Anastasius of Sinai: Cry Out with the Priest who is Struggling for You Wednesday, Feb 26 2014 

Anastasios-of-SinaiSince the Priest is a mediator between God and man and offers sacrifice to God for the remission of the sins of the multitude, consider how he fortifies everyone in advance and bears witness, as if saying words such as these to the people:

Since you have established me, O my people, as a mediator before God on your behalf at this mystical Table, I implore you, be as zealous as I am.

Refrain from all worldly thoughts. Forsake every bodily care. It is time for fervent prayer, not for idle pursuits.

Hear what the Deacon exclaims to you, when he says: Let us stand well, let us stand with fear.

Let us be attentive to the holy Oblation, let us incline our necks, let us restrain our minds, let us hold our tongues, let us give wings to our minds, and let us ascend to Heaven.

Let us lift up our minds and hearts, let us raise the eye of our soul up to God, let us traverse Heaven, let us go past the Angels, let us go past the Cherubim, and let us run to the very Throne of the Master, let us grasp Christ’s immaculate feet themselves, let us weep, let us, as it were, compel Him to be compassionate, and let us give thanks in the holy, heavenly, and ethereal Sanctuary.

The Priest affirms these things to us when he says: Let us lift up our hearts. What do we then say in response to these words? We lift them up unto the Lord.

What are you saying? What are you doing? Our minds are distracted by corruptible and transient things, and they devote themselves to vanities, possessions, pleasures, and court cases.

And you say: I lift it [my heart] up unto the Lord? Make sure, I beseech you, that you have your heart elevated to the Lord, and not lowered to the devil.

What are you doing, O man? The Priest is offering the bloodless Sacrifice to the Master for your sake, and you view it with disdain?

The Priest is struggling for your sake. Standing before the Altar as if before a dread tribunal, he implores and urges that the Grace of the Holy Spirit might come down to you from on high, and you take no thought for your own salvation?

Do not carry on like this, I beg you. Abandon this evil and vain habit. Cry out with the Priest who is struggling for you, toil with him who prays for you.

Offer yourself for your salvation: The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (St. James 5:16). It will be effectual if you struggle together with the Priest and manifest the fruits of repentance.

Anastasius of Sinai (7th Century): A Homily on the Holy Eucharist and on Not Judging Others or Remembering Wrongs, PG 89, 825A-849C @ OCIC.

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Leo the Great: Christ Shared His Victory with Those in Whose Body He had Triumphed Monday, Jul 22 2013 

leo1As it cannot be denied that “the Word became flesh and dwelt in us” (John 1:14), so it cannot be denied that “God was in Christ , reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19).

But what reconciliation can there be, whereby God might look favourably on the human race, unless the mediator between God and man took up the cause of all?

And in what way could He properly fulfil His mediation, unless He who in the form of God was equal to the Father, were a sharer of our nature also in the form of a slave?

This was necessary so that the one new Man might effect a renewal of the old,  and the bond of death fastened on us by one man’s wrongdoing might be loosened by the death of the one Man who alone owed nothing to death.

For the pouring out of the blood of the righteous on behalf of the unrighteous was so powerful in its effect, and so rich a ransom, that, if the whole body of us prisoners only believed in their Redeemer, not one would be held in the tyrant’s bonds.

As the Apostle says, “where sin abounded, grace also did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). And since we, who were born under the imputation of sin, have received the power of a new birth unto righteousness, the gift of liberty has become stronger than the debt of slavery.

What hope then do they, who deny the reality of the human person in our Saviour’s body, leave for themselves in the efficacy of this mystery?  Let them say by what sacrifice they have been reconciled, by what blood-shedding brought back.

Who is He “who gave Himself for us an offering and a victim to God for a sweet smell” (Eph. 5:2); or what sacrifice was ever more hallowed than that which the true High priest placed upon the altar of the Cross by the immolation of His own flesh?

[…] One alone among the sons of men, our Lord Jesus Christ, stands out as One in whom all are crucified, all dead, all buried, all raised again.  Of them He Himself said “when I am lifted from the earth, I will draw all things unto Me” (John 12:32).

True faith also, that justifies the transgressors and makes them just, is drawn to Him who shared their human natures and wins salvation in Him, in whom alone man finds himself not guilty.

Thus true faith is free to glory in the power of Him who in the humiliation of our flesh engaged in conflict with the haughty foe, and shared His victory with those in whose body He had triumphed.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Letter 124, 3-4.

Augustine of Hippo: You Are the Body of Christ and Its Members Saturday, Jul 20 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaWhat you can see on the altar, you also saw last night; but what it was, what it meant, of what great reality it contained the Sacrament, you had not yet heard.

So what you can see, then, is bread and a cup; that’s what even your eyes tell you; but as for what your faith asks to be instructed about: the bread is the body of Christ, the cup the blood of Christ.

It took no time to say that, and, perhaps, that may be enough for faith; but faith desires instruction.

The Prophet says, you see, Unless you believe, you shall not understand. I mean, you can now say to me, “You’ve bidden us believe; now explain, so that we may understand.”

Some such thought as this, after all, may cross somebody’s mind…: “Our Lord Jesus Christ…rose again on the third day, on the day he wished ascended into heaven.

“That’s where he lifted his body up to; that’s where he’s going to come from to judge the living and the dead; that’s where he is now, seated on the Father’s right.

“How can bread be his body? And the cup, or what the cup contains, how can it be his blood?”

The reason these things, brethren, are called Sacraments is that in them one thing is seen, another is to be understood. What can be seen has a bodily appearance, what is to be understood provides spiritual fruit.

So if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the Apostle telling the faithful: You are the body of Christ and its members.

So if it’s you that are the body of Christ and its members, it’s the mystery meaning you that has been placed on the table of the Lord; what you receive is the mystery that means you.

It is to what you are that you reply Amen, and by so replying you express your assent.

What you hear, then, is The body of Christ, and you answer, Amen. So be a member of the body of Christ, in order to make that Amen true.

[…] When you were baptised it’s as though you were mixed into dough. When you received the fire of the Holy Spirit, it’s as though you were baked. Be what you can see, and receive what you are.

[…] It’s the same with the wine. Just remind yourselves, brethren, what wine is made from; many grapes hang in the bunch, but the juice of the grapes is poured together in one vessel.

That too is how the Lord Christ signified us, how he wished us to belong to him, how he consecrated the Sacrament of our peace and unity on his table.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Sermon 272 – On the Day of Pentecost; from The Works of Saint Augustine, a Translation for the 21st Century: Sermons 230-272B (III/7) (on the Liturgical Seasons), translated by Edmund Hill, O.P. and the Monastic Office of Vigils, Thursday of the 7th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Andrew of Crete: The great mystery Wednesday, Jul 10 2013 

Andrewofcreteτο μεγα μυστηριον.

O the mystery, passing wonder,
When, reclining at the board,
“Eat,” Thou saidst to thy disciples,
“That True Bread with quickening stored:
Drink in faith the healing chalice
From a dying God outpoured.”

Then the glorious upper chamber
A celestial tent was made,
When the bloodless rite was offered,
And the soul’s true service paid,
And the table of the feasters
As an altar stood displayed.

Christ is now our mighty Pascha,
Eaten for our mystic bread:
Take we of his broken body,
Drink we of the blood he shed,
As a lamb led out to slaughter,
And for this world offerèd.

To the Twelve spake Truth eternal,
To the branches spake the Vine:
“Never more from this day forward
Shall I taste again this wine,
Till I drink it in the kingdom
Of my Father, and with mine.”

Thou hast stretched those hands for silver
That had held the immortal food;
With those lips that late had tasted
Of the body and the blood,
Thou hast given the kiss, O Judas;
Thou hast heard the woe bestowed.

Christ to all the world gives banquet
On that most celestial meat:
Him, albeit with lips all earthly,
Yet with holy hearts we greet:
Him, the sacrificial Pascha,
Priest and Victim all complete.

Andrew of Crete (c.650-740[?]): Stichera for Great Thursday, translated by John Mason Neale (1818-1866) in Hymns of the Eastern Church.

Leo the Great: The Cross of Christ was the Altar not of the Temple but of the World Friday, Mar 22 2013 

leo1And so the Lord was handed over…, and, in mockery of His kingly state, ordered to be the bearer of His own instrument of death.

This was so that what Isaiah the prophet foresaw might be fulfilled, saying, “Behold a Child is born, and a Son is given to us whose government is upon His shoulders.”

When, therefore, the Lord carried the wood of the cross which should turn for Him into the sceptre of power, it was indeed in the eyes of the wicked a mighty mockery.

But, to the faithful, a mighty mystery was set forth, seeing that He, the glorious vanquisher of the Devil, and the strong defeater of the powers that were against Him, was carrying in noble sort the trophy of His triumph, and on the shoulders of His unconquered patience bore into all realms the adorable sign of salvation.

This was…to confirm all His followers by this mere symbol of His work, and say, “He that taketh not his cross and followeth Me, is not worthy of Me.”

But as the multitudes went with Jesus to the place of punishment, a certain Simon of Cyrene was found on whom to lay the wood of the cross instead of the Lord.

This act pre-signified the Gentiles’ faith, to whom the cross of Christ was to be not shame but glory.

It was not accidental, therefore, but symbolical and mystical, that while the Jews were raging against Christ, a foreigner was found to share His sufferings, as the Apostle says, “if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him”.

This happened so that no Hebrew nor Israelite, but a stranger, was substituted for the Saviour in His most holy degradation.

For by this transference the propitiation of the spotless Lamb and the fulfilment of all mysteries passed from the circumcision to the uncircumcision, from the sons according to the flesh to the sons according to the spirit,

For, as the Apostle says, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.”

Offering Himself to the Father a new and true sacrifice of reconciliation, He was crucified not in the temple, whose worship was now at an end, and not within the confines of the city which for its sin was doomed to be destroyed, but outside, “without the camp.”

This took place so that, on the cessation of the old symbolic victims, a new Victim might be placed on a new altar, and the cross of Christ might be the altar not of the temple but of the world.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 59, 4-5.

Robert Hugh Benson: Mary Magdalen and the Risen Jesus Tuesday, Apr 10 2012 

“Mary!”

“Rabboni!”

But there is still one more lesson for her to learn.

As she throws herself forward, speechless with love and desire, to grasp His Feet

– to assure herself even by touch that it is these same feet indeed which she kissed in the Pharisee’s house, and on the Cross of Calvary

– that it is Himself, and no phantom

– He moves back from her.

“Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father.”

“Do not touch me.” . . .

That Friendship is not what it used to be: it is infinitely higher.

It is not what it seemed to be, since the limitations of that Sacred Humanity are gone

– those limitations by which It was here and not there; by which It could suffer and grow weary and hunger and weep

– limitations that endeared It to Its lovers, since they could indeed minister to It, comfort It, and hold It up.

And Its expansion in Glory is not yet consummated – “I am not yet ascended to my Father” –

that expansion of the Ascension and the Nine Days’ Journey through the Heavenly Hierarchy, from the position “a little lower than the angels” to the Session and Coronation at the right Hand of the Majesty on high

– that expansion of which the Descent of the Holy Ghost is the expression, and the Sacramental Presence of that same Humanity on a hundred altars the result.

And then, Mary, the Friendship shall be given back in “good measure and pressed down and shaken together and running over.”

Then that which thou hast known on earth confined by time and space shall be given back to touch and handling once more.

Again thy Friend shall be thine own.

The Creator of Nature shall be present in that Nature, unlimited by its limitations.

He who took Humanity shall be present in Humanity.

He who spoke on earth “as one having authority” shall speak again in the same accent.

He who healed the sick shall heal them in the Gate called Beautiful; He who raised the dead shall raise Dorcas in Joppa; He who called Peter in Galilee, shall call Paul in Damascus.

A Friend again He shall be, as never before: a Creature exercising the power of the Creator: a Creator clothed with the sympathy of the Creature; God suffering on earth, and Man reigning in Heaven.

But a Friend, first and last, in Alpha and Omega; a Friend who has died in the humiliation of Friendship; who has risen and reigns in its Eternal Power.

Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914): The Friendship of Christ, chapter13.

Alphonsus Liguori: “You shall Draw Waters with Joy out of the Saviour’s Fountains” Monday, Aug 1 2011 

Behold the source of every good, Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament, who says If any man thirst, let him come to Me (John 2:27).

Oh, what torrents of grace have the saints drawn from the fountain of the Most Blessed Sacrament!

For there Jesus dispenses all the merits of his Passion, as it was foretold by the Prophet: You shall draw waters with joy out of the Saviour’s fountains (Isaiah 12:3).

The Countess of Feria…on being asked how she employed the many hours thus passed in the presence of the Holy of Holies, answered:

“I could remain there for all eternity. And is not there present the very essence of God, who will be the food of the blessed?

“Am I asked what I do in his presence? Why am I not rather asked, what is not done there? “We love, we ask, we praise, we give thanks. We ask, what does a poor man do in the presence of one who is rich? What does a sick man do in the presence of his physician?

“What does a man do who is parched with thirst in the presence of a clear fountain? What is the occupation of one who is starving, and is placed before a splendid table?”

O my most amiable, most sweet, most beloved Jesus, my life, my hope, my treasure, the only love of my soul; oh, what has it cost Thee to remain thus with us in this Sacrament!

Thou hadst to die, that Thou mightest thus dwell amongst us on our altars; and then, how many insults hast Thou not had to endure in this Sacrament, in order to aid us by Thy presence!

Thy love, and the desire which Thou hast to be loved by us, have conquered all.

Come then, O Lord! Come and take possession of my heart; close its doors forever, that henceforward no creature may enter there, to divide the love which is due to Thee, and which it is my ardent desire to bestow all on Thee.

Do Thou alone, my dear Redeemer, rule me; do Thou alone possess my whole being.

[…] Grant that I may no longer seek for any other pleasure than that of giving Thee pleasure; that all my pleasure may be to visit Thee often on Thy altar.

[…] Let all who will, seek other treasures; the only treasure that I love, the only one that I desire, is that of Thy love; for this only will I ask at the foot of the altar.

Do Thou make me forget myself, that thus I may only remember Thy goodness.

Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787): The Holy Eucharist, pp. 127-128.

Peter Chrysologus: Let Your Heart be an Altar Tuesday, May 17 2011 

Listen now to what the Apostle urges us to do: I appeal to you, he says, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.

By this exhortation of his, Paul has raised all men to priestly status.

How marvellous is the priesthood of the Christian, for he is both the victim that is offered on his own behalf, and the priest who makes the offering.

He does not need to go beyond himself to seek what he is to immolate to God: with himself and in himself he brings the sacrifice he is to offer God for himself.

The victim remains and the priest remains, always one and the same.

Immolated, the victim still lives: the priest who immolates cannot kill.

Truly it is an amazing sacrifice in which a body is offered without being slain and blood is offered without being shed.

The Apostle says: I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.

Brethren, this sacrifice follows the pattern of Christ’s sacrifice by which he gave his body as a living immolation for the life of the world.

He really made his body a living sacrifice, because, though slain, he continues to live.

In such a victim death receives its ransom, but the victim remains alive.

Death itself suffers the punishment.

This is why death for the martyrs is actually a birth, and their end a beginning.

Their execution is the door to life, and those who were thought to have been blotted out from the earth shine brilliantly in heaven.

Paul says: I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a sacrifice, living and holy.

The prophet said the same thing: Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but you have prepared a body for me.

Each of us is called to be both a sacrifice to God and his priest.

Do not forfeit what divine authority confers on you.

Put on the garment of holiness, gird yourself with the belt of chastity.

Let Christ be your helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection.

Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that he himself has given you.

Keep burning continually the sweet smelling incense of prayer.

Take up the sword of the Spirit. Let your heart be an altar.

Then, with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice.

God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for self-surrender.

God is appeased not by slaughter, but by the offering of your free will.

Peter Chrysologus (c.380 – c.450): Sermon 108, from the Office of Readings for Tuesday of the 4th week of Easter, @ Crossroads Initiative.

Augustine of Hippo: Prayer Offered in Holiness from a Faithful Heart Rises like Incense from a Holy Altar Wednesday, Mar 16 2011 

Lord, I have cried to you, hear me. (Ps. 140:1)  This is a prayer we can all say.

This is not my prayer, but that of the whole Christ. Rather, it is said in the name of his body.

When Christ was on earth he prayed in his human nature, and prayed to the Father in the name of his body, and when he prayed drops of blood flowed from his whole body.

So it is written in the Gospel: Jesus prayed with earnest prayer, and sweated blood (Lk 22:44).

What is this blood streaming from his whole body but the martyrdom of the whole Church?

Lord, I have cried to you, hear me; listen to the sound of my prayer, when I call upon you.

Did you imagine that crying was over when you said: I have cried to you? You have cried out, but do not as yet feel free from care.

If anguish is at an end, crying is at an end; but if the Church, the body of Christ, must suffer anguish until the end of time, it must not say only: I have cried to you, hear me.

It must also say: Listen to the sound of my prayer, when I call upon you. Let my prayer rise like incense in your sight; let the raising of my hands be an evening sacrifice. (Ps 140:2)

This is generally understood of Christ, the head, as every Christian acknowledges.

When day was fading into evening, the Lord laid down his life on the cross, to take it up again; he did not lose his life against his will.

Here, too, we are symbolised. What part of him hung on the cross if not the part he had received from us?

How could God the Father ever cast off and abandon his only Son, who is indeed one God with him?

Yet Christ, nailing our weakness to the cross (where, as the Apostle says: Our old nature was nailed to the cross with him), cried out with the very voice of humanity: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mk 15:34)

The evening sacrifice is then the passion of the Lord, the cross of the Lord, the oblation of the victim that brings salvation, the holocaust acceptable to God.

In his resurrection he made this evening sacrifice a morning sacrifice. Prayer offered in holiness from a faithful heart rises like incense from a holy altar.

Nothing is more fragrant than the fragrance of the Lord. May all who believe share in this fragrance.

Therefore, our old nature in the words of the Apostle, was nailed to the cross with him, in order, as he says, to destroy our sinful body, so that we may be slaves to sin no longer.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Commentary on Psalm 140 [141], taken from the Office of Readings for Tuesday of the 2nd week in Lent @ Crossroads Initiative.

Leo the Great: Unblemished Victims on the Altar of One’s Heart Wednesday, Nov 10 2010 

Although the universal Church of God is constituted of distinct orders of members, still, in spite of the many parts of its holy body, the Church subsists as an integral whole, just as the Apostle says: We are all one in Christ.

No difference in office is so great that anyone can be separated, through lowliness, from the head. In the unity of faith and baptism, therefore, our community is undivided.

There is a common dignity, as the apostle Peter says in these words: And you are built up as living stones into spiritual houses, a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

And again: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart.

For all, regenerated in Christ, are made kings by the sign of the cross; they are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy Spirit, so that beyond the special service of our ministry as priests, all spiritual and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and are sharers in the office of the priesthood.

For what is more king-like than to find yourself ruler over your body after having surrendered your soul to God? And what is more priestly than to promise the Lord a pure conscience and to offer him in love unblemished victims on the altar of one’s heart?

Because, through the grace of God, it is a deed accomplished universally on behalf of all, it is altogether praiseworthy and in keeping with a religious attitude for you to rejoice in this our day of consecration, to consider it a day when we are especially honoured.

For indeed one sacramental priesthood is celebrated throughout the entire body of the Church. The oil which consecrates us has richer effects in the higher grades, yet it is not sparingly given in the lower.

Sharing in this office, my dear brethren, we have solid ground for a common rejoicing; yet there will be more genuine and excellent reason for joy if you do not dwell on the thought of our unworthiness.

It is more helpful and more suitable to turn your thoughts to study the glory of the blessed apostle Peter. We should celebrate this day above all in honour of him.

He overflowed with abundant riches from the very source of all graces, yet though he alone received much, nothing was given over to him without his sharing it.

The Word made flesh lived among us, and in redeeming the whole human race, Christ gave himself entirely.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 4, 1-2; taken from the Office of Readings for the memorial of St. Leo on November 10 at Crossroads Initiative.

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