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Theoliptos, Metropolitan of Philadelphia: Texts

1. When the intellect turns away from external things and concentrates on what is within, it is restored to itself; it is united, that is to say, to the principle of its own consciousness, and through this principle naturally inherent in its own substance it devotes itself entirely to prayer. By means of prayer it ascends with all its loving power and affection to the knowledge of God. Then sensual desire vanishes, every pleasure-inciting sense becomes inert, and the delectable things of earth cease to have any attraction. For once the soul has put behind it all that pertains and is endemic to the body, it pursues the beauty of Christ, engaging in works of devotion and of mental purity. It sings aloud, 'The virgins that follow Him shall be brought to the King' (cf Ps. 45:14. LXX). With Christ's image ever before it, it exclaims, 'I have set the Lord always before me, for He is at my right hand' (Ps. 16:8). It cleaves to Christ with love and cries, 'Lord, all my desire is before Thee' (Ps. 38:9). It continually contemplates Christ, uttering the words, 'My eyes are ever towards the Lord' (Ps. 25:15). Discoursing with Christ in pure prayer it is filled with delight and joy, in accordance with the Psalmist's words, 'My discourse with Him will be full of delight, I will rejoice in the Lord' (Ps. 104 : 34). For God welcomes the discourse born of prayer, and when He is lovingly invoked and called to our aid. He bestows inexpressible joy on the beseeching soul. For when the soul brings God to mind in the discourse of prayer, it is gladdened by the Lord: again as the Psalmist says, 'I remembered God and was gladdened' (Ps. 77:4. LXX).

2. Spurn the senses and you will quell sensual pleasure. Spurn mental fantasies of delectation and you will quell self-indulgent thoughts. For when the intellect remains free from fantasy and image, not permitting itself to be shaped or stamped either by the taints of sensual pleasure or by thoughts full of desire, then it is in a state of simplicity; and transcending all sensory and intelligible realities, it concentrates its vision on God. Its sole activity is to invoke the Lord's name in the depth of itself with continuous recollectedness, as a child repeats the name of his father: as it is said in the Scriptures, 'I will invoke the name of the Lord before you' (Exod. 33:19). And as Adam, molded by God's hand from dust, became through divine inspiration a living soul, so the intellect molded by the virtues and repeatedly invoking the Lord with a pure mind and an ardent spirit, is divinely transformed, quickened and deified through knowing and loving God.

3. If through sincere, continual prayer you stand aloof from desire for earthly things, if you repose not with sleep but through abandoning concern with everything except God, being steadfastly rooted solely in mindfulness of God, you will establish in yourself, like another helpmate, love for God. For the cry of the prayer that rises from within you releases divine love; and divine love awakens the intellect, revealing to it what is hidden. Then the intellect, united with love, gives birth to wisdom, and through wisdom proclaims the esoteric meaning of things. For the divine Logos, invoked in the cry of the prayer that rises from within you, lays hold of the noetic power of the intellect as though it were Adam's rib and fills it with divine knowledge; and in its place, bringing to perfection your inner state. He confers the gift of virtue. Next He vivifies light-generating love and brings it to the enraptured intellect as it sleeps a sleep free from all desire for. anything earthly. Love appears as another helpmate to the intellect liberated from mindless attachment to sensory things; it is because of this that it awakens the intellect, now in a state of purity that permits it to embrace the words of wisdom. Then the intellect, gazing on love and filled with delight, speaks at length to others, disclosing to them the hidden dimensions of virtue and the unseen operations of divine knowledge (cf Gen. 2:18, 21-23).

4. Stand aloof from all things sensory, abjuring the law of your unregenerate self, and the spiritual law will be engraved on your mind. As, according to St Paul, the spiritually awakened do not implement the desire of the flesh (cf. Gal. 5:16), so he who stands aloof from the senses and from sensory things - stands aloof, that is to say, from the world and the flesh - is energized by the Spirit and meditates on the things of the Spirit. One can learn of this from God's relationship with Adam prior to the fall.

5. If you struggle to keep the commandments, persisting in the paradise of prayer and cleaving to God through continuous recollection of Him, then God will release you from the self-indulgent proclivities of the flesh, from all sensory impulsion and from all forms engraved upon your thought; and rendering you dead to the passions and to sin He will make you a participant in divine life. A sleeping person looks like one dead so far as his bodily activity is concerned, and yet he is alive thanks to the co-operation of his soul. Similarly if you abide in the Spirit you are dead to the world and the flesh, but you live according to the spontaneity of the Spirit.

6. If you grasp the meaning of what you chant you will acquire knowledge. From such knowledge you will attain understanding. From understanding springs the practice of what you know. From practice you will reap abiding spiritual knowledge. Experiential spiritual knowledge gives rise to true contemplation. From true contemplation is born wisdom, filling the firmament of the mind with refulgent words of grace and elucidating what is hidden to the uninitiated.

7. First the intellect seeks and finds, and then it is united to what it has found. The searching is effectuated by means of the intelligence, the union by means of love. The search by means of the intelligence is undertaken for the sake of truth, the union by means of love is consummated for the sake of sanctity.

8. If you transcend the flow of temporal things and detach yourself from desire for what is transient, you will not notice mundane objects or crave for the delectable things of earth. On the contrary. Supernal visions will be disclosed to you and you will contemplate celestial beauty and the blessedness of unfading realities. To the person who hankers after material things and who steeps himself in sensual pleasure, the heavens are dosed, since his spiritual eyes are shrouded; but he who scorns material things and who repudiates them exalts his intellect and perceives the glory of eternal realities and the luminosity of the saints. Such a person is filled with divine love and becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit; he aspires to do God's will and is guided by the Spirit of God, being granted divine sonship, blessed by God and conforming to Him. 'For all who are guided by the Spirit of God are sons of God' (Rom. 8:14).

9. For as long as you live do not abandon prayer even for a single day on the excuse of illness. Heed St Paul, who says, 'When I am weak, then I am strong' (2 Cor. 12:10). If you act in this spirit, your profit will be greater, and the prayer - grace assisting - will soon make you well. Wherever the Spirit brings solace, illness and listlessness are short-lived.

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