Cyril of Alexandria: When we eat the holy flesh of Christ we have life in us Thursday, Apr 2 2015 

cyril_alexandriaIn what manner can man upon earth, clothed as he is with mortality, return to incorruption?

This dying flesh must be made partaker of the life-giving power which comes from God.

But the life-giving power of God the Father is the Only-begotten Word.

And He sent Him to us as a Saviour and Deliverer…: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt in us” (John 1).

[…] He was made in our likeness, and clothed Himself in our flesh, that by raising it from the dead He might prepare a way henceforth, by which the flesh which had been humbled to death might return anew to incorruption.

For we are united to Him just as also we were united to Adam, when he brought upon himself the penalty of death.

And Paul testifies thereunto, thus writing on one occasion, “For because by man is death, by man is also the resurrection of the dead”;

and again upon another, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all live.”

The Word therefore, by having united to Himself that flesh which was subject to death, as being God and Life drove away from it corruption, and made it also to be the source of life: for such must the body of (Him Who is) the Life be.

[…] When you cast a piece of bread into wine or oil, or any other liquid, you find that it becomes charged with the quality of that particular thing.

When iron is brought into contact with fire, it becomes full of its activity; and while it is by nature iron, it exerts the power of fire.

And so the life-giving Word of God, having united Himself to His own flesh in a way known to Himself, endowed it with the power of giving life.

And of this He certifies us Himself, saying, “Verily, I say to you, he that believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life.”

And again  “…Whoever eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He that eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, abides in Me, and I in him.

“…As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father; so He that eats Me shall also live because of Me” (John 6).

When therefore we eat the holy flesh of Christ, the Saviour of us all, and drink His precious blood, we have life in us, being made as it were, one with Him, and abiding in Him, and possessing Him also in us.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, Sermon 142.

Adomnán of Iona: St Columba and the Grace of the Holy Spirit Monday, Jun 9 2014 

St-Columba_Aidan-HartJune 9th is the feast of St Columba.

Four holy founders of monasteries came from Scotia (Ireland), to visit St. Columba, and found him in the Hinba island (Eilean-na-Naoimh)….

They all with one consent agreed that St. Columba should consecrate, in their presence in the church, the holy mysteries of the Eucharist.

The saint complied with their express desire, and entered the church with them on Sunday as usual, after the reading of the Gospel….

There, during the celebration of the solemn offices of the Mass, St. Brenden Mocu Alti saw, as he told Comgell and Cainnech afterwards, a ball of fire like a comet burning very brightly on the head of Columba, while he was standing before the altar, and consecrating the holy oblation.

And thus it continued burning and rising upwards like a column, so long as he continued to be engaged in the same most sacred mysteries….

When the saint was living in the Hinba island (Eilean-na-Naoimh), the grace of the Holy Ghost was communicated to him abundantly and unspeakably, and dwelt with him in a wonderful manner….

For three whole days, and as many nights, without either eating or drinking, he allowed no one to approach him, and remained confined in a house which was filled with heavenly brightness.

Yet out of that house, through the chinks of the doors and keyholes, rays of surpassing brilliancy were seen to issue during the night. Certain spiritual songs also, which had never been heard before, he was heard to sing.

He came to see, as he allowed in the presence of a very few afterwards, many secrets hidden from men since the beginning of the world fully revealed; certain very obscure and difficult parts of sacred Scripture also were made quite plain, and clearer than the light to the eye of his pure heart.

Another night also, one of the brothers…came by chance, while the other brothers were asleep, to the gate of the church, and stood there for some time praying.

Then suddenly he saw the whole church filled with a heavenly light, which more quickly than he could tell, flashed like lightning from his gaze. He did not know that St. Columba was praying at that time in the church, and after this sudden appearance of light, he returned home in great alarm.

On the following day the saint called him aside and rebuked him severely, saying: “Take care of one thing, my child, that you do not attempt to spy out and pry too closely into the nature of that heavenly light which was not granted thee, but rather fled from thee, and that thou do not tell any one during my lifetime what thou hast seen.”

Adomnán of Iona (628-704): Life of St. Columba, Book 3, 18, 19, 21; from Life of Saint Columba, Founder of Hy, Written by Adamnan, Ninth Abbot of that Monastery, ed. William Reeves, (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1874) @ Internet Medieval Source Book; icon of St Columba by Aidan Hart.

Athanasius of Alexandria: Preparing to Eat the Passover Saturday, Apr 5 2014 

AthanasiusWho then will lead us to such a company of angels as this?

[…] ‘Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord?’

‘Who shall stand in His holy place, but he that hath clean hands, and a pure heart, who hath not devoted his soul to vanity, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbour.’

‘For he,’ as the Psalmist adds, when he goes up, ‘shall receive a blessing from the Lord’ (Ps. 24:3).

Now this clearly also refers to what the Lord gives to them at the right hand, saying, ‘Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you’ (Matt. 25:34).

But the deceitful, and he that is not pure of heart, and possesses nothing that is pure…shall assuredly, being a stranger, and of a different race from the saints, be accounted unworthy to eat the Passover, for ‘a foreigner shall not eat of it’ (Exod. 12:43).

[…] Wherefore let us not celebrate the feast after an earthly manner, but as keeping festival in heaven with the angels.

Let us glorify the Lord, by chastity, by righteousness, and other virtues. And let us rejoice, not in ourselves, but in the Lord, that we may be inheritors with the saints.

Let us keep the feast then, as Moses. Let us watch like David who rose seven times, and in the middle of the night gave thanks for the righteous judgments of God.

Let us be early, as he said, ‘In the morning I will stand before Thee, and Thou wilt look upon me: in the morning Thou wilt hear my voice’ (Ps. 5:3).

Let us fast like Daniel; let us pray without ceasing, as Paul commanded; all of us recognising the season of prayer…, so that having borne witness to these things, and thus having kept the feast, we may be able to enter into the joy of Christ in the kingdom of heaven.

Israel, when going up to Jerusalem, was first purified in the wilderness, being trained to forget the customs of Egypt, the Word by this typifying to us the holy fast of forty days.

So also let us first be purified and freed from defilement, so that when we depart hence, having been careful of fasting, we may be able to ascend to the upper chamber (cf. Luke 14:15) with the Lord, to sup with Him; and may be partakers of the joy which is in heaven.

In no other manner is it possible to go up to Jerusalem, and to eat the Passover, except by observing the fast of forty days.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Sixth Festal Letter, 11-12.

Anastasius of Sinai: “Forgive Us Our Debts as We Forgive Our Debtors” Wednesday, Mar 26 2014 

Anastasios-of-SinaiForgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors (St. Matthew 6:12).

What are you saying, O man? …

You remember wrongs which you brother has done to you, while you sharpen a knife to use against him, devise mischief against him, and bear malicious poison in your heart, and yet you cry out to God: Forgive me my debts, even as I, too, have forgiven my debtor?

Have you come to…receive Grace, or to draw down His wrath upon yourself? To gain forgiveness of sins, or to add to your sins? To obtain salvation or punishment?

Do you not see that we give each other the kiss of peace at that fearful hour precisely in order that, having rejected every bond of iniquity (Isaiah 58:6) and hard-heartedness, we might draw near to the Master with a pure heart? What are you doing, O man?

The six-winged Angels are ministering and covering the mystical Table, the Cherubim are standing around and exclaiming the Thrice-Holy Hymn with clear voices, the Seraphim are bowing their heads with reverence, the Hierarch is propitiating God on your behalf—all of them concentrating on the proceedings with fear and trembling.

The Lamb of God is being sacrificed, the Holy Spirit is descending from on high, the Angels are running about all the people unseen as they note down and register the souls of the Faithful.

Do you not shudder at the disdain that you show and at the kiss of Judas that you give to your brother, concealing in your heart the recollection of wrongs committed many years ago and the pernicious venom of the serpent against your brother?

How can you not shudder and fall down when you say to Him Who knows the secrets of the heart: Forgive me, even as I, too, have forgiven my brother?

In what way does such a prayer differ from a curse? Why, in saying this, you contradict yourself: If I pardon, pardon me; if I forgive, forgive me; if I show sympathy, show sympathy to me;

if I harbor a grudge against my fellow-servant, harbor one against me; if I am angry, be angry with me; with what measure I measure, let it be measured to me; if I forgive with hypocrisy, may I be shown mercy with hypocrisy.

I shall pronounce the verdict against myself, O Master. For I have heard Thy fearful voice, which says: For with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again (St. Matthew 7:2); and: If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you (St. Matthew 6:15).

Convinced by the assertion of these unerring words of Thine, I have pardoned and forgiven those who have sinned against me. Therefore, O Master, pardon me, just as I, too, have pardoned my fellow-servants.

Anastasius of Sinai (7th Century): A Homily on the Holy Eucharist and on Not Judging Others or Remembering Wrongs, PG 89, 825A-849C @ OCIC.

Saint Symeon the New Theologian: How fortunate are those who embraced divine Love! Wednesday, Mar 12 2014 

SYMEON-iconMarch 12th is the Feast of St Symeon the New Theologian (also October 12th).

Continued from here….

Love desired, how fortunate are those who have embraced you, for they will no longer have a yearning to embrace any human beauty.

How fortunate are they who are moved by divine love to cling to you: they’ll deny the whole world, and, to whatever degree they associate with others, they won’t be spoiled.

How fortunate are those who caress your beauty and delight in it with great desire, for their souls will be sanctified by the undefiled blood and water which issue from you.

How fortunate are those who passionately embrace you, for they will be altered for the better in spirit and will exult in their souls, because you are inexpressible joy.

How fortunate are they who gain possession of you, for they will count the treasures of the world as nothing, for you are indeed wealth “beyond the dreams of avarice”.

How blessed and thrice-blessed are they whom you accept, for though they be apparently without any glory, they will be more glorious than those who are glorious, more honoured than those who are honoured.

How worthy of praise are those who pursue you; even more so those who have found you.

Most blessed are those who are loved by you, received by you, taught by you, those who have dwelt in you and been fed by you with immortal food, that is the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Love divine, where are you holding Christ? Where are you concealing Him​? Why have you taken the Redeemer of the world and departed from us?

Open a wicket gate for us, so that we also may see Christ Who suffered for us, and so hope in His mercy that we’ll die no more when we once have seen Him. Open up to us, you who became the door allowing Him to be made manifest in the flesh.

Love, you who’ve forced the unforced and abundant compassion of our Master to bear the sins and infirmities of all people, do not reject us by saying, “I do not know you”. Be with us, so that you may come to know us, for we are not known to you.

Dwell in us, so that, for your sake, the Master may visit even us, who are lowly; go before us to meet Him, since we are wholly unworthy. So that He will pause on His way, to converse with you and will permit even us sinners to fall at His unblemished feet.

You’ll intercede on our behalf and plead with Him to forgive the debt of our sins, so that through you we may again be found worthy to serve Him, our Master, and be sustained and nourished by Him.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD): In Praise of Those Who Have Love in Their Hearts @ Pemptousia.

Anastasius of Sinai: Cry Out with the Priest who is Struggling for You Wednesday, Feb 26 2014 

Anastasios-of-SinaiSince the Priest is a mediator between God and man and offers sacrifice to God for the remission of the sins of the multitude, consider how he fortifies everyone in advance and bears witness, as if saying words such as these to the people:

Since you have established me, O my people, as a mediator before God on your behalf at this mystical Table, I implore you, be as zealous as I am.

Refrain from all worldly thoughts. Forsake every bodily care. It is time for fervent prayer, not for idle pursuits.

Hear what the Deacon exclaims to you, when he says: Let us stand well, let us stand with fear.

Let us be attentive to the holy Oblation, let us incline our necks, let us restrain our minds, let us hold our tongues, let us give wings to our minds, and let us ascend to Heaven.

Let us lift up our minds and hearts, let us raise the eye of our soul up to God, let us traverse Heaven, let us go past the Angels, let us go past the Cherubim, and let us run to the very Throne of the Master, let us grasp Christ’s immaculate feet themselves, let us weep, let us, as it were, compel Him to be compassionate, and let us give thanks in the holy, heavenly, and ethereal Sanctuary.

The Priest affirms these things to us when he says: Let us lift up our hearts. What do we then say in response to these words? We lift them up unto the Lord.

What are you saying? What are you doing? Our minds are distracted by corruptible and transient things, and they devote themselves to vanities, possessions, pleasures, and court cases.

And you say: I lift it [my heart] up unto the Lord? Make sure, I beseech you, that you have your heart elevated to the Lord, and not lowered to the devil.

What are you doing, O man? The Priest is offering the bloodless Sacrifice to the Master for your sake, and you view it with disdain?

The Priest is struggling for your sake. Standing before the Altar as if before a dread tribunal, he implores and urges that the Grace of the Holy Spirit might come down to you from on high, and you take no thought for your own salvation?

Do not carry on like this, I beg you. Abandon this evil and vain habit. Cry out with the Priest who is struggling for you, toil with him who prays for you.

Offer yourself for your salvation: The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (St. James 5:16). It will be effectual if you struggle together with the Priest and manifest the fruits of repentance.

Anastasius of Sinai (7th Century): A Homily on the Holy Eucharist and on Not Judging Others or Remembering Wrongs, PG 89, 825A-849C @ OCIC.

Anastasius of Sinai: The Church of God is a Surgery Thursday, Feb 6 2014 

Anastasios-of-SinaiDo you not know that the Church of God is a surgery and a harbor?

Now, if you remain in a surgery ailing and unhealed, when, henceforth, will you be cured?

And if you are tempest-tossed in a harbor, where, hereafter, will you find rest?

Stand with reverence, I implore you.

Stand with awe at the fearful hour of the Anaphora; for with whatever attitude and thoughts each of you attends at that hour, such also is the frame of mind in which he offers worship to the Master.

The oblation is called the Anaphora because it is offered up to God. Therefore, stand before God in silence and compunction.

Confess your sins to God through the Priests. Condemn your actions and do not be ashamed; for, there is a shame that bringeth sin, and there is a shame which is glory and grace (Ecclesiasticus 4:2 1).

Condemn yourself before men, so that the Judge may justify you before Angels and the whole world.

Seek mercy, seek forgiveness, seek remission of past sins and deliverance from future sins, so that you may approach the Mysteries worthily, so that you may partake of the Body and Blood with a pure conscience, and so that it may be for you unto purification and not unto condemnation.

Hear what the Divine Paul says: Let each man examine himself, and so let him eat of that Bread, and drink of that Cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s Body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep (I Corinthians 11:27-30).

Do you notice that illness and death result, for the most part, from approaching the Divine Mysteries unworthily? But perhaps you will say: And who is worthy? I, too, am aware of this.

However, you will become worthy, if only you desire it. Recognize that you are a sinner. Cut yourself off from sin. Desist from sin, wickedness, and anger. Display the works of repentance; endue yourself with prudence, meekness, and forbearance.

Show compassion from the fruits of righteousness for those in need, and you will have become worthy. Beseech God with a contrite heart, and He will fulfill your petitions; for, if you do not do this, you will be wasting the time that you spend in church.

[…] And why, someone will object, because I have evil deeds, should I not pray? Why should I not spend time in the Church of God?

This is not what I am saying, nor do I even countenance it. But I beseech you to pray as you ought, so that when we draw near to God in our prayers, we may stand before Him in a way that befits Him

Anastasius of Sinai (7th Century): A Homily on the Holy Eucharist and on Not Judging Others or Remembering Wrongs, PG 89, 825A-849C, also attributed to Anastasios II of Antioch @ OCIC.

Ignatius of Antioch: The Medicine of Immortality, and the Antidote to Prevent Us from Dying Monday, Jan 20 2014 

Ignatius_of_AntiochLet my spirit be counted as nothing for the sake of the cross, which is a stumbling-block to those that do not believe, but to us salvation and life eternal.

“Where is the wise man? where the disputer?” Where is the boasting of those who are styled prudent?

For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost.

He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water.

Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence by God.

How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of Which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment.

And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else in the heavens.

Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life.

And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult, because He meditated the abolition of death.

If Jesus Christ shall graciously permit me through your prayers, and if it be His will, I shall, in a second little work which I will write to you, make further manifest to you the nature of the dispensation of which I have begun to treat, with respect to the new man, Jesus Christ, in His faith and in His love, in His suffering and in His resurrection.

Especially will I do this if the Lord make known to me that you come together in common, man by man, through grace – individually, in one faith, and in Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David according to the flesh, being both the Son of man and the Son of God;

and if you thus obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but which causes that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ.

Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 – c. 107): Letter to the Ephesians, 18-20 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Gregory Palamas: When Our Nature was Remade in the Jordan, the Most Sublime and All-Accomplishing Trinity was Made Manifest Saturday, Jan 11 2014 

Gregory_PalamasJesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water:

and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him:

and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:16-17).

Man is the only creature who, in the image of the tri-hypostatic Being, has a mind, reason, and a spirit which gives life to his body, inasmuch as he also has a body which needs to be infused with life.

When our nature was re-made in the Jordan, the most sublime and all-accomplishing Trinity was made manifest, as the archetype of the image in our soul.

[…] Christ’s going down into the water and His being underneath it, at the time of His baptism, foreshadowed His descent into Hades; and, accordingly, His coming up from under the water prefigured His resurrection from the dead.

As a fitting consequence, when He came up from the water the heavens were immediately opened unto Him.

For at the time of His descent into Hades, He went under the earth for our sake, and on returning thence, He opened all things both to Himself and to us, not just things on or around the earth, but highest heaven itself, to which afterwards He ascended bodily, “whither the forerunner is for us entered” (Hebrews 6.20).

Just as He foreshadowed the saving Passion through the mystical bread and cup, and then handed on this mystery to the faithful to perform for their salvation (1 Corinthians 11.25; Luke 22.17-20), so He mystically foretold His descent into Hades and His ascent from there through this baptism of His, and afterwards passed on this sacrament to believers to perform that they may be saved.

He allowed Himself what was painful and difficult, but bestowed on us communion in His sufferings right from the start through these painless means, causing us, according to the Apostle, to be “planted together in the likeness of His death” (Romans 6.5), that in due time we might also be vouchsafed the promised resurrection.

Having a soul and body like ours, which He assumed from us for our sake, by means of this body He underwent the Passion, death and burial for us, and showed forth the resurrection from the tomb that this same body might become immortal.

He taught us to accomplish the bloodless sacrifice in remembrance of these events, that through it we might reap salvation.

With His soul He went down to Hades and returned, making us all partakers in eternal light and life, and in token of this He handed on to us the practice of holy baptism, that through it we might harvest salvation;

and indeed that through each of these two mysteries and through both elements, soul and body, we might be initiated into and receive the seeds of incorruptible life.

For our whole salvation depends on these two sacraments, as the entire dispensation whereby God became man is summed up in them.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 60, on the Holy Feast of Theophany: Disclosing the Mystery of Christ’s Baptism as far as is Possible. From Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009) @ Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension, Oakland, California.

Bernard of Clairvaux: “Behold, a Virgin shall Conceive and Bear a Son, and His Name shall be Called Emmanuel” Friday, Dec 20 2013 

Heiligenkreuz_Bernard_of_ClervauxIf the infirm cannot go far to meet this great Physician, it is at least becoming they should endeavour to raise their heads and lift themselves a little to greet their Saviour.

For this, O man, you are not required to cross the sea, to penetrate the clouds, to scale the mountain-tops. No lofty way is set before you.

Turn within thyself to meet thy God, for the Word is nigh in thy mouth and in thy heart.

Meet Him by compunction of heart and by confession of mouth, or, at least, go forth from the corruption of a sinful conscience, for it is not becoming that the Author of purity should enter there.

It is delightful to contemplate the manner of  His visible coming, for His “ways are beautiful, and all his paths are peace” (Prov. 3:17).

“Behold,” says the Spouse of the Canticles, “he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills” (Cant. 2:8).

You see Him coming, O beautiful one, but His previous lying down you could not see, for you said : “Shew me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou liest” (Cant. 1:6).

He lay feeding His angels in His endless eternity with the vision of His glorious, unchanging beauty. But know, O beautiful one, that that vision is become wonderful to thee; it is high, and thou canst not reach it.

Nevertheless, behold He hath gone forth from His holy place, and He that had lain feeding His angels hath undertaken to heal us.

We shall see Him coming as our food, Whom we were not able to behold while He was feeding His angels in His repose.

“Behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.” The mountains and hills we may consider to be the Patriarchs and the Prophets, and we may see His leaping and skipping in the book of His genealogy. “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, etc.” (Matt. 1:2).

From the mountains came forth the root of Jesse, as you will find from the Prophet Isaias: “There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root, and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him” (Isa. 11:1-2).

The same prophet speaks yet more plainly: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, which is interpreted, God with us” (Isa. 7:14). He Who is first styled a flower is afterwards called Emmanuel, and in the rod is named the virgin.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermon 1 on the Advent of the Lord, pp. 13-14, from Sermons of St Bernard on Advent and Christmas.

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