Athanasius of Alexandria: The Psalms portray the movements of the human soul in all their great variety Saturday, May 2 2015 

AthanasiusThe Psalter has this peculiar marvel of its own, that within it are represented and portrayed in all their great variety the movements of the human soul.

It is like a picture, in which you see yourself portrayed, and seeing, may understand and consequently form yourself upon the pattern given.

Elsewhere in the Bible you read only that the Law commands this or that to be done, you listen to the Prophets to learn about the Saviour’s coming, or you turn to the historical books to learn the doings of the kings and holy men.

But in the Psalter, besides all these things, you learn about yourself.

You find depicted in it all the movements of your soul, all its changes, its ups and downs, its failures and recoveries.

Moreover, whatever your particular need or trouble, from this same book you can select a form of words to fit it, so that you do not merely hear and then pass on, but learn the way to remedy your ill.

Prohibitions of evil-doing are plentiful in Scripture, but only the Psalter tells you how to obey these orders and abstain from sin.

Repentance, for example, is enjoined repeatedly; but to repent means to leave off sinning, and it is the Psalms that show you how to set about repenting and with what words your penitence may be expressed.

Again, Saint Paul says, Tribulation worketh endurance, and endurance experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed (Rom 5:3, 5); but it is in the Psalms that we find written and described how afflictions should be borne, and what the afflicted ought to say, both at the time and when his troubles cease.

The whole process of his testing is set forth in them and we are shown exactly with what words to voice our hope in God.

Or take the commandment, In everything give thanks (1 Thess 5:18). The Psalms not only exhort us to be thankful, they also provide us with fitting words to say.

We are told, too, by other writers that all who would live godly in Christ must suffer persecution (2 Tim 3:12); and here again the Psalms supply words with which both those who flee persecution and those who suffer under it may suitably address themselves to God, and it does the same for those who have been rescued from it.

We are bidden elsewhere in the Bible also to bless the Lord and to acknowledge Him: here in the Psalms we are shown the way to do it, and with what sort of words His majesty may meetly be confessed.

In fact, under all the circumstances of life, we shall find that these divine songs suit ourselves and meet our own souls’ need at every turn.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Letter to Marcellinus in Athanasius: The Life Of Antony And The Letter To Marcellinus, translated by Robert C. Gregg; Paulist Press, New York; pp. 101-129; 1980 @ Athanasius.com

Gregory Nazianzen: In Himself He exhausted the bad, as fire does wax, or as the sun does the mists of earth Friday, May 1 2015 

St.-Gregory-Nazianzen“He learnt obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8), and to His “strong crying and tears,” and His “Entreaties,” and His “being heard,” and His” Reverence,” all of which He wonderfully wrought out, like a drama whose plot was devised on our behalf.

For in His character of the Word He was neither obedient nor disobedient.  For such expressions belong to servants, and inferiors, and the one applies to the better sort of them, while the other belongs to those who deserve punishment.

But, in the character of the Form of a Servant, He condescends to His fellow servants, nay, to His servants, and takes upon Him a strange form, bearing all me and mine in Himself, that in Himself He may exhaust the bad, as fire does wax, or as the sun does the mists of earth; and that I may partake of His nature by the blending.

Thus He honours obedience by His action, and proves it experimentally by His Passion.  For to possess the disposition is not enough, just as it would not be enough for us, unless we also proved it by our acts; for action is the proof of disposition.

And perhaps it would not be wrong to assume this also, that by the art of His love for man He gauges our obedience, and measures all by comparison with His own Sufferings, so that He may know our condition by His own, and how much is demanded of us, and how much we yield, taking into the account, along with our environment, our weakness also.

For if the Light shining through the veil upon the darkness, that is upon this life, was persecuted by the other darkness (I mean, the Evil One and the Tempter), how much more will the darkness be persecuted, as being weaker than it?

And what marvel is it, that though He entirely escaped, we have been, at any rate in part, overtaken?  For it is a more wonderful thing that He should have been chased than that we should have been captured;—at least to the minds of all who reason aright on the subject.

I will add yet another passage to those I have mentioned, because I think that it clearly tends to the same sense.  I mean “In that He hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18).

But God will be all in all in the time of restitution…when we shall be no longer divided (as we now are by movements and passions), and containing nothing at all of God, or very little, but shall be entirely like.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 30, 6.

Hilarion Troitsky: The sting of death has been blunted. Corruption is conquered, for the antidote for the illness of corruption is given Thursday, Apr 30 2015 

Hilarion_TroitskyPascha of incorruption… The ancient inheritance is returned…

[…] Man fell away from God, and his spiritual and physical corruption began.

Self-rule in spiritual life led to slavery to sin and passions. Man began to decay in seductive passions.

[…] Our soul is not healthy, it is sick. Corruption reigns in our soul, and our body is quite obviously subject to corruption.

Many do not notice their spiritual sickness; they stifle the inner groaning and cry of the soul with the noise of life.

But death and bodily decay are irrefutable, and all life’s vivid color pales before this decay.

[…]  Humanity has always seen the inner corruption of its spiritual nature, and has always beheld with its own eyes the destruction of the temple of its body.

To admit that you are spiritually rotting and to know that your body is the inheritance of worms—that is the lot of sinful man!

Where is the joy? What can we hope for in the future? Sin is essentially linked with unhappiness and suffering. Sinful awareness paints the future in dark, joyless colors.

The Hebrew Sheol, the kingdom of shadows in the murky Hades of the Hellenes and Romans—both depict a disconsolate future.

Salvation is healing. Salvation is freedom from corruption. Salvation is a return to the original goodness of incorruption; for man was created in incorruption.

Needed was the restoration to health of human nature. This restoration is given in the incarnation of the Son of God.

“We could not have become incorrupt and immortal, had not the Incorrupt and Immortal One not been first made what we are.”

The Incorrupt and Immortal One, in His unity of persons, has assumed “the corruption and death of my stolen nature.”

The nature of corruption received the inoculation of incorruption, and the process of creation’s renewal, the process of man’s deification, has begun, as has also begun the creation of god-humanity.

The sting of death has been blunted. Corruption is conquered, for the antidote for the illness of corruption is given.

All those born of earth have inevitably come to those gates of death and hid behind them, trembling with horror. But now, Christ is resurrected!

What does this mean? This means that salvation is truly wrought. For, human nature has joined with Divine nature in the person of Christ, “unmingled, unchanged, undivided, and inseparable.”

[…] Together with Christ, our human nature has passed through the mysterious gates of death. Death reigns, but not forever!

Death was terrible to the human race before Christ’s death, but after Christ’s resurrection, man became terrible to death, for One of us has conquered death; He did not remain in the tomb, and did not see corruption.

Hilarion Troitsky (1886-1929; Russian Orthodox): From his three-volume work, published by Sretensky Monastery [in Russian]Translated by Nun Cornelia (Rees) @ Pravoslavie.

See also  Hilarion Troitsky: My sinful illness is curable—the Resurrection of Christ convinces me of this

Ephrem the Syrian: At the last, worship also shall be gathered in completely to its Lord Wednesday, Apr 29 2015 

Mor_Ephrem_iconGod was sent from the Godhead, to come and convict the graven images that they were no gods.

And when He took away from them the name of God which decked them out, then appeared the blemishes of their persons.

And their blemishes were these;—They have eyes and see not, and ears and hear not (Ps. 114/115:5-6).

Thy preaching persuaded their many worshippers to change their many gods for the One.

For in that Thou didst take away the name of godhead from the idols, worship also along with the name was withdrawn; that, namely, which is bound up with the name; for worship also attends on the Name of God.

Because, then, worship also was rendered to the Name, by all the Gentiles, at the last the worshipful Name shall be gathered in entirely to its Lord.

Therefore, at the last, worship also shall be gathered in completely to its Lord, that it may be fulfilled that all things shall be subjected to Him.

Then, He in His turn shall be subjected to Him Who subjected all things to Him (1 Cor. 15:27-28). So that that Name, rising from degree to degree, shall be bound up with its root.

For when all creatures shall be bound by their love to the Son through Whom they were created, and the Son shall be bound by the love of that Father by Whom He was begotten, all creatures shall give thanks at the last to the Son, through Whom they received all blessings.

And in Him and with Him they shall give thanks also to His Father, from Whose treasure He distributes all riches to us.

Glory be to Thee Who didst clothe Thyself in the body of mortal Adam, and didst make it a fountain of life for all mortals.

Thou art He that livest, for Thy slayers were as husbandmen to Thy life, for that they sowed it as wheat in the depth of the earth, that it may rise and raise up many with it.

Come, let us make our love the great censer of the community, and offer on it as incense our hymns and our prayers to Him Who made His Cross a censer for the Godhead, and offered from it on behalf of us all.

He that was above stooped down to those who were beneath, to distribute His treasures to them.  Accordingly, though the needy drew near to His manhood, yet they used to receive the gift from His Godhead.

Therefore He made the body which He put on the treasurer of His riches, that He, O Lord, might bring them out of Thy storehouse, and distribute them to the needy, the sons of His kindred.

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Homily on Our Lord, 8-9.

Cyril of Jerusalem: “I will hold Him, and will not let Him go” Tuesday, Apr 28 2015 

Cyril-of-JerusalemBefore He entered through the closed doors, the Bridegroom and Suitor of souls was sought by those noble and brave women.

[…] Mary [Magdalen] came seeking Him, according to the Gospel, and found Him not.

And presently she heard from the Angels, and afterwards saw the Christ.

Are then these things also written?  He says in the Song of Songs, On my bed I sought Him whom my soul loved.

At what season?  By night on my bed I sought Him Whom my soul loved.

Mary, it says, came while it was yet dark.  On my bed I sought Him by night, I sought Him, and I found Him not (Cant. 3:1; John 20:1).

And in the Gospels Mary says, They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him (John 20:13).

But the Angels being then present cure their want of knowledge; for they said, Why seek ye the living among the dead?  (Luke 24:5). He not only rose, but had also the dead with Him when He rose (Matt. 27:52).

But she knew not, and in her person the Song of Songs said to the Angels, Saw ye Him Whom my soul loved? It was but a little that I passed from them (that is, from the two Angels), until I found Him Whom my soul loved.  I held Him, and would not let Him go (Cant. 3:3,4). 13.

For after the vision of the Angels, Jesus came as His own Herald; and the Gospel says, And behold Jesus met them, saying, All hail! and they came and took hold of His feet (Matt. 27:9). They took hold of Him, that it might be fulfilled, I will hold Him, and will not let Him go.

Though the woman was weak in body, her spirit was manful.  Many waters quench not love, neither do rivers drown it (Cant. 8:7); He whom they sought was dead, yet the hope of the Resurrection was not quenched.

And the Angel says to them again, Fear not ye; I say not to the soldiers, fear not, but to you (Matt. 28:5); as for them, let them be afraid, that, taught by experience, they may bear witness and say, Truly this was the Son of God (Matt. 27:54); but you ought not to be afraid, for perfect love casteth out fear (1 John 4:18).

Go, tell His disciples that He is risen (Matt. 28:7); and the rest.  And they depart with joy, yet full of fear. Is this also written?

Yes, the second Psalm, which relates the Passion of Christ, says, Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice unto Him with trembling (Ps. 2:11);—rejoice, because of the risen Lord; but with trembling, because of the earthquake, and the Angel who appeared as lightning.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 14, 12-13.

Gregory Palamas: The resurrection of the Lord is the re-creation of the first Adam Monday, Apr 27 2015 

Gregory_PalamasThe resurrection of the Lord is the regeneration of human nature.

It is the resuscitation and re-creation of the first Adam, whom sin led to death, and who because of death, again was made to retrace his steps on the earth from which he was made.

The resurrection is the return to immortal life.

Whereas no one saw that first man when he was created and given life—because no man existed yet at that time—woman was the first person to see him after he had received the breath of life by divine inbreathing.

For after him, Eve was the first human being.

Likewise no one saw the second Adam, who is the Lord, rise from the dead, for none of his followers were nearby and the soldiers guarding the tomb were so shaken that they were like dead men.

Following the resurrection, however, it was a woman who saw Him first before the others.

[…] The Myrrhbearers are all those women who followed with the mother of the Lord, stayed with her during those hours of the salvific passion, and with pathos anointed him with myrrh.

After Joseph and Nicodemos asked for and received the body of the Lord from Pilate, they took it down from the cross, wrapped it in a cloth with strong spices, placed it in a carved out tomb, and closed the door of the tomb with a large stone.

The Myrrhbearers were close by and watched, and as the Evangelist Mark relates, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were seated opposite the grave. With the expression “and the other Mary” he means the mother of Christ without a doubt.

[…] St Luke writes that they went and bought spices and myrrh; for they did not yet clearly know that he is truly the perfume of life for those who approach him in faith, just as he is also the odor of death for those who remain unbelievers to the end.

They did not yet clearly know that the odor of his clothes, the odor of his own body, is greater than all perfumes, that his name is like myrrh that is poured out to cover the world with his divine fragrance.

For those who wanted to remain close by the body, they contrived an antidote of perfumes for the stench of decomposition and anointed it. Thus they prepared the myrrh and the spices and rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.

For they had not yet experienced the true sabbath, nor did they understand that exceedingly blessed sabbath that transports us from the confines of hell to the perfection of the bright and divine heights of heaven.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily for the Sunday of The Myrrhbearing Women, translated by Fr. Hierodeacon Photios Touloumes+ from Migne P.G. vol 151, pp 236-248; full text @ Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church.

Athanasius of Alexandria: Let us then sing unto the Lord a song of victory Sunday, Apr 26 2015 

AthanasiusThe patriarch [Abraham] was tried, through Isaac.

However it was not Isaac who was sacrificed (Gen. 22), but He who was pointed out in Isaiah:

‘He shall be led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers he shall be speechless’ (Is. 53:7).

[…] The death of Isaac did not procure freedom to the world, but that of our Saviour alone, by whose stripes we all are healed’ (Is. 53:5).

For He raised up the falling, healed the sick, satisfied those who were hungry, and filled the poor, and, what is more wonderful, raised us all from the dead.

Having abolished death, He has brought us from affliction and sighing to the rest and gladness of this feast, a joy which reaches even to heaven.

For not we alone are affected by this, but because of it, even the heavens rejoice with us, and the whole church of the firstborn, written in heaven (Heb. 12:23), is made glad together, as the prophet proclaims, saying:

‘Rejoice, ye heavens, for the Lord hath had mercy upon Israel. Shout, ye foundations of the earth. Cry out with joy, ye mountains, ye high places, and all the trees which are in them, for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and Israel hath been glorified’ (Is. 44:23).

And again; ‘Rejoice, and be glad, ye heavens; let the hills melt into gladness, for the Lord hath had mercy on His people, and comforted the oppressed of the people’ (Is. 49:13).

The whole creation keeps a feast, my brethren, and everything that hath breath praises the Lord’ (Ps. 150:6), as the Psalmist says, on account of the destruction of the enemies, and on account of our salvation.

And justly indeed; for if there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth (Luke 15:7), what should there not be over the abolition of sin, and the resurrection of the dead?

Oh what a feast and how great the gladness in heaven! how must all its hosts joy and exult, as they rejoice and watch in our assemblies, those that are held continually, and especially those at Easter?

For they look on sinners while they repent; on those who have turned away their faces, when they become converted; on those who formerly persisted in lusts and excess, but who now humble themselves by fastings and temperance; and, finally, on the enemy who lies weakened, lifeless, bound hand and foot, so that we may mock at him:

‘Where is thy victory, O Death? where is thy sting, O Grave’ (1 Cor. 15:55). Let us then sing unto the Lord a song of victory.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Sixth Festal Letter, 8-10 (slightly adapted).

Gregory of Nyssa: Man, through the resurrection, was refashioned, sound, passionless, stainless, and removed from any touch of evil Saturday, Apr 25 2015 

Gregory_of_NyssaContinued from here….

What, then, have we beheld in the case of the Captain of our salvation?

A three days’ state of death and then life again.

Now some sort of resemblance in us to such things has to be planned.

What, then, is the plan by which in us too a resemblance to that which took place in Him is completed?

Everything that is affected by death has its proper and natural place, and that is the earth in which it is laid and hidden.

Now earth and water have much mutual affinity. Alone of the elements they have weight and gravitate downwards; they mutually abide in each other; they are mutually confined.

Seeing, then, the death of the Author of our life subjected Him to burial in earth and was in accord with our common nature, the imitation which we enact of that death is expressed in the neighbouring element [i.e. water].

He, that Man from above (John 3:31; 1 Cor. 15:47), having taken deadness on Himself, after His being deposited in the earth, returned back to life the third day.

So also everyone who is knitted to Him by virtue of his bodily form, looking forward to the same successful issue, I mean this arriving at life by having, instead of earth, water poured on him, and so submitting to that element, has represented for him in the three movements the three-days-delayed grace of the resurrection.

[…] By the Divine providence death has been introduced as a dispensation into the nature of man, so that, sin having flowed away at the dissolution of the union of soul and body, man, through the resurrection, might be refashioned, sound, passionless, stainless, and removed from any touch of evil.

In the case however of the Author of our Salvation this dispensation of death reached its fulfilment, having entirely accomplished its special purpose.

For in His death, not only were things that once were one put asunder, but also things that had been disunited were again brought together.

This happened so that in this dissolution of things that had naturally grown together, I mean, the soul and body, our nature might be purified, and this return to union of these severed elements might secure freedom from the contamination of any foreign admixture.

But as regards those who follow this Leader, their nature does not admit of an exact and entire imitation, but it receives now as much as it is capable of receiving, while it reserves the remainder for the time that comes after.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): The Great Catechism, 35.

John Damascene: He has deified our flesh forever, and we are sanctified through His Godhead and the union of His flesh with it Friday, Apr 24 2015 

John-of-Damascus_01St Basil says: “Honouring the image leads to the prototype”.

If you raise churches to the saints of God, raise also their trophies.

[…] From the time that God the Word became flesh He is as we are in everything except sin, and of our nature, without confusion.

He has deified our flesh forever, and we are in very deed sanctified through His Godhead and the union of His flesh with it.

And from the time that God, the Son of God, impassible by reason of His Godhead, chose to suffer voluntarily He wiped out our debt, also paying for us a most full and noble ransom.

We are truly free through the sacred blood of the Son pleading for us with the Father.

And we are indeed delivered from corruption since He descended into hell to the souls detained there through centuries and gave the captives their freedom, sight to the blind, and chaining the strong one.

He rose in the plenitude of His power, keeping the flesh of immortality which He had taken for us.

And since we have been born again of water and the Spirit, we are truly sons and heirs of God.

Hence St Paul calls the faithful holy; hence we do not grieve but rejoice over the death of the saints.

[…] We are not held by the letter of the law, nor do we serve as children, but, grown into the perfect estate of man, we are fed on solid food, not on that which conduces to idolatry.

The law is good as a light shining in a dark place until the day breaks. Your hearts have already been illuminated, the living water of God’s knowledge has run over the tempestuous seas of heathendom, and we may all know God.

The old creation has passed away, and all things are renovated.

[…] Of old they who did not know God, worshipped false gods. But now, knowing God, or rather being known by Him, how can we return to bare and naked rudiments?

I have looked upon the human form of God, and my soul has been saved. I gaze upon the image of God, as Jacob did, though in a different way.

Jacob sounded the note of the future, seeing with immaterial sight, whilst the image of Him who is visible to flesh is burnt into my soul.

The shadow and winding sheet and relics of the apostles cured sickness, and put demons to flight. How, then, shall not the shadow and the statues of the saints be glorified?

John Damascene (c.675-749): Against Those Who Deny Holy Images, pp 24-27.

Ambrose of Milan: We are anointed by the Father unto life everlasting Thursday, Apr 23 2015 

ambrose_of_milanYou were asked: ‘Do you believe in God the Father almighty?’

You said: ‘I do believe’ and you dipped [in the baptismal font], that is: you were buried.

Again you were asked: Do you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and in His cross?’

You said: ‘I do believe,’ and you dipped. So you were also buried together with Christ. For who is buried with Christ rises again with Christ.

A third time you were asked: ‘Do you believe also in the Holy Spirit?’

You said: ‘I do believe’ you dipped a third time, so that the threefold confession absolved the multiple lapse of the higher life.

[…] Thus, then, the Father dismisses sin; thus the Son dismisses it; thus, too, the Holy Spirit.

But do not marvel that we are baptized in one name, that is, ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ because He said one name, in which is one substance, one divinity, one majesty.

This is the name of which it is said: ‘Whereby we must be saved.’ In this name you all have been saved; you have returned to the grace of life.

So the Apostle exclaims, as you heard in the reading of the Gospel today, that whoever is baptized is baptized in the death of Jesus.

What is ‘in the death’? That, just as Christ died, so you also taste of death; just as Christ died to sin and lives unto God, so you, too, died to the former allurements of sins through the sacrament of baptism and rose again through the grace of Christ.

So death is [i.e., so we really do die in baptism], but not in the reality of corporal death but in likeness.

For when you dip, you take on the likeness of death and burial, you receive the sacrament of that cross, because Christ hung on the cross and His body was transfixed with nails.

You then are crucified with Him; you cling to Christ, you cling to the nails of our Lord Jesus Christ, lest the Devil be able to take you from Him. Let the nail of Christ hold you, whom the weakness of human condition recalls.

So you dipped; you came to the priest. What did he say to you? He said : ‘God the Father Almighty, who regenerated you by water and the Holy Spirit and forgave you your sins, Himself will anoint you unto life everlasting.’

See, unto what you were anointed, he said : ‘Unto life everlasting’ Do not prefer this [present] life to that life [life everlasting].

[…] Do not choose that in which you are not anointed, but choose that in which you are anointed, so that you prefer eternal life to temporal life.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On the Sacraments, 2,7,20-24 in St Ambrose: Theological and Dogmatic Works, tr. Roy J. Deferrari, Catholic Univeristy of America Press, 1963, pp. 286-288.

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