Leo the Great: We must strive to be found partakers also of Christ’s Resurrection Tuesday, Mar 29 2016 

Saint_Leo_of_RomeIn my last sermon…we explained to you our participation in the cross of Christ, whereby the life of believers contains in itself the mystery of Easter, and thus what is honoured at the feast is celebrated by our practice.

And how useful this is you yourselves have proved, and by your devotion have learned, how greatly benefited souls and bodies are by longer fasts, more frequent prayers, and more liberal alms.

For there can be hardly anyone who has not profited by this exercise, and who has not stored up in the recesses of his conscience something over which he may rightly rejoice.

[…] Since, therefore, by our forty days’ observance we have wished to bring about this effect, that we should feel something of the Cross at the time of the Lord’s Passion, we must strive to be found partakers also of Christ’s Resurrection, and pass from death unto life (1 John 3:14), while we are in this body.

For when a man is changed by some process from one thing into another, not to be what he was is to him an ending, and to be what he was not is a beginning.

But the question is, to what a man either dies or lives: because there is a death, which is the cause of living, and there is a life, which is the cause of dying.

And nowhere else but in this transitory world are both sought after, so that upon the character of our temporal actions depend the differences of the eternal retributions.

We must die, therefore, to the devil and live to God: we must perish to iniquity that we may rise to righteousness.

Let the old sink, that the new may rise; and since, as says the Truth, no one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24), let not him be Lord who has caused the overthrow of those that stood, but Him Who has raised the fallen to victory.

Accordingly, since the Apostle says, the first man is of the earth earthy, the second man is from heaven heavenly. As is the earthy, such also are they that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such also are they that are heavenly.

As we have borne the image of the earthy, so let us also bear the image of Him Who is from heaven , we must greatly rejoice over this change, whereby we are translated from earthly degradation to heavenly dignity through His unspeakable mercy, Who descended into our estate that He might promote us to His, by assuming not only the substance but also the conditions of sinful nature, and by allowing the impassibility of Godhead to be affected by all the miseries which are the lot of mortal manhood.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 71, 1-2.

John Damascene: His soul when it was deified descended into Hades so that He might bring light to those who sit under the earth in darkness and shadow of death Saturday, Mar 26 2016 

John-of-Damascus_01Our Lord Jesus Christ…committed no sin, He Who took away the sin of the world, nor was there any deceit found in His mouth (Is. 53:9; John 1:29).

He was not subject to death, since death came into the world through sin (Rom. 5:12).

He dies, therefore, because He took on Himself death on our behalf, and He makes Himself an offering to the Father for our sakes.

[…] Death approaches, and swallowing up the body as a bait is transfixed on the hook of divinity, and after tasting of a sinless and life-giving body, perishes, and brings up again all whom of old he swallowed up.

For just as darkness disappears on the introduction of light, so is death repulsed before the assault of life, and brings life to all, but death to the destroyer.

Although He died as man and His Holy Spirit was severed from His immaculate body, yet His divinity remained inseparable from both, I mean, from His soul and His body, and so even thus His one hypostasis was not divided into two hypostases.

For body and soul received simultaneously in the beginning their being in the hypostasis of the Word, and although they were severed from one another by death, yet they continued, each of them, having the one subsistence of the Word.

The one subsistence of the Word is alike the subsistence of the Word, and of soul and body. For at no time had either soul or body a separate hypostasis of their own, different from that of the Word, and the subsistence of the Word is forever one, and at no time two.

Accordingly the subsistence of Christ is always one. Although the soul was separated from the body topically, yet hypostatically they were united through the Word.

[…] The soul when it was deified descended into Hades, in order that, just as the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2) rose for those upon the earth, so likewise He might bring light to those who sit under the earth in darkness and shadow of death (Is. 9:2).

Previously He brought the message of peace to those upon the earth, and of release to the prisoners, and of sight to the blind (Is. 61:1; St. Luke 4:19), and became to those who believed the Author of everlasting salvation and to those who did not believe a reproach of their unbelief.

Now He become the same to those in Hades: that every knee should bow to Him, of things in heaven, and things in earth and things under the earth (Phil. 2:10).

And thus after He had freed those who had been bound for ages, straightway He rose again from the dead, showing us the way of resurrection.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 3,27 & 3,29 [slightly adapted].

Cyril of Alexandria: Little by little, we advance toward the ideal we see in Christ Thursday, Mar 17 2016 

cyril_alexandriaThe glory of Christ filled the true Tabernacle, which is the Church, from the very moment it was set up on earth.

This, surely, is what is signified by the cloud that covered the first Tabernacle.

Christ has filled the Church with his glory, and now like a fire, he shines forth to give light to those who live in the darkness of ignorance and error.

He shades and protects those already enlightened by the dawn of his day in their hearts.

He refreshes them with the heavenly dew of his consolations sent down from above through the Spirit.

This is what we should understand by the saying that by night he appeared in the form of fire, and by day in the form of cloud.

Those who were as yet uninstructed in the teaching of Christ required spiritual enlighten­ment to bring them to a knowledge of God;

but the more advanced, whose minds had been illumined by faith, were in need of protection from the scorching heat of the day, and of courage to bear the burdens of this present life.

[…] Whenever the cloud moved forward, the Tabernacle went with it; when the cloud settled, the Tabernacle came to rest with it and the Israelites broke their journey.

Now the meaning of this for us is that wherever Christ leads, the Church, the holy multi­tude of believers, follows him. The faithful are never separated from the Saviour who calls them to himself.

We may not be able to find any special meaning in the constant halts and new depar­tures throughout our spiritual journey under Christ’s guidance. It is the whole journey, following the cloud whether it moves forward or settles, that symbolizes our desire to be with God.

Nevertheless, if we would have a more subtle interpretation, we could perhaps say that our first departure is from unbelief to faith, from ignorance to knowledge, and from having no percep­tion of the true God to clear recognition of the Creator and Lord of the universe.

The second stage, and an essential one, is conversion from sin and licentiousness to a desire for amend­ment both in thought and deed.

But the best and most glorious is the third part of the journey, because in it we leave behind what is deficient and move onward toward what is perfect both in our actions and in our belief.

So, little by little, we advance toward the ideal we see in Christ, to become the perfect man, sharing in the perfection of Christ himself.

This surely is what Saint Paul means by saying: Forgetting what lies behind me and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the goal, the heavenly reward to which God calls me in Christ Jesus.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): The Adoration and Worship of God in Spirit and in Truth, 5 (PG 68:393-396); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Friday of the Fourth Week in Lent, Year 2.

John Cassian: To adapt ourselves to some likeness of that bliss which is promised hereafter to the saints… Monday, Feb 29 2016 

Sf-IoanCasianAccording to the measure of its purity…, each mind is both raised and moulded in its prayers if it forsakes the consideration of earthly and material things so far as the condition of its purity may carry it forward and enable it – with the inner eyes of the soul – to see Jesus either still in His humility and in the flesh, or glorified and coming in the glory of His Majesty.

For those cannot see Jesus coming in His Kingdom who…cannot say with the Apostle: “And if we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more” (2 Cor. 5:16), but only those can look with purest eyes on His Godhead who rise with Him from low and earthly works and thoughts and go apart in the lofty mountain of solitude – which is free from the disturbance of all earthly thoughts and troubles, and secure from the interference of all sins, and which, being exalted by pure faith and the heights of virtue, reveals the glory of His Face and the image of His splendour to those who are able to look on Him with pure eyes of the soul.

But Jesus is seen as well by those who live in towns and villages and hamlets, i.e., who are occupied in practical affairs and works, but not with the same brightness with which He appeared to those who can go up with Him into the aforesaid mount of virtues, i.e., Peter, James, and John. For so in solitude He appeared to Moses and spoke with Elias.

And as our Lord wished to establish this and to leave us examples of perfect purity, although He Himself, the very fount of inviolable sanctity, had no need of external help and the assistance of solitude in order to secure it – for the fulness of purity could not be soiled by any stain from crowds, nor could He be contaminated by intercourse with men, who cleanses and sanctifies all things that are polluted – yet still He retired into the mountain alone to pray.

In this way He taught us by the example of His retirement that if we too wish to approach God with a pure and spotless affection of heart, we should also retire from all the disturbance and confusion of crowds, so that while still living in the body we may manage in some degree to adapt ourselves to some likeness of that bliss which is promised hereafter to the saints, and that “God may be” to us “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 10, 6 [slightly adapted].

Gregory of Nyssa: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” Tuesday, Feb 16 2016 

Gregory_of_NyssaThe forgiveness of debts is a unique and special prerogative of God.

It was said: “No one can forgive sins but God alone” (Mk 2:7).

[…] A person obtains confidence in prayer by willingly imitating every conceivable attribute of God who is both kind and gentle, the source of all blessings and the dispenser of mercies to all.

It is not becoming that an evil person should enjoy intimacy with a good person, nor that a person who wallows in impure thoughts should have communion with one who is pure and undefiled.

In like manner, hardness of heart separates the supplicant from the love of God.

Whoever holds someone else in bitter bondage because of outstanding debts has by his own conduct excluded himself from divine love.

What communion can there be between love and cruelty, kindness and harshness, or any attribute and its opposite that is evil? Mutual opposition keeps them separated. For whoever is possessed by any particular attribute is necessarily estranged from its opposite.

Just as one who dies no longer lives, and the one who lives is estranged from death, so also he who approaches the love of God must necessarily be removed from every disposition of callousness.

Whoever is free of all those dispositions understood as being evil, he becomes in some way god by reason of his condition having achieved in himself what reason understands to be attributes of God.

Do you see to what greatness the Lord exalts those who hear Him through the words of the prayer? He transforms human nature in some way to be closer to the divine. He decrees that those who approach God should become gods.

Why do you come to God, He says, in a slavish manner, trembling in fear and plagued by your own conscience? Why do you exclude yourself from the confidence which coexists with the freedom of the soul from the beginning and which is intrinsic to the essence of your nature?

Why do you use flattery with Him who cannot be flattered? Why do you direct fawning and flattering words to the One who looks at deeds?

Every blessing that comes from God is permissible to you. You can possess it with a free spirit. Be your own judge. Cast the saving vote for yourself. Do you ask God to forgive your debts? Forgive the debts of others and God will cast his favorable ballot.

You yourself are the lord of judgment concerning your neighbor. This judgment, whatever it maybe, will bring an equal decision upon you. For whatever you decide to do, will be ratified by the divine judgment in your case, too.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): Fifth Homily on The Lord’s Prayer.

Gregory of Nyssa: Christ eternally builds himself up by those who join themselves to him in faith Sunday, Jan 24 2016 

Gregory_of_NyssaWhen all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).

Paul plainly speaks of the nonexistence (anuparktos) of evil by stating that God is in all things and present to each one of them.

It is clear that God will truly be in all things when no evil will be found.

It is not proper for God to be present in evil; thus, he will not be in everything as long as some evil remains.

If it compels us to truly believe that God is in everything, then evil cannot be seen as existing along with faith; for God cannot be present in evil.

However, for God to be present in all things, Paul shows that he, the hope of our life, is simple and uniform. No longer can our new existence be now compared to the many and varied examples of this present life.

Paul shows, by the words quoted above, that God becomes all things for us. He appears as the necessities of our present life, or as examples for partaking in the divinity.

Thus, for God to be our food, it is proper to understand him as being eaten; the same applies to drink, clothing, shelter, air, location, wealth, enjoyment, beauty, health, strength, prudence, glory, blessedness and anything else judged good which our human nature needs.

Words such as these signify what is proper to God. We therefore learn by the examples mentioned above that the person in God has everything which God himself has.

To have God means nothing else than to be united with him. Unity then means to be one body with him as Paul states, for all who are joined to the one body of Christ by participation are one body with him.

When the good pervades everything, then the entirety of Christ’s body will be subjected to God’s vivifying power. Thus, the subjection of this body will be said to be the subjection of Church.

Regarding this point, Paul says to the Colossians, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church of which I became a minister according to his dispensation” (Col. 1:24).

[…] To the Ephesians Paul more clearly puts this teaching when saying, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15-16).

Christ eternally builds himself up by those who join themselves to him in faith.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): A Treatise on 1 Corinthians 15:28.

Maximus the Confessor: Bringing about union with him and of human beings with one another, God renewed the power of love, the adversary of self-love Thursday, Jan 21 2016 

Maximus_ConfessorSince the deceitful devil at the beginning contrived by guile to attack humankind through his self-love, deceiving him through pleasure, he has separated us in our inclinations from God and from one another, and turned us away from rectitude.

He has divided nature at the level of mode of existence, fragmenting it into a multitude of opinions and imaginations.

He has set up the means through which each vice may be discovered, and with time established a law, to which all our powers are devoted, introducing into everything a wicked support for the continuance of vice— namely, irreconcilable inclinations.

By this he has prevailed on humankind to turn from the natural movement he once had and to move his longing from what is permitted to what is forbidden.

Thus humankind has brought into being from itself the three greatest, primordial evils, and (to speak simply) the begetters of all vice: ignorance, I mean, and self-love and tyranny, which are interdependent and established one through another.

For out of ignorance concerning God there arises self-love. And out of this comes tyranny towards one’s kin: of this there is no doubt. For by the misuse of our own powers—reason, desire and the incensive power—these evils are established.

For reason, instead of being ignorant, ought to be moved through knowledge to seek solely after God; and desire, pure of the passion of self-love, ought to be driven by yearning for God alone; and the incensive power, separated from tyranny, ought to struggle to attain God alone.

And the divine and blessed love, which is fashioned from these and through which these come to be, will embrace God and manifest the one who loves God to be God himself.

Since these have turned out evil, because of man’s own will and the devil’s deceit with regard to human beings, God, who made nature and wisely healed it when it was sick through wickedness, through his love towards us, emptied himself, taking the form of a slave (Phil. 2:7), and without change united himself to this [nature] hypostatically.

For our sake and from us and through us he became wholly man to such a degree that unbelievers thought that he was not God, while existing as God to such a degree that to believers was granted the ineffable and true meaning of reverent religion.

In this way the works of the devil were dissolved, and nature restored to its pure powers, and by again bringing about union with him and of human beings with one another, God renewed the power of love, the adversary of self-love.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Letter 2: On Love in Andrew Louth: Maximus the Confessor (Routledge, 1996), pp. 84-85.

Gregory of Nyssa: He crosses over into human life, not by boat or by chariot, but through the incorruption of a Virgin Tuesday, Dec 29 2015 

Gregory_of_Nyssa“Sound the trumpet at the new moon,” says David, “even in the notable day of your feast” (Psalm 80:3).

The commandments of Divinely-inspired teaching are assuredly a law for those who hear them.

Therefore, since the notable day of our feast is at hand, let us, too, fulfill the law and become heralds of the solemnity.

The trumpet of the law, as the Apostle bids us understand, is the word.

[…] So let us produce a clear and audible sound, brethren, one that is no less noble than that of the trumpet.

For the Law, prefiguring the truth in the shadowy types, enjoined the sounding of the trumpet at the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Leviticus 23:24).

Now, the theme of the present Feast is the mystery of the true Tabernacle.

For on this day did He Who vested Himself with humanity for our sake pitch His human tabernacle; on this day our tabernacles, which had disintegrated through death, are reconstituted by Him Who constructed our habitation from the very beginning.

Let us utter the words of the Psalm, joining in chorus with the loud-voiced David: “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Psalm 117:26).

How does He come? He crosses over into human life, not by boat or by chariot, but through the incorruption of a Virgin.

This is our God, this is our Lord, Who appeared to us to ordain a Feast with thick branches, even unto the horns of the altar (Psalm 117:27).

We are assuredly not unaware, brethren, of the mystery contained in these words: that all of creation is a single temple of the Master of creation.

But since, when sin intervened, the mouths of those overcome by evil were stopped, the voice of rejoicing fell silent and the harmony of those who keep festival was interrupted, as human creation no longer celebrated with celestial Angel-kind, for this reason there came the trumpets of the Prophets and the Apostles, whom the Law calls horns, because they are formed from the true Unicorn (cf. Numbers 23:22).

By the power of the Spirit they made the word of truth resound with piercing clarity, so that the ears of those who had been made deaf by sin might be opened up and so that there might be one harmonious celebration, echoing in unison through the thick covering of the tabernacle of the lower creation with the sublime and preëminent Hosts that stand around the Heavenly Altar.

For the horns of the noetic Altar are the sublime and preëminent Powers of the noetic nature, the Principalities, Authorities, Thrones, and Dominions, to which human nature is joined by participation in the Feast through its resurrected tabernacle, which is “thickly covered” by the renewal of our bodies.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): Homily on the Nativity of Christ (translation at HSIR from Patrologia Græca, Vol. XLVI, cols. 1128A-1149C).

Gregory of Nyssa: The goal of our hope is that nothing contrary to the good is left, but the divine life permeates everything Saturday, Dec 12 2015 

Gregory_of_NyssaWhen all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).

What therefore does Paul teach us? It consists in saying that evil will come to nought and will be completely destroyed.

The divine, pure goodness will contain in itself every nature endowed with reason.

Nothing made by God is excluded from his kingdom once everything mixed with some elements of base material has been consumed by refinement in fire.

[…] Paul says…that the pure and undefiled divinity of the Only-Begotten Son assumed man’s mortal and perishable nature.

However, from the entirety of human nature to which the divinity is mixed, the man constituted according to Christ is a kind of first fruits of the common dough.

It is through this (divinized) man that all mankind is joined to the divinity.

Since every evil was obliterated in Christ – for he did not make sin – the prophet says, “No deceit was found in his mouth” (Is 53.9).

Evil was destroyed along with sin, as well as the death which resulted; for death is simply the result of sin.

Christ assumed from death both the beginning of evil’s destruction and the dissolution of death.

[…] After the man in Christ, who became the first fruits of our human nature, received in himself the divinity, He became the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep and the first horn from the dead once the pangs of death have been loosened.

So then, after this person has completely separated himself from sin and has utterly denied in himself the power of death and destroyed its lordship and authority and might…if anyone like Paul may be found who became a mighty imitator of Christ in his rejection of evil…such a person will fall in behind the first fruits at Christ’s coming (parousia).

[…] The goal of our hope is that nothing contrary to the good is left, but the divine life permeates everything. It completely destroys death, having earlier removed sin which, as it is said, held dominion over all mankind.

Therefore, every wicked authority and domination has been destroyed in us. No longer do any of our passions rule our (human) nature, since it is necessary that none of them dominate – all are subjected to the one who rules over all.

Subjection to God is complete alienation from evil. When we are removed from evil in imitation of the first fruits (Christ), our entire nature is mixed with this selfsame fruits.

One body has been formed with the good as predominant; our body’s entire nature is united to the divine, pure nature.

This is what we mean by the Son’s subjection – when, in his body, Christ rightly has the subjection – when, in his body, Christ rightly has the subjection brought to him, and he effects in us the grace of subjection.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): A Treatise on 1 Corinthians 15:28.

Gregory Nazianzen: What greater destiny can befall man’s humility than that he should be intermingled with God? Thursday, Dec 10 2015 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenWhat greater destiny can befall man’s humility than that he should be intermingled with God, and by this intermingling should be deified (2 Peter 1:4),

and that we should be so visited by the Dayspring from on high (Luke 1:78) that even that Holy Thing that should be born should be called the Son of the Highest,

and that there should be bestowed upon Him a Name which is above every name (Phil. 2:9)? —and what else can this be than God? —

and that every knee should bow to Him That was made of no reputation for us,

and That mingled the Form of God with the form of a servant,

and that all the House of Israel should know that God hath made Him both Lord and Christ? (Acts 2:36).

For all this was done by the action of the Begotten, and by the good pleasure of Him That begat Him.

[…]  “He must reign” (1 Cor. 15:35) till such and such a time…and “be received by heaven until the time of restitution” (Acts 3:21) and “have the seat at the Right Hand until the overthrow of His enemies” (Psalm 109:1).

But after this?  Must He cease to be King, or be removed from Heaven?  Why, who shall make Him cease, or for what cause?

[…] You have heard that of His Kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1:33).

You must understand that “until” is not always exclusive of that which comes after, but asserts up to that time, without denying what comes after it.

To take a single instance—how else would you understand “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world?” (Matt. 27:20).  Does it mean that He will no longer be so afterwards.

[…] He is said to reign in one sense as the Almighty King, both of the willing and the unwilling; but in another as producing in us submission, and placing us under His Kingship as willingly acknowledging His Sovereignty.

Of His Kingdom, considered in the former sense, there shall be no end.  But in the second sense, what end will there be?

His taking us as His servants, on our entrance into a state of salvation.

For what need is there to work submission in us when we have already submitted?  After which He arises to judge the earth, and to separate the saved from the lost.

After that He is to stand as God in the midst of gods (Psalm 81:1), that is, of the saved, distinguishing and deciding of what honour and of what mansion each is worthy.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 30, 3-4 (slightly adapted).

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