Ignatius Brianchaninov: The work of accepting salvation, given to us by God free and complete, the work of repentance Tuesday, Jan 28 2014 

Ignatius_Brianchaninov“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).

St. Simeon the New Theologian, who acquired his knowledge of truth through his holy experience…said: “The careful fulfillment of the commandments of Christ teaches a man his own infirmities.”

Exactly! As soon as one who believes in Christ begins to fulfill the all-holy commandments of the Gospel, or also, to perform the works of renewed nature, his fallen nature is instantly revealed to him, which had been hidden from sight until then, and it enters into a sustained battle with the Gospel.

The life of one who struggles for Christ is filled with unseen falls. He involuntarily confesses with the Apostle: “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am!” (Rom. 7: 22-24).

From such an observation of oneself, blessed poverty of spirit is engendered within a Christian, rational, spiritual mourning appears, and a broken and humble heart is established, which God will not destroy (Ps. 50: 20).

In living according to the Gospel, there appears in a man, as if naturally, the repentance commanded by the Gospel. Therefore, repentance is necessary not only in order to believe in Christ; it is necessary in order to have a living faith in Christ. “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

There remains to be explained: why is there such a close connection between the words of the Lord calling us to repent, and the announcing of the nearness of the Kingdom of heaven? Why is there not presented between them a kind of intermediate struggle, an intermediate condition?

The reason is that our Lord Jesus Christ is “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)—He has accomplished everything for our salvation. He has reconciled us with God; He has prepared and acquired for us the Heavenly Kingdom.

We, mankind, have been presented with one work in the matter of our salvation: the work of accepting salvation, given to us by God free and complete, the work of repentance. The Heavenly Kingdom and the Heavenly King are ineffably close to us—incomparably closer than we imagine.

“Behold, I stand at the door” of the heart of man, exclaims this King, and I knock at it with My all-holy and almighty Word: “if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me (Rev. 3:20). The opening of the doors of the heart to the Heavenly King is accomplished—with repentance. “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Homily for the Sunday after Theophany translated by Bishop George (Schaefer) @ Pravoslavie.

Dimitri of Rostov: “Wisdom has built Itself a temple” Saturday, Jun 8 2013 

Dimitry_rostovsky_17cThe Lord, Who lives in the heavens, wishing to appear on earth and abide with men, first prepared a dwelling place of His glory: His Most Pure Mother.

[…] And as the palaces of earthly kings are constructed by the most skilled craftsmen, of the most costly materials, and…are more beautiful and spacious than all the other dwellings of men, in the same manner the palace of the King of Glory must be erected (3 Kings 6).

In the Old Testament, when God desired to dwell in Jerusalem, Solomon built a temple for Him, employing Hiram, a most wise master, who possessed full knowledge of every art and science, and was skilled in every enterprise.

He constructed the temple with materials of great value: with costly stone, with aromatic woods of cedar and cypress brought from Lebanon, with pure gold, and upon a high place: that is, upon Mount Moriah (2 Chr. 3).

The temple was of great beauty. On its walls were portrayed the likeness of cherubims, and of various trees and flowers.

The temple was so spacious that the whole Israelite people could be accommodated without crowding, and the glory of the Lord would descend in fire and a cloud (2 Chr. 7).

Nevertheless, that temple did not suffice to contain within itself the Uncontainable God, for even though Solomon built Him a temple, “The Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands. ‘What house will ye build me’, saith the Lord: ‘or what is the place of my rest?’” (Acts 7).

At the beginning of the new era of grace, the Lord was pleased to create a temple not made by hands: the Most Pure, Most Blessed Virgin Mary.

By what builder was this temple erected? In truth, by One most wise; by the very Wisdom of God, as the Scripture says, “Wisdom hath built itself a temple” (Prov. 9).

All things created by the Wisdom of God are good and perfect, therefore, as it was the Wisdom of God that created the living temple of the Word…it was not possible that in her there could be any sort of imperfection or sin.

The Perfect God created a perfect temple; the Most Radiant King, a most radiant palace; for the Most Pure and Undefiled Bridegroom, a bridal chamber most pure and undefiled; for the Spotless Lamb, an unsullied dwelling place.

A Faithful Witness abiding in the heavens said to her, “You are most fair, my love; there is no spot in you” (Song of Songs 4).

And Saint John the Damascene says, “She is wholly the bridal chamber of the Spirit, wholly the city of God, a sea of Grace, wholly good, close to God.”

Dimitri of Rostov (1651-1709; Russian Orthodox): Homily On The Nativity Of The Most Pure Theotokos @ Mystagogy.

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.

John Damascene: We Celebrate the Death of Death, the Destruction of Hell, the Beginning of Eternal Life Sunday, Apr 21 2013 

John-of-Damascus_01He Who delivered the children from the furnace, and became man and suffered as a mortal, through His suffering, He clothes mortality with the grace of incorruption, He is the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.

The godly wise women came to Thee with myrrh. But Him Whom they sought with tears as dead, they joyfully adored as the living God. And they told to Thy disciples, O Christ, the glad tidings of the mystical Pascha.

We celebrate the death of death, the destruction of hell, the beginning of eternal life. And leaping for joy, we celebrate the Cause, the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.

For a truly holy and a supreme feast is this saving night radiant with Light, the harbinger of the bright day of Resurrection, on which the Eternal Light shone bodily from the grave upon all.

This is the chosen and Holy Day, the first of Sabbaths, the Sovereign and Queen, the Feast of Feasts, and Triumph of Triumphs, on which let us bless Christ forever.

O come, let us partake of the fruit of the new vine of divine joy on the auspicious Day of the Resurrection and Kingdom of Christ, praising Him as God forever.

Cast thine eyes about thee, O Zion, and behold! For lo! Thy children have assembled unto thee from the West and from the North and from the South and from the East, as divinely radiant luminaries, Blessing Christ unto the ages.

Father, Almighty, the Word, and the Spirit, one Nature in three Persons united, transcending essence supremely Divine! In Thee we have been baptized, and Thee will bless us throughout all ages.

Magnify, O my soul, Him Whom suffered willingly and was buried and rose from the grave on the third day.

Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee. Now dance for joy and be glad, O Zion! And thou, pure Mother of God, rejoice in the rising of Him Whom thou didst bear.

Magnify, O my soul, Christ the life-giver, Who rose from the grave on the third day.

Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee. Now dance for joy and be glad, O Zion! And thou, pure Mother of God, rejoice in the rising of Him Whom thou didst bear.

Christ is the New Pascha, the living sacrificial Victim, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.

John Damascene (c.675-749): The Paschal Canon, Odes 7,8,9; trans. Archimandrite Ephrem  Pravoslavie.

Nikolai Velimirovich: The Blood of this Sinless and Meek Lamb was Destined for All Times and All Generations Wednesday, Mar 27 2013 

Nikolai Velimirovich“Like a lamb lead to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7).

Throughout the many centuries of time the discerning Prophet Isaiah foresaw the awesome sacrifice on Golgotha.

From afar he saw the Lord Jesus Christ led to the slaughter as a lamb is lead to the slaughter.

A lamb permits itself to be led to the laughter as it is led to the pasture: defenseless, without fear and without malice.

Thus, Our Lord Christ was led to the slaughter without defense, without fear and without malice.

Neither does He say: “Men, do not do this!” Neither does He question: “Why are you doing this to Me?”

Neither does He condemn anyone. Neither does He protest. Neither does He become angry. Neither does He think evilly of His judges.

When blood poured out over Him from the thorny wreath, He was silent. When His face was soiled from being spat upon, He was silent.

When His Cross became heavy along the way, He endured. When His pain became unbearable on the Cross, He did not complain to men but to the Father.

When He breathed His last, He directed His gaze and sigh toward heaven and not toward earth. For the source of His strength is heaven and not earth.

The source of His consolation is in God and not in men. His true homeland is the Heavenly Kingdom and not the earthly kingdom.

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). This was the first cry of St. John the Baptist when he saw the Lord.

And, behold, now on Golgotha that prophecy was fulfilled. Behold, under the weight of the sins of the entire world, the Lamb of God lay slaughtered and lifeless.

O brethren, this is a costly sacrifice even for our sins. The blood of this sinless and meek Lamb was destined for all times and all generations, from the first to the last person on earth.

Christ also felt the pains on the Cross for our sins even those of the present day. He also wept in the Garden of Gethsemane for our wickedness, our weakness and our sinfulness. He also destined His blood for us.

Brethren let us not then despise this indescribable costly price by which we have been redeemed. Because of these sacrifices of Christ we, indeed, have some worth as people.

Without these sacrifices, or if we disavow these sacrifices, our worth, by itself alone, is equal to nothing. It is equal to smoke without a flame or a cloud without light.

O Lord, unequalled in mercy, have mercy on us also!

Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956; Orthodox Church): Prologue from Ohrid, April 1st.

Leo the Great: O Wondrous Power of the Cross! O Ineffable Glory of the Passion! Sunday, Mar 24 2013 

leo1Let our understandings, illumined by the Spirit of Truth, foster with pure and free heart the glory of the Cross which irradiates heaven and earth.

Let us see with the inner sight what the Lord meant when He spoke of His coming Passion:  “The hour is come that the Son of man may be glorified.”

He says, “Now is My spirit troubled.  And what shall I say?  Father, save Me from this hour, but for this cause came I unto this hour.  Father, glorify Your Son.”

And when the Father’s voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again,” Jesus in reply said to those that stood by:

“This voice came not for Me but for you.  Now is the world’s judgment, now shall the prince of this world be cast out.  And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things unto Me.”

O wondrous power of the Cross!  O ineffable glory of the Passion, in which is contained the Lord’s tribunal, the world’s judgment, and the power of the Crucified!

For You draw all things unto Yourself, Lord. And, when You had stretched out Your hands all the day long to an unbelieving people that gainsaid You, the whole world at last was brought to confess Your majesty.

You drew all things unto Yourself, Lord…, when the lights of heaven were darkened, and the day turned into night, and the earth also was shaken with unwonted shocks….

You didst draw all things unto Yourself, Lord, for the veil of the temple was rent, and the Holy of Holies existed no more…, so that type was turned into Truth, prophecy into Revelation, law into Gospel.

You drew all things unto Yourself, Lord, so that what before was done in the one temple of the Jews in dark signs, was now to be celebrated everywhere by the piety of all the nations in full and open rite.

For now there is a nobler rank of Levites, there are elders of greater dignity and priests of holier anointing, because Your Cross is the fount of all blessings, the source of all graces, and through it the believers receive strength for weakness, glory for shame, life for death.

Now, too, the variety of fleshly sacrifices has ceased, and the one offering of Your Body and Blood fulfils all those different victims.

For You are the true “Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,” and in Yourself You so accomplish all mysteries, that as there is but one sacrifice instead of many victims, so there is but one kingdom instead of many nations.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 59, 6-7.

Germanus of Constantinople: The Church is an Earthly Heaven… Tuesday, Jan 15 2013 

Germanus of ConstantinopleThe church is the temple of God, a holy place, a house of prayer, the assembly of the people, the body of Christ.

It is called the bride of Christ. It is cleansed by the water of His baptism, sprinkled by His blood, clothed in bridal garments, and sealed with the ointment of the Holy Spirit, according to the prophetic saying:

“Your name is oil poured out” (Cant 1:3), and “We run after the fragrance of your myrrh” (Cant 1:4), which is “Like the precious oil, running down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron” (Ps 132:2 LXX).

The church is an earthly heaven in which the super-celestial God dwells and walks about.

It represents the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Christ: it is glorified more than the tabernacle of the witness of Moses, in which are the mercy-seat and the Holy of Holies.

[…] The apse corresponds to the cave in Bethlehem where Christ was born, as well as the cave in which he was buried, as the evangelist Mark says: “There was a cave hewn out of rock; there they placed Jesus” (cf Mk 15:46).’

The holy table corresponds to the spot in the tomb where Christ was placed. On it lies the true and heavenly bread, the mystical and unbloody sacrifice.

[…] This table was pre-figured by the table of the Old Law upon which the manna, which was Christ, descended from heaven.

[…] The altar corresponds to the holy tomb of Christ.

On it Christ brought Himself as a sacrifice to [His] God and Father through the offering of His body as a sacrificial lamb, and as high priest and Son of Man, offering and being offered as a mystical bloodless sacrifice, and appointing for the faithful reasonable worship, through which we have become sharers in eternal and immortal life.

This lamb Moses prefigured in Egypt “towards evening” when its blood turned back the destroyer so that he would not kill the people (cf Ex 12:7-13).

The expression “towards evening” signifies that towards evening the true lamb is sacrificed, the One who takes away the sin of the world on his cross, “For Christ, our Pascha, has been sacrificed for us” (cf I Cor 5:7).

The altar is and is called the heavenly and spiritual altar, where the earthly and material priests who always assist and serve the Lord represent the spiritual, serving, and hierarchical powers of the immaterial and celestial Powers, for they also must be as a burning fire.

For the Son of God and Judge of all ordained the laws and established the services of both the heavenly and the earthly powers.

Germanus of Constantinople (c.634–c.733): On the Divine Liturgy, 1-6 (Tr based in part on: J. Meyendorff, St. Germanus of Constantinople on the Divine Liturgy Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984: 56-106. ) @ Fr Luke Dysinger, OSB.

Peter Chrysologus: The Adoration of the Magi, the Baptism in the Jordan, and the Wedding at Cana Thursday, Jan 10 2013 

Church FathersThe great events we celebrate today disclose and reveal in different ways the fact that God himself took a human body.

[…] In choosing to be born for us, God chose to be known by us. He therefore reveals himself in this way, in order that this great sacrament of his love may not be an occasion for us of great misunderstanding.

Today the Magi find, crying in a manger, the one they have followed as he shone in the sky. Today the Magi see clearly, in swaddling clothes, the one they have long awaited as he lay hidden among the stars.

Today the Magi gaze in deep wonder at what they see: heaven on earth, earth in heaven, man in God, God in man, one whom the whole universe cannot contain now enclosed in a tiny body.

As they look, they believe and do not question, as their symbolic gifts bear witness: incense for God, gold for a king, myrrh for one who is to die.

So the Gentiles, who were the last, become the first: the faith of the Magi is the first fruits of the belief of the Gentiles.

Today Christ enters the Jordan to wash away the sin of the world. John himself testifies that this is why he has come: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.

Today a servant lays his hand on the Lord, a man lays his hand on God, John lays his hand on Christ, not to forgive but to receive forgiveness.

Today, as the psalmist prophesied: The voice of the Lord is heard above the waters. What does the voice say? This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.

Today the Holy Spirit hovers over the waters in the likeness of a dove. A dove announced to Noah that the flood had disappeared from the earth; so now a dove is to reveal that the world’s shipwreck is at an end forever.

The sign is no longer an olive-shoot of the old stock: instead, the Spirit pours out on Christ’s head the full richness of a new anointing by the Father, to fulfil what the psalmist had prophesied: Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.

Today Christ works the first of his signs from heaven by turning water into wine. But water has still to be changed into the sacrament of his blood, so that Christ may offer spiritual drink from the chalice of his body, to fulfil the psalmist’s prophecy: How excellent is my chalice, warming my spirit.

Peter Chrysologus (c.380–c.450): Sermon 160 (PL 52, 620-622) from the Office of Readings for the Monday between the Feasts of the Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord @ Crossroads Initiative.

A Monk of the Abbey of Bèze: He Is the Golden Altar of the Holy of Holies Monday, May 21 2012 

Continued from here….

Then will be the month of months, and the most glorious of sabbaths.

Then will the light of the moon be like to the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will shine with seven-fold brilliance, and every saint’s face will shine like the sun in the kingdom of his Father.

This city will have no need of the sun’s light; but God the all-Powerful will illumine it.

His torch is the Lamb: the Lamb of God, the Lamb without spot whom the Father sent into the world as a saving victim.

Living without sin, dying for sinners, the Lamb took away the sin of the world, loosed the pains of hell and liberated the prisoners from the lake without water, triumphant before them, and reinstating them in His kingdom by His side.

He is most beautiful in countenance, very desirable to see, He upon whom the Angels desire to gaze.

He is the King of peace, He whose countenance is desired by all the world.

He is the propitiator of sinners, the friend of the poor, the consoler of the afflicted, the guardian of the little ones.

He is the teacher of the childlike, the guide of pilgrims, the redeemer of those who have died, the courageous helper of warriors, the generous rewarder of victors.

He is the golden altar of the Holy of Holies, the place of rest of sons, the spectacle pleasing to the angels.

He is the sublime throne of the supreme Trinity, raised above all, He who is blessed of the ages.

He is the crown of the Saints, the light of all, the light of angels.

O what will we give Him in return for all He has given us?

When shall we be delivered from the body of this death?

When shall we be filled with the abundance of the house of God, seeing the light in His light?

When then will the Christ appear, our life, and shall we be with Him in glory?

When shall we see the Lord God in the lamb of the living, the kindly rewards, the man of peace, the dweller in repose, the consoler of the afflicted?

When shall we see the first-born of the dead, the joy of the Resurrection, the man of the right hand of God, He whom the Father has established?

He is the Son of God, chosen from among thousands.

Anonymous Monk of the Benedictine Abbey of Bèze (early 12th century?): Elevations on the Glories of Jerusalem (quoted in Jean Leclercq OSB, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God; A Study of Monastic Culture, ch 45).

Teresa Benedicta of the Cross: “The Marriage of the Lamb has Come and His Bride has Prepared Herself” Wednesday, Aug 3 2011 

“The marriage of the Lamb has come and his Bride has prepared herself” (Rev 19:7).

St John saw “the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev 21:2 and 9ff.).

As Christ himself descended to earth from heaven, so too his Bride, the holy church, originated in heaven.

She is born of the grace of God, indeed descended with the Son of God himself; she is inextricably bound to him.

She is built of living stones; her cornerstone was laid when the Word of God assumed our human nature in the womb of the Virgin.

At that time there was woven between the soul of the divine Child and the soul of the Virgin Mother the bond of the most intimate unity which we call betrothal.

Hidden from the entire world, the heavenly Jerusalem had descended to earth.

From this first joining in betrothal, there had to be born all the living building blocks to be used for the mighty structure: each individual soul awakened to life through grace.

The Bridal Mother was to become the mother of all the redeemed.

Like a spore from which new cells stream continually, she was to build up the living city of God.

This hidden mystery was revealed to St John as he stood beneath the cross with the Virgin Mother and was given over to her as her son.

It was then that the church came into existence visibly; her hour had come, but not yet her perfection.

She lives, she is wedded to the Lamb, but the hour of the solemn marriage supper will only arrive when the dragon has been completely conquered and the last of the redeemed have fought their battle to the end.

Just as the Lamb had to be killed to be raised upon the throne of glory, so the path to glory leads through suffering and the cross for everyone chosen to attend the marriage supper of the Lamb.

All who want to be married to the Lamb must allow themselves to be fastened to the cross with him.

Everyone marked by the blood of the Lamb is called to this, and that means all the baptized. But not everyone understands the call and follows it.

There is a call to following more closely that resounds more urgently in the soul and demands a clear answer. This is the vocation to the religious life, and the answer is the religious vows.

They [those in religious life] want to belong pre-eminently to the Lamb for all eternity, to follow him wherever he goes, and to sing the song of the virgins that no one else can sing (Rev 14:1-5).

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein] (1891-1942): At the Foot of the Cross; Copyright ICS Publications. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, if this copyright notice is included. Maintained by the Austrian Province of the Teresian Carmel