Nikolai Velimirovich: Thus Did The One Ascend To Heaven Who Held Heaven Within Himself Friday, May 30 2014 

Nikolai VelimirovichThus did the One ascend to Heaven Who held heaven within Himself.

He who carries hell within himself will end up in hell, but he who bears heaven within his soul will ascend to heaven.

And truly, no one can ascend to heaven other than those who have heaven within; and no one can end up in hell besides those who have hell within.

The familiar is drawn to what is familiar and unites with the familiar; but it rejects what is not familiar.

Matter submits to the spirit to the extent that the human soul is filled with the Divine Spirit; and the laws of nature are obedient to moral laws, which govern the world.

Because the Lord Jesus Christ is the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the perfection of moral law, to Him is subject all matter—the entire physical world, with all the laws of nature.

Any person, as a spirit, can be victorious in his life over a certain law of nature, with the help of another law of nature—that is, he can overcome it with his own spirit.

Christ, as the God-Man, could subject the laws of nature to Himself through the law of the Spirit, which is the supreme law of the created world.

However, this concept, just as any other spiritual concept, can be but partially explained by ordinary earthly conceptualizations and reasoning—and that only by examples and comparisons.

Spiritual things only become clear beyond a doubt when the spirit sees them and perceives them.

In order to see and feel the manifestations of the spiritual world, long and exhausting spiritual practice is needed, after which, by God’s grace, spiritual vision may be opened in a person; this vision allows him to see what seems unbelievable and impossible to ordinary mortals.

Nevertheless, a person must first believe those who have seen the unbelievable, and strengthen their faith from day to day, striving to see what is inaccessible to the common gaze.

Not in vain does the Lord say, Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed (Jn. 20:29).

[…]  But the day will come—and that day is not far off—when all the righteous mean and women who firmly believed in Him throughout their lives will see Him.

And around Him in the heavens will gather all those who were baptized on earth in His name—not only with water, but also with the Spirit and Fire.

And they will enter into His joy, which the Heavenly Father has prepared for all His chosen, and will inherit a joy that they have never known before.

Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956; Orthodox Church): The Ascension of the Lord @ Pravoslavie.

Cyril of Alexandria: The Encounter with the Risen Jesus on the Road to Emmaus Tuesday, May 6 2014 

cyril_alexandriaAnd beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27).

In this discourse the Lord shows that the law was necessary to make ready the way, and the ministry of the prophets to prepare men for faith in this marvellous act.

The law and the prophets were necessary in order that, when the resurrection really took place, those who were troubled at its greatness might remember what was said of old, and be induced to believe.

Christ brings forward therefore Moses and the prophets, interpreting their hidden meaning, and making plain to the worthy what to the unworthy was obscure.

In this way he settles in them that ancient and hereditary faith taught them by the sacred books which they possessed.

For nothing which comes from God is without its use, but all and several of them have their appointed place and service.

In their due place servants were sent before to make ready for the presence of the Master, by bringing in beforehand prophecy as the necessary preparative for faith.

This happened so that, like some royal treasure, what had been foretold might in due season be brought forward from the concealment of its former obscurity, being unveiled and made plain by the clearness of the interpretation.

Having thus then stirred up their minds by the writings of the law and the prophets, He afterwards more plainly sets Himself before them.

For, having consented to their request to go with them to the village, He took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and divided it among them.

“For their eyes, it says, “were held that they might not know Him,” until namely the word had entered stirring up their heart to faith, and then, rendering what they had before heard and believed visible, He offered them the sight seasonably after the hearing.

He does not, however, continue with them, for “He vanished, it says, out of their sight.”

For our Lord’s relation to men after His resurrection does not continue the same as before, for they too have need of renovation, and a second life in Christ, that the renewed may associate with the renewed, and the incorruptible approach the incorruptible.

For which reason, as John tells us, He did not permit Mary to touch Him, until He should go away and return again.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel (slightly adapted).

Maximus the Confessor: “If Someone Hits You on the Right Cheek, Turn to Him the Other Cheek…” Monday, Feb 24 2014 

Maximus_ConfessorIf you wish not to fall away from the love of God, do not let your brother go to bed feeling irritated with you, and do not go to bed yourself feeling irritated with him.

Reconcile yourself with your brother, and then come to Christ with a clear conscience and offer Him your gift of love in earnest prayer (cf. Matt. 5:24).

[…] If ‘love prevents us from harming our neighbour’ (Rom. 13:10), he who is jealous of his brother or irritated by his reputation, and damages his good name with cheap jibes or in any way spitefully plots against him, is surely alienating himself from love and is guilty in the face of eternal judgment.

If ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’ (Rom. 13:10), he who is full of rancour towards his neighbour and lays traps for him and curses him, exulting in his fall, must surely be a transgressor de­serving eternal punishment.

If ‘he who speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law, and judges the law’ (Jas. 4:11), and the law of Christ is love, surely he who speaks evil of Christ’s love falls away from it and is the cause of his own perdition.

Do not listen gleefully to gossip at your neighbour’s expense or chatter to a person who likes finding fault. Otherwise you will fall away from divine love and find yourself cut off from eternal life.

[…] ‘But I say to you,’ says the Lord, ‘love your enemies. . . do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you’ (Matt. 5: 44.). Why did He command this? To free you from hatred, irritation, anger and rancour, and to make you worthy of the supreme gift of perfect love.

And you cannot attain such love if you do not imitate God and love all men equally. For God loves all men equally and wishes them ‘to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim. 2:4).

‘But I say to you, do not resist evil; but if someone hits you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek as well. And if anyone sues you in the courts, and takes away your coat, let him have your cloak also. And if anyone forces you to go a mile, go with him for two miles’ (Matt. 5:39-41).

Why did He say this? Both to keep you free from anger and irritation, and to correct the other person by means of your forbearance, so that like a good Father He might bring the two of you under the yoke of love.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662): Four Hundred Texts on Love 53, 55-58, 61-62, Text  from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 2 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp.58-60.

Gregory Palamas: God has Made the Whole of this Perceptible Universe a Mirror of Heaven Wednesday, Sep 18 2013 

Gregory_PalamasBefore creating us our Maker brought this whole universe into being from nothing for the sustenance of our bodily exist­ence.

But as for improving our conduct and guiding us toward virtue, what has the Lord in his love of goodness not done for us?

He has made the whole of this perceptible universe a kind of mirror of heaven, so that by spiritual contemplation of the world around us we may reach up to heavenly things as if by some wonderful ladder.

He has implanted in us the natural law, as an inflexible rule, an infallible judge and an unerring teacher: this is our conscience.

If we look deep within ourselves, then, we shall need no other teacher to show us what is good, and if we look outside ourselves we shall find the invisible God visible in the things he has made, as the Apostle says.

After providing a school of virtue in our own nature and in the created world, God gave us the angels to protect us, he raised up the Patriarchs and Prophets to guide us, he showed us signs and wonders to lead us to faith, and gave us the written Law as a supplement to the law of our rational soul and the teaching of the world around us.

Then at last, when we had scorned all this in our indolence – how different from his own continuing love and care for us! – he gave himself to us for our salvation.

He poured out the wealth of his divinity into our lowly condition; he took our nature and became a human being like us, and was with us as our teacher.

He teaches us the greatness of his love and proves it by word and deed, at the same time persuading those who obey him not to be hard-hearted, but to imitate his compassion.

Those who manage worldly affairs have a certain love for them, as do shepherds for their flocks and owners for their personal possessions, but this cannot be compared with the love of those who share the same flesh and blood, and especially the love of parents for their children.

Therefore, to make us realize how much he loves us, God called himself our Father; for our sake he became man, and then, through the grace of the Holy Spirit conferred in baptism, he caused us to be born anew.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 3 (PG 151:36); ; from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Wednesday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1.

John Cassian: Delight in the law of God after the inner man Wednesday, Aug 28 2013 

Sf-IoanCasianSometimes holy men feel that they are oppressed by the weight of earthly thoughts and fall away from their loftiness of mind.

They are led away against their will or rather without knowing it, into the law of sin and death, and…are kept back by actions which…which are good and right though earthly, from the vision of God.

Then they have something to groan over constantly to the Lord. They have something for which indeed to humble themselves, and in their contrition to profess themselves not in words only but in heart, sinners.

And for this, while they continually ask of the Lord’s grace pardon for everything that day by day they commit when overcome by the weakness of the flesh, they should shed without ceasing true tears of penitence.

For they see that, being involved even to the very end of their life in the very same troubles, with continual sorrow for which they are tried, they cannot even offer their prayers without harassing thoughts.

They know by experience that through the hindrance of the burden of the flesh they cannot by human strength reach the desired end, nor be united according to their heart’s desire with that chief and highest good, but that they are led away from the vision of it captive to worldly things.

Therefore they betake themselves to the grace of God, “Who justifieth the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5) and cry out with St Paul: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 7:24-25).

For they feel that they cannot perform the good that they would, but are ever falling into the evil which they would not, and which they hate, i.e., wandering thoughts and care for carnal things.

[…] And they “delight” indeed “in the law of God after the inner man,” which soars above all visible things and ever strives to be united to God alone.

But they “see another law in their members,” i.e., implanted in their natural human condition, which “resisting the law of their mind” (Rom. 7:22-23), brings their thoughts into captivity to the forcible law of sin, compelling them to forsake that chief good and submit to earthly notions.

These, though they may appear necessary and useful when they are taken up in the interests of some religious want, yet when they are set against that good which fascinates the gaze of all the saints, are seen by them to be bad and such as should be avoided, because by them in some way or other and for a short time they are drawn away from the joy of that perfect bliss.

John Cassian (c. 360-435): Conferences 23, 10-11.

Athanasius of Alexandria: We are Renewed in the Holy Spirit Tuesday, Apr 23 2013 

AthanasiusSt Paul says… ‘I myself with the mind serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin.’

[…] This God promised by Ezekiel, saying: ‘A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh, and I will put my Spirit within you.’

When has this been fulfilled, save when the Lord came and renewed all things by grace? … Our spirit is renewed; but the Holy Spirit is not simply spirit, but God says it is his Spirit, whereby ours is renewed.

As the Psalmist says in Psalm 103: ‘Thou shalt take away their spirit, and they shall die and return to their dust. Thou shalt put forth thy Spirit, and they shall be created, and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.’

But if it is by the Spirit of God that we are renewed, then the spirit here said to be created is not the Holy Spirit but our spirit…; the Holy Spirit is not created, but…it is our spirit which is renewed in him.

Of this spirit David also prayed in the Psalm: ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.’ Here he is said to create it, but aforetime, as Zechariah says, he formed it: ‘Stretching forth the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and forming the spirit of man within him.’

For when that which he formed aforetime had fallen he remade it, coming himself in the creature, when the Word became flesh; so that, in the words of the Apostle, ‘He might create in himself of the twain one new man, who after God had been created in righteousness and holiness of truth’.

For it was not as if another man had been created, other than he who from the beginning was made in God’s image.

But he was counselling them to receive the mind that was remade and renewed in Christ; as is once more made clear through Ezekiel, when he says: ‘Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God.’

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Letters to Serapion, 1.8-9.

Macarius the Egyptian: One who wishes to be a partaker of the Divine Glory must seek the help which comes mightily from God Friday, Apr 12 2013 

Macarius3Those upon whom the divine law is written, not with ink and letters, but implanted in hearts of flesh, these, having the eyes of their mind enlightened, and reaching after a hope, not tangible and seen, but invisible and immaterial, have power to get the better of the stumbling- blocks of the evil one, not by themselves, but from the power that never can be defeated.

But those who have not been honoured with God’s word, nor instructed by divine law…fancy that by their own free will they can bring to nought the resources of sin, which is only condemned through the mystery contained in the Cross.

It lies in the power of man’s free will to resist the devil, but it does not extend to an absolute command over the passions. Except the Lord build the house…and keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain, and the builder laboureth in vain (Ps. 126:1).

You cannot go upon the asp and basilisk and tread under your feet the lion and the dragon [cf Ps. 90:13] without first purging yourself as far as human ability goes, and being strengthened by Him who said to the apostles, Behold, I have given you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy.

If human nature had had force, without the whole armour of the Holy Ghost, to stand against the wiles of the devil, St Paul would not have said, The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly, and again, Whom the Lord shall destroy with the Spirit of His mouth.

That is why we are bidden of the Lord to pray, Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. If we are not delivered by the superior power from the fiery darts of the wicked one and admitted to the adoption of sons, our social existence is in vain; we are far from the power of God.

Accordingly, one who wishes to be a partaker of the divine glory, and to see as in a glass the form of Christ in the ruling faculty of his own soul, ought with insatiable affection and an inclination which is never filled, with all his heart and all his might, by night and when it is day, to seek the help which comes mightily from God.

Of this help, as I have said before, it is impossible to partake, unless a man first abstains from the luxury of the world, from the desires of the opposing power, which is alien to the light, and is an activity of wickedness with no kinship to a good activity, but wholly estranged from it.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]; Fifty Spiritual Homilies, 25,1-3, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Gregory Nazianzen: The Word Partakes of My Flesh to Save the Image and to Make the Flesh Immortal (2) Thursday, Dec 6 2012 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenContinued from here…

This being He placed in Paradise, whatever the Paradise may have been.

And He honoured him with the gift of Free Will – in order that God might belong to him as the result of his choice, no less than to Him who had implanted the seeds of it,

and in order to till the immortal plants, by which is meant perhaps the Divine Conceptions, both the simpler and the more perfect.

And the man was naked in his simplicity and inartificial life, and without any covering or screen; for it was fitting that he who was from the beginning should be such.

Also He gave the man a Law, as a material for his free will to act upon.  This Law was a Commandment as to what plants he might partake of, and which one he might not touch.

This latter was the Tree of Knowledge. It was forbidden to the man to touch this not because it was evil from the beginning when planted, nor because God grudged it to us. (Let not the enemies of God wag their tongues in that direction, or imitate the Serpent.)

But it would have been good if partaken of at the proper time, for the tree was, according to my theory, Contemplation, upon which it is only safe for those who have reached maturity of habit to enter.

But this Contemplation is not good for those who are still somewhat simple and greedy in their habit; just as solid food is not good for those who are yet tender, and have need of milk.

But when through the devil’s malice and the woman’s caprice, to which she succumbed as the more tender, and which she brought to bear upon the man, as she was the more apt to persuade, alas for my weakness! (for that of my first father was mine), he forgot the Commandment which had been given to him.

He yielded to the baleful fruit; and for his sin he was banished, at once from the Tree of Life, and from Paradise, and from God; and put on the coats of skins…that is, perhaps, the coarser flesh, both mortal and contradictory.

This was the first thing that he learnt—his own shame; and he hid himself from God.  Yet here too he makes a gain, namely death, and the cutting off of sin, in order that evil may not be immortal.

Thus his punishment is changed into a mercy; for it is in mercy, I am persuaded, that God inflicts punishment.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 38, 12.

Irenaeus of Lyons: Through the Adoption of Sons God Enabled Man to Love Him with His Whole Heart Tuesday, Mar 22 2011 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonIsrael’s fathers [i.e. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob] were righteous: they had the power of the Decalogue implanted in their hearts and in their souls.

[…] For this reason they did not need to be admonished by written rebukes: they had the righteousness of the law in their hearts.

When this righteousness and love for God had passed into oblivion and had been extinguished in Egypt, God had necessarily to reveal himself through his own voice, out of his great love for men.

He led the people out of Egypt in power, so that man might once again become God’s disciple and follower.

He made them afraid as they listened, to warn them not to hold their Creator in contempt.

He fed them with manna, that they might receive spiritual food…. He commanded them to love himself and trained them to practise righteousness toward their neighbour, so that man might not be unrighteous or unworthy of God.

Through the Decalogue he prepared man for friendship with himself and for harmony with his neighbour. This was to man’s advantage, though God needed nothing from man.

This raised man to glory, for it gave him what he did not have, friendship with God. But it brought no advantage to God, for God did not need man’s love.

Man did not possess the glory of God, nor could he attain it by any other means than through obedience to God.

This is why Moses said to the people: Choose life, that you may live and your descendants too; love the Lord your God, hear his voice and hold fast to him, for this is life for you and length of days.

This was the life that the Lord was preparing man to receive when he spoke in person and gave the words of the Decalogue for all alike to hear.

These words remain with us as well; they were extended and amplified through his coming in the flesh, but not annulled.

God gave to the people separately through Moses the commandments that enslave: these were precepts suited to their instruction or their condemnation.

As Moses said: The Lord commanded me at that time to teach you precepts of righteousness and of judgement.

The precepts that were given them to enslave and to serve as a warning have been cancelled by the new covenant of freedom.

The precepts that belong to man’s nature and to freedom and to all alike have been enlarged and broadened.

Through the adoption of sons God had enabled man so generously and bountifully to know him as Father, to love him with his whole heart, and to follow his Word unfailingly.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202):Adversus Haereses 4.16.2-5:, from the Office of Readings for Friday in the 2nd Week of Lent @ Crossroads Initiative.

Mark the Hermit: Faith, works, intention Monday, Nov 15 2010 

Those who, because of the rigor of their own ascetic practice, despise the less zealous, think that they are made righteous by physical works.

But we are even more foolish if we rely on theoretical knowledge and disparage the ignorant. Even though knowledge is true, it is still not firmly established if unaccompanied by works. For everything is established by being put into practice.

Often our knowledge becomes darkened because we fail to put things into practice. For when we have totally neglected to practice something, our memory of it will gradually disappear.

For this reason Scripture urges us to acquire the knowledge of God, so that through our works we may serve Him rightly.

When we fulfil the commandments in our outward actions, we receive from the Lord what is appropriate; but any real benefit we gain depends on our inward intention.

If we want to do something but cannot, then before God, who knows our hearts, it

is as if we have done it. This is true whether the intended action is good or bad.

The intellect does many good and bad things without the body, whereas the body

can do neither good nor evil without the intellect. This is because the law of freedom applies to what happens before we act.

Some without fulfilling the commandments think that they possess true faith.

Others fulfil the commandments and then expect the kingdom as a reward due to them. Both are mistaken.

[…] When Scripture says ‘He will reward every man according to his works’ (Matt 16:27), do not imagine that works in themselves merit either hell or the kingdom.

On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself….

We who have received baptism offer good works, not by way of repayment, but to preserve the purity given to us.

Mark the Hermit (5th-6th c.): On Those who Think They Are Made Righteous by Works, 11-18; 22-23, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), online version here.

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