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).

Ephrem the Syrian: At the last, worship also shall be gathered in completely to its Lord Wednesday, Apr 29 2015 

Mor_Ephrem_iconGod was sent from the Godhead, to come and convict the graven images that they were no gods.

And when He took away from them the name of God which decked them out, then appeared the blemishes of their persons.

And their blemishes were these;—They have eyes and see not, and ears and hear not (Ps. 114/115:5-6).

Thy preaching persuaded their many worshippers to change their many gods for the One.

For in that Thou didst take away the name of godhead from the idols, worship also along with the name was withdrawn; that, namely, which is bound up with the name; for worship also attends on the Name of God.

Because, then, worship also was rendered to the Name, by all the Gentiles, at the last the worshipful Name shall be gathered in entirely to its Lord.

Therefore, at the last, worship also shall be gathered in completely to its Lord, that it may be fulfilled that all things shall be subjected to Him.

Then, He in His turn shall be subjected to Him Who subjected all things to Him (1 Cor. 15:27-28). So that that Name, rising from degree to degree, shall be bound up with its root.

For when all creatures shall be bound by their love to the Son through Whom they were created, and the Son shall be bound by the love of that Father by Whom He was begotten, all creatures shall give thanks at the last to the Son, through Whom they received all blessings.

And in Him and with Him they shall give thanks also to His Father, from Whose treasure He distributes all riches to us.

Glory be to Thee Who didst clothe Thyself in the body of mortal Adam, and didst make it a fountain of life for all mortals.

Thou art He that livest, for Thy slayers were as husbandmen to Thy life, for that they sowed it as wheat in the depth of the earth, that it may rise and raise up many with it.

Come, let us make our love the great censer of the community, and offer on it as incense our hymns and our prayers to Him Who made His Cross a censer for the Godhead, and offered from it on behalf of us all.

He that was above stooped down to those who were beneath, to distribute His treasures to them.  Accordingly, though the needy drew near to His manhood, yet they used to receive the gift from His Godhead.

Therefore He made the body which He put on the treasurer of His riches, that He, O Lord, might bring them out of Thy storehouse, and distribute them to the needy, the sons of His kindred.

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Homily on Our Lord, 8-9.

Bernard of Clairvaux: Thy Name is Music to the Heart, Inflaming It with Love Saturday, Jan 4 2014 

Heiligenkreuz_Bernard_of_ClervauxJanuary 3rd was the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest Name,
O Savior of mankind!

O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.

Jesus, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize will be;
Jesus be Thou our glory now,
And through eternity.

O Jesus, King most wonderful
Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou sweetness most ineffable
In Whom all joys are found!

When once Thou visitest the heart,
Then truth begins to shine,
Then earthly vanities depart,
Then kindles love divine.

O Jesus, light of all below,
Thou fount of living fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire.

Jesus, may all confess Thy Name,
Thy wondrous love adore,
And, seeking Thee, themselves inflame
To seek Thee more and more.

Thee, Jesus, may our voices bless,
Thee may we love alone,
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.

O Jesus, Thou the beauty art
Of angel worlds above;
Thy Name is music to the heart,
Inflaming it with love.

Celestial Sweetness unalloyed,
Who eat Thee hunger still;
Who drink of Thee still feel a void
Which only Thou canst fill.

O most sweet Jesus, hear the sighs
Which unto Thee we send;
To Thee our inmost spirit cries;
To Thee our prayers ascend.

Abide with us, and let Thy light
Shine, Lord, on every heart;
Dispel the darkness of our night;
And joy to all impart.

Jesus, our love and joy to Thee,
The virgin’s holy Son,
All might and praise and glory be,
While endless ages run.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): translated by Edward Caswall (1814-1878) @ CyberHymnal.

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])

Tikhon of Zadonsk: The True Lover of Christ Cleaves to Him in His Heart and Uncomplainingly Endures the Cross with Him Tuesday, Oct 15 2013 

Tikhon_of_ZadonskThe true lover of God keeps God ever in mind, and His love toward us and His benefactions. We see this even in human love, for we often remember the one we love.

So whoever loves God remembers Him, thinks of Him, and finds consolation in Him, and is enrapt in Him.

For wherever his treasure is, there his heart is also (Mt. 6:21). To him the priceless and most beloved treasury is God.

Therefore his heart also holds itself inseparably before Him. Whence it is that he also remembers His holy name often and with love.

For the heart filled with the love of God reveals outward signs of love. From this we see that those who forget God do not love Him, for forgetfulness is a manifest sign of no love for God.

The lover can never forget his beloved. One who loves, desires never to be separated from the one he loves.

Many Christians desire to be with Christ the Lord when He is glorified, but they do not wish to be with Him in dishonor and reproach, nor to carry their cross.

They entreat Him that they may come into His Kingdom, but they do not wish to suffer in the world, and thereby they show that their heart is not right and that they do not truly love Christ.

And to tell the truth, they love themselves more than Christ. For this reason the Lord says, “He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me” (Mt. 10:38). A true friend is known in misfortune.

He is our true friend and one who loves us who does not forsake us in misfortune.

Likewise the true lover of Christ is he who abides with Christ in this world, and cleaves to Him in his heart, and uncomplainingly endures the cross with Him, and desires to be with Him inseparably in the age to come.

Such a one says unto Christ, “It is good for me to cleave unto God” (LXX Ps. 72:28).

A sign of the love of God is love for neighbor. He who truly loves God also loves his neighbor. He who loves the lover loves what is loved by him. The source of love for neighbor is love for God, but the love of God is known from love for neighbor.

[…] These are the signs of love for God hidden in the heart of a man. Dear Christians, let us repent and turn away from the vanity of the world, and cleanse our hearts with repentance and contrition, that the love of God may abide in us.

“God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 Jn. 4:16).
Tikhon of Zadonsk (1724-1783; Russian Orthodox): extract @ Kandylaki  from Journey to Heaven: Counsels On the Particular Duties of Every Christian by Our Father Among the Saints, Tikhon of Zadonsk, Bishop of Voronezh and Elets (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2004) .

John Henry Newman: David and Goliath Wednesday, Sep 25 2013 

John_Henry_Newman_by_Sir_John_Everett_MillaisContinued from here…

And now, let us inquire who is our Goliath?

[…] The devil is our Goliath: we have to fight Satan, who…would to a certainty destroy us were not God with us; but praised be His Name, He is with us. “Greater is He that is with us, than he that is in the world.”

[…] When…Satan comes against you, recollect you are already dedicated, made over, to God; you are God’s property, you have no part with Satan and his works, you are servants to another, you are espoused to Christ.

When Satan comes against you, fear not, waver not; but pray to God, and He will help you.

Say to Satan with David, “Thou comest against me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts.”

Thou comest to me with temptation; thou wouldest allure me with the pleasures of sin for a season; thou wouldest kill me, nay, thou wouldest make me kill myself with sinful thoughts, words, and deeds…; but I know thee; thou art Satan, and I come unto thee in the name of the Living God, in the Name of Jesus Christ my Saviour.

That is a powerful name, which can put to flight many foes: Jesus is a name at which devils tremble. To speak it, is to scare away many a bad thought. I come against thee in His All-powerful, All-conquering Name.

David came on with a staff; my staff is the Cross—the Holy Cross on which Christ suffered, in which I glory, which is my salvation.

David chose five smooth stones out of the brook, and with them he smote the giant. We, too, have armour, not of this world, but of God; weapons which the world despises, but which are powerful in God.

David took not sword, spear, or shield; but he slew Goliath with a sling and a stone. Our weapons are as simple, as powerful. The Lord’s Prayer is one such weapon; when we are tempted to sin, let us turn away, kneel down seriously and solemnly, and say to God that prayer which the Lord taught us.

The Creed is another weapon, equally powerful, through God’s grace, equally contemptible in the eyes of the world. One or two holy texts, such as our Saviour used when He was tempted by the devil, is another weapon for our need.

The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is another such, and greater; holy, mysterious, life-giving, but equally simple. What is so simple as a little bread and a little wine? but, in the hands of the Spirit of God, it is the power of God unto salvation.

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890): Parochial and Plain Sermons vol. 8, 4: The Call of David.

Hilary of Poitiers: The Saving Power of the Name of God Saturday, Jul 13 2013 

St_Hilary_of_Poitiers_cassienSave me, O God, by Thy Name, and judge me by Thy power. Hear my prayer, O God; give ear unto the words of my mouth (Psalm 53:3-4).

The suffering of the Prophet David is…a type of the Passion of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.

This is why his prayer also corresponds in sense with the prayer of Him Who being the Word was made flesh:

in such wise that He Who suffered all things after the manner of man, in everything He said, spoke after the manner of man;

and He who bore the infirmities and took on Him the sins of men approached God in prayer with the humility proper to men.

This interpretation, even though we be unwilling and slow to receive it, is required by the meaning and force of the words, so that there can be no doubt that everything in the Psalm is uttered by David as His mouthpiece.

For he says: Save me O God, by Thy name. Thus prays in bodily humiliation, using the words of His own Prophet, the Only-begotten Son of God, Who at the same time was claiming again the glory which He had possessed before the ages.

He asks to be saved by the Name of God whereby He was called and wherein He was begotten, in order that the Name of God which rightly belonged to His former nature and kind might avail to save Him in that body wherein He had been born.

And because the whole of this passage is the utterance of One in the form of a servant—of a servant obedient unto the death of the Cross—which He took upon Him and for which He supplicates the saving help of the Name that belongs to God, and being sure of salvation by that Name, He immediately adds: and judge Me by Thy power.

For now as the reward for His humility in emptying Himself and assuming the form of a servant, in the same humility in which He had assumed it, He was asking to resume the form which He shared with God, having saved – that it might bear the Name of God – that humanity in which as God He had obediently condescended to be born.

And in order to teach us that the dignity of this Name whereby He prayed to be saved is something more than an empty title, He prays to be judged by the power of God.

For a right award is the essential result of judgment, as the Scripture says: Becoming obedient unto death, yea, the death of the Cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted Him and gave unto Him the name which is above every name.

Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-368): Homily on Psalm 53 [54], 4-5.

Cyril of Jerusalem: That Prayer which the Saviour Delivered to His Own Disciples (1) Sunday, Jul 15 2012 

Then, after these things, we say that Prayer which the Saviour delivered to His own disciples, with a pure conscience entitling God our Father, and saying, Our Father, which art in heaven.

O most surpassing loving-kindness of God!  On them who revolted from Him and were in the very extreme of misery has He bestowed such a complete forgiveness of evil deeds, and so great participation of grace, as that they should even call Him Father.

Our Father, which art in heaven; and they also are a heaven who bear the image of the heavenly, in whom is God, dwelling and walking in them.

Hallowed be Thy Name.  The Name of God is in its nature holy, whether we say so or not.

However, it is sometimes profaned among sinners, according to the words, Through you My Name is continually blasphemed among the Gentiles.

Therefore we pray that in us God’s Name may be hallowed – not that it comes to be holy from not being holy, but because it becomes holy in us, when we are made holy, and do things worthy of holiness.

Thy kingdom come.  A pure soul can say with boldness, Thy kingdom come; for he who has heard Paul saying let not therefore sin reign in your mortal body, and has cleansed himself in deed, and thought, and word, will say to God, Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth.  God’s divine and blessed Angels do the will of God, as David said in the Psalm, Bless the Lord, all ye Angels of His, mighty in strength, that do His pleasure.

So then in effect thou meanest this by thy prayer, “as in the Angels Thy will is done, so likewise be it done on earth in me, O Lord.”

Give us this day our substantial bread.  This common bread is not substantial bread, but this Holy Bread is substantial, that is, appointed for the substance of the soul.

For this Bread goeth not into the belly and is cast out into the draught, but is distributed into thy whole system for the benefit of body and soul.

But by this day, he means, “each day,” as also Paul said, While it is called to-day.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 23, 11-15.

Bernard of Clairvaux: The Name of Jesus is a Medicine Friday, Sep 2 2011 

The name of Jesus is…a medicine.

Does one of us feel sad? Let the name of Jesus come into his heart, from there let it spring to his mouth, so that shining like the dawn it may dispel all darkness and make a cloudless sky. Does someone fall into sin?

Does his despair even urge him to suicide? Let him but invoke this life-giving name and his will to live will be at once renewed.

The hardness of heart that is our common experience, the apathy bred of indolence, bitterness of mind, repugnance for the things of the spirit – have they ever failed to yield in presence of that saving name?

The tears dammed up by the barrier of our pride – how have they not burst forth again with sweeter abundance at the thought of Jesus’ name?

And where is the man, who, terrified and trembling before impending peril, has not been suddenly filled with courage and rid of fear by calling on the strength of that name?

Where is the man who, tossed on the rolling seas of doubt, did not quickly find certitude by recourse to the clarity of Jesus’ name?

Was ever a man so discouraged, so beaten down by afflictions, to whom the sound of this name did not bring new resolve?
In short, for all the ills and disorders to which flesh is heir, this name is medicine.

For proof we have no less than his own promise: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
Nothing so curbs the onset of anger, so allays the upsurge of pride.

It cures the wound of envy, controls unbridled extravagance and quenches the flame of lust; it cools the thirst of covetousness and banishes the itch of unclean desire.

For when I name Jesus I set before me a man who is meek and humble of heart, kind, prudent, chaste, merciful, flawlessly upright and holy in the eyes of all; and this same man is the all-powerful God whose way of life heals me, whose support is my strength.

All these re-echo for me at the hearing of Jesus’ name.

Because he is man I strive to imitate him; because of his divine power I lean upon him.

The examples of his human life I gather like medicinal herbs; with the aid of his power I blend them, and the result is a compound like no pharmacist can produce.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermons on the Song of Songs, 15, 6.

Bernard of Clairvaux: The Name “God” Liquefies and Dissolves into the Title “Emmanuel” Saturday, Aug 20 2011 

You encounter many names for the Bridegroom scattered through the pages of Scripture, but all these I sum up for you in two.

I think you will find none that does not express either the gift of his love or the power of his majesty.

The Holy Spirit tells us this through the mouth of one of his friends: “Two things I have heard: it is for God to be strong, for you. Lord, to be merciful.”

With reference to his majesty we read: “Holy and terrible is his name;”

with reference to his love: “Of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by  which we can be saved.”

Further examples make it clearer still. Jeremiah says: “This is the name by which he will be called: ‘the Lord our righteous one’” – a name suggesting power;

but when Isaiah says: “His name will be called Emmanuel,” he indicates his love.

He himself said: “You call me Master and Lord.” The first title implies love, the second  majesty.

Love’s business is to educate the mind as well as to provide the body’s food.

Isaiah also said: “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, God, the Mighty One, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The first, third and fourth signify majesty, the others love. Which of these therefore is poured out?

In some mysterious way the name of majesty and power is transfused into that of love and mercy, an amalgam that is abundantly poured out in the person of our Savior Jesus Christ.

The name “God” liquefies and dissolves into the title “God with us,” that is, into “Emmanuel.”

He who is “Wonderful” becomes “Counselor”; “God” and “the Mighty One” become the “Everlasting Father” and the “Prince of Peace.” “The Lord our righteous one” becomes the “gracious and merciful Lord.”

This process is not new: in ancient times “Abram” became Abraham and Sarai became “Sara”; and we are reminded that in these events the mystery of the communication of salvation was pre-figured and celebrated.

So I ask where now is that warning cry: “I am the Lord, I am the Lord,” that resounded with recurring terror in the ears of the people of old.

The prayer with which I am familiar, that begins with the sweet name of Father, gives me confidence of obtaining the petitions with which it continues.

Servants are called friends in this new way, and the resurrection is proclaimed not to mere disciples but to brothers.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermons on the Song of Songs, 15, 1-2.

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