Gregory of Sinai: Everyone baptized into Christ should pass progressively through all the stages of Christ’s own life Tuesday, Apr 19 2016 

Gregory of SinaiEveryone baptized into Christ should pass progressively through all the stages of Christ’s own life,

for in baptism he receives the power so to progress, and through the commandments he can discover and learn how to accomplish such progression.

To Christ’s conception corresponds the foretaste of the gift of the Holy Spirit,

to His nativity the actual experience of joyousness,

to His baptism the cleansing force of the fire of the Spirit,

to His transfiguration the contemplation of divine light,

to His crucifixion the dying to all things,

to His burial the indwelling of divine love in the heart,

to His resurrection the soul’s life-quickening resurrection,

and to His ascension divine ecstasy and  the transport of the intellect into God.

He who fails to pass consciously through these stages is still callow in body and spirit, even though he may be regarded by all as mature and accomplished in the practice of virtue.

Christ’s Passion is a life-quickening death to those who have experienced all its phases, for by experiencing what He experienced we are glorified as He is (cf Rom. 8:17).

But indulgence in sensual passions induces a truly lethal death.

Willingly to experience what Christ experienced is to crucify cracifixion and to put death to death.

To suffer for Christ’s sake is patiently to endure whatever happens to us.

For the envy which the innocent provoke is for their benefit, while the Lord’s schooling tests us so as to bring about our conversion, since it opens our ears when we are guilty.

That is why the Lord has promised an eternal crown to those who endure in this manner (cf. Jas. 1:12).

Glory to Thee, our God; glory to Thee, Holy Trinity; glory to Thee for all things.

Gregory of Sinai (1260s–1346): Further Texts 1-3, 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. 253.

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Justin Popovich: By unceasing enactment of the ascetic efforts set forth in the Gospels, Saints gradually fill themselves with the Holy Spirit Wednesday, Apr 13 2016 

JustinThe holiness of the Saints—both the holiness of their souls and of their bodies—derives from their zealous grace-and-virtue-bestowing lives in the Body of the Church of Christ, of the God-Man.

In this sense, holiness completely envelopes the human person—the entire soul and body and all that enters into the mystical composition of the human body.

The holiness of the Saints does not hold forth only in their souls, but it necessarily extends to their bodies; so it is that both the body and the soul of a saint are sanctified.

Thus we, in piously venerating the Saints, also venerate the entire person, in this manner not separating the holy soul from the holy body.

Our pious veneration of the Saints’ relics is a natural part of our pious respect for and prayerful entreaty to the Saints. All of this constitutes one indivisible ascetic act, just as the soul and body constitute the single, indivisible person of the Saint.

Clearly, during his life on the earth, the Saint, by a continuous and singular grace-and virtue-bestowing synergy of soul and body, attains to the sanctification of his person, filling both the soul and body with the grace of the Holy Spirit and so transforming them into vessels of the holy mysteries and holy virtues.

It is completely natural, again, to show pious reverence both to the former and to the latter, both to soul and body, both of them holy vessels of God’s grace.

When the charismatic power of Christ issues forth, it makes Grace-filled all the constituent parts of the human person and the person in his entirety.

By unceasing enactment of the ascetic efforts set forth in the Gospels, Saints gradually fill themselves with the Holy Spirit, so that their sacred bodies, according to the word of the holy Apostle, become temples of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19; 3:17), Christ dwelling by faith in their hearts (Ephesians 3:17) and by fruitful love also fulfilling the commandments of God the Father.

Establishing themselves in the Holy Spirit through grace-bestowing ascetic labors, the Saints participate in the life of the Trinity, becoming sons of the Holy Trinity, temples of the Living God (II Corinthians 6:16); their whole lives thus flow from the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.

By piously venerating the holy relics of the Saints, the Church reveres them as temples of the Holy Spirit, temples of the Living God, in which God dwells by Grace even after the earthly death of the Saints.

And by His most wise and good Will, God creates miracles in and through these relics. Moreover, the miracles which derive from the holy relics witness also to the fact that their pious veneration by the people is pleasing to God.

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

Nicholas Cabasilas: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” Wednesday, Apr 6 2016 

nicholas_cabasilasWith a blessed tongue, an unperturbed soul, and thoughts full of tranquillity she said: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).

These were the words that she said, and they were fulfilled at once: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

And, after giving her reply to God, she received the Spirit that created from her that flesh which was one with God.

Her voice was a “mighty voice,” as David puts it (Psalm 67:34 [LXX]) and the Word of the Father isformed by the word of a mother, and the Creator is created by the voice of a creature.

And just as when God said, “Let there be light,” “at once there was light” (Genesis 1:3), so, as soon as the Virgin spoke, the true Light dawned; and He Who “lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9) was joined to the flesh and carried in the womb.

O sacred voice! O words of great power! O blessed tongue, which restored the entire inhabited earth in one fell swoop! O treasury of a heart which, by a few words, poured out upon us an abundance of good things!

These words made the earth Heaven, emptied Hades of its prisoners, caused Heaven to be inhabited by men, joined Angels with men, and formed the Heavenly and earthly races into a single chorus around Him who is both, being God but becoming man.

What gratitude could we express to you for these words? What should we call you, of whom nothing human is worthy? Our words derive from existing things, whereas you surpass the whole world beyond every sublimity.

If words are to be offered to you, this, I ween, is a task for Angels, for a Cherubic mind, for a fiery tongue. Hence, having mentioned, as far as we are able, those things which redound to your praise, and having chanted hymns to you, our salvation, to the best of our ability, we ask next for an Angelic voice.

We will conclude with the salutation of Gabriel, adorning the sum of our oration with this additament: “Rejoice, thou who art full of Grace, the Lord is with thee” (Luke 1:28).

May you prepare us to make a habitation for Him within ourselves, for this is conducive to His glory and to the laudation of you who gave birth to Him, when we not only talk about it, but also put it into practice, for unto Him belongs glory unto the ages. Amen.

Nicholas Cabasilas (1319/1323–after 1391): On the Occasion of the Feast of the Annunciation, 9-10, Translated from the Greek text in “Homélies Mariales Byzantines (II),” ed. M. Jugie, in Patrologia Orientalis, Vol. XIX, pp. 484-495@ Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Greece.

Nicodemus the Hagiorite: We must frequently run to the divine Mysteries and partake of the superessential bread Thursday, Mar 24 2016 

Nikodemos 1John of Damaskos says: “This bread, which is called superessential, is the first-fruits of the future bread.

“For ‘superessential’ means either of the future, which is to say, of the future age, or that which we receive for the constitution of our essence (that is, our body).

“Whether it be the former or the latter meaning, it is obviously to be called the body of the Lord.”

[…] Because the Fathers say that the body of the Lord is called superessential bread does not mean that they dismiss the common bread which is given for the sustenance of our body, for this also is a gift of God.

[…] However, this common bread is called superessential in a secondary, not primary, sense, for it strengthens only the body and not the soul.

But the body of our Lord and the word of God are called superessential bread primarily and in every respect, because they strengthen both soul and body. This is apparent from the example of many men.

The Prophet Moses fasted forty days and nights without eating any bodily food. The Prophet Elias likewise fasted for forty days. Under the New Grace a great number of Saints, with only the word of God and Holy Communion, have lived without food for many days.

For this reason, as many of us as have been deemed worthy to receive spiritual rebirth through divine Baptism have the need to frequently eat, with fervent love and a broken heart, this spiritual food, in order to live a spiritual life and to keep ourselves unharmed by the poison of the noetic serpent, the devil.

If Adam had eaten of this food, he would not have died the double death of the soul and of the body.

We must not eat this spiritual bread, however, without preparation, for our God is called a consuming fire that burns. Holy Communion purifies, illumines, and sanctifies those who eat the Master’s body and drink the immaculate blood with a pure conscience and true confession.

[…] We have spoken, then, about the third and final meaning of the superessential bread, which is as necessary and beneficial to us as Holy Baptism is necessary and beneficial.

For this reason, we must frequently run to the divine Mysteries and partake of the superessential bread that we ask for from our God and Father, with fear and love, while it is still “today.”

And “today” has three meanings. First, it means every day. Second, it means the whole life of each person. And third, it means the entire present, seventh age. For in the future age there is no today and tomorrow, but that entire age is one eternal day.

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

Nicodemus the Hagiorite: “And lead us not into temptation” Thursday, Feb 25 2016 

Nikodemos 1Our Lord directs us to ask our God and Father not to lead us into temptation.

The Prophet Isaiah, as representing God, says, “I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil” (Is. 45:7).

And the Prophet Amos says similarly, “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” (Am. 3:6).

Based on these words, many unlearned and insecure people fall into various thoughts concerning God: that God supposedly throws us into temptations.

For this reason, the Apostle James solved the problem for us, saying:

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (Jas. 1:13-14).

[…] Temptations come to man in two kinds. One is the pleasurable kind, and therefore occurs with both our own will and the collaboration of the demons.

The other is the sorrowful and painful kind, which appears bitter to us, for it occurs without our will. The devil works on his own to bring about this kind.

Both of these kinds of temptations came upon the Hebrews. For because they willfully chose pleasurable temptation, using wealth, glory, and freedom for evil, they fell into idolatry.

For this reason God allowed the complete opposite to come upon them, namely, poverty, dishonor, exile, and the rest. With these evils He frightened them, in order that they might turn and repent.

The Prophets call the various forms of the chastisement of God wrongs and evil…, though in reality they are not evil, and this is because those things which bring pain and hardship to man are customarily called evil by him, since this is how he perceives them.

These things happen, not according to the original will of God, but according to the ensuing (that is, secondary) will of God, for the correction and good of man.

Our Lord, joining the first kind of temptation (that is, the pleasurable kind) with the second kind (that is, the bitter and oppressive kind) calls both of them by one name, “temptation,” because the free will of man is tempted and tested by them.

[…] The devil first attacks us with pleasurable temptation, for he knows that we fall into it easily. And if he finds our will obedient to his, he draws us away from the grace of God which protects us.

[…] If he does not find our will compliant, that is, if we do not fall to the pleasurable temptation, he still brings the second kind of temptation, hoping that through many sorrows he will be able to force us to carry out his evil intent.

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

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.

Nicholas Cabasilas: He created mankind with this end in view, that, when He needed to be born, He might take from it a Mother Friday, Jan 1 2016 

nicholas_cabasilasSince God remained silent and did not foretell to her anything that was going to happen, He clearly showed that He did not know anything more beautiful or greater than that which He perceived in the Virgin;

from this fact it is evident that He did not choose for His Mother the best of all those in existence, but her who was absolutely the best;

nor did He choose her who was more suitable for Him than anyone else in the human race, but her who so totally suited Him, that it was fitting that she become His Mother.

Indeed, it was absolutely necessary for human nature at some time to make itself fit for the task for which it was created at the beginning, that is, to bring forth someone capable of worthily serving the purpose of the Creator.

For God did not create humanity with one purpose in mind, only to decide later on to use it for a different purpose, in the way that we take tools designed for one pursuit and misuse them for another, so that there is no need for them always to be congruent with their original function.

Rather, He created mankind with this end in view, that, when He needed to be born, He might take from it a Mother.

Having first established this need as a kind of standard, He then fashioned man in accordance with it.

For, neither should we posit any other end for the creation of man than that which is the most excellent of all and which brings the greatest honor and glory to the Artificer, nor is it conceivable that God should in any way fail in creating the things that He creates.

[…] What, therefore, was there to prevent human nature from being in conformity, and in every way in agreement and harmony, with the purpose for which it was created?

For it is God Who governs His Œconomy, and this Œconomy is the greatest work of God and par excellence the work of His hands; and He did not entrust the matter to the ministry of any human being or Angel, but reserved it for Himself.

Therefore, whom, if not God, does it behoove, when producing anything whatsoever, to observe the requisite standards? And in the case of what else than the most beautiful of His works? On what else, of all things, if not on Himself, would God confer what is appropriate?

After all, Paul required that a Bishop “rule well himself and his own house” before caring for the common good.

Nicholas Cabasilas (1319/1323–after 1391): On the Occasion of the Feast of the Annunciation, 8, Translated from the Greek text in “Homélies Mariales Byzantines (II),” ed. M. Jugie, in Patrologia Orientalis, Vol. XIX, pp. 484-495 @ Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Greece.

Gregory Palamas: This great mystery of our re-creation and restoration Saturday, Dec 26 2015 

Gregory_PalamasGod who sits upon the cherubim (Psalm 99:1) is set before us as a babe on earth.

He upon whom the six-winged seraphim cannot look, being unable to gaze intently not only at His nature but even at the radiance of His glory, and therefore covering their eyes with their wings (Isaiah 6:2), having become flesh, appears to our senses and can be seen by bodily eyes.

He who defines all things and is limited by none is contained in a small, makeshift manger. He who holds the universe and grasps it in the hollow of His hand is wrapped in narrow swaddling bands and fastened into ordinary clothes.

He who possesses the riches of inexhaustible treasures submits Himself voluntarily to such great poverty that He does not even have a place at the inn; and so He enters into a cave at the time of His birth, who was brought forth by God timelessly and impassibly and without beginning.

[…] Anyone who has been vouchsafed understanding and grasped the honour which our nature received from God through being formed by His hands in His own image, will run towards Him, having come to a realization of His love for mankind, and will obey Him and learn His commandments. But how much more so if he comprehends, as far as is possible, this great mystery of our re-creation and restoration.

God formed human nature out of the earth with His own hand and breathed His own life into man (Genesis 2.7; 1 Thessalonians 5.23), whereas everything else He brought into being by His word alone. He then allowed man to be governed by his own thoughts and follow his own initiative, because he was a rational creature with a sovereign will.

Left alone, deceived by the evil one’s counsel and unable to withstand his assault, man did not keep to what was in accordance with his nature, but slid towards what was unnatural to it. So now God not only forms human nature anew by His own hand in a mysterious way, but also keeps it near Him.

Not only does He assume this nature and raise it up from the fall, but He inexpressibly clothes Himself in it and unites Himself inseparably with it and was born as both God and man: from a woman, in the first instance, that He might take upon Himself the same nature which He formed in our forefathers; and from a woman who was a virgin, in the second, so that He might make man new.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 58, on the Holy Nativity of the Lord. From Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009) @ Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension, Oakland, California.

Nicholas Cabasilas: The cataclysm of evil was yet completely powerless against the blessed Virgin Tuesday, Dec 8 2015 

nicholas_cabasilasThe cataclysm of evil…was yet completely powerless against the blessed Virgin.

Although evil had dominion over the entire inhabited earth and had everywhere wrought confusion, commotion, and havoc, it was defeated by a single thought and a single soul, and it yielded not only to her, but also, on account of her, to the entire human race.

[…] Since that time had now come and the Angelic messenger was at hand, she believed, gave her consent, and undertook her ministry. These things were indispensable and in every way necessary for our salvation; without them, there would have been no hope for humanity.

For, neither would it have been possible, had the Blessed Virgin not prepared herself, as I said, for God to look kindly on mankind and to desire to descend to earth, that is, had there not been someone to receive Him, someone capable of serving Him in the œconomy of salvation; nor would it have been possible, had she not believed and given her consent, for God’s will for us to have been realized.

This is evident from the fact that Gabriel, in addressing the Virgin and calling her “Full of Grace,” expressed everything pertaining to the mystery. God did not descend until the Virgin sought to learn the manner of her conceiving. But when He saw that she was persuaded and that she accepted the invitation, the deed was accomplished straightway; and God clothed Himself in humanity and the Virgin became the Mother of her Creator.

In the case of Adam, God neither foretold nor persuaded him concerning the rib from which Eve was to be fashioned, but put him to sleep, and in this way deprived him of the member in question; in the case of the Virgin, however, He first instructed her and awaited her assurance before proceeding to the deed.

Regarding the creation of Adam, He conversed with His Only-Begotten Son, saying: “Let Us make man” (Gen. 1:26). But when, as Paul says, He was going to bring this wonderful Counselor (Isa. 9:6), the First-Begotten, into the world (Heb. 1:6), and to form the second Adam, He made the Virgin a participant in his decision. And this great counsel, about which Isaiah speaks, God proclaimed and the Virgin ratified.

The Incarnation of the Word was the work not only of the Father, Whose good pleasure it was, and of His Power (1 Cor. 1:24), Who overshadowed, and of His Spirit, Who descended, but also of the will and faith of the Virgin. For, just as, without those Three, it would have been impossible for this decision to be implemented, so also, if the All-Pure One had not offered her will and faith, this design could not possibly have been brought to fruition.

Nicholas Cabasilas (1319/1323–after 1391): On the Occasion of the Feast of the Annunciation, 3-4, Translated from the Greek text in “Homélies Mariales Byzantines (II),” ed. M. Jugie, in Patrologia Orientalis, Vol. XIX, pp. 484-495@ Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Greece.

Dimitri of Rostov: A miracle of St Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra Sunday, Dec 6 2015 

Dimitry_rostovsky_17cA ship was once sailing from Egypt to Myra when a violent storm arose, churning up the sea.

The sails were torn, and it seemed that the vessel itself would be crushed by the mighty waves.

The passengers were in despair of their lives when they remembered the great hierarch Nicholas.

Although none of them had ever seen him, they had heard that he was the quick helper of those who call on him in misfortune, so they turned to him in prayer, begging his assistance.

The saint immediately appeared, announcing, “You called for me, and I have come to help you!”

He took the helm and began piloting the ship, calming the storm, as once did the Lord, Who said, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also.

Because he was a faithful servant of God, Nicholas gave commands to the wind and sea and they obeyed him. Sped by a fair wind, the boat reached Myra, and the passengers disembarked, hoping to see the holy Bishop.

They met the saint on his way to church, and recognizing their benefactor, fell at his feet, thanking him.

The wondrous Nicholas did not merely deliver them from danger of physical death, but took thought for the salvation of their souls as well.

Because he was clairvoyant, he perceived that some of the passengers were defiled by fornication, which estranges a man from God and causes him to neglect the Lord’s commandments.

“Children,” he said to them, “I beseech you to correct your hearts and thoughts, so that you may be pleasing to God. Consider that although we may reckon ourselves to be righteous and frequently succeed in deceiving men, we can conceal nothing from God. Let us therefore strive to preserve the holiness of our souls and to guard the purity of our bodies with all fervor.” […]

So saying, the blessed one, like a loving father, let them depart in peace.

Saint Nicholas’ countenance resembled that of an angel, splendid with divine grace. A brilliant ray shone from his face, as from Moses’, so that those who looked at him were astonished.

Whoever was oppressed by some affliction or passion of soul had only to lay eyes on the saint, and his sorrow was eased at once. As for those who conversed with him, they soon found themselves advancing on the path of virtue.

Not only the faithful but unbelievers as well were moved to compunction and directed their steps toward salvation when they heard his sweet lips speak; the evil of unbelief implanted in their hearts since childhood was uprooted, and in its place the word of truth was sown.

Dimitri of Rostov (1651-1709; Russian Orthodox): The Life of Our Father Among the Saints Nicholas the Wonder-worker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia  from The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints, Volume 2: October, compiled by St. Demetrius of Rostov @ Chrysostom Press.

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