John Damascene: Hail! O Christ, the Word and Wisdom and Power of God, and God omnipotent! Friday, Jun 3 2016 

John-of-Damascus_01Continued from here….

The worship of demons then has ceased;

creation has been sanctified by the divine blood;

altars and temples of idols have been overthrown;

the knowledge of God has been implanted in men’s minds;

the co-essential Trinity, the uncreate divinity, one true God, Creator and Lord of all receives men’s service;

virtues are cultivated, the hope of resurrection has been granted through the resurrection of Christ;

the demons shudder at those men who of old were under their subjection.

And the marvel, indeed, is that all this has been successfully brought about through His Cross and passion and death.

Throughout all the earth the Gospel of the knowledge of God has been preached; no wars or weapons or armies being used to rout the enemy, but only a few, naked, poor, illiterate, persecuted and tormented men.

With their lives in their hands, they preached Him Who was crucified in the flesh and died, and who became victors over the wise and powerful.

For the omnipotent power of the Cross accompanied them.

Death itself, which once was man’s chiefest terror, has been overthrown, and now that which was once the object of hate and loathing is preferred to life.

These are the achievements of Christ’s presence: these are the tokens of His power.

For it was not one people that He saved, as when through Moses He divided the sea and delivered Israel out of Egypt and the bondage of Pharaoh (Ex. 14:16);

nay, rather He rescued all mankind from the corruption of death and the bitter tyranny of sin: not leading them by force to virtue, not overwhelming them with earth or burning them with fire, or ordering the sinners to be stoned, but persuading men by gentleness and long-suffering to choose virtue and vie with one another, and find pleasure in the struggle to attain it.

For, formerly, it was sinners who were persecuted, and yet they clung all the closer to sin, and sin was looked upon by them as their God. But now for the sake of piety and virtue men choose persecutions and crucifixions and death.

Hail! O Christ, the Word and Wisdom and Power of God, and God omnipotent! What can we helpless ones give Thee in return for all these good gifts?

For all are Thine, and Thou askest naught from us save our salvation, Thou Who Thyself art the Giver of this, and yet art grateful to those who receive it, through Thy unspeakable goodness.

Thanks be to Thee Who gave us life, and granted us the grace of a happy life, and restored us to that, when we had gone astray, through Thy unspeakable condescension.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 4,4 [slightly adapted].

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Irenaeus of Lyons: “He was obedient even unto death” Saturday, Apr 9 2016 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonContinued from here….

He obeyed even unto death, hanging on the tree, He put away the old disobedience which was wrought in the tree.

He is the Word of God Almighty, who in unseen manner in our midst is universally extended in all the world, and encompasses its length and breadth and height and depth.

For by the Word of God the whole universe is ordered and disposed.

In it the Son of God is crucified, inscribed crosswise upon it all.

For it is right that He being made visible, should set upon all things visible the sharing of His cross, that He might show His operation on visible things through a visible form.

For He it is who illuminates the height, that is the heavens; and encompasses the deep which is beneath the earth and stretches and spreads out the length from east to west.

He it is who steers across the breadth of north and south summoning all that are scattered in every quarter to the knowledge of the Father.

Moreover He fulfilled the promise made to Abraham, which God had promised him, to make his seed as the stars of heaven.

For this Christ did, who was born of the Virgin who was of Abraham’s seed, and constituted those who have faith in Him lights in the world, and by the same faith with Abraham justified the Gentiles.

For Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. In like manner we also are justified by faith in God: for the just shall live by faith. 

Now not by the law is the promise to Abraham, but by faith: for Abraham was justified by faith: and for a righteous man the law is not made.

In like manner we also are justified not by the law, but by faith, which is witnessed to in the law and in the prophets, whom the Word of God presents to us.

And He fulfilled the promise to David; for to him God had promised that of the fruit of his body He would raise up an eternal King, whose kingdom should have no end.

And this King is Christ, the Son of God, who became the Son of man; that is, who became the fruit of that Virgin who had her descent from David.

And for this cause the promise was, Of the fruit of thy body – that He might declare the peculiar uniqueness of Him, who was the fruit of the virgin body that was of David, even of Him who was King over the house of David, and of whose kingdom there shall be no end.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 34-36 (slightly adapted).

Venantius Fortunatus: Sing, my tongue, of warfare ended Friday, Mar 25 2016 

Venantius_Fortunatus

Sing, my tongue, of warfare ended
Of the Victor’s laurelled crown;
Let the Cross, his trophy splendid,
Be the theme of high renown;
How a broken world was mended:
Life restored by life laid down.

God for man’s rebellion grieving,
When the world his hands had made
Perished by a fruit’s deceiving,
In that hour his counsel laid,
By a tree the race reprieving
Whom a tree long since betrayed.

Man’s eternal health contriving
Wrought he with unfailing art –
Wisdom ’gainst the wisdom striving
Of the tempter’s guileful heart;
From that source the balm deriving
Whence the foe had steeped his dart.

Therefore, when that hallowed hour
Time to its fulfillment brought,
From his Father’s heavenly tower
Came he, whom the worlds had wrought,
From his Mother’s secret bower,
Clothed in flesh, and welcome sought.

See a helpless Infant crying,
Whom a manger doth enfold;
See his Virgin Mother tying
Rags about him in the cold;
Bound both hand and feet, and lying
Mid the beasts, your God behold!

Now, his years of life perfected,
Our atonement’s price to be,
By the doom long since elected,
Bound and nailed to set us free,
Christ, our Victim, hangs rejected
On the Cross of Calvary.

Gall he drinks; his strength subduing,
Reed and thorn and nail and spear
Plot his gentle frame’s undoing;
Blood and water thence appear,
With their cleansing tide renewing
Earth and sea and starry sphere.

Hail, true Cross, of beauty rarest,
King of all the forest trees;
Leaf and flower and fruit thou barest,
Medicine for a world’s disease;
Fairest wood and fairest iron –
Yet more fair, Who hung on thee!

Bend thy branches down to meet him,
Bend that stubborn heart of thine;
Let thy native force, to greet him,
All its ruggedness resign;
Gently let thy wood entreat him,
Royal sufferer, and divine.

Victim of our race, he deignèd
On thy arms to lay his head;
Thou the ark, whose refuge gainèd,
Sinful man no more may dread;
Ark, whose planks are deeply stainèd
With the Blood the Lamb has shed.

Honor, glory, might and merit
To the eternal Trinity,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Throned in heaven co-equally;
All that doth the world inherit,
Praise one God in Persons Three.

Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus (c.530–c.600/609) Pange lingua gloriosi proelium certaminis  trans. Mons. Ronald Knox.

 

Augustine of Hippo: “Let me not boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” Wednesday, Mar 23 2016 

St Augustine of AfricaIt is a great thing that we are promised by the Lord, but far greater is what has already been done for us, and which we now commemorate.

Where were the sinners, what were they, when Christ died for them?

When Christ has already given us the gift of his death, who is to doubt that he will give the saints the gift of his own life?

Why does our human frailty hesitate to believe that mankind will one day live with God?

Who is Christ if not the Word of God: in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God?

This Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us. He had no power of himself to die for us: he had to take from us our mortal flesh.

This was the way in which, though immortal, he was able to die; the way in which he chose to give life to mortal men: he would first share with us, and then enable us to share with him.

Of ourselves we had no power to live, nor did he of himself have the power to die.  In other words, he performed the most wonderful exchange with us. Through us, he died; through him, we shall live.

The death of the Lord our God should not be a cause of shame for us; rather, it should be our greatest hope, our greatest glory. In taking upon himself the death that he found in us, he has most faithfully promised to give us life in him, such as we cannot have of ourselves.

He loved us so much that, sinless himself, he suffered for us sinners the punishment we deserved for our sins.

How then can he fail to give us the reward we deserve for our righteousness, for he is the source of righteousness? How can he, whose promises are true, fail to reward the saints when he bore the punishment of sinners, though without sin himself?

Brethren, let us then fearlessly acknowledge, and even openly proclaim, that Christ was crucified for us; let us confess it, not in fear but in joy, not in shame but in glory.

The apostle Paul saw Christ, and extolled his claim to glory. He had many great and inspired things to say about Christ, but he did not say that he boasted in Christ’s wonderful works: in creating the world, since he was God with the Father, or in ruling the world, though he was also a man like us.

Rather, he said: Let me not boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Sermon Guelf 3 from the Office of Readings, Monday of Holy Week @ Universalis.

John Chrysostom: If the Cross has its foundation in love and is our glory, we must not say we mourn because of the Cross Wednesday, Mar 9 2016 

Chrysostom3Why do we fast for forty days?

Formerly many believers approached the sacraments without any particular preparation, especially at the time when Christ first gave them to us.

But when the fathers realized the harm that could result from such neglect, they took counsel together and decreed that a period of forty days of fasting be set aside, during which the people would meet to pray and listen to the word of God.

During this Lenten season each of the faithful would undergo a thorough purification by means of prayer, almsgiving, fasting, watching, repentant tears, confession, and every other remedial measure.

Then when they had done all in their power to cleanse their consciences, they could approach the sacraments.

[…] So, when someone asks you why you fast, you should not answer: because of the Passover, or because of the Cross.

Neither of these is the reason for our fasting. We fast because of our sins, since we are preparing to approach the sacred mysteries.

Moreover, the Christian Passover is a time for neither fasting nor mourning, but for great joy, since the Cross destroyed sin and made expiation for the whole world.

It reconciled ancient enmities and opened the gates of heaven. It made friends of those who had been filled with hatred, restoring them to the citizenship of heaven.

Through the Cross our human nature has been set at the right hand of the throne of God, and we have been granted countless good things besides.

Therefore we must not give way to mourning or sadness; we must rejoice greatly instead over all these blessings.

Listen to the exultant words of Saint Paul: God forbid that I should boast of anything but the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. And elsewhere he writes: God shows his own love for us because when we were still sinners Christ died for our sake.

Saint John’s message is the same. God loved the world so much, he declares, and then, passing over every other manifestation of God’s love, he comes at once to the crucifixion.

God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that is, he gave him up to be crucified, so that those who believed in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

If, then, the Cross has its foundation in love and is our glory, we must not say we mourn because of the Cross. Far from it. What we have to mourn over is our own sinfulness, and that is why we fast.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Oratio 3 Adversus Iudaeos (PG 48, 867-868); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Ash Wednesday, Year 2.

Augustine of Hippo: Lent is the epitome of our whole life. Friday, Mar 4 2016 

St Augustine of AfricaAs we begin our annual Lenten observance with its solemn call to conversion, it is incumbent upon me to make the custo­mary solemn exhortation to all of you.

Indeed, it is more than ever my pastoral duty to nourish your minds with the word of God when you are about to mortify your bodies by fasting.

For once you have been inwardly refreshed by the food of the spirit you will be able to undertake physical hardships more coura­geously and endure them with greater stamina.

We are soon to celebrate the Passion of our crucified Lord. It is therefore in keeping with our commitment to him that we should crucify ourselves by restraining the desires of the flesh.

As the Apostle says: You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all your self-indulgent passions and desires.

Such is the Cross upon which we Christians must continually hang, since our whole lives are beset by trials and temptations.

Not for us, as long as we live, to be rid of those nails we read of in the psalm: Pierce my flesh with the nails of your fear.

Flesh means the desires of our lower nature; nails, the demands of God’s justice and holiness. With these the fear of the Lord pierces our flesh and fastens us to the Cross as an acceptable sacrifice to him.

In a similar passage the apostle Paul appeals to us by the mercy of God to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.

To hang on such a Cross brings no shame to the servants of God; it is something in which they glory, as Saint Paul does when he says:

Far be it from me to glory in anything except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

This crucifixion, I repeat, is something that must continue throughout our life, not for forty days only.

It is true that Moses, Elijah, and our Lord himself fasted for forty days; but in Moses, Elijah, and Christ we are meant to see the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel, and to learn from them not to cling to this present world or imitate its ways, but to nail our unregenerate selves to the Cross.

Christians must always live in this way, without any wish to come down from their Cross, otherwise they will sink beneath the world’s mire.

But if we have to do so all our lives, we must make an even greater effort during these days of Lent. It is not a simple matter of living through forty days; Lent is the epitome of our whole life.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Sermon 205.1 (PL 38:1039-1040); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday of the First Week of Lent, Year 2.

Basil the Great: “But the counsel of the Lord standeth for ever; the thoughts of his heart to all generations” Saturday, Nov 7 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great‘The Lord bringeth to nought the counsels of nations; and he rejecteth the devices of people’ (Psalm 32:10).

God created those who believe in Him in consequence of His bringing to nought the foolish counsels which the people held about idolatry and all vanity, and in consequence of His rejection of the counsels of princes.

And it is possible to refer these things to the time of His passion when they thought that they were crucifying the King of Glory, but He through the economy of the Cross was renewing humanity.

For, in the Resurrection, the counsel of nations, of Pilate and his soldiers, and of whoever was active in the matter of the Cross, was brought to nought; the counsels of the princes were rejected, and also those of the high priests and scribes and kings of the people.

In fact, the Resurrection destroyed their every device. If you will read the things in each history which God did to the faithless nations, you will find that the statement has much force even according to our corporeal intelligence.

[…] ‘But the counsel of the Lord standeth for ever: the thoughts of his heart to all generations’ (Psalm 3:11).

Do you not see the teachings of the nations, this empty philosophy, how subtle and farfetched they are concerning the inventions of their teachings, both in the rational speculations and in the moral injunctions, and in certain natural sciences and the other so-called esoteric teachings?

How all things have been scattered and rendered useless, and the truths of the Gospel alone now hold place in the world?

For, many are the counsels in the hearts of men, but the counsel of the Lord has prevailed. And it is necessary, at least if the counsel from God is to remain in our souls firm and steadfast, for the human thoughts which we formerly held, first to be rejected.

Just as he who intends to write on wax, first smooths it down and thus puts on whatever forms he wishes, so also the heart which is to admit clearly the divine words must be made clean of the opposite thoughts.

‘The thoughts of his heart to all generations’. Since, then, there are two chosen peoples, and two testaments were given to them according to the saying ‘The thoughts of his heart to all generations (eis genean kai genein),’ since ‘generation’ is named twice, there can be understood also two thoughts, the one, according to which we received the previous testament, but the second, bestowing upon us the new and saving teaching of Christ.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15 (on Psalm 32[33]), 6-7,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 239-241.

Ignatius of Antioch: Drawn up on high by the instrument of Jesus Christ, which is the Cross, making use of the Holy Spirit as a rope Saturday, Oct 17 2015 

Ignatius_of_AntiochThere is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit;

both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God;

first passible and then impassible, even Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let not then any one deceive you, as indeed ye are not deceived, inasmuch as ye are wholly devoted to God.

For since there is no strife raging among you which might distress you, ye are certainly living in accordance with God’s will.

[…] They that are carnal cannot do those things which are spiritual, nor they that are spiritual the things which are carnal; even as faith cannot do the works of unbelief, nor unbelief the works of faith.

But even those things which ye do according to the flesh are spiritual; for ye do all things in Jesus Christ….

I have heard of some who have passed on from this to you, having false doctrine, whom ye did not suffer to sow among you. But you stopped your ears, that ye might not receive those things which were sown by them.

For you are stones of the temple of the Father, prepared for the building of God the Father, and drawn up on high by the instrument of Jesus Christ, which is the Cross, making use of the Holy Spirit as a rope, while your faith was the means by which you ascended, and your love the way which led up to God.

Ye, therefore, as well as all your fellow-travellers, are God-bearers, temple-bearers, Christ-bearers, bearers of holiness, adorned in all respects with the commandments of Jesus Christ….

I exult that I have been thought worthy, by means of this Epistle, to converse and rejoice with you, because with respect to your Christian life ye love nothing but God only. And pray ye without ceasing in behalf of other men.

For there is in them hope of repentance that they may attain to God. See, then, that they be instructed by your works, if in no other way.

Be ye meek in response to their wrath, humble in opposition to their boasting: to their blasphemies return your prayers; in contrast to their error, be ye stedfast in the faith; and for their cruelty, manifest your gentleness.

While we take care not to imitate their conduct, let us be found their brethren in all true kindness; and let us seek to be followers of the Lord (was anyone ever more unjustly treated, more destitute, more condemned than He?), that so no plant of the devil may be found in you, but ye may remain in all holiness and sobriety in Jesus Christ, both with respect to the flesh and spirit.

Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 – c. 107): Letter to the Ephesians, 7-10 @ Crossroads Initiative [slightly adapted].

John Chrysostom: I use no force, nor do I compel, but if any be willing to follow, him do I call Wednesday, Aug 19 2015 

John_Chrysostom“Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him renounce himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 14:24).

Peter said, “Be it far from Thee, this shall not be unto Thee;” and was told, “Get thee behind me, Satan” (Matt. 16:22-23).

For Jesus was by no means satisfied with the mere rebuke, but, willing also more abundantly to show both the extravagance of what Peter had said, and the benefit of His passion, He says “Thy word to me is: Be it far from Thee, this shall not be unto Thee.

“But my word to thee is: Not only is it hurtful to thee, and destructive, to hinder me and to be displeased at my Passion, but it will be impossible for thee even to be saved, unless thou thyself too be continually prepared for death.”

Thus, lest they should think His suffering unworthy of Him…, He teaches them the gain thereof. Thus in John first, He says: “Except the corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24)….

He does not bring forward the statement that it is meet to die concerning Himself only, but concerning them also: “for so great is the profit thereof, that in your case also unwillingness to die is grievous, but to be ready for it, good.”

[…]  See how He also makes His discourse unexceptionable, not saying at all “whether you will, or no, you must suffer this” but “if any man will come after me.”

He says “I force not, I compel not, but each one I make lord of his own choice; wherefore also I say if any man will.

“For to good things do I call you, not to things evil, or burdensome; not to punishment and vengeance, that I should have to compel. Nay, the nature of the thing is alone sufficient to attract you.”

Speaking thus, He drew them unto Him the more. For he indeed that uses compulsion often turns men away, but he that leaves the hearer to choose attracts him more. For soothing is a mightier thing than force.

Wherefore even He Himself said, “If any man will.” “For great,” says He, “are the good things which I give you, and such as for men even to run to them of their own accord. For neither if one were giving gold, and offering a treasure, would he invite with force.

“And if that invitation be without compulsion, much more this, to the good things in the Heavens. Since if the nature of the thing persuade thee not to run, thou art not worthy to receive it at all, nor if thou shouldest receive it, wilt thou well know what thou hast received.”

Wherefore Christ compels not, but urges, sparing us. For since they seemed to be murmuring much, being secretly disturbed at the saying, He says “there is no need for disturbance or for trouble.

“If ye do not account what I have mentioned to be a cause of innumerable blessings, even when befalling yourselves, I use no force, nor do I compel, but if any be willing to follow, him do I call.”

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on the Gospel According to St Matthew, 55 (on Matthew 16:24ff); slightly adapted.

Ephrem the Syrian: Through the tree mankind fell into Sheol; upon the tree they passed over into the dwelling of life Wednesday, Apr 15 2015 

Mor_Ephrem_icon

The only-begotten…took up His abode in the Virgin; that by a common manner of birth, though only-begotten, He might become the brother of many.

And He departed from Sheol and took up His abode in the Kingdom; that He might seek out a path from Sheol which oppresses all, to the Kingdom which requites all.

For our Lord gave His resurrection as a pledge to mortals, that He would remove them from Sheol, which receives the departed without distinction, to the Kingdom which admits the invited with distinction.

[…] The Father begat Him, and through Him created the creatures.

Flesh bare Him and through Him slew lusts.

Baptism brought him forth, that through Him it might wash away stains.

Sheol brought Him forth, that through Him its treasures might be emptied out.

He came to us from beside His Father by the way of them that are born.

And by the way of them that die, He went forth to go to His Father; so that by His coming through birth, His advent might be seen; and by His returning through resurrection, His departure might be confirmed.

But our Lord was trampled on by Death; and in His turn trod out a way over Death.

This is He Who made Himself subject to and endured death of His own will, that He might cast down death against his will.

For our Lord bare His Cross and went forth according to the will of Death:  but He cried upon the Cross and brought forth the dead from within Sheol against the will of Death.

For in that very thing by which Death had slain Him [i.e., the body], in that as armour He bore off the victory over Death.

But the Godhead concealed itself in the manhood and fought against Death, Death slew and was slain.  Death slew the natural life; and the supernatural life slew Him.

[…] This is the Son of the carpenter, Who skilfully made His Cross a bridge over Sheol that swallows up all, and brought over mankind into the dwelling of life.

And because it was through the tree that mankind had fallen into Sheol, so upon the tree they passed over into the dwelling of life.

Through the tree then wherein bitterness was tasted, through it also sweetness was tasted; that we might learn of Him that amongst the creatures nothing resists Him.

Glory be to Thee, Who didst lay Thy Cross as a bridge over death, that souls might pass over upon it from the dwelling of the dead to the dwelling of life!

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Homily on Our Lord, 1-4.

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