It is patience that reveals every grace to you, and it is through patience that the saints received all that was promised them. Patience is the pride of the saints. Be patient, to be admitted to the saints’ legion, confident that you will be given a crown that will never rust.
A thought? Come to terms with it in patience, waiting for God to give you calm. Fasting? Put up with it in perseverance. Prayer? Without letup, in your room between you and God. One single heart with your brother. Virginity in all your members: virginity in your thoughts, purity of body, and purity of heart. Head bowed, and a humble heart; gentleness in the hour of anger.
[Abba Pachmious the Great, Instructions Concerning a Spiteful Monk (Pach Instr 1.), 8]
And since the holy Virgin hath borne after the Flesh God united Personally to the Flesh, therefore we do say that she is also Mother of God, not as though the Nature of the Word had the beginning of It’s existence from flesh, for It was “in the beginning and the Word was God, and the Word was with God” [John 1:1], and is Himself the Maker of the ages, Co-eternal with the Father and Creator of all things: but (as we have already said) seeing that He united human nature to Himself Personally and underwent fleshly birth from the very womb, not as though by any necessity or for the sake of His own Nature needing the Birth in time and in the last times of the world, but in order to bless the very beginning of our being and that, because a woman bare Him united to the flesh, the curse against our whole race might at length be stopped, the curse which sends to death our bodies of earth, and the words, “in sorrows shalt thou bear children” [Gen. 3:16], through Him abolished, He might manifest that true which is uttered by the Prophet’s voice, “Death in its might is swallowed up, and God again removed every tear from off every face.” [Isa. 25:8 LXX] For this reason do we say that He economically blessed marriage itself also and when bidden in Cana of Galilee went thither together with the holy Apostles.
These things have we been taught to hold by the holy Apostles and Evangelists and the whole God-inspired Scripture, and by the true Confession of the blessed Fathers: to all of them must thy Piety too assent and consent without any guile.
[St. Cyril the Alexandria, Third Letter to Nestorius]
“The great Pachomius was once asked by a brother, ‘Why is it that before the demon comes to trouble us, we possess out mind’s understanding in a healthy state and we philosophise about temperance, humility, and other virtues, but when the hour comes to display in deed what we have been philosophising about, such as longsuffering in the time of anger, absence of vainglory when subjected to praise, and many other similar things, we are often defeated?’
In answer to this the Great Man said, ‘Because we do not pursue the active life perfectly – this is why we do not understand all the demon’s mind and versatility well enough to be able, when the troubler manifests his presence, to repel swiftly the confusion of such thoughts which surrounds us by the contemplative power of the soul. Therefore,’ he said, ‘let us pour the fear of God like oil upon the contemplative part of the soul, every day and every hour. That fear, which accomplishes works and is a lamp for the contemplation of the things which concern us, makes our mind unshakeable, not carried away by anger, wrath, rancor, and any of the other passions which lead us to wickedness. It makes it contemplative and raises it to that incorporeal region; it forces it to hold in contempt the things which are wrought by devils and prepares it to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and all the whole strength of the enemy.’ (Luke 10:19)
[Abba Pachomius the Great, Paralipomena, Chapter VI]
“The nature of water is soft, that of stone is hard; but if a bottle is hung above the stone, allowing the water to fall drop by drop, it wears away the stone. So it is with the Word of God; it is soft and our heart is hard, but the man who hears the Word of God often, opens his heart to the fear of God.”
[Abba Poemen, Apophthegmata Patrum]
As a grace beyond a grace has repentance been given to man. Repentance is being born anew in God. That of which we have received the pledge by baptism, we receive as a gift by repentance. Repentance is the gate of mercy which is opened to all who seek it. Through this gate we go in to divine mercy. Apart from this entrance it is not possible to find mercy. Because all have sinned, according to the words of scripture, and are justified freely by grace (Rom 3:23).
Repentance is a second grace; it is born in the heart from faith and fear. Fear is the paternal rod which guides us up to the spiritual Eden. hen we have arrived there, it leaves us and returns. Eden is the divine love wherein is the paradise of all goods, where the blessed Paul was sustained by supernatural food. When he had eaten from the tree of life which is there, he exclaimed: “eye has not seen, nor ear heard neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor 2:9).
Adam was bereft of this tree by the promise of the Devil. The tree of life is the divine love which Adam lost by his fall, after which he worked and wearied himself. Those who are bereft of divine love are still eating the bread that is won by the sweat of their labour, even though they work righteousness, as was commanded to the head of our race when he lost it by his fall. Until we find love, we work in the earth with her thorns. Among thorns we sow and reap, even if we sow the seed of righteousness. Perpetually we are pricked by them, even if we are justified, and live with sweat on our faces.
When, however, we have found love, we eat the heavenly bread and we are sustained without labour and without weariness. Heavenly bread is that which has descended from heaven and which gives the world life; this is the food of angels. He that has found love eats Christ at all times and becomes immortal from thence onwards. For whoever eats of this bread shall not taste death in eternity. Blessed is he that has eaten from the bread of love which is Jesus.
Whoever is fed with love is fed with Christ, who is the all-governing God. Witness is John who says: “God is Love” (1 Jn 4:16). Thus he smells life from God, that lives with love in this creation. He breathes here of the air of resurrection. In this air the righteous will delight at resurrection. Love is the kingdom of which our Lord spoke when He symbolically promised the disciples that, they would eat in His kingdom: “you shall eat and drink at the table of my kingdom”. What should they eat, if not love? Love is sufficient to feed man in stead of food and drink.
This is the wine that gladdens the heart of man. Blessed is he who has drunk from this wine. This is the wine from which the lascivious have drunk and they became chaste, the sinners and they forgot the ways of offence, the drunkards and they became fasters; the rich and they became desirous of poverty, the poor and they became rich in hope; the sick and they became valiant; the fools and they became wise.
As it is not possible to cross the ocean without a boat or a ship, so no one can cross towards love, without fear. This foetid sea, which lies between us and the intelligible paradise, we cross in the boat of repentance, which has fear for a rudder. If the rudder of fear does not govern this ship of repentance, in which we cross the sea of this world towards God, we shall be drowned in the foetid sea. Repentance is the ship, fear is her governor, love is the divine port. Fear places us in the ship of repentance and makes us cross the foetid sea of the world and brings us in the divine port which is love, towards which look all those who are weary and crushed by repentance.
When we have reached love, we have reached God and our way is ended and we have passed unto the island which lieth beyond the world, where is the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost; to whom be glory and dominion. That He make us worthy to fear Him and to love Him. Amen.
[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Homily XLII, Ascetical Homilies]
[This absolution is prayed by the priest at the conclusion of the Midnight Praises (tasbeha), an ancient set of prayers that have been prayed daily in the Coptic Orthodox Church for tens of centuries:]
We thank and entreat You, O Master and Lord Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God, the Eternal, abiding in the light before all ages, Light out of Light; enlighten, O Lord, our minds and our hearts, and illuminate our understanding, so that we understand Your life-giving words. Raise us from the darkness of sin which kills the soul. Make us worthy to be steadfast in good and beneficial works. At the time of Your awesome second coming, when you will judge the world, may we be worthy of hearing that voice which is full of happiness, joy, consolation, delight and grace from Your divine mouth, saying: “Come to Me, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom which was prepared for you since the creation of the world”.
Yes, O Lord our God, fit us to be, on that day and in that hour, without fear, without fault, without disturbance, without failure and without deviation. Do not deal with us O Lord according to the multitude of our sins. Pardon O LORD, all our vices, faults, mistakes and lapses.
Relieve us, and the whole world, O Lord, from death, inflation, plagues, destruction, eviction, the sword of enemies, the plots of demons, the danger of fire and drowning, the opposition of those who are evil, the intrigues of the shameless and the injustice of judges. Bring to failure the works of the stubborn against us. For You are our Lord and God, have compassion on us. Do not cast us into the sea of destruction nor to the punishment of our ways. But rescue us, protect us, preserve us and raise us from boredom, anger, languishing, and laziness. Do not let the enemy – the devil – overwhelm us with excessive hope, but alert our minds and awaken our hearts from the sleep of inattention and wasting our lifetime in vain.
O God, disregard our trespasses and forgive us our lapses, do not remember our sins or our vices, do not be angry with us and may Your anger not continue forever. Have mercy on us O LORD, have mercy on us, for we are weak and poor, drowning in the ocean of sin. Unto You we cry out; before You we bow; by You we confess; it is You whom we want. Do not cut off our hope my Master, in Your mercy, and do not close the door of Your mercy in our faces. But out of Your goodness save us; lead us to Your mercy, and let us hear Your joyful voice.
O God, purify us and purify our hearts from wicked, unclean and bad thoughts. Remove from us, O LORD, and from Your people, all dreams, fancies and devilish ideas. Raise us O God, from every fall and catastrophe. Establish in us O God, patience, hope, love and orthodox faith. Count us among the sheep at Your right hand. Seat us with those who recline in Your heavenly banquet. Forgive us for every trespass, guilt and sin; protect us in the fortress of Your luminous, angelic soldiers. For we have no salvation except through Your mercy. Our reliance is on You, our faith is in You and our hope is in You.
Accept from us O Lord, our supplications at this present time and at all times. And all those who asked and directed us to remember them in prayers, liturgies, unctions of the sick and commemorations; whether alive or dead; remember us O Lord, together with them, with kindness in the heavenly Jerusalem, in the Kingdom of Heaven. Blot out O Lord, our vices, and those who offended us, forgive them and us.
Through Your mercy O Lord, save all our souls. O Lord, save Your people, bless Your inheritance, shepherd and guide them forever. Save those who are in hardships, distresses and sadness. Free those who are bound from the bonds of devils. Satisfy the hungry with good things. Console the small in heart and spirit. Raise the fallen; make steadfast those who have risen. Restore the lost. Take care of the widow and the orphan. Aid the needy. Give blessings to the fruits of the earth, grant that the weather be favourable, give growth to the plants, raise the waters of the rivers fully and bless the dew and the rains. Give contentment to those in need. Repay for those in debt. Gather together the fragments which are divided. Accept the repentance of the penitent. Accept the confession of the confessors. Give understanding to the catechumens. Give fair judgment O Lord, to the oppressed.
Fill our hearts with joy, happiness, comfort, delight and grace, so that as we have sufficiency in all things, we excel in acceptable good works. Bless O Lord, the crops with heavenly blessings. Bless O Lord the crown of this year with Your goodness. Bless O Lord the sower, the cultivator, the planter and the reaper, as You blessed the crops of the children of Israel in the sixth year.
Bless O Lord this gathering of ours, and all the gatherings of orthodox people. Preserve for us the life and the reign of our father and Patriarch Pope Tawadros the Patriarch of this time. Save him O Lord and save his people from all catastrophes, trials and sorrows. And also his partners in the apostolic ministry, our fathers the Metropolitans, our fathers the Bishops, our fathers the Hegumens and our fathers the Priests, our brothers the Deacons, our fathers the Monks, our brothers the laymen and those who came, attended and shared with us in this prayer and all the prayers of the orthodox, now asking for the forgiveness of their sins and mercy for their souls. Bless us and bless them; absolve us and absolve them; forgive our sins and their sins, those passed and those we might return to, those personal and those not personal, those by night and those by day, those manifest and those hidden.
Preserve O Lord, the welfare of the assemblies, the holy churches, the orthodox wilderness, and the elders who dwell in them, its servants, its overseers, and those who are in it. Grant security, peace, love and reassurance to be among them. Bring down the evil enemy under our feet and their feet. Do not let him have any part in us or in them, neither by the left hand blow nor by the right hand blow, but preserve them with Your exalted hand and Your protective arm. Rescue us my Master, from evil temptations and from the snares set, the visible and the invisible.
Remember O Lord, our fathers, our mothers, our brothers and our sisters, our families, our relatives, our teachers, our spiritual children, our children in the flesh and all the children of Baptism together.
Remember O Lord, those through whose toil and effort we have eaten and drunk, have sheltered us in their houses and gave us from their hands. Repay them O Lord and compensate them with the eternal for the temporal and the heavenly for the earthly. Fill their houses and their stores with every good thing. Repay them O Lord, thirty fold, sixty fold and a hundredfold, and the forgiveness of their sins in the Kingdom of Heaven. Remember O Lord, those who have done good unto us and to our poor brethren, with every kind of good work, in love for You and honour for Your Holy Name, and bless them.
Remember O Lord, those who are concerned with the sacrifices, offerings, burnt offerings, wine, oil, first fruits, incense, curtains, vows, books of readings and all the utensils of the altar generally. Repay them O Lord, for what they have given, with the forgiveness of their sins. Grant them in this present age a pleasant life and in the coming age eternal life.
Remember O Lord our fathers and brethren who have departed, reposed and rested with faith in Christ. Repose O Lord, all their souls, in the embrace of our Holy fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the place of the living, in the Paradise of Joy. As for us who are still alive, aid us to find salvation for our souls, arrange our lives according to Your gracious will.
Please O Lord, remember my insignificance, my humiliation, my weakness, I the sinner who am troubled, and unworthy of standing between Your hands. Because of the multitude of my sins and guilt, do not reject me. Erect O Lord, a horn of salvation for Your people through the sign of Your life-giving Cross. We ask Your relief in hardships and Your aid in misery and humiliation. Save us O LORD and save everyone in hardships. Those of Your people who are sick, heal them.
Grant O Lord, Your people the Christians, those present with us and those absent from us, that they may be blessed and absolved from Your Divine mouth, from the rising of the to its setting, and from the north to the south. Accept us unto You, as You accepted the right hand thief when You were on the Cross, and granted him the Paradise of Joy.
Remember O Lord, the orphans and the widows, the estranged, the disabled and those who have no one to remember them. Remember us O Lord, with them, in the heavenly Jerusalem. Remember O Lord those standing or sitting, sleeping or lying in illness, those who are travelling by land, sea, air, on plains, by rough roads, through valleys, narrow ways, on mountain peaks and hills, in caves, those who are in gaols or prisons, those who are in captivity and exiled, the captives and those who are bound with the bonds of wicked powers and of demons. Return them and bring them all to their ports safely, profitably and healthy in soul, body and spirit.
Grant O my Lord Jesus Christ, that these our prayers may be accepted before You without hypocrisy, pride, haughtiness, being puffed up or any fault. Aid us O God in doing Your will. Aid us in performing Your commandments. Aid us in the pangs of death, and that which is before death and that which is after death. For You are a righteous God, long suffering, plenteous in mercy and compassion. O Lord grant that the door of Your Church be open before us through the ages of ages and unto the end of time. Have mercy upon us O God, according to the multitude of Your mercy.
Through the intercessions of the Lady of intercession, the essence of purity, generosity and blessings; our Lady and the pride of our race, the chaste Virgin, the blameless St Mary, and the honoured martyr, St Mark the evangelist, apostle and preacher of the land of Egypt, and all the angels, the fathers, the prophets, the apostles, the martyrs, the saints, the spiritborne, the worshipers, the ascetics, the strivers and those who have pleased the Lord with their good works, from Adam, to the end of ages.
To You, we bow down O Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and at all times, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
And make us worthy to pray thankfully: Our Father, who art in heaven…
Though we are not all called to the trial of martyrdom, we are all bound daily to fight, and to conquer too. By multiplied victories which we gain over our passions and spiritual enemies, by the exercise of meekness, patience, humility, purity, and all other virtues, we shall render our triumph complete, and attain to the crown of bliss. But are we not confounded at our sloth in our spiritual warfare when we look on the conflicts of the martyrs? “The eloquence of the greatest orators, and the wisdom of the philosophers were struck dumb: the very tyrants and judges stood amazed and were not able to find words to express their admiration, when they beheld the faith, the cheerfulness and constancy of the holy martyrs in their sufferings.
But what excuse shall we allege in the tremendous judgment, who, without meeting with such cruel persecution and torments, are so remiss and slothful in maintaining the spiritual life of our souls, and the charity of God! What shall we do in that terrible day when the holy martyrs, placed near the throne of God, with great confidence shall display their glorious scars, the proofs of their fidelity? What shall we then show? shall we produce our love for God? true faith? a disengagement of our affections from earthly things? souls freed from the tyranny of the passions? retirement and peace of mind? meekness? alms-deeds and compassion? holy and pure prayer? sincere compunction? watching and tears?
Happy shall he be whom these works shall attend. He shall then be the companion of the martyrs, and shall appear with the same confidence before Christ and his angels. We beseech you, O most holy martyrs, who cheerfully suffered torments and death for his love, and are now more familiarly united to him, that you intercede with God for us slothful and wretched sinners, that he bestow on us the grace of Christ, by which we may be enlightened and enabled to love him.”
[Mar Ephrem the Syrian, Homil. in SS. Martyres, Op. Gr. and Lat. ed. Vat. an. 1743, t. 2, p. 341.]
Blessed is the man who knows his weakness. This knowledge becomes for him the foundation and the beginning [of his coming] unto all good and beautiful things.
When he knows that he needs divine help, he will frequently pray. And by much beseeching the heart becomes humble, tor there is no man who is needy and asking, without being humble (And God will not despise a broken and contrite heart).
Until the heart has become humble, it will not rest from distraction. Humility restrains the heart. And as soon as man has become humble, mercy will surround and envelop him. And when mercy draws near, the heart will perceive help at once, because some confidence and force will also move in it. When it perceives that divine help approach unto it and that He is its support and its helper, then the heart will be filled with faith at once.
Then it will see and understand that prayer is the port of help, the fountain of salvation, the treasure of confidence, the sheet-anchor amidst the storms, the light in the darkness, the stick of the weak, the shelter at the time of temptations, the medicine at the time of illness, the shield of protection in the battle, the sharp arrow against the enemies.
And because by prayer he has found the entrance unto all this good, he will delight in prayer of faith for ever more,while his heart exults in confidence, not blindly and with words only, as it had been till then. [Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies]
Abba Ammoun of Rhaithou asked Abba Sisoes, “When I read the Scriptures, my mind is wholly concentrated on the words so that I may make elaborate comments and so to prepare myself to answer questions on it.” The old man said to him, “That is not necessary; it is better to enrich yourself through purity of spirit and to be without anxiety and then to speak simply.” [Apophthegmata Patrum]