Irenaeus of Lyons: Calling men anew to communion with God, that by communion with Him we may partake of incorruption Tuesday, Aug 23 2016 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonContinued from here….

If He was not born, neither did He die. And, if He died not, neither did He rise from the dead.

And, if He rose not from the dead, neither did He vanquish death and bring its reign to nought.

And if death be not vanquished, how can we ascend to life, who from the beginning have fallen under death?

So then those who take away redemption from man, and believe not in God that He will raise them from the dead, these also despise the birth of our Lord.

This He underwent on our behalf, that the Word of God should be made flesh in order that He might manifest the resurrection of the flesh, and might have pre-eminence over all things in the heavens, as the first-born and eldest offspring of the thought of the Father, the Word, fulfilling all things, and Himself guiding and ruling upon earth.

For He was the Virgin’s first-born, a just and holy man, godfearing, good, well-pleasing to God, perfect in all ways, and delivering from hell all who follow after Him. For He Himself was the first-begotten of the dead, the Prince and Author of life unto God.

Thus then the Word of God in all things hath the pre-eminence; for that He is true man and Wonderful Counsellor and Mighty God, calling men anew to communion with God, that by communion with Him we may partake of incorruption.

He was proclaimed by the law through Moses, and by the prophets of the Most High and Almighty God, as Son of the Father of all – He from whom all things are, He who spake with Moses.

He came into Judaea, generated from God by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary, even of her who was of the seed of David and of Abraham, Jesus the Anointed of God, showing Himself to be the One who was proclaimed beforehand by the prophets.

And His forerunner was John the Baptist who prepared and made ready the people beforehand for the reception of the Word of life; declaring that He was the Christ, on whom the Spirit of God rested, mingling with His flesh.

His disciples…, after receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, were sent forth by Him into all the world, and wrought the calling of the Gentiles, showing to mankind the way of life, to turn them from idols and fornication and covetousness, cleansing their souls and bodies by the baptism of water and of the Holy Spirit.

This Holy Spirit they had received of the Lord, and they distributed and imparted It to them that believed; and thus they ordered and established the Churches.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 39-41 [slightly adapted].

John Damascene: Let all nature keep the feast of the Assumption of the Theotokos Monday, Aug 15 2016 

John-of-Damascus_01Behold the Virgin, the daughter of Adam and Mother of God; through Adam she gives her body to the earth, her soul to her Son above in the heavenly courts.

Let the holy city be sanctified, and rejoice in eternal praise. Let angels precede the divine tabernacle on its passage, and prepare the tomb.

Let the radiance of the spirit adorn it. Let sweet ointment be made ready and poured over the pure and undefiled body. Let a clear stream of grace flow from grace in its source.

Let the earth be sanctified by contact with that body. Let the air rejoice at the Assumption. Let gentle breezes waft grace. Let all nature keep the feast of the Mother of God’s Assumption.

[…] Let us draw round that most sacred bed and sing the sweet words, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

“Hail, predestined Mother of God. Hail, thou chosen one in the design of God from all eternity, most sacred hope of earth, resting-place of divine fire, holiest delight of the Spirit, fountain of living water, paradise of the tree of life, divine vine-branch, bringing forth soul-sustaining nectar and ambrosia.

“Full river of spiritual graces, fertile land of the  divine pastures, rose of purity, with the sweet fragrance of grace, lily of the royal robe, pure Mother of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, token of our redemption, handmaid and Mother, surpassing angelic powers.”

Come, let us stand round that pure tomb and draw grace to our hearts. Let us raise the ever-virginal body with spiritual arms, and go with her into the grave to die with her.

Let us renounce our passions, and live with her in purity, listening to the divine canticles of angels in the heavenly courts.

Let us go in adoring, and learn the wondrous mystery by which she is assumed to heaven, to be with her Son, higher than all the angelic choirs.

[…] This, O Mother of God, is my third sermon on thy departure…. Accept, then, my good-will, which is greater than my capacity, and give us salvation.

Heal our passions, cure our diseases, help us out of our difficulties, make our lives peaceful, send us the illumination of the Spirit.

Inflame us with the desire of thy Son. Render us pleasing to Him, so that we may enjoy happiness with Him, seeing thee resplendent with thy Son’s glory, rejoicing for ever, keeping feast in the Church with those who worthily celebrate Him who worked our salvation through thee, Christ the Son of God, and our God.

To Him be glory and majesty, with the uncreated Father and the all-holy and life-giving Spirit, now and for ever, through the endless ages of eternity. Amen.

John Damascene (c.675-749): Homily 3 on the Dormition of the Theotokos @ Medieval Sourcebook.

Cyril of Alexandria: Christ is the vine, and we are dependent on Him as branches, drinking in by the Spirit spiritual power to bear fruit Sunday, Jul 24 2016 

cyril_alexandriaContinued from here….

If we are convinced that the Son is really and truly in His own Father, and He has Him that begat Him in His own nature, and all things are brought to perfection by Both in the Spirit as by One Divinity, neither will the Father be without His share in nourishing us, nor can the Son be thought not to partake in His husbandry.

For where Their identity of nature is seen in unmistakeable language, there too there is no division of activity, though any one may think that they have manifold diversities of operations.

And, as there is one Substance, that is the true and real Godhead conceived of in three Persons, that is in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is it not extremely clear and incontrovertible that when we speak of an activity of one, it is a function of the One and entire Divinity, in the way of inherent power?

Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ, accepting His Father as His Fellow-worker in all He did, once…said: Many good works have I showed you from My Father: for which of those works do ye stone Me? And again, about working on the Sabbath-day: My Father worketh even until now, and I work. 

And no one would think He said that the Father acts separately in His dealings with the world, and so also the Son. For since the Father does all things by the Son, and could not otherwise act, as He is His wisdom and power, for this reason He, on the other hand, called the Father the doer of His own works, when He said: I do nothing of Myself; but the Father abiding in Me doeth His works. 

I think, therefore, we ought to take this view and no other, that Christ takes the place of the vine, and we are dependent on Him as branches, enriched as it were by His grace, and drinking in by the Spirit spiritual power to bear fruit.

[…] Christ, being as it were the root, is the Vine, and we are the branches. And if He called the Father the Husbandman, do not think that He spoke of Him as being different in substance.

For He does not mean this, as we have said; but wishes to point out that the Divine Nature is the root and origin in us of the power of producing the fruits of the Spirit of life, besides the blessings we have spoken of, tending us like a husbandman, and extending over those who are called by faith to partake in it the providence of love.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on John, Book 10 (on John 15:1ff).

Macarius the Egyptian: The covenant is within, and the battle within Wednesday, Jul 20 2016 

Macarius3The glory of Moses which he had upon his countenance was a figure of the true glory.

For as in that case the Jews were not able to look steadfastly upon the face of Moses (2 Cor. 3:7), so now Christians receive that glory of light in their souls, and the darkness, not bearing the radiance of the light, is blinded and banished.

They were made known to be the people of God by circumcision; here, God’s peculiar people receive the sign of circumcision inwardly in their heart.

The heavenly knife cuts away the unwanted portion of the mind, which is the impure uncircumcision of sin.

With them was a baptism sanctifying the flesh; with us, a baptism of Holy Ghost and fire, for this is what John preached: He shall baptize you with Holy Ghost and fire (Matt. 3:11).

There they had an outer tabernacle and an inner, and into the first the priests went continually, accomplishing the services; but into the second went the high priest alone once every year, with blood, the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest was not yet made manifest (Hebrews 9:6ff).

Here, on the other hand, those who have the privilege enter into the tabernacle not made with hands, whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Christ (Heb. 6:20).

It is written in the law that the priest should take two doves, and kill the one, and sprinkle the living one with its blood, and loose it and let it fly free.

That which was done was a figure and shadow of the truth; for Christ was slain, and His blood sprinkling us has made us to grow wings, for He has given us the wings of the Holy Ghost, that we may fly without hindrance into the air of the Godhead.

To them was given a law written upon tables of stone; but to us, spiritual laws, engraven upon fleshy tables of the heart (2 Cor. 3:3) for it says, I will put My laws in their hearts, and upon their minds will I write them (Heb. 10:16).

All those things were temporary and to be done away; but now all are accomplished in truth on the inner man.

The covenant is within, and the battle within. In short, whatsoever things happened unto them were done in a figure, and were written for our admonition (1 Cor. 10:11).

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 47, 1-3, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Seraphim of Sarov: By the Kingdom of God the Lord meant the grace of the Holy Spirit Tuesday, Jul 19 2016 

Seraphim_Sarovsky

And Father Seraphim, smiling pleasantly, said…:

The sweetest earthly fragrance cannot be compared with the fragrance which we now feel, for we are now enveloped in the fragrance of the Holy Spirit of God.

What on earth can be like it? Mark, your Godliness, you have told me that around us it is warm as in a bath-house; but look, neither on you nor on me does the snow melt, nor does it underfoot; therefore, this warmth is not in the air but in us.

It is that very warmth about which the Holy Spirit in the words of prayer makes us cry to the Lord: ‘Warm me with the warmth of Thy Holy Spirit!’

By it the hermits of both sexes were kept warm and did not fear the winter frost, being clad, as in fur coats, in the grace-given clothing woven by the Holy Spirit.

And so it must be in actual fact, for the grace of God must dwell within us, in our heart, because the Lord said: The Kingdom of God is within you (Lk. 17:21).

By the Kingdom of God the Lord meant the grace of the Holy Spirit. This Kingdom of God is now within us, and the grace of the Holy Spirit shines upon us and warms us from without as well.

It fills the surrounding air with many fragrant odours, sweetens our senses with heavenly delight and floods our hearts with unutterable joy.

Our present state is that of which the Apostle says; The Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17).

Our faith consists not in the plausible words of earthly wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and power (cp. I Cor.2:4). That is just the state that we are in now.

Of this state the Lord said: There are some of those standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the Kingdom of God come in power (Mk. 9:1).

See, my son, what unspeakable joy the Lord God has now granted us! This is what it means to be in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, about which St. Macarius of Egypt writes: ‘I myself was in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.’

With this fullness of His Holy Spirit the Lord has now filled us poor creatures to overflowing. So there is no need now, your Godliness, to ask how people come to be in the grace of the Holy Spirit. Will you remember this manifestation of God’s ineffable mercy which has visited us?

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

Peter of Damascus: “I remembered God, and I rejoiced” Wednesday, Jul 13 2016 

peter_of_damascus“Rejoice in the Lord”, said St Paul (Phil. 3:1). And he was right to say, “in the Lord”.

For if our joy is not in the Lord, not only do we not rejoice, but in all probability we never shall.

Job, as he described the life of men, found it full of every kind of affliction (cf. Job 7:1-21), and so also did St Basil the Great.

St Gregory of Nyssa said that birds and other animals rejoice because of their lack of awareness, while man, being endowed with intelligence, is never happy because of his grief; for, he says, we shall not been found worthy even to have knowledge of the blessings we have lost.

For this reason nature teaches us rather to grieve, since life is full of pain and effort, like a state of exile dominated by sin.

But if a person is constantly mindful of God, he will rejoice: as the psalmist says, “I remembered God, and I rejoiced” (Ps. 77:3. LXX).

For when the intellect is gladdened by the remembrance of God, then it forgets the afflictions of this world, places its hope in Him, and is no longer troubled or anxious.

Freedom from anxiety makes it rejoice and give thanks; and the grateful offering of thanks augments the gifts of grace it has received. And as the blessings increase, so does the thankfulness, and so does the pure prayer offered with tears of joy.

Slowly the man emerges from the tears of distress and from the passions, and enters fully into the state of spiritual joy.

Through the things that bring him pleasure, he is made humble and grateful; through trials and temptations his hope in the world to come is consolidated; in both he rejoices, and naturally and spontaneously he loves God and all men as his benefactors.

He finds nothing in the whole of creation that can harm him. Illumined by the knowledge of God he rejoices in the Lord on account of all the things that He has created, marveling at the care He shows for His creatures.

The person who has attained spiritual knowledge not only marvels at visible things, but also is astounded by his perception of many essential things invisible to those who lack experience of this knowledge. Thus he looks with wonder not only on the light of day, but also at the night.

[…] In the words of the psalmist, “As you lie in bed, repent of what you say in your heart” (Ps. 4:4. LXX), that is, repent in the stillness of the night, remembering the lapses that occurred in the confusion of the day and disciplining yourself in hymns and spiritual songs (cf Col. 3:16).

Peter of Damascus (?12th Century): Twenty -Four Discourses: XXII – Joy; Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 3 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 260-261.

**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from Peter and by other Greek authors: INTELLECT (nous): the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St Diadochos). The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Macarian Homilies).

Irenaeus of Lyons: The Word of God was made flesh by the dispensation of the Virgin, to abolish death and make man live Saturday, Jul 9 2016 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonHe fulfilled the promise made to Abraham, which God had promised him, to make his seed as the stars of heaven.

For this Christ did, who was born of the Virgin who was of Abraham’s seed, and constituted those who have faith in Him lights in the world, and by the same faith with Abraham justified the Gentiles.

[…] And He fulfilled the promise to David; for to him God had promised that of the fruit of his body He would raise up an eternal King, whose kingdom should have no end.

[…] Thus then He gloriously achieved our redemption, and fulfilled the promise of the fathers, and abolished the old disobedience.

The Son of God became Son of David and Son of Abraham; perfecting and summing up this in Himself, that He might make us to possess life.

The Word of God was made flesh by the dispensation of the Virgin, to abolish death and make man live. For we were imprisoned by sin, being born in sinfulness and living under death.

But God the Father was very merciful: He sent His creative Word, who in coming to deliver us came to the very place and spot in which we had lost life, and brake the bonds of our fetters.

And His light appeared and made the darkness of the prison disappear, and hallowed our birth and destroyed death, loosing those same fetters in which we were enchained.

And He manifested |the resurrection Himself becoming the first-begotten of the dead (Rev. 1:5), and in Himself raising up man that was fallen, lifting him up far above the heaven to the right hand of the glory of the Father: even as God promised by the prophet, saying: And I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen (Amos 9:2); that is, the flesh that was from David.

And this our Lord Jesus Christ truly fulfilled, when He gloriously achieved our redemption, that He might truly raise us up, setting us free unto the Father.

And if any man will not receive His birth from a virgin, how shall he receive His resurrection from the dead? For it is nothing wonderful and astonishing and extraordinary, if one who was not born rose from the dead: nay indeed we cannot speak of a resurrection of him who came unto being without birth.

For one who is unborn and immortal, and has not undergone birth, will also not undergo death. For he who took not the beginning of man, how could he receive his end?

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 35-38.

Gregory of Sinai: Prayer in beginners is the unceasing noetic activity of the Holy Spirit Friday, Jul 1 2016 

Gregory of SinaiThe energy of the Holy Spirit, which we have already mystically received in baptism, is realized in two ways.

First – to generalize – this gift is revealed, as St Mark tells us, through arduous and protracted practice of the commandments: to the degree to which we effectively practice the commandments its radiance is increasingly manifested in us.

Secondly, it is manifested to those under spiritual guidance through the continuous invocation of the Lord Jesus, repeated with conscious awareness, that is, through mindfulness of God.

In the first way, it is revealed more slowly, in the second more rapidly, if one diligently and persistently learns how to dig the ground and locate the gold.

Thus if we want to realize and know the truth and not to be led astray, let us seek to possess only the heart-engrafted energy in a way that is totally without shape or form, not trying to contemplate in our imagination what we take to be the figure or similitude of things holy or to see any colors or lights. For in the nature of things the spirit of delusion deceives the intellect through such spurious fantasies, especially at the early stages, in those who are still inexperienced.

On the contrary, let our aim be to make the energy of prayer alone active in our hearts, for it brings warmth and joy to the intellect, and sets the heart alight with an ineffable love for God and man. It is on account of this that humility and contrition flow richly from prayer.

For prayer in beginners is the unceasing noetic** activity of the Holy Spirit. To start with it rises like a fire of joy from the heart; in the end it is like light made fragrant by divine energy.

There are several signs that the energy of the Holy Spirit is beginning to be active in those who genuinely aspire for this to happen and are not just putting God to the test – for, according to the Wisdom of Solomon, it is found by those who do not put it to the test, and manifests itself to those who do not distrust it (cf. Wisd. 1:2).

In some it appears as awe arising in the heart, in others as a tremulous sense of jubilation, in others as joy, in others as joy mingled with awe, or as tremulousness mingled with joy, and sometimes it manifests itself as tears and awe. For the soul is joyous at God’s visitation and mercy, but at the same time is in awe and trepidation at His presence because it is guilty of so many sins.

Gregory of Sinai (1260s–1346): On the Signs of Grace and Delusion 3-4, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 4 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 259-260.

** noetic = relating to the nous. The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word nous: as used in this passage from Gregory and by other Greek authors: INTELLECT (nous): the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St Diadochos). The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Macarian Homilies).

John Chrysostom: Let us not be sad that we are mortal, but rather let us be grateful Sunday, Jun 26 2016 

Chrysostom3Not seven days have passed since we celebrated the holy feast of Pentecost and again we are overtaken by a chorus of martyrs, or better, serried ranks of martyrs, which are in no way lesser than the ranks of the angels seen by the Patriarch Jacob but equal to and of the same worth as them.

Because martyrs and angels differ only as regards the name, whereas in their works they’re united. Angels reside in the heavens, but so, too, do the martyrs. The former are eternal and immortal; the martyrs will become so.

But have the latter assumed a bodiless form? What does it matter? Because the martyrs, even though they have a body, are still immortal, or rather, before immortality, the death of Christ adorns their bodies even more greatly than immortality.

The sky, be it adorned with ever so many stars, is not so bright as the bodies of the martyrs, which are made beautiful by the blood of their wounds. So, because they died for Him, they are, in fact, superior and have been decorated before achieving immortality, since they were crowned from the moment death.

‘You have made them a little lower than the angels, with glory and honour you have crowned them’, said David, regarding the nature of the whole of the human race. But when Christ came, He completed this small amount, because He condemned death by His own death.

That is not what I am saying though. What I mean is that this defect of death became an advantage. If they had not been mortal, they would not have become martyrs. So, had there been no death, there would not have been any crown. Had there been no death, there would not be martyrdom.

Had there been no death, Saint Paul would not have been able to say ‘I affirm by the pride in you that I have in Christ Jesus our Lord: I die every day’. Had there been no death and corruption, the same Apostle would not have been able to say, ‘Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions’.

Therefore let us not be sad that we are mortal, but rather let us be grateful, since the arena of martyrdom has been opened to us by death and, by corruption, we have been given the chance of winning the prize. From now on, we have a reason to strive.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Encomium on All Saints @ Pemptousia [slightly adapted].

Gregory Palamas: Christ now sent forth the Spirit Who comes from the Father Sunday, Jun 19 2016 

Gregory_PalamasA short while ago, with the strong eyes of faith, we beheld Christ ascending, no less clearly than those accounted worthy to be eye-witnesses.

Nor are we less favoured than they. “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”, says the Lord (John 20:29), referring to those who have found assurance through hearing, and see by faith.

Recently we saw Christ lifted up from the ground bodily (Acts 1:9). Now, through the Holy Spirit sent by Him to His disciples, we see how far Christ ascended and to what dignity He carried up the nature He assumed from us.

Clearly He went up as high as the place from which the Spirit sent by Him descended. He who spoke through the prophet Joel showed us whence the Spirit comes, saying, “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28), and to Him David addressed the words, “Thou wilt send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created; and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth” (Ps. 103:32).

It follows that at His ascension Christ went up to the Father on high, as far as His Fatherly bosom, from which comes the Spirit. Having been shown, even in His human form, to share the Father’s glory, Christ now sent forth the Spirit Who comes from the Father and is sent by Him from heaven.

But when we hear that the Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son, this does not mean that the Spirit has no part in their greatness, for He is not just sent, but also Himself sends and consents to be sent.

This is clearly shown by Christ’s words spoken through the prophet, “Mine hand hath laid the foundation of the earth and stretched out the heavens, and now the Lord God, and His Spirit, hath sent Me” (cf. Isa. 48:13-16). Again, speaking through the same prophet He says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek” (Isa. 61:1).

The Holy Spirit is not just sent, but Himself sends the Son, Who is sent by the Father. He is therefore shown to be the same as the Father and the Son in nature, power, operation and honour.

By the good pleasure of the Father and the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, the only-begotten Son of God, on account of the boundless ocean of divine love for mankind, bowed the heavens and came down (Ps. 17:9). He appeared on earth after our fashion, lived among us, and did and taught great, wonderful and sublime things truly worthy of God, which led those who obeyed Him towards deification and salvation.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 24, on Pentecost, 1-2. From Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009), full version online here.

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