On Meditation – The Spiritual Elder

Hold him in your arms like Mary his mother. Enter with the Magi and offer your gifts. Proclaim his birth with the shepherds. Proclaim his praise with the angels. Carry him in your arms like Simeon the Elder. Take him with Joseph down to Egypt. When he goes to play with little children steal up to him and kiss him. Inhale the sweet savor of his body, the body that gives life to every body. Follow the early years of his childhood in all its stages, for this infuses his love into your soul. Cleave to him: your mortal body will be scented with the spice of the life in his immortal body. Sit with him in the temple and listen to the words coming from his mouth while the astonished teachers listen. When he asks, when he answers, listen and marvel at his wisdom. Stand there at the Jordan and greet him with John. Wonder at his humility when you see him bow his head to John to be baptized.

Go out with him to the desert and ascend the mount. Sit there at his feet in silence with the wild beasts that sought the company of their Lord. Stand up there with him to learn how to fight the good fight against your enemies.

Stand at the well with the Samaritan woman to learn worship in spirit and truth. Roll the stone from the tomb Lazarus to know the resurrection from the dead. Stand with the multitude, take your share of the five loaves and know the blessings of prayer. Go, wake him up who is asleep at the stern of you boat when the waves beat into it. Weep with Mary, wash his feet with your tears to hear his words of comfort. Lay your head on his breast with John, hear his heart throbbing with love to the world. Take for yourself a morsel of the bread he blessed during supper to be one with his body and confirmed in him forever.

Rise, do not keep your feet away that he may wash them from the impurity of sin. Go out with him to the Mount of Olives. Learn from him how to bend your knees and pray until the sweat pours down. Rise, meet your cursers and crucifiers, surrender your hands to the bonds, do not keep your face away from the slapping and spitting. Strip your back to be lashed. Rise, my friend, do not fall to the ground, bear your cross, for it is time for departure. Stretch your arms with him and do not keep your feet from the nails. Taste with him the bitterness of gall.

Rise early while it is still dark. Go to his tomb to see the glorious resurrection. Sit in the upper room and wait for his coming while the doors are closed. Open your ears to hear the words of peace from his mouth. Make haste and go to lonely place. Bow your head to receive the last blessing before he ascends.

[John of Dalyatha, Homily on Meditation on the Economy of the Lord]

What is your desire? – The Spiritual Elder


If your lust is earthly, you share it with dogs and swine – I mean gluttony and fornication. But if it is for God, then you share it with the angels.

[John of Dalyatha, Homily on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit]

Why do I not understand glorious mysteries? – The Spiritual Elder


If you ask, my brother, why you do not see things that are to come, or observe hidden things, or speak wonders, or understand glorious mysteries, then hear me, my brother, and I will tell you the reason you are cut off from these benefits.

Truly, my beloved, there is no logical mind that is not appointed to be the seer of all things that have been and shall be, unless it is blind in the things that are seen. There is no human heart that would not be a fountain of the mysteries hidden in the bosom of the Father, if its courses were not blocked up by the mud of the passions.

There is no tongue of any man in the image of God that would not be speaking the wonders of God and revealing his hidden mysteries, if it were not stuttering from the cold of evil. There is no soul that would not bear Christ in its bosom, if it had not become depraved with its enemies through its laxity.

Nevertheless, repentance causes us to be born again in the image of God and restores all these things to us. Blessed is the giver of repentance, who grants it to us for the revival of our deadness. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

[John of Dalyatha, Discourse 14]

Who pays your wages at the sunset of your parting? – The Spiritual Elder

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Upbraid your soul constantly, my brother, and say: “My soul, your release from the body is near, so why do you delight in these temporal things, when today you are leaving them and are to be deprived of the sight and remembrance of them forever?

Look at what is before you; consider the nature of the things you have done. With whom have you spent your days of work? Who has accepted the fruits of your labour? To whom have you given joy through your struggles, so that he comes out to meet you at your departure? Whom have you delighted with your run, so that you are granted rest in his haven?

For whose sake have you toiled and been buffeted, so that you may come to him in gladness? Who is the friend you have acquired in the eternal place who will now receive you on your departure? In which field have you strenuously laboured, and who pays your wages at the sunset of your parting?”

Examine yourself, my soul, and see which place you will be conveyed to when you fly away from your body. Who are the companions with whom your are journeying to their inheritance? Perhaps they are angels of light, so how would they not shine the radiance of their beauty upon you because of their love towards you, and how would they not delight you in commingling with them before the parting?

But perhaps they are loathsome creatures, child-stealers, who by means of desire entice one into their place of darkness, cut off from consolation. Woe to me because of their company; woe to me for associating with them; woe to me for communication with them separates me from my God; woe to me, for in approaching them I have moved away from my Lord; woe to me for having hearkened to their guile and deprived myself of the vision of the Beautiful One; woe to me for having of my own accord estranged myself from the Good One and become a fellow of the Evil One.

While I am in the place where I contracted my diseases I will prepare medicines to heal my sores. While the plea of the petitioners is being received, I will compose bitter chants, to appease my God, whom I have angered. I will weep and groan over the days that have been spent in the field that makes its tillers eat wormwood. I will cry aloud with grief and groanings, which are more pleasing to my God than sacrifices. My mouth will utter sorrowful chants, the sound of which the angels desire to hear. My cheeks will be wet with tears from my eyes, so that the Spirit will rest upon my head to purify me of my vices. I will assuage my Lord, that he may come to me when I implore. I will call upon Martha and Mary to teach me chants of lamentation.

[John of Dalyatha, Discourse 11]

You who have begun do not shrink back – The Spiritual Elder

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You who have begun this course, in which the shining ones are all running, do not shrink back at the beginning when your intellect strives to penetrate within you but cannot, so you turn backwards and flee for relief in distraction outside of yourself. Those that are against you know that through asceticism you defy their knowledge, frustrate their devices and check their pride. You have begun, and they are pouring forth into your unpractised mind hardship, depression, gloominess, darkness and suffocation of soul, until they make the mystical fountain of all mysteries loathsome in your eyes.

Yet if you persevere in afflictions at your heart’s door and endure when you fix your gaze, even if there is no rest or repose, only adversity, you will call upon the Mercy of him who said: Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God (Mat 5.8), as long as you do not regard your labour in vain. He gives light to the blind: the sun of joys rises within you and draws you upwards in release of everything. And who will draw away from him? Not the angels, when it is better that you should be with their Lord within yourself than with them in Heaven.

Here I have set down before those who are weak like myself, now standing outside the mystical door of light, how they should seek it. He who seeks diligently shall find, but he who is negligent will continue blindly in darkness, in that he separates himself from the Light, the Life and the Truth, which is Christ; to whom be praise from all, and grace to him from all be prolonged in the directing of those who love him. Amen.

[John of Dalyatha, Discourse 17]

Without You I am a stranger to everything – The Spiritual Elder

Coptic monk praying in original cave of St. Anthony.

O You who wept and shed tears of sorrow over Lazarus, receive my bitter tears; may my passions be allayed by Your Passion; may my wounds be healed by Your wounds, my blood be blended with Your Blood, and the lifegiving fragrance of Your Holy Body be mingled with my body. May the bitter drink that was given to You by your enemies soothe my soul, which has been made to drink wormwood by the evil one. May Your Body, which was stretched out on the tree, expand my mind to You, which has been shrunk by the demons. May Your head bent on the cross lift up my head, which has been buffeted by impure men. May Your pure hands, which were transfixed with nails by unbelievers, draw me up to You from the abyss of evil, as your mouth has promised. May Your face, which has received the shameful spitting of accursed men, cleanse my face, which has become odious through it’s sins. May Your soul, with you did commit to the Your Father on the cross, bring me to You by Your grace.

I have no tears of supplication, Lord; I have no contrite heart for seeking You; I have not the repentance and compunction that turns sons back to their inheritance; my intellect is darkened through the things of this world and has not the strength to lift its gaze towards You with moaning; my heart has grown cold through a multitude of evils and cannot become warm through tears of love. O Christ, treasure of all goodly things, grant me perfect repentance and an aching heart that comes out in love to seek You. Without You I am a stranger to everything; grant me, O Good One, Your Grace. May the Father who begot You, from his bosom where You were concealed from eternity, renew in me the features of Your likeness.

Though I have forsaken You, do not forsake me; though I have abandoned You and gone away from You, come out to seek me and restore me to Your fold; add me to the dear lambs of Your flock, and feed me with them in the pasture of Your Holy Mysteries, whose source is a pure heart wherein is seen the light of your revelations; that is the repose of the toilers who labour to that end through sufferings and torment of every kind. Our Saviour, may we all be counted worthy of it through Your gracious loving-kindness.

[John of Dalyatha, Discourse 4]

Anger and slander – The Spiritual Elder


You who desire for yourself purity whereby the Lord of all may be seen, do not slander nor listen to words of calumny concerning your brethren. If a quarrel is going on near you or if you hear angry words, stop up your words and flee, lest your soul perish. The soul of an irascible man is devoid of the mysteries of God, but any one who is innocent and peaceable is a fount of the mysteries of the New World. Indeed Heaven is already inside you if you are pure, and there you see angels rejoicing and their Lord with them and within them.

[John of Dalyatha, Discourse 3]

Prayer more than any labour, brings one near to God – The Spiritual Elder


Whoever has tasted the sweetness of Christ will be diligently occupied in prayer, which, more than any labour, brings one near to God; for in prayer the mind is conmingled with God and becomes the image of its Maker and the recipient of his gifts and a fount of his mysteries.

Through prayer it opens the door to the treasuries of God and becomes his treasurer and the divider of his riches. Through prayer the mind is made worthy to behold the Glory of God an to abide in the majestic Cloud of Light, within the place of the spirits, in stupefaction and silence, void of impulses, in ecstasy, and wonderstruck at the beauty of the many-splendoured rays of light dawning upon it, stupefying the worlds at their sight, which are the life and delight of the spiritual beings, stilling their fiery impulses with their majestic beauty.

These are the unspeakable blessings bestowed on those who are engaged in prayer. Thereby they are called upon to be dwelling for God, and he will be their abode and their resting-place, void of all painful passions. For thereby the soul is united with Christ and thus it sees the glorious splendour of his majesty, and in his brilliance it sees the loveliness of its nature and it exults.

In the travail of prayer there blazes up in the soul the fire of Christ’s love, and the heart becomes frenzied with longing and sets all the members ablaze; it exults with love and loses control of itself. The world is obliterated from the heart as well as its impulses, and it awaits departure from it to be in God and to behold his face constantly for the delighting of its life.

[John of Dalyatha, Discourses of Mysticism, Discourse 21]

How to remember and think of God – The Spiritual Elder


My brother, concerning the thought of God which you asked me to write you about, I do not understand your request. If it concerns the constant remembrance of Him, I know that the thought of Him always arises in your heart for your delight and for the destruction of passions and thoughts. And if you are seeking instruction about gazing on Him, I am sure that your understanding has been enlightened by the vision of His glory and has gone beyond all need of indications.

But since we are in the world of variations, and now and then because of happenings, temptations, and acts of Providence to reprimand us, sometimes the remembrance of God is cut off from our heart, and our souls are deprived of His vision, and we forget to think about Him. So we have need of indications to bring us back to remembering God and gazing on Him. According to my weakness, I am setting down notes for persons weak like me, that by them they might grow strong in the glory of God mighty forevermore:

That heaven and earth and all that is in them are full of God; that He passes through all and that his Nature is stretched out through all the natures, like the sun in the air; many know this by hearing of it. Fewer know it from snatches in books, but only rarely is it known from the vision of purity: this purity which takes delight in blessings and not in senseless words.

Let a person look on the immensity of God which covers all and passes over all. This constant remembrance of Him is certainly a great thing: it destroys the passions, defeats the demons, enlightens the intellect, and purifies the heart. But better than this is that a person seek his Life within himself. All the worlds may be full of Life, but if he is empty of it, what profit from what is outside? And if he is full of Life, what harm can death do to him from the outside?

So then look at God within yourself, how God is light (1 Jn 1:5). For his Nature is a glorious, many-splendored light. He manifests the light of his Nature to those who love Him in all the worlds – that is, his glory, not his Nature. And he changes the image of those who see it, to the likeness of his glory. Look within and see Him in your being, united to you as fire to iron within the furnace, and as moisture in your body.

[John of Dalyatha, Letter 50]

Your door is open, my Lord, and there is no one who enters – The Spiritual Elder


O Christ, whose pure blood has paid the debt which our foolish will owed, open the eyes of our minds that we may know where we are proceeding. May your light, which like the sun enlightens the legions of your Holiness, bring me unto You. May your Spirit, my Lord, place me among them even here below and in the world of light. And may your Spirit teach me their language, so as to extol with them inaudible praise of You. Create me, my Lord, as a new creature resembling your beauty and may we forget and disregard our previous nature.

Glory to the abundance of your ineffable love! Your door is open, my Lord, and there is no one who enters. Your glory is manifest and there is no one who contemplates it. Your light shines in the pupils of the eyes and we do not want to see. Your right hand is stretched out to give and there is no one who takes. You entice with compliments and we do not obey. You frighten us with terrors mixed with tenderness and we do not flee to You.

O our good God, have pity on our wretchedness! Our sweet Creator, bind up our brokenness! Our Father full of mercy, You Yourself persuade and compel us and draw us near to You; because of ourselves we are unwilling to beseech You. Lead out our soul from the prison (Ps 141:7) in which we have imprisoned ourselves to your true light, even when we are not willing. May your power, my Lord, prevail over us and draw us from the drowning for which we are headed!

Remove, my Lord, from before our sight all the veils with which the view of our soul is obscured from seeing your true light. In this light let us always stand stripped without interruption, with unveiled faces, and let us persist in the desire and in the delight of its beauty, forever and ever, Amen.

[John of Dalyatha, Letter 5]