Ignatius of Antioch: The Medicine of Immortality, and the Antidote to Prevent Us from Dying Monday, Jan 20 2014 

Ignatius_of_AntiochLet my spirit be counted as nothing for the sake of the cross, which is a stumbling-block to those that do not believe, but to us salvation and life eternal.

“Where is the wise man? where the disputer?” Where is the boasting of those who are styled prudent?

For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost.

He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water.

Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence by God.

How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of Which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment.

And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else in the heavens.

Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life.

And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult, because He meditated the abolition of death.

If Jesus Christ shall graciously permit me through your prayers, and if it be His will, I shall, in a second little work which I will write to you, make further manifest to you the nature of the dispensation of which I have begun to treat, with respect to the new man, Jesus Christ, in His faith and in His love, in His suffering and in His resurrection.

Especially will I do this if the Lord make known to me that you come together in common, man by man, through grace – individually, in one faith, and in Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David according to the flesh, being both the Son of man and the Son of God;

and if you thus obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but which causes that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ.

Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 – c. 107): Letter to the Ephesians, 18-20 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Antony the Great: The Only-Begotten, the Very Mind of the Father and His Image, the Great Physician Friday, Jan 17 2014 

saints_101_anthonyJanuary 17th is the feast of St Antony the Great.

Truly, my beloved in the Lord, not at one time only did God visit His creatures; but from the foundation of the world, whenever any have come to the Creator of all by the law of His covenant implanted in them, God is present with each one of these in His bounty and grace by His Spirit.

But in the case of those rational natures in which that covenant grew cold, and their intellectual perception died, so that they were no longer able to know themselves according to their first condition; concerning them I say that they became altogether irrational, and worshipped the creation rather than the Creator.

But the Creator of all in His great bounty visited us by the implanted law of the covenant. For He is immortal substance.

And as many as became worthy of God and grew by His implanted law, and were taught by His Holy Spirit and received the Spirit of Adoption, these were able to worship their Creator as they ought: of whom Paul says that “they received not the promise” on account of us. (Heb. 11:39).

And the Creator of All, who repents not of His love, desiring to visit our sickness and confusion, raised up Moses the Lawgiver, who gave us the law in writing, and founded for us the House of Truth, which is the Catholic Church, that makes us one in God; for He desires that we should be brought back to our first beginning.

Moses built the house, yet did not complete it, but left it and went away. Then again God raised up the choir of the Prophets by His Spirit. And they also built on the foundation of Moses, but could not complete the house, and likewise left it and went away.

And all of them , being clothed with the Spirit, saw that the wound was incurable, and that none of the creatures was able to heal it, but only the Only-begotten, who is the very Mind of the Father and His Image, who after the pattern of His Image made every rational creature.

For these knew that the Saviour is the great physician; and they assembled all together, and offered prayer for their members, that is, for us, crying out and saying, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” (Jer. 8:22) “We would have healed her, but she is not healed: now therefore let us forsake her and go away.” (Jer.51:9)

Antony the Great (c.251-356): Letter 2 (trans. Derwas J. Chitty).

Gregory Nazianzen: Let Us Purify Ourselves and Receive the Elementary Initiation of the Word Wednesday, Jan 8 2014 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenWherefore we must purify ourselves first, and then approach this converse with the Pure;

unless we would have the same experience as Israel (Exod. 34:30), who could not endure the glory of the face of Moses, and therefore asked for a veil (2 Cor. 3:7),

or like the Centurion (Matt. 8:8) would seek for healing, but would not, through a praiseworthy fear, receive the Healer into his house.

Let each one of us also – as long as he is still uncleansed, and is a Centurion still, commanding many in wickedness, and serving in the army of Cæsar, the World-ruler of those who are being dragged down – speak thus: “I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof.”

Let each one look upon Jesus, though he be little of stature like Zaccheus (Luke 19:3) of old, and climb up on the top of the sycamore tree by mortifying his members which are upon the earth (Col. 3:5).

Let each one rise above the body of humiliation. Then he shall receive the Word, and it shall be said to him, This day is salvation come to this house (Luke 19:9).

Then let him lay hold on the salvation, and bring forth fruit more perfectly, scattering and pouring forth rightly that which as a publican he wrongly gathered.

For the same Word is on the one hand terrible through its nature to those who are unworthy, and on the other, through its loving kindness, can be received by those who are thus prepared.

These are they who have driven out the unclean and worldly spirit from their souls, and have swept and adorned their own souls by self-examination […], who, besides fleeing from evil, practise virtue, making Christ entirely, or at any rate to the greatest extent possible, to dwell within them.

This they do so that the power of evil cannot meet with any empty place to fill it again with himself, and make the last state of that man worse than the first, by the greater energy of his assault, and the greater strength and impregnability of the fortress.

Having guarded our soul with every care, and having appointed goings up in our heart (Ps. 84:5), and broken up our fallow ground (Jer. 4:3), and sown unto righteousness (Prov. 11:18), as David and Solomon and Jeremiah bid us, let us enlighten ourselves with the light of knowledge, and then let us speak of the Wisdom of God that hath been hid in a mystery (2 Cor. 2:6), and enlighten others.

Meanwhile let us purify ourselves, and receive the elementary initiation of the Word, that we may do ourselves the utmost good, making ourselves godlike, and receiving the Word at His coming; and not only so, but holding Him fast and shewing Him to others.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 39 (on the Holy Lights), 9-10. Another extract from this Oration can be read here….

Ephrem the Syrian: The Days of Christmas (2) Friday, Jan 3 2014 

Mor_Ephrem_iconContinued from here…

Let the fifth day praise Him Who created
on the fifth day creeping things and dragons
of whose kind is the serpent.
He deceived and led astray our mother,
a young girl without understanding.
Since the deceiver mocked the young girl,
the fraudulent one was exposed by the Dove
Who shone forth and emerged from an innocent womb,
the Wise One, Who crushed the crafty one.

Blessed is Your birth that makes all Creation glad!

Let the sixth day praise Him Who created
on Friday Adam whom the evil one envied.
As a false friend he pleased him
by offering him poison in his food.
The Medicine of Life diffused Himself to them both.
He put on a body and was offered to them both.
The mortal tasted Him and lived by Him;
the devourer who ate Him was destroyed.

Blessed is Your birth that makes all Creation glad!

Let the seventh day cry “holy” to the Holy One
Who sanctified the Sabbath to give rest to living beings.
The untiring Gracious One took care of humanity and He took care of animals.
Since freedom fell under the yoke,
He came to the birth and was subjected to free it.
He was struck by a servant’s slap in the court.
As Lord, He broke the yoke upon the free.

Blessed is Your birth that makes all Creation glad!

Let the eighth day that circumcised the Hebrews
confess Him Who commanded His namesake Joshua
to circumcise with flint the People whose body was circumcised
but whose heart was unbelieving from within.
Behold on the eighth day as a babe
The Circumciser of all came to circumcision.
Although the sign of Abraham was on His flesh,
the blind daughter of Sion has disfigured it.

Blessed is Your birth that makes all Creation glad!

Let the tenth day praise its number
for yodh, the letter of the fair name of Jesus,
in counting its ten.
This number that is like a Lord
reverses the numbers.
For whenever counting goes up to ten,
it goes back to begin again from one again.
O great mystery that is in the name Jesus
Whose power turns Creation back again!

Blessed is Your birth that makes all Creation glad!

The First-born, Purifier of all, on the day of His purifying
purified the purification of the first-born and was offered.
The Lord of offering was in need of offerings
to make an offering of a bird.
By His birth were completed the archetypes:
He came and paid the debts by His descent;
by His resurrection He ascended and sent treasures.

Blessed is Your birth that makes all Creation glad!

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Twenty-Sixth Hymn of the Nativity from Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns, translated by Kathleen McVey, preface by John Meyendorff [Paulist Press, 1989])

Bernard of Clairvaux: “Behold, a Virgin shall Conceive and Bear a Son, and His Name shall be Called Emmanuel” Friday, Dec 20 2013 

Heiligenkreuz_Bernard_of_ClervauxIf the infirm cannot go far to meet this great Physician, it is at least becoming they should endeavour to raise their heads and lift themselves a little to greet their Saviour.

For this, O man, you are not required to cross the sea, to penetrate the clouds, to scale the mountain-tops. No lofty way is set before you.

Turn within thyself to meet thy God, for the Word is nigh in thy mouth and in thy heart.

Meet Him by compunction of heart and by confession of mouth, or, at least, go forth from the corruption of a sinful conscience, for it is not becoming that the Author of purity should enter there.

It is delightful to contemplate the manner of  His visible coming, for His “ways are beautiful, and all his paths are peace” (Prov. 3:17).

“Behold,” says the Spouse of the Canticles, “he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills” (Cant. 2:8).

You see Him coming, O beautiful one, but His previous lying down you could not see, for you said : “Shew me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou liest” (Cant. 1:6).

He lay feeding His angels in His endless eternity with the vision of His glorious, unchanging beauty. But know, O beautiful one, that that vision is become wonderful to thee; it is high, and thou canst not reach it.

Nevertheless, behold He hath gone forth from His holy place, and He that had lain feeding His angels hath undertaken to heal us.

We shall see Him coming as our food, Whom we were not able to behold while He was feeding His angels in His repose.

“Behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.” The mountains and hills we may consider to be the Patriarchs and the Prophets, and we may see His leaping and skipping in the book of His genealogy. “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, etc.” (Matt. 1:2).

From the mountains came forth the root of Jesse, as you will find from the Prophet Isaias: “There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root, and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him” (Isa. 11:1-2).

The same prophet speaks yet more plainly: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, which is interpreted, God with us” (Isa. 7:14). He Who is first styled a flower is afterwards called Emmanuel, and in the rod is named the virgin.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermon 1 on the Advent of the Lord, pp. 13-14, from Sermons of St Bernard on Advent and Christmas.

Charles Wesley: Come, O Thou All-Victorious Lord! Thursday, Nov 28 2013 

Charles_wesleyCome, O thou all-victorious Lord!
Thy power to us make known;
Strike with the hammer of thy word,
And break these hearts of stone.

O that we all might now begin
Our foolishness to mourn;
And turn at once from every sin,
And to our Saviour turn!

Give us ourselves and thee to know,
In this our gracious day;
Repentance unto life bestow,
And take our sins away.

Conclude us first in unbelief,
And freely then release;
Fill every soul with sacred grief,
And then with sacred peace.

Impoverish, Lord, and then relieve,
And then enrich the poor;
The knowledge of our sickness give,
The knowledge of our cure.

That blessed sense of guilt impart,
And then remove the load;
Trouble, and wash the troubled heart
In the atoning blood.

Our desperate state through sin declare,
And speak our sins forgiven;
By perfect holiness prepare,
And take us up to heaven.

Charles Wesley (1701-1778; Church of England): Hymns, 84.

Leo the Great: When a Man Loves What God Loves, He is Deservedly Raised into His Kingdom Wednesday, Nov 13 2013 

leo1On account of the crafty designs of our ancient foe, the unspeakable goodness of Christ has wished us to know what was to be decreed about all mankind in the day of retribution.

In this life healing remedies are legitimately offered, restoration is not denied to the contrite, and those who have been long barren can at length be fruitful,

Nevertheless, the verdict on which justice has determined may be fore-stalled, and the picture of God’s coming to judge the world should never depart from the mind’s eye.

For the Lord  will come in His glorious Majesty, as He Himself has foretold, and there will be with Him an innumerable host of angel-legions radiant in their splendour.

Before the throne of His power will all the nations of the world be gathered; and all the men that in all ages and on all the face of the earth have been born, shall stand in the Judge’s sight.

Then shall be separated the just from the unjust, the guiltless from the guilty. […] Who would not tremble at this doom of eternal torment?  Who would not dread evils which are never to be ended?

But since this severity is only denounced in order that we may seek for mercy, we too in this present life must show such open-handed mercy that after perilous neglect returning to works of piety it may be possible for us to be set free from this doom.

For this is the purpose of the Judge’s might and of the Saviour’s graciousness, that the unrighteous may forsake his ways and the sinner give up his wicked habits.

Let those who wish Christ to spare them, have mercy on the poor; let them give freely to feed the wretched, who desire to attain to the society of the blessed.

Let no man consider his fellow vile, nor despise in any one that nature which the Creator of the world made His own.  For who that labours can deny that Christ claims that labour as done unto Himself?

Your fellow-slave is helped thereby, but it is the Lord who will repay.  The feeding of the needy is the purchase money of the heavenly kingdom and the free dispenser of things temporal is made the heir of things eternal.

But how has such small expenditure deserved to be valued so highly except because our works are weighed in the balance of love, and when a man loves what God loves, he is deservedly raised into His kingdom, whose attribute of love has in part become his?

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 9, 2.

Cyril of Alexandria: The Godlike Gentleness of Christ Who Dwells in Our Hearts by Faith Sunday, Nov 3 2013 

cyril_alexandriaOn Luke 19:1-10.

“Zacchaeus, come down quickly: for to-day I must abide at your house” (Luke 19:5).

Jesus saw the man’s soul prepared most readily to choose a holy life, and converted him therefore to piety.

The man therefore received Jesus joyfully: and this was the commencement of his turning himself to good, of his departure from his former faults, and of his manfully betaking himself to a better course.

But perchance someone may say to our common Saviour Christ, ‘What do You, O Lord? Go You to lodge with Zacchaeus? and deign You to abide with the chief of the publicans? He has not yet washed away the stain of his greedy love of lucre: he is still sick with covetousness…’

But yes, He says, I indeed know this, in that I am God by nature, and see the ways of every individual upon earth. And more than this, I know also things to come.

I have called him to repentance, because he is ready thereto: and though men murmur, and blame My gentleness, facts themselves shall prove that they are wrong.

For Zacchaeus, it says, stood up, and said to the Lord, “Behold, the half of whatever I possess I give to the poor, and if I have defrauded any man, I make fourfold restoration.”

[…] Let not the…multitudes therefore murmur when Christ saves sinners; but let them answer us this. Would they have physicians succeed in effecting cures when they visit the sick?

Do they praise them when they are able to deliver men from cruel ulcers, or do they blame them, and praise those who are unskilful in their art? But, as I suppose, they will give the sentence of superiority in favour of those who are skilful in benefiting such as suffer from diseases.

Why therefore do they blame Christ, if when Zacchaeus was, so to say, fallen and buried in spiritual maladies, He raised him from the pitfalls of destruction?

And to teach them this He says, “To-day there is salvation for this house, in that he also is a son of Abraham;” for where Christ enters, there necessarily is also salvation.

May He therefore also be in us: and He is in us when we believe: for He dwells in our hearts by faith, and we are His abode.

[…] God promised salvation in Christ by the holy prophets, saying, “There shall come a Saviour from Zion, and He shall take away iniquities from Jacob, and this is my covenant with them, when I will bear their sins.”

Christ therefore arose, to deliver the inhabitants of the earth from their sins, and to seek them that were lost, and to save them that had perished. For this is His office, and, so to say, the fruit of His godlike gentleness.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, Sermon 127.

Cyril of Alexandria: To Heal those who were Sick whether in Body or Spirit… Tuesday, Oct 29 2013 

cyril_alexandriaOur Lord Jesus Christ has appointed certain men to be guides and teachers of the world and stewards of his divine mysteries.

Now he bids them to shine out like lamps and to cast out their light not only over the land of the Jews but over every country under the sun and over people scattered in all directions and settled in distant lands.

That man has spoken truly who said: No one takes honor upon himself, except the one who is called by God, for it was our Lord Jesus Christ who called his own disciples before all others to a most glorious apostolate.

These holy men became the pillar and mainstay of the truth, and Jesus said that he was sending them just as the Father had sent him.

By these words he is making clear the dignity of the apostolate and the incomparable glory of the power given to them, but he is also, it would seem, giving them a hint about the methods they are to adopt in their apostolic mission.

For if Christ thought it necessary to send out his intimate disciples in this fashion, just as the Father had sent him, then surely it was necessary that they whose mission was to be patterned on that of Jesus should see exactly why the Father had sent the Son.

And so Christ interpreted the character of his mission to us in a variety of ways. Once he said: I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance. 

And then at another time he said: I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. For God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Accordingly, in affirming that they are sent by him just as he was sent by the Father, Christ sums up in a few words the approach they themselves should take to their ministry.

From what he said they would gather that it was their vocation to call sinners to repentance, to heal those who were sick whether in body or spirit, to seek in all their dealings never to do their own will but the will of him who sent them, and as far as possible to save the world by their teaching.

Surely it is in all these respects that we find his holy disciples striving to excel. To ascertain this is no great labor, a single reading of the Acts of the Apostles or of Saint Paul’s writings is enough.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St John’s Gospel of John, book 12, c.3 (PG 74, 707-710) from the Office of Readings for the Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles, on October 28th, @ Crossroads Initiative.

Justin Popovich: “The Healing Power of Scripture” Saturday, Oct 19 2013 

Justin PopovichBy reading the Bible you are adding yeast to the dough of your soul and body, which gradually expands and fills the soul until it has thoroughly permeated it and makes it rise with the truth and righteousness of the Gospel.

In every instance, the Saviour’s parable about the sower and the seed can be applied to every one of us. The seed of Divine Truth is given to us in the Bible.

By reading it, we sow that seed in our own soul. It falls on the rocky and thorny ground of our soul, but a little also falls on the good soil of our heart — and bears fruit.

And when you catch sight of the fruit and taste it, the sweetness and joy will spur you to clear and plow the rocky and thorny areas of your soul and sow it with the seed of the word of God.

Do you know when a man is wise in the sight of Christ the Lord? When he listens to His word and carries it out. The beginning of wisdom is to listen to God’s word (Matt. 7:24-25).

Every word of the Saviour has the power and the might to heal both physical and spiritual ailments. “Say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matt. 8:8). The Saviour said the word and the centurion’s servant was healed.

Just as He once did, the Lord even now ceaselessly says His words to you, to me, and to all of us. But we must pause, and immerse ourselves in them and receive them – with the centurion’s faith.

And a miracle will happen to us, and our souls will be healed just as the centurion’s servant was healed. For it is related in the Gospel that they brought many possessed people to Him, and He drove out the spirits with a word, and healed all the sick (Matt. 8:16).

He still does this today, because the Lord Jesus “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8)

[…] In each word of the Saviour there is more eternity and permanence than in all of heaven and earth with all their history.

Hence He said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). This means that God and all that is of God is in the Saviour’s words. Therefore they cannot pass away.

If a man accepts them, he is more permanent than heaven and earth, because there is a power in them that immortalizes man and makes him eternal.

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

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