Irenaeus of Lyons: The Spirit Accomplished the Father’s Will in Men who had Grown Old in Sin Friday, Jun 13 2014 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonWhen the Lord told his disciples to go and teach all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he conferred on them the power of giving men new life in God.

He had promised through the prophets that in these last days he would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would prophesy.

So when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Spirit also descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the human race, to living in men and to inhabiting God’s creation.

The Spirit accomplished the Father’s will in men who had grown old in sin, and gave them new life in Christ.

Luke says that the Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension, with power to open the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant.

So it was that men of every language joined in singing one song of praise to God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the first-fruits of all the nations.

This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God.

Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of broad, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven.

And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a waterless tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above.

Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.

The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of God came down upon the Lord, and the Lord in turn gave this Spirit to his Church, sending the Advocate from heaven into all the world into which, according to his own words, the devil too had been cast down like lightning.

If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we need the dew of God. Since we have our accuser, we need an advocate as well.

And so the Lord in his pity for man, who had fallen into the hands of brigands, having himself bound up his wounds…, entrusted him to the Holy Spirit.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses 3,17,1-3 @ Crossroads Initiative.

 

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Nikolai Velimirovich: When the Holy Spirit of God Enters Into Us the Kingdom of God has Arrived Thursday, Jun 12 2014 

Nikolai Velimirovich“We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).

Brethren, the spirit of this world is the spirit of pride and cruelty and the Spirit of God is the Spirit of meekness and gentleness.

The apostle of God asserts that the followers of Christ did not receive the spirit of this world rather the Spirit “which is of God,”

i.e., who proceeds from God the Father as a sweet-smelling fragrance as from flowers and as a good fragrance pours out on the soul of man making it mighty, bright, peaceful, thankful and pleasant.

Men by nature are meek and gentle. St. Tertulain writes: “the soul of man by nature is Christian.” But, by the spirit of this world, it is irritable and enraged.

The spirit of this world made wolves out of lambs, while the Spirit Who is from God makes lambs out of wolves.

The apostle still adds that we received the Spirit of God “that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).

Therefore, that we may know what is from God in us and what is not from God and that we may sense the sweetness of that which is from God and the bitterness from that which is not from God, rather from the spirit of this world.

As long as man is outside of his nature, beneath his nature, he considers bitterness as sweetness and sweetness as bitterness. But, when by the Spirit of God he returns to his true nature, then he considers sweet as sweetness and bitter as bitterness.

Who can return man to God? Who can heal man of poisonous sinful bitterness? Who can teach him by experience to distinguish true sweetness from bitterness? No one except the Spirit Who is from God.

Therefore brethren, let us pray that God grants us His Holy Spirit as He granted the Holy Spirit to His apostles and saints.

And when that Holy Spirit of God enters into us, the kingdom of God has arrived in which is all sweetness itself, only good, only light, only meekness and only gentleness.

O Holy Spirit, the Spirit of meekness and gentleness, come and abide in us.

Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956; Orthodox Church): Prologue from Ohrid, May 21st.

Theophylact of Ohrid: The Healing at the Pool of Bethesda Saturday, May 10 2014 

Theophylact_the_Bulgarian (1)On John 5:1-15.

Understand the sheep’s pool to represent the grace of Baptism, in which the Sheep sacrificed for us, the Lord Jesus, was washed when He was baptized for our sake.

This pool has five porches, symbolizing the four great virtues plus the divine contemplation of dogma which are revealed in Baptism.

Human nature, paralyzed in all its spiritual powers, lay sick for thirty-eight years.

It was not sound in its belief in the Holy Trinity (i.e. 3), nor did it have a sure belief in the eighth age (i.e. 8), that is, the general Resurrection and the Last Judgement.

This is why it could not find healing, for it did not have any man to put it into the pool.

That is to say, the Son of God, Who intended to heal through Baptism, had not yet been made man.

But when He was made man, then He healed our nature and commanded us to take up our bed, that is, lift up our body from the earth, making it light and free, not weighted down by flesh and earthly cares, and raising it from slothfulness so that it is able to walk, which means, active in doing good.

The troubling of the water in the pool suggests the stirring up the evil spirits lurking in the waters of Baptism, crushing and choking them by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

May we also obtain healing, for we are paralyzed and motionless in the doing of anything good; we also have no man, that is, no human and rational thought, which distinguishes us from the irrational beasts, to carry us into the pool of tears of repentance, in which the first who enters is healed.

He who procrastinates and puts off his repentance until later, and does not hurry to repent now, does not obtain healing. Hasten to be the first to enter this pool, lest death overtake you.

And there is an angel which troubles this pool of repentance. What angel is it? The Angel of Great Counsel of the Father, Christ the Saviour. (see Is. 9:6).

For unless the divine Word touches our heart and troubles it with thought of the torments of the age to come, this pool cannot become active and effective, and there is no healing for the paralyzed soul.

The pool of repentance may also fittingly be called a sheep’s pool; for in it are washed like sheep the inward parts and thoughts of the saints who are made ready to become a living sacrifice pleasing to God, making them innocent and guileless.

May we also obtain healing, and afterwards be found in God’s holy temple, no longer stained by unholy thoughts, lest a worse thing, the eternal torments, come unto us.

Theophylact of Ohrid (1055-1107): Explanation of the Gospel of St John, on John 5:1-15 @ Chrysostom Press.

Aphrahat the Persian: The Overflowing Love of Christ Saturday, Mar 29 2014 

ephrem-isaac-aphrahatBecause of His overflowing love…He opened the eyes of two blind men who had come to Him; and also He gave to the Twelve power and authority over all disease and infirmity, and also to us by their hands.

And He prohibited us from the way of the Gentiles and of the Samaritans. And He gave power to us by His mercy that we might not fear when they brought us before the rulers of the world.

And He set a division in the earth because of His great peace. And He forgave the many sins to the woman who was a sinner because of His mercies.

[…]  And He cast out from us unclean spirits, and He made us a lodging place of His divinity, and sowed in us a good seed which should give fruit a hundredfold, and sixtyfold and thirtyfold.

And He was placed in the midst of the world in the likeness of a treasure which is put in a field. And He manifested the power of His greatness when He was cast down from on high to the depth and was not harmed.

And He satisfied the hungry who had grown faint with five loaves and two fishes, five thousand men besides woman and children, and manifested the greatness of His glory.

And on account of His abundant love He heard the Canaanitish woman and raised up her daughter from her infirmity.

And by the power of Him who sent Him He loosed the tongue of the man who was dumb, and who was also deaf; and the blind saw His light, and by means of Him they glorified Him who had sent Him.

And when He went up into the mountain to pray the rays of the sun were overcome by His light. And He made His power known in the case of that boy upon whom a spirit had come, and at His word the demon went away.

And He gave us an example and a pattern that we should become as children and enter the kingdom of heaven.

[…] And again He showed His healing perfectly in the case of that man who was infirm thirty-eight years, and He magnified His mercy towards him and healed him.

[…] And He hired us as laborers that we should work in His vineyard, which is the vineyard of truth.

All these things our Saviour did unto us because of His great love. And we also, beloved, should be partakers of the love of Christ, while we love one another and fulfil these two commandments, on which hang all the law and the prophets.

Aphrahat the Persian (c.270-c.345): Demonstrations, 2 – On Love (19; 20). (The icon accompanying this extract depicts Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Syrian, and Aphrahat). 

Peter of Damascus: “The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom” Monday, Mar 3 2014 

peter_of_damascusAs David says, ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’.

[…] Our Lord Himself began His teaching by speaking of fear: He says, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’, that is, those who quail with fear of God and are inexpressibly contrite in soul.

For the Lord has established this as the fundamental commandment, since He knows that, without this, even living in heaven would be without benefit to us, because we would still be possessed of the same madness through which the devil, Adam, and many others have fallen.

If, then, we wish to observe the first commandment – that is, to possess fear of the Lord – we should think very carefully about the contingencies of life already described and upon God’s immeasurable and unfathomable blessings.

We should consider how much He has done and continues to do for our sake through things visible and invisible, through commandments and dogmas, threats and promises;

how He guards, nourishes and provides for us, giving us life and saving us from seen and unseen enemies;

how through the prayers and intercessions of His saints, He cures the diseases caused by our own indiscipline;

how He is always long-suffering as regards our sins, our irreverence, our delinquency, all those things we have done, are doing, and will do, from which His grace has saved us;

how we have angered Him with our actions, words and thoughts; and how He not only bears with us, but even bestows greater blessings on us, either He Himself, or acting through the angels, the Scriptures, through righteous men and prophets, apostles and martyrs, teachers and holy fathers.

Moreover, we should not only recall the sufferings and struggles of the saints and martyrs, but should also reflect with wonder on the self-abasement of our Lord Jesus Christ:

how He lived in the world, His spotless Passion, the Cross, His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, the advent of the Holy Spirit, His ineffable miracles which are always occurring, every day, paradise, the crowns, the adoption that He has accorded us, and all the things contained in Holy Scripture and so much else.

If we bring all this to mind, we will be overwhelmed at God’s compassion, and with trembling will marvel at His forbearance and patience.

We will grieve because of what our nature has lost – the dispassion of the angels, paradise and all the blessings which we have forfeited – and because of the evils into which we have fallen: demons, passions and sins.

In this way our soul will be filled with contrition, realizing all the evils which have been caused by our wickedness and the cunning of the demons.

Peter of Damascus (?12th Century): A Treasury of Divine Knowledge  @ Pemptousia.

Aphrahat the Persian: Christ Perfected Love in Himself and by His Great Love He Saved Us Friday, Feb 28 2014 

ephrem-isaac-aphrahatContinued from here….

And it was thus that our Saviour taught us diligently to manifest love. For first He perfected it in Himself, and then He taught those who heard Him.

And He reconciled our enmity with His Father because He loved us, and He yielded up His innocence in the stead of the debtors, and the Good in place of the evil ones was put to shame.

And the Rich in our behalf was made poor, and the Living died in behalf of the dead, and by His death made alive our death.

And the Son of the Lord of all took for our sake the form of a servant, and He to whom all things were subject subjected Himself that He might release us from the subjection of sin.

And by His great love He gave a blessing to the poor in spirit, and He promised the peace makers they should be called His brothers and sons of God.

And He promised the humble that they should inherit the land of life; and He promised the mourners that by their supplications they would be comforted.

And He promised to the hungry fulness in His kingdom; and to those who weep that they should rejoice in His promise; and He promised to the merciful that they should be shown mercy.

And He promised to these who are pure in heart He said that they should see God; and again He promised to those who are persecuted on account of righteousness that they should go into the kingdom of heaven; and to those who are persecuted on account of His Name He promised a blessing and rest in His kingdom.

And He changed our nature of dust and made us the salt of truth, and He delivered us from being the prey of the serpent, and He called us the light of the world; and He delivered us from the power of death.

And He made us good instead of evil, and pleasing instead of hateful; and He appointed for us mercy instead of hatred; and He imparted to us the perfect man.

And He brought forth good things from His treasures, and delivered us from him who brought forth evil things from the superfluities of his heart.

And because of His overflowing love He healed the plagues of the sick; He healed also the son of the centurion because of his faith; and He silenced the waves of the sea by His power; and because of His favor He drove from us the evil spirits who were legion.

And by His mercy He restored to life the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue; and again He cleansed the woman from the pollution of blood.

Aphrahat the Persian (c.270-c.345): Demonstrations, 2 – On Love (19; 20). (The icon accompanying this extract depicts Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Syrian, and Aphrahat).

Theophylact of Ohrid: The Prayer of the Pharisee Thursday, Feb 13 2014 

Theophylact_the_Bulgarian (1)On Luke 18:9-14 (the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee).

The Lord ceaselessly purges the passion of pride in many ways.

This passion, more than any other, disturbs our thoughts, and for this reason the Lord always and everywhere teaches on this subject.

Here He is purging the worst form of pride.

For there are many offshoots of self-love. Presumption, arrogance, and vainglory all stem from this root.

But the most destructive of all these kinds of self-love is pride, for pride is contempt of God.

When a man ascribes his accomplishments to himself, and not to God, this is nothing less than denial of God and opposition to Him.

Therefore, like enemy to enemy, the Lord opposes this passion which is opposed to Him, and through this parable He promises to heal it.

He directs this parable towards those who trust in themselves and who do not attribute everything to God, and who, as a result, despise others.

He shows that when righteousness—which is marvelous in every other respect and sets a man close to God—takes pride as its companion, it casts that man into the lowest depths and makes demonic what was God-like just a short time before.

The words of the Pharisee at first resemble the words of a grateful man. For he says, God, I thank Thee. But the words that follow are full of foolishness.

He does not say, “that Thou hast made me to depart from extortion and iniquities,” but Instead, “I thank Thee that I am not an extortioner or worker of iniquity.”

He attributes this accomplishment to himself, as something done by his own strength. How can a man who knows that what he has, he has received from God, compare other men to himself unfavorably and judge them?

Certainly, if a man believed that he had received as a gift good things that in truth belong to God, he would not despise other men.

He would instead consider himself just as naked as his fellow men in regards to virtue, except that by the mercy of God his nakedness has been covered with a donated garment.

The Pharisee is proud, ascribing his deeds to his own strength, and that is why he proceeds to condemn others.

By saying that the Pharisee stood, the Lord indicates his haughtiness and lack of humility. In the same way that a humble-minded man is likewise humble in his demeanor, this Pharisee by his bearing displays his pride.

Although it is also said of the publican that he stood, note what follows: he would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, so that he was stooped in posture.

But the eyes of the Pharisee, together with his heart, were lifted up to heaven in boastful exaltation.

Theophylact of Ohrid (1055-1107): Explanation of the Gospel of St Luke, on Luke 18:10-14 (Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee) @ Chrysostom Press.

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

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

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

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

Stand with reverence, I implore you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basil the Great: “Give Heed to Thyself, Lest Perhaps a Wicked Thought Steal in Upon Thee” Friday, Jan 31 2014 

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

“Give heed to thyself, lest perhaps a wicked thought steal in upon thee” (Deut. 15:9).

We men are easily prone to sins of thought.

Therefore, He who has formed each heart individually (Ps. 2:35:15), knowing that the impulse received from the intention constitutes the major element in sin, has ordained that purity in the ruling part of our soul be our primary concern.

That faculty by which we are especially prone to commit sin surely merits great care and vigilance.

As the more provident physicians offset physical weakness by precautionary measures taken in advance, so the Protector of us all and the true Physician of our souls takes possession first and with stronger garrisons of that part of the soul which He knows is most liable to sin.

[…] Beware, therefore, lest perhaps a wicked thought steal in upon thee.’ For, ‘he who looks upon a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart’ (Matt. 5:28).

The actions of the body, therefore, are retarded by many impediments, but he who sins in his intention has committed a transgression that is accomplished with the swiftness of thought.

Where the lapse into sin is sudden, therefore, the power of swift protection has been granted us, ‘lest perhaps,’ as the Scripture declares, ‘a wicked thought steal in upon thee.’

And now, let us return to the theme of our discourse. ‘Give heed to thyself’ says the Scripture.

Every animal has been endowed by God, the Creator of all things, with an interior power of self-protection.

[…] In obeying this, precept, we become vigilant custodians of the resources God has bestowed on us, avoiding sin as the beasts shun noxious foods and following after justice as they seek for pasturage.

‘Give heed to thyself’ that you may be able to distinguish between the injurious and the salutary.

[…] It remains, therefore, to interpret the precept as referring to a mental action. ‘Give heed to thyself. that is, examine yourself from all angles. Keep the eye of your soul sleeplessly on guard, for ‘Thou art going in the midst of snares’ (Sir. 9:20).

Traps set by the enemy lie concealed everywhere. Look about you in all directions, therefore, ‘that you may be saved as a swallow from the traps and as a bird from the snare’ (Prov. 6:5).

The deer cannot be caught with traps because of the keenness of his vision…. A bird, if alert, easily flies out of the range of the huntsman’s snare.

See to it, then, that you are not more remiss than the animals in protecting yourself. Never let yourself be caught in the snares of the Devil and so become his prey, the captured plaything of his will (2 Tim. 2:26).

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily on the Words “Give Heed to Thyself”,  from Saint Basil: Ascetical Works, translated by Sr M Monica Wagner, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 9), pp. 432-434.

Isaac the Syrian: The ladder unto the kingdom is hidden within you and within your soul Tuesday, Jan 28 2014 

Isaac the Syrian 3January 28th is the feast of St Isaac the Syrian.

Gratefulness on the part of the recipient spurs on the giver to bestow gifts larger than before….

The sick one who is acquainted with his sickness is easily to be cured; and he who confesses his pain is near to health.

Many are the pains of the hard heart; and when the sick one resists the physician, his torments will be augmented.

There is no sin which cannot be pardoned except that one which lacks repentance, and there is no gift which is not augmented save that which remains without acknowledgement.

For the portion of the fool is small in his eyes.

Think constantly of those who are superior to you in excellence, so you may see yourself at all times as being less than they are.

And be aware at all times of the heavy troubles of those whose vexations are difficult and serious, so that you may become grateful for your own small ones and be able to bear them with joy.

When you are in a state of subjection and are languid and dejected, and thou art hound and fettered before your foe in mournful wretchedness and laborious service of sin, then recall to mind the previous times of firmness….

Then, by these and similar recollections, your soul will be aroused as from the depth and be clad with the flame of zeal; and it will rise from its immersion as if from the dead, and stretch itself and return to its former state, in hot strife against Satan and sin….

Be a persecutor of yourself; then your foe will be driven away from you. Be on peaceful terms with your soul; then heaven and earth will be on peaceful terms with you.

Be zealous to enter the treasury within you; then you will see that which is in heaven. For the former and the latter are one, and, entering, you will see both.

The ladder unto the Kingdom is hidden within you and within your soul.

Dive into yourself, freed from sin; there you wilt find steps along which you can ascend.

What the things of the world-to-be are, the scriptures do not explain. How we may acquire the faculty to perceive their delight even now, without change of nature or local transition, they teach us plainly.

Though they call these things by beloved names of glorious things which are delightful and esteemed by us, in order to spur us on, still by saying that “the eye has not seen, nor the ear heard” (1 Cor.2:9) and so on, they show us that the things-to-be are not equal to any of the present things, by their being incomprehensible.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Six Treatises on the Behaviour of Excellence, 1, 2, in Mystical Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. A.J. Wensinck, pp. 7-8 (slightly modified)

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