Being servants of love and peace, the angels rejoice over our repentance (cf. Luke 15:7) and our progress in holiness. Hence they try to develop spiritual contemplation within us and they cooperate with us in the achieving of every form of blessing.
~ St. Theodore the Great Ascetic,
A Century of Spiritual Texts 20
Through the generosity of a coworker, Kelly and I got to go on a free date last night! We went to see the Grand Rapids Symphony perform a variety of pieces from Stravinsky to Mozart to Mendelssohn and including some original work by a young composer a year younger than myself. As part of the program, he was there and was able to comment on his two contributions, bringing further life into an already vibrant performance. In addition, there was a very talented pianist (a full five years younger than me!) who performed beautifully on the Mendelssohn piece that closed the night. On the few occasions that I have been blessed to attend the symphony, I always find my mind wondering to reflect on what a great illustration it is for our spiritual life. Continue reading
Saint Syncletice also said: if you are troubled by illness, do not be melancholy, even if you are so ill that you cannot stand to pray or use your voice to say psalms. We need these tribulations to destroy the desires of our body—in this they serve the same purpose as fasting and austerity. If your senses are dulled by illness, you do not need to fast. In the same way that a powerful medicine cures an illness, so illness itself is a medicine to cure passion.
~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers 7.17
Perhaps one of the most wonderful things about the desert fathers (or mothers, as the case may be) is their seemingly counterintuitive wisdom. Does your life lack meaning? Maybe you should think about death more often. Need to learn patience? Maybe you need more annoying people in your life. Feeling sick? That’s good medicine. Indeed, St. Syncletice goes on to say that “there is much profit in bearing illness quietly and giving thanks to God.” Headache? Thanks God. Fever? Thanks God. Queasy stomach? Thanks God. Continue reading
And this tenant of [St. Antony’s] was also truly wonderful, that neither the way of virtue nor the separation from the world for its sake ought to be measured in terms of time spent, but by the aspirant’s desire and purposefulness.
~ Life of Antony 7
It is easy, I think, to presume that time equals experience. However, as the old man from my previous post put it, age must give way to conduct. The same is true of time. How many composers, I wonder, were utterly humbled by Mozart, composing already at five years old? Nevertheless, St. Antony’s rule is especially helpful. Not only does he not measure the way of virtue or worldly detachment “in terms of time spent,” but he also does not mention accomplishments, either. Rather, he gives a much more comforting standard: “the aspirant’s desire and purposefulness.” Continue reading
An old man, who had a proved disciple, once turned him out in a fit of irritation. The disciple sat down outside to wait: and the old man found him there when he opened the door, and did penance to him, saying: “You are my Father, because your humility and patience have conquered the weakness of my soul. Come inside: now you are the old father, and I am the young disciple: my age must give way to your conduct.”
~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers 16.17
Sometimes I wonder if the world today, often claimed to have “progressed” so far from the supposed dark ages of the past, has forgotten what it means to be an adult. Certainly, this is not absolutely the case; I do not mean to overgeneralize. Our culture, however, does not often encourage maturity. Continue reading