Abba Benjamin said, “Walk the royal road and count the miles, and you will not be tired.”
If you ask, my brother, why you do not see things that are to come, or observe hidden things, or speak wonders, or understand glorious mysteries, then hear me, my brother, and I will tell you the reason you are cut off from these benefits.
Truly, my beloved, there is no logical mind that is not appointed to be the seer of all things that have been and shall be, unless it is blind in the things that are seen. There is no human heart that would not be a fountain of the mysteries hidden in the bosom of the Father, if its courses were not blocked up by the mud of the passions.
There is no tongue of any man in the image of God that would not be speaking the wonders of God and revealing his hidden mysteries, if it were not stuttering from the cold of evil. There is no soul that would not bear Christ in its bosom, if it had not become depraved with its enemies through its laxity.
Nevertheless, repentance causes us to be born again in the image of God and restores all these things to us. Blessed is the giver of repentance, who grants it to us for the revival of our deadness. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
[John of Dalyatha, Discourse 14]
Upbraid your soul constantly, my brother, and say: “My soul, your release from the body is near, so why do you delight in these temporal things, when today you are leaving them and are to be deprived of the sight and remembrance of them forever?
Look at what is before you; consider the nature of the things you have done. With whom have you spent your days of work? Who has accepted the fruits of your labour? To whom have you given joy through your struggles, so that he comes out to meet you at your departure? Whom have you delighted with your run, so that you are granted rest in his haven?
For whose sake have you toiled and been buffeted, so that you may come to him in gladness? Who is the friend you have acquired in the eternal place who will now receive you on your departure? In which field have you strenuously laboured, and who pays your wages at the sunset of your parting?”
Examine yourself, my soul, and see which place you will be conveyed to when you fly away from your body. Who are the companions with whom your are journeying to their inheritance? Perhaps they are angels of light, so how would they not shine the radiance of their beauty upon you because of their love towards you, and how would they not delight you in commingling with them before the parting?
But perhaps they are loathsome creatures, child-stealers, who by means of desire entice one into their place of darkness, cut off from consolation. Woe to me because of their company; woe to me for associating with them; woe to me for communication with them separates me from my God; woe to me, for in approaching them I have moved away from my Lord; woe to me for having hearkened to their guile and deprived myself of the vision of the Beautiful One; woe to me for having of my own accord estranged myself from the Good One and become a fellow of the Evil One.
While I am in the place where I contracted my diseases I will prepare medicines to heal my sores. While the plea of the petitioners is being received, I will compose bitter chants, to appease my God, whom I have angered. I will weep and groan over the days that have been spent in the field that makes its tillers eat wormwood. I will cry aloud with grief and groanings, which are more pleasing to my God than sacrifices. My mouth will utter sorrowful chants, the sound of which the angels desire to hear. My cheeks will be wet with tears from my eyes, so that the Spirit will rest upon my head to purify me of my vices. I will assuage my Lord, that he may come to me when I implore. I will call upon Martha and Mary to teach me chants of lamentation.
[John of Dalyatha, Discourse 11]
Lord I long for your forgiveness to come to me. Give to me tears so that I may ask for mercy while there is an opportunity. I thirst for mercy and without it I cannot exist. Sea of Mercy, pour out on me the streams of your kindness.
The confused sins of an evil world are traps to me; By your mercy, Lord, destroy them, and I will be delivered. Like a legion of demons thirsting for my blood, my sins have surrounded me. Come, Mighty Warrior, to the aid of a humble worker.
The King of Error has poured down his arrows aiming at my death. Commander, apply to me your remedy by which I may be healed. Your treasury is not too little to give mercy to those who do not deserve it: Because you even loved the prostitute dearly, when she approached you.
For none but crushed people seek your remedy; And he who does not even need it, mercy is not dear to him. The good physician, however, is not glorified but by ulcers. For what does he add to a sound body if it comes close to him?
In wounds he shows the power of his skill. He rightly takes his fee and glory according to his healing power. The physician shines in the striken ones when they are healed. And your great compassion shines out in sinners when they are absolved.
Because you have mercy, I acquired sins, and thus I expect That whenever you pardon me, your compassion will shine in me. I do not say my transgression is too great to pardon, because your compassion is greater than the sea: purify me in it!
I prepared the work for your mercy every day when I was a sinner, So you should not be idle from forgiveness, because it is lovely to you. For the physician wishes that the ulcers might increase in his vicinity, So that he might acquire from them both profits and praises.
Here are some wounds: bring your medication so that it might shine in me, Because it is very beautiful to you when you heal the stricken ones. You do not look for a fee, Lord, so that it might be returned to you, For what did the prostitute give when you loved her?
She offered oil and tears alone when you healed her. Your promise wiped out a great wound with a meagre payment. The river of fire that was threatening the defiled woman, in a drop of tears that she sprinkled on it, she quenched it. The negligible water that the eyes of this woman, full of blemishes, poured forth, Fell upon the flood of flame and stopped it.
I will speak of her whose story is loved by members of her rank, for when they listen it will sprinkle hope on their infirmities. The homily is received by the penitent, who will heed it, For they also thirst for forgiveness as she did.
Let no one abandon the great door of repentance, Because even the prostitute, when she knocked on it, received salvation. Let whoever sins come not close to losing hope, But let him be bold like the prostitute, and then he will be pardoned.
Whoever repents, if he sins again, he should once more make supplication, For there is no limit or special time for repentance. If he is soiled ten thousand times, he can be purified. And however often he falls, he can stand up again if he tries hard.
If one sins and returns to supplicate, then he will be received, Because there is not a time when the door to repentance is closed. Even if my brother goes astray seventy-seven times, I will forgive him. How much more will the Merciful One forgive the one who seeks him?
[Memra on the Sinful Woman, Mar Jacob of Serugh]
You who have begun this course, in which the shining ones are all running, do not shrink back at the beginning when your intellect strives to penetrate within you but cannot, so you turn backwards and flee for relief in distraction outside of yourself. Those that are against you know that through asceticism you defy their knowledge, frustrate their devices and check their pride. You have begun, and they are pouring forth into your unpractised mind hardship, depression, gloominess, darkness and suffocation of soul, until they make the mystical fountain of all mysteries loathsome in your eyes.
Yet if you persevere in afflictions at your heart’s door and endure when you fix your gaze, even if there is no rest or repose, only adversity, you will call upon the Mercy of him who said: Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God (Mat 5.8), as long as you do not regard your labour in vain. He gives light to the blind: the sun of joys rises within you and draws you upwards in release of everything. And who will draw away from him? Not the angels, when it is better that you should be with their Lord within yourself than with them in Heaven.
Here I have set down before those who are weak like myself, now standing outside the mystical door of light, how they should seek it. He who seeks diligently shall find, but he who is negligent will continue blindly in darkness, in that he separates himself from the Light, the Life and the Truth, which is Christ; to whom be praise from all, and grace to him from all be prolonged in the directing of those who love him. Amen.
[John of Dalyatha, Discourse 17]
Come, you discerning, let us delight today in the teaching, whose taste is sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.
The Church in the world is a great harbour, full of peace; whoever toils, let him come in and rest at her table. Her doors are open, and her eye is good, and her heart is wide. Her table is full, and sweet is her mingled (cup) to them that are worthy. You lovers of the world, come in from wandering in the evil world, and rest in the inn that is full of comfort to him that enters it. You weary labourer, that strives to enrich yourself by vexatious toilings, why do you run after riches that cannot be held fast? O you rich, that go astray with your riches, possess God, and hate the wealth that after a little while shall not be yours. O you unquiet soul, that cleaves after gold, woe to you for that which spends you with your toiling after it! O you that are greedy of mammon, incline your ear hear, and cast from you that grievous load which does not profit you.
Come to prayer, and bring with you your whole self. Let not your mind remain in the market about your business. If you are here, let also your inner man be here within the doors of the crowned (bride). Why is your thought gone forth and distracted after affairs, so that when you art here you art not here, but there? Outside amid the markets your mind is wandering, (taken up) with reckonings and profits; fetch it, that it may come in and ask for its Life. Stand not with one half of you within and one half without, lest when you are divided your prayer lose itself between the two parts. Stand at prayer a united and complete and true man, and all whatever you ask you can obtain from God. Why are you impatient to be off when He has not given to you? Stay long and knock at the Physician, and beseech Him, and bring the tears of repentance and besprinkle His doorstep; entreat much; and if for love He does not give to you, yet to persistence He will not be able to deny all her requests. Be insistent at the Physician’s door, and give not over; for if you be backward He will not bind you up. Why do you stand still? Persistence knows how to obtain mercy of Him; and unless He give to her she will not suffer Him to depart.
O you penitent, be insistent; and whatever you ask, you shall receive from the Giver of all things good. Why art you impatient to be gone about your business? Why are you disquieted to depart and go about your affairs? Why do you run after the world which may not be kept fast? Why have you spent your days in vanity? Why are the hours of the Church esteemed by you as idleness? Why is the service not accounted by you as a banquet? Why are you diligent when you do your own work, but here remiss and cold and slack in asking?
Mercy has brought you into this house that is full of profit; think it not loss if you remain here long. Be patient and listen to the sound of the Psalms which the finger of prophecy played to the words of David. Hearken to the Hymns sung by chaste women with voices of praise, which the wisdom of the Highest has given to the congregations. Hear the Prophets who, as it were through pipes of choice gold, pour forth from their mouths life into the ears of men. Hearken to the Apostles who, like the channels of rivers, arc opened and water the King’s garden with lofty streams. Bend your ear to the pulpit of the Godhead, and receive from it precious pearls. Learn and give assent to the (two) Testaments, rivers both which hold for you life unending. Hear the New, and hearken to the Old; and see that in both one truth is spoken unto you. Lo, you hear from the Old of the four rivers which flowed from the blessed source of Eden; and again in the New (you have) the Apostles like four rivers, who went forth into the four corners (of the world) and watered them.
Life flows from the service of the house of God; you lovers of life, refuse not the profit that comes from there. The soul of man is receptive of impressions and in whatsoever she meditates, she is dyed withal and becomes (the colour) of the same. When she hears the dirges of the wailing women, she overflows with grief and pours out tears over the departed; and when again she hears the songs and jests of the actors she waxes wanton, that with a loud voice she may pour forth laughter. When she hears evil reports, dread comes upon her; but if she hears good tidings, she is glad. And every wind that blows towards her moves her; and in whatsoever direction it be, each time she turns. When, then, she hears the sound of the service of God’s house, spiritually she is moved with love towards God; and as it were she despises the evil world and its affairs, and comes in and mingles with these godly meditations; and she cleaves to and loves that spiritual conversation. She scorns the world and its affairs and its doings; and she is steeped in these voices of holiness, and all carnal thoughts depart from her. And the soul scorns the love of the world and its pleasures, and thoughts of wantonness and remissness. And when she hears these voices that are sung to her, she is chaste and lowly and full of hope and moderation. Therefore it is right that he who enters in to give himself to prayer should be long in God’s house.
[On the Reception of the Holy Mysteries, Mar Jacob of Serugh]