Leo the Great: The outer man will be the peaceful and unblemished possession of the inner man Saturday, Feb 6 2016 

leo1Continued from here….

After the assertion of this most happy humility, the Lord hath added, saying, “Blessed are they which mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

This mourning, beloved, to which eternal comforting is promised, is not the same as the affliction of this world.

Nor do those laments which are poured out in the sorrowings of the whole human race make any one blessed.

The reason for holy groanings, the cause of blessed tears, is very different.

Religious grief mourns sin either – that of others’ or one’s own.

Nor does it mourn for that which is wrought by God’s justice, but it laments over that which is committed by man’s iniquity.

For he that does wrong is more to be deplored than he who suffers it, because the unjust man’s wrongdoing plunges him into punishment, but the just man’s endurance leads him on to glory.

Next the Lord says:  “blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth by inheritance” (Matt. 5:5).

To the meek and gentle, to the humble and modest, and to those who are prepared to endure all injuries, the earth is promised for their possession.

And this is not to be reckoned a small or cheap inheritance, as if it were distinct from our heavenly dwelling, since it is no other than these who are understood to enter the kingdom of heaven.

The earth, then, which is promised to the meek, and is to be given to the gentle in possession, is the flesh of the saints, which in reward for their humility will be changed in a happy resurrection, and clothed with the glory of immortality, in nothing now to act contrary to the spirit, and to be in complete unity and agreement with the will of the soul.

For then the outer man will be the peaceful and unblemished possession of the inner man.

Then the mind, engrossed in beholding God, will be hampered by no obstacles of human weakness nor will it any more have to be said “The body which is corrupted, weigheth upon the soul, and its earthly house presseth down the sense which thinketh many things” (Wisdom 9:15).

For the earth will not struggle against its tenant, and will not venture on any insubordination against the rule of its governor.

For the meek shall possess it in perpetual peace, and nothing shall be taken from their rights, “when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53), that their danger may turn into reward, and what was a burden become an honour.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 95, 4-5.

John Chrysostom: “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted” Monday, Nov 23 2015 

Chrysostom3Continued from here….

“Blessed are they that mourn” (Matt. 5:4).

Here too again Christ designated not simply all that mourn, but all that do so for sins.

Since surely that other kind of mourning is forbidden, and that earnestly, which relates to anything of this life.

This Paul also clearly declared, when he said “The sorrow of the world worketh death, but godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of” (2 Cor. 7:10).

These then He too Himself calls blessed, whose sorrow is of that kind. Yet He does not simply designate those who sorrow did He designate, but those who sorrow intensely.

Therefore He did not say “they that sorrow” but “they that mourn.” For this commandment again is fitted to teach us entire self-control.

Those who grieve for children, or wife, or any other relation gone from them, have no fondness for gain or pleasure during that period of their sorrow.

They aim not at glory, are not provoked by insults, nor led captive by envy, nor beset by any other passion, their grief alone wholly possessing them.

This being so, how much more will they who mourn for their own sins, as they ought to mourn, show forth a self-denial greater than this?

Next, what is the reward for these? “For they shall be comforted,” He says.

Where shall they be comforted? Both here and there. For since the thing enjoined was exceeding burdensome and galling, He promised to give that, which most of all made it light.

Wherefore, if you wish to be comforted, mourn, and think not this a dark saying. For when God comforts, though sorrows come upon you by thousands like snow-flakes, you wilt be above them all.

Since in truth, the returns which God gives are always far greater than our labours…, He declares those who mourn to be blessed – not after the value of what they do, but after His own love towards man.

For they that mourn, mourn for misdoings, and to such it is enough to enjoy forgiveness, and obtain wherewith to answer for themselves.

But forasmuch as He is full of love towards man, He does not limit His recompense either to the removal of our punishments, or to the deliverance from our sins, but He makes them even blessed, and imparts to them abundant consolation.

But He bids us mourn, not only for our own, but also for other men’s misdoings.

And of this temper were the souls of the saints. Such was that of Moses, of Paul, of David; yea, all these many times mourned for evils not their own.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on the Gospel According to St Matthew, 15, 4 (on Matthew 5:4); slightly adapted.

Leo the Great: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Tuesday, Nov 10 2015 

Leo_MagnusContinued from here…..

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). 

It would perhaps be doubtful what poor He was speaking of, if in saying “blessed are the poor” He had added nothing which would explain the sort of poor:

and then that poverty by itself would appear sufficient to win the kingdom of heaven which many suffer from hard and heavy necessity.

But when He says “blessed are the poor in spirit,” He shows that the kingdom of heaven must be assigned to those who are recommended by the humility of their spirits rather than by the smallness of their means.

Yet it cannot be doubted that this possession of humility is more easily acquired by the poor than the rich:  for submissiveness is the companion of those that want, while loftiness of mind dwells with riches.

Notwithstanding, even in many of the rich is found that spirit which uses its abundance not for the increasing of its pride but on works of kindness, and counts that for the greatest gain which it expends in the relief of others’ hardships.

It is given to every kind and rank of men to share in this virtue, because men may be equal in will, though unequal in fortune:  and it does not matter how different they are in earthly means, who are found equal in spiritual possessions.

Blessed, therefore, is poverty which is not possessed with a love of temporal things, and does not seek to be increased with the riches of the world, but is eager to amass heavenly possessions.

Of this high-souled humility the Apostles first, after the Lord, have given us example. Leaving all that they had without difference at the voice of the heavenly Master, they were turned by a ready change from the catching of fish to be fishers of men, and made many like themselves through the imitation of their faith, when with those first-begotten sons of the Church, “the heart of all was one, and the spirit one, of those that believed” (Acts 4:32).

For, putting away the whole of their things and possessions, they enriched themselves with eternal goods, through the most devoted poverty, and in accordance with the Apostles’ preaching rejoiced to have nothing of the world and possess all things with Christ.

Hence the blessed Apostle Peter, when he was going up into the temple, and was asked for alms by the lame man, said, “Silver and gold is not mine, but what I have that I give thee:  in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk” (Acts 3:6).

What more sublime than this humility? what richer than this poverty?  […] He [Peter] who gave not Cæsar’s image in a coin, restored Christ’s image on the man.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 95, 2-3.

John Chrysostom: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” Thursday, Oct 22 2015 

John_Chrysostom“Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 5:3).

What is meant by “the poor in spirit?”

The humble and contrite in mind.

For by “spirit” He hath here designated the soul, and the faculty of choice.

[…] He blesses them first, who by choice humble and contract themselves.

But why said he not, “the humble,” but rather “the poor?”

Because this is more than that. For He means here them who are awestruck, and tremble at the commandments of God.

God earnestly accepted these by His prophet Isaiah, saying, “To whom will I look, but to him who is meek and quiet, and trembleth at My words?” (Isa. 66:2 [LXX]).

For indeed there are many kinds of humility: one is humble in his own measure, another with all excess of lowliness.

It is this last lowliness of mind which that blessed prophet commends, picturing to us the temper that is not merely subdued, but utterly broken, when he saith, “The sacrifice for God is a contrite spirit, a contrite and an humble heart God will not despise” (Ps. 50:17).

And the Three Children also offer this unto God as a great sacrifice, saying, “Nevertheless, in a contrite soul, and in a spirit of lowliness, may we be accepted” (Dan. 3:39 [LXX]). This Christ also now blesses.

The greatest of evils, and those which make havoc of the whole world, had their entering in from pride.

For the devil, not being such before, did thus become a devil, as indeed Paul plainly declared, saying, “Lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6).

The first man, too, puffed up by the devil with these hopes, was made an example of, and became mortal – for expecting to become a god, he lost even what he had.

And God also upbraided him with this, and mocking his folly, said, “Behold, Adam is become as one of us” (Gen. 3:22).

And each one of those that came after did hereby wreck himself in impiety, fancying some equality with God.

Since, I say, this was the stronghold of our evils, and the root and fountain of all wickedness, He, preparing a remedy suitable to the disease, laid this law first as a strong and safe foundation.

For this being fixed as a base, the builder in security lays on it all the rest. But if this be taken away, though a man reach to the Heavens in his course of life, it is all easily undermined, and issues in a grievous end.

Though fasting, prayer, almsgiving, temperance, any other good thing whatever, be gathered together in thee; without humility all fall away and perish.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on the Gospel According to St Matthew, 15, 2-3 (on Matthew 5:3); slightly adapted.

Leo the Great: “I will put My laws in their minds, and in their heart will I write them” Thursday, Sep 17 2015 

leo1[On the Beatitudes: Matthew 5:1-9].

When our Lord Jesus Christ, beloved, was preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, and was healing divers sicknesses through the whole of Galilee, the fame of His mighty works had spread into all Syria.

Large crowds too from all parts of Judæa were flocking to the heavenly Physician (cf. Matt. 4:23-24).

For as human ignorance is slow in believing what it does not see, and in hoping for what it does not know, those who were to be instructed in the divine lore, needed to be aroused by bodily benefits and visible miracles.

This was so that they might have no doubt as to the wholesomeness of His teaching when they actually experienced His benignant power.

And therefore, that the Lord might use outward healings as an introduction to inward remedies, and after healing bodies might work cures in the soul, He separated Himself from the surrounding crowd, ascended into the retirement of a neighbouring mountain, and called His apostles to Him there.

This He did in order that from the height of that mystic seat He might instruct them in the loftier doctrines, signifying from the very nature of the place and act that He it was who had once honoured Moses by speaking to him:  then indeed with a more terrifying justice, but now with a holier mercifulness, that what had been promised might be fulfilled when the Prophet Jeremiah says:

“behold the days come when I will complete a new covenant for the house of Israel and for the house of Judah.  After those days, saith the Lord, I will put My laws in their minds, and in their heart will I write them” (Jer. 31:31-33; cf. Heb. 8:8–12).

He therefore who had spoken to Moses, spoke also to the apostles, and the swift hand of the Word wrote and deposited the secrets of the new covenant in the disciples’ hearts.

There were no thick clouds surrounding Him as of old, nor were the people frightened off from approaching the mountain by frightful sounds and lightning (cf. Heb. 12:18ff), but quietly and freely His discourse reached the ears of those who stood by, so that the harshness of the law might give way before the gentleness of grace, and “the spirit of adoption” might dispel the terrors of bondage (cf. Rom. 8:15).

The nature then of Christ’s teaching is attested by His own holy statements:  that they who wish to arrive at eternal blessedness may understand the steps of ascent to that high happiness.  “Blessed,” He saith, “are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 95, 1-2.

Peter of Damascus: God’s Grace will Give Us Gentleness so that We Begin to Imitate Christ Tuesday, Apr 8 2014 

peter_of_damascusGod’s grace, our universal mother, will give us gentleness, so that we begin to imitate Christ.

This constitutes the third commandment; for the Lord says, ‘Blessed are the gentle” (Matt. 5:5).

Thus we become like a firmly-rooted rock, unshaken by the storms and tempests of life, always the same, whether rich or poor, in ease or hardship, in honor or dishonor.

In short, at every moment and whatever we do we will be aware that all things, whether sweet or bitter, pass away, and that this life is a path leading to the future life.

We will recognize that, whether we like it or not, what happens happens; to be upset about it is useless, and moreover deprives us of the crown of patience and shows us to be in revolt against the will of God.

For whatever God does is “wholly good and beautiful’ (Gen. 1:31), even if we are unaware of this. As the psalm puts it: ‘He will teach the gentle how to judge’ (Ps. 25: 9. LXX) or, rather, how to exercise discrimination.

Then, even if someone gets furious with us, we are not troubled; on the contrary, we are glad to have been given an opportunity to profit and to exercise our understanding, recognizing that we would not have been tried in this way were there not some cause for it.

Unwittingly or wittingly we must have offended God, or a brother, or someone else, and now we are being given a chance to receive forgiveness for this. For through patient endurance we may be granted forgiveness for many sins.

Moreover, if we do not forgive others their debts, the Father will not forgive us our debts (cf Matt. 6:14). Indeed, nothing leads more swiftly to the forgiveness of sins than this virtue or commandment: “Forgive, and you will be forgiven’ (cf. Matt. 6:14).

This, then, is what we realize when we imitate Christ, growing gentle through the grace of the commandment.

But we are distressed for our brother, because it was on account of our sins that this brother was tempted by the common enemy and so became a remedy for the healing of our weakness.

Every trial and temptation is permitted by God as a cure for some sick person’s soul. Indeed, such trials not only confer on us forgiveness of our past and present sins, but also act as a check on sins not yet committed.

[…] God, being self-sufficient and giving to each what is to his profit, does indeed deserve our thanks, since He patiently suffers both the devil and the wickedness of men, and yet bestows His blessings upon those who repent both before and after they sin.

Peter of Damascus (?12th Century): A Treasury of Divine Knowledge  Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 3 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 94-96.

John Chrysostom: “You are the Salt of the Earth” Sunday, Feb 9 2014 

John_Chrysostom“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matthew 5:13).

Now then, after giving the disciples due exhortation [i.e. in the Beatitudes], Jesus refreshes them again with praises.

The injunctions being high, and far surpassing those in the Old Testament; lest they should be disturbed and confounded, He does not want them to say, “How shall we be able to achieve these things?”

Hear, then,  what He says: “Ye are the salt of the earth.”

[…] For “not for your own life apart,” says He, “but for the whole world, shall your account be.

“For not to two cities, nor to ten or twenty, nor to a single nation am I sending you, as I sent the prophets; but to earth, and sea, and the whole world; and that in evil case.”

For by saying, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” He signified all human nature to have “lost its savor,”and to be decayed by our sins.

For which cause, you see, He requires of them such virtues, as are most necessary and useful for the superintendence of the common sort.

For first, the meek, and yielding, and merciful, and righteous, shuts not up his good deeds unto himself only, but also provides that these good fountains should run over for the benefit of others.

And he again who is pure in heart, and a peacemaker, and is persecuted for the truth’s sake; he again orders his way of life for the common good.

“Think not then,” He says, “that ye are drawn on to ordinary conflicts, or that for some small matters you are to give account.”

“Ye are the salt of the earth.” What then? Did they restore the decayed? By no means; for neither is it possible to do any good to that which is already spoilt, by sprinkling it with salt.

This therefore they did not. But rather, what things had been before restored, and committed to their charge, and freed from that ill savor, these they then salted, maintaining and preserving them in that freshness,which they had received of the Lord.

For that men should be set free from the rottenness of their sins was the good work of Christ; but their not returning to it again any more was the object of these men’s diligence and travail.

[…]  “But if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

[…] He tells them, “unless ye are prepared to combat with all this, ye have been chosen in vain.” For it is not evil report that ye should fear, but lest ye should prove partners in dissimulation. For then, “Ye will lose your savor, and be trodden under foot.”

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on the Gospel According to St Matthew, 15, 10.

Maximus the Confessor: Bearing by Grace an Exact Spiritual Likeness of Christ, the Truly Great King Sunday, Nov 25 2012 

Anger and desire repudiated, we should next invoke the rule of the kingdom of God the Father with the words “Thy kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10), that is, “May the Holy Spirit come”.

For, having put away these things [anger and desire], we are now made into a temple for God through the Holy Spirit by the teaching and practice of gentleness.

“For on whom shall I rest”, says Scripture, “but on him who is gentle and humble, and trembles at my words?” (cf. Isa, 66:2).

It is clear from this that the kingdom of God the Father belongs to the humble and the gentle. For “blessed are the gentle, for they will inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).

It is not this physical earth, which by nature occupies a middle place in the universe, that God promises as an inheritance for those who love Him.

[…] In this text (Matt. 5:5) I think that the word “earth” signifies the resolution and strength of the inner stability, immovably rooted in goodness, that is possessed by gentle, people.

This state of stability exists eternally with the Lord, contains unfailing joy, enables the gentle to attain the kingdom prepared from the beginning, and has its station and dignity in heaven. It also permits the gentle to inherit the principle of virtue, as if virtue were the earth that occupies a middle place in the universe.

For the gentle person holds a middle position between honour and obloquy, and remains dispassionate, neither puffed up by the first nor cast down by the second.

For the intelligence is by nature superior to both praise and blame; and so, when it has put away the sensual desire, it is no longer troubled by either the one or the other, having  anchored the whole power of the soul in divine and unassailable liberty.

The Lord, wanting to impart this liberty to His disciples says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29).

He calls the rule of the divine kingdom “rest” because it confers on those worthy of it a lordship free from all servitude.

If the indestructible power of the pure kingdom is given to the humble and the gentle, what man will be so lacking in love and so completely without appetite for divine blessings that he will not desire the greatest degree of humility and gentleness in order to take on the stamp of the divine kingdom, so far as this is possible for men, and to bear in himself by grace an exact spiritual likeness of Christ, who is by nature the truly great king?

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): On the Lord’s Prayer, Text (slightly adapted) from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 2 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp.292-293.

Bernard of Clairvaux: Truth, Compassion and Purity of Heart Friday, Mar 16 2012 

We discover truth in ourselves when we pass judgment on ourselves.

We find it in our neighbour when we suffer in sympathy with others.

We search out its own nature by contemplation in purity of heart.

[…] Before we inquire into the nature of truth, Truth itself must first teach us to seek it in our neighbour.

Then we shall understand why, before we find it in our neighbour, we must seek it in ourselves.

The sequence of beatitudes given in the Sermon on the Mount places the merciful before the pure in heart.

The merciful are those who are quick to see truth in their neighbour.

They reach out to others in compassion and identify with them in love, responding to the joys and sorrows in the lives of others as if they were their own.

They make themselves weak with the weak, and burn with indignation when others are led astray.

They are always ready to share the joys of those who rejoice and the sorrows of those who mourn.

Men whose inner vision has thus been cleansed by the exercise of charity toward their neighbour can delight in the contemplation of truth in itself.

[…] But can people find the truth in their neighbour if…they either scoff at their tears or disparage their joys, being insensitive to all feelings but their own?

There is a popular saying which well suits them: A healthy person cannot feel the pains of sickness, nor can one who is well-fed feel the pangs of hunger.

The more familiar we are with sickness or hunger, the greater will be our compassion for others who are sick or hungry.

Just as pure truth can only be seen by the pure in heart, so the sufferings of our fellow men and women are more truly felt by hearts that know suffering themselves.

However, we cannot sympathize with the wretchedness of others until we first recognize our own.

Then we shall understand the feelings of others by what we personally feel, and know how to come to their help.

Such was the example shown by our Saviour, who desired to suffer himself in order that he might learn to feel compassion, and to be afflicted in order that he might learn how to show mercy.

Scripture says of him that he learned the meaning of obedience through what he suffered. In the same way he learned the meaning of mercy.

Not that the Lord whose mercy is from age to age was ignorant of mercy’s meaning until then.

He knew its nature from all eternity, but he learned it by personal experience during his days on earth.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Degrees of Humility and Pride 3.6, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday of the Third Week of Lent, Year 2.

John Chrysostom: “Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit” Sunday, Jan 15 2012 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 5:3).

What is meant by “the poor in spirit?” The humble and contrite in mind.

For by “spirit” He hath here designated the soul, and the faculty of choice.

That is, since many are humble not willingly, but compelled by stress of circumstances, letting these pass (for this were no matter of praise), He blesses them first, who by choice humble and contract themselves.

But why said he not, “the humble,” but rather “the poor?”

Because this is more than that. For He means here them who are awestruck, and tremble at the commandments of God.

Whom also by His prophet Isaiah God earnestly accepting said, “To whom will I look, but to him who is meek and quiet, and trembleth at My words?” (Isa. 66:2).

For indeed there are many kinds of humility: one is humble in his own measure, another with all excess of lowliness.

It is this last lowliness of mind which that blessed prophet commends, picturing to us the temper that is not merely subdued, but utterly broken, when he saith, “The sacrifice for God is a contrite spirit, a contrite and an humble heart God will not despise” (Ps. 50:17).

[…] For the greatest of evils, and those which make havoc of the whole world, had their entering in from pride.

For the devil, not being such before, did thus become a devil; as indeed Paul plainly declared, saying, “Lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6).

The first man, too, puffed up by the devil with these hopes, was made an example of, and became mortal.

For expecting, to become a god, he lost even what he had. And God also upbraided him with this, and mocking his folly, said, “Behold, Adam is become as one of us” (Gen. 3:22).

And each one of those that came after did hereby wreck himself in impiety, fancying some equality with God:

Since, I say, this was the stronghold of our evils, and the root and fountain of all wickedness, Jesus, preparing a remedy suitable to the disease, laid this law first as a strong and safe foundation.

For this being fixed as a base, the builder in security lays on it all the rest. But if this be taken away, though a man reach to the Heavens in his course of life, it is all easily undermined, and issues in a grievous end.

Though fasting, prayer, almsgiving, temperance, any other good thing whatever, be gathered together in thee; without humility all fall away and perish.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homily 15,2-3 on St Matthew’s Gospel.