Gregory of Nyssa: Moses and the Burning Bush Monday, Mar 10 2014 

Gregory_of_Nyssa[When]…we are living at peace, the truth will shine upon us and its radiance will illuminate the eyes of our soul.

Now this truth is God. Once in an ineffable and mysterious vision it manifested itself to Moses, and it is not without significance for us that the flame from which the soul of the Prophet was illuminated was kindled from a thorn-bush.

If truth is God and if it is also light – two of the sublime and sacred epithets by which the Gospel describes the God who manifested himself to us in the flesh – it follows that a virtuous life will lead us to a knowledge of that light which descended to the level of our human nature.

It is not from some luminary set among the stars that it sheds its radiance, which might then be thought to have a material origin, but from a bush on the earth, although it outshines the stars of heaven.

This also symbolizes the mystery of the Virgin, from whom came the divine light that shone upon the world without damaging the bush from which it emanated or allowing the virgin shoot to wither.

This light teaches us what we must do to stand in the rays of the true light, and that it is impossible with our feet in shackles to run toward the mountain where the light of truth appears.

We have first to free the feet of our soul from the covering of dead skins in which our nature was clad in the beginning when it disobeyed God’s will and was left naked.

To know that which is, we must purify our minds of assumptions regarding things which are not. In my opinion the definition of truth is an unerring comprehension of that which is.

He who is immutable, who does not increase or diminish, who is subject to no change for better or worse, but is perfectly self-sufficient; he who alone is desirable, in whom all else par­ticipates without causing in him any diminution, he indeed is that which truly is, and to comprehend him is to know the truth.

It is he whom Moses approached and whom today all approach who like Moses free themselves from their earthly coverings and look toward the light coming from the bramble bush, at the ray shining on us from the thorns, which stand for the flesh, for as the Gospel says, that ray is the real light and the truth.

Then such people will also be able to help others find salvation. They will be capable of destroying the forces of evil and of restoring those enslaved by them to liberty.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): The Life of Moses, 2.17-26 (SC 1:36-39); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Tuesday of the First Week in Lent, Year 2

Pacian of Barcelona: The Innocent Jesus and the Victory of God Tuesday, Jul 30 2013 

Fathers_of_the_ChurchHear St Paul, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Grace (he says) through our Lord Jesus Christ.

But what is grace? The remission of sin, that is, a free gift. For grace is a free gift.

Christ therefore, coming and taking upon Him the nature of man, first presented before God this very human nature pure from the power of sin and innocent.

Isaiah says, Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall He eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. 

And of Him again, Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. 

When, under this guardianship of innocence, Christ first undertook the defence of man in the very flesh of sin, forthwith that father of the disobedience of sin, who had once deceived our first parents, began to be excited, to be troubled, to tremble.

For he was to be overcome by the loosening of that law by which alone he had retained possession of man, or could retain it.

He arms himself therefore for a spiritual contest with the Immaculate, and first he attacks Him with that artifice with which he had overcome Adam in Paradise, under the pretence of dignity.

And as if perplexed about His heavenly power, he [the devil] says, If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread; that so ashamed or unwilling to conceal that He was the Son of God, He might fulfil the commands of the tempter.

Behold still he is not silent, suggesting that if He would cast Himself down from above, He would be received in the hands of angels, to whom The Father had entrusted that on their hands they should bear Him up, lest by any means He should dash His foot against a stone; that so, while the Lord wished to prove that He it was of Whom the Father had given this command, He might do what the tempter urged.

Last of all the serpent being now crushed, as if he were now giving up, promises Him those very kingdoms of the world, which he had taken from the first man: that so whilst the Advocate of man believes that he has overcome, He by receiving the empire (which He was to recover), might incline towards the dignity offered by the evil one, and so at last sin.

But in all these attacks the Enemy is overcome, and destroyed by the heavenly power, as says the Prophet unto the Lord, That thou mightest still the enemy, and the avenger. For I shall behold the heavens, the works of Thy fingers.

Pacian of Barcelona (c.310-391): Discourse on Baptism, 3-4.

Gregory of Nyssa: Mary Magdalen’s Faith in the Resurrection Reverses the Disaster of Eve’s Disobedience Wednesday, Jul 24 2013 

Gregory_of_NyssaTouch Me not, for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God (John 20:17).

Having by purity brought into closest relationship with the Father of our nature that new man which is created after God, in Whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, He drew with Him into the same grace all the nature that partakes of His body and is akin to Him.

And these glad tidings He proclaims through the woman [Mary Magdalen], not to those disciples only, but also to all who up to the present day become disciples of the Word.

[…] He from Whom we were formerly alienated by our revolt has become our Father and our God. Accordingly in the passage cited above the Lord brings the glad tidings of this benefit.

And the words are not a proof of the degradation of the Son, but the glad tidings of our reconciliation to God. For that which has taken place in Christ’s Humanity is a common boon bestowed on mankind generally.

When we see in Him the weight of the body, which naturally gravitates to earth, ascending through the air into the heavens, we believe according to the words of the Apostle, that we also “shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:16).

So also, when we hear that the true God and Father has become the God and Father of our First-fruits, we no longer doubt that the same God has become our God and Father too, inasmuch as we have learned that we shall come to the same place whither Christ has entered for us as our forerunner (cf. Heb. 6:20).

And the fact too that this grace was revealed by means of a woman [Mary Magdalen] itself agrees with the interpretation which we have given.

As the Apostle tells us, “the woman [Eve], being deceived, was in the transgression” (1 Tim. 2:14), and was by her disobedience foremost in the revolt from God.

For this reason she [Mary Magdalen] is the first witness of the resurrection, that she might retrieve by her faith in the resurrection the overthrow caused by her [Eve’s] disobedience.

By making herself at the beginning a minister and advocate to her husband of the counsels of the serpent, she [Eve] brought into human life the beginning of evil, and its train of consequences.

So also, by ministering to His disciples the words of Him Who slew the rebel dragon, she [Mary Magdalen] became to men the guide to faith, whereby with good reason the first proclamation of death is annulled.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): Against Eunomius, 12,1.

Basil the Great: Recalled from the Alienation Caused by Disobedience to Close Communion with God Friday, Apr 13 2012 

St-Basil-the-GreatThe dispensation of our God and Saviour concerning man is a recall from the fall and a return from the alienation caused by disobedience to close communion with God.

This is the reason for the sojourn of Christ in the flesh, the pattern life described in the Gospels, the sufferings, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection; so that the man who is being saved through imitation of Christ receives that old adoption.

For perfection of life the imitation of Christ is necessary, not only in the example of gentleness, lowliness, and long suffering set us in His life, but also of His actual death.

So Paul, the imitator of Christ, says, “being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”

How then are we made in the likeness of His death? In that we were buried with Him by baptism. What then is the manner of the burial? And what is the advantage resulting from the imitation?

First of all, it is necessary that the continuity of the old life be cut. And this is impossible lest a man be born again, according to the Lord’s word; for the regeneration, as indeed the name shews, is a beginning of a second life.

So before beginning the second, it is necessary to put an end to the first. For just as in the case of runners who turn and take the second course, a kind of halt and pause intervenes between the movements in the opposite direction, so also in making a change in lives it seemed necessary for death to come as mediator between the two, ending all that goes before, and beginning all that comes after.

How then do we achieve the descent into hell? By imitating, through baptism, the burial of Christ. For the bodies of the baptized are, as it were, buried in the water.

Baptism then symbolically signifies the putting off of the works of the flesh; as the apostle says, ye were “circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; buried with him in baptism.”

And there is, as it were, a cleansing of the soul from the filth that has grown on it from the carnal mind, as it is written, “Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Basil the Great (330-379): On the Holy Spirit 15,35.

Irenaeus of Lyons: As by a Man’s Defeat We Fell into the Bondage of Death, so by a Man’s Victory We Rose Again to Life Thursday, Dec 15 2011 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonThe Lord, coming into his own creation in visible form, was sustained by his own creation which he himself sustains in being.

His obedience on the tree of the cross reversed the disobedience at the tree in Eden.

The good news of the truth announced by an angel to Mary, a virgin subject to a husband, undid the evil lie that seduced Eve, a virgin espoused to a husband.

As Eve was seduced by the word of an angel and so fled from God after disobeying his word, Mary in her turn was given the good news by the word of an angel, and bore God in obedience to his word.

As Eve was seduced into disobedience to God, so Mary was persuaded into obedience to God; thus the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve.

Christ gathered all things into one, by gathering them into himself.

He declared war against our enemy, crushed him who at the beginning had taken us captive in Adam, and trampled on his head, in accordance with God’s words to the serpent in Genesis:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall lie in wait for your head, and you shall lie in wait for his heel.

The one lying in wait for the serpent’s head is the one who was born in the likeness of Adam from the woman, the Virgin.

This is the seed spoken of by Paul in the letter to the Galatians: The law of works was in force until the seed should come to whom the  promise was made.

He shows this even more clearly in the same letter when he says: When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman.

The enemy would not have been defeated fairly if his vanquisher had not been born of a woman, because it was through a woman that he had gained mastery over man in the beginning, and set himself up as man’s adversary.

That is why the Lord proclaims himself the Son of Man, the one who renews in himself that first man from whom the race born of woman was formed.

As by a man’s defeat our race fell into the bondage of death, so by a man’s victory we were to rise again to life.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202):Adversus Haereses, Lib. 5, 19, 1; 20, 2; 21,1, from the Office of Readings for Friday of the Second Week in Advent @ Crossroads Initiative.  

Benedict of Nursia: In His Loving Kindness He Showeth unto Us the Way of Life Monday, Jul 11 2011 

Listen, O my son, to the precepts of thy master, and incline the ear of thy heart, and cheerfully receive and faithfully execute the admonitions of thy loving Father, that by the toil of obedience thou mayest return to Him from whom by the sloth of disobedience thou hast gone away.

To thee, therefore, my speech is now directed, who, giving up thine own will, takest up the strong and most excellent arms of obedience, to do battle for Christ the Lord, the true King.

In the first place, beg of Him by most earnest prayer, that He perfect whatever good thou dost begin, in order that He who hath been pleased to count us in the number of His children, need never be grieved at our evil deeds.

For we ought at all times so to serve Him with the good things which He hath given us, that He may not, like an angry father, disinherit his children, nor, like a dread lord, enraged at our evil deeds, hand us over to everlasting punishment as most wicked servants, who would not follow Him to glory.

Let us then rise at length, since the Scripture arouseth us, saying: “It is now the hour for us to rise from sleep” (Rom 13:11); and having opened our eyes to the deifying light, let us hear with awestruck ears what the divine voice, crying out daily, doth admonish us, saying:

“Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Ps 94[95]:8).

And again: “He that hath ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches” (Rev 2:7).

And what doth He say?—”Come, children, hearken unto me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Ps 33[34]:12).

“Run whilst you have the light of life, that the darkness of death overtake you not” (Jn 12:35).

And the Lord seeking His workman in the multitude of the people, to whom He proclaimeth these words, saith again: “Who is the man that desireth life and loveth to see good days” (Ps 33[34]:13)?

If hearing this thou answerest, “I am he,” God saith to thee: “If thou wilt have true and everlasting life, keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile; turn away from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it” (Ps 33[34]:14-15).

And when you shall have done these things, my eyes shall be upon you, and my ears unto your prayers. And before you shall call upon me I will say: “Behold, I am here” (Is 58:9).

What, dearest brethren, can be sweeter to us than this voice of the Lord inviting us? See, in His loving kindness, the Lord showeth us the way of life.

St Benedict of Nursia (480-547): Rule of St Benedict, Prologue.

Ambrose of Milan: Christ Heals Human Nature and Cleanses Us from Our Sins Monday, Jan 24 2011 

When our Lord Jesus assumed our human nature in order to purify it in his own person, his first task was surely to destroy the primary infection of original sin.

It was through disobedience and challenging of God’s command that wrongdoing had crept in, and obedience had to be restored before anything else if transgression was to be denied room in which to develop.

It was through disobedience that the canker of sin had spread, and therefore our Lord’s first duty as a good physician must be to cut out the tumour at the roots, so that the surface of the wound may feel the healing effect of his medicine.

And so Jesus accepted obedience for himself in order to impart it to us.

It was only right that as through one man’s disobedience all men were reckoned as sinners, so through one man’s obedience all should be reckoned just.

This means that those who maintain that Christ assumed our carnal nature but not our passions are very far from the truth.

Indeed they contravene our Lord’s own intention by depriving him of his manhood, for without human passions he could not be a man at all.

Human nature without human passions would incur neither merit nor guilt.

What Christ had to take upon himself and heal was the actual fountainhead of guilt, in order to stop up the source of transgression and any further outlets for wrongdoing.

It was as man, then, that he was made weak, as man that he suffered, as man that we thought of him in his sufferings; but he overcame his weaknesses instead of being overcome by them.

It was for us he suffered, not for himself. He was made weak not account of any sins of his own but on account of our sins, so that by his stripes we might be healed.

He took our sins upon himself both to assume the burden of them and to purge them away, and because of this he shall obtain many for his inheritance and share out the spoils of the strong.

His acceptance of the burden of our sins is bound up with their remission, his purging of them with their correction.

And so in taking it upon himself to suffer with us he took it upon himself to accept our own subjection.

And whereas his subjection of all things to himself is his divine prerogative, his own acceptance of subjection belongs to the human nature he shares with us.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): Commentary on Psalm 61 (PL 14:1224-5);  from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Tuesday of the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year I.

 

Catherine of Siena: Trinity and Redemption Saturday, Oct 31 2009 

I always provide, and I want you to know that what I have given humankind is supreme providence.

It was with providence that I created you, and when I contemplated my creature in myself I fell in love with the beauty of my creation. It pleased me to create you in my image and likeness with great providence.

I provided you with the gift of memory so that you might hold fast my benefits and be made a sharer in my own, the eternal Father’s power.

I gave you understanding so that in the wisdom of my only-begotten Son you might comprehend and know what I the eternal Father want, I who gave you graces with such burning love.

I gave you a will to love, making you a sharer in the Holy Spirit’s mercy, so that you might love what your understanding sees and knows.

All this my gentle providence did, only that you might be capable of understanding and enjoying me and rejoicing in my goodness by seeing me eternally. As I have told you many times, I wanted to make it possible for you to reach this goal.

Heaven had been closed because of Adam’s sin. He did not know his own dignity, considering with what ineffable love and providence I had created him. So he fell into disobedience, and from disobedience into impurity….

…And this disobedience has been and is the source of all the evils that have come after it. All of you have been infected with this venom….

…So, to take away this death, dearest daughter, I gave humankind the Word, my only-begotten Son, thus providing for your need with great prudence and providence.

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380): Dialogue translated by Suzanne Noffke, OP (New York: Paulist Press, Classics of Western Spirituality, 1980), ch. 135, pp. 277-8.