Athanasius of Alexandria: The destruction of death and the resurrection of life Sunday, Feb 7 2016 

AthanasiusContinued from here….

And of this one may be assured at the hands of the Saviour’s own inspired writers, if one happen upon their writings, where they say:

“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then all died, and He died for all that we should no longer live unto ourselves, but unto Him Who for our sakes died and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:14), our Lord Jesus Christ.

And, again: “But we behold Him, Who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, that by the grace of God He should taste of death for every man” (Heb. 2:9f).

Then He also points out the reason why it was necessary for none other than God the Word Himself to become incarnate; as follows:

“For it became Him, for Whom are all things, and through Whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

By these words He means that it belonged to none other to bring man back from the corruption which had begun than the Word of God, Who had also made them from the beginning.

It was in order to be a sacrifice for bodies such as His own that the Word Himself also assumed a body, as these words show:

“forasmuch then as the children are the sharers in blood and flesh, He also Himself in like manner partook of the same, that through death He might bring to naught Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14ff).

For by the sacrifice of His own body, He both put an end to the law which was against us, and made a new beginning of life for us, by the hope of resurrection which He has given us.

For since from man it was that death prevailed over men, for this cause conversely, by the Word of God being made man has come about the destruction of death and the resurrection of life…:

“for since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21).

For no longer now do we die as subject to condemnation; but as men who rise from the dead we await the general resurrection of all, “which.in its own times He shall show” (1 Tim. 6:15), even God, Who has also wrought it, and bestowed it upon us.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): On the Incarnation of the Word, 10 [slightly adapted].

Leo the Great: The outer man will be the peaceful and unblemished possession of the inner man Saturday, Feb 6 2016 

leo1Continued from here….

After the assertion of this most happy humility, the Lord hath added, saying, “Blessed are they which mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

This mourning, beloved, to which eternal comforting is promised, is not the same as the affliction of this world.

Nor do those laments which are poured out in the sorrowings of the whole human race make any one blessed.

The reason for holy groanings, the cause of blessed tears, is very different.

Religious grief mourns sin either – that of others’ or one’s own.

Nor does it mourn for that which is wrought by God’s justice, but it laments over that which is committed by man’s iniquity.

For he that does wrong is more to be deplored than he who suffers it, because the unjust man’s wrongdoing plunges him into punishment, but the just man’s endurance leads him on to glory.

Next the Lord says:  “blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth by inheritance” (Matt. 5:5).

To the meek and gentle, to the humble and modest, and to those who are prepared to endure all injuries, the earth is promised for their possession.

And this is not to be reckoned a small or cheap inheritance, as if it were distinct from our heavenly dwelling, since it is no other than these who are understood to enter the kingdom of heaven.

The earth, then, which is promised to the meek, and is to be given to the gentle in possession, is the flesh of the saints, which in reward for their humility will be changed in a happy resurrection, and clothed with the glory of immortality, in nothing now to act contrary to the spirit, and to be in complete unity and agreement with the will of the soul.

For then the outer man will be the peaceful and unblemished possession of the inner man.

Then the mind, engrossed in beholding God, will be hampered by no obstacles of human weakness nor will it any more have to be said “The body which is corrupted, weigheth upon the soul, and its earthly house presseth down the sense which thinketh many things” (Wisdom 9:15).

For the earth will not struggle against its tenant, and will not venture on any insubordination against the rule of its governor.

For the meek shall possess it in perpetual peace, and nothing shall be taken from their rights, “when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53), that their danger may turn into reward, and what was a burden become an honour.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 95, 4-5.

Nicodemus the Hagiorite: “Give us this day our superessential bread” Thursday, Feb 4 2016 

Nikodemos 1

The superessential bread is the body and blood of the Lord, which differs as much from the word of God as does the sun from a ray.

In divine Communion, the Sun that is the whole God-man enters into, mixes with, and leavens the whole man, being He Who illumines, enlightens, and sanctifies all of the powers and senses of the soul and body of man, and refashions him from corruption to incorruption.

Thus the words “superessential bread” primarily and for an especial reason refer to the divine Communion of the all-immaculate body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it preserves and sustains the essence of the soul, and gives it the strength to do the Master’s commandments and everything else, as our Lord says: “For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed” (Jn. 6:55), which is to say, My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

If someone is in doubt as to how the body of our Lord is called superessential bread, let him listen to what the sacred teachers of our Church say concerning this.

[…] St. Isidore Pelousiotes says: “The prayer which the Lord taught does not contain anything earthly, but everything is heavenly and looks to the profit of the soul, even that which appears to be unimportant and sensible. And it is the opinion of many wise men that the Lord said this prayer for the following reason: in order to teach in a special way about the divine word and bread which nourishes the bodiless soul and which, in some way, is mixed and infused into the essence of the soul. For this reason it is also called superessential bread, inasmuch as the word ‘essence’ is more becoming of the soul than the body.”

[…] The divine Maximos says: “For if we live in the way we have prayed, to nourish our souls and to maintain the good state which we have been granted we will receive the superessential and life-giving bread, that is, the Word, Who said: I am the bread which came down from heaven and gives life to the world (cf. Jn. 6:41, 33). He becomes everything for us in proportion to the virtue and wisdom with which we have been nourished.” 

In other words, living according to the words of the Lord’s Prayer, let us receive the Son and Word of God as the superessential bread, as vital food for our souls, and as a safeguard for the goods which have been granted to us. Moreover, the Lord said that He is the bread which came down from the heavens and gives life to the world. However, this occurs within each person who receives Him according to the virtue and knowledge which he has.

Nicodemus the Hagiorite (1749-1809): Explanation of the Lord’s Prayer.

Gregory the Great: How the humble and the haughty are to be admonished Wednesday, Feb 3 2016 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistDifferently to be admonished are the humble and the haughty.

To the former it is to be insinuated how true is that excellence which they hold in hoping for it.

To the latter it is to be intimated how that temporal glory is as nothing which, even when embracing it, they hold not.

Let the humble hear how eternal are the things that they long for, how transitory the things which they despise.

Let the haughty hear how transitory are the things they court, how eternal the things they lose.

[…] The pride…of the devil became the occasion of our perdition, and the humility of God has been found the argument for our redemption.

For our enemy, having been created among all things, desired to appear exalted above all things.

But our Redeemer, remaining great above all things, deigned to become little among all things.

Let the humble, then, be told that, when they abase themselves, they ascend to the likeness of God.

Let the haughty be told that, when they exalt themselves, they fall into imitation of the apostate angel.

What, then, is more debased than haughtiness, which, while it stretches itself above itself, is lengthened out beyond the stature of true loftiness?

And what is more sublime than humility, which, while it depresses itself to the lowest, conjoins itself to its Maker who remains above the highest?

There is, however, another thing in these cases that ought to be carefully considered; that some are often deceived by a false show of humility, while some are beguiled by ignorance of their own haughtiness.

For commonly some who think themselves humble have an admixture of fear, such as is not due to men; while an assertion of free speech commonly goes with the haughty.

And when any vices require to be rebuked, the former hold their peace out of fear, and yet esteem themselves as being silent out of humility; the latter speak in the impatience of haughtiness, and yet believe themselves to be speaking in the freedom of uprightness.

Those the fault of timidity under a show of humility keeps back from rebuking what is wrong; these the unbridled impetuosity of pride, under the image of freedom, impels to rebuke things they ought not, or to rebuke them more than they ought.

Whence both the haughty are to be admonished not to be free more than is becoming, and the humble are to be admonished not to be more submissive than is right; lest either the former turn the defence of righteousness into a display of pride, or the latter, while they study more than needs to submit themselves to men, be driven even to pay respect to their vices.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Pastoral Rule, 3, 17.

Cyril of Alexandria: “The acceptable year of the Lord” Monday, Feb 1 2016 

cyril_alexandriaThe Father says…unto the Son Himself:

“I have given Thee for a covenant of kindred, for a light of the Gentiles, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out the prisoners from their bonds, and from the guard-house those that sit in darkness, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord”

(cf. Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 42:6-7; Isaiah 61:1-2).

For the Only-begotten came into this world and gave a new covenant to His kindred, the Israelites, of whom He was sprung according to the flesh, even the covenant long before announced by the voice of the prophets.

But the divine and heavenly light shone also upon the Gentiles: and He went and preached to the spirits in Hades, and showed Himself to those who were shut up in the guard-house, and freed all from their bonds and violence.

And how do not these things plainly prove that Christ is both God, and of God by nature? And what means the sending away the broken in freedom? It is the letting those go free whom Satan had broken by the rod of spiritual violence.

And what means the preaching the acceptable year of the Lord? It signifies the joyful tidings of His own advent, that the time of the Lord, even the Son, had arrived.

For that was the acceptable year in which Christ was crucified in our behalf, because we then were made acceptable unto God the Father, as the fruit borne by Him.

Wherefore He said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men unto Myself.” And verily He returned to life the third day, having trampled upon the power of death: after which He said to His disciples, “All power has been given Me….”

That too is in every respect an acceptable year in which, being received into His family, we were admitted unto Him, having washed away sin by holy baptism, and been made partakers of His divine nature by the communion of the Holy Ghost.

That too is an acceptable year, in which He manifested His glory by ineffable miracles: for with joy have we accepted the season of His salvation, which also the very wise Paul referred to, saying, “Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation.”

This is the day, when the poor who formerly were sick by the absence of every blessing, having no hope and being without God in the world, such as were the gentiles, were made rich by faith in Him, gaining the divine and heavenly treasure of the Gospel message of salvation.

By this they have been made partakers of the kingdom of heaven, co-partners with the saints, and heirs of blessings such as neither the mind can conceive nor language tell.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on Luke, Sermon 12 (on Luke 4:18-19) [slightly adapted].

Isaac the Syrian: Prayer is a joy that gives place to thanksgivings Thursday, Jan 28 2016 

Isaac_the_SyrianPrayer is a joy that gives place to thanksgivings.

[…] This prayer that gives place to thanksgiving, in which a man does not pray nor act as in the other passionate prayers which he prayed, perceiving grace, consists therein that in the heart, which is filled with joy and ecstasy, frequently emotions of thanksgivings and gratitude stir themselves, in the silence of kneelings.

Then, on account of the inner ardour, which is set in motion by wonder at the understanding of God’s bounties, he will of a sudden raise up his voice and praise without being wearied, while the inner ardour gives place to thanksgivings also of the tongue; and so he will give utterance to his feelings long and wonderfully.

Whoever has experienced these things clearly, not dimly, and has noted them with intelligence, will understand when I say that it occurs without variation, for it has been experienced many times.

And furthermore such a man will leave idle things and be constantly with God, without a break, in constant prayer, fearing that he will be bereft of the current of its helping forces.

All these beautiful things are born from a man’s perceiving his own weakness. For from this, because of his longing for help, he turns to God with beseechings. And as he brings near his spirit unto God, God comes nigh unto him with His gifts.

And He does not take away from him His inspiration, because of his great humility. For as a widow unto the judge, he cries at all times: avenge me on my adversary. Therefore God, the merciful, necessarily will delay his petitions, that he have the better reason to approach unto Him.

And because of his need he will constantly remain at the fountain of help, while God grants some of his demands quickly, others not: He grants those concerning which He knows that they are necessary for life, the rest He delays.

And in some cases He withholds from him the ardour of his enemies, and in others He gives an opening to temptations, that this, as I have said, should be a cause for approaching unto God, and that he should become prudent by temptations.

And this is what is said in the scripture: The Lord left many peoples and He did not destroy them at once, nor did He give them into the hand of Joshua, in order to test Israel by them so that the generations of the children of Israel should learn war (cf. Judges 3:1-2).

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Mystic Treatises, 8, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck, pp. 72-73.

Gregory Nazianzen: “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do” Tuesday, Jan 26 2016 

St.-Gregory-Nazianzen“The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do” (John 5:19).

“All things that the Father hath are the Son’s” (John 16:15), and on the other hand, all that belongs to the Son is the Father’s.

Nothing then is peculiar, because all things are in common.  For Their Being itself is common and equal, even though the Son receive it from the Father.

It is in respect of this that it is said “I live by the Father” (John 6:57); not as though His Life and Being were kept together by the Father, but because He has His Being from Him beyond all time, and beyond all cause.

But how does He see the Father doing, and do likewise?

Is it like those who copy pictures and letters, because they cannot attain the truth unless by looking at the original, and being led by the hand by it?

But how shall Wisdom stand in need of a teacher, or be incapable of acting unless taught?

And in what sense does the Father “do” in the present or in the past?  Did He make another world before this one, or is He going to make a world to come?  And did the Son look at that and make this?  Or will He look at the other, and make one like it?

[…]  He cleanses lepers, and delivers men from evil spirits, and diseases, and quickens the dead, and walks upon the sea, and does all His other works. But in what case, or when did the Father do these acts before Him?

Is it not clear that the Father impressed the ideas of these same actions, and the Word brings them to pass, yet not in slavish or unskilful fashion, but with full knowledge and in a masterly way, or, to speak more properly, like the Father?

For in this sense I understand the words that whatsoever is done by the Father, these things doeth the Son likewise – not, that is, because of the likeness of the things done, but in respect of the authority.

This might well also be the meaning of the passage which says that the Father worketh hitherto and the Son also (John 5:17); and not only so but it refers also to the government and preservation of the things which He has made, as is shown by the passage which says that “He maketh His angels spirits” (Psalm 103. 4-5, LXX) and that “the earth is founded upon its steadfastness” (though once for all these things were fixed and made) and that the thunder is made firm and the wind created (cf. Amos 4:13).

Of all these things the Word was given once, but the action is continuous even now.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 30, 11 (slightly adapted).

John Chrysostom: The Conversion of St Paul Monday, Jan 25 2016 

Chrysostom3On Acts 9:1-19.

“Saul, Saul,” says He, “why persecutest thou me?”

And He tells him nothing: does not say believe, nor anything whatever of the kind.

He expostulates with him, all but saying, What wrong, great or small, hast thou suffered from Me, that thou doest these things?

“And he said, Who art Thou Lord?” (v. 5), thus in the first place confessing himself His servant.

“And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest”; think not thy warring is with men.

And they which were with him heard the voice of Paul, but saw no person to whom he answered—for the Lord suffered them to be hearers of what was less important….

“But arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (v. 6)….

He does not immediately add all, but first softens his mind…. He gives him good hopes, and intimates that he shall recover his sight also.

“… And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus” (v. 7-8)—the spoils of the devil, “his goods” (Matt. 13:29), as from some city, yea, some metropolis which has been taken.

And the wonder of it is, the enemies and foes themselves brought him in, in the sight of all!

[…] What could equal this? To compensate the discouragement in the matter of Stephen, here is encouragement, in the bringing in of Paul: though that sadness had its consolation in the fact of Stephen’s making such an end, yet it also received this further consolation….

But why did this take place not at the very first, but after these things? That it might be shown that Christ was indeed risen.

This furious assailant of Christ, the man who would not believe in His death and resurrection, the persecutor of His disciples, how should this man have become a believer, had not the power of His resurrection been great indeed?

[…] Why then not immediately after His resurrection? That his hostility might be more clearly shown as open war.

The man who is so frantic as even to shed blood and cast men into prisons, all at once believes!

It was not enough that he had never been in Christ’s company: the believers must be warred upon by him with vehement hostility: he left to none the possibility of going beyond him in fury: none of them all could be so violent.

But when he was blinded, then he saw the proofs of His sovereignty and loving kindness:

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homily 19 on the Acts of the Apostles.

Gregory of Nyssa: Christ eternally builds himself up by those who join themselves to him in faith Sunday, Jan 24 2016 

Gregory_of_NyssaWhen all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).

Paul plainly speaks of the nonexistence (anuparktos) of evil by stating that God is in all things and present to each one of them.

It is clear that God will truly be in all things when no evil will be found.

It is not proper for God to be present in evil; thus, he will not be in everything as long as some evil remains.

If it compels us to truly believe that God is in everything, then evil cannot be seen as existing along with faith; for God cannot be present in evil.

However, for God to be present in all things, Paul shows that he, the hope of our life, is simple and uniform. No longer can our new existence be now compared to the many and varied examples of this present life.

Paul shows, by the words quoted above, that God becomes all things for us. He appears as the necessities of our present life, or as examples for partaking in the divinity.

Thus, for God to be our food, it is proper to understand him as being eaten; the same applies to drink, clothing, shelter, air, location, wealth, enjoyment, beauty, health, strength, prudence, glory, blessedness and anything else judged good which our human nature needs.

Words such as these signify what is proper to God. We therefore learn by the examples mentioned above that the person in God has everything which God himself has.

To have God means nothing else than to be united with him. Unity then means to be one body with him as Paul states, for all who are joined to the one body of Christ by participation are one body with him.

When the good pervades everything, then the entirety of Christ’s body will be subjected to God’s vivifying power. Thus, the subjection of this body will be said to be the subjection of Church.

Regarding this point, Paul says to the Colossians, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church of which I became a minister according to his dispensation” (Col. 1:24).

[…] To the Ephesians Paul more clearly puts this teaching when saying, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15-16).

Christ eternally builds himself up by those who join themselves to him in faith.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): A Treatise on 1 Corinthians 15:28.

Irenaeus of Lyons: It was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality Saturday, Jan 23 2016 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonContinued from here….

Our Lord took that same original formation as (His) entry into flesh, so that He might draw near and contend on behalf of the fathers, and conquer by Adam that which by Adam had stricken us down.

Whence then is the substance of the first-formed (man)? From the Will and the Wisdom of God, and from the virgin earth.

For God had not sent rain, the Scripture says, upon the earth, before man was made; and there was no man to till the earth (Gen. 2:5).

From this, then, whilst it was still virgin, God took dust of the earth and formed the man, the beginning of mankind.

So then the Lord, summing up afresh this man, took the same dispensation of entry into flesh, being born from the Virgin by the Will and the Wisdom of God; that He also should show forth the likeness of Adam’s entry into flesh, and there should be that which was written in the beginning, man after the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26).

And just as through a disobedient virgin man was stricken down and fell into death, so through the Virgin who was obedient to the Word of God man was reanimated and received life. 

For the Lord came to seek again the sheep that was lost; and man it was that was lost: and for this cause there was not made some other formation, but in that same which had its descent from Adam He preserved the likeness of the (first) formation.

For it was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality; and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away the disobedience of a virgin (1 Cor. 15:53).

And the trespass which came by the tree was undone by the tree of obedience, when, hearkening unto God, the Son of man was nailed to the tree; thereby putting away the knowledge of evil and bringing in and establishing the knowledge of good: now evil it is to disobey God, even as hearkening unto God is good.

And for this cause the Word spake by Isaiah the prophet, announcing beforehand that which was to come…. By him then spake the Word thus:  I refuse not, nor gainsay: I gave my back to scourging, and my cheeks to smiting; and my face I turned not away from the shame of spitting (Isaiah 50:5).

So then by the obedience wherewith He obeyed even unto death, (Phil. 2;8) hanging on the tree, He put away the old disobedience which was wrought in the tree.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 31-34.

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