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Barlaam And Ioasaph by St. John Of Damascus

With such like doctrines and saving words did Barlaam instruct the king’s son, and fit him for holy Baptism, charging him to fast and pray, according to custom, several days; and he ceased not to resort unto him, teaching him every article of the Catholick Faith and expounding him the Gospel. Moreover he interpreted the Apostolick exhortations and the sayings of the Prophets: for, taught of God, Barlaam had alway ready on his lips the Old and New Scripture; and, being stirred by the Spirit, he enlightened his young disciple to see the true knowledge of God. But on the day, whereon the prince should be baptized, he taught him, saying, ‘Behold thou art moved to receive the seal of Christ, and be signed with the light of the countenance of the Lord: and thou becomest a son of God, and temple of the Holy Ghost, the giver of life. Believe thou therefore in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost, the holy and life-giving Trinity, glorified in three persons and one Godhead, different indeed in persons and personal properties, but united in substance; acknowledging one God unbegotten, the Father; and one begotten Lord, the Son, light of light, very God of very God, begotten before all worlds; for of the good Father is begotten the good Son, and of the unbegotten light shone forth the everlasting light; and from very life came forth the life-giving spring, and from original might shone forth the might of the Son, who is the brightness of his glory and the Word in personality, who was in the beginning with God, and God without beginning and without end, by whom all things, visible and invisible, were made: knowing also one Holy Ghost, which proceedeth from the Father, perfect, life-giving and sanctifying God, with the same will, the same power, coëternal and impersonate. Thus therefore worship thou the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, in three persons or properties and one Godhead. For the Godhead is common of the three, and one is their nature, one their substance, one their glory, one their kingdom, one their might, one their authority; but it is common of the Son and of the Holy Ghost that they are of the Father; and it is proper of the Father that he is unbegotten, and of the Son that he is begotten, and of the Holy Ghost that he proceedeth.

‘This therefore be thy belief; but seek not to understand the manner of the generation or procession, for it is incomprehensible. In uprightness of heart and without question accept the truth that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are in all points one except in the being unbegotten, and begotten, and proceeding; and that the only-begotten Son, the Word of God, and God, for our salvation came down from heaven, by the good pleasure of the Father, and, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, was conceived without seed in the womb of Mary the holy Virgin and Mother of God, by the Holy Ghost, and was born of her without defilement and was made perfect man; and that he is perfect God and perfect man, being of two natures, the Godhead and the manhood, and in two natures, endowed with reason, will, activity, and free will, and in all points perfect according to the proper rule and law in either case, that is in the Godhead and the manhood, and in one united person. And do thou receive these things without question, never seeking to know the manner, how the Son of God emptied himself, and was made man of the blood of the Virgin, without seed and without defilement; or what is this meeting in one person of two natures? For by faith we are taught to hold fast those things that have been divinely taught us out of Holy Scripture; but of the manner we are ignorant, and cannot declare it.

‘Believe thou that the Son of God, who, of his tender mercy was made man, took upon him all the affections that are natural to man, and are blameless (he hungered and thirsted and slept and was weary and endured agony in his human nature, and for our transgressions was led to death, was crucified and was buried, and tasted of death, his Godhead continuing without suffering and without change: for we attach no sufferings whatsoever to that nature which is free from suffering, but we recognize him as suffering and buried in that nature which he assumed, and in his heavenly glory rising again from the dead, and in immortality ascending into heaven); and believe that he shall come again, with glory, to judge quick and dead, which himself knoweth, by the words of that diviner body, and to reward every man by his own just standards. For the dead shall rise again, and they that are in their graves shall awake: and they that have kept the commandments of Christ, and have departed this life in the true faith shall inherit eternal life, and they, that have died in their sins, and have turned aside from the right faith, shall go away into eternal punishment. Believe not that there is any true being or kingdom of evil, nor suppose that it is without beginning, or self-originate, or born of God: out on such an absurdity! but believe rather that it is the work of us and the devil, come upon us through our heedlessness, because we were endowed with free-will, and we make our choice, of deliberate purpose, whether it be good or evil. Beside this, acknowledge one Baptism, by water and the Spirit, for the remission of sins.

‘Receive also the Communion of the spotless Mysteries of Christ, believing in truth that they are the Body and Blood of Christ our God, which he hath given unto the faithful for the remission of sins. For in the same night in which he was betrayed he ordained a new testament with his holy disciples and Apostles, and through them for all that should believe on him, saying, “Take, eat: this is my Body, which is broken for you, for the remission of sins.” After the same manner also he took the cup, saying, “Drink ye all of this: this is my Blood, of the new testament, which is shed for you for the remission of sins: this do in remembrance of me.” He then, the Word of God, being quick and powerful, and, working all things by his might, maketh and transformeth, through his divine operation, the bread and wine of the oblation into his own Body and Blood, by the visitation of the Holy Ghost, for the sanctification and enlightenment of them that with desire partake thereof.

‘Faithfully worship, with honour and reverence, the venerable likeness of the features of the Lord, the Word of God, who for our sake was made man, thinking to behold in the Image thy Creator himself. “For the honour of the Image, saith one of the Saints, passeth over to the original.” The original is the thing imaged, and from it cometh the derivation. For when we see the drawing in the Image, in our mind’s eye we pass over to the true form of which it is an Image, and devoutly worship the form of him who for our sake was made flesh, not making a god of it, but saluting it as an image of God made flesh, with desire and love of him who for us men emptied himself, and even took the form of a servant. Likewise also for this reason we salute the pictures of his undefiled Mother, and of all the Saints. In the same spirit also faithfully worship and salute the emblem of the life-giving and venerable Cross, for the sake of him that hung thereon in the flesh, for the salvation of our race, Christ the God and Saviour of the world, who gave it to us as the sign of victory over the devil; for the devil trembleth and quaketh at the virtue thereof, and endureth not to behold it. In such doctrines and in such faith shalt thou be baptized, keeping thy faith unwavering and pure of all heresy until thy latest breath. But all teaching and every speech of doctrine contrary to the blameless faith abhor, and consider it an alienation from God. For, as saith the Apostle, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” For there is none other Gospel or none other Faith than that which hath been preached by the Apostles, and established by the inspired Fathers at divers Councils, and delivered to the Catholick Church.’

When Barlaam had thus spoken, and taught the king’s son the Creed which was set forth at the Council of Nicæa, he baptized him in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, in the pool of water which was in his garden. And there came upon him the grace of the Holy Spirit. Then did Barlaam come back to his chamber, and offer the Mysteries of the unbloody Sacrifice, and communicate him with the undefiled Mysteries of Christ: and loasaph rejoiced in spirit, giving thanks to Christ his God.

Then said Barlaam unto him, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten thee again unto a lively hope, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven in Christ Jesus our Lord by the Holy Ghost; for to-day thou hast been made free from sin, and hast become the servant of God, and hast received the earnest of everlasting life: thou hast left darkness and put on light, being enrolled in the glorious liberty of the children of God. For he saith, “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son and an heir of God through Jesus Christ in the Holy Ghost. Wherefore, beloved, give diligence that thou mayest be found of him without spot and blameless, working that which is good upon the foundation of faith: for faith without works is dead, as also are works without faith; even as I remember to have told thee afore. Put off therefore now all malice, and hate all the works of the old man, which are corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and, as new-born babe, desire to drink the reasonable and sincere milk of the virtues, that thou mayest grow thereby, and attain unto the knowledge of the commandments of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that thou mayest henceforth be no more a child in mind, tossed to and fro, and carried about on the wild and raging waves of thy passions: or rather in malice be a child, but have thy mind settled and made steadfast toward that which is good, and walk worthy of the vocation wherewith thou wast called, in the keeping of the commandments of the Lord, casting off and putting far from thee the vanity of thy former conversation, henceforth walking not as the Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having their understanding darkened, alienated from the glory of God, in subjection to their lusts and unreasonable affections. But as for thee, even as thou hast approached the living and true God, so walk thou as a child of light; for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth; and no longer destroy by the works of the old man the new man, which thou hast to-day put on. But day by day renew thyself in righteousness and holiness and truth: for this is possible with every man that willeth, as thou hearest that unto them that believe on his name he hath given power to become the sons of God; so that we can no longer say that the acquiring of virtues is impossible for us, for the road is plain and easy. For, though with respect to the buffeting of the body, it hath been called a strait and narrow way, yet through the hope of future blessings is it desirable and divine for such as walk, not as fools but circumspectly, understanding what the will of God is, clad in the whole armour of God to stand in battle against the wiles of the adversary, and with all prayer and supplication watching thereunto, in all patience and hope. Therefore, even as thou hast heard from me, and been instructed, and hast laid a sure foundation, do thou abound therein, increasing and advancing, and warring the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience, witnessed by good works, following after righteousness, godliness, faith, charity, patience, meekness, laying hold on eternal life whereunto thou wast called. But remove far from thee all pleasure and lust of the affections, not only in act and operation, but even in the thoughts of thine heart, that thou mayest present thy soul without blemish to God. For not our actions only but our thoughts also are recorded, and lead either to crowns or to punishments: and we know that Christ, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, dwelleth in pure hearts. But, just as smoke driveth away bees, so, we learn, do evil imaginations drive out of us the Holy Spirit’s grace. Wherefore take good heed hereto, that thou blot out every imagination of sinful passion from thy soul, and plant good thoughts therein, making thyself a temple of the Holy Ghost. For from imaginations we come also to actual deeds, and every work, advancing from thought and reflection, catcheth at small beginnings, and then, by small increases, arriveth at great endings.

‘Wherefore on no account suffer any evil habit to master thee; but, while it is yet young, pluck the evil root out of thine heart, lest it fasten on and strike root so deep that time and labour be required to uproot it. And the reason that greater sins assault us and get the mastery of our souls is that those which appear to be less, such as wicked thoughts, unseemly words and evil communications, fail to receive proper correction. For as in the case of the body, they that neglect small wounds often bring mortification and death upon themselves, so too with the soul: thus they that overlook little passions and sins bring on greater ones. And the more those greater sins grow on them, the more doth the soul become accustomed thereto and think light of them. For he saith, “When the wicked cometh to the depth of evil things, he thinketh light of them”: and finally, like the hog, that delighteth to wallow in mire, the soul, that hath been buried in evil habits, doth not even perceive the stink of her sin, but rather delighteth and rejoiceth therein, cleaving to wickedness as it were good. And even if at last she issue from the mire and come to herself again, she is delivered only by much labour and sweat from the bondage of those sins, to which she hath by evil custom enslaved herself.

‘Wherefore with all thy might remove thyself far from every evil thought and fancy, and every sinful custom; and school thyself the rather in virtuous deeds, and form the habit of practising them. For if thou labour but a little therein, and have strength to form the habit, at the last, God helping thee, thou shalt advance without labour. For the habit of virtue, taking its quality from the soul, seeing that it hath some natural kinship therewith and claimeth God for an help-mate, becometh hard to alter and exceeding strong; as thou seest, courage and prudence, temperance and righteousness are hard to alter, being deeply seated habits, qualities and activities of the soul. For if the evil affections, not being natural to us, but attacking us from without, be hard to alter when they become habits, how much harder shall it be to shift virtue, which hath been by nature planted in us by our Maker, and hath him for an help-mate, if so be, through our brief endeavour, it shall have been rooted in habit in the soul?’

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