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St Gregory of Sinai: Further Texts

1. Everyone baptized into Christ should pass progressively through all the stages of Christ's own life, for in baptism he receives the power so to progress, and through the commandments he can discover and leam how to accomplish such progression. To Christ's conception corresponds the foretaste of the gift of the Holy Spirit, to His nativity the actual experience of joyousness, to His baptism the cleansing force of the fire of the Spirit, to His transfiguration the contemplation of divine light, to His crucifixion the dying to all things, to His burial the indwelling of divine love in the heart, to His resurrection the soul's life-quickening resurrection, and to His ascension divine ecstasy and I the transport of the intellect into God. He who fails to pass consciously through these stages is still callow in body and spirit, even though he may be regarded by all as mature and accomplished in the practice of virtue.

2. Christ's Passion is a life-quickening death to those who have experienced all its phases, for by experiencing what He experienced we are glorified as He is (cf Rom. 8:17). But indulgence in sensual passions induces a truly lethal death. Willingly to experience what Christ experienced is to crucify cracifixion and to put death to death.

3. To suffer for Christ's sake is patiently to endure whatever happens to us. For the envy which the innocent provoke is for their benefit, while the Lord's schooling tests us so as to bring about our conversion, since it opens our ears when we are guilty. That is why the Lord has promised an eternal crown to those who endure in this manner (cf. Jas. 1:12). Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee, Holy Trinity; glory to Thee for all things.

On Passion-Imbued Change

4. Listlessness - a most difficult passion to overcome - makes the body sluggish. And when the body is sluggish, the soul also grows sluggish. When both have become thoroughly lax, self-indulgence induces a change in the body's temperament. Self-indulgence incites the appetite, appetite gives rise to pernicious desire, desire to the spirit of revolt, revolt to dormant recollections, recollection to imaginings, imagining to mental provocation, provocation to coupling with the thought provoked, and coupling to assent. Such assent to a diabolic provocation leads to actual sinning, either through the body or in various other ways. Thus we are defeated and thus we lapse.

On Beneficent Change

5. In whatever work we engage patience gives birth to courage, courage to commitment, commitment to perseverance, and perseverance to an increase in the work done. Such additional labor quells the body's dissolute impulses and checks the desire for sensual indulgence. Thus checked, desire gives rise to spiritual longing, longing to love, love to aspiration, aspiration to ardor, ardor to self-galvanizing, self-galvanizing to assiduousness, assiduousness to prayer, and prayer to stillness. Stillness gives birth to contemplation, contemplation to spiritual knowledge, and knowledge to the apprehension of the mysteries. The consummation of the mysteries is theology, the fruit of theology is perfect love, of love humility, of humility dispassion, and of dispassion foresight, prophecy and foreknowledge. No one possesses the virtues perfectly in this life, nor does he cut off evil all at once. On the contrary, by small increases of virtue evil gradually ceases to exist.

On Morbid Defluxions

Question: In how many ways do morbid defluxions take place, whether sinful or sinless?

6. Answer: Sinful defluxions take place in three ways: through fornication, through self-abuse, and through consent to pernicious thoughts. Sinless defluxions take place in seven ways: through the urine, through eating solid or stimulating foods, through drinking too much chill water, through the sluggishness of the body, through excessive tiredness, and through all kinds of demonic fantasy. In veterans in the ascetic life they generally take place through the first five of the ways we have just mentioned. In those who have attained the state of dispassion, the fluid only issues mixed with urine, because on account of their ascetic labors their inner ducts have in some way become porous and they have been given the grace of a divine energy, purificatory and sanctifying - the grace of continence. The last form of defluxion - that prompted by demonic fantasy during sleep - pertains both to those still under the domination of the passions and to those suffering from weakness. But since this is involuntary it is free from sin, as the holy fathers tell us. By divine dispensation the person who has attained the state of dispassion experiences from time to time a sinless propulsion, while the remaining fluid is consumed by divine fire. The person still engaged in the ascetic life and so under various forms of constraint experiences a discharge that is innocuous. The person still under the sway of the passions experiences a natural discharge and an unnatural discharge, the first prompted by diabolic fantasy during sleep and the second by diabolic fantasy to which assent has been given while he is awake. The first is innocuous, the second is sinful and liable to penance.

In those who have attained the state of dispassion the propulsion and the bodily discharge constitute a single action through which by divine dispensation surplus fluid is expelled through the urine while the rest is consumed by divine fire, as already stated. In those midway along the ascetic path there are said to be six general ways of innocuous defluxion through which the body is cleansed and freed from the corruptive fluid formed naturally and unavoidably in it. These are prompted by solid or stimulating foods, by drinking cold water, by sluggishness of the body, by torpor resulting from excessive labor, and finally by the malice of demons. In the weak and those newly engaged in the ascetic life there are similarly six ways, all embroiled with the passions. They are prompted by gluttony, by back-biting, by censoriousness, by self-esteem, by demonic fantasy during sleep and assent to it while awake, and finally by the aggressive malice of demons. Yet even these have in God's providence a double purpose: first, they cleanse human nature from corruption, from the surplus matter it has absorbed, and from impulse-driven appetites; and, second, they train the person engaged in the spiritual struggle to be humble and attentive, and to restrain himself in all things and from all things.

7. He who dwells in solitude and depends on charity for his food must accept alms in seven ways. First, he must ask only for what is needful. Secondly, he must take only what is needful. Thirdly, he must receive whatever is offered to him as if from God. Fourthly, he must trust in God and believe that He will recompense the giver. Fifthly, he must apply himself to keeping the commandments. Sixthly, he must not misuse what is given to him. Seventhly, he must not be stingy but must give to others and be compassionate. He who conducts himself thus in these matters experiences the joy of having his needs supplied not by man but by God.

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