Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Judge No one

Libellus 9: Judge no one
V.ix.1. It happened once that a brother of the congregation of abba Elias, having fallen into temptation, was expelled and went to abba Antony in the mountain. After spending some time with him, he was sent back to his congregation. But when they saw him they drove him out again, and again he went to abba Antony, saying, "They won't have me back, father."  So the old man sent a message to them, "A ship has suffered shipwreck in the open sea, lost all the goods it was carrying and although empty has with great difficulty arrived in port. Would you then sink a ship which has escaped into port?"  They realised that abba Antony was talking about the man he had sent back to them, and reinstated him at once.
V.ix.2.  A certain brother who had sinned was ordered by the presbyter to leave the church. Besarion got up and left with him, saying, "I too am a sinner."
V.ix.3  Abba Isaac of the Thebaid visited the congregation of brethren and finding one of them guilty of crimes passed judgment upon him, and went back to the desert. But an angel of the Lord came and stood in front of the door of his cell, forbidding him to enter. "Why not?" he asked. "God has sent me," the angel replied, "to ask you where do you wish he should send the guilty brother whom you have sentenced?"  Abba Isaac immediately apologised, saying, "Forgive me, I've done wrong."  And the angel said, "Don't worry, God has forgiven you, but take care in future not to judge anybody before God has judged him."
V.ix.4.  When a brother in Scete was found guilty the seniors called a meeting and sent a message to abba Moses, asking him to attend, but he would not. The presbyter also sent a message to him begging him to come for the whole body of the brothers wanted him to. So he came. He arrived dragging behind him a battered old wicker basket filled with sand, and those who went out to meet him asked, "What is this all about, father?"  And the old man said, "My own sins follow me about, although I can't always see them, and should I come today to judge the sins of somebody else?"  Hearing this they said nothing to the brother but pardoned him.
V.ix.5. Abba Joseph asked abba Pastor how to become a true monk and the old man replied, "If you would find peace now and in the world to come say to yourself in every crisis, "What am I?" and pass judgment on nobody.
V.ix.6. A certain brother also asked him, "If I see my brother committing a fault is it a good thing to conceal it?"  And the old man said, "Whenever we overlook a brother's fault God overlooks our own. And whenever we proclaim our brother's faults God likewise proclaims ours."
V.ix.7.  When a certain brother had transgressed the Abbot went to a certain nearby solitary who had long since stopped going out and told him about the offending brother. And the solitary said, "Expel him."  So the brother was expelled from the congregation and went to hide in the marshlands, where he wept copiously. It happened however that some of the brothers who were on the way to visit abba Pastor heard him weeping in the marshlands and turning aside to him found him overwhelmed with grief. They suggested to him that he should go to that same old solitary, but he would not, saying, "Let me die here where I am."  When the brothers got to abba Pastor they told him about it. And he asked them to go and tell the brother that abba Pastor would like to see him. When they told him this, he came, and when the old man saw how downcast he was he embraced him and comforted him and begged him to take some food. Abba Pastor then sent one of the brothers to that solitary with this message, "For many years I have been hearing about you and wanted to see you but have never managed it, because of our mutual neglect. Now, however, by God's will, there does seem to be a pressing reason for it. So I hope it won't be too much trouble for you that we should meet."  He did not, however, leave his own cell. But when the solitary got the message he said to himself, "Unless God had inspired the old man he would not have sent to me." So he went. And they greeted each other with joy, and sat down to talk. And abba Pastor said, "There were two people living near each other and both of them had suffered bereavement. And one of the two left his own dead body and went over to weep for the dead body of the other."  The old man's conscience was pricked by these words, and realising what he had done he said, "Pastor has already risen up to heaven, while I am still earthbound."
V.ix.8  A brother asked abba Pastor, "What shall I do, for I become faint-hearted when I sit still by myself?"  And the old man said, "Despise no one, condemn no one, disparage no one, and the Lord will give you peace, and your time of meditation will pass smoothly."
V.ix.9.  A meeting was held in Scete where the fathers discussed the guilt of a certain brother. Abba Prior, however, said nothing and afterwards went out and filled a large bag with sand and lifted it up on his shoulders, while putting a small amount of sand in a little wicker basket which he carried in front of him. When the fathers asked him what he meant by that he replied, "This bag with a lot of sand represents my sins, and since there are so many of them I have put them behind me where I can't see them and grieve or weep for them. This little lot in front of me represents the sins of this brother, upon whom I am busy trying to pronounce judgement. This is quite wrong. I should rather keep my own sins before me and be thinking of them and asking God to pardon me."  Hearing this the fathers said, "This is the true path of salvation."
V.ix.10. An old man said, "Although you may be chaste don't condemn the unchaste, for that is to make a mockery of the law. Didn't he who said, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery' also say, 'Judge not'?"
V.ix.11 A presbyter from the basilica was in the habit of going to a certain solitary to consecrate the oblation (i.e. bread and wine) for his Communion. But somebody came to this solitary and blackened the name of this same presbyter, so that when he came the next time as usual to consecrate the oblation the scandalised solitary would not open the door to him, and the presbyter went away. And behold, a voice came to the solitary saying, "Human beings are taking my judgements upon themselves." And he was rapt up in a trance and saw as it were a golden well with a golden bucket and a golden rope and beautiful pure water. There was a leper, however, drawing water and pouring it out into a container, and although he was thirsty he couldn't bring himself to drink because of the leper drawing the water. And a voice came to him a second time, saying, "Why aren't you drinking this water? Does it matter who draws it? All he is doing is drawing it and pouring it into a container."  The solitary came to himself and thought hard about the meaning of the vision, then called the presbyter and asked him to come and consecrate the oblation as usual.
V.ix.12. There were two brothers greatly respected by the congregation who had each been given the gift of being able to see the grace of God in the other. It happened that one of them once went out among the congregation one Saturday morning and saw someone eating and said to him, "What? Eating, at this time, on a Saturday?"  The next day Mass was celebrated as usual and the other brother noticed to his sorrow that the grace of God had departed from his brother. When they got back to their cell he said, "What have you done, brother, for I can't see the grace of God in you as I used to?" And the other said, "I'm not aware of having done anything wrong in thought or deed."  "You haven't scolded anyone, by any chance?" he asked. Suddenly remembering, "Oh yes," he said. "Yesterday morning I saw someone eating and said to him, 'What? Eating at this time on a Saturday?'  That was wrong of me. But do penance with me for a fortnight and let us ask God's forgiveness."  They did so and at the end of a fortnight he saw the grace of God once more returning upon his brother, and they were greatly comforted, giving thanks to God who alone is good.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Something to think about

Of the incurable depravity of spiritual wickednesses.

FOR a spiritual substance and one that is not tied to any material flesh has no excuse for an evil thought which arises within, and also shuts out forgiveness for its sin, because it is not harassed as we are by incentives of the flesh without, to sin, but is simply inflamed by the fault of a perverse will. And therefore its sin is without forgiveness and its weakness without remedy. For as it falls through the allurements of no earthly matter, so it can find no pardon or place for repentance. And from this we can clearly gather that this struggle which arises in us of the flesh and spirit against each other is not merely harmless, but actually extremely useful to us.

Fast Wisely

Of the illusion of Abbot John.

IN this manner we have heard that Abbot John who lived at Lycon was recently deceived. For when his body was exhausted and failing as he had put off taking food during a fast of two days, on the third day while he was on his way to take some refreshment the devil came in the shape of a filthy Ethiopian, and falling at his feet, cried "Pardon me because I appointed this labour for you." And so that great man, who was so perfect in the matter of discretion, understood that under pretence of an abstinence practised unsuitably, he was deceived by the craft of the devil, and engaged in a fast of such a character as to affect his worn out body with a weariness that was unnecessary, indeed that was harmful to the spirit; as he was deceived by a counterfeit coin, and, while he paid respect to the image of the true king upon it, was not sufficiently alive to the question whether it was rightly cut and stamped. But the last duty of this "good money-changer," which, as we mentioned before, concerns the examination of the weight, will be fulfilled, if whenever our thoughts suggest that anything is to be done, we scrupulously think it over, and, laying it in the scales of our breast, weigh it with the most exact balance, whether it be full of good for all, or heavy with the fear of God: or entire and sound in meaning; or whether it be light with human display or some conceit of novelty, or whether the pride of foolish vain glory has not diminished or lessened the weight of its merit. And so straightway weighing them in the public balance, i.e., testing them by the acts and proofs of the Apostles and Prophets let us hold them as it were entire and perfect and of full weight, or else with all care and diligence reject them as imperfect and counterfeit, and of insufficient weight.

On the abiding character of love.

On the abiding character of love.

AND why do you wonder that those duties enumerated above will cease, when the holy Apostle tells us that even the higher gifts of the Holy Spirit will pass away: and points out that charity alone will abide without end, saying "whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease: whether there be knowledge, it will come to an end," but of this he says "Charity never faileth." For all gifts are given for a time as use and need require, but when the dispensation is ended they will without doubt presently pass away: but love will never be destroyed. For not only does it work usefully in us in this world; but also in that to come, when the burden of bodily needs is cast off, it will continue in far greater vigour and excellence, and will never be weakened by any defect, but by means of its perpetual incorruption will cling to God more intently and earnestly.[17]

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Mystagogy of St Maximos

   This, indeed is why the blessed old man believed that every Christian should be exhorted--and he never failed to do this---to frequent God's holy church and never to abandon the holy synaxis accomplished therein because of the holy angels who remain there  and who take note each time people who enter and present themselves to God, and they make supplications for them; likewise because of the grace of the Holy Spirit which is always invisibly present, but in a special way at the time of the holy synaxis. This grace transforms and changes each person who is found there and in fact remolds him in proportion to what is more divine in him and  leads him to what is revealed through the mysteries which are celebrated, even if he does not himself feel this because he is still among those who are children in Christ, unable to see either into the depths of the reality or the grace operating in it, which is revealed through each of the divine symbols of salvation being accomplished , and which proceeds according to the order and progression from preliminaries  to the end of everything.

from Chapter 24

St Maximos the Confessor, Century on Various Texts

A pure heart is one which offers the mind to God free of all image and form, and ready to be imprinted only with his own archetypes, by which God Himself is made manifest.

Text 82