Basil the Great: The gospel is a forecast of the life that follows on the resurrection Tuesday, May 10 2016 

St-Basil-the-GreatContinued from here….

We do not…wash ourselves at each defilement, but own the baptism of salvation to be one.

For there the death on behalf of the world is one, and one the resurrection of the dead, whereof baptism is a type.

For this cause the Lord, who is the Dispenser of our life, gave us the covenant of baptism, containing a type of life and death, for the water fulfils the image of death, and the Spirit gives us the earnest of life.

Hence it follows that the answer to our question why the water was associated with the Spirit is clear.

The reason is because in baptism two ends were proposed; on the one hand, the destroying of the body of sin, that it may never bear fruit unto death; on the other hand, our living unto the Spirit, and having our fruit in holiness.

The water receiving the body as in a tomb figures death, while the Spirit pours in the quickening power, renewing our souls from the deadness of sin unto their original life.

This then is what it is to be born again of water and of the Spirit, the being made dead being effected in the water, while our life is wrought in us through the Spirit.

In three immersions, then, and with three invocations, the great mystery of baptism is performed, to the end that the type of death may be fully figured, and that by the handing-over of the divine knowledge the baptized may have their souls enlightened.

It follows that if there is any grace in the water, it is not of the nature of the water, but of the presence of the Spirit. For baptism is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God (1 Peter 3:21).

So, in training us for the life that follows on the resurrection, the Lord sets out all the manner of life required by the Gospel, laying down for us the law of gentleness, of endurance of wrong, of freedom from the defilement that comes of the love of pleasure, and from covetousness, to the end that we may of set purpose win beforehand and achieve all that the life to come of its inherent nature possesses.

If therefore any one in attempting a definition were to describe the gospel as a forecast of the life that follows on the resurrection, he would not seem to me to go beyond what is meet and right.

Basil the Great (330-379): On the Holy Spirit 15, 35 [slightly adapted].

Basil the Great: A return from the alienation caused by disobedience to close communion with God Friday, Apr 8 2016 

St-Basil-the-GreatThe dispensation of our God and Saviour concerning man is a recall from the fall and a return from the alienation caused by disobedience to close communion with God.

This is the reason for the sojourn of Christ in the flesh, the pattern life described in the Gospels, the sufferings, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection; so that the man who is being saved through imitation of Christ receives that old adoption.

For perfection of life the imitation of Christ is necessary, not only in the example of gentleness, lowliness, and long suffering set us in His life, but also of His actual death.

So Paul, the imitator of Christ, says, being made conformable unto his death: “if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

How then are we made “in the likeness of His death” (Romans 6:4-5)? In that we were buried with Him by baptism.

What then is the manner of the burial? And what is the advantage resulting from the imitation?

First of all, it is necessary that the continuity of the old life be cut. And this is impossible less a man be born again, according to the Lord’s word (John 3:3), for the regeneration, as indeed the name shows, is a beginning of a second life. So before beginning the second, it is necessary to put an end to the first.

For just as in the case of runners who turn and take the second course, a kind of halt and pause intervenes between the movements in the opposite direction, so also in making a change in lives it seemed necessary for death to come as mediator between the two, ending all that goes before, and beginning all that comes after.

How then do we achieve the descent into hell? By imitating, through baptism, the burial of Christ. For the bodies of the baptized are, as it were, buried in the water.

Baptism then symbolically signifies the putting off of the works of the flesh; as the apostle says, “you were circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; buried with him in baptism” (Colossians 2:11-12).

And there is, as it were, a cleansing of the soul from the filth that has grown on it from the carnal mind, as it is written, You shall wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (Psalm 50:7).

Basil the Great (330-379): On the Holy Spirit 15,35.

Cyril of Jerusalem: “I fear your power no longer, for Christ has overthrown it” Friday, Mar 18 2016 

Cyril-of-JerusalemOn that evening of your baptism you entered into the outer hall of the Baptistry, and there facing toward the west you heard the command to stretch forth your hand, and as in the presence of Satan, you renounced him.

This figure is found in ancient history. For when Pharaoh, that most cruel and ruthless tyrant, oppressed the free and royal people of the Hebrews, God sent Moses to bring them out of the evil grip of the Egyptians.

Then the doorposts were anointed with the blood of the lamb that the destroyer might flee from the houses which had the sign of the blood. And the Hebrew people were marvellously delivered.

The enemy, however, after their rescue, pursued them, and saw the sea wondrously parted for them. Nevertheless he went on, following in their footsteps and was all at once overwhelmed and engulfed in the Red Sea.

Now turn from the ancient to the recent, from the figure to the reality. There, we have Moses sent from God to Egypt; here, Christ sent by his Father into the world.

There, that Moses might lead forth an oppressed people out of Egypt; here, that Christ might rescue mankind who is over­whelmed with sins.

There, the blood of a lamb was the spell against the destroyer; here, the blood of the unblemished Lamb Jesus Christ is made the charm to scare evil spirits.

There, the tyrant pursued even to the sea that ancient people; and in like manner this daring and shameless spirit, the author of evil, followed you, even to the very streams of sal­vation. The tyrant of old was drowned in the sea; and this present one disappears in the saving water.

What then did each of you standing up say? “I renounce Satan”, meaning “I fear your power no longer, for Christ has overthrown it, having partaken with me of flesh and blood, that through these he might by death destroy death that I might not for ever be subject to bondage.

“I renounce you, you crafty and most subtle serpent. I renounce you, plotter as you are, who under the guise of friendship brought about disobe­dience and the apostasy of our first parents. I renounce you, Satan, the source of all wickedness.”

When you renounced Satan, utterly breaking all covenants with him, that ancient connection with hell, there is opened to you the paradise of God, which he planted toward the east, where for his transgression our first father was exiled.

Symbolic of this was your turning from the west to the east, the place of light. Then you were told to say: I believe in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit, and in one baptism ­of repentance.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechesis 19, On the Mysteries 1:1-4.9; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Monday of the Second Week in Lent, Year 2.

Cyril of Alexandria: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; therefore He hath anointed Me: He hath sent Me to preach the Gospel to the poor” Friday, Jan 8 2016 

cyril_alexandriaThe Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; therefore He hath anointed Me: He hath sent Me to preach the Gospel to the poor (Luke 4:13).

He plainly shews by these words that He took upon Him the humiliation and submission to the emptying (of His glory), and both the very name of Christ and the reality for our sakes:

for the Spirit, He says, which by nature is in Me by the sameness of Our substance and deity, also descended upon Me from without.

And so also in the Jordan It came upon Me in the form of a dove, not because It was not in Me, but for the reason for which He anointed Me.

And what was the reason for which He chose to be anointed? It was our being destitute of the Spirit by that denunciation of old, “My Spirit shall not abide in these men, because they are flesh.”

These words the incarnate Word of God speaks: for being very God of very God the Father, and having become for our sakes man without undergoing change, with us He is anointed with the oil of gladness, the Spirit having descended upon Him at the Jordan in the form of a dove.

For in old time both kings and priests were anointed symbolically, gaining thereby a certain measure of sanctification:

but He Who for our sakes became incarnate, was anointed with the spiritual oil of sanctification, and the actual descent of the Spirit, receiving It not for Himself, but for us.

For inasmuch as the Spirit had taken its flight, and not made His abode in us because of our being flesh, the earth was full of grief, being deprived of the participation of God.

And He proclaimed also deliverance to captives, which also He accomplished by having bound the strong one, Satan, who in tyrant fashion lorded it over our race, having torn away from Him us his goods.

As the words “He anointed Me” befit the manhood: for it is not the divine nature which is anointed, but that which is akin to us: so also the words “He sent Me” are to be referred to that which is human.

Those also whose heart was of old obscured by the darkness of the devil, He has illuminated by rising as some Sun of Righteousness, and making them the children no longer of night and darkness, but of light and day, according to Paul’s word: and those who were blind–for the Apostate had blinded their hearts–have recovered their sight, and acknowledged the truth;

and, as Isaiah says, “Their darkness has become light:” that is, the ignorant have become wise: those that once were in error, have known the paths of righteousness.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on Luke, Sermon 12 (on Luke 4:13).

Gregory of Nyssa: Christ is baptized by John that He might He might bring the Spirit from above, and exalt man to heaven Thursday, Jan 7 2016 

Gregory_of_NyssaThe time, then, has come, and bears in its course the remembrance of holy mysteries, purifying man,

—mysteries which purge out from soul and body even that sin which is hard to cleanse away, and which bring us back to that fairness of our first estate which God, the best of artificers, impressed upon us.

Therefore it is that you, the initiated people, are gathered together; and you bring also that people who have not made trial of them, leading, like good fathers, by careful guidance, the uninitiated to the perfect reception of the faith.

I for my part rejoice over both;—over you that are initiated, because you are enriched with a great gift: over you that are uninitiated, because you have a fair expectation of hope

—remission of what is to be accounted for, release from bondage, close relation to God, free boldness of speech, and in place of servile subjection equality with the angels.

For these things, and all that follow from them, the grace of Baptism secures and conveys to us.

[…] Christ, then, was born as it were a few days ago—He Whose generation was before all things, sensible and intellectual.

Today He is baptized by John that He might cleanse him who was defiled, that He might bring the Spirit from above, and exalt man to heaven, that he who had fallen might be raised up and he who had cast him down might be put to shame.

And marvel not if God showed so great earnestness in our cause: for it was with care on the part of him who did us wrong that the plot was laid against us; it is with forethought on the part of our Maker that we are saved.

And he, that evil charmer, framing his new device of sin against our race, drew along his serpent train, a disguise worthy of his own intent, entering in his impurity into what was like himself,—dwelling, earthly and mundane as he was in will, in that creeping thing.

But Christ, the repairer of his evil-doing, assumes manhood in its fulness, and saves man, and becomes the type and figure of us all, to sanctify the first-fruits of every action, and leave to His servants no doubt in their zeal for the tradition.

Baptism, then, is a purification from sins, a remission of trespasses, a cause of renovation and regeneration. […] And this gift it is not the water that bestows (for in that case it were a thing more exalted than all creation), but the command of God, and the visitation of the Spirit that comes sacramentally to set us free.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): A Sermon for the Day of the Lights.

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).

John Chrysostom: That dread cup, full of much power, and more precious than any created thing Sunday, Jun 7 2015 

John_ChrysostomHow delightful and lovable is our band of young brethren!

For brethren I call you, even now before you have been brought forth, and before your birth I welcome this relationship with you.

For I know, I know clearly, to how great an honour you are about to be led, and to how great a dignity.

[…] For ye are not about to be led to an empty dignity, but to an actual kingdom: and not simply to a kingdom, but to the kingdom of the Heavens itself.

Wherefore I beseech and entreat you that you remember me when you come into that kingdom, and as Joseph said to the chief butler “Remember me when it shall be well with thee” (Gen. 40:1), this also I say now to you, do ye remember me when it is well with you.

I do not ask this in return for interpreting your dreams, as he; for I have not come to interpret dreams for you, but to discourse of matters celestial, and to convey to you glad tidings of such good things as “eye hath not seen, and ear hath not heard and which have entered not into the heart of man, such are the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9, 10).

Now Joseph indeed said to that chief butler, “yet three days and Pharaoh will restore thee to thy chief butlership.” But I do not say, yet three days and ye shall be set to pour out the wine of a tyrant, but yet thirty days, and not Pharaoh but the king of Heaven shall restore you to the country which is on high, Jerusalem, which is free—to the city which is in the heavens; and he said indeed, “Thou shalt give the cup into the hands of Pharaoh.”

But I say not that you shall give the cup into the hands of the king, but that the king shall give the cup into your hand—that dread cup, full of much power, and more precious than any created thing. The initiated know the virtue of this cup, and you yourselves shall know it a little while hence.

Remember me, therefore, when you come into that kingdom, when you receive the royal robe, when you are girt with the purple dipped in the master’s blood, when you will be crowned with the diadem, which has lustre leaping forth from it on all sides, more brilliant than the rays of the sun.

Such are the gifts of the Bridegroom, greater indeed than your worth, but worthy of his lovingkindness.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): First Instructions to Catechumens, 1.

Gregory of Nyssa: It is necessary for us to rehearse beforehand in the water the grace of the resurrection Thursday, May 7 2015 

Gregory_of_NyssaContinued from here….

As regards those who follow this Leader [Christ], their nature does not admit of an exact and entire imitation [in baptism].

Rather, it receives now as much as it is capable of receiving, while it reserves the remainder for the time that comes after.

In what, then, does this imitation consist?

It consists in the effecting the suppression of that admixture of sin, in the figure of mortification that is given by the water:

not certainly a complete effacement, but a kind of break in the continuity of the evil, two things concurring to this removal of sin—the penitence of the transgressor and his imitation of the death.

By these two things the man is in a measure freed from his congenital tendency to evil; by his penitence he advances to a hatred of and averseness from sin, and by his death he works out the suppression of the evil.

But had it been possible for him in his imitation to undergo a complete dying, the result would be not imitation but identity; and the evil of our nature would so entirely vanish that, as the Apostle says, “he would die unto sin once for all” (cf. Rom. 6:10).

[…] We only so far imitate the transcendent Power as the poverty of our nature is capable of, by having the water thrice poured on us and ascending again up from the water, we enact that saving burial and resurrection which took place on the third day, with this thought in our mind, that as we have power over the water both to be in it and arise out of it.

So also, He, Who has the universe at His sovereign disposal, immersed Himself in death, as we in the water, to return to His own blessedness.

If, therefore, one looks to that which is in reason, and judges of the results according to the power inherent in either party, one will discover no disproportion in these results, each in proportion to the measure of his natural power working out the effects that are within his reach.

For, as it is in the power of man, if he is so disposed, to touch the water and yet be safe, with infinitely greater ease may death be handled by the Divine Power so as to be in it and yet not to be changed by it injuriously.

Observe, then, that it is necessary for us to rehearse beforehand in the water the grace of the resurrection, to the intent that we may understand that, as far as facility goes, it is the same thing for us to be baptized with water and to rise again from death.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): The Great Catechism, 35 (slightly adapted).

Ambrose of Milan: We are anointed by the Father unto life everlasting Thursday, Apr 23 2015 

ambrose_of_milanYou were asked: ‘Do you believe in God the Father almighty?’

You said: ‘I do believe’ and you dipped [in the baptismal font], that is: you were buried.

Again you were asked: Do you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and in His cross?’

You said: ‘I do believe,’ and you dipped. So you were also buried together with Christ. For who is buried with Christ rises again with Christ.

A third time you were asked: ‘Do you believe also in the Holy Spirit?’

You said: ‘I do believe’ you dipped a third time, so that the threefold confession absolved the multiple lapse of the higher life.

[…] Thus, then, the Father dismisses sin; thus the Son dismisses it; thus, too, the Holy Spirit.

But do not marvel that we are baptized in one name, that is, ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ because He said one name, in which is one substance, one divinity, one majesty.

This is the name of which it is said: ‘Whereby we must be saved.’ In this name you all have been saved; you have returned to the grace of life.

So the Apostle exclaims, as you heard in the reading of the Gospel today, that whoever is baptized is baptized in the death of Jesus.

What is ‘in the death’? That, just as Christ died, so you also taste of death; just as Christ died to sin and lives unto God, so you, too, died to the former allurements of sins through the sacrament of baptism and rose again through the grace of Christ.

So death is [i.e., so we really do die in baptism], but not in the reality of corporal death but in likeness.

For when you dip, you take on the likeness of death and burial, you receive the sacrament of that cross, because Christ hung on the cross and His body was transfixed with nails.

You then are crucified with Him; you cling to Christ, you cling to the nails of our Lord Jesus Christ, lest the Devil be able to take you from Him. Let the nail of Christ hold you, whom the weakness of human condition recalls.

So you dipped; you came to the priest. What did he say to you? He said : ‘God the Father Almighty, who regenerated you by water and the Holy Spirit and forgave you your sins, Himself will anoint you unto life everlasting.’

See, unto what you were anointed, he said : ‘Unto life everlasting’ Do not prefer this [present] life to that life [life everlasting].

[…] Do not choose that in which you are not anointed, but choose that in which you are anointed, so that you prefer eternal life to temporal life.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On the Sacraments, 2,7,20-24 in St Ambrose: Theological and Dogmatic Works, tr. Roy J. Deferrari, Catholic Univeristy of America Press, 1963, pp. 286-288.

Gregory of Nyssa: A three days’ state of death and then life again… Friday, Apr 10 2015 

Gregory_of_NyssaThe descent into the water, and the trine immersion of the person in it, involves another mystery.

The method of our salvation was made effectual not so much by His precepts in the way of teaching as by the deeds of Him Who has realized an actual fellowship with man.

He has effected life as a living fact, so that by means of the flesh which He has assumed, and at the same time deified, everything kindred and related may be saved along with it.

Accordingly, it was necessary that some means should be devised by which there might be, in the baptismal process, a kind of affinity and likeness between him who follows and Him Who leads the way.

Therefore we need to see what features are to be observed in the Author of our life, in order that the imitation on the part of those that follow may be regulated, as the Apostle says, after the pattern of the Captain of our salvation (Heb. 2;10; 12:2).

Those who are actually drilled into measured and orderly movements in arms by skilled drill-masters, who are advanced to dexterity in handling their weapons by what they see with their eyes, whereas those who do not practise what is shown them remain devoid of such dexterity.

In the same way, it is imperative that all those who have an equally earnest desire for the Good as He [Jesus Christ] has should be followers by the path of an exact imitation of Him Who leads the way to salvation, and should carry into action what He has shown them.

It is, in fact, impossible for persons to reach the same goal unless they travel by the same ways.

Persons who are at a loss how to thread the turns of mazes, when they happen to fall in with someone who has experience of them, get to the end of those various misleading turnings in the chambers by following him behind, which they could not do, did they not follow him their leader step by step.

So too, I pray you mark, the labyrinth of this our life cannot be threaded by the faculties of human nature unless a man pursues that same path as He did Who, though once in it, yet got beyond the difficulties which hemmed Him in.

I apply this figure of a labyrinth to that prison of death, which is without an egress and environs the wretched race of mankind. What, then, have we beheld in the case of the Captain of our salvation? A three days’ state of death and then life again.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): The Great Catechism, 35 (slightly adapted).

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