Gregory of Nyssa: Our whole nature, extending from the first to the last, is one image of Him Who Is Saturday, Jul 18 2015 

Gregory_of_NyssaLet us now resume our consideration of the Divine word, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).

[…] In what does the greatness of man consist, according to the doctrine of the Church?

Not in his likeness to the created world, but in his being in the image of the nature of the Creator.

[…] What is it then which we understand concerning these matters?

In saying that “God created man” the text indicates, by the indefinite character of the term, all mankind.

For was not Adam here named together with the creation, as the history tells us in what follows?

Yet the name given to the man created is not the particular, but the general name.

Thus we are led by the employment of the general name of our nature to some such view as this—that in the Divine foreknowledge and power all humanity is included in the first creation.

For it is fitting for God not to regard any of the things made by Him as indeterminate, but that each existing thing should have some limit and measure prescribed by the wisdom of its Maker.

Any particular man is limited by his bodily dimensions, and the peculiar size which is conjoined with the superficies of his body is the measure of his separate existence.

So also I think that the entire plenitude of humanity was included by the God of all, by His power of foreknowledge, as it were in one body, and that this is what the text teaches us which says, “God created man, in the image of God created He him.”

For the image is not in part of our nature, nor is the grace in any one of the things found in that nature, but this power extends equally to all the race.

And a sign of this is that mind is implanted alike in all: for all have the power of understanding and deliberating, and of all else whereby the Divine nature finds its image in that which was made according to it.

The man that was manifested at the first creation of the world, and he that shall be after the consummation of all, are alike: they equally bear in themselves the Divine image.

For this reason the whole race was spoken of as one man, namely, that to God’s power nothing is either past or future, but even that which we expect is comprehended, equally with what is at present existing, by the all-sustaining energy.

Our whole nature, then, extending from the first to the last, is, so to say, one image of Him Who Is.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): On the Making of Man, 16, 1,2,16-18 (slightly adapted).

John Chrysostom: “You are the Salt of the Earth” Sunday, Feb 9 2014 

John_Chrysostom“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matthew 5:13).

Now then, after giving the disciples due exhortation [i.e. in the Beatitudes], Jesus refreshes them again with praises.

The injunctions being high, and far surpassing those in the Old Testament; lest they should be disturbed and confounded, He does not want them to say, “How shall we be able to achieve these things?”

Hear, then,  what He says: “Ye are the salt of the earth.”

[…] For “not for your own life apart,” says He, “but for the whole world, shall your account be.

“For not to two cities, nor to ten or twenty, nor to a single nation am I sending you, as I sent the prophets; but to earth, and sea, and the whole world; and that in evil case.”

For by saying, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” He signified all human nature to have “lost its savor,”and to be decayed by our sins.

For which cause, you see, He requires of them such virtues, as are most necessary and useful for the superintendence of the common sort.

For first, the meek, and yielding, and merciful, and righteous, shuts not up his good deeds unto himself only, but also provides that these good fountains should run over for the benefit of others.

And he again who is pure in heart, and a peacemaker, and is persecuted for the truth’s sake; he again orders his way of life for the common good.

“Think not then,” He says, “that ye are drawn on to ordinary conflicts, or that for some small matters you are to give account.”

“Ye are the salt of the earth.” What then? Did they restore the decayed? By no means; for neither is it possible to do any good to that which is already spoilt, by sprinkling it with salt.

This therefore they did not. But rather, what things had been before restored, and committed to their charge, and freed from that ill savor, these they then salted, maintaining and preserving them in that freshness,which they had received of the Lord.

For that men should be set free from the rottenness of their sins was the good work of Christ; but their not returning to it again any more was the object of these men’s diligence and travail.

[…]  “But if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

[…] He tells them, “unless ye are prepared to combat with all this, ye have been chosen in vain.” For it is not evil report that ye should fear, but lest ye should prove partners in dissimulation. For then, “Ye will lose your savor, and be trodden under foot.”

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on the Gospel According to St Matthew, 15, 10.

Gregory of Nyssa: The Real Beauty and the Illusion of Beauty Friday, Jan 10 2014 

Gregory_of_NyssaJanuary 10th is the feast of St Gregory of Nyssa (OrthooxWiki here; Pope Benedixt XVI here and here; Georges Florovsky here).

Man was fashioned in imitation of the Divine nature, preserving his resemblance to the Deity as well in other excellences as in possession of freedom of the will, yet being of necessity of a nature subject to change.

For it was not possible that a being who derived his origin from an alteration should be altogether free from this liability.

For the passing from a state of non-existence into that of existence is a kind of alteration – when being that is by the exercise of Divine power takes the place of nonentity.

In the following special respect, too, alteration is necessarily observable in man.

For man was an imitation of the Divine nature, and unless some distinctive difference had been occasioned, the imitating subject would be entirely the same as that which it resembles.

In this instance, it is to be observed, there is a difference between that which “was made in the image” and its pattern; namely this:

that the one [God] is not subject to change, while the other [man] is (for, as has been described, it has come into existence through an alteration), and, being thus subject to alteration, does not always continue in its existing state.

For alteration is a kind of movement ever advancing from the present state to another; and there are two forms of this movement:

the first is ever towards what is good, and in this the advance has no check, because no goal of the course to be traversed can be reached;

the other is in the direction of the contrary, and of it this is the essence, that it has no subsistence.

As has been before stated, the contrary state to goodness conveys some such notion of opposition, as when we say, for instance, that that which is is logically opposed to that which is not, and that existence is so opposed to non-existence.

By reason of this impulse and movement of changeful alteration, it is not possible that the nature of the subject of this change should remain self-centred and unmoved, but there is always something towards which the will is tending.

The appetency for moral beauty naturally draws the will on to movement. But this beauty is in one instance genuinely beautiful in its nature, and in another instance it is not so, only blossoming with an illusive appearance of beauty.

And the criterion of these two kinds is the mind that dwells within us.

Under these circumstances it is a matter of risk whether we happen to choose the real beauty, or whether we are diverted from its choice by some deception arising from appearance, and thus drift away to the opposite.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): The Great Catechism, 21 (adapted).

Georges Florovsky: The Incarnation is the Quickening of Man, the Resurrection of Human Nature Monday, Jan 6 2014 

Florovsky“The Word became flesh:” in this is the ultimate joy of the Christian faith. In this is the fullness of Revelation. The Same Incarnate Lord is both perfect God and perfect man.

The full significance and the ultimate purpose of human existence is revealed and realized in and through the Incarnation.

He came down from Heaven to redeem the earth, to unite man with God for ever. “And became man.” The new age has been initiated. We count now the “anni Domini!”

As St. Irenaeus wrote: “the Son of God became the Son of Man, that man also might become the son of God.”

Not only is the original fullness of human nature restored or re-established in the Incarnation. Not only does human nature return to its once lost communion with God.

The Incarnation is also the new Revelation, the new and further step. The first Adam was a living soul. But the last Adam is the Lord from Heaven (1 Cor. 15:47).

And in the Incarnation of the Word human nature was not merely anointed with a superabundant overflowing of Grace, but was assumed into an intimate and hypostatical unity with the Divinity itself.

In that lifting up of human nature into an everlasting communion with the Divine Life, the Fathers of the early Church unanimously saw the very essence of salvation, the basis of the whole redeeming work of Christ.

“That is saved which is united with God,” says St. Gregory of Nazianzus. And what was not united could not be saved at all.

[…] This was the fundamental motive in the whole of early theology, in St. Irenaeus, St. Athanasius, the Cappadocian Fathers, St. Cyril of Alexandria, and St. Maximus the Confessor.

The whole history of Christological dogma was determined by this fundamental conception: the Incarnation of the Word as Redemption.

In the Incarnation human history is completed. God’s eternal will is accomplished, “the mystery from eternity hidden and to angels unknown.”

The days of expectation are over. The Promised and the Expected has come. And from henceforth, to use the phrase of St. Paul, the life of man “is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

The Incarnation of the Word was an absolute manifestation of God. And above all it was a revelation of Life.

Christ is the Word of Life…, “and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 John 1:1-2).

The Incarnation is the quickening of man, as it were, the resurrection of human nature. But the climax of the Gospel is the Cross, the death of the Incarnate.

Georges Florovsky (1893-1979; Eastern Orthodox): “Incarnation and Redemption” in Theological Articles of Fr George Florovsky, vol. 3.

Leo the Great: A Man is Made the Body of Christ, because Christ Also is the Body of a Man Thursday, Dec 19 2013 

leo1Such was the state of all mortals resulting from our first ancestors that…no one would have escaped the punishment of condemnation, had not the Word become flesh and dwelt in us, that is to say, in that nature which belonged to our blood and race.

And accordingly, the Apostle says:  “As by one man’s sin (judgment passed) upon all to condemnation, so also by one man’s righteousness (it) passed upon all to justification of life.

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man’s obedience shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:18, 19);

and again, “For because by man (came) death, by man also (came) the resurrection of the dead.

And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive”  (1 Cor. 15:21, 22).

All they to wit who though they be born in Adam, yet are found reborn in Christ, having a sure testimony both to their justification by grace, and to Christ’s sharing in their nature;

for he who does not believe that God’s only-begotten Son did assume our nature in the womb of the Virgin-daughter of David, is without share in the Mystery of the Christian religion, and, as he neither recognizes the Bridegroom nor knows the Bride, can have no place at the wedding-banquet.

For the flesh of Christ is the veil of the Word, wherewith every one is clothed who confesses Him unreservedly.

[…]  Hence whosoever confesses not the human body in Christ, must know that he is unworthy of the mystery of the Incarnation, and has no share in that sacred union of which the Apostle speaks, saying, “For we are His members, of His flesh and of His bones.

For this cause a man shall leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and there shall be two in one flesh” (Eph. 5:30-32). And explaining what was meant by this, he added, “This mystery is great, but I speak in respect of Christ and the Church.”

Therefore, from the very commencement of the human race, Christ is announced to all men as coming in the flesh.

In which, as was said, “there shall be two in one flesh,” there are undoubtedly two, God and man, Christ and the Church, which issued from the Bridegroom’s flesh, when it received the mystery of redemption and regeneration, water and blood flowing from the side of the Crucified.

For the very condition of a new creature which at baptism puts off not the covering of true flesh but the taint of the old condemnation, is this, that a man is made the body of Christ, because Christ also is the body of a man.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Letter 59, 4.

Gregory Palamas: The Entry of the More Pure Virgin Mary into the Holy of Holies Thursday, Nov 21 2013 

Gregory_PalamasNovember 21st is the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (in the east, the Feast of the Entry of the More Pure Lady Theotokos into the Holy of Holies).

If a tree is known by its fruit, and a good tree bears good fruit (cf. Mt. 7.17; Luke 6.44), then is not the Mother of Goodness Itself, She who bore the Eternal Beauty, incomparably more excellent than every good, whether in this world or the world above?

Therefore, the coeternal and identical Image of Goodness, Pre-eternal, transcending all being, He Who is the pre-existing and good Word of the Father, moved by His unutterable love for mankind and compassion for us, put on our image.

This He did so that He might reclaim for Himself our nature which had been dragged down to uttermost Hades, so as to renew this corrupted nature and raise it to the heights of Heaven.

For this purpose, He had to assume a flesh that was both new and ours, that He might refashion us from out of ourselves.

Now He finds a Handmaiden perfectly suited to these needs, the supplier of Her own unsullied nature, the Ever-Virgin now hymned by us, and Whose miraculous Entrance into the Temple, into the Holy of Holies, we now celebrate.

God predestined Her before the ages for the salvation and reclaiming of our kind. She was chosen, not just from the crowd, but from the ranks of the chosen of all ages, renowned for piety and understanding, and for their God-pleasing words and deeds.

[…] God deigned to receive our nature from us, hypostatically uniting with it in a marvellous way. But it was impossible to unite that Most High Nature, Whose purity is incomprehensible for human reason, to a sinful nature before it had been purified.

Therefore, for the conception and birth of the Bestower of purity, a perfectly spotless and Most Pure Virgin was required.

Today we celebrate the memory of those things that contributed, if only once, to the Incarnation. He Who is God by nature, the Co-unoriginate and Co-eternal Word and Son of the Transcendent Father, becomes the Son of Man, the Son of the Ever-Virgin.

Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today, and forever (Heb. 13.8) is immutable in His divinity and blameless in His humanity. He alone, as the Prophet Isaiah prophesied, practiced no iniquity, nor deceit with His lips (Is. 53.9).

He alone was not brought forth in iniquity, nor was He conceived in sin, in contrast to what the Prophet David says concerning himself and every other man (Ps. 50:5 [LXX]).

Even in what He assumes, He is perfectly pure and has no need to be cleansed Himself. But for our sake, He accepted purification, suffering, death and resurrection, that He might transmit them to us.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): extracted from Discourse on the Feast of the Entry of the More Pure Lady Theotokos into the Holy of Holies (from the translation at Monachos.net).

Andrew of Crete: The birth of Mary and the deification of man Sunday, Sep 8 2013 

AndrewofcreteSeptember 8th is the Feast of the Birth of the Virgin Mary

The present day solemnity is a line of demarcation, separating the truth from its prefigurative symbol, and ushering in the new in place of the old.

Paul – that Divine Trumpeter of the Spirit – exclaims thus about this: “For anyone that be in Christ, ye are remade a new creature; the old passeth away and behold all is become new” (2 Cor 5:17);

“for the law hath perfected nothing adducing for a better hope, whereby we draw nigh to God” (Heb 7:19). The truth of grace hath shown forth brightly.

Let there now be one common festal celebration in both heaven and on earth. Let everything now celebrate, that which is in the world and that beyond the world.

Now is made the created temple for the Creator of all; and creation is readied into a new Divine habitation for the Creator.

Now our nature having been banished from the land of blessedness doth receive the principle of theosis [deification], and doth strive to rise up to the highest glory.

Now Adam doth offer from us and for us elements unto God, the most worthy fruit of mankind – Mary, in Whom the new Adam is rendered Bread for the restoration of the human race.

Now is opened the great bosom of virginity, and the Church, in the matrimonial manner, doth place upon it a pure pearl truly immaculate.

Now human worthiness doth accept the gift of the first creation and returns to its former condition.

Man’s majesty had been darkened by formless sin. Now, through the conjoining by His Mother by birth “of Him made beautiful by Goodness,” man receives beauty in a most excellent and God-seemly visage.

And this creating is done truly by the creation, and recreation by theosis, and theosis by a return to the original perfection!

Now a barren one is become beyond expectation a mother, and the Birth-giver hath given birth without knowing man, and she doth sanctify natural birth.

Now is readied the majestied color of the Divine scarlet-purple and the impoverished human nature is clothed in royal worthiness.

Now – according to prophecy – there sprouts forth the Offshoot of David, Who, having eternally become the green-sprouting Staff of Aaron, hath blossomed forth for us with the Staff of Power — Christ.

Now of Judah and David is descended a Virgin Maiden, rendering of herself the royal and priestly worthiness of Him that hath taken on the priesthood of Aaron in the order of Melchisedek (Heb 7:15).

Now is begun the renewal of our nature, and the world responding, assuming a God-seemly form, doth receive the principle of a second Divine creation.

Andrew of Crete (c.650-740[?]): Oration 1 – Homily on the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God; translation of complete homily @ Mystagogy.

Nikolai Velimirovich: The Changing of Water into Wine is the Fundamental Miracle of Christ Friday, Sep 6 2013 

Nikolai VelimirovichThis beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee (John 2:11).

Our God is Almighty; and His power has no limit and is beyond description. He created all that was created by His Word: By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made (Psalm 33:6).

By His Word, He created the body of man. By the Word of God, lifeless earth is transformed into the bodies of men, animals and plants.

By the Word of God, flowing water is changed into vapor, and vapor into ice and snow. By this same Word, the water in a vine is changed into wine, wine that maketh glad the heart of man (Psalm 104:15).

Therefore, how difficult a miracle was it for the Word of God Incarnate – Christ our Lord – to change water into wine in Cana?

For us men, darkened by sin, this is a great miracle; for our nature, weakened by sin, it is an unattainable miracle. Yet, isn’t the working of miracles the usual occupation of the Creator?

When the servants filled the six large vessels with water, the Lord Christ said to them: Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast (John 2:8).

He did not even say, “Let the water become wine,” he merely thought it. For God’s thoughts have the same power as His words.

Why is it said that this was the “beginning of miracles,” when it appears that, long before this miracle, the Lord worked other miracles?

Because, brethren, the changing of water into wine is the fundamental miracle of Christ, and is the essence of all His miracles.

Human nature was diluted with its own tears, and it was necessary to change it into wine. The divine spark in man was extinguished, and it was necessary to rekindle it.

Infirmity is like water, health is like wine; the impurities of the evil spirits are like water, purity is like wine; death is like water, life is like wine; ignorance is like water, truth is like wine.

Hence, whenever the Lord made the sick whole, the impure pure, the dead alive, and prodigals enlightened, He essentially turned water into wine.

O Lord our God, Thou miraculous Transformer of water into wine: bring Thy divine flame to our extinguished hearth.

Transform the water of our being into divine wine, that we may be like unto Thee-and that we may thus abide with Thee in Thine Immortal Kingdom, with Thy radiant angels. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956; Orthodox Church): Prologue from Ohrid, September 4th.

Ignatius Brianchaninov: The heavenly Father’s infinite and unspeakable mercy for repentant sinners Sunday, Mar 3 2013 

Ignatius_BrianchaninovWe learn from the Gospel parable [the story of the prodigal son] that for successful and fruitful repentance, a man needs to provide on his part: seeing his own sin, recognizing it, repenting of it, and confession of it.

God sees a person who has made this pledge in heart while he is yet a long way off; He sees him and runs to meet him, embraces and kisses him with His grace.

No sooner had the penitent pronounced his confession of his sin than the merciful Lord commanded the slaves—the servants of the altar and the holy Angels—to clothe him in bright garments of purity;

to place his ring upon his finger as a testimony of his renewed union with the Church both on earth and in heaven;

and to place shoes upon his feet, so that his actions would be protected from spiritual thorns by steadfast ordinances, for that is the meaning of the shoes—Christ’s commandments.

To complete the action of love, a feast of love is held for the returned son, for which a fatted calf is killed.

This feast signifies the Church feast to which the sinner is invited once he has made his peace with God—the spiritual, incorruptible food and drink—Christ—promised long ago to mankind, prepared through the unspeakable mercy of God for fallen man from the very moment of his fall.

[…] What more consoling news could there be for a sinner who stands trembling before the doors of repentance than this news about the Heavenly Father’s infinite and unspeakable mercy for repentant sinners?

This mercy is so great that it amazed the very Angels—the first-born sons of the Heavenly Father, who had never transgressed a single commandment of His.

Their bright, lofty minds could not fathom the unfathomable mercy of God for fallen mankind.

They needed a revelation from on High regarding this subject, and they learned from this revelation that it is meet for them to make merry, and be glad, for their lesser brother—the human race—was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found, through the Redeemer.

There is joy in the presence of the angels of God even over one sinner that repenteth.

[…] May our rejoicing be endless! May it be joined to the rejoicing of the holy Angels of God! May the joy of Angels and men be fulfilled and made perfect through their fulfilling the will of the Heavenly Father!

For, it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones—human beings, deprecated and humiliated by sin—should perish (Mt. 18:14).

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Instruction on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, on Repentance, translated by Nun Cornelia Rees @ Pravoslavie

Cyril of Alexandria: “I Saw the Spirit Descending from Heaven, and It Abode Upon Him” Tuesday, Jan 8 2013 

Cyril_of_AlexandriaThe first man, being earthy, and of the earth, and having, placed in his own power, the choice between good and evil, being master of the inclination to each, was caught of bitter guile.

Having inclined to disobedience, he falls to the earth, the mother from whence he sprang, and, over-mastered now at length by corruption and death, transmits the penalty to his whole race.

The evil growing and multiplying in us, and our understanding ever descending to the worse, sin reigned, and thus at length the nature of man was shown – denuded of the Holy Ghost Which indwelt him.

For the Holy Spirit of wisdom will flee deceit, as it is written, nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin. 

Since then the first Adam preserved not the grace given him of God, God the Father was minded to send us from Heaven the second Adam.

For He sends in our likeness His own Son Who is by Nature without variableness or change, and wholly unknowing of sin in order that, as by the disobedience of the first, we became subject to Divine wrath, so through the obedience of the Second, we might both escape the curse, and its evils might come to nought.

But when the Word of God became Man, He received the Spirit from the Father as one of us. He did not receive anything for Himself individually, for He was the Giver of the Spirit.

He received the Spirit that He Who knew no sin, might, by receiving It as Man, preserve It to our nature, and might again inroot in us the grace which had left us.

For this reason…the holy Baptist profitably added, I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven, and It abode upon Him. 

For It had fled from us by reason of sin, but He Who knew no sin, became as one of us, that the Spirit might be accustomed to abide in us, having no occasion of departure or withdrawal in Him.

Therefore through Himself He receives the Spirit for us, and renews to our nature, the ancient good. For thus is He also said for our sakes to become poor. 

[…] As then, being by Nature Life, He died in the Flesh for our sakes, that He might overcome death for us, and raise up our whole nature together with Himself – for all we were in Him, in that He was made Man.

So does He also receive the Spirit for our sakes, that He may sanctify our whole nature.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on John, 2, 1.

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