by St. Gregory the Great, Commentary on Job, from The Early Church Fathers Series, edited by John Morrehead, Routledge Taylor & Franscis Group: London and New York, p. 130.
Those who are striving to gain the highest point of perfection, when they yearn to take hold of the stronghold of contemplation, should first test themselves through exercise in the field of work, so that with the necessary care they might come to know whether they are doing anything wrong to their neighbours, whether they are bearing with calmness of mind what their neighbours are doing to them, and whether their mind is neither set free so as to be joyous when temporal goods are placed before it nor wounded with great sorrow when they are taken away; after this, they should consider carefully whether, when they return to themselves inwardly for a thorough investigation of spiritual things, they are not drawing with them the slightest shadows of bodily things; or whether, if it turns out that they have been drawn, they are able to drive them away with the hand of discretion; whether, in their yearning to see the infinite light, they repress all images of what is finite and whether, given that they are striving to attain something that is above themselves, they overcome that which they are. And so it is now said rightly "Thou shalt enter the tomb in abundance" [Job 5:26]. Yes, a perfect man enters the tomb in abundance because he first gathers together the works of an active life and then conceals completely from the world the capacity for feeling belonging to his flesh, which has died through contemplation. And so it fittingly goes on: Like as a sheaf of grain cometh in his season [Job 5:26]. For action comes at the beginning, and contemplation at the end. So it is necessary that whoever is perfect should first exercise the mind with virtues and then put it away in the barn of quiet.
In this day and age it is so easy to dismiss God from our lives. Jesus gives us an insight into the cause of this abandonment of God in society. St. Matthew records Jesus’ words on His Sermon on the Mount: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Mt. 6:21) A contemporary Eastern Church holy father, Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Mt. Athos), gives a very perspicacious insight as to how this occurs: "If you want to take someone away from God, give [them] plenty of material goods . . . [they] will instantly forget Him forever." (Ageloglou, 1998) In past times one could look around at the beauty of the world and echo the words of King David in the Old Testament scripture: "The heavens shew forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands. Day to day uttereth speech, and night to night sheweth knowledge." (Ps 18: 1-2) Today we have material goods around us that were completely unheard of a generation ago - dazzling high-definition LED displays, even on smart phones and tablets, and television that intrinsically mesmerizes us. Even the recent Olympics, which in times past focused on sports, now, in 2012, are overshadowed by ceremonies that are extravaganza-style spectacles of laser strobe lights and bombastic sound. Is there any thought or remembrance of God, the creator of Light?
A reflection on the passage: “The paths of their way are turned aside [Job 6:18].”
by St. Gregory the Great
from Gregory the Great, by John Morrhead, from “The Early Church Fathers” series. Routledge, 2005, pp. 89-91.
Everything which is turned aside is twisted back on itself. Now, there are some who undertake to withstand the sins which draw them astray with their whole strength, but when the critical moment of temptation arrives they do not remain firm in their purpose. For one person, puffed up with the perverse insolence of pride, when he considers that the rewards of humility are great, rises up against himself and, as it were, lays aside his inflated, swollen arrogance, and promises to display humility in the face of all insults. But on being suddenly struck by just one insulting word, he straightaway returns to his old pride, and he is brought back to his swollen headedness to such an extent that he completely forgets having aspired to the virtue of humility. Someone else, stirred by avarice, is panting to increase his possessions...
Someone else is kindled by flames of anger and is so headstrong that he hurls insults at his enemies... And so, when he is just able to exercise restraint after his abusive language, it is too late...