Gregory Nazianzen: Holding Communion with God, Associated with the Purest Light Thursday, Jan 30 2014 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenIn the eastern calendar, January 30th is the Synaxis of The Three Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, & John Chrysostom.

In praising Athanasius, I shall be praising virtue….  Again, in praising virtue, I shall be praising God, who gives virtue to men and lifts them up, or lifts them up again, to Himself by the enlightenment which is akin to Himself (1 John 1:5).

For many and great as are our blessings—none can say how many and how great—which we have and shall have from God, this is the greatest and kindliest of all, our inclination and relationship to Him.

For God is to intelligible things what the sun is to the things of sense.  The one lightens the visible, the other the invisible, world.  The one makes our bodily eyes to see the sun, the other makes our intellectual natures to see God.

And, as that, which bestows on the things which see and are seen the power of seeing and being seen, is itself the most beautiful of visible things; so God, who creates, for those who think, and that which is thought of, the power of thinking and being thought of, is Himself the highest of the objects of thought, in Whom every desire finds its bourne, beyond Whom it can no further go.

For not even the most philosophic, the most piercing, the most curious intellect has, or can ever have, a more exalted object.  For this is the utmost of things desirable, and they who arrive at it find an entire rest from speculation.

Whoever has been permitted to escape by reason and contemplation from matter and this fleshly cloud or veil (whichever it should be called) and to hold communion with God, and be associated, as far as man’s nature can attain, with the purest Light, blessed is he, both from his ascent from hence, and for his deification there, which is conferred by true philosophy, and by rising superior to the dualism of matter, through the unity which is perceived in the Trinity.

And whosoever has been depraved by being knit to the flesh, and so far oppressed by the clay that he cannot look at the rays of truth, nor rise above things below, though he is born from above, and called to things above, I hold him to be miserable in his blindness, even though he may abound in things of this world;

and all the more, because he is the sport of his abundance, and is persuaded by it that something else is beautiful instead of that which is really beautiful, reaping, as the poor fruit of his poor opinion, the sentence of darkness, or the seeing Him to be fire, Whom he did not recognize as light.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 21 (on the Great Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria), 1-2.

Leo the Great: The Wise Men Saw and Adored the Child of the Tribe of Judah Sunday, Jan 5 2014 

leo1Led then, dearly beloved, into Bethlehem by obeying the guidance of the star, the wise men “rejoiced with very great joy,” as the evangelist has told us:

“And entering the house, they found the child with Mary, His mother; and falling down they worshipped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Matt. 2:10, 11).

What wondrous faith of perfect knowledge, which was taught them not by earthly wisdom, but by the instruction of the Holy Spirit!

Whence came it that these men, who had quitted their country without having seen Jesus, and had not noticed anything in His looks to enforce such systematic adoration, observed this method in offering their gifts?

Besides the appearance of the star which attracted their bodily eyes, the more refulgent rays of truth taught their hearts:

that, before they started on their toilsome road, they must understand that He was signified to Whom was owed in gold royal honour, in incense Divine adoration, in myrrh the acknowledgment of mortality.

Such a belief and understanding no doubt, as far as the enlightenment of their faith went, might have been sufficient in themselves and have prevented their using their bodily eyes in inquiring into that which they had beheld with their mind’s fullest gaze.

Their sagacious diligence, persevering till they found the child, did good service for future peoples and for the men of our own time.

Thus, as it profited us all that the apostle Thomas, after the Lord’s resurrection, handled the traces of the wounds in His flesh, so it was of advantage to us that His infancy should be attested by the visit of the wise men.

And so the wise men saw and adored the Child of the tribe of Judah, “of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3), “made from a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4), which He had come “not to destroy but to fulfil” (Matt. 5:17).

They saw and adored the Child, small in size, powerless to help others, incapable of speech, and in nought different to the generality of human children.

Because, as the testimonies were trustworthy which asserted in Him the majesty of invisible Godhead, so it ought to be impossible to doubt that “the Word became flesh,” and the eternal essence of the Son of God took man’s true nature.

Neither the inexpressible marvels of his acts which were to follow nor the infliction of sufferings which He had to bear should be permitted to overthrow the mystery of our Faith by their inconsistency.

For no one at all can be justified save those who believe the Lord Jesus to be both true God and true Man.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 34, 3.

Cyril of Jerusalem: The Coming of the Holy Spirit Wednesday, Jul 3 2013 

Cyril-of-JerusalemMany things are called spirits.

Thus an angel is called spirit, our soul is called spirit, and this wind which is blowing is called spirit.

Great virtue also is spoken of as spirit; and impure practice is called spirit; and a devil our adversary is called spirit.

[…] Concerning our soul the Scripture says, His spirit shall go forth, and he shall return to his earth….

And of the angels it is said in the Psalms, Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire.

[…]  And of good doctrine the Lord Himself says, The words that I have spoken unto you, they are spiritand they are life; instead of, “are spiritual.”

But the Holy Spirit is not pronounced by the tongue; but He is a Living Spirit, who gives wisdom of speech, Himself speaking and discoursing.

[…] But sin also is called spirit…, only in another and opposite sense…. The name “spirit” is given also to the unclean spirit, the devil; but with the addition of, “the unclean;” for to each is joined its distinguishing name, to mark its proper nature.

[…] Such is not the Holy Ghost; God forbid!  For His doings tend the contrary way, towards what is good and salutary.

First, His coming is gentle; the perception of Him is fragrant; His burden most light; beams of light and knowledge gleam forth before His coming.

He comes with the bowels of a true guardian:  for He comes to save, and to heal, to teach, to admonish, to strengthen, to exhort, to enlighten the mind, first of him who receives Him, and afterwards of others also, through him.

And as a man, who being previously in darkness then suddenly beholds the sun, is enlightened in his bodily sight, and sees plainly things which he saw not, so likewise he to whom the Holy Ghost is vouchsafed, is enlightened in his soul, and sees things beyond man’s sight, which he knew not; his body is on earth, yet his soul mirrors forth the heavens.

He sees, like Esaias, the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up; he sees, like Ezekiel, Him who is above the Cherubim; he sees like Daniel, ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; and the man, who is so little, beholds the beginning of the world, and knows the end of the world, and the times intervening, and the successions of kings—things which he never learned:  for the True Enlightener is present with him.

The man is within the walls of a house; yet the power of his knowledge reaches far and wide, and he sees even what other men are doing.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 16, 13,15,16.

Maximus the Greek: I Sing to Thee the Hymn of the Thrice-Holy Cry Monday, May 27 2013 

MaximgrekHe who was slow of speech, having been covered with divine darkness, gave utterance unto the divinely written law.

For, having shaken off the mire from his noetic eyes, he beheld the One Who Is and learned the understanding of the Spirit, uttering praise with hymns divine.

Glory to Thee, O our God, glory to Thee!

O Master, Who of old didst feed Israel with manna in the desert, fill Thou my soul with the most Holy Spirit, that for such I may continually serve Thee in God-pleasing manner.

Glory to Thee, O our God, glory to Thee!

Making bold, with Thine incorporeal ministers I sing to Thee the hymn of the thrice-holy cry, though I am earth and ashes, O true Trinity and all-good Unity.

Glory to Thee, O our God, glory to Thee!

Ever assailed in my soul by the storms of destructive passions and spirits, I set my hope of salvation on Thee, the most good Paraclete, in that Thou art God.

Glory to Thee, O our God, glory to Thee!

[…] Of old, the mere prayer to the mighty God of understandings by Hannah the Prophetess, who bore a contrite spirit, broke the bonds of her barren womb and the reproach of the childbearing, which was hard to bear.

Glory to Thee, O our God, glory to Thee!

Great is the knowledge of Thy goodness, O Holy Trinity: it is the restoration of that which was created according to Thy divine image, which Thou didst ineffably show forth by the all-wondrous incarnation of One of Thee, as a divine habitation.

Glory to Thee, O our God, glory to Thee!

O Master, adorn my mind with Thy holy gifts and thoughts of sacred reverence, that in tranquillity and holy disposition of soul I also may glorify Thee, O divine Paraclete.

Glory to Thee, O our God, glory to Thee!

I pray Thee, O Master: Let not the hidden movements of the flesh destroy me, which are produced within me by the passion of pride, for they most vilely defile my wretched soul.

Glory to Thee, O our God, glory to Thee!

With the bit and bridle of the fear of God curb Thou the onrushings of my shameless soul, that I may hymn and glorify Thee with great reverence and sober thought, O divine Comforter.

Glory to Thee, O our God, glory to Thee!

Utterly corrupted by many lusts, I hasten with faith to Thee, the all-radiant Sun. With Thy divine light deign Thou to enlighten the eyes of my soul, O divine Paraclete.

Maximus the Greek (c.1475-1556): Canon to the All-Holy Spirit, Odes 1 & 3 @ Mystagogy.

Leo the Great: The Holy Spirit Came to Enkindle to a Greater Heat and Fill with Larger Abundance the Hearts Dedicated to Him Friday, May 17 2013 

leo1The Lord Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit should come, not then for the first time to be the Indweller of the saints, but to kindle to a greater heat, and to fill with larger abundance the hearts that were dedicated to Him, increasing, not commencing His gifts, not fresh in operation because richer in bounty.

For the Majesty of the Holy Ghost is never separate from the Omnipotence of the Father and the Son, and whatever the Divine government accomplishes in the ordering of all things, proceeds from the Providence of the whole Trinity.

Therein exists unity of mercy and loving-kindness, unity of judgment and justice:  nor is there any division in action where there is no divergence of will.  What, therefore, the Father enlightens, the Son enlightens, and the Holy Ghost enlightens, and…both the Unity and the Trinity are at the same time revealed to us….

The fact, therefore, that, with the co-operation of the inseparable Godhead still perfect, certain things are performed by the Father, certain by the Son, and certain by the Holy Spirit, in particular belongs to the ordering of our Redemption and the method of our salvation.

For if man, made after the image and likeness of God, had retained the dignity of his own nature, and had not been deceived by the devil’s wiles into transgressing through lust the law laid down for him, the Creator of the world would not have become a Creature, the Eternal would not have entered the sphere of time, nor God the Son, Who is equal with God the Father, have assumed the form of a slave and the likeness of sinful flesh.

But because “by the devil’s malice death entered into the world,” and captive humanity could not otherwise be set free without His undertaking our cause, Who without loss of His majesty should both become true Man, and alone have no taint of sin, the mercy of the Trinity divided for Itself the work of our restoration in such a way that the Father should be reconciled, the Son should reconcile, and the Holy Ghost enkindle.

For it was necessary that those who are to be saved should also do something on their part, and by the turning of their hearts to the Redeemer should quit the dominion of the enemy, even as the Apostle says, “God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying Abba, Father,” “And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” and “no one can call Jesus Lord except in the Holy Spirit.”

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 77, 1-2.

Hilary of Poitiers: Philip the Apostle – Knowing the Father by Knowing the Incarnate Son Friday, May 3 2013 

St_Hilary_of_Poitiers_cassienHe sets the facts in their due order thus—If ye know Me, ye know My Father also; and from henceforth ye shall know Him, and have seen Him.

But the novel sound of these words disturbed the Apostle Philip.

A Man is before their eyes. This Man avows Himself the Son of God, and declares that when they have known Him they will know the Father.

He tells them that they have seen the Father, and that, because they have seen Him, they shall know Him hereafter.

This truth is too broad for the grasp of weak humanity; their faith fails in the presence of these paradoxes.

Christ says that the Father has been seen already and shall now be known; and this, although sight, is knowledge.

He says that if the Son has been known, the Father has been known also.

This so even though the Son has imparted knowledge of Himself through the bodily senses of sight and sound, while the Father’s nature, different altogether from that of the visible Man, which they know, could not be learnt from their knowledge of the nature of Him Whom they have seen.

He has also often borne witness that no man has seen the Father. And so Philip broke forth, with the loyalty and confidence of an Apostle, with the request, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

[…] The Lord had said that the Father had been seen already and henceforth should be known; but the Apostle had not understood that He had been seen.

[…] He did not ask that the Father should be unveiled to his bodily gaze, but that he might have such an indication as should enlighten him concerning the Father Who had been seen.

For he had seen the Son under the aspect of Man, but cannot understand how he could thereby have seen the Father.

His adding, And it sufficeth us, to the prayer, Lord, shew us the Father, reveals clearly that it was a mental, not a bodily vision of the Father which he desired.

He did not refuse faith to the Lord’s words, but asked for such enlightenment to his mind as should enable him to believe.

For the fact that the Lord had spoken was conclusive evidence to the Apostle that faith was his duty.

The consideration which moved him to ask that the Father might be shewn, was that the Son had said that He had been seen, and should be known because He had been seen.

There was no presumption in this prayer that He, Who had already been seen, should now be made manifest.

Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-368): De Trinitate 7, 34-35.

Maximus the Confessor: The Lamp Set upon the Lamp Stand – Jesus Christ – the True Light from the Father Wednesday, Oct 17 2012 

The lamp set upon the lamp stand is Jesus Christ, the true light from the Father, the light that enlightens every man who comes into the world.

In taking our own flesh he has become, and is rightly called, a lamp, for he is the connatural wisdom and word of the Father.

He is proclaimed in the Church of God in accordance with orthodox faith, and he is lifted up and resplendent among the nations through the lives of those who live virtuously in observance of the commandments.

So he gives light to all in the house (that is, in this world), just as he himself, God the Word, says: No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 

Clearly he is calling himself the lamp, he who was by nature God, and became flesh according to God’s saving purpose.

[…] Lamp-like indeed, he alone dispelled the gloom of ignorance and the darkness of evil and became the way of salvation for all men.

Through virtue and knowledge, he leads to the Father those who are resolved to walk by him, who is the way of righteousness, in obedience to the divine commandments.

He has designated holy Church the lamp stand, over which the word of God sheds light through preaching, and illumines with the rays of truth whoever is in this house which is the world, and fills the minds of all men with divine knowledge.

This word is most unwilling to be kept under a bushel; it wills to be set in a high place, upon the sublime beauty of the Church.

For while the word was hidden under the bushel, that is, under the letter of the law, it deprived all men of eternal light.

For then it could not give spiritual contemplation to men striving to strip themselves of a sensuality that is illusory, capable only of deceit, and able to perceive only decadent bodies like their own.

[…] For the letter, when it is not spiritually understood, bears a carnal sense only, which restricts its expression and does not allow the real force of what is written to reach the hearer’s mind.

Let us, then, not light the lamp by contemplation and action, only to put it under a bushel…lest we be condemned for restricting by the letter the incomprehensible power of wisdom.

Rather let us place it upon the lamp stand of holy Church, on the heights of true contemplation, where it may kindle for all men the light of divine teaching.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662):Questions to Thalassius, 3 (PG 90, 667-670) from the Office of Readings (liturgy of the hours) for Wednesday of the 28th week in Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

Seraphim of Sarov: The Testimonies of Holy Scripture Now Seem Strange to Us Friday, Jul 27 2012 

Seraphim_SarovskyAt the present time…, owing to our almost universal coldness to our holy faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and our inattention to the working of His Divine Providence in us, and to the communion of man with God, we have gone so far that, one may say, we have almost abandoned the true Christian life.

The testimonies of Holy Scripture now seem strange to us; when, for instance, by the lips of Moses the Holy Spirit says: “And Adam saw the Lord walking in Paradise” (cf. Gen. 3:10);

or when we read the words of the Apostle Paul: “We went to Achaia, and the Spirit of God went not with us; we returned to Macedonia, and the Spirit of God came with us.”

More than once in other passages of Holy Scripture the appearance of God to men is mentioned. That is why some people say: “These passages are incomprehensible. Is it really possible for people to see God so openly?”

But there is nothing incomprehensible here. This failure to understand has come about because we have departed from the simplicity of the original Christian knowledge.

Under the pretext of education, we have reached such a darkness of ignorance, that the things the ancients understood so clearly, seem to us almost inconceivable.

Even in ordinary conversation, the idea of God’s appearance among men did not seem strange to them.

Thus, when his friends rebuked him for blaspheming God, Job answered them: “How can that be when I feel the Spirit of God in my nostrils?” (cf. Job 27:3).

[…] It is said that Abraham and Jacob saw the Lord and conversed with Him in exactly the same way, and that Jacob even wrestled with Him.

Moses and all the people with him saw God, when he received the tablets of the law on Mount Sinai from God.

A pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, or in other words, the evident grace of the Holy Spirit, served as guides to God’s people in the desert.

People saw God and the grace of His Holy Spirit not during sleep, in dreams, or in the excitement of a disordered imagination, but truly and openly.

We have become so inattentive to the work of our salvation, that we misinterpret many other words in Holy Scripture as well, all because we do not seek the grace of God and in the pride of our minds, do not allow it to dwell in our souls.

That is why we are without true enlightenment from the Lord, which He sends into the hearts of men who hunger and thirst wholeheartedly for God’s righteousness or holiness.

Seraphim of Sarov (Orthodox Church; 1759-1833): On the Acquisition of the Holy Spirit.

William of Saint-Thierry: Hasten to Share in the Holy Spirit Sunday, May 27 2012 

If you feel a natural hesitation when confronted with the more profound mysteries of faith, take courage, Christian soul, and say not contentiously but with loving submission: ‘How can these things be?’

Let your question be a prayer, let it be an expression of love, piety, and humble longing.

Seek not to explore the heights of the divine majesty, but to find salvation in the saving deeds of God our Saviour.

Then the Messenger of God’s great design will reply: When the Paraclete comes, whom I shall send you from the Father, he will remind you of everything and teach you all truth.

Even as no one knows the thoughts of man except the spirit of the man that is within him, so no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

Hasten therefore to share in the Holy Spirit. He is with you when you call upon him; you can call upon him only because he is already present.

When he comes in answer to your prayer, he comes with an abundance of divine blessings. He is the river whose streams give joy to the city of God.

If when he comes he finds you humble, silent, and trembling at the words of God, he will rest upon you and reveal what God the Father has hidden from the wise and the prudent of this world.

You will then begin to understand the things holy Wisdom could have told his disciples on earth, but which they were unable to bear until the Spirit of truth came who was to teach them all truth.

We cannot hope to learn from the lips of any man truths that Truth himself could not convey. For he himself has told us: God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth, so those who wish to know him must seek understanding of their faith and perception of its pure and simple truth only through the Holy Spirit.

In the darkness and ignorance of this life the Holy Spirit is the light that enlightens the poor in spirit, the love that draws them on, the sweetness that attracts them, their access to God, the love of the loving.

The Spirit is devotion and piety. From one degree of faith to the next the Spirit reveals to believers the justice of God, so that grace follows grace, and the faith that comes from hearing gives place to a faith enlightened by understanding.

William of Saint-Thierry (c.1075/80-1148): The Mirror of Faith (PL 180:384); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Friday of the Seventh Week of Eastertide Year 2.

Ambrose of Milan: The Lord Enlightens His Saints and Makes His Light Shine in the Hearts of the Just Saturday, Mar 17 2012 

Let your face shine on your servant, and teach me your precepts.

The Lord enlightens his saints and makes his light shine in the hearts of the just.

This means that when you see wisdom in anyone you can be sure that the glory of God has come down and flooded that person’s mind with the light of understanding and knowledge of divine truth.

With Moses, God’s glory affected his body also, causing his face to shine.

Indeed, his countenance was so transfigured that…he was obliged to cover his face with a veil so that the children of Israel should not be alarmed at the sight of it.

[…] As long as Moses lived, he wore a veil over his face whenever he spoke to the Jewish people. But after his death Jesus, or Joshua, the son of Nun, spoke to the elders and the people without a veil.

[…] The Holy Spirit signified that when Jesus, the true Joshua, came, he would lift the veil from the heart of anyone who turned to him in willingness to listen, and that person would then see his true Saviour with unveiled face.

So it was that, through the coming of his Son, God the almighty Father made his light shine into the hearts of the Gentiles, bringing them to see his glory in the face of Christ Jesus.

This is clearly stated in the Apostle’s letter, where we find the following written: The God who commanded light to shine out of darkness has made his light shine in our hearts, to enlighten us with the knowledge of God’s glory shining in the face of Christ Jesus.

And so when David says to the Lord Jesus: Let your face shine upon your servant, he is expressing his longing to see the face of Christ, so that his mind may be capable of enlightenment.

These words can be taken as referring to the incarnation, for as the Lord himself declared: Many prophets and righteous men have desired to have this vision.

David was not asking for what had been denied to Moses, namely that he might see the face of the incorporeal God with his bodily eyes.

(And yet if Moses…could ask for this direct, unmediated vision, it was because it is inherent in our human nature for our desire to reach out beyond us.)

There was nothing wrong, therefore, in David’s desire to see the face of the Virgin’s Son who was to come.

He desired it in order that God’s light might shine in his heart, as it shone in the hearts of the disciples who said: Were not our hearts burning within us when he opened up the Scriptures to us?

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Psalm 118, 17:26-29 (CSEL 62:390-392);  from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent, Year 2.

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