The winter is past, the rain is over and gone

At Vespers for the Feast of St Ephrem the Syrian (January 28). Source.

WHEN thou hadst beheld, as in a mirror (2 Cor 3:18), the beautiful things of Paradise, and delighted abundantly in its unspoiled meadows, thou madest the knowledge of God to blossom in the world; and when we partake of it, through the spiritual disposition of our souls, we bloom again in spirit.

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Fuchsia 'Deep Purple' glistening with raindrops. © Jonathan Billinger, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

Fuchsia ‘Deep Purple’ glistening with raindrops. © Jonathan Billinger, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

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Song of Songs 2:10-13.

MY beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

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Frédéric Chopin, Prelude No. 5 (“Raindrop”).
Played by Hélène Grimaud.

She seemed to love you, and you loved her in return

Jane Austen (1775-1817), the 'Rice Portrait'.

Jane Austen (1775-1817), the ‘Rice Portrait’. Though disputed, the portrait closely matches her nephew’s description of her: “a clear brunette with a rich colour; she had full round cheeks, with mouth and nose small and well formed, bright hazel eyes, and brown hair forming natural curls close round her face”.

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AS a very little girl I was always creeping up to aunt Jane, and following her whenever I could, in the house and out of it. I might not have remembered this but for the recollection of my mother’s telling me privately, that I must not be troublesome to my aunt. Her first charm to children was great sweetness of manner. She seemed to love you, and you loved her in return.

Said of Jane Austen (1775-1817) by one of her nieces. Source.

See also Be Like Children by Fr Alexander Schmemann.

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HEREIN is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 John 4:10.

Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

Mark 10:15.

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Schumann, Kinderszenen (‘scenes from childhood’) No. 7
Played by Lang Lang.

St Peter of Damascus: Because of your hope God will act lovingly towards you

FOR a righteous man will fall seven times, and rise again: but the ungodly shall be without strength in troubles.

Proverbs 24:16 (LXX).

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IT is always possible to make a new start by means of repentance. ‘You fell,’ it is written, ‘now arise’ (cf. Prov. 24:16).

And if you fall again, then rise again, without despairing at all of your salvation, no matter what happens. So long as you do not surrender yourself willingly to the enemy, your patient endurance, combined with self-reproach, will suffice for your salvation. ‘For at one time we ourselves went astray in our folly and disobedience’, says St Paul. ‘… Yet He saved us, not because of any good things we had done, but in His mercy’ (Titus 3:3, 5).

So do not despair in any way, ignoring God’s help, for He can do whatever He wishes. On the contrary, place your hope in Him and He will do one of these things: either through trials and temptations, or in some other way which He alone knows. He will bring about your restoration; or He will accept your patient endurance and humility in the place of works; or because of your hope He will act lovingly towards you in some other way of which you are not aware, and so will save your shackled soul.

St Peter of Damascus (12th century), in his ‘Treasury of Divine Knowledge’, in the Philokalia.

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Whillan Beck, Boot, Cumbria. © Peter Trimming, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

“Dry up the running streams of my evils, O pure lady, by the rains of thy intercessions.” Whillan Beck, Boot, Cumbria. © Peter Trimming, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

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MOST holy Theotokos, save us.

O VIRGIN, who hast such beauty, in whom God’s light shineth, make me bright, make me beautiful in all manner of good things, that I might cry out: Praise the Lord and exalt him to all the ages.

Gate of light, open unto me the shining gate of repentance, revealing to me every straight path of righteousness which leadeth unto the doors of the divine will.

Most holy, pure lady, thou didst bear beyond telling the holy Word who sanctifieth the faithful; beseech him, that he make my lowly soul all holy now, for it is stained with evil.

A clear running river, a spring of incorruption, came forth from thee, holy lady; therefore I cry to thee: dry up the running streams of my evils, O pure lady, by the rains of thy intercessions.

At Matins on Wednesdays of the Plagal of the First Tone. Source.

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Holy God, holy strong, holy immortal, have mercy upon us.

To the island that lies beyond the world

LOVE is the kingdom of which our Lord spoke symbolically when he promised his disciples that they would eat in his kingdom: ʻYou shall eat and drink at the table of my kingdom.ʼ What should they eat, if not love? … When we have reached love, we have reached God and our way is ended: we have passed over to the island that lies beyond the world, where is the Father with the Son and the Holy Spirit: to whom be glory and dominion.

St Isaac the Syrian.

Bardsey Island from Braich y Pwll. © Kevin Davies, Geograph. Used under licence. Click for original.

“The land of absolution and pardon, the road to Heaven, and the gate to Paradise.” Bardsey Island in Wales, a place of pilgrimage in the fifth and sixth centuries, from Braich y Pwll. © Kevin Davies, Geograph. Used under licence. Click for original.

NOW I did not walk along as before, filled with care. The invocation of the Name of Jesus gladdened my way. Everybody was kind to me, it was as though everyone loved me. … If anyone harms me I have only to think, ʻHow sweet is the Prayer of Jesus!ʼ and the injury and the anger alike pass away and I forget it all.

The Way Of The Pilgrim.

HE who has the Kingdom of God within himself will imperceptibly pass it on to others. People will be attracted to the peace and warmth in us; they will want to hear us, and the atmosphere of heaven will gradually pass on to them.

Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica.

THE Invocation of the Name, practised aright, involves each one more deeply in his or her appointed task, making each more efficient in his actions, not cutting him off from others but linking him to them, rendering him sensitive to their fears and anxieties in a way that he never was before. The Jesus Prayer makes each into a ʻman for othersʼ, a living instrument of Godʼs peace, a dynamic centre of reconciliation.

Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia.

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GOD is love.

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us.

1 John 4:8-10.

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LOVE came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

Christina Rossetti.

A love letter from God

An icon of the return of the prodigal son

“His father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)

This was in Briefing News yesterday.

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MY child.

You may not know me, but I know everything about you. Ps 139:1 [Hebrew numbering]
I know when you are sitting down, and when you are standing up. v2
I know every step you take. v3
Even the hairs of your head are numbered. Mt 10:29-31
Because you were made in my image. Gen 1:27
In me you live, move, and have your being. Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were formed in your mother’s womb. Jer 1:4-5
I chose you when I planned creation. Eph 1:4-6
You were not a mistake. All your days are written in my book. Ps 139:16
I set the precise time of your birth, and where you were to live. Acts 17:26

Because you were fearfully and wonderfully made. I formed you in the womb of your mother. Ps 139:13-16
And it was I who brought you into the world on the day you that were born. Ps 71:6
People who do not know me have been misrepresenting me. Jn 8:41-44
I am not distant and angry, but am the absolute expression of love. 1 Jn 4:16

And it is my desire to overwhelm you with my love. 1 Jn 3:1
Simply because you are my child, and I am your Father. 1 Jn 3:1
I offer you more than your fleshly father could ever offer you. Mt 7:11
I am the perfect Father. Mt 5: 48
Every good gift that you receive comes from my own hand. Jas 1:17

Because I am your breadwinner, and take care of all your needs. Mt 6:31-33
My plan for your future has always been filled with hope. Jer 29:11
Because I love you with a love that is eternal. Jer 31:3
My thoughts concerning you are innumerable as the grains of sand on the shore. Ps 139:17-18
And I am glad for you with songs. Zeph 3:17

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The sands on the west coast of the island of Iona, at one time Scotland’s Mount Athos. © Adam Ward, Geograph. Licensed for reuse.

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.” The sands on the west coast of the island of Iona, at one time Scotland’s Mount Athos. © Adam Ward, Geograph. Licensed for reuse.

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I will never stop doing good to you. Jer 32:40
For you are my treasured possession. Ex 19:5
I want to plant you firmly, with all my heart and all my soul. Jer 32:41
If you look for me with all your heart, you will find me. Dt 4:29
Look for your happiness in me, and I shall give you what your heart is longing for. Ps 37:4
Because I am the one who gave you those longings. Phil 2:13

I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine. Eph 3:20
Because I am your biggest supporter. 2 Thess 2:16-17
I am also the Father who comforts you in all your difficulties. 2 Cor 1:3-4
When you are in trouble, I am beside you. Ps 34:18
As a shepherd carries a lamb, I carry you close to my heart. Is 40:11
One day I will wipe every tear from your eyes. Rev 21:3-4
And I shall take far away all the pain you suffered on this earth. Rev 21:4

I am your Father, and I love you like I love my son, Jesus. Jn 17:23
Because in Jesus my love for you is revealed. Jn 17:26
And he came to prove that I am with you, and not against you. Rom 8:31
And to tell you that I am not keeping a running record of your sins. 2 Cor 5:18-19

Jesus died so that you and I might be reconciled. 2 Cor 5:18-19
His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you. 1 Jn 4:10
I gave up what I loved most, so that I might win your love. Rom 8:32
If you accept the gift of my son Jesus, you are accepting me. 1 Jn 2:23
And nothing will ever separate you from my love. Rom 8:38-39

Come home, and I will throw the grandest party heaven has ever seen. Lk 15:7
I have always been Father, and I will always be Father. Eph 3:14-15
My question is: Will you be my child? Jn 1:12-13
I am waiting for you. Lk 15:11-32

With love, your Father
Almighty God.

Source. My emphases are not all the same as in the original.

Elder Thaddaeus: We must give ourselves up to good thoughts and desires

HOW long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

Psalm 12(13):2, 5-6 (NIV).

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THE thoughts that we give ourselves up to define our life.

We must learn to control our thoughts so that we can order them.

Elder Thaddaeus of Vitovnica

Elder Thaddaeus of Vitovnica

We must give ourselves up to good thoughts and desires for our benefit and then we, our families and others will experience harmony, for, wherever we may be, we will give out quiet and peaceful thoughts, which are full of good.

Even the slightest thought that is not founded on love destroys peace.

There is only one giver of life, peace and joy – God.

Elder Thaddaeus of Vitovnica. These sayings are among a hundred collected in his book “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives”.

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SAVE me, pure mother of the Truth, I am buffeted fearfully by the heavy seas of the passions, and continually thrust into the depths; and set my course towards the calm harbour of salvation.

At Matins on Tuesdays of the Plagal of the Fourth Tone. Source.

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DISPASSION is achieved when all three aspects of the soul (i.e., the intelligent, appetivite, and incensive aspects) are directed towards God.

It is the transfiguration of the passionate aspect of the soul (i.e., the aspect of the soul which is more vulnerable to passion, namely, the appetitive and incensive aspects), rather than its mortification.

Thus dispassion in this context does not signify a stoic indifference, but rather, a transfiguration and sanctification of the powers of the soul and eventually of the body also.

Monastic Wisdom, p. 397.

**

STEER my thoughts, O all holy Lady, towards the calm harbour of thy dispassion and cleanness.

At Matins on November 27. Source.

The unspeakable heights of love

TODAY is the feast day of St Clement, Bishop of Rome in the AD 90s, and of St Peter, Archbishop of Alexandria, who was martyred in 312.

Peter was one of the very few to guess what damage would later be done by a priest of Alexandria named Arius, using popular songs to promote his belief that the Logos or Word of God was simply the first of God’s creatures. It was this that precipitated the Council of Nicaea in 325. 

Arius, like the heretics who followed him from Apollinarius to Nestorius, struggled with the idea that God could be so closely tied into his fallen creation as to become incarnate in the womb of a woman.

He thought he was honouring God’s glory; in fact, he was underestimating his love.

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TODAY, he hangeth upon a tree, who hung the earth upon the waters (thrice). Α crown of thorns is set upon him, who is king of the angels. He is clothed in mocking purple, who hath clothed the heavens in cloud. He suffereth himself to be struck, who in the Jordan set Adam free. He is pierced through with nails, who is the Bridegroom of the Church. He is pierced by a lance, who is the son of the Virgin. We worship thy Passion of Christ (thrice). Show unto us thy glorious resurrection.

Source.

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WHO can describe the bond of the love of God?

What man is able to tell the excellence of its beauty, as it ought to be told?

The height to which love exalts is unspeakable.

Love unites us to God. …

In love has the Lord taken us to Himself.

On account of the Love he bore us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave His blood for us by the will of God; His flesh for our flesh, and His soul for our souls.

St Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, 49. Source.

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TO our wonder, the ewe-lamb without blemish, the bridal chamber without stain, Mary the Theotokos, enters with gladness into the House of God; the angels of God accompany her in bright array, and all the faithful bless her for ever, and in thankfulness chant unceasingly with this great cry: Thou, all immaculate Lady, thou art our glory, and our salvation.

From Matins today. Source.