Athanasius of Alexandria: The Lord died that we should no longer do the deeds of death Tuesday, Mar 31 2015 

Athanasius

The Lord died in those days, that we should no longer do the deeds of death. He gave His life, that we might preserve our own from the snares of the devil.

And, what is most wonderful, the Word became flesh, that we should no longer live in the flesh, but in spirit should worship God, who is Spirit.

[…] St Paul said: ‘…because one died for all men, therefore all were dead to Him; and He died for all, that we who live should not henceforth live to ourselves, but to Him who died for us, and rose again’ (2 Cor. 5:13-15).

No longer then ought we to live to ourselves, but, as servants to the Lord.

And not in vain should we receive the grace, as the time is especially an acceptable one (2 Cor. 6:1-2), and the day of salvation hath dawned, even the death of our Redeemer.

For even for our sakes the Word came down, and being incorruptible, put on a corruptible body for the salvation of all of us. Of which Paul was confident, saying, ‘This corruptible must put on incorruption’ (1 Cor. 15:53).

The Lord too was sacrificed, that by His blood He might abolish death.

Full well did He once, in a certain place, blame those who participated vainly in the shedding of His blood, while they did not delight themselves in the flesh of the Word, saying, ‘What profit is there in my blood, that I go down to corruption?’ (Ps. 30/31:9).

This does not mean that the descent of the Lord was without profit, for it gained the whole world; but rather that after He had thus suffered, sinners would prefer to suffer loss than to profit by it.

For He regarded our salvation as a delight and a peculiar gain; while on the contrary He looked upon our destruction as loss.

[…] To us there came the solemn day [the Passover], in which we ought to call to the feast with a trumpet, and separate ourselves to the Lord with thanksgiving, considering it as our own festival.

For we are bound to celebrate it, not to ourselves but to the Lord; and to rejoice, not in ourselves but in the Lord, who bore our griefs and said, ‘My soul is sorrowful unto death’ (Matt. 26:38).

For the heathen, and all those who are strangers to our faith, keep feasts according to their own wills, and have no peace, since they commit evil against God.

But the saints, as they live to the Lord also keep the feast to Him, saying, ‘I will rejoice in Thy salvation,’ and, ‘my soul shall be joyful in the Lord.’

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Sixth Festal Letter, 1, 4, 7.

John Chrysostom: “Having made peace through the Blood of His Cross” Monday, Mar 30 2015 

John_Chrysostom“Having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:20).

“Having made peace through the Blood of His Cross.”

The word “reconcile,” shows the enmity; the words “having made peace,” the war.

“Through the Blood of His Cross, through Himself, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens.”

A great thing indeed it is to reconcile; but that this should be through Himself too, is a greater thing; and a greater still—how through Himself?

Through His Blood. Through His Blood; and he said not simply His Blood, but what is yet greater, through the Cross.

So that the marvels are five: He reconciled us; to God; through Himself; through Death; through the Cross.

Admirable again! How he has mixed them up! For, lest you should think that it is one thing merely, or that the Cross is anything of itself, he says “through Himself.”

How well he knows that this was a great thing. Because not by speaking words, but by giving Himself up for the reconciliation, He so wrought everything.

But what are “things in the heavens”?

For with reason indeed is it said, “the things upon the earth,” for those were filled with enmity, and manifoldly divided, and each one of us was utterly at variance with himself, and with the many.

But how did He make peace among “the things in the heavens”? Was war and battle there also?

How then do we pray, saying, “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth”? (Matt. 6:10).

What is it then? The earth was divided from heaven, the Angels were become enemies to men, through seeing the Lord insulted.

“To sum up,” he says, “all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth” (Eph. 1:10).

How? He reconciled the things in heaven indeed in this way: He translated Man thither, He brought up to them the enemy, the hated one.

Not only did He make the things on earth to be at peace, but He brought up to those who were in heaven him that was their enemy and foe.

Here was peace profound. Angels again appeared on the earth thereafter, because that Man too had appeared in heaven.

And it seems to me that Paul was caught up on this account (2 Cor. 12:2), and to show that the Son also had been received up thither.

For in the earth indeed, the peace was twofold; with the things of heaven, and with themselves; but in heaven it was simple. For if the Angels rejoice over one sinner that repents, much more will they over so many.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on St Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, 3.

Theophylact of Ohrid: “Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold, thy King cometh to thee, sitting on the colt of an ass” Sunday, Mar 29 2015 

Theophylact_the_Bulgarian (1)On John 12:14-16

When the disciples had untied it [the young donkey] and brought it to Him, then He found it and sat thereon.

In doing so He fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah who said “Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold, thy King cometh to thee, sitting on the colt of an ass” (see Zech. 9:9).

Because most of the kings of Jerusalem were wicked and tyrannical, the prophet said, “Fear not, O Zion. The king of whom I prophesy to you will not be like the others, but meek and humble, displaying no arrogance whatsoever.”

This is shown by the fact that He came seated upon an ass. He did not enter the city at the head of an army, but conveyed by a donkey.

His sitting upon an ass was also a symbol of things to come.

Being unclean according to the law, the ass represents the uncleanliness of the Gentile race, upon whom Jesus, the Word of God, sits, subduing like a colt this insubordinate and uninstructed people, this new race, and leading it into the true Jerusalem once it has been tamed and made obedient to Him.

Has the Lord not gathered the Gentiles into heaven, once they became His people and were obedient to His preaching?

As for the palms, do they not indicate perhaps that He Who raised Lazarus has become the Victor over death? For palms were awarded to those who were victorious in games and contests.

Perhaps they also indicate that He Who is being praised is a heavenly Being Who has come from above.

Of all trees it is the palm that appears to soar upwards to the very heavens, so to speak; it bears foliage at the top, and at the peak puts out young white shoots, but the stump and the middle section of the trunk, all the way to top, are rough and hard to climb because of the sharp spines.

So it is that he who strives to acquire knowledge of the Son and Word of God will find it a hard and uphill journey because of the toil of gaining virtue.

But when he has arrived at the pinnacle of knowledge, he will be met, as if by the whitest palm shoots, by the bright light of divine knowledge and the revelation of ineffable things.

[…] These things understood not His disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified. By glory he means the Lord’s Ascension after the Cross and Passion. Only then, by the coming of the Holy Spirit, did they understand that these things were written of Him.

Theophylact of Ohrid (1055-1107): Explanation of the Gospel of St John, on John 12:14-16 @ Chrysostom Press.

Cyril of Jerusalem: God is loving to man, and loving in no small measure Saturday, Mar 28 2015 

Cyril-of-JerusalemGod is loving to man, and loving in no small measure.

Say not “I have committed fornication and adultery:  I have done dreadful things, and not once only, but often;  will He forgive?  Will He grant pardon?”

Hear what the Psalmist says:  How great is the multitude of Thy goodness, O Lord!

Thine accumulated offences surpass not the multitude of God’s mercies:  thy wounds surpass not the great Physician’s skill.

Only give thyself up in faith:  tell the Physician thine ailment.

Say thou also, like David:  I said, I will confess me my sin unto the Lord, and the same shall be done in thy case, which he says forthwith:  And thou forgavest the wickedness of my heart.

Wouldest thou see the loving-kindness of God, O thou that art lately come to the catechising?

Wouldest thou see the loving-kindness of God, and the abundance of His long-suffering?

Hear about Adam.  Adam, God’s first-formed man, transgressed:  could He not at once have brought death upon him?

But see what the Lord does, in His great love towards man.

He casts him out from Paradise, for because of sin he was unworthy to live there.

But He puts him to dwell over against Paradise,  so that seeing whence he had fallen, and from what and into what a state he was brought down, he might afterwards be saved by repentance.

Cain the first-born man became his brother’s murderer, the inventor of evils, the first author of murders, and the first envious man.

Yet after slaying his brother to what is he condemned?  Groaning and trembling shalt thou be upon the earth.  How great the offence, the sentence how light! Even this then was truly loving-kindness in God, but little as yet in comparison with what follows.

For consider what happened in the days of Noah.  The giants sinned, and much wickedness was then spread over the earth, and because of this the flood was to come upon them. And in the five hundredth year God utters His threatening; but in the six hundredth He brought the flood upon the earth.

Seest thou the breadth of God’s loving-kindness extending to a hundred years?  Could He not have done immediately what He did then after the hundred years?

But He extended (the time) on purpose, granting a respite for repentance.

Seest thou God’s goodness?  And if the men of that time had repented, they would not have missed the loving-kindness of God.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 2, 6-8.

John Climacus: The sponge of God-loving sorrow and the cool water of devout tears wipes out the record of our sins Friday, Mar 27 2015 

ClimacusMourning, according to God, is sadness of soul, and the disposition of a sorrowing heart, which ever madly seeks that for which it thirsts;

and when it fails in its quest, it painfully pursues it, and follows in its wake grievously lamenting.

Or thus: mourning is a golden spur in a soul which is stripped of all attachment and of all ties, fixed by holy sorrow to watch over the heart.

[…] A characteristic of those who are still progressing in blessed mourning is temperance and silence of the lips;

and of those who have made progress—freedom from anger and patient endurance of injuries;

and of the perfect—humility, thirst for dishonours, voluntary craving for involuntary afflictions, non-condemnation of sinners, compassion even beyond one’s strength.

The first are acceptable, the second laudable; but blessed are those who hunger for hardship and thirst for dishonour, for they shall have their fill of the food that does not cloy.

[…]  Theology will not suit mourners, for it is of a nature to dissolve their mourning. For the theologian is like one who sits in a teacher’s seat, whereas the mourner is like one who spends his days on a dung heap and in rags.

That is why David, so I think, although he was a teacher and was wise, replied to those who questioned him when he was mourning: ‘How shall I sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’—that is to say, the land of passions.

Both in creation and in compunction there is that which moves itself and that which is moved by something else.

When the soul becomes tearful, moist and tender without effort or trouble, then let us run, for the Lord has come uninvited, and is giving us the sponge of God-loving sorrow and the cool water of devout tears to wipe out the record of our sins.

Guard these tears as the apple of your eye until they withdraw. Great is the power of this compunction—greater than that which comes as a result of our effort and meditation.

He who mourns when he wishes has not attained the beauty of mourning, but rather he who mourns on the subjects of his choice, and not even on these, but on what God wants.

The ugly tears of vainglory are often interwoven with mourning which is pleasing to God. Acting devoutly, we shall find this out by experiment when we see ourselves mourning and still doing evil.

[…] When our soul leaves this world we shall not be blamed for not having worked miracles, or for not having been theologians or contemplatives. But we shall certainly have to give an account to God of why we have not unceasingly mourned.

John Climacus (c.575-c.650): The Ladder of Divine Ascent, step 7 “on mourning which causes joy”, 1, 4, 24-26, 70, translated by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore (Harper & Brothers, 1959) @ Prudence True.

Andrew of Crete: Have compassion on us, O Lover of men, and to those who ask with faith grant forgiveness Thursday, Mar 26 2015 

AndrewofcreteYou, my soul, have become like Hagar the Egyptian of old. You have become enslaved by your own choice and have a new Ishmael – stubborn self-will (Genesis 16:15).

You know, my soul, of the Ladder shown to Jacob reaching from earth to Heaven. Why have you not clung to the sure step of piety? (Genesis 28:12).

Imitate that Priest of God and solitary King who was an image of the life of Christ in the world among men (cf. Melchizedek: Hebrews 7:1-4; Genesis 14:18).

Be converted and groan, wretched soul, before the pageant of life comes to an end, before the Lord shuts the door of the bridal hall.

Do not be a pillar of salt, my soul, by turning back; but let the example of the Sodomites frighten you, and take refuge up in Zoar (Genesis 19:26).

Reject not the prayer of those who praise Thee, O Lord; but have compassion on us, O Lover of men, and to those who ask with faith grant forgiveness.

[…] Boastful I am, and hard-hearted, all in vain and for nothing. Condemn me not with the Pharisee, but rather grant me the humility of the Publican, O only merciful and just Judge, and number me with him (Luke 18:9-14).

I have sinned, I know, O merciful Lord, and outraged the vessel of my flesh, but accept me in penitence and recall me to awareness of Thee. May I never be the possession or food of the enemy. O Savior, have compassion on me.

I am become my own idol, and have injured my soul with passions, O merciful Lord, but accept me in penitence and recall me to awareness of Thee. May I never be the possession or food of the enemy. O Savior, have compassion on me.

I have not listened to Thy voice, I have disobeyed Thy Scripture, O Lawgiver, but accept me in penitence and recall me to awareness of Thee. May I never be the possession or food of the enemy. O Savior, have compassion on me.

[…] Imitate, my soul, the woman bent earthward; come and fall down at the feet of Jesus, that He may straighten you to walk upright in the footsteps of the Lord (Luke 13:11).

Though Thou art a deep well, O Lord, pour on me streams from Thy immaculate wounds, that like the Samaritan woman I may drink and thirst no more; for from Thee gush rivers of life (John 4:13-15).

May my tears be for me a Siloam, O Sovereign Lord, that I may wash the eyes of my soul and mentally see Thee Who art that light which was before creation (John 9:7; Genesis 1:2-19).

Andrew of Crete (c.650-740[?]): The Great Canon, Thursday of the First Week, Odes 3, 4, 5 @ Pravoslavie.

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.

 

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