Cyril of Alexandria: By the newness of the sepulchre is meant the untrodden and strange pathway whereby we return from death unto life Saturday, Apr 30 2016 

cyril_alexandria“So they took the Body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new tomb, wherein was never man yet laid” (John 19:40-41).

Christ was numbered among the dead, Who for our sake became dead, according to the Flesh, but Whom we conceive to be, and Who is, in fact, Life, of Himself, and through His Father.

And, that He might fulfil all righteousness, that is, all that was appropriate to the form of man, He of His own Will subjected the Temple of His Body not merely to death, but also to what follows after death, that is, burial and being laid in the tomb.

The writer of the Gospel says that this sepulchre in the garden was a new one; this fact signifying to us, as it were, by a type and figure, that Christ’s death is the harbinger and pioneer of our entry into Paradise.

For He entered as a Forerunner for us. What other signification than this can be intended by the carrying over of the Body of Jesus in the garden?

And by the newness of the sepulchre is meant the untrodden and strange pathway whereby we return from death unto life, and the renewing of our souls, that Christ has invented for us, whereby we baffle corruption.

For henceforth, by the death of Christ, death for us has been transformed, in a manner, into sleep, with like power and functions. For we are alive unto God, and shall live for evermore, according to the Scriptures.

Therefore, also, the blessed Paul, in a variety of places, calls those asleep who have died in Christ. For in the times of old the dread presence of death held human nature in awe.

For death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression; and we bore the image of the earthy in his likeness, and underwent the death that was inflicted by the Divine curse.

The Second Adam appeared among us, the Divine Man from heaven, and, contending for the salvation of the world, purchased by His death the life of all men, and, destroying the power of corruption, rose again to life.

Then we were transformed into His Image, and we undergo, as it were, a different kind of death, that does not dissolve us in eternal corruption, but casts upon us a slumber which is laden with fair hope, after the Likeness of Him Who has made this new path for us, that is, Christ.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on John, Book 12 (on John 19:40-41) [slightly adapted].

Gaudentius of Brescia: This is the flesh of the Lamb; this is His blood Thursday, Apr 28 2016 

Church FathersOne man has died for all, and now in every church in the mystery of bread and wine he heals those for whom he is offered in sacrifice, giving life to those who believe and holiness to those who consecrate the offering.

This is the flesh of the Lamb; this is his blood. The bread that came down from heaven declared: The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.

It is significant, too, that his blood should be given to us in the form of wine, for his own words in the gospel, I am the true vine, imply clearly enough that whenever wine is offered as a representation of Christ’s passion, it is offered as his blood.

This means that it was of Christ that the blessed patriarch Jacob prophesied when he said: He will wash his tunic in wine and his cloak in the blood of the grape. The tunic was our flesh, which Christ was to put on like a garment and which he was to wash in his own blood.

Creator and Lord of all things, whatever their nature, he brought forth bread from the earth and changed it into his own body. Not only had he the power to do this, but he had promised it; and, as he had changed water into wine, he also changed wine into his own blood.

It is the Lord’s passover, Scripture tells us, that is, the Lord’s passing. We are no longer to look upon the bread and wine as earthly substances. They have become heavenly, because Christ has passed into them and changed them into his body and blood.

What you receive is the body of him who is the heavenly bread, and the blood of him who is the sacred vine; for when he offered his disciples the consecrated bread and wine, he said: This is my body, this is my blood. We have put our trust in him. I urge you to have faith in him; truth can never deceive.

When Christ told the crowds that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood, they were horrified and began to murmur among themselves: This teaching is too hard; who can be expected to listen to it?

As I have already told you, thoughts such as these must be banished. The Lord himself used heavenly fire to drive them away by going on to declare: It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Gaudentius of Brescia (d. 410): Sermon 2, from the Office of Readings, Thursday in the fifth week of Easter @ Universalis.

Gregory the Great: The fowls of the air Thursday, Apr 21 2016 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistWhence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air (Job 28:20-21).

In Holy Scripture ‘birds’ are sometimes given to be understood in a bad sense, and sometimes in a good sense.

Since by ‘the birds of the air’ occasionally the powers of the air are denoted, being hostile to the settled purposes of good men.

Whence it is said by the mouth of Truth, And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it (Matt. 13:4); in this way, because evil spirits besetting the minds of men, whilst they bring in bad thoughts, pluck the word of life out of the memory.

Hence again it is said to a certain rich man full of proud thoughts; the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head (Matt. 8:20l Luke 9:58).

For foxes are very cunning animals, that hide themselves in ditches and caves; and when they face the light, they never run in straight courses, but always by crooked doublings. But the birds as we know with lofty flight lift themselves into the air.

So, then, by the name of ‘foxes,’ the crafty and cunning demons, and by the title of the ‘birds of the air’ these same proud demons are denoted.

As if he said, ‘The deceitful and uplifted demons find their habitation in your heart; i.e. in the imagination of pride,’ ‘but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head,’ i.e. ‘My humility findeth not rest in your proud mind.’

For as by a kind of flight that first bird lifted itself up, which said in the uplifted imagination of the heart; I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the North.  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.  I will be like the Most High (Is. 14:13).

Mark how he in flying sought the regions on high with pride.  This same flight also he recommended to the first of human kind [Adam and Eve] as well.  For they themselves by flying as it were tried to go above their own selves, when it was told them that they should taste and be like gods.

And while they seek after the likeness of the Deity, they lost the blessings of immortality, which same would not by dying have gone into the earth, if they had been willing to stand with humility upon the earth.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 19, 2 (on Job 28:20-21) @ Lectionary Central.

John of Kronstadt: Know by these tokens when the Spirit of God is within you… Thursday, Apr 21 2016 

john_kronstadtObserve the difference between the presence of the life-giving spirit and the presence of the spirit that deadens and destroys your soul.

When there are good thoughts in your soul you feel happy and at ease; when peace and joy are in your heart, then the spirit of good, the Holy Ghost, is within you;

whilst when evil thoughts or evil motions of the heart arise within you, you feel ill at ease and oppressed; when you are inwardly troubled, then the spirit of evil, the crafty spirit, is within you.

When the spirit of evil is in us, then, together with oppression of heart and disturbance, we generally feel a difficulty in drawing near to God in our heart, because the evil spirit binds our soul, and will not let it raise itself to God.

The evil spirit is a spirit of doubt, unbelief – of passions, oppression, grief and disturbance; whilst the spirit of good is one of undoubting faith, of virtue, of spiritual freedom and breadth – a spirit of peace and joy.

Know by these tokens when the Spirit of God is within you, and when the spirit of evil, and, as often as possible, raise your grateful heart to the most Holy Spirit that gives you life and light, and flee with all your power from doubt, unbelief, and the passions through which the evil serpent, the thief and destroyer of our souls, creeps in.

Sometimes in the lives of pious Christians there are hours when God seems to have entirely abandoned them – hours of the power of darkness; and then the man from the depths of his heart cries unto God:

“Why hast Thou turned Thy face from me, Thou everlasting Light? For a strange darkness has covered me…and has obscured all my soul….Turn me, O Saviour, to the light of Thy commandments and make straight my spiritual way, I fervently pray Thee.”

[…] Not knowing the spirit that destroys, you will not know the Spirit that gives life. Only by means of direct contrasts of good and evil, of life and death, can we clearly know the one and the other: if you are not subjected to distresses and dangers of bodily or spiritual death, you will not truly know the Saviour, the Life-Giver, who delivers us from these distresses and from spiritual death.

Jesus Christ is the consolation, the joy, the life, the peace and the breadth of our hearts! Glory to God, the Most Wise and Most Gracious, that He allows the spirit of evil and death to tempt and torment us! Otherwise we should not have sufficiently appreciated and valued the comfort of grace, the comfort of the Holy Ghost the Comforter, the Life-Giving!

John of Kronstadt (1829-1908; Russian Orthodox): My Life in Christ, part 1, pp.37-38.

John Damascene: After He had placed man in communion with Himself, He led him up through communion with Himself to incorruption Wednesday, Apr 20 2016 

John-of-Damascus_01The Father is Father and not Son.

The Son is Son and not Father.

The Holy Spirit is Spirit and not Father or Son.

For the individuality is unchangeable. How, indeed, could individuality continue to exist at all if it were ever changing and altering?

Wherefore the Son of God became Son of Man in order that His individuality might endure.

For since He was the Son of God, He became Son of Man, being made flesh of the holy Virgin and not losing the individuality of Sonship.

Further, the Son of God became man in order that He might again bestow on man that favour for the sake of which He created him.

For He created him after His own image, endowed with intellect and free-will, and after His own likeness, that is to say, perfect in all virtue so far as it is possible for man’s nature to attain perfection.

For the following properties are, so to speak, marks of the divine nature: viz. absence of care and distraction and guile, goodness, wisdom, justice, freedom from all vice.

He placed man in communion with Himself – for having made him for incorruption (Wisd. 2:23), He led him up through communion with Himself to incorruption.

Through the transgression of the command we confused and obliterated the marks of the divine image, and, having become evil, we were stripped of our communion with God – for what communion hath light with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14)?

And, having been shut out from life we became subject to the corruption of death.

After all this, since He gave us to share in the better part, and we did not keep it secure, He shares in the inferior part, I mean our own nature.

He does this in order that – through Himself and in Himself – He might renew that which was made after His image and likeness;

and that He might teach us, too, the conduct of a virtuous life, making through Himself the way thither easy for us;

and that He might by the communication of life deliver us from corruption, becoming Himself the firstfruits of our resurrection;

that He might renovate the useless and worn vessel calling us to the knowledge of God;

and that He might redeem us from the tyranny of the devil, and might strengthen and teach us how to overthrow the tyrant through patience and humility.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 4,4 [slightly adapted].

Gregory of Sinai: Everyone baptized into Christ should pass progressively through all the stages of Christ’s own life Tuesday, Apr 19 2016 

Gregory of SinaiEveryone baptized into Christ should pass progressively through all the stages of Christ’s own life,

for in baptism he receives the power so to progress, and through the commandments he can discover and learn how to accomplish such progression.

To Christ’s conception corresponds the foretaste of the gift of the Holy Spirit,

to His nativity the actual experience of joyousness,

to His baptism the cleansing force of the fire of the Spirit,

to His transfiguration the contemplation of divine light,

to His crucifixion the dying to all things,

to His burial the indwelling of divine love in the heart,

to His resurrection the soul’s life-quickening resurrection,

and to His ascension divine ecstasy and  the transport of the intellect into God.

He who fails to pass consciously through these stages is still callow in body and spirit, even though he may be regarded by all as mature and accomplished in the practice of virtue.

Christ’s Passion is a life-quickening death to those who have experienced all its phases, for by experiencing what He experienced we are glorified as He is (cf Rom. 8:17).

But indulgence in sensual passions induces a truly lethal death.

Willingly to experience what Christ experienced is to crucify cracifixion and to put death to death.

To suffer for Christ’s sake is patiently to endure whatever happens to us.

For the envy which the innocent provoke is for their benefit, while the Lord’s schooling tests us so as to bring about our conversion, since it opens our ears when we are guilty.

That is why the Lord has promised an eternal crown to those who endure in this manner (cf. Jas. 1:12).

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee, Holy Trinity; glory to Thee for all things.

Gregory of Sinai (1260s–1346): Further Texts 1-3, 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. 253.

Maximus the Confessor: He to whom it is granted to be worthy of God through love does away with self-love Monday, Apr 18 2016 

Maximus_ConfessorContinued from here….

This self-love is, and is known to be, the first sin, the first progeny of the devil and the mother of the passions that come after it.

He to whom it is granted to be worthy of God through love does away with it, and together with it the whole host of wickedness, which has no other foundation or cause of existence than self-love.

For such a one no longer knows pride, the mark of that vain opinion that opposes God, the monstrous, composite evil.

He does not know the glory that causes one to fall, and casts down from itself those who are puffed up with it.

He causes envy to waste away, which itself first rightly lays waste those who possess it, through voluntary goodwill making his own those who share the same nature. Anger, bloodthirstiness, wrath, guile, hypocrisy, dissembling, resentment, greed, and everything by which the one human person is divided up: all these he roots up.

For by plucking out self-love, which is, as they say, the beginning and mother of all evils, everything that comes from it and after it is plucked out as well. Once this is no more, absolutely no form or trace of evil can any longer subsist.

All the forms of virtue are introduced, fulfilling the power of love, which gathers together what has been separated, once again fashioning the human being in accordance with a single meaning and mode.

It levels off and makes equal any inequality or difference in inclination in anything, or rather binds it to that praiseworthy inequality, by which each is so drawn to his neighbour in preference to himself and so honours him before himself, that he is eager to spurn any obstacle in his desire to excel.

And for this reason each one willingly frees himself from himself, by separating himself from any thoughts or properties to which he is privately inclined, and is gathered to the one singleness and sameness, in accordance with which nothing is in anyway separated from what is common to all, so that each is in each, and all in all, or rather in God and in others, and they are radiantly established as one, having the one logos of being in themselves, utterly single in nature and inclination.

And in this God is understood: in him they are all beheld together and they are bound together and raised to him, as the source and maker. The logos of being of all beings by nature preserves itself pure and inviolate for our attention, who, with conscious zeal through the virtues and the toils that accompany them, have been purified from the passions that rebel against it.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Letter 2: On Love in Andrew Louth: Maximus the Confessor (Routledge, 1996), pp. 85.

Ælfric of Eynsham: God can do all things; therefore we should wonder at his might, and also believe. Sunday, Apr 17 2016 

All_SS_of_BritainThe evangelist John says that Jesus wrought many other miracles in the sight of his disciples, which have not been recorded in the book of Christ.

These miracles are written to the end that ye may believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that ye may have eternal life through that belief.

Now the pope Gregory, expounding this gospel, says, that everyone wonders how Jesus came in to his apostles, and yet the doors were shut.

But again St. Gregory says, that Christ’s body came in, the doors being closed, which was born of the Virgin Mary, of a closed womb.

What wonder is it, that Jesus with an everlasting body came in, the doors being closed, who with a mortal body was born of the closed womb of the virgin?

We read in the book which is called The Acts of the Apostles that the chief men of the Jewish people brought Christ’s apostles into prison.

Then by night God’s angel came to them, and led them out of the prison, and on the morrow the prison stood fast shut up.

God can do all things: therefore we should wonder at his might, and also believe.

He showed the body to be touched which he had brought in, the doors being closed.

His body was tangible, and, nevertheless, incorruptible; he showed himself tangible and incorruptible, for his body was of the same nature that it before was, but was yet of another glory.

Jesus said to them, “Peace be among you.” For peace Christ came to men, and peace he enjoined and taught, and nothing is to him acceptable which is done without peace.

“As my Father sent me so I send you. The Father loveth the Son, but yet he sendeth him to suffering for the redemption of men.”

Christ also loved his apostles, and yet he established them not as kings, nor as governors, nor in worldly bliss; but he sent them over all the earth, to preach baptism and the faith which he himself had taught.

They preached until the wicked slew them, and they went triumphant to their Lord.

Christ blew on the apostles, and said, “Receive the Holy Ghost.” Twice came the Holy Ghost over the apostles; once now, and again another time at Christ’s ascension.

Christ blew the Holy Ghost over the apostles, while yet continuing on earth, for a token that every Christian man should love his neighbour as himself.

Again, after he had ascended to heaven, he sent the Holy Ghost in semblance of fire over the apostles, to the end that we should love God above all other things.

Ælfric of Eynsham (c. 955 – c. 1010): Homily 15 (for the First Sunday after Easter), trans. Benjamin Thorpe; icon of All Saints of Britain and Ireland.

Cyril of Alexandria: When God’s life-giving Word came to dwell in human flesh, he remade it for its good, that is, for its life Saturday, Apr 16 2016 

cyril_alexandria“I am dying”, said the Lord, “for all men, so that through me all may have life.

“By my flesh I have redeemed the flesh of all men.

“For in my death, death will die, and fallen human nature will rise again with me.

“In this way l have become, like you, a man descended from Abraham, so that I may be made like my brethren in every respect.”

Saint Paul understood this well when he said:

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.

There was never any other way to destroy the one who had the power of death, and therefore death itself.

Christ had to give himself up for us; the one had to be the ransom for all, for he was the head of all.

Accordingly, he said in another place, namely in the psalms, when he offered himself to God his Father as a spotless sacrifice on your behalf:

You wanted no sacrifice or oblation, but you prepared a body for me. You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin. Then I said, “Here I am.”

He was crucified on behalf of us all and for the sake of us all, so that, when one had died instead of all, we all might live in him.

For it was impossible that he should be defeated by death or that one who is life by its very nature should yield to corruption.

Indeed, Christ’s own words prove to us that he offered his flesh for the life of the world:  Holy Father, keep them. And again: For their sake I make myself holy.

He said, I make myself holy, meaning “I consecrate and offer myself as a spotless sacrifice with a sweet savour.”

For what was offered on the altar was made holy or called holy according to the Law. Therefore Christ gave his body or the life of all, and through his body planted life among us again.

How this came about I shall explain as best I can. When God’s life-giving Word came to dwell in human flesh, he remade it for its good, that is, for its life.

Being linked with flesh in this unique form of union, he made it a source of life, just as he is by his own nature, a source of life.

Thus the body of Christ gives life to those who share with him. By being among those who are liable to death, his body drives death out; by bringing forth in itself a principle capable of utterly destroying corruption, his body expels corruption.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St John’s Gospel 4, 2; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Thursday of the Fourth Week in Eastertide, Year 1.

Ambrose of Milan: When can the upright man be alone, since he is always with God? Thursday, Apr 14 2016 

ambrose_of_milanThe prophet David taught us that we should go about in our heart as though in a large house; that we should hold converse with it as with some trusty companion.

He spoke to himself, and conversed with himself, as these words show: “I said, I will take heed to my ways” (Psalm 38:1).

Solomon his son also said: “Drink water out of thine own vessels, and out of the springs of thy wells” (Prov. 5:15); that is: use thine own counsel.

For: “Counsel in the heart of a man is as deep waters” (Prov. 20:5).

“Let no stranger,” it says, “share it with thee. Let the fountain of thy water be thine own, and rejoice with thy wife who is thine from thy youth. Let the loving hind and pleasant doe converse with thee” (Prov. 5:17-19).

[…] Moses…when silent, was crying out (Ex. 14:16); who, when he stood at ease, was fighting, nay, not merely fighting but triumphing over enemies whom he had not come near.

[…] Moses in his silence spoke, and in his ease laboured hard. And were his labours greater than his times of quiet, who, being in the mount for forty days, received the whole law? (Ex. 24:17). And in that solitude there was One not far away to speak with him.

Whence also David says: “I will hear what the Lord God will say within me” (Ps. 84:18). How much greater a thing is it for God to speak with any one, than for a man to speak with himself!

[…] When can the upright man be alone, since he is always with God? When is he left forsaken who is never separated from Christ?

“Who,” it says, “shall separate us from the love of Christ? I am confident that neither death nor life nor angel shall do so” (Rom. 8:35, 38).

And when can he be deprived of his labour who never can be deprived of his merits, wherein his labour receives its crown? By what places is he limited to whom the whole world of riches is a possession?

By what judgment is he confined who is never blamed by anyone? For he is “as unknown yet well known, as dying and behold he lives, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things” (2 Cor. 6:9ff).

For the upright man regards nothing but what is consistent and virtuous. And so although he seems poor to another, he is rich to himself, for his worth is taken not at the value of the things which are temporal, but of the things which are eternal.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On the Duties of the Clergy, book 3, chapter 1, 1-2,7.

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