Hilary of Poitiers: “God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship in the Spirit and in truth” Thursday, May 12 2016 

St_Hilary_of_Poitiers_cassienThe words of the Gospel, For God is Spirit (John 4:24), need careful examination as to their sense and their purpose.

[…] The Lord was speaking with a woman of Samaria, for He had come to be the Redeemer for all mankind.

After He had discoursed at length of the living water…the woman answered, Lord, I perceive that Thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship (John 4:19-20).

The Lord replied, Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father.

[…]  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. For God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship in the Spirit and in truth, for God is Spirit (John 4:19-24).

We see that the woman, her mind full of inherited tradition, thought that God must be worshipped either on a mountain, as at Samaria, or in a temple, as at Jerusalem.

Samaria in disobedience to the Law had chosen a site upon the mountain for worship, while the Jews regarded the temple founded by Solomon as the home of their religion. The prejudices of both confined the all-embracing and illimitable God to the crest of a hill or the vault of a building.

God is invisible, incomprehensible, immeasurable; the Lord said that the time had come when God should be worshipped neither on mountain nor in temple. For Spirit cannot be cabined or confined; it is omnipresent in space and time, and under all conditions present in its fulness.

Therefore, He said, they are the true worshippers who shall worship in the Spirit and in truth. And these who are to worship God the Spirit in the Spirit shall have the One [i.e. the Holy Spirit] for the means, the Other [i.e. God the Trinity Who is Spirit] for the object, of their reverence. For Each of the Two stands in a different relation to the worshipper.

The words, God is Spirit, do not alter the fact that the Holy Spirit has a Name of His own, and that He is the Gift to us. The woman who confined God to hill or temple was told that God contains all things and is self-contained: that He, the Invisible and Incomprehensible must be worshipped by invisible and incomprehensible means.

The imparted gift and the object of reverence were clearly shewn when Christ taught that God, being Spirit, must be worshipped in the Spirit, and revealed what freedom and knowledge, what boundless scope for adoration, lay in this worship of God, the Spirit, in the Spirit.

Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-368): On the Trinity, 2, 31 [slightly adapted].

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Gregory Nazianzen: Guided through the disorder of the things which are seen and shaken to the things which stand firm and are not moved Friday, Nov 6 2015 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenAnd what in these short days will be our gain, save that after it has been ours to see, or suffer, or perchance even to do, more ill, we must discharge the common and inexorable tribute to the law of nature, by following some, preceding others, to the tomb.

[…] Such, my brethren, is our existence, who live this transient life, such our pastime upon earth:  we come into existence out of non-existence, and after existing are dissolved.

We are unsubstantial dreams, impalpable visions (Job 20:8), like the flight of a passing bird, like a ship leaving no track upon the sea (Wisd. 5:10), a speck of dust, a vapour, an early dew, a flower that quickly blooms, and quickly fades.

As for man his days are as grass, as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth (Ps. C102/103:15).  Well hath inspired David discoursed of our frailty, and again in these words, “Let me know the shortness of my days;” and he defines the days of man as “of a span long” (Ps. 38/39:5).

[…]  I have seen all things (Eccles. 1:14), says the preacher, I have reviewed in thought all human things, wealth, pleasure, power, unstable glory, wisdom which evades us rather than is won; then pleasure again, wisdom again, often revolving the same objects, the pleasures of appetite, orchards, numbers of slaves, store of wealth, serving men and serving maids, singing men and singing women, arms, spearmen, subject nations, collected tributes, the pride of kings, all the necessaries and superfluities of life, in which I surpassed all the kings that were before me.

And what does he say after all these things?  Vanity of vanities (Eccles. 12:8), all is vanity and vexation of spirit, possibly meaning some unreasoning longing of the soul, and distraction of man condemned to this from the original fall. But hear, he says, the conclusion of the whole matter: “Fear God” (Eccles. 12:13).

This is his stay in his perplexity, and this is thy only gain from life here below, to be guided through the disorder of the things which are seen (2 Cor. 4:18), and shaken, to the things which stand firm and are not moved (Heb. 12:27).

Let us not then mourn Cæsarius but ourselves, knowing what evils he has escaped to which we are left behind, and what treasure we shall lay up, unless, earnestly cleaving unto God and outstripping transitory things, we press towards the life above, deserting the earth while we are still upon the earth, and earnestly following the spirit which bears us upward.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 7, 17-19 (Panegyric on His Brother S. Cæsarius).

Gregory Nazianzen: The Divine Names Saturday, Jun 13 2015 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenContinued from here….

Of the other titles, some are evidently names of His Authority, others of His Government of the world, and of this viewed under a twofold aspect, the one before the other in the Incarnation.

For instance the Almighty, the King of Glory, or of The Ages, or of The Powers, or of The Beloved, or of Kings.

Or again the Lord of Sabaoth, that is of Hosts, or of Powers, or of Lords; these are clearly titles belonging to His Authority.

But the God either of Salvation or of Vengeance, or of Peace, or of Righteousness; or of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of all the spiritual Israel that sees God,—these belong to His Government.

We are governed by these three things: the fear of punishment, the hope of salvation and of glory besides, and the practice of the virtues by which these are attained.

The Name of the God of Vengeance governs fear, and that of the God of Salvation our hope, and that of the God of Virtues our practice.

Accordingly, whoever attains to any of these may, as carrying God in himself, press on yet more unto perfection, and to that affinity which arises out of virtues.

Now these are Names common to the Godhead, but the Proper Name of the Unoriginate is Father, and that of the unoriginately Begotten is Son, and that of the unbegottenly Proceeding or going forth is The Holy Ghost.

Let us proceed then to the Names of the Son, which were our starting point in this part of our argument.

In my opinion He is called Son because He is identical with the Father in Essence; and not only for this reason, but also because He is Of Him.

And He is called Only-Begotten, not because He is the only Son and of the Father alone, and only a Son; but also because the manner of His Sonship is peculiar to Himself and not shared by bodies.

And He is called the Word, because He is related to the Father as Word to Mind; not only on account of His passionless Generation, but also because of the Union, and of His declaratory function.

Perhaps too this relation might be compared to that between the Definition and the Thing defined since this also is called Λόγος.

For, it says, he who has mental perception of the Son…has also perceived the Father; and the Son is a concise demonstration and easy setting forth of the Father’s Nature.

For everything that is begotten is a silent word of him that begat it.  And if anyone should say that this Name was given Him because He exists in all things that are, he would not be wrong.

For what is there that is established in existence except by the Word?

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 30, 19-20 (slightly adapted).

Irenaeus of Lyons: “Over all” is the Father, and “through all” is the Son, and “in us all” is the Spirit Friday, Jun 12 2015 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonWe have received baptism for the remission of sins, in the name of God the Father, and in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was incarnate and died and rose again, and in the Holy Spirit of God.

And this baptism is the seal of eternal life, and is the new birth unto God, that we should no longer be the sons of mortal men, but of the eternal and perpetual God; and that what is everlasting and continuing is made God.

[…] It is necessary that things that are made should have the beginning of their making from some great cause; and the beginning of all things is God. For He Himself was not made by any, and by Him all things were made.

And therefore it is right first of all to believe that there is One God, the Father, who made and fashioned all things, and made what was not that it should be, and who, containing all things, alone is uncontained.

Now among all things is this world of ours, and in the world is man: so then this world also was formed by God.

Thus then there is shown forth  One God, the Father, not made, invisible, creator of all things; above whom there is no other God, and after whom there is no other God (cf. Isaiah 43:10).

And, since God is rational, therefore by (the) Word He created the things that were made; and God is Spirit, and by (the) Spirit He adorned all things: as also the prophet says: By the word of the Lord were the heavens established, and by his spirit all their power Psalm 32/33:6).

Since then the Word establishes, that is to say, gives body and grants the reality of being, and the Spirit gives order and form to the diversity of the powers; rightly and fittingly is the Word called the Son, and the Spirit the Wisdom of God. 

Well also does Paul His apostle say: One God, the Father, who is over all and through all and in us all (Eph. 4:6).

For over all is the Father; and through all is the Son, for through Him all things were made by the Father; and in us all is the Spirit, who cries Abba Father (cf. Gal. 4:6), and fashions man into the likeness of God.

Now the Spirit shows forth the Word, and therefore the prophets announced the Son of God; and the Word utters the Spirit, and therefore is Himself the announcer of the prophets, and leads and draws man to the Father.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 3-5.

Basil the Great: “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters” Thursday, Jun 11 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great‘The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters’ (Psalm 28[29]:3).

We have learned in the creation of the world that there is water above the heavens, again, water of the deep, and yet again, the gathered waters of the seas.

Who, then, is He who holds together these waters, not allowing them to be borne downward by their physical weight, except the Lord who established Himself upon all things, who holds sway over the waters?

Perhaps, even in a more mystic manner the voice of the Lord was upon the waters, when a voice from above came to Jesus as He was baptized, ‘This is my beloved Son’ (Matt. 3:17).

At that time, truly, the Lord was upon many waters, making the waters holy through baptism; but, the God of majesty thundered from above with a mighty voice of testimony.

And over those to be baptized a voice left behind by the Lord is pronounced: ‘Go, therefore,’ it says, ‘baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matt. 28:19). Therefore, ‘The voice of the Lord is upon the waters’.

[…] It is…possible for you, according to ecclesiastical diction to call by the name of thunder the doctrine which after baptism is in the souls of those already perfect by the eloquence of the Gospel.

That the Gospel is thunder is made evident by the disciples who were given a new name by the Lord and called Sons of Thunder (cf Mark 3:17).

Therefore, the voice of such thunder is not in any chance person, but only in one who is worthy to be called a wheel. ‘The voice of thy thunder’, it says, ‘in a Wheel’ (Psalm 76:19).

That is, whoever is stretching forward, like a wheel, touching the earth with a small part of itself, and really such as that wheel was, about which Ezechiel said: ‘I saw and behold there was one wheel on the earth attached to the four living creatures, and their appearance and their form was as the appearance of Tharsis’ (Ezek. 1:15 LXX).

‘The God of majesty hath thundered, the Lord is upon many waters’. The waters are also the saints, because rivers flow from within them (cf. John 7:38), that is, spiritual teaching which refreshes the souls of the hearers.

Again, they receive water which springs up to eternal life, wherefore, it becomes in those who receive it rightly ‘a fountain of water, springing up unto life everlasting’ (John 4:14).

Upon such waters, then, is the Lord.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 13 (on Psalm 28[29]), 3-4,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 200-202.

Gregory the Great: “Canst thou find out the footsteps of God?” Tuesday, Jun 2 2015 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistCanst thou find out the footsteps of God?  Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? (Job 11:7).

What does he call ‘the footsteps of God,’ saving the lovingkindness of His visitation?

By this we are stimulated to advance forward to things above, when we are influenced by the inspiration of His Spirit.

And, being carried without the narrow compass of the flesh, by love we see and own the likeness of our Maker presented to our contemplation that we may follow it.

For when the love of the spiritual land kindles the heart, He as it were gives knowledge of a way to persons that follow it.

And a sort of footstep of God as He goes is imprinted upon the heart laid under it, that the way of life may be kept by the same in right goings of the thoughts.

For Him, Whom we do not as yet see, it only remains for us to trace out by the footsteps of His love, that at length the mind may find Him, to the reaching the likeness contemplation gives of Him, Whom now as it were, following Him in the rear, it searches out by holy desires.

The Psalmist was well skilled to follow these footsteps of our Creator, when he said, My soul followeth hard after Thee (Ps. 63:8).

Whom too he busied himself that he might find even to attaining the vision of His loftiness, when he said, My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before the face of God? (Ps. 42:2).

For then Almighty God is found out by clear conception when, the corruption of our mortality being once for all trodden under our feet, He is seen by us that are taken up into heaven in the brightness of His Divine Nature.

But at this present time, the grace of the Spirit which is poured into our hearts lifts the soul from carnal aims, and elevates it into a contempt for transitory things, and the mind looks down upon all that it coveted below, and is kindled to objects of desire above.

By the force of her contemplation she is carried out of the flesh, while by the weight of her corruption she is still held fast in the flesh.

She strives to obtain sight of the splendour of uncircumscribed Light, and has not power; for the soul, being burthened with infirmity, both never wins admittance, and yet loves when repelled.

For our Creator already exhibits concerning Himself something whereby love may be excited, but He withdraws the appearance of His vision from those so loving.

Therefore we all go on seeing only His footsteps, in that only in the tokens of His gifts we follow Him, Whom as yet we see not.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 10, 13 (on Job 11:7) @ Lectionary Central (slightly adapted).

Maximus the Confessor: He is beyond being and even infinitely transcends the attribution of beyond-beingness Saturday, May 30 2015 

Maximus_ConfessorThe Good that is beyond being and beyond the unoriginate is one, the holy unity of three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is an infinite union of three infinites.

Its principle of being, together with the mode, the nature and the quality of its being, is altogether inaccessible to creatures.

For it eludes every intellection of intellective beings, in no way issuing from its natural hidden inwardness, and infinitely transcendmg the summit of all spiritual knowledge.

The substantive and essential Good is that which has no origin, no consummation, no cause of being and no motion whatsoever, so far as its being is concerned, towards any final cause.

The goodness to which such terms apply is not substantive since it has an origin, a consummation, a cause of being, and motion, so far as its being is concerned, towards some final cause.

Even if what is not being in the substantive sense is said to be, it exists and is said to be by participation, through the will of substantive being.

Not only is the divine Logos [Word] prior to the genesis of created beings, but there neither was nor is nor will be a principle superior to the Logos.

The Logos is not without intellect or bereft of life; He possesses intellect and life because the Father is the essentially subsistent intellect that begets Him, and the Holy Spirit is His essentially subsistent and coexistent life.

There is one God, because the Father is the begetter of the unique Son and the fount of the Holy Spirit: one without confusion and three without division.

The Father is unoriginate Intellect, the unique essential Begetter of the unique Logos, also unoriginate, and the fount of the unique everlasting life, the Holy Spirit.

There is one God because there is one Divinity, a Unity unoriginate, simple, beyond being, without parts and undivided. The same Unity is a Trinity, also unoriginate, simple and so on.

[…] The divine Cause of created beings…exists as the beyond-beingness of being.

For if artists in their art conceive the shapes of those things which they produce, and if universal nature conceives the forms of  the things within it, how much more does God Himself bring into existence out of nothing the very being of all created things, since He is beyond being and even infinitely transcends the attribution of beyond-beingness.

For it is He who has yoked the sciences to the arts so that shapes might be devised; it is He who has given to nature the energy which produces its forms, and who has established the very is-ness of beings by virtue of which they exist.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice, First Century, 1-6, Text  from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 2 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp.164-165.

Gregory Nazianzen: The Deity cannot be expressed in words Tuesday, May 26 2015 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenThe Deity cannot be expressed in words.

And this is proved to us, not only by argument, but by the wisest and most ancient of the Hebrews, so far as they have given us reason for conjecture.

For they appropriated certain characters to the honour of the Deity, and would not even allow the name of anything inferior to God to be written with the same letters as that of God.

Because to their minds it was improper that the Deity should even to that extent admit any of His creatures to a share with Himself.

How then could they have admitted that the invisible and separate Nature can be explained by divisible words?

For neither has any one yet breathed the whole air, nor has any mind entirely comprehended, or speech exhaustively contained the Being of God.

But we sketch Him by His Attributes, and so obtain a certain faint and feeble and partial idea concerning Him.

And our best Theologian is he who has, not indeed discovered the whole, for our present chain does not allow of our seeing the whole.

Our best Theologian is he who has conceived of Him to a greater extent than another, and gathered in himself more of the Likeness or adumbration of the Truth, or whatever we may call it.

As far then as we can reach, He Who Is, and God, are the special names of His Essence, and of these especially He Who Is:

not only because when He spake to Moses in the mount, and Moses asked what His Name was, this was what He called Himself, bidding him say to the people “I Am hath sent me” (Exod. I3:14), but also because we find that this Name is the more strictly appropriate.

For the Name Θεός (God), even if, as those who are skilful in these matters say, it were derived from Θέειν (to run) or from Αἴθειν (to blaze), from continual motion, and because He consumes evil conditions of things – from which fact He is also called A Consuming Fire (Deut. 4:24) – would still be one of the Relative Names, and not an Absolute one.

This is also the case with Lord, which also is called a name of God.  I am the Lord Thy God, He says, that is My name  (Isa. 42:8); and, The Lord is His name  (Amos 9:6).

But we are enquiring into a Nature Whose Being is absolute and not into Being bound up with something else.

But Being is in its proper sense peculiar to God, and belongs to Him entirely, and is not limited or cut short by any Before or After, for indeed in him there is no past or future.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 30, 17-18 (slightly adapted).

Silouan the Athonite: The Lord loves us much, quickening all things by his Grace Monday, May 4 2015 

Silouan the AthoniteIt is a great good to give oneself up to the will of God.  Then the Lord alone is in the soul.

No other thought can enter in, and the soul feels God’s love, even though the body be suffering.

When the soul is entirely given over to the will of God, the Lord Himself takes her in hand and the soul learns directly from God.

Whereas, before, she turned to teachers and to the Scriptures for instruction.

But it rarely happens that the soul’s teacher is the Lord Himself through the grace of the Holy Spirit, and few there are that know of this, save only those who live according to God’s will.

[…] O God of Mercy, Thou knowest our infirmity. I beseech Thee, grant me a humble spirit, for in Thy mercy Thou dost enable the humble soul to live according to Thy will.

[…] How are you to know if you are living according to the will of God?

Here is a sign:  if you are distressed over anything it means that you have not fully surrendered to God’s will, although it may seem to you that you live according to His will.

He who lives according to God’s will has no cares.  If he has need of something, he offers himself and the thing he wants to God, and if he does not receive it, he remains as tranquil as if he had got what he wanted.

The soul that is given over to the will of God fears nothing….  Whatever may come, ‘Such is God’s pleasure,’ she says.

If she falls sick she thinks, ‘This means that I need sickness, or God would not have sent it.’  And in this wise is peace preserved in soul and body.

The man who takes thought for his own welfare is unable to give himself up to God’s will, that his soul may have peace in God.

But the humble soul is devoted to God’s will, and lives before Him in awe and love; in awe, lest she grieve God in any way; in love, because the soul has come to know how the Lord loves us.

The best thing of all is to surrender to God’s will and bear affliction, having confidence in God. The Lord, seeing our affliction, will never give us too much to bear.

If we seem to ourselves to be greatly afflicted, it means that we have not surrendered to the will of God.

The soul that is in all things devoted to the will of God rests quiet in Him, for she knows of experience and from the Holy Scriptures that the Lord loves us much and watches over our souls, quickening all things by His grace in peace and love.

Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938; Eastern Orthodox): from St. Silouan, Wisdom From Mount Athos – The Writings of Staretz Silouan 1866-1938, by Archimandrite Sophrony, trans. Rosemary Edmonds, (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY 1974) @ Kandylaki.

Cyril of Jerusalem: God is loving to man, and loving in no small measure Saturday, Mar 28 2015 

Cyril-of-JerusalemGod is loving to man, and loving in no small measure.

Say not “I have committed fornication and adultery:  I have done dreadful things, and not once only, but often;  will He forgive?  Will He grant pardon?”

Hear what the Psalmist says:  How great is the multitude of Thy goodness, O Lord!

Thine accumulated offences surpass not the multitude of God’s mercies:  thy wounds surpass not the great Physician’s skill.

Only give thyself up in faith:  tell the Physician thine ailment.

Say thou also, like David:  I said, I will confess me my sin unto the Lord, and the same shall be done in thy case, which he says forthwith:  And thou forgavest the wickedness of my heart.

Wouldest thou see the loving-kindness of God, O thou that art lately come to the catechising?

Wouldest thou see the loving-kindness of God, and the abundance of His long-suffering?

Hear about Adam.  Adam, God’s first-formed man, transgressed:  could He not at once have brought death upon him?

But see what the Lord does, in His great love towards man.

He casts him out from Paradise, for because of sin he was unworthy to live there.

But He puts him to dwell over against Paradise,  so that seeing whence he had fallen, and from what and into what a state he was brought down, he might afterwards be saved by repentance.

Cain the first-born man became his brother’s murderer, the inventor of evils, the first author of murders, and the first envious man.

Yet after slaying his brother to what is he condemned?  Groaning and trembling shalt thou be upon the earth.  How great the offence, the sentence how light! Even this then was truly loving-kindness in God, but little as yet in comparison with what follows.

For consider what happened in the days of Noah.  The giants sinned, and much wickedness was then spread over the earth, and because of this the flood was to come upon them. And in the five hundredth year God utters His threatening; but in the six hundredth He brought the flood upon the earth.

Seest thou the breadth of God’s loving-kindness extending to a hundred years?  Could He not have done immediately what He did then after the hundred years?

But He extended (the time) on purpose, granting a respite for repentance.

Seest thou God’s goodness?  And if the men of that time had repented, they would not have missed the loving-kindness of God.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 2, 6-8.

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