Cyril of Alexandria: Christ’s coming to life again for our sake has put an end to the sovereignty of death Sunday, Jun 14 2015 

cyril_alexandriaThose who have a sure hope, guaranteed by the Spirit, that they will rise again lay hold of what lies in the future as though it were already present.

They say: “Outward appearances will no longer be our standard in judging other men.

“Our lives are all controlled by the Spirit now, and are not confined to this physical world that is subject to corruption.

“The light of the Only-begotten has shone on us, and we have been transformed into the Word, the source of all life.

“While sin was still our master, the bonds of death had a firm hold on us, but now that the righteousness of Christ has found a place in our hearts we have freed ourselves from our former condition of corruptibility”.

This means that none of us lives in the flesh anymore, at least not in so far as living in the flesh means being subject to the weaknesses of the flesh, which include corruptibility.

Once we thought of Christ as being in the flesh, but we do not do so any longer, says Saint Paul.

By this he meant that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; he suffered death in the flesh in order to give all men life. It was in this flesh that we knew him before, but we do so no longer.

Even though he remains in the flesh, since he came to life again on the third day and is now with his Father in heaven, we know that he has passed beyond the life of the flesh;

for having died once, he will never die again, death has no power over him any more. His death was a death to sin, which he died once for all; his life is life with God.

Since Christ has in this way become the source of life for us, we who follow in his footsteps must not think of ourselves as living in the flesh any longer, but as having passed beyond it.

Saint Paul’s saying is absolutely true that when anyone is in Christ he becomes a completely different person: his old life is over and a new life has begun.

We have been justified by our faith in Christ and the power of the curse has been broken. Christ’s coming to life again for our sake has put an end to the sovereignty of death.

We have come to know the true God and to worship him in spirit and in truth, through the Son, our mediator, who sends down upon the world the Father’s blessings.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on the Second Letter to the Corinthians (Cap. 5, 5-6, 2: PG 74, 942-943) @ Crossroads Initiative.

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Dorotheus of Gaza: “This is the day of Resurrection! Let us offer ourselves as a sacrifice” Wednesday, May 14 2014 

Dorotheos2In antiquity the sons of Israel, on the feast-days or triumphs, offered to God gifts according to the Law, that is sacrifices, whole-burnt offerings, first-fruits and the like.

Therefore St. Gregory [Nazianzen] teaches us also (like them) to make celebration unto the Lord, as they did, and inspires us, saying, “The day of Resurrection,” in place of the “The day of the holy feast, the day of the Divine solemnity, the day of the Pascha of Christ.”

And what does the Pascha of Christ mean? The sons of Israel performed the Pascha, Passover when they departed from Egypt; and now Pascha, the celebration of which St. Gregory is encouraging us to keep, is performed by the soul which departs from the mental Egypt, that is, sin.

For when the soul passes over from sin to virtue, that is when it celebrates the Pascha of the Lord as Evagrius has said; the Pascha of the Lord is the passing over from evil to good.

And thus now today is the Pascha of the Lord, the Day of the Bright Festival, the Day of the Resurrection of Christ Who has crucified sin, Who has died for us and arisen.

Let us also offer to the Lord gifts, sacrifices, whole-burnt offerings–not of irrational animals, which Christ does not wish, for sacrifice and offering hast thou not desired. Whole burnt offerings and oblations for sin hast Thou not demanded (Ps. 39:9, 10). And Isaiah says, of what value to me is the abundance of your sacrifices? saith the Lord (Is. 1:11)….

The Lamb of God was killed for us, according to the words of the Apostle who said For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us (I Cor. 5:7).

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us –  for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (Gal. 3:13, Deut. 21:23) –  to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons (Gal. 4:5); and so we also should offer Him a certain God-pleasing gift.

And what kind of gift or what kind of sacrifice is it that we should offer to Christ on the day of the Resurrection…? The same Saint [Gregory] instructs us again in this, for having said, “The day of Resurrection” he adds, “Let us offer ourselves.”

Thus also the Apostle says, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Rom. 12:1). And how should we offer our bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice? By no longer fulfilling the will of our flesh and our thoughts (Eph. 2:3), but acting in the Spirit.

Dorotheos of Gaza (505-565 or 620):  Conference 21 – An Explanation of Certain Expressions of St Gregory the Theologian which are Sung together with the Troparia on Holy Pascha @ Pravoslavie.

 

Gregory Nazianzen: Holding Communion with God, Associated with the Purest Light Thursday, Jan 30 2014 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenIn the eastern calendar, January 30th is the Synaxis of The Three Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, & John Chrysostom.

In praising Athanasius, I shall be praising virtue….  Again, in praising virtue, I shall be praising God, who gives virtue to men and lifts them up, or lifts them up again, to Himself by the enlightenment which is akin to Himself (1 John 1:5).

For many and great as are our blessings—none can say how many and how great—which we have and shall have from God, this is the greatest and kindliest of all, our inclination and relationship to Him.

For God is to intelligible things what the sun is to the things of sense.  The one lightens the visible, the other the invisible, world.  The one makes our bodily eyes to see the sun, the other makes our intellectual natures to see God.

And, as that, which bestows on the things which see and are seen the power of seeing and being seen, is itself the most beautiful of visible things; so God, who creates, for those who think, and that which is thought of, the power of thinking and being thought of, is Himself the highest of the objects of thought, in Whom every desire finds its bourne, beyond Whom it can no further go.

For not even the most philosophic, the most piercing, the most curious intellect has, or can ever have, a more exalted object.  For this is the utmost of things desirable, and they who arrive at it find an entire rest from speculation.

Whoever has been permitted to escape by reason and contemplation from matter and this fleshly cloud or veil (whichever it should be called) and to hold communion with God, and be associated, as far as man’s nature can attain, with the purest Light, blessed is he, both from his ascent from hence, and for his deification there, which is conferred by true philosophy, and by rising superior to the dualism of matter, through the unity which is perceived in the Trinity.

And whosoever has been depraved by being knit to the flesh, and so far oppressed by the clay that he cannot look at the rays of truth, nor rise above things below, though he is born from above, and called to things above, I hold him to be miserable in his blindness, even though he may abound in things of this world;

and all the more, because he is the sport of his abundance, and is persuaded by it that something else is beautiful instead of that which is really beautiful, reaping, as the poor fruit of his poor opinion, the sentence of darkness, or the seeing Him to be fire, Whom he did not recognize as light.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 21 (on the Great Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria), 1-2.

Gregory of Nyssa: Bethlehem and Golgotha and Olivet and the Scene of the Resurrection are Really in the God-Containing Heart Wednesday, Nov 27 2013 

Gregory_of_Nyssa(From a letter to the most discreet and devout Sisters, Eustathia and Ambrosia, and to the most discreet and noble Daughter, Basilissa, recalling a visit to the Holy Places).

The meeting with the good and the beloved, and the memorials of the immense love of the Lord for us men, which are shown in your localities, have been the source to me of the most intense joy and gladness.

Doubly indeed have these shone upon divinely festal days:

both in beholding the saving tokens of the God who gave us life, and in meeting with souls in whom the tokens of the Lord’s grace are to be discerned spiritually in such clearness, that one can believe that Bethlehem and Golgotha, and Olivet, and the scene of the Resurrection are really in the God-containing heart.

For when through a good conscience Christ has been formed in any, when any has by dint of godly fear nailed down the promptings of the flesh and become crucified to Christ,

when any has rolled away from himself the heavy stone of this world’s illusions, and coming forth from the grave of the body has begun to walk as it were in a newness of life,

abandoning this low-lying valley of human life, and mounting with a soaring desire to that heavenly country with all its elevated thoughts,

where Christ is, no longer feeling the body’s burden, but lifting it by chastity, so that the flesh with cloud-like lightness accompanies the ascending soul

—such an one, in my opinion, is to be counted in the number of those famous ones in whom the memorials of the Lord’s love for us men are to be seen.

When, then, I not only saw with the sense of sight those Sacred Places, but I saw the tokens of places like them, plain in yourselves as well, I was filled with joy so great that the description of its blessing is beyond the power of utterance.

But because it is a difficult, not to say an impossible thing for a human being to enjoy unmixed with evil any blessing, therefore something of bitterness was mingled with the sweets I tasted:

and by this, after the enjoyment of those blessings, I was saddened in my journey back to my native land, estimating now the truth of the Lord’s words, that “the whole world lieth in wickedness,” so that no single part of the inhabited earth is without its share of degeneracy.

For if the spot itself that has received the footprints of the very Life is not clear of the wicked thorns, what are we to think of other places where communion with the Blessing has been inculcated by hearing and preaching alone.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): Letter 17.

Cyprian of Carthage: We Ask that the Will of God may be Done both in Heaven and in Earth Wednesday, Nov 6 2013 

Saint-Cyprian-of-CarthageContinued from here

We ask that the will of God may be done both in heaven and in earth, each of which things pertains to the fulfilment of our safety and salvation.

For since we possess the body from the earth and the spirit from heaven, we ourselves are earth and heaven; and in both—that is, both in body and spirit—we pray that God’s will may be done.

For between the flesh and spirit there is a struggle; and there is a daily strife as they disagree one with the other, so that we cannot do those very things that we would, in that the spirit seeks heavenly and divine things, while the flesh lusts after earthly and temporal things.

Therefore we ask that, by the help and assistance of God, agreement may be made between these two natures, so that while the will of God is done both in the spirit and in the flesh, the soul which is new-born by Him may be preserved.

[…] And therefore we make it our prayer in daily, yea, in continual supplications, that the will of God concerning us should be done both in heaven and in earth.

Because this is the will of God, that earthly things should give place to heavenly, and that spiritual and divine things should prevail.

[…] The Lord commands and admonishes us even to love our enemies, and to pray even for those who persecute us.

Accordingly, we should ask for those who are still earth, and have not yet begun to be heavenly, that even in respect of these God’s will should be done, which Christ accomplished in preserving and renewing humanity.

The disciples are now called by Him not earth, but the salt of the earth, and the apostle designates the first man as being from the dust of the earth, but the second from heaven.

So it is reasonable that we, who ought to be like God our Father, who makes His sun to rise upon the good and bad and sends rain upon the just and the unjust, should so pray and ask by the admonition of Christ as to make our prayer for the salvation of all men:

that “as in heaven”—that is, in us by our faith—the will of God has been done so that we might be of heaven; so also “in earth”—that is, in those who believe not—God’s will may be done, that they who as yet are by their first birth of earth, may, being born of water and of the Spirit, begin to be of heaven.

Cyprian of Carthage (d.258): On The Lord’s Prayer, 16-17.

Ambrose of Milan: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil Saturday, Oct 5 2013 

ambrose_of_milanI shall not despoil Adam of all the virtues, so that he would appear to have attained no virtue in Paradise and would seem to have eaten nothing from the other trees, but had fallen into sin before he had obtained any fruit.

I shall…not despoil Adam lest I may despoil the whole human race, which is innocent before it acquires the capacity to know good and evil.

Not without reason was it said: ‘Unless you turn and become like this child, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt.18:3).

The child, when he is scolded, does not retaliate. When he is struck, he does not strike back. He is not conscious of the allurements of ambition and self-seeking.

The truth seems to be, then, that He commanded the tree not to be eaten, not even along with the fruit of the other trees.

Knowledge of good, in fact, although of no use to a perfect man, is, on the other hand, of no value to a man who is imperfect.

Paul speaks of himself as imperfect: ‘Not that I have already obtained this or already have been made perfect, but I press on hoping that I may lay hold of it already’ (Phil. 3:12).

Hence the Lord says to the imperfect: ‘Do not judge that you may not be judged’ (Matt. 7:1). Knowledge is, therefore, of no use to the imperfect. Hence we read: ‘I did not know sin unless the Law had said, thou shalt not lust’. And further on we read: ‘For without the Law sin is dead’ (Rom. 7:7-8).

What advantage is it to me to know what I cannot avoid? What avails it for me to know that the law of my flesh assails me? Paul is assailed and sees ‘the law of his flesh warring against that of his mind and making him prisoner to the law of sin.

He does not rely on himself, but by the grace of Christ is confident of his ‘deliverance from the body of death (Rom. 7:23-24). Do you think that anyone with knowledge of sin can avoid it?

Paul says: ‘For I do not the good that I wish, but the evil that I do not wish’ (Rom. 7:19). Do you consider that this knowledge which adds to the reproach of sin can be of help to man?

Granted, however, that the perfect man is unable to sin. God foresaw all men in the person of Adam. Hence it was not fitting that the human race in general should have a knowledge of good and evil – a knowledge which he could not utilize because of the weakness of the flesh.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Paradise, 12, 59-60 from Saint Ambrose: Hexameron, Paradise, Cain and Abel, translated by John J. Savage, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 42), pp. 340-342.

Irenaeus of Lyons: Christ Graciously Poured Himself Out, that He Might Gather Us Into the Bosom of the Father Tuesday, Sep 10 2013 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonNor did Christ truly redeem us by His own blood except by really becoming man, restoring to His own handiwork what was said of it in the beginning—that man was made after the image and likeness of God.

He did not not snatch away by stratagem the property of another, but took possession of His own in a righteous and gracious manner.

As far as concerned the apostasy, indeed, He redeems us righteously from it by His own blood; but as regards us who have been redeemed, He does this graciously.

For we have given nothing to Him previously, nor does He desire anything from us, as if He stood in need of it; but we do stand in need of fellowship with Him.

And for this reason it was that He graciously poured Himself out, that He might gather us into the bosom of the Father.

But vain in every respect are they who despise the entire dispensation of God, and disallow the salvation of the flesh, and treat with contempt its regeneration, maintaining that it is not capable of incorruption.

But if this indeed do not attain salvation, then neither did the Lord redeem us with His blood, nor is the cup of the Eucharist the communion of His blood, nor the bread which we break the communion of His body (1 Cor. 10:16).

For blood can only come from veins and flesh, and whatsoever else makes up the substance of man, such as the Word of God was actually made. By His own blood he redeemed us, as also His apostle declares, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the remission of sins” (Col. 1:14).

And as we are His members, we are also nourished by means of the creation (and He Himself grants the creation to us, for He causes His sun to rise, and sends rain when He wills (Matt. 5:45).

He has acknowledged the cup (which is a part of the creation) as His own blood, from which He bedews our blood; and the bread (also a part of the creation) He has established as His own body, from which He gives increase to our bodies.

The mingled cup and the manufactured bread receives the Word of God, and the Eucharist becomes the body of Christ, from which things the substance of our flesh is increased and supported.

So how can anyone affirm that the flesh is incapable of receiving the gift of God, which is life eternal, which flesh is nourished from the body and blood of the Lord, and is a member of Him? As St Paul declares…:“we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones” (Eph. 5:30).

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses, 5, 2, 1-3.

Basil the Great: “Blessed is the Man that hath not Stood in the Way of Sinners” Thursday, Sep 5 2013 

St-Basil-the-GreatBlessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners (Psalm 1:1).

‘Blessed, therefore, is he who has not stood in the way of sinners’.

[…] While we men were in our first age, we were neither in sin nor in virtue (for the age was unsusceptible of either condition); but, when reason was perfected in us, then that happened which was written: ‘But when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died’ (Rom. 7:9).

Wicked thoughts, which originate in our minds from the passions of the flesh, rise up.

In truth, if, when the command came, that is, the power of discernment of the good, the mind did not prevail over the baser thoughts but permitted its reason to be enslaved by the passions, sin revived, but the mind died, suffering death because of its transgressions.

Blessed, therefore, is he who did not continue in the way of sinners but passed quickly by better reasoning to a pious way of life.

For, there are two ways opposed to each other, the one wide and broad, the other narrow and close (cf. Matt. 7:13). And there are two guides, each attempting to turn the traveler to himself.

Now, the smooth and downward sloping way has a deceptive guide, a wicked demon, who drags his followers through pleasure to destruction, but the rough and steep way has a good angel, who leads his followers through the toils of virtue to a blessed end.

As long as each of us is a child, pursuing the pleasure of the moment, he has no care for the future; but, when he has become a man, after his judgment is perfected, he seems, as it were, to see his life divided for him between virtue and evil.

[…] Insofar as the future promises beautiful rewards, to that extent does the way of those saved offer the present toilsome works. On the other hand, the pleasant and undisciplined life does not hold out the expectation of later delights, but those already present.

So, every soul becomes dizzy and changes from one side to the other in its reasonings, choosing virtue when things eternal are in its thoughts, but, when it looks to the present, preferring pleasure.

[…] While, therefore, that which is truly good can be apprehended by the reason through faith (it has been banished far and the eye did not see it nor the ear hear it), yet, the sweetness of sin has pleasure ready and flowing through every sense.

Blessed is he who is not turned aside to his destruction through its incitements to pleasure, but eagerly awaits the hope of salvation through patient endurance, and in his choice of one of the two ways, does not go upon the way leading to the lower things.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 1 (on Psalm 1), 5, from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 159-161.

John Cassian: Delight in the law of God after the inner man Wednesday, Aug 28 2013 

Sf-IoanCasianSometimes holy men feel that they are oppressed by the weight of earthly thoughts and fall away from their loftiness of mind.

They are led away against their will or rather without knowing it, into the law of sin and death, and…are kept back by actions which…which are good and right though earthly, from the vision of God.

Then they have something to groan over constantly to the Lord. They have something for which indeed to humble themselves, and in their contrition to profess themselves not in words only but in heart, sinners.

And for this, while they continually ask of the Lord’s grace pardon for everything that day by day they commit when overcome by the weakness of the flesh, they should shed without ceasing true tears of penitence.

For they see that, being involved even to the very end of their life in the very same troubles, with continual sorrow for which they are tried, they cannot even offer their prayers without harassing thoughts.

They know by experience that through the hindrance of the burden of the flesh they cannot by human strength reach the desired end, nor be united according to their heart’s desire with that chief and highest good, but that they are led away from the vision of it captive to worldly things.

Therefore they betake themselves to the grace of God, “Who justifieth the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5) and cry out with St Paul: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 7:24-25).

For they feel that they cannot perform the good that they would, but are ever falling into the evil which they would not, and which they hate, i.e., wandering thoughts and care for carnal things.

[…] And they “delight” indeed “in the law of God after the inner man,” which soars above all visible things and ever strives to be united to God alone.

But they “see another law in their members,” i.e., implanted in their natural human condition, which “resisting the law of their mind” (Rom. 7:22-23), brings their thoughts into captivity to the forcible law of sin, compelling them to forsake that chief good and submit to earthly notions.

These, though they may appear necessary and useful when they are taken up in the interests of some religious want, yet when they are set against that good which fascinates the gaze of all the saints, are seen by them to be bad and such as should be avoided, because by them in some way or other and for a short time they are drawn away from the joy of that perfect bliss.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 23, 10-11.

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.

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