December 3

He who practices hesychasm must acquire the following five virtues, as a foundation on which to build: silence, self-control, vigilance, humility and patience. Then there are three practices blessed by God: psalmody, prayer and reading–and handiwork for those weak in body. These virtues which we have listed not only embrace all the rest but also consolidate each other. From early morning the hesychast must devote himself to the remembrance of God through prayer and stillness of heart, praying diligently in the first hour, reading in the second, chanting psalms in the third, praying in the fourth, reading in the fifth, chanting psalms in the sixth, praying in the seventh, reading in the eighth, chanting psalms in the ninth, eating in the tenth, sleeping in the eleventh, if need be, and reciting vespers in the twelfth hour. Thus fruitfully spending the course of the day he gains God’s blessings.

~St Gregory of Sinai

December 2

The physical senses and the soul’s powers have an equal and similar, not to say identical, mode of operation, especially when they are in a healthy state; for then the soul’s powers live and act through the senses, and the life-giving Spirit sustains them both. A man is truly ill when he succumbs to the generic malady of the passions and spends his whole time in the sickroom of inertia.

When there is no satanic battle between them, making them reject the rule of the intellect and of the Spirit, the senses clearly perceive sensory things, the soul’s powers intelligible things; for when they are united through the Spirit and constitute a single whole, they know directly and essentially the nature of divine and human things. They contemplate with clarity the logoi, or inward essences of these things, and distinctly perceive, so far as is possible, the single source of all things, the Holy Trinity.

~St Gregory of Sinai

December 1

There are eight ruling passions: gluttony, avarice and self-esteem–the three principle passions; and unchastity, anger, dejection, listlessness and arrogance–the five subordinate passions. In the same way, among the virtues opposed to these there are three that are all-embracing, namely, total shedding of possessions, self-control and humility, and five deriving from them, namely, purity, gentleness, joy, courage, and self-belittlement–and then come all the other virtues.

To study and recognize the power, action and special flavor of each virtue and vice is not within the competence of everyone who wishes to do so; it is the prerogative of those who practice and experience the virtues actively and consciously and who receive from the Holy Spirit the gifts of cognitive insight and discrimination.

~St Gregory of Sinai

November 30

The cardinal virtues are four: courage, sound understanding, self-restraint and justice. There are eight other moral qualities, that either go beyond or fall short of these virtues. These we regard as vices, and so we call them; but non-spiritual people regard them as virtues and that is what they call them. Exceeding or falling short of courage are audacity and cowardice; of sound understanding are cunning and ignorance; of self-restraint are licentiousness and obtuseness; of justice are excess and injustice, or taking less than one’s due.

In between, and superior to, what goes beyond or what falls short of them, lie not only the cardinal and natural virtues, but also the practical virtues. These are consolidated by resolution combined with probity of character; the others by perversion and self-conceit.

That the virtues lie along the midpoint or axis of rectitude is testified to by the proverb, ‘You will attain every well-founded axis’ (Proverbs 2:9 LXX). Thus when they are all established in the soul’s three faculties in which they are begotten and built up, they have as their foundation the four cardinal virtues, or rather, Christ Himself. In this way the natural virtues are purified through the practical virtues, while the divine and supranatural virtues are conferred through the bounty of the Holy Spirit.

~St Gregory of Sinai

November 29

According to St Paul (cf. Romans 15:16), you ‘minister’ the Gospel only when, having yourself participated  in the light of Christ, you can pass it on actively to others. Then you sow the Logos like a divine seed in the fields of your listener’s souls. ‘Let your speech be always filled with grace’, says St Paul (Colossians 4:6), ‘seasoned’ with divine goodness. Then it will impart grace to those who listen to you with faith.

Elsewhere St Paul, calling the teachers tillers and their pupils the fields they till (cf. 2 Timothy 2:6), wisely presents the former as ploughers and sowers of the divine Logos and the latter as the fertile soil, yielding a rich crop of virtues. True ministry is not simply a celebration of sacred rites; it also involves participation in divine blessings and the communication of these blessings to others.

~St Gregory of Sinai

November 28

Nothing so makes the soul of those striving to advance on the spiritual path sluggish, apathetic and mindless as self-love, that pimp of the passions. For whenever it induces us to choose bodily ease rather than virtue-promoting hardship, or to regard it as positive good sense not willingly to burden ourselves with ascetic labor, especially with respect to the light exertions involved in practicing the commandments, then it causes the soul to relax its efforts to attain a state of stillness, and produces in it a strong, irresistible sense of indolence and slackness.

~St Gregory of Sinai

November 27

At the time of prayer, we should expel from our heart the provocation of each evil thought, rebutting it in a spirit of devotion so that we do not prove to be speaking to God with our lips, while pondering wicked thoughts in our heart. God will not accept from the hesychast a prayer that is turbid and careless, for everywhere Scripture tells us to guard the soul’s organs of perception. If a monk submits his will to the law of God, then his intellect will govern in accordance with this law all that is subordinate to itself. It will direct as it should all the soul’s impulses, especially its incensive power* and desire, for these are subordinate to it. We have practiced virtue and done what is right, turning our desire towards God and His will, and directing our incensive power, or wrath, against the devil and sin. What then do we still lack? Inward meditation.

~St Isaiah The Solitary (Philokalia, vol. 1, pp. 27-28)

 

*Incensive Power-one of three aspects of the soul (along with the intelligent aspect and the appetitive aspect), the force that provokes strong feelings such as anger and desire, all three aspects of the soul can be used positively in accordance with God’s will or negatively, against nature, sinfully.

 

How can we practice inward meditation and find the stillness deep within our heart that we seek if we are preoccupied with the winds and turbulence that blow across the surface of our minds, and keep our souls stirred up and cloudy? Train the mind in devotion to God, by some means such as The Jesus Prayer, and hold fast to it.

Allow no room for evil thoughts to enter, yet if they do, rebuke them with the name of the Lord and carry on in devoted prayer. Obedience to God’s law and commands clears the way for the intellect to act freely in accordance with God’s will, bringing the powers of the soul under proper authority and control.

Obedience will make us perfect and whole, as Jesus commands “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). As obedience perfects us, we will find that the turbulence of our lives begin to calm naturally, we turn our whole being towards God and away from the world, we resist the enemy, and all of this then creates a state within us which is conducive to stillness, meditation, and union with God.

 

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