CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE FOUR HUNDRED CHAPTERS ON LOVE (Part II)
by Saint Maximus the Confessor
- The one who truly loves God also prays completely undistracted, and the one who prays completely undistracted also truly loves God. But the one who has his mind fixed on any earthly thing does not pray undistracted; therefore the one who has his mind tied to any earthly thing does not love God.
- The mind which dallies on a thing of sense certainly has some passion about it, such as desire or sorrow or anger or resentment; and unless he disdains the thing he cannot be freed from that passion.
- When the passions hold sway over a mind they bind it together with material things, and separating it from God make it to be all-engrossed in them. But when love of God is in control, it releases it from the bonds and persuades it to think beyond not only things of sense but even this transient life of ours.
- The purpose of the Commandments is to make simple the thoughts of things; the purpose of reading and contemplation is to render the mind clear of any matter or form; from this ensues undistracted prayer.
- The active way does not suffice by itself for the perfect liberation of the mind from the passions to allow it to pray undistracted unless various spiritual contemplations also relieve it. The former frees the mind only from incontinence and hatred while the latter rids it also of forgetfulness and ignorance, and in this way it will be able to pray as it ought.
- There are two supreme states of pure prayer, one corresponding to those of the active life, the other to the contemplatives. The first arises in the soul from the fear of God and an upright hope, the second from divine desire and total purification. The marks of the first type are the drawing of one's mind away from all the world's considerations, and as God is present to one, as indeed He is, he makes his prayers without distraction or disturbance. The marks of the second type are that at the very onset of prayer the mind is taken hold of by the Divine and infinite Light and is conscious neither of itself nor of any other being whatever except of Him Who through love bring about such brightness in it. Then, when it is concerned with the properties of God, it receives impressions of Him which are clear and distinct.
- What anyone loves he surely holds on to, and looks down on everything that hinders his way to it so as not to be deprived of it. And the one who loves God cultivates pure prayer and throws off from himself every passion which hinders him.
- The one who throws off self-love, the mother of the passions, will very easily with God's help put aside the others, such as anger, grief, grudges, and so on. But whoever is under the control of the former is wounded, even though unwillingly, by the latter. Self-love is the passion for the body.
- One account of these five reasons men love one another whether to their praise or blame for God's sake, as when the virtuous person loves everyone and the one not yet virtuous loves the virtuous person, or for natural reasons, as parents love their children and vice versa; or out of vainglory, as the one who is honored loves the one who honors him; or for greed, as the one who loves a rich man for what he can get; or for the love of pleasure, as the one who is a servant of his belly or genitals. The first of these is praiseworthy, the second is neutral, and the rest belong to the passions.
- If you hate some people and some you neither love nor hate, while others you love only moderately and still others you love very much, know from this inequality that you are far from perfect love, which lays down that you must love everyone equally.
- "Decline from evil and do good." That is, do battle with your enemy to diminish the passions, then keep sober lest they increase. Or again, do battle to acquire virtues, and then remain watchful in order to guard them. This is also what is meant by "working" and "keeping."
- Those who tempt us with God's permission either arouse the lusts of our soul or stir up our temper or darken our reason, or encompass the body with pain, or plunder our material goods.
- Either the demons tempt us themselves or they equip those who do not fear the Lord against us: themselves, when we are alone, away from others, just as they tempted the Lord in the desert; through others, when we associate with them, as they tempted the Lord through the Pharisees. It is for us to look to our model and beat them back on both fronts.
- When the mind begins to make progress in the love of God, the demon of blasphemy begins to tempt him and suggest to him such thoughts as no man but only the devil their father could invent. He does this out of envy for the friend of God, that coming to despair at having such thoughts he no longer dares to approach God in his usual prayer. Nevertheless, the accursed one derives no profit from his plan but rather makes us more steadfast. For engaging in offensive and defensive battle, we become more proven and more sincere in the love of God. "May his sword pierce his heart and may his bows be shattered."
- In applying itself to visible things the mind knows them in accordance with nature through the medium of the senses, so that neither is the mind evil, nor is natural knowledge, nor the things, nor the senses, for these are all works of God. What then is evil? Evidently it is the passions of the natural representation, which does not have to exist in our use of representation if the mind is watchful.
- Passion is a movement of the soul contrary to nature either toward irrational love or senseless hate of something or on account of something material. For example, toward irrational love of food, or a woman, or wealth, or passing glory or any other material thing or on their account. Or else it can be toward a senseless hate of any of the preceding things we spoke of, or on account of any one.
- Or again, vice is the mistaken use of ideas from which follows the abuse of things. For example, in what concerns a woman, the proper use of intercourse is its purpose of procreation. So the one who concentrates on the pleasure is in error as to its use by considering as good what is not good. The same holds true for other objects and representations.
- When the demons have banished chastity, from your mind and surrounded you with thoughts of fornication, then say to the Master with tears, "They have banished me and now they have surrounded me; my joy, deliver me from those who surround me." And you will be safe.
- The demon of fornication is oppressive, and he violently attacks those who contend against passion. Especially does he do this in their careless living and in their contact with women. For imperceptibly in the softness of pleasure he steals upon the mind and then assails it through the memory when it is in quiet. He inflames the body and presents various forms to the mind to provoke its consent to the sin. If you do not want these things to remain in you, take up fasting and hard work and vigils and blessed solitude with assiduous prayer.
- Those who are ever seeking our soul do so through passionate thoughts in order to involve it in some sin of thought or deed. When therefore they find that the mind is not receptive, then they will be put to shame and confusion; and when they find it devoted to spiritual contemplation, then they will be quickly turned back and disgraced.
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God