Cyril of Jerusalem: God is loving to man, and loving in no small measure Saturday, Mar 28 2015 

Cyril-of-JerusalemGod is loving to man, and loving in no small measure.

Say not “I have committed fornication and adultery:  I have done dreadful things, and not once only, but often;  will He forgive?  Will He grant pardon?”

Hear what the Psalmist says:  How great is the multitude of Thy goodness, O Lord!

Thine accumulated offences surpass not the multitude of God’s mercies:  thy wounds surpass not the great Physician’s skill.

Only give thyself up in faith:  tell the Physician thine ailment.

Say thou also, like David:  I said, I will confess me my sin unto the Lord, and the same shall be done in thy case, which he says forthwith:  And thou forgavest the wickedness of my heart.

Wouldest thou see the loving-kindness of God, O thou that art lately come to the catechising?

Wouldest thou see the loving-kindness of God, and the abundance of His long-suffering?

Hear about Adam.  Adam, God’s first-formed man, transgressed:  could He not at once have brought death upon him?

But see what the Lord does, in His great love towards man.

He casts him out from Paradise, for because of sin he was unworthy to live there.

But He puts him to dwell over against Paradise,  so that seeing whence he had fallen, and from what and into what a state he was brought down, he might afterwards be saved by repentance.

Cain the first-born man became his brother’s murderer, the inventor of evils, the first author of murders, and the first envious man.

Yet after slaying his brother to what is he condemned?  Groaning and trembling shalt thou be upon the earth.  How great the offence, the sentence how light! Even this then was truly loving-kindness in God, but little as yet in comparison with what follows.

For consider what happened in the days of Noah.  The giants sinned, and much wickedness was then spread over the earth, and because of this the flood was to come upon them. And in the five hundredth year God utters His threatening; but in the six hundredth He brought the flood upon the earth.

Seest thou the breadth of God’s loving-kindness extending to a hundred years?  Could He not have done immediately what He did then after the hundred years?

But He extended (the time) on purpose, granting a respite for repentance.

Seest thou God’s goodness?  And if the men of that time had repented, they would not have missed the loving-kindness of God.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 2, 6-8.

John Maximovitch: Trinitarian Concord Sunday, Jun 15 2014 

Saint John Maximovich Tobolsk editedThe Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit share one nature, one essence, one substance.

That is why the Three Faces are the Trinity, one-in-substance.

[Ed.: in Greek, prosopon denotes both face and person.]

Humans also have one nature, one substance.

But while God is the Indivisible Trinity, divisions occur in mankind constantly…

The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have common thought, common will, common actions.

What the Father desires, the Son also desires, and the Holy Spirit also desires.

Whatever the Son loves, so do the Father and the Holy Spirit also love.

Whatever is pleasing to the Holy Spirit, is pleasing to the Father and Son.

Their actions are also common among them, all act in conjunction and in accord.

This is not so with man. We are in constant disagreement, we have differing desires.

Even a small child expresses his own wishes, willfulness, disobedience to his loving parents.

As he grows older, he separates from their more, and so often in our day becomes completely alienated from them.

People simply don’t share identical opinions, on the contrary, there are perpetual divisions in all things, quarrels and conflicts between individuals, wars between nations.

Adam and Eve, before their Fall, were in full accord and of common spirit with one another at all times.

Having sinned, alienation was immediately sensed. Justifying himself before God, Adam blamed Eve.

Their sin divided them and continues to divide all of mankind.

Emancipated from sin, we approach God, and, filled with His grace, we sense our unity with the rest of mankind.

Such unity is very imperfect and lacking, since in each person some portion of sin remains.

The closer we approach God, the closer we approach each other, just as the closer rays of light are to each other, the closer they are to the Sun.

In the coming Kingdom of God there will be unity, mutual love and concord. The Holy Trinity remains eternally unchanging, all-perfect, united in essence and indivisible.

The One, Indivisible Trinity ever remains the Trinity. The Father always remains the Father, the Son remains the Son, the Holy Spirit remains the Holy Spirit.

Besides Their personal Properties, They all share all in common and in unity. That is why the Holy Trinity is One God.

John Maximovitch (St John of Shanghai and San Francisco; Orthodox Church; 1896-1966): Sermon on the Holy Pentecost @ Pravoslavie.

Jean Daniélou: The Realities of the Old Testament are Figures of Those of the New Wednesday, May 7 2014 

JeanDanielouSJThat the realities of the Old Testament are figures of those of the New is one of the principles of  biblical theology.

This science of the similitudes between the two Testaments is called typology.

And here we would do well to remind ourselves of its foundation, for this is to be found in the Old Testament itself.

At the time of the Captivity, the prophets announced to the people of Israel that in the future God would perform for their benefit deeds analogous to, and even greater than those He had performed in the past.

So there would be a new Deluge, in which the sinful world would be annihilated, and a few men, a “remnant,” would be preserved to inaugurate a new humanity;

there would be a new Exodus in which, by His power, God would set mankind free from its bondage to idols; there would be a new Paradise into which God would introduce the people He had redeemed.

These prophecies constitute a primary typology that might be called eschatological, for the prophets saw these future events as happening at the end of time.

The New Testament, therefore, did not invent typology, but simply showed that it was fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. With Jesus, in fact, these events of the end, of the fullness of time, are now accomplished.

He is the New Adam with whom the time of the Paradise of the future has begun. In Him is already realized that destruction of the sinful world of which the Flood was the figure. In Him is accomplished the true Exodus which delivers the people of God from the tyranny of the demon.

Typology was used in the preaching of the apostles as an argument to establish the truth of their message, by showing that Christ continues and goes beyond the Old Testament: “Now all these things happened to them as a type and, they were written for our correction” (I Cor. 10, 11). This is what St. Paul calls the consolatio Scripturarum (Rom. 15, 4).

But these eschatological times are not only those of the life of Jesus, but of the Church as well. Consequently, the eschatological typology of the Old Testament is accomplished not only in the person of Christ, but also in the Church.

Besides Christological typology, therefore, there exists a sacramental typology, and we find it in the New Testament. The Gospel of St. John shows us that the manna was a figure of the Eucharist; the first Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians that the crossing of the Red Sea was a figure of Baptism; the first Epistle of St. Peter that the Flood was also a figure of Baptism.

Jean Daniélou, S.J. (1905 – 1974):  The Bible and the Liturgy, Liturgical Studies, 3 (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1956), pp. 1-2.

John Maximovitch: Seeing the Light of the Risen Christ with the Eyes of the Heart Wednesday, Apr 23 2014 

Saint John Maximovich Tobolsk editedLet us cleanse our senses and see through the gleaming, unapproachable light of Christ’s Resurrection.

Now is everything filled-full with light — the heavens, the earth, and the underworld.

All is presently bathed in light: Christ is risen from the dead.

The heavens make merry, the earth rejoiceth, the underworld exulteth.

The Angels in Heaven hymn Thy Resurrection, O Christ-Saviour. Do Thou make us, on earth, also worthy to glorify Thee with a pure heart.

The Angelic Choir, horrified at seeing Its Creator and Master dead, doth now, in joyous song, glorify Him resurrected.

Today doth Adam exult, and Eve rejoiceth; and with them do the Prophets and Patriarchs sing worthy songs to the Creator of all and to our Deliverer, Who did descend into the underworld for our sake.

The Giver of Life doth lead men out of hell this day, and up-lifteth them to Heaven; He layeth low the powers of the enemy and breaketh down the gates of hell by the Divine power of His authority.

On earth, the Angels announce the gladsome tidings to men and declare Christ’s Resurrection. Attired in gleaming white robes, the Angels ask the Myrrh-bearing Women:

“Why seek ye the Living One amongst the dead? He is risen; He is not here! Come, see the place where the Lord did lie.”

The Myrrh-bearing women rush to the Apostles, bearing to them the joyous news. And through the Apostles and the Gospel is Christ’s Resurrection preached unto all the world today.

Not all the Apostles immediately saw the risen Christ through spiritual eyes. Two disciples travelling to Emmaus did see Jesus walking with them, but did not recognize Him till such time as He had warmed their saddened hearts; and then were their spiritual eyes opened.

Mary Magdalene conversed with Christ in the garden, but neither recognized Him nor was cognizant of the mystery of the Resurrection, until the voice of her beloved Teacher touched her heart and illumined her soul, which had been given to thinking in worldly fashion.

It was the beloved disciple John, whose heart was pure and undimmed by, timidity, who before all others descried the light of the risen Christ through spiritual eyes; and with his bodily eyes did he behold the manifested Lord.

Scattering and dispersing the dark and gloomy tempest of sin, Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, shone forth, gleaming not in the hearts and souls of the Apostles only, but in those of all who draw near to Him with faith, salvation seeking.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed,” Christ sayeth; “blessed are those who have perceived Me not with bodily eyes, but with the eyes of the heart.”

John Maximovitch (John of Shanghai and san Francisco; Orthodox Church; 1896-1966): A Paschal Epistle of Archbishop John to the Western European and East Asian Flock and to All His Spiritual Children, 1956, Paris, Translated into English by G. Spruksts, “Orthodox Rus”, No. 7, 1996, p.5.

John Paul II: “Heaven is Wedded to Earth and Man is Reconciled to God!” Monday, Apr 21 2014 

jp2“God said: ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Gen 1:3).

An explosion of light, which God’s word brought forth from nothing, rent asunder the first night, the night of Creation.

The Apostle John will write: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). God did not create darkness but light!

And the Book of Wisdom, clearly revealing that God’s work has always had a positive purpose, puts it thus:

“He created all things that they might exist; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them; and the dominion of Hades is not on earth” (Wis 1:14).

In that first night, the night of Creation, is rooted the Paschal Mystery which, following the tragedy of sin, represents the restoration and the crowning of that first beginning.

The divine Word called into existence all things and, in Jesus, became flesh for our salvation.

And if the destiny of the first Adam was to return to the earth from which he had been made (cf. Gen 3:19), the last Adam has come down from heaven in order to return there in victory, the first-fruits of the new humanity (cf. Jn 3:13; 1 Cor 15:47).

Another night constitutes the fundamental event of the history of Israel: it is the wondrous Exodus from Egypt, the story of which is read each year at the solemn Easter Vigil.

[…] This is the second night, the night of the Exodus.

[…] In his Passover, as the new Moses, Christ has made us pass from the slavery of sin to the freedom of the children of God. Having died with Jesus, with him we rise to new life, thanks to the power of his Spirit. His Baptism has become our baptism.

[…]  This is the third night, the night of the Resurrection.

“Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!”. We sang these words in the Easter Proclamation at the beginning of this solemn Vigil, the Mother of all Vigils.

After the tragic night of Good Friday, when “the power of darkness” (Lk 22:53) seemed to have prevailed over the One who is “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12),

after the great silence of Holy Saturday, in which Christ, having completed his work on earth, found rest in the mystery of the Father and took his message of life into the pit of death,

behold at last the night which precedes “the third day”, on which, in accordance with the Scriptures, the Messiah would rise, as he himself had often foretold to his disciples.

“Night truly blessed, when heaven is wedded to earth and man is reconciled to God!” (Easter Proclamation).

John Paul II (1920-2005): Homily at the Easter Vigil, March 30th, 2002.

 

Cyril of Jerusalem: The Good Thief Friday, Apr 18 2014 

Cyril-of-Jerusalem(On Luke 23:39-43).

What power, O robber, led thee to the light?

Who taught thee to worship that despised Man, thy companion on the Cross?

O Light Eternal, which gives light to them that are in darkness!

Therefore also he justly heard the words, Be of good cheer (Luke 23:43 in Codex Bezae):

not because thy deeds are worthy of good cheer; but because the King is here, dispensing favours.

The request reached unto a distant time; but the grace was very speedy.

Verily I say unto thee, This day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.

Because to-day thou hast heard My voice, and hast not hardened thine heart  (Ps. 95:7, 8).

Very speedily I passed sentence upon Adam, very speedily I pardon thee.

To him it was said, In the day wherein ye eat, ye shall surely die (Gen. 2:17).

But thou to-day hast obeyed the faith, to-day is thy salvation.

Adam by the Tree fell away; thou by the Tree art brought into Paradise.

Fear not the serpent; he shall not cast thee out; for he is fallen from heaven (Luke 10:18).

And I say not unto thee, This day shalt thou depart, but, This day shalt thou be with Me.

Be of good courage:  thou shalt not be cast out.  Fear not the flaming sword; it shrinks from its Lord (Gen. 3:24). 

O mighty and ineffable grace! The faithful Abraham had not yet entered, but the robber enters.

Moses and the Prophets had not yet entered, and the robber enters though a breaker of the law.

Paul also wondered at this before thee, saying, Where sin abounded, there grace did much more abound (Rom. 5:20).

They who had borne the heat of the day had not yet entered; and he of the eleventh hour entered.

Let none murmur against the goodman of the house, for he says, Friend, I do thee no wrong; is it not lawful for Me to do what I will with Mine own (Matt. 20:12 ff)?

The robber has a will to work righteousness, but death prevents him; I wait not exclusively for the work, but faith also I accept. 

I am come who feed My sheep among the lilies (Cant. 6:3), I am come to feed them in the gardens. 

I have found a sheep that was lost (Luke 15:5, 6), but I lay it on My shoulders.

For he believes, since he himself has said, I have gone astray like a lost sheep (Ps. 119:176);

Lord, remember me when Thou comest in Thy kingdom.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 13, 31.

Thomas Aquinas: “Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb” Tuesday, Mar 25 2014 

Thomas_Aquinas_in_Stained_GlassEve sought the fruit of the tree (of good and evil), but she did not find in it that which she sought. Everything Eve desired, however, was given to the Blessed Virgin.

Eve sought that which the devil falsely promised her, namely, that she and Adam would be as gods, knowing good and evil. “You shall be,” says this liar, “as gods” (Gen 3:5). But he lied, because “he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44).

Eve was not made like God after having eaten of the fruit, but rather she was unlike God in that by her sin she withdrew from God and was driven out of paradise.

The Blessed Virgin, however, and all Christians found in the Fruit of her womb Him whereby we are all united to God and are made like to Him: “When He shall appear, we shall be like to Him, because we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn 3:2).

Eve looked for pleasure in the fruit of the tree because it was good to eat. But she did not find this pleasure in it, and, on the contrary, she at once discovered she was naked and was stricken with sorrow. In the Fruit of the Blessed Virgin we find sweetness and salvation: “He who eats My flesh… has eternal life” (Jn 6:55).

The fruit which Eve desired was beautiful to look upon, but that Fruit of the Blessed Virgin is far more beautiful, for the Angels desire to look upon Him: “You are beautiful above the sons of men” (Ps 44:3). He is the splendor of the glory of the Father.

Eve, therefore, looked in vain for that which she sought in the fruit of the tree, just as the sinner is disappointed in his sins. We must seek in the Fruit of the womb of the Virgin Mary whatsoever we desire.

This is He who is the Fruit blessed by God, who has filled Him with every grace, which in turn is poured out upon us who adore Him: “Blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with spiritual blessings in Christ” (Eph 1:3).

He, too, is revered by the Angels: “Benediction and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving, honor and power and strength, to our God” (Rev 7:12). And He is glorified by men: “Every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11).

The Blessed Virgin is indeed blessed, but far more blessed is the Fruit of her womb: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Ps 117:26).

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): On the Angelic Salutation.

Andrew of Crete: Sin stripped me of the garment created for me by God Friday, Mar 7 2014 

AndrewofcreteDeliberately have I imitated blood thirsty Cain, O Lord, enlivening my flesh while murdering my soul by striking it with my evil deeds.

I have not resembled Abel in his righteousness, O Jesus, never having offered to You actions worthy of God, pure gifts, an appropriate sacrifice, an unblemished Life.

Like Cain, O my wretched soul, my offering to the Creator of all has been filthy deeds, a polluted sacrifice, and a worthless Life, and like him I now stand condemned.

You formed my flesh and bones as a Potter, O my Creator, my Redeemer and my Judge, by moulding clay into flesh and infusing in it the breath of Life. Accept me now as I return to You.

O my Saviour, I confess the sins which I have committed, the wounds which murderous thoughts, like thieves within me, have inflicted on my soul and body.

Thought I have sinned, O Saviour, I know that in Your love for mankind Your punishment is merciful and Your compassion profound. Seeing my tears You will run to me as the Father calling His lost son.

[…]  Sin stripped me of the garment created for me by God, leaving me in a coat of skin.

Sensing his shame, Adam dressed himself in fig leaves, and like him I now wear a garment of shame which reveals my many passions.

A soiled garment clothes me, one shamefully stained with blood flowing from a Life of passion and love of fleshly things.

I fell beneath the weight of the passions and the corruption of my flesh, and from that moment has the Enemy had power over me.

Instead of seeking poverty of spirit I prefer a Life of greed and self gratification. Therefore, O Saviour, a heavy weight hangs from my neck.

Joseph’s was a splendid coat of many colours, but mine is one of shameful thoughts, which condemns me even as it covers my flesh.

I persist in caring only for my outer garment, while neglecting the temple within me, one made in the image of God.

The woman searched her house for the lost coin until she found it. Now the beauty of my original image is lost, O Saviour, buried in passion. Come and as she did, search to recover it.

Like the prostitute I cry to You, O Saviour, that I have sinned. I alone have sinned against You! But accept my tears as You did hers when she came to anoint Your feet.

Andrew of Crete (c.650-740[?]): from The Great Canon, Tuesday of the First Week, Odes 1 & 2 @ Pravoslavie.

Peter of Damascus: “The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom” Monday, Mar 3 2014 

peter_of_damascusAs David says, ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’.

[…] Our Lord Himself began His teaching by speaking of fear: He says, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’, that is, those who quail with fear of God and are inexpressibly contrite in soul.

For the Lord has established this as the fundamental commandment, since He knows that, without this, even living in heaven would be without benefit to us, because we would still be possessed of the same madness through which the devil, Adam, and many others have fallen.

If, then, we wish to observe the first commandment – that is, to possess fear of the Lord – we should think very carefully about the contingencies of life already described and upon God’s immeasurable and unfathomable blessings.

We should consider how much He has done and continues to do for our sake through things visible and invisible, through commandments and dogmas, threats and promises;

how He guards, nourishes and provides for us, giving us life and saving us from seen and unseen enemies;

how through the prayers and intercessions of His saints, He cures the diseases caused by our own indiscipline;

how He is always long-suffering as regards our sins, our irreverence, our delinquency, all those things we have done, are doing, and will do, from which His grace has saved us;

how we have angered Him with our actions, words and thoughts; and how He not only bears with us, but even bestows greater blessings on us, either He Himself, or acting through the angels, the Scriptures, through righteous men and prophets, apostles and martyrs, teachers and holy fathers.

Moreover, we should not only recall the sufferings and struggles of the saints and martyrs, but should also reflect with wonder on the self-abasement of our Lord Jesus Christ:

how He lived in the world, His spotless Passion, the Cross, His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, the advent of the Holy Spirit, His ineffable miracles which are always occurring, every day, paradise, the crowns, the adoption that He has accorded us, and all the things contained in Holy Scripture and so much else.

If we bring all this to mind, we will be overwhelmed at God’s compassion, and with trembling will marvel at His forbearance and patience.

We will grieve because of what our nature has lost – the dispassion of the angels, paradise and all the blessings which we have forfeited – and because of the evils into which we have fallen: demons, passions and sins.

In this way our soul will be filled with contrition, realizing all the evils which have been caused by our wickedness and the cunning of the demons.

Peter of Damascus (?12th Century): A Treasury of Divine Knowledge  @ Pemptousia.

Elder Sophrony: Adam’s Sin was a Movement towards Self-Divinisation Sunday, Mar 2 2014 

SophronyThe tragedy of our times lies in our almost complete unawareness, or unmindfulness, that there are two kingdoms, the temporal and the eternal.

We would build the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, rejecting all idea of resurrection or eternity. Resurrection is a myth. God is dead.

Let us go back to Biblical revelation, to the creation of Adam and Eve and the problem of original sin. ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5).

The commandment given to the first-called in Paradise indicates this and at the same time conveys that, although Adam possessed absolute freedom of choice, to choose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would entail a break with God as the sole source of life.

By opting for knowledge of evil-in other words, by existentially associating with evil, by savouring evil-Adam inevitably broke with God, Who can in no way be joined with evil (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14-15).

In breaking with God, Adam dies. ‘In the day that thou eatest there­of,’ thus parting company with me, rejecting my love, my word, my will, ‘thou shalt surely die’ (Gen. 2:17).

Exactly how Adam ‘tasted’ the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not important. His sin was to doubt God, to seek to determine his own life independently of God, even apart from Him, after the pattern of Lucifer.

Herein lies the essence of Adam’s sin – it was a movement towards self-divinisation.

Adam could naturally wish for deification – he had been created after the likeness of God – but he sinned in seeking this divinisation not through unity with God but through rupture.

The serpent beguiled Eve, the helpmeet God had made for Adam, by suggesting that God was introducing a  prohibition which would restrict their freedom to seek divine plenitude of knowledge – that God was unwilling for them to ‘be as gods knowing good and evil’ (Gen. 3:5).

I first met with the notion of tragedy, not in life but in literature. The seeds of tragedy, it seemed to me in my youth, are sown when a man finds himself wholly captivated by some ideal. To attain this ideal he is ready to risk any sacrifice, any suffering, even life itself.

But if he happens to achieve the object of his striving, it proves to be an impudent chimera: the reality does not correspond to what he had in mind. This sad discovery leads to profound despair, a wounded spirit, a monstrous death.

[…] The fate of the world troubled me profoundly. Human life at whatever stage was unavoidably interlinked with suffering. Even love was full of contradictions and bitter crises. The seal of destruc­tion lay everywhere.

Elder Sophrony (1896-1993; Orthodox): from His Life Is Mine, London 1977, p. 37-40 @ Pemptousia.

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