Augustine of Hippo: “The purpose of our instruction is to arouse the love that comes from a pure heart, and clear conscience, and a genuine faith” Friday, Oct 7 2016 

St Augustine of AfricaSpeak that by hearing those whom you address may believe, and that belief may give them hope, and hope inspire them to love

In everything we say we should bear in mind that the purpose of our instruction is to arouse the love that comes from a pure heart, and clear conscience, and a genuine faith.

This is the end to which we should relate all our words, and toward which we should also move and direct the thoughts of those for whose instruction we are speaking.

The chief reason for Christ’s coming was so that we should know how much God loves us, and knowing this be on fire with love for him who loved us first, and for our neighbour at the bidding and after the example of him who became our neighbour by loving us when we were not his neighbours, but had wandered far from him.

Moreover, all inspired Scripture written before the Lord’s coming was written to foretell that coming, and all that was later committed to writing and ratified by divine authority speaks of Christ and teaches us to love.

It is clear therefore that upon these two commandments, love of God and of our neighbour, depend not only the whole of the Law and the Prophets, which was all that made up holy Scripture when the Lord spoke these words, but also all the divinely inspired books which were later written for our salvation and handed down to us.

In the Old Testament, then, the New is concealed, and in the New the Old is revealed. Insofar as the New Testament is con­cealed, worldly people, who interpret Scripture in a worldly way, are now as in the past subject to the fear of punishment.

But insofar as the Old Testament has been revealed, spiritual people, who interpret Scripture spiritually, are set free by the gift of love; that is to say, both those of old to whose devout knocking hidden things were made known, and those of today who seek without pride, for fear that even what is manifest may be hidden from them.

And so, since nothing is more contrary to love than envy, and the mother of envy is pride, to cure our boundless conceit by a more powerful antidote, the Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, became both the proof of God’s love for us, and the example of humility among us. Great is the misery of human pride, but even greater is the mercy of divine humility.

With this love before you, then, you have something to which you may relate everything you say; so speak that by hearing those whom you address may believe, and that belief may give them hope, and hope inspire them to love.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): De catechizandis rudibus I, 6-8  (CCL 46:124, 126-128); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesrday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2.

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Gregory the Great: “Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” Thursday, Oct 6 2016 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistThose that are at variance are to be admonished to know most certainly that, in whatever virtues they may abound, they can by no means become spiritual if they neglect becoming united to their neighbours by concord.

For it is written, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace (Gal. 5:22).  He then that has no care to keep peace refuses to bear the fruit of the Spirit.

Hence Paul says, Whereas there is among you envying and strife, are ye not carnal (1 Cor. 3:3)?  Hence again he says also, Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).

Hence again he admonishes, saying, Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace:  there is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling (Eph. 4:3-4).  The one hope of our calling, therefore, is never reached, if we run not to it with a mind at one with our neighbours.

But it is often the case that some, by being proud of some gifts that they especially partake of, lose the greater gift of concord; as it may be if one who subdues the flesh more than others by bridling of his appetite should scorn to be in concord with those whom he surpasses in abstinence.

But whoso separates abstinence from concord, let him consider the admonition of the Psalmist, Praise him with timbrel and chorus (Ps. 150:4).  For in the timbrel a dry and beaten skin resounds, but in the chorus voices are associated in concord.  Whosoever then afflicts his body, but forsakes concord, praises God indeed with timbrel, but praises Him not with chorus.

Often, however, when superior knowledge lifts up some, it disjoins them from the society of other men; and it is as though the more wise they are, the less wise are they as to the virtue of concord.

[…] To such it is rightly said through James, But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.  This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable (James 3:14, 15, 17).  Pure, that is to say, because its ideas are chaste; and also peaceable, because it in no wise through elation disjoins itself from the society of neighbours.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Pastoral Rule, 3, 22.

Ambrose of Milan: “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy face?” Wednesday, Oct 5 2016 

ambrose_of_milanHe [the Holy Spirit] does not have a limited and circumscribed power because He is always in all things and everywhere, which assuredly is the property of Divinity and Lordship, for: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof” (Ps. 83:1).

And so, when the Lord appointed His servants the apostles, that we might recognize that the creature was one thing and the grace of the Spirit another, He appointed them to different places, because all could not be everywhere at once.

But He gave the Holy Spirit to all, to shed upon the apostles – though separated – the gift of indivisible grace.

The persons, then, were different, but the accomplishment of the working was in all one, because the Holy Spirit is one of Whom it is said: “Ye shall receive power, even the Holy Spirit coming upon you, and ye shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

The Holy Spirit, then, is uncircumscribed and infinite, Who infused Himself into the minds of the disciples throughout the separate divisions of distant regions, and the remote bounds of the whole world, Whom nothing is able to escape or to deceive.

And therefore holy David says: “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy face” (Ps. 138:7). Of what angel does the Scripture say this? Of what dominion? Of what power? Of what angel do we find the power diffused over many? For angels were sent to few, but the Holy Spirit was poured upon whole peoples.

Who, then, can doubt that that is divine which is shed upon many at once and is not seen; but that that is corporeal which is seen and held by individuals? But in like manner as the Spirit in sanctifying the apostles is not a partaker of human nature; so, too, in  sanctifying angels, dominions, and powers, He has no partnership with creatures.

[…] Since angels come down to men to assist them, it must be understood that the nature of angels is higher as it receives more of the grace of the Spirit, and that the favour awarded to us and to them comes from the same author.

But how great is that grace which makes even the lower nature of the lot of men equal to the gifts received by angels, as the Lord Himself promised, saying: “Ye shall be as the angels in heaven.” Nor is it difficult, for He Who made those angels in the Spirit will by the same grace make men also equal to the angels.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On the Holy Spirit, book 1, chapters 81-84.

Cyprian of Carthage: Waiting and patience are needful, that we may fulfil that which we have begun to be Friday, Sep 16 2016 

Saint-Cyprian-of-CarthagePatience is the wholesome precept of our Lord and Master:

“He that endureth,” saith He, “unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matt. 10:22);

and again, “If ye continue,” saith He, “in my word, ye shall be truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).

We must endure and persevere, beloved brethren, in order that, being admitted to the hope of truth and liberty, we may attain to the truth and liberty itself; for that very fact that we are Christians is the substance of faith and hope.

But that hope and faith may attain to their result, there is need of patience. For we are not following after present glory, but future, according to what Paul the apostle also warns us, and says,

“We are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he hope for? But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we by patience wait for it” (Rom. 8:24-25).

Therefore, waiting and patience are needful, that we may fulfil that which we have begun to be, and may receive that which we believe and hope for, according to God’s own showing.

Moreover, in another place, the same apostle instructs the righteous and the doers of good works, and them who lay up for themselves treasures in heaven with the increase of the divine usury, that they also should be patient; and teaches them, saying,

“Therefore, while we have time, let us labour in that which is good unto all men, but especially to them who are of the household of faith. But let us not faint in well-doing, for in its season we shall reap” (Gal. 6:10-9).

He admonishes that no man should impatiently faint in his labour, that none should be either called off or overcome by temptations and desist in the midst of the praise and in the way of glory…; as it is written,  “Hold that which thou hast, that another take not thy crown” (Rev. 3:11).

Which word exhorts us to persevere with patience and courage, so that he who strives towards the crown with the praise now near at hand, may be crowned by the continuance of patience.

But patience, beloved brethren, not only keeps watch over what is good, but it also repels what is evil.  In harmony with the Holy Spirit, and associated with what is heavenly and divine, it struggles with the defence of its strength against the deeds of the flesh and the body, wherewith the soul is assaulted and taken.

Cyprian of Carthage (d.258): On the Advantage of Patience, 13-14.

Ambrose of Milan: Jonah and Christ Monday, Sep 12 2016 

ambrose_of_milanJust as Jonah was plunged into a deep sleep within the ship, without a thought of being woken up, so did our Lord Jesus Christ, who in the mystery of his death provided the antitype of that Old Testament figure, sleep soundly during his lifetime, as the gospel tells us, in a boat.

And just as Jonah passed three days and nights in the belly of a whale, so did the Son of Man spend three days in the heart of the earth after his death. But after he had raised himself from the dead and roused his body from its sleep for the salvation of all, he visited his disciples.

Christ, then, is the true Jonah, who gave his life for our redemp­tion. For this reason he was taken up on deck and cast overboard into the sea in order to be swallowed up by the whale.

Job had this to say about the whale: He holds in captivity a huge sea monster. And what kind of beast is this meant to be? You will know when you read that our Lord Jesus Christ took captivity captive. Once our adversary and bitter enemy had been subdued, we, who had been under his dominion, began to enjoy our liberty, thanks to Christ.

The prayer itself of holy Jonah throws some light upon the mystery of the Lord’s passion, for he said, I have cried out to the Lord in my affliction, and my voice has reached him from the depths of Sheol – not, you will notice, from the depths of the whale’s belly. For it was into Hades that the Lord went down, not in any whale, so that he might loose those who were detained there from their everlasting bonds.

Now, who was it that offered to the Lord God his sacrifice with praise and thanksgiving if not our great High Priest himself, who made his vows and paid them on behalf of all of us? For he alone could make his sacrifice effective.

Just as Jonah, by being cast into the sea, was able to allay its fury, so did our Lord Jesus Christ, by coming into the world, win it for himself, and through his blood he established it everywhere – in heaven and on earth.

By his coming he redeemed all men and women, and by his deeds he brought them all to love and worship God; he raised the dead and healed the sick, implanting in people’s souls a reverence for God. He it was who offered to the Father a sacrifice of atonement on our behalf, presenting God with an oblation capable of justifying us. He it was who slept and woke again.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Psalm 43, 83-85 (PL 14:1183-1184, 1129-1139);  from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2.

Irenaeus of Lyons: Calling men anew to communion with God, that by communion with Him we may partake of incorruption Tuesday, Aug 23 2016 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonContinued from here….

If He was not born, neither did He die. And, if He died not, neither did He rise from the dead.

And, if He rose not from the dead, neither did He vanquish death and bring its reign to nought.

And if death be not vanquished, how can we ascend to life, who from the beginning have fallen under death?

So then those who take away redemption from man, and believe not in God that He will raise them from the dead, these also despise the birth of our Lord.

This He underwent on our behalf, that the Word of God should be made flesh in order that He might manifest the resurrection of the flesh, and might have pre-eminence over all things in the heavens, as the first-born and eldest offspring of the thought of the Father, the Word, fulfilling all things, and Himself guiding and ruling upon earth.

For He was the Virgin’s first-born, a just and holy man, godfearing, good, well-pleasing to God, perfect in all ways, and delivering from hell all who follow after Him. For He Himself was the first-begotten of the dead, the Prince and Author of life unto God.

Thus then the Word of God in all things hath the pre-eminence; for that He is true man and Wonderful Counsellor and Mighty God, calling men anew to communion with God, that by communion with Him we may partake of incorruption.

He was proclaimed by the law through Moses, and by the prophets of the Most High and Almighty God, as Son of the Father of all – He from whom all things are, He who spake with Moses.

He came into Judaea, generated from God by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary, even of her who was of the seed of David and of Abraham, Jesus the Anointed of God, showing Himself to be the One who was proclaimed beforehand by the prophets.

And His forerunner was John the Baptist who prepared and made ready the people beforehand for the reception of the Word of life; declaring that He was the Christ, on whom the Spirit of God rested, mingling with His flesh.

His disciples…, after receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, were sent forth by Him into all the world, and wrought the calling of the Gentiles, showing to mankind the way of life, to turn them from idols and fornication and covetousness, cleansing their souls and bodies by the baptism of water and of the Holy Spirit.

This Holy Spirit they had received of the Lord, and they distributed and imparted It to them that believed; and thus they ordered and established the Churches.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 39-41 [slightly adapted].

John Damascene: Let all nature keep the feast of the Assumption of the Theotokos Monday, Aug 15 2016 

John-of-Damascus_01Behold the Virgin, the daughter of Adam and Mother of God; through Adam she gives her body to the earth, her soul to her Son above in the heavenly courts.

Let the holy city be sanctified, and rejoice in eternal praise. Let angels precede the divine tabernacle on its passage, and prepare the tomb.

Let the radiance of the spirit adorn it. Let sweet ointment be made ready and poured over the pure and undefiled body. Let a clear stream of grace flow from grace in its source.

Let the earth be sanctified by contact with that body. Let the air rejoice at the Assumption. Let gentle breezes waft grace. Let all nature keep the feast of the Mother of God’s Assumption.

[…] Let us draw round that most sacred bed and sing the sweet words, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

“Hail, predestined Mother of God. Hail, thou chosen one in the design of God from all eternity, most sacred hope of earth, resting-place of divine fire, holiest delight of the Spirit, fountain of living water, paradise of the tree of life, divine vine-branch, bringing forth soul-sustaining nectar and ambrosia.

“Full river of spiritual graces, fertile land of the  divine pastures, rose of purity, with the sweet fragrance of grace, lily of the royal robe, pure Mother of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, token of our redemption, handmaid and Mother, surpassing angelic powers.”

Come, let us stand round that pure tomb and draw grace to our hearts. Let us raise the ever-virginal body with spiritual arms, and go with her into the grave to die with her.

Let us renounce our passions, and live with her in purity, listening to the divine canticles of angels in the heavenly courts.

Let us go in adoring, and learn the wondrous mystery by which she is assumed to heaven, to be with her Son, higher than all the angelic choirs.

[…] This, O Mother of God, is my third sermon on thy departure…. Accept, then, my good-will, which is greater than my capacity, and give us salvation.

Heal our passions, cure our diseases, help us out of our difficulties, make our lives peaceful, send us the illumination of the Spirit.

Inflame us with the desire of thy Son. Render us pleasing to Him, so that we may enjoy happiness with Him, seeing thee resplendent with thy Son’s glory, rejoicing for ever, keeping feast in the Church with those who worthily celebrate Him who worked our salvation through thee, Christ the Son of God, and our God.

To Him be glory and majesty, with the uncreated Father and the all-holy and life-giving Spirit, now and for ever, through the endless ages of eternity. Amen.

John Damascene (c.675-749): Homily 3 on the Dormition of the Theotokos @ Medieval Sourcebook.

Cyril of Alexandria: Christ is the vine, and we are dependent on Him as branches, drinking in by the Spirit spiritual power to bear fruit Sunday, Jul 24 2016 

cyril_alexandriaContinued from here….

If we are convinced that the Son is really and truly in His own Father, and He has Him that begat Him in His own nature, and all things are brought to perfection by Both in the Spirit as by One Divinity, neither will the Father be without His share in nourishing us, nor can the Son be thought not to partake in His husbandry.

For where Their identity of nature is seen in unmistakeable language, there too there is no division of activity, though any one may think that they have manifold diversities of operations.

And, as there is one Substance, that is the true and real Godhead conceived of in three Persons, that is in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is it not extremely clear and incontrovertible that when we speak of an activity of one, it is a function of the One and entire Divinity, in the way of inherent power?

Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ, accepting His Father as His Fellow-worker in all He did, once…said: Many good works have I showed you from My Father: for which of those works do ye stone Me? And again, about working on the Sabbath-day: My Father worketh even until now, and I work. 

And no one would think He said that the Father acts separately in His dealings with the world, and so also the Son. For since the Father does all things by the Son, and could not otherwise act, as He is His wisdom and power, for this reason He, on the other hand, called the Father the doer of His own works, when He said: I do nothing of Myself; but the Father abiding in Me doeth His works. 

I think, therefore, we ought to take this view and no other, that Christ takes the place of the vine, and we are dependent on Him as branches, enriched as it were by His grace, and drinking in by the Spirit spiritual power to bear fruit.

[…] Christ, being as it were the root, is the Vine, and we are the branches. And if He called the Father the Husbandman, do not think that He spoke of Him as being different in substance.

For He does not mean this, as we have said; but wishes to point out that the Divine Nature is the root and origin in us of the power of producing the fruits of the Spirit of life, besides the blessings we have spoken of, tending us like a husbandman, and extending over those who are called by faith to partake in it the providence of love.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on John, Book 10 (on John 15:1ff).

Macarius the Egyptian: The covenant is within, and the battle within Wednesday, Jul 20 2016 

Macarius3The glory of Moses which he had upon his countenance was a figure of the true glory.

For as in that case the Jews were not able to look steadfastly upon the face of Moses (2 Cor. 3:7), so now Christians receive that glory of light in their souls, and the darkness, not bearing the radiance of the light, is blinded and banished.

They were made known to be the people of God by circumcision; here, God’s peculiar people receive the sign of circumcision inwardly in their heart.

The heavenly knife cuts away the unwanted portion of the mind, which is the impure uncircumcision of sin.

With them was a baptism sanctifying the flesh; with us, a baptism of Holy Ghost and fire, for this is what John preached: He shall baptize you with Holy Ghost and fire (Matt. 3:11).

There they had an outer tabernacle and an inner, and into the first the priests went continually, accomplishing the services; but into the second went the high priest alone once every year, with blood, the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest was not yet made manifest (Hebrews 9:6ff).

Here, on the other hand, those who have the privilege enter into the tabernacle not made with hands, whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Christ (Heb. 6:20).

It is written in the law that the priest should take two doves, and kill the one, and sprinkle the living one with its blood, and loose it and let it fly free.

That which was done was a figure and shadow of the truth; for Christ was slain, and His blood sprinkling us has made us to grow wings, for He has given us the wings of the Holy Ghost, that we may fly without hindrance into the air of the Godhead.

To them was given a law written upon tables of stone; but to us, spiritual laws, engraven upon fleshy tables of the heart (2 Cor. 3:3) for it says, I will put My laws in their hearts, and upon their minds will I write them (Heb. 10:16).

All those things were temporary and to be done away; but now all are accomplished in truth on the inner man.

The covenant is within, and the battle within. In short, whatsoever things happened unto them were done in a figure, and were written for our admonition (1 Cor. 10:11).

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 47, 1-3, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

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.

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