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251. A Saints Dying Words
(The Lord Will Deliver Me)
The last thing I ask of you--and I ask it in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ--is that you love him alone, that you trust implicitly in Him and that you encourage one another continually to suffer for the love of Him.
--St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, dying words to fellow sisters, SOTD
"...all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." I wonder about this adage of St. Paul. My suffering generally has to do with my ego and not outside persecution.
Since I don't suffer for Christ (not that I am aware of) , does this mean that I don't live religiously and have compromised my faith to please others and live in comfort?
252. A Priestly People
(We Are A Kingdom Of Priests)
O Priest! You are not yourself because you are God's. You are not of yourself because you are the servant and minister of Christ. You are not your own because you are the spouse of the Church. You are not yourself because you are the mediator between God and man. You are not from yourself because you are nothing. What then are you? Nothing and everything O Priest! Take care lest what was said to Christ on the cross be said to you: He saved others, himself he cannot save!
In a sense, all Christians are called to be priests though not necessarily as a profession. If I truly want to do God's will, I am not my own. My time is not my own. Nothing I own is my own. My talents are gifts and can be taken away if misused. I am supposed to be God's hands, mind and heart to the world around me.
Do I take the fact that I am a part of a kingdom of priests seriously?
253. Praying For The Dead
(God Gives Gifts Through The Prayers Of Many)
Lay me not with sweet spices, for this honor avails me not. Nor yet use incense and perfumes, for the honor befits me not. Burn yet the incense in the holy place. As for me, escort me only with your prayers. Give ye your incense to God and over me send up hymns. Instead of perfume and spice, be mindful of me in your intercessions.
--St. Ephrem, The Testament of St. Ephrem, SOTD
2 Corinthians 1: 11-12
In double blind controlled experiments, prayer for others has been shown to promote healing and health. If the love of God expressed in prayer can bring healing and even raise the dead, I am sure that the love of God can heal souls outside of time in eternity.
Do I pray for my loved ones who are no longer in the flesh?
254. When To Act
(This Is The Way....)
The saints are like the stars. In His providence Christ conceals them in a hidden place that they may not shine before others when they might wish to do so. Yet they are always ready to exchange the quiet of contemplation for the works of mercy as soon as they perceive in their hearts the invitation of Christ.
--St. Anthony of Padua, Sermons, SOTD
While I've never heard God say: "This is the way, keep to it", I know intuitively at times what He wants me to do. Suddenly, doors open, motivation arises and talents are ready to be used in a specific way. Working on this book is one such case. One week earlier, I never would have thought of doing this. The next week, I'm enthusiastically writing with ease. Praise God!
In what ways have I experienced God's call?
255. Trusting God
(God Is Faithful)
I am not my own; I have given myself to Jesus. He must be my only love. The state of helpless poverty that may befall me if I do not marry does not frighten me. All I need is a little food and a few pieces of clothing. With the work of my hands I shall always earn what is necessary and what is left over I'll give to my relatives and to the poor. If I should become sick and unable to work, then I shall be like the Lord on the Cross. He will have mercy on me and help me, I am sure.
--Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, SOTD
When I read Kateri's words I am struck by her simple faith and trust in the Lord's providence. It was a tme when there was no social security and it was possible that she really could have died from hunger and poverty. She puts me to shame! With all of my social safety nets, retirement accounts and savings, I still wonder if I will have enough! May the good Lord forgive me for my lack of trust and help me to change.
Do I trust God with the simple trust of a child towards his father?
256. Three Callings
(I Will Listen To God's Words)
To make clear therefore the main differences between these three kinds of callings, the first is from God, the second comes through man, the third is from compulsion. And a calling is from God whenever some inspiration has taken possession of our heart, and even while we are asleep stirs in us a desire for eternal life and salvation, and bids us to follow God and cleave to His commandments with life-giving contrition.....The second kind of calling is that which we said took place through man, viz, when we are stirred up by the example of some of the saints, and their advice, and thus inflamed with the desire of salvation.... But the third kind of calling is that which comes from compulsion when we have been involved in the riches and pleasures of this life and temptations suddenly come upon us and either threaten us with peril of death, or smite us with the loss and confiscation of our goods, or strike us down with the death of those dear to us, and thus at length even against our will we are driven to turn to God whom we scorned to follow in the days of our wealth.
--Abbot Paphnutus, The Conferences of John Cassian, CCEL
While I'm sure that I've had callings of the first two types, the third--compulsion--probably has had the greatest impact on my spiritual life. Whether the cause is divorce, alcoholism, blindness, financial problems, work-related problems, or mental health issues; these problems have kept me humble and mindful of God. As I've gotten older, I hope that I've acquired enough wisdom (and a dislike for needless pain and suffering) to be alert to the first two types of callings!
Do I still need to be "beat with a stick" to hear the calling of God? In what ways do I learn of God's call from other people?
257. The Goal
(I Have A Clear Goal In Mind)
And our profession too has its own goal and end, for which we undergo all sorts of toils not early without weariness but actually with delight, on account of which the want of food in fasting is no trial to us, the weariness of our vigils becomes a delight; reading and constant meditation on the Scriptures does not pall upon us, and further incessant toil, and self-denial, and the privation of all things, and the horrors also of this vast desert have no terrors for us. And doubtless for this it was that you yourselves despised the love of kinsfolk, and scorned your fatherland, and the delights of this world, and passed through so many countries, in order that you might come to us, plain and simple folk as we are, living in this wretched state in the desert.
--Abbot Moses, The Conferences of John Cassian, CCEL
1 Corinthians 9: 24-27
St. Paul and Abbot Moses talk about the same thing. They have a clear goal in mind--their salvation--and they subordinate everything else in their life to attain that prize. They subdue their bodies and train their minds with a zeal that is almost unheard of in a hedonistic culture such as the one we live in. It would be extremely difficult to be half as focused as the desert saints and apostles.
What goals are more important than my salvation? In what ways can I train my body and mind to reach my goal?
258. Three Renunciations
(I Am Rooted In Jesus)
We must now speak of the renunciations, of which tradition and the authority of Holy Scripture show us three, and which every one of us ought with the utmost zeal to make complete. The first is that by which as far as the body is concerned we make light of all the wealth and goods of this world; the second, that by which we reject the fashions and vices and former affections of soul and flesh; the third, that by which we detach our soul from all present and visible things, and contemplate only things to come, and set our heart on what is invisible.
--Abbot Paphnutius, The Conference of John Cassian, CCEL
Colosians 2: 6-8
If Jesus is my Lord and Savior, it is obvious that I must train my self to live in Him and to root myself in Him. I must give up my attachment for outward things. Secondly, I must give up my ego and its inner attachments. Finally, I must set my heart on the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. It is obvious that to do all of this requires a consecrated life set apart from the world as the desert fathers were. To live a layman's life in a spiritual manner, I must beware of all or nothing thinking regarding these renunciations. I must take steps, even if they are small, to reach these goals.
In what ways can I simplify my life and make it less materialistic? In what ways can I live a life of virtue and wrestle with my own inner demons? In what small ways can I let my thinking transcend the world?
259. Mental Dryness In Prayer
(My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?)
A threefold account of this mental dryness of which you speak has been given by the Elders. For it comes either from carelessness on our part, or from the assaults of the devil, or from the permission and allowance of the Lord. From carelessness on our part, when through our own faults, coldness has come upon us, and we have behaved carelessly and hastily, and owing to slothful idleness have fed on bad thoughts, and so make the ground of our heart bring forth thorns....From the assaults of the devil when...we are actually intent on good desires, our enemy with crafty subtly makes his way into our heart, and without our knowledge and against our will we are drawn away from the best intentions....But for God's permission and allowance there is a twofold reason. First, that being for a short time forsaken by the Lord, and observing with all humility the weakness of our own heart, we may not be puffed up on account of our previous purity of heart, granted to us by His visitation: and by proving that we are forsaken by Him we cannot possibly recover our former state ...by any...efforts on our own...But a second reason for this allowance, is to prove our perseverance and steadfastness of mind, and real desires, and to show in us, with what purpose of heart, or earnestness in prayer we seek for the return of the Holy Spirit...
--Abbot Daniel, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
Matthew 27: 45-46
While most of my metal dryness undoubtedly comes from my own carelessness in pruning my mental garden, some comes from the other sources.
If Jesus Himself had His moment of feeling forsaken by the Father while hanging on the Cross to show the importance of perseverance, why should the same testing not happen to me, a claimed follower of Christ?
260. The Eight Faults
(I Have No Reason To Boast)
There are eight principal faults which attack mankind, viz., first...gluttony, secondly fornication, thirdly...the love of money, fourthly anger, fifthly dejection, sixthly..listlessness or low spirts, seventhly..boasting and eighthly pride. Of these faults there are two classes. For they are either natural to us as gluttony, or arise outside of nature as covetousness. But their manner of acting on us is fourfold. For some cannot be consummated without an act on the part of the flesh, as gluttony and fornication, while some can be completed without any bodily act, as pride and vainglory. Some find the reasons for their being excited outside us, as covetousness and anger; others are aroused by internal feelings, as listlessness and dejection.
--Abbot Serapion, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
Ephesians 2: 8-10
I am surprised to see feeling states that accompany dejection and listlessness on the list of principal faults. I suspect that dejection accompanies hopelessness and listlessness accompanies depression. These may be seen as faults because, at their roots, they are the result of a lack of faith and trust in God. I must remember that I am God's work of art, created for the good works He designated to make up my life.
If I have faith in God, how can I feel hopeless and depressed?
261. The Grace Of God
(Grace Was From Before Time Began)
...God's grace and mercy always work in us what is good, and that when it forsakes us, the efforts of the worker are useless, and that however earnestly a man may strive, he cannot regain his former condition without His help... And this grace on the other hand sometimes does not refuse to visit with that holy inspiration of which you spoke, and with an abundance of spiritual thoughts, even the careless and indifferent; but inspires the unworthy, arouses the slumberers, and enlightens those who are blinded by ignorance; and mercifully reproves us and chastens us, shedding itself abroad in our hearts, that thus we may be stirred by the compunction which He excites , and impelled to rise from the sleep of sloth. Lastly, we are often filled by His sudden visitation with sweet odors, beyond the power of human composition--so that the soul is ravished with these delights, and caught up, as it were, into an ecstasy of spirit, and becomes oblivious of the fact that it is still in the flesh.
--Abbot Daniel, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
2 Timothy 1: 7-10
God's grace and mercy always work out in me what is good, but its effect on me is dependent on my attitude toward legitimate suffering and the acceptance of correction. For example, when I got divorced, I studied myself and what went wrong through the annulment process and learned to change and grow through the acceptance of the associated pain and suffering. I did not just run to a new relationship to kill the pain or blame everything on my wife. I came out on the other side a stronger, more healed and loving person. If I didn't work on my issues and accept the legitimate suffering, I would have grown hard, insensitive to pain and never have learned from the experience. God's grace would have been ineffective at that time.
What is my attitude toward suffering?
262. How To Vanquish The Devil
(The Devil Will Leave Me)
For it was right that He who was in possession of the perfect image and likeness of God should be Himself tempted through those passions, through which Adam also was tempted while he still retained the image of God unbroken, that is, through gluttony, vainglory, pride; and not through those in which he was by his own fault entangled and involved after the transgression of the commandment, when the image and likeness of God was marred. For it was gluttony through which he took the fruit of the forbidden tree, vainglory through which it was said "Your eyes shall be open", and pride through which it was said "Ye shall be as gods, knowing good from evil". With these three sins then we read that the Lord our Savior was also tempted, with gluttony when the devil said to Him: "Command these stones that they be made bread:" with vainglory: "If Thou art the Son of God cast Thyself down:" with pride, when he showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them and said: "All this will I give to Thee if Thou wilt fall down and worship me:" in order that He might by His example teach us how we ought to vanquish the tempter when we are attacked on the same lines of temptation as He was.
--Abbot Serapion, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
Matthew 4: 1-11
Jesus was tempted in all ways as me yet never gave in to them. He conquered them with the word of God as revealed in the Scriptures. The other principal faults could be conquered in the same way as gluttony, vainglory and pride. For example, anger can be countered by using Ephesians 4: 26 (I will not sin by letting anger get control over me) and greed can be countered with 1 Timothy 6: 6-10 (The love of money is the root of all evil).
Am I aware enough of my flaws to be able to take steps to counter them?
263. The Good, The Bad, And The Indifferent
(He Who Loses His Life For Christ Will Save It)
Altogether there are three kinds of things in the world, viz., good, bad, and indifferent. And so we ought to know what is properly good, and what is bad, and what is indifferent, that our faith may be supported by true knowledge and stand firm in all temptations. We must then believe that in things which are merely human there is no real good except virtue of soul alone, which leads us with unfeigned faith to things divine, and makes us constantly adhere to that unchanging good. And on the other hand we ought not to call anything bad, except sin alone, which separates us from the good God, and unites us to the evil devil. But those things are indifferent which can be appropriated to either side according to the fancy or wish of their owner, as for instance riches, power, honor, bodily strength, good health, beauty, life itself, and death, poverty bodily infirmities, injuries, and other things of the same sort, which can contribute either to good or to evil as the character and fancy of their owner directs.
--Abbott Theodore, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
Luke 9: 23-26
Jesus makes the same point as Abbot Theodore when He talks about the ambivalence of worldly existence and what is important. I may gain the whole world, achieve everything my ego wants, acquire everything my heart desires and I would still be unhappy and empty. Everything but virtue and sin has a similar ambivalence and can be used for my spiritual good or ill depending on my attitude and the power of my ego.
Who is my master and Lord--Jesus or my ego? Am I sure of this?
264. The Longevity of Sanctity
(The Youngest Will Die At A Hundred)
In the choir of saints who shine like brilliant stars in the night of this world, we have seen the holy Paphnutius, like some great luminary, shining with the brightness of knowledge. For he was a presbyter of our company, I mean of those whose abode was in the desert of Scete, where he lived to extreme old age, without ever moving from his cell, of which he had taken possession when still young, and which was five miles from the church, even to nearer districts; nor was he when worn out with ;years hindered by the distance from going to Church...But not wanting to return from thence empty handed he would lay on his shoulders a bucket of water to last him all the week, and carry it back to his cell, and even when he was past ninety would not suffer it to be fetched by the labor of younger men.
--St. John Cassain, The Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
Isaiah 65: 20
Unless they were martyred, it seems that the way of life of the desert fathers promotes long life and vigor. There is no Alzheimer disease or obesity here! It is evidently true what Jesus says about serving Him: If I give all for the Kingdom of God, all other important things will be given to me as well.
Are my priorities in the proper order? How can I improve them?
265. Evils Or Afflictions?
(God Is Training Me For Sonship)
Sometimes Holy Scripture is wont by an improper use of terms to use "evils" for "affliction", not that these are properly and in their nature evils, but because they are imagined to be evils by those on whom they are brought for their good. For when divine judgement is reasoning with men it must speak with the language and feelings of men. For when a doctor for the sake of health with good reason either cuts or cauterizes those who are suffering from the inflamation of ulcers, it is considered an evil by those who have to bear it.
--Abbott Theodore, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
Hebrews 12: 5-13
There are many episodes in my life which seemed evil at the time but proved to be a blessing in retrospect. There was an extremely painful period at work when I became obsessed with someone who worked for me. The relationship never got off of the ground and I had to constantly fight my feelings so as not to do anything inappropriate. The stress of trying to control my obsession was like a fire in me by burning away much of my interior self and throwing me into a depression. When I finally emerged from this, I found that I had changed. I lost my co-dependency and people-pleasing behaviors and became ready for a real, unobssessive relationship a few years latter. I probably would not have changed with anything less painful. The curse became a blessing!
Can I see the painful episodes of my life as challenges to grow and change?
(How Good It Is To Live As Brothers)
Among all these then there is one kind of love which is indissoluble, where the union is owing not to the favor of a recommendation, or some great kindness or gifts, or the reason of some bargain, or the necessities of nature, but simply to similarity of virtue. This, I say, is what is broken by no chances , no interval of time or space can sever or destroy, and what even death itself cannot part. This is true and unbroken love which grows by means of the double perfection and goodness of friends, and which when once its bonds have been entered, no differences of liking and no disturbing opposition of wishes can sever.
--Abbot Joseph, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
I have had many very good friendships over the years that have vanished over time due to moving to new localities, changes in priorities, changes in family situations, or the necessity to grow in opposite and conflicting directions. None was built on the decision to help each other to live a virtuous life. Today, however, I do have a friend that does meet this criteria. He is more like a brother that I would have chosen than a friend. We encourage each other in our spiritual growth which is a great joy. How good it is to live as brothers, for there the Lord bestows His blessings...
Am I blessed with the gift of a friend with whom I can share my spiritual journey? Do I really want one?
267. Practical Perfection
(I Will Be Perfected In Christ)
But this practical perfection depends on a double system, for its first method is to know the nature of all faults and the manner of their cure. Its second, to discover the order of the virtues, and form our mind by their perfection so that it may be obedient to them, not as if it were forced and subject to some fierce sway, but as if it delighted in its natural good, and throve upon it, and mounted by that steep and narrow way with real pleasure. For in what way will one, who has neither succeeded in understanding the nature of his own faults, nor tried to eradicate them, be able to gain an understanding of virtues, which is the second stage of practical training, or the mysteries of spiritual and heavenly things, which exist in the higher stage of theoretical knowledge?
--Abbott Nesteros, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
Colosians 1: 28-29
Practical perfection consists of pruning the bad (faults) from my spiritual garden while cultivating the good (virtues). This is not easy! Learning about my faults is painful because I need to accept the truth about myself and my ego. Striving to eradicate faults is painful because they seem to be so much a part of my being that reliving them can feel like death. Cultivating virtue is painful because it requires that I change which is very difficult. It is obvious that I cannot do any of this perfectly on my own even though it requires my cooperation to advance at all. I will, according to St. Paul, become perfected in Christ. It requires the presence of Jesus in my life and in the lives of those around me to accomplish this.
In what ways can I begin to tend my spiritual garden?
268. Controlling Faults
(Perfect Love Drives Out Fear)
There are...three things which enable men to control their faults; viz., either the fear of hell or of laws even now imposed,; or the hope and desire of the kingdom of heaven; or a liking for goodness itself and the love of virtue....If them any one is aiming at perfection, from that first stage of fear which we rightly termed servile he should be advancing a steep mount to the higher path of hope--which is compared not to a slave but to a hireling, because it looks for the payment of its recompense...., yet it cannot attain to that love of a son who, trusting in his father's kindness and liberality, has no doubt that all that the father has is his...
--Abbot Chaeremon, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
1 John 4: 17-19
I would like to say that my spiritual journey is fully motivated by love alone but it wouldn't be true. I have much less fear of punishment than when I was a youth. In my 20's and 30's I was motivated less by fear and more by the good things I could hope to get from God and by pleasing others. In my late 40's I started to become motivated by love (without fully giving up the others), wanting mostly the peace and joy that is not of this world. I pray that as I become a semi-centarian I will increasingly think of myself as a son of God and less as a slave or hireling.
What is my relationship to God: slave, hireling or son?
269. The Foundations Of Friendship
(Jesus Calls Me Friend)
The first foundation then, of true friendship consists in contempt for worldly substance and scorn for all things that we possess....The second is for each man so to prune his own wishes that he may not...prefer his own opinions to those of his neighbor. The third is for him to recognize that everything, even what he deems...necessary, must come after the blessing of love and peace. The fourth for him to realize that he should never be angry for any reason good or bad. The fifth for him to try to cure any wrath which a brother may have conceived against him however unreasonably, in the same way that he would cure his own knowing that the vexation of another is equally bad for him , as if he himself were stirred against another....The last...that he should realize daily that he is to pass away from this world; as the realization of this not only permits no vexation to linger in the heart, but also represses all the motion of lusts and sins of all kinds.
--Abbot Joseph, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
John 15: 12-17
The crux of Abbot Joseph's discussion on friendship is that I should have no priority greater than the attainment of the blessing of love and peace. If my goal is to have a mind-set of love and peace, I must value that more than worldly goods and my own opinion. In short, everything my ego holds dear as a requirement of happiness must take a backseat. I must also, as an act of love, value the needs of others at least as much as I value my own (love my neighbor as myself). Jesus calls us His friends if we imitate His example.
How can I learn to value others as much as I value myself?
(I Will Work Out My Salvation)
Wherefore it is good and profitable for each one to endeavor with all his might and main to attain perfection in the work that has been begun, according to the line which he has chosen as the grace which he has received; and while he praises and admires the virtues of others, not to swerve from his own line which he has once for all chosen... For no members can claim the offices of other members, because the eyes cannot perform the duties of the hands, nor the nostrils of the ears.
--Abbot Nesteros, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
Phillipians 2: 12-14
God gives me the intention and the power to work out my salvation. He also has given me gifts in bud, which must be cultivated to full bloom through practice. I do not know what my talents are without exploration and practice. I may not receive the power and intention from God to do this before I do my part by taking the first steps toward exploring my talents. Once I have discovered what I should be doing, I must do it with all of my strength and beware of trying to do the work that someone else was called to do!
Do I have talents in bud that need to be cultivated? What steps will I take to do my part in exploring these gifts?
271. Fallen Nature vs. Individual Fault
(God asked: Where Are You?)
The time spent here, and the dwelling in solitude, and meditation, through which you think that we ought to have attained perfection of the inner man, has only done this for us, viz., teach us that which we are unable to be, without making us what we are trying to be...Wherefore we being inflamed by daily exercise of this kind, and yet not seeing that we gain from them amu strength and stability in heart are overcome and in despair driven to this opinion; viz., to believe that it is from no fault of our own but from a fault of our nature that these wanderings of mind are found in mankind.
--Abbot Serenus, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
Genesis 3: 6-9
As Adam and Eve hid from God in the garden of Eden, I suspect that my wandering mid is a similar way of hiding from the voice of God within. Unless I am trained from a very early age to stop the mind chatter, it becomes a habit and a part of my nature. But, as in Eden, God continues to call me: Where are you?
Am I going to continue to hide from the One who loves me"
272. Imitation vs. Reality
(I Will Not Lie To The Holy Spirit)
There are three kinds of monks in Egypt, of which two are admirable, the third is a poor sort of thing and by all means to be avoided. The first are those...who live together in a congregation and are governed by the direction of a single Elder....The second are those who were first trained (as noted above) and then being made perfect in practical life chose the recesses of he desert....And while the Christian religion was rejoicing in these two orders of monks though this system had begun by degrees to deteriorate, there arose afterwards that disgusting and unfaithful kind of monks, or rather that baleful plant revived and sprang up again which when it first shot up in the persons of Ananas and Sapphira in the early Church was cut off by the severity of the Apostle Peter....These sprang from the number of those...who wanted to imitate rather than truly to aim at ...perfection, urged thereto by rivalry or by the praises of those who preferred the complete poverty of Christ.
--Abbot Piamun, Conferences Of John Cassain, CCEL
Acts 5: 1-11
The story of Ananas and Sapphira is one of the most disturbing stories in the New Testament. The heart of the issue is trying to get the honor of the Christian community for virtuous conduct when it is not deserved--in effect, lying to the Holy Spirit. Evidently, many were accepting the title of "monk" with out really living the life of a monk. While I cannot judge others in this regard, I must judge myself for my motives and actions are almost never done purely for the love of God.
In what ways do I "talk the talk" without "walking the walk"?
273. A Variety Of Unclean Spirits
(The Devil Is On The Prowl)
It is clearly proved that there exist in unclean spirits as many desires as there are in men. For some of them, which are commonly called Plani, are shown to be so seductive and sportive that, when they have taken continual possession of certain places or roads, they delight themselves not indeed with tormenting the passers by whom they can deceive, but, contenting themselves merely with laughing at them and mocking them, try to tire them out rather than to injure them: while some spend the night merely by harmlessly taking possession of men, though others are such slaves to fury and ferocity with hurting the bodies of those, of whom they have taken possession, by tearing them in a dreadful manner, but actually are eager to rush upon those who are passing by at a distance, and to attack them with most savage slaughter...Others we find affect the hearts of those whom they have seized with empty pride...Others we find are not only keen for lies, but also inspire men with blasphemies...
--Abbot Serenus, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
According to Abbot Serenus, it may be difficult to separate what is demon-inspired from what is simply unholy human since, evidently, there are as many desires in demons as there are in human beings. In any case, according to St. Peter, while it may be true that the devil is on the prowl looking for someone to devour, it is also true that if I stand up to him, full of faith in Christ, Jesus will deliver me from his jaws.
Am I willing to call upon the name of Jesus in faith to help me fight my spiritual battles regardless of their origin?
274. Acts Expressing Repentance
(I Am Saved By Grace)
If you plead that owing to weakness of the flesh you cannot get rid of your sins by fasting...then atone for them by profuse almsgiving. If you have nothing that you can give to the needy, at least you can purge them away by amendment of life. But if you cannot secure perfection in goodness by the eradication of all your faults , you can show a pious anxiety for the good and salvation of another. But if you complain that you are not equal to this service, you can cover your sins by the affection of love. And if in this also some sluggishness of mind makes you weak, at least you should submissively with a feeling of humility entreat for remedies for your wounds by prayer s and intercession of the saints...
--Abbot Pinufius, Conferences Of John Cassain, CCEL
Ephesians 2: 4-7
Even while I was dead through sin, Jesus' grace through love has brought me to life again. It is a free gift. I did nothing to deserve it. What remains for me to do is to express gratitude to Jesus by performing the activities mentioned by the Abbot.
In what concrete ways do I express my gratitude to God?
275. Trust: Faith In Action
(I Come To You In The Name Of The Lord)
Strive to live content in the midst of those things that cause you discontent...Free your mind from all that troubles you, God will take care of things. You will be unable to make haste in this
(Choice)without, so to speak, grieving the heart of God, because he sees that you do not honor him sufficiently with holy trust. Trust in him, I beg you, and you will have the fulfillment of what your heart desires.
-St. Vincent de Paul, Letters, SOTD
1 Samuel 17: 40=53
The story of David and Goliath is one of the great examples of trust in God's saving action. His trust in God was so complete that God allowed the very first stone that David slung to kill the giant. Because of his trust in God, God gave him the desire of his heart which was the glorifying of God's name through the victory of His people.
Do I trust God with my life? (Be honest!)
276. Our Mother The Church
(The Spirit Binds Us Together In Peace)
You cannot have God for your father if you do not have the Church for your mother...God is one and Christ is one, and the Church is one; one is the faith, and one is the people cemented together by harmony into the strong unity of a body...if we are the heirs of Christ, let us abide in the peace of Christ; if we are the sons of God, let us be lovers of peace.
--BSt. Cyprian, The Unity of the Catholic Church, SOTD
Ephesians 4: 1-6
Jesus always prayed that His followers may be one in the mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church. Faith is ultimately not a private matter but communal as was God's relationship with Israel. Whether or not I belong to a specific Church, I am still part of the Body of Christ.
What part of the Body of Christ am I?
277. Walk In Mary's Footsteps
(Lord, Let It Be Done In Accordance With Your Word)
In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.
--BSt. Bernard, SOTD
Luke 1: 38-41
Walk in Mary's footsteps for it is the path of faith. Mary offered herself as an empty vessel to the Lord and He filled her with His love and His Son. Mary is blessed because she believed what the angel told her all the way the Cross.
Am I willing to walk the path of faith blazed by Mary?
278. When Looking Within May Not Be Good
(Hardships Develop Perseverance)
She was full of faith, yet all her life had been tormented by thoughts against it. While apparently enjoying the peace and easiness of mind of souls who have reached a high state of virtue, she suffered such interior trials that she often told me her mind was so filled with all sorts of temptations and abominations that she had to strive not to look within herself...But for all that suffering her face never lost its serenity, nor did she once relax in the fidelity God asked of her. And so I regard her as one of the holiest souls I have ever met on this earth.
--BSt. Vincent de Paul referring to St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Butler=s Lives of the Saints, SOTD
It is very surprising to find a saint that strives not to look within herself when self-examination is a foundation of spiritual growth. I assume that she is referring to looking within as an obsession to search for and punish herself for any little imperfection that she might find which is a form of scrupulosity. All one can do is to be willing and ready to remove the defect. God must do the work. God may even allow one to keep the defect in order to keep them humble and to develop their character.
Has looking within become an obsession with me?
279. Our Vocation
(One Thing Only Is Needed)
Our wish, our object, our chief preoccupation must be to form Jesus in ourselves, to make his spirit, his devotion, his affections, his desires and his disposition live and reign there. All our religious exercises should be directed to this end. It is the work which God has given us to do unceasingly.
--BSt. John Eudes, The Life and Reign of Jesus In Christians Souls, SOTD
Luke 10: 38-42
My work is to believe in the one whom God sent, Jesus Christ. It is the one needed thing and it will not be taken from me though I can only give it away through a lack of care.
What is the one needed thing in my life?
280. Public Prayer
(Give Thanks To The Lord For He Is Good)
Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there: If you set it on fire it makes a lot of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky, public prayer is like that.
--BJohn Vianney, SOTD
If we are truly one in the Body of Christ, our prayer is a communion and Jesus is among us as He promised. In one sense, I suspect that all prayer is public prayer since time and space have no meaning in eternity which is the true nature of things.
Do I pray at least daily whether it is in public or not?
281. The Use Of Knowledge
(Knowledge Inflates, Love Builds)
There are some who desire knowledge early for its own sake; and that is shameful curiosity. And there are others who desire to know, in order that they themselves may be known; and that is vanity, disgraceful too. Others again, desire knowledge in order to acquire money or preferment by it; that too is a discreditable quest. But there are also some who desire knowledge, that they may build up the souls of others with it and that is charity. Others, again, desire it that they may themselves be built u thereby; and that is prudence. Of all these types, only the last two put knowledge to right use.
--St. Bernard, Sermon on the Canticle of Canticles, SOTD
I enjoy learning about science, culture, religion and many other things. I know, however, that knowledge, like things, will not make me holy or happy. Only love will do that. If I had the choice of being unlearned but loving or learned and unloving, I would probably choose the latter even though I should choose the former..
In what ways can I use my knowledge to build up others?
(Whoever Believes In Jesus Will Never Die)
Perhaps it is after all not so difficult for a man to part with his possessions, but it is certainly most difficult for him to part with himself. To renounce what one has is a minor thing; but to renounce what one is, that is asking a lot.
--St. Gregory the Great, Homilies On The Gospels, SOTD
John 11: 25-27
Renouncing what I own is very difficult for me even though I live a relatively simple life and I live below my means. Renouncing what I am, giving up my ego with its judgements and self-centeredness, is much more difficult and can only be done with the grace of God. I must put on Jesus and be transformed into a Christ-like person by believing in and loving Him. If I give up myself, I will live. If I don't give up myself, I will never have lived in the truest sense.
How badly do I want to live a real life?
283. The Courage Of A Saint
(God Is With You Wherever You Go)
Courage my sons. Don't you see that we are leaving on a mission? They pay our fare in the bargain. What a piece of good luck! The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible. Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes.
--Maximilian Mary Kobe, SOTD
Joshua 1: 8-9
It is hard to imagine St Maximilian Colby going off to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany in such high spirits! He was a man of incredible faith. He must have truly taken to heart the advice of Joshua: Be firm and steadfast. ADo not fear or be dismayed for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go.@
What steps can I take to cultivate a faith like St. Maximilian?
284. The Desire Of Christ
(Jesus Came For Sinners, Not The Upright)
Christ, like a skillful physician, understands the weakness of men. He loves to teach the ignorant and the erring he turns again to his own true way. He is easily found by those who live by faith; and to those of pure eye and holy heart, who desire to knock at the door, he opens immediately. He does not disdain the barbarian, nor does he set the eunuch aside as no man. He does not hate the female on account of the woman's act of disobedience in the beginning, nor does he reject the male on account of the man's transgression. But he seeks all, and desires to save all, wishing to make all the children of God, and calling all the saints unto one perfect man.
--Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, SOTD
Mark 2: 15-17
Like a skillful physician, Jesus desires to save all of humanity from the disease of sin and ego. We need only to humbly recognize our boundedness and receive His healing touch. If I refuse to recognize my illness, He will still call me to come to Him for healing. He will not force Himself on me and, like any good physician, He will do no harm.
Why do I refuse to be healed?
285. Dealing With Temptation
(I Will Run From Temptation)
In the remotest part of the wild and stony desert, burnt up with the heat of the scorching sun so that it frightens even the monks that inhabit it, I seemed to myself to be in the midst of the delights and crowds of Rome. In this exile and prison to which for the fear of hell I had voluntarily condemned myself, I many times imagined myself witnessing the dancing of the Roman maidens as if I had been in the midst of them: in my cold body and in my parched-up flesh, which seemed dead before its death, passion was able to live. Alone with this enemy, I threw myself in spirit at the feet of Jesus, watering them with my tears, and I tamed my flesh by fasting whole weeks. I am not ashamed to disclose my temptations, but I grieve that I am not now what I then was.
--St. Jerome, Letter to St. Eustochium, SOTD
Genesis 39: 6-12
St. Jerome and Moses handled temptation in different ways. St. Jerome wrestled with his temptations face to face and learned to tame himself. Moses, when confronted with the temptation of the wife of Pharaoh, ran away. Both responses were adequate for the given situation. Jerome could not run away from himself and Moses didn't think it wise to sit around and argue ethics with a seductress.
In what ways do I deal with temptations?
286. Abstaining From Lawful Things
(I Will Seek My Neighbors Advantage)
..It is not so praiseworthy for us to abstain from forbidden as from lawful things; and not to use these last out of reverence for Him, Who has permitted us to use them because of our weakness. And so if even those who, faithfully offering tithes of their fruits , are obedient to the more ancient precepts of the Lord, cannot yet climb the heights of the gospel, you can see very clearly how far short of it those fall who do not even do this. For how can these men be partakers of the grace of the gospel who disregard fulfilment even of the lighter commands of the law...Christ...does not constrain anyone, by the compulsion of a command, to those lofty heights of goodness, but stimulates them by the power of free will, and urges them on by wise counsels and the desire of perfection...
--Abbot Theonas, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
1 Corinthians 10: 23-24
As Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), love goes beyond the law. While the law is like a finite equation (eye=tooth), love is like an unbounded equation that approaches infinity. (love >= Infinity = God). While the law teaches love and justice as finite things that can have numerical values (should I forgive seven times?), Jesus teaches that we are to love as God loves: infinitely, universally and perfectly. We are to love others as much as God loves us.
How can I grow beyond my limited concepts of love?
287. The Testimony Of Conscience
(I Will Develop A Clean Mind And Conscience)
...The full and perfect description of penitence is, never again to yield to those sins for which we do penance, or for which our conscience is pricked. But the proof of satisfaction and pardon is for us to have expelled the love of them from our hearts....Wherefore the truest test of penitence and witness of pardon is found in our own conscience, which even before the day of judgement and of knowledge, while we are still in the flesh, discloses our acquittal from guilt, and reveals the end of satisfaction and the grace of forgiveness. And what has been said may be more significantly expressed, then only should we believe that the stains of past sins are forgiven us, when the desires for present delights as well as the passions have been expelled from our heart.
--Abbott Pinufius, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
While a well trained conscience is a great God-given warning signal that indicates that we are in spiritually dangerous territory, a corrupted conscience is either too sensitive or not sensitive enough. As a child, I suffered from scrupulosity. I constantly felt guilty and was constantly (several times per week) going to confession. It affects me to this day in the form of self-criticism. The other extreme is a conscience that has been so maltrained or ignored that nothing brings on the warning signals, not even murder.
What is the condition of my conscience?
288. Feeding A Vice
(I Will Look To The Lord In His Strength)
Those then who are unable and ignorant how to struggle against the promptings of their own fancies, when they are harassed in their cell, by accidie attacking their bosom more violently than usual, if they relax their strict rule and allow themselves the liberty of going out oftener, will arouse a worse plague against themselves by means of this which they fancy is a remedy: just as men fancy that they can check the violence of an inward fever by a drought of the coldest water, though it is a fact that by it its fire is inflamed rather than quenched, as a far worse attack follows after the momentary alleviation.
--Abbott Abraham, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
1 Chronicles 16: 11-12
Trying to purge an interior temptation with an exterior cure is about as productive as trying to fill an interior void with material tidbits or trying to fill an emotional pain with alcohol. It may work for a short while but it will come back again. The reason is that the attempted cure has little or nothing to do with the perceived problem. This is the likely cause of much addictive behavior. An interior problem needs to be wrestled with interiorly but it probably cannot be conquered alone. One must look to the Lord and His strength.
In what ways do I try to resolve spiritual problems with physical cures (or vice versa)?
289. Grace vs Law
(Grace And Truth Come Through Christ)
...It lies today in our own power whether we choose to live under the grace of the gospel or under the terrors of the law: for each man must incline to one side or the other in accordance with the character of his actions, for either the grace of Christ welcomes those who go beyond the law, or else the law keeps its hold over the weaker ones as those who are its debtors and within its clutches. For one who is guilty as regards the precepts of the law will never be able to attain to the perfection of the gospel, even though he idly boasts that he is a Christian and freed by the Lord's grace: for we must not only regard as still under the law the man who refuses to fulfill what the law enjoins, but the man as well who is satisfied with the mere observance of what the law commands, and who never brings forth fruits worthy of his vocation and the grace of Christ, where it is not said: "Thou shalt offer to the Lord thy God thy tithes and first fruits," but : "Go and sell all that thou hast and give to the poor, and come follow me."
--Abbot Theonas, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
John 1: 16-17
Lord Jesus, I must confess that I often have a hard time meeting the demands of the law, much less the demands of love. I seem to be able to transcend my limited self only occasionally and only with Your grace. I ask, Lord, that You work with my best intentions and desires and enable them to produce fruit for Your Kingdom even if I am not aware of them.
Do I remember times when I've transcended myself with God's grace?
290. Different Strokes For Different Folks
(Everything Is Lawful, But Not Everything Is Beneficial)
Sometimes we see bad precedents taken from good things. For if a man ventures to do the same thing as another, but not with the same mind and purpose, or not with equal goodness, he will immediately fall into the snares of deception and death through the things from which others gain the fruit of eternal life.....Wherefore it is right for each one of us first to consider carefully the measure of his powers and in accordance with its limits, to choose what system he pleases, because though all are good, yet all things cannot be fit for all men.
--Abbott Abraham, Conferences of John Cassain, CCEL
1 Corinthians 6: 12
I rarely wish I were in someone else shoes anymore. I've learned that everyone has their own personal crosses to bear even if they are well hidden. These crosses are tailor-made for them. They are also given specific gifts made especially for them. I would not want their crosses anymore than they would want mine. I may admire their gifts and try to cultivate some of them if possible, but I should mostly cultivate what I've been given.
Do I cultivate what I've been given or do I wish I had the gifts of others?
291. Against Suicide
(Thou Shall Not Kill)
You have suggested the case of an impious judge giving to two athletes of piety the alternatives of sacrificing to demons, or flinging themselves into the sea. You describe the one as choosing the latter and plunging without hesitation into the deep, while the other, refusing both, shows quite as much abhorrence of the worship of idols as his companion, but declines to commit himself to the waves, and waits for this fate to be violently forced upon him. You have suggested these circumstances, and you ask which of these two took the better course. I think that you will agree with me that the latter was the most praiseworthy. No one ought to withdraw himself from life unbidden, but should await either a natural or a violent death.
--Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus, Letter to Irenaeus, CCEL
Deuteronomy 21: 1-9
Lord, may I learn a proper respect for all life including my own. I am to love others as I love myself but do my actions prove proper self-care? Teach me not to abuse myself with chemicals, junk food, entertainment that kills the soul, or anything else that denies that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Teach me to nurture myself with love and discipline. And then, Lord, allow me the joy of giving back to all of your creation. Amen.
In what small ways do I kill myself?
292. Tempering Grief
(Christ Has Been Raised From The Dead)
Had I heard of the death of your dignity's most honorable husband I should have written long ago, and now my object in writing is not to lull your great sorrow to sleep by consolatory words. They are unnecessary. They who have learnt the wisdom of philosophers and consider what this life is, find reason strong enough to meet and break grief's rising surge. And even while you are remembering your long companionship, reason recognizes the divine decrees, and to meet the forces of the tears of sorrow marshals at once the course of nature, the law of God, and the hope of the resurrection. Knowing this as I do, there is no necessity to use many words. I only beseech you to avail yourself of good sense in the hour of need. Think of the death of him who is gone as no more than a long journey, and wait for the promise of our God and Savior. For He who promised the resurrection cannot lie, and is the fount of truth.
--Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus, Letter to Theonilla, CCEL
1 Corinthians 15: 12-28
I hate to admit it but my reaction to death has generally been either numbness or depression. Neither response reflects the Christian faith which is absolute confidence in Jesus= promise of a resurrection.
What are my reactions to death?
293. Obeying Superiors of the Faith
(A Bishop Is God's Steward)
Study, therefore, to be established in the doctrines of the Lord and the apostles, that so all things, whatsoever ye do, may prosper both in the flesh and spirit, in faith and love; in the Son, and in the Father, and in the Spirit; in the beginning and in the end; with your most admirable bishop, and the well compacted spiritual crown of your presbytery, and the deacons who are according to God. Be ye subject to the bishop, and to one another, as Jesus Christ to the Father, according to the flesh;, and the apostles to Christ, and to the Father, and to the Spirit; that so there may be a union both fleshly and spiritual.
--Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, CCEL
Among other qualities, the New Testament indicates that the character of Church elders should be irreproachable and impeccable. They must be held in good repute by outsiders so as never to fall into disrepute. They must hold to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. They are to be examined and admitted only if there is nothing against them. While one should not expect perfection from flesh and blood, if an elder falls far short of these standards, I may still need to obey him but not follow his example (see Matthew 13).
Do I have a proper respect for Church authority?
294. Salvation History
(God Will Write His Law In My Heart)
But why the Gospel was not preached in ancient times to all men and to all nations, as it is now, will appear from the following considerations. The life of the ancients was not of such a kind as to permit them to receive the all-wise and all-virtuous teaching of Christ. For immediately in the beginning, after his original life of blessedness, the first man despised the command of God, and fell into this mortal and perishable state, and exchanged his former divinely inspired luxury for this curse-laden earth. His descendants having filled our earth, showed themselves much worse, with the exception of one here and there, and entered upon a certain brutal and insupportable mode of life....Then when the excess of wickedness had overwhelmed nearly all the race, like a deep fit of drunkenness, beclouding and darkening the minds of men, the first-born and first-created wisdom of God, the pre-existent Word himself, induced by his exceeding love for man, appeared to his servants, now in the form of angels, and again to one and another of those ancients who enjoyed the favor of God, in his own person as the saving power of God, not otherwise, however, than in the shape of man, because it was impossible to appear in any other way.
-Eusebius, Book 1, CCEL
The Old Testament contains hints of its own fulfillment scattered throughout, especially in the prophets. My favorite is the brief description of the new covenant in Jeremiah. It indicates that the new covenant will be eternal, it will be written on our hearts, it will not have to be taught to anyone, and it will involve the forgiveness of sins.
What are my favorite passages in the Old Testament that point to the New Testament?
(I Bore Your Name, O Lord)
Moses was the first to make known the name of Christ as a name especially august and glorious. When he delivered types and symbols of heavenly things, and mysterious images, in accordance with the oracle which said to him, "Look, that thou make all things according to the pattern which was shown the in the mount," he consecrated a man high priest of God, in so far as that was possible, and him he called Christ. And thus to this dignity of the high priesthood, which in his opinion surpassed the most honorable position among men, he attached for the sake of honor and glory the name of Christ....(Moses') successor, therefore, who had not hitherto borne the name Jesus, but had been called by another name, Auses, which had been given him by his parents, he now called Jesus, bestowing the name upon him as a gift of honor, far greater than any kingly diadem...Thus Moses bestowed the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, as a mark of the highest honor, upon two men who in his time surpassed all the rest of the people in virtue and glory, namely, upon the high priest and upon his own successor in the government.
--Eusebius, Book 1, CCEL
Jeremiah 15: 10-21
Just as there are summaries of the New Testament in the Old Testament, there are many Christ-types in the Old Testament including Melkezedeck, Elijah, Elisha, Moses, and Abraham to name a few. My favorite is the prophet Jeremiah. When I read the confessions of Jeremiah scattered throughout the book, I can hear the voice of Jesus, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, talking to his Father with great intimacy.
Who are my favorite characters from the Old Testament? Do they remind me of Jesus?
296. Christian In Deed
(Without Faith It Is Impossible To Please God)
But although it is clear that we are new and that this new name of Christians has really but recently been known among all nations, nevertheless our life and our conduct, with our doctrines of religion, have not been lately invented by us, but from the first creation of man, so to speak, have been established by the natural understanding of divinely favored men of old. That this is so we shall show in the following way. That the Hebrew nation is not new, but is universally honored on account of its antiquity, is known to all. The books and writings of this people contain accounts of ancient men, rare indeed and few in number, but nevertheless distinguished for piety and righteousness and every other virtue. Of these, some excellent men lived before the flood, others of the sons and descendants of Noah lived after it, among them Abraham, whom the Hebrews celebrate as their own founder and forefather. If any one should assert that all those who have enjoyed the testimony of righteousness, from Abraham himself back to the first man, were Christians in fact if not in name, he would not go beyond the truth.
--St. Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men, CCEL
Hebrews 11: 4-12
If righteous, pre-Christian Jews can be considered Christian in deed if not in name, why not righteous pre-Christian non-Jews and post-Christian non-Christians? If righteous, non-Christian persons of faith do not feel called to Christianity, can this be held against them? If the gifts that these persons have is God-given, and they know that, give thanks for them and use them for God=s glory, will God condemn them as unworthy?
Do I believe that just calling myself a Christian will save me?
(I Will Pray To God For Healing)
...It disturbs some that the power of this Disease attacks our people equally with the heathers, as if the Christian believed for this purpose, that he might have the enjoyment of the world and this life free from the contact of ills, and not as one who undergoes all adverse things here and is reserved for future joy. It disturbs some that this mortality is common to us with others, and yet what is there in this world which is not common to us with others, so long as this flesh of ours still remains, according to the law of our first birth, common to us with them? ....Moreover, if the Christian know and keep fast under what condition and what law he has believed, he will be aware that he must suffer more than others in the world, since he must struggle more with the attacks of the devil.
--St. Cyprian, Treatise VIL: On the Mortality, CCEL
Sirrah 38: 1-15
Given the sea of bacteria that we live in, what amazes me most is not the number of people who get sick but that so many stay well and never contract some strange and deadly disease. The human immune system is truly a miracle that happens so often that we loose sight of what a blessing it is. When the immune system occasionally fails, the amazing blessing of the medical profession is another blessing waiting to happen by utilizing the God-given creativity of healing.
Do I recognize what a miracle my immune system and the other bodily systems are? Do I give thanks to God for these miracles?
298. The Opportunities Of Illness
(I Will Weep With Those Who Weep)
...Beloved brethren,...what a great thing is it, how pertinent, how necessary, that pestilence and plague which seems horrible and deadly, searches out the righteousness of each one, and examines the minds of the human race, to see whether they who are in health tend the sick; whether relations affectionately love their kindred; whether masters pity their languishing servants; whether physicians do not forsake the beseeching patients; whether the fierce suppress their violence; whether the rapacious can quench the ever insatiable ardor of their raging avarice even by the fear of death; whether the haughty bend their neck; whether the wicked soften their boldness; whether, when their dear ones perish, the rich, even then bestow anything; and give, when they are to die without heirs.
--St. Cyprian, Treatise VII: On the Mortality, CCEL
Romans 12: 14-21
Illness helps create the give-and-take system of mutual love. Illness is humbling and requires that I rely more on others (family, doctors, friends) at these times. It gives others an opportunity to develop their abilities to nurture, care and love.
Do I accept the nurturing love of others when I am sick? How about other times? Do I bestow nurturing love on those who are ill?
299. The Meeting Of Two Hermits
(Unless I Die, I Will Not Live)
...The blessed Paul had already lived on earth the life of heaven for a hundred and thirteen years, and Antony at the age of ninety was dwelling in another place of solitude..., when the thought occurred to the latter, that no monk more perfect than himself had settled in the desert. However, in the stillness of the night it was revealed to him that there was farther in the desert a much better man than he, and that he ought to go and visit him. So then at break of day the venerable old man, supporting and guiding his weak limbs with a staff started to go.......Thus with smiles, Paul gave him access, and, the door being opened, they threw themselves into each other's arms, greeted one another by name, and joined in thanksgiving to God....The blessed Paul spoke to Antony: "I knew long sense, brother, that you were dwelling in those parts: long ago God promised you to me for a fellow-servant; but the time of my falling asleep now draws nigh; I have always longed to be dissolved and to be with Christ; my course is finished, and there remains for me a crown of righteousness. Therefore you have been sent by the Lord to lay my poor body in the ground, yea to return earth to earth."
--St. Jerome, The Life of Paulus, the First Hermit, CCEL
1 Corinthians 15: 36-45
Before these two old saints met they were aware of each other even though many miles apart, through the spiritual gift of intuition. This gift was revealed to them through the silence of nights of meditation. It is likely that they also had other spiritual gifts that were not recorded. As they strove to become more Christ-like, they became more like Christ and were enabled to do the works that Jesus did.
Do I sense that I have any spiritual gifts that go beyond the normal senses?
300. Beware Of Luxury
(The Lord Hates Pride)
I may be permitted at the end of this little treatise to ask those who do not know the extent of their possessions, who adorn their homes with marble, who string house to house and field to field, what did this old man in his nakedness ever lack? Your drinking vessels are of precious stones; he satisfied his thirst with the hollow of his hand. Your tunics are of wrought gold; he had not the raiment of the meanest of your slaves. But on the other hand, poor though he was , Paradise is open to him; you with all your gold will be received into Gehenna. He though naked yet kept the robe of Christ; you , clad in your silks, have lost the vesture of Christ. Paul lies covered with worthless dust, but will rise again to glory; over you are raised costly tombs, but both you and your wealth are doomed to the burning. Have a care, I pray you, at least have a care for the riches you love. Why are even the grave-clothes of your dead made of gold? Why does not your vaunting cease even amid mourning and tears? Cannot the carcases of rich men decay except in silk?
--St. Jerome, The Life of Paulus, the First Hermit, CCEL
Amos 6: 1-8
AWhat is your end goal?@, the minister asked, Aand is that goal worthy of Him who lives in you?@ If I seek a Acomfortable@ retirement as my goal, is it worth it? If my goal is to do whatever my ego dictates, is it worth it? The desert monks spent a lifetime cultivating their lives and their relationship with God, striving to do His will in all things and to be controlled by nothing but God. Although they died owning nothing ,they died with the peace and assurance that they lived the right way and were going home to the Kingdom of God. My end goal, especially after retirement (God willing), is to use my time, talent and treasure for God=s glory and my joy. May I learn to make them one.
What is my end goal? Is it worthy of He who lives in me?
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