Cyril of Alexandria: Christ is the vine, and we are dependent on Him as branches, drinking in by the Spirit spiritual power to bear fruit Sunday, Jul 24 2016 

cyril_alexandriaContinued from here….

If we are convinced that the Son is really and truly in His own Father, and He has Him that begat Him in His own nature, and all things are brought to perfection by Both in the Spirit as by One Divinity, neither will the Father be without His share in nourishing us, nor can the Son be thought not to partake in His husbandry.

For where Their identity of nature is seen in unmistakeable language, there too there is no division of activity, though any one may think that they have manifold diversities of operations.

And, as there is one Substance, that is the true and real Godhead conceived of in three Persons, that is in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is it not extremely clear and incontrovertible that when we speak of an activity of one, it is a function of the One and entire Divinity, in the way of inherent power?

Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ, accepting His Father as His Fellow-worker in all He did, once…said: Many good works have I showed you from My Father: for which of those works do ye stone Me? And again, about working on the Sabbath-day: My Father worketh even until now, and I work. 

And no one would think He said that the Father acts separately in His dealings with the world, and so also the Son. For since the Father does all things by the Son, and could not otherwise act, as He is His wisdom and power, for this reason He, on the other hand, called the Father the doer of His own works, when He said: I do nothing of Myself; but the Father abiding in Me doeth His works. 

I think, therefore, we ought to take this view and no other, that Christ takes the place of the vine, and we are dependent on Him as branches, enriched as it were by His grace, and drinking in by the Spirit spiritual power to bear fruit.

[…] Christ, being as it were the root, is the Vine, and we are the branches. And if He called the Father the Husbandman, do not think that He spoke of Him as being different in substance.

For He does not mean this, as we have said; but wishes to point out that the Divine Nature is the root and origin in us of the power of producing the fruits of the Spirit of life, besides the blessings we have spoken of, tending us like a husbandman, and extending over those who are called by faith to partake in it the providence of love.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on John, Book 10 (on John 15:1ff).

Aphrahat the Persian: Let us honour the Spirit of Christ, that we may receive grace from Him. Tuesday, Jun 7 2016 

ephrem-isaac-aphrahatExpedient is the word that I speak and worthy of acceptance:

Let us now awake from our sleep (Rom.13:11),

and lift up both our hearts and hands to God towards heaven;

lest suddenly the Lord of the house come, that when He comes He may find us in watchfulness (Luke 12:37).

Let us observe the appointed time of the glorious bridegroom (Matt. 25:4, 10), that we may enter with Him into His bride-chamber.

Let us prepare oil for our lamps that we may go forth to meet Him with joy.

Let us make ready provision for our abiding-place, for the way that is narrow and strait.

And let us put away and cast from us all uncleanness, and put on wedding garments.

Let us trade with the silver that we have received (Matt. 25:21), that we may be called diligent servants.

Let us be constant in prayer, that we may pass by the place where fear dwells.

Let us cleanse our heart from iniquity, that we may see the Lofty One in His honour.

Let us be merciful, as it is written, that God may have mercy upon us  (Matt. 5:7).

Let there be peace amongst us, that we may be called the brethren of Christ.

Let us hunger for righteousness, that we may be satisfied (Matt. 5:6) from the table of His Kingdom.

Let us be the salt of truth, that we may not become food for the serpent.

Let us purge our seed from thorns, that we may produce fruit a hundred-fold.

Let us found our building on the rock (Matt. 7:24), that it may not be shaken by the winds and waves.

Let us be vessels unto honour (2. Tim. 2:21), that we may be required by the Lord for His use.

Let us sell all our possessions, and buy for ourselves the pearl (Matt. 13:46), that we may be rich.

Let us lay up our treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:20),. that when we come we may open them and have pleasure in them.

Let us visit our Lord in the persons of the sick (Matt. 25:33-35), that He may invite us to stand at His right hand.

Let us hate ourselves and love Christ, as He loved us and gave Himself up for our sakes (John 12:25; Eph. 5:2).

Let us honour the Spirit of Christ, that we may receive grace from Him.

Let us be strangers to the world (John 17:14), even as Christ was not of it.

Let us be humble and mild, that we may inherit the land of life.

Aphrahat the Persian (c.270-c.345): Demonstrations, 6 – On Monks. (The icon accompanying this extract depicts Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Syrian, and Aphrahat.)

Justin Popovich: By unceasing enactment of the ascetic efforts set forth in the Gospels, Saints gradually fill themselves with the Holy Spirit Wednesday, Apr 13 2016 

JustinThe holiness of the Saints—both the holiness of their souls and of their bodies—derives from their zealous grace-and-virtue-bestowing lives in the Body of the Church of Christ, of the God-Man.

In this sense, holiness completely envelopes the human person—the entire soul and body and all that enters into the mystical composition of the human body.

The holiness of the Saints does not hold forth only in their souls, but it necessarily extends to their bodies; so it is that both the body and the soul of a saint are sanctified.

Thus we, in piously venerating the Saints, also venerate the entire person, in this manner not separating the holy soul from the holy body.

Our pious veneration of the Saints’ relics is a natural part of our pious respect for and prayerful entreaty to the Saints. All of this constitutes one indivisible ascetic act, just as the soul and body constitute the single, indivisible person of the Saint.

Clearly, during his life on the earth, the Saint, by a continuous and singular grace-and virtue-bestowing synergy of soul and body, attains to the sanctification of his person, filling both the soul and body with the grace of the Holy Spirit and so transforming them into vessels of the holy mysteries and holy virtues.

It is completely natural, again, to show pious reverence both to the former and to the latter, both to soul and body, both of them holy vessels of God’s grace.

When the charismatic power of Christ issues forth, it makes Grace-filled all the constituent parts of the human person and the person in his entirety.

By unceasing enactment of the ascetic efforts set forth in the Gospels, Saints gradually fill themselves with the Holy Spirit, so that their sacred bodies, according to the word of the holy Apostle, become temples of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19; 3:17), Christ dwelling by faith in their hearts (Ephesians 3:17) and by fruitful love also fulfilling the commandments of God the Father.

Establishing themselves in the Holy Spirit through grace-bestowing ascetic labors, the Saints participate in the life of the Trinity, becoming sons of the Holy Trinity, temples of the Living God (II Corinthians 6:16); their whole lives thus flow from the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.

By piously venerating the holy relics of the Saints, the Church reveres them as temples of the Holy Spirit, temples of the Living God, in which God dwells by Grace even after the earthly death of the Saints.

And by His most wise and good Will, God creates miracles in and through these relics. Moreover, the miracles which derive from the holy relics witness also to the fact that their pious veneration by the people is pleasing to God.

Justin Popovich (1894-1979): The Place of Holy Relics in the Orthodox Church @ OCIC.

Gregory of Nyssa: Death will be no more, and everything will be completely changed into life. Sunday, Apr 10 2016 

Gregory_of_NyssaContinued from here….

When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).

Christ eternally builds himself up by those who join themselves to him in faith.

It is clear that when this is accomplished, Christ receives in himself all who are joined to him through the fellowship of his body.

Christ makes everyone as limbs of his own body – even if there are many such limbs, the body is one.

Therefore, by uniting us to himself, Christ is our unity; and having become one body with us through all things, he looks after us all.

Subjection to God is our chief good when all creation resounds as one voice, when everything in heaven, on earth and under the earth bends the knee to him, and when every tongue will confess that has become one body and is joined in Christ through obedience to one another, he will bring into subjection his own body to the Father.

Let not what is said here sound strange to anyone, for we ascribe to the soul a certain means of expression taken from the body.

That which is read as pertaining to the fruitfulness of the land may also be applied to one’s own soul: “Eat, drink, and be merry” (Lk 11.19). This sentence may be referred to the fullness of the soul.

Thus, the subjection of the Church’s body is brought to him who dwells in the soul. Since everything is explained through subjection as the book of Psalms suggests. As a result, we learn that faith means not being apart from those who are saved.

This we learn from the Apostle Paul. Paul signifies, by the Son’s subjection, the destruction of death. Therefore, these two elements concur, that is, when death will be no more, and everything will be completely changed into life.

The Lord is life. According to the apostle, Christ will have access to the Father with his entire body when he will hand over the kingdom to our God and Father. Christ’s body, as it is often said, consists of human nature in its entirety to which he has been united.

Because of this, Christ is named Lord by Paul, as mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2.5). He who is in the Father and has lived with men accomplishes intercession.

Christ unites all mankind to himself, and to the Father through himself, as the Lord says in the Gospel, “As you, Father, are in me, and I am in you, that they may be one in us” (Jn 17.21).

This clearly shows that having united himself to us, he who is in the Father effects our union (sunapheia) with this very same Father.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): A Treatise on 1 Corinthians 15:28.

Ambrose of Milan: “Where a man’s heart is, there will be his treasure be also” Saturday, Feb 27 2016 

ambrose_of_milanWhere a man’s heart is, there will be his treasure be also, for God does not refuse a good gift to those who ask.

So because God is good and especially good to those who serve him, we must cling to him and be with him with all our soul and with all our heart and with all our strength.

This we must do if we are to be in his light, and see his glory, and enjoy the grace of heavenly joy.

To this happi­ness we must lift our minds, we must be in God, and live in him and cling to him, for he is beyond all human thought and understanding and he dwells in endless peace and tran­quillity.

This peace passes all understanding, passes all perception.

This is the good which permeates everything. All of us live in it, depend on it. It has nothing above itself, but is divine.

No one is good but God alone, because the good is divine and the divine is good. So the psalmist says, When you open your hand all creatures are filled with good­ness.

Through God’s goodness all the truly good things are given to us, and among them is no mixture of evil. These are the good things that scripture promises to the faithful in the words, You shall eat the good of the land.

We are dead with Christ; in our bodies we carry the death of Christ, so that the life of Christ also may be manifested in us.

We do not live any longer our own life, but the life of Christ, the life of innocence, chastity, simplicity, and of every virtue.

We have risen with Christ; we must live in Christ; we must ascend in Christ, so that the serpent can ­no longer find our heel on earth to wound.

We must flee from here. You can flee in your mind, even though you are still held back in the body.

You can be both ­here and you can be present with the Lord if in your soul you cling to him, if in all your thoughts you walk after him, if in faith and not in outward appearance merely you follow his ways, if you fly to him; he is our refuge and our strength.

[…] We must flee like deer running to the fountains of water. The thirst which David felt, let our soul too feel.

Who is that fountain? David said, For with you is the fountain of life. My soul must say to the fountain, When shall I come and behold your face? For the fountain is God.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Flight from the World 6.36, 7.44, 8.45, 9.52 from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the Third Week in Lent, Year 1.

Augustine of Hippo: This is not my prayer, but that of the whole Christ Wednesday, Feb 24 2016 

St Augustine of AfricaLord, I have cried to you, hear me.

This is a prayer we can all say.

This is not my prayer, but that of the whole Christ.

Rather, it is said in the name of his body. When Christ was on earth he prayed in his human nature, and prayed to the Father in the name of his body, and when he prayed drops of blood flowed from his whole body.

So it is written in the Gospel: Jesus prayed with earnest prayer, and sweated blood.

What is this blood streaming from his whole body but the martyrdom of the whole Church?

Lord, I have cried to you, hear me; listen to the sound of my prayer, when I call upon you.

Did you imagine that crying was over when you said: I have cried to you? You have cried out, but do not as yet feel free from care.

If anguish is at an end, crying is at an end; but if the Church, the body of Christ, must suffer anguish until the end of time, it must not say only: I have cried to you, hear me; it must also say: Listen to the sound of my prayer, when I call upon you.

Let my prayer rise like incense in your sight; let the raising of my hands be an evening sacrifice.

This is generally understood of Christ, the head, as every Christian acknowledges.

When day was fading into evening, the Lord laid down his life on the cross, to take it up again; he did not lose his life against his will.

Here, too, we are symbolised. What part of him hung on the cross if not the part he had received from us? How could God the Father ever cast off and abandon his only Son, who is indeed one God with him?

Yet Christ, nailing our weakness to the cross (where, as the Apostle says: Our old nature was nailed to the cross with him), cried out with the very voice of humanity: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

The evening sacrifice is then the passion of the Lord, the cross of the Lord, the oblation of the victim that brings salvation, the holocaust acceptable to God. In his resurrection he made this evening sacrifice a morning sacrifice.

Prayer offered in holiness from a faithful heart rises like incense from a holy altar. Nothing is more fragrant than the fragrance of the Lord. May all who believe share in this fragrance.

Therefore, our old nature in the words of the Apostle, was nailed to the cross with him, in order, as he says, to destroy our sinful body, so that we may be slaves to sin no longer.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): On Psalm 140:4-6 @ Universalis.

Gregory of Nyssa: Christ eternally builds himself up by those who join themselves to him in faith Sunday, Jan 24 2016 

Gregory_of_NyssaWhen all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).

Paul plainly speaks of the nonexistence (anuparktos) of evil by stating that God is in all things and present to each one of them.

It is clear that God will truly be in all things when no evil will be found.

It is not proper for God to be present in evil; thus, he will not be in everything as long as some evil remains.

If it compels us to truly believe that God is in everything, then evil cannot be seen as existing along with faith; for God cannot be present in evil.

However, for God to be present in all things, Paul shows that he, the hope of our life, is simple and uniform. No longer can our new existence be now compared to the many and varied examples of this present life.

Paul shows, by the words quoted above, that God becomes all things for us. He appears as the necessities of our present life, or as examples for partaking in the divinity.

Thus, for God to be our food, it is proper to understand him as being eaten; the same applies to drink, clothing, shelter, air, location, wealth, enjoyment, beauty, health, strength, prudence, glory, blessedness and anything else judged good which our human nature needs.

Words such as these signify what is proper to God. We therefore learn by the examples mentioned above that the person in God has everything which God himself has.

To have God means nothing else than to be united with him. Unity then means to be one body with him as Paul states, for all who are joined to the one body of Christ by participation are one body with him.

When the good pervades everything, then the entirety of Christ’s body will be subjected to God’s vivifying power. Thus, the subjection of this body will be said to be the subjection of Church.

Regarding this point, Paul says to the Colossians, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church of which I became a minister according to his dispensation” (Col. 1:24).

[…] To the Ephesians Paul more clearly puts this teaching when saying, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15-16).

Christ eternally builds himself up by those who join themselves to him in faith.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): A Treatise on 1 Corinthians 15:28.

Gregory of Nyssa: The goal of our hope is that nothing contrary to the good is left, but the divine life permeates everything Saturday, Dec 12 2015 

Gregory_of_NyssaWhen all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).

What therefore does Paul teach us? It consists in saying that evil will come to nought and will be completely destroyed.

The divine, pure goodness will contain in itself every nature endowed with reason.

Nothing made by God is excluded from his kingdom once everything mixed with some elements of base material has been consumed by refinement in fire.

[…] Paul says…that the pure and undefiled divinity of the Only-Begotten Son assumed man’s mortal and perishable nature.

However, from the entirety of human nature to which the divinity is mixed, the man constituted according to Christ is a kind of first fruits of the common dough.

It is through this (divinized) man that all mankind is joined to the divinity.

Since every evil was obliterated in Christ – for he did not make sin – the prophet says, “No deceit was found in his mouth” (Is 53.9).

Evil was destroyed along with sin, as well as the death which resulted; for death is simply the result of sin.

Christ assumed from death both the beginning of evil’s destruction and the dissolution of death.

[…] After the man in Christ, who became the first fruits of our human nature, received in himself the divinity, He became the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep and the first horn from the dead once the pangs of death have been loosened.

So then, after this person has completely separated himself from sin and has utterly denied in himself the power of death and destroyed its lordship and authority and might…if anyone like Paul may be found who became a mighty imitator of Christ in his rejection of evil…such a person will fall in behind the first fruits at Christ’s coming (parousia).

[…] The goal of our hope is that nothing contrary to the good is left, but the divine life permeates everything. It completely destroys death, having earlier removed sin which, as it is said, held dominion over all mankind.

Therefore, every wicked authority and domination has been destroyed in us. No longer do any of our passions rule our (human) nature, since it is necessary that none of them dominate – all are subjected to the one who rules over all.

Subjection to God is complete alienation from evil. When we are removed from evil in imitation of the first fruits (Christ), our entire nature is mixed with this selfsame fruits.

One body has been formed with the good as predominant; our body’s entire nature is united to the divine, pure nature.

This is what we mean by the Son’s subjection – when, in his body, Christ rightly has the subjection – when, in his body, Christ rightly has the subjection brought to him, and he effects in us the grace of subjection.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): A Treatise on 1 Corinthians 15:28.

Cyril of Alexandria: We are begotten of Him and in Him in the Spirit to produce the fruits of life Sunday, May 3 2015 

cyril_alexandriaI am the true Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman (John 15:1).

He wishes to show us that it behoves us to love, to hold fast to our love towards Him, and how great a gain we shall have from our union with Him, when He says that He is the Vine, by way of illustration.

Those who are united and fixed and rooted in a manner in Him, and who are already partakers in His nature through their participation in the Holy Spirit are branches.

For it is His Holy Spirit Which has united us with the Saviour Christ, since connexion with the Vine produces a choice of those things which belong to It, and our connexion with It holds us fast.

From a firm resolve in goodness we proceed onward by faith, and we become His people, obtaining from Him the dignity of Sonship. For according to the holy Paul, He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit. 

[…] For we are begotten of Him and in Him in the Spirit, to produce the fruits of life; not the old life of former days, but that which consists in newness of faith and love towards Him.

And we are preserved in our hold on this life by clinging as it were to Him, and holding fast to the holy commandment given to us, and by making haste to preserve the blessing of our high birth.

We do this by refusing to grieve in any way whatever the Holy Spirit That has taken up His abode in us, by Whom God is conceived to dwell in us.

For in what manner we are in Christ and He in us the wise John will show us when he says: Hereby we know that we are in Him and He in us, by the Spirit Which He gave us.

And again John says, Hereby know we that we are in Him; he that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked. 

And he makes this even clearer to his hearers by the words, He that keepeth His commandments abideth in Him, and He in him. 

[…] The root of the vine ministers and distributes to the branches the enjoyment of its own natural and inherent qualities.

So also the Only-begotten Word of God imparts to the Saints as it were an affinity to His own nature and the nature of God the Father, by giving them the Spirit, insomuch as they have been united with Him through faith and perfect holiness.

And He nourishes them in piety, and works in them the knowledge of all virtue and good works.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on John, Book 10 (on John 15:1ff).

Gregory of Nyssa: A three days’ state of death and then life again… Friday, Apr 10 2015 

Gregory_of_NyssaThe descent into the water, and the trine immersion of the person in it, involves another mystery.

The method of our salvation was made effectual not so much by His precepts in the way of teaching as by the deeds of Him Who has realized an actual fellowship with man.

He has effected life as a living fact, so that by means of the flesh which He has assumed, and at the same time deified, everything kindred and related may be saved along with it.

Accordingly, it was necessary that some means should be devised by which there might be, in the baptismal process, a kind of affinity and likeness between him who follows and Him Who leads the way.

Therefore we need to see what features are to be observed in the Author of our life, in order that the imitation on the part of those that follow may be regulated, as the Apostle says, after the pattern of the Captain of our salvation (Heb. 2;10; 12:2).

Those who are actually drilled into measured and orderly movements in arms by skilled drill-masters, who are advanced to dexterity in handling their weapons by what they see with their eyes, whereas those who do not practise what is shown them remain devoid of such dexterity.

In the same way, it is imperative that all those who have an equally earnest desire for the Good as He [Jesus Christ] has should be followers by the path of an exact imitation of Him Who leads the way to salvation, and should carry into action what He has shown them.

It is, in fact, impossible for persons to reach the same goal unless they travel by the same ways.

Persons who are at a loss how to thread the turns of mazes, when they happen to fall in with someone who has experience of them, get to the end of those various misleading turnings in the chambers by following him behind, which they could not do, did they not follow him their leader step by step.

So too, I pray you mark, the labyrinth of this our life cannot be threaded by the faculties of human nature unless a man pursues that same path as He did Who, though once in it, yet got beyond the difficulties which hemmed Him in.

I apply this figure of a labyrinth to that prison of death, which is without an egress and environs the wretched race of mankind. What, then, have we beheld in the case of the Captain of our salvation? A three days’ state of death and then life again.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): The Great Catechism, 35 (slightly adapted).

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