Gregory of Nyssa: How did Stephen See Transcendent Glory? Who Laid Bare Heaven’s Gates for Him? Thursday, Dec 26 2013 

Gregory_of_NyssaDecember 26th is the Feast of St Stephen, the First Martyr.

Yesterday the Lord of the universe welcomed us whereas today it is the imitator [Stephen] of the Lord.

[…] One assumed human nature on our behalf while the other shed it for his Lord.

One accepted the cave of this life for us, and the other left it for him.

One was wrapped in swaddling clothes for us, and the other was stoned for him.

One destroyed death, and the other scorned it.

[…] As Paul has said (Heb 12:4), Stephen [Stephanos] has become a spectacle to the world, angels and to men.

He was the first to have received the crown [stephanos] of martyrdom, the first to have paved the way for the chorus of martyrs and the first to have resisted sin to the point of shedding blood.

It seems to me that the entire host of transcendent powers, angels, and myriads both assist and accompany them (i.e., the martyrs).

[…] How did Stephen see transcendent glory? Who laid bare heaven’s gates for him?

Was this the work of men? Which of the angels enabled inferior human nature soar to that height?

Stephen was not alone when he was generously filled with power coming from the angels which enabled him to see what he saw.

What was recorded? “Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and saw the glory of God and his Only-Begotten Son” (Acts 7:55).

As the Prophet says, light cannot be seen unless one is filled with light: “In your light we shall see light” (Ps 35:10).

If observation of the light does not share this same light, how can anyone deprived of the sun’s rays see it?

Since the Father’s light makes this possible, the Only Begotten Son’s light emanates through the Holy Spirit which makes it visible.

Therefore the Spirit’s glory enables us to perceive the glory of both the Father and Son.

But can we say that the Gospel is true which says that “No man has ever seen God” (John 1:18)?

How do the Apostle’s words agree with the following, “No man has seen nor can see God” (1Tim 6:16)?

If human nature and power can perceive the glory of the Father and Son, their vision must indeed be mistaken. However, history is true and cannot lie.

[…]  Stephen beholds God not in human nature and power but is united by grace to the Holy Spirit who elevates him in order to comprehend God.

Therefore, one cannot say that Jesus is Lord apart from the Spirit, as the Apostle says (cf. 1 Tim 6:16, 1 Cor 12:3).

One cannot contemplate the Father’s glory because where the Spirit is the Son is seen and the Father’s glory is grasped.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): First Homily on St Stephen, Protomartyr.

Peter Chrysologus: Wounded by Love Friday, Dec 13 2013 

Church FathersAs God sees the world tottering to ruin because of fear, he acts unceasingly to bring it back by love, invite it by grace, to hold it by charity and clasp it firmly with affection.

Hence, he washes the earth grown old in evil with the avenging flood.

He calls Noah the father of a new world, speaks to him gently and gives him kindly confidence.

He gives him fatherly instruction about the present and consoles him with good hope for the future.

He did not give orders but instead shared in the work of enclosing together in the ark all living creatures on the earth.

In this way the love of being together was to banish the fear born of slavery. What had been saved by a shared work was to be preserved by a community of love.

God calls Abraham from among the nations and makes his name great. He also makes him the father of those who believe, accompanies him on his journeys, and takes care of him among foreign peoples.

He enriches him with possessions, honours him with triumphs, and binds himself to him by promises. He snatches him from harm, looks after him hospitably, and astonishes him with a son he had given up hope of ever having.

All this he does, so that, filled with so many good things, and drawn by the great sweetness of divine love, Abraham might learn to love God and not to be afraid of him, to worship him by love, not by trembling in fear.

He comforts the fugitive Jacob in his sleep. On his way back he calls him to the contest and grasps him with a wrestler’s arms. This was to teach him to love and not to fear the father of the contest.

He invites Moses to be the liberator of his people, calling him with a fatherly voice and speaking to him father’s love.

The events that we have recalled where the hearts of men were fired with the flame of the love of God and their senses flooded to intoxication with that love, led them, wounded by love, to begin to want to look upon God with their bodily eyes.

How could the narrowness of human vision enclose God whom the world cannot contain?

The law of love has no thought about what will be, what ought to be or what can be. Love knows nothing about judgement, is beyond reason, and is incapable of moderation.

Love takes no relief from the fact that its object is beyond possibility, nor is it cured by difficulties. […] Love cannot bear not to have sight of what it loves.

Peter Chrysologus (c.380–c.450): Sermon 147; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Thursday of the 2nd Week in Advent, Year 2.

Cyril of Jerusalem: I am Attempting to Glorify the Lord, but not to Describe Him Thursday, Sep 26 2013 

Cyril-of-JerusalemSomeone will say: if the Divine substance is incomprehensible, why then do you discourse of these things?

So then, because I cannot drink up all the river, am I not even to take in moderation what is expedient for me?

Because with eyes so constituted as mine I cannot take in all the sun, am I not even to look upon him enough to satisfy my wants?

Or again, because I have entered into a great garden, and cannot eat all the supply of fruits, would you have me go away altogether hungry?

I praise and glorify Him that made us; for it is a divine command which says, Let every breath praise the Lord (Ps. 150:6).

I am attempting now to glorify the Lord, but not to describe Him, knowing nevertheless that I shall fall short of glorifying Him worthily, yet deeming it a work of piety even to attempt it at all.

For the Lord Jesus encourages my weakness, by saying, No man hath seen God at any time (John 1:18).  They are the Evangelist’s own words.

What then, some man will say, is it not written, The little ones’ Angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven (Matt. 18:10)?  Yes, but the Angels see God not as He is, but as far as they themselves are capable.

For it is Jesus Himself who says, Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father (John 6:46).

The Angels therefore behold as much as they can bear, and Archangels as much as they are able; and Thrones and Dominions more than the former, but yet less than His worthiness.

For with the Son the Holy Ghost alone can rightly behold Him:  for He searcheth all things, and knoweth even the deep things of God  (1 Cor. 2:10);  as indeed the Only-begotten Son also, with the Holy Ghost, knows the Father fully.

For neitherknoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him   (Matt. 11:27).

For He fully beholds, and, according as each of us can bear, reveals God through the Spirit, since the Only-begotten Son together with the Holy Ghost is a partaker of the Father’s Godhead. He, who  was begotten knows Him who begat; and He Who begat knows Him who is begotten.

Since Angels then are ignorant (for to each according to his own capacity does the Only-begotten [i.e. the Son] reveal Him [the Father] through the Holy Ghost, as we have said), let no man be ashamed to confess his ignorance.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 6, 5-6.

Germanus of Constantinople: “It is Time, My Mother”, Says the Lord, “to Take You to Myself” Thursday, Aug 15 2013 

Germanus of ConstantinopleIt is time, my Mother, (says the Lord), to take you to myself. Just as you have filled the earth and all who dwell in it with joy, O you who enjoy such grace, come, and make the heavens joyful once again.

Make my Father’s dwelling-place radiant; be a spiritual guide for the souls of the saints.

For when they see your glorious passage here to my side, escorted by angels, they will be convinced in their faith that their own place, too, through you, will be to dwell here in my light.

Come, then, in exultation; rejoice now, as you rejoiced at the angel’s greeting. In every way you now have the dignity of your title, ‘full of grace.’

As when you were about to conceive me you were invited to rejoice, so rejoice again in my desire to take you to myself.

Do not be disturbed at leaving behind the corruptible world, with all its desires. Forget about its power of corruption.

For you will not leave those who live in the world bereft of your protection; but just as I, who am not of the world, watch over those who live in it and take care of them, so your patronage will not be taken away from those who live in the world, until its consummation.

The extravagant demands of the flesh will no longer disturb you. You are ascending to a fuller life, to joyful rest, to unconquerable peace, to an existence untroubled by cares, to delights free of passion, to permanent freedom from distraction, to unending enjoyment, to a light that never fades, to a day without evening—to me, the creator of all that is, including you.

Where I am, there is eternal life, incomparable joy, a dwelling-place without parallel, an indestructible city. Where I am, then, you will be also: a mother inseparably one with her undivided Son. Where God is, there is all goodness of heart, all delight, all brilliance.

No one who knows my glory wants to abandon it. No one who comes to my rest seeks again the things of the corruptible world. Ask Peter if there was any comparison or likeness between the world and Mount Tabor, when he gazed for a short time on my glory.

When you lived in the world of corruptible things, I revealed my power to you in visions; now that you are passing from that life, I will show myself to you face to face. Give the earth what belongs to it, without anxiety.

Germanus of Constantinople (c.634–c.733): excerpt from An Encomium on the Holy and Venerable Dormition of Our Most Glorious Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary, in On the Dormition of Mary: Early Patristic Homilies, SVS Press, 1998, pp.170-172); fuller extract @ Priest Matthew Jackson.

Gregory the Great: The Church is Rightly the Dawn because It Deserts the Shadows of Sin and Sparkles in the Light of Righteousness Thursday, Jun 6 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistSince the dawn goes from darkness into light, it is right that the Church of the elect should be called “dawn” or “first light.”

As it is led from the night of disbelief into the light of faith, it is opened up to the splendour of heavenly brightness just as the dawn bursts into day after darkness.

How right are the words of the Song of Songs: Who is she who is coming up like the dawn?

The holy Church seeks the rewards of heavenly life and is rightly called the dawn because it deserts the shadows of sin and sparkles in the light of righteousness.

There is something subtler to learn from this, on considering the nature of the dawn. Dawn, or first light, proclaims that the night is over but does not yet manifest the full brightness of the day.

It dispels night, it gives a beginning to the day, but still it is a mixture of light and darkness. All of us who follow the truth in this life, are we not exactly like the dawn?

Some of the things we do are truly works of the light, but others are not entirely free of the remnants of darkness.

No man is virtuous before you, says the psalmist, and again Scripture says we have all done wrong in many ways.

This is why Paul does not say “the night has passed and day has come,” but night has passed and day is approaching, showing beyond doubt that he is still in the dawn, after the end of darkness but still before rising of the sun.

The Church of the elect will be fully day only when the darkness of sin is no longer mixed in with it. It will be fully day only when it shines with the perfect warmth of a light that comes from within.

God shows that we are still going through this dawn when he says to Job, Have you ever sent the dawn to its post?

Something that is being sent somewhere is being sent from one place or state to another. What is the destined place of the dawn if not the perfect brightness of the eternal vision?

And when it has reached its place, will it still have any of the darkness of the night that has passed?

The dawn was intent on reaching its destined place when the psalmist said My soul thirsts for the living God; when shall I appear before the face of God?

The dawn was hurrying to the place it knew to be its destiny when Paul said that he wanted to die and to be with Christ, and when he said For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Moralia on Job, book 3, 15-16 (PL 75, 606-608),  from the Office of Readings for Thursday of the 9th week in Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

Bede the Venerable: Passover, Pentecost and Jubilee Monday, May 20 2013 

icon_bede-Behold how the Jewish feast of the Law is a foreshadowing of our feast today.

When the children of Israel had been freed from slavery in Egypt by the offering of the paschal lamb, they journeyed through the desert toward the Promised Land, and they reached Mount Sinai.

On the fiftieth day after the Passover, the Lord descended upon the mountain in fire, and with the sound of a trumpet and with thunder and lightning, He gave them the ten commandments of the Law.

[…] We already know that the Passover Lamb and the deliverance from Egypt foreshadow the death of Christ and our deliverance from sin, as it is written: “Christ our Passover Lamb is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor 5:7).

He is “the true Lamb Who has taken away the sins of the world” (John 1:29), Who has redeemed us from the slavery of sin at the price of His blood, and by the example of His resurrection has shown us the hope of life and everlasting liberty.

The Law was given on the fiftieth day after the slaying of the lamb, when the Lord descended upon the mountain in fire; likewise on the fiftieth day after the resurrection of our Redeemer, which is today, the grace of the Holy Spirit, descending in the outward appearance of fire, was given to the disciples as they were assembled in the upper room.

The height of the mountain, and the elevation of the upper room, both indicate the sublimity of the commands and of the gifts.

At the sealing of the first covenant, the people remained at the base of the mountain, a handful of elders went partway up, and only Moses ascended to the summit.

At the sealing of the second covenant, the whole community of God’s people was gathered at the summit, in the upper room.

[…] In the law, the fiftieth year was ordered to be called the Year of Jubilee. During that year, all debts were to be cancelled, all slaves to be set free, the very beasts of burden to be eased from their yokes, and the year given over to celebrating the Divine praises.

Therefore, by this number is rightly indicated the tranquillity of that greatest peace when, at the sound of the trumpet, the dead shall be raised imperishable, and we shall all be changed into glory.

Then, when we are freed from every yoke of sin…the entire company of the people of God will give themselves over to contemplating the Heavenly Vision, and the command of the Lord will be fulfilled: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Homily on the Feast of Pentecost @ Society of Archbishop Justus.

Augustine of Hippo: The Incarnate Son of God Makes Sons of Men the Sons of God Saturday, Jan 5 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaBeing rich, he became poor for our sake so that by his poverty we might become rich.

When he assumed our mortality and overcame death he manifested himself in poverty: his poverty was not a sign of riches lost but a promise of riches to come later.

[…] Until what is being prepared arrives, we can understand only in part.

To make us worthy of this perfect gift, he, equal to the Father in the form of God, became like us in the form of a servant, and he re-forms us to be like God.

The only Son of God, having become the son of Man, makes many sons of men the sons of God.

Taking on the form of a servant, he takes those who were born and brought up as servants and gives them the freedom of seeing the face of God.

For we are the children of God, and what we shall become has not yet appeared. We know that, when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

What, then, are those treasures of wisdom and knowledge? What are those divine riches unless they are what is sufficient for us?

What is that multitude of delights unless it is what fills us? Show us the Father and it is sufficient enough for us.

But he and the Father are one, and whoever sees him sees the Father also…; he will show us his face and we shall be saved; we shall be filled, and he will be sufficient for us.

[…] Until this comes to pass, until he gives us the sight of what will completely satisfy us, until we drink our fill of him, the fountain of life — while we wander about, apart from him but strong in faith, while we hunger and thirst for justice, longing with a desire too deep for words for the beautiful vision of God — let us fervently and devotedly celebrate the anniversary of his birth in the form of a servant.

We cannot yet contemplate the fact that he was begotten by the Father before the dawn, so let us hold on to the fact that he was born of the Virgin in the night.

We do not yet understand how his name endures before the sun, so let us acknowledge his tabernacle placed in the sun.

Since we do not, as yet, gaze upon the Only Son inseparably united with His Father, let us remember the Bridegroom coming out of his bride-chamber.

Since we are not yet ready for the banquet of our Father, let us acknowledge the manger of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Sermon 194, 3-4; from the Office of Readings for January 5th @ Universalis.

Bede the Venerable: God was Born as a Man to Restore Us to the Image and Likeness of His Divinity Friday, Dec 28 2012 

icon_bede-(On Luke 2:15-20)

And they came hurrying and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in a manger….  Once they saw they acknowledged the word that had been said to them about this child.

And let us in the meantime…hurry to perceive with pious faith and to embrace with full love those things which have been said to us about our Savior, who is true God and true human being, so that we may be capable of comprehending these things in the future vision which is perfect recognition.

For indeed this is the only true life of the blessed, not only of human beings, but of angels as well, to continually behold the face of their Creator.

[…] And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen, just as it was said to them.

Let us also learn…how to be turned from contemplation of the Lord’s divinely-arranged plan, by which he deigned to come benevolently to our aid, to giving thanks always for his kindnesses.

For if they, who as yet knew only about his nativity, went back glorifying and praising God in everything which they had seen and heard, we who know about the whole progress of his incarnation in succession, and who are imbued with his sacraments, are all the more obliged to proclaim his glory and praise in everything, not only in words but also in deeds, and never to forget that the reason why God was born as a human being was so that he might restore us through our being born anew to the image and likeness of his divinity.

The reason he was baptized with water was so that he might make the flowing of all waters fruitful for the cleansing of our wicked deeds.

The reason he was tempted in the desert was so that by being victorious over the tempter he might bestow upon us too knowledge and power to make us victorious.

The reason he died was so that he might destroy the sovereignty of death.

The reason he rose and ascended into heaven was so that he might present to us a hope and an example of rising from the dead and reigning perpetually in heaven.

Having “gone back” to gaze upon the most benevolent divinely-arranged plan, let us for the sake of each of these actions glorify and praise God himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit for all ages.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735):Homilies on the Gospels, 1:7 (Christmas), “Homilies on the Gospels, Book One, Advent to Lent”, trans. Lawrence T. Martin and David Hurst OSB (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1991).

A Monk of the Abbey of Bèze: He Is the Golden Altar of the Holy of Holies Monday, May 21 2012 

Continued from here….

Then will be the month of months, and the most glorious of sabbaths.

Then will the light of the moon be like to the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will shine with seven-fold brilliance, and every saint’s face will shine like the sun in the kingdom of his Father.

This city will have no need of the sun’s light; but God the all-Powerful will illumine it.

His torch is the Lamb: the Lamb of God, the Lamb without spot whom the Father sent into the world as a saving victim.

Living without sin, dying for sinners, the Lamb took away the sin of the world, loosed the pains of hell and liberated the prisoners from the lake without water, triumphant before them, and reinstating them in His kingdom by His side.

He is most beautiful in countenance, very desirable to see, He upon whom the Angels desire to gaze.

He is the King of peace, He whose countenance is desired by all the world.

He is the propitiator of sinners, the friend of the poor, the consoler of the afflicted, the guardian of the little ones.

He is the teacher of the childlike, the guide of pilgrims, the redeemer of those who have died, the courageous helper of warriors, the generous rewarder of victors.

He is the golden altar of the Holy of Holies, the place of rest of sons, the spectacle pleasing to the angels.

He is the sublime throne of the supreme Trinity, raised above all, He who is blessed of the ages.

He is the crown of the Saints, the light of all, the light of angels.

O what will we give Him in return for all He has given us?

When shall we be delivered from the body of this death?

When shall we be filled with the abundance of the house of God, seeing the light in His light?

When then will the Christ appear, our life, and shall we be with Him in glory?

When shall we see the Lord God in the lamb of the living, the kindly rewards, the man of peace, the dweller in repose, the consoler of the afflicted?

When shall we see the first-born of the dead, the joy of the Resurrection, the man of the right hand of God, He whom the Father has established?

He is the Son of God, chosen from among thousands.

Anonymous Monk of the Benedictine Abbey of Bèze (early 12th century?): Elevations on the Glories of Jerusalem (quoted in Jean Leclercq OSB, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God; A Study of Monastic Culture, ch 45).

John of Fécamp: O Life Most Joyful, O Kingdom Truly Blessed Friday, May 18 2012 

O life that God has prepared for those who love him! (1Cor 2:8)

[…] O life, ignorant of death, knowing nothing of sorrow: life without stain, without corruption, without pain, without anxiety, without disturbance, without variation or change;

O life replete with elegance and dignity, where there is no adversary to fight where there are no enticements of sin,

where there is perfect love without fear (1 Jn 4:18), where there is eternal day and union of all spirits,

where God is seen face to face (1 Cor 13:12), and the mind is sated with the never-failing food of life! (cf. Ps 16:14-15).

It pleases me to concentrate on your glory: for the more I strive to consider, the more your goodness delights my eager heart: For I am faint with love (Cant 2:5, 5:8), I burn with eager desire for you, I greatly delight in your sweet memory (cf Cant 2:14).

And so it pleases me, to raise the eyes of my heart to you, to establish the state of my mind to conform the dispositions of my soul.

It pleases me to speak of you, to hear of you, to write about you, to converse about you, to read daily of your blessedness and glory, and to constantly repeat it in my heart on my bed (Ps 62:6).

[…] For this reason I enter into the pleasant garden of Sacred Scripture, to pick the most brilliant green herbs of sacred verses:

[1] I devour them by reading,

[2] I repeat them by ruminating,

[3] and gathering them at last into the high repose of memory,

[4] I taste in this way your sweetness, thinking not at all of the bitterness of this unhappy life.

O life most joyful, O kingdom truly blessed, where death is gone and limits absent,

where ages are not measured by the passing of time,

where continuous day without night is ignorant of time,

where victorious soldiers join the hymnody of the angelic choir and sing to God unceasingly the Songs of Zion, their heads adorned with noble crowns.

Would that I were granted forgiveness of sins, that this covering of flesh could soon be laid aside!

Would, O would that I could enter in to your true joys and take my rest, advancing to the brilliant, spacious walls of your city,

to receive the crown of life from the hand of the Lord,

to join that most holy choir and with the blessed spirits stand before the glory of the Creator, to see Christ face to face,

to behold forever that high, ineffable, and unlimited light,

and, thus unperturbed by the fear of death, to be freed by incorruption to undertake the eternal vocation of rejoicing without end!

John of Fécamp (d. 1079): Book of the Writings and Sayings of the Ancient Fathers, ch. 22.

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