Cyril of Jerusalem: A treasure of life has now been committed to you Saturday, Nov 5 2016 

Cyril-of-JerusalemIn learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that only, which is now delivered to thee by the Church, and which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures.

For since all cannot read the Scriptures, some being hindered as to the knowledge of them by want of learning, and others by a want of leisure, in order that the soul may not perish from ignorance, we comprise the whole doctrine of the Faith in a few lines.

This summary I wish you both to commit to memory when I recite it, and to rehearse it with all diligence among yourselves, not writing it out on paper, but engraving it by the memory upon your heart.

[…] I wish you also to keep this as a provision through the whole course of your life, and beside this to receive no other, neither if we ourselves should change and contradict our present teaching, nor if an adverse angel, transformed into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14) should wish to lead you astray.

For though we or an angel from heaven preach to you any other gospel than that ye have received, let him be to you anathema (Gal. 1:8-9).

So for the present listen while I simply say the Creed, and commit it to memory; but at the proper season expect the confirmation out of Holy Scripture of each part of the contents.

For the articles of the Faith were not composed as seemed good to men; but the most important points collected out of all the Scripture make up one complete teaching of the Faith.

And just as the mustard seed in one small grain contains many branches, so also this Faith has embraced in few words all the knowledge of godliness in the Old and New Testaments.

Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which ye now receive, and write them an the table of your heart (Prov. 7:3).

Guard them with reverence, lest per chance the enemy despoil any who have grown slack; or lest some heretic pervert any of the truths delivered to you.

For faith is like putting money into the bank, even as we have now done; but from you God requires the accounts of the deposit.

I charge you, as the Apostle says, before God, who quickens all things, and Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession, that ye keep this faith which is committed to you, without spot, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 5:21; 6:13-14).

A treasure of life has now been committed to you, and the Master demands the deposit at His appearing, which in His own times He shall shew.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 5, 12-13.

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Isaac the Syrian: Faith requires a serene and simple mind Sunday, Oct 9 2016 

Isaac_the_SyrianWhen the soul in the course of its behaviour walks in the way of faith, this improves it much.

When it then turns towards the means of knowledge, it becomes alienated to faith at once.

And it is removed from that intelligible force of faith which reveals itself by different acts of help in the serene soul that simply, without inquiry, uses all that belongs to it.

The soul that has once, in faith, entrusted itself unto God and, under many temptations, has received the taste of faith’s help, no longer thinks of itself, but is made speechless by ecstasy and silence, nor is it allowed to return unto the means of its knowledge or to make use of them, lest it also be bereft, on the contrary, of the divine care which visits it incessantly and provides for it and clings to it everywhere.

For the soul would consider it as a despicable thought to deem itself sufficient to guide itself by the power of its knowledge.

For those in whose hearts the light of faith has dawned, do not venture to pray in their own behalf, they do not even venture to ask God: Give us this, or: Take from us that, nor dare they think of themselves in any way.

For by the initiated eyes of their faith they always see the paternal care which protects them on the part of that Father whose strong and immeasurable love surpasses the love of all fleshly fathers and who has power to supply us with all things above what we ask and think.

[…] Faith…requires a serene and simple mind, far from any cunning or need of means.

Behold, how knowledge and faith are each other’s opposites. The mansion of faith is a childlike mind and a pure heart. For in the purity of their heart people have praised God. For ‘except ye be converted and become as little children’ (Matt. 18:3) and so on.

Knowledge, however is the persecutor and opposite of  these two. Knowledge adheres to the domain of nature, in all its ways. Faith makes its course above nature.

Knowledge does not admit unto itself anything which is in disharmony with nature, not even for the sake of trial, but it lets these things dwell at a distance.

Faith on the other hand orders with authority and says: Thou shall tread upon the serpent and the lion: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet (Psalm 90:13).

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Mystic Treatises, 51, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck, pp. 242-243.

John Cassian: There are three things which enable men to control their faults Saturday, Oct 8 2016 

Sf-IoanCasianThen the blessed Chæremon spoke:

There are, said he, three things which enable men to control their faults;

viz., either the fear of hell or of laws even now imposed;

or the hope and desire of the kingdom of heaven;

or a liking for goodness itself and the love of virtue.

For then we read that the fear of evil loathes contamination: “The fear of the Lord hateth evil” (Prov. 9:13).

Hope also shuts out the assaults of all faults: for “all who hope in Him shall not fail” (Ps. 33:23).

Love also fears no destruction from sins, for “love never faileth” (1 Cor. 13), and again “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8).

And therefore the blessed Apostle confines the whole sum of salvation in the attainment of those three virtues, saying “Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three” (1 Cor. 13:13).

For faith is what makes us shun the stains of sin from fear of future judgment and punishment;

hope is what withdraws our mind from present things, and despises all bodily pleasures from its expectation of heavenly rewards;

love is what inflames us with keenness of heart for the love of Christ and the fruit of spiritual goodness, and makes us hate with a perfect hatred whatever is opposed to these.

And these three things although they all seem to aim at one and the same end (for they incite us to abstain from things unlawful) yet they differ from each other greatly in the degrees of their excellence.

For the two former belong properly to those men who in their aim at goodness have not yet acquired the love of virtue, and the third belongs specially to God and to those who have received into themselves the image and likeness of God.

For He alone does the things that are good, with no fear and no thanks or reward to stir Him up, but simply from the love of goodness. For, as Solomon says, “The Lord hath made all things for Himself” (Prov. 16:4).

For under cover of His own goodness He bestows all the fulness of good things on the worthy and the unworthy because He cannot be wearied by wrongs, nor be moved by passions at the sins of men, as He ever remains perfect goodness and unchangeable in His nature.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 11, 6.

Philoxenus of Mabbug: For the giving of thanks have we received speech from God our Creator Sunday, Jun 5 2016 

philoxenos_of_mabbugFaith…makes certain that God is, and enquires not.

It holds His words to be sure and seeks not to investigate His nature.

It hearkens to His words, and judges not His deeds and actions.

[…] When it is God Himself who speaks, and the Lord of the universe Who says that He will perform it, it is necessary for us to believe.

For it is sufficient for the persuading of our faith that it is God Himself Who speaks and will perform.

And man has not the power to judge His will; for how can man who hath been made judge the will of Him that created him?

For as the vessel cannot chide the handicraftsman and ask why he hath thus formed it, or judge any of his works, so also is it with man who is a rational vessel, and has no power to chide the Workman Who made him.

And although man possesses the speech of knowledge, it was given to him not so that he could  judge the will of Him that made him, but that he might be a panegyrist of the knowledge which formed him.

For the rational man is farther removed from the power of scrutinizing His Creator than is the speechless vessel from the power of criticising him that made it.

For the giving of thanks have we received speech from God our Creator, and in order that we may admire His created things He has placed in us thoughts of knowledge.

He has made us to possess a sense of wisdom so that we may perceive Him and He has placed within our soul the sense of discernment so that we may receive a foretaste of His gracious acts.

He has given to us the eye of faith which can see deeply into His secret things so that we may see Him in His works.

God is too great to be investigated by the thoughts, and His dispensation surpasses the seeking out of speech. And with His nature go also His works. For, as His nature is inscrutable, so also the deeds and actions of His nature cannot be sought out.

[…] As He cannot be judged by us as to why He has made us in this form, and why He has formed us, and placed us in the world in this order of constitution, so also none of His wishes can be found fault with by us, either as to why He willed thus, or why He performed thus.

Philoxenus of Mabbug (d. 523): Discourse 2 – on Faith [adapted].

Aphrahat the Persian: “I believe, Lord; help thou my feeble faith” Thursday, Jan 14 2016 

ephrem-isaac-aphrahatOur Saviour used thus to say to ever one who drew near to Him to be healed:—According to thy faith be unto thee (Matt. 9:29).

And when the blind man approached Him, He said to him:—Dost thou believe that I am able to heal thee?  That blind man said to Him:—Yea, Lord, I believe (Matt. 9:28).  And his faith opened his eyes.

And to him whose son was sick, He said:—Believe and thy son shall live.  He said to Him:—I believe, Lord; help thou my feeble faith (Mark 9:22, 26).  And by his faith his son was healed.

And also when the nobleman came near to Him, by his faith was his boy healed, when he said to our Lord:—Speak the word and my servant will be cured (Matt. 8:8, 10).  And our Lord was astonished at his faith, and according to his faith it happened to him.

And also when the chief of the Synagogue requested Him concerning his daughter, He said thus to him:—Only firmly believe and thy daughter shall live (Mark 5:23-36).  So he believed and his daughter lived and arose.

And when Lazarus died, our Lord said to Martha:—If thou believest, thy brother shall rise.  Martha saith unto Him;—Yea, Lord, I believe  (John 11:23-27).  And He raised him after four days.

And also Simon who was called Cephas because of his faith was called the firm rock.

And again when our Lord gave the Sacrament of Baptism to His apostles, He said thus to them:—Whosoever believeth and is baptized shall live, and whosoever believeth not shall be condemned (Mark 16:16).    Again He said to his Apostles:—If ye believe and doubt not, there is nothing ye shall not be able to do  (Matt. 21:22).

For when our Lord walked on the billows of the sea, Simon also by his faith walked with Him; but when in respect of his faith he doubted, and began to sink, our Lord called him, thou of little faith (Matt. 14:31).

And when the Apostles asked of our Lord, they begged nothing at His hands but this, saying to Him:—Increase our faith.  He said to them:—If there were in you faith, even a mountain would remove from before you (Luke 17:5; Matt. 17:19; 21:21).

And He said to them:—Doubt ye not, lest ye sink down in the midst of the world, even as Simon when he doubted began to sink in the midst of the sea.

And again He said thus;—This shall be the sign for those that believe; they shall speak with new tongues and shall cast out demons, and they shall lay their hands on the sick and they shall be made whole (Mark 16:17-18).

Aphrahat the Persian (c.270-c.345): Demonstrations, 1 – On Faith (17). (The icon accompanying this extract depicts Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Syrian, and Aphrahat.)

Cyril of Jerusalem: Enlightened by faith, the soul has visions of God, and as far as is possible beholds God Saturday, Nov 28 2015 

Cyril-of-JerusalemThere is one kind of faith, the dogmatic, involving an assent of the soul on some particular point.

And it is profitable to the soul, as the Lord says:

He that heareth My words, and believeth Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and cometh not into judgment (John 5:24).

And again, He that believeth in the Son is not judged, but hath passed from death unto life (John 3:18; 5:24).

Oh the great loving-kindness of God!

For the righteous were many years in pleasing Him, but what they succeeded in gaining by many years of well-pleasing this Jesus now bestows on you in a single hour.

For if you believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved, and will be transported into Paradise by Him who brought in thither the robber.

And doubt not whether it is possible; for He who on this sacred Golgotha saved the robber after one single hour of belief shall save you also because of your believing (Luke 23:43).

But there is a second kind of faith, which is bestowed by Christ as a gift of grace.

For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit:  to another faith, by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing (1 Cor. 12:8-9).

This faith, which is given of grace from the Spirit, is not merely doctrinal, but also works things above man’s power. For whosoever has this faith shall say to this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove (Mark 11:23).

Whenever anyone says this in faith, believing that it will come to pass, and does not doubt in his heart, then he will receive the grace.

And of this faith it is said, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed (Matt 17:20).

The grain of mustard seed is small in size, but fiery in its operation, and though sown in a small space has a circle of great branches, and when grown up is able even to shelter the fowls (Matt. 13:32).

Likewise, faith in the swiftest moment works the greatest effects in the soul.

For, enlightened by faith, the soul has visions of God, and as far as is possible beholds God, and ranges round the bounds of the universe, and before the end of this world already beholds the Judgment, and the payment of the promised rewards.

Have, therefore, that faith in Him which comes from your own self, that you may also receive from Him that faith which works things above man.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 5, 10-11 [slightly adapted].

Maximus the Confessor: Nothing is more truly Godlike than divine love, nothing more apt to raise up human beings to deification Monday, Oct 26 2015 

Maximus_ConfessorNothing is more truly Godlike than divine love, nothing more mysterious, nothing more apt to raise up human beings to deification.

For it has gathered together in itself all good things that are recounted by the logos of truth in the form of virtue, and it has absolutely no relation to anything that has the form of wickedness, since it is the fulfilment of the law and the prophets.

For they were succeeded by the mystery of love, which out of human beings makes us gods, and reduces the individual commandments to a universal meaning [logos].

Everything is circumscribed by love according to God’s good pleasure in a single form, and love is dispensed in many forms in accordance with God’s economy.

For what form of good things does love not possess?

Neither faith, the first premiss in matters concerning true religion, assuring the one who possesses it of the existence of God and of divine matters, and that much more surely than the eye by attending to the appearances of sensible things furnishes an opinion concerning them for those who see;

nor hope, which establishes the truly subsisting good, and that much more effectively than the hand does to even the most solid of material things that fall beneath its touch.

For does not love grant enjoyment of those things believed in and hoped for, by itself making present the things to come?

[…] Faith is the foundation of everything that comes after it, I mean hope and love, and firmly establishes what is true. Hope is the strength of the extremes, I mean faith and love, for it appears as faithful by itself and loved by both, and teaches through itself to make it to the end of the course.

Love is the fulfilment of these, wholly embraced as the final last desire, and furnishes them rest from their movement. For love gives faith the reality of what it believes and hope the presence of what it hopes for, and the enjoyment of what is present.

Love alone, properly speaking, proves that the human person is in the image of the Creator, by making his self-determination submit to reason, not bending reason under it, and persuading the inclination to follow nature and not in any way to be at variance with the logos of nature.

In this way we are all, as it were, one nature, so that we are able to have one inclination and one will with God and with one another, not having any discord with God or one another, whenever by the law of grace, through which by our inclination the law of nature is renewed, we choose what is ultimate.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Letter 2: On Love in Andrew Louth: Maximus the Confessor (Routledge, 1996), pp. 82-84.

Philoxenus of Mabbug: When the eye of faith hears the voice of God there rises in it the light of His Word Tuesday, Jul 14 2015 

philoxenos_of_mabbugWhen Abraham heard the voice and knew that it was of God, he immediately despised everything and went forth to Him, and hearkened unto Him with simplicity.

[…] Look then, O disciple, upon this coming forth, and let thy coming forth be like unto it, and be not backward in following the living voice of Christ, Who hath called thee.

For as in that case it called to Abraham only, so in this He calls every one He pleases by His Gospel, and invites them to go forth after Him.

For in that He said, “Whosoever wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24), He shewed a universal calling to all the children of men.

And instead of choosing one person, Abraham, as He did at that time, He now invites every man to be like unto Abraham.

And again in the case of the holy Apostles, He renewed that call of Abraham; and observe their faith also, that it was like unto the faith of Abraham; for as Abraham heard immediately he was called, so also immediately He called the Apostles, they heard and went forth after Him.

“He saw them casting nets into the sea, and He called them, and straightway they forsook their nets and their father, and went after Him” (Matt. 4:18).

And before they had heard from Him the words, “If a man forsake not his father and mother, and everything that he hath, and cometh after me, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26), they forsook everything and went after Jesus.

For He did not propound for the disciples lengthy doctrine, but only the hearing of the word of faith; and because the faith which was in them was living, immediately it received the living word it became obedient unto life, and they ran thereafter straightway, and delayed not.

Now in this they show themselves to have been disciples before they were called. For the custom of faith which is mingled with simplicity is that it does not receive doctrine (or instruction) by much persuasion.

The sound and healthy eye does not receive the ray which is sent therein by contrivances and cunning inventions. but immediately that it is opened it looks with strength upon the light, because its natural sight is sound.

So also the eye of faith, which is set in the pupil of simplicity, immediately it hears the voice of God, recognises it, and there rises in it the light of His Word.

And joyfully it draws towards Him and receives Him, even as our Lord said in His Gospel, “My sheep hear My voice and come after Me” (John 10:27).

Philoxenus of Mabbug (d. 523): Fourth Ascetic Discourse (slightly adapted).

Nikolai Velimirovich: Thus Did The One Ascend To Heaven Who Held Heaven Within Himself Friday, May 30 2014 

Nikolai VelimirovichThus did the One ascend to Heaven Who held heaven within Himself.

He who carries hell within himself will end up in hell, but he who bears heaven within his soul will ascend to heaven.

And truly, no one can ascend to heaven other than those who have heaven within; and no one can end up in hell besides those who have hell within.

The familiar is drawn to what is familiar and unites with the familiar; but it rejects what is not familiar.

Matter submits to the spirit to the extent that the human soul is filled with the Divine Spirit; and the laws of nature are obedient to moral laws, which govern the world.

Because the Lord Jesus Christ is the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the perfection of moral law, to Him is subject all matter—the entire physical world, with all the laws of nature.

Any person, as a spirit, can be victorious in his life over a certain law of nature, with the help of another law of nature—that is, he can overcome it with his own spirit.

Christ, as the God-Man, could subject the laws of nature to Himself through the law of the Spirit, which is the supreme law of the created world.

However, this concept, just as any other spiritual concept, can be but partially explained by ordinary earthly conceptualizations and reasoning—and that only by examples and comparisons.

Spiritual things only become clear beyond a doubt when the spirit sees them and perceives them.

In order to see and feel the manifestations of the spiritual world, long and exhausting spiritual practice is needed, after which, by God’s grace, spiritual vision may be opened in a person; this vision allows him to see what seems unbelievable and impossible to ordinary mortals.

Nevertheless, a person must first believe those who have seen the unbelievable, and strengthen their faith from day to day, striving to see what is inaccessible to the common gaze.

Not in vain does the Lord say, Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed (Jn. 20:29).

[…]  But the day will come—and that day is not far off—when all the righteous mean and women who firmly believed in Him throughout their lives will see Him.

And around Him in the heavens will gather all those who were baptized on earth in His name—not only with water, but also with the Spirit and Fire.

And they will enter into His joy, which the Heavenly Father has prepared for all His chosen, and will inherit a joy that they have never known before.

Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956; Orthodox Church): The Ascension of the Lord @ Pravoslavie.

Justin Popovich: The Word of God has a Wonder-Working and Life-Giving Effect Tuesday, May 27 2014 

JustinEvery word of God is full of God’s Truth, which sanctifies the soul for all eternity once it enters it.

Thus does the Saviour turn to His heavenly Father in prayer: “Father! Sanctify them with Thy Truth; Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).

If you do not accept the word of Christ as the word of God, as the word of the Truth, then falsehood and the father of lies within you is rebelling against it.

In every word of the Saviour there is much that is supernatural and full of grace, and this is what sheds grace on the soul of man when the word of Christ visits it.

Therefore the Holy Apostle calls the whole structure of the house of salvation “the word of the grace of God” (Acts 20:32).

Like a living grace-filled power, the word of God has a wonder-working and life-giving effect on a man, so long as he hears it with faith and receives it with faith (1 Thess. 2:13).

Everything is defiled by sin, but everything is cleansed by the word of God and prayer – everything – all creation from man on down to a worm (1 Tim. 4:5).

By the Truth which it carries in itself and by the Power which it has in itself, the word of God is “sharper than any sword and pierces to the point of dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Nothing remains secret before it or for it.

Because every word of God contains the eternal Word of God – the Logos – it has the power to give birth and regenerate men. And when a man is born of the Word, he is born of the Truth.

For this reason St. James the Apostle writes to the Christians that God the Father has brought them forth “by the word of truth” (1:18); and St. Peter tells them that they “have been born anew…by the word of the living God, which abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23).

All the words of God, which God has spoken to men, come from the Eternal Word – the Logos, who is the Word of life and bestows Life eternal.

By living for the Word, a man brings himself from death to life. By filling himself with eternal life, a man becomes a conqueror of death and “a partaker of the Divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), and of his blessedness there shall be no end.

The main and most important point of all this is faith and feeling love towards Christ the Lord, because the mystery of every word of God is opened beneath the warmth of that feeling, just as the petals of a fragrant flower are opened beneath the warmth of the sun’s rays. Amen

Justin Popovich (1894-1979; Orthodox Church): How to Read the Bible and Why.

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