Cyril of Alexandria: Christ was carried into the temple… Friday, Feb 3 2017 

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 sooth 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 again, God the Father has said of them, “And I will strengthen them in the Lord their God, and in His Name shall they glory, saith the Lord.”

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 (on Luke 2:25-35).

Cyril of Jerusalem: The water that I shall give them will become in them a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life Saturday, Jun 18 2016 

Cyril-of-JerusalemThe water that I shall give them will become in them a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life.

This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy.

But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water.

Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation.

It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.

In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each person as he wills.

Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit.

Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of his action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvellous.

The Spirit makes some teachers of divine truth, inspires others to prophesy, gives others the power of casting out devils, enables others to interpret holy Scripture.

The Spirit strengthens the self-control of some, shows others how to help the poor, teaches others to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes others oblivious to the needs of the body, trains others for martyrdom.

His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each man, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.

The coming of the Spirit is gentle, his presence fragrant, his weight very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as he approaches.

The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console.

The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives him, and then through that person the minds of others as well.

As light strikes the eyes of those who come out of darkness into the sunshine and enables them to see clearly things they could not discern before, so does light flood the souls of those counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables them to see things beyond the range of human vision of which they had previously been ignorant.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechesis 16, 11-12, 16; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Easter Friday, Year 2.

Diadochus of Photiké: Through peace of soul we must make ourselves a dwelling-place for the Holy Spirit Sunday, May 29 2016 

diadochus-of-photikeOnly the Holy Spirit can purify the intellect, for unless a greater power comes and overthrows the despoiler, what he has taken captive will never be set free (cf Luke 11:21-22).

In every way, therefore, and especially through peace of soul, we must make ourselves a dwelling-place for the Holy Spirit.

Then we shall have the lamp of spiritual knowledge burning always within us;

and when it is shining constantly in the inner shrine of the soul, not only will the intellect (Greek: ὁ νοῦς)** [see footnote] perceive all the dark and bitter attacks of the demons, but these attacks will be greatly weakened when exposed for what they are by that glorious and holy light.

That is why the Apostle says: ‘Do not quench the Spirit’ (1 Thess. 5:19), meaning: ‘Do not grieve the goodness of the Holy Spirit by wicked actions or wicked thoughts, lest you be deprived of this protecting light.’

The Spirit, since He is eternal and life-creating, cannot be quenched; but if He is grieved – that is if He withdraws – He leaves the intellect without the light of spiritual knowledge, dark and full of gloom.

The loving and Holy Spirit of God teaches us, as we have said, that the perceptive faculty natural to our soul is single; indeed, even the five bodily senses differ from each other only because of the body’s varying needs.

But this single faculty of perception is split because of the dislocation which, as a result of Adam’s disobedience, takes place in the intellect through the modes in which the soul now operates.

Thus one side of the soul is carried away by the passionate part in man, and we are then captivated by the good things of this life, but the other side of the soul frequently delights in the activity of the intellect and, as a result, when we practice self-restraint, the intellect longs to pursue heavenly beauty.

If, therefore, we learn persistently to be detached from the good things of this world, we shall be able to unite the earthly appetite of the soul to its spiritual and intellectual aspiration, through the communion of the Holy Spirit who brings this about within us.

For unless His divinity actively illumines the inner shrine of our heart, we shall not be able to taste God’s goodness with the perceptive faculty undivided, that is, with unified aspiration.

Diadochus of Photiké (c.400-before 486): On Spiritual Perfection chs 28-29, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979).

**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from Diadochus and by other Greek authors: INTELLECT (nous): the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St Diadochos). The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Macarian Homilies).

Ambrose of Milan: “Let your face shine on your servant, and teach me your precepts” Monday, Mar 14 2016 

ambrose_of_milanLet your face shine on your servant, and teach me your precepts.

The Lord enlightens his saints and makes his light shine in the hearts of the just….

When you see wisdom in anyone you can be sure that the glory of God has come down and flooded that person’s mind with the light of understanding and knowledge of divine truth.

With Moses, however, it was different: God’s glory affected his body also, causing his face to shine.

[…] Now the face of Moses represents the splendour of the Law; yet this splendour is not to be found in the written letter but in the Law’s spiritual interpretation.

As long as Moses lived, he wore a veil over his face whenever he spoke to the Jewish people. But after his death Jesus, or Joshua, the son of Nun, spoke to the elders and the people without a veil…. Joshua’s glory, however, would be seen in his deeds rather than in his face.

By this the Holy Spirit signified that when Jesus, the true Joshua, came, he would lift the veil from the heart of anyone who turned to him in willingness to listen, and that person would then see his true Saviour with unveiled face.

[…] Through the coming of his Son, God the almighty Father made his light shine into the hearts of the Gentiles, bringing them to see his glory in the face of Christ Jesus.

[St Paul says]: The God who commanded light to shine out of darkness has made his light shine in our hearts, to enlighten us with the knowledge of God’s glory shining in the face of Christ Jesus.

And so when David says to the Lord Jesus: Let your face shine upon your servant, he is expressing his longing to see the face of Christ, so that his mind may be capable of enlightenment.

These words can be taken as referring to the incarnation, for as the Lord himself declared: Many prophets and righteous men have desired to have this vision.

David was not asking for what had been denied to Moses, namely that he might see the face of the incorporeal God with his bodily eyes…. (If Moses…could ask for this direct, unmediated vision, it was because it is inherent in our human nature for our desire to reach out beyond us.)

There was nothing wrong, therefore, in David’s desire to see the face of the Virgin’s Son who was to come; he desired it in order that God’s light might shine in his heart, as it shone in the hearts of the disciples who said: Were not our hearts burning within us when he opened up the Scriptures to us?

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Psalm 118 17:26-29 (CSEL 62:390-392); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the Third Week in Lent, Year 2.

Gregory the Great: Wrestling Jacob Saturday, Mar 12 2016 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistThe pursuit of the contemplative life is something for which a great and sustained effort on the part of the powers of the soul is required,

an effort to rise from earthly to heavenly things,

an effort to keep one’s attention fixed on spiritual things,

an effort to pass beyond and above the sphere of things visible to the eyes of flesh,

an effort finally to hem oneself in, so to speak, in order to gain access to spaces that are broad and open.

There are times indeed when one succeeds, overcoming the opposing obscurity of one’s blindness and catching at least a glimpse, be it ever so fleeting and superficial, of boundless light.

[…] We have a beautiful illustration of all this in the sacred history of the Scriptures where the story is told of Jacob’s encounter with the angel….

Like anyone involved in such a contest, Jacob found his opponent, now stronger, now weaker than himself.

Let us understand the angel of this story as representing the Lord, and Jacob who contended with the angel as representing the soul of the perfect individual who in contemplation has come face to face with God.

This soul, as it exerts every effort to behold God as he is in himself, is like one engaged with another in a contest of strength.

At one moment it prevails so to speak, as it gains access to that boundless light and briefly experiences in mind and heart the sweet savour of the divine presence.

The next moment, however, it succumbs, overcome and drained of its strength by the very sweetness of the taste it has experienced.

The angel, therefore, is, as it were, overcome when in the innermost recesses of the intellect the divine presence is directly experienced and seen.

Here, however, it is to be noted that the angel, when he could not prevail over Jacob, touched the sciatic muscle of Jacob’s hip, so that it forthwith withered and shrank. From that time on Jacob became lame in one leg and walked with a limp.

Thus also does the all-powerful God cause all carnal affections to dry up and wither away in us, once we have come to experience in our mind and hear the knowledge of him as he is in himself.

Previously we walked about on two feet, as it were, when we thought, so it seemed, that we could seek after God while remain­ing at the same time attached to the world.

But having once come to the knowledge and experience of the sweetness of God, only one of these two feet retains its life and vigour, the other becoming lame and useless.

For it necessarily follows that the stronger we grow in our love for God alone, the weaker becomes our love for the world.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Homilies on Ezekiel, 1.12 (PL 76:955) from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Thursday of the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time, Year 2.

 

Gregory Nazianzen: The Holy Day of the Lights, to which we have come… Monday, Jan 4 2016 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenThe Holy Day of the Lights,

to which we have come,

and which we are celebrating today,

has for its origin the Baptism of my Christ,

the True Light That lightens every man that comes into the world (John 1:9)

and effects my purification,

and assists that light which we received from the beginning from Him from above,

but which we darkened and confused by sin.

Therefore listen to the Voice of God, which sounds so exceeding clearly to me, who am both disciple and master of these mysteries, as would to God it may sound to you; I Am the Light of the World (John 8:12).

Therefore approach ye to Him and be enlightened, and let not your faces be ashamed, being signed with the true Light.

It is a season of new birth (John 3:3); let us be born again.

It is a time of reformation; let us receive again the first Adam.

Let us not remain what we are, but let us become what we once were.

The Light shines in darkness, in this life and in the flesh, and is chased by the darkness, but is not overtaken by it (John 1:5)—

—I mean the adverse power leaping up in its shamelessness against the visible Adam, but encountering God and being defeated—

—in order that we, putting away the darkness, may draw near to the Light, and may then become perfect Light, the children of perfect Light.

See the grace of this Day; see the power of this mystery.

[…] To us grace has been given to flee from superstitious error and to be joined to the truth and to serve the living and true God, and to rise above creation, passing by all that is subject to time and to first motion.

So let us look at and reason upon God and things divine in a manner corresponding to this Grace given us.

But let us begin our discussion of them from the most fitting point. And the most fitting is, as Solomon laid down for us; us; The beginning of wisdom, he says, is to get wisdom (Proverbs 4:7).

And what this is he tells us; the beginning of wisdom is fear.

For we must not begin with contemplation and leave off with fear (for an unbridled contemplation would perhaps push us over a precipice), but we must be grounded and purified and so to say made light by fear, and thus be raised to the height.

For where fear is there is keeping of commandments;

and where there is keeping of commandments there is purifying of the flesh, that cloud which covers the soul and suffers it not to see the Divine Ray.

And where there is purifying there is Illumination;

and Illumination is the satisfying of desire to those who long for the greatest things, or the Greatest Thing, or That Which surpasses all greatness.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 39 (On the Holy Lights), 1, 2, 8.

Augustine of Hippo: He came to infirm minds, to wounded hearts, to the gaze of dim-eyed souls Wednesday, Dec 9 2015 

St Augustine of AfricaHe was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (John 1:8-9).

Wherefore then did he [St John the Baptist] come? “But that he might bear witness concerning the light.”

Why so? “That all might believe through him.” And concerning what light was he to bear witness? “That was the true light.”

Wherefore is it added true? Because an enlightened man is also called a light; but the true light is that which enlightens.

For even our eyes are called lights; and nevertheless, unless either during the night a lamp is lighted, or during the day the sun goes forth, these lights are open in vain.

Thus, therefore, John was a light, but not the true light; because, if not enlightened, he would have been darkness; but, by enlightenment, he became a light.

For unless he had been enlightened he would have been darkness, as all those once impious men, to whom, as believers, the apostle said, “Ye were sometimes darkness.”

But now, because they had believed, what?—“but now are ye light,” he says, “in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8).

[…]  And thus “he was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of the light.” But where is that light? “He was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”

If every man that cometh, then also John. The true light, therefore, enlightened him by whom He desired Himself to be pointed out.

Understand, beloved, for He came to infirm minds, to wounded hearts, to the gaze of dim-eyed souls. For this purpose had He come.

And whence was the soul able to see that which perfectly is? Even as it commonly happens, that by means of some illuminated body, the sun, which we cannot see with the eyes, is known to have arisen.

Because even those who have wounded eyes are able to see a wall illuminated and enlightened by the sun, or a mountain, or a tree, or anything of that sort; and, by means of another body illuminated, that arising is shown to those who are not as yet able to gaze on it.

Thus, therefore all those to whom Christ came were not fit to see Him: upon John He shed the beams of His light; and by means of him confessing himself to have been irradiated and enlightened, not claiming to be one who irradiates and enlightens, He is known who enlightens, He is known who illuminates, He is known who fills.

And who is it? “He who lighteth every man,” he says, “who cometh into the world.” For if man had not receded from that light, he would not have required to be illuminated; but for this reason has he to be illuminated here, because he departed from that light by which man might always have been illuminated.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Homilies on St John’s Gospel, Tractate 2, 6-7.

Symeon the New Theologian: Grace becomes itself the day of divine judgment by which he who is purified is continually illumined Tuesday, Aug 25 2015 

SYMEON-iconContinued from here….

Grace, on the one hand, is unapproachable and invisible to those who are still possessed by unbelief and the passions, and is seen, on the other hand, and revealed to those who with faith and in fear and trembling do the commandments and give evidence of a worthy repentance.

This same grace of itself incontestably brings the future judgment to pass in them.

Rather, indeed, it becomes itself the day of divine judgment by which he who is purified is continually illumined, sees himself as he is in truth and in every detail, and all his works for what they are, whether done by the body or acted on by the soul.

Nor this alone, but he is as well judged and examined by the divine fire, and, thus enriched by the water of his tears, his whole body is moistened and he is baptized entire, little by little, by the divine fire and Spirit, and becomes wholly purified, altogether immaculate, a son of the light and of the day, and from that point on no longer a child of mortal man.

It is quite for this reason, too, that such a man is not judged at the judgment and justice to come, for he has already been judged. Neither is he reproved by that light, for he has been illumined beforehand.

Nor is he put to the test and burned on entering this fire, for he has been tried already. Neither does he understand the Day of the Lord as appearing sometime “then,” because, by virtue of his converse and union with God, he has become wholly a bright and shining day.

[…] As many therefore as are children of the light also become sons of the Day which is to come, and are enabled to walk decently as in the day, The Day of the Lord will never come upend them, because they are already in it forever and continually.

The Day of the Lord, in effect, is not going to be revealed suddenly to those who are ever illumined by the divine light, but for those who are in the darkness of the passions and spend their lives in the world hungering for the things of the world, for them it will be fearful and they will experience it as unbearable fire.

However, this fire which is God will not appear in an entirely spiritual manner but, one might say, as bodilessly embodied, in the same way as, according to the Evangelist, Christ of old was seen by the Apostles after having risen from the dead.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD): Tenth Ethical Discourse @ Eclectic Orthodoxy.

Gregory the Great: “Canst thou find out the footsteps of God?” Tuesday, Jun 2 2015 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistCanst thou find out the footsteps of God?  Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? (Job 11:7).

What does he call ‘the footsteps of God,’ saving the lovingkindness of His visitation?

By this we are stimulated to advance forward to things above, when we are influenced by the inspiration of His Spirit.

And, being carried without the narrow compass of the flesh, by love we see and own the likeness of our Maker presented to our contemplation that we may follow it.

For when the love of the spiritual land kindles the heart, He as it were gives knowledge of a way to persons that follow it.

And a sort of footstep of God as He goes is imprinted upon the heart laid under it, that the way of life may be kept by the same in right goings of the thoughts.

For Him, Whom we do not as yet see, it only remains for us to trace out by the footsteps of His love, that at length the mind may find Him, to the reaching the likeness contemplation gives of Him, Whom now as it were, following Him in the rear, it searches out by holy desires.

The Psalmist was well skilled to follow these footsteps of our Creator, when he said, My soul followeth hard after Thee (Ps. 63:8).

Whom too he busied himself that he might find even to attaining the vision of His loftiness, when he said, My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before the face of God? (Ps. 42:2).

For then Almighty God is found out by clear conception when, the corruption of our mortality being once for all trodden under our feet, He is seen by us that are taken up into heaven in the brightness of His Divine Nature.

But at this present time, the grace of the Spirit which is poured into our hearts lifts the soul from carnal aims, and elevates it into a contempt for transitory things, and the mind looks down upon all that it coveted below, and is kindled to objects of desire above.

By the force of her contemplation she is carried out of the flesh, while by the weight of her corruption she is still held fast in the flesh.

She strives to obtain sight of the splendour of uncircumscribed Light, and has not power; for the soul, being burthened with infirmity, both never wins admittance, and yet loves when repelled.

For our Creator already exhibits concerning Himself something whereby love may be excited, but He withdraws the appearance of His vision from those so loving.

Therefore we all go on seeing only His footsteps, in that only in the tokens of His gifts we follow Him, Whom as yet we see not.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 10, 13 (on Job 11:7) @ Lectionary Central (slightly adapted).

Basil the Great: No One Comes to the Father Except Through the Son Monday, Jun 16 2014 

St-Basil-the-GreatNeither heaven and earth and the great seas,

nor the creatures that live in the water and on dry land,

nor plants, and stars, and air, and seasons,

nor the vast variety in the order of the universe,

so well sets forth the excellency of His might

as that God, being incomprehensible, should have been able, impassibly, through flesh, to have come into close conflict with death,

to the end that by His own suffering He might give us the boon of freedom from suffering.

[…] He Himself has bound the strong man and spoiled his goods, that is, us men, whom our enemy had abused in every evil activity.

He has made us “vessels meet for the Master’s use” – us who have been perfected for every work through the making ready of that part of us which is in our own control.

Thus we have had our approach to the Father through Him, being translated from “the power of darkness to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Col. 1:12, 13).

We must not, however, regard the œconomy through the Son as a compulsory and subordinate ministration resulting from the low estate of a slave, but rather the voluntary solicitude working effectually for His own creation in goodness and in pity, according to the will of God the Father.

For we shall be consistent with true religion if in all that was and is from time to time perfected by Him, we both bear witness to the perfection of His power, and in no case put it asunder from the Father’s will.

For instance, whenever the Lord is called the Way, we are carried on to a higher meaning, and not to that which is derived from the vulgar sense of the word.

We understand by Way that advance to perfection which is made stage by stage, and in regular order, through the works of righteousness and “the illumination of knowledge.”

We longing after what is before, and reach forth unto those things which remain, until we shall have reached the blessed end, the knowledge of God, which the Lord through Himself bestows on them that have trusted in Him.

For our Lord is an essentially good Way, where erring and straying are unknown, to that which is essentially good, to the Father.  For “no one,” He says, “cometh to the Father but through me”(John 14:6).  Such is our way up to God “through the Son.”

Basil the Great (330-379): On the Holy Spirit 8, 18.

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