Leo the Great: The form of the divine goodness reflected in us as in a mirror Monday, Nov 30 2015 

leo1If, dearly beloved, we comprehend faithfully and wisely the beginning of our creation, we shall find that man was made in God’s image, to the end that he might imitate his Creator, and that our race attains its highest natural dignity, by the form of the Divine goodness being reflected in us, as in a mirror.

And assuredly to this form the Saviour’s grace is daily restoring us, so long as that which, in the first Adam fell, is raised up again in the second.

And the cause of our restoration is naught else but the mercy of God, Whom we should not have loved, unless He had first loved us, and dispelled the darkness of our ignorance by the light of His truth.

And the Lord foretelling this by the holy Isaiah says, “I will bring the blind into a way that they knew not, and will make them walk in paths which they were ignorant of.  I will turn darkness into light for them, and the crooked into the straight.  These words will I do for them, and not forsake them” (Is. 42:16).

And again he says, “I was found by them that sought Me not, and openly appeared to them that asked not for Me” (Isaiah 65:1).

And the Apostle John teaches us how this has been fulfilled, when he says, “We know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and may be in Him that is true, even His Son” (1 John 5:20), and again, “let us therefore love God, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Thus it is that God, by loving us, restores us to His image, and, in order that He may find in us the form of His goodness, He gives us that whereby we ourselves too may do the work that He does, kindling that is the lamps of our minds, and inflaming us with the fire of His love, that we may love not only Himself, but also whatever He loves.

For if between men that is the lasting friendship which is based upon similarity of character notwithstanding that such identity of wills is often directed to wicked ends, how ought we to yearn and strive to differ in nothing from what is pleasing to God.

Of which the prophet speaks, “for wrath is in His indignation, and life in His pleasure” (Ps. 29:5 (LXX), because we shall not otherwise attain the dignity of the Divine Majesty, unless we imitate His will.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 12:1.

Cyril of Alexandria: His second advent from heaven will not happen secretly as did His coming at first Sunday, Nov 29 2015 

cyril_alexandriaOn Luke 21:5-13.

From Christ we have received the knowledge of things about to happen.

For it is even He Who “reveals the deep things out of darkness,” and knows those that are hidden.

And “in Him are all the treasures of wisdom, and the hidden things of knowledge.”

He changes times and seasons: and refashions the creation to that which it was at the beginning.

For it was by His means that, when it existed not, it was brought into existence according to the will of God the Father. For He is His living and personal power and wisdom.

And again by His means it will easily be changed into that which is better. For as His disciple says, “We expect new heavens, and a new earth, and His promises.”

[…] Before the advent of Christ the Saviour of us all from heaven, various false christs and false prophets will appear preceding Him, falsely assuming to themselves His person, and coming into the world like eddies of smoke springing up from a fire about to break forth.

“But follow them not,” He says. For the Only-begotten Word of God consented to take upon Him our likeness, and to endure the birth in the flesh of a woman, in order that He might save all under heaven.

And this to Him was an emptying of Himself, and a humiliation. For what is the measure of humanity compared with the divine and supreme majesty and glory?

As one therefore Who had humbled Himself to emptiness, He deigned to remain unknown, even charging the holy apostles before His precious Cross that they should not reveal Him.

For it was necessary that the manner of His dispensation in the flesh should remain hid, that by enduring as a man for our sakes even the precious Cross, He might abolish death, and drive away Satan from his tyranny over us all.

For, as Paul says; “The wisdom that was in Christ, by which is meant that which is by Christ, none of the rulers of this world knew: for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

It was necessary therefore that He should remain unknown during the time that preceded His passion. But His second advent from heaven will not happen secretly as did His coming at first, but will be illustrious and terrible.

For He shall descend with the holy angels guarding Him, and in the glory of God the Father, to judge the world in righteousness. And therefore He says, “when there arise false christs and false prophets, go you not after them.”

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on Luke, Sermon 139 (on Luke 21:5-13).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Henry Newman: Praying for the Coming of Christ Friday, Dec 14 2012 

John_Henry_Newman_by_Sir_John_Everett_MillaisI have an instinct within me which leads me to rise and go to my Father, to name the Name of His well-beloved Son, and having named it, to place myself unreservedly in His hands, saying, “If Thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who may abide it! But there is forgiveness with Thee.”

This is the feeling in which we come to confess our sins, and to pray to God for pardon and grace day by day; and observe, it is the very feeling in which we must prepare to meet Him when He comes visibly.

[…] If indeed we have habitually lived to the world, then truly it is natural we should attempt to fly from Him whom we have pierced. Then may we well call on the mountains to fall on us, and on the hills to cover us.

But if we have lived, however imperfectly, yet habitually, in His fear, if we trust that His Spirit is in us, then we need not be ashamed before Him.

We shall then come before Him, as now we come to pray—with profound abasement, with awe, with self-renunciation, still as relying upon the Spirit which He has given us, with our faculties about us, with a collected and determined mind, and with hope.

He who cannot pray for Christ’s coming, ought not in consistency to pray at all.

[…] Lastly, …  in that solemn hour we shall have, if we be His, the inward support of His Spirit too, carrying us on towards Him, and “witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God.”

God is mysteriously threefold; and while He remains in the highest heaven, He comes to judge the world.

And while He judges the world, He is in us also, bearing us up and going forth in us to meet Himself.

God the Son is without, but God the Spirit is within—and when the Son asks, the Spirit will answer.

That Spirit is vouchsafed to us here; and if we yield ourselves to His gracious influences, so that He draws up our thoughts and wills to heavenly things, and becomes one with us, He will assuredly be still in us and give us confidence at the Day of Judgment.

He will be with us, and strengthen us; and how great His strength is, what mind of man can conceive?

Gifted with that supernatural strength, we may be able to lift up our eyes to our Judge when He looks on us, and look on Him in turn, though with deep awe, yet without confusion of face, as if in the consciousness of innocence.

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890): Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. 5, Sermon 4: Shrinking from Christ’s Coming.

Guerric of Igny: Christ – the Way by which We Journey and the Eternity which is Our Journey’s End Monday, Dec 10 2012 

GuerricBe ready to go and meet the Lord, O Israel, for he is coming. You too must be ready, for at a time when you do not expect it the Son of Man will come.

Nothing is more certain than that he is coming, nothing more uncertain than when he is coming.

So far is it from being our province to know the times and seasons which the Father has appointed by his own authority, that not even to the angels who stand in his presence is it granted to know that day and hour.

As for our own last day, it is most sure that this will come upon us, but most unsure when, or where, or from what quarter it will come.

[…] There is only one security, and that is never to feel secure. Thus our fear, prompting us to watch ourselves carefully, keeps us always prepared until fear gives way to security, not security to fear.

How beautiful a thing it is, how blessed, not merely to face death without anxiety, but through the testimony of a good conscience to triumph gloriously in it!

[…] It belongs to our human condition, I know, to quail before the wrench of death, since even the perfect are unwilling to have the old body stripped off and would rather wish to have the new body put on over it.

[…] Yet whether my distress arises from my human feelings or from my falling short in holiness or from my fear of judgment, I can say with the righteous psalmist:

You, O Lord, will be mindful of your mercy; you will display your tender love and faithfulness and snatch my soul from the midst of the young lions.

Then after my dismay sleep will come at once and I shall find rest.

Do you, then, Lord, rise up to meet me as I run to meet you. Since I have not the strength to scale your summits unless you stretch out your right hand to me whom your hands have made, rise to meet me, and see whether there is any sinful way in me.

If you find any sinful way at all, then take it from me; grant me the grace to live by your law and lead me in the way of eternity, that is, in Christ who is the way by which we journey and the eternity which is our journey’s end: an undefiled way and a blessed dwelling place.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 3 on Advent 3.5 (PL 185, 18-20), from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Saturday of the First Week in Advent, Year 1.

Aelred of Rievaulx: In Advent We Inflame Our Souls with Love and Longing for Christ Monday, Dec 3 2012 

Aelred of RievaulxThe present holy season which we call Advent directs our thoughts to our Lord’s twofold coming.

[…] Advent calls to mind the two comings of our Lord.

The first is the coming of the fairest of the sons of men and the desire of all nations, so long awaited and so fervently prayed for by all the fathers when the Son of God graciously revealed to the world his visible presence in the flesh, that is to say when he came into the world to save sinners;

The other is that second coming to which we look forward no less than did our fathers of old.

[…] To speak more precisely, however, the day we are shortly to celebrate in memory of our Lord’s birth brings him before us as a newborn child – that is to say it more expressly signifies the day and the hour when he first came into the world.

Whereas the season we keep beforehand represents him to us as the longed-for Messiah, and reminds us of the yearning that filled the hearts of those holy fathers of ours who lived before his coming.

How beautifully then at this season the Church provides that we should recite the words and recall the longing of those who lived before our Lord’s first advent!

Nor do we commemorate that desire of theirs for a single day, but share it so to speak for a long period of time, because when something we greatly love and long for is deferred for a while it usually seems sweeter to us when it does arrive.

It is our duty then to follow the example and recall the longing of the holy fathers and so inflame our own souls with love and longing for Christ.

You must understand that the reason why this season was instituted was to inspire us to remember the desire of our holy fathers for our Lord’s first coming, and through their example learn to have a great longing for the day when he will come again.

We should consider how much good our Lord did us by his first coming, and how much more he will do for us by his second.

This thought will help us to have a great love for that first coming of his and a great longing for his return.

And if our conscience is not so perfect that we dare entertain such a desire, we ought at least to fear his second coming and by means of that fear to correct our faults, so that if perhaps we cannot help being afraid here and now, we shall at least be secure and fearless when he comes again.          

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): Sermo 1 in Adventu Domini 1-6 (CCCM IIA);  from the Monastic Office of Vigils, 1st Sunday in Advent, Year 1.

Bernard of Clairvaux: Enter into Your Own Soul and You will Find Him Sunday, Dec 5 2010 

It was at this point that the Son of God announced: See, I am coming!

[…] You already know who it is that comes, where he comes from and to whom, together with the why, the wherefore, and the when.

The one thing still to learn is the road by which he comes, and this we must diligently search out so that we can run to meet him and give him a fitting welcome.

However, just as he once came on earth in the flesh to accomplish our salvation, so he comes daily in the spirit to save each individual soul; the difference is that his first coming was visible to the eye, whereas the second is unseen.

As Scripture says: Christ the Lord is the breath of life to us, and the hidden nature of this spiritual coming is shown in the continuation of the same text: Under his shadow we shall live among the nations.

For this reason, even if you are too sick to go very far to meet the Lord, it is appropriate for you to respond to the great physician’s visit by making an effort at least to raise your head and lift yourself up a little to greet him on his arrival.

The road pointed out to you is not a long one; you do not have to cross the seas or pierce the clouds or climb mountains to meet your God.

Enter into your own soul and you will find him, for his word is near you; it is on your lips and in your heart.

Go down deep into your heart until you are stirred to compunction; make your confession, and so at least turn your back on a conscience so defiled as to be unworthy of entertaining the author of purity.

These are the thoughts I put before you in respect to the coming of our Lord to each individual soul and the enlightenment his powerful presence brings us.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermon 1 On the Advent of the Lord, 9-10, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Monday of the Second Week of Advent Year I.

Cyril of Alexandria: Prepare the Way of the Lord Sunday, Dec 6 2009 

Luke 3:4 “Prepare ye the ways of the Lord, make His paths straight.”

John, being chosen for the Apostleship, was also the last of the holy prophets: for which reason, as the Lord was not yet come, he says, Prepare ye the way of the Lord.

And what is the meaning of “Prepare ye the way of the Lord?”

It stands for “Make ready for the reception of whatever Christ may wish to enact: withdraw your hearts from the shadow of the law: cease from the types: think no more perversely”.

“Make the paths of our God straight”. For every path that leads unto good is straight and smooth and easy: but the other is crooked that leads down to wickedness them that walk therein. For of such it is written, “Whose paths are crooked, and the tracks of their wheels awry”.

Straightforwardness therefore of the mind is as it were a straight path, having no crookedness. Such was the divine Psalmist’s character, who thus sings, “A crooked heart hath not cleaved unto me”.

And Jesus, the son of Nun, in exhorting the people, said, “Make straight your hearts unto the God of Israel”; while John cries, “Make straight your ways”.

And this means, that the soul must be straight, displaying its natural intuition as it was created: and it was created beautiful and very straight. But when it turns aside, and its natural state is perverted, this is called vice, and the perversion of the soul.

The matter therefore is not very difficult: for if we continue as we are made, we shall be virtuous.

But when some one, as it were, exclaims against us, saying, How shall we prepare the way of the Lord? or how make His paths straight? for there are many impediments in the way of those that will live well –

Satan, who hates all that is beautiful, the unholy throng of wicked spirits, the law of sin itself that is in our fleshly members, and which arms itself against the inclinations of the mind to what is good, and many other passions besides, that have mastery over the mind of man.

What then shall we do, with so great difficulty pressing upon us? The word of prophecy meets these objections, saying, “Every valley shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked way shall become straight, and the rough ways shall become smooth: and all flesh shall see the salvation of God”.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on Luke, Sermon 6 [on Luke3:4].