Gregory Palamas: The genealogy of Christ Wednesday, Dec 21 2016 

Gregory_PalamasMatthew…begins with those born first, and makes no mention of anyone born before Abraham.

He traces the line down from Abraham until he reaches Joseph to whom, by divine dispensation, the Virgin Mother of God was betrothed (Matt. 1:1-16), being of the same tribe and homeland as him, that her own stock may be shown from this to be in no way inferior.

Luke, by contrast, begins not with the earliest forebears but the most recent, and working his way back from Joseph the Betrothed, does not stop at Abraham, nor, having included Abraham’s predecessors, does he end with Adam, but lists God among Christ’s human forebears (Lk. 3:23-38);

wishing to show, in my opinion, that from the beginning man was not just a creation of God, but also a son in the Spirit, which was given to him at the same time as his soul, through God’s quickening breath (Gen. 2:7).

It was granted to him as a pledge that, if, waiting patiently for it, he kept the commandment, he would be able to share through the same Spirit in a more perfect union with God, by which he would live forever with Him and obtain immortality.

By heeding the evil counsel of the pernicious angel, man transgressed the divine commandments, was shown to be unworthy, forfeited the pledge, and interrupted God’s plan.

God’s grace, however, is unalterable and His purpose cannot prove false, so some of man’s offspring were chosen, that, from among many, a suitable receptacle for this divine adoption and grace might be found, who would serve God’s will perfectly, and would be revealed as a vessel worthy to unite divine and human nature in one person, not just exalting our nature, but restoring the human race.

The holy Maid and Virgin Mother of God was this vessel, so she was proclaimed by the Archangel Gabriel as full of grace (Lk. 1:28), being the chosen one among the chosen, blameless, undefiled and worthy to contain the person of the God-Man and to collaborate with Him.

Therefore God pre-ordained her before all ages, chose her from among all that had ever lived, and deemed her worthy of more grace than anyone else, making her the holiest of saints, even before her mysterious childbearing.

For that reason, He graciously willed that she should make her home in the Holy of Holies, and accepted her as His companion to share His dwelling from her childhood.

He did not simply choose her from the masses, but from the elect of all time, who were admired and renowned for their piety and wisdom, and for their character, words and deeds, which pleased God and brought benefit to all.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily on the Old Testament Saints. From Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009).

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Tikhon of Zadonsk: This healing plaster of the Gospel is applied to your wounded souls Thursday, Oct 27 2016 

Tikhon_of_ZadonskTo whom is the Gospel preached?

Christ answers us, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for Whose sake He hath anointed Me to preach to the poor, He hath sent Me to heal the broken hearted” (Lk.4:18).

In other words, to those people who, acknowledging their sins, see their poverty, misfortune, and wretchedness, and have a contrite heart with fear of God’s judgement and sorrow, to them the Gospel is rightly preached as a healing plaster is applied to a wounded body.

Hear, you sorrowful and contrite souls, hear the most sweet voice of the Gospel! “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost!”

This healing plaster of the Gospel most sweet is applied to your wounded souls. By this saving medicine heal your broken hearts. “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.”

He seeks you and saves you, because you are one of those that He came to seek. Accept and confess yourselves to be sinners before God. Your sins are also forgiven for Christ’s name’s sake.

Repent of your sins and lament for God, for salvation is prepared for you, too, by God. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am the chief” (1 Tim. 1:15).

The Holy Spirit speaks to you through His servant, “The sacrifice unto God is a broken spirit, a heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise” (LXX-Ps. 50:19 [KJV-Ps. 51:17]).

This sacrifice is offered to God from a repentant and contrite heart and is more acceptable to Him than any other offering. God looks mercifully upon such a sacrifice and sends His grace down upon it.

And so you see, O Christian, that the Gospel is not intended for those Christians who…do not recognize their sins, poverty and misfortune, and do not have a contrite heart. For of what use is oil to a rock? A plaster is applied to a wound, and healing is given to him who recognizes and admits his weakness.

To such people is it said, “Repent, be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy into heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up” (Jas. 4:9-10).

[…] Sinners! Let us fear the judgement of God and endeavor to have a contrite and humble heart, that we also may draw from the Gospel as from a saving font of living water of refreshment and consolation, and that we may water our souls and so receive everlasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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).

Seraphim of Sarov: By the Kingdom of God the Lord meant the grace of the Holy Spirit Tuesday, Jul 19 2016 

Seraphim_Sarovsky

And Father Seraphim, smiling pleasantly, said…:

The sweetest earthly fragrance cannot be compared with the fragrance which we now feel, for we are now enveloped in the fragrance of the Holy Spirit of God.

What on earth can be like it? Mark, your Godliness, you have told me that around us it is warm as in a bath-house; but look, neither on you nor on me does the snow melt, nor does it underfoot; therefore, this warmth is not in the air but in us.

It is that very warmth about which the Holy Spirit in the words of prayer makes us cry to the Lord: ‘Warm me with the warmth of Thy Holy Spirit!’

By it the hermits of both sexes were kept warm and did not fear the winter frost, being clad, as in fur coats, in the grace-given clothing woven by the Holy Spirit.

And so it must be in actual fact, for the grace of God must dwell within us, in our heart, because the Lord said: The Kingdom of God is within you (Lk. 17:21).

By the Kingdom of God the Lord meant the grace of the Holy Spirit. This Kingdom of God is now within us, and the grace of the Holy Spirit shines upon us and warms us from without as well.

It fills the surrounding air with many fragrant odours, sweetens our senses with heavenly delight and floods our hearts with unutterable joy.

Our present state is that of which the Apostle says; The Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17).

Our faith consists not in the plausible words of earthly wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and power (cp. I Cor.2:4). That is just the state that we are in now.

Of this state the Lord said: There are some of those standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the Kingdom of God come in power (Mk. 9:1).

See, my son, what unspeakable joy the Lord God has now granted us! This is what it means to be in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, about which St. Macarius of Egypt writes: ‘I myself was in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.’

With this fullness of His Holy Spirit the Lord has now filled us poor creatures to overflowing. So there is no need now, your Godliness, to ask how people come to be in the grace of the Holy Spirit. Will you remember this manifestation of God’s ineffable mercy which has visited us?

Seraphim of Sarov (Orthodox Church; 1759-1833): On the Acquisition of the Holy Spirit.

Gregory of Sinai: Prayer in beginners is the unceasing noetic activity of the Holy Spirit Friday, Jul 1 2016 

Gregory of SinaiThe energy of the Holy Spirit, which we have already mystically received in baptism, is realized in two ways.

First – to generalize – this gift is revealed, as St Mark tells us, through arduous and protracted practice of the commandments: to the degree to which we effectively practice the commandments its radiance is increasingly manifested in us.

Secondly, it is manifested to those under spiritual guidance through the continuous invocation of the Lord Jesus, repeated with conscious awareness, that is, through mindfulness of God.

In the first way, it is revealed more slowly, in the second more rapidly, if one diligently and persistently learns how to dig the ground and locate the gold.

Thus if we want to realize and know the truth and not to be led astray, let us seek to possess only the heart-engrafted energy in a way that is totally without shape or form, not trying to contemplate in our imagination what we take to be the figure or similitude of things holy or to see any colors or lights. For in the nature of things the spirit of delusion deceives the intellect through such spurious fantasies, especially at the early stages, in those who are still inexperienced.

On the contrary, let our aim be to make the energy of prayer alone active in our hearts, for it brings warmth and joy to the intellect, and sets the heart alight with an ineffable love for God and man. It is on account of this that humility and contrition flow richly from prayer.

For prayer in beginners is the unceasing noetic** activity of the Holy Spirit. To start with it rises like a fire of joy from the heart; in the end it is like light made fragrant by divine energy.

There are several signs that the energy of the Holy Spirit is beginning to be active in those who genuinely aspire for this to happen and are not just putting God to the test – for, according to the Wisdom of Solomon, it is found by those who do not put it to the test, and manifests itself to those who do not distrust it (cf. Wisd. 1:2).

In some it appears as awe arising in the heart, in others as a tremulous sense of jubilation, in others as joy, in others as joy mingled with awe, or as tremulousness mingled with joy, and sometimes it manifests itself as tears and awe. For the soul is joyous at God’s visitation and mercy, but at the same time is in awe and trepidation at His presence because it is guilty of so many sins.

Gregory of Sinai (1260s–1346): On the Signs of Grace and Delusion 3-4, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 4 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 259-260.

** noetic = relating to the nous. The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word nous: as used in this passage from Gregory 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).

Gregory Palamas: Christ now sent forth the Spirit Who comes from the Father Sunday, Jun 19 2016 

Gregory_PalamasA short while ago, with the strong eyes of faith, we beheld Christ ascending, no less clearly than those accounted worthy to be eye-witnesses.

Nor are we less favoured than they. “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”, says the Lord (John 20:29), referring to those who have found assurance through hearing, and see by faith.

Recently we saw Christ lifted up from the ground bodily (Acts 1:9). Now, through the Holy Spirit sent by Him to His disciples, we see how far Christ ascended and to what dignity He carried up the nature He assumed from us.

Clearly He went up as high as the place from which the Spirit sent by Him descended. He who spoke through the prophet Joel showed us whence the Spirit comes, saying, “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28), and to Him David addressed the words, “Thou wilt send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created; and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth” (Ps. 103:32).

It follows that at His ascension Christ went up to the Father on high, as far as His Fatherly bosom, from which comes the Spirit. Having been shown, even in His human form, to share the Father’s glory, Christ now sent forth the Spirit Who comes from the Father and is sent by Him from heaven.

But when we hear that the Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son, this does not mean that the Spirit has no part in their greatness, for He is not just sent, but also Himself sends and consents to be sent.

This is clearly shown by Christ’s words spoken through the prophet, “Mine hand hath laid the foundation of the earth and stretched out the heavens, and now the Lord God, and His Spirit, hath sent Me” (cf. Isa. 48:13-16). Again, speaking through the same prophet He says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek” (Isa. 61:1).

The Holy Spirit is not just sent, but Himself sends the Son, Who is sent by the Father. He is therefore shown to be the same as the Father and the Son in nature, power, operation and honour.

By the good pleasure of the Father and the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, the only-begotten Son of God, on account of the boundless ocean of divine love for mankind, bowed the heavens and came down (Ps. 17:9). He appeared on earth after our fashion, lived among us, and did and taught great, wonderful and sublime things truly worthy of God, which led those who obeyed Him towards deification and salvation.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 24, on Pentecost, 1-2. From Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009), full version online here.

Nicodemus the Hagiorite: This greatest, most wondrous, and nearly infinitely-sized polyelaios of the entire universe Thursday, Jun 2 2016 

Nikodemos 1Polyelaios – the main chandelier in the Nave of the Church [translator’s note].

I am not able, here, to pass over in silence the beautiful and fitting analogy put forth by some concerning the renewal of the whole of creation.

They compare it to a wise artist who is fabricating a great, wondrous, and costly polyelaios  and who does not finish it in one sitting, but rather works on it for a great deal of time, now working on one small section of the polyelaios, now on another; and sometimes he fashions the middle bars of the polyelaios, and sometimes its oil lamps, sometimes its bulb, and sometimes he works on the parts that will hold the candles.

Once he has finished the entire polyelaios and all of the small and large parts it comprises, then he exhibts this wondrous polyelaios in the center of the market, with all of its numerous parts connected; and, seeing that it was made according to his design, beautifully and most skilfully, he rejoices greatly and is glad.

But all of the people, also, seeing it shining most brightly and fitted together with most wondrous skill, are enraptured and praise the artist who has fashioned it, calling out: “Well done! Well done!”

In the same way, God, the all-wise master craftsman and architect, in his desire to fabricate this greatest, most wondrous, and nearly infinitely-sized polyelaios of the entire universe, did not complete it at once, because the parts making up this great polyelaios are not only inanimate and irrational, but also rational and possessors of free will. For this reason, He has been working on these parts of the world for 7,311 years now, and we do not yet know how many more years He will work on it until the end of time.

Now He fashions and finishes one part of the polyelaios, now another; that is, now He seizes one soul that has been kept pure by the practicing of the commandments, and now He seizes another that has been justified through repentance; and another He saves through His promises, while another by His threats; this person He delivers from sin through trial and chastisement, and that one He frees from the Devil by His Grace, until He has assembled all of the small and great parts of which this most wondrous Polyelaios of the world is to be comprised.

When these things have been completed and the heavens, the luminaries, the stars, the elements, the earth, and the bodies of the righteous have been renewed through the regeneration and resurrection, and through alteration and amendment, then God, the master craftsman, will fabricate His great polyelaios and equip it with all of its most exquisitely beautiful, resplendent, and most wondrous parts.

Nicodemus the Hagiorite (1749-1809): The Greatest and Most Wondrous Polyelaios in the Entire Universe and the Renewal of the Whole of Creation (Commentary by St. Nicodemos on II St. Peter 3:13) @ Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Greece.

Nektarios the Wonderworker: We need to want to see in order to open our eyes to the brilliant, abundant light Friday, May 27 2016 

St NektariosA study of the history of the redemption of humankind reveals the Son of God, Who became a man in order to save all of us, treading the path to His voluntary passion, bearing the sin of the world, healing our wounds, fulfilling the great mystery of divine dispensation, reconciling us with God and yet in no way infringing our free will.

There you are! The gate of Paradise, which had been shut, was opened; the fiery sword which guarded the entrance was removed and the voice of the Lord invited excluded humanity to enter thereby into a place of peace and quiet. But we were left free to enter or not, as we choose.

[…] The prime agent in the work of our salvation is indeed the grace of God, because Christ the Saviour came as Light to those who were in the dark and shed the light of His Grace on those “dwelling in darkness and the shadow of death”.

He sought the lost sheep, called back those who had strayed, spoke secretly to people’s hearts and showed us the way to salvation. It’s the grace of God which perfects and saves, yet our own will should not be accounted of any less importance.

We should regard it as the outstanding gem in the crown of our salvation, since it’s the main lever that shifts our outlook that has been rendered inert by sin. This is what urges our footsteps to follow the Saviour, this is what strengthens our hearts to show self-denial, this is what bears the cross on the shoulder.

Because, although grace invites us, dispels the gloom and illumines the dark places, it’s possible  nevertheless, due to the carelessness and slothfulness, the contamination and spiritual idleness of the carnal view of life, for our free will to feign deafness, to close its eyes, to remain in darkness and to proceed in exactly the opposite direction: the one to perdition. In other words, our free will can act in total contradiction to what it actually wants.

So it’s necessary for us truly to want our salvation, to seek it. We have to want to hear, in order to hearken to the voice of  Him Who is calling us. We need to want to see in order to open our eyes to the brilliant, abundant light.

We have to want to move, to follow the Saviour, to refuse to be the people we once were, with our passions and desires, in order to take the cross upon our shoulders. We must follow the “strait and circumscribed road” so that we may pass through the narrow gate of Paradise.

Nektarios of Aegina (Orthodox Church; 1846-1920): Περί επιμελείας ψυχής, Athos editions, pp. 25ff @ Pemptousia.

Tikhon of Zadonsk: “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost” Wednesday, May 25 2016 

Tikhon_of_Zadonsk“The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10). This is the exceedingly sweet voice of the Gospel.

[…] But let us see what the Gospel is, and what it requires of us, and to whom it is rightly preached.

From its very name the Gospel is the gladdest of tidings. To all the world it preaches Christ the Saviour of the world Who came to seek out and to save the lost.

Listen all you lost sinners, listen to that exceedingly sweet voice of the Gospel! It cries out to us all, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.”

It is a fearful thing for us to be found in sin before God. The Gospel preaches that our sins are forgiven for Christ’s name’s sake and that Christ is our justification before God.

In Thee, my Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, am I justified. Thou art my truth and enlightenment.

It is a fearful thing for us to be found at enmity with God. The Gospel preaches that Christ has reconciled us to God, and having come He preached peace to all near and far.

A fearful thing for us is the curse of the Law, for we are all sinners; it subjects the sinner to both temporal and eternal punishment. The Gospel preaches that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become the curse for us.

A fearful thing for us is death. The Gospel preaches that Christ is our resurrection and life.

A fearful thing for us are Gehenna and hell. The Gospel preaches that Christ delivered us from hell and all its calamities.

It is a fearful thing for us to be separated from God. The Gospel preaches that we shall be with the Lord always in His eternal Kingdom.

This, blessed Christians, is the most sweet voice of the Gospel, “Taste,” then, “and see that the Lord is good” (LXX Psalm 33:9 [KJV Psalm 34:8]).

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned” (John 3:16-18).

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up an horn salvation for us in the house of His servant David” (Luke 1:68-69).

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) .

Justin Popovich: Christ has come to deify the entire man by the resurrection, ensuring thereby victory over death and eternal life Thursday, May 5 2016 

JustinContinued from here….

The New Testament raised the human body to the sublime and divine heights, endowing it with a glory which the Cherubim and Seraphim do not possess.

The Good News of the New Testament concerning the body—the significance and goal of the human body—is that, together with the soul, it achieves and inherits immortal life in Divine eternity.

The Lord Christ has come to deify, to make Christ-like, the entire man, that is, the soul and body, and this by the resurrection, ensuring thereby victory over death and eternal life.

No one ever elevated the human body as did the Lord Christ by His bodily resurrection, the ascension of His body into heaven, and its eternal session at the right hand of God the Father.

In this way, the Resurrected Christ extended the promise of resurrection to the nature of the human body—”having made for all flesh a path to eternal life.”

Thus man now knows that the body is created for eternity through union with the God-Man and that his divine work on earth is to struggle, with the soul, for eternal life;

to struggle, with all those means that convey grace and virtue, to make himself grace-filled, fulfilled by Divine grace, and created anew as the temple of the Holy Spirit, the temple of the Living God.

Bearing in mind that this New Testamental notion of the human body has been achieved and realized in the persons of the Saints, Christians show a pious veneration for the bodies of the Saints, towards holy relics, the temples of the Holy Spirit, Who by God’s grace abides within them.

But Holy Revelation indicates that by God’s immeasurable love for man, the Holy Spirit abides through His grace not only in the bodies of the Saints, but also in their clothing.

So it is that the handkerchiefs of the holy apostle Paul healed the ill and expelled unclean spirits (Acts 19:12).

With his mantle the Prophet Elias struck the water, separating the waters of the Jordan, and along the dry bed of the river crossed the Jordan with his disciple Elisea (IV Kings 2:8).

The prophet Elisea did the very same thing, himself, with the same mantle, after the taking-up of Elias into heaven (IV Kings 2:14).

All this has its verification and source in the Divine power that rested in the garments of the Savior, which encompassed His most pure and Divine body.

Moreover, by His inexpressible love for man, the Divine Lord allows the servants of His Divinity to work miracles not only through their bodies and clothing, but even with the shadow of their bodies, which is evident in an occurrence with the holy apostle Peter: his shadow healed an ill man and expelled unclean spirits (Acts 5:15-16).

Justin Popovich (1894-1979; Orthodox Church): The Place of Holy Relics in the Orthodox Church @ OCIC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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