Gregory the Great: The fowls of the air Thursday, Apr 21 2016 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistWhence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air (Job 28:20-21).

In Holy Scripture ‘birds’ are sometimes given to be understood in a bad sense, and sometimes in a good sense.

Since by ‘the birds of the air’ occasionally the powers of the air are denoted, being hostile to the settled purposes of good men.

Whence it is said by the mouth of Truth, And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it (Matt. 13:4); in this way, because evil spirits besetting the minds of men, whilst they bring in bad thoughts, pluck the word of life out of the memory.

Hence again it is said to a certain rich man full of proud thoughts; the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head (Matt. 8:20l Luke 9:58).

For foxes are very cunning animals, that hide themselves in ditches and caves; and when they face the light, they never run in straight courses, but always by crooked doublings. But the birds as we know with lofty flight lift themselves into the air.

So, then, by the name of ‘foxes,’ the crafty and cunning demons, and by the title of the ‘birds of the air’ these same proud demons are denoted.

As if he said, ‘The deceitful and uplifted demons find their habitation in your heart; i.e. in the imagination of pride,’ ‘but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head,’ i.e. ‘My humility findeth not rest in your proud mind.’

For as by a kind of flight that first bird lifted itself up, which said in the uplifted imagination of the heart; I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the North.  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.  I will be like the Most High (Is. 14:13).

Mark how he in flying sought the regions on high with pride.  This same flight also he recommended to the first of human kind [Adam and Eve] as well.  For they themselves by flying as it were tried to go above their own selves, when it was told them that they should taste and be like gods.

And while they seek after the likeness of the Deity, they lost the blessings of immortality, which same would not by dying have gone into the earth, if they had been willing to stand with humility upon the earth.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 19, 2 (on Job 28:20-21) @ Lectionary Central.

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Irenaeus of Lyons: It was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality Saturday, Jan 23 2016 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonContinued from here….

Our Lord took that same original formation as (His) entry into flesh, so that He might draw near and contend on behalf of the fathers, and conquer by Adam that which by Adam had stricken us down.

Whence then is the substance of the first-formed (man)? From the Will and the Wisdom of God, and from the virgin earth.

For God had not sent rain, the Scripture says, upon the earth, before man was made; and there was no man to till the earth (Gen. 2:5).

From this, then, whilst it was still virgin, God took dust of the earth and formed the man, the beginning of mankind.

So then the Lord, summing up afresh this man, took the same dispensation of entry into flesh, being born from the Virgin by the Will and the Wisdom of God; that He also should show forth the likeness of Adam’s entry into flesh, and there should be that which was written in the beginning, man after the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26).

And just as through a disobedient virgin man was stricken down and fell into death, so through the Virgin who was obedient to the Word of God man was reanimated and received life. 

For the Lord came to seek again the sheep that was lost; and man it was that was lost: and for this cause there was not made some other formation, but in that same which had its descent from Adam He preserved the likeness of the (first) formation.

For it was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality; and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away the disobedience of a virgin (1 Cor. 15:53).

And the trespass which came by the tree was undone by the tree of obedience, when, hearkening unto God, the Son of man was nailed to the tree; thereby putting away the knowledge of evil and bringing in and establishing the knowledge of good: now evil it is to disobey God, even as hearkening unto God is good.

And for this cause the Word spake by Isaiah the prophet, announcing beforehand that which was to come…. By him then spake the Word thus:  I refuse not, nor gainsay: I gave my back to scourging, and my cheeks to smiting; and my face I turned not away from the shame of spitting (Isaiah 50:5).

So then by the obedience wherewith He obeyed even unto death, (Phil. 2;8) hanging on the tree, He put away the old disobedience which was wrought in the tree.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 31-34.

Irenaeus of Lyons: So fair and good was this Paradise that the Word of God continually resorted thither Friday, Nov 13 2015 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonGod formed Man with His own hands, taking from the earth that which was purest and finest, and mingling in measure His own power with the earth.

For He traced His own form on the formation, that that which should be seen should be of divine form.

For as the image of God was man formed and set on the earth.

And that he might become living, He breathed on his face the breath of life; that both for the breath and for the formation man should be like unto God.

Moreover he was free and self-controlled, being made by God for this end, that he might rule all those things that were upon the earth.

And this great created world, prepared by God before the formation of man, was given to man as his place, containing all things within itself.

And there were in this place also with their tasks the servants of that God who formed all things; and the steward, who was set over all his fellow-servants received this place.

Now the servants were angels, and the steward was the archangel.

Now, having made man lord of the earth and all things in it, He secretly appointed him lord also of those who were servants in it.

They however were in their perfection; but the lord, that is, man, was but small; for he was a child; and it was necessary that he should grow, and so come to his perfection.

And, that he might have his nourishment and growth with festive and dainty meats, He prepared him a place better than this world, excelling in air, beauty, light, food, plants, fruit, water, and all other necessaries of life: and its name is Paradise.

And so fair and good was this Paradise, that the Word of God continually resorted thither, and walked and talked with the man, figuring beforehand the things that should be in the future, namely that He should dwell with him and talk with him, and should be with men, teaching them righteousness.

But man was a child, not yet having his understanding perfected; wherefore also he was easily led astray by the deceiver.

[…] And Adam and Eve – for that is the name of the woman – were naked, and were not ashamed; for there was in them an innocent and childlike mind, and it was not possible for them to conceive and understand anything of that which by wickedness through lusts and shameful desires is born in the soul.

For they were at that time entire, preserving their own nature; since they had the breath of life which was breathed on their creation. And, while this breath remains in its place and power, it has no comprehension and understanding of things that are base.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 11, 12, 14.

Andrew of Crete: The Redeemer of the human race willed to arrange a new birth and re-creation of mankind Tuesday, Sep 8 2015 

AndrewofcreteThe first creation of mankind occurred from the pure and unsullied earth;

but their nature darkened its innate worthiness, they were deprived of grace through the sin of disobedience;

for this we were cast out of the land of life and, in place of the delights of Paradise, we received temporal life as our inheritance by birth, and with it the death and corruption of our race.

All started to prefer earth to heaven, so that there remained no hope for salvation, beyond the utmost help.

Neither the natural nor the written law, nor the fiery reconciliative sayings of the prophets had power to heal the sickness.

No one knew how to rectify human nature and by what means it would be most suitable to raise it up to its former worthiness, so long as God the author of all did not deign to reveal to us another arranged and newly-constituted world, where the pervasive form of the old poison of sin is annihilated, and granting us a wondrous, free and perfectly dispassionate life, through our re-creation in the baptism of divine birth.

But how would this great and most glorious blessing be imparted to us, so in accord with the divine commands, if God were not to be manifest to us in the flesh, not subject to the laws of nature, nor deign to dwell with us in a manner known to Him?

And how could all this be accomplished, if first there did not serve the mystery a pure and inviolate Virgin, Who contained the Uncontainable, in accord with the law, yet beyond the laws of nature?

And could some other virgin have done this besides she alone, who was chosen before all others by the creator of nature? This Virgin is the Theotokos, Mary, the most glorious of God, from whose womb the Most Divine came forth in the flesh, and by whom He Himself arranged a wondrous temple for Himself. She conceived without seed and gave birth without corruption, since her Son was God, though also He was born in the flesh, without mingling and without travail.

[…] The Redeemer of the human race, as I said, willed to arrange a new birth and re-creation of mankind: just as the first creation, taking dust from the virginal and pure earth, where He formed the first Adam, so also now, having arranged His incarnation upon the earth, and so to speak, in place of dust He chooses out of all the creation this pure and immaculate Virgin and, having re-created mankind in His chosen one from among mankind, the creator of Adam is made the New Adam, in order to save the old.

Andrew of Crete (c.650-740[?]): Oration 1 – Homily on the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God; translation of complete homily @ St George Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

Gregory of Nyssa: Our whole nature, extending from the first to the last, is one image of Him Who Is Saturday, Jul 18 2015 

Gregory_of_NyssaLet us now resume our consideration of the Divine word, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).

[…] In what does the greatness of man consist, according to the doctrine of the Church?

Not in his likeness to the created world, but in his being in the image of the nature of the Creator.

[…] What is it then which we understand concerning these matters?

In saying that “God created man” the text indicates, by the indefinite character of the term, all mankind.

For was not Adam here named together with the creation, as the history tells us in what follows?

Yet the name given to the man created is not the particular, but the general name.

Thus we are led by the employment of the general name of our nature to some such view as this—that in the Divine foreknowledge and power all humanity is included in the first creation.

For it is fitting for God not to regard any of the things made by Him as indeterminate, but that each existing thing should have some limit and measure prescribed by the wisdom of its Maker.

Any particular man is limited by his bodily dimensions, and the peculiar size which is conjoined with the superficies of his body is the measure of his separate existence.

So also I think that the entire plenitude of humanity was included by the God of all, by His power of foreknowledge, as it were in one body, and that this is what the text teaches us which says, “God created man, in the image of God created He him.”

For the image is not in part of our nature, nor is the grace in any one of the things found in that nature, but this power extends equally to all the race.

And a sign of this is that mind is implanted alike in all: for all have the power of understanding and deliberating, and of all else whereby the Divine nature finds its image in that which was made according to it.

The man that was manifested at the first creation of the world, and he that shall be after the consummation of all, are alike: they equally bear in themselves the Divine image.

For this reason the whole race was spoken of as one man, namely, that to God’s power nothing is either past or future, but even that which we expect is comprehended, equally with what is at present existing, by the all-sustaining energy.

Our whole nature, then, extending from the first to the last, is, so to say, one image of Him Who Is.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): On the Making of Man, 16, 1,2,16-18 (slightly adapted).

Ephrem the Syrian: Unto you shall the Father be a wall of strength, and the Son a Redeemer, and the Spirit a guard Wednesday, Jun 10 2015 

Mor_Ephrem_icon(Response: Brethren, sing praises, to the Son of the Lord of all; Who has bound for you crowns, such as kings long for!”)

Your garments glisten, my brethren, as snow;—and fair is your shining in the likeness of Angels!

In the likeness of Angels, ye have come up, beloved,—from Jordan’s river, in the armour of the Holy Ghost.

The bridal chamber that fails not, my brethren, ye have received:—and the glory of Adam’s house to-day ye have put on.

The judgment that came of the fruit was Adam’s condemnation:—but for you victory has arisen this day.

Your vesture is shining, and goodly your crowns:—which the Firstborn has bound for you by the priest’s hand this day.

Woe in Paradise did Adam receive:—but you have received glory this day.

The armour of victory ye put on, my beloved:—in the hour when the priest invoked the Holy Ghost.

The Angels rejoice men here below exult:—in your feast, my brethren, wherein is no foulness.

The good things of Heaven, my brethren, ye have received:—beware of the Evil One, lest he despoil you.

The day when He dawned, the Heavenly King:—opens for you His door, and bids you enter Eden.

Crowns that fade not away are set on your heads:—hymns of praise hourly let your mouths sing.

Adam by means of the fruit God cast forth in sorrow:—but you He makes glad in the bride-chamber of joy.

Who would not rejoice in your bridechamber, my brethren?—for the Father with His Son and the Spirit rejoice in you.

Unto you shall the Father be a wall of strength:—and the Son a Redeemer and the Spirit a guard.

Martyrs by their blood glorify their crowns:—but you our Redeemer by His Blood glorifies.

Watchers and Angels joy over the repentant:—they shall joy over you, my brethren, that unto them ye are made like.

The fruit which Adam tasted not in Paradise:—this day in your mouths has been placed with joy.

Our Redeemer figured His Body by the tree:—whereof Adam tasted not because he had sinned.

The Evil One made war and subdued Adam’s house:—through your baptism, my brethren, lo! he is subdued this day.

Great is the victory, but to-day you have won:—if so be ye neglect not, you shall not perish, my brethren.

Glory to them that are robed, glory to Adam’s house!—in the birth that is from the water let them rejoice and be blessed!

Praise to Him Who has robed His Churches in glory!—glory to Him Who has magnified the race of Adam’s house.

 Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Fifteen Hymns on the Epiphany, 13 (Hymn of the Baptised).

Aphrahat the Persian: “Thou, Lord, hast been our dwelling-place for generations” Saturday, Jun 6 2015 

ephrem-isaac-aphrahatDavid says:—Thou, Lord, hast been our dwelling-place for generations, before the mountains were conceived and before the earth travailed, and before the world was framed.

And thou knowest, my beloved, that all created things that are above and that are beneath were created first, and after them all, man.

For when God determined to create the world with all its goodly things, first He conceived and fashioned man in His mind;

and after that Adam was conceived in His thought, then He conceived the created things; as he said:—Before the mountains were conceived and the earth travailed;

because man is older and more ancient in conception than the creatures, but in birth the creatures are older and more ancient than Adam.

Adam was conceived and dwelt in the thought of God; and while in conception he (man) was held in His (God’s) mind, He (God) by the word of His mouth created all the creatures.

And when He had finished and adorned the world, when nothing was lacking in it, then He brought forth Adam from His thoughts, and fashioned man by His hands; and Adam saw the world completed.

And He (God) gave him authority over all that He had made, just as a man who has a son and desires to make for him a marriage feast, betroths to him a wife and builds for him a house, and prepares and adorns all that is needed for his son; then he makes the marriage feast and gives his son authority over his house.

So after the conception of Adam, He brought him forth and gave him authority over all his creation.  Concerning this the Prophet said:—Thou, Lord, hast been our habitation for generations, before the mountains were conceived, and before the earth travailed and before the world was framed.  From age unto age Thou art the Lord.

That no one should suppose that there is another God, either before or afterwards, he said:—From age and unto age, just as Isaiah said:—I am the first and I am the last (Isaiah 44:6; 48:12).

And after that God brought forth Adam from within His thought, He fashioned him, and breathed into him of His Spirit, and gave him the knowledge of discernment, that he might discern good from evil, and might know that God made him.

And inasmuch as man knew his Maker, God was formed and conceived within his thought, and he became a temple for God his Maker, as it is written, Ye are the temple of God.  And (so) He Himself said:—I will dwell in them and walk in them.

Aphrahat the Persian (c.270-c.345): Demonstrations, 17 – On Christ the Son of God (7). (The icon accompanying this extract depicts Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Syrian, and Aphrahat).

Innocent of Alaska: Death is no longer an irreversible tragedy but a passage to the world of bright and joyous life Wednesday, May 13 2015 

innocentalaskaIf Adam had not sinned, he would have remained forever blessed, and all his descendants would have enjoyed blessedness.

It was for this very purpose that God had created man.

But Adam, having succumbed to the tempter-devil, transgressed against the law of the Maker and took pleasure in the taste of the forbidden fruit.

When God appeared to Adam right after he had sinned, Adam, instead of repenting and promising obedience henceforth, began to justify himself and to blame his wife.

Eve in turn blamed the serpent for everything.

And so it was that sin became a part of human nature, deeply injuring it because of the lack of repentance of Adam and Eve.

The existing communion with the Maker was cut and the blessedness lost.

Having lost Paradise within himself, Adam became unworthy of the external Paradise and was therefore banished from it.

[…] No man, even the most talented and powerful, nor all of mankind in unison, could ever restore what Adam lost when he sinned in Eden.

What would have happened to us and to all of mankind if Jesus Christ in His mercy had not come to redeem us?

But we should all thank our Heavenly Father for taking pity on us. He loves us far more than we are capable of loving ourselves.

And because of His infinite love, He has sent His only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to rid us from our sins and from the snare of the devil and to lead us into the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.

Through His teachings Jesus Christ scattered the darkness of ignorance and all possible error and enlightened the world with the light of the true faith.

Now anyone who desires it can come to know the will of God and attain eternal life.

By His way of life Christ showed us how to live to attain salvation. And He also assists us constantly in everything good.

By His most precious blood Jesus washed away our sins and made of us children of God, who were slaves of passions and the devil. Those torments we, as transgressors of the will of God, would have had to suffer, He bore for us.

By His death He crushed the power of the devil, destroyed the power of hell, and delivered us from death.

By His resurrection He gave us life and opened the gates of Paradise to all.

Therefore, death is no longer an irreversible tragedy but a passage from this temporary world of vanity and sorrows to the world of bright and joyous life.

By His ascension into heaven Christ glorified our nature, enabling us to share eternal bliss with the angels and all the heavenly creatures.

Innocent of Alaska (1797-1879; Russian Orthodox): The Way into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Gregory Palamas: The resurrection of the Lord is the re-creation of the first Adam Monday, Apr 27 2015 

Gregory_PalamasThe resurrection of the Lord is the regeneration of human nature.

It is the resuscitation and re-creation of the first Adam, whom sin led to death, and who because of death, again was made to retrace his steps on the earth from which he was made.

The resurrection is the return to immortal life.

Whereas no one saw that first man when he was created and given life—because no man existed yet at that time—woman was the first person to see him after he had received the breath of life by divine inbreathing.

For after him, Eve was the first human being.

Likewise no one saw the second Adam, who is the Lord, rise from the dead, for none of his followers were nearby and the soldiers guarding the tomb were so shaken that they were like dead men.

Following the resurrection, however, it was a woman who saw Him first before the others.

[…] The Myrrhbearers are all those women who followed with the mother of the Lord, stayed with her during those hours of the salvific passion, and with pathos anointed him with myrrh.

After Joseph and Nicodemos asked for and received the body of the Lord from Pilate, they took it down from the cross, wrapped it in a cloth with strong spices, placed it in a carved out tomb, and closed the door of the tomb with a large stone.

The Myrrhbearers were close by and watched, and as the Evangelist Mark relates, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were seated opposite the grave. With the expression “and the other Mary” he means the mother of Christ without a doubt.

[…] St Luke writes that they went and bought spices and myrrh; for they did not yet clearly know that he is truly the perfume of life for those who approach him in faith, just as he is also the odor of death for those who remain unbelievers to the end.

They did not yet clearly know that the odor of his clothes, the odor of his own body, is greater than all perfumes, that his name is like myrrh that is poured out to cover the world with his divine fragrance.

For those who wanted to remain close by the body, they contrived an antidote of perfumes for the stench of decomposition and anointed it. Thus they prepared the myrrh and the spices and rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.

For they had not yet experienced the true sabbath, nor did they understand that exceedingly blessed sabbath that transports us from the confines of hell to the perfection of the bright and divine heights of heaven.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily for the Sunday of The Myrrhbearing Women, translated by Fr. Hierodeacon Photios Touloumes+ from Migne P.G. vol 151, pp 236-248; full text @ Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church.

Ambrose of Milan: Christ found resurrection to restore the heavenly benefit which had been lost by the deceit of the serpent Monday, Apr 6 2015 

ambrose_of_milanIn the beginning our Lord God made man so that, if he had not tasted sin, he would not have died the death.

He contracted sin; he was made subject to death; he was ejected from paradise.

But the Lord, who wished his benefits to endure and to abolish all the snares of the serpent, also to abolish everything that caused harm, first, however, passed, sentence on man:

‘Dust thou art and into dust thou shalt return’ (Cf. Gen. 2:7,15-17; 3:6-24), and He made man subject to death.

It was a divine sentence; it could not be resolved by a human condition.

A remedy was given: that man should die and rise again.

Why? That that also, which before had ceded to a place of damnation, might cede to a place of benefit.

What is this except death? Do you ask how? Because death intervening makes an end to sin (Cf. Heb. 9:15,16). For when we die, surely we have ceased to sin.

The satisfaction of the sentence seemed to be that man, who had been made to live, if he had not sinned, began to die.

But, that the perpetual grace of God might persevere, man died, but Christ found resurrection, that is, to restore the heavenly benefit which had been lost by the deceit of the serpent.

Both, then, are for our good, for death is the end of sins and resurrection is the reformation of nature.

However, lest in this world the deceit and snares of the Devil might prevail, baptism was found.

Hear what Scripture rather, the Son of God says about this baptism, that the Pharisees, who did not wish to be baptized by John’s baptism, despised the council of God (Luke 7:30). Then baptism is the council of God. How great is grace, where there is the council of God!

Listen then: For, that in this world, also, the grip of the Devil might be loosened, there was discovered how man alive might die and alive might rise again.

What is ‘alive’? That is: the living life of the body, when it came to the font, and dipped into the font.

What is water but of earth? So it satisfies the heavenly sentence without the stupor of death. Because you dip, that sentence is resolved: ‘Thou art dust and into dust thou shalt return’ (Gen. 3:19).

When the sentence has been fulfilled, there is opportunity for heavenly benefit and remedy. So water is of earth, but the potentials of our life did not permit that we be covered with earth and rise again from earth.

Then earth does not wash, but water washes. Therefore, the font is as a sepulture.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On the Sacraments, 2,6,17-19 in St Ambrose: Theological and Dogmatic Works, tr. Roy J. Deferrari, Catholic Univeristy of America Press, 1963, pp. 284-286.

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