Cyril of Jerusalem: The Descent of the Holy Spirit Wednesday, Jun 11 2014 

Cyril-of-JerusalemHe came down to clothe the Apostles with power, and to baptize them.

For the Lord says, ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence (Acts 1:5).

This grace was not in part, but His power was in full perfection.

For as he who plunges into the waters and is baptized is encompassed on all sides by the waters, so were they also baptized completely by the Holy Ghost.

The water however flows round the outside only, but the Spirit baptizes also the soul within, and that completely.

And wherefore wonderest thou?  Take an example from matter; poor indeed and common, yet useful for the simpler sort.

The fire passing in through the mass of the iron makes the whole of it fire, so that what was cold becomes burning and what was black is made bright.

If fire which is a body thus penetrates and works without hindrance in iron which is also a body, why wonder that the Holy Ghost enters into the very inmost recesses of the soul?

And lest men should be ignorant of the greatness of the mighty gift coming down to them, there sounded as it were a heavenly trumpet.

For suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind (Acts 2:2), signifying the presence of Him who was to grant power unto men to seize with violence the kingdom of God; that both their eyes might see the fiery tongues, and their ears hear the sound.  

And it filled all the house where they were sitting; for the house became the vessel of the spiritual water; as the disciples sat within, the whole house was filled.

Thus they were entirely baptized according to the promise, and invested soul and body with a divine garment of salvation.  

And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.

They partook of fire, not of burning but of saving fire; of fire which consumes the thorns of sins, but gives lustre to the soul.

This is now coming upon you also, and that to strip away and consume your sins which are like thorns, and to brighten yet more that precious possession of your souls, and to give you grace; for He gave it then to the Apostles.

And He sat upon them in the form of fiery tongues, that they might crown themselves with new and spiritual diadems by fiery tongues upon their heads.  A fiery sword barred of old the gates of Paradise; a fiery tongue which brought salvation restored the gift.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 17, 14-15.

Augustine of Hippo: All Authentic Prayer is Contained in the Lord’s Prayer Friday, Feb 14 2014 

St Augustine of AfricaContinued from here….

For whatever other words we may say – whether the desire of the person praying go before the words, and employ them in order to give definite form to its requests, or come after them, and concentrate attention upon them, that it may increase in fervour – if we pray rightly, and as becomes our wants, we say nothing but what is already contained in the Lord’s Prayer.

And whoever says in prayer anything which cannot find its place in that gospel prayer, is praying in a way which, if it be not unlawful, is at least not spiritual; and I know not how carnal prayers can be lawful, since it becomes those who are born again by the Spirit to pray in no other way than spiritually.

For example, when one prays: “Be Thou glorified among all nations as Thou art glorified among us,” and “Let Thy prophets be found faithful,” what else does he ask than, “Hallowed be Thy name”?

When one says: “Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts, cause Thy face to shine, and we shall be saved,” what else is he saying than, “Let Thy kingdom come”?

When one says: “Order my steps in Thy word, and let not any iniquity have dominion over me,” what else is he saying than, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?

When one says: “Give me  neither poverty nor riches,” what else is this than, Give us this day our daily bread “?

When one says: “Lord, remember David, and all his compassion,” or, “O Lord, if I have done this, if there be iniquity in my hands, if I have rewarded evil to them that did evil to me,” what else is this than, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”?

When one says: “Take away from me the lusts of the appetite, and let not sensual desire take hold on me,” what else is this than, “Lead us not into temptation”?

When one says: “Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God; defend me from them that rise up against me,” what else is this than, “Deliver us from evil”?

And if you go over all the words of holy prayers, you will, I believe, find nothing which cannot be comprised and summed up in the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.

Wherefore, in praying, we are free to use different words to any extent, but we must ask the same things; in this we have no choice.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Letter to Proba, XII, 22 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Gregory of Nyssa: Why Man was Brought into the World Last, After the Creation Monday, Aug 12 2013 

Gregory_of_NyssaNot as yet had that great and precious thing, man, come into the world of being; it was not to be looked for that the ruler should appear before the subjects of his rule.

But when his dominion was prepared, the next step was that the king should be manifested.

When, then, the Maker of all had prepared beforehand, as it were, a royal lodging for the future king (and this was the land, and islands, and sea, and the heaven arching like a roof over them),

—and when all kinds of wealth had been stored in this palace (and by wealth I mean the whole creation, all that is in plants and trees, and all that has sense, and breath, and life,

—and, if we are to account materials also as wealth, all that for their beauty are reckoned precious in the eyes of men, as gold and silver, and the substances of your jewels which men delight in,

—having concealed, I say, abundance of all these also in the bosom of the earth as in a royal treasure-house,

—he thus manifests man in the world, to be the beholder of some of the wonders therein, and the lord of others:

that by his enjoyment he might have knowledge of the Giver, and by the beauty and majesty of the things he saw might trace out that power of the Maker which is beyond speech and language.

For this reason man was brought into the world last after the creation, not being rejected to the last as worthless, but as one whom it behoved to be king over his subjects at his very birth.

And as a good host does not bring his guest to his house before the preparation of his feast, but, when he has made all due preparation, and decked with their proper adornments his house, his couches, his table, brings his guest home when things suitable for his refreshment are in readiness,

—in the same manner the rich and munificent Entertainer of our nature, when He had decked the habitation with beauties of every kind, and prepared this great and varied banquet,

—then introduced man, assigning to him as his task not the acquiring of what was not there, but the enjoyment of the things which were there; and for this reason He gives him as foundations the instincts of a twofold organization, blending the Divine with the earthy:

that by means of both he may be naturally and properly disposed to each enjoyment, enjoying God by means of his more divine nature, and the good things of earth by the sense that is akin to them.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): On the Making of Man, 2, 1-2.

Ephrem the Syrian: Glory to Him Who Came and Restored the World Sunday, Jan 6 2013 

Mor_Ephrem_icon(Response: “Glory to Him Who came and restored it!”)

Adam sinned and earned all sorrows;—likewise the world after his example, all guilt.—And instead of considering how it should be restored,—considered how its fall should be pleasant for it.—Glory to Him who came and restored it!

This cause summoned Him that is pure,—that He should come and be baptized, even He with the defiled,—Heaven for His glory was rent asunder.—That the purifier of all might be baptized with all,—He came down and sanctified the water for our baptism.

For that cause for which He entered into the womb,—for the same cause He went down into the river.—For that cause for which He entered into the grave,—for the same cause He makes us enter into His chamber.—He perfected mankind for every cause.

His conception is the store of our blessings;—His birth is the treasury of our joys;—His baptism is the cause of our pardon;—His death is the cause of our life.—Death He alone has overcome in His resurrection.

At His birth a star of light shone in the air;—when He was baptized light flashed from the water;—at His death the sun was darkened in the firmament;—at His passion the luminaries set along with Him;—at His epiphany the luminaries arose with Him.

[…] Lo! the east in the morning was made light!—lo! the south at noonday was made dark!—The west again in turn at eventide was made light.—The three quarters represent the one birth;—His death and His life they declare.

His birth flowed on and was joined to His baptism;—and His baptism again flowed on even to His death;—His death led and reached to His resurrection,—a fourfold bridge unto His kingdom; and lo! His sheep pass over in His footsteps.

[…] Good is He, for lo! He labours in these two things;—He wills not to constrain our freedom—nor again does He suffer us to abuse it.—For had he constrained it, He had taken away its power;—and had He let it go, He had deprived it of help.

He knows that if He constrains He deprives us;—He knows that if He casts off He destroys us;—He knows that if He teaches He wins us.—He has not constrained and He has not cast off, as the evil one does:—He has taught, chastened, and won us, as being the good God.

He knows that His treasuries abound:—the keys of His treasuries He has put into our hands.—He has made the Cross our treasurer—to open for us the gates of Paradise,—as Adam opened the gate of Gehenna.

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Fifteen Hymns on the Epiphany, 10.

Leo the Great: The Mystery of the Magi and of the Star Sunday, Jan 6 2013 

leo1Taught then, dearly-beloved, by these mysteries of Divine grace, let us with reasonable joy celebrate the day of our first-fruits and the commencement of the nations’ calling:

“giving thanks to” the merciful God “who made us worthy,” as the Apostle says, “to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light:  who delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”

As Isaiah prophesied, “the people of the nations that sat in darkness, have seen a great light, and they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”

Of whom he also said to the Lord, “nations which knew not thee, shall call on thee:  and peoples which were ignorant of thee, shall run together unto thee.”

This day “Abraham saw and was glad,” when he understood that the sons of his faith would be blessed in his seed that is in Christ, and foresaw that by believing he should be the father of all nations, “giving glory to God and being fully assured that What He had promised, He was able also to perform.”

This day David sang of in the psalms saying:  “all nations that thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord:  and they shall glorify Thy name.”

And again:  “The Lord hath made known His salvation:  His righteousness hath He openly showed in the sight of the nations.”

This in good truth we know to have taken place ever since the three wise men aroused in their far-off land were led by a star to recognize and worship the King of heaven and earth.

And surely their worship of Him exhorts us to imitation; that, as far as we can, we should serve our gracious God who invites us all to Christ.

For whosoever lives religiously and chastely in the Church and “sets his mind on the things which are above, not on the things that are upon the earth,” is in some measure like the heavenly light.

And, whilst he himself keeps the brightness of a holy life, he points out to many the way to the Lord like a star.

In which regard, dearly-beloved, ye ought all to help one another in turn, that in the kingdom of God, which is reached by right faith and good works, ye may shine as the sons of light.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 33, 5.

John of Kronstadt: If we remove sins from the soul, the Lord of all will fill it with himself Saturday, Sep 1 2012 

john_kronstadtThe translation of the Mother of God is a paradigm of the translation in general of the souls of Christians to the other world.

We say that our dead have “fallen asleep” or “passed away.” What does this mean? This means that for the true Christian there is no death.

Death was conquered by Christ on the cross. But there is a translation, i.e, a rearrangement of his condition, i.e. his soul is in another place, in another age, in another world beyond the grave, eternal, without end; that is what is meant by “falling asleep”.

[…] This is what the Christian means by translation. We should be ready for this translation, for the day of the general resurrection and judgment, for this indescribable world event, recorded in the Holy Scriptures.

This preparation for the meeting of the heavenly King before the dread judgment seat, after death, is essentially the person’s preparation throughout the whole of his life.

This preparation means a change in all his thoughts, and the moral change of all his being, so that the whole man would be pure and white as snow, washing clean everything that defiles the body and spirit, so that he is adorned with every virtue: repentance, meekness, humility, gentleness, simplicity, chastity, mercifulness, abstention, spiritual contemplation, and burning love for God and neighbor.

Our preparation for meeting the heavenly King, and for the inheritance of eternal life in heaven, should consist of these things.

The heavenly King desires souls adorned with immutable virtue, souls prepared so that the Very Lord Himself could abide in them.

Do not marvel that the Very Lord wants to live in us. In fact the human soul is more spacious than the heavens and the earth, for it exists in the image of God.

And if one removes sins from the soul, the Lord of all will settle in it and will fill it with Himself.

“We will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (John 14:23), says the Lord about the souls who love Him.

And so, ye participants in the Christian feasts, and especially the present feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, ye who are brightly adorned with every virtue and translated to the heavenly kingdom, to Her Son and God, proclaim to each and every one about preparing their souls to be the dwelling place of the Lord, about continual repentance, and about the incorruptible adornment of Christian virtue.

Let your death also be unashamed and peaceful, serving as the pledge of a good answer at the dread judgment seat of Christ.

John of Kronstadt (1829-1908; Russian Orthodox): Sermon on the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos @ Pravoslavie.

Nilus the Ascetic: The Attention Paid by the Mind that Seeks Prayer will Find Prayer Saturday, Dec 3 2011 

During prayer, your memory will bring you either fantasies of past things or recent cares or the face of the one who had grieved you.

Therefore, guard your memory well, so that it does not present you with its own cares.

And continuously urge yourself to remain aware in Whose presence it is standing, because it is very natural for the mind to be easily carried away by memory during the time of prayer.

The attention paid by the mind that seeks prayer will find prayer, because prayer follows attention more than anything else.

Let us therefore ensure that we willingly strive to acquire attention.

At times, by remaining standing during prayer, you can immediately concentrate and pray well; at other times, you may strive very hard, but not achieve your purpose.

This occurs, so that you may ask for prayer with greater zeal; and after acquiring it, to have it as your inalienable achievement.

[…] A true prayer is said by the one who always offers his first thought as a sacrifice to God.

Do not pray for your desires to be realized, because they certainly do not agree with the will of God;

but rather, as you were taught, say in your prayer: “Let Your Will be done” (Matt 6:10), and for every single thing, you should likewise ask God that His Will be done, because He wants whatever is best and beneficial for your soul.

I have often asked God through prayer for something I thought to be good. And I insisted illogically on asking for it, thus violating the divine will.

I would not let God provide whatever He knew would be to my benefit.

And so, having received what I had asked for, I afterwards felt very sorry that I had not asked that His Will be done, because things did not turn out as I had thought they would.

What is benevolent, if not God? Let us therefore entrust all our needs with Him and everything will go well, as the benevolent One definitely also bestows beneficial gifts.

In your prayer, ask only for the justice and the Kingdom of God – in other words, virtue and divine knowledge – and all the rest will then be added to you.

Entrust the needs of your body to God, and that will reveal to Him that you also entrust the needs of your spirit.

Nilus the Ascetic of Sinai (d. c.430): On Prayer, trans. Holy Monastery of the Paraklete Oropos, Attica (Greece).

 

Ephrem the Syrian: When Our Lord was Presented in the Temple… Wednesday, Feb 2 2011 

When our Lord was presented in the Temple, He put on prophecy and priesthood, and went forth bearing the purity of the priesthood upon His pure members, and bearing the words of prophecy in His wondrous ears.

For when Simeon was sanctifying the body of the Child who sanctifies all, that body received the priesthood in its sanctification.

And again, when Simeon was prophesying over Him, prophecy quickly entered the hearing of the Child.

[…] Accordingly, each one of the gifts that was stored up for the Son, He gathered from their true tree.

For He received baptism from the Jordan, even though John still after Him used to baptise.

And He received priesthood from the Temple, even though Annas the High Priest exercised it.

And again, He received prophecy which had been handed down amongst the righteous, even though by it Caiaphas in mockery platted a crown for our Lord.

And He received the kingdom from the house of David, even though Herod held the place and exercised it.

And when all those gifts which He had given to those of old time saw Him, they came flying from every quarter and rested on Him their Giver.

For they gathered themselves together from every side, to come and be grafted into their natural tree.

[…] Therefore they hastened to come to their sweet parent-stock; namely to the Godhead Who in sufficiency came down to the people of Israel, that the parts of Him might be gathered to Him.

[…] But when our Lord took to Himself Priesthood…He sanctified by it all the Gentiles.

And again, when He took to Himself prophecy, He revealed by it His counsels to all nations.

And when he wove His crown, He bound the strong One who takes all men captive, and divides his spoils.

These gifts were barren, with the fig-tree, which while it was barren of fruit made barren such glorious powers as these.

Therefore as being without fruit, it was cut off, that these gifts might pass forth from it and bring forth fruit abundantly among all the Gentiles.

So He, Who came to make our bodies abodes for His indwelling, passed by all those dwelling-places.

Let each one of us then be a dwelling-place for Him Who loves me.  Let us come to Him and make our abode with Him.

This is the Godhead Whom though all creation cannot contain, yet a lowly and humble soul suffices to receive Him.

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Homily on Our Lord, 53-57.

 

Ephrem the Syrian: His Grace Is Abundant Without Limit Monday, Feb 15 2010 

Glory to Thee Who didst depart from one dwelling to take up thy abode in another!

That He might come and make us a dwelling-place for His Sender, the only-begotten departed from being with Deity and took up His abode in the Virgin; that by a common manner of birth, though only-begotten, He might become the brother of many.

And He departed from Sheol and took up His abode in the Kingdom; that He might seek out a path from Sheol which oppresses all, to the Kingdom which requites all.

For our Lord gave His resurrection as a pledge to mortals, that He would remove them from Sheol, which receives the departed without distinction, to the Kingdom which admits the invited with distinction; so that, from the plan which makes equal the bodies of all men within it, we may come to the plan which distinguishes the works of all men within it.

This is He Who descended to Sheol and ascended, that from the place which corrupts its sojourners, He might bring us to the place which nourishes with its blessings its dwellers; even those dwellers who, with the possessions, the fruits, and the flowers, of this world, that pass away, have crowned and adorned for themselves there, tabernacles that pass not away.

That Firstborn Who was begotten according to His nature, was born in another birth that was external to His nature; that we might know that after our natural birth we must have another birth which is outside our nature.

For He, since He was spiritual, until He came to the corporeal birth, could not be corporeal; in like manner also the corporeal, unless they are born in another birth, cannot be spiritual.

But the Son Whose generation is unsearchable, was born in another generation that may be searched out; that by the one we might learn that His Majesty is without limit, and by the other might be taught that His grace is without measure.

For great is His Majesty without measure, Whose first generation cannot be imagined in any of our thoughts.

And His grace is abundant without limit, Whose second birth is proclaimed by all mouths.

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Homily on Our Lord, 1.

John Ruusbroec: Zaccheus (1) Tuesday, Nov 10 2009 

A man who lives this life in its perfection, as it has here been shown, and who is offering up his whole life, and all his works, to the worship and praise of God, and who wills and loves God above all things, is often stirred by a desire to see, to know, and to prove what, in Himself, this Bridegroom Christ is;

Who for man’s sake became man and laboured in love unto death, and delivered us from sin and the devil, and has given us Himself and His grace, and left us His sacraments, and has promised us His kingdom and Himself as an eternal wage;

Who also gives us all that is needful for the body, and inward consolation and sweetness, and innumerable gifts of all kinds, according to the needs of each.

When a man beholds all this, he feels an unmeasured impulse to see Christ his Bridegroom, and to know Him as He is in Himself. Though he knows Him in His works, this does not seem to him enough.

Then he must do as the publican Zaccheus did, who longed to see Jesus, who He was. He must run before the crowd, that is the multiplicity of creatures; for these make us so little and so low that we cannot see God.

And he must climb up into the tree of faith, which grows from above downwards, for its roots are in the Godhead. This tree has twelve branches, which are the twelve articles of faith.

The lower speak of the Divine Humanity, and of those things which belong to our salvation of soul and of body.

The upper part of the tree tells of the Godhead, of the Trinity of Persons, and of the Unity of the Nature of God.

And the man must cling to that unity, in the highest part of the tree; for there it is that Jesus must pass with all His gifts.

John Ruusbroec (1293 – 1381): The Spiritual Espousals, 1,26.