Cyril of Jerusalem: The Descent of the Holy Spirit Wednesday, Jun 11 2014 

Cyril-of-JerusalemHe came down to clothe the Apostles with power, and to baptize them.

For the Lord says, ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence (Acts 1:5).

This grace was not in part, but His power was in full perfection.

For as he who plunges into the waters and is baptized is encompassed on all sides by the waters, so were they also baptized completely by the Holy Ghost.

The water however flows round the outside only, but the Spirit baptizes also the soul within, and that completely.

And wherefore wonderest thou?  Take an example from matter; poor indeed and common, yet useful for the simpler sort.

The fire passing in through the mass of the iron makes the whole of it fire, so that what was cold becomes burning and what was black is made bright.

If fire which is a body thus penetrates and works without hindrance in iron which is also a body, why wonder that the Holy Ghost enters into the very inmost recesses of the soul?

And lest men should be ignorant of the greatness of the mighty gift coming down to them, there sounded as it were a heavenly trumpet.

For suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind (Acts 2:2), signifying the presence of Him who was to grant power unto men to seize with violence the kingdom of God; that both their eyes might see the fiery tongues, and their ears hear the sound.  

And it filled all the house where they were sitting; for the house became the vessel of the spiritual water; as the disciples sat within, the whole house was filled.

Thus they were entirely baptized according to the promise, and invested soul and body with a divine garment of salvation.  

And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.

They partook of fire, not of burning but of saving fire; of fire which consumes the thorns of sins, but gives lustre to the soul.

This is now coming upon you also, and that to strip away and consume your sins which are like thorns, and to brighten yet more that precious possession of your souls, and to give you grace; for He gave it then to the Apostles.

And He sat upon them in the form of fiery tongues, that they might crown themselves with new and spiritual diadems by fiery tongues upon their heads.  A fiery sword barred of old the gates of Paradise; a fiery tongue which brought salvation restored the gift.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 17, 14-15.

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Gregory the Great: The Soul Rapt in the Light of God is Dilated in the Divine Perfections Thursday, Aug 22 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistWhile as yet the monks were at rest, the man of God, Benedict, being diligent in watching, rose up before the night office and stood at the window making his prayer to Almighty God about midnight.

Suddenly, looking forth, he saw a light glancing from above, so bright and resplendent that it not only dispersed the darkness of the night, but shone more clear than the day itself.

Upon this sight a marvellous strange thing followed, for, as he afterwards related, the whole world, compacted as it were together, was represented to his eyes in one ray of light.

As the venerable Father had his eyes fixed upon this glorious lustre, he beheld the soul of Germanus, Bishop of Capua, carried by angels to Heaven in a fiery globe.

Then, for the testimony of so great a miracle, with a loud voice he called upon Servandus the Deacon, who…looked forth, and saw a little stream of light then disappearing, and wondered greatly at this miracle.

[…] It fell out so, that he who was sent found the most reverend Bishop Germanus dead, and on enquiring more exactly, he learned that his departure was the very same moment in which the man of God had seen him ascend.

[…] In a soul that beholds the Creator, all creatures appear but narrow; for, should we partake never so little of the light of the Creator, whatsoever is created would seem very little.

Because the soul is enlarged by this beatific vision, and so dilated in the Divine perfections, that it far transcends the world and itself also.

The soul thus rapt in the light of God is in her interior lifted up, and enabled above itself, and while thus elevated it contemplates itself, and it easily comprehends how little that is which before it was not able to conceive.

So the blessed man who saw the globe of fire with the Angels returning to Heaven could not possibly have beheld those things but only in the light of God.

What wonder then if he saw the world at one view who was in mind exalted above the world?

But whereas I said that the whole world compacted as it were together was represented before his eyes, it is not meant that heaven and earth were straitened by contraction, but that the mind of the beholder was dilated, which, rapt in the sight of God might, without difficulty, see all that is under God.

Therefore, in that light which appeared to his outward eyes, the inward light which was in his soul ravished the mind of the beholder with higher things, and shewed how mean are all inferior things.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Life of Our Most Holy Father Benedict, 35.

Cyril of Alexandria: The Power of the Divine Message Resembles a Live Coal and Fire Sunday, Aug 18 2013 

cyril_alexandriaI am come to cast fire upon the earth: and how I wish that it were already kindled! And I have a baptism to be baptized with: and how am I straitened, until it be accomplished! (Luke 12:49-50).

“One of the Seraphim was sent unto me, and in his hand he had a live coal, which he had taken with the tongs from the altar, and he touched with it my mouth, and said, Lo! this has touched your lips, and it shall take away your sins, and cleanse you of your iniquities” (Isaiah 6:6-7).

What interpretation then are we to put upon the coal which touched the prophet’s lips, and cleansed him from all sin?

Plainly it is the message of salvation, and the confession of faith in Christ, which whosoever receives with his mouth is forthwith and altogether purified.

And of this Paul thus assures us; “that if you say with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.”

We say then that the power of the divine message resembles a live coal and fire.

And the God of all somewhere said to the prophet Jeremiah, “Behold, I have made My words in your mouth to be fire, and this people to be wood, and it shall devour them.”

And again, “Are not My words as burning fire, says the Lord?

Rightly therefore did our Lord Jesus Christ say unto us, “I am come to throw fire upon earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!”

[…] And the fire being once kindled was soon to seize upon the whole world, immediately that the whole dispensation had attained to its completion: as soon, that is, as He had borne His precious passion upon the Cross, and had commanded the bonds of death to cease.

For He rose on the third day from the dead. And this He teaches us by saying, “But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished!”

And by His baptism He means His death in the flesh: and by being straitened because of it He means, that He was saddened and troubled until it was accomplished.

For what was to happen when it was accomplished? That henceforth not in Judaea only should the saving message of the Gospel be proclaimed.

Comparing this to fire He said, “I am come to send fire upon earth:”—-but that now it should be published even to the whole world…:

“Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; and teaching them to observe all those things which I have commanded you.”

Behold therefore, yes see, that throughout all nations was that sacred and divine fire spread abroad by means of the holy preachers.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, Sermon 114.

Cyril of Alexandria: We are Made Partakers of the Holy Spirit, Who is as Fire Within Us Tuesday, Aug 13 2013 

cyril_alexandriaI am come to cast fire upon the earth: and what will I, if already it be kindled?(Luke 12:49).

God the Father for the salvation of all sent down for us the Son from heaven.

For to the Israelites indeed He gave the law to be their helper, according to the Scripture; and also spoke to them by the holy prophets such things as were profitable for their salvation, promising them the deliverance that is by Christ.

But when the season had arrived, in which those things that had been prophesied of old were to be accomplished, He Who is God and Lord shone forth upon us.

And He tells us the cause thereof in these words; “I am come to cast fire upon the earth; and what will I if already it be kindled?”

Come therefore, and let us examine of what nature is this fire, concerning which He here speaks. Is it useful for those upon earth?

Is it for their salvation? Or does it torture men, and cause their perdition, like that which is prepared for the devil and his angels?

We affirm therefore that the fire which is sent forth by Christ is for men’s salvation and profit. God grant that all our hearts may be full thereof.

For the fire here is, I say, the saving message of the Gospel, and the power of its commandments; by which all of us upon earth, who were so to speak cold and dead because of sin, and in ignorance of Him Who by nature and truly is God, are kindled unto a life of piety, and made “fervent in spirit,” according to the expression of the blessed Paul.

And besides this we are also made partakers of the Holy Spirit, Who is as fire within us. For we have been baptized with fire and the Holy Spirit.

And we have learnt the way thereto, by what Christ says to us: for listen to His words; “Verily I say unto you, that except a man be born of water and spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

It is the custom moreover of the divinely inspired Scripture to give the name of fire sometimes to the divine and sacred words, and to the efficacy and power which is by the Holy Spirit, and whereby we are made, as I said, “fervent in spirit.”

[…] Christ…comes “like the fire of a furnace…, like one that smelts and purifies as silver and as gold.” (Malachi 3:2-3).

Just therefore as those who know how to refine gold and silver, melt out the dross contained in them by the use of fire; so also the Saviour of all cleanses by the doctrines of the Gospel in the power of the Spirit, the mind of all those who have believed in Him.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, Sermon 114.

Ephrem the Syrian: “When I Arose, I could Discern Nothing for the Glory of the Light” Sunday, Aug 11 2013 

Mor_Ephrem_iconSaul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? (Acts 9:4).

He who had conquered His persecutors in the world below, and ruled over the angels in the world above, spoke from above with humble voice.

[…] Our Lord spoke in humility from heaven, that in humility the heads of His church might speak.

And if any one should say, “Wherein did our Lord speak humbly with Paul? for lo! the eyes of Paul were grievously smitten”, let him know that it was not from our merciful Lord that this chastisement proceeded, who spoke those words in humility; but from the vehement light that vehemently shone forth there.

And this light did not strike Paul by way of retribution on account of his deeds, but on account of the vehemence of its rays it hurt him, as he also said:  When I arose, I could discern nothing for the glory of the light (Acts 22:11).

But if that light was glorious, O Paul, how did the glorious light become a blinding light to thee thyself?

The light was that which, according to its nature, illuminates above, but contrary to its nature, it shone forth below. When it illumined above, it was delightful; but when it shone forth below, it was blinding.  For the light was both grievous and pleasant.

It was grievous and violent towards the eyes of the flesh; and it was pleasant and lightful to those who are fire and spirit (Matthew 4:11).  For I saw a light from heaven that excelled the sun, and its light shone upon me (Acts 26:13).

So then mighty rays streamed forth without moderation, and were poured upon feeble eyes, which moderate rays refresh.  For, lo! the sun also in measure assists the eyes, but beyond measure and out of measure it injures the eyes.

[…]  For since Paul might have been injured by the vehemence of this sun to which he was accustomed, if he gazed upon it not according to custom, how much more should he be injured by the glory of that light to which his eyes never had been accustomed?

For behold, Daniel also (Daniel 10:5,6) was melted and poured out on every side before the glory of the angel, whose vehement brightness suddenly shone upon him!

And it was not because of the angel’s wrath that his human weakness was melted, just as it is not on account of the wrath or hostility of fire that wax is melted before it; but on account of the weakness of the wax it cannot keep firm and stand in presence of fire.

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Homily on Our Lord, 26-27.

John Climacus: Love is an Abyss of Illumination; Love is a Fountain of Fire Thursday, Jul 11 2013 

ClimacusHe who loves the Lord has first loved his brother, because the second is a proof of the first.

One who loves his neighbour can never tolerate slanderers, but rather runs from them as from fire.

He who says that he loves the Lord but is angry with his brother is like a man who dreams that he is running.

The power of love is in hope, because by it we await the reward of love.

Hope is a wealth of hidden riches. Hope is a treasure of assurance of the treasure in store for us.

It is a rest from labours; it is the door of love; it is the superannuation of despair; it is an image of what is absent.

The failure of hope is the disappearance of love. Toils are bound by it. Labours depend on it. Mercy encircles it.

A monk of good hope is a slayer of despondency; with this sword he routs it.

Experience of the Lord’s gift engenders hope; he who is without experience remains in doubt.

Anger destroys hope, because hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5), but a passionate man has no grace [or “an angry man is not beautiful” (Proverbs 11:25)].

Love bestows prophecy; love yields miracles; love is an abyss of illumination; love is a fountain of fire—in the measure that it bubbles up, it inflames the thirsty soul.

Love is the state of angels. Love is the progress of eternity.

Tell us, fairest of virtues, where thou feedest thy flock, where thou restest at noon (Song of Songs 1:6).

Enlighten us, quench our thirst, guide us, take us by the hand; for we wish at last to soar to thee.

Thou rulest over all. And now thou hast ravished my soul. I cannot contain thy flame. So I will go forward praising thee.

Thou rulest the power of the sea, and stillest the surge of its waves and puttest it to death.

Thou hast humbled the proud—the proud thought—like a wounded man.

With the arm of thy power thou hast scattered thy enemies (Psalm 88:9-10), and thou hast made thy lovers invincible.

John Climacus (c.575-c.650): The Ladder of Divine Ascent, step 30, 25-36, translated by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore (Harper & Brothers, 1959) @ Prudence True.

Macarius the Egyptian: That heavenly fire of the Godhead which Christians receive in their hearts Thursday, Jul 4 2013 

Macarius3That heavenly fire of the Godhead, which Christians receive in their hearts now in this present world, that same fire which now ministers inwardly in the heart becomes outward when the body is dissolved, and recomposes the members, and causes a resurrection of the members that had been dissolved.

As the fire that ministered on the altar at Jerusalem lay buried in a pit during the time of the captivity, and the selfsame fire, when peace came and the captives returned home, was renewed, as it were, and ministered in its accustomed manner (2 Maccabees 1:19ff), so now the heavenly fire works upon this body that is so near us, which after its dissolution turns to mire, and renews it, and raises up the bodies that had decayed.

The inward fire that now dwells in the heart becomes then external, and causes a resurrection of the body.

The fire in the furnace under Nabuchodonosor was no divine fire, but a creature; but the Three Children (Daniel 3), because of their righteousness, while they were in the visible fire, had in their hearts the divine and heavenly fire ministering within their thoughts and exerting its energy in them.

That very fire showed itself outside them. It stood between them and the visible fire, and restrained it, that it should not burn the righteous, nor do them any manner of hurt.

In like manner, when the mind of Israel and their thoughts were bent upon departing far from the living God and turning to idolatry, Aaron was compelled to tell them to bring their golden vessels and ornaments (Exodus 32). Then the gold and the vessels, which they cast into the fire, became an idol, and the fire, as it were, copied their intention.

That was a wonderful thing. They, secretly, in purpose and thought, determined upon idolatry, and the fire accordingly fashioned the vessels thrown upon it into an idol, and then they committed idolatry openly.

As, then, the Three Children, having thoughts of righteousness, received in themselves the fire of God, and worshipped the Lord in truth, so now faithful souls receive that divine and heavenly fire, in this world, in secret; and that fire forms a heavenly image upon their humanity.

As the fire formed the golden vessels, and they became an idol, so does the Lord, who copies the intentions of faithful and good souls, and forms an image even now in the soul according to their desire, and at the resurrection it appears external to them, and glorifies their bodies within and without.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]; Spiritual Homily 11,1-3, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Gregory of Sinai: Prayer Is God, Who Accomplishes Everything In Everyone Monday, Jun 24 2013 

Gregory of SinaiFor beginners prayer is like a joyous fire kindled in the heart; for the perfect it is like a vigorous sweet-scented light.

Or again, prayer is the preaching of the Apostles, an action of faith or, rather, faith itself, ‘that makes real for us the things for which we hope’ (Heb. 11:1),

active love, angelic impulse, the power of the bodiless spirits, their work and delight, the Gospel of God,

the heart’s assurance, hope of salvation, a sign of purity, a token of holiness, knowledge of God,

baptism made manifest, purification in the water of regeneration, a pledge of the Holy  Spirit,

the exultation of Jesus, the soul’s delight, God’s mercy, a sign of reconciliation, the seal of Christ,

a ray of the noetic sun, the heart’s dawn-star, the confirmation of the Christian faith, the disclosure of reconciliation with God,

God’s grace, God’s wisdom or, rather, the origin of true and absolute Wisdom; the revelation of God, the work of monks, the life of hesychasts, the source of stillness, and expression of the angelic state.

Why say more? Prayer is God, who accomplishes everything in everyone (cf 1 Cor. 12:6), for there is a single action of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, activating all things through Christ Jesus.

[…] ‘As the body without the spirit is dead’ (Jas. 2:26) and insensate, so if you have been deadened by the passions through neglecting the commandments after your baptism the Holy Spirit and the grace of Christ cease to operate in you and to enlighten you;

for though you possess the Spirit, since you have faith and have been regenerated through baptism, yet the Spirit is quiescent and inactive within you because of the deadness of your soul.

[…] The Spirit of Christ is present with integral wholeness in all who are members of Christ, activating and generating life in all capable of participating in it; and in His compassion He still sustains even those who through some weakness do not actively participate in the life of the Spirit.

In this way each of the faithful participates, by virtue of his faith, in adoption to sonship through the Spirit; but should he grow negligent and fail to sustain his faith he will become inert and benighted, deprived of Christ’s life and light.

Such is the state of each of the faithful who, though a member of Christ and possessing the Spirit of Christ, fails to activate this Spirit within himself and so is stagnant, incapable of participating positively in the life of grace.

Gregory of Sinai (1260s–1346): On Commandments and Doctrines, chs 113, 129, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 4 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 237-238; 248.

Charles Wesley: Come, Holy Ghost, All-Quickening Fire! Sunday, Jun 23 2013 

Charles_wesleyCome, Holy Ghost, all quickening fire!
Come, and my hallowed heart inspire,
Sprinkled with the atoning blood;
Now to my soul thyself reveal,
Thy mighty working let me feel,
And know that I am born of God.

Thy witness with my spirit bear,
That God, my God, inhabits there;
Thou, with the Father, and the Son,
Eternal light’s co-eval beam;
Be Christ in me, and I in him,
Till perfect we are made in one.

When wilt thou my whole heart subdue?
Come, Lord, and form my soul anew,
Emptied of pride, and wrath, and hell:
Less than the least of all thy store
Of mercies, I myself abhor;
All, all my vileness may I feel.

Humble, and teachable, and mild,
O may I, as a little child,
My lowly Master’s steps pursue!
Be anger to my soul unknown,
Hate, envy, jealousy, be gone;
In love create thou all things new.

Let earth no more my heart divide,
With Christ may I be crucified,
To thee with my whole soul aspire;
Dead to the world and all its toys,
Its idle pomp, and fading joys,
Be thou alone my one desire!

Be thou my joy, be thou my dread;
In battle cover thou my head,
Nor earth nor hell I then shall fear;
I then shall turn my steady face,
Want, pain defy, enjoy disgrace,
Glory in dissolution near.

My will be swallowed up in thee;
Light in thy light still may I see,
Beholding thee with open face;
Called the full power of faith to prove,
Let all my hallowed heart be love,
And all my spotless life be praise.

Come, Holy Ghost, all quickening fire!
My consecrated heart inspire,
Sprinkled with the atoning blood;
Still to my soul thyself reveal,
Thy mighty working may I feel,
And know that I am one with God.

Charles Wesley (1701-1778; Church of England): Hymns, 351.

John Climacus: When the Whole Man is Commingled with the Love of God… Wednesday, May 22 2013 

ClimacusIf the face of a loved one clearly and completely changes us, and makes us cheerful, happy and carefree, what will the Face of the Lord not do when He makes His Presence felt invisibly in a pure soul?

Fear when it is an inner conviction of the soul destroys and devours impurity, for it is said: Nail down my flesh with the fear of Thee (Psalm 118:120).

And holy love consumes some, according to him who said: Thou hast ravished our heart, Thou hast ravished our heart (Song of Songs 4:9).

But sometimes it makes others bright and joyful, for it is said: My heart trusted in Him and I have been helped; even my flesh has revived (Psalm 27:7); and: When the heart is happy the face is cheerful (Proverbs 15:13).

So when the whole man is in a manner commingled with the love of God, then even his outward appearance in the body, as in a kind of mirror, shows the splendour of his soul.

That is how Moses who had looked upon God was glorified (cf. Exodus 34; 2 Corinthians 3:14).

Those who have reached such an angelic state often forget about bodily food. I think that often they do not even feel any desire for it. And no wonder, for frequently a contrary desire knocks out the thought of food.

I think that the body of those incorruptible men is not even subject to sickness any longer, because it has been rendered incorruptible; for they have purified the inflammable flesh in the flame of purity.

I think that even the food that is set before them they accept without any pleasure. For there is an underground stream that nourishes the root of a plant, and their souls too are sustained by a celestial fire.

The growth of fear is the beginning of love, but a complete state of purity is the foundation of theology.

He who has perfectly united his feeling to God is mystically led by Him to an understanding of His words. But without this union it is difficult to speak about God.

The engrafted Word (cf. James 1:21) perfects purity, and slays death by His presence; and after the slaying of death, the disciple of divine knowledge is illumined.

The Word of the Lord which is from God the Father is pure, and remains so eternally. But he who has not come to know God merely speculates.

Purity makes its disciple a theologian, who of himself grasps the dogmas of the Trinity.

John Climacus (c.575-c.650): The Ladder of Divine Ascent, step 30, 16-24, translated by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore (Harper & Brothers, 1959) @ Prudence True.

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