Mercy has brought you into this house full of profit – The Flute of the Spirit

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Come, you discerning, let us delight today in the teaching, whose taste is sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.

The Church in the world is a great harbour, full of peace; whoever toils, let him come in and rest at her table. Her doors are open, and her eye is good, and her heart is wide. Her table is full, and sweet is her mingled (cup) to them that are worthy. You lovers of the world, come in from wandering in the evil world, and rest in the inn that is full of comfort to him that enters it. You weary labourer, that strives to enrich yourself by vexatious toilings, why do you run after riches that cannot be held fast? O you rich, that go astray with your riches, possess God, and hate the wealth that after a little while shall not be yours. O you unquiet soul, that cleaves after gold, woe to you for that which spends you with your toiling after it! O you that are greedy of mammon, incline your ear hear, and cast from you that grievous load which does not profit you.

Come to prayer, and bring with you your whole self. Let not your mind remain in the market about your business. If you are here, let also your inner man be here within the doors of the crowned (bride). Why is your thought gone forth and distracted after affairs, so that when you art here you art not here, but there? Outside amid the markets your mind is wandering, (taken up) with reckonings and profits; fetch it, that it may come in and ask for its Life. Stand not with one half of you within and one half without, lest when you are divided your prayer lose itself between the two parts. Stand at prayer a united and complete and true man, and all whatever you ask you can obtain from God. Why are you impatient to be off when He has not given to you? Stay long and knock at the Physician, and beseech Him, and bring the tears of repentance and besprinkle His doorstep; entreat much; and if for love He does not give to you, yet to persistence He will not be able to deny all her requests. Be insistent at the Physician’s door, and give not over; for if you be backward He will not bind you up. Why do you stand still? Persistence knows how to obtain mercy of Him; and unless He give to her she will not suffer Him to depart.

O you penitent, be insistent; and whatever you ask, you shall receive from the Giver of all things good. Why art you impatient to be gone about your business? Why are you disquieted to depart and go about your affairs? Why do you run after the world which may not be kept fast? Why have you spent your days in vanity? Why are the hours of the Church esteemed by you as idleness? Why is the service not accounted by you as a banquet? Why are you diligent when you do your own work, but here remiss and cold and slack in asking?

Mercy has brought you into this house that is full of profit; think it not loss if you remain here long. Be patient and listen to the sound of the Psalms which the finger of prophecy played to the words of David. Hearken to the Hymns sung by chaste women with voices of praise, which the wisdom of the Highest has given to the congregations. Hear the Prophets who, as it were through pipes of choice gold, pour forth from their mouths life into the ears of men. Hearken to the Apostles who, like the channels of rivers, arc opened and water the King’s garden with lofty streams. Bend your ear to the pulpit of the Godhead, and receive from it precious pearls. Learn and give assent to the (two) Testaments, rivers both which hold for you life unending. Hear the New, and hearken to the Old; and see that in both one truth is spoken unto you. Lo, you hear from the Old of the four rivers which flowed from the blessed source of Eden; and again in the New (you have) the Apostles like four rivers, who went forth into the four corners (of the world) and watered them.

Life flows from the service of the house of God; you lovers of life, refuse not the profit that comes from there. The soul of man is receptive of impressions and in whatsoever she meditates, she is dyed withal and becomes (the colour) of the same. When she hears the dirges of the wailing women, she overflows with grief and pours out tears over the departed; and when again she hears the songs and jests of the actors she waxes wanton, that with a loud voice she may pour forth laughter. When she hears evil reports, dread comes upon her; but if she hears good tidings, she is glad. And every wind that blows towards her moves her; and in whatsoever direction it be, each time she turns. When, then, she hears the sound of the service of God’s house, spiritually she is moved with love towards God; and as it were she despises the evil world and its affairs, and comes in and mingles with these godly meditations; and she cleaves to and loves that spiritual conversation. She scorns the world and its affairs and its doings; and she is steeped in these voices of holiness, and all carnal thoughts depart from her. And the soul scorns the love of the world and its pleasures, and thoughts of wantonness and remissness. And when she hears these voices that are sung to her, she is chaste and lowly and full of hope and moderation. Therefore it is right that he who enters in to give himself to prayer should be long in God’s house.

[On the Reception of the Holy Mysteries, Mar Jacob of Serugh]

Be at peace – St. John Chrysostom

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God is not a God of war and fighting. Make war and fighting to cease, both that which is against Him, and that which is against your neighbor. Be at peace with all men, consider with what character God saves you. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9). Such always imitate the Son of God: you imitate Him too. Be at peace.

The more your brother wars against you, by so much the greater will be your reward. For hear the prophet who says, With the haters of peace I was peaceful (Psalm 120:7) This is virtue, this is above man’s understanding, this makes us near God; nothing so much delights God as to remember no evil. This sets you free from your sins, this looses the charges against you: but if we are fighting and buffeting, we become far off from God: for enmities are produced by conflict, and from enmity springs remembrance of evil.

[St. John Chrysostom, Homily XIV on Philippians]

Repentance comes before gifts, lean not on your own understanding – Abba Isaiah

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Do not seek the sublime gifts of God while still praying to Him for help in order that He may come and save you from sin, for, if the place of the heart is undefiled and pure, the divine gifts come of themselves. Whoever depends on his own knowledge but still possesses his own will gains only hatred, and those who hear sorrow in their heart simply cannot be of the Spirit. Whoever considers the words of Scriptures and practices them according to his own knowledge, thinking intently to himself that this is how reality is, is ignorant of God’s glory and wealth. Whereas one who considers them and says, “I do not know what they mean, for I am human,” offers glory to God. In this person the wealth of God abides in accordance with his capacity and understanding.

[Abba Isaiah of Scetis, Discourse 6]

Do not let sin prevent repentance – Fr. Matta El-Meskeen

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“The sinner thinks that sin prevents him from seeking God, whereas it is for this that Christ has descended to ask for man! Is it not that God has come to the flesh of man to cure its illness and redeem him from the sin that has ruled over him, and to raise him from the curse of death? Sin is no longer able to sever the sinner from God after he has sent his Son and paid the price—the whole price—on the cross. ”

[Fr. Matta El-Meskeen, Repentance]

Excerpt from Gospel of the Day – John 16:20-33, the 24th of Mesra – St. John Chrysostom

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Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labour, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. (Jn 16: 20-22)

Verse 20: “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice;”

Because by reason of their (the disciples) not desiring His death, they quickly ran into the belief that He would not die, and then when they heard that He would die, cast about, not knowing what that “little” meant, He says, “You shall weep and lament.”

“but your sorrow will be turned into joy.”

Then having shown that after grief comes joy, and that grief brings forth joy, and that grief is short, but the pleasure endless, He passes to a common example; and what says He?

Verse 21: “A woman, when she is in labour, has sorrow”

And He has used a comparison which the Prophets also use continually, likening despondencies to the exceeding pains of childbirth. But what He says is of this kind: “Labour pains shall lay hold on you, but the pang of childbirth is the cause of joy”; both confirming His words relative to the Resurrection, and showing that the departing hence is like passing from the womb into the light of day.

As though He had said, “Marvel not that I bring you to your advantage through such sorrow, since even a mother to become a mother, passes in like manner through pain.” Here also He implies something mystical, that He has loosened the labour pangs of death, and caused a new man to be born of them, And He said not, that the pain shall pass away only, but, “she does not even remember it,” so great is the joy which succeeds; so also shall it be with the Saints.

And yet the woman does not rejoice because “a man has come into the world,” but because a son has been born to her; since, had this been the case, nothing would have stopped the barren from rejoicing over another who bears a child. Why then did He say this? Because He introduced this example for this purpose only, to show that sorrow is for a season, but joy lasting: and to show that (death) is a translation unto life; and to show the great profit of their pangs.

He said not, “a child has been born,” but, “A man.” For to my mind He here allludes to His own Resurrection, and that He should be born not unto that death which bore the birth-pang, but unto the Kingdom. Therefore He said not, “a child has been born unto her,” but, “A man has been born into the world.

 [St. John Chrysostom, Homily 79 on the Gospel of St. John]

How to vanquish devils, purify the heart and make perfect love – Abba Arsenius and Abba Macarius

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The brethren said, “Abba Arsenius said unto one of the brethren, ‘Lead the ascetic life with all the strength that you have, and the hidden labour which is within, and which is performed for God’s sake, shall vanquish your external passions’; to what does he give the name of passions?”

The old man said, “In this case, Abba Arsenius call the labours of the body ‘passions,’ because they constrain those who toil, and make them feel pain, even as Abba Macarius said, “Constrain your soul with pains and labours of every kind in ascetic excellence.” And this is what Abba Arsenius said to that brother, “Labour with all your might in the work of righteousness, and toil with the labours of the mind more than with all the various kinds of work of the body. For the labours of the body only incite and gratify the passions of the body, but the labours of the mind, that is to say, the thought which is in God, and prayer without ceasing, and the suppression of the thought(s) with humility liberate a man from all the passions, and they vanquish devils, and purify the heart, and make perfect love, and make him worthy of the revelations of the spirit.'”

[Abba Arsenius and Abba Macarius, Apophthegmata Patrum]

We bring more wars upon ourselves than devils do – Abba Agathon

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Abba Abraham asked Abba Agathon, saying, “How is it that the devils make war upon me? And Abba Agathon said unto him, “Do the devils make war upon thee? But they do not make war against us so fiercely as we ourselves do with our own wishes, though they do make war against us in proportion as our wishes do. Our desires become devils, and they force us to fulfil them. Now if thou wishest to see against whom they have made war, [it is] against Moses and those who resemble him.”

[Apophthegmata Patrum]

Spread abroad the Name of Jesus in humility and He will strengthen you – Apophthegmata Patrum

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An old man used to say, “Spread abroad the Name of Jesus in humility, and with a meek heart; show your feebleness before Him, and He will become strength unto you.”

[Apopthegmata Patrum]

Humility sold Joseph and made him governor over Egypt – Abba Muthues

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The old man (Abba Muthues) used to say, “Who sold Joseph?” They said unto him, “His brethren” and the old man said unto them, “No, it was humility that sold him. For he never said, ‘I am your brother’, and he never answered them, but held his peace. He sold himself by his humility, and this humility made him governor over the land of Egypt.”

[Apophthegmata Patrum]

In prayer, God offers us Himself – Fr. Matta El-Meskeen

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Although prayer is a spiritual sense implanted in man’s soul, in the very core of its self-consciousness, many people never pray. Prayer thus remains dormant for a whole lifetime. A man may die without ever having been aware of the self or of its affinity to God. St. Jude the Apostle described such souls as “wandering stars for whom the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved for ever” (Jude 1.13).

This is a very serious matter. Prayer is not merely a sense to be used to organise our lives in this age alone. It is implanted in our nature that, through it, we may ascend to God and achieve union with him. We may thus pass from this fleeting perishable life to an eternal life with God.

It seems as if we were created for prayer. Prayer is the only bond that links us to God. It stands before our hearts as the eternal life, which is our hope. Prayer is the condition in which we discover our own divine image, on which the stamp of the Holy Trinity is impressed. When we lose prayer, we actually lose the glory of our image, and we no longer resemble God in any way. God draws us to himself through prayer, and through prayer we mysteriously travel toward him in a manner too deep to understand. In fact, through prayer we draw God to ourselves, and he comes to us and makes his home with us.

To God, love is not an emotion but a self-offering. In prayer, God offers us himself. God offered himself when he created us in his own image. Through prayer, he offers us union with himself so that he may become totally ours, and we may become totally his.

Prayer opens up our lives towards God: “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them” (Is 63.9). Prayer also opens up God’s life to us: “The Spirit himself intercedes for us [during prayer] with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8.26).

[Fr. Matta El-Meskeen, Orthodox Prayer Life]