Thought for the day

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From Makarios of Egypt:

He who wants to be an imitator of Christ, so that he too may be called a son of God, born of the Spirit, must above all bear courageously and patiently the afflictions he encounters, whether these be bodily illnesses, slander and vilification from men, or attacks from the unseen spirits. God in His providence allows souls to be tested by various afflictions of this kind, so that it may be revealed which of them truly loves Him.

All the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and martyrs from the beginning of time traversed none other than this narrow road of trial and affliction, and it was by doing this that they fulfilled God’s will.

“My son,” says Scripture, “if you come to serve the Lord, prepare you soul for trial, set your heart straight, and patiently endure” (Ecclus. 2:1-2). And elsewhere it is said: :Accept everything that comes as good, knowing that nothing occurs without God willing it.” (Didache iii, 10)

Thus the soul that wishes to do God’s will must strive above all to acquire patient endurance and hope. For one of the tricks of the devil is to make us listless at times of affliction, so that we give up our hope in the Lord. God never allows a soul that hopes in HIm to be so oppressed that it is put to utter confusion.

As Paul writes, “God is to be trusted not to let us be tried beyond our strength, but with the trial He will provide a way out, so that we are able to bear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13).

The devil harasses the soul not as much as he wants but as much as God allows him to. Men know what burden may be placed on a mule, what on a donkey, and what on a camel, and load each beast accordingly; and the potter knows how long he must leave the pots in the fire, so that they are not cracked by staying in it too long or rendered useless by being taken out of it before they are properly fired. If human understanding extends this far, must not God be much more aware, infinitely more aware, of the degree of trial it is right to impose on each soul, so that it becomes tried and true, fit for the Kingdom of heaven.

and this…

He who wants to enter the strong man’s house through the narrow gate and to make off with his goods (cf. Mt. 7:1;12:29) must not surrender to luxury and obesity, but must strengthen himself in the Holy Spirit, having in mind the phrase, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God’ (1 Cor. 15:50). But how should he strengthen himself in the Spirit? He should heed the words of Paul, that God’s wisdom is regarded as foolishness by men (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23), as well as those of Isaiah, that he had seen the son of man, and His form was despised, and He was forsaken by all the sons of men (cf. Isa 53:3).

Thus he who wants to be a son of God must first humble himself in the same way and be regarded as foolish and despicable, not turning his face aside when spat upon (Isa 50:6), not pursuing the glory and beauty of this world or anything of this kind, not having anywhere to lay his head (Mt. 8:20), vilified, mocked, downtrodden, regarded as all as an object of contempt, attacked, invisibly and visibly, yet resisting in his mind. It is then that the Son of God, who said, “I will dwell and walk among you” (Lev. 26:12), will become manifest in his heart, and he will receive power and strength so that he can tie the strong man up and make off with his goods (cf. Mt 12:29), and tread upon asp and basilisk (cf. Ps 91:13), snakes and scorpions (Luke 10:19).

along with this…

No little struggle is required of us to break through death. Christ says: “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21); but he who fights against us and takes us captive also finds some way of being within us. The soul, therefore, must not rest until it has killed him who takes it prisoner. Then all pain, sorrow, and sighing will flee away (Is. 35:10), because water has sprung up in thirsty earth (Is. 43:20) and the desert has become full of waters (Is. 41:18).

For He has promised to fill the barren heart with living water, speaking first through the prophet Isaiah, saying: “I will give water to those who are thirsty and who walk through dry land” (Is. 44:3); and then through Himself, with the words: “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again” (John 4:14).

Finally, this one:

The soul overcome by listlessness is manifestly also possessed by lack of faith. It is on account of this that it lets day after day go by without heeding the Gospels. Not paying attention to the inner warfare, it is taken captive by conceit and frequently elated by dreams. Conceit blinds the soul, not letting it perceive its own weakness.

“Not paying attention” does not necessarily mean “not perceiving”. We may be quite aware of the inner warfare, but not paying attention when we do not actively respond to the inner warfare. Also, conceit isn’t necessarily feeling oneself is grand. It is an inordinate focus on self. It can be pride, but it can also be found in a curious embracing of our own difficult circumstances, letting our frustrations get into our soul, and finding perverted comfort in even this negative situation, because if we cannot feel victorious at least we can feel something.

God however is wanting our victory, knowing that such victory is more often than not accomplished by landing on the beach and advancing in the face of overwhelming enemy fire. We want our Christianity to be a cruise ship, when in reality we have embarked on the journey of the higgins boat.

All the first quotes to suggest that when we find the last quote defining our present reality, it behooves us to get back to the fight, slogging when walking is difficult, walking when running is hard, running when we feel the strength of the Spirit coursing through our being.

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