Nothing is so destitute…

“Nothing is so destitute as a mind philosophizing about God when it is without Him.”
~St. Diadochos of Photiki

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Whatever Our Mind Has Been Thinking Of

“Whatever our mind has been thinking of before the hour of prayer, is sure to occur to us while we are praying through the activity of the memory. Wherefore what we want to find ourselves like while we are praying, that we ought to prepare ourselves to be before the time for prayer.”
St John Cassian, First Conference of Abbot Isaac

Our mind wanders so much during prayer, doesn’t it? I know mine does. And so what St. John says here holds very true. If we are surrounding ourselves with heavenly things, then when it comes time for prayer, at the least, heavenly things will be in and on our mind. This will snowball -if you will permit my poor analogy- and build upon itself. Holiness begets holiness. As well, sin begets sin.

Be holy!

Without a Beginning

…nothing can be accomplished. If laziness or depression is keeping us from a good beginning – or even another good beginning- then we should ask God for the grace simply to start. Then, with the action of grace within us, we can reap a great harvest!

“A certain brother asked an old man, “What shall I do about my negligence?” The old man said unto him, “If thou wilt root out this small plant, which is negligence, a great forest will come into being.”

The Paradise of the Fathers, #293, Vol. II, p. 65

The Works of God

The works of God are wondrous and unfathomable for our darkened minds, but as much as possible, we see from Scripture and our personal experience that the Lord sends sicknesses, sorrows, deprivation, droughts, wars, and revolutions either as punishment for our sins; or in anticipation, so that we do not fall into sins; or sometimes to test our faith. And so, we must bow in reverence before His all-wise Providence and give thanks for His ineffable mercy towards us.

Saint Macarius of Optina

Wisdom of Sirach ch.2

My son, if thou come to be subject unto the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation. Set thy heart aright, and be steadfast, and make not haste in a time of trouble. Cleave unto Him, and depart not away, that thou mayest be strengthened at thy last end. Whatsoever is brought upon thee, take cheerfully, and be patient when thou art changed to a low estate. For gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity. Believe in Him, and He will help thee; make thy ways straight, and hope in Him. Ye that fear the Lord, wait for His mercy; and turn not aside, lest ye fall. Ye that fear the Lord, believe in Him; and your reward shall not fail. Ye that fear the Lord, hope for good things, and for everlasting joy and mercy. Look at the generations of old, and see; who believed in the Lord, and was ashamed? or who held fast in His fear, and was forsaken? or who called upon Him, and was despised? For the Lord is full of compassion and mercy, longsuffering, and very pitiful, and forgiveth sins, and saveth in time of affliction. Woe be to fearful hearts, and faint hands, and the sinner that goeth two ways! Woe to a faint heart! for it believeth not; therefore shall it not be sheltered. Woe unto you that have lost your patient endurance! and what will ye do when the Lord shall visit you? They that fear the Lord will not disobey His words; and they that love Him will keep His ways. They that seek the Lord will seek His favour; and they that love Him shall be filled with the law. They that fear the Lord will prepare their hearts, and humble their souls in His sight. We will fall into the hands of the Lord, and not into the hands of men: for as His majesty is, so is His mercy.

Give This a Try!

I bet if everyone actually set out to do this, the world might just be a better place very quickly! As Christians, what St. Anthony discusses as a remedy to sin should be commonplace among us. It may seem crazy and extreme –but it shouldn’t!

“As a safeguard against sin let the following be observed.
Let us each one note and write down our actions and the impulses of our soul as though we were going to relate them to each other. And be assured that if we should be utterly
ashamed to have them known, we shall abstain from sin and harbour no base thoughts in our mind. For who wishes to be seen while sinning? or who will not rather lie after the commission of a sin, through the wish to escape notice? As then while we are looking at one another, we would not commit carnal sin, so if we record our thoughts as though about to tell them to one another, we shall the more easily keep ourselves free from vile thoughts through shame lest they should be known.”

St Anthony the Great, in his Life by St Athanasius

If We Do Not Hate Those Things

“If we do not hate those things which are blameworthy, we cannot smell the stench of their activity; and so long as we carry them in ourselves, we shall not be able to perceive their malodour. Therefore, until you cast away from yourself that which is unseemly, you will not comprehend the disgrace that entangles you, nor the shame that arises from it. But when you see your burden in others, understand the dishonour that covers you.
Withdraw from evil, and immediately you will comprehend its malodour. For if you do not withdraw, you will never learn it, nay rather, you will put on its stench like a beautiful fragrance, and you will reckon the nakedness of your shame to be a veil of glory. Blessed is the man who has receded from this darkness and who sees himself!”

St Isaac the Syrian, Homily 32, p. 152