Tag Archives: St. John Climacus

The Aquisition of the Holy Spirit – Step One: The Break with the World


The Break with the World:

Step 1: Renunciation

A friend of God is one who lives in communion with all that is natural and free from sin and who does not neglect to do what good he can. The self-controlled man strives with all his might amidst the trials, the snares, the noise of the world, to be like someone who rises above them.” St. John of the Ladder

Every Christian is called to a life of renunciation: ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it’ (Luke 9:23–24).

What we seek is what we once were, something we all know and have tasted: innocence… Thus St. John tells novices of the monastic life to look to infants as their example… ‘Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt. 18:3).”

Thirty Steps to Heaven, Vassilious Papavassiliou

“Do whatever you may. Speak evil of no one. Rob no one. Tell no lie. Despise no one and carrying no hate. Do not separate yourself from the church assemblies. Show compassion to the needy. Do not be a cause of scandal to anyone. Stay away from the bed of another, and be satisfied with what your own wives can provide you. If you do all this you will not be far from the kingdom of heaven.”

Those who enter this contest must renounce all things, despise all things, deride all things, and shake off all things, that, they may lay a firm foundation. A good foundation of three layers and three pillars is innocence, fasting and temperance. Let all babes in Christ begin with these virtues taking in their model natural babes. For you never find in them anything sly or deceitful.” St. John

“Christians renounce the world by living for something other than the world. By living thus, we become the light of the world.”

Thirty Steps to Heaven, Vassilious Papavassiliou

How does this step apply to our tendency to judge others? This month as part of my renunciation of the world I am going to be using the Apostles Fast to help me refrain from judging. I think this is one of the key ways in which I lose my footing and the grace of God, judging. I am not meek and lowly of heart or as a little child when I judge others or myself. There is an entire step of the Ladder devoted to slander or judgment, which we will delve into in a future podcast. For now let us look at how judging is worldly. What are the results of our judgments? Can we begin to renounce our judgments?

“For the guarding of peace of soul, it is also necessary to flee from judging others. By non-judgment and silence, peace of soul is preserved.” St. Seraphim of Sarov

My next podcast will be about Step 2 – Detachment.

Finally here is a wonderful passage about the difference between the spirit of this world and the Spirit of God:

‘Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God.’

(1 Cor. 2:12)

“The spirit of this world, my brethren, is the spirit of pride and brutality. The Spirit of God is a spirit of meekness and grace. God’s Apostle emphasizes that Christ’s followers have not received the spirit of this world but the spirit which is of God; that is, which proceeds from God the Father like a refreshing fragrance from flowers, flowing through the soul of a man, making it strong, radiant, peaceful, thankful and gentle.

Men are by nature good and gentle, Tertullian writes: ‘the soul of man is Christian by nature’, but is excited and enraged by the spirit of this world. The spirit of this world makes sheep and wolves, while the Spirit of God makes wolves into sheep.

The apostle adds that, ‘we have received the Spirit of God in order to know the things that are freely given to us of God’, that we might see, then, what is of God and what is not, and that we might feel the sweetness of that which is of God and the bitterness of that which is not of Him but of the spirit of this world. While man is outside his own nature, he finds the bitter sweet and the sweet bitter. But when by the Spirit of God, he returns to his true nature, he tastes as sweet as sweet and bitter as bitter.

Who can turn a man back to God? Who can heal a man of the poison of sinful bitterness? Who can teach him by experience to differentiate true sweetness from bitterness? No-one other than the Spirit, which is of God.

Therefore, we pray, my brethren, that God will give us His Holy Spirit, as He gave Him to his Apostles and saints. And when that Holy Spirit comes and abides in us, the kingdom of God has come to us, in which we are all sweetness, goodness, light, meekness and grace.

O Holy Spirit, thou Spirit of meekness and grace, come and abide in us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.”

St. Nicholai Velomirovic, The Prologue, May 20

Come and abide in us indeed!

Have a blessed start to the Apostles Fast!

A friend of God is one who lives in communion with all that is natural and free from sin and who does not neglect to do what good he can. The self-controlled man strives with all his might amidst the trials, the snares, the noise of the world, to be like someone who rises above them.” St. John of the Ladder

Every Christian is called to a life of renunciation: ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it’ (Luke 9:23–24).

What we seek is what we once were, something we all know and have tasted: innocence… Thus St. John tells novices of the monastic life to look to infants as their example… ‘Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt. 18:3).”

Thirty Steps to Heaven, Vassilious Papavassiliou

“Do whatever you may. Speak evil of no one. Rob no one. Tell no lie. Despise no one and carrying no hate. Do not separate yourself from the church assemblies. Show compassion to the needy. Do not be a cause of scandal to anyone. Stay away from the bed of another, and be satisfied with what your own wives can provide you. If you do all this you will not be far from the kingdom of heaven.”

Those who enter this contest must renounce all things, despise all things, deride all things, and shake off all things, that, they may lay a firm foundation. A good foundation of three layers and three pillars is innocence, fasting and temperance. Let all babes in Christ begin with these virtues taking in their model natural babes. For you never find in them anything sly or deceitful.” St. John

“Christians renounce the world by living for something other than the world. By living thus, we become the light of the world.”

Thirty Steps to Heaven, Vassilious Papavassiliou

How does this step apply to our tendency to judge others? This month as part of my renunciation of the world I am going to be using the Apostles Fast to help me refrain from judging. I think this is one of the key ways in which I lose my footing and the grace of God, judging. I am not meek and lowly of heart or as a little child when I judge others or myself. There is an entire step of the Ladder devoted to slander or judgment, which we will delve into in a future podcast. For now let us look at how judging is worldly. What are the results of our judgments? Can we begin to renounce our judgments?

“For the guarding of peace of soul, it is also necessary to flee from judging others. By non-judgment and silence, peace of soul is preserved.” St. Seraphim of Sarov

Finally here is a wonderful passage about the difference between the spirit of this world and the Spirit of God:

‘Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God.’

(1 Cor. 2:12)

“The spirit of this world, my brethren, is the spirit of pride and brutality. The Spirit of God is a spirit of meekness and grace. God’s Apostle emphasizes that Christ’s followers have not received the spirit of this world but the spirit which is of God; that is, which proceeds from God the Father like a refreshing fragrance from flowers, flowing through the soul of a man, making it strong, radiant, peaceful, thankful and gentle.

Men are by nature good and gentle, Tertullian writes: ‘the soul of man is Christian by nature’, but is excited and enraged by the spirit of this world. The spirit of this world makes sheep and wolves, while the Spirit of God makes wolves into sheep.

The apostle adds that, ‘we have received the Spirit of God in order to know the things that are freely given to us of God’, that we might see, then, what is of God and what is not, and that we might feel the sweetness of that which is of God and the bitterness of that which is not of Him but of the spirit of this world. While man is outside his own nature, he finds the bitter sweet and the sweet bitter. But when by the Spirit of God, he returns to his true nature, he tastes as sweet as sweet and bitter as bitter.

Who can turn a man back to God? Who can heal a man of the poison of sinful bitterness? Who can teach him by experience to differentiate true sweetness from bitterness? No-one other than the Spirit, which is of God.

Therefore, we pray, my brethren, that God will give us His Holy Spirit, as He gave Him to his Apostles and saints. And when that Holy Spirit comes and abides in us, the kingdom of God has come to us, in which we are all sweetness, goodness, light, meekness and grace.

O Holy Spirit, thou Spirit of meekness and grace, come and abide in us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.”

St. Nicholai Velomirovic, The Prologue, May 20

Come and abide in us indeed!

Have a blessed start to the Apostles Fast!

In Christ,

Veronica

Humility, airing May 21, Veronica’s next podcast on OCN


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Humility

Christ is Risen! In Truth He is Risen!

“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

(Mt. 18:4)

“How is it that the Saints never recognize their saintliness? Simply put: they see themselves in comparison to God. The sinfulness they see in themselves is the truth, because before God, who is infinitely holy, infinitely perfect, they cannot escape the reality of their unholiness and imperfection. … Along with their repentance and contrition there is an indescribable joy, peace, gentleness, and love.” Thirty Steps to Heaven

My resources for this two podcast will be:

  • The Ladder of Divine Ascent, St. John Climacus
  • Thirty Steps to Heaven, The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life, Archmandrite Vassilious Papavassilios
  • Abba Dorotheos, Discourses and Sayings

Abba Dorotheos, Discourses and Sayings

“One of the fathers used to say, ‘Before anything else we need humility: being ready to listen whenever a word is spoken to us, and to say, ‘I submit’, because through humility every device of the enemy, every kind of obstacle, is destroyed.’ … The holy man wishes to show us that neither the fear of God, nor faith, nor self-control, nor anyone of the other virtues can set us right without humility.”

Being ready to listen – to obey – which was part of our last podcast. Humility and Obedience work hand in hand. We cannot practice one without the other.

St John Climacus

“Humility is not merely one of the virtues–it is the virtue that makes all others possible and that purifies our wills and motives…

If pride turned some of the angels into demons, then humility can doubtless make angels out of demons. So take heart, all you sinners.”

I do take heart! But what a struggle it has been for me, a first born baby boomer to understand what it means to be truly humble.

“There is a difference between being humble, striving for humility, and praising the humble.”

Certainly I have no trouble praising the humble!

Perhaps I am off base here, but I would say most of us are in the ‘striving to be humble’ category. We manage to be humble part of the time, but not all of the time.

“And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” Mt. 23:12

Let’s look at some concrete examples and helpful hints about the nature of humility:

  • Humility is constant forgetfulness of one’s achievementsIn theory I would like to be living this, but wanting recognition is so ingrained in me. I have even managed to get recognition in a humble way, but that is not humility. We are fulfilling God’s plan for us through acquiring humility, which is victory over our passions vs. worldly success.
  • The admission that in all the world, one is the least important and is also the greatest sinner…. I could not possibly be as bad as so and so that I just judged or gossiped about – oops! I failed again miserably to be humble and non-judgmental!
  • It is the mind’s awareness that one is weak and helpless…. How many of us want to be weak and helpless? Yet, when we are at our weakest points in life, is that not when we have the most profound sense that God is truly with us, carrying us through our struggles?
  • It is to forestall one’s neighbor at a contentious moment and to be the first to end a quarrel… When I feel hurt, wronged or that I am right, I have to fight to lower myself to the ground – hummus – the earth from which the word humility is derived.
  • The acknowledgment of divine grace and divine mercy… We give acknowledgment to God first. He is the source of everything good. The Jesus Prayer helps me with this one.
  • The disposition of a contrite soulseeing how my actions and thoughts effect or hurt others. Acknowledging my state of sin helps me to be contrite.
  • The abdication of one’s will… practicing being non-judgmental and obedient helps with this one.

“Humility is a grace in the soul and with a name known only to those who have experienced it.”

Grace does come to my soul when I manage to be humble – Glory to God! Thank you St. John!

“The monk got up and on the wall of his cell he wrote in sequence the names of the major virtues: perfect love, angelic humility, pure prayer, unassailable chastity, and others of a similar kind. The result was that whenever vainglorious thoughts began to puff him up, he would say: “Come let us go to be judged.” Going to the wall he read the names they there and would cry out to himself: “When you have every one of these virtues within you, then you will have an accurate sense of how far from God you still are.”

Here are some more helpful hints about humility, especially in prayer:

Thirty Steps to Heaven, the Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life

“This is why, in the services of the church, our prayers are always simple, modest, and spiritual in nature: we ask for mercy, forgiveness, guidance, deliverance, and salvation.”

Prayer is the means God gave us to be in communication with Him – to give ourselves to Him in prayer. Prayer is meant to be our offering to God – no strings attached! We cannot judge God if He does not answer us right away – He knows what is best for us and when to answer our prayers.

“We do not ask for wealth, success, the fulfillment of our wishes and ambitions. If we pray for the latter things, we are not really praying at all, at least not to the true God. Instead we are praying to the god of our imagination and ego–the god who gives me exactly what I want or may give me what I want if I do certain things to appease him. Those who truly know God do not pray that way.”

This form of prayer is taking from God and quite pagan.

 St John Climacus

“Who, or what, begets humility?” is God himself.

“And if I am moved to tears, it is because I acknowledge that I am what I am only because of His love, compassion, and holiness, and not by any virtue of my own.”

This is the quote I feel has the deepest meaning for me and captures the essence of humility. I have nothing to do with who I am except that I have lovingly turned my will towards God.

Abba Dorotheos, Discourses and Sayings

“This seems a strange thing, for humility alone is the opposite to vainglory, and it is from this, I suppose, that it guards a man… Humility is a great thing (as we keep on saying) and it is powerful to bring down grace to the soul.”

“Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” James 4:6

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.” James 4:10

Let us strive brothers and sisters in the Lord to humble ourselves and be obedient to our Lord who humbled Himself for our sakes and was obedient unto death– and we will feel the grace of the Resurrection even more deeply this Pascal season.

Christ is Risen! In Truth He is Risen!

Veronica Hughes

 

 

First of two podcast on Obedience and Humility, airing May 7th on OCN


Part I – Obedience

Christ is Risen! In Truth He is Risen!

 

 

 

 

 

When researching for this podcast I realized that I could not talk about humility without first speaking about obedience, for according to many of the Holy Fathers, from obedience comes humility.

“Obedience and humility go hand-in-hand. They feed and nourish one another. We cannot learn obedience without humility, and we cannot acquire humility without obedience. Together, these two virtues can take us to the very heights of spiritual perfection.”

Thirty Steps to Heaven, The Ladder of Divine Ascent for all walks of life

What does St. Paul say about this dynamic duo?

“And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross.” Phil. 2:8

In this season of rejoicing, let us reflect on the obedience and humility of Our Lord, which freed us from sin and death, which allowed us to be resurrected in Him.

The key to unlocking our regeneration is grace hinges on these two virtues, for grace will not come to us if either obedience or humility is missing.

My resources for this:

  • My Elder Joseph the Hesychast by Elder Ephraim
  • Thirty Steps to Heaven, The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life by Archmandrite Vassilious Papavassilios
  • The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus

The Fruits of Obedience

My Elder Joseph the Hesychast

“Francis (the future Elder Joseph) and Father Arsenios behaved like angels towards their elders. They prepared the food, clean the house, and did whatever was necessary with joy and love. In fact, they even try to foresee what the elders would need in order to please them more. They had so much reverence for those old monks that they were even more obedient to them than children to their real parents. For this is the true meaning of obedience: to remove your ego from the center of your soul and to place God and your elder there…

For many of us who do not have an elder, our elder come in the form of those around us– our daily obedience’s – to our spouses, parents, pastors, teachers and employers with joy and love.

…It was not long before they saw the fruits of their obedience. Because of their obedience, it was natural that they found great ease in prayer. In this way, Francis realized from his own experience why the holy Fathers praised holy obedience….

Isn’t that amazing! They found great ease in prayer due to their obedience! Elder Ephrim also commented that when he first became a novice he was quite ill with beginning stages of TB. He understood though that by keeping perfect obedience if he died he would go directly to heaven! Therefore, he was not concerned about dying.

…Ever since then, Francis held holy obedience as the foremost virtue. He emphasized no other virtue more than this one. In fact, he later wrote to someone: ‘Personally, I have never seen anything more comforting in my soul than perfect obedience.’…

When Papa–Ephraim was an old man, he recollected the good old days and said: ‘O, blessed obedience! What can I tell you? When I was under obedience, I had a special kind of grace, a different kind of prayer. It was as if I were flying, for prayer springs from obedience–not obedience from prayer. Be obedient for now, and later you will acquire grace.’…

…Elder Joseph told us: ‘When a person is obedient to an elder, it doesn’t matter if the command is wrong; it will turn out well for him simply because he is being obedient. It doesn’t matter who his elder is. What good did it do Judas that he had Christ? None! … What good did it do Adam, who was in paradise, and his ‘elder’ in a sense was God? None, because he was disobedient.”

“When Grace comes to a man, it makes him God. But when it departs from him, then he is ready to fall into every heresy, every delusion, every moral deviation, and even damnation. Everything is supported by the grace of God. But Grace also has its requirements before it will dwell in man. It seeks his good intentions, his willpower, and his struggle. Together with grace, man becomes an angel. Without grace, he deviates and becomes a demon.” St. John Climacus

I know this from experience with my husband and parents. In times of great stress – when I trusted in their instructions and followed them – when I was obedient to their wishes, in spite of my fears and thoughts, things worked out in a marvelous manner – far better than I could have imagined.

From Thirty Steps to Heaven, The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life

Step 4 – Obedience

“…The virtue of obedience is rooted not in fearful pragmatism, but in humility. True obedience, like true love, cannot be forced–it must be free. Obedience and humility go hand-in-hand. They feed and nourish one another. We cannot learn obedience without humility, and we cannot acquire humility without obedience. Together, these two virtues can take us to the very heights of spiritual perfection…

…From obedience comes humility… and from humility comes discernment. (St. John Cassian, Conference 2.)

Take courage from this. For few are able to do something as basic and simple as to obey, then you are already on your way to learning one of the greatest and highest virtues of all: humility. People may think obedience is for children. They are right! No one is as humble as a little child. Thus no one practices obedience better than infants. Let us remember what we said in chapter 1: Children are the greatest example of what God wants us to be…

Obedience to God

It may seem blindingly obvious, but we are obedient, above all, to God. And this is expressed not only in keeping his commandments, but also in the action of prayer. Only an obedient heart can truly pray, for the end of prayer is not speaking to God, but hearing and heeding what he is saying back to us. Furthermore only a humble person can really pray, because only when we are humble do we not rely wholly on our own judgments, actions, and capabilities….

The root of the word obedience come from French, obieir or Latin, oboedire: to hear or to listen to. It is only though our obedience – that we can eventually hear God in our heart.

…for the end of prayer is not speaking to God, but hearing and heeding what he is saying back to us.

…If our obedience is sincere, it bestows upon us the peace from above. If we practice it ungrudgingly (even if we do not like what we have been asked to do), we will find inner stillness and ‘the peace of God, which passes all understanding’. Phil. 4:7

Obedience in Marriage

Obedience is part and parcel not only of monastic life, but also of married life. Husband and wife are subject to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21). They are not to seek their own will, but must subject themselves to the will of the other, for they are no longer two independent individuals, but one flesh. No marriage can work if the two do not sacrifice their own wills in loving obedience.

How well I know this after 27 years of marriage to my dear, patient husband! Until we made being obedient to God our first priority, we could not become obedient to each other. Our prayer life has helped us to trust each other and to trust that we can place our obedience with love in each other if our trust is first in God. This came out of many struggles….

St. John Climacus

For obedience is entirely foreign to the hypocrisy and one’s own will.

Obedience is the tomb of the will and the resurrection of humility.

Stay tuned for our next podcast on humility…

Christ is Risen! In Truth He is Risen!

In Christ,

Veronica