John Chrysostom: This is not less than martyrdom—to shrink from no suffering for the sake of the salvation of the many Friday, Sep 4 2015 

John_ChrysostomSt Paul thought it no great thing to die for the Gospel’s sake, unless he should do this to great advantage.

He was even willing not to see Christ, Whom most of all he longed to see, while the work of his stewardship among men was not yet complete (Phil. 1:23, 24).

Such ought to be the soul of a Christian.

From his first appearance from the very outset, the character of Paul declared itself.

Even before this, even in the things which he did “not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2), it was not by man’s reasoning that he was moved to act as he did.

For if, so long afterwards, he was content not to depart, much more at the beginning of his trading voyage, when he had but just left the harbour!

Many things Christ leaves to be done by ordinary human wisdom, that we may learn that his disciples were men, that it was not all everywhere to be done by grace.

For otherwise they would have been mere motionless logs. But in many things they managed matters themselves.

This is not less than martyrdom—to shrink from no suffering for the sake of the salvation of the many. Nothing so delights God.

Again will I repeat what I have often said. And I repeat it, because I do exceedingly desire it, as Christ also did the same, when discoursing concerning forgiveness: “when ye pray, forgive if ye have aught against any man” (Mark 11:25).

Likewise He said to Peter: “I say not unto thee, Forgive until seven times, but until seventy-times seven” (Matt. 18:22). And He Himself in fact forgives the transgressions against Him.

So also we continually discourse about this because we know that this is the very goal of Christianity. Nothing is more frigid than a Christian, who cares not for the salvation of others.

You cannot here plead poverty, for she that cast down the two mites shall be your accuser (Luke 21:11). And Peter said, “silver and gold have I none” (Acts 3:6). And Paul was so poor, that he was often hungered, and wanted necessary food.

You cannot plead lowness of birth, for they too were ignoble men, and of ignoble parents. You cannot allege want of education, for they too were “unlearned men” (Acts 4:13).

[…] You cannot plead infirmity, for such was Timothy, having often infirmities; for, says the apostle, “use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake, and thy frequent infirmities” (1 Tim. 5:23). Every one can profit his neighbour, if he will fulfil his part.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on the Book of Acts, 15 (on Acts 9:10-12) [slightly adapted].

Gregory the Great: “Then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot” Thursday, Sep 3 2015 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistContinued from here….

On Job 11:13-15.

So that ‘the face may be lifted up in prayer without spot,’ before the seasons of prayer everything that can possibly be reproved in the act of prayer ought to be heedfully looked into.

And the mind, when it stays from prayer as well, should hasten to shew itself such as it desires to appear to the Judge in the very season of prayer.

For we often harbour some impure or forbidden thoughts in the mind, when we are disengaged from our prayers.

And when the mind has lifted itself up to the exercises of prayer, being made to recoil, it is subject to images of the things whereby it was of it own free will previously burdened whilst unemployed.

And the soul is now as it were without ability to lift up the face to God, in that, with the mind being blotted within, it blushes at the stains of polluted thought.

Oftentimes we are ready to busy ourselves with the concerns of the world, and when after such things we apply ourselves to the business of prayer, the mind cannot lift itself to heavenly things, in that the load of earthly solicitude has sunk it down below, and the face is not shewn pure in prayer, in that it is stained by the mire of grovelling imagination.

Sometimes we rid the heart of every encumbrance, and set ourselves against the forbidden motions thereof, even at such time as we are disengaged from prayer.

Yet because we ourselves commit sins but seldom, we are the more backward in letting go the offences of others, and in proportion as our mind the more anxiously dreads to sin, the more unsparingly it abhors the injuries done to itself by another.

Whence it is brought to pass that a man is found slow to grant pardon in the same degree that, by going on advancing, he has become heedful against the commission of sin.

And, as he fears himself to transgress against another, he claims to punish the more severely the transgression that is done against himself.

But what can be discovered worse than this spot of bitterness [doloris], which in the sight of the Judge does not stain charity, but kills it outright?

For every sin stains the life of the soul, but bitterness maintained against our neighbour slays it. For it is fixed in the soul like a sword, and the very hidden parts of the bowels are gored by the point thereof; and if it be not first drawn out of the pierced heart, no whit of divine aid is won in prayer.

For the medicines of health cannot be applied to the wounded limbs, unless the iron be first withdrawn from the wound.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 10, 29-30 (on Job 11:13-15) @ Lectionary Central [slightly adapted].

Cyprian of Carthage: “Give us this day our daily bread” Wednesday, Sep 2 2015 

Saint-Cyprian-of-CarthageAs the prayer goes forward, we ask and say, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

And this may be understood both spiritually and literally, because either way of understanding it is rich in divine usefulness to our salvation.

For Christ is the bread of life; and this bread does not belong to all men, but it is ours.

And according as we say, “Our Father,” because He is the Father of those who understand and believe; so also we call it “our bread,” because Christ is the bread of those who are in union with His body.

And we ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ, and daily receive the Eucharist for the food of salvation, may not, by the interposition of some heinous sin, by being prevented, as withheld and not communicating, from partaking of the heavenly bread, be separated from Christ’s body.

As He Himself predicts, and warns, “I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. If any man eat of my bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world” (John 6:58).

When, therefore, He says, that whoever shall eat of His bread shall live forever; as it is manifest that those who partake of His body and receive the Eucharist by the right of communion are living, so, on the other hand, we must fear and pray lest anyone who, being withheld from communion, is separate from Christ’s body should remain at a distance from salvation.

As He Himself threatens, and says, “Unless ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye shall have no life in you” (John 6:53).

And therefore we ask that our bread—that is, Christ—may be given to us daily, that we who abide and live in Christ may not depart from His sanctification and body.

But it may also be thus understood, that we who have renounced the world, and have cast away its riches and pomps in the faith of spiritual grace, should only ask for ourselves food and support…. The Lord instructs us, and says, “Whosoever forsaketh not all that he hath, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).

But he who has begun to be Christ’s disciple, renouncing all things according to the word of his Master, ought to ask for his daily food, and not to extend the desires of his petition to a long period, as the Lord again prescribes, and says, “Take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow itself shall take thought for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:34).

Cyprian of Carthage (d.258): On The Lord’s Prayer, 18-19.

Bede the Venerable: The death of St Aidan Monday, Aug 31 2015 

icon_bede-The feast of St Aidan, Enlightener of Northumbria, August 31st.

Aidan was in the king’s township…at the time when death caused him to quit the body, after he had been bishop sixteen years;

for having a church and a chamber in that place, he was wont often to go and stay there, and to make excursions from it to preach in the country round about, which he likewise did at other of the king’s townships, having nothing of his own besides his church and a few fields about it.

When he was sick they set up a tent for him against the wall at the west end of the church, and so it happened that he breathed his last, leaning against a buttress that was on the outside of the church to strengthen the wall.

[…] His body was. thence presently translated to the isle of Lindisfarne, and buried in the cemetery of the brethren.

Some time after, when a larger church was built there and dedicated in honour of the blessed prince of the Apostles, his bones were translated thither, and laid on the right side of the altar, with the respect due to so great a prelate. […]

It happened some years after, that Penda, king of the Mercians, coming into these parts with a hostile army, destroyed all he could with fire and sword, and the village where the bishop died, along with the church above mentioned, was burnt down;

but it fell out in a wonderful manner that the buttress against which he had been leaning when he died, could not be consumed by the fire which devoured all about it.

This miracle being noised abroad, the church was soon rebuilt in the same place, and that same buttress was set up on the outside, as it had been before, to strengthen the wall.

It happened again, some time after, that the village and likewise the church were carelessly burned down the second time. Then again, the fire could not touch the buttress; and, miraculously, though the fire broke through the very holes of the nails wherewith it was fixed to the building, yet it could do no hurt to the buttress itself.

When therefore the church was built there the third time, they did not, as before, place that buttress on the outside as a support of the building, but within the church, as a memorial of the miracle; where the people coming in might kneel, and implore the Divine mercy.

And it is well known that since then many have found grace and been healed in that same place, as also that by means of splinters cut off from the buttress, and put into water, many more have obtained a remedy for their own infirmities and those of their friends.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 3, 17.

Basil the Great: “The Lord loveth mercy and judgment; the earth is full of the mercy of the Lord” Saturday, Aug 29 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great‘The Lord loveth mercy and judgment; the earth is full of the mercy of the Lord’ (Psalm 32:5).

If the judgment of God, who renders precisely according to our deserts what is due to us for our deeds, should be by itself, what hope would there be?

Who of all mankind would be saved? But, as it is, ‘He loveth mercy and judgment.’

It is as if He had made mercy a coadjutor to Himself, standing before the royal throne of His judgment, and thus He leads each one to judgment.

‘If thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities: Lord, who shall stand it?’ (Psalm 129:3).

Neither is mercy without judgment, nor judgment without mercy. He loves mercy, therefore, before judgment, and after mercy He comes to judgment.

However, these qualities are joined to each other, mercy and judgment, lest either mercy alone should produce presumption, or judgment alone cause despair.

The Judge wishes to have mercy on you and to share His own compassion, but on condition that He finds you humble after sin, contrite, lamenting much for your evil deeds, announcing publicly without shame sins committed secretly, begging the brethren to labor with you in reparation;

in short, if He sees that you are worthy of pity, He provides His mercy for you ungrudgingly.

But, if He sees your heart unrepentant, your mind proud, your disbelief of the future life, and your fearlessness of the judgment, then He desires the judgment for you —

— just as a reasonable and kind doctor tries at first with hot applications and soft poultices to reduce a swelling, but, when he sees that the mass is rigidly and obstinately resisting, casting away the olive oil and the gentle method of treatment, he prefers henceforth the use of the knife.

Therefore, He loves mercy in the case of those repenting, but He also loves judgment in the case of the unyielding.

[…] ‘The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord’. Here [on earth] mercy is separated from judgment. The earth is full of only the mercy of the Lord, since His judgment is stored up for the appointed time.

Here, then, mercy is apart from judgment; indeed, He did not come ‘in order that He might judge the world, but that He might save the world’ (cf. John 3:17).

But there, judgment is not apart from mercy because man could not be found clean from stain, not even if he had lived for only one day (cf. Job 14:4-5 LXX).

[…] While we are on earth, we need mercy…. For, when we were dead by reason of our offenses and sins God, having mercy, brought us to life together with Christ (cf. Eph. 2:5).

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 18 (on Psalm 32[33]), 3-4,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 232-234.

John of Karpathos: Through repentance a man regains his true splendour, just as the moon after the period of waning clothes itself once more in its full light Wednesday, Aug 26 2015 

johnkarpathosThe King of all reigns for ever, and there is neither beginning nor end to His kingdom.

To those, then, who choose to serve Him and who for His sake strive to attain holiness, He grants a reward infinitely greater than that given by any earthly ruler.

The honours of this present life, however splendid, come to an end when we die — but the honours bestowed by God on those whom He regards as worthy are incorruptible and so endure for ever.

David in one of his Psalms describes the praise offered to God by the whole of creation (cf. Ps. 104).

He speaks of the angels and all the invisible powers, but he also descends to the earth and includes wild animals, cattle, birds and reptiles.

All of them, he believes, worship the Creator and sing His praise; for it is God’s will that everything He has made should offer Him glory.

How, then, can the monk, who may be compared to the gold of Ophir (cf. 1Kgs. 10:11), allow himself to be sluggish or apathetic when singing God’s praise?

Just as the bush burned with fire but was not consumed (cf. Exod. 3:2), so those who have received the gift of dispassion are not troubled or harmed, either physically or in their intellect (Greek: ὁ νοῦς)** [see footnote], by the heat of their body, however ponderous or fevered it may be.

For the voice of the Lord holds back the flames of nature (cf. Ps.29:7): God’s will and His word separate what by nature is united.

The moon as it waxes and wanes illustrates the condition of man: sometimes he does what is right, sometimes he sins and then through repentance returns to a holy life.

The intellect of one who sins is not destroyed (as some of you think), just as the physical size of the moon does not diminish, but only its light.

Through repentance a man regains his true splendour, just as the moon after the period of waning clothes itself once more in its full light.

If a man believes in Christ, ‘even though he dies, he shall live’ (John 11:25); he shall know that ‘I the Lord have spoken, and will do it’ (Ezek.17:24 LXX).

[…] The demons in their malice revive and rekindle the unclean passions within us, causing them to increase and multiply. But the visitation of the divine Logos [Word], especially when accompanied by our tears, dissolves and kills the passions, even those that are inveterate.

It gradually reduces to nothing the destructive and sinful impulses of soul and body, provided we do not grow listless but cling to the Lord with prayer and with hope that is unremitting and unashamed.

John of Karpathos (7th century): For the Encouragement of the Monks in India, 1-4, 6, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, P. Sherrard, and K. Ware, The Philokalia, vol. 1 (Faber and Faber, London & Boston: 1979 @ J B Burnett.

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

Symeon the New Theologian: Grace becomes itself the day of divine judgment by which he who is purified is continually illumined Tuesday, Aug 25 2015 

SYMEON-iconContinued from here….

Grace, on the one hand, is unapproachable and invisible to those who are still possessed by unbelief and the passions, and is seen, on the other hand, and revealed to those who with faith and in fear and trembling do the commandments and give evidence of a worthy repentance.

This same grace of itself incontestably brings the future judgment to pass in them.

Rather, indeed, it becomes itself the day of divine judgment by which he who is purified is continually illumined, sees himself as he is in truth and in every detail, and all his works for what they are, whether done by the body or acted on by the soul.

Nor this alone, but he is as well judged and examined by the divine fire, and, thus enriched by the water of his tears, his whole body is moistened and he is baptized entire, little by little, by the divine fire and Spirit, and becomes wholly purified, altogether immaculate, a son of the light and of the day, and from that point on no longer a child of mortal man.

It is quite for this reason, too, that such a man is not judged at the judgment and justice to come, for he has already been judged. Neither is he reproved by that light, for he has been illumined beforehand.

Nor is he put to the test and burned on entering this fire, for he has been tried already. Neither does he understand the Day of the Lord as appearing sometime “then,” because, by virtue of his converse and union with God, he has become wholly a bright and shining day.

[…] As many therefore as are children of the light also become sons of the Day which is to come, and are enabled to walk decently as in the day, The Day of the Lord will never come upend them, because they are already in it forever and continually.

The Day of the Lord, in effect, is not going to be revealed suddenly to those who are ever illumined by the divine light, but for those who are in the darkness of the passions and spend their lives in the world hungering for the things of the world, for them it will be fearful and they will experience it as unbearable fire.

However, this fire which is God will not appear in an entirely spiritual manner but, one might say, as bodilessly embodied, in the same way as, according to the Evangelist, Christ of old was seen by the Apostles after having risen from the dead.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD): Tenth Ethical Discourse @ Eclectic Orthodoxy.

Gregory Nazianzen: These are the titles of the Son – walk through them that you may become a god, ascending from below Monday, Aug 24 2015 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenContinued from here….

These names are still common to Him Who is above us, and to Him Who came for our sake.

But others are peculiarly our own, and belong to that nature which He assumed.

So He is called Man—

—not only that through His Body He may be apprehended by embodied creatures, whereas otherwise this would be impossible because of His incomprehensible nature;

—but also that by Himself He may sanctify humanity, and be as it were a leaven to the whole lump;

—and by uniting to Himself that which was condemned may release it from all condemnation, becoming for all men all things that we are, except sin;

—body, soul, mind and all through which death reaches,

—and thus He became Man, who is the combination of all these;

—God in visible form, because He retained that which is perceived by mind alone.

He is Son of Man, both on account of Adam, and of the Virgin from Whom He came;

—from the one as a forefather, from the other as His Mother, both in accordance with the law of generation, and apart from it.

He is Christ, because of His Godhead;

—for this is the Anointing of His Manhood, and does not, as is the case with all other Anointed Ones, sanctify by its action, but by the Presence in His Fulness of the Anointing One;

—the effect of which is that That which anoints is called Man, and makes that which is anointed God.

He is The Way, because He leads us through Himself.

He is the Door, as letting us in.

He is the Shepherd, as making us dwell in a place of green pastures (Psalm 22[23]:2),

—and bringing us up by waters of rest, and leading us there, and protecting us from wild beasts, converting the erring,

—bringing back that which was lost, binding up that which was broken, guarding the strong, and bringing them together in the fold beyond, with words of pastoral knowledge.

He is he Sheep, as the Victim.

He is the Lamb, as being perfect.

He is the High Priest, as the Offerer;

—Melchisedec, as without mother in that Nature which is above us, and without father in ours;

—and without genealogy above (for who, it says, shall declare His generation?);

—and moreover, as King of Salem, which means Peace, and King of Righteousness, and as receiving tithes from Patriarchs, when they prevail over powers of evil.

They are the titles of the Son.

Walk through them, those that are lofty in a godlike manner;

—those that belong to the body in a manner suitable to them;

—or rather, altogether in a godlike manner, that you may become a god, ascending from below, for His sake Who came down from on high for ours.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 30, 21 (slightly adapted).

Irenaeus of Lyons: The breath of life rendered man an animated being, and the vivifying Spirit caused him to become spiritual Sunday, Aug 23 2015 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonAs the flesh is capable of corruption, so is it also of incorruption; and as it is of death, so is it also of life.

These two do mutually give way to each other; and both cannot remain in the same place.

One is driven out by the other, and the presence of the one destroys that of the other.

When death takes possession of a man, it drives life away from him, and proves him to be dead.

Much more, then, does life, when it has obtained power over the man, drive out death, and restore him as living unto God.

For if death brings mortality, why should not life, when it comes, vivify man?

Just as Isaiah the prophet says, “Death devoured when it had prevailed” (Isaiah 25:8 LXX). And again, “God has wiped away every tear from every face.”

Thus that former life is expelled, because it was not given by the Spirit, but by the breath.

For the breath of life, which also rendered man an animated being, is one thing, and the vivifying Spirit another, which also caused him to become spiritual.

And for this reason Isaiah said, “Thus saith the Lord, who made heaven and established it, who founded the earth and the things therein, and gave breath to the people upon it, and Spirit to those walking upon it” (Isaiah 42:5).

Isaiah tells us that breath is indeed given in common to all people upon earth, but that the Spirit is theirs alone who tread down earthly desires.

And therefore Isaiah himself, distinguishing the things already mentioned, again exclaims, “For the Spirit shall go forth from Me, and I have made every breath” (Isaiah 57:16).

Thus does he attribute the Spirit as peculiar to God which in the last times He pours forth upon the human race by the adoption of sons; but he shows that breath was common throughout the creation, and points it out as something created.

Now what has been made is a different thing from him who makes it. The breath, then, is temporal, but the Spirit eternal.

The breath, too, increases in strength for a short period, and continues for a certain time; after that it takes its departure, leaving its former abode destitute of breath. But when the Spirit pervades the man within and without, inasmuch as it continues there, it never leaves him.

“But that is not first which is spiritual,” says the apostle, speaking this as if with reference to us human beings; “but that is first which is animal, afterwards that which is spiritual” (1 Cor. 15:46).

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses 5,12,1-2 (slightly adapted).

Tikhon of Zadonsk: The word of God is given by God so that everyone who desires to be saved may receive salvation through it Friday, Aug 21 2015 

Tikhon_of_ZadonskLove the Word of God, that is the Scriptures, handed down to us by the prophets and apostles, as God Himself.

For the word of God is the word of God’s mouth. If you love God, then without fail you will love the word of God also.

For the word of God is God’s epistle or letter to us unworthy ones, and is His supreme gift to us for the sake of our salvation.

If you love the Sender, then also love the letter which is sent from Him to you.

For the word of God is given by God to me, to you, and to everyone, so that everyone who desires to be saved may receive salvation through it.

You love it when an earthly king writes you a letter, and you read it with love and joy. How much more must we read the letter of the Heavenly King with love and joy.

The word of God was not given to you so that it should lay written only on paper, but so that we may use it spiritually, that we may be enlightened and guided in the true way and salvation, that our morals may be corrected, and that we may live according to its rule in this world, and that we may please God.

If you wish, therefore, to be a true Christian, then without fail you must take care to live by its rule.

For the word of God is a heavenly seed. It must, then, yield fruit in us after its kind, that is a holy and heavenly life, otherwise it will accuse us on the day of the fearful Judgement of Christ.

Live, therefore, as the word of God teaches, and then correct yourself. Do not pry idly into the mysteries.

Of the mystery of the All-Holy Trinity, the Most-Holy Eucharist, and other such things that are not revealed to us in the holy word of God, do not inquire idly, lest you fall into the snare of the devil and be tangled in it, and not be able to escape from thence, and so perish.

For that which requires faith alone transcends our reasoning, and it is very dangerous to pry into these things. Keep yourself, then, from prying into things which are above you.

Believe in all things as the Holy Scriptures teach, and as the Holy Church believes and establishes in accordance with it.

Tikhon of Zadonsk (1724-1783; Russian Orthodox): extract @ Kandylaki  from Journey to Heaven: Counsels On the Particular Duties of Every Christian by Our Father Among the Saints, Tikhon of Zadonsk, Bishop of Voronezh and Elets (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2004) .

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