Leo the Great: This threefold round of duty attains to God’s image and likeness and unites us inseparably with the Holy Spirit Tuesday, Dec 15 2015 

leo1When the Lord says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, from all thy heart and from all thy mind:  and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:37, 39), let the faithful soul put on the unfading love of its Author and Ruler, and subject itself also entirely to His will in Whose works and judgments true justice and tender-hearted compassion never fail.

For although a man be wearied out with labours and many misfortunes, there is good reason for him to endure all in the knowledge that adversity will either prove him good or make him better.

But this godly love cannot be perfect unless a man love his neighbour also.  Under which name must be included not only those who are connected with us by friendship or neighbourhood, but absolutely all men, with whom we have a common nature, whether they be foes or allies, slaves or free.

For the One Maker fashioned us, the One Creator breathed life into us; we all enjoy the same sky and air, the same days and nights, and, though some be good, others bad, some righteous, others unrighteous, yet God is bountiful to all, kind to all.

[…] But the wide extent of Christian grace has given us yet greater reasons for loving our neighbour, which, reaching to all parts of the whole world, looks down on no one, and teaches that no one is to be neglected.

And full rightly does He command us to love our enemies, and to pray to Him for our persecutors, who, daily grafting shoots of the wild olive from among all nations upon the holy branches of His own olive, makes men reconciled instead of enemies, adopted sons instead of strangers, just instead of ungodly, “that every knee may bow of things in heaven, of things on earth, and of things under the earth, and every tongue confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).

[…] There are three things which most belong to religious actions, namely prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, in the exercising of which while every time is accepted, yet that ought to be more zealously observed, which we have received as hallowed by tradition from the apostles:  even as this tenth month brings round again to us the opportunity when according to the ancient practice we may give more diligent heed to those three things of which I have spoken.

This threefold round of duty, dearly beloved, brings all other virtues into action:  it attains to God’s image and likeness and unites us inseparably with the Holy Spirit.  Because in prayer faith remains stedfast, in fastings life remains innocent, in almsgiving the mind remains kind.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 12:2&4.

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Leo the Great: The form of the divine goodness reflected in us as in a mirror Monday, Nov 30 2015 

leo1If, dearly beloved, we comprehend faithfully and wisely the beginning of our creation, we shall find that man was made in God’s image, to the end that he might imitate his Creator, and that our race attains its highest natural dignity, by the form of the Divine goodness being reflected in us, as in a mirror.

And assuredly to this form the Saviour’s grace is daily restoring us, so long as that which, in the first Adam fell, is raised up again in the second.

And the cause of our restoration is naught else but the mercy of God, Whom we should not have loved, unless He had first loved us, and dispelled the darkness of our ignorance by the light of His truth.

And the Lord foretelling this by the holy Isaiah says, “I will bring the blind into a way that they knew not, and will make them walk in paths which they were ignorant of.  I will turn darkness into light for them, and the crooked into the straight.  These words will I do for them, and not forsake them” (Is. 42:16).

And again he says, “I was found by them that sought Me not, and openly appeared to them that asked not for Me” (Isaiah 65:1).

And the Apostle John teaches us how this has been fulfilled, when he says, “We know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and may be in Him that is true, even His Son” (1 John 5:20), and again, “let us therefore love God, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Thus it is that God, by loving us, restores us to His image, and, in order that He may find in us the form of His goodness, He gives us that whereby we ourselves too may do the work that He does, kindling that is the lamps of our minds, and inflaming us with the fire of His love, that we may love not only Himself, but also whatever He loves.

For if between men that is the lasting friendship which is based upon similarity of character notwithstanding that such identity of wills is often directed to wicked ends, how ought we to yearn and strive to differ in nothing from what is pleasing to God.

Of which the prophet speaks, “for wrath is in His indignation, and life in His pleasure” (Ps. 29:5 (LXX), because we shall not otherwise attain the dignity of the Divine Majesty, unless we imitate His will.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 12:1.

Irenaeus of Lyons: So fair and good was this Paradise that the Word of God continually resorted thither Friday, Nov 13 2015 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonGod formed Man with His own hands, taking from the earth that which was purest and finest, and mingling in measure His own power with the earth.

For He traced His own form on the formation, that that which should be seen should be of divine form.

For as the image of God was man formed and set on the earth.

And that he might become living, He breathed on his face the breath of life; that both for the breath and for the formation man should be like unto God.

Moreover he was free and self-controlled, being made by God for this end, that he might rule all those things that were upon the earth.

And this great created world, prepared by God before the formation of man, was given to man as his place, containing all things within itself.

And there were in this place also with their tasks the servants of that God who formed all things; and the steward, who was set over all his fellow-servants received this place.

Now the servants were angels, and the steward was the archangel.

Now, having made man lord of the earth and all things in it, He secretly appointed him lord also of those who were servants in it.

They however were in their perfection; but the lord, that is, man, was but small; for he was a child; and it was necessary that he should grow, and so come to his perfection.

And, that he might have his nourishment and growth with festive and dainty meats, He prepared him a place better than this world, excelling in air, beauty, light, food, plants, fruit, water, and all other necessaries of life: and its name is Paradise.

And so fair and good was this Paradise, that the Word of God continually resorted thither, and walked and talked with the man, figuring beforehand the things that should be in the future, namely that He should dwell with him and talk with him, and should be with men, teaching them righteousness.

But man was a child, not yet having his understanding perfected; wherefore also he was easily led astray by the deceiver.

[…] And Adam and Eve – for that is the name of the woman – were naked, and were not ashamed; for there was in them an innocent and childlike mind, and it was not possible for them to conceive and understand anything of that which by wickedness through lusts and shameful desires is born in the soul.

For they were at that time entire, preserving their own nature; since they had the breath of life which was breathed on their creation. And, while this breath remains in its place and power, it has no comprehension and understanding of things that are base.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 11, 12, 14.

Theodore the Studite: “Lord, by your will you granted power to my beauty” Thursday, Nov 12 2015 

Theodore_the_StuditeSince we have been counted worthy to celebrate the forefeast of the divine Transfiguration, from this then let us compose an instruction, discharging our duty in a few words.

On the one hand, all the feasts of the Lord expound the mysteries of his sojourn in the flesh, such as that he was born, that he was baptized, that he was crucified, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, that he was taken up in glory; while the mystery of the Transfiguration hints at the restoration in the age to come.

For in the same way that ‘his face blazed like the sun, while his garments became white as light’ (Matt. 17:2), in the same way he will come from heaven like lightning, with power and great glory to judge the universe.

And as Peter, James and John were with him on the holy mountain, so the elect will be with him in the kingdom of heaven, enjoying his ineffable manifestation as God and inexpressible joy.

And who is adequate for all this? Who is worthy to attain that joy? Who else but one whose way of life is pure and undefiled? For since our God is pure, or rather the highest light, he comes to the pure, and as he has placed a pure soul in us, he will also ask it from us pure.

For since it has been made according to God’s image and likeness, that is to say as a figure of the divine beauty, it has also shared in that beauty.

And knowing this the poet speaks thus, ‘Lord, by your will you granted power to my beauty’ (Psalm 29:8), that is to say to the beauty of the soul, lest, having turned away towards the ugly passions of sin and become disfigured, it fall from God and his divine rewards.

Since therefore it is agreed that our soul should be like this, lovely and beautiful, and that we should give it back to God like a pledge on the last day, the day of resurrection, I beg and urge that we love this beauty and carefully guard this loveliness, not turning back to the fair things of the present age or to the beauties of flesh and blood.

They are not beauties, but idols of beauty; they are rather corruption and change. And this we can learn from the end of things, for one who today is outstandingly beautiful and fair of face is tomorrow cast into a tomb, stinking and abhorrent. So there is nothing fair and loveable but exemplary virtue, which should be our chief pursuit, my brothers.

Theodore the Studite: (759-826): Catechesis 20 trans. Archimandrite Ephrem Lash @ Anastasis.

Leo the Great: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Tuesday, Nov 10 2015 

Leo_MagnusContinued from here…..

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). 

It would perhaps be doubtful what poor He was speaking of, if in saying “blessed are the poor” He had added nothing which would explain the sort of poor:

and then that poverty by itself would appear sufficient to win the kingdom of heaven which many suffer from hard and heavy necessity.

But when He says “blessed are the poor in spirit,” He shows that the kingdom of heaven must be assigned to those who are recommended by the humility of their spirits rather than by the smallness of their means.

Yet it cannot be doubted that this possession of humility is more easily acquired by the poor than the rich:  for submissiveness is the companion of those that want, while loftiness of mind dwells with riches.

Notwithstanding, even in many of the rich is found that spirit which uses its abundance not for the increasing of its pride but on works of kindness, and counts that for the greatest gain which it expends in the relief of others’ hardships.

It is given to every kind and rank of men to share in this virtue, because men may be equal in will, though unequal in fortune:  and it does not matter how different they are in earthly means, who are found equal in spiritual possessions.

Blessed, therefore, is poverty which is not possessed with a love of temporal things, and does not seek to be increased with the riches of the world, but is eager to amass heavenly possessions.

Of this high-souled humility the Apostles first, after the Lord, have given us example. Leaving all that they had without difference at the voice of the heavenly Master, they were turned by a ready change from the catching of fish to be fishers of men, and made many like themselves through the imitation of their faith, when with those first-begotten sons of the Church, “the heart of all was one, and the spirit one, of those that believed” (Acts 4:32).

For, putting away the whole of their things and possessions, they enriched themselves with eternal goods, through the most devoted poverty, and in accordance with the Apostles’ preaching rejoiced to have nothing of the world and possess all things with Christ.

Hence the blessed Apostle Peter, when he was going up into the temple, and was asked for alms by the lame man, said, “Silver and gold is not mine, but what I have that I give thee:  in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk” (Acts 3:6).

What more sublime than this humility? what richer than this poverty?  […] He [Peter] who gave not Cæsar’s image in a coin, restored Christ’s image on the man.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 95, 2-3.

Maximus the Confessor: Nothing is more truly Godlike than divine love, nothing more apt to raise up human beings to deification Monday, Oct 26 2015 

Maximus_ConfessorNothing is more truly Godlike than divine love, nothing more mysterious, nothing more apt to raise up human beings to deification.

For it has gathered together in itself all good things that are recounted by the logos of truth in the form of virtue, and it has absolutely no relation to anything that has the form of wickedness, since it is the fulfilment of the law and the prophets.

For they were succeeded by the mystery of love, which out of human beings makes us gods, and reduces the individual commandments to a universal meaning [logos].

Everything is circumscribed by love according to God’s good pleasure in a single form, and love is dispensed in many forms in accordance with God’s economy.

For what form of good things does love not possess?

Neither faith, the first premiss in matters concerning true religion, assuring the one who possesses it of the existence of God and of divine matters, and that much more surely than the eye by attending to the appearances of sensible things furnishes an opinion concerning them for those who see;

nor hope, which establishes the truly subsisting good, and that much more effectively than the hand does to even the most solid of material things that fall beneath its touch.

For does not love grant enjoyment of those things believed in and hoped for, by itself making present the things to come?

[…] Faith is the foundation of everything that comes after it, I mean hope and love, and firmly establishes what is true. Hope is the strength of the extremes, I mean faith and love, for it appears as faithful by itself and loved by both, and teaches through itself to make it to the end of the course.

Love is the fulfilment of these, wholly embraced as the final last desire, and furnishes them rest from their movement. For love gives faith the reality of what it believes and hope the presence of what it hopes for, and the enjoyment of what is present.

Love alone, properly speaking, proves that the human person is in the image of the Creator, by making his self-determination submit to reason, not bending reason under it, and persuading the inclination to follow nature and not in any way to be at variance with the logos of nature.

In this way we are all, as it were, one nature, so that we are able to have one inclination and one will with God and with one another, not having any discord with God or one another, whenever by the law of grace, through which by our inclination the law of nature is renewed, we choose what is ultimate.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Letter 2: On Love in Andrew Louth: Maximus the Confessor (Routledge, 1996), pp. 82-84.

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 Damascene: We are changed and—to complete the mystery—become deified by merely inclining ourselves towards God Tuesday, Jul 7 2015 

John-of-Damascus_01God brought into existence mental [noetic] essence [τὴν νοητὴν οὐσίαν], by which I mean, angels and all the heavenly orders.

For these clearly have a mental and incorporeal nature.

[…] But further He created in the same way sensible essence [την αἰσθητήν], that is, heaven and earth and the intermediate region.

And so He created both the kind of being that is of His own nature (for the nature that has to do with reason is related to God, and apprehensible by mind alone), and the kind which, inasmuch as it clearly falls under the province of the senses, is separated from Him by the greatest interval.

And it was also fit that there should be a mixture of both kinds of being, as a token of still greater wisdom and of the opulence of the Divine expenditure as regards natures…to be a sort of connecting link between the visible and invisible natures.

[…] Now this being the case, He creates with His own hands man of a visible nature and an invisible, after His own image and likeness: on the one hand man’s body He formed of earth, and on the other his reasoning and thinking soul [Ψυχὴν λογικήν] He bestowed upon him by His own inbreathing, and this is what we mean by “after His image.”

For the phrase “after His image” clearly refers to the side of his nature which consists of mind and free will, whereas “after His likeness” means likeness in virtue so far as that is possible.

[…]  God then made man without evil, upright, virtuous, free from pain and care, glorified with every virtue, adorned with all that is good, like a sort of second microcosm within the great world, another angel capable of worship, compound, surveying the visible creation and initiated into the mysteries of the realm of thought.

God made him king over the things of earth, but subject to a higher king, of the earth and of the heaven, temporal and eternal, belonging to the realm of sight and to the realm of thought, midway between greatness and lowliness, spirit and flesh.

For he [man] is spirit by grace, but flesh by overweening pride: spirit that he may abide and glorify his Benefactor, and flesh that he may suffer, and suffering may be admonished and disciplined when he prides himself in his greatness.

Here, that is, in the present life, his life is ordered as an animal’s, but elsewhere, that is, in the age to come, he is changed and—to complete the mystery—becomes deified by merely inclining himself towards God; becoming deified, in the way of participating in the divine glory and not in that of a change into the divine being.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 2, 12 (slightly adapted).

Gregory of Nyssa: “God created man, in the image of God created He him” Friday, Jul 3 2015 

Gregory_of_NyssaThe creation of our nature is in a sense twofold: one made like to God, one divided according to this distinction.

For something like this Scripture darkly conveys by its arrangement, where it first says:

“God created man, in the image of God created He him” (Gen.1:27);

and then, adding to what has been said, “male and female created He them”—a thing which is alien from our conceptions of God.

[…] While two natures—the Divine and incorporeal nature, and the irrational life of brutes—are separated from each other as extremes, human nature is the mean between them.

For in the compound nature of man we may behold a part of each of the natures I have mentioned—

—of the Divine, the rational and intelligent element, which does not admit the distinction of male and female;

—of the irrational, our bodily form and structure, divided into male and female.

For each of these elements is certainly to be found in all that partakes of human life.

[…] God is in His own nature all that which our mind can conceive of good—rather, transcending all good that we can conceive or comprehend.

He creates man for no other reason than that He is good.

And, being such, and having this as His reason for entering upon the creation of our nature, He would not exhibit the power of His goodness in an imperfect form, giving our nature some one of the things at His disposal, and grudging it a share in another.

The perfect form of goodness is here to be seen by His both bringing man into being from nothing, and fully supplying him with all good gifts.

Since the list of individual good gifts is a long one, it is out of the question to apprehend it numerically.

The language of Scripture therefore expresses it concisely by a comprehensive phrase, in saying that man was made “in the image of God”.

This is the same as to say that He made human nature participant in all good.

For if the Deity is the fulness of good, and this is His image, then the image finds its resemblance to the Archetype in being filled with all good.

Thus there is in us the principle of all excellence, all virtue and wisdom, and every higher thing that we conceive.

But pre-eminent among all is the fact that we are free from necessity, and not in bondage to any natural power, but have decision in our own power as we please.

For virtue is a voluntary thing, subject to no dominion. That which is the result of compulsion and force cannot be virtue.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): On the Making of Man, 16, 8-11 (slightly adapted).

Cyril of Alexandria: The Holy Spirit impresses the Saviour’s Image on the hearts of those who receive Him Saturday, Jun 27 2015 

cyril_alexandriaAnd when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them: 

“Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them; whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained” (John 20:22-23).

He proclaimed that He would send down to us from heaven the Comforter, when He was ascended to God the Father.

And this, indeed, He did, when He had gone away to the Father, and vouchsafed to shed forth the Spirit abundantly upon all who were willing to receive it.

For any man could receive it, through faith, that is, and Holy Baptism.

And then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the voice of the Prophet: I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh.

[…] For God the Father, at the beginning, by His own Word, took of the dust of the ground, as is written, and fashioned the animal, that is man, and endowed him with a soul, according to His Will.

And He illuminated him with a share of His own Spirit; for He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, as is written.

And when it came to pass that through disobedience man fell under the power of death, and lost his ancient honour, God the Father built him up and restored him to newness of life, through the Son, as at the beginning.

And how did the Son restore him? By the death of His own Flesh He slew death, and brought the race of man back again into incorruption; for Christ rose again for us.

In order, then, that we might learn that He it was Who at the beginning created our nature, and sealed us with the Holy Spirit, our Saviour again grants the Spirit, through the outward sign of His Breath, to the holy disciples, as being the firstfruits of renewed nature.

For Moses writes concerning our creation of old, that God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life.

As, then, at the beginning, man was formed and came into being, so likewise is he renewed.

And as he was then formed in the Image of his Creator, so likewise now, by participation in the Spirit, is he transformed into the Likeness of his Maker.

For that the Spirit impresses the Saviour’s Image on the hearts of those who receive Him surely does not admit of question.

For Paul plainly exhorts those who had fallen through weakness into observance of the Law, in the words: My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you. 

For he says that Christ will not be formed in them save by partaking of the Holy Spirit, and living according to the law of the Gospel.

Therefore, as in the firstfruits of creation, which is made regenerate into incorruption and glory and into the Image of God, Christ establishes anew His own Spirit in His disciples.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on John, Book 12 (on John 20:22-23) [slightly adapted].

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