My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE LADDER OF DIVINE ASCENT (Part III)
Author: Saint John Climacus
QUOTATIONS FROM THE 30
Step 21. On Unmanly Fears
If you pursue virtue in a monastery or in gatherings of holy men, you are unlikely to be attacked by cowardice. But if you pass your time in solitary abodes, you must strive not to be mastered by cowardice, the child of vainglory, the daughter of unbelief…
"…So as you go where fright will lay hold of you, put on the armor of prayer, and when you reach the spot, stretch out your hands and flog your enemies with the name of Jesus since there is no stronger weapon in heaven or on earth. And when you drive the fear away, give praise to the God Who has delivered you, and He will protect you for all eternity, provided you remain grateful. Just as one morsel will not fill your stomach, so you will not defeat fear in one move."
Step 22. On Vainglory
VAINGLORY induces pride in the favored and resentment in those who are slighted. Often it causes dishonor instead of honor because it brings great shame to its angry disciples. It makes the quick-tempered look mild before men. It thrives amid talent and frequently brings catastrophe on those enslaved to it…
"…" Woe to you when all men shall speak well of you" (St. Luke 6:26). You can recognize the first kind of glory when you look at it as dangerous AND RUN FROM IT IN EVERY POSSIBLE WAY, HIDING YOUR LIFESTYLE WHEREVER YOU ARE. "
Step 23. On Pride
PRIDE begins where vainglory leaves off. Its midpoints comes with the humiliation of our neighbor, the shameless parading of our achievements, complacency, and unwillingness to be found out. It ends with the spurning of God’s help, the exalting of one’s own efforts, and a devilish disposition… I have seen people who speak aloud their thanks to God but who in their hearts are glorifying themselves, something demonstrated by the Pharisee with his "O God, I thank You" (St. Luke 18:11).
PRIDE takes up residence wherever we have lapsed, for a lapse is in fact an indication of pride. An admirable man said once to me: "Think of a dozen shameful passions. Love one of them, I mean pride, and it will take up the space of all the other eleven. The proud man wants to be in charge. He would feel lost otherwise… Pride makes us forget our sins, for the remembrance of them leads to humility…Darkness is alien to light. PRIDE IS ALIEN TO EVERY VIRTUE…"
Step 24. On Meekness, Simplicity, Guilelessness, and Wickedness24:9)
The light of dawn comes before the sun and MEEKNESS IS THE PRECURSOR OF ALL HUMILITY. So let us listen to the order in which Christ, our Light, places these virtues. He says, "LEARN FROM ME BECAUSE I AM MEEK AND HUMBLE OF HEART" (St. Matthew 11:29). Therefore, before going at the sun of humility, we must let the light of meekness flow over us. If we do, we will then be able to look steadily at the sun…
"…MEEKNESS is a mind consistent amid honor or dishonor. Meekness prays quietly and sincerely for a neighbor, however troublesome he may be…Meekness is the bulwark of patience, the door, indeed the mother of love, and the foundation of DISCERNMENT. For it is said: "The Lord will teach His ways to the meek" (Psalm 24:9). It is meekness that earns pardon for our sins, gives confidence to our prayers, and makes a place for the Holy Spirit. "To whom shall I look if not the meek and the peaceful (Isaiah 66:2)…
SIMPLICITY is an enduring habit within a soul that has grown impervious to evil thoughts… GUILELESSNESS is the joyful condition of an uncalculating soul…Malice is honesty PERVERTED, a deluded thought, a lying disposition, perjury, deceit that has become habitual, pride that is second nature. It is the foe of humility, fake penitence, a refusal to confess, an insistence on getting one’s own way…"
Step 25. On Humility
Do you imagine that plain words precisely or truly describe the love of the Lord, humility, blessed purity, divine enlightenment, fear of God, and assurance of the heart? "…Humility is constant forgetfulness of ONE’S ACHIEVEMENTS," someone says. "It is the admission that in all the world one is the least important and it also the greatest sinner," another says. "It is the mind’s awareness that one is weak and helpless," a third says. "It is to forestall one’s neighbor at a contentious moment and to be the first to end a quarrel." "It is the acknowledgment of Divine grace and Divine mercy." "It is the disposition of a contrite soul and the abdication of one’s own will."
Step 26. On Discernment
"…To put the matter generally, DISCERNMENT is and is recognized to be–A SOLID UNDERSTANDING OF THE WILL OF GOD IN ALL TIMES, IN ALL PLACES, IN ALL THINGS, AND IT IS FOUND ONLY AMONG THOSE WHO ARE PURE IN HEART, IN BODY, AND IN SPEECH… DISCERNMENT IS AN UNCORRUPTED CONSCIENCE. IT IS PURE PERCEPTION…
"…Everyone with a healthy sense of smell can detect hidden perfumes, and a pure soul can quickly recognize in others the sheer fragrance of goodness that he himself has received from God. Indeed he can also recognize, as others cannot, THE FOUL ODOR FROM WHICH HE HIMSELF HAS BEEN LIBERATED…"
Step 27. On Stillness
Stillness of the body is the accurate knowledge and management, of one’s feelings and perceptions. Stillness of soul is the accurate knowledge of one’s thoughts and is an unassailable mind…The start of stillness is the rejection of all noisiness as something that will trouble the depths of the soul…
"…The following are the signs, the stages, and the proofs of practicing in the right way: a calm mind, a purified disposition, rapture in the Lord, the remembrance of everlasting torments, the imminence of death, an insatiable urge for prayer, constant watchfulness, the death of lust, no sense of attachment, death of worldliness, an end to gluttony, a foundation for theology, a well of discernment, a truce accompanied by tears, an end of talkativeness, and many other such things alien to most men.."
Step 28. On Prayer
PRAYER is by nature A DIALOGUE AND A UNION OF MAN WITH GOD. Its effect is to hold the world together. It achieves A RECONCILIATION WITH GOD. PRAYER is THE MOTHER AND DAUGHTER OF TEARS. It is AN EXPIATION OF SIN, A BRIDGE ACROSS TEMPTATION, A BULWARK AGAINST AFFLICTION. IT WIPES OUR CONFLICT, IS THE WORK OF ANGELS, AND IS THE NOURISHMENT OF ALL BODILESS BEINGS. Prayer is future gladness, action without end, wellspring of virtues, source of grace, hidden progress, food of the soul, enlightenment for the mind, an axe against despair, hope demonstrated, sorrow done away with…For the man who really prays it is the court, the judgment hall, the tribunal of the Lord prior to the judgment that is to come…"
"…But heartfelt thanksgiving should have first place in our book of prayer. Next should be confession and genuine contrition of soul. After that should come our request to the Universal King. This method of prayer is best, as one of the brothers was told by an Angel of the Lord…In your prayers there is no need for high-flown words, for it is the simple and unsophisticated babblings of children that have more often won the heart of the Father of heaven… Faith gives wings to prayer, and without it no one can fly upward to heaven. Those of us who are swept by passion must ceaselessly pray to the Lord, for all the passionate have advanced from passion to dispassion…
"…After a long spell of prayer, do not say that nothing has been gained, for you have already achieved something. For, after all, what higher good is there than to cling to the Lord and TO PERSEVERE IN UNCEASING UNION WITH Him? … Do not stop praying as long as, by God’s Grace, the fire and the water have not been exhausted, for it may happen that never again in your whole life will you have such a chance to ask for the forgiveness for your sins…Prayer has its own special teacher in God, Who "TEACHES MAN KNOWLEDGE" (Psalm 93:10). He grants the prayer of him who prays. And He blesses the years of the just."
Step 29. ON Dispassion
Stars adorn the skies and DISPASSION HAS THE VRITUES TO MAKE IT BEAUTIFUL. By dispassion I mean A HEAVEN OF THE MIND WITHIN THE HEART, WHICH REGARDS THE ARTIFICE OF DEMONS AS A CONTEMPTIBLE JOKE. A MAN IS TRULY DISPASSIONATE–AND IS KNOW TO BE SUCH–WHEN HE HAS CLEANSED HIS FLESH OF ALL CORRUPTION, WHEN HE HAS LIFTED HIS MIND ABOVE EVERYTHING CREATED, AND HAS MADE IT MASTER OF AL THE SENSES, WHEN HE KEEPS HIS SOULD CONTINUALLY IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD …
"… THINK OF DISPASSION AS A KIND OF CELESTIAL PALACE, a palace of the King of heaven. Think of the numerous mansions (cf. John 14:2) as so many dwelling places within this city. Think of the forgiveness of sins as being the fortifying wall of this Jerusalem…"
"…Blessed DISPASSION raises the poor mind from earth to heaven, raises the beggar from the dunghill of passion. And love, all praise to it, makes him sit with princes, that is with Holy Angels, and with the princes of God’s people" (cf. Psalm 112:7-8).
Step 30. On Faith, Hope, and Love (Agape)
And now at last, after all that has been said, there remain that TRIAD: FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE, BINDING AND SECURING THE UNION OF ALL. "BUT THE GREATEST OF THESE IS AGAPE (LOVE)" (1 Corinthians 13:13), since that is the very name of God Himself (cf. 1 John 4:8). To me they appear, one as a ray, one as light, and one as a disk, and ALL AS A SINGLE RADIANCE AND A SINGLE SPLENDOR…The man who wants to talk about love is undertaking to speak about God…God is love" (1 John 4:16). But someone eager to define this is blindly striving to measure the sand in the ocean…Love is the banishment of every sort of contrariness, FOR LOVE THINKS NO EVIL…
"…For when the heart is cheerful, the face beams (cf. Proverbs 15:13) and a man FLOODED WITH THE LOVE OF GOD REVEALS IN HIS BODY, AS IF IN A MIRROR, THE SPLENDOR OF HIS SOUL, A GLORY LIKE THAT OF MOSES, WHEN HE CAME FACE TO FACE WITH GOD" (cf. Exodus 14:29-35).
"…HOPE is the power behind love. HOPE is what causes us to look forward to the reward of love. HOPE IS AN ABUNDANCE OF HIDDEN TREASURE. It is the abundant assurance of the riches in store for us. It is a a rest from labor, a doorway of love. It LIFTS DESPAIR AND IS THE IMAGE OF WHAT IS NOT YET PRESENT. When hope fails, so does love. Struggles are bound by it, labors depend on it, and mercy lies all around it. The hopeful person slays despondency, kills it with his sword. Hope COMES FROM THE EXPERIENCE OF THE LORD’S GIFTS, AND SOMEONE WITH NO SUCH EXPERIENCE MUST BE EVER IN DOUBT. Hope is DESTROYED BY ANGER, FOR HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT AND THE ANGRY MAN HAS NO GRACE…
"…The empress, as if coming from heaven, spoke thus in my soul’s hearing: ‘My love, you will never be able to know how beautiful I am unless you get away from the grossness of the flesh. So let this ladder teach you THE SPIRITUAL UNION OF THE VIRTUES. And I am there on the summit, for as the great man said, a man who knew me well: ‘REMAINING NOW ARE FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE, THESE THREE. BUT AGAPE (LOVE) IS THE GREATEST OF THEM ALL" (1 Corinthians 13:13).
GLORY BE TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST!
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George