Ambrose of Milan: The Lord Jesus was Created of the Virgin for the Redeeming of the Father’s Works Wednesday, Jan 29 2014 

ambrose_of_milanThe prophecy of the Incarnation, “the Lord created me the beginning of His ways for His works” (Prov. 8:22), means that the Lord Jesus was created of the Virgin for the redeeming of the Father’s works.

Truly, we cannot doubt that this is spoken of the mystery of the Incarnation, forasmuch as the Lord took upon Him our flesh, in order to save the works of His hands from the slavery of corruption, so that He might, by the sufferings of His own body, overthrow him who had the power of death.

For Christ’s flesh is for the sake of things created, but His Godhead existed before them, seeing that He is before all things, whilst all things exist together in Him (Col. 1:16).

His Godhead, then, is not by reason of creation, but creation exists because of the Godhead; even as the Apostle showed, saying that all things exist because of the Son of God, for we read as follows:

“But it was fitting that He, through Whom and because of Whom are all things, after bringing many sons to glory, should, as Captain of their salvation, be made perfect through suffering”  (Heb. 2:10).

Has he not plainly declared that the Son of God, Who, by reason of His Godhead, was the Creator of all, did in after time, for the salvation of His people, submit to the taking on of the flesh and the suffering of death?

Now for the sake of what works the Lord was “created” of a virgin, He Himself, whilst healing the blind man, has shown, saying: “In Him must I work the works of Him that sent Me (John  9: 4).

Furthermore He said in the same Scripture, that we might believe Him to speak of the Incarnation: “As long as I am in this world, I am the Light of this world” (John 9:5), for, so far as He is man, He is in this world for a season, but as God He exists at all times.

In another place, too, He says: “Lo, I am with you even unto the end of the world (Matt. 28:20).  […] During His earthly life, He was asked, “Who art Thou?” He answered: “The beginning, even as I tell you” (John 8:25).

This refers not only to the essential nature of the eternal Godhead, but also to the visible proofs of virtues, for hereby has He proved Himself the eternal God, in that He is the beginning of all things, and the Author of each several virtue, in that He is the Head of the Church, as it is written:

“Because He is the Head of the Body, of the Church” (Col. i. 18); “Who is the beginning, first-begotten from the dead” (Eph. 4:15, 16).

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): Exposition of the Christian Faith, 3,7,46-49.

Hilarion Troitsky: It was the Incarnation of the Son of God that was Necessary for the Salvation of Mankind, and not a Book Sunday, Jan 26 2014 

Hilarion_TroitskyThe Sunday nearest January 25th (new calendar) is the feast of the Holy New Martyrs of Russia, one of whom was Hilarion Troitsky.

In the Church there are no stone tablets with letters inscribed by a Divine finger.

The Church has the Holy Scriptures, but He Who established the Church wrote nothing.

[…] And yet the Church has Scripture, which is called by her Holy and Divine. Christ did not write anything.

It seems that if one reflects enough on this fact, one can somewhat understand the very essence of the work of Christ.

As a rule, other religious leaders of humanity, founders of various philosophical schools, have written readily and in abundance, and yet Christ wrote nothing at all.

Does not this mean that in its essence the work of Christ has nothing in common with the work of any of the philosophers, teachers, or leading representatives of the intellectual life of mankind?

Furthermore, has the Church herself ever viewed her Founder as one of the teachers of mankind? Has she ever considered His teachings as the essence of His work?

No, with the utmost exertion of her theological strength, the Christian Church has defended as the greatest religious truth that Christ is the Only-begotten Son of God, One in essence with God the Father, Who became incarnate on earth.

For that truth, the greatest Fathers of the Church labored to the point of blood. They were unbending in the battle for this truth.

They did not yield a single inch to their adversaries, literarlly not even a single iota, which in the Greek language differentiates homoiousion, ”of similar essence,” from homoousion, “coessential.”

“Those who call these men [i.e., Arians] Christians are in great and grievous error,” writes St. Athanasius the Great.

Thus did this adamant of Orthodoxy argue definitively about the impossibility of being a Christian while denying the Incarnation of the Son of God, Who is coessential with God the Father. 

But was the Incarnation of the Only-begotten Son of God necessary only in order to write a book and entrust it to mankind?

Was it absolutely essential for Him to be the Only-begotten Son of God just to write a book?

If the Church insisted with such determination on the Divine dignity of her Founder, then obviously she did not regard writing to be the essence of His work.

It was the Incarnation of the Son of God that was necessary for the salvation of mankind, and not a book.

No book is able, nor could it ever have been able to save mankind. Christ is not the Teacher but precisely the Savior of mankind.

It was necessary to regenerate human nature, which had become decayed through sin, and the beginning of this regeneration was laid by the very Incarnation of the Son of God—not by His teaching, not by the books of the New Testament.

Hilarion Troitsky (1886-1929; Russian Orthodox): Holy Scripture and the Church (1914), translated by Igor Radev in The Orthodox Word № 264-265 @ Pravoslavie.

Antony the Great: The Only-Begotten, the Very Mind of the Father and His Image, the Great Physician Friday, Jan 17 2014 

saints_101_anthonyJanuary 17th is the feast of St Antony the Great.

Truly, my beloved in the Lord, not at one time only did God visit His creatures; but from the foundation of the world, whenever any have come to the Creator of all by the law of His covenant implanted in them, God is present with each one of these in His bounty and grace by His Spirit.

But in the case of those rational natures in which that covenant grew cold, and their intellectual perception died, so that they were no longer able to know themselves according to their first condition; concerning them I say that they became altogether irrational, and worshipped the creation rather than the Creator.

But the Creator of all in His great bounty visited us by the implanted law of the covenant. For He is immortal substance.

And as many as became worthy of God and grew by His implanted law, and were taught by His Holy Spirit and received the Spirit of Adoption, these were able to worship their Creator as they ought: of whom Paul says that “they received not the promise” on account of us. (Heb. 11:39).

And the Creator of All, who repents not of His love, desiring to visit our sickness and confusion, raised up Moses the Lawgiver, who gave us the law in writing, and founded for us the House of Truth, which is the Catholic Church, that makes us one in God; for He desires that we should be brought back to our first beginning.

Moses built the house, yet did not complete it, but left it and went away. Then again God raised up the choir of the Prophets by His Spirit. And they also built on the foundation of Moses, but could not complete the house, and likewise left it and went away.

And all of them , being clothed with the Spirit, saw that the wound was incurable, and that none of the creatures was able to heal it, but only the Only-begotten, who is the very Mind of the Father and His Image, who after the pattern of His Image made every rational creature.

For these knew that the Saviour is the great physician; and they assembled all together, and offered prayer for their members, that is, for us, crying out and saying, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” (Jer. 8:22) “We would have healed her, but she is not healed: now therefore let us forsake her and go away.” (Jer.51:9)

Antony the Great (c.251-356): Letter 2 (trans. Derwas J. Chitty).

John Chrysostom: St John – the Son of Thunder, the Beloved of Christ, Who Holds the Keys of Heaven, Who Drank the Cup of Christ Friday, Dec 27 2013 

John_ChrysostomDecember 27th is the Feast of St John the Evangelist.

For the son of thunder, the beloved of Christ, the pillar of the Churches throughout the world,

who holds the keys of heaven, who drank the cup of Christ, and was baptized with His baptism,

who lay upon his Master’s bosom with much confidence,

this man comes forward to us now;

not as an actor of a play, not hiding his head with a mask…,

nor mounting a platform, nor striking the stage with his foot, nor dressed out with apparel of gold, but he enters wearing a robe of inconceivable beauty.

For he will appear before us having “put on Christ” (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27), having his beautiful “feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace” ( Eph. vi. 15 );

wearing a girdle not about his waist, but about his loins, not made of scarlet leather nor daubed outside with gold, but woven and composed of truth itself.

Seeing then it is no longer the fisherman the son of Zebedee, but He who knoweth “the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10), the Holy Spirit I mean, that striketh this lyre, let us hearken accordingly.

For he will say nothing to us as a man, but what he saith, he will say from the depths of the Spirit, from those secret things which before they came to pass the very Angels knew not; since they too have learned by the voice of John with us, and by us, the things which we know.

And this hath another Apostle declared, saying, “To the intent that unto the principalities and powers might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10).

If then principalities, and powers, and Cherubim, and Seraphim, learned these things by the Church, it is very clear that they were exceedingly earnest in listening to this teaching; and even in this we have been not a little honored, that the Angels learned with us things which before they knew not.

[…] If we long to know what is going on in the palace, what, for instance, the king has said, what he has done, what counsel he is taking concerning his subjects, though in truth these things are for the most part nothing to us; much more is it desirable to hear what God hath said, especially when all concerns us.

And all this will this man tell us exactly, as being a friend of the King Himself, or rather, as having Him speaking within himself, and from Him hearing all things which He heareth from the Father.

“I have called you friends,” He saith, “for all things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known unto you” (John 15:15).

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on St John’s Gospel, Homily1, Preface, 2-3.

Leo the Great: A Man is Made the Body of Christ, because Christ Also is the Body of a Man Thursday, Dec 19 2013 

leo1Such was the state of all mortals resulting from our first ancestors that…no one would have escaped the punishment of condemnation, had not the Word become flesh and dwelt in us, that is to say, in that nature which belonged to our blood and race.

And accordingly, the Apostle says:  “As by one man’s sin (judgment passed) upon all to condemnation, so also by one man’s righteousness (it) passed upon all to justification of life.

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man’s obedience shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:18, 19);

and again, “For because by man (came) death, by man also (came) the resurrection of the dead.

And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive”  (1 Cor. 15:21, 22).

All they to wit who though they be born in Adam, yet are found reborn in Christ, having a sure testimony both to their justification by grace, and to Christ’s sharing in their nature;

for he who does not believe that God’s only-begotten Son did assume our nature in the womb of the Virgin-daughter of David, is without share in the Mystery of the Christian religion, and, as he neither recognizes the Bridegroom nor knows the Bride, can have no place at the wedding-banquet.

For the flesh of Christ is the veil of the Word, wherewith every one is clothed who confesses Him unreservedly.

[…]  Hence whosoever confesses not the human body in Christ, must know that he is unworthy of the mystery of the Incarnation, and has no share in that sacred union of which the Apostle speaks, saying, “For we are His members, of His flesh and of His bones.

For this cause a man shall leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and there shall be two in one flesh” (Eph. 5:30-32). And explaining what was meant by this, he added, “This mystery is great, but I speak in respect of Christ and the Church.”

Therefore, from the very commencement of the human race, Christ is announced to all men as coming in the flesh.

In which, as was said, “there shall be two in one flesh,” there are undoubtedly two, God and man, Christ and the Church, which issued from the Bridegroom’s flesh, when it received the mystery of redemption and regeneration, water and blood flowing from the side of the Crucified.

For the very condition of a new creature which at baptism puts off not the covering of true flesh but the taint of the old condemnation, is this, that a man is made the body of Christ, because Christ also is the body of a man.

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

Justin Popovich: The Lives of the Saints are Holy Evangelical Truths Wednesday, Dec 11 2013 

Justin PopovichWhat are the “Acts of the Holy Apostles”? They are the acts of Christ which the Holy Apostles do by the power of Christ, or better still: they do them by Christ Who is in them and acts through them.

And what are the lives of the Holy Apostles? They are the living of Christ’s life which in the Church is transmitted to all faithful followers of Christ and is continued through them with the help of the holy mysteries and the holy virtues.

And what are the “Lives of the Saints”? They are nothing else but a certain kind of continuation of the “Acts of the Apostles.”

In them is found the same Gospel, the same life, the same truth, the same righteousness, the same love, the same faith, the same eternity, the same “power from on high,” the same God and Lord.

For “the Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever” (Heb. 13:8): the same for all people of all times, distributing the same gifts and the same Divine energies to all who believe in Him.

This continuation of all life-creating Divine energies in the Church of Christ from ages to ages and from generation to generation indeed constitutes living Holy Tradition.

This Holy Tradition is continued without interruption as the life of Grace in all Christians, in whom through the holy mysteries and the holy virtues, Jesus Christ lives by His Grace.

He is wholly present in His Church, for She is His fullness: “the fullness of Him who filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23).

And the God-man Christ is the all-perfect fullness of the Godhead: “for in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:4).

And Christians must, with the help of the holy mysteries and the holy virtues, fill themselves with “all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19).

The Lives of the Saints show forth those persons filled with Christ God, those Christ-bearing persons, those holy persons in whom is preserved and through whom is transmitted the holy tradition of that holy grace-filled life.

It is preserved and transmitted by means of holy evangelical living. For the lives of the saints are holy evangelical truths which are translated into our human life by grace and podvigs (asceticism).

There is no evangelical truth which cannot be transformed into human life. They were all brought by Christ God for one purpose: to become our life, our reality, our possession, our joy.

And the saints, all, without exception, live these Divine truths as the center of their lives and the essence of their being.

Justin Popovich (1894-1979; Orthodox Church): Introduction to the Lives of the Saints.

Elder Sophrony: Sacred tradition is the eternal and immutable dwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Church Tuesday, Nov 26 2013 

SophronyFor the Staretz [St Silouan] the life of the Church meant life in the Holy Spirit, and Sacred Tradition the unceasing action of the Holy Spirit in her.

Sacred Tradition, as the eternal and immutable dwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Church, lies at the very root of her being, and so encompasses her life that even the very Scriptures come to be but one of its forms.

Thus, were the Church to be deprived of Tradition she would cease to be what she is, for the ministry of the New Testament is the ministry of the Spirit ‘written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stones, but in the fleshly tables of the heart’.

Suppose that for some reason the Church were to be bereft of all her books, of the Old and New Testaments, the works of the holy Fathers, of all service books—what would happen?

Sacred Tradition would restore the Scriptures, not word for word, perhaps—the verbal form might be different—but in essence the new Scriptures would be the expression of that same ‘faith which was once delivered unto the saints’.

They would be the expression of the one and only Holy Spirit continuously active in the Church, her foundation and her very substance.

The Scriptures are not more profound, not more important than Holy Tradition but, as said above, they are one of its forms—the most precious form, both because they are preserved and convenient to make use of.

But removed from the stream of Sacred Tradition, the Scriptures cannot be rightly understood through any scientific research.

If the Apostle Paul had the ‘mind of Christ’, how much more does this apply to the whole body of the Church of which St Paul is one member!

And if the writings of St Paul and the other Apostles are Holy Scripture, then new Scriptures of the Church, written supposedly after the loss of the old books, would in their turn become Holy Scripture, for according to the Lord’s promise God, the Holy Trinity, will be in the Church even unto the end of the world.

Men go wrong when they set aside Sacred Tradition and go, as they think, to its source—to the Holy Scriptures. The Church has her origins, not in the Scriptures but in Sacred Tradition.

The Church did not possess the New Testament during the first decades of her history. She lived then by Tradition only—the Tradition St. Paul calls upon the faithful to hold.

Elder Sophrony (1896-1993; Orthodox): from St. Silouan the Athonite, by Archimandrite Sophrony @ Eclectic Orthodoxy.

Tikhon of Zadonsk: Every Occasion and Thing Can Inspire You to a Loving Remembrance of the Lord Your God Saturday, Nov 23 2013 

Tikhon_of_ZadonskEverywhere and in every endeavor remember the Lord your God and His holy love for us.

Everything that you may see in heaven and on earth and in your house awakens you to the remembrance of the Lord your God and His holy love.

We are enveloped in God’s love. Every creature of God bears witness to His love for us.

When you see God’s creation and make use of it, say to yourself thus: This is the work of the hands of the Lord my God, and it was created for my sake.

[…] This word, the Sacred Scripture which I hear, is the word of God, it is the word of His mouth.

The mouth of my Lord spoke this, and through it my God speaks to me, “The law of Thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver” (LXX Ps. 118:72).

O Lord, grant me ears to hear Thy holy word. This holy house, the church in which I stand, is the temple of God in which prayer and glorification are offered up to my God in common from the faithful, my brethren.

These voices, this glorification and common prayer are those voices by which hymns, thanksgiving, praise and glorification are sent up to the holy name of my God.

This consecrated man, the bishop or priest, is the closest servant of my God, who offers prayers to Him for me a sinner and for all the world.

This man, the preacher of the word of God, is the messenger of my God, who makes known the way of salvation to me and to the rest of the people my brethren.

This brother of mine, every man, is the beloved creature of my God, and like myself is a creature created after the image and likeness of God.

And having fallen he was redeemed, like myself, by the Blood of the Son of God my Saviour, and is called to everlasting life by the Word of God.

I must love him as the beloved creature of my God, love him as I love myself. And I must not do to him anything that I myself do not love, and I must do to him what I desire for myself, for that is what my God commanded me.

In a word, every occasion and every thing can and must inspire you to a loving remembrance of the Lord your God, and must show you His love toward you, since even His chastisement comes from His love toward us.

According to the Scripture, “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth” (Heb. 12:6). Remember, then, everywhere and on every occasion and in all things, the name of the Lord your God.

Tikhon of Zadonsk (1724-1783; Russian Orthodox): extract @ Kandylaki  from Journey to Heaven: Counsels On the Particular Duties of Every Christian by Our Father Among the Saints, Tikhon of Zadonsk, Bishop of Voronezh and Elets (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2004)

Silouan the Athonite: With the Holy Spirit the saints glorify God, and with the Holy Spirit the Lord glorifies the saints Thursday, Nov 14 2013 

Silouan the Athonite“I love them who love Me, and I will glorify them who glorify Me,” says the Lord (cf. Prov. 8:17 & 1 Kg. 2:30).

God is glorified by His Saints, and, in turn, the Saints are glorified by God.

The glory that God gives to the Saints is so great, that if people were to see a saint as he truly is, they would fall to the ground on account of reverence and fear, because physical man cannot endure the glory of such a heavenly appearance.

Do not marvel at this. The Lord loved man, whom He created, to such an extent that He poured the Holy Spirit abundantly upon man, and through this Holy Spirit man became like unto God.

The Lord gave His grace to the Saints, and they loved Him and completely devoted themselves to Him, because the sweetness of God’s love surpasses the love for the world and its beauty.

And if things are so here on the earth, then in Heaven the saints are even more closely united with the Lord through love.

God is love, and the Holy Spirit is love for the saints. With the Holy Spirit the Lord becomes known. With the Holy Spirit, the Lord is magnified in the heavens.

With the Holy Spirit the Saints glorify God, and with the Holy Spirit the Lord glorifies the Saints—and this glory has no end.

To many people it seems as though the Saints are far away from us. In reality, they are far from those people who have distanced themselves from the Saints;

whereas, they are very close to the people who keep Christ’s commandments and who have the grace of the Holy Spirit.

In Heaven, everything lives and moves in the Holy Spirit. But even on the earth, we have the same Holy Spirit.

This Holy Spirit lives in our Church. The Holy Spirit unites everyone, and for this reason the Saints are close to us.

And when we pray to them, they hear our prayers through the Holy Spirit, and our souls sense and feel their intercessions for us.

The Saints live in another world where they behold, through the Holy Spirit, the divine glory and beauty of the Lord’s face.

Through this same Holy Spirit they also see our lives and our deeds. They are familiar with our sorrows, and they hear our fervent prayers.

While on the earth, they were taught the love of God by the Holy Spirit. And whoever has acquired love on the earth proceeds with it to the eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven, where this love increases until it becomes perfect.

And if on the earth love cannot forget about its fellow man, then even more so the Saints in Heaven do not forget about us, and they pray for us.

Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938; Eastern Orthodox) @ Discerning Thoughts and St Nektarios Monastery.

Justin Popovich: When God Became Man, Divine Life Became Human Life – Everything Which Is God’s Became Man’s Monday, Nov 11 2013 

Justin PopovichWho is a Christian? A Christian is a man who lives by Christ and in Christ.

The commandment of the Holy Gospel of God is divine: “live worthily of God” (Col. 1:10).

God, Who became incarnate and Who as the Godman has in entirety remained in His Church, which lives eternally by Him.

And one lives “worthily of God” when one lives according to the Gospel of Christ.

Therefore, this Divine commandment of the Holy Gospel is also natural: “Live worthily of the Gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27).

Life according to the Gospel, holy life, Divine life, that is the natural and normal life for Christians.

For Christians, according to their vocation, are holy: That good tiding and commandment resounds throughout the whole Gospel of the New Testament.

To become completely holy, both in soul and in body, that is our vocation. This is not a miracle, but rather the norm, the rule of faith.

The commandment of the Holy Gospel is clear and most clear: as the Holy One who has called you is Holy, so be ye holy in all manner of life (1 Peter 1:15).

And that means that according to Christ the Holy One, Who, having been incarnate and become man, showed forth in Himself a completely holy life, and as such commands men: “be ye holy, for I am Holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

He has the right to command this, for having become man He gives men as Himself, the Holy One, all the Divine energies which are necessary for a holy and pious life in this world.

Having united themselves spiritually and by Grace to the Holy One—the Lord Christ—with the help of faith, Christians themselves receive from Him the holy energies that they may lead a holy life.

Living by Christ, the saints can do the works of Christ, for by Him they become not only powerful but all-powerful: “I can do all things in Christ Jesus who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

And in them is clearly realized the truth of the All-True One, that those who believe in Him will do His works and will do greater things than these: “Verily, verily I say unto you: he that believeth in me, the works that I do he shall do also and greater works than these shall he do” (John 14:12).

And truly: the shadow of the Apostle Peter healed; by a word St. Mark the Ascetic moved and stopped a mountain…

When God became man, then Divine life became human life, Divine power became human power, Divine truth became human truth, and Divine righteousness became human righteousness: everything which is God’s became man’s.

Justin Popovich (1894-1979; Orthodox Church): Introduction to the Lives of the Saints.

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