Augustine of Hippo: “And I will give peace in this place” Wednesday, Nov 25 2015 

St Augustine of AfricaThe glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts (Haggai 2:9).

This house of God is more glorious than that first one which was constructed of wood and stone, metals and other precious things.

Therefore the prophecy of Haggai was not fulfilled in the rebuilding of that temple.

For it can never be shown to have had so much glory after it was rebuilt as it had in the time of Solomon;

yea, rather, the glory of that house is shown to have been diminished, first by the ceasing of prophecy, and then by the nation itself suffering so great calamities, even to the final destruction made by the Romans, as the things above-mentioned prove.

But this house which pertains to the new testament is just as much more glorious as the living stones – believing, renewed men – of which it is constructed are better.

But it was typified by the rebuilding of that temple for this reason, because the very renovation of that edifice typifies in the prophetic oracle another testament which is called the new.

When, therefore, God said by the prophet just named “And I will give peace in this place” (Hag. 2:9), He is to be understood who is typified by that typical place.

For since by that rebuilt place is typified the Church which was to be built by Christ, nothing else can be accepted as the meaning of the saying, “I will give peace in this place,” except “I will give peace in the place which that place signifies”.

For all typical things seem in some way to personate those whom they typify, as it is said by the apostle “That Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4; Ex. 17:6).

Therefore the glory of this new testament house is greater than the glory of the old testament house; and it will show itself as greater when it shall be dedicated.

For then “shall come the desired of all nations” (Hag. 2:7), as we read in the Hebrew.  For before His advent He had not yet been desired by all nations.  For they knew not Him whom they ought to desire, in whom they had not believed.

Then, also, according to the Septuagint interpretation (for it also is a prophetic meaning), “shall come those who are elected of the Lord out of all nations.”

For then indeed there shall come only those who are elected, whereof the apostle saith “according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): City of God, 18, 48.

Gregory of Nyssa: Paradise will be restored, that tree will be restored which is in truth the tree of life Tuesday, Nov 24 2015 

Gregory_of_NyssaWickedness, however, is not so strong as to prevail over the power of good; nor is the folly of our nature more powerful and more abiding than the wisdom of God.

For it is impossible that that which is always mutable and variable should be more firm and more abiding than that which always remains the same and is firmly fixed in goodness.

But it is absolutely certain that the Divine counsel possesses immutability, while the changeableness of our nature does not remain settled even in evil.

Now that which is always in motion, if its progress be to good, will never cease moving onwards to what lies before it, by reason of the infinity of the course to be traversed.

For it will not find any limit of its object such that when it has apprehended it, it will at last cease its motion.

But if its bias be in the opposite direction, when it has finished the course of wickedness and reached the extreme limit of evil, then that which is ever moving, finding no halting point for its impulse natural to itself when it has run through the lengths that can be run in wickedness, of necessity turns its motion towards good.

For as evil does not extend to infinity, but is comprehended by necessary limits, it would appear that good once more follows in succession upon the limit of evil.

And thus, as we have said, the ever-moving character of our nature comes to run its course at the last once more back towards good, being taught the lesson of prudence by the memory of its former misfortunes, to the end that it may never again be in like case.

Our course, then, will once more lie in what is good, by reason of the fact that the nature of evil is bounded by necessary limits.

[…] I think that we ought to understand about ourselves, that on passing the limit of wickedness we shall again have our conversation in light, as the nature of good, when compared with the measure of wickedness, is incalculably superabundant.

Paradise therefore will be restored, that tree will be restored which is in truth the tree of life—there will be restored the grace of the image, and the dignity of rule.

It does not seem to me that our hope is one for those things which are now subjected by God to man for the necessary uses of life, but one for another kingdom, of a description that belongs to unspeakable mysteries.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): On the Making of Man, 21 (slightly adapted).

John Chrysostom: “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted” Monday, Nov 23 2015 

Chrysostom3Continued from here….

“Blessed are they that mourn” (Matt. 5:4).

Here too again Christ designated not simply all that mourn, but all that do so for sins.

Since surely that other kind of mourning is forbidden, and that earnestly, which relates to anything of this life.

This Paul also clearly declared, when he said “The sorrow of the world worketh death, but godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of” (2 Cor. 7:10).

These then He too Himself calls blessed, whose sorrow is of that kind. Yet He does not simply designate those who sorrow did He designate, but those who sorrow intensely.

Therefore He did not say “they that sorrow” but “they that mourn.” For this commandment again is fitted to teach us entire self-control.

Those who grieve for children, or wife, or any other relation gone from them, have no fondness for gain or pleasure during that period of their sorrow.

They aim not at glory, are not provoked by insults, nor led captive by envy, nor beset by any other passion, their grief alone wholly possessing them.

This being so, how much more will they who mourn for their own sins, as they ought to mourn, show forth a self-denial greater than this?

Next, what is the reward for these? “For they shall be comforted,” He says.

Where shall they be comforted? Both here and there. For since the thing enjoined was exceeding burdensome and galling, He promised to give that, which most of all made it light.

Wherefore, if you wish to be comforted, mourn, and think not this a dark saying. For when God comforts, though sorrows come upon you by thousands like snow-flakes, you wilt be above them all.

Since in truth, the returns which God gives are always far greater than our labours…, He declares those who mourn to be blessed – not after the value of what they do, but after His own love towards man.

For they that mourn, mourn for misdoings, and to such it is enough to enjoy forgiveness, and obtain wherewith to answer for themselves.

But forasmuch as He is full of love towards man, He does not limit His recompense either to the removal of our punishments, or to the deliverance from our sins, but He makes them even blessed, and imparts to them abundant consolation.

But He bids us mourn, not only for our own, but also for other men’s misdoings.

And of this temper were the souls of the saints. Such was that of Moses, of Paul, of David; yea, all these many times mourned for evils not their own.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on the Gospel According to St Matthew, 15, 4 (on Matthew 5:4); slightly adapted.

John of Kronstadt: The Most Holy Virgin was brought into the temple to be instructed in the Lord… Saturday, Nov 21 2015 

john_kronstadtNovember 21st – The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary / The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple.

Since the Most Holy Virgin was brought into the temple to be instructed in the Lord, let us talk now about the benefit and necessity of going to the church of God as the house of God and place where we are raised for the Heavenly Fatherland.

We are called Christians, and we are all called by Jesus Christ to the Heavenly Fatherland, to be heavenly citizens, Divine inheritors, co-inheritors with Christ.

Our calling is very high, our duties are also just as important; our spirit should be very exalted, holy, meek, and humble.

Who will show us what makes up our Christian calling and duty, of what spirit we must be, and how we should behave ourselves in various life situations?

Who will give us the strength to live in the spirit of Christ—holy? The Church gives us all this. We can receive these spiritual powers in the temple of God through the Sacraments.

Here a heavenly, unearthly spirit hovers; here is the school of Jesus Christ, in which future heavenly citizens are educated.

Here you will receive heavenly lessons from the Divine Teacher, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit in the Gospels.

Here is heavenly food and heavenly drink, spiritual, heavenly garments, and spiritual armaments against the enemies of salvation.

Here you will receive the peace that is a foretaste of heaven, so necessary to our spiritual activity and education, and strength for spiritual labors and struggle with sin.

Here we partake of sweet conversation with our Heavenly Father and the Most Holy Queen and Mother of God, with the angels of the Lord and saints.

Here we learn how to pray, and for what to pray. Here you will find examples of all the Christian virtues in the saints who are glorified each day by the Church.

Here, gathered together in the house of God, as children of one Heavenly Father, as members of the mystical body of Christ, we learn how to love one another—member loving member, as members of Christ, as Christ Himself.

See how beneficial, how necessary it is for a Christian to visit God’s church. It is a school of faith and piety founded by God, a sacred treasure According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), the treasury of all the Mysteries of Christ!

John of Kronstadt (1829-1908; Russian Orthodox): The House of God – Homily on the Day of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple @ Pravoslavie.

John Cassian: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” Friday, Nov 20 2015 

Sf-IoanCasianContinued from here….

The second petition of the pure heart desires that the kingdom of its Father may come at once.

This can refer to that kingdom whereby Christ reigns day by day in the saints.

This comes to pass when the devil’s rule is cast out of our hearts by the destruction of foul sins, and God begins to hold sway over us by the sweet odour of virtues, and, fornication being overcome, charity reigns in our hearts together with tranquillity, when rage is conquered; and humility, when pride is trampled underfoot.

Or it can refer to that kingdom which is promised in due time to all who are perfect, and to all the sons of God, when it will be said to them by Christ: “Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34), as the heart with fixed and steadfast gaze, so to speak, yearns and longs for it and says to Him “Thy kingdom come.” For it knows by the witness of its own conscience that when He shall appear, it will presently share His lot.

[…] The third petition is that of sons: “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth.”

There can now be no grander prayer than to wish that earthly things may be made equal with things heavenly: for what else is it to say “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth,” than to ask that men may be like angels and that as God’s will is ever fulfilled by them in heaven, so also all those who are on earth may do not their own but His will?

This too no one could say from the heart but only one who believed that God disposes for our good all things which are seen, whether fortunate or unfortunate, and that He is more careful and provident for our good and salvation than we ourselves are for ourselves.

Or at any rate it may be taken in this way: The will of God is the salvation of all men, according to these words of the blessed Paul: “Who willeth all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Of this will also the prophet Isaiah says in the Person of God the Father: “And all Thy will shall be done” (Is. 46:10).

When we say then “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth,” we pray in other words for this: that as those who are in heaven, so also may all those who dwell on earth be saved, O Father, by the knowledge of Thee.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 9, 19 & 20 [slightly adapted].

Albert the Great: “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you” Thursday, Nov 19 2015 

Albertus_Magnus_Painting_by_Joos_van_GentThere, in the presence of Jesus Christ, with everything, in general and individually, excluded and wiped out, the mind alone turns in security confidently to the Lord its God with its desire.

In this way it pours itself forth into him in full sincerity with its whole heart and the yearning of its love, in the most inward part of all its faculties, and is plunged, enlarged, set on fire and dissolved into him.

Certainly, anyone who desires and aims to arrive at and remain in such a state must needs above all have eyes and senses closed and not be inwardly involved or worried about anything.

He should not be  concerned or occupied with anything, but should completely reject all such things as irrelevant, harmful and dangerous.

Then he should withdraw himself totally within himself and not pay any attention to any object entering the mind except Jesus Christ, the wounded one, alone.

And so he should turn his attention with care and determination through him into him – that is, through the man into God, through the wounds of his humanity into the inmost reality of his divinity.

Here he can commit himself and all that he has, individually and as a whole, promptly, securely and without discussion, to God’s unwearying providence, in accordance with the words of Peter, cast all your care upon him (1 Peter 5.7), who can do everything.

And again, In nothing be anxious (Philippians 4.6), or what is more, Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you (Psalm 55.22).

[…]  The bride too in the Song of Songs says, I have found him whom my soul loves, (Canticle 3.4) and again, All good things came to me along with her (Wisdom 7.11).

This, after all, is the hidden heavenly treasure, none other than the pearl of great price, which must be sought with resolution, esteeming it in humble faithfulness, eager diligence, and calm silence before all things, and preferring it even above physical comfort, or honour and renown.

For what good does it do a religious if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his soul? Or what is the benefit of his state of life, the holiness of his profession, the virtue of his habit and tonsure, or the outer circumstances of his way of life if he is without a life of spiritual humility and truth in which Christ abides through a faith created by love.

This is what Luke means by, the Kingdom of God (that is, Jesus Christ) is within you (Luke 17.21).

Albert the Great (1193/1206–1280) [attributed]: On Cleaving to God, 1 & 2.

Maximus the Confessor: Bringing about union with him and of human beings with one another, God renewed the power of love, the adversary of self-love Monday, Nov 16 2015 

Maximus_ConfessorContinued from here….

Since the deceitful devil at the beginning contrived by guile to attack humankind through his self-love, deceiving him through pleasure, he has separated us in our inclinations from God and from one another, and turned us away from rectitude.

He has divided nature at the level of mode of existence, fragmenting it into a multitude of opinions and imaginations.

He has set up the means through which each vice may be discovered, and with time established a law, to which all our powers are devoted, introducing into everything a wicked support for the continuance of vice — namely, irreconcilable inclinations.

By this he has prevailed on humankind to turn from the natural movement he once had and to move his longing from what is permitted to what is forbidden.

Thus humankind has brought into being from itself the three greatest, primordial evils, and (to speak simply) the begetters of all vice: ignorance, I mean, and self-love and tyranny, which are interdependent and established one through another.

For out of ignorance concerning God there arises self-love. And out of this comes tyranny towards one’s kin: of this there is no doubt. For by the misuse of our own powers — reason, desire and the incensive power — these evils are established.

For reason, instead of being ignorant, ought to be moved through knowledge to seek solely after God; and desire, pure of the passion of self-love, ought to be driven by yearning for God alone; and the incensive power, separated from tyranny, ought to struggle to attain God alone.

And the divine and blessed love, which is fashioned from these and through which these come to be, will embrace God and manifest the one who loves God to be God himself.

Since these have turned out evil, because of man’s own will and the devil’s deceit with regard to human beings, God, who made nature and wisely healed it when it was sick through wickedness, through his love towards us, emptied himself, taking the form of a slave (Phil. 2:7), and without change united himself to this [nature] hypostatically.

For our sake and from us and through us he became wholly man to such a degree that unbelievers thought that he was not God, while existing as God to such a degree that to believers was granted the ineffable and true meaning of reverent religion.

In this way the works of the devil were dissolved, and nature restored to its pure powers, and by again bringing about union with him and of human beings with one another, God renewed the power of love, the adversary of self-love.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Letter 2: On Love in Andrew Louth: Maximus the Confessor (Routledge, 1996), pp. 84-85.

Gregory Palamas: “God is glorious in his saints” Saturday, Nov 14 2015 

Gregory_PalamasLet us call to mind the martyrs’ superhuman struggles, how in the weakness of their flesh they put to shame the evil one’s strength, disregarding pain and wounds…, and keeping the confession of faith in Christ in its integrity – complete, unharmed and unshaken.

As a result there were bestowed on them the incontrovertible wisdom of the Spirit and the power to work miracles.

Let us consider the patience of holy men and women, how they willingly endured long periods of fasting, vigil and various other physical hardships as though they were not in the body, battling to the end against evil passions and all sorts of sin, in the invincible inner warfare against principalities, powers and spiritual wickedness (Eph. 6:12).

They wore away their outer selves and made them useless, but their inner man was renewed and deified by Him from whom they also received gifts of healing and mighty works.

When we think on these matters and understand that they surpass human nature, we are filled with wonder and glorify God who gave them such grace and power. For even if their intentions were good and noble, without God’s strength they could not have gone beyond the bounds of their nature and driven away the bodiless enemy while clothed in their bodies.

That is why, when the psalmist and prophet declared “God is glorious in his saints”, he went on to say, “he giveth strength and power unto his people” (Ps. 68:35 LXX). Carefully consider the force of these prophetic words. Whereas God, according to the psalmist, gives all his people strength and power – for He shows no partiality (cf. Acts 10:34) – He is glorified only in His saints.

The sun pours down its rays abundantly upon all alike, but they are visible only to those with open eyes. Those with clear-sighted, pure eyes benefit from the pure light of the sun, not those whose vision is dimmed because illness, mist or something similar has afflicted their eyes. In the same way, God richly bestows His help on all, for He is the ever-flowing, enlightening and saving fount of mercy and goodness.

But not everyone takes advantage of His grace and power to practise and perfect virtue or show forth miracles – only those with a good intent, who demonstrate their love and faith towards God by good works (cf. Jas. 2:20-26), who turn away completely from everything base, hold fast to God’s commandments and lift up the eyes of their understanding to Christ the Sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2).

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 15, @ Diakonima, from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (2009 and 2014) and On the Saints: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas (2008).

Irenaeus of Lyons: So fair and good was this Paradise that the Word of God continually resorted thither Friday, Nov 13 2015 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonGod formed Man with His own hands, taking from the earth that which was purest and finest, and mingling in measure His own power with the earth.

For He traced His own form on the formation, that that which should be seen should be of divine form.

For as the image of God was man formed and set on the earth.

And that he might become living, He breathed on his face the breath of life; that both for the breath and for the formation man should be like unto God.

Moreover he was free and self-controlled, being made by God for this end, that he might rule all those things that were upon the earth.

And this great created world, prepared by God before the formation of man, was given to man as his place, containing all things within itself.

And there were in this place also with their tasks the servants of that God who formed all things; and the steward, who was set over all his fellow-servants received this place.

Now the servants were angels, and the steward was the archangel.

Now, having made man lord of the earth and all things in it, He secretly appointed him lord also of those who were servants in it.

They however were in their perfection; but the lord, that is, man, was but small; for he was a child; and it was necessary that he should grow, and so come to his perfection.

And, that he might have his nourishment and growth with festive and dainty meats, He prepared him a place better than this world, excelling in air, beauty, light, food, plants, fruit, water, and all other necessaries of life: and its name is Paradise.

And so fair and good was this Paradise, that the Word of God continually resorted thither, and walked and talked with the man, figuring beforehand the things that should be in the future, namely that He should dwell with him and talk with him, and should be with men, teaching them righteousness.

But man was a child, not yet having his understanding perfected; wherefore also he was easily led astray by the deceiver.

[…] And Adam and Eve – for that is the name of the woman – were naked, and were not ashamed; for there was in them an innocent and childlike mind, and it was not possible for them to conceive and understand anything of that which by wickedness through lusts and shameful desires is born in the soul.

For they were at that time entire, preserving their own nature; since they had the breath of life which was breathed on their creation. And, while this breath remains in its place and power, it has no comprehension and understanding of things that are base.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 11, 12, 14.

Theodore the Studite: “Lord, by your will you granted power to my beauty” Thursday, Nov 12 2015 

Theodore_the_StuditeSince we have been counted worthy to celebrate the forefeast of the divine Transfiguration, from this then let us compose an instruction, discharging our duty in a few words.

On the one hand, all the feasts of the Lord expound the mysteries of his sojourn in the flesh, such as that he was born, that he was baptized, that he was crucified, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, that he was taken up in glory; while the mystery of the Transfiguration hints at the restoration in the age to come.

For in the same way that ‘his face blazed like the sun, while his garments became white as light’ (Matt. 17:2), in the same way he will come from heaven like lightning, with power and great glory to judge the universe.

And as Peter, James and John were with him on the holy mountain, so the elect will be with him in the kingdom of heaven, enjoying his ineffable manifestation as God and inexpressible joy.

And who is adequate for all this? Who is worthy to attain that joy? Who else but one whose way of life is pure and undefiled? For since our God is pure, or rather the highest light, he comes to the pure, and as he has placed a pure soul in us, he will also ask it from us pure.

For since it has been made according to God’s image and likeness, that is to say as a figure of the divine beauty, it has also shared in that beauty.

And knowing this the poet speaks thus, ‘Lord, by your will you granted power to my beauty’ (Psalm 29:8), that is to say to the beauty of the soul, lest, having turned away towards the ugly passions of sin and become disfigured, it fall from God and his divine rewards.

Since therefore it is agreed that our soul should be like this, lovely and beautiful, and that we should give it back to God like a pledge on the last day, the day of resurrection, I beg and urge that we love this beauty and carefully guard this loveliness, not turning back to the fair things of the present age or to the beauties of flesh and blood.

They are not beauties, but idols of beauty; they are rather corruption and change. And this we can learn from the end of things, for one who today is outstandingly beautiful and fair of face is tomorrow cast into a tomb, stinking and abhorrent. So there is nothing fair and loveable but exemplary virtue, which should be our chief pursuit, my brothers.

Theodore the Studite: (759-826): Catechesis 20 trans. Archimandrite Ephrem Lash @ Anastasis.

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