Augustine of Hippo: What this Sun is to the Eyes of the Flesh, that is Christ to the Eyes of the Heart Tuesday, Aug 6 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaOn Matthew 17:1-9 (the mystery of the Transfiguration)

The Lord Jesus Himself shone bright as the sun; His raiment became white as the snow; and Moses and Elijah talked with Him.

Jesus Himself indeed shone as the sun, signifying that “He is the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”

What this sun is to the eyes of the flesh, that is He to the eyes of the heart; and what that is to the flesh of men, that is He to their hearts. Now His raiment is His Church.

[…] Of this raiment, Paul was as it were a sort of last border. For he says himself, “I am the least of the Apostles.” […]  Now in a garment the border is the last and least part.

Wherefore as that woman which suffered from an issue of blood, when she had touched the Lord’s border was made whole, so the Church which came from out of the Gentiles, was made whole by the preaching of Paul.

What wonder if the Church is signified by white raiment, when you hear the Prophet Isaiah saying, “Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow”?

Moses and Elijah, that is, the Law and the Prophets, what avail they, except they converse with the Lord? Except they give witness to the Lord, who would read the Law or the Prophets?

Mark how briefly the Apostle expresses this; “For by the Law is the knowledge of sin; but now the righteousness of God without the Law is manifested:” behold the sun; “being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,” behold the shining of the Sun.

As the cloud then overshadowed them, and in a way made one tabernacle for them, “a voice also sounded out of the cloud, which said, This is My beloved Son.”

Moses was there; Elijah was there; yet it was not said, “These are My beloved sons.” For the Only Son is one thing; adopted sons another. He was singled out in whom the Law and the prophets glorified.

“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him!” Because ye have heard Him in the Prophets, and ye have heard Him in the Law. And where have ye not heard Him? “When they heard this, they fell” to the earth. See then in the Church is exhibited to us the Kingdom of God.

Here is the Lord, here the Law and the Prophets; but the Lord as the Lord; the Law in Moses, Prophecy in Elijah; only they as servants and as ministers. They as vessels: He as the fountain: Moses and the Prophets spake, and wrote; but when they poured out, they were filled from Him.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Homilies on St Matthew’s Gospel, 28, 2, 4.

Maximus the Confessor: Moses, Elijah and the Mystery of the Transfiguration (2) Monday, Aug 5 2013 

Maximus_ConfessorContinued from here…

Then they [Peter, James and John] are taught through them [Moses and Elijah] about wisdom and kindness dwelling with Him.

It is in accordance with wisdom that the word is declaratory of things made and prohibitory of things not made, and of this Moses is the type, for we believe the grace of law-giving to belong to wisdom.

And it is in accordance with kindness that the word invites and causes to return to the divine life those who have slipped away from it, and of this Elijah is the type, through himself manifesting the complete prophetic gift.

For the conversion through love for humankind of those who have erred is a characteristic of divine kindness, and the heralds of this we know as the prophets.

[And they are also taught about] knowledge and education. Knowledge is the source in human beings of the understanding of good and evil.

“For I have set before your face”, he says, “life and death” (Deut. 30:19), the one you are to elect, the other to flee, and lest through ignorance you disguise the worse with the good,

Moses proclaims what is to be done, prefiguring in himself the symbols of the truth. Education is needed for those who without restraint do what is contrary and indiscriminately mix what should not be mixed. In Israel the great Elijah was their teacher, the scourge of indifference, who, like reason, led to understanding and sense the mindlessness and hardness of those who were utterly addicted to evil.

[And they are also taught about] ascetic struggle and contemplation. Ascetic struggle destroys evil and through the demonstration of the virtues cuts off from the world those who are completely led through it in their disposition, just as Moses led Israel out of Egypt and educated her persuasively through the divine laws of the Spirit.

Contemplation seizes them as it were from matter and form, like Elijah on his chariot of fire, leading them to God through knowledge and uniting them with Him, so that they are no longer weighed down by the flesh because of the setting aside of its law, nor burning with zeal for the fulfillment of the commandments, because of the grace of poverty of spirit mixed with all real virtues.

Again, they learnt from the Word the mysteries of marriage and celibacy: through Moses, how one is not prevented by marriage from being a lover of divine glory; and through Elijah, how he remained completely pure from any marital intercourse, and how the Word and God proclaims that those who direct themselves in these things by reason according to the laws that are divinely laid down concerning them are made to enter into Himself in a hidden way.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662):  Eighteen Spiritual Interpretations of the Tranfiguration, From Maximus the Confessor by Andrew Louth (Routledge: London 1999) pp. 128-134 @ Mystagogy here and here.

Cyril of Alexandria: Transformed to so Surpassing and Godlike a Brightness – the Mystery of the Transfiguration Sunday, Aug 4 2013 

cyril_alexandriaOn Luke 9:27-36

Jesus had said unto them, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross every day, and follow Me. For he that will save his life shall lose it; and he that will lose his life for My sake shall find it.”

The commandment is indeed both for the salvation and honour of the saints, and the cause of the highest glory, and the means of perfect joy: for the choosing to suffer for the sake of Christ is not a thankless duty, but on the contrary makes us sharers in everlasting life, and the glory that is prepared.

But as the disciples had not yet obtained power from on high, it probably occasionally happened, that they also fell into human weaknesses, and when thinking over with themselves any such saying as this, may have asked “how does a man deny himself?” or how having lost himself does he find himself again? And what reward will compensate those who thus suffer? Or of what gifts will they be made partakers?

To rescue them therefore from such timid thoughts, and, so to speak, to mould them unto manliness, by begetting in them a desire of the glory about to be bestowed upon them, Jesus says, “I say unto you, there are some of those standing here, who shall not taste of death until they have seen the kingdom of God.”

Does He mean that the measure of their lives will be so greatly prolonged as even to reach to that time when He will descend from heaven at the consummation of the world, to bestow upon the saints the kingdom prepared for them? Even this was possible for Him: for He is omnipotent: and there is nothing impossible or difficult to His all-powerful will.

But by the kingdom of God He means the sight of the glory in which He will appear at His manifestation to the inhabitants of earth: for He will come in the glory of God the Father, and not in low estate like unto us. How therefore did He make those who had received the promise spectators of a thing so wonderful?

He goes up into the mountain taking with Him three chosen disciples: and is transformed to so surpassing and godlike a brightness, that His garments even glittered with rays of fire, and seemed to flash like lightning.

And besides, Moses and Elijah stood at Jesus’ side, and spake with one another of His departure, which He was about, it says, to accomplish at Jerusalem: by which is meant the mystery of the dispensation in the flesh; and of His precious suffering upon the Cross.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, Sermon 51.

Maximus the Confessor: Moses, Elijah and the Mystery of the Transfiguration (1) Sunday, Aug 4 2013 

Maximus_ConfessorBut going back to what has already been contemplated, let us turn our attention according to our means to the rest of the meaning of the Transfiguration, so that the excellence of the Saints in everything and their genuine separation from the flesh and matter may be seen.

And let us note that they do not contemplate either creation or Scripture like us in a material or lowly way.

They do not acquire the blessed knowledge of God only by sense and appearances and forms, using letters and syllables, which lead to mistakes and bafflement over the judgment of the truth, but solely by the mind [nous], rendered most pure and released from all material mists.

Since therefore we want to judge reverently and see clearly and intelligibly the meanings of those things perceived by the senses, we must look carefully to the inerrant knowledge concerning God and divine things and rightly proceed along the straight path.

Therefore it was said above that through the luminous brightness that shone from the face of the Lord on the mount, the thrice-blessed apostles were secretly led in an ineffable and unknowable manner to the power and glory of God which is completely incomprehensible to every being, for they learnt that the light that appeared to their senses is a symbol of what is hidden and beyond any manifestation.

For as the ray of the light that came to pass here overwhelmed the strength of the eyes and remained beyond their grasp, so also their God transcends all the power and strength of the mind and leaves no kind of trace for the mind to experience.

The white garments teach, in a divinely fitting way, at one and the same time both the magnificence that lies in creatures proportionately to the logoi [symbols of the divine plan] according to which they have come into being and the mysterious revelation found in the understanding of the words of Holy Scripture, so that the written power in the Spirit and the wisdom and knowledge manifested together in creatures are displayed together for the knowledge of God, and through them again he is proportionately manifested.

Through Moses and Elijah, who were with Him on either side, they are taught many various conceptions which are put forward as figures of mysteries: through true contemplation of them they found ways of knowing. It is this that must now be examined.

And first they received through Moses and Elijah the most reverent notion about how the legal and the prophetic word had always to be present with God the Word, as they are and proclaim from Him and concerning Him and they are established around Him.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662):  Eighteen Spiritual Interpretations of the Tranfiguration, From Maximus the Confessor by Andrew Louth (Routledge: London 1999) pp. 128-134 @ Mystagogy.

Bede the Venerable: Let Us Seek His Face Always Friday, May 25 2012 

icon_bede-When Elijah was raised up to the heavens, he let the cloak with which he had been clothed fall to Elisha.

When our Lord ascended into heaven, he left the mysteries of the humanity he had assumed to his disciples, to the entire Church in fact, so that it could be sanctified by them, and warmed by the power of his love.

Elisha took up Elijah’s cloak and struck the waters of the river Jordan with it; and when he called upon the God of Elijah, the waters were divided and he crossed over.

The apostles and the entire Church took up the sacraments of their Redeemer that had been instituted through the apostles, so that, spiritually guided by them, and cleansed and consecrated by them, they too learned to overcome death’s assault by calling upon the name of God the Father, and to cross over to undying life, spurning the obstacle of death.

Let us the, with all devotion, dearly beloved brothers, venerate this glory of the Lord’s ascension, which was first expressed by the words and deeds of the prophets, and was afterward brought to fulfilment in our Mediator himself.

And that we ourselves may become worthy of following in his footsteps and ascending to heaven, let us in the meantime become humble on earth for our own good, always mindful that, as Solomon says, Humiliation follows the proud, and honor follows the humble in spirit (Prov. 29:23).

Behold we have learned in our Redeemer’s ascension whither all our effort should be directed; behold we have recognized that the entry to the heavenly fatherland has been opened up to human beings by the ascension into heaven of the Mediator between god and human beings.

Let us hurry, with all eagerness, to the perpetual bliss of this fatherland; since we are not yet able to be there in our bodies, let us at least always dwell there by the desire of our minds.

In accord with the words of the great preacher, let us seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God; let us savor the things that are above and not those that are upon the earth (Col. 3:1-2).

Let us seek him and be strengthened; let us seek him by works of charity, and be strengthened by the hope of finding him.

Let us seek his face always, so that when he who ascended peacefully returns terrifying, he may find us prepared, and take us with him into the feasts of the city on high.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Homilies on the Gospels, 2:8 (Easter), Homilies on the Gospels, Book Two, Lent to the Dedication of the Church, trans. Lawrence T. Martin and David Hurst OSB (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1991).

Hilary of Poitiers: “You are the Temple of God, and the Spirit of God Dwells Within You” Wednesday, Aug 17 2011 

God chose Sion for his abode and his dwelling-place. But Sion came to be destroyed.

Where, then, is now the everlasting throne of the Lord, where his eternal resting-place, where the Temple in which he can reside?

You, says the Apostle, are the Temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells within you.

This is the house and this the Temple of God, filled with divine knowledge and virtue, made fit for God’s indwelling by holiness of heart; to which the prophet bore witness: Holy is your Temple, wonderful in justice.

It is the holiness, the justice, the purity of man that is a Temple for the Lord.

This Temple must be built by God. Raised by man’s en­deavour, it will never last; founded on worldly wisdom, it will never hold together; kept by our foolish exertions and care, it will never be preserved.

On no shifting sand is it to be founded, but set firm on the foundation of the prophets and the Apostles; with living stones must it take shape, held fast by the Corner-Stone.

With its materials securely joined together it must grow unto the perfect man, unto the stature of the body of Christ, and its adorning must lie in the beauty and splendour of spiritual gifts.

Israel is now in captivity, but when the full host of Gentiles is come then it will pursue the building of this house.

By the multifarious labours of the faithful it will grow into as many houses, will become a great and beautiful city.

For long now, has the Lord kept faithful watch over his city: guarding Abra­ham on his pilgrimage, preserving Isaac from immolation, re­warding Jacob for his years of service, giving power to Joseph. a slave in Egypt.

He strengthens Moses in his conflict with Pharaoh, makes Joshua a leader in battle, rescues David from every danger, confers on Solomon the gift of wisdom.

He is there among his prophets, taking up Elijah, choosing Elisha, feeding Daniel, bringing refreshment to the children in the fiery furnace.

Joseph he tells by an angel of his virgin birth, Mary he reassures, John he sends before him.

He chooses the Apostles and prays to his Father: Holy Father, keep them safe … while I was with them I kept them in thy name.

And after his passion he promises that he himself will have an everlasting care of us: Behold, I am with you always, even until the end of the world.

Such is the everlasting protection of this blessed and holy city which, made up of many come together in one, and found in each one of us, forms indeed the city of God.

Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-368): Treatise on Psalm 126, 7-9; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time Year 1.

John Henry Newman: The Prophet Elisha and the Comfortable Christian Doctrine of the Communion of Saints Monday, Aug 8 2011 

Next I observe on the especial communion, or (as I may call it) citizenship, which Elisha enjoyed with the unseen world.

Elijah thought himself solitary, though he was not so; the world invisible was hid from him.

Though ministered to by Angels, though sustained miraculously by Almighty God, yet, like St. John Baptist, when he sent to ask Christ, Art Thou He that should come? he seemed to himself one against many.

But Elisha had the privilege of knowing that he was one of a great host who were fighting the Lord’s battles, though he might be solitary on earth.

To him was revealed in its measure the comfortable Christian doctrine of the Communion of Saints. His eyes were purged to see sights which the world could not see….

Hear Elijah’s words—I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life to take it away (1 Kings 19:10).

On the other hand, when Elisha’s servant, on finding the host of the Syrians round about them, said to the Prophet, Alas! my master, how shall we do? Elisha answered, Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them (2 Kings 6:15-17).

And then he besought Almighty God to give to his servant for an instant a glimpse of that glorious vision which he in faith, or by inspiration, enjoyed continually.

He prayed, and said, Lord, I pray Thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

How well does this vision correspond to that blessed privilege which, as the Apostle assures us, is conferred upon us Christians:

Ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,

and to an innumerable company of Angels, to the general assembly and Church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all,

and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant,

and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel!

An innumerable company of Angels, and the Spirits of the just;—we dwell under their shadow; we are baptized into their fellowship; we are allotted their guardianship; we are remembered, as we trust, in their prayers.

We dwell in the very presence and court of God Himself, and of His Eternal Son our Saviour, who died for us, and rose again, and now intercedes for us before the Throne.

We have privileges surely far greater than Elisha’s; but of the same kind.

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890): Sermons on Subjects of the Day, Sermon 13. Elijah a Type of Christ and His Followers.

Anastasius of Antioch: Here in Our Hearts Christ Makes His Abode, Saying: “Today Salvation has Come to This House” Saturday, Aug 6 2011 

Jesus took with him Peter, James and John, and led them up a high mountain where they were alone.

There, before their eyes, he was transfigured. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.

Then the disciples saw Moses and Elijah appear, and they were talking to Jesus.

[…] Let us listen, then, to the sacred voice of God so compellingly calling us from on high, from the summit of the mountain.

So, with the Lord’s chosen disciples, may we penetrate the deep meaning of these holy mysteries, so far beyond our capacity to express.

Jesus goes before us to show us the way, both up the mountain and into heaven….

It is for us now to follow him with all speed, yearning for the heavenly vision that will give us a share in his radiance, renew our spiritual nature and transform us into his own likeness, making us for ever sharers in his Godhead and raising us to heights as yet undreamed of.

Let us run with confidence and joy to enter into the cloud like Moses and Elijah, or like James and John.

Let us be caught up like Peter to behold the divine vision and to be transfigured by that glorious transfiguration.

Let us retire from the world, stand aloof from the earth, rise above the body, detach ourselves from creatures and turn to the creator, to whom Peter in ecstasy exclaimed: Lord, it is good for us to be here.

It is indeed good to be here, as you have said, Peter. It is good to be with Jesus and to remain here for ever.

What greater happiness or higher honor could we have than to be with God, to be made like him and to live in his light?

Therefore, since each of us possesses God in his heart and is being transformed into his divine image, we also should cry out with joy:

It is good for us to be here – here where all things shine with divine radiance, where there is joy and gladness and exultation; where there is nothing in our hearts but peace, serenity and stillness; where God is seen.

For here, in our hearts, Christ takes up his abode together with the Father, saying as he enters: Today salvation has come to this house.

With Christ, our hearts receive all the wealth of his eternal blessings, and there where they are stored up for us in him, we see reflected as in a mirror both the first fruits and the whole of the world to come.

Anastasius of Sinai (7th Century): Sermon on the Feast of the Transfiguration, nn. 6-10, from the Office of Readings for the Feast of the Transfiguration @ Crossroads Initiative.

Maximus the Confessor: Elijah, the “Still Small Voice”, and the Understanding of Scripture Monday, Jul 25 2011 

The meaning of Holy Scripture reveals itself gradually to the higher senses of the more discerning mind when the mind has put off the complex bodily form of the words which are formed in it.

This revelation is like a still small voice.

Through a supreme abandonment of its natural activities, such a mind has been able to perceive the meaning only in a simplicity which reveals the divine Word.

This is the way that the great Elijah was granted the vision in the cave at Horeb.

For ‘Horeb’ means ‘newness’, which is our virtuous condition in the new spirit of grace.

The cave is the hiddenness of spiritual wisdom in which the one who enters will mystically experience the knowledge which goes beyond the senses.

This is the knowledge in which God is found.

Therefore anyone who truly seeks God, as did the great Elijah, will come upon him not only on Horeb – that is, as an ascetic in the practice of the virtues.

He will also encounter him in the cave of Horeb – that is, as a contemplative in the hidden place of wisdom which can exist only in the habit of the virtues.

When the mind shakes off the many distractions about things which are pressing on it, then the clear meaning of truth appears and gives it pledges of genuine knowledge.

These are given after it has driven off its recent preoccupations which were like scales on the eyes, just as in the case of the great and holy Apostle Paul.

For thoughts about the mere letter of Scripture and the consideration of those visible things that hinder understanding are indeed scales which cling to the clear-sighted part of the soul and hinder the passage to the pure meaning of truth.

St Maximus the Confessor (c. 580-662): Gnostic Chapters 74-75, Maximus the Confessor: Selected Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality), taken from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday of the 18th Week of Ordinarty Time, Year 1

Chromatius of Aquileia: Christ Refreshed Human Hearts with the Waters of Eternal Life Wednesday, Jul 20 2011 

Elijah was sent to a widow in the Sidonian village of Zarephath to give her food and save her from starving.

Let us consider how perfectly this woman prefigures the Church.

Before Elijah came to her, she and her children were suffering from hunger.

Undoubt­edly she suffered also from the worst kind of hunger, because Christ the bread of life had not yet descended from heaven; the Word of God had not yet taken a body from the Virgin.

Listen to the Prophet’s saying: I shall send famine on the land; not hunger for bread or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord.

Any who suffer hunger for lack of the divine word do indeed risk dying of starvation.

There is a great difference between being deprived of earthly bread and being deprived of the divine word.

Lack of earthly bread can kill only the body, but lack of the divine word ruins the soul as well as killing the body.

Unsatisfied hunger for earthly bread removes us from this present life; but unsatisfied hunger for the divine word excludes us from eternal life.

Such was the peril faced by the Church before she received Christ, but when she received him she escaped the danger of everlasting death.

Before the coming of Christ, this woman did indeed have a little flour and oil, that is, the teaching of the Law and the Prophets, but that could not have saved her if the grace of Christ had not fulfilled the Law and the Prophets.

Hence the Lord’s saying in the Gospel: I have come not to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfil them.

The Law and the Prophets were powerless to save us from death, except through the Passion of Christ.

So it was that when the Church received Christ, flour, oil, and wood began to abound; flour signifying the bread of the word; oil the gift of divine mercy; and wood the mystery of the venerable Cross through which the ­heavenly rain is given to us.

For this is what Elijah says to the woman: You shall not lack flour or oil until the Lord brings rain upon the land.

Our Lord and Saviour brought us rain from heaven, that is, the teaching of the Gospel, and by it he refreshed human hear­ts, dry as a thirsty land, with the waters of eternal life.

Chromatius of Aquileia (d. 406/7): Sermon 25, 5-6 (SC 164:84-88); 3) from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Friday of the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time, Year I