Gregory of Sinai: Prayer in beginners is the unceasing noetic activity of the Holy Spirit Friday, Jul 1 2016 

Gregory of SinaiThe energy of the Holy Spirit, which we have already mystically received in baptism, is realized in two ways.

First – to generalize – this gift is revealed, as St Mark tells us, through arduous and protracted practice of the commandments: to the degree to which we effectively practice the commandments its radiance is increasingly manifested in us.

Secondly, it is manifested to those under spiritual guidance through the continuous invocation of the Lord Jesus, repeated with conscious awareness, that is, through mindfulness of God.

In the first way, it is revealed more slowly, in the second more rapidly, if one diligently and persistently learns how to dig the ground and locate the gold.

Thus if we want to realize and know the truth and not to be led astray, let us seek to possess only the heart-engrafted energy in a way that is totally without shape or form, not trying to contemplate in our imagination what we take to be the figure or similitude of things holy or to see any colors or lights. For in the nature of things the spirit of delusion deceives the intellect through such spurious fantasies, especially at the early stages, in those who are still inexperienced.

On the contrary, let our aim be to make the energy of prayer alone active in our hearts, for it brings warmth and joy to the intellect, and sets the heart alight with an ineffable love for God and man. It is on account of this that humility and contrition flow richly from prayer.

For prayer in beginners is the unceasing noetic** activity of the Holy Spirit. To start with it rises like a fire of joy from the heart; in the end it is like light made fragrant by divine energy.

There are several signs that the energy of the Holy Spirit is beginning to be active in those who genuinely aspire for this to happen and are not just putting God to the test – for, according to the Wisdom of Solomon, it is found by those who do not put it to the test, and manifests itself to those who do not distrust it (cf. Wisd. 1:2).

In some it appears as awe arising in the heart, in others as a tremulous sense of jubilation, in others as joy, in others as joy mingled with awe, or as tremulousness mingled with joy, and sometimes it manifests itself as tears and awe. For the soul is joyous at God’s visitation and mercy, but at the same time is in awe and trepidation at His presence because it is guilty of so many sins.

Gregory of Sinai (1260s–1346): On the Signs of Grace and Delusion 3-4, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 4 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 259-260.

** noetic = relating to the nous. The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word nous: as used in this passage from Gregory and by other Greek authors: INTELLECT (nous): the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St Diadochos). The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Macarian Homilies).

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.

Cyril of Alexandria: The Healing of the Man Born Blind Sunday, Mar 30 2014 

cyril_alexandria“When He had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and with the clay thereof anointed his eyes, and said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, which means ‘Sent’…. He went away therefore, and washed, and came seeing” (John 9:6-7).

Why, although able to set all things right easily by a word, does He mix up clay from the spittle, and anoint the eyes of the sufferer, and seem to prescribe a sort of operation; for He says, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam? 

Surely I deem that some deep meaning is buried beneath these words, for the Saviour accomplishes nothing without a purpose.

[…] It was not otherwise possible for the Gentiles to thrust off the blindness which affected them, and to behold the Divine and holy light, that is, to receive the knowledge of the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, except by being made partakers of His Holy Body, and washing away their gloom-producing sin, and renouncing the authority of the devil, namely in Holy Baptism.

And when the Saviour stamped on the blind man the typical mark which was anticipative of the mystery, He meanwhile fully exhibited the power of such participation by the anointing with His spittle.

And as an image of Holy Baptism He commands the man to run and wash in Siloam, a name whose interpretation, the Evangelist, being very wise and Divinely-inspired, felt it necessary to give.

For we conclude that the One Sent is no other than God the Only-Begotten, visiting us and sent from above, even from the Father, to destroy sin and the rapacity of the devil.

And, recognising Him as floating invisibly on the waters of the sacred pool, we by faith are washed, not for the putting away of the filth of the flesh, as it is written, but as it were washing away a sort of defilement and uncleanness of the eyes of the understanding, in order that for the future, being purified, we may be able in pureness to behold the Divine beauty.

As therefore we believe the Body of Christ to be life-giving, since it is the temple and abode of the Word of the Living God, possessing all His energy, so we declare it to be also a Patron of light; for it is the Body of Him Who is by nature the True Light.

And as, when He raised from death the only son of the widow, He was not satisfied with merely commanding and saying: Young man, I say unto thee, Arise; although accustomed to accomplish all things, whatsoever He wished, by a word; but also touched the bier with His hand, showing that even His Body possesses a life-giving power.

So in this case, also, He anoints with His spittle, teaching that His Body is also a Patron of light, even by so slight a touch. For it is the Body of the True Light, as we said above.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on John, book 6 [on John 9].


Ambrose of Milan: The Lord Jesus was Created of the Virgin for the Redeeming of the Father’s Works Wednesday, Jan 29 2014 

ambrose_of_milanThe prophecy of the Incarnation, “the Lord created me the beginning of His ways for His works” (Prov. 8:22), means that the Lord Jesus was created of the Virgin for the redeeming of the Father’s works.

Truly, we cannot doubt that this is spoken of the mystery of the Incarnation, forasmuch as the Lord took upon Him our flesh, in order to save the works of His hands from the slavery of corruption, so that He might, by the sufferings of His own body, overthrow him who had the power of death.

For Christ’s flesh is for the sake of things created, but His Godhead existed before them, seeing that He is before all things, whilst all things exist together in Him (Col. 1:16).

His Godhead, then, is not by reason of creation, but creation exists because of the Godhead; even as the Apostle showed, saying that all things exist because of the Son of God, for we read as follows:

“But it was fitting that He, through Whom and because of Whom are all things, after bringing many sons to glory, should, as Captain of their salvation, be made perfect through suffering”  (Heb. 2:10).

Has he not plainly declared that the Son of God, Who, by reason of His Godhead, was the Creator of all, did in after time, for the salvation of His people, submit to the taking on of the flesh and the suffering of death?

Now for the sake of what works the Lord was “created” of a virgin, He Himself, whilst healing the blind man, has shown, saying: “In Him must I work the works of Him that sent Me (John  9: 4).

Furthermore He said in the same Scripture, that we might believe Him to speak of the Incarnation: “As long as I am in this world, I am the Light of this world” (John 9:5), for, so far as He is man, He is in this world for a season, but as God He exists at all times.

In another place, too, He says: “Lo, I am with you even unto the end of the world (Matt. 28:20).  […] During His earthly life, He was asked, “Who art Thou?” He answered: “The beginning, even as I tell you” (John 8:25).

This refers not only to the essential nature of the eternal Godhead, but also to the visible proofs of virtues, for hereby has He proved Himself the eternal God, in that He is the beginning of all things, and the Author of each several virtue, in that He is the Head of the Church, as it is written:

“Because He is the Head of the Body, of the Church” (Col. i. 18); “Who is the beginning, first-begotten from the dead” (Eph. 4:15, 16).

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): Exposition of the Christian Faith, 3,7,46-49.

Justin Popovich: The Lives of the Saints are Holy Evangelical Truths Wednesday, Dec 11 2013 

Justin PopovichWhat are the “Acts of the Holy Apostles”? They are the acts of Christ which the Holy Apostles do by the power of Christ, or better still: they do them by Christ Who is in them and acts through them.

And what are the lives of the Holy Apostles? They are the living of Christ’s life which in the Church is transmitted to all faithful followers of Christ and is continued through them with the help of the holy mysteries and the holy virtues.

And what are the “Lives of the Saints”? They are nothing else but a certain kind of continuation of the “Acts of the Apostles.”

In them is found the same Gospel, the same life, the same truth, the same righteousness, the same love, the same faith, the same eternity, the same “power from on high,” the same God and Lord.

For “the Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever” (Heb. 13:8): the same for all people of all times, distributing the same gifts and the same Divine energies to all who believe in Him.

This continuation of all life-creating Divine energies in the Church of Christ from ages to ages and from generation to generation indeed constitutes living Holy Tradition.

This Holy Tradition is continued without interruption as the life of Grace in all Christians, in whom through the holy mysteries and the holy virtues, Jesus Christ lives by His Grace.

He is wholly present in His Church, for She is His fullness: “the fullness of Him who filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23).

And the God-man Christ is the all-perfect fullness of the Godhead: “for in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:4).

And Christians must, with the help of the holy mysteries and the holy virtues, fill themselves with “all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19).

The Lives of the Saints show forth those persons filled with Christ God, those Christ-bearing persons, those holy persons in whom is preserved and through whom is transmitted the holy tradition of that holy grace-filled life.

It is preserved and transmitted by means of holy evangelical living. For the lives of the saints are holy evangelical truths which are translated into our human life by grace and podvigs (asceticism).

There is no evangelical truth which cannot be transformed into human life. They were all brought by Christ God for one purpose: to become our life, our reality, our possession, our joy.

And the saints, all, without exception, live these Divine truths as the center of their lives and the essence of their being.

Justin Popovich (1894-1979; Orthodox Church): Introduction to the Lives of the Saints.

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.

Gregory of Nyssa: Our Conversation with God in Thanksgiving and Prayer Saturday, Nov 16 2013 

Gregory_of_NyssaIn return for all that we have received, we have but one gift to exchange with the Benefactor – prayer and thanksgiving.

I can envision the possibility that we could extend our conversation with God in thanksgiving and prayer for the whole duration of life.

Nevertheless, we would still fall so short in adequate exchanged value, as if we had never even begun to think about a return gift to the Benefactor.

For example, the Lord’s generosity is received in all dimensions of time measured in three parts the past, the present, and the future.

If you think of the present, it is in Him that you live. If the future, it is He who is the hope of your expectations. If the past, you did not even exist before you were created by Him.

You benefited by receiving your very existence from Him. Once born, you benefited by living and moving in Him (Acts 17:28), as the Apostle says.

Your future hopes are dependent on the same divine energy. 21 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ʻFor we are also His offspring.ʼ

Only the present is at your disposal, but even if you never cease giving thanks to God, you will barely render satisfaction for the gift of the present.

Neither for the future, nor for the past, can you conceive some way to give back sufficient thanks to God for all the things you owe Him.

Yet we are so lacking in thanksgiving that we do not show gratitude even in what is possible:

[…]  Who has laid out the earth beneath my feet? Who has given me reason to make the seas passable? Who has established heaven for my sake? Who lights up the sun before my eyes? Who “makes springs gush forth in valleys” (Ps 104:10)?

[…] Who has made me, lifeless dust that I am, to share in both life and reason? Who has formed this clay according to the image of the divine seal? Who has restored again in me that ancient beauty of the divine image which had been darkened by sin?

Having been exiled from paradise and deprived of the tree of life, who draws me back to the original bliss from being engulfed in the pit of material life? Scripture says, “There is no one who has understanding” (Rom 3:11).

If we contemplated these things, we would offer endless thanksgiving without ceasing throughout our entire life. But now nearly all human beings are quick to pursue only material things.

[…]  But no word whatever is said about God’s true blessings, whether those visible or those promised.

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

Gregory Palamas: The Trinity Thursday, Nov 14 2013 

Gregory_PalamasNovember 14th is the feast of St Gregory Palamas in the Greek Orthodox Church

The Father is timeless, without beginning and pre-eternal.

He is the sole cause and root of the divinity beheld in the Son and the Holy Spirit; not the sole Creator, but the sole Father of the only Son and the sole producer of the one Holy Spirit.

[…] The Son is co-eternal with the Father. […] He is forever, He is the Son forever and He is with the Father forever without confusion.

He is the living Word, the true light, the enhypostatic Wisdom, cause and origin of all created things, for by Him all things were made.

When the fullness of the ages had come (cf. Gal. 4:4), as the prophets foretold, He emptied Himself, took our human form for our sake, was conceived by the ever-virgin Mary through the gracious will of the Father and the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, and was conceived and was born.

He was truly made man and became like us in everything apart from sin (cf. Heb. 4:15), while remaining true God in one person even after His incarnation.

[…] From the eternal Father Who is without beginning the Holy Spirit also proceeds.

As timeless He is together with the Father and the Son without beginning, but He is not without beginning, inasmuch as He has the Father as root, origin and cause, from Whom He proceeded before all ages, without passion or change.

He was not divided from the Father or the Son when He came from the Father and rested in the Son, for He was united with Them without confusion and indivisibly distinct.

Being also God from God, He is not one thing as God and another as Comforter, inasmuch as He is the hypostatic existence of the Holy Spirit.

He has His existence from the Father and is sent through the Son, as the firstfruits of eternal life and the earnest of the everlasting good things to come.

[…]  He was sent by the Son to His disciples, that is to say, He was made known to them by the Son, for this is the only sense in which He could be sent Who is everywhere present and does not leave the Sender.

[…] He [God] is not revealed, however, in His essence, for nobody has ever seen or declared God’s nature, but in the grace, power and energy common to the Father, Son and Spirit.

Each has His own hypostasis, and the characteristics seen to belong to that hypostasis.

They have in common not only Their undisclosed essence, which is above all names and in which we cannot share, but also the grace, power, energy, radiance, incorruption, kingdom, and everything else by which God has communion with the holy angels and with men.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 8 – On Faith, 7-10, from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009), pp. 54-59 @ Kandylaki (fuller version)

Justin Popovich: When God Became Man, Divine Life Became Human Life – Everything Which Is God’s Became Man’s Monday, Nov 11 2013 

Justin PopovichWho is a Christian? A Christian is a man who lives by Christ and in Christ.

The commandment of the Holy Gospel of God is divine: “live worthily of God” (Col. 1:10).

God, Who became incarnate and Who as the Godman has in entirety remained in His Church, which lives eternally by Him.

And one lives “worthily of God” when one lives according to the Gospel of Christ.

Therefore, this Divine commandment of the Holy Gospel is also natural: “Live worthily of the Gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27).

Life according to the Gospel, holy life, Divine life, that is the natural and normal life for Christians.

For Christians, according to their vocation, are holy: That good tiding and commandment resounds throughout the whole Gospel of the New Testament.

To become completely holy, both in soul and in body, that is our vocation. This is not a miracle, but rather the norm, the rule of faith.

The commandment of the Holy Gospel is clear and most clear: as the Holy One who has called you is Holy, so be ye holy in all manner of life (1 Peter 1:15).

And that means that according to Christ the Holy One, Who, having been incarnate and become man, showed forth in Himself a completely holy life, and as such commands men: “be ye holy, for I am Holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

He has the right to command this, for having become man He gives men as Himself, the Holy One, all the Divine energies which are necessary for a holy and pious life in this world.

Having united themselves spiritually and by Grace to the Holy One—the Lord Christ—with the help of faith, Christians themselves receive from Him the holy energies that they may lead a holy life.

Living by Christ, the saints can do the works of Christ, for by Him they become not only powerful but all-powerful: “I can do all things in Christ Jesus who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

And in them is clearly realized the truth of the All-True One, that those who believe in Him will do His works and will do greater things than these: “Verily, verily I say unto you: he that believeth in me, the works that I do he shall do also and greater works than these shall he do” (John 14:12).

And truly: the shadow of the Apostle Peter healed; by a word St. Mark the Ascetic moved and stopped a mountain…

When God became man, then Divine life became human life, Divine power became human power, Divine truth became human truth, and Divine righteousness became human righteousness: everything which is God’s became man’s.

Justin Popovich (1894-1979; Orthodox Church): Introduction to the Lives of the Saints.

Cyril of Alexandria: The Energising and Life-Giving Grace of the Holy Spirit will Renew the Face of the Earth Sunday, Nov 10 2013 

cyril_alexandriaOn Luke 20:27-38

St Paul says, “the sting of death is sin: and the strength of sin is the law.”

For he compares death to a scorpion, the sting of which is sin: for by its poison it slays the soul.

And the law, he says, was the strength of sin: … “I had not known sin but by the law:” “for where there is no law, there is no transgression of the law.”

For this reason Christ has removed those who believe in Him from the jurisdiction of the law that condemns.

He has also abolished the sting of death, even sin: and sin being taken away, death, as a necessary consequence, departed with it; for it was from it, and because of it, that death came into the world.

[…] The prophet Isaiah therefore has said to us, “Your dead men shall arise: and those in the graves shall be raised; and they who are in the earth shall rejoice: for the dew from You is healing to them.”

And by the dew I imagine he means the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit, and that influence which abolishes death, as being that of God and of life.

And the blessed David also somewhere in the Psalms says of all those upon earth, “You take away their spirit, and they die, and return to their dust: You send Your Spirit, and they are created, and You renew the face of the earth.”

Do you hear that the energising and life-giving grace of the Holy Spirit will renew the face of the earth?

And by its face is meant its beauty; and the beauty of human nature is justly understood to be incorruption.

“For it is sown, it says, in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory.”

For the prophet Isaiah again assures us that death which entered in because of sin does not retain its power over the dwellers upon earth for ever, but is abolished by the resurrection from the dead of Christ, Who renews the universe, and refashions it to that which it was at the beginning.

For God created all things for incorruption, as it is written; for he says, “He has swallowed up death, having waxed mighty: and God shall again take away all weeping from every countenance; He shall remove the reproach of the people from the whole earth.”

Now sin is what he calls the reproach of the people, and when this has been taken away, death also is extinguished with it, and corruption departs from the midst.

And by having brought it to an end, He removes every one’s weeping; and lamentation also is put to silence; for henceforth there is no more cause for men to weep and lament.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, Sermon 136.

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