"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."
C. S. Lewis

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Patriarch Pavle On Prayer

Prayer as the Essential Need of Man
Most Blessed Pavle, Archbishop of Peć, 
Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, 
Patriarch of Serbia (W2009)

rayer is the pious direction of man’s soul to God, or the communication of the heart with God, through which God is represented before man as man pours the feelings of his soul before Him. It is the lifting of the mind and the heart to God and with it man is carried to the angelic choir and becomes a member of their blessedness.

rayer is the incense most acceptable to God, that most secure bridge for the passage over the tempting waves of life, the indestructible stone of all who believe, the peaceful landing place, the divine garment which clothes the soul with great goodness and beauty.

rayer is the mother of all good deeds, the keeper of the cleanliness of the body (chastity), the seal of maidenhood, the secure fence against our eternal enemy, the devil. It drives away enemies through the name of Christ, since there is no means powerful in the heavens or on the earth.

rayer is the fortification of the world pleading for God’s mercy for our sins, that landing place which the waves cannot destroy, the enlightenment of the mind, the axe to spare destruction of sadness, the breeding of hope assuaging the wrath, the advocate to all those who are undergoing trial, the joy of those who are in prison, the salvation of those who are dying. It made the whale become the home of Jonah, it brought Ezekiel back to life from the doors of death, and it converted the flames to dew for the Babylonian youths. With prayer St. Elijah closed the heavens so that the rain did not fall for three years and six months (James 5:17). When the apostles themselves were unable to cast out the unclean spirits, Christ told them, “This one cannot go out, except by prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17:21).

There is nothing more precious in man’s life than prayer. It makes the impossible, possible; it makes the difficult, easy; the uncomfortable, it makes comfortable.

rayer is as important to man’s soul as breathing. Who does not pray is deprived of conversation with God and is similar to the tree that bears no fruit and is cut and cast into the fire (Matt. 7:19).

“When you direct your mind and thoughts to the heavens,” says St. Makarios the Great, “and want to unite yourself unto the Lord, then a great multitude of evil spirits, like a black cloud, lingers over you, that it might deter your path to heaven. But, just as the old walls of Jericho fell by the power of God, so too will these stones of evil which are deterring your mind be destroyed by the power of God.

When you are in prayer, remember before whom you stand. Be deaf and dumb to everything that surrounds you, invoke the Lord for help and He will help you. It’s necessary to uproot all feelings of wrath and to completely cleanse ourselves of murderous feelings of bodily desires, regardless of who they might be directed to.”

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Temptations Along The Way

St. Symeon the New Theologian On
The Temptations Along the Path of Life

HE COUNTLESS TEMPTATIONS ON THE WAY. Now join me in examining carefully the force of these words. With me depict in your mind a road well worn by the feet of those who have made a good start on it. On either side imagine mountains, forests, precipices, peaks, and ravines, as well as plains, gardens, and places that are pleasant and shaded and very beautiful, with all kinds of fruit, with great numbers of wild beasts, of bandits and gangs of murderers scattered in various places. Under these conditions none of these things will be able to entice us or disturb our sense or cause us harm so long as we follow the saints who have gone before us and go by the same road that they walked. For when we go on the path of the commandments of our Lord and God (Ps. 119:1ff., 32), let us go on it without turning aside in the midst of all the perils I have mentioned. Then none of those bandits, none of those wild beasts will openly and shamelessly assault us or venture to come near us, especially if we follow a guide and travel in company with good companions on the way. 

From time to time, however, it happens that either from a distance or else from nearby some of them will look at us with murderous eye and use threats, while others will address us in friendly fashion with enticements and flatteries. They will also point out to us how attractive is each place in its location, how beautiful are its fruits, and will exhort us to rest briefly to seek relief from the hardships of the journey. They will suggest that we eat some of the fruits that are particularly sweet and pleasant to look at (Gen. 3:6) and devise many other snares and varied approaches, not only by day but even by night, not only when we are awake but also when we sleep. At times they will assail us with itchings and secretions, at other times by the taste of forbidden foods. At times they will meet us, “with torches and lanterns” (Jn. 18:3) like robbers with sword in hand, and like robbers they still threaten us with death, intending to throw us into confusion and turn us aside from the straight path. Some of them will suggest to us that it is impossible to bear up under the difficulties of the way until the end, others that all this is useless and that it can be of no avail for those who weary themselves with it. Yet others will tell us that there is no end of this road nor ever will ever be. They will point out to us some who have not succeeded, in particular any who have spent a lot of time in asceticism and have not profited thereby, since they have seemed to run the way of the commandments but have done so without knowledge and godly intention, but rather by following their own devices and with presumption. In their case it is natural that they should waste even their steps that are pleasing to God, since they give way to fear and turn back (cf. Mk. 13:16; Lk. 17:31) and by their carelessness give themselves up to the wicked one so that he can do toward them as he pleases.


Saint Symeon the New Theologian (+1022), The Discourses, VII.8.

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

How to Discern the Truth

A General Rule For 
Distinguishing The Truth of The Catholic Faith 
From The Falsehood of Heretical Perversion.

St. Vincent of Lérins (+445), Commonitory

 have often inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men, eminent for their sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and, so to speak, universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of the Catholic [NOT Roman Catholic, but "Universal", and so throughout. This was written before there was such a distinction] faith from the falsehood of heretical depravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or anyone else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete  in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church.

But here someone perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church's interpretation? For this reason; because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another way, so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.

Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense "Catholic," which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the unanimous definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.

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