Ephrem the Syrian: To Thee be praise from Thy flock in the day of Thy Epiphany! Wednesday, Jan 6 2016 

Mor_Ephrem_iconResponse—To Thee be praise from Thy flock in the day of Thy Epiphany!

The heavens He has renewed, for that fools worshipped all the luminaries:
—He has renewed the earth, for that in Adam it was wasted.
—That which He fashioned has become new by His spittle:
—and the All-Sufficing has restored bodies with souls.

Gather yourselves again ye sheep
—and without labour receive cleansing!
—for one needs not as Elisha
—to bathe seven times in the river, nor again to be wearied as the priests are wearied with sprinklings.

Seven times Elisha purified himself in a mystery of the seven spirits;
—and the hyssop and blood are a mighty symbol.
—There is no room for division;
—He is not divided from the Lord of all Who is Son of the Lord of all.

Moses sweetened in Marah the waters that were bitter,
—because the People complained and murmured:
—Thus he gave a sign of baptism,
—wherein the Lord of life makes sweet them that were bitter.

The cloud overshadowed and kept off the burning heat from the camp;
—it showed a symbol of the Holy Spirit, which overshadows you in baptism
—tempering the flaming fire that it harm not your bodies.

Through the sea the People then passed, and showed a symbol
—of the baptism wherein ye were washed.
—The People passed through that and believed not:
—the Gentiles were baptized in this and believed and received the Holy Ghost.

The Word sent the Voice to proclaim before His Coming,
—to prepare for Him the way by which He came,
—and to betroth the Bride till He should come,
—that she might be ready when He should come and take her from the water.

The voice of prophecy stirred the son of the barren woman,
—and he went forth wandering in the desert and crying,
—“Lo! the Son of the Kingdom comes!
—prepare ye the way that He may enter and abide in your dwellings!”

John cried, “Who comes after me, He is before me:
—I am the Voice but not the Word;
—I am the torch but not the Light;
—the Star that rises before the Sun of Righteousness.”

In the wilderness this John had cried and had said,
—“Repent ye sinners of your evils,
—and offer the fruits of repentance;
—for lo! He comes that winnows the wheat from the tares.”

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Fifteen Hymns on the Feast of the Epiphany, 1, 1-10.

Gregory Nazianzen: The Holy Day of the Lights, to which we have come… Monday, Jan 4 2016 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenThe Holy Day of the Lights,

to which we have come,

and which we are celebrating today,

has for its origin the Baptism of my Christ,

the True Light That lightens every man that comes into the world (John 1:9)

and effects my purification,

and assists that light which we received from the beginning from Him from above,

but which we darkened and confused by sin.

Therefore listen to the Voice of God, which sounds so exceeding clearly to me, who am both disciple and master of these mysteries, as would to God it may sound to you; I Am the Light of the World (John 8:12).

Therefore approach ye to Him and be enlightened, and let not your faces be ashamed, being signed with the true Light.

It is a season of new birth (John 3:3); let us be born again.

It is a time of reformation; let us receive again the first Adam.

Let us not remain what we are, but let us become what we once were.

The Light shines in darkness, in this life and in the flesh, and is chased by the darkness, but is not overtaken by it (John 1:5)—

—I mean the adverse power leaping up in its shamelessness against the visible Adam, but encountering God and being defeated—

—in order that we, putting away the darkness, may draw near to the Light, and may then become perfect Light, the children of perfect Light.

See the grace of this Day; see the power of this mystery.

[…] To us grace has been given to flee from superstitious error and to be joined to the truth and to serve the living and true God, and to rise above creation, passing by all that is subject to time and to first motion.

So let us look at and reason upon God and things divine in a manner corresponding to this Grace given us.

But let us begin our discussion of them from the most fitting point. And the most fitting is, as Solomon laid down for us; us; The beginning of wisdom, he says, is to get wisdom (Proverbs 4:7).

And what this is he tells us; the beginning of wisdom is fear.

For we must not begin with contemplation and leave off with fear (for an unbridled contemplation would perhaps push us over a precipice), but we must be grounded and purified and so to say made light by fear, and thus be raised to the height.

For where fear is there is keeping of commandments;

and where there is keeping of commandments there is purifying of the flesh, that cloud which covers the soul and suffers it not to see the Divine Ray.

And where there is purifying there is Illumination;

and Illumination is the satisfying of desire to those who long for the greatest things, or the Greatest Thing, or That Which surpasses all greatness.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 39 (On the Holy Lights), 1, 2, 8.

Leo the Great: Today those joys must be entertained in our hearts which existed in the breasts of the three magi Sunday, Jan 3 2016 

leo1Today those joys must be entertained in our hearts which existed in the breasts of the three magi, when, aroused by the sign and leading of a new star, which they believed to have been promised, they fell down in presence of the King of heaven and earth.

For that day has not so passed away that the mighty work, which was then revealed, has passed away with it, and that nothing but the report of the thing has come down to us for faith to receive and memory to celebrate; seeing that, by the oft-repeated gift of God, our times daily enjoy the fruit of what the first age possessed.

And therefore, although the narrative which is read to us from the Gospel properly records those days on which the three men, who had neither been taught by the prophets’ predictions nor instructed by the testimony of the law, came to acknowledge God from the furthest parts of the East, yet we behold this same thing more clearly and abundantly carried on now in the enlightenment of all those who are called.

The prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled when he says, “the Lord has laid bare His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the nations upon earth have seen the salvation which is from the Lord our God.” And again, “and those to whom it has not been announced about Him shall see, and they who have not heard, shall understand” (Isaiah 52:10, 15).

Hence when we see men devoted to worldly wisdom and far from belief in Jesus Christ brought out of the depth of their error and called to an acknowledgment of the true Light, it is undoubtedly the brightness of the Divine grace that is at work.

And whatever of new light illumines the darkness of their hearts, comes from the rays of the same star:  so that it should both move with wonder, and going before lead to the adoration of God the minds which it visited with its splendour.

But if with careful thought we wish to see how their threefold kind of gift is also offered by all who come to Christ with the foot of faith, is not the same offering repeated in the hearts of true believers?

For he that acknowledges Christ the King of the universe brings gold from the treasure of his heart; he that believes the Only-begotten of God to have united man’s true nature to Himself, offers myrrh; and he that confesses Him in no wise inferior to the Father’s majesty, worships Him in a manner with incense.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 36, 1.

Cyril of Alexandria: The Baptism in the Jordan and the Communication of the Holy Spirit Tuesday, Jan 7 2014 

cyril_alexandriaAnd it came to pass that when all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized, and prayed (Luke 3:21).

Was He too then in need of holy baptism? But what benefit could accrue to Him from it?

The Only-begotten Word of God is Holy of the Holy: so the Seraphim name Him in their praises.

[…] “There is one Lord Jesus Christ,” as it is written….

He [i.e. Christ in His humanity] was not separate from Him [the Word], and by Himself when baptized and made partaker of the Holy Ghost.

For we know, both that He is God, and without stain, and Holy of the Holy. For we confess that “of His fulness have all we received.”

For the Holy Spirit indeed proceeds from God the Father, but belongs also to the Son.

It is even often called the Spirit of Christ, though proceeding from God the Father.

And to this Paul will testify, saying, at one time, “They that are in the flesh cannot please God: but ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any one have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.”

And again, “But because ye are sons, God hath sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Father, our Father.”

The Holy Spirit therefore proceeds indeed as I said from God the Father, but His Only-begotten Word, as being both by nature and verily Son, and resplendent with the Father’s dignities, ministers It to the creation, and bestows It on those that are worthy.

Truly He said, “All things that the Father hath are mine.” … But how then…was He baptized, and received also the Spirit?

[…] He had no need of holy baptism, being wholly pure and spotless, and holy of the holy. Nor had He need of the Holy Ghost: for the Spirit That proceeds from God the Father is of Him, and equal to Him in substance.

We must now therefore at length hear what is the explanation of the economy. God in his love to man provided for us a way of salvation and of life.

For believing in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and making this confession before many witnesses, we wash away all the filth of sin, and are enriched by the communication of the Holy Spirit, and made partakers of the divine nature, and gain the grace of adoption.

It was necessary therefore that the Word of the Father, when He humbled Himself unto emptiness, and deigned to assume our likeness, should become for our sakes the pattern and way of every good work.

[…] In order therefore that we may learn both the power itself of holy baptism, and how much we gain by approaching so great a grace, He commences the work Himself.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, Sermon 11.

Gregory the Wonderworker: Water, Spirit and Fire Saturday, Jan 12 2013 

Gregory_ThaumaturgusContinued from here…

Jesus answered…Lend me, therefore, O Baptist, your right hand for the present economy, even as Mary lent her womb for my birth.

Immerse me in the streams of Jordan, even as she who bore me wrapped me in children’s swaddling-clothes. Grant me your baptism even as the Virgin granted me her milk.

[…] With your right hand lay hold of this head, that is related to yourself in kinship. Lay hold of this head, which nature has made to be touched.

Lay hold of this head, which for this very purpose has been formed by myself and my Father.  Lay hold of this head of mine, which, if one does lay hold of it in piety, will save him from ever suffering shipwreck.

Baptize me, who am destined to baptize those who believe on me with water, and with the Spirit, and with fire: with water, capable of washing away the defilement of sins; with the Spirit, capable of making the earthly spiritual; with fire, naturally fitted to consume the thorns of transgressions.

[…] He who alone is Lord, and by nature the Father of the Only-begotten, He who alone knows perfectly Him whom He alone in passionless fashion begat…opened the gates of the heavens. He sent down the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, lighting upon the head of Jesus, pointing out thereby the new Noah, yea the maker of Noah, and the good pilot of the nature which is in shipwreck.

And He Himself calls with clear voice out of heaven, and says: “This is my beloved Son.”

[…] This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: my Son, of the same substance with myself, and not of a different; of one substance with me according to what is unseen, and of one substance with you according to what is seen, yet without sin.

[…] This Son of mine and this son of Mary are not two distinct persons; but this is my beloved Son—this one who is both seen with the eye and apprehended with the mind.

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him.

If He shall say, “I and my Father are one,” hear Him. If He shall say, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,” hear Him. If He shall say, “He that hath sent me is greater than I,” adapt the voice to the economy.

If He shall say, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” answer Him thus: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Gregory the Wonderworker (c.213-c.270): Homily on the Holy Theophany.

Hippolytus of Rome: The Fountain of Life that Gushes with Healing Saturday, Jan 12 2013 

HippolytusContinued from here…

Give me now your best attention…, for I wish to go back to the fountain of life, and to view the fountain that gushes with healing.

The Father of immortality sent the immortal Son and Word into the world, who came to man in order to wash him with water and the Spirit.

And He, begetting us again to incorruption of soul and body, breathed into us the breath (spirit) of life, and endued us with an incorruptible panoply.

If, therefore, man has become immortal, he will also be God. And if he is made God by water and the Holy Spirit after the regeneration of the laver he is found to be also joint-heir with Christ after the resurrection from the dead.

Wherefore I preach to this effect…: Come into liberty from slavery, into a kingdom from tyranny, into incorruption from corruption.

And how…shall we come? How? By water and the Holy Ghost.

This is the water in conjunction with the Spirit, by which paradise is watered, by which the earth is enriched…, by which man is begotten again and endued with life, in which also Christ was baptized, and in which the Spirit descended in the form of a dove.

This is the Spirit that at the beginning “moved upon the face of the waters;” by whom the world moves; by whom creation consists, and all things have life; who also wrought mightily in the prophets, and descended in flight upon Christ.

This is the Spirit that was given to the apostles in the form of fiery tongues. This is the Spirit that David sought when he said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

Of this Spirit Gabriel also spoke to the Virgin, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.”

By this Spirit Peter spoke that blessed word, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

By this Spirit the rock of the Church was stablished. This is the Spirit, the Comforter, that is sent because of thee, that He may show thee to be the Son of God.

Come then, be begotten again, O man, into the adoption of God.

[…] He who comes down in faith to the laver of regeneration, and renounces the devil, and joins himself to Christ; who denies the enemy, and makes the confession that Christ is God; who puts off the bondage, and puts on the adoption,

—he comes up from the baptism brilliant as the sun, flashing forth the beams of righteousness, and, which is indeed the chief thing, he returns a son of God and joint-heir with Christ.

Hippolytus of Rome (c.170-c.236): Discourse on the Theophany, 8-10.

John Henry Newman: Christ Came to Make a New World and Recapitulate All Things in Himself Friday, Jan 11 2013 

John_Henry_Newman_by_Sir_John_Everett_MillaisChrist exercised His prophetical office in teaching, and in foretelling the future—in His sermon on the Mount, in His parables, in His prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem.

He performed the priest’s service when He died on the Cross, as a sacrifice; and when He consecrated the bread and the cup to be a feast upon that sacrifice; and now that He intercedes for us at the right hand of God.

And He showed Himself as a conqueror, and a king, in rising from the dead, in ascending into heaven, in sending down the Spirit of grace, in converting the nations, and in forming His Church to receive and to rule them.

[…] He said, with reference to His baptism in Jordan, “…it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Every holy rite of the law did He go through for our sakes.

And so too did He live through all states of man’s life up to a perfect man, infancy, childhood, boyhood, youth, maturity, that He might be a pattern of them all.

And so too did He take man’s perfect nature on Him, body, and soul, and reason, that He might sanctify it wholly.

And therefore in like manner did He unite in Himself, and renew, and give us back in Him, the principal lots or states in which we find ourselves—suffering, that we might know how to suffer; labouring, that we might know how to labour; and teaching, that we might know how to teach..

[…] Christ came to make a new world. He came into the world to regenerate it in Himself, to make a new beginning, to be the beginning of the creation of God, to gather together in one, and recapitulate all things in Himself.

The rays of His glory were scattered through the world; one state of life had some of them, another others.

The world was like some fair mirror, broken in pieces, and giving back no one uniform image of its Maker.

But He came to combine what was dissipated, to recast what was shattered in Himself. He began all excellence, and of His fulness have all we received.

[…] Angels heralded a Saviour, a Christ, a Lord; but withal, He was “born in Bethlehem,” and was “lying in a manger.”

Eastern sages brought Him gold, for that He was a King, frankincense as to a God; but on the other hand myrrh also, in token of a coming death and burial.

At the last, He “bore witness to the truth” before Pilate as a Prophet, suffered on the cross as our Priest, while He was also “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890): Sermons on Subjects of the Day, 5: The Three Offices of Christ.

Maximus of Turin: In the Feast of His Baptism the Lord is Reborn Sacramentally Thursday, Jan 10 2013 

Maximus_TurinThis feast of the Lord’s baptism, which I think could be called the feast of his birthday, should follow soon after the Lord’s birthday, during the same season, even though many years intervened between the two events.

At Christmas he was born a man; today he is reborn sacramentally. Then he was born from the Virgin; today he is born in mystery.

When he was born a man, his mother Mary held him close to her heart; when he is born in mystery, God the Father embraces him with his voice when he says: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased: listen to him.

The mother caresses the tender baby on her lap; the Father serves his Son by his loving testimony.

The mother holds the child for the Magi to adore; the Father reveals that his Son is to be worshiped by all the nations.

That is why the Lord Jesus went to the river for baptism, that is why he wanted his holy body to be washed with Jordan’s water.

Someone might ask, “Why would a holy man desire baptism?” Listen to the answer: Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by his cleansing to purify the waters which he touched.

For the consecration of Christ involves a more significant consecration of the water.

For when the Saviour is washed all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages.

Christ is the first to be baptized, then, so that Christians will follow after him with confidence.

I understand the mystery as this. The column of fire went before the sons of Israel through the Red Sea so they could follow on their brave journey; the column went first through the waters to prepare a path for those who followed.

As the apostle Paul said, what was accomplished then was the mystery of baptism. Clearly it was baptism in a certain sense when the cloud was covering the people and bringing them through the water.

 But Christ the Lord does all these things: in the column of fire he went through the sea before the sons of Israel; so now, in the column of his body, he goes through baptism before the Christian people.

At the time of the Exodus the column provided light for the people who followed; now it give light to the hearts of believers.

Then it made a firm pathway through the waters; now it strengthens the footsteps of faith in the bath of baptism.

Maximus of Turin (d. between 408 and 423):  Sermon 100, 1, 3 (CCL 23, 398-400) from the Office of Readings for the Friday between the Feasts of the Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord @ Crossroads Initiative.

Proclus of Constantinople: The Sun of Righteousness Washing in the Jordan, Fire Immersed in Water… Thursday, Jan 10 2013 

Proclus_of_ConstantinopleChrist appeared in the world, and, bringing beauty out of disarray, gave it lustre and joy. He bore the world’s sin and crushed the world’s enemy.

He sanctified the fountains of waters and enlightened the minds of men. Into the fabric of miracles he interwove ever greater miracles.

For on this day land and sea share between them the grace of the Saviour, and the whole world is filled with joy.

Today’s feast of the Epiphany manifests even more wonders than the feast of Christmas.

On the feast of the Saviour’s birth, the earth rejoiced because it bore the Lord in a manger; but on today’s feast of the Epiphany it is the sea that is glad and leaps for joy; the sea is glad because it receives the blessing of holiness in the river Jordan.

At Christmas we saw a weak baby, giving proof of our weakness. In today’s feast, we see a perfect man, hinting at the perfect Son who proceeds from the all-perfect Father.

At Christmas the King puts on the royal robe of his body; at Epiphany the very source enfolds and, as it were, clothes the river.

Come then and see new and astounding miracles: the Sun of righteousness washing in the Jordan, fire immersed in water, God sanctified by the ministry of man.

Today every creature shouts in resounding song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is he who comes in every age, for this is not his first coming.

And who is he? Tell us more clearly, I beg you, blessed David: The Lord is God and has shone upon us.

David is not alone in prophesying this; the apostle Paul adds his own witness, saying: The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all men, and instructing us.

Not for some men, but for all. To Jews and Greeks alike God bestows salvation through baptism, offering baptism as a common grace for all.

Come, consider this new and wonderful deluge, greater and more important than the flood of Noah’s day.

Then the water of the flood destroyed the human race, but now the water of baptism has recalled the dead to life by the power of the one who was baptized.

In the days of the flood the dove with an olive branch in its beak foreshadowed the fragrance of the good odour of Christ the Lord; now the Holy Spirit, coming in the likeness of a dove, reveals the Lord of mercy.

Proclus of Constantinople (d. 446 or 447): Sermon 7 on Holy Theophany Epiphany, 1-3 (PG 65, 758-759) from the Office of Readings for the Wednesday between the Feast of the Epiphany and the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord @ Crossroads Initiative.

Peter Chrysologus: The Adoration of the Magi, the Baptism in the Jordan, and the Wedding at Cana Thursday, Jan 10 2013 

Church FathersThe great events we celebrate today disclose and reveal in different ways the fact that God himself took a human body.

[…] In choosing to be born for us, God chose to be known by us. He therefore reveals himself in this way, in order that this great sacrament of his love may not be an occasion for us of great misunderstanding.

Today the Magi find, crying in a manger, the one they have followed as he shone in the sky. Today the Magi see clearly, in swaddling clothes, the one they have long awaited as he lay hidden among the stars.

Today the Magi gaze in deep wonder at what they see: heaven on earth, earth in heaven, man in God, God in man, one whom the whole universe cannot contain now enclosed in a tiny body.

As they look, they believe and do not question, as their symbolic gifts bear witness: incense for God, gold for a king, myrrh for one who is to die.

So the Gentiles, who were the last, become the first: the faith of the Magi is the first fruits of the belief of the Gentiles.

Today Christ enters the Jordan to wash away the sin of the world. John himself testifies that this is why he has come: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.

Today a servant lays his hand on the Lord, a man lays his hand on God, John lays his hand on Christ, not to forgive but to receive forgiveness.

Today, as the psalmist prophesied: The voice of the Lord is heard above the waters. What does the voice say? This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.

Today the Holy Spirit hovers over the waters in the likeness of a dove. A dove announced to Noah that the flood had disappeared from the earth; so now a dove is to reveal that the world’s shipwreck is at an end forever.

The sign is no longer an olive-shoot of the old stock: instead, the Spirit pours out on Christ’s head the full richness of a new anointing by the Father, to fulfil what the psalmist had prophesied: Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.

Today Christ works the first of his signs from heaven by turning water into wine. But water has still to be changed into the sacrament of his blood, so that Christ may offer spiritual drink from the chalice of his body, to fulfil the psalmist’s prophecy: How excellent is my chalice, warming my spirit.

Peter Chrysologus (c.380–c.450): Sermon 160 (PL 52, 620-622) from the Office of Readings for the Monday between the Feasts of the Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord @ Crossroads Initiative.

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