February 14

Since the Logos of God through His descent to us has brought the kingdom of heaven close to us, let us not distance ourselves from it by leading an unrepentant life. Let us rather flee the wretchedness of those who sit “in darkness and the shadow of death” (Isaiah 9:2). Let us acquire the fruits of repentance: a humble disposition, compunction and spiritual grief, a gentle and merciful heart that loves righteousness and pursues purity, peaceful, peace-making, patient in toil, glad to endure persecution, loss, outrage, slander and suffering for the sake of truth and righteousness. For the kingdom of heaven or, rather, the King of heaven–ineffable in His generosity–is within us (cf. Luke 17:21); and to Him we should cleave through acts of repentance and patient endurance, loving as much as we can Him who so dearly has loved us.

~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.373)

February 13

Behold what ought to be the point of departure for a profitable journey according to God. You must always go over in your memory, and guard in unceasing meditation, the remembrance of the goodness of God Who has ordered your life’s course according to His design, of His benefits that aim at your soul’s salvation. Do not let your memory be darkened by vice, the source of indifference; neither lose the remembrance of the multitude and extent of His graces and consequently spend the rest of time without profit in ingratitude. For this ceaseless remembrance pricks the heart like a thorn, at all times pushing it to confession, humility, thanksgiving with a crushed soul, great zeal as regards the good, so as to offer in return a way of life, profitable conduct and all virtue according to God…[He who] does not allow himself to fall into the forgetfulness of such benefits…directs himself towards all the good ascesis of virtue and towards every work of justice with an ever-sustained ardor always disposed to carrying out God’s will.

                                                       ~St Mark the Ascetic

The Resplendent Lightness of Turning

Before, when I lived in a darkness of my own conceit, I was as one dead to life, but sadly too numb to know it. I spent my days, content and at peace with myself—happily engaged in trivialities, self-assured by my inner virtues, which I measured, conveniently, against anyone clearly worse than myself. This satisfied my conscience, superficially, and was approved and encouraged by the lazy elements slumbering within me. I was wrapped inside a blanket of darkness, though which appeared as light, to my night-accustomed vision; for there was a hazy twilight, as from a far-off sun over the horizon, by which I could see. I called murkiness, daylight, and convinced myself that it was enough. What need had I of pure light, when dim light suited my darkened soul much better? And though I lived for the future sunrise, I could wait until a future time to see it.

Then, a revelatory light punctuated my darkness—unsought, only partially welcomed—inexorable, omnipresent, and casting my comfortable malaise in high-contrast, starkly before my eyes. There was nowhere to turn, to close my eyes, to pretend not to see, for it was clear to me that living in the semi-darkness, as I had, was actually a fatal luxury, afforded only to those with little hope…and little faith. I understood then, that we were made for brighter things—to be called out from the stupor that our negligence and complacency has wrought for us, made to turn from this numbing darkness which bathes us in self-satisfaction, or remorse—and created for the freedom which can be found only in perfect love.

Now, instead of a life of constant propping, of human effort, of dwelling in the shadows while seeking the limelight, or of hiding from shame; I see before me a life of repentance—the life that is resplendent and shining, and ever open to love’s pure light. Clothed in humility—repentance, is a life which transcends the sickly morass of remorse or shame, and will not bind us like these human chains will do, but rather, repentance allows our soul to take flight and to soar upward, even as we bow ourselves downward. This is the life of genuine courage and unfeigned joy. Not a one-time turning, but rather a life-turning, a never-ending turning, from the past towards the future, from our darkness towards His light. It is a shower of silver waters cleansing us perpetually, from out of a clear and golden sky; a snowfall that covers our soul in purest-white, forgiveness for all that has come between ourselves and God. Repentance is the parting of the clouds forevermore, and the shining forth of God’s love and grace, out, from within our hearts. This is the true life for which we were made.

~FS

February 11

Many may blame Adam for being so easily persuaded by that wicked counselor and for rejecting the divine commandment, thus becoming the agent of death for us all. Yet to wish to taste a deadly plant before actually doing so, and to desire to eat of such a plant after having learned by experience that it is deadly, are not the same thing. The man who drinks poison knowing that it is poison, and so wretchedly causes his own death, is more culpable than he who takes poison and so kills himself without knowing beforehand that it is poison. Therefore each of us is more culpable and guilty than Adam.

But, you might ask, is that tree really within us? Do we still have a commandment from God forbidding us to eat from that tree? Perhaps exactly that same tree is not within us, yet the commandment of God is with us even now. And if we obey it, and try to lead our life in accordance with it, it frees us from punishment for all our sins, as well as from the ancestral curse and condemnation. But if we now reject it, and choose instead the provocation and counsel of the evil one, we cannot but fall away from the life and fellowship of paradise and be cast into the gehenna of everlasting fire with which we were threatened.

~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, 372)

February 10

Death was thus to become the lot of our forefathers, just as it lies in store for us who are now living, and our body was rendered mortal. Death is thus a kind of protracted process or, rather, there are myriads of deaths, one death succeeding the next until we reach the one final and long-enduring death. For we are born into corruption, and having once come into existence we are in a state of transiency until we cease from this constant passing away and coming to be. We are never truly the same, although we may appear to be so to those who do not observe us closely. Just as a flame that catches one end of a slender reed changes continually, and its existence is measured by the length of the reed, so we likewise are ever changing, and our measure is the length of life appointed to each of us.

~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.371)

February 9

Now, after the devil, the cause of the passions is the impassioned eating of the most delectable kinds of foods. For if, as Scripture testifies, simply the sight of the tree was enough to make the serpent an acceptable and trustworthy counselor, how much more would the taste of the fruit have the same effect?

And if this is true for the taste, how much more is it so for the eating to repletion? Thus is it not clear that it was not yet profitable for our ancestors to eat of that tree through the senses? and because they did eat of it at the wrong time, was it not necessary for them to be cast our of paradise, to prevent them from making that divine land a council-chamber and workshop of evil? And should they not have undergone bodily death immediately after their transgression? But the Lord was long-suffering and patient with them.

~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia, vol.4, p.370)

February 8

Consequently our ancestors–who since they dwelt in the sacred land of paradise should never have forgotten God–ought first to have acquired more practice and, so to speak, schooling in simple, genuine goodness and to have gained greater stability in the life of contemplation. Being still in an imperfect and intermediate state–that is to say, easily influenced, whether for good or evil, by whatever they made use of–they should not have ventured on the experience of things pleasant to the senses.

They ought especially to have been on their guard against things that by nature greatly allure and dominate the senses and that seduce the entire intellect and give access to evil passions, thus rendering plausible the originator and creator of these passions.

~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia, vol.4, pp.369-370)