Monthly Archives: June 2017

Unchanging……Eternal

God is good, dispassionate and immutable. Now someone who thinks it reasonable and true to affirm that God does not change, may well ask how, in that case, it is possible to speak of God as rejoicing over those who are good and showing mercy to those who honor Him, while turning away from the wicked and being angry with sinners. To this it must be answered that God neither rejoices nor grows angry, for to rejoice and to be offended are passions: nor is He won over by the gifts of those who honor Him, for that would mean He is swayed by pleasure. It is not right to imagine that God feels pleasure or displeasure in a human way. He is good, and He only bestows blessings and never does harm, remaining always the same. We men, on the other hand, if we remain good through resembling God, are united to Him; but if we become evil through not resembling God, we are separated from Him. By living in holiness we cleave to God; but by becoming wicked we make Him our enemy. It is not that He grows angry with us in an arbitrary way, but it is our own sins that prevent God from shining within us. And if through prayer and acts of compassion we gain release from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him change, but through our actions and our turning to God we have cured our wickedness and so once more have enjoyment of God’s goodness. Thus to say that God turns away from the wicked is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind. –St Antony the Great ‘Philokalia’

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I Felt My Life With Both My Hands

a poem by Emily Dickinson turned into a song by Carla Bruni

I felt my life with both my hands
To see if it was there—
I held my spirit to the Glass,
To prove it possibler—

I turned my Being round and round
And paused at every pound
To ask the Owner’s name—
For doubt, that I should know the Sound—

I judged my features—jarred my hair—
I pushed my dimples by, and waited—
If they—twinkled back—
Conviction might, of me—

I told myself, “Take Courage, Friend—
That—was a former time—
But we might learn to like the Heaven,
As well as our Old Home!”

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Obstinate and abstinence

If we make every effort to avoid death of the body, still more should it be our endeavor to avoid death of the soul. There is no obstacle for a man who wants to be saved other than negligence and laziness…

Those who scorn to grasp what is profitable and salutary are considered to be ill. Those, on the other hand, who comprehend the truth but insolently enjoy dispute, have an intelligence that is dead; and their behavior has become brutish. They do not know God and their soul has not been illumined. –St Antony the Great ‘Philokalia’

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Praise and Glory

“Supreme and eternal good, who has moved You, infinite God, to illuminate me, Your finite creature, with the light of Your truth? You, the same fire of love, are the cause. For it is love that has always constrained and continues to constrain You to create us in Your image and likeness, and to show us mercy by giving immeasurable and infinite graces to Your rational creatures.

“Goodness above all goodness! You alone are supremely good, and nevertheless You gave the Word, Your only begotte

n Son, to associate with us filthy ones who are filled with darkness. What was the cause of this? Love. Because You loved us before we were.

“Eternal greatness! You made Yourself low and small to make mankind great. On whatever side I turn, I find nothing but the abyss and fire of Your love. And can a wretch like me pay back to You the graces and the burning love that You have shown and continue to show in particular to me, and the love that You show to all Your creatures? No, but You alone, most sweet and loving Father, will be thankful and grateful for me—that is, that the affection of Your charity itself will render You thanks. My being, and every further grace that You have bestowed upon me, I have from You. And You give them to me through love, and not as my due. –St Catherine of Siena ‘Little Talks With God’

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It Ain’t Easy

A man cannot become good and wise immediately, but only through much effort, reflection (rejection), experience (failures), time (boredom), practice and desire (longing) for virtuous action. The man who is good and enjoys the love of God, and who truly knows Him, never ceases to do ungrudgingly all that accords with His will. Such men are rare. –St Antony the Great ‘Philokalia’

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A Saint

Her (St Teresa of Avila) sense of guilt, exaggerated by the conflicts of adolescence, followed her into later life. It shows itself in a diffidence that at first sight seems surprising in one who was otherwise courageous and enterprising. “I am always timorous when I have to make a decision about anything—I immediately think I’m going to do everything wrong,” she writes from the Incarnation when she is Prioress in 1573. Often when she has achieved something in the face of difficulty and opposition, she suffers a reaction, begins to question the wisdom of what she has done. This happened after the founding of Saint Joseph’s, and again at Medina del Campo. This weakness in Teresa is a very human one. It is a reminder, too, that those whom the Church has raised to her altars as great servants of God, heroic in courage and singleness of heart, are yet persons like ourselves. The saints will not please the cold perfectionist nor the stoic. They are not superman, flawless, nor beings changed once and for all by a lightning conversion. Saint Paul’s conversion appears to have been a lightning one, if any was. Yet in the years that followed he was buffeted by an angel of Satan, nor is there any reason to suppose that he ceased to be buffeted to the end.

A person suffering from a sense of guilt can be cured, or at least made better, through treatment from a psychologist; or through a change from unfavorable environment to favorable. In either case the part played by encouragement is all important. Teresa, though in her spiritual and active life she had much to discourage her, found encouragement, too. When all were against her, thinking her a madwoman and deluded by the devil, Peter of Alcantara encouraged her. Possibly that strange character, as remote from our understanding as one of the desert hermits and the last person one would expect to take up a woman’s cause, was himself encouraged by the young Teresa who, so she tells us, took an interest in his affairs. She was encouraged, too, by the Dominican, Vicente Barron, Don Alonso’s confessor and afterwards her own, who, when she had given up prayer, saved her from the sloth of false humility, making her understand, what she was later to pass on to others, that to pray is always good nor is any soul, however evil, excluded from the love of God. –‘A Journey in Spain: Saint Teresa’ Elizabeth Hamilton

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Brutal honesty

If our intellect is inexperienced in the art of watchfulness, it at once begins to entertain whatever impassioned fantasy appears in it, and plies it with illicit questions and responds to it illicitly. Then our own thoughts are conjoined to the demonic fantasy, which waxes and burgeons until it appears lovely and delectable to the welcoming and despoiled intellect. The intellect then is deceived in much the same way as lambs when a stray dog comes into the field in which they happen to be: in their innocence, they often run towards the dog as though it were their mother, and their only profit in coming near it is that they pick up something of its stench and foulness. In the same way, our thoughts run ignorantly after demonic fantasies that appear in our intellect and, as 1 said, the two join together and one can see them plotting to destroy the city of Troy like Agamemnon and Menelaus. For they plot together the course of action they must take in order to bring about, in practice and by means of the body, that purpose which the demons have persuaded them is sweet and delectable. In this Way sins are produced in the soul: and hence the need to bring out into the open what is in our hearts.  –St Hesychios the Priest ‘Philokalia’

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