The Shepherd, June 2004

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FROM THE FATHERS

“IF YOU HAVE made up your mind to come and pray before God, make this pact with yourself: that in coming from your home to the place of prayer, that for the whole duration of your journey to the house of prayer and petition, you will not waste your time with some companion, but that from the beginning to the end of your journey, you will sanctify the time with prayer. And when you stand before God in prayer, do not pray with a mind that is disturbed and filled with unrest and, since the church is holy, neither should you stand in it with a mind that is defiled; and while the Scriptures are being read, do not let your thoughts turn to the tumult outside. Incline your ear and your mind to hearing the words of the prophets, and turn your face and turn your senses towards the Apostles, as they cry to you: ‘Gird thy soul, and be strengthened that thou mayest hear the Gospel of thy Lord.’ Do not listen with indifference to the Gospel of the Truth. Should you be slothful in God’s Presence, He will send you away without a reward.”
--Venerable Ephraim the Syrian, + 373 A.D

“I ASK YOU, brothers and sisters, tell me: which to you seems the greater, the word of God or the Body of Christ? If you wish to say what is true, you will have to answer that the word of God is not less than the Body of Christ. Therefore just as when the Body of Christ is administered to us, what care do we not take so that nothing of it falls from our hands to the ground, so should we with equal care see that the word of God which is being imparted to us shall not be lost to the soul, while we speak or think of something else. For he who listens carelessly to the word of God is not less guilty than he who through his own inattention suffers the Body of Christ to fall to the ground.”
--St Caesarius, Bishop of Arles, 470 - 543 A.D

“THOUGHTS about vain things are sicknesses of an idle and sluggish soul. We must, then, as Scripture enjoins, guard our intellect diligently (cf Proverbs 4:23), chanting undistractedly and with understanding, and praying with a pure intellect. God wants us to show our zeal for Him first by our outward asceticism, and then by our love and unceasing prayer, and He provides the path of salvation.”
--Abba Philemon, the priest of Egypt - date unknown

“WHEN AT PRAYER in church it is profitable to stand with closed eyes in internal mindfulness, and to open your eyes only when you become downcast, or when sleep should weigh you down and incline you to doze; then you should fix your eyes upon an icon and the candle burning before it.… If in prayer it should happen that the mind be taken captive and its thoughts plundered, you must humble yourself before the Lord God and beg forgiveness, saying: I have sinned, O Lord, by word, deed, thought and by all my feelings.”
--Venerable Seraphim of Sarov, the Wonderworker, 1759 - 1833 A.D.

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