Theophylact of Ohrid: The Rebellion of the Prodigal Son Tuesday, Mar 4 2014 

Theophylact_the_Bulgarian (1)On Luke 15:11-32 (the Parable of the Prodigal Son).

Of old, from the beginning, righteousness belonged to human nature, which is why the older son (born at the beginning) does not become estranged from the father.

But sin is an evil thing which was born later.

This is why it is the younger son who alienates himself from the father, for the latter-born son grew up together with sin which had insinuated itself into man at a later time.

The sinner is also called the younger son because the sinner is an innovator, a revolutionary, and a rebel, who defies his Father’s will. Father, give me the portion of the property (ousia) that falleth to me.

The essential property of man is his rational mind, his logos, always accompanied by his free will (autexousia), for all that is rational is inherently self-governing.

The Lord gives us logos for us to use, according to our free will, as our own essential property.

He gives to all alike, so that all alike are rational, and all alike are self-governing.

But some of us use this generous gift rationally, in accordance with logos, while others of us squander the divine gift.

Moreover, everything which the Lord has given us might be called our property, that is, the sky, the earth, the whole creation, the law and the prophets.

But the later sinful generation, the younger son, saw the sky and made it a god, and saw the earth and worshipped it, and did not want to walk in the way of God’s law, and did evil to the prophets.

On the other hand, the elder son, the righteous, used all these things for the glory of God.

Therefore, having given all an equal share of logos and self-determination, God permits us to make our way according to our own will and compels no one to serve Him who is unwilling.

If He had wanted to compel us, He would not have created us with logos and a free will.

But the younger son completely spent this inheritance. Why? Because he had gone into a far country.

When a man rebels against God and places himself far away from the fear of God, then he squanders all the divine gifts.

But when we are near to God, we do not do such deeds that merit our destruction. As it is written, I beheld the Lord ever before me, for He is at my right hand, that I might not be shaken (Ps. 15:8).

But when we are far from God and become rebellious, we both do, and suffer, the worst things, as it is written, Behold, they that remove themselves from Thee shall perish (Ps. 72:25).

Theophylact of Ohrid (1055-1107): Explanation of the Gospel of St Luke, on Luke 15:11-32 (Sunday of the Prodigal Son) @ Chrysostom Press.

Athanasius of Alexandria: The Word Became Lord of All to Hallow All by the Spirit Sunday, Feb 23 2014 

AthanasiusOn St Peter’s words in Acts 2:36:

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ”.

The Son of God, being Himself the Word, is Lord of all.

We became subject from the first to the slavery of corruption and the curse of the Law.

Then, by degrees fashioning for ourselves things that were not, we served, as says the blessed Apostle, ‘them which by nature are no Gods’  (Gal. 4:8).

Ignorant of the true God, we preferred things that were not to the truth.

The ancient people when oppressed in Egypt groaned.

So also, we too had the Law ‘engrafted’  (James 1:21) in us, and according to the unutterable sighings (Rom. 8:26) of the Spirit made our intercession, ‘O Lord our God, take possession of us’ (Is. 26:13, LXX).

Then, as ‘He became for a house of refuge’ and a ‘God and defence,’ so also He became our Lord.

Nor did He then begin to be, but we began to have Him for our Lord.

God, being good and Father of the Lord, full of pity, and desiring to be known by all, makes His own Son put on Him a human body and become man, and be called Jesus.

This was so that, offering Himself in this body for all, He might deliver all from false worship and corruption, and might Himself in this way become Lord and King of all.

This it is what Peter means when he says ‘He has made Him Lord,’ and ‘has sent Christ.’

Peter is saying that, in making Him man (for to be made belongs to man), the Father did not simply make Him man.

Rather, He has made Him with a view to His being Lord of all men, and to His hallowing all through the Anointing.

For though the Word existing in the form of God took a servant’s form, yet the assumption of the flesh did not make a servant of the Word, who was by nature Lord.

It was  the emancipation of all humanity which takes place by the Word.

And by this assumption that very Word who was by nature Lord, and who was then made man, has by means of a servant’s form been made Lord of all and Christ in order to hallow all by the Spirit.

[…] Christ, being by nature Lord and King everlasting, does not become Lord more than He was at the time He is sent forth.

He does not then begin to be Lord and King, but what He is ever, that He then is made according to the flesh.

And, having redeemed all, He becomes thereby again Lord of quick and dead.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Against the Arians, 2, 15, 14 (adapted).

Cyril of Alexandria: The Mystery of Christ is a Light for Those in Darkness Sunday, Feb 2 2014 

cyril_alexandriaChrist was carried into the temple, being yet a little child at the breast.

And the blessed Symeon, being endowed with the grace of prophecy, takes Him in his arms, and filled with the highest joy, blessed God, and said:

“Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word. For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation, Which Thou hast prepared before the face of all the nations, the Gentiles’ light for revelation, and a glory of Thy people Israel.”

For the mystery of Christ had been prepared even before the very foundation of the world, but was manifested in the last ages of time, and became a light for those who in darkness and error had fallen under the devil’s hand.

These were they “who serve the creation instead of the Creator,” worshipping moreover the dragon, the author of evil, and the impure throng of devils, to whom they attach the honour due unto God.

Yet were they called by God the Father to the acknowledgment of the Son Who is the true light.

Of them in truth He said by the voice of Isaiah, “I will make signs unto them, and receive them, because I will ransom them, and they shall be multiplied, as they were many: and I will sow them among the nations, and they who are afar off shall remember Me.”

For very many were they that were astray, but were called through Christ, and again they are many as they were before.

For they have been received and ransomed, having obtained as the token of peace from God the Father, the adoption into His family and the grace that is by faith in Jesus Christ.

And the divine disciples were sown widely among the nations. And what is the consequence? Those who in disposition were far from God have been made near.

To whom also the divine Paul sends an epistle, saying, “Now ye who some time were afar off have been made near in the blood of Christ.”

And having been brought near, they make Christ their glorying. For…God the Father has said of them, “And I will strengthen them in the Lord their God, and in His Name shall they glory….”

This also the blessed Psalmist teaches, speaking as it were unto Christ the Saviour of all, and saying, “Lord, they shall walk in the light of Thy countenance, and in Thy Name shall they exult all the day, and in Thy righteousness shall they be exalted: for Thou art the glorying of their strength.”

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, Sermon 4.

Cyril of Alexandria: Mary, Theotokos, We Salute You Wednesday, Jan 1 2014 

cyril_alexandriaI see here a joyful company of Christian men met together in ready response to the call of Mary, the holy and ever-virgin Mother of God.

The great grief that weighed upon me is changed into joy by your presence, venerable Fathers.

Now the beautiful saying of David the psalmist: How good and pleasant it is for brothers to live together in unity (Psalm 133) has come true for us.

Therefore, holy and incomprehensible Trinity, we salute you at whose summons we have come together to this church of Mary, the Theotokos [Mother of God].

Mary, Theotokos, we salute you. Precious vessel, worthy of the whole world’s reverence, you are an ever-shining light, the crown of virginity, the symbol of orthodoxy, an indestructible temple, the place that held Him whom no place can contain, mother and virgin.

Because of you the holy gospels could say: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

We salute you, for in your holy womb was confined him who is beyond all limitation.

Because of you the Holy Trinity is glorified and adored; the Cross is called precious and is venerated throughout the world; the heavens exult;

the angels and archangels make merry; demons are put to flight; the devil, that tempter, is thrust down from heaven;

the fallen race of man is taken up on high; all creatures possessed by the madness of idolatry have attained knowledge of the truth;

believers receive holy baptism; the oil of gladness is poured out; the Church is established throughout the world; pagans are brought to repentance.

What more is there to say? Because of you the light of the only-begotten Son of God has shone upon those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death;

prophets pronounced the word of God; the apostles preached salvation to the Gentiles; the dead are raised to life, and kings rule by the power of the Holy Trinity.

Who can put Mary’s high honor into words? She is both mother and virgin. I am overwhelmed by the wonder of this miracle.

Of course no one could be prevented from living in the house he had built for himself, yet who would invite mockery by asking His own servant to become His mother?

Behold then the joy of the whole universe. Let the union of God and man in the Son of the Virgin Mary fill us with awe and adoration.

Let us fear and worship the undivided Trinity as we sing the praise of the ever-virgin Mary, the holy temple of God, and of God Himself, her Son and spotless Bridegroom.

To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Homily given at the Council of Ephesus, 361 @ Orthodox Martyria.

Bede the Venerable: How Saint Wilfrid Converted the Province of the South Saxons to Christ (681 A.D.) Saturday, Oct 12 2013 

icon_bede-October 12th is the feast of St Wilfrid (c. 633-c. 709).

Wilfrid was expelled from his bishopric, and having long travelled in many lands, went to Rome, and afterwards returned to Britain.

Though he could not, by reason of the enmity of the aforesaid king, be received into his own country or diocese, yet he could not be restrained from the ministry of the Gospel;

for, taking his way into the province of the South Saxons, which …  was at that time still in bondage to pagan rites, he administered to them the Word of faith, and the Baptism of salvation.

[…]  The bishop, therefore, with the consent of King Ethelwalch, or rather to his great joy, cleansed in the sacred font the foremost ealdormen and thegns of that country; and the priests…baptized the rest of the people.

The queen, whose name was Eabae, had been baptized in her own country, … but all the province of the South Saxons was ignorant of the Name of God and the faith.

[…] Bishop Wilfrid, while preaching the Gospel to the people, not only delivered them from the misery of eternal damnation, but also from a terrible calamity of temporal death.

For no rain had fallen in that district for three years before his arrival in the province, whereupon a grievous famine fell upon the people and pitilessly destroyed them.

[…] . But on the very day on which the nation received the Baptism of the faith, there fell a soft but plentiful rain; the earth revived, the fields grew green again, and the season was pleasant and fruitful.

Thus the old superstition was cast away, and idolatry renounced, the heart and flesh of all rejoiced in the living God, for they perceived that He Who is the true God had enriched them by His heavenly grace with both inward and outward blessings.

For the bishop, when he came into the province, and found so great misery from famine there, taught them to get their food by fishing; for their sea and rivers abounded in fish, but the people had no skill to take any of them, except eels alone.

The bishop’s men having gathered eel-nets everywhere, cast them into the sea, and by the blessing of God took three hundred fishes of divers sorts, which being divided into three parts, they gave a hundred to the poor, a hundred to those of whom they had the nets, and kept a hundred for their own use.

By this benefit the bishop gained the affections of them all, and they began more readily at his preaching to hope for heavenly blessings, seeing that by his help they had received those which are temporal.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 4, 13.

Ambrose of Milan: Naaman Sought Healing for his Body and Won it for his Soul Monday, Aug 19 2013 

ambrose_of_milanThere were many lepers in the time of the prophet Elisha, but none of them was healed except Naaman the Syrian (Luke 4:25).

Clearly this saying of our Lord and Saviour teaches and exhorts us to be zealous in worshiping God; it shows that no one is healed and set free from a disfiguring illness without having earnestly striven for health by acts of piety.

Divine blessings are not accorded to the som­nolent, but to the persistent. The Lord uses an apt comparison to deflate his envious townsmen and to show that his actions are in harmony with the ancient scriptures.

We read in the Book of Kings that a Gentile called Naaman was cleansed of leprous spots by the word of a prophet, although leprosy of body and soul was carrying off many Israelites;

in fact the history relates that the four men were lepers who, driven by hunger, were the first to enter the camp of the King of Syria.

Why then did the prophet not cure his brothers, his compatriots and comrades, when he healed foreigners, men who did not observe the law or share his religion, if not because healing depends upon the will, not upon one’s nationality, and because the divine gift is gained by prayer, not granted as a birthright.

Learn to ask for what you wish to obtain; heavenly blessings are not bestowed upon the proud.

[…] Rightly, therefore, was Naaman said to be greatly esteemed by his lord, and in high favour, for he foreshadowed the future salvation of the Gentiles.

A devout slave-girl captured by the enemy when her country was defeated advised ­him to seek healing from a prophet; and he was healed not by order of an earthly King, but by the generous mercy of God.

What is the reason for the mysterious number of times he was required to immerse himself? Why was the river Jordan chosen? As Naaman said: Are not Abanna and Pharphar, the rivers of Damascus, better than the Jordan?

Anger made him prefer those ­rivers, but reflection led him to choose the Jordan: wrath remains ignorant of the mystery, but faith understands it.

Understand from this the saving grace of baptism: he entered the water a leper and came forth a believer. Recognise the symbol of the spiritual sacraments:

Naaman sought healing for his body and won it for his soul. His flesh was bathed and his wrong dispositions were cleansed.

In my view he was cleansed as much of the soul’s leprosy as the body’s, for after his baptism, ­when the impurities of his former false religion had been washed away, he declared that he would no longer offer sacrifices to alien gods, but promised them to the Lord.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On St Luke’s Gospel, 4, 49-50, 1, 33 (SC 45:170-171); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Monday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Athanasius of Alexandria: The Lordship of Christ and Our Deliverance from Idolatry and Corruption Thursday, Aug 8 2013 

AthanasiusLet all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified (Acts 2:36).

The Son of God indeed, being Himself the Word, is Lord of all.

We once were subject from the first to the slavery of corruption and the curse of the Law. Then by degrees we fashioned for ourselves things that were not.

We served, as says the blessed Apostle, ‘them which by nature are no Gods,’ and, ignorant of the true God, we preferred things that were not to the truth.

But afterwards, as the ancient people when oppressed in Egypt groaned, so, when we too had the Law ‘engrafted’ in us, and according to the unutterable sighings of the Spirit made our intercession, ‘O Lord our God, take possession of us.’

Then, as ‘He became for a house of refuge’ and a ‘God and defence,’ so also He became our Lord. Nor did He then begin to be our Lord, but we began to have Him for our Lord.

For upon this, God being good and Father of the Lord, in pity, and desiring to be known by all, makes His own Son put on Him a human body and become man, and be called Jesus.

This was so that, offering Himself in this body for all, He might deliver all from false worship and corruption, and might Himself become of all Lord and King.

His becoming therefore in this way Lord and King, is what Peter means when he says, ‘He hath made Him Lord,’ and ‘hath sent Christ.’

Peter is saying, that the Father in making Him man (for to be made belongs to man), did not simply make Him man, but has made Him with a with a view to His being Lord of all men, and to His hallowing all through the Anointing.

For though the Word existing in the form of God took a servant’s form, yet the assumption of the flesh did not make a servant of the Word, who was by nature Lord.

Not only did the emancipation of all humanity take place by the Word, but that very Word who was by nature Lord, and was then made man, has, by means of a servant’s form, been made Lord of all and Christ in order to hallow all by the Spirit.

[…]  Christ…being by nature Lord and King everlasting, does not become Lord more than He was at the time He is sent forth, nor then begins to be Lord and King; but what which He always and eternally is, He then is made according to the flesh.

And, having redeemed all, He becomes thereby again Lord of quick and dead. For Him henceforth do all things serve, and this is David’s meaning in the Psalm, ‘The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.’

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Against the Arians, 2, 15, 14.

Macarius the Egyptian: That heavenly fire of the Godhead which Christians receive in their hearts Thursday, Jul 4 2013 

Macarius3That heavenly fire of the Godhead, which Christians receive in their hearts now in this present world, that same fire which now ministers inwardly in the heart becomes outward when the body is dissolved, and recomposes the members, and causes a resurrection of the members that had been dissolved.

As the fire that ministered on the altar at Jerusalem lay buried in a pit during the time of the captivity, and the selfsame fire, when peace came and the captives returned home, was renewed, as it were, and ministered in its accustomed manner (2 Maccabees 1:19ff), so now the heavenly fire works upon this body that is so near us, which after its dissolution turns to mire, and renews it, and raises up the bodies that had decayed.

The inward fire that now dwells in the heart becomes then external, and causes a resurrection of the body.

The fire in the furnace under Nabuchodonosor was no divine fire, but a creature; but the Three Children (Daniel 3), because of their righteousness, while they were in the visible fire, had in their hearts the divine and heavenly fire ministering within their thoughts and exerting its energy in them.

That very fire showed itself outside them. It stood between them and the visible fire, and restrained it, that it should not burn the righteous, nor do them any manner of hurt.

In like manner, when the mind of Israel and their thoughts were bent upon departing far from the living God and turning to idolatry, Aaron was compelled to tell them to bring their golden vessels and ornaments (Exodus 32). Then the gold and the vessels, which they cast into the fire, became an idol, and the fire, as it were, copied their intention.

That was a wonderful thing. They, secretly, in purpose and thought, determined upon idolatry, and the fire accordingly fashioned the vessels thrown upon it into an idol, and then they committed idolatry openly.

As, then, the Three Children, having thoughts of righteousness, received in themselves the fire of God, and worshipped the Lord in truth, so now faithful souls receive that divine and heavenly fire, in this world, in secret; and that fire forms a heavenly image upon their humanity.

As the fire formed the golden vessels, and they became an idol, so does the Lord, who copies the intentions of faithful and good souls, and forms an image even now in the soul according to their desire, and at the resurrection it appears external to them, and glorifies their bodies within and without.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]; Spiritual Homily 11,1-3, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Athanasius of Alexandria: He Is the Father’s Word and Wisdom Wednesday, May 2 2012 

He is the Father’s Word and Wisdom. He condescends to created things to impart the knowledge and apprehension of Him that begot Him.

He becomes His very Brightness and very Life, and the Door, and the Shepherd, and the Way, and King and Governor, and Saviour over all, and Light, and Giver of Life, and Providence over all.

Having then such a Son begotten of Himself, good, and Creator, the Father did not hide Him out of the sight of His creatures.

Day by day He reveals Him to all by means of the organisation and life of all things, which is His work.

But in and through Him He reveals Himself also, as the Saviour says: “I in the Father and the Father in Me”.

It follows that the Word is in Him that begat Him, and that He that is begotten lives eternally with the Father.

Nothing being outside Him, but both heaven and earth and all that in them is are dependent on Him.

Yet men in their folly have set aside the knowledge and service of Him.

They have honoured things that are not instead of things that are. And, instead of the real and true God, they have deified things that were not, “serving the creature rather than the Creator”, thus involving themselves in foolishness and impiety.

For it is just as if one were to admire the works more than the workman, and being awestruck at the public works in the city, were to make light of their builder, or as if one were to praise a musical instrument but to despise the man who made and tuned it.

Foolish and sadly disabled in eyesight! For how else had they known the building, or ship, or lyre, had not the ship-builder made it, the architect built it, or the musician fashioned it?

As then he that reasons in such a way is mad, and beyond all madness, even so affected in mind, I think, are those who do not recognise God or worship His Word, our Lord Jesus Christ the Saviour of all.

Through Him the Father orders, and holds together all things, and exercises providence over the Universe.

Having faith and piety towards Him, my Christ-loving friend, we should be of good cheer and of good hope.

For immortality and the kingdom of heaven is the fruit of faith and devotion towards Him, if only the soul be adorned according to His laws.

For those who walk after His example, the prize is life everlasting.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Contra Gentes, 3, 47.

Athanasius of Alexandria: “Blessed Are the Pure in Heart, for They Shall See God” Wednesday, Sep 28 2011 

Evil has not existed from the beginning, even now it is not found amongst the holy ones.

But it was men who began to conceive of it and imagine it in their own likeness.

Hence they fashioned for themselves the notion of idols, considering non-existent things as real.

For God, the Creator of the universe and King of all, who is beyond all being and human thought, made mankind in his own image through his own Word, our Saviour Jesus Christ;

and he also made man perceptive and able to understand reality through his similarity to him, giving him also a knowledge of his own eternity.

As long as he kept this likeness he would never abandon the concept of God or leave the company of the holy ones.

Retaining the grace bestowed on him by God and also the special power given him by the Father’s Word, man could rejoice and converse with God, living an idyllic and truly blessed and immortal life.

For having no obstacle to the knowledge of the divine, man could continuously contemplate in his purity the image of the Father, God the Word, in whose image he himself was made;

he could be filled with admiration in grasping divine providence towards the universe.

Man in this state would be superior to sensual things, and by the power of his mind could cling to the divine and intelligible realities in heaven.

For when the mind of man has no intercourse with the body, and has nothing of the latter’s desires mingled with it from outside but is entirely superior to them, it is self-sufficient as it was created in the beginning.

It then transcends the senses and all human things and it rises high above the world; it beholds the Word and sees in him also the Father of the Word.

It rejoices in con­templating him and is renewed by its desire for him, just as the holy Scriptures say that the first man to be created, who was called Adam in Hebrew, had his mind fixed on God in unembarrassed frankness.

[…] Indeed the purity of the soul makes it able to contemplate even God by itself, as the Lord himself said Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

[…] But men, con­temptuous of the better things, sought rather what was closer to themselves – and what was closer to them was the body and its sensations.

So they turned their minds away from intelligible reality and began to consider them­selves; they fell into selfish desires and preferred their own good to the contempla­tion of the divine.

[…] At the urging of the serpent he abandoned his thinking of God and began to consider himself.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Contra Gentes 2-3; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the Twenty-Sixth Week of Ordinary Time, Year I.

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