John Damascene: The Breath of God Monday, Jun 9 2014 

John-of-Damascus_01The Word must also possess Spirit [the Greek term Πνεῦμα denotes both “breath” and “spirit”].

For in fact even our word is not destitute of spirit; but in our case the spirit is something different from our essence.

For there is an attraction and movement of the air which is drawn in and poured forth that the body may be sustained.

And it is this which in the moment of utterance becomes the articulate word, revealing in itself the force of the word.

But in the case of the divine nature, which is simple and uncompound, we must confess in all piety that there exists a Spirit of God, for the Word is not more imperfect than our own word.

Now we cannot, in piety, consider the Spirit to be something foreign that gains admission into God from without, as is the case with compound natures like us.

When we heard of the Word of God, we considered it to be not without subsistence, nor the product of learning, nor the mere utterance of voice, nor as passing into the air and perishing, but as being essentially subsisting, endowed with free volition, and energy, and omnipotence.

So also, when we have learnt about the Spirit of God, we contemplate it as the companion of the Word and the revealer of His energy, and not as mere breath without subsistence.

For to conceive of the Spirit that dwells in God as after the likeness of our own spirit, would be to drag down the greatness of the divine nature to the lowest depths of degradation.

But we must contemplate it as an essential power, existing in its own proper and peculiar subsistence, proceeding from the Father and resting in the Word, and shewing forth the Word,

neither capable of disjunction from God in Whom it exists, and the Word Whose companion it is, nor poured forth to vanish into nothingness,

but being in subsistence in the likeness of the Word, endowed with life, free volition, independent movement, energy, ever willing that which is good, and having power to keep pace with the will in all its decrees, having no beginning and no end.

For never was the Father at any time lacking in the Word, nor the Word in the Spirit.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 1, 7.

John Damascene: On the Trisagion – “Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal, Have Mercy Upon Us” Monday, Jan 27 2014 

John-of-Damascus_01We hold the words “Holy God” to refer to the Father, without limiting the title of divinity to Him alone, but acknowledging also as God the Son and the Holy Spirit;

and the words “Holy and Mighty” we ascribe to the Son, without stripping the Father and the Holy Spirit of might;

and the words “Holy and Immortal” we attribute to the Holy Spirit, without depriving the Father and the Son of immortality.

For, indeed, we apply all the divine names simply and unconditionally to each of the subsistences in imitation of the divine Apostle’s words:

But to us there is but one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and we in Him: and one Lord Jesus Christ by Whom are all things, and we by Him  (1 Cor. 8:5).

And, nevertheless, we follow Gregory the Theologian when he says, “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom are all things, and one Holy Spirit, in Whom are all things.”

For the words “of Whom” and “through Whom” and “in Whom” do not divide the natures (for neither the prepositions nor the order of the names could ever be changed), but they characterise the properties of one unconfused nature.

And this becomes clear from the fact that they are once more gathered into one, if only one reads with care these words of the same Apostle, Of Him and through Him and in Him are all things: to Him be the glory for ever and ever, Amen (Rom. 11:36).

For that the “Trisagion” refers not to the Son alone, but to the Holy Trinity, the divine and saintly Athanasius and Basil and Gregory, and all the band of the divinely-inspired Fathers bear witness.

Because, as a matter of fact, by the threefold holiness the Holy Seraphim suggest to us the three subsistences of the superessential Godhead. But by the one Lordship they denote the one essence and dominion of the supremely-divine Trinity.

Gregory the Theologian of a truth says, “Thus, then, the Holy of Holies, which is completely veiled by the Seraphim, and is glorified with three consecrations, meet together in one lordship and one divinity.”

This was the most beautiful and sublime philosophy of still another of our predecessors.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 3, 10.

Denys the Areopagite: Sovereign Lord and Ancient of Days Thursday, Jan 23 2014 

DionysiosThe time is come to sing the God of many Names, as “Sovereign Lord,” and as “Ancient of days.”

For He is called the formerby reason that He is an all-controlling basis,

binding and embracing the whole, and establishing and supporting, and tightening, and completing the whole,

continuous in itself, and from itself, producing the whole, as it were from a Sovereign root, and turning to itself the whole, as to a sovereign parent stock,

and holding them together as an all-embracing basis of all, securing all the things embraced, within one grasp superior to all,

and not permitting them, when fallen from itself to be destroyed, as moved from an all-perfect sanctuary.

But the Godhead is called Sovereign, both as controlling and governing the members of His household, purely, and as being desired and beloved by all,

and as placing upon all the voluntary yokes, and the sweet pangs of the Divine and Sovereign, and in dissolvable love of the Goodness itself.

But Almighty God is celebrated as “Ancient of days” because He is of all things both Age and Time, and before Days, and before Age and Time.

And yet we must affirm that He is Time and Day, and appointed Time, and Age, in a sense befitting God, as being throughout every movement unchangeable and unmoved, and in His ever moving remaining in Himself, and as being Author of Age and Time and Days.

Wherefore, in the sacred Divine manifestations of the mystic visions, He is represented as both old and young;

the former indeed signifying the “Ancient” and being from the beginning, and the latter His never growing old; or both teaching that He advances through all things from beginning to end.

[…] The Oracles…do not always merely call all the things absolutely unoriginated and really everlasting, eternal, but also things imperishable and immortal and unchangeable.

[…] The Word of God says that even we, who are bounded here by time, shall partake of Eternity, when we have reached the Eternity which is imperishable and ever the same.

But sometimes eternity is celebrated in the Oracles, even as temporal, and time as eternal. … It is necessary then to suppose that things called eternal are not absolutely co-eternal with God, Who is before Eternity.

[…] But Almighty God we ought to celebrate, both as eternity and time, as Author of every time and eternity, and “Ancient of days,” as before time, and above time, and as changing appointed seasons and times;

and again as being before ages, in so far as He is both before eternity and above eternity and His kingdom, a kingdom of all the Ages. Amen.

Denys the Areopagite (late 5th-early 6th century?): On the Divine Names 10, 1-3.

Gregory of Nyssa: The Real Beauty and the Illusion of Beauty Friday, Jan 10 2014 

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

Man was fashioned in imitation of the Divine nature, preserving his resemblance to the Deity as well in other excellences as in possession of freedom of the will, yet being of necessity of a nature subject to change.

For it was not possible that a being who derived his origin from an alteration should be altogether free from this liability.

For the passing from a state of non-existence into that of existence is a kind of alteration – when being that is by the exercise of Divine power takes the place of nonentity.

In the following special respect, too, alteration is necessarily observable in man.

For man was an imitation of the Divine nature, and unless some distinctive difference had been occasioned, the imitating subject would be entirely the same as that which it resembles.

In this instance, it is to be observed, there is a difference between that which “was made in the image” and its pattern; namely this:

that the one [God] is not subject to change, while the other [man] is (for, as has been described, it has come into existence through an alteration), and, being thus subject to alteration, does not always continue in its existing state.

For alteration is a kind of movement ever advancing from the present state to another; and there are two forms of this movement:

the first is ever towards what is good, and in this the advance has no check, because no goal of the course to be traversed can be reached;

the other is in the direction of the contrary, and of it this is the essence, that it has no subsistence.

As has been before stated, the contrary state to goodness conveys some such notion of opposition, as when we say, for instance, that that which is is logically opposed to that which is not, and that existence is so opposed to non-existence.

By reason of this impulse and movement of changeful alteration, it is not possible that the nature of the subject of this change should remain self-centred and unmoved, but there is always something towards which the will is tending.

The appetency for moral beauty naturally draws the will on to movement. But this beauty is in one instance genuinely beautiful in its nature, and in another instance it is not so, only blossoming with an illusive appearance of beauty.

And the criterion of these two kinds is the mind that dwells within us.

Under these circumstances it is a matter of risk whether we happen to choose the real beauty, or whether we are diverted from its choice by some deception arising from appearance, and thus drift away to the opposite.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): The Great Catechism, 21 (adapted).

John Damascene: No One Sees the Father save the Son and the Spirit Wednesday, Dec 4 2013 

John-of-Damascus_01December 4th is the Feast of St John Damascene.

All things are far apart from God, not in place but in nature.

In our case, thoughtfulness, and wisdom, and counsel come to pass and go away as states of being.

Not so in the case of God: for with Him there is no happening or ceasing to be; for He is invariable and unchangeable: and it would not be right to speak of contingency in connection with Him.

For goodness is concomitant with essence. He who longs always after God, he sees Him: for God is in all things.

Existing things are dependent on that which is, and nothing can be unless it is in that which is.

God then is mingled with everything, maintaining their nature: and in His holy flesh the God-Word is made one in subsistence and is mixed with our nature, yet without confusion.

No one sees the Father, save the Son and the Spirit (John 6:46).

The Son is the counsel and wisdom and power of the Father. For one may not speak of quality in connection with God, from fear of implying that He was a compound of essence and quality.

The Son is from the Father, and derives from Him all His properties: hence He cannot do ought of Himself. For He has not energy peculiar to Himself and distinct from the Father.

That God Who is invisible by nature is made visible by His energies, we perceive from the organisation and government of the world.

The Son is the Father’s image, and the Spirit the Son’s, through which Christ dwelling in man makes him after his own image.

The Holy Spirit is God, being between the unbegotten and the begotten, and united to the Father through the Son.

We speak of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the mind of Christ, the Spirit of the Lord, the very Lord, the Spirit of adoption, of truth, of liberty, of wisdom (for He is the creator of all these): filling all things with essence, maintaining all things, filling the universe with essence, while yet the universe is not the measure of His power.

God is everlasting and unchangeable essence, creator of all that is, adored with pious consideration.

God is also Father, being ever unbegotten, for He was born of no one, but hath begotten His co-eternal Son.

God is likewise Son, being always with the Father, born of the Father timelessly, everlastingly, without flux or passion, or separation from Him.

God is also Holy Spirit, being sanctifying power, subsistential, proceeding from the Father without separation, and resting in the Son, identical in essence with Father and Son.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 1, 13.

Basil the Great: Swimming Upwards to the Light Saturday, Nov 30 2013 

St-Basil-the-GreatIf you would speak of God, or hear of Him, go out from your body, put aside your bodily senses, leave this earth behind you, leave the sea behind you, set the skies beneath you, pass beyond the measuring of time, the procession of the seasons, the ordered perfection of the universe;

rise above the heavens, pass beyond the stars, and the wonders that relate to them, their ordered movement, their magnitude, their service to all the universe, their harmony, their shining splendour, their ordered station, their motion, their rotation one in respect of another.

Passing in mind beyond all these things, raised above them all, gaze in thought upon all the beauty there, upon the heavenly hosts, the Angelic Choirs, the Dignities of the Archangels, the Glory of the Dominations, the Seats of the Thrones, the Virtues, the Principalities, the Powers.

Passing beyond all these, reaching upwards in thought beyond every created thing, uplifting the mind beyond them, now contemplate the Divine Nature: stable, immovable, unchangeable, impassable, simple, indivisible, dwelling in light inaccessible (1 Tim. 6:10), surpassing glory, goodness the most desired, beauty inconceivable; which fastens fiercely upon the soul, wounding it, yet cannot fittingly be spoken of in words.

There are the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit: Nature Uncreated, Sovereign Majesty, Goodness Itself. The Father the beginning of all things, the Source of existence of all that is, the Root of all that lives. From Him comes forth the Fount of Life, Wisdom, Power, the perfect Image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), the Son Begotten of the Father, the Living Word, Who is God, Who is with God (Jn. 1:2).

[…] The mind then that has been able to purify itself of all earthly affections, and to leave behind it every known creature, and, like some fish from the deep, swim upwards to the light, now attaining to the purity of the beginning, with the Father and Son, there shall look upon the Holy Spirit, Who by reason of His essential Unity of Nature with Them shares also in their Goodness, Their Justice, Their Holiness, Their Life.

For Thy Spirit, it is written, is good (Ps. 142:10). And again, He is a right Spirit (Ps. 1:12). And again, He is Thy holy Spirit (5:13). And the Apostle also speaks of: The law of the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2). Of these things none has been received by Him, none afterwards added to Him; but as heat is inseparable from fire and radiance from light, so Sanctification cannot be separated from the Holy Spirit, nor the Giving of Life, nor Goodness, nor Justice.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15,1-3, Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D. (PG 31) @ Lectionary Central.

Gregory the Great: God Transcends All Things by the Incomprehensibility of His Spiritual Nature Thursday, May 30 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistHe is higher than heaven, what canst thou do?  Deeper than hell, what canst thou know?  His measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea (Job 11:8-9).

He is ‘higher than heaven,’ in that He transcends all things by the Incomprehensibility of His spiritual Nature.

He is ‘deeper than hell,’ in that in transcending He sustains beneath.

He is ‘longer than the earth,’ in that He exceeds the measure of created being by the everlasting continuance of His Eternity.

He is ‘broader than the sea,’ in that He so possesses the waves of temporal things in ruling them, that in confining He encompasses them beneath the every way prevailing presence of His Power.

[…] He is ‘higher than the heaven,’ in that the very elect spirits themselves do not perfectly penetrate the vision of His infinite loftiness?

He is ‘deeper than hell,’ in that He judges and condemns the craft of evil spirits with far more searching exactness than they had ever thought.

He is ‘longer than the earth,’ in that He surpasses our long-suffering by the patience of Divine long-suffering, which both bears with us in our sins, and welcomes us when we are turned from them to the rewards of His recompensing.

He is ‘wider than the sea,’ in that he everywhere enters into the doings of sinners by the presence of His retributive power, so that even when He is not seen present by His appearance, He is felt present by His judgment.

Yet all the particulars may be referred to man alone, so that he is himself ‘heaven,’ when now in desire he is attached to things above;

himself ‘hell,’ when he lies grovelling in things below, confounded by the mists of his temptations;

himself ‘earth,’ in that he is made to abound in good works through the fertility of a stedfast hope;

himself ‘the sea,’ for that on some occasions he is shaken with alarm, and agitated by the breath of his feebleness.

But God is ‘higher than heaven,’ in that we are subdued by the mightiness of His power, even when we are lifted above our own selves.

He is ‘deeper than hell,’ in that He goes deeper in judging than the very human mind looks into its own self in the midst of temptations.

He is ‘longer than the earth,’ in that those fruits of our life which He gives at the end, our very hope at the present time comprehends not at all.

He is ‘wider than the sea,’ in that the human mind being tossed to and fro throws out many fancies concerning the things that are coming, but when it now begins to see the things that it had made estimate of, it owns itself to have been too stinted in its reckoning.

Therefore He is made ‘higher than heaven,’ since our contemplation itself fails toward Him.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Moralia on Job, 10, 14-15 (on Job 11:8-9) @ Lectionary Central.

Gregory Palamas: Mystery of the Transfiguration Sunday, Mar 20 2011 

The Evangelist Luke says: “And as He prayed, His countenance was altered” (Lk 9:29); and from the Evangelist Matthew we read: “And His face shone as the sun” (Mt 17:2).

The Evangelist said this…to show that Christ-God, for those living and contemplating by the Spirit, is the same as the sun is for those living in the flesh and contemplating by the senses.

Therefore, some other Light for the knowing the Divinity is not necessary for those who are enriched by Divine gifts.

That same Inscrutable Light shone and was mysteriously manifest to the Apostles and the foremost of the Prophets at that moment, when the Lord was praying.

This shows that what brought forth this blessed sight was prayer, and that the radiance occurred and was manifest by uniting the mind with God.

And it shows that it is granted to all who, with constant exercise in efforts of virtue and prayer, strive with their mind towards God.

True beauty, essentially, can be contemplated only with a purified mind.

To gaze upon its luminance assumes a sort of participation in it, as though some bright ray etches itself upon the face.

Even the face of Moses was illumined by his association with God. Do you not know that Moses was transfigured when he went up the mountain, and there beheld the Glory of God?

Moses did not effect this, but rather he underwent a transfiguration. However, our Lord Jesus Christ possessed that Light Himself….

Christ did not need prayer for His flesh to radiate with the Divine Light; it was but to show from whence that Light descends upon the saints of God, and how to contemplate it.

For it is written that even the saints “will shine forth like the sun” (Mt 13:43), which is to say, entirely permeated by Divine Light as they gaze upon Christ, divinely and inexpressibly shining forth His Radiance, issuing from His Divine Nature.

[…] This Light was the Light of the Divine Nature, and as such, it was Uncreated and Divine.

So also, in the teachings of the Fathers, Jesus Christ was transfigured on the Mount, not taking upon Himself something new nor being changed into something new, nor something which formerly He did not possess.

[…] This Light is not a light of the senses, and those contemplating it do not simply see with sensual eyes, but rather they are changed by the power of the Divine Spirit.

They were transformed, and only in this way did they see the transformation taking place amidst the very assumption of our perishability, with deification through union with the Word of God in place of this.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): extracted from Homilly on the Transfiguration (from the translation at Pravoslavie.ru).

Gregory Nazianzen: We Needed God to Take Our Flesh and Die so that We might Live Tuesday, Nov 30 2010 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenThe very Son of God, older than the ages,

the invisible, the incomprehensible, the incorporeal,

the beginning of beginning, the light of light,

the fountain of life and immortality,

the image of the archetype, the immovable seal,

the perfect likeness, the definition and word of the Father:

He it is who comes to his own image and takes our nature for the good of our nature, and unites himself to an intelligent soul for the good of my soul, to purify like by like.

He takes to himself all that is human, except for sin.

He was conceived by the Virgin Mary, who had been first prepared in soul and body by the Spirit.

Hs coming to birth had to be treated with honor, virginity had to receive new honor.

He comes forth as God, in the human nature he has taken, one being, made of two contrary elements, flesh and spirit.

Spirit gave divinity, flesh received it.

He who makes rich is made poor; he takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of his divinity.

He who is full is made empty; he is emptied for a brief space of his glory, that I may share in his fullness.

What is this wealth of goodness? What is this mystery that surrounds me?

I received the likeness of God, but failed to keep it. He takes on my flesh, to bring salvation to the image, immortality to the flesh.

He enters into a second union with us, a union far more wonderful than the first.

Holiness had to be brought to man by the humanity assumed by one who was God, so that God might overcome the tyrant by force and so deliver us and lead us back to himself through the mediation of his Son.

The Son arranged this for the honor of the Father, to whom the Son is clearly obedient in all things.

The Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep, came in search of the straying sheep to the mountains and hills on which you used to offer sacrifice.

When he found it, he took it on the shoulders that bore the wood of the cross, and led it back to the life of heaven.

[…] We needed God to take our flesh and die, that we might live.

We have died with him, that we may be purified.

We have risen again with him, because we have died with him.

We have been glorified with him, because we have risen again with him.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 45, 9, 22.26.28; from the Office of Readings for Tuesday of the First Week of Advent @ Crossroads Initiative.

Catherine of Siena: You Gave Yourself to Man in the Fire of Your Love Thursday, Apr 29 2010 

Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through his sharing in your divine nature.

You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you.

But I can never be satisfied; what I receive will ever leave me desiring more.

When you fill my soul I have an even greater hunger, and I grow more famished for your light.

I desire above all to see you, the true light, as you really are.

I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation with the light of my understanding.

I have clothed myself with your likeness and have seen what I shall be.

Eternal Father, you have given me a share in your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as his own, and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love you.

You are my Creator, eternal Trinity, and I am your creature.

You have made of me a new creation in the blood of your Son, and I know that you are moved with love at the beauty of your creation, for you have enlightened me.

Eternal Trinity, Godhead, mystery deep as the sea, you could give me no greater gift than the gift of yourself.

For you are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being.

Yes, you are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light and causes me to know your truth.

By this light, reflected as it were in a mirror, I recognise that you are the highest good, one we can neither comprehend nor fathom.

And I know that you are beauty and wisdom itself. The food of angels, you gave yourself to man in the fire of your love.

You are the garment which covers our nakedness, and in our hunger you are a satisfying food, for you are sweetness and in you there is no taste of bitterness, O triune God!

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380): Dialogue On Divine Providence 167, from the Office of Readings for the memorial of St. Catherine of Siena on April 29 @ Crossroads Initiative.

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