St. Patrick Apostle of Ireland

 

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Saint Patrick’s Confessions are a true testimony to the grace of God. Below is an excerpt.

1. I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.

2. And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.

3. Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.

4. For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught; and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the Trinity of holy name.

5. He himself said through the prophet: ‘Call upon me in the day of’ trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.’ And again: ‘It is right to reveal and publish abroad the works of God.’

6. I am imperfect in many things, nevertheless I want my brethren and kinsfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my soul’s desire.

7. I am not ignorant of what is said of my Lord in the Psalm: ‘You destroy those who speak a lie.’ And again: ‘A lying mouth deals death to the soul.’ And likewise the Lord says in the Gospel: ‘On the day of judgment men shall render account for every idle word they utter.’

8. So it is that I should mightily fear, with terror and trembling, this judgment on the day when no one shall be able to steal away or hide, but each and all shall render account for even our smallest sins before the judgment seat of Christ the Lord.

Here is his excerpt on prayer:

25. And on a second occasion I saw Him praying within me, and I was as it were, inside my own body , and I heard Him above me—that is, above my inner self. He was praying powerfully with sighs. And in the course of this I was astonished and wondering, and I pondered who it could be who was praying within me. But at the end of the prayer it was revealed to me that it was the Spirit. And so I awoke and remembered the Apostle’s words: ‘Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we know not how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for utterance.’ And again: ’The Lord our advocate intercedes for us.’

the whole book can be found here http://www.ccel.org/ccel/patrick/confession.vii.html

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The Prince of Grecia; Understanding Politics Spiritually.

archangel-michael-julia-bridget-hayesGreece’s manifold suffering  is attributed to many sources.  I have heard conspiracy theories, and also merely pragmatic explanations.  On a deeper level,  the Scripture portrays the plights and perils of political bodies as springing from  spiritual conflict.  I have not really heard anyone address the fact that when  we speak of principalities and powers, we are referring to real entities.  Or,  as Saint Paul wrote, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph.6:12)

The Old Testament very specifically mentioned spiritual  warfare over Greece,  Persia and Israel.  Below is the text from  Daniel  10. If you do not care to read the whole chapter,  verse 20 relates that there is a spiritual  prince of Greece. The Septuagint renders it as στρατηγος Ελληνων, general or leader of the Greeks (in context spiritual). Governmental  problems are really manifestations of spiritual problems.  Daniel  confronted it with fasting and prayer, and God answered,  but with a real world time delay because of the reality of spiritual  war.  In the midst of Greece’s struggle and ours, for we are not far behind,  “let us take up the weapons of our warfare,” as Paul exhorted and beseech  our Lord for clemency and mercy.

DANIEL 10

10 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war.[a] The understanding of the message came to him in a vision.

At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips;and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.

On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like topaz, his face like lightning,his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.

I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves.So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.

10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael,one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man[b] touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguishbecause of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak.17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”

18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”

When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”

20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth.(No one supports me against them except Michael,your prince.)

The way back to the Father’s house, Prodigal Son Part 2. Finding the Presence of Christ in the heart according to Saint Gregory Palamas.

Previously, I posted his understanding of the prodigal son,  stating that we can draw parallels to the spiritual life and indeed refer to a, “prodigal  mind.”  The mind  has wandered out of the Father’s house,  the heart.  The movement of the mind to the heart is circular per Saint Dionysios.  That is to say,  the mind reflexes,  returns back, to the essence, which is the heart. To use orthodox metaphysics,  the heart is the essence and the mind is the energy.

The way back to the heart is difficult. How does Saint Gregory advise us to find the heart?

I want to give an except from the second discourse.  This is the apophatic way,  the way of denial.  What is it not.

2.  There must be a ceasing of intellectual operations which do not seek after God.

For they assert no one is able to participate in perfection and holiness, not having found the true glory concerning created existences, further, it is not possible for this (i.e.  holiness trans.) to exist or have it without disjunctive thought and syllogism and analysis. Triads.1.3.84

This is not obscurantism.  Rather,  the true  telos,  or end,  of the intellect’s motion  is to  see God.  If we are not directed to that, then  we have failed.  Mental  operations are such that the intellect perceives an idea – joins or divides from it – then  makes a syllogism.  In other words, proposition A is true,  proposition B, therefore C. The syllogism has reached it’s συμπερασμα, or conclusion.

These mental acts do not give αισθεσις or perception, of spiritual  truth.  These acts pertain  to νους, or intellect.  The knowledge of God  is beyond mind.  The mind  must cease to rationalize and simply seek  the feeling of God’s presence , an αισθεσις.  This  feeling or perception comes only by the illumination  of God’s grace. As Saint Gregory is fond to  quote,

καρδία ὀρθὴ ζητεῖ αἴσθησιν στόμα δὲ ἀπαιδεύτων γνώσεται κακά Prov.15:15  A right heart seeks perception, but the mouth of the untaught seeks mischief.

The ceasing of the intellect is called keeping the Sabbath  by Saint Gregory. To celebrate the rest, the Israelites had to stop working.  It is also  the same as Golgotha. At Golgotha,  the place of a skull, the Logos was slain.  At our own  personal Golgotha before our personal  descent to Hades (see St.  Silouan  on this), the depths of our inner sin, we must have our logos slain.  Reason must stop  to arrive at the Truth beyond reason.

2.  The attention  is actually directed toward the heart.

This is not metaphorical.  The attention  is actually directed to the interior, to the heart. Having directed our mind there, we still do not see the Light according to Saint Gregory. There is a veil over the heart, impeding the light from being perceived. So the veil on the heart then we must cast aside, by self examination, the open and hidden sins of the heart. This veil, καλλυμα, according to Saint Paul (2 Cor.4:1-6)  is the covering of νοηματα, thoughts.  The thoughts cast aside, the veil  is in effect removed and we are then δεχτικος, capable to receive the grace of God.  The actual process of removing the veil,  the painful process of repentance,  is what permits us to see the Lord.  However,  seemingly contradictory, It is a pure gift to perceive God’s grace.  Some saints struggled for years, so how should we expect an instant renewal?  God does grant it at a moment many times- He did to Cornelius in Acts 10.

3. Practically,  Saint Gregory enjoins  repeating the Name of the Lord  upon every breath, while sending the intellect to the heart.

For there is quietude by this entering in and going out, the spirit upon every ingoing thought, but especially in the case of those practicing stillness in body and reasoning.

For those who spiritually sabbatize are these who also  resting from all their proper works, because it is attainable, on the one hand, everything discursive and produced by discursive reasoning and which has been elaborately reasoned about knowledge of the powers of the soul they completely strip away, namely,  work and all the aesthetic helps, and quite simply every bodily activity,  which is in our power, yet on the other hand,   what is not in our power -the end just as respiration, so long as it is in our power, this does not cease.

But all these identical things follow painlessly and without much care for those who make progress hesychastically, for by the same entrance of the soul to itself, of necessity, perfectly automatically all things occur. Triads 1.2.51-53

Now,  why is it that this is commanded, and why might this take so long?  Because the practice engenders love within the soul. And love is ultimately what tethers us to the Lord, as it alone will exist in the eschaton. This will not come easy.  The practice should be enjoined at the very least until  we have entered into communion with Him.

 But for those who are beginners, not one of what things said would you know without hard word accompanying.

And as it follows then with love being patient (“for love bears all things,”  we then instruct in order to establish patience in life, as through this we arrive at love).

And what further is necessary to say about these things?

Since nothing more can be said,  I trust the Saint.  The next section describes how the invocation  of the Lord’s Name removes the seven  evil  thoughts, spirits,  and replaces them with the Seven Spirits of God. I invite the reader to  look at how the tree of knowledge of good and evil relates to this.

Don’t Leave home! St. Gregory on the Father’s house, part 1.

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Texts are layered,  meaning within meaning, depending on the aim of the teacher.  The prodigal son, prima facie,  describes our journey away  from God and our return back.

We leave the Father, no longer living in obedience to Him, are drown  in the disease of desire and debauchery,  disgusted we,”come to ourselves.” We, on the other hand,  can be as the elder brother,  ostensibly following God, oblivious  to our pride in our performance. Then, at the sight of God’s grace and forgiveness,  we object and cry disparity, unfairness.

Saint Gregory takes a mystical approach to this as well. The real  description of our apostasy,  leaving the Father’s house,  is a failure to live in the heart.  Here is an excerpt from  his discourse to a monk, in what is known as the Triads.

” The Father ever desiring the same wandering man then to return again, and the wanderers to go to His home, as there is no place else possessing peace, at least as far as we know, through kind words, He found the spiritual struggler, to draw him back  to this same home.” Triads 1.2.40

God wants us in His house.  But how? Let’s  go back  in the discourse.

“… when the mind instead acts upon  the other things, looking around for what it would need,” this Dionysios the Great says is straight movement of the nous, but returning again to itself and energizes by itself, whenever the nous beholds itself; the same Dionysios says concerning it, this is  a cyclical motion.” Triads 1.2.40

Gregory says, in accordance with the Great Dionysios, that the mind,  nous, has two  movements. One is to the outside, it’s attention is dispersed upon the sensible world, which is called a straight movement.  The other is to the interior, which is called a circular movement.  The Father’s house,  connecting the thoughts, is the heart.  This is really what repentance is- the change of the direction of the mind.  We turn to God from  the world.  Hence, John says, “love not the world…if any man love the world  the love of the Father is not in Him.” (IJn.2:15-16)

“In My Father’s  house are many mansions,  if it were not so I would have told you so.  I go and prepare a place for you, that where I am there you may be also.”

There are degrees of proximity to God, as there are, “many mansions.”  I have retained this translation because it is regal, but literally they are μοναι, dwelling places.  St Gregory calls the Father’s house a χορος, a space.  The idea is the same.  We can  have as big a heart for God- a house-  as we want.  However, knowing the nature of our love,  we tend to grow cold in our love,  and the χορος, the space, shrinks.  Hence David noted, “you have enlarged my heart when I was in distress.”  The mansion,  the space of the heart, becomes expanded when  God stretches it through tribulation, until  we know, “the length, breadth, depth and height…of the love of Christ.”