Walk the royal road – Abba Benjamin

Abba Benjamin said, “Walk the royal road and count the miles, and you will not be tired.”

[Apophthegmata Patrum]

Why do I not understand glorious mysteries? – The Spiritual Elder

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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]

Who pays your wages at the sunset of your parting? – The Spiritual Elder

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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]

You who have begun do not shrink back – The Spiritual Elder

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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]

Love covers a multitude of sins – Abba Poemen

[On this day, the Church commemorates the departure of the great Abba Poemen, a shining star of the wilderness. This Father is the most heavily quoted in the Apophthegmata, his intercessions be with us all].

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Some old men came to Abba Poemen and said to him, “When we see brothers who are dozing at the synaxis (services), shall we rouse them so they will be watchful?” He said to them, “For my part when I see a brother dozing, I put his head on my knees and let him rest.”

[Abba Poemen, Apophthegmata Patrum]

Without You I am a stranger to everything – The Spiritual Elder

Coptic monk praying in original cave of St. Anthony.

O You who wept and shed tears of sorrow over Lazarus, receive my bitter tears; may my passions be allayed by Your Passion; may my wounds be healed by Your wounds, my blood be blended with Your Blood, and the lifegiving fragrance of Your Holy Body be mingled with my body. May the bitter drink that was given to You by your enemies soothe my soul, which has been made to drink wormwood by the evil one. May Your Body, which was stretched out on the tree, expand my mind to You, which has been shrunk by the demons. May Your head bent on the cross lift up my head, which has been buffeted by impure men. May Your pure hands, which were transfixed with nails by unbelievers, draw me up to You from the abyss of evil, as your mouth has promised. May Your face, which has received the shameful spitting of accursed men, cleanse my face, which has become odious through it’s sins. May Your soul, with you did commit to the Your Father on the cross, bring me to You by Your grace.

I have no tears of supplication, Lord; I have no contrite heart for seeking You; I have not the repentance and compunction that turns sons back to their inheritance; my intellect is darkened through the things of this world and has not the strength to lift its gaze towards You with moaning; my heart has grown cold through a multitude of evils and cannot become warm through tears of love. O Christ, treasure of all goodly things, grant me perfect repentance and an aching heart that comes out in love to seek You. Without You I am a stranger to everything; grant me, O Good One, Your Grace. May the Father who begot You, from his bosom where You were concealed from eternity, renew in me the features of Your likeness.

Though I have forsaken You, do not forsake me; though I have abandoned You and gone away from You, come out to seek me and restore me to Your fold; add me to the dear lambs of Your flock, and feed me with them in the pasture of Your Holy Mysteries, whose source is a pure heart wherein is seen the light of your revelations; that is the repose of the toilers who labour to that end through sufferings and torment of every kind. Our Saviour, may we all be counted worthy of it through Your gracious loving-kindness.

[John of Dalyatha, Discourse 4]

Repentance comes before gifts, lean not on your own understanding – Abba Isaiah

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Do not seek the sublime gifts of God while still praying to Him for help in order that He may come and save you from sin, for, if the place of the heart is undefiled and pure, the divine gifts come of themselves. Whoever depends on his own knowledge but still possesses his own will gains only hatred, and those who hear sorrow in their heart simply cannot be of the Spirit. Whoever considers the words of Scriptures and practices them according to his own knowledge, thinking intently to himself that this is how reality is, is ignorant of God’s glory and wealth. Whereas one who considers them and says, “I do not know what they mean, for I am human,” offers glory to God. In this person the wealth of God abides in accordance with his capacity and understanding.

[Abba Isaiah of Scetis, Discourse 6]