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.

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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: We receive the Word and the Spirit in our hearts Saturday, Jun 14 2014 

SYMEON-iconEveryone of us believes in him who is the Son of God and son of Mary, ever-virgin and mother of God.

And as believers we faithfully welcome his gospel into our hearts, confessing in words our belief, and repenting with all our soul of our past sins.

Then immediately, just as God the Word of the Father entered the Virgin’s womb, so also in ourselves the word which we receive in learning right belief appears like a seed.

You should be amazed when you hear of such an awe-inspiring mystery, and because the word is reliable you should receive it with full conviction and faith.

In fact we receive him not bodily, as the Virgin and Mother of God received him, but both spiritually and substantially.

And the very one whom the chaste Virgin also received, we hold in our own hearts, as Saint Paul says: It is God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shown in our hearts to reveal the knowledge of his Son. 

In other words: he has become wholly substantial in us. And that he actually meant this, he made clear in the next verse: But we contain this treasure in earthenware pots, calling the Holy Spirit a treasure.

But elsewhere he also calls the Lord Spirit: The Lord is the Spirit, he says. And he tells us this so that if you hear the words the Son of God, you should think of and hear the words the Spirit at the same time.

Again, if you hear the Spirit mentioned you should join the Father to the Spirit in thought, because con­cerning the Father too it is said: God is Spirit. 

You are constantly taught that the Holy Trinity is inseparable and of the same substance, and that where the Son is the Father is also, and where the Father is the Spirit is also, and where the Holy Spirit is the whole of the deity in three persons is, the one God and Father with Son and Spirit of the same substance, “who is praised for ever. Amen.”

So if we wholeheartedly believe and ardently repent, we receive the Word of God in our hearts, as has been said, like the Virgin, if of course we bring with us our own souls chaste and pure.

And just as the fire of the deity did not consume the Virgin since she was supremely pure, so neither does it consume us if we bring with us chaste and pure hearts; on the contrary it becomes in us the dew from heaven, a spring of water, and a stream of immortal life.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD): Traites Theologiques et Ethiques J, 10: se 122, 252-254 @ Dom Donald’s Blog.

Bede the Venerable: St Cuthbert and the Hermitage of Farne Thursday, Mar 20 2014 

icon_bede-March 20th is the feast of St Cuthbert….

When Cuthbert had remained some years in the monastery, he was rejoiced to be able at length, with the blessing of the abbot and brethren accompanying him, to retire to the secrecy of solitude which he had so long coveted.

He rejoiced that from the long conversation with the world he was now thought worthy to be promoted to retirement and Divine contemplation: he rejoiced that he now could reach to the condition of those of whom it is sung by the Psalmist: “The holy shall walk from virtue to virtue; the God of Gods shall be seen in Zion.”

At his first entrance upon the solitary life, he sought out the most retired spot in the outskirts of the monastery. But when he had for some time contended with the invisible adversary with prayer and fasting in this solitude, he then, aiming at higher things, sought out a more distant field for conflict, and more remote from the eyes of men.

There is a certain island called Farne, in the middle of the sea, not made an island, like Lindisfarne, by the flow of the tide…, and then restored to the mainland at its ebb, but lying off several miles to the East, and, consequently, surrounded on all sides by the deep and boundless ocean.

No one, before God’s servant Cuthbert, had ever dared to inhabit this island alone, on account of the evil spirits which reside there: but when this servant of Christ came, armed with the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, all the fiery darts of the wicked were extinguished, and that wicked enemy, with all his followers, were put to flight.

Christ’s soldier, therefore, having thus, by the expulsion of the tyrants, become the lawful monarch of the land, built a city fit for his empire, and houses therein suitable to his city.

The building is almost of a round form, from wall to wall about four or five poles in extent: the wall on the outside is higher than a man, but within, by excavating the rock, he made it much deeper, to prevent the eyes and the thoughts from wandering, that the mind might be wholly bent on heavenly things, and the pious inhabitant might behold nothing from his residence but the heavens above him.

The wall was constructed, not of hewn stones or of brick and mortar, but of rough stones and turf, which had been taken out from the ground within. Some of them were so large that four men could hardly have lifted them, but Cuthbert himself, with angels helping him, had raised them up and placed them on the wall.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Life of St Cuthbert, 17 @ Mediaeval Sourcebook.

Saint Symeon the New Theologian: How fortunate are those who embraced divine Love! Wednesday, Mar 12 2014 

SYMEON-iconMarch 12th is the Feast of St Symeon the New Theologian (also October 12th).

Continued from here….

Love desired, how fortunate are those who have embraced you, for they will no longer have a yearning to embrace any human beauty.

How fortunate are they who are moved by divine love to cling to you: they’ll deny the whole world, and, to whatever degree they associate with others, they won’t be spoiled.

How fortunate are those who caress your beauty and delight in it with great desire, for their souls will be sanctified by the undefiled blood and water which issue from you.

How fortunate are those who passionately embrace you, for they will be altered for the better in spirit and will exult in their souls, because you are inexpressible joy.

How fortunate are they who gain possession of you, for they will count the treasures of the world as nothing, for you are indeed wealth “beyond the dreams of avarice”.

How blessed and thrice-blessed are they whom you accept, for though they be apparently without any glory, they will be more glorious than those who are glorious, more honoured than those who are honoured.

How worthy of praise are those who pursue you; even more so those who have found you.

Most blessed are those who are loved by you, received by you, taught by you, those who have dwelt in you and been fed by you with immortal food, that is the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Love divine, where are you holding Christ? Where are you concealing Him​? Why have you taken the Redeemer of the world and departed from us?

Open a wicket gate for us, so that we also may see Christ Who suffered for us, and so hope in His mercy that we’ll die no more when we once have seen Him. Open up to us, you who became the door allowing Him to be made manifest in the flesh.

Love, you who’ve forced the unforced and abundant compassion of our Master to bear the sins and infirmities of all people, do not reject us by saying, “I do not know you”. Be with us, so that you may come to know us, for we are not known to you.

Dwell in us, so that, for your sake, the Master may visit even us, who are lowly; go before us to meet Him, since we are wholly unworthy. So that He will pause on His way, to converse with you and will permit even us sinners to fall at His unblemished feet.

You’ll intercede on our behalf and plead with Him to forgive the debt of our sins, so that through you we may again be found worthy to serve Him, our Master, and be sustained and nourished by Him.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD): In Praise of Those Who Have Love in Their Hearts @ Pemptousia.

Symeon the New Theologian: When I recalled the beauty of undefiled Love, its Light suddenly appeared in my heart Thursday, Feb 20 2014 

SYMEON-iconLet us therefore follow one and the same path, Christ’s commandments, which elevate us to heaven and to God.

Even though the word shows us many paths and many ways for people to reach the kingdom of heaven, these paths are not, in fact, many, but one, though they’re divided into many, according to each person’s ability and disposition.

While we may begin from many and varied works and actions, just as travelers depart from different places and many cities, the destination we are attempting to reach is the same: the kingdom of heaven.

The actions and ways of godly men must be understood as spiritual virtues.

Those who begin to walk in them must head towards one goal, just as those who come from various countries and places come together, as we have said, to one city, the kingdom of heaven, where, together, they will become worthy to reign with Christ and become subjects of one King, our God and Father.

By this city, which is one, not many, you should understand the holy and undivided trinity of virtues, faith, hope and love, especially that virtue which comes before the others but is also mentioned as the last, since it is the goal of all good things and greater than them all- love.

All faith comes from it and is built on its foundation; on it, hope is based. Without love nothing has ever taken shape, nor ever will Its names and actions are numerous. Even more so are its distinctive features; its properties are divine and innumerable.

Yet it is one in nature, wholly beyond the ken of angels or men or any other creatures, even those which are unknown to us. Reason cannot tell of it; its glory is inaccessible; its counsels unsearchable. It is eternal and beyond time, and beyond sight, though it may be perceived.

How many are the delights of this Holy Zion not made by human hand. Those who have begun to see it no longer take any pleasure in perceptible, earthly objects; they become indifferent to the glory of this world.

Permit me, for a short time, to address myself to this love, to fulfill my desire for it, insofar as I can. When I recalled the beauty of undefiled love, its light suddenly appeared in my heart.

I was ravished with its sweetness and lost my senses; I lost all perception of this life and forgot all the things of this world. But then – I don’t know how – it departed from me and left me to lament my weakness.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD): In Praise of Those Who Have Love in Their Hearts @ Pemptousia.

Guerric of Igny: “From the Days of John the Baptist Until Now the Kingdom of Heaven Suffereth Violence” Saturday, Feb 8 2014 

GuerricOn Genesis 32:22-33 and Matthew 11:12 (“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force”).

See also here (Gregory the Great) and here (Charles Wesley).

Did not the untiring wrestler, the patriarch Jacob, do violence to God?

As it is written, he was strong against God and prevailed, wrestled with him until morning perseveringly and with all his might held fast to him when he asked to be let go.

I will not let you go, he said, unless you bless me.

I say that he wrestled with God, for God was in the angel with whom he wrestled. Otherwise the angel would not say: Why do you ask for my name? and Jacob would not say: I have seen the Lord face to face.

It was a good sort of violence then that extorted a blessing; happy the wrestling in which God yielded to man and the vanquished rewarded the victor with the grace of a blessing and the honour of a holier name.

What if he touched the sinew of his thigh and it withered, and so he went limping? A man will readily sacrifice his body and soon be comforted for the harm done when it is compensated for by such a gift, especially the man who could say: I have loved wisdom more than health and all beauty.

Would that not only the sinew of my thigh but the strength of my whole body would wither, provided I might win but one blessing from an angel.

Would that I might not only limp with Jacob but also die with Paul so as to obtain the grace and name of Israel as an everlasting gift.

Jacob bears a withered hip, but Paul a dead body, because the mortification of the body’s members begun by the first practices of the prophets was brought to completion by the gospel.

Jacob goes limping, because in part his thoughts dwell on the things of the world while his other foot he bears raised up from the earth.

Paul’s thoughts dwell only on the things of God whether in the body or out of the body I know not, God knows; he is wholly free in spirit and flies up to heaven.

So to you, brethren, we say, you whose set purpose it is to win heaven by force, you who have come together to wrestle with the angel who guards the way to the tree of life, to you we say: it is wholly necessary that you should wrestle perseveringly and without remission.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 2 on the Feast of the Nativity of St  John the Baptist (PL 185, 167-169), @ Dom Donald’s Blog.

Antony the Great: The Only-Begotten, the Very Mind of the Father and His Image, the Great Physician Friday, Jan 17 2014 

saints_101_anthonyJanuary 17th is the feast of St Antony the Great.

Truly, my beloved in the Lord, not at one time only did God visit His creatures; but from the foundation of the world, whenever any have come to the Creator of all by the law of His covenant implanted in them, God is present with each one of these in His bounty and grace by His Spirit.

But in the case of those rational natures in which that covenant grew cold, and their intellectual perception died, so that they were no longer able to know themselves according to their first condition; concerning them I say that they became altogether irrational, and worshipped the creation rather than the Creator.

But the Creator of all in His great bounty visited us by the implanted law of the covenant. For He is immortal substance.

And as many as became worthy of God and grew by His implanted law, and were taught by His Holy Spirit and received the Spirit of Adoption, these were able to worship their Creator as they ought: of whom Paul says that “they received not the promise” on account of us. (Heb. 11:39).

And the Creator of All, who repents not of His love, desiring to visit our sickness and confusion, raised up Moses the Lawgiver, who gave us the law in writing, and founded for us the House of Truth, which is the Catholic Church, that makes us one in God; for He desires that we should be brought back to our first beginning.

Moses built the house, yet did not complete it, but left it and went away. Then again God raised up the choir of the Prophets by His Spirit. And they also built on the foundation of Moses, but could not complete the house, and likewise left it and went away.

And all of them , being clothed with the Spirit, saw that the wound was incurable, and that none of the creatures was able to heal it, but only the Only-begotten, who is the very Mind of the Father and His Image, who after the pattern of His Image made every rational creature.

For these knew that the Saviour is the great physician; and they assembled all together, and offered prayer for their members, that is, for us, crying out and saying, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” (Jer. 8:22) “We would have healed her, but she is not healed: now therefore let us forsake her and go away.” (Jer.51:9)

Antony the Great (c.251-356): Letter 2 (trans. Derwas J. Chitty).

Bernard of Clairvaux: Thy Name is Music to the Heart, Inflaming It with Love Saturday, Jan 4 2014 

Heiligenkreuz_Bernard_of_ClervauxJanuary 3rd was the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest Name,
O Savior of mankind!

O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.

Jesus, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize will be;
Jesus be Thou our glory now,
And through eternity.

O Jesus, King most wonderful
Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou sweetness most ineffable
In Whom all joys are found!

When once Thou visitest the heart,
Then truth begins to shine,
Then earthly vanities depart,
Then kindles love divine.

O Jesus, light of all below,
Thou fount of living fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire.

Jesus, may all confess Thy Name,
Thy wondrous love adore,
And, seeking Thee, themselves inflame
To seek Thee more and more.

Thee, Jesus, may our voices bless,
Thee may we love alone,
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.

O Jesus, Thou the beauty art
Of angel worlds above;
Thy Name is music to the heart,
Inflaming it with love.

Celestial Sweetness unalloyed,
Who eat Thee hunger still;
Who drink of Thee still feel a void
Which only Thou canst fill.

O most sweet Jesus, hear the sighs
Which unto Thee we send;
To Thee our inmost spirit cries;
To Thee our prayers ascend.

Abide with us, and let Thy light
Shine, Lord, on every heart;
Dispel the darkness of our night;
And joy to all impart.

Jesus, our love and joy to Thee,
The virgin’s holy Son,
All might and praise and glory be,
While endless ages run.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): translated by Edward Caswall (1814-1878) @ CyberHymnal.

Bernard of Clairvaux: “Behold, a Virgin shall Conceive and Bear a Son, and His Name shall be Called Emmanuel” Friday, Dec 20 2013 

Heiligenkreuz_Bernard_of_ClervauxIf the infirm cannot go far to meet this great Physician, it is at least becoming they should endeavour to raise their heads and lift themselves a little to greet their Saviour.

For this, O man, you are not required to cross the sea, to penetrate the clouds, to scale the mountain-tops. No lofty way is set before you.

Turn within thyself to meet thy God, for the Word is nigh in thy mouth and in thy heart.

Meet Him by compunction of heart and by confession of mouth, or, at least, go forth from the corruption of a sinful conscience, for it is not becoming that the Author of purity should enter there.

It is delightful to contemplate the manner of  His visible coming, for His “ways are beautiful, and all his paths are peace” (Prov. 3:17).

“Behold,” says the Spouse of the Canticles, “he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills” (Cant. 2:8).

You see Him coming, O beautiful one, but His previous lying down you could not see, for you said : “Shew me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou liest” (Cant. 1:6).

He lay feeding His angels in His endless eternity with the vision of His glorious, unchanging beauty. But know, O beautiful one, that that vision is become wonderful to thee; it is high, and thou canst not reach it.

Nevertheless, behold He hath gone forth from His holy place, and He that had lain feeding His angels hath undertaken to heal us.

We shall see Him coming as our food, Whom we were not able to behold while He was feeding His angels in His repose.

“Behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.” The mountains and hills we may consider to be the Patriarchs and the Prophets, and we may see His leaping and skipping in the book of His genealogy. “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, etc.” (Matt. 1:2).

From the mountains came forth the root of Jesse, as you will find from the Prophet Isaias: “There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root, and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him” (Isa. 11:1-2).

The same prophet speaks yet more plainly: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, which is interpreted, God with us” (Isa. 7:14). He Who is first styled a flower is afterwards called Emmanuel, and in the rod is named the virgin.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermon 1 on the Advent of the Lord, pp. 13-14, from Sermons of St Bernard on Advent and Christmas.

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