Cyril of Jerusalem: Having his body and blood in our members, we become bearers of Christ and sharers in the divine nature Saturday, May 28 2016 

Cyril-of-JerusalemOn the night he was betrayed our Lord Jesus Christ took bread and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples and said: ‘Take, eat: this is my body.’

He took the cup, gave thanks and said: ‘Take, drink: this is my blood.’

Since Christ himself has declared the bread to be his body, who can have any further doubt?

Since he himself has said quite categorically, This is my blood, who would dare to question it and say that it is not his blood?

Therefore it is with complete assurance that we receive the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ.

His body is given to us under the symbol of bread, and his blood is given to us under the symbol of wine, in order to make us by receiving them one body and one blood with him.

Having his body and blood in our members, we become bearers of Christ and sharers, as Saint Peter says, in the divine nature.

Once when speaking to the Jews Christ said: Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you shall have no life in you. This so horrified them that they left him. Not understanding his words in a spiritual way, they thought the Saviour wished them to practise cannibalism.

Under the old covenant there was showbread, but it came an end with the old dispensation to which it belonged.

Under the new covenant there is bread from heaven and the cup of salvation. These sanctify both soul and body, the bread being adapted to the sanctification of the body, the Word to the sanctification of the soul.

Do not, then, regard the Eucharistic elements as ordinary bread and wine: they are in fact the body and blood of the Lord, as he himself has declared. Whatever your senses may tell you, be strong in faith.

You have been taught and you are firmly convinced that what looks and tastes like bread and wine is not bread and wine but the body and the blood of Christ.

You know also how David referred to this long ago when he sang: Bread strengthens the heart and makes the face glow with the oil of gladness.

Strengthen your heart, then, by receiving this bread as spiritual bread, and bring joy to the face of your soul.

May purity of conscience remove the veil from the face of your soul so that by contemplating the glory of the Lord, as in a mirror, you may be transformed from glory to glory in Christ Jesus our Lord. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechesis 22, 1, 3-6 (PG 33:1087-1091); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Easter Friday, Year 2.

Gaudentius of Brescia: This is the flesh of the Lamb; this is His blood Thursday, Apr 28 2016 

Church FathersOne man has died for all, and now in every church in the mystery of bread and wine he heals those for whom he is offered in sacrifice, giving life to those who believe and holiness to those who consecrate the offering.

This is the flesh of the Lamb; this is his blood. The bread that came down from heaven declared: The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.

It is significant, too, that his blood should be given to us in the form of wine, for his own words in the gospel, I am the true vine, imply clearly enough that whenever wine is offered as a representation of Christ’s passion, it is offered as his blood.

This means that it was of Christ that the blessed patriarch Jacob prophesied when he said: He will wash his tunic in wine and his cloak in the blood of the grape. The tunic was our flesh, which Christ was to put on like a garment and which he was to wash in his own blood.

Creator and Lord of all things, whatever their nature, he brought forth bread from the earth and changed it into his own body. Not only had he the power to do this, but he had promised it; and, as he had changed water into wine, he also changed wine into his own blood.

It is the Lord’s passover, Scripture tells us, that is, the Lord’s passing. We are no longer to look upon the bread and wine as earthly substances. They have become heavenly, because Christ has passed into them and changed them into his body and blood.

What you receive is the body of him who is the heavenly bread, and the blood of him who is the sacred vine; for when he offered his disciples the consecrated bread and wine, he said: This is my body, this is my blood. We have put our trust in him. I urge you to have faith in him; truth can never deceive.

When Christ told the crowds that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood, they were horrified and began to murmur among themselves: This teaching is too hard; who can be expected to listen to it?

As I have already told you, thoughts such as these must be banished. The Lord himself used heavenly fire to drive them away by going on to declare: It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Gaudentius of Brescia (d. 410): Sermon 2, from the Office of Readings, Thursday in the fifth week of Easter @ Universalis.

Nicodemus the Hagiorite: We must frequently run to the divine Mysteries and partake of the superessential bread Thursday, Mar 24 2016 

Nikodemos 1John of Damaskos says: “This bread, which is called superessential, is the first-fruits of the future bread.

“For ‘superessential’ means either of the future, which is to say, of the future age, or that which we receive for the constitution of our essence (that is, our body).

“Whether it be the former or the latter meaning, it is obviously to be called the body of the Lord.”

[…] Because the Fathers say that the body of the Lord is called superessential bread does not mean that they dismiss the common bread which is given for the sustenance of our body, for this also is a gift of God.

[…] However, this common bread is called superessential in a secondary, not primary, sense, for it strengthens only the body and not the soul.

But the body of our Lord and the word of God are called superessential bread primarily and in every respect, because they strengthen both soul and body. This is apparent from the example of many men.

The Prophet Moses fasted forty days and nights without eating any bodily food. The Prophet Elias likewise fasted for forty days. Under the New Grace a great number of Saints, with only the word of God and Holy Communion, have lived without food for many days.

For this reason, as many of us as have been deemed worthy to receive spiritual rebirth through divine Baptism have the need to frequently eat, with fervent love and a broken heart, this spiritual food, in order to live a spiritual life and to keep ourselves unharmed by the poison of the noetic serpent, the devil.

If Adam had eaten of this food, he would not have died the double death of the soul and of the body.

We must not eat this spiritual bread, however, without preparation, for our God is called a consuming fire that burns. Holy Communion purifies, illumines, and sanctifies those who eat the Master’s body and drink the immaculate blood with a pure conscience and true confession.

[…] We have spoken, then, about the third and final meaning of the superessential bread, which is as necessary and beneficial to us as Holy Baptism is necessary and beneficial.

For this reason, we must frequently run to the divine Mysteries and partake of the superessential bread that we ask for from our God and Father, with fear and love, while it is still “today.”

And “today” has three meanings. First, it means every day. Second, it means the whole life of each person. And third, it means the entire present, seventh age. For in the future age there is no today and tomorrow, but that entire age is one eternal day.

Nicodemus the Hagiorite (1749-1809): Explanation of the Lord’s Prayer.

Nicodemus the Hagiorite: “Give us this day our superessential bread” Thursday, Feb 4 2016 

Nikodemos 1

The superessential bread is the body and blood of the Lord, which differs as much from the word of God as does the sun from a ray.

In divine Communion, the Sun that is the whole God-man enters into, mixes with, and leavens the whole man, being He Who illumines, enlightens, and sanctifies all of the powers and senses of the soul and body of man, and refashions him from corruption to incorruption.

Thus the words “superessential bread” primarily and for an especial reason refer to the divine Communion of the all-immaculate body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it preserves and sustains the essence of the soul, and gives it the strength to do the Master’s commandments and everything else, as our Lord says: “For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed” (Jn. 6:55), which is to say, My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

If someone is in doubt as to how the body of our Lord is called superessential bread, let him listen to what the sacred teachers of our Church say concerning this.

[…] St. Isidore Pelousiotes says: “The prayer which the Lord taught does not contain anything earthly, but everything is heavenly and looks to the profit of the soul, even that which appears to be unimportant and sensible. And it is the opinion of many wise men that the Lord said this prayer for the following reason: in order to teach in a special way about the divine word and bread which nourishes the bodiless soul and which, in some way, is mixed and infused into the essence of the soul. For this reason it is also called superessential bread, inasmuch as the word ‘essence’ is more becoming of the soul than the body.”

[…] The divine Maximos says: “For if we live in the way we have prayed, to nourish our souls and to maintain the good state which we have been granted we will receive the superessential and life-giving bread, that is, the Word, Who said: I am the bread which came down from heaven and gives life to the world (cf. Jn. 6:41, 33). He becomes everything for us in proportion to the virtue and wisdom with which we have been nourished.” 

In other words, living according to the words of the Lord’s Prayer, let us receive the Son and Word of God as the superessential bread, as vital food for our souls, and as a safeguard for the goods which have been granted to us. Moreover, the Lord said that He is the bread which came down from the heavens and gives life to the world. However, this occurs within each person who receives Him according to the virtue and knowledge which he has.

Nicodemus the Hagiorite (1749-1809): Explanation of the Lord’s Prayer.

Cyprian of Carthage: “Give us this day our daily bread” Wednesday, Sep 2 2015 

Saint-Cyprian-of-CarthageAs the prayer goes forward, we ask and say, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

And this may be understood both spiritually and literally, because either way of understanding it is rich in divine usefulness to our salvation.

For Christ is the bread of life; and this bread does not belong to all men, but it is ours.

And according as we say, “Our Father,” because He is the Father of those who understand and believe; so also we call it “our bread,” because Christ is the bread of those who are in union with His body.

And we ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ, and daily receive the Eucharist for the food of salvation, may not, by the interposition of some heinous sin, by being prevented, as withheld and not communicating, from partaking of the heavenly bread, be separated from Christ’s body.

As He Himself predicts, and warns, “I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. If any man eat of my bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world” (John 6:58).

When, therefore, He says, that whoever shall eat of His bread shall live forever; as it is manifest that those who partake of His body and receive the Eucharist by the right of communion are living, so, on the other hand, we must fear and pray lest anyone who, being withheld from communion, is separate from Christ’s body should remain at a distance from salvation.

As He Himself threatens, and says, “Unless ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye shall have no life in you” (John 6:53).

And therefore we ask that our bread—that is, Christ—may be given to us daily, that we who abide and live in Christ may not depart from His sanctification and body.

But it may also be thus understood, that we who have renounced the world, and have cast away its riches and pomps in the faith of spiritual grace, should only ask for ourselves food and support…. The Lord instructs us, and says, “Whosoever forsaketh not all that he hath, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).

But he who has begun to be Christ’s disciple, renouncing all things according to the word of his Master, ought to ask for his daily food, and not to extend the desires of his petition to a long period, as the Lord again prescribes, and says, “Take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow itself shall take thought for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:34).

Cyprian of Carthage (d.258): On The Lord’s Prayer, 18-19.

Theodore the Studite: If we do not commune frequently, it is impossible for us not to become subject to the passions Wednesday, Jun 24 2015 

Theodore_the_StuditeTears and contrition have great power.

But the Communion of the sanctified Gifts, above all, has especially great power and benefit.

And, seeing that you are so indifferent towards it and do not frequently receive it, I am in wonder and great amazement.

[…] I say these things to you, not because I wish for you simply to commune haphazardly, without preparation.

(For it is written: “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the Bread, and drink of the Cup.

For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body and blood” [1 Cor. 11:28-29]).

No, I am not saying this. God forbid! I say that we should, out of our desire for Communion, purify ourselves as much as possible and make ourselves worthy of the Gift.

For the Bread which came down from heaven is participation in life: “If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (Jn. 6:51).

Again He says: “He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him” (Jn. 6:58).

Do you see the ineffable gift? He not only died for us, but He also gives Himself to us as food. What could show more love than this? What is more salvific to the soul?

Moreover, no one fails to partake every day of the food and drink of the common table. And, if it happens that someone does not eat, he becomes greatly dismayed.

And we are not speaking here about ordinary bread, but about the Bread of life; not about an ordinary cup, but about the Cup of immortality.

And do we consider Communion an indifferent matter, entirely unnecessary? How is this thought not irrational and foolish?

If this is how it has been up until now, my children, I ask that we henceforth take heed to ourselves, and, knowing the power of the Gift, let us purify ourselves as much as possible and partake of the sanctified Things.

And if it happens that we are occupied with a handicraft, as soon as we hear the sounding-board calling us to Church, let us put our work aside and go partake of the Gift with great desire.

And this (that is, frequent Communion) will certainly benefit us, for we keep ourselves pure through our preparation for Communion.

If we do not commune frequently, it is impossible for us not to become subject to the passions. Frequent Communion will become for us a companion unto eternal life.

Theodore the Studite: (759-826): Small Catechesis 107 (Mikra Katechesis [Thessaloniki: Orthodoxos Kypsele, 1984], 271-272), quoted in Concerning Frequent Communion by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite @ OCIC.

John Chrysostom: That dread cup, full of much power, and more precious than any created thing Sunday, Jun 7 2015 

John_ChrysostomHow delightful and lovable is our band of young brethren!

For brethren I call you, even now before you have been brought forth, and before your birth I welcome this relationship with you.

For I know, I know clearly, to how great an honour you are about to be led, and to how great a dignity.

[…] For ye are not about to be led to an empty dignity, but to an actual kingdom: and not simply to a kingdom, but to the kingdom of the Heavens itself.

Wherefore I beseech and entreat you that you remember me when you come into that kingdom, and as Joseph said to the chief butler “Remember me when it shall be well with thee” (Gen. 40:1), this also I say now to you, do ye remember me when it is well with you.

I do not ask this in return for interpreting your dreams, as he; for I have not come to interpret dreams for you, but to discourse of matters celestial, and to convey to you glad tidings of such good things as “eye hath not seen, and ear hath not heard and which have entered not into the heart of man, such are the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9, 10).

Now Joseph indeed said to that chief butler, “yet three days and Pharaoh will restore thee to thy chief butlership.” But I do not say, yet three days and ye shall be set to pour out the wine of a tyrant, but yet thirty days, and not Pharaoh but the king of Heaven shall restore you to the country which is on high, Jerusalem, which is free—to the city which is in the heavens; and he said indeed, “Thou shalt give the cup into the hands of Pharaoh.”

But I say not that you shall give the cup into the hands of the king, but that the king shall give the cup into your hand—that dread cup, full of much power, and more precious than any created thing. The initiated know the virtue of this cup, and you yourselves shall know it a little while hence.

Remember me, therefore, when you come into that kingdom, when you receive the royal robe, when you are girt with the purple dipped in the master’s blood, when you will be crowned with the diadem, which has lustre leaping forth from it on all sides, more brilliant than the rays of the sun.

Such are the gifts of the Bridegroom, greater indeed than your worth, but worthy of his lovingkindness.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): First Instructions to Catechumens, 1.

John Damascene: As God made all that He made by the Energy of the Holy Spirit, so the Energy of the Spirit performs those things that are supernatural Thursday, Jun 4 2015 

John-of-Damascus_01

If the Word of God is quick and energising, and the Lord did all that He willed…can He not then make the bread His body and the wine and water His blood?

He said in the beginning, Let the earth bring forth grass, and even until this present day, when the rain comes it brings forth its proper fruits, urged on and strengthened by the divine command.

God said, This is My body, and This is My blood, and this do ye in remembrance of Me.

And so it is at His omnipotent command until He come…, and the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit becomes through the invocation the rain to this new tillage.

For just as God made all that He made by the Energy of the Holy Spirit, so also now the Energy of the Spirit performs those things that are supernatural and which it is not possible to comprehend unless by faith alone.

How shall this be, said the holy Virgin, seeing I know not a man? And the archangel Gabriel answered her: The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.

And now you ask, how the bread became Christ’s body and the wine and water Christ’s blood. And I say unto thee, “The Holy Spirit is present and does those things which surpass reason and thought.”

[…] The body which is born of the holy Virgin is in truth body united with divinity, not that the body which was received up into the heavens descends, but that the bread itself and the wine are changed into God’s body and blood.

But if you enquire how this happens, it is enough for you to learn that it was through the Holy Spirit, just as the Lord took on Himself flesh that subsisted in Him and was born of the holy Mother of God through the Spirit.

And we know nothing further save that the Word of God is true and energises and is omnipotent, but the manner of this cannot be searched out.

But one can put it well thus, that just as in nature the bread by the eating and the wine and the water by the drinking are changed into the body and blood of the eater and drinker, and do not become a different body from the former one, so the bread of the table and the wine and water are supernaturally changed by the invocation and presence of the Holy Spirit into the body and blood of Christ, and are not two but one and the same.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 4, 13.

Leo the Great: By partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ we pass into that which we then take Monday, Apr 20 2015 

leo1Man’s nature has been received by the Son of God into such a union that not only in that Man Who is the first-begotten of all creatures, but also in all His saints there is one and the self-same Christ, and as the Head cannot be separated from the members, so the members cannot be separated from the Head.

[…] It is He whose sufferings are shared not only by the martyrs’ glorious courage, but also in the very act of regeneration by the faith of all the new-born.

For the renunciation of the devil and belief in God, the passing from the old state into newness of life, the casting off of the earthly image, and the putting on of the heavenly form—all this is a sort of dying and rising again, whereby he that is received by Christ and receives Christ is not the same after as he was before he came to the font, for the body of the regenerate becomes the flesh of the Crucified.

This change, dearly-beloved, is the handiwork of the Most High, Who “worketh all things in all” (cf. 1 Cor. 17:6), so that, by the good manner of life observed in each one of the faithful, we know Him to be the Author of all just works, and give thanks to God’s mercy, Who so adorns the whole body of the Church with countless gracious gifts, that through the many rays of the one Light the same brightness is everywhere diffused, and that which is well done by any Christian whatsoever cannot but be part of the glory of Christ.

This is that true Light which justifies and enlightens every man.  This it is that rescues from the power of darkness and transfers us into the Kingdom of the Son of God (Col. 1:13).  This it is that by newness of life exalts the desires of the mind and quenches the lusts of the flesh.

This it is whereby the Lord’s Passover is duly kept “With the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” by the casting away of “the old leaven of wickedness” (1 Cor. 5:8) and the inebriating and feeding of the new creature with the very Lord.

For naught else is brought about by the partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ than that we pass into that which we then take, and both in spirit and in body carry everywhere Him, in and with Whom we were dead, buried, and rose again, as the Apostle says, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.  For when Christ, your life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:3-4).

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 63, 3, 6, 7.

Athanasius of Alexandria: No more does death reign; but instead of death henceforth is life Saturday, Apr 11 2015 

AthanasiusIn old time feasts were appointed when an enemy was slain, or a conspiracy against the people broken up, and Israel delivered.

Therefore blessed Moses of old time ordained the great feast of the Passover, and our celebration of it, because, namely, Pharaoh was killed, and the people were delivered from bondage.

For in those times it was especially, when those who tyrannized over the people had been slain, that temporal feasts and holidays were observed in Judæa (cf. Esther 9:20-28).

Now, however, that the devil, that tyrant against the whole world, is slain, we do not approach a temporal feast, my beloved, but an eternal and heavenly.

Not in shadows do we shew it forth, but we come to it in truth.

For they being filled with the flesh of a dumb lamb, accomplished the feast, and having anointed their door-posts with the blood, implored aid against the destroyer.

But now we, eating of the Word of the Father, and having the lintels of our hearts sealed with the blood of the New Testament (Matt. 26:28), acknowledge the grace given us from the Saviour, who said, ‘Behold, I have given unto you to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy’ (Luke 10:19).

For no more does death reign; but instead of death henceforth is life, since our Lord said, ‘I am the life’ (John 14:6); so that everything is filled with joy and gladness; as it is written, ‘The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice’ (Ps. 96:1).

For when death reigned, ‘sitting down by the rivers of Babylon, we wept’ (Ps. 136:1), and mourned, because we felt the bitterness of captivity; but now that death and the kingdom of the devil is abolished, everything is entirely filled with joy and gladness.

And God is no longer known only in Judæa, but in all the earth, ‘their voice hath gone forth, and the knowledge of Him hath filled all the earth’ (Ps. 75:2; 18:5).

What follows, my beloved, is obvious; that we should approach such a feast, not with filthy raiment, but having clothed our minds with pure garments. For we need in this to put on our Lord Jesus (cf. Rom. 13:14), that we may be able to celebrate the feast with Him.

[…] The Saviour, since He was changing the typical for the spiritual, promised the disciples that they should no longer eat the flesh of a lamb, but His own, saying, ‘Take, eat and drink; this is My body, and My blood’ (Matt. 26:26-28).

When we are thus nourished by these things, we also, my beloved, shall truly keep the feast of the Passover.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Fourth Festal Letter, 2-4.

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