Gregory of Nyssa: Moses and the Burning Bush Monday, Mar 10 2014 

Gregory_of_Nyssa[When]…we are living at peace, the truth will shine upon us and its radiance will illuminate the eyes of our soul.

Now this truth is God. Once in an ineffable and mysterious vision it manifested itself to Moses, and it is not without significance for us that the flame from which the soul of the Prophet was illuminated was kindled from a thorn-bush.

If truth is God and if it is also light – two of the sublime and sacred epithets by which the Gospel describes the God who manifested himself to us in the flesh – it follows that a virtuous life will lead us to a knowledge of that light which descended to the level of our human nature.

It is not from some luminary set among the stars that it sheds its radiance, which might then be thought to have a material origin, but from a bush on the earth, although it outshines the stars of heaven.

This also symbolizes the mystery of the Virgin, from whom came the divine light that shone upon the world without damaging the bush from which it emanated or allowing the virgin shoot to wither.

This light teaches us what we must do to stand in the rays of the true light, and that it is impossible with our feet in shackles to run toward the mountain where the light of truth appears.

We have first to free the feet of our soul from the covering of dead skins in which our nature was clad in the beginning when it disobeyed God’s will and was left naked.

To know that which is, we must purify our minds of assumptions regarding things which are not. In my opinion the definition of truth is an unerring comprehension of that which is.

He who is immutable, who does not increase or diminish, who is subject to no change for better or worse, but is perfectly self-sufficient; he who alone is desirable, in whom all else par­ticipates without causing in him any diminution, he indeed is that which truly is, and to comprehend him is to know the truth.

It is he whom Moses approached and whom today all approach who like Moses free themselves from their earthly coverings and look toward the light coming from the bramble bush, at the ray shining on us from the thorns, which stand for the flesh, for as the Gospel says, that ray is the real light and the truth.

Then such people will also be able to help others find salvation. They will be capable of destroying the forces of evil and of restoring those enslaved by them to liberty.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): The Life of Moses, 2.17-26 (SC 1:36-39); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Tuesday of the First Week in Lent, Year 2

Benedict XVI: Gregory of Nyssa – Pressing Onwards Towards Perfection Friday, Jan 10 2014 

Pope_Benedictus_XVIJanuary 10th is the feast of St Gregory of Nyssa (OrthooxWiki here; Pope Benedixt XVI here and here; Georges Florovsky here).

Gregory of Nyssa had a very lofty concept of human dignity.

Man’s goal, the holy Bishop said, is to liken himself to God, and he reaches this goal first of all through the love, knowledge and practice of the virtues, “bright beams that shine from the divine nature”, in a perpetual movement of adherence to the good like a corridor outstretched before oneself.

In this regard, Gregory uses an effective image already present in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: épekteinómenos (3: 13), that is, “I press on” towards what is greater, towards truth and love.

This vivid expression portrays a profound reality: the perfection we desire to attain is not acquired once and for all; perfection means journeying on, it is continuous readiness to move ahead because we never attain a perfect likeness to God; we are always on our way.

The history of every soul is that of a love which fills every time and at the same time is open to new horizons, for God continually stretches the soul’s possibilities to make it capable of ever greater goods.

God himself, who has sown the seeds of good in us and from whom every initiative of holiness stems, “models the block…, and polishing and cleansing our spirit, forms Christ within us”.

Gregory was anxious to explain: “In fact, this likeness to the Divine is not our work at all; it is not the achievement of any faculty of man; it is the great gift of God bestowed upon our nature at the very moment of our birth”. For the soul, therefore, “it is not a question of knowing something about God but of having God within”.

Moreover, as Gregory perceptively observes, “Divinity is purity, it is liberation from the passions and the removal of every evil: if all these things are in you, God is truly in you”.

When we have God in us, when man loves God, through that reciprocity which belongs to the law of love he wants what God himself wants; hence, he cooperates with God in fashioning the divine image in himself, so that “our spiritual birth is the result of a free choice, and we are in a certain way our own parents, creating ourselves as we ourselves wish to be, and through our will forming ourselves in accordance with the model that we choose”.

To ascend to God, man must be purified. […] In this journey of spiritual ascesis Christ is the Model and Teacher, he shows us the beautiful image of God. Each of us, looking at him, finds ourselves “the painter of our own life”, who has the will to compose the work and the virtues as his colours.

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): St Gregory of Nyssa (General Audience, 5th September 2007.

Jerome: A Soul which Cherishes an Ardent Love of Wisdom is Freely Infilled by the Spirit of God Monday, Oct 7 2013 

St.-Jerome-of-StridoniumOn Daniel 2:19-22

Verse 19. “And Daniel blessed the God of heaven, and spoke, saying….

In contrast to those who occupy themselves with this world and delude the earthly minded with demonic arts and illusions, Daniel blessed the God of heaven. For the gods who did not create heaven and earth will pass away.

Verse 21. […] “He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who acquire learning.” 

This accords with the scripture: “The wise man will hear and increase his wisdom” (Prov. 1:5). “For he who has, to him it shall be given” (Matt. 25:29).

A soul which cherishes an ardent love of wisdom is freely infilled by the Spirit of God. But wisdom will never penetrate a perverse soul (Wisdom 3).

Verse 22. “It is He who reveals deep and hidden things, and He knows what is placed in the darkness, and with Him is the light.” 

A man to whom God makes profound revelations and who can say, “O the depth of the riches of the knowledge and wisdom of God!” (Rom. 11:33), is one who, by the indwelling Spirit, probes even into the deep things of God, and digs the deepest of wells in the depths of his soul.

He is a man who has stirred up the whole earth, which is wont to conceal the deep waters, and he observes the command of God, saying: “Drink water from thy vessels and from the spring of thy wells” (Prov. 5:15).

As for the words which follow, “He knows what is placed in the darkness, and with Him is the light,” the darkness signifies ignorance, and the light signifies knowledge and learning. Therefore as wrong cannot hide God away, so right encompasses and surrounds Him.

Or else we should interpret the words to  mean all the dark mysteries and deep things concerning God, according to what we read in Proverbs: “He understands also the parable and the dark saying.”

This in turn is equivalent to what we read in the Psalms: “Dark waters in the clouds of the sky” (Ps. 17:12).

For one who ascends to the heights and forsakes the things of earth, and like the birds themselves seeks after the most rarified atmosphere and everything ethereal, becomes like a cloud to which the truth of God penetrates and which habitually showers rain upon the saints.

Replete with a plenitude of knowledge, he contains in his breast many dark waters enveloped with deep darkness, a darkness which only Moses can penetrate (Ex. 23) and speak with God face to face, of Whom the Scripture says: “He hath made darkness His hiding-place” (Ps. 17:12).

Jerome (347-420): Commentary on Daniel 2:19-22.

Cyril of Jerusalem: I am Attempting to Glorify the Lord, but not to Describe Him Thursday, Sep 26 2013 

Cyril-of-JerusalemSomeone will say: if the Divine substance is incomprehensible, why then do you discourse of these things?

So then, because I cannot drink up all the river, am I not even to take in moderation what is expedient for me?

Because with eyes so constituted as mine I cannot take in all the sun, am I not even to look upon him enough to satisfy my wants?

Or again, because I have entered into a great garden, and cannot eat all the supply of fruits, would you have me go away altogether hungry?

I praise and glorify Him that made us; for it is a divine command which says, Let every breath praise the Lord (Ps. 150:6).

I am attempting now to glorify the Lord, but not to describe Him, knowing nevertheless that I shall fall short of glorifying Him worthily, yet deeming it a work of piety even to attempt it at all.

For the Lord Jesus encourages my weakness, by saying, No man hath seen God at any time (John 1:18).  They are the Evangelist’s own words.

What then, some man will say, is it not written, The little ones’ Angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven (Matt. 18:10)?  Yes, but the Angels see God not as He is, but as far as they themselves are capable.

For it is Jesus Himself who says, Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father (John 6:46).

The Angels therefore behold as much as they can bear, and Archangels as much as they are able; and Thrones and Dominions more than the former, but yet less than His worthiness.

For with the Son the Holy Ghost alone can rightly behold Him:  for He searcheth all things, and knoweth even the deep things of God  (1 Cor. 2:10);  as indeed the Only-begotten Son also, with the Holy Ghost, knows the Father fully.

For neitherknoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him   (Matt. 11:27).

For He fully beholds, and, according as each of us can bear, reveals God through the Spirit, since the Only-begotten Son together with the Holy Ghost is a partaker of the Father’s Godhead. He, who  was begotten knows Him who begat; and He Who begat knows Him who is begotten.

Since Angels then are ignorant (for to each according to his own capacity does the Only-begotten [i.e. the Son] reveal Him [the Father] through the Holy Ghost, as we have said), let no man be ashamed to confess his ignorance.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 6, 5-6.

Elder Sophrony: Every Divine Liturgy is a Theophany Saturday, Sep 21 2013 

SophronyWe Orthodox live Christ within the Divine Liturgy, or rather Christ lives within us during the Divine Liturgy.

The Divine Liturgy is a work of God. We say: “Time is a creation of the Lord”. Among other things it means now is the time for God to act.

Christ liturgizes, we live with Christ. The Divine Liturgy is the way we know God and the way God becomes known to us.

Christ celebrated the Divine Liturgy once and this passed into eternity.

His divinized human nature came to the Divine Liturgy. We know Christ specifically in the Divine Liturgy.

The Divine Liturgy we celebrate is the same Divine Liturgy which was done by Christ on Great Thursday in the Mystical Supper. The 14th through the 16th chapters of the Gospel according to John is one Divine Liturgy.

So in the Divine Liturgy we understand Holy Scripture. The early Church lived without a New Testament, but not without the Divine Liturgy. The first records, the written hymns, exist in the Divine Liturgy.

In the Divine Liturgy we live Christ and understand His word.

As Christ cleansed His Disciples with his word and said to them: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3) and He washed the feet of His Disciples with water, during the Sacred Washing, so also in the first section of the Divine Liturgy He cleanses us that we might attend later His Table of love.

The purpose of the Divine Liturgy is to convey Christ to us. The Divine Liturgy teaches us an ethos, the ethos of humility. As Christ sacrificed Himself, so also should we sacrifice ourselves. The type of the Divine Liturgy is the type of impoverishment for us.

In the Divine Liturgy we try to be humbled, because we have the sense that there is the humble God. Every Divine Liturgy is a Theophany.

The Body of Christ appears. Every member of the Church is an icon of the Kingdom of God. After the Divine Liturgy we must continue to iconify the Kingdom of God, keeping His commandments.

The glory of Christ is to bear fruit in every member His fruit. This explains His word: “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit” (John 15:8).

Elder Sophrony (1896-1993; Orthodox): Translation by John Sanidopoulos @ Mystagogy from I Knew A Man In Christ: The Life and Times of Elder Sophrony, the Hesychast and Theologian (Οίδα άνθρωπον εν Χριστώ: Βίος και πολιτεία του Γέροντος Σωφρονίου του ησυχαστού και θεολόγου) by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou.

Hilary of Poitiers: We Receive the Spirit of Truth so that We can Know the Things of God Saturday, May 18 2013 

St_Hilary_of_Poitiers_cassienOur Lord has described the purpose of the Spirit’s presence in us. Let us listen to his words:

I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. It is to your advantage that I go away; if I go, I will send you the Advocate.

And also: I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth. He will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine.

From among many of our Lord’s sayings, these have been chosen to guide our understanding, for they reveal to us the intention of the giver, the nature of the gift and the condition for its reception.

Since our weak minds cannot comprehend the Father or the Son, we have been given the Holy Spirit as our intermediary and advocate, to shed light on that hard doctrine of our faith, the incarnation of God.

We receive the Spirit of truth so that we can know the things of God. In order to grasp this, consider how useless the faculties of the human body would become if they were denied their exercise.

Our eyes cannot fulfil their task without light, either natural or artificial; our ears cannot react without sound vibrations, and in the absence of any odor our nostrils are ignorant of their function.

Not that these senses would lose their own nature if they were not used; rather, they demand objects of experience in order to function. It is the same with the human soul. Unless it absorbs the gift of the Spirit through faith, the mind has the ability to know God but lacks the light necessary for that knowledge.

This unique gift which is in Christ is offered in its fullness to everyone. It is everywhere available, but it is given to each man in proportion to his readiness to receive it. Its presence is the fuller, the greater a man’s desire to be worthy of it.

This gift will remain with us until the end of the world, and will be our comfort in the time of waiting. By the favors it bestows, it is the pledge of our hope for the future, the light of our minds, and the splendor that irradiates our understanding.

Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-368): De Trinitate 2, 1, 33.35, from the Office of Readings for Friday of the 7th week of Easter @ Crossroads Initiative.

Hilary of Poitiers: Philip the Apostle – Knowing the Father by Knowing the Incarnate Son Friday, May 3 2013 

St_Hilary_of_Poitiers_cassienHe sets the facts in their due order thus—If ye know Me, ye know My Father also; and from henceforth ye shall know Him, and have seen Him.

But the novel sound of these words disturbed the Apostle Philip.

A Man is before their eyes. This Man avows Himself the Son of God, and declares that when they have known Him they will know the Father.

He tells them that they have seen the Father, and that, because they have seen Him, they shall know Him hereafter.

This truth is too broad for the grasp of weak humanity; their faith fails in the presence of these paradoxes.

Christ says that the Father has been seen already and shall now be known; and this, although sight, is knowledge.

He says that if the Son has been known, the Father has been known also.

This so even though the Son has imparted knowledge of Himself through the bodily senses of sight and sound, while the Father’s nature, different altogether from that of the visible Man, which they know, could not be learnt from their knowledge of the nature of Him Whom they have seen.

He has also often borne witness that no man has seen the Father. And so Philip broke forth, with the loyalty and confidence of an Apostle, with the request, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

[…] The Lord had said that the Father had been seen already and henceforth should be known; but the Apostle had not understood that He had been seen.

[…] He did not ask that the Father should be unveiled to his bodily gaze, but that he might have such an indication as should enlighten him concerning the Father Who had been seen.

For he had seen the Son under the aspect of Man, but cannot understand how he could thereby have seen the Father.

His adding, And it sufficeth us, to the prayer, Lord, shew us the Father, reveals clearly that it was a mental, not a bodily vision of the Father which he desired.

He did not refuse faith to the Lord’s words, but asked for such enlightenment to his mind as should enable him to believe.

For the fact that the Lord had spoken was conclusive evidence to the Apostle that faith was his duty.

The consideration which moved him to ask that the Father might be shewn, was that the Son had said that He had been seen, and should be known because He had been seen.

There was no presumption in this prayer that He, Who had already been seen, should now be made manifest.

Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-368): De Trinitate 7, 34-35.

Silouan the Athonite: Adam wept: “what hinders Him from dwelling in me?” Sunday, Mar 24 2013 

Silouan the AthoniteAdam knew great grief when he was banished from paradise, but when he saw his son Abel slain by Cain his brother, Adam’s grief was even heavier. His soul was heavy, and he lamented and thought:

Peoples and nations will descend from me, and multiply, and suffering will be their lot, and they will live in enmity and seek to slay one another.

And his sorrow stretched wide as the sea, and only the soul that has come to know the Lord and the magnitude of His love for us can understand.

I, too, have lost grace and call with Adam:

Be merciful unto me, O Lord! Bestow on me the spirit of humility and love.

 

O love of the Lord! He who has known Thee seeks Thee, tireless, day and night, crying with a loud voice:

I pine for Thee, O Lord, and seek Thee in tears.
How should I not seek Thee?
Thou didst give me to know Thee by the Holy Spirit,
And in her knowing of God my soul is drawn to seek Thee in tears.

 

Adam wept:

The desert cannot pleasure me; nor the high mountains, nor meadow nor forest, nor the singing of birds.
I have no pleasure in any thing.
My soul sorrows with a great sorrow:
I have grieved God.
And were the Lord to set me down in paradise again,
There, too, would I sorrow and weep – ‘O why did I grieve my beloved God?’

 

The soul of Adam fell sick when he was exiled from paradise, and many were the tears he shed in his distress. Likewise every soul that has known the Lord yearns for Him, and cries:

Where art Thou, O Lord? Where art Thou, my Light?
Why hast Thou hidden Thy face from me?
Long is it since my soul beheld Thee,
And she wearies after Thee and seeks Thee in tears.
Where is my Lord?
Why is it that my soul sees Him not?
What hinders Him from dwelling in me?
This hinders Him: Christ-like humility and love for my enemies art not in me.
God is love insaturable, love impossible to describe.

 

Adam walked the earth, weeping from his heart’s manifold ills, while the thoughts of his mind were on God; and when his body grew faint, and he could no longer shed tears, still his spirit burned with longing for God, for he could not forget paradise and the beauty thereof; but even more was it the power of His love which caused the soul of Adam to reach out towards God.

Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938; Eastern Orthodox): Adam’s Lament (extract), from St. Silouan the Athonite, by Archimandrite Sophrony @ Mystagogy.

Hugh of St Victor: The Repentant Sinner Begins to Trust God’s Mercy when he Feels his Heart Cheered by the Consolation of the Holy Spirit Thursday, Nov 29 2012 

Continued from here…

We have shown you these stages of the disease itself – a wavering heart, unstable and restless;

the cause of the disease – which is clearly love of the world;

and the remedy of the disease – which is the love of God.

And to these must be added a fourth, namely, the application of the remedy, that is, the way in which we may attain to the love of God.

[…] The difference between the love of God and the love of the world is this:

the love of this world seems at the outset sweet, but has a bitter end;

the love of God, by contrast, is bitter to begin with, but is full of sweetness in its end.

This, in a most beautiful allegorical sense, was uttered of our Bridegroom’s wedding.

This is shown by the Gospel when it says: ‘Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine, and only after men have drunk well that which is inferior; but thou hast kept the good wine until now’ [cf John 2:10].

Every man, that is, carnal man, does indeed set forth good wine at the beginning, for he finds a certain spurious sweetness in his pleasure.

But once the rage of his evil longing has saturated his mind, then he provides inferior wine to drink, because a sudden pricking of conscience assails his thought, which till now had enjoyed a spurious delight, and grievously torments him.

Our Bridegroom, on the other hand, offers the good wine last when He allows the heart, which He intends to fill with the sweetness of His love, first to pass beneath the bitter harrow of afflictions.

He does this, so that, having tasted bitterness, the heart may quaff with greater eagerness the most sweet cup of charity.

And this is ‘the first sign’ [cf John 2:11] which Jesus made in His disciples’ presence; and they believed in Him.

For the repentant sinner first begins to trust God’s mercy when he feels his heart cheered by the consolation of the Holy Spirit after long weariness of grief.

Let us then see what we can do to attain the love of God, for He will integrate and stabilize our hearts, He will restore our peace and give us ceaseless joy.

But nobody can love that which he does not know; and so, if we desire to love God, we must first make it our business to know Him, and this especially since He cannot be known without being loved.

For so great is the beauty of His loveliness that no one who sees Him can fail to love Him.

Hugh of St Victor (c.1096-1141): On the Moral Interpretation of the Ark of Noah, 1,2 Fr Luke Dysinger, OSB.

Isaac the Syrian: The scourge of Love Friday, Nov 2 2012 

Isaac the Syrian 3In the future age…one will not receive from another the revelation of God’s glory unto the gladness and joy of his soul.

But to each by himself the Master will give according to the measure of his excellence and his worthiness, and he will not receive the gift from his comrade as he does here.

[…] For one is the Giver there, Who gives without mediation to those who receive; and those who win joy, procure it from Him.

For they do not perceive Him through diverse intellections, but by direct revelation of Him, without departing from Him through thoughts.

There the order of those who teach and those who learn ceases, and on One alone hangs the ardent love of all.

I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love.

Nay, what is so bitter and vehement as the torment of love?

I mean that those who have become conscious that they have sinned against love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment.

For the sorrow caused in the heart by sin against love is more poignant than any torment.

It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the love of God.

Love is the offspring of knowledge of the truth which, as is commonly confessed, is given to all.

The power of love works in two ways. It torments sinners, even as happens here when a friend suffers from a friend.

But it becomes a source of joy for those who have observed its duties.

Thus I say that this is the torment of Gehenna: bitter regret.

But love inebriates the souls of the sons of Heaven by its delectability.

Someone was asked, “When will a man know that he has received the remission of his sins?”

He answered, “When in his soul he becomes conscious that he has completely hated them with his whole heart, and when he governs himself in his external actions in a manner opposed to his former way of life.”

Such a man, as having already hated his sin, is confident that he has received remission of his sins by reason of the good witness of his conscience which he has acquired, after the saying of the Apostle, “A conscience uncondemned is a witness of itself” (Cf. Rom. 2:15).

And may we also gain remission of our sins by the grace and love for man of the unoriginate Father with His only‑begotten Son and the Holy Spirit, to Whom be glory unto the ages of ages.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Homily 28, from The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian, tr. Dana Miller (Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, Mass. 1984) @ Fr Luke Dysinger, OSB.

Next Page »