February 21

The Lord said to His disciples, “There are some standing here who will not taste death till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1); and after six days He took Peter, James and John, and when they had ascended Mount Tabor He shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light (cf. Matthew 17:1-2). When the disciples could look at it no longer or, rather, because they lacked the strength to gaze at the brightness, they fell prostrate to the earth (cf. Matthew 17:6). None the less, in accordance with the Savior’s promise they did see the kingdom of God, that divine and inexpressible light.

St Gregory of Nazianzos and St Basil call this light “divinity”, saying that “the light is the divinity manifested to the disciples on the Mount”, and that it is “the beauty of Him who is almighty, and His noetic and contemplatable divinity”.

St Basil the Great also says that this light is the beauty of God contemplated by the saints alone in the power of the divine Spirit; and again he writes, “On the mountain Peter and the sons of thunder saw His beauty shining more brightly than the sun; and they were privileged to receive with their eyes a foretaste of His advent.”

~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, pp.414-415)

February 20

All existent things can be grouped into ten categories, namely, essence, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, activity, passivity, possession and dependence; and these ten categories apply likewise to everything subsequently seen to pertain to essence. But God is supraessential essence, in which can be seen only relation and activity or creation, and these two things do not produce in His essence any composition or change. For God creates all things without being affected in His essence. He is Creator in relation to creation, and also its Principle and Master in that it has its origin in Him and is dependent on Him. But He is also our Father, since by grace He confers on us rebirth. Yet He is Father, too, in relation to the Son who is completely without any temporal beginning. The Son is Son in relation to the Father, while the Spirit is the projection of the Father, coeternal with the Father and the Son, being of one and the same essense.

Those who assert that God is only essence, with nothing to be seen in Him, fabricate a God who has neither creativity and energy nor relation. But if He whom they suppose to be God does not possess these properties, then He is neither active nor Creator, nor does He possess an energy; and neither is He Principle, Creator and Master, nor is He our Father by grace. For how could He be these things if relation and creativity are not to be envisaged in His essence? Furthermore, if relation is not to be envisaged in God’s essence, the tri-hypostatic character of the Godhead is also abolished. But He who is not tri-hypostatic is not the Master of all or God. Thus those who hold the views of Barlaam and Akindynos are atheists.

~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, pp.409-410)

The Daily Miracles of St Elizabeth Parish

The Lord is the one who answers prayer.

He has heard our prayers and satisfied our requests.

Let us glorify the Lord, for He is abundant in kindness, and in compassion towards all who follow Him, and trust in His name.

 

I have been like the Israeli children of old, as they wandered in the wilderness.

I have forgotten the good things that God has done.

Even now, I must work to avoid forgetting.

His blessings are all too numerous to mention, but hear of just a few—

 

We called upon the Lord to bring healing, and long life for Cornelius,

and he was healed and stands among us.

We prayed for safety and strength for Rachel and the child Sam, born of her,

and God has brought them through a long trial, healthy and strong.

We hoped for work closer to home and more convenient for Rafael and his family,

and just like a vision, after months of waiting, God answered our prayer and fulfilled our hopes, granting him the work he desires.

 

I have seen these things first-hand, and they have inspired and encouraged me.

 

We prayed that Helen would recover from her stroke, and that she and Kirk might have more time in this life, to share their love and time with one another,

and You, Lord, are giving Helen strength and ability once again, in answer to our prayers. We hear of her progress daily.

 

These are only a few of the daily blessings God has given.

Help me to remember You Lord, always, and bring to mind all of the remarkable and surprising things that You do for us.

Likewise, help us always to call on You, God, and to look to You for all our needs.

 

Forgive me for my blindness, to the miracles that stand, literally, all around me—testaments, all of them, that You are, truly in our midst.

 

~FS

February 18

St Paul has taught us that the soul endowed with intelligence can be as if dead even though it possesses life as its being; for he writes, “The self-indulgent widow is dead while still alive” (1 Timothy 5:6). He could not have said worse than this about the present subject of our discourse, namely, the soul endowed with intelligence. For if the soul deprived of the spiritual Bridegroom does not humble itself and mourn, and does not adopt the strait and grievous life of repentance, but is, on the contrary, profligate, sunk in sensual pleasure and self-indulgence, it is dead even while it lives and even though it is immortal in essence.

It has the capacity for what is worse, death, and likewise for what is better, life.

St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia, vol.4, pp.366-367)

A Vain-Glorious Trap

The mind can act like a vain-glorious trap—catching the gifts and virtues which have been given to us on loan by God, and holding them as mental images depicting us as men or women in glory, worthy to be admired, or honored, or even worshiped by others and ourselves.

Every good gift is from above, and one can receive nothing, unless it has been given them from heaven. Yet the mind can imagine itself to be the originator, and cause of every good thing; and then it can falsely endow our self-image with these gifts, convincing us that they are really our own.

Beware the vain-glorious trap, that our mind can be, and its creative capacity for delusion! For the Spirit, the giver of every gift of grace and virtue, is like the wind—moving this way and that—and impossible to contain.

Behind every goodness we think is ours, is the Creator of Goodness, the only Goodness. At best, we are merely the glass through which His light shines forth. Are we wise, are we knowledgeable, are we talented in some art or music, have we love, or mercy, kindness or compassion? Beware! Lest these good things become bad, being twisted by the minds-eye, which inclines to fantasies of self-love.

~FS

February 16

States, conditions, places, times, and any other such thing are not literally but metaphorically predicated of God. But to create and to energize can in the truest sense be predicated of God alone; for only God creates. He does not come into existence nor with respect to His essence is He acted upon. He alone through all things creates each one. He alone creates from absolute nothingness, since He possesses energy that is all-powerful. With respect to this energy He can be referred to in relation to creation and possesses potentiality. For He Himself in His own nature is not capable of being affected by anything at all, but if He wishes He is capable of adding to His creations. For God in His essence to be capable of being affected, of possessing or acquiring something, would denote weakness. But for God through His energy to be capable of creating, and of possessing and adding to His creations whenever He wishes, is a token of divinely fitting and almighty power.

~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.409)

A New Declaration of Independence

When in the course of a human life one becomes aware of the bondage and servitude to which his or her inner nature has become ensnared, and it becomes necessary to dissolve these bonds and to reorient them from what is bad towards what is good, and to assume the natural use of the powers granted them by the God of nature, to which His image and likeness entitle them, then for the benefit of this person, and for that of all mankind, it shall be declared, the causes for which this reorientation is required, and for which this new independence is sought.

These truths remain self-evident—that all people are created free; endowed by God with powers of mind, desire and strength, for the purpose of growing in love, peace and joy.—That by using these powers in the way intended by nature and by God, every person can achieve these ends.—That by the misuse of these powers mankind falls into every kind of difficulty, suffering, pain, deception and entrapment. —That the ruler of this world has used deception, trickery, seduction and malice to corrupt these natural powers to turn humanity from what is good towards what is evil. —That because mankind has fallen into enslavement to this evil, by improper use of our freedom, so that we desire what we shouldn’t, and hate others whom we should love, it is clear that we have become self-destructive and it is our necessity, and our duty to abolish this rule of evil within us, and to lay a new foundation upon Christ, Who’s power will reorganize the powers within us, so as to attain liberty once again.

By a long train of abuses and temptations, the current ruler of this world has reduced mankind under an absolute Despotism, so that it is now our duty, by the right of our Creator, for each to throw off this tyranny, and shelter under God’ grace for his or her future security. The history of the present ruler is a history of diabolical malefactions and malicious deceptions, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over mankind. To prove this, let facts be submitted to an honest and straightforward world:

…he has rejected, and causes mankind to reject, the law and commandments given us for the public and private good.

…he has confused and confounded mankind into becoming lovers of ourselves, instead of lovers of one another; seeking self-gain first, and then what is good for others only to the degree it benefits us.

…he has manipulated our natural desires, causing us to turn them towards superficial, transient or forbidden things which don’t satisfy our needs and which, after fleeting pleasure, yield greater sorrow.

…he has caused murders, wars and every kind of violence, by turning our natural anger away from evil as its only proper object, and towards our brothers and sisters, and has deluded us into justifying our misdirected anger and our atrocities.

…he has caused us to lose our self-control, so that we are no longer masters of our appetites or our emotions; but have become slaves to the caprice and whim of our emotions, and easily manipulated by our desires.

…for entrapping us in despondency and hopelessness.

…for enticing us with money and fame, which never satisfy our inner longings.

…for mesmerizing us with possessions which we expect should give us joy, but only create a deepening emptiness within us.

…for isolating and dividing us from one another, under every pretext and justification, but yielding only more anger and misery.

…for causing us to see one another as objects, tools, or means for satisfying our own desires, rather than each as unique and precious images of God, with vast inherent worth.

…for using every kind of material deception to draw us out of ourselves, and away from God, so that we become lost and unable to perceive God any longer, so that we lose our relationship with the only One that can heal us and save us.

…he has bewildered us with entertainments, dulled our minds and hearts, and caused us to grow lazy and indifferent towards our spiritual realities.

…he has plundered us, ravaged us, burnt us, murdered us, raped us, and in every way destroyed the lives of mankind, all while hiding in the shadows so that mankind even doubts his very existence.

…he has made himself, thus, our perfect enemy, and turned each of us into unwitting accomplices to our own destruction.

We, therefore, each of us who desire to be truly free, appealing to the Lord of all, do, in His name, solemnly publish and declare, that we are by nature and by right afforded through His mercy and grace, independent and free from all allegiance to the ruler of this world, and that all spiritual connection between us and Satan, is and ought to be totally dissolved, and that as free and independent beings, we have full power, by God’s grace, to live virtuously and in accord with the commandments given for our peace, in control of ourselves, making proper use of all the faculties of our soul which have been given us for our fulfillment and blessing, and to do all things right and proper to those living in spiritual freedom.—And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm and total reliance on the protection of the Triune God, we pledge to God our complete and enduring love, issuing forth from our mind, our heart, our soul and our strength, and we pledge to one another, a love that equals the love we have for our very selves.

~FS