Basil the Great: “Sing unto Him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise” Wednesday, Aug 12 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great[Following on from here….]

‘Sing to the Lord a new canticle’ (Psalm 32:3). That is, not in the antiquity of written word, but in the newness of the spirit serve God.

He who understands the law not in a corporeal sense, but who becomes acquainted with its spiritual meaning is the one who sings the new canticle.

For, the ancient aged testament has passed and the new renewed canticle of the teaching of the Lord has succeeded, which revives our youth like an eagle, when we destroy the exterior man and are renewed day by day.

But, he who ‘strains forward to what is before’ (Phil. 3:13) always becomes newer than he was formerly. Therefore, becoming always newer than he was, he sings a newer canticle to God.

But according to custom, that is said to be newer which is admirable or which has recently come into existence. If, then, you relate the wondrous manner and the whole surpassing nature of the Incarnation of the Lord, you will sing a newer and an unusual canticle;

and, if you go on through the regeneration and renewal of the whole world which had grown old under its sin, and proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection, you thus sing a canticle both new and recent.

‘Sing well unto him with a loud noise’ (Ps. 32:3). Hear the command. ‘Sing well’ with unwavering mind, with sincere affection. ‘Sing with a loud noise.’

Like certain brave soldiers, after the victory against the enemy, pour forth hymns to the Author of the victory. ‘Take courage’ it is said, ‘I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).

What man is capable of fighting against the evil one, unless, fleeing to the protection of the power of our Commander in chief, by our faith in Him we smite our enemy and shoot him with arrows? Therefore, ‘sing well with a loud noise.’

But, the loud noise is a certain inarticulate sound, when those who are fighting side by side in a war shout out in unison with each other. Sing, then, in harmony and in agreement and in union through charity.

Now, what should those say who are singing? ‘That the word of the Lord is Right’ (Ps. 32:4).

Therefore, he first summons the righteous to praise, since the Word of the Lord is righteous and is destined to be glorified, who ‘was in the beginning with God and was God’ (John 1:1).  The Father, then, is righteous; the Son is righteous; the Holy Spirit is righteous.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15 (on Psalm 32[33]), 2-3,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 230-231.

Basil the Great: “Praise the Lord with harp; sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings” Monday, Jul 27 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great[Following on from here….]

‘Praise becometh the upright’ (Psalm 32:1).

As a crooked foot does not fit into a straight sandal, so neither is the praise of God suited to perverted hearts.

[…] Let us earnestly endeavor, therefore, to flee every crooked and tortuous act, and let us keep our mind and the judgment of our soul as straight as a rule, in order that the praise of the Lord may be permitted to us since we are upright.

[…]  For, ‘the Lord our God is righteous, and his countenance hath beheld righteousness’ (Ps. 91:16; 10:18).

If two rulers are compared with each other, their straightness is in agreement with each other, but, if a distorted piece of wood is compared with a ruler, the crooked one will be found at variance with the straight.

Since, therefore, the praise of God is righteous, there is need of a righteous heart, in order that the praise may be fitting and adapted to it.

But, if ‘no one can say “Jesus is Lord,” except in the Holy Spirit’ (1 Cor. 10:3), how would you give praise, since you do not have the right spirit in your heart?

‘Give praise to the Lord on the harp; sing to him with the psaltery, the instrument of ten strings’ (Ps. 32:2).

First, it is necessary to praise the Lord on the harp; that is, to render harmoniously the actions of the body.

Since, indeed, we sinned in the body, ‘when we yielded our members as slaves of sin, unto lawlessness’ (Rom. 6:19), let us give praise with our body, using the same instrument for the destruction of sin.

Have you reviled? Bless. Have you defrauded? Make restitution. Have you been intoxicated? Fast. Have you made false pretensions? Be humble.

Have you been envious? Console. Have you murdered? Bear witness, or afflict your body with the equivalent of martyrdom through confession.

And then, after confession you are worthy to play for God on the ten-stringed psaltery.

For, it is necessary, first, to correct the actions of our body, so that we perform them harmoniously with the divine Word and thus mount up to the contemplation of things intellectual.

Perhaps, the mind, which seeks things above, is called a psaltery because the structure of this instrument has its resonance from above.

The works of the body, therefore, give praise to God as if from below; but the mysteries, which are proclaimed through the mind, have their origin from above, as if the mind was resonant through the Spirit.

He, therefore, who observes all the precepts and makes, as it were, harmony and symphony from them, he, I say, plays for God on a ten-stringed psaltery, because there are ten principal precepts, written according to the first teaching of the Law.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15 (on Psalm 32[33]), 1-2,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 228-230.

Basil the Great: “Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright” Wednesday, Jul 8 2015 

St-Basil-the-GreatRejoice in the Lord, O ye just; praise becometh the upright (Ps. 32:1).

The voice of exultation is familar in the Scripture, betokening a very bright and happy state of soul in those deserving of happiness.

‘Rejoice,’ therefore, ‘in the Lord, O ye just,’ not when the interests of your home are flourishing, not when you are in good health of body, not when your fields are filled with all sorts of fruits, but, when you have the Lord – such immeasurable Beauty, Goodness, Wisdom.

Let the joy that is in Him suffice for you. He who exults with joy and happiness in anything that is much desired, seems thus to rejoice in Him.

Therefore, Scripture urges the just to be aware of their dignity, because they have been considered worthy to be the servants of so great a Master, and to glory in His service with inexpressible joy and exultation, since the heart is, as it were, bounding with ecstasy of love of the good.

If at any time a light, for example, falling upon your heart, produced a continuous thought of God and illumined your soul, so that you loved God and despised the world and all things corporeal, understand from that faint and brief resemblance the whole state of the just, who are enjoying God steadily and uninterruptedly.

At some rare times by the dispensation of God that transport of joy seizes you in order that through a little taste He may remind you of what you have been deprived. But, for the just man the divine and heavenly joy is lasting, since the Holy Spirit dwells in him once for all.

‘But the firstfruit of the Spirit is: charity, joy, peace’ (Gal. 5:22). Therefore, ‘rejoice in the Lord, O ye just.’ The Lord is like a place capable of containing the just, and there is every reason for one who is in Him to be delighted and to make merry.

Moreover, the just man becomes a place for the Lord, when he receives Him in himself. He who sins gives place to the devil, taking no heed of him who said: ‘Do not give place to the devil’ (Eph. 4:27), nor to Ecclesiastes, ‘If the spirit of him that hath power, ascend upon thee, leave not thy place’ (Eccles. 10:4).

Let us, then, who are in the Lord and who, as much as we are able, observe closely His wonders, so draw joy to our hearts from the contemplation of them.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15 (on Psalm 32[33]), 1,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 227-228.

Basil the Great: “The streams of the river make the city of God joyful” Tuesday, Jun 23 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great‘The streams of the river make the city of God joyful’ (Psalm 45:5).

The briny seawaters, being exceedingly disturbed by the winds, roar and are troubled, but the streams of the river, proceeding noiselessly and flowing in silence to those worthy of receiving them, make the city of God joyful.

And now the just man drinks the living water and later will drink more plentifully, when he has been enrolled as a citizen in the city of God.

Now he drinks through a mirror and in an obscure manner (1 Cor. 13:12) because of his gradual perception of the divine objects of contemplation; but then he will welcome at once the flooded river, which is able to overwhelm all the city of God with joy.

Who could be the river of God except the Holy Spirit, who comes into those worthy because of the faith of the believers in Christ?

‘He who believes in me, as the Scripture says, “From within him there shall flow rivers”’ (John 7:38). And again, ‘If anyone drinks of the water which I give, it will become in him a fountain of water, springing up unto life everlasting’ (John 4:13-14).

This river, accordingly, makes all the city of God at once joyful, that is to say surely, the Church of those who hold to a heavenly manner of life. Or, every creature endowed with intelligence, from celestial powers even to human souls, must be understood as the city made joyful by the inflowing of the Holy Spirit.

Some give the definition that a city is an established community, administered according to law. And, the definition that has been handed down of the city is in harmony with the celestial city, Jerusalem above.

For, there it is a community of the first-born who have been enrolled in heaven (cf Heb. 12:23), and this is established because of the unchanging manner of life of the saints, and it is administered according to the heavenly law.

Therefore, it is not the privilege of human nature to learn the arrangement of that city and all its adornment. Those are the things ‘Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Cor. 2:9),  but there are myriads of angels there, and an assembly of saints, and a Church of the first-born that are enrolled in heaven.

[…] Therefore, having raised the eyes of your soul, seek, in a manner worthy of things above, what pertains to the city of God…which the river of God makes joyful.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 18 (on Psalm 45[46]), 4,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 302-303.

Basil the Great: “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters” Thursday, Jun 11 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great‘The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters’ (Psalm 28[29]:3).

We have learned in the creation of the world that there is water above the heavens, again, water of the deep, and yet again, the gathered waters of the seas.

Who, then, is He who holds together these waters, not allowing them to be borne downward by their physical weight, except the Lord who established Himself upon all things, who holds sway over the waters?

Perhaps, even in a more mystic manner the voice of the Lord was upon the waters, when a voice from above came to Jesus as He was baptized, ‘This is my beloved Son’ (Matt. 3:17).

At that time, truly, the Lord was upon many waters, making the waters holy through baptism; but, the God of majesty thundered from above with a mighty voice of testimony.

And over those to be baptized a voice left behind by the Lord is pronounced: ‘Go, therefore,’ it says, ‘baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matt. 28:19). Therefore, ‘The voice of the Lord is upon the waters’.

[…] It is…possible for you, according to ecclesiastical diction to call by the name of thunder the doctrine which after baptism is in the souls of those already perfect by the eloquence of the Gospel.

That the Gospel is thunder is made evident by the disciples who were given a new name by the Lord and called Sons of Thunder (cf Mark 3:17).

Therefore, the voice of such thunder is not in any chance person, but only in one who is worthy to be called a wheel. ‘The voice of thy thunder’, it says, ‘in a Wheel’ (Psalm 76:19).

That is, whoever is stretching forward, like a wheel, touching the earth with a small part of itself, and really such as that wheel was, about which Ezechiel said: ‘I saw and behold there was one wheel on the earth attached to the four living creatures, and their appearance and their form was as the appearance of Tharsis’ (Ezek. 1:15 LXX).

‘The God of majesty hath thundered, the Lord is upon many waters’. The waters are also the saints, because rivers flow from within them (cf. John 7:38), that is, spiritual teaching which refreshes the souls of the hearers.

Again, they receive water which springs up to eternal life, wherefore, it becomes in those who receive it rightly ‘a fountain of water, springing up unto life everlasting’ (John 4:14).

Upon such waters, then, is the Lord.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 13 (on Psalm 28[29]), 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. 200-202.

Basil the Great: Early on the morning of the Resurrection God gained the victory through death Sunday, Apr 19 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great(On Psalm 45/46). ‘The most High hath sanctified his own tabernacle’ (Psalm 45:5).

Perhaps he is saying that the God-bearing flesh is sanctified through the union with God.

From this you will understand that the tabernacle of the most High is the manifestation of God through the flesh.

‘God is in the midst thereof, it shall not be moved: God will help it in the morning early’ (Psalm 45:6).

Since God is in the midst of the city, He will give it stability, providing assistance for it at the first break of dawn.

Therefore, the word, ‘of the city’ will fit either Jerusalem above or the Church below, ‘The most High hath sanctified his own tabernacle’ in it.

And through this tabernacle, in which God dwelt, He was in the midst of it, giving it stability.

Moreover, God is in the midst of the city, sending out equal rays of His providence from all sides to the limits of the world.

Thus, the justice of God is preserved, as He apportions the same measure of goodness to all.

‘God will help it in the morning early’.

Now, the perceptible sun produces among us the early morning when it rises above the horizon opposite us, and the Sun of justice (cf. Malachi 4:2) produces the early morning in our soul by the rising of the spiritual light, making day in him who admits it.

‘At night’ means we men are in this time of ignorance. Therefore, having opened wide our mind, let us receive ‘the brightness of his glory’ and let us be brightly illumined by the everlasting Light.

When we have become children of light, and ‘the night is far advanced for us, and the day is at hand’ (Romans 13:12) then we shall become worthy of the help of God.

Therefore, God helps the city, producing in it early morning by His own rising and coming. ‘Behold a man’ it is said, ‘the Orient is his name’ (Zech. 6:12).

For those upon whom the spiritual light will rise, when the darkness which comes from ignorance and wickedness is destroyed, early morning will be at hand.

Since, then, light has come into the world in order that he who walks about in it may not stumble, His help is able to cause the early morning.

Or perhaps, since the Resurrection was in the dim morning twilight, God will help the city in the morning early, who on the third day, early on the morning of the Resurrection gained the victory through death.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 17 (on Psalm 45[46]), 4-5,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 303-304.

Basil the Great: Christ descended to the lower world to distribute the graces of the Resurrection Wednesday, Apr 8 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great(On Psalm 44/45).

‘Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows’ (Psalm 44:8).

Since it was necessary to give form to the typical anointing, and the typical high priests and kings, the flesh of the Lord was anointed with the true anointing, by the coming of the Holy Spirit into it, which was called ‘the oil of gladness’.

And He was anointed above His fellows; that is to say, all men who are members of Christ.

Therefore, a certain partial sharing of the Spirit was given to them, but the Holy Spirit descending upon the Son of God, as John says, ‘abode upon him’ (John 1:32).

Rightly is the Spirit called the ‘oil of gladness’, inasmuch as one of the fruits produced by the Holy Spirit is joy.

[…] ‘Myrrh and aloes and cassia perfume thy garments, from the ivory houses: out of which the daughters of Kings have delighted thee in thy glory’ (Psalm 44:9).

The…prophet, descending gradually and consistently and mentioning first all those things which pertain to the dispensation of the Incarnation, by a strong breath of the Spirit which reveals to him hidden things comes to the passion: ‘Myrrh’,  he says, ‘and aloes and cassia perfume thy garments’.

Now, the fact that myrrh is a symbol of burial even the evangelist John taught us when he said that He was prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea with myrrh and aloes (cf. John 19:38-39).

Aloes itself is also a very refined form of myrrh. When the aromatic herb is squeezed, whatever part of it is liquid is separated as aloes, but the denser part which is left is called myrrh.

Surely, then, the sweet odor of Christ gives forth the fragrance of myrrh because of His passion and of aloes because He did not remain motionless and inactive for three days and three nights but descended to the lower world to distribute the graces of the Resurrection, in order that He might fulfill all things which have reference to Him.

And it breathes forth the fragrance of cassia because cassia is a certain very delicate and fragrant bark which is tightly stretched around a woody stalk. Perhaps, Scripture profoundly and wisely intimated to us through the name of cassia the suffering of the cross undertaken in kindness to every creature.

Therefore, you have myrrh because of burial; aloes, because of the passage down to the lower world (since every drop is borne downward); and cassia, because of the dispensation of the flesh upon the wood.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 17 (on Psalm 44[45]), 8-9,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 289-290.

Basil the Great: No One Comes to the Father Except Through the Son Monday, Jun 16 2014 

St-Basil-the-GreatNeither heaven and earth and the great seas,

nor the creatures that live in the water and on dry land,

nor plants, and stars, and air, and seasons,

nor the vast variety in the order of the universe,

so well sets forth the excellency of His might

as that God, being incomprehensible, should have been able, impassibly, through flesh, to have come into close conflict with death,

to the end that by His own suffering He might give us the boon of freedom from suffering.

[…] He Himself has bound the strong man and spoiled his goods, that is, us men, whom our enemy had abused in every evil activity.

He has made us “vessels meet for the Master’s use” – us who have been perfected for every work through the making ready of that part of us which is in our own control.

Thus we have had our approach to the Father through Him, being translated from “the power of darkness to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Col. 1:12, 13).

We must not, however, regard the œconomy through the Son as a compulsory and subordinate ministration resulting from the low estate of a slave, but rather the voluntary solicitude working effectually for His own creation in goodness and in pity, according to the will of God the Father.

For we shall be consistent with true religion if in all that was and is from time to time perfected by Him, we both bear witness to the perfection of His power, and in no case put it asunder from the Father’s will.

For instance, whenever the Lord is called the Way, we are carried on to a higher meaning, and not to that which is derived from the vulgar sense of the word.

We understand by Way that advance to perfection which is made stage by stage, and in regular order, through the works of righteousness and “the illumination of knowledge.”

We longing after what is before, and reach forth unto those things which remain, until we shall have reached the blessed end, the knowledge of God, which the Lord through Himself bestows on them that have trusted in Him.

For our Lord is an essentially good Way, where erring and straying are unknown, to that which is essentially good, to the Father.  For “no one,” He says, “cometh to the Father but through me”(John 14:6).  Such is our way up to God “through the Son.”

Basil the Great (330-379): On the Holy Spirit 8, 18.

Basil the Great: “Give Heed to Thyself, Lest Perhaps a Wicked Thought Steal in Upon Thee” Friday, Jan 31 2014 

St-Basil-the-GreatIn the eastern calendar, January 30th was the Synaxis of The Three Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, & John Chrysostom.

“Give heed to thyself, lest perhaps a wicked thought steal in upon thee” (Deut. 15:9).

We men are easily prone to sins of thought.

Therefore, He who has formed each heart individually (Ps. 2:35:15), knowing that the impulse received from the intention constitutes the major element in sin, has ordained that purity in the ruling part of our soul be our primary concern.

That faculty by which we are especially prone to commit sin surely merits great care and vigilance.

As the more provident physicians offset physical weakness by precautionary measures taken in advance, so the Protector of us all and the true Physician of our souls takes possession first and with stronger garrisons of that part of the soul which He knows is most liable to sin.

[…] Beware, therefore, lest perhaps a wicked thought steal in upon thee.’ For, ‘he who looks upon a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart’ (Matt. 5:28).

The actions of the body, therefore, are retarded by many impediments, but he who sins in his intention has committed a transgression that is accomplished with the swiftness of thought.

Where the lapse into sin is sudden, therefore, the power of swift protection has been granted us, ‘lest perhaps,’ as the Scripture declares, ‘a wicked thought steal in upon thee.’

And now, let us return to the theme of our discourse. ‘Give heed to thyself’ says the Scripture.

Every animal has been endowed by God, the Creator of all things, with an interior power of self-protection.

[…] In obeying this, precept, we become vigilant custodians of the resources God has bestowed on us, avoiding sin as the beasts shun noxious foods and following after justice as they seek for pasturage.

‘Give heed to thyself’ that you may be able to distinguish between the injurious and the salutary.

[…] It remains, therefore, to interpret the precept as referring to a mental action. ‘Give heed to thyself. that is, examine yourself from all angles. Keep the eye of your soul sleeplessly on guard, for ‘Thou art going in the midst of snares’ (Sir. 9:20).

Traps set by the enemy lie concealed everywhere. Look about you in all directions, therefore, ‘that you may be saved as a swallow from the traps and as a bird from the snare’ (Prov. 6:5).

The deer cannot be caught with traps because of the keenness of his vision…. A bird, if alert, easily flies out of the range of the huntsman’s snare.

See to it, then, that you are not more remiss than the animals in protecting yourself. Never let yourself be caught in the snares of the Devil and so become his prey, the captured plaything of his will (2 Tim. 2:26).

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily on the Words “Give Heed to Thyself”,  from Saint Basil: Ascetical Works, translated by Sr M Monica Wagner, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 9), pp. 432-434.

Basil the Great: I am Living in the Desert in which the Lord Lived Thursday, Jan 2 2014 

St-Basil-the-GreatJanuary 2nd (January 1 in the east) is the Feast of St Basil the Great.

I am living…in the desert in which the Lord lived.

Here is the oak of Mamre; here is the ladder going up to heaven, and the stronghold of the angels which Jacob saw.

Here is the wilderness in which the people purified received the law, and so came into the land of promise and saw God.

Here is Mount Carmel where Elias sojourned and pleased God.

Here is the plain whither Esdras withdrew, and at God’s bidding uttered all the God inspired books.

Here is the wilderness in which the blessed John ate locusts and preached repentance to men.

Here is the Mount of Olives, whither Christ came and prayed, and taught us to pray.

Here is Christ the lover of the wilderness…. “Here is the strait and narrow way which leadeth unto life” (Matt. 7:14).

Here are the teachers and prophets “wandering in deserts and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth” (Heb. 11:38).

Here are apostles and evangelists and solitaries’ life remote from cities.

This I have embraced with all my heart, that I may win what has been promised to Christ’s martyrs and all His other saints, and so I may truly say, “Because of the words of thy lips I have kept hard ways” (Ps. 17:4, LXX).

I have heard of Abraham, God’s friend, who obeyed the divine voice and went into the wilderness;

of Isaac who submitted to authority; of Jacob, the patriarch, who left his home; of Joseph, the chaste, who was sold;

of the three children, who learnt how to fast, and fought with the fire; of Daniel thrown twice into the lion’s den;

of Jeremiah speaking boldly, and thrown into a pit of mud; of Isaiah, who saw unspeakable things, cut asunder with a saw;

of Israel led away captive; of John the rebuker of adultery, beheaded; of Christ’s martyrs slain.

But why say more?  Here our Saviour Himself was crucified for our sakes that by His death He might give us life, and train and attract us all to endurance.

To Him I press on, and to the Father and to the Holy Ghost.

[…] Think of all these things in your heart; follow them with zeal; fight, as you have been commanded, for the truth to the death.  For Christ was made “obedient” even “unto death” (Phil. 2:8).

The Apostle says, “Take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart…in departing from the living God.

But exhort one another…and edify one another (1 Thess. 5:11) while it is called to-day” (Heb. 3:12, 13).  To-day means the whole time of our life.

Thus living, brother, you will save yourself, you will make me glad, and you will glorify God from everlasting to everlasting.  Amen.

Basil the Great (330-379): Letter 42, 5.

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