Irenaeus of Lyons: Calling men anew to communion with God, that by communion with Him we may partake of incorruption Tuesday, Aug 23 2016 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonContinued from here….

If He was not born, neither did He die. And, if He died not, neither did He rise from the dead.

And, if He rose not from the dead, neither did He vanquish death and bring its reign to nought.

And if death be not vanquished, how can we ascend to life, who from the beginning have fallen under death?

So then those who take away redemption from man, and believe not in God that He will raise them from the dead, these also despise the birth of our Lord.

This He underwent on our behalf, that the Word of God should be made flesh in order that He might manifest the resurrection of the flesh, and might have pre-eminence over all things in the heavens, as the first-born and eldest offspring of the thought of the Father, the Word, fulfilling all things, and Himself guiding and ruling upon earth.

For He was the Virgin’s first-born, a just and holy man, godfearing, good, well-pleasing to God, perfect in all ways, and delivering from hell all who follow after Him. For He Himself was the first-begotten of the dead, the Prince and Author of life unto God.

Thus then the Word of God in all things hath the pre-eminence; for that He is true man and Wonderful Counsellor and Mighty God, calling men anew to communion with God, that by communion with Him we may partake of incorruption.

He was proclaimed by the law through Moses, and by the prophets of the Most High and Almighty God, as Son of the Father of all – He from whom all things are, He who spake with Moses.

He came into Judaea, generated from God by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary, even of her who was of the seed of David and of Abraham, Jesus the Anointed of God, showing Himself to be the One who was proclaimed beforehand by the prophets.

And His forerunner was John the Baptist who prepared and made ready the people beforehand for the reception of the Word of life; declaring that He was the Christ, on whom the Spirit of God rested, mingling with His flesh.

His disciples…, after receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, were sent forth by Him into all the world, and wrought the calling of the Gentiles, showing to mankind the way of life, to turn them from idols and fornication and covetousness, cleansing their souls and bodies by the baptism of water and of the Holy Spirit.

This Holy Spirit they had received of the Lord, and they distributed and imparted It to them that believed; and thus they ordered and established the Churches.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 39-41 [slightly adapted].

John Paul II: Life in the Spirit transcends even death Friday, May 22 2015 

jp2“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

In these words from the Gospel of John, the gift of “eternal life” represents the ultimate purpose of the Father’s loving plan.

This gift gives us access through grace to the ineffable communion of love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit:

“This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3).

The “eternal life” that flows from the Father is communicated to us in its fullness by Jesus in his paschal mystery through the Holy Spirit.

By receiving it we share in the risen Jesus’ definitive victory over death. “Death and life”, we proclaim in the liturgy, “have contended in that combat stupendous: the Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal” (Sequence for Easter Sunday).

In this decisive event of salvation, Jesus gives human beings “eternal life” in the Holy Spirit.

In the “fullness of time” Christ thus fulfils, beyond all expectation, that promise of “eternal life” which the Father has inscribed in the creation of man in his image and likeness since the beginning of the world (cf. Gn 1:26).

As we sing in Psalm 104, man experiences that life in the cosmos and, particularly, his own life have their beginning in the “breath” communicated by the Spirit of the Lord:

“When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth” (vv. 29-30).

Communion with God, the gift of his Spirit, more and more becomes for the chosen people the pledge of a life that is not limited to earthly existence but mysteriously transcends and prolongs it forever.

[…] Jesus links belief in the resurrection to his own person: “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (Jn 11:25).

In him, through the mystery of his Death and Resurrection, the divine promise of the gift of “eternal life” is fulfilled.

This life implies total victory over death: “The hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear the voice [of the Son] and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life …” (Jn 5:28-29).

“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:40).

John Paul II (1920-2005): General Audience, October 28th, 1998.

 

Hilary of Poitiers: “The Glory Which Thou Hast Given Me I Have Given Unto Them” Wednesday, May 14 2014 

St_Hilary_of_Poitiers_cassienThe promotion of unity is set forth by a pattern of unity when Jesus says as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us.

Accordingly, as the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father, so through the pattern of this unity all might be one in the Father and the Son.

[…] That the world may believe that Thou didst send Me (John 17:21).

Thus the world is to believe that the Son has been sent by the Father because all who shall believe in Him will be one in the Father and the Son.

And how they will be so we are soon told: And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given unto them (John  17:22).

Now I ask whether glory is identical with will, since will is an emotion of the mind while glory is an ornament or embellishment of nature.

So then it is the glory received from the Father that the Son hath given to all who shall believe in Him, and certainly not will.

Had this been given, faith would carry with it no reward, for a necessity of will attached to us would also impose faith upon us.

However He has shewn what is effected by the bestowal of the glory received, That they may be one, even as We are one (John 17:22)It is then with this object that the received glory was bestowed, that all might be one.

So now all are one in glory, because the glory given is none other than that which was received: nor has it been given for any other cause than that all should be one.

And since all are one through the glory given to the Son and by the Son bestowed upon believers, I ask how can the Son be of a different glory from the Father’s, since the glory of the Son brings all that believe into the unity of the Father’s glory.

Now it may be that the utterance of human hope in this case may be somewhat immoderate, yet it will not be contrary to faith; for though to hope for this were presumptuous, yet not to have believed it is sinful, for we have one and the same Author both of our hope and of our faith.

We will treat of this matter more clearly and at greater length in its own place, as is fitting. Yet in the meantime it is easily seen from our present argument that this hope of ours is neither vain nor presumptuous. So then through the glory received and given all are one.

Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-368): On the Trinity, 8, 11-12.

Elder Sophrony: When We Choose Christ We are Carried Beyond Time and Space, Beyond the Reach of what is Termed “Tragedy” Friday, Mar 28 2014 

SophronyContinued from here….

In refusing to accept Christ as Eternal Man and, more importantly, as True God and our Saviour – whatever the form the refusal takes, and whatever the pretext – we lose the light of life eternal.

‘Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovest me before the founda­tion of the world’ (John 17.24).

There, in the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, must our mind dwell. We must hunger and thirst to enter into this wondrous Kingdom.

Then we shall overcome in ourselves the sin of refusing the Father’s love as revealed to us through the Son (cf. John 8.24).

When we choose Christ we are carried beyond time and space, beyond the reach of what is termed ‘tragedy’.

The moment the Holy Spirit grants us to know the hypostatic form of prayer we can begin to break the fetters that shackle us.

Emerging from the prison cell of selfish individualism into the wide expanse of life in the image of Christ, we perceive the nature of the personalism of the Gospel.

[…] It is a recognised fact that the ego is the weapon in the struggle for existence of the individual who refuses Christ’s call to open our hearts to total, universal love.

The persona, by contrast, is inconceivable without all-embracing love either in the Divine Being or in the human being.

Prolonged and far from easy ascetic effort can open our eyes to the love that Christ taught, and we can apprehend the whole world through ourselves, through our own sufferings and searchings.

We become like a world-wide radio receiver and can identify ourselves with the tragic element, not only in the lives of individual people but of the world at large, and we pray for the world as for our own selves.

In this kind of prayer the spirit beholds the depths of evil, the sombre result of having eaten of the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’.

But it is not only evil that we see – we make con­tact, too, with Absolute Good, with God, Who translates our prayer into a vision of Uncreated Light.

The soul may then forget the world for whom she was praying, and cease to be aware of the body. The prayer of divine love becomes our very being, our body.

The soul may return to this world. But the spirit of man, having experienced his resurrection and come near existentially to eternity, is even further persuaded that tragedy and death are the consequence of sin and that there is no other way to salvation than through Christ.

Elder Sophrony (1896-1993; Orthodox): from His Life Is Mine, London 1977, p. 37-40 @ Pemptousia.

Gregory Nazianzen: Holding Communion with God, Associated with the Purest Light Thursday, Jan 30 2014 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenIn the eastern calendar, January 30th is the Synaxis of The Three Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, & John Chrysostom.

In praising Athanasius, I shall be praising virtue….  Again, in praising virtue, I shall be praising God, who gives virtue to men and lifts them up, or lifts them up again, to Himself by the enlightenment which is akin to Himself (1 John 1:5).

For many and great as are our blessings—none can say how many and how great—which we have and shall have from God, this is the greatest and kindliest of all, our inclination and relationship to Him.

For God is to intelligible things what the sun is to the things of sense.  The one lightens the visible, the other the invisible, world.  The one makes our bodily eyes to see the sun, the other makes our intellectual natures to see God.

And, as that, which bestows on the things which see and are seen the power of seeing and being seen, is itself the most beautiful of visible things; so God, who creates, for those who think, and that which is thought of, the power of thinking and being thought of, is Himself the highest of the objects of thought, in Whom every desire finds its bourne, beyond Whom it can no further go.

For not even the most philosophic, the most piercing, the most curious intellect has, or can ever have, a more exalted object.  For this is the utmost of things desirable, and they who arrive at it find an entire rest from speculation.

Whoever has been permitted to escape by reason and contemplation from matter and this fleshly cloud or veil (whichever it should be called) and to hold communion with God, and be associated, as far as man’s nature can attain, with the purest Light, blessed is he, both from his ascent from hence, and for his deification there, which is conferred by true philosophy, and by rising superior to the dualism of matter, through the unity which is perceived in the Trinity.

And whosoever has been depraved by being knit to the flesh, and so far oppressed by the clay that he cannot look at the rays of truth, nor rise above things below, though he is born from above, and called to things above, I hold him to be miserable in his blindness, even though he may abound in things of this world;

and all the more, because he is the sport of his abundance, and is persuaded by it that something else is beautiful instead of that which is really beautiful, reaping, as the poor fruit of his poor opinion, the sentence of darkness, or the seeing Him to be fire, Whom he did not recognize as light.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 21 (on the Great Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria), 1-2.

Gregory Palamas: When Our Nature was Remade in the Jordan, the Most Sublime and All-Accomplishing Trinity was Made Manifest Saturday, Jan 11 2014 

Gregory_PalamasJesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water:

and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him:

and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:16-17).

Man is the only creature who, in the image of the tri-hypostatic Being, has a mind, reason, and a spirit which gives life to his body, inasmuch as he also has a body which needs to be infused with life.

When our nature was re-made in the Jordan, the most sublime and all-accomplishing Trinity was made manifest, as the archetype of the image in our soul.

[…] Christ’s going down into the water and His being underneath it, at the time of His baptism, foreshadowed His descent into Hades; and, accordingly, His coming up from under the water prefigured His resurrection from the dead.

As a fitting consequence, when He came up from the water the heavens were immediately opened unto Him.

For at the time of His descent into Hades, He went under the earth for our sake, and on returning thence, He opened all things both to Himself and to us, not just things on or around the earth, but highest heaven itself, to which afterwards He ascended bodily, “whither the forerunner is for us entered” (Hebrews 6.20).

Just as He foreshadowed the saving Passion through the mystical bread and cup, and then handed on this mystery to the faithful to perform for their salvation (1 Corinthians 11.25; Luke 22.17-20), so He mystically foretold His descent into Hades and His ascent from there through this baptism of His, and afterwards passed on this sacrament to believers to perform that they may be saved.

He allowed Himself what was painful and difficult, but bestowed on us communion in His sufferings right from the start through these painless means, causing us, according to the Apostle, to be “planted together in the likeness of His death” (Romans 6.5), that in due time we might also be vouchsafed the promised resurrection.

Having a soul and body like ours, which He assumed from us for our sake, by means of this body He underwent the Passion, death and burial for us, and showed forth the resurrection from the tomb that this same body might become immortal.

He taught us to accomplish the bloodless sacrifice in remembrance of these events, that through it we might reap salvation.

With His soul He went down to Hades and returned, making us all partakers in eternal light and life, and in token of this He handed on to us the practice of holy baptism, that through it we might harvest salvation;

and indeed that through each of these two mysteries and through both elements, soul and body, we might be initiated into and receive the seeds of incorruptible life.

For our whole salvation depends on these two sacraments, as the entire dispensation whereby God became man is summed up in them.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 60, on the Holy Feast of Theophany: Disclosing the Mystery of Christ’s Baptism as far as is Possible. From Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009) @ Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension, Oakland, California.

Georges Florovsky: Gregory of Nyssa on the Appearance of God to Moses on Mount Sinai Friday, Jan 10 2014 

FlorovskyJanuary 10th is the feast of St Gregory of Nyssa (OrthooxWiki here; Pope Benedixt XVI here and here; Georges Florovsky here).

Gregory sees an example of the mystical ascent to God in the figure of Moses the Lawgiver and in the appearance of God on Mount Sinai.

The people were ordered to purify themselves, and the mountain was covered with a cloud and illuminated by fire.

“By the power of God alone and without any other implement the air formed itself into individual words. These words were not only distinct, but they proclaimed the divine commandments.”

The people were afraid to ascend the mountain to listen, and only Moses entered the cloud.

He himself became invisible when he penetrated the ineffable mystery of the Divinity and was in communion with the Invisible One.”

The appearance of God begins with light, and Moses had once seen God in His radiance in the Burning Bush. Now, having become closer to perfection, he saw God in a cloud and, sheltered by a cloud, he participated in eternal life.

In Gregory’s interpretation the first steps away from the path of error are light. A closer examination of that which is hidden leads into a cloud, which replaces visible things.

Finally the soul enters the innermost sanctuary of the knowledge of God “which is enveloped on all sides by the divine cloud. Everything that can be seen and comprehended remains outside, and all that is left for the vision of the soul is that which is invisible and incomprehensible. In this cloud is God.”

The Divinity is “beyond the reach of the understanding.” As man ascends, the “inaccessible nature of Divinity” gradually becomes revealed to him and reason sees God in “the invisible and incomprehensible,” in “a radiant cloud.”

Even when it reaches this cloud the soul realizes that it is as far from perfection as if it had never set out. According to Gregory, it is exactly this that is the highest truth of all.

Our true knowledge is that we do not and cannot know because that which we seek is beyond our cognition. By its very nature the Divinity is higher than knowledge and comprehension.

The first principle of theology must be that God is inaccessible. That which can be contemplated cannot be conceptually expressed.

Whoever claims that God can be known merely shows that he has abandoned the One Who truly exists in favor of something which exists only in the imagination and which does not contain true life, for this life cannot be expressed by concepts.

Georges Florovsky (1893-1979; Eastern Orthodox): “St Gregory of Nyssa” in The Eastern Fathers of the Fourth Century.

Cyprian of Carthage: “They All Continued with One Accord in Prayer” Tuesday, Dec 10 2013 

Saint-Cyprian-of-CarthageBefore all things, the Teacher of peace and the Master of unity would not have prayer to be made singly and individually, as for one who prays to pray for himself alone.

For we say not “My Father, which art in heaven,” nor “Give me this day my daily bread.”

Nor does each one ask that only his own debt should be forgiven him; nor does he request for himself alone that he may not be led into temptation, and delivered from evil.

Our prayer is public and common; and when we pray, we pray not for one, but for the whole people, because we the whole people are one.

The God of peace and the Teacher of concord, who taught unity, willed that one should thus pray for all, even as He Himself bore us all in one.

This law of prayer the three children observed when they were shut up in the fiery furnace, speaking together in prayer, and being of one heart in the agreement of the spirit.

And this the faith of the sacred Scripture assures us, and in telling us how such as these prayed, gives an example which we ought to follow in our prayers, in order that we may be such as they were:

“Then these three,” it says, “as if from one mouth sang an hymn, and blessed the Lord” (Song of the Three Children 28).

They spoke as if from one mouth, although Christ had not yet taught them how to pray. And therefore, as they prayed, their speech was availing and effectual, because a peaceful, and sincere, and spiritual prayer deserved well of the Lord.

Thus also we find that the apostles, with the disciples, prayed after the Lord’s ascension: “They all,” says the Scripture, “continued with one accord in prayer, with the women, and Mary who was the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren” (Acts 1:14).

They continued with one accord in prayer, declaring both by the urgency and by the agreement of their praying, that God, “who maketh men to dwell of one mind in a house” (Ps. 68:6), only admits into the divine and eternal home those among whom prayer is unanimous.

What matters of deep moment are contained in the Lord’s prayer! How many and how great, briefly collected in the words, but spiritually abundant in virtue! so that there is absolutely nothing passed over that is not comprehended in these our prayers and petitions, as in a compendium of heavenly doctrine.

Cyprian of Carthage (d.258): On The Lord’s Prayer, 8-9.

John Paul II: Heaven is Communion of Life and Love with the Trinity (2) Monday, Nov 25 2013 

jp2Continued from here…

The fatherhood of God, who is rich in mercy, is experienced by creatures through the love of God’s crucified and risen Son, who sits in heaven on the right hand of the Father as Lord.

After the course of our earthly life, participation in complete intimacy with the Father thus comes through our insertion into Christ’s paschal mystery.

St Paul emphasizes our meeting with Christ in heaven at the end of time with a vivid spatial image: “Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thes 4:17-18).

In the context of Revelation, we know that the “heaven” or “happiness” in which we will find ourselves is neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity.

It is our meeting with the Father which takes place in the risen Christ through the communion of the Holy Spirit. It is always necessary to maintain a certain restraint in describing these “ultimate realities” since their depiction is always unsatisfactory.

Today, personalist language is better suited to describing the state of happiness and peace we will enjoy in our definitive communion with God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up the Church’s teaching on this truth:

“By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has ‘opened’ heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ” (n. 1026).

This final state, however, can be anticipated in some way today in sacramental life, whose centre is the Eucharist, and in the gift of self through fraternal charity. If we are able to enjoy properly the good things that the Lord showers upon us every day, we will already have begun to experience that joy and peace which one day will be completely ours.

We know that on this earth everything is subject to limits, but the thought of the “ultimate” realities helps us to live better the “penultimate” realities.

We know that as we pass through this world we are called to seek “the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1), in order to be with him in the eschatological fulfilment, when the Spirit will fully reconcile with the Father “all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (Col 1:20).

John Paul II (1920-2005): Wednesday General Audience, 21st July 1999.

 

John Paul II: Heaven is Communion of Life and Love with the Trinity (1) Monday, Nov 25 2013 

jp2When the form of this world has passed away, those who have welcomed God into their lives and have sincerely opened themselves to his love, at least at the moment of death, will enjoy that fullness of communion with God which is the goal of human life.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “this perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity — this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed — is called ‘heaven’”.

[…] In biblical language “heaven”, when it is joined to the “earth”, indicates part of the universe. Scripture says about creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gn 1:1).

Metaphorically speaking, heaven is understood as the dwelling-place of God, who is thus distinguished from human beings (cf. Ps 104:2f.; 115:16; Is 66:1). He sees and judges from the heights of heaven (cf. Ps 113:4-9) and comes down when he is called upon (cf. Ps 18:9, 10; 144:5).

However the biblical metaphor makes it clear that God does not identify himself with heaven, nor can he be contained in it (cf. 1 Kgs 8:27); and this is true, even though in some passages of the First Book of the Maccabees “Heaven” is simply one of God’s names (1 Mc 3:18, 19, 50, 60; 4:24, 55).

The depiction of heaven as the transcendent dwelling-place of the living God is joined with that of the place to which believers, through grace, can also ascend, as we see in the Old Testament accounts of Enoch (cf. Gn 5:24) and Elijah (cf. 2 Kgs 2:11).

Thus heaven becomes an image of life in God. In this sense Jesus speaks of a “reward in heaven” (Mt 5:12) and urges people to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (ibid., 6:20; cf. 19:21). The New Testament amplifies the idea of heaven in relation to the mystery of Christ.

To show that the Redeemer’s sacrifice acquires perfect and definitive value, the Letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus “passed through the heavens” (Heb 4:14), and “entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself” (ibid., 9:24). Since believers are loved in a special way by the Father, they are raised with Christ and made citizens of heaven.

[…] “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:4-7).

John Paul II (1920-2005): Wednesday General Audience, 21st July 1999.

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