follow the man that is God?

Would you obey He that is and will be,

and was from before the beginning of time?

 

He was born in the flesh as one among us,

yet was perfect man.

He commands us to be perfect too—

 

Can you face this challenge?

Will you obey Him,

and will you be victorious?

 

~FS

December 25

The main cause of warfare–arising in us through every kind of object or situation–are three: our inner disposition, the misuse of created things and, by God’s leave, the malice and onslaught of the demons. As the fallen self rises in protest against the soul, and the soul against the fallen self (cf. Galatians 5:17), so in the same way our inner disposition and our mode of acting make the passions of the fallen self war against the soul, and the valiant powers of the soul wage war against the fallen self.

And sometimes our enemy, shameless as he is, has the audacity to fight against us in his own person, without cause or warnings. Thus, my friend, do not let this blood-loving leech bleed your arteries, and then spit out the blood he has sucked from you. Do not glut the snake and the dragon, and then you will easily trample on the insolence of the lion and the dragon (cf. Psalm 91:13). Lament until you have stripped off the passions and clothed yourself in your heavenly dwelling-place (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:2), and are refashioned according to the likeness of Jesus Christ, who made you in His image (cf. Colossians 3:10).

~St Gregory of Sinai