Basil the Great: No One Comes to the Father Except Through the Son Monday, Jun 16 2014 

St-Basil-the-GreatNeither heaven and earth and the great seas,

nor the creatures that live in the water and on dry land,

nor plants, and stars, and air, and seasons,

nor the vast variety in the order of the universe,

so well sets forth the excellency of His might

as that God, being incomprehensible, should have been able, impassibly, through flesh, to have come into close conflict with death,

to the end that by His own suffering He might give us the boon of freedom from suffering.

[...] He Himself has bound the strong man and spoiled his goods, that is, us men, whom our enemy had abused in every evil activity.

He has made us “vessels meet for the Master’s use” – us who have been perfected for every work through the making ready of that part of us which is in our own control.

Thus we have had our approach to the Father through Him, being translated from “the power of darkness to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Col. 1:12, 13).

We must not, however, regard the œconomy through the Son as a compulsory and subordinate ministration resulting from the low estate of a slave, but rather the voluntary solicitude working effectually for His own creation in goodness and in pity, according to the will of God the Father.

For we shall be consistent with true religion if in all that was and is from time to time perfected by Him, we both bear witness to the perfection of His power, and in no case put it asunder from the Father’s will.

For instance, whenever the Lord is called the Way, we are carried on to a higher meaning, and not to that which is derived from the vulgar sense of the word.

We understand by Way that advance to perfection which is made stage by stage, and in regular order, through the works of righteousness and “the illumination of knowledge.”

We longing after what is before, and reach forth unto those things which remain, until we shall have reached the blessed end, the knowledge of God, which the Lord through Himself bestows on them that have trusted in Him.

For our Lord is an essentially good Way, where erring and straying are unknown, to that which is essentially good, to the Father.  For “no one,” He says, “cometh to the Father but through me”(John 14:6).  Such is our way up to God “through the Son.”

Basil the Great (330-379): On the Holy Spirit 8, 18.

John Maximovitch: Trinitarian Concord Sunday, Jun 15 2014 

Saint John Maximovich Tobolsk editedThe Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit share one nature, one essence, one substance.

That is why the Three Faces are the Trinity, one-in-substance.

[Ed.: in Greek, prosopon denotes both face and person.]

Humans also have one nature, one substance.

But while God is the Indivisible Trinity, divisions occur in mankind constantly…

The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have common thought, common will, common actions.

What the Father desires, the Son also desires, and the Holy Spirit also desires.

Whatever the Son loves, so do the Father and the Holy Spirit also love.

Whatever is pleasing to the Holy Spirit, is pleasing to the Father and Son.

Their actions are also common among them, all act in conjunction and in accord.

This is not so with man. We are in constant disagreement, we have differing desires.

Even a small child expresses his own wishes, willfulness, disobedience to his loving parents.

As he grows older, he separates from their more, and so often in our day becomes completely alienated from them.

People simply don’t share identical opinions, on the contrary, there are perpetual divisions in all things, quarrels and conflicts between individuals, wars between nations.

Adam and Eve, before their Fall, were in full accord and of common spirit with one another at all times.

Having sinned, alienation was immediately sensed. Justifying himself before God, Adam blamed Eve.

Their sin divided them and continues to divide all of mankind.

Emancipated from sin, we approach God, and, filled with His grace, we sense our unity with the rest of mankind.

Such unity is very imperfect and lacking, since in each person some portion of sin remains.

The closer we approach God, the closer we approach each other, just as the closer rays of light are to each other, the closer they are to the Sun.

In the coming Kingdom of God there will be unity, mutual love and concord. The Holy Trinity remains eternally unchanging, all-perfect, united in essence and indivisible.

The One, Indivisible Trinity ever remains the Trinity. The Father always remains the Father, the Son remains the Son, the Holy Spirit remains the Holy Spirit.

Besides Their personal Properties, They all share all in common and in unity. That is why the Holy Trinity is One God.

John Maximovitch (St John of Shanghai and San Francisco; Orthodox Church; 1896-1966): Sermon on the Holy Pentecost @ Pravoslavie.

Symeon the New Theologian: We Receive the Word and the Spirit in Our Hearts Saturday, Jun 14 2014 

St.-Symeon-the-New-TheologianEveryone of us believes in him who is the Son of God and son of Mary, ever-virgin and mother of God.

And as believers we faithfully welcome his gospel into our hearts, confessing in words our belief, and repenting with all our soul of our past sins.

Then immediately, just as God the Word of the Father entered the Virgin’s womb, so also in ourselves the word which we receive in learning right belief appears like a seed.

You should be amazed when you hear of such an awe-inspiring mystery, and because the word is reliable you should receive it with full conviction and faith.

In fact we receive him not bodily, as the Virgin and Mother of God received him, but both spiritually and substantially.

And the very one whom the chaste Virgin also received, we hold in our own hearts, as Saint Paul says: It is God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shown in our hearts to reveal the knowledge of his Son. 

In other words: he has become wholly substantial in us. And that he actually meant this, he made clear in the next verse: But we contain this treasure in earthenware pots, calling the Holy Spirit a treasure.

But elsewhere he also calls the Lord Spirit: The Lord is the Spirit, he says. And he tells us this so that if you hear the words the Son of God, you should think of and hear the words the Spirit at the same time.

Again, if you hear the Spirit mentioned you should join the Father to the Spirit in thought, because con­cerning the Father too it is said: God is Spirit. 

You are constantly taught that the Holy Trinity is inseparable and of the same substance, and that where the Son is the Father is also, and where the Father is the Spirit is also, and where the Holy Spirit is the whole of the deity in three persons is, the one God and Father with Son and Spirit of the same substance, “who is praised for ever. Amen.”

So if we wholeheartedly believe and ardently repent, we receive the Word of God in our hearts, as has been said, like the Virgin, if of course we bring with us our own souls chaste and pure.

And just as the fire of the deity did not consume the Virgin since she was supremely pure, so neither does it consume us if we bring with us chaste and pure hearts; on the contrary it becomes in us the dew from heaven, a spring of water, and a stream of immortal life.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD): Traites Theologiques et Ethiques J, 10: se 122, 252-254 @ Dom Donald’s Blog.

Irenaeus of Lyons: The Spirit Accomplished the Father’s Will in Men who had Grown Old in Sin Friday, Jun 13 2014 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonWhen the Lord told his disciples to go and teach all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he conferred on them the power of giving men new life in God.

He had promised through the prophets that in these last days he would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would prophesy.

So when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Spirit also descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the human race, to living in men and to inhabiting God’s creation.

The Spirit accomplished the Father’s will in men who had grown old in sin, and gave them new life in Christ.

Luke says that the Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension, with power to open the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant.

So it was that men of every language joined in singing one song of praise to God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the first-fruits of all the nations.

This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God.

Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of broad, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven.

And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a waterless tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above.

Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.

The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of God came down upon the Lord, and the Lord in turn gave this Spirit to his Church, sending the Advocate from heaven into all the world into which, according to his own words, the devil too had been cast down like lightning.

If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we need the dew of God. Since we have our accuser, we need an advocate as well.

And so the Lord in his pity for man, who had fallen into the hands of brigands, having himself bound up his wounds…, entrusted him to the Holy Spirit.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses 3,17,1-3 @ Crossroads Initiative.

 

Nikolai Velimirovich: When the Holy Spirit of God Enters Into Us the Kingdom of God has Arrived Thursday, Jun 12 2014 

StNikolaiVelimirovich“We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).

Brethren, the spirit of this world is the spirit of pride and cruelty and the Spirit of God is the Spirit of meekness and gentleness.

The apostle of God asserts that the followers of Christ did not receive the spirit of this world rather the Spirit “which is of God,”

i.e., who proceeds from God the Father as a sweet-smelling fragrance as from flowers and as a good fragrance pours out on the soul of man making it mighty, bright, peaceful, thankful and pleasant.

Men by nature are meek and gentle. St. Tertulain writes: “the soul of man by nature is Christian.” But, by the spirit of this world, it is irritable and enraged.

The spirit of this world made wolves out of lambs, while the Spirit Who is from God makes lambs out of wolves.

The apostle still adds that we received the Spirit of God “that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).

Therefore, that we may know what is from God in us and what is not from God and that we may sense the sweetness of that which is from God and the bitterness from that which is not from God, rather from the spirit of this world.

As long as man is outside of his nature, beneath his nature, he considers bitterness as sweetness and sweetness as bitterness. But, when by the Spirit of God he returns to his true nature, then he considers sweet as sweetness and bitter as bitterness.

Who can return man to God? Who can heal man of poisonous sinful bitterness? Who can teach him by experience to distinguish true sweetness from bitterness? No one except the Spirit Who is from God.

Therefore brethren, let us pray that God grants us His Holy Spirit as He granted the Holy Spirit to His apostles and saints.

And when that Holy Spirit of God enters into us, the kingdom of God has arrived in which is all sweetness itself, only good, only light, only meekness and only gentleness.

O Holy Spirit, the Spirit of meekness and gentleness, come and abide in us.

Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956; Orthodox Church): Prologue from Ohrid, May 21st.

Cyril of Jerusalem: The Descent of the Holy Spirit Wednesday, Jun 11 2014 

Cyril-of-JerusalemHe came down to clothe the Apostles with power, and to baptize them.

For the Lord says, ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence (Acts 1:5).

This grace was not in part, but His power was in full perfection.

For as he who plunges into the waters and is baptized is encompassed on all sides by the waters, so were they also baptized completely by the Holy Ghost.

The water however flows round the outside only, but the Spirit baptizes also the soul within, and that completely.

And wherefore wonderest thou?  Take an example from matter; poor indeed and common, yet useful for the simpler sort.

The fire passing in through the mass of the iron makes the whole of it fire, so that what was cold becomes burning and what was black is made bright.

If fire which is a body thus penetrates and works without hindrance in iron which is also a body, why wonder that the Holy Ghost enters into the very inmost recesses of the soul?

And lest men should be ignorant of the greatness of the mighty gift coming down to them, there sounded as it were a heavenly trumpet.

For suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind (Acts 2:2), signifying the presence of Him who was to grant power unto men to seize with violence the kingdom of God; that both their eyes might see the fiery tongues, and their ears hear the sound.  

And it filled all the house where they were sitting; for the house became the vessel of the spiritual water; as the disciples sat within, the whole house was filled.

Thus they were entirely baptized according to the promise, and invested soul and body with a divine garment of salvation.  

And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.

They partook of fire, not of burning but of saving fire; of fire which consumes the thorns of sins, but gives lustre to the soul.

This is now coming upon you also, and that to strip away and consume your sins which are like thorns, and to brighten yet more that precious possession of your souls, and to give you grace; for He gave it then to the Apostles.

And He sat upon them in the form of fiery tongues, that they might crown themselves with new and spiritual diadems by fiery tongues upon their heads.  A fiery sword barred of old the gates of Paradise; a fiery tongue which brought salvation restored the gift.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 17, 14-15.

Cyril of Alexandria: The Mind of Christ and the Advent of the Holy Spirit Tuesday, Jun 10 2014 

cyril_alexandria“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall guide you into all the truth:

for He shall not speak from Himself; but what things soever He shall hear, these shall He speak;

and He shall declare unto you the things that are to come” (John 16;12-13).

The new instruction of the Gospel message belongs not to those who are not yet moulded by the Spirit into newness of life and knowledge, and they cannot as yet contain the mysteries of the Holy Trinity.

The exposition then of the deeper mysteries of the faith is suitably reserved for the spiritual renovation that was to proceed from the Spirit when the mind of those who believed on Christ would no longer allow them to remain in the obsolete letter of the Law but rather induce their conversion to new doctrines and implant in them thoughts enabling them to see a fair vision of the truth.

And that before the Resurrection of our Saviour Christ from the dead, and before partaking of His Spirit, the disciples were…clinging to the legal dispensation, even though the mystery of Christ was clearly superior to it, one might very readily perceive.

[...] When, by being enriched with the grace that is from above and from heaven, they had their strength renewed, according to the Scripture, and had attained to a better knowledge than before, then we hear them boldly saying: But we have the mind of Christ.

By the Mind of Christ they mean nothing else but the advent of the Holy Spirit into their hearts, revealing unto them in due measure all things whatsoever they ought to know and learn.

When then “He,” that is the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He shall guide you into all the truth. See how free from extravagance the expression is: note the soberness of the phrase. For having told them that the Comforter would come unto them, He called Him the Spirit of Truth, that is, His own Spirit. For He is the Truth.

[...] The Spirit of Truth then, He says, will lead you to complete knowledge of the truth. For as having perfect knowledge of the truth, of which He is also the Spirit, He will make no partial revelation of it to those who worship Him, but will rather engraft in their hearts the mystery concerning it in its entirety.

For even if now we know in part, as Paul says, still, though our knowledge be limited, the fair vision of the truth has gleamed upon us entire and undefiled.

As then no man knoweth the things of a man, according to the Scripture, save the spirit of the man which is in him, in the same way, I think, to use the words of Paul, none knoweth the things of God save the Spirit of God which is in Him.

Since He is My Spirit [says Jesus], and as it were My Mind, He will surely speak to you of the things concerning Me.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on John, Book 10 [on John 16:12-13].

Adomnán of Iona: St Columba and the Grace of the Holy Spirit Monday, Jun 9 2014 

St-Columba_Aidan-HartJune 9th is the feast of St Columba.

Four holy founders of monasteries came from Scotia (Ireland), to visit St. Columba, and found him in the Hinba island (Eilean-na-Naoimh)….

They all with one consent agreed that St. Columba should consecrate, in their presence in the church, the holy mysteries of the Eucharist.

The saint complied with their express desire, and entered the church with them on Sunday as usual, after the reading of the Gospel….

There, during the celebration of the solemn offices of the Mass, St. Brenden Mocu Alti saw, as he told Comgell and Cainnech afterwards, a ball of fire like a comet burning very brightly on the head of Columba, while he was standing before the altar, and consecrating the holy oblation.

And thus it continued burning and rising upwards like a column, so long as he continued to be engaged in the same most sacred mysteries….

When the saint was living in the Hinba island (Eilean-na-Naoimh), the grace of the Holy Ghost was communicated to him abundantly and unspeakably, and dwelt with him in a wonderful manner….

For three whole days, and as many nights, without either eating or drinking, he allowed no one to approach him, and remained confined in a house which was filled with heavenly brightness.

Yet out of that house, through the chinks of the doors and keyholes, rays of surpassing brilliancy were seen to issue during the night. Certain spiritual songs also, which had never been heard before, he was heard to sing.

He came to see, as he allowed in the presence of a very few afterwards, many secrets hidden from men since the beginning of the world fully revealed; certain very obscure and difficult parts of sacred Scripture also were made quite plain, and clearer than the light to the eye of his pure heart.

Another night also, one of the brothers…came by chance, while the other brothers were asleep, to the gate of the church, and stood there for some time praying.

Then suddenly he saw the whole church filled with a heavenly light, which more quickly than he could tell, flashed like lightning from his gaze. He did not know that St. Columba was praying at that time in the church, and after this sudden appearance of light, he returned home in great alarm.

On the following day the saint called him aside and rebuked him severely, saying: “Take care of one thing, my child, that you do not attempt to spy out and pry too closely into the nature of that heavenly light which was not granted thee, but rather fled from thee, and that thou do not tell any one during my lifetime what thou hast seen.”

Adomnán of Iona (628-704): Life of St. Columba, Book 1, 18, 19, 21; from Life of Saint Columba, Founder of Hy, Written by Adamnan, Ninth Abbot of that Monastery, ed. William Reeves, (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1874) @ Internet Medieval Source Book; icon of St Columba by Aidan Hart.

John Damascene: The Breath of God Monday, Jun 9 2014 

John-of-Damascus_01The Word must also possess Spirit [the Greek term Πνεῦμα denotes both “breath” and “spirit”].

For in fact even our word is not destitute of spirit; but in our case the spirit is something different from our essence.

For there is an attraction and movement of the air which is drawn in and poured forth that the body may be sustained.

And it is this which in the moment of utterance becomes the articulate word, revealing in itself the force of the word.

But in the case of the divine nature, which is simple and uncompound, we must confess in all piety that there exists a Spirit of God, for the Word is not more imperfect than our own word.

Now we cannot, in piety, consider the Spirit to be something foreign that gains admission into God from without, as is the case with compound natures like us.

When we heard of the Word of God, we considered it to be not without subsistence, nor the product of learning, nor the mere utterance of voice, nor as passing into the air and perishing, but as being essentially subsisting, endowed with free volition, and energy, and omnipotence.

So also, when we have learnt about the Spirit of God, we contemplate it as the companion of the Word and the revealer of His energy, and not as mere breath without subsistence.

For to conceive of the Spirit that dwells in God as after the likeness of our own spirit, would be to drag down the greatness of the divine nature to the lowest depths of degradation.

But we must contemplate it as an essential power, existing in its own proper and peculiar subsistence, proceeding from the Father and resting in the Word, and shewing forth the Word,

neither capable of disjunction from God in Whom it exists, and the Word Whose companion it is, nor poured forth to vanish into nothingness,

but being in subsistence in the likeness of the Word, endowed with life, free volition, independent movement, energy, ever willing that which is good, and having power to keep pace with the will in all its decrees, having no beginning and no end.

For never was the Father at any time lacking in the Word, nor the Word in the Spirit.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 1, 7.

Seraphim of Sarov: In the Fullness of the Spirit of God Sunday, Jun 8 2014 

Seraphim_SarovskyThen Father Seraphim took me very firmly by the shoulders and said: “We are both in the Spirit of God now, my son. Why don’t you look at me?”

I replied: “I cannot look, Father, because your eyes are flashing like lightning. Your face has become brighter than the sun, and my eyes ache with pain.”

Father Seraphim said: “Don’t be alarmed, your Godliness! Now you yourself have become as bright as I am. You are now in the fullness of the Spirit of God yourself; otherwise you would not be able to see me as I am.”

Then, bending his head towards me, he whispered softly in my ear: “Thank the Lord God for His unutterable mercy to us!

“You saw that I did not even cross myself; and only in my heart I prayed mentally to the Lord God and said within myself:

“‘Lord, grant him to see clearly with his bodily eyes that descent of Thy Spirit which Thou grantest to Thy servants when Thou art pleased to appear in the light of Thy magnificent glory.’

“And you see, my son, the Lord instantly fulfilled the humble prayer of poor Seraphim. How then shall we not thank Him for this unspeakable gift to us both?

“Even to the greatest hermits, my son, the Lord God does not always show His mercy in this way.

“This grace of God, like a loving mother, has been pleased to comfort your contrite heart at the intercession of the Mother of God herself.

“But why, my son, do you not look me in the eyes? Just look, and don’t be afraid! The Lord is with us!”

After these words I glanced at his face and there came over me an even greater reverent awe.

Imagine in the center of the sun, in the dazzling light of its midday rays, the face of a man talking to you.

You see the movement of his lips and the changing expression of his eyes, you hear his voice, you feel someone holding your shoulders;

yet you do not see his hands, you do not even see yourself or his figure, but only a blinding light spreading far around for several yards and illumining with its glaring sheen both the snow-blanket which covered the forest glade and the snow-flakes which besprinkled me and the great Elder.

You can imagine the state I was in!

“How do you feel now?” Father Seraphim asked me.

“Extraordinarily well,” I said.

“But in what way? How exactly do you feel well?”

I answered: “I feel such calmness and peace in my soul that no words can express it.”

Seraphim of Sarov (Orthodox Church; 1759-1833): On the Acquisition of the Holy Spirit.

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