March 2007 Archives

From the Philokalia


I found this from the Philokalia, further wisdom from the desert fathers.


We should on no account wear ourselves out with anxiety over our bodily needs. With our whole soul let us trust in God : as one of the Fathers said, 'Entrust yourself to the Lord, and all will be entrusted to you.' 'Show restraint and moderation,' writes the Apostle Peter, 'and be watchful in prayer .... casting all your care upon God, since He cares for you'.

But if you still feel uncertainty, doubting whether He really cares about providing for you, think of the spider and compare it with a human being. Nothing is more weak and powerless than a spider. It has no possessions, makes no journeys overseas, does not engage in litigation, does not grow angry, and amasses no money. Its life is marked by complete gentleness, self-restraint and extreme stillness. It does not meddle in the affairs of others, but minds its own business; calmly and quietly it gets on with its own work. To those who love idleness it says, in effect: 'If anyone refuses to work, he should have nothing to eat'.

The spider is far more silent than Pythagoras, whom the ancient Greeks admired more than any other philosopher because of the control that he exercised over his tongue. Although Pythagoras did not talk with everyone, yet he did speak occasionally in secret with his closest friends; and often he lavished nonsensical remarks on oxen and eagles. He abstained altogether from wine and drank only water. The spider, however, achieves more than Pythagoras: it never utters a single word, and abstains from water as well as wine.

Living in this quiet fashion, humble and weak, never going outside or wandering about according to its fancy, always hard at work - nothing could be more lowly than the spider.

Nevertheless the Lord, 'who dwells on high but sees what is lowly', extends His providence even to the spider, sending it food every day, and causing tiny insects to fall in its web.

Saint John of Karpathos - "For the Encouragement of the Monks in India who had Written to Him: One Hundred Texts". The Philokalia: The Complete Text, Volume 1

From St. Gregory of Sinai


The road to humility:

Those who seek humility should bear in mind the three following
things: that they are the worst of sinners, that they are the most
despicable of all creatures since their state is an unnatural one,
and that they are even more pitiable than the demons, since they
are slaves to the demons. You will also profit if you say this to
yourself: how do I know what or how many other people's sins are,
or whether they are greater than or equal to my own? In our
ignorance you and I , my soul, are worse than all men, we are dust
and ashes under their feet. How can I not regard myself as more
despicable than all other creatures, for they act in accordance
with the nature they have been given, while I, owing to my
innumerable sins, am in a state contrary to nature.

St. Gregory of Sinai, Philokalia, Vol. IV.


Today is the birthday of the Roman poet, Ovid. Don't ask me how I know.


by: Ovid (43 BC-17 AD?)

E elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him
When he comes back, you demi-puppets that
By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites; and you whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
To hear the solemn curfew; by whose aid,
Weak masters though ye be, I have bedimm'd
The noontide sun, call'd forth the mutinous winds,
And 'twixt the green sea and the azur'd vault
Set roaring water; to the dread rattling thunder
Have I given fire, and rifted Jove's stout oak
With hiw own bolt; the strong-bas'd promontory
Have I made shake, and by the spurs pluck'd up
The pine and cedar; graves at my command
Have wak'd their sleepers, op'd, and let 'em forth
By my so potent art.


The Feast of St. Joseph


Today is the feast day of St. Joseph, a saint I have a particular devotion to.


St. Joseph, pray for us.



I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Whee no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.

Gerard Manly Hopkins

St. John Climacus on Repentence


Repentance is the renewal of baptism. Repentance is a contract
with God for a second life. A penitent is a buyer of humility.
Repentance is constant distrust of bodily comfort. Repentance is
self-condemning reflection, and carefree self-care. Repentance is
the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair. A penitent
is an undisgraced convict. Repentance is reconciliation with the
Lord by the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins.
Repentance is purification of conscience. Repentance is the
voluntary endurance of all afflictions. A penitent is the
inflicter of his own punishments. Repentance is a mighty
persecution of the stomach, and a striking of the soul into
vigorous awareness.

St. John Climacus

Ghost of Lenten Seasons Past


Charles Dickens wrote a story about the Ghost of Christmas Past. This is a brief reflection about the Ghost of Lenten Seasons Past.

You see, observing Lent is a relatively recent experience in my life. I’ve been in the Church just 11 years, so I have only been obliged by the rules for fasting, abstinence and other forms of Lenten penance during that time. Prior to that, I was a Presbyterian and was taught that Presbyterians don’t “give up” anything (we never used the term penance) for Lent because of the danger of becoming proud of doing something to “earn” our salvation. Never mind that the refusal to humble oneself before God could be considered the ultimate form of pride. I accepted, even welcomed, the explanation and never paid much attention to what Catholics were doing in the spring of each year. I didn’t much want to deprive myself of anything I might enjoy and couldn’t see any value in fasting from anything; it was just the rationale I needed to keep things as they were.

And yet, I always had a suspicion that the Presbyterian approach to penance was too pat, too easy. I sensed deep down that I was being denied something that was central to being a Christian. Still, in all the years I was a Protestant, I never seriously questioned the matter; I was in blissful ignorance.

Then I came into the Church and things changed. I was suddenly obliged, at least on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday to deny myself something. I wasn’t sure I could, or if I really wanted too. I still wasn’t completely convinced of any value to, or necessity of, a season dedicated to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. So, I have to admit, that during the first two or three Lents that I was in the Church, I focused mainly on those two days and didn’t think a lot about the rest of the season or what it really meant. However, as time went on, I began to think I should give it a try, see if I could get into it, and I began by focusing on just one or two things that I wanted to change; I think in that first year I gave up watching TV for the entire period.

As this Lent began, I realized that for the last two or three years, I have actually looked forward to Ash Wednesday. I began to wonder what this change meant, just what made the difference? I can’t say I have made great strides in spiritual growth over these past few years, so that’s not it. I believe the answer is that I have learned the truth in the saying of John the Baptist, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” I must decrease. But more than that, I have learned how hard that is to live out and how far I have to go to make it a reality in my life. I struggle just to give up a meal, or to watch less TV; what does it take for me to give up my pride, my self-reliance, my quick judgments? A great deal it seems.

The season of Lent provides me with an annual reminder of just who and what I am, and Who and What I need, and of the great chasm between the two. It gives me a chance to add just a stone or two to the bridge that must be constructed to span that chasm. Far from making me proud of what I have accomplished with my petty sacrifices, it humbles me to the reality of my situation and my absolute dependence on my Father for everything that I am and have. I haven’t “earned” a thing; I’ve been given everything. I’m gratful that the Church gives us the chance to

The Blazing Club of the Word


When a man walks in the fear of God he knows no fear, even if he
were to be surrounded by wicked men. He has the fear of God within
him and wears the invincible armor of faith. This makes him strong
and able to take on anything, even things which seem difficult or
impossible to most people. Such a man is like a giant surrounded
by monkeys, or a roaring lion among dogs and foxes. He goes
forward trusting in the Lord and the constancy of his will to
strike and paralyze his foes. He wields the blazing club of the
Word in wisdom.

St. Symeon the New Theologian, The Practical and Theological

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