Gregory of Nyssa: The Name of Christ Shares in Our Soul, Words and Life’s Activities so that Holiness may be Constantly Kept Thursday, Aug 11 2011 

A Christian has three characteristics: deed, word and thought. First among these is thought.

Reason is the beginning of every thought; next comes speech which reveals one’s mind by words. Action is third in order after thought and word, bringing thought to realization.

[…] It does us well to be carefully attentive so that our thoughts, words and deeds may participate in Christ’s lofty names.

Paul says that everything not proceeding from faith is sin (Rom 14.23); as a result, he clearly states that every word, deed or thought which does not look to Christ is contrary to him; whatever does not partake of light nor life shares in darkness or death.

If any word or thought according to Christ is contrary to the good, that which is manifested through these three elements becomes clear: whoever separates himself from Christ does not belong to him, whether in thought, deed or in speech.

[…] How, then, should the person worthy of Christ’s great name behave? What can he do except to always discern his thoughts, words and deeds, and to see whether or not they are of Christ or are alien to him?

Much skill is needed here for discernment. Anything effected, thought or said through passion has no association with Christ but bears the adversary’s mark; smearing the soul’s pearl with passion as if with mud, it corrupts the precious stone’s brightness.

But a state free from every passion looks to the author of detachment, Christ.

He who draws to himself thoughts as from a pure, incorruptible fountain will resemble the prototype as water drawn into a jar resembles water gushing from a fountain.

[…] In my judgment this is the perfection of the Christian life: the name of Christ…shares in our soul, words and life’s activities so that the holiness praised by Paul (1Thess 5.23) may be constantly kept in the entire body, mind and spirit with no admixture of evil.

If anyone says that the good is difficult to attain…, my response is that a person who does not lawfully strive in a contest cannot be crowned (1Tim 2.5)….

Without an opponent there is no crown, for victory against oneself is lacking if there is no weakness.

Hence, let us struggle against our nature’s mutability as though against an adversary; wrestling with our reason makes us victors not by casting it down but by not consenting to the fall.

[…] No one should lament his mutable nature; rather, by always being changed to what is better and by being transformed from glory to glory (2 Cor 3.18), let him so be changed.

[…] Perfection consists in never stopping our growth towards the good nor in circumscribing perfection.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): On Perfection, translation originally published in The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, vol. 29, 4 (Brookline, Mass., 1984), pp.349-79.

Thomas Aquinas: “The Night is Far Gone, the Day is at Hand” Sunday, Nov 28 2010 

The night is far gone, the day is at hand (Romans (13:12).

The night is far gone….

The import is that the entire time of the present life is compared to night on account of the darkness of ignorance with which the present life is encumbered.

“We are swallowed up in darkness” (Jb 33:4). Isaiah says of this night: “My soul yearns for thee in the night” (26:9).

But the state of future happiness is compared to day on account of God’s splendor with which the saints are enlightened: “the sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night, but he Lord will be your everlasting light” (Is 60:19)….

It can also be understood that the state of guilt is being compared to night on account of the darkness of guilt. About this darkness Ps 82 (v. 5) says: “They have neither knowledge nor understanding; they walk about in darkness”….

But day is called the state of grace on account of the light of spiritual understanding which the just have, but the wicked lack: “Light dawns for the righteous” (Ps 97:11); “The light of justice did not shine on us” (Wis 5:6).

Or it can be understood that the time before Christ’s incarnation is being compared to night, because it was not yet clear but wrapped in darkness….

Hence, just as shadows appear at night, so during that time the practices of the Law were in vogue, but “these were only a shadow of what is to come” (Col 2:17).

But the time after Christ’s incarnation is compared to day on account of the power of the spiritual sun in the world: “But for you who fear my name, the sun of justice shall shine” (Mal 4:2)….

The saying, the night is far gone, can be taken for any of the three nights mentioned….

But it seems that the saying, the day is at hand, must be understood as referring to the day of future glory, which was at hand for the believers in Christ to whom he was writing, although it had not yet arrived for them.

In keeping with the foregoing explanation, the time of Christ’s grace, although it had already arrived as regards the passage of time, is nonetheless described as drawing near through faith and devotion; just as it also says in Phil 4:5 “The Lord is near,” and in Ps 145:18 “The Lord is near to all who call upon him.”

It can also apply to those who begin to repent of their sins; for such persons the day of grace is at hand.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): Commentary on Romans, cap. 13, lect.3, 1067-1069.

Caesarius of Arles: God Wishes to Enter into Your Soul, for He Promised: “I Shall Live in Them, I Shall Walk through Their Hearts” Tuesday, Nov 9 2010 

My fellow Christians, today is the birthday of this church, an occasion for celebration and rejoicing. We, however, ought to be the true and living temple of God.

Nevertheless, Christians rightly commemorate this feast of the church, their mother, for they know that through her they were reborn in the spirit.

[…] Indeed, before our baptism we were sanctuaries of the devil; but after our baptism we merited the privilege of being temples of Christ.

And if we think more carefully about the meaning of our salvation, we shall realise that we are indeed living and true temples of God.

God does not dwell only in things made by human hands, nor in homes of wood and stone, but rather he dwells principally in the soul made according to his own image and fashioned by his own hand.

Therefore, the apostle Paul says: The temple of God is holy, and you are that temple.

When Christ came, he banished the devil from our hearts, in order to build in them a temple for himself.

Let us therefore do what we can with his help, so that our evil deeds will not deface that temple. For whoever does evil, does injury to Christ.

As I said earlier, before Christ redeemed us, we were the house of the devil, but afterward, we merited the privilege of being the house of God.

God himself in his loving mercy saw fit to make of us his own home.

My fellow Christians, do we wish to celebrate joyfully the birth of this temple? Then let us not destroy the living temples of God in ourselves by works of evil.

I shall speak clearly, so that all can understand. Whenever we come to church, we must prepare our hearts to be as beautiful as we expect this church to be.

Do you wish to find this basilica immaculately clean? Then do not soil your soul with the filth of sins.

Do you wish this basilica to be full of light? God too wishes that your soul be not in darkness, but that the light of good works shine in us, so that he who dwells in the heavens will be glorified.

Just as you enter this church building, so God wishes to enter into your soul, for he promised: I shall live in them, I shall walk through their hearts.

Caesarius of Arles (469/70-542): Sermon 229, 1-3, taken from the Office of Readings for the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran on November 9 at Crossroads Initiative.

Seraphim of Sarov: The Holy Spirit Dwells Mystically in the Hearts of Those Who Believe in Our Saviour Jesus Christ Friday, Jul 16 2010 

Seraphim_SarovskyAnd I must further explain…the difference between the operations of the Holy Spirit Who dwells mystically in the hearts of those who believe in our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ and the operations of the darkness of sin which, at the suggestion and instigation of the devil, acts predatorily in us.

The Spirit of God reminds us of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ and always acts triumphantly with Him, gladdening our hearts and guiding our steps into the way of peace, while the false, diabolical spirit reasons in the opposite way to Christ, and its actions in us are rebellious, stubborn, and full of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

“And whoever lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:26). He who has the grace of the Holy Spirit in reward for right faith in Christ, even if on account of human frailty his soul were to die for some sin or other, yet he will not die for ever, but he will be raised by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ “Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and freely gives grace upon grace.

Of this grace, which was manifested to the whole world and to our human race by the God-man, it is said in the Gospel: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4); and further: “And the light shines in the darkness; and the darkness has never swallowed it” (John 1:5).

This means that the grace of the Holy Spirit which is granted at baptism in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, in spite of man’s fall into sin, in spite of the darkness surrounding our soul, nevertheless shines in our hearts with the divine light (which has existed from time immemorial) of the inestimable merits of Christ.

In the event of a sinner’s impenitence this light of Christ cries to the Father: “Abba, Father! Be not angry with this impenitence to the end (of his life).”

Then, at the sinner’s conversion to the way of repentance, it effaces completely all trace of past sin and clothes the former sinner once more in a robe of incorruption spun from the grace of the Holy Spirit.

The acquisition of this is the aim of the Christian life, which I have been explaining to you.

Seraphim of Sarov (Orthodox Church; 1759-1833): On the Acquisition of the Holy Spirit.

Bonaventure: Let Us Pass Over With The Crucified Christ Monday, Mar 8 2010 

Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages.

A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation.

Then such a man will make with Christ a pasch, that is, a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert.

There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulchre, as if he were dead to things outside.

He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in paradise.

For this passover to be perfect, we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone.

This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul.

Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.

If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research.

Seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervour and glowing love.

The fire is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardour of his loving passion. Only he understood this who said: My soul chose hanging and my bones death.

Anyone who cherishes this kind of death can see God, for it is certainly true that: No man can look upon me and live.

Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness, silencing our anxieties, our passions and all the fantasies of our imagination.

Let us pass over with the crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that, when the Father has shown himself to us, we can say with Philip: It is enough.

Bonaventure of Bagnorea (1221-1274): Journey of the Mind Into God, Cap. 7,1 2.4.6, taken from the Office of Readings for the Feast of St. Bonaventure on July 15, at Crossroads Initiative.

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