Gregory Palamas: Incarnation, Death, Resurrection Saturday, Apr 19 2014 

Gregory_PalamasThe pre-eternal, uncircumscribed and almighty Logos and omnipotent Son of God could clearly have saved man from mortality and servitude to the devil without Himself becoming man.

He upholds all things by the word of His power and everything is subject to His divine authority….

But the incarnation of the Logos of God was the method of deliverance most in keeping with our nature and weakness, and most appropriate for Him who carried it out, for this method had justice on its side, and God does not act without justice….

Man…had voluntarily approached the originator of evil, obeyed him when he treacherously advised the opposite of what God had commanded, and was justly given over to him.

In this way, through the evil one’s envy and the good Lord’s just consent, death became twofold, for he brought about not just physical but also eternal death.

Christ clearly had to make immortal not only the human nature which existed in Him, but the human race, and to guide it towards participating in that true life which in due course procures eternal life for the body as well, just as the soul’s state of death in due course brought about the death of the body too.

That this plan for salvation should be made manifest, and that Christ’s way of life should be put before us to emulate, was highly necessary and beneficial.

At one time God appeared visibly before man and the good angels that they might imitate Him.

Later, when we had cast ourselves down and fallen away from this vision, God came down to us from on high in His surpassing love for mankind, without in any way giving up His divinity, and by living among us set Himself before us as the pattern of the way back to life.

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and love of God! In His wisdom, power and love for mankind God knew how to transform incomparably for the better the falls resulting from our self-willed waywardness.

If the Son of God had not come down from heaven we should have had no hope of going up to heaven. If He had not become incarnate, suffered in the flesh, risen and ascended for our sake, we should not have known God’s surpassing love for us.

If He had not taken flesh and endured the passion while we were still ungodly, we should not have desisted from the pride which so often lifts us up and drags us down.

Now that we have been exalted without contributing anything, we stay humble, and as we regard with understanding the greatness of God’s promise and benevolence we grow in humility, from which comes salvation.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily on Great and Holy Saturday, from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009) @Kandylaki (fuller version).

Leo the Great: When a Man Loves What God Loves, He is Deservedly Raised into His Kingdom Wednesday, Nov 13 2013 

leo1On account of the crafty designs of our ancient foe, the unspeakable goodness of Christ has wished us to know what was to be decreed about all mankind in the day of retribution.

In this life healing remedies are legitimately offered, restoration is not denied to the contrite, and those who have been long barren can at length be fruitful,

Nevertheless, the verdict on which justice has determined may be fore-stalled, and the picture of God’s coming to judge the world should never depart from the mind’s eye.

For the Lord  will come in His glorious Majesty, as He Himself has foretold, and there will be with Him an innumerable host of angel-legions radiant in their splendour.

Before the throne of His power will all the nations of the world be gathered; and all the men that in all ages and on all the face of the earth have been born, shall stand in the Judge’s sight.

Then shall be separated the just from the unjust, the guiltless from the guilty. […] Who would not tremble at this doom of eternal torment?  Who would not dread evils which are never to be ended?

But since this severity is only denounced in order that we may seek for mercy, we too in this present life must show such open-handed mercy that after perilous neglect returning to works of piety it may be possible for us to be set free from this doom.

For this is the purpose of the Judge’s might and of the Saviour’s graciousness, that the unrighteous may forsake his ways and the sinner give up his wicked habits.

Let those who wish Christ to spare them, have mercy on the poor; let them give freely to feed the wretched, who desire to attain to the society of the blessed.

Let no man consider his fellow vile, nor despise in any one that nature which the Creator of the world made His own.  For who that labours can deny that Christ claims that labour as done unto Himself?

Your fellow-slave is helped thereby, but it is the Lord who will repay.  The feeding of the needy is the purchase money of the heavenly kingdom and the free dispenser of things temporal is made the heir of things eternal.

But how has such small expenditure deserved to be valued so highly except because our works are weighed in the balance of love, and when a man loves what God loves, he is deservedly raised into His kingdom, whose attribute of love has in part become his?

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 9, 2.

Denys the Areopagite: The Divine Justice – Preservation and Redemption Tuesday, Nov 5 2013 

DionysiosIf those whom you call pious do indeed love things on earth, which are zealously sought after by the earthly, they have altogether fallen from the Divine Love.

And I do not know how they could be called pious, when they unjustly treat things truly loveable and divine, which do not at once surpass in influence in their estimation things undesirable and unloveable.

But, if they love the realities, they who desire certain things ought to rejoice when they attain the things desired.

Are they not then nearer the angelic virtues, when, as far as possible, by aspiration after things Divine, they withdraw from the affection for earthly things, by being exercised very manfully to this, in their perils, on behalf of the beautiful?

So that, it is true  to say, that this is rather a property of the Divine Justice – not to pamper and destroy the bravery of the best, by the gifts of earthly things, nor, if any one should attempt to do this, to leave them without assistance, but to establish them in the excellent and harsh condition, and to dispense to them, as being such, things meet for them.

This Divine Justice, then, is celebrated also even as preservation of the whole, as preserving and guarding the essence and order of each, distinct and pure from the rest; and as being genuine cause of each minding its own business in the whole.

But, if any one should also celebrate this preservation, as rescuing savingly the whole from the worse, we will entirely accept this as the cantique of the manifold preservation.

[…] Without missing the mark of the sacred theology, one might celebrate this preservation as redeeming all things existing, by the goodness which is preservative of all, from falling away from their own proper goods, so far as the nature of each of those who are being preserved admits.

Therefore also the Theologians name it redemption, both so far as it does not permit things really being to fall away to non-existence, and so far as, if anything should have been led astray to discord and disorder, and should suffer any diminution of the perfection of its own proper goods, even this it redeems from passion and listlessness and loss.

Redemption supplies what is deficient, paternally overlooking the slackness, and raising up from evil; yea, rather, establishing in the good, and filling up the leaking good, and arranging and adorning its disorder and deformity, and making it complete, and liberating it from all its blemishes.

Denys the Areopagite (late 5th-early 6th century?): On the Divine Names 8, 8-9.

Basil the Great: The Glory of Man is to Seek for the Glory of the Lord of Glory Saturday, Aug 10 2013 

St-Basil-the-GreatNo truly prudent man will think himself great because of his own wisdom…, but will attend…to the excellent counsel of…the prophet Jeremias:

Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, and let not the strong man glory in his strength, and let not the rich man glory in his riches (Jer. 9:23).

But in what shall man glory: and in what is man great? Let him that glorieth glory in this, he said, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord. 

This is the grandeur of man, this his glory and greatness, truly to know Him Who is great, to cling to Him, and to seek for the glory of the Lord of glory.

For the Apostle says to us: He that glorieth, may glory in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31) where he declares: But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and justice, and  sanctification, and redemption: That, as it was written: He that glorieth, may glory in the Lord.

This is complete and perfect glorying in God, when a man is uplifted, not because of his own justice, but because he knows he is empty of true glory, and made just only through his faith in Christ.

In this Paul gloried, that he thought nothing of his own justice; that he sought that justice alone which comes through Christ, which is from God, justice in faith (Phil. 3:9); and that he might know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the sharing of His sufferings, and be made like Him in His death, if by any means he might himself attain to the resurrection which is from the dead.

It is here that the whole top-loftiness of arrogance falls down.  Nothing is left to you to glory in, O man; whose true glorying and whose hope is in mortifying yourself in all things, and in seeking for that future life in Christ, of which we have already a foretaste when we live wholly in the love and in the grace of God.

And it is God who worketh in you both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will (Phil. 2:13).  And God has made known to us His own wisdom, through His Spirit, for our glory (1 Cor. 2:7,10).

And in all our efforts it is God who gives us strength.  I have laboured more abundantly than all they, says Paul, yet not I, but the grace of God with me (1 Cor. 15:10).  And God has delivered us from danger, and beyond all human expectation.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 28, 3 @ Lectionary Central.

Rupert of Deutz: The Power of God and the Justice of the Eternal King Wednesday, Apr 24 2013 

Rupert_von_Deutz_-_Federzeichnung_Codec_lat._11355(On Revelation chapter 15)

Let us sing to the Lord, great is his renown! Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.

It is common knowledge that the song of Moses recorded in the Book of Exodus can be understood in a spiritual sense as pointing forward to the Gospel teaching on regeneration.

[…] The author of the Apocalypse is therefore correct in describing the hymn sung by the saints in heaven as the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.

By giving it this title, he is linking together a historical event and a spiritual reality.

The crossing of the sea under the leadership of Moses is seen as a foreshadowing of what Christ, the Lamb of God, does for us in the regenerating waters of Baptism.

‘Lamb of God’ is used here as a richly evocative designation for the son of God, into whose death we have been baptized.

When Moses first intoned his song, he did so in honour of an event that had begun with the slaying of a lamb.

God himself had ordained that on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month a lamb should be sacrificed.

The slaughter of that lamb prefigured the death of Christ, the Son of God, who was destined to be slain in expiation of our sins.

[…] The saints, therefore, are described as singing the song of Moses because they resemble Moses both in their singing and in the subject matter of their song.

But while they too praise the Lord with joy and thanksgiving to the accompaniment of harps, their song consists of one short verse only.

This single verse contains none the less two all-important themes: the power of God and the justice of the Eternal King.

Great and wonderful are your deeds is a proclamation of God’s power. Just and true are your ways is an acknowledgement of his justice.

Of the two it is surely more meritorious to confess the second than the first. If we fear and praise God as the most powerful of spirits because we witness his marvellous deeds, our confession is certainly not lacking in merit.

But if we can discern the divine justice underlying these same deeds and strenuously uphold it in the face of every denial, we shall gain a far greater blessing.

And the same is true even when discernment fails us: we are blessed indeed if we still bow down in loving adoration of God’s justice, worshiping him in the words the Apostle Paul teaches each one of us to say:

O the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, how unfathomable his designs!

Rupert of Deutz (c.1075–1129): In Apoc. 9.15 (PL 169:1109-1110); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Wednesday of the 4th Week in Eastertide, Year 1.

Jerome: We Too Can Give Birth to Christ if We Wish Friday, Dec 21 2012 

St.-Jerome-of-StridoniumTo the Jews it was promised that a saviour would come, but to us who were outside God’s law no such promise was made.

This means that mercy has been shown to the Gentiles, but God has kept faith with the Jews by sending them what he had promised….

When the psalm says: Justice and peace have embraced it is telling us that mercy and truth have made friends, and that means that Gentiles and Jews are now united under a single shepherd, Christ.

Truth has grown up from the earth. Jesus Christ said: I am the way, the truth, and the life.

Truth incarnate has grown up from the earth, for Scripture says: There shall come forth a shoot from Jesse’s stock, and out of his root a flower shall blossom: and another text says: God has wrought salvation in the heart of the earth.

These texts show us that the truth that has grown up from the earth is our Saviour, born of Mary.

And justice looked down from heaven. That the Saviour should have mercy on his people was indeed an act of justice.

See what the Scripture says: O how just are God’s judgments and how unsearchable his ways!

On the one hand truth, that is, a saviour, has grown up from the earth, and on the other justice looks down from heaven in the person of that same Saviour who is himself justice.

It is right and just for a potter to treat his works of art gently and for a shepherd to show compassion on his flock.

And so, because we are the Lord’s people and the work of his own hands, he grew up from the earth and looked down from heaven at one and the same time….

Finally, look at the words: The Lord will show his kindness, and you will hear a note of mercy, not of harshness, in the word justice, because the very reason for justice looking down from heaven was to show pity to his handiwork.

And our earth will yield its fruit. Truth has indeed grown up from the earth: that is a historical fact. But when the psalm goes on to speak of the earth yielding fruit, the verb is in the future tense.

So do not be disheartened by the fact that Christ’s birth from Mary is an unrepeatable event of the past.

He is also born in us every day. Our earth will yield its fruit; we too can give birth to Christ if we wish.

Our earth will yield the fruit from which the bread of heaven is made, the bread of which Jesus said: I am the bread of heaven.

Jerome (347-420): Commentary on Psalm 84 (CCL 78, 107-108);from the Monastic Office of Vigils, 23rd December, Year 1

Aelred of Rievaulx: In Charity Alone is True Peace and Contentment Monday, Feb 28 2011 

Rievaulx Abbey

When insults have no effect on us, when persecu­tions and penalties have no terror for us, when prosperity or adversity has no influence on us, when friend and foe are viewed in the same light…do we not come close to sharing the serenity of God?

All such dispositions spring from charity and charity alone,in which is true peace and contentment.

For it is the Lord’s yoke, and if we follow his call to bear it our souls will find rest, because his yoke is easy and his burden light.

[…] The other virtues are to us as a carriage bearing the weary traveller, as provisions fortifying the wayfarer, as a lamp for those in darkness, or as arms for combatants.

[…] For what is faith but the carriage that bears us to our native land?

What is hope but the food we take for our journey through life’s hardships?

And those other virtues of temperance, prudence, fortitude and justice – what are they but the weapons given us for the struggle?

But when death has been swallowed up by that perfection of charity which is achieved in the vision of God there will be no more faith, because faith was the preparation for that vision, and there will be no need to believe what we see and love.

And when we embrace God with the arms of our charity, there will be no more hope, for there will be nothing left to hope for.

And as for the other virtues, temperance is our weapon against lust, prude­nce against error, fortitude against adversity, justice against injustice.

But in charity there is also perfect chastity, and so no lust for temperance to combat;

in charity there is the fullness of knowl­edge, and so no error for prudence to guard against;

in charity there is true blessedness, and so no adversity for fortitude to overcome;

in charity all is peace, and so there is no injustice for justice to withstand.

Faith is not even a virtue unless it is expressed by love; nor is hope unless it loves what it hopes for.

And if we look more closely, do we not see that temperance is only love that no pleasure can seduce;

that prudence is only love that no error can mislead;

that fortitude is only love courageously enduring adversity;

and that justice is only impartial love mitigating the injustices of this life?

Charity therefore begins with faith, is exercised through the other virtues, but achieves perfection in itself.

Aelred of Rievaulx (1110 – 1167): Speculum Caritatis 1.31, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Friday in Seventh Week of Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Athanasius of Alexandria: The Corruption Of Death No Longer Holds Any Power Over Mankind Sunday, May 2 2010 

The Word of God, incorporeal, incorruptible and immaterial, entered our world.

Yet it was not as if he had been remote from it up to that time.

For there is no part of the world that was ever without his presence.

Together with his Father, he continually filled all things and places.

Out of his loving-kindness for us he came to us, and we see this in the way he revealed himself openly to us.

Taking pity on mankind’s weakness, and moved by our corruption, he could not stand aside and see death have the mastery over us.

He did not want creation to perish and his Father’s work in fashioning man to be in vain.

[…] Within the Virgin he built himself a temple, that is, a body.

He made it his own instrument in which to dwell and to reveal himself.

In this way he received from mankind a body like our own, and, since all were subject to the corruption of death, he delivered this body over to death for all, and with supreme love offered it to the Father.

[…] This was the way in which the Word was to restore mankind to immortality, after it had fallen into corruption, and summon it back from death to life.

He utterly destroyed the power death had against mankind – as fire consumes chaff – by means of the body he had taken and the grace of the resurrection.

This is the reason why the Word assumed a body that could die, so that this body, sharing in the Word who is above all, might satisfy death’s requirement in place of all.

Because of the Word dwelling in that body, it would remain incorruptible, and all would be freed for ever from corruption by the grace of the resurrection.

In death the Word made a spotless sacrifice and oblation of the body he had taken.

By dying for others, he immediately banished death for all mankind.

In this way the Word of God, who is above all, dedicated and offered his temple, the instrument that was his body, for us all, as he said, and so paid by his own death the debt that was owed.

The immortal Son of God, united with all men by likeness of nature, thus fulfilled all justice in restoring mankind to immortality by the promise of the resurrection.

The corruption of death no longer holds any power over mankind, thanks to the Word, who has come to dwell among them through his one body.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): On The Incarnation, 8-9, from the Office of Readings for May 2, (memorial of Saint Athanasius) @ Crossroads Initiative.

Leo XIII: In God Alone Can The Human Will Find Absolute And Perfect Peace Monday, Jan 25 2010 


It is surely unnecessary to prove, what experience constantly shows and what each individual feels in himself, even in the very midst of all temporal prosperity – that in God alone can the human will find absolute and perfect peace.

God is the only end of man. All our life on earth is the truthful and exact image of a pilgrimage.

Now Christ is the “Way”, for we can never reach God, the supreme and ultimate good, by this toilsome and doubtful road of mortal life, except with Christ as our leader and guide.

[…] Hence it will be understood that in the Christian religion the first and most necessary condition is docility to the precepts of Jesus Christ, absolute loyalty of will towards Him as Lord and King.

A serious duty, and one which oftentimes calls for strenuous labour, earnest endeavour, and perseverance!

For although by Our Redeemer’s grace human nature bath been regenerated, still there remains in each individual a certain debility and tendency to evil.

Various natural appetites attract man on one side and the other; the allurements of the material world impel his soul to follow after what is pleasant rather than the law of Christ.

Still we must strive our best and resist our natural inclinations with all our strength “unto the obedience of Christ”.

For unless they obey reason they become our masters, and carrying the whole man away from Christ, make him their slave.

“Men of corrupt mind, who have made shipwreck of the faith, cannot help being slaves. . . They are slaves to a threefold concupiscence: of will, of pride, or of outward show” (St. Augustine, De Vera Religione, 37).

In this contest every man must be prepared to undergo hardships and troubles for Christ’s sake. It is difficult to reject what so powerfully entices and delights.

[…] Moreover, to bear and to suffer is the ordinary condition of man. Man can no more create for himself a life free from suffering and filled with all happiness that he can abrogate the decrees of his Divine Maker, who has willed that the consequences of original sin should be perpetual.

It is reasonable, therefore, not to expect an end to troubles in this world, but rather to steel one’s soul to bear troubles, by which we are taught to look forward with certainty to supreme happiness.

Christ has not promised eternal bliss in heaven to riches, nor to a life of ease, to honours or to power, but to long-suffering and to tears, to the love of justice and to cleanness of heart.

Leo XIII (1810-1903): Tametsi Futura Prospicientibus 6.

Thomas Aquinas: Wedding at Cana (2) Thursday, Oct 22 2009 

She says to him, They have no more wine. Here we should note that before the incarnation of Christ three wines were running out: the wine of justice, of wisdom, and of charity or grace.

Wine stings, and in this respect it is a symbol of justice. The Samaritan poured wine and oil into the wounds of the injured man, that is, he mingled the severity of justice with the sweetness of mercy: “You have made us drink the wine of sorrow” (Ps 59:5).

But wine also delights the heart, “Wine cheers the heart of man” (Ps 103:15). And in this respect wine is a symbol of wisdom, the meditation of which is enjoyable in the highest degree: “Her companionship has no bitterness” (Wis 8:16).

Further, wine intoxicates: “Drink, friends, and be intoxicated, my dearly beloved” (Song 5:1). And in this respect wine is a symbol of charity: “I have drunk my wine with my milk” (Song 5:1). It is also a symbol of charity because of charity’s fervor: “Wine makes the virgins flourish” (Zech 9:17).

The wine of justice was indeed running out in the old law, in which justice was imperfect. But Christ brought it to perfection: “Unless your justice is greater than that of the scribes and of the Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20).

The wine of wisdom was also running out, for it was hidden and symbolic, because as it says in 1 Corinthians (10:11): “All these things happened to them in symbol.” But Christ plainly brought wisdom to light: “He was teaching them as one having authority” (Mt 7:29).

The wine of charity was also running out, because they had received a spirit of serving only in fear. But Christ converted the water of fear into the wine of charity when he gave “the spirit of adoption as sons, by which we cry: ‘Abba, Father’” (Rom 8:15), and when “the charity of God was poured out into our hearts,” as Romans (5:5) says.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): Commentary on John, cap. 2, lect. 1, 347