Gregory the Wonderworker: “Thus it Becometh Us to Fulfil All Righteousness” Monday, Jan 7 2013 

Gregory_ThaumaturgusThen cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. (Matthew 3:13-15) 

Jesus answered…when you see me cleansing the lepers, then proclaim me as the framer of nature. When you see me make the lame ready runners, then with quickened pace also prepare your tongue to praise me.

When you see me cast out demons, then hail my kingdom with adoration. When you see me raise the dead from their graves by my word, then, in concert with those thus raised, glorify me as the Prince of Life.

When you see me on the Father’s right hand, then acknowledge me to be divine, as the equal of the Father and the Holy Spirit, on the throne, and in eternity, and in honour.

Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becomes us to fulfil all righteousness.

I am the Lawgiver, and the Son of the Lawgiver; and it becomes me first to pass through all that is established, and then to set forth everywhere the intimations of my free gift.

It becomes me to fulfil the law, and then to bestow grace. It becomes me to adduce the shadow, and then the reality.

It becomes me to finish the old covenant, and then to dictate the new, and to write it on the hearts of men, and to subscribe it with my blood, and to seal it with my Spirit.

It becomes me to ascend the cross, and to be pierced with its nails, and to suffer after the manner of that nature which is capable of suffering, and to heal sufferings by my suffering, and by the tree to cure the wound that was inflicted upon men by the medium of a tree.

It becomes me to descend even into the very depths of the grave, on behalf of the dead who are detained there.

It becomes me, by my three days’ dissolution in the flesh, to destroy the power of the ancient enemy, death.

It becomes me to kindle the torch of my body for those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

It becomes me to ascend in the flesh to that place where I am in my divinity. It becomes me to introduce to the Father the Adam reigning in me.

It becomes me to accomplish these things, for on account of these things I have taken my position with the works of my hands. It becomes me to be baptized with this baptism for the present, and afterwards to bestow the baptism of the consubstantial Trinity upon all men.

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

Hippolytus of Rome: When Christ the Bridegroom was Baptized, it was Fitting that the Bridal-Chamber of Heaven should Open its Brilliant Gates Monday, Jan 7 2013 

HippolytusDo you see…how many and how great blessings we would have lost, if the Lord had yielded to the exhortation of John, and declined baptism?

For the heavens were shut before this; the region above was inaccessible.

We would in that case descend to the lower parts, but we would not ascend to the upper. But was it only that the Lord was baptized?

He also renewed the old man, and committed to him again the sceptre of adoption.

For straightway “the heavens were opened to Him.”

A reconciliation took place of the visible with the invisible; the celestial orders were filled with joy; the diseases of earth were healed; secret things were made known; those at enmity were restored to amity.

For you have heard the word of the evangelist, saying, “The heavens were opened to Him,” on account of three wonders.

For when Christ the Bridegroom was baptized, it was meet that the bridal-chamber of heaven should open its brilliant gates.

And in like manner also, when the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, and the Father’s voice spread everywhere, it was meet that “the gates of heaven should be lifted up.”

“And, lo, the heavens were opened to Him; and a voice was heard, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The beloved generates love, and the light immaterial the light inaccessible.

“This is my beloved Son,” He who, being manifested on earth and yet unseparated from the Father’s bosom, was manifested, and yet did not appear.

[…] For this reason did the Father send down the Holy Spirit from heaven upon Him who was baptized.

For as in the ark of Noah the love of God toward man is signified by the dove, so also now the Spirit, descending in the form of a dove, bearing as it were the fruit of the olive, rested on Him to whom the witness was borne.

For what reason? That the faithfulness of the Father’s voice might be made known, and that the prophetic utterance of a long time past might be ratified.

And what utterance is this? “The voice of the Lord is on the waters, the God of glory thundered; the Lord is upon many waters.”

And what voice? “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This is He who is named the son of Joseph, and who is according to the divine essence my Only-begotten.

“This is my beloved Son”—He who…suffers, and yet heals sufferings; who is smitten, and yet confers liberty on the world; who is pierced in the side, and yet repairs the side of Adam.

Hippolytus of Rome (c.170-c.236): Discourse on the Theophany, 6-7.

Ephrem the Syrian: Glory to Him Who Came and Restored the World Sunday, Jan 6 2013 

Mor_Ephrem_icon(Response: “Glory to Him Who came and restored it!”)

Adam sinned and earned all sorrows;—likewise the world after his example, all guilt.—And instead of considering how it should be restored,—considered how its fall should be pleasant for it.—Glory to Him who came and restored it!

This cause summoned Him that is pure,—that He should come and be baptized, even He with the defiled,—Heaven for His glory was rent asunder.—That the purifier of all might be baptized with all,—He came down and sanctified the water for our baptism.

For that cause for which He entered into the womb,—for the same cause He went down into the river.—For that cause for which He entered into the grave,—for the same cause He makes us enter into His chamber.—He perfected mankind for every cause.

His conception is the store of our blessings;—His birth is the treasury of our joys;—His baptism is the cause of our pardon;—His death is the cause of our life.—Death He alone has overcome in His resurrection.

At His birth a star of light shone in the air;—when He was baptized light flashed from the water;—at His death the sun was darkened in the firmament;—at His passion the luminaries set along with Him;—at His epiphany the luminaries arose with Him.

[…] Lo! the east in the morning was made light!—lo! the south at noonday was made dark!—The west again in turn at eventide was made light.—The three quarters represent the one birth;—His death and His life they declare.

His birth flowed on and was joined to His baptism;—and His baptism again flowed on even to His death;—His death led and reached to His resurrection,—a fourfold bridge unto His kingdom; and lo! His sheep pass over in His footsteps.

[…] Good is He, for lo! He labours in these two things;—He wills not to constrain our freedom—nor again does He suffer us to abuse it.—For had he constrained it, He had taken away its power;—and had He let it go, He had deprived it of help.

He knows that if He constrains He deprives us;—He knows that if He casts off He destroys us;—He knows that if He teaches He wins us.—He has not constrained and He has not cast off, as the evil one does:—He has taught, chastened, and won us, as being the good God.

He knows that His treasuries abound:—the keys of His treasuries He has put into our hands.—He has made the Cross our treasurer—to open for us the gates of Paradise,—as Adam opened the gate of Gehenna.

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

Leo the Great: The Mystery of the Magi and of the Star Sunday, Jan 6 2013 

leo1Taught then, dearly-beloved, by these mysteries of Divine grace, let us with reasonable joy celebrate the day of our first-fruits and the commencement of the nations’ calling:

“giving thanks to” the merciful God “who made us worthy,” as the Apostle says, “to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light:  who delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”

As Isaiah prophesied, “the people of the nations that sat in darkness, have seen a great light, and they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”

Of whom he also said to the Lord, “nations which knew not thee, shall call on thee:  and peoples which were ignorant of thee, shall run together unto thee.”

This day “Abraham saw and was glad,” when he understood that the sons of his faith would be blessed in his seed that is in Christ, and foresaw that by believing he should be the father of all nations, “giving glory to God and being fully assured that What He had promised, He was able also to perform.”

This day David sang of in the psalms saying:  “all nations that thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord:  and they shall glorify Thy name.”

And again:  “The Lord hath made known His salvation:  His righteousness hath He openly showed in the sight of the nations.”

This in good truth we know to have taken place ever since the three wise men aroused in their far-off land were led by a star to recognize and worship the King of heaven and earth.

And surely their worship of Him exhorts us to imitation; that, as far as we can, we should serve our gracious God who invites us all to Christ.

For whosoever lives religiously and chastely in the Church and “sets his mind on the things which are above, not on the things that are upon the earth,” is in some measure like the heavenly light.

And, whilst he himself keeps the brightness of a holy life, he points out to many the way to the Lord like a star.

In which regard, dearly-beloved, ye ought all to help one another in turn, that in the kingdom of God, which is reached by right faith and good works, ye may shine as the sons of light.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 33, 5.

Cyril of Alexandria: “Behold My Servant, Whom I Uphold, My Chosen, In Whom My Soul Delights” Saturday, Jan 8 2011 

(on Isaiah 42:1-4)

The Word of God, born of the Virgin, was and is eternally King and Lord of all, but when he became man he made the limitations of humanity his own.

[…] I will help him, God says, and calls him his chosen one.

For the Father cooperated with the Son, performing the mighty works he did as works of his own power; and Christ is in truth the chosen one, since he is the fairest of the sons of men and accepted as God’s beloved.

The Father rejoiced in him and declared: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.

In his human nature Christ was anointed and can be said to share in the Holy Spirit, even though he is the giver of the Spirit and the sanctifier of all creation.

This is shown clearly by the words, I have put my Spirit upon him.

The Gospel says that when Jesus was baptized the Spirit, in the form of a dove, came to him from heaven and remained on him.

This anointing was to enable him to bring justice to the nations, which he did by condemning Satan, their tyrant.

Christ taught us this himself when he said: Now is the time for this world to be judged, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out.

And I, when I am lifted up form the earth, will draw all things to myself.

He passed sentence of destruction on Satan who had held this world in thraldom, and by that righteous sentence saved those who had been deceived.

But he will not shout, says Scripture, or raise his voice, or let it be heard in the street.

The Saviour and Lord of all came to dwell among us in profound lowliness and humility, one might say without making a sound, and he did no harm to anyone.

He came in silence and peace, so as not to crush the bruised reed or extinguish the smouldering wick.

What will his work be, what will he do for the nations? He will bring judgement to the truth.

By judgement the prophet seems to mean the law, for it is written about Israel and about God, the ruler of all: You have established judgment and justice in Jacob.

So now he will bring judgement, or the law which was concerned with shadows and types, to the truth of the Gospel.

Through the Gospel he has shown the way of life that is pleasing to him and has changed worship according to the letter of the law into worship in truth.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on Isaiah Lib. 3, t. 5 4 (PG 70, 850-851), from the Monastic Office of Vigils, January 6th (before Epiphany), Year 1.

Ephrem the Syrian: Behold the Pure Fire of Our Redeemer which He Kindled in Mankind of His Mercy Friday, Jan 7 2011 

(Response: – Happy are ye whose bodies have been made to shine!)

God in His mercy stooped and came down, to mingle His compassion with the water;

and to blend the nature of His majesty with the wretched bodies of men.

He made occasion by the water to come down and to dwell in us:

like to the occasion of mercy when He came down and dwelt in the womb.

O the mercies of God Who seeks for Himself all occasions to dwell in us!

To the cave in Horeb He stooped and came down, and on Moses He caused His majesty to dwell;

He imparted His glorious splendour to mortals.

There was therein a figure of Baptism:

He Who came down and dwelt in it tempers within the water the might of His majesty, that He may dwell in the feeble.

On Moses dwelt the Breath, and on you the Perfecting of Christ.

[…] Two words again our Lord spake which in one voice agree in unison:

He said, “I am come to send fire,” and again, “I have a baptism to be baptized with.”

By the fire of Baptism is quenched the fire, that which the Evil One had kindled:

and the water of Baptism has overcome those waters of contention

(by which he had made trial of Joseph who conquered and was crowned).

Lo! the pure fire of our Redeemer which he kindled in mankind of His mercy!

Through His fire He quenched that fire which had been kindled in the defiled and sinful.

This is the fire wherein the thorns are burnt up and the tares.

But happy are your bodies that have been baptized in the fire which has consumed your thickets,

and by it your seeds have sprung up to heaven!

[…] In the beginning the Spirit that brooded moved on the waters;

they conceived and gave birth to serpents and fishes and birds.

The Holy Spirit has brooded in Baptism, and in mystery has given birth to eagles – Virgins and Prelates;

and in mystery has given birth to fishes – celibates and intercessors;

and in mystery of serpents – lo! the subtle have become simple as doves!

Lo! the sword of our Lord in the waters! that which divides sons and fathers:

for it is the living sword that makes division, lo! of the living from the dying.

Lo! they are baptized and they become Virgins and saints,

who have gone down, been baptized, and put on the One Only begotten.

Lo! many have come boldly to Him!

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Hymns on the Nativity, 8:1-2,7-8,16-17.

Leo the Great: Lift Your Faithful Hearts to the Gracious Blaze of Eternal Light Monday, Jan 3 2011 

The wise men, therefore, fulfil their desire, and come to the child, the Lord Jesus Christ, the same star going before them.

They adore the Word in flesh, the Wisdom in infancy, the Power in weakness, the Lord of majesty in the reality of man:

And by their gifts make open acknowledgment of what they believe in their hearts, that they may show forth the mystery of their faith and understanding.

The incense they offer to God, the myrrh to Man, the gold to the King, consciously paying honour to the divine and human nature in union:

Because while each substance had its own properties, there was no difference in the power of either.

And when the wise men had returned to their own land, and Jesus had been carried into Egypt at the Divine suggestion, Herod’s madness blazes out into fruitless schemes.

He orders all the little ones in Bethlehem to be slain, and since he knows not which infant to fear, extends a general sentence against the age he suspects.

But that which the wicked king removes from the world, Christ admits to heaven.

And on those for whom He had not yet spent His redeeming blood, He already bestows the dignity of martyrdom.

Lift your faithful hearts then, dearly-beloved, to the gracious blaze of eternal light.

And in adoration of the mysteries dispensed for man’s salvation give your diligent heed to the things which have been wrought on your behalf.

Love the purity of a chaste life, because Christ is the Son of a virgin.

“Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11), as the blessed Apostle, present in his words as we read, exhorts us:

“In malice be ye children” (1 Cor.14:20), because the Lord of glory conformed Himself to the infancy of mortals.

Follow after humility which the Son of God deigned to teach His disciples.

Put on the power of patience, in which ye may be able to gain your souls; seeing that He who is the Redemption of all, is also the Strength of all.

“Set your minds on the things which are above, not on the things which are on the earth” (Col. 3:2).

Walk firmly along the path of truth and life:  let not earthly things hinder you for whom are prepared heavenly things.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 31, 2-3.

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