Anastasius of Sinai: The Church of God is a Surgery Thursday, Feb 6 2014 

Anastasios-of-SinaiDo you not know that the Church of God is a surgery and a harbor?

Now, if you remain in a surgery ailing and unhealed, when, henceforth, will you be cured?

And if you are tempest-tossed in a harbor, where, hereafter, will you find rest?

Stand with reverence, I implore you.

Stand with awe at the fearful hour of the Anaphora; for with whatever attitude and thoughts each of you attends at that hour, such also is the frame of mind in which he offers worship to the Master.

The oblation is called the Anaphora because it is offered up to God. Therefore, stand before God in silence and compunction.

Confess your sins to God through the Priests. Condemn your actions and do not be ashamed; for, there is a shame that bringeth sin, and there is a shame which is glory and grace (Ecclesiasticus 4:2 1).

Condemn yourself before men, so that the Judge may justify you before Angels and the whole world.

Seek mercy, seek forgiveness, seek remission of past sins and deliverance from future sins, so that you may approach the Mysteries worthily, so that you may partake of the Body and Blood with a pure conscience, and so that it may be for you unto purification and not unto condemnation.

Hear what the Divine Paul says: Let each man examine himself, and so let him eat of that Bread, and drink of that Cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s Body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep (I Corinthians 11:27-30).

Do you notice that illness and death result, for the most part, from approaching the Divine Mysteries unworthily? But perhaps you will say: And who is worthy? I, too, am aware of this.

However, you will become worthy, if only you desire it. Recognize that you are a sinner. Cut yourself off from sin. Desist from sin, wickedness, and anger. Display the works of repentance; endue yourself with prudence, meekness, and forbearance.

Show compassion from the fruits of righteousness for those in need, and you will have become worthy. Beseech God with a contrite heart, and He will fulfill your petitions; for, if you do not do this, you will be wasting the time that you spend in church.

[…] And why, someone will object, because I have evil deeds, should I not pray? Why should I not spend time in the Church of God?

This is not what I am saying, nor do I even countenance it. But I beseech you to pray as you ought, so that when we draw near to God in our prayers, we may stand before Him in a way that befits Him

Anastasius of Sinai (7th Century): A Homily on the Holy Eucharist and on Not Judging Others or Remembering Wrongs, PG 89, 825A-849C, also attributed to Anastasios II of Antioch @ OCIC.

Leo the Great: The Wise Men Saw and Adored the Child of the Tribe of Judah Sunday, Jan 5 2014 

leo1Led then, dearly beloved, into Bethlehem by obeying the guidance of the star, the wise men “rejoiced with very great joy,” as the evangelist has told us:

“And entering the house, they found the child with Mary, His mother; and falling down they worshipped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Matt. 2:10, 11).

What wondrous faith of perfect knowledge, which was taught them not by earthly wisdom, but by the instruction of the Holy Spirit!

Whence came it that these men, who had quitted their country without having seen Jesus, and had not noticed anything in His looks to enforce such systematic adoration, observed this method in offering their gifts?

Besides the appearance of the star which attracted their bodily eyes, the more refulgent rays of truth taught their hearts:

that, before they started on their toilsome road, they must understand that He was signified to Whom was owed in gold royal honour, in incense Divine adoration, in myrrh the acknowledgment of mortality.

Such a belief and understanding no doubt, as far as the enlightenment of their faith went, might have been sufficient in themselves and have prevented their using their bodily eyes in inquiring into that which they had beheld with their mind’s fullest gaze.

Their sagacious diligence, persevering till they found the child, did good service for future peoples and for the men of our own time.

Thus, as it profited us all that the apostle Thomas, after the Lord’s resurrection, handled the traces of the wounds in His flesh, so it was of advantage to us that His infancy should be attested by the visit of the wise men.

And so the wise men saw and adored the Child of the tribe of Judah, “of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3), “made from a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4), which He had come “not to destroy but to fulfil” (Matt. 5:17).

They saw and adored the Child, small in size, powerless to help others, incapable of speech, and in nought different to the generality of human children.

Because, as the testimonies were trustworthy which asserted in Him the majesty of invisible Godhead, so it ought to be impossible to doubt that “the Word became flesh,” and the eternal essence of the Son of God took man’s true nature.

Neither the inexpressible marvels of his acts which were to follow nor the infliction of sufferings which He had to bear should be permitted to overthrow the mystery of our Faith by their inconsistency.

For no one at all can be justified save those who believe the Lord Jesus to be both true God and true Man.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 34, 3.

Augustine of Hippo: God Promised Men Divinity, Mortals Immortality, Sinners Justification, Outcasts Glory Thursday, Dec 12 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaGod had a time for making his promises and a time for fulfilling them.

His time for making promises was from the days of the prophets until the coming of John the Baptist.

His time for fulfilling them was from then until the end of the world. God is faithful and he has put himself in our debt, not by receiving anything from us but by promising so much.

Nor was a promise sufficient for him; he even bound himself in writing, giving us as it were a pledge in his own hand.

He wanted us to see from Scripture, when the time for fulfilment came, how he was carrying out his promises one by one.

God promised us eternal salvation, everlasting bliss with the angels, an incorruptible inheritance, endless glory, the joyful vision of his face, his holy dwelling in heaven, and after the resurrection from the dead no further fear of dying.

This is what he holds out to us at the end as the goal of all our striving. When we reach it we shall ask for nothing more. But as to how we are to reach our final goal, he revealed this too by promises and prophecies.

God promised men divinity, mortals immortality, sinners justification, outcasts glory.

But because his promise that we who are mortal, corruptible, weak and of low estate, mere dust and ashes, were to be equal to the angels seemed incredible, God not only made a written covenant with us to win our faith, but he also gave us a mediator of his pledge.

This mediator was not a prince, an angel, or an archangel, but his only Son; through his own Son he meant both to show us and give us the way by which he would lead us to the promised goal.

He was not satisfied with sending his Son to show us the way. He made him the way itself. God’s only Son, then, was to come among us, take our human nature, and in this nature be born as a man.

He was to die, to rise again, to ascend into heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Father, and to fulfil his promises among the nations.

After that he was also to fulfil his promise to come again, to demand what he had previously requested, to separate those deserving his anger from those deserving his mercy, to give the wicked what he had threatened and the just what he had promised.

All this had to be prophesied, foretold, and impressed on us as an event in the future so that we should not be terrified by its happening unexpectedly, but wait for it with faith.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Commentary on Psalm 109, 1-3 (CSEL 40:1601-1603); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Thursday of the 2nd Week in Advent, Year 1.

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.

Leo the Great: Christ Shared His Victory with Those in Whose Body He had Triumphed Monday, Jul 22 2013 

leo1As it cannot be denied that “the Word became flesh and dwelt in us” (John 1:14), so it cannot be denied that “God was in Christ , reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19).

But what reconciliation can there be, whereby God might look favourably on the human race, unless the mediator between God and man took up the cause of all?

And in what way could He properly fulfil His mediation, unless He who in the form of God was equal to the Father, were a sharer of our nature also in the form of a slave?

This was necessary so that the one new Man might effect a renewal of the old,  and the bond of death fastened on us by one man’s wrongdoing might be loosened by the death of the one Man who alone owed nothing to death.

For the pouring out of the blood of the righteous on behalf of the unrighteous was so powerful in its effect, and so rich a ransom, that, if the whole body of us prisoners only believed in their Redeemer, not one would be held in the tyrant’s bonds.

As the Apostle says, “where sin abounded, grace also did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). And since we, who were born under the imputation of sin, have received the power of a new birth unto righteousness, the gift of liberty has become stronger than the debt of slavery.

What hope then do they, who deny the reality of the human person in our Saviour’s body, leave for themselves in the efficacy of this mystery?  Let them say by what sacrifice they have been reconciled, by what blood-shedding brought back.

Who is He “who gave Himself for us an offering and a victim to God for a sweet smell” (Eph. 5:2); or what sacrifice was ever more hallowed than that which the true High priest placed upon the altar of the Cross by the immolation of His own flesh?

[…] One alone among the sons of men, our Lord Jesus Christ, stands out as One in whom all are crucified, all dead, all buried, all raised again.  Of them He Himself said “when I am lifted from the earth, I will draw all things unto Me” (John 12:32).

True faith also, that justifies the transgressors and makes them just, is drawn to Him who shared their human natures and wins salvation in Him, in whom alone man finds himself not guilty.

Thus true faith is free to glory in the power of Him who in the humiliation of our flesh engaged in conflict with the haughty foe, and shared His victory with those in whose body He had triumphed.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Letter 124, 3-4.

Aphrahat the Persian: Christ is the Temple, and Christians are a Temple for a Dwelling-Place of Christ Wednesday, Jul 17 2013 

ephrem-isaac-aphrahatThe true Stone, our Lord Jesus Christ, is the foundation of all our faith.

[…] And now hear concerning faith that is based upon the Stone, and concerning the structure that is reared up upon the Stone.

For first a man believes, and when he believes, he loves.  When he loves, he hopes.  When he hopes, he is justified.  When he is justified, he is perfected.  When he is perfected, he is consummated.

And when his whole structure is raised up, consummated, and perfected, then he becomes a house and a temple for a dwelling-place of Christ, as Jeremiah the Prophet said:

The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are ye, if ye amend your ways and your works.

And again He said through the Prophet: I will dwell in them and walk in them.  And also the Blessed Apostle thus said: Ye are the temple of God and the Spirit of Christ dwelleth in you.

And also our Lord again thus said to His disciples: Ye are in Me and I am in you.

And when the house has become a dwelling-place, then the man begins to be anxious as to that which is required for Him Who dwells in the building.

[…] In a house that is void of all good things, the King will not lodge, nor will he dwell in the midst of it; but all that is choicest in the house is required for the King and that nothing in it be deficient.

[…]  So also let the man, who becomes a house, yea a dwelling-place, for Christ, take heed to what is needed for the service of Christ, Who lodges in him, and with what things he may please Him.

[…]  If Christ is set for the foundation, how does Christ also dwell in the building when it is completed?  For both these things did the blessed Apostle say.

For he said: I as a wise architect have laid the foundation.  And there he defined the foundation and made it clear, for he said as follows: No man can lay other foundation than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

And that Christ furthermore dwells in that building is the word that was written above—that of Jeremiah who called men temples and said of God that He dwelt in them.  And the Apostle said: The Spirit of Christ dwelleth in you.  And our Lord said: I and My Father are one.

And therefore that word is accomplished, that Christ dwells in men, namely, in those who believe on Him, and He is the foundation on which is reared up the whole building.

Aphrahat the Persian (c.270-c.345): Demonstrations, 1 – On Faith (1-5). (The icon accompanying this extract depicts Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Syrian, and Aphrahat.)

John Henry Newman: Justifying Righteousness Consists in the Coming and Presence of the Holy Spirit in Our Hearts Tuesday, Jun 18 2013 

John_Henry_Newman_by_Sir_John_Everett_MillaisThe presence of the Holy Ghost shed abroad in our hearts, the Author both of faith and of renewal, this is really that which makes us righteous, and…our righteousness is the possession of that presence.

Justification actually is ascribed in Scripture to the presence of the Holy Spirit, and that immediately, neither faith nor renewal intervening.

For instance, St. Peter speaks of our being “elect through sanctification,” or consecration “of the Spirit, unto,” that is, in order to, “obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,” that is, the Holy Ghost is given us unto, or in order to, renovation and justification.

Again: we are said by St. Paul to be “washed, sanctified, and justified, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

The same Apostle says, “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”

Again: “The law of the Spirit of life hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Again: Christ says, “It is the Spirit that giveth life,” life being the peculiar attribute or state of “the just,” as St. Paul, and the prophet Habakkuk before him, declare.

These passages taken together…show that justification is wrought by the power of the Spirit, or rather by His presence within us.

And this being the real state of a justified man, faith and renewal are both present also, but as fruits of it;—faith, because it is said, “We through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith;” and renewal, because in another passage, “renewing of the Holy Ghost” is made equivalent to “being justified by His grace.”

[…] Justification may fitly be called an “inspiration of the Spirit of Christ,” or a spiritual presence. Again in the Baptismal Service, in which we pray God that the child to be baptized may “receive remission of his sins,” which surely implies justification, “by spiritual regeneration,” which is as surely the gift of the Spirit.

[…] We are told, by way of comment upon St. Paul’s words, “Who rose again for our justification,” that Christ “rose again to send down His Holy Spirit to rule in our hearts, to endow us with perfect righteousness.

[…] In this way David’s words in the 85th Psalm are fulfilled, “Truth hath sprung out of the earth, and righteousness hath looked down from heaven,” in that “from the earth is the Everlasting Verity, God’s Son, risen to life, and the true righteousness of the Holy Ghost, looking out of heaven, and in most liberal largess dealt upon all the world?”

Justifying righteousness, then, consists in the coming and presence of the Holy Ghost within us.

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890): Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification: Lecture 6, The Gift of Righteousness.

Cyril of Alexandria: Partakers in the Divine Nature through Communion with the Holy Spirit Thursday, May 9 2013 

cyril_alexandriaThe Son…brought Himself as a Victim and holy Sacrifice to God the Father, reconciling the world unto Himself, and bringing into kinship with Him that which had fallen away, that is, the race of man.

[…] Indeed, our reconciliation to God could not have been accomplished through Christ who saves us except by communion in the Spirit and sanctification.

For that which knits us together, and, as it were, unites us with God, is the Holy Spirit.

If we receive the Spirit, we are proved sharers and partakers in the divine nature, and we admit the Father Himself into our hearts, through the Son and in the Son.

Further, the wise John writes for us concerning Him: Hereby know we that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 

And what does Paul also say? And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 

For if we had chanced to remain without partaking of the Spirit, we could never at all have known that God was in us.

And, if we had not been enriched with the Spirit that puts us into the rank of sons, we should never have been at all the sons of God.

How, then, should we…have been shown to be partakers in divine nature unless God had been in us, and unless we been joined to Him through having been called to communion with the Spirit?

But now are we both partakers and sharers in the divine substance that transcends the universe, and are become temples of God.

For the Only-begotten sanctified Himself for our sins. That is, offered Himself up, and brought Himself as a holy sacrifice for a sweet-smelling savour to God the Father.

He did this in order that, while He as God came between and hedged off and built a wall of partition between human nature and sin.

This was so that nothing might hinder our being able to have access to God, and to have close fellowship with Him through communion – that is, with the Holy Spirit moulding us anew to righteousness and sanctification and the original likeness of man.

For if sin sunders and dissevers man from God, surely righteousness will be a bond of union, and will somehow set us by the side of God Himself, with nothing to part us.

We have been justified through faith in Christ, Who was delivered up for our trespasses, according to the Scripture, and was raised for our justification. 

For in Him, as in the first-fruits of the race, the nature of man was wholly reformed into newness of life, and ascending, as it were, to its own first beginning, was moulded anew into sanctification.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St John’s Gospel, book 11, c.10 [on John 17:18-19].

Leo the Great: “They that Live Should Henceforth not Live to Themselves but to Him Who Died for All and Rose Again” Friday, Mar 29 2013 

leo1(Following on from here…)

Let us, then, dearly-beloved, confess what the blessed teacher of the nations, the Apostle Paul, confessed, saying:

“Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

For God’s mercy towards us is the more wonderful that Christ died not for the righteous nor for the holy, but for the unrighteous and wicked.

And though the nature of the Godhead could not sustain the sting of death, yet at His birth He took from us that which He might offer for us.

For of old He threatened our death with the power of His death, saying by the mouth of Hosea the prophet, “O death, I will be thy death, and I will be thy destruction, O hell.”

For by dying He underwent the laws of hell, but by rising again He broke them, and so destroyed the continuity of death as to make it temporal instead of eternal.

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

And so, dearly-beloved, let that come to pass of which S. Paul speaks, “that they that live, should henceforth not live to themselves but to Him who died for all and rose again.”

And because the old things have passed away and all things are become new, let none remain in his old carnal life, but let us all be renewed by daily progress and growth in piety.

For however much a man be justified, yet so long as he remains in this life, he can always be more approved and better.

And he that is not advancing is going back, and he that is gaining nothing is losing something.

Let us run, then, with the steps of faith, by the works of mercy, in the love of righteousness, that keeping the day of our redemption spiritually, “not in the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,” we may deserve to be partakers of Christ’s resurrection.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 59, 8.

Ignatius Brianchaninov: That all-powerful healing offered to us by the all-powerful doctor, God Monday, Feb 25 2013 

Ignatius_BrianchaninovFor the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).

Zacchaeus admits his greed and resolves to cleanse himself, to sanctify his property and his heart with abundant almsgiving. The Lord is quick to accept Zacchaeus’s repentance.

[…] Incomprehensible to fleshly minds was and still is the mystery of redemption, which heals all human sins with equal power and ease, both the little and the great, and wrenches sinners from any destroying abyss, no matter how deep that abyss may be.

For such an amazing work, faith in a Redeemer and sincere repentance is demanded of a person.

[…] Explaining the unfathomable, and revealing the boundless power of redemption, the Lord said: the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Having taken humanity upon Himself, God, whom man neither sought nor called, came out of His own inexpressible goodness to seek and to save the human race, lost because of its alienation from God.

He came to seek and to save every person drawn to destruction by sin, if only that person would not reject God, Who seeks and wishes to save him.

The Holy Gospels can be compared to a mirror. Each of us can see, if we so desire, the state of our soul reflected in them, and find that all-powerful healing offered to us by the all-powerful doctor, God.

The God-Son calls Himself the Son of man, because He took on human form and lived among human beings, not differing in appearance from them in any way. This is the result of infinite divine love and inexpressible divine humility.

The Son of man—we’ll say in the manner of humans—had the right to forgive all of people’s sins as One Who brought Himself, the all-perfect God, as a redeeming sacrifice for mankind; and as the One Who destroyed all human sins, of both little and great significance, at an immense, immeasurably significant, redeeming price.

The judgment of the Son of Man over people, as we see in the Gospels, is completely different from that of ordinary human beings, who judge their neighbors out of their own righteousness—a righteousness rejected of God and corrupted by sin.

The Savior has justified all sinners who received redemption through repentance and faith—although other people condemned them.

[…] We have seen this sinner, condemned by people, justified by God for his faith and true repentance. This is a consoling, encouraging scene!

And as He faithfully promised, the Savior still abides among us; He still heals our souls wounded by sin.

And His Divine ordinance has not passed away: The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Homily on the 32nd Sunday after Pentecost, on Zacchaeus, translated by Nun Cornelia Rees @ Pravoslavie

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