My daughter, the sin of ingratitude is one of the most heinous committed by men against God and by it they make themselves most unworthy and abominable in the sight of God and the saints. For both God and the saints have a kind of horror of this vile conduct in men. Yet in spite of its pernicious effects, there is none which men, each one in particular, commit more frequently and thoughtlessly.  It is true that in order to lessen the debt accumulating by their most ungrateful and universal forgetfulness of his benefits, God requires from his Church a certain recompense for this want of thankfulness in her children and in mankind. For in recognition of his blessings, the Church as such offers up so many prayers and sacrifices of praise and glory as we see ordained in her. But as the favors and graces of his liberal and watchful Providence are not only for the common good of the faithful, but to the advantage of each mortal in particular, the debt of gratitude is not paid by this general thanksgiving of the Church; each one for himself owes thanks for what he receives from the divine liberality.

How many are there among the mortals, who during the whole course of their lives have not excited one sincere act of thanksgiving for the gift of life, for its preservation, for health, food, honors, possessions and all the other temporal and natural goods! Others there are, who, if at any time they give thanks for these benefits, do it not because they truly love God, the Giver, but because they love themselves and delight in these temporal and earthly blessings and in the possession of them. This kind of vain deceit discovers itself in two ways : first, in seeking these earthly and transitory goods, men are full of dissatisfaction, haste and discomfort, and they scarcely can think of, ask for, or desire other more spiritual things, loving only what is apparent and passing. Although many times their being deprived of health, honor, possessions and other things is a blessing of God, which prevents in them a blind and disorderly attachment to such matters; yet they think it a misfortune and, as it were, an injury, and. they allow their heart continually to verge on destruction by trespassing upon what is finite and perishable.  Secondly, this deceit is known by the forgetfulness
of spiritual benefits in the blind pursuit of what is transitory, so that men neither recognize or acknowledge what is beyond. This fault among the children of the Church is most vile and dreadful, since, without any obligation on the part of God and without any of their merit, the divine mercy seeks to draw them to the secure path of eternal life, signally applying to them the merits of the passion and death of my divine Son. Every one who is now in a state of holiness in the Church, could have been born in other times and ages, before God came into the world; moreover he could have been born among pagans, idolaters, heretics or other infidels, where his eternal damnation would be unavoidable. Without their merit God called such persons to his holy faith, giving them knowledge of the certain truth; justifying them in Baptism, putting at their disposal the Sacraments, the ministers, the teachings and enlightenments of eternal
life.  He placed them upon the sure path, granted them his assistance, pardoned them their sins, raised them from their falls, waited for their repentance, invited them by his mercy, and rewarded them with a liberal hand. He defended them through his holy angels, gave them Himself as a pledge and as a nourishment of eternal life; and thus He accumulated so many blessings upon them, that they are without measure or number, and that not a day nor an hour passes without increasing their indebtedness.

Tell me then, daughter, what thanks are due to his so liberal and fatherly kindness ? And how many men deserve to experience it? The greatest blessing of all is that in punishment for this ingratitude the portals of his mercy have not been closed, and the fountains of his goodness have not dried up; for it is infinite. The root of this most dreadful ingratitude in men is the boundless desire and covetousness for the temporal, apparent and transitory goods. From this insatiable thirst grows their unthankfulness; for as they hanker so much after the temporal goods, they undervalue what they receive and give thanks neither for them nor for the spiritual goods; and thus they are most ungrateful as well for the ones as the others. In addition to this unbearable foolishness they are guilty of a still greater one,
namely, they ask God not for what is necessary to them, but for things which are injurious and will bring about their eternal perdition. Among men it is considered mean to ask a favor from the one they have offended ; and still more outrageous to ask a favor for the purpose of committing a still greater offense.  What must we then say of a vile earthly being, an enemy of God, when he petitions his Creator for life, health, honor, possessions and other things, for which he will never give thanks, and which he does not intend to use for any other purpose than to offend the divine Giver?

If, in addition to this, such men never thank God for having created them, redeemed them, called them, borne them with patience and justified them, prepared for them the same glory which He enjoys: and if, while expecting this glory, they do not even ask for the grace of acknowledging and repenting of their sins, they certainly show nothing but the utmost temerity and presumption. I assure thee, my dearest, that this so frequent ingratitude toward God is one of the most certain signs of reprobation in those who are guilty of such forgetfulness and carelessness. It is also a bad sign, when the just Judge confers temporal blessings upon those who ask for them in forgetfulness of the blessings of the Redemption and Justification; for all such, oblivious of the means of their eternal salvation, demand but the instruments of their death, and to yield to their demands is no blessing, but a chastisement of their blindness.

All these evils I manifest to thee in order that thou mayest fear them and avoid their causes. But remember that thy gratitude must not be of the ordinaryor common kind; for the blessings thou hast received go far beyond thy knowledge and power of appreciation. Do not allow thyself to be deceived into shrinking from proper acknowledgment of graces on the plea of humility. Thou knowest the efforts of the demon to make thee forget the works and the favors of the Lord by drawing thy attention toward thy faults and miseries and making thee believe that the blessings of truth, which thou hast received, are incompatible with these thy short comings. Begin in earnest to cast off this deception and know, that the more thou ascribest the goods thou receivest from his bounty to Him alone, the more dost thou annihilate and humiliate thyself ; and that the more thou owest to Him, the less able thou art to pay thy debts, since thou canst not pay even for the least of his favors.  To be convinced of this truth is not presumption, but prudence; and not to acknowledge this indebtedness is not humility, but most reprehensible foolishness; for thou canst not be thankful for what thou dost not know; nor will thy love be stirred to action readily without
being incited by the blessings and favors of God. Thou art full of fear of losing the grace and friendship of the Lord; and with good reason dost thou fear, if thou dost not make them fruitful; for He has done as much for thee, as would suffice to justify many souls. But to have a prudent fear of losing his grace is quite a different thing from doubting it for the purpose of escaping acknowledgment for it; and this is the kind of doubt into which the enemy labors to cast thee, seeking to substitute a stubborn incredulity for holy fear of God, by clothing it in the mantle of a good intention and humility. Thy fear must exert itself in watching over thy treasure and
in striving to imitate me with the purity of an angel and practicing all the teachings which I give thee in this history for this very purpose.

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591. My daughter, through the whole course of my life is evident how gratefully I kept in mind the works of the Redemption, the passion and death of my divine Son, especially after I had actually seen Him sacrificed on the Cross for the salvation of men. But in this chapter particularly have I wished to draw thy attention to the care and the continual exercises, by which I renewed in me not only the remembrance, but the sufferings of the Passion. I desire that the knowledge of this cause men to feel reproach and confusion at their monstrous forgetfulness of the incomprehensible benefit of the Redemption.  O what a shameful, what a horrible and dangerous ingratitude of men is this! Forgetfulness is a clear proof of contempt, for one does not forget so easily, what one holds dear. What reason or excuse then can there be, that men forget the eternal blessings they have received? That they should despise the love, with which the eternal Father has delivered over to death his only begotten Son ? The charity and patience
with which his and my Son accepted it for them (John 3, 16.) The insensible earth responds to the efforts of those that cultivate it; wild beasts become tame and domesticated in return for benefits. Men among them selves are beholden to their benefactors; and when such thankful feelings are not forthcoming, they resent it, condemn it, and call it a great offense.

592. What is the reason then, that only toward their God and Redeemer they should be ungrateful and forget what He suffered in order to rescue them from eternal damnation?  And in view of this very evil return, they complain of not receiving his assistance as they desire.  In order that they may understand what fearful guilt
they load upon themselves by their ingratitude, I will remind thee, my daughter, that Lucifer and his demons, seeing so many souls oblivious of the sufferings of Christ,
draw the following conclusions and say of such souls: “This soul does not remember or hold in esteem the benefit of God s Redemption and we are certain of gaining it over to our side; for the soul that is so foolish as not to remember such a blessing, will certainly not detect our wiles. Let us proceed to tempt and destroy it, since it is deprived of its strongest defense.”  Having in their large experience found their reasoning on this point to be almost infallible, they zealously seek to blot out the memory of the passion and death of Christ and to excite a contempt for the preaching or discoursing about it among men ; and they have succeeded to a great extent, causing dreadful damage to souls. On the other hand they are wary and fearful of tempting those who have accustomed themselves to the meditation and the remembrance of the sufferings of Christ; for from this source they feel issuing against them a force and influence, which often prevents them from approaching those who thus piously cherish the memory of the Passion.

593. I desire thee then, my dearest, not to detach from thy bosom and heart this bouquet of myrrh (Cant. 1,12) and to imitate me closely in the contemplation and the exercises of the Passion. For thus must thou keep alive the memory of the sufferings of my divine Son and satisfy for the injuries and blasphemies inflicted upon
his divine Person by his enemies who crucified Him.  Seek thou, as long as thou shalt be upon earth, to compensate for the ingratitude and forgetfulness of mortals.  And in order to do it as I desire, never let thy remembrance of Christ crucified, afflicted and blasphemed be extinguished. Persevere in thy exercises, never omitting them except in obedience or in a just cause ; for if thou imitate me in this I shall make thee a participant in the effects I myself felt.

594. In order to dispose thyself day by day for holy Communion thou shouldst apply whatever thou performest in these exercises; imitate also the other works and practices, which thou hast come to know of me. If I, the Mother of Him whom I was to receive, deemed my self unworthy of Communion and by so many means sought the purity necessary for such a Sacrament, consider what thou must do, so poor and subject to so many miseries and imperfections! Purify the temple of thy interior, scrutinizing it by the divine light and adorning it with great virtues, since it is the eternal God, whom thou art to receive; One, of whom nobody but Himself is worthy.  Invoke the intercession of the angels and saints to obtain grace from the Lord. Above all I exhort thee to call upon me and ask me to help thee ; for thou must know, that I am the special Advocate and Protectress of those, who desire to arrive at great purity for receiving holy Communion. Whenever they invoke me for this purpose, I present myself before the throne of the Most High, and, as one well knowing the disposition required for harboring God himself, I ask his favor and grace for those who are about to receive Him in the holy Sacrament. I have not lost in heaven the solicitude and zeal, which I exhibited upon earth. Having asked me, proceed to ask also the intercession of the angels, for they also
are very anxious to see souls approach the holy Eucharist with great devotion and purity.

END OF CHAPTER – I would now like to add one paragraph from Volume 1 of The Philokalia on the Chapter on Discrimination in Respect of Passions and Thoughts

Of the demons opposing us in the practice of the ascetic life, there are three groups who fight in the front line: those entrusted with the appetites of gluttony, those who suggest avaricious thoughts, and those who incite us to seek the esteem of men.  All the other demons follow behind and in their turn attack those already wounded by the first three groups.  For one does not fall into the power of the demon of unchastity, unless one has first fallen because of gluttony; nor is one’s anger aroused unless one is fighting for food or material possessions or the esteem of men.  And one does not escape the demon of dejection, unless one no longer experiences suffering when deprived of these things.  Nor will one escape pride, the first offspring of the devil, unless one has banished avarice, the root of all evil, since poverty makes a man humble, according to Solomon (cf. Prov. 10:4. LXX)  In short, no one can fall into the power of any demon, unless he has been wounded by those of the front line.  That is why the devil suggested these three thoughts to the Saviour: first he exhorted Him to turn stones into bread; then he promised Him the whole world, if Christ would fall down and worship him; and thirdly he said that, if our Lord would listen to him, He would be glorified and suffer nothing in falling from the pinnacle of the temple.  But our Lord, having shown Himself superior to these temptations, commanded the devil to ‘get behind Him.’  In this way He teaches us that it is not possible to drive away the devil, unless we scornfully reject these three thoughts (cf. Matt. 4: 1-10)

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Volume 3 – Chapter 28: Mystical City of God

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