John Chrysostom: If the Cross has its foundation in love and is our glory, we must not say we mourn because of the Cross Wednesday, Mar 9 2016 

Chrysostom3Why do we fast for forty days?

Formerly many believers approached the sacraments without any particular preparation, especially at the time when Christ first gave them to us.

But when the fathers realized the harm that could result from such neglect, they took counsel together and decreed that a period of forty days of fasting be set aside, during which the people would meet to pray and listen to the word of God.

During this Lenten season each of the faithful would undergo a thorough purification by means of prayer, almsgiving, fasting, watching, repentant tears, confession, and every other remedial measure.

Then when they had done all in their power to cleanse their consciences, they could approach the sacraments.

[…] So, when someone asks you why you fast, you should not answer: because of the Passover, or because of the Cross.

Neither of these is the reason for our fasting. We fast because of our sins, since we are preparing to approach the sacred mysteries.

Moreover, the Christian Passover is a time for neither fasting nor mourning, but for great joy, since the Cross destroyed sin and made expiation for the whole world.

It reconciled ancient enmities and opened the gates of heaven. It made friends of those who had been filled with hatred, restoring them to the citizenship of heaven.

Through the Cross our human nature has been set at the right hand of the throne of God, and we have been granted countless good things besides.

Therefore we must not give way to mourning or sadness; we must rejoice greatly instead over all these blessings.

Listen to the exultant words of Saint Paul: God forbid that I should boast of anything but the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. And elsewhere he writes: God shows his own love for us because when we were still sinners Christ died for our sake.

Saint John’s message is the same. God loved the world so much, he declares, and then, passing over every other manifestation of God’s love, he comes at once to the crucifixion.

God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that is, he gave him up to be crucified, so that those who believed in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

If, then, the Cross has its foundation in love and is our glory, we must not say we mourn because of the Cross. Far from it. What we have to mourn over is our own sinfulness, and that is why we fast.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Oratio 3 Adversus Iudaeos (PG 48, 867-868); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Ash Wednesday, Year 2.

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Augustine of Hippo: Lent is the epitome of our whole life. Friday, Mar 4 2016 

St Augustine of AfricaAs we begin our annual Lenten observance with its solemn call to conversion, it is incumbent upon me to make the custo­mary solemn exhortation to all of you.

Indeed, it is more than ever my pastoral duty to nourish your minds with the word of God when you are about to mortify your bodies by fasting.

For once you have been inwardly refreshed by the food of the spirit you will be able to undertake physical hardships more coura­geously and endure them with greater stamina.

We are soon to celebrate the Passion of our crucified Lord. It is therefore in keeping with our commitment to him that we should crucify ourselves by restraining the desires of the flesh.

As the Apostle says: You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all your self-indulgent passions and desires.

Such is the Cross upon which we Christians must continually hang, since our whole lives are beset by trials and temptations.

Not for us, as long as we live, to be rid of those nails we read of in the psalm: Pierce my flesh with the nails of your fear.

Flesh means the desires of our lower nature; nails, the demands of God’s justice and holiness. With these the fear of the Lord pierces our flesh and fastens us to the Cross as an acceptable sacrifice to him.

In a similar passage the apostle Paul appeals to us by the mercy of God to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.

To hang on such a Cross brings no shame to the servants of God; it is something in which they glory, as Saint Paul does when he says:

Far be it from me to glory in anything except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

This crucifixion, I repeat, is something that must continue throughout our life, not for forty days only.

It is true that Moses, Elijah, and our Lord himself fasted for forty days; but in Moses, Elijah, and Christ we are meant to see the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel, and to learn from them not to cling to this present world or imitate its ways, but to nail our unregenerate selves to the Cross.

Christians must always live in this way, without any wish to come down from their Cross, otherwise they will sink beneath the world’s mire.

But if we have to do so all our lives, we must make an even greater effort during these days of Lent. It is not a simple matter of living through forty days; Lent is the epitome of our whole life.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Sermon 205.1 (PL 38:1039-1040); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday of the First Week of Lent, Year 2.

Cyril of Alexandria: “For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs” Tuesday, Mar 1 2016 

cyril_alexandriaIn Egypt the Israelites sacrificed a lamb at the bidding of Moses, who told them to eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

For seven days, says Scripture, you shall eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

Must we then continue to observe customs that are only types and symbols?

Remember the words of Paul, for he was truly learned in the Law and very wise.

He says: We know that the Law is spiritual. Can anyone doubt that he who had Christ within him spoke the plain truth and did not deceive?

Moreover, Christ himself said clearly: Do not imagine that 1 have come to do away with the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to fulfil them.

 I assure you that the Law will not lose a single dot or stroke until its purpose is achieved. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

In what way then must we also fulfil the ancient law?

For us who have been called to live a life of holiness through faith the true lamb has been sacrificed, the lamb that takes away the sin of the world.

To this sacrifice we must add a food that is spiritual, wholly good and truly sacred, a food typified in the Law by the unleavened bread, which we now understand in a spiri­tual way.

In the divinely inspired Scriptures yeast always signifies wickedness and sin. Our Lord Jesus Christ, warning his holy disciples to be on their guard, said: Beware of the yeast of the scribes and Pharisees.

And Paul in his great wisdom wrote that those who have once been sanctified should put far from them the yeast of impurity that corrupts mind and heart.

Purify yourselves of the old yeast, he urged, and become a fresh batch of bread, since you really are unleavened.

This urgent plea prompted by concern for our well-being shows that spiritual communion with Christ the Saviour of us all is not only a benefit to us but also a real need.

It also shows how important it is for us to keep our minds pure by refraining from sin and washing away every stain.

In a word, we must avoid everything that defiled us in the past, for it is then, when no fault of ours bars the way and we are wholly free from reproach, that we shall open the way to this communion with Christ.

But we also have to eat bitter herbs. These stand for the bitter sufferings we must undergo, and we should greatly value the endurance they demand.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Paschal Homilies 19.2 (PG 77:824-825); 392); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Saturday of the First Week in Lent, Year 2.

Andrew of Crete: Have compassion on us, O Lover of men, and to those who ask with faith grant forgiveness Thursday, Mar 26 2015 

AndrewofcreteYou, my soul, have become like Hagar the Egyptian of old. You have become enslaved by your own choice and have a new Ishmael – stubborn self-will (Genesis 16:15).

You know, my soul, of the Ladder shown to Jacob reaching from earth to Heaven. Why have you not clung to the sure step of piety? (Genesis 28:12).

Imitate that Priest of God and solitary King who was an image of the life of Christ in the world among men (cf. Melchizedek: Hebrews 7:1-4; Genesis 14:18).

Be converted and groan, wretched soul, before the pageant of life comes to an end, before the Lord shuts the door of the bridal hall.

Do not be a pillar of salt, my soul, by turning back; but let the example of the Sodomites frighten you, and take refuge up in Zoar (Genesis 19:26).

Reject not the prayer of those who praise Thee, O Lord; but have compassion on us, O Lover of men, and to those who ask with faith grant forgiveness.

[…] Boastful I am, and hard-hearted, all in vain and for nothing. Condemn me not with the Pharisee, but rather grant me the humility of the Publican, O only merciful and just Judge, and number me with him (Luke 18:9-14).

I have sinned, I know, O merciful Lord, and outraged the vessel of my flesh, but accept me in penitence and recall me to awareness of Thee. May I never be the possession or food of the enemy. O Savior, have compassion on me.

I am become my own idol, and have injured my soul with passions, O merciful Lord, but accept me in penitence and recall me to awareness of Thee. May I never be the possession or food of the enemy. O Savior, have compassion on me.

I have not listened to Thy voice, I have disobeyed Thy Scripture, O Lawgiver, but accept me in penitence and recall me to awareness of Thee. May I never be the possession or food of the enemy. O Savior, have compassion on me.

[…] Imitate, my soul, the woman bent earthward; come and fall down at the feet of Jesus, that He may straighten you to walk upright in the footsteps of the Lord (Luke 13:11).

Though Thou art a deep well, O Lord, pour on me streams from Thy immaculate wounds, that like the Samaritan woman I may drink and thirst no more; for from Thee gush rivers of life (John 4:13-15).

May my tears be for me a Siloam, O Sovereign Lord, that I may wash the eyes of my soul and mentally see Thee Who art that light which was before creation (John 9:7; Genesis 1:2-19).

Andrew of Crete (c.650-740[?]): The Great Canon, Thursday of the First Week, Odes 3, 4, 5 @ Pravoslavie.

Augustine of Hippo: Almsgiving and Forgiveness Thursday, Apr 10 2014 

St Augustine of AfricaBe particularly mindful of the poor, so that what you take from yourself by living sparingly you may lay away in heavenly treasures.

Let the needy Christ receive that of which the fasting Christian deprives himself.

Let the self-restraint of the willing soul be the sustenance of the one in need.

Let the voluntary neediness of the one possessing an abundance become the necessary abundance of the one in need.

Let there be a merciful readiness to forgive in a conciliatory and humble soul. Let him who has done wrong seek pardon and let him who suffered the wrong give pardon, so that we may not be possessed by Satan who gloats over the disagreements of Christians.

For this is a very profitable way of giving alms, namely, to cancel the debt of one’s fellow servant so that one’s own debt may be cancelled by the Lord.

The heavenly Master commended both deeds as good when He said: ‘Forgive, and you shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given to you’ (Luke 6:37-38).

Recall how that servant, whose entire debt had been cancelled by his master, received a double punishment because he did not show to a fellow servant owing him a hundred denarii the same mercy which he had received in regard to his debt of 10,000 talents (cf. Matthew 18:26-35).

In this kind of good work, where good will is the sole requisite, there is no excuse possible. Someone may say: ‘I cannot fast without upsetting my stomach.’

He may even say: ‘I wish to give to the poor, but I do not have the means to do so,’ or ‘I have so little that I run the risk of being in need myself if I give to others.’

Even in these matters men sometimes make false excuses for themselves, because they do not find true ones.

Nevertheless, who is there who would say: ‘I did not pardon the one seeking forgiveness from me because ill health prevented me,’ or ‘because I had not a hand with which to embrace him’?

Forgive, that you may be forgiven (cf. Luke 6:37). Here there is no work of the body; no member of the body is lifted up to help a soul, so that what is asked may be granted.

All is done by the will; all is accomplished by the will. Act without anxiety; give without anxiety. You will experience no physical indisposition; you will have nothing less in your home.

Now in truth, my brethren, see what an evil it is that he who has been commanded to love even his enemy does not pardon a penitent brother.

Since this is so and since it is written in the Scriptures; ‘Do not let the sun go down upon your anger’ (Ephesians 4:26), consider my dear brethren, whether he ought to be called a Christian who, at least in these days, does not wish to put an end to enmities which he should never have indulged.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Homily 210, 10,  from Saint Augustine: Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons, Homilies, translated by Sister Mary Sarah Muldowney, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 38), pp. 107-8.

Athanasius of Alexandria: Preparing to Eat the Passover Saturday, Apr 5 2014 

AthanasiusWho then will lead us to such a company of angels as this?

[…] ‘Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord?’

‘Who shall stand in His holy place, but he that hath clean hands, and a pure heart, who hath not devoted his soul to vanity, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbour.’

‘For he,’ as the Psalmist adds, when he goes up, ‘shall receive a blessing from the Lord’ (Ps. 24:3).

Now this clearly also refers to what the Lord gives to them at the right hand, saying, ‘Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you’ (Matt. 25:34).

But the deceitful, and he that is not pure of heart, and possesses nothing that is pure…shall assuredly, being a stranger, and of a different race from the saints, be accounted unworthy to eat the Passover, for ‘a foreigner shall not eat of it’ (Exod. 12:43).

[…] Wherefore let us not celebrate the feast after an earthly manner, but as keeping festival in heaven with the angels.

Let us glorify the Lord, by chastity, by righteousness, and other virtues. And let us rejoice, not in ourselves, but in the Lord, that we may be inheritors with the saints.

Let us keep the feast then, as Moses. Let us watch like David who rose seven times, and in the middle of the night gave thanks for the righteous judgments of God.

Let us be early, as he said, ‘In the morning I will stand before Thee, and Thou wilt look upon me: in the morning Thou wilt hear my voice’ (Ps. 5:3).

Let us fast like Daniel; let us pray without ceasing, as Paul commanded; all of us recognising the season of prayer…, so that having borne witness to these things, and thus having kept the feast, we may be able to enter into the joy of Christ in the kingdom of heaven.

Israel, when going up to Jerusalem, was first purified in the wilderness, being trained to forget the customs of Egypt, the Word by this typifying to us the holy fast of forty days.

So also let us first be purified and freed from defilement, so that when we depart hence, having been careful of fasting, we may be able to ascend to the upper chamber (cf. Luke 14:15) with the Lord, to sup with Him; and may be partakers of the joy which is in heaven.

In no other manner is it possible to go up to Jerusalem, and to eat the Passover, except by observing the fast of forty days.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Sixth Festal Letter, 11-12.

Leo the Great: Charity Contains All Other Virtues and Covers a Multitude of Sins Thursday, Apr 3 2014 

leo1In the gospel of John the Lord says: In this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for each other.

In a letter of the same apostle we read: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God; he who does not love does not know God for God is love.

The faithful should therefore enter into themselves and make a true judgment on their attitudes of mind and heart.

If they find some store of love’s fruit in their hearts, they must not doubt God’s presence within them.

If they would increase their capacity to receive so great a guest, they should practice greater generosity in doing good, with persevering charity.

If God is love, charity should know no limit, for God cannot be confined.

Any time is the right time for works of charity, but these days of Lent provide a special encouragement.

Those who want to be present at the Lord’s Passover in holiness of mind and body should seek above all to win this grace, for charity contains all other virtues and covers a multitude of sins.

As we prepare to celebrate that greatest of all mysteries, by which the blood of Jesus Christ did away with our sins, let us first of all make ready the sacrificial offerings of works of mercy.

In this way we shall give to those who have sinned against us what God in his goodness has already given to us.

Let us now extend to the poor and those afflicted in different ways a more open-handed generosity, so that God may be thanked through many voices and the relief of the needy supported by our fasting.

No act of devotion on the part of the faithful gives God more pleasure than that which is lavished on his poor.  Where he finds charity with its loving concern, there he recognizes the reflection of his own fatherly care.

In these acts of giving do not fear a lack of means.  A generous spirit is itself great wealth. There can be no shortage of material for generosity where it is Christ who feeds and Christ who is fed.

In all this activity there is present the hand of him who multiplies the bread by breaking it, and increases it by giving it away.The giver of alms should be free from anxiety and full of joy.  His gain will be greatest when he keeps back least for himself.

The holy apostle Paul tells us: He who provides seed for the sower will also provide bread for eating; he will provide you with more seed, and will increase the harvest of your goodness,

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 48, 3-5 (10th Lenten sermon) @ Crossroads Initiative.

Andrew of Crete: Find the promised land and explore it secretly Monday, Mar 31 2014 

AndrewofcreteYou have heard, O my soul, how the waves and waters of the river formed a protective chamber for the baby Moses, allowing his basket of reeds to escape the cruel edict of the Pharaoh.

The midwives, though instructed by Pharaoh to kill the male infants of the Hebrews, obeyed their God instead.

Now that you, my hopeless soul, have been spared death like Moses, like him also be nourished on the wisdom of the Lord.

By killing the oppressive Egyptian, Moses severed his bond to Pharaoh. But you, O my hopeless soul, have not even begun to attack the wickedness of your mind.

If you have not accomplished even this much, how can you expect to pass through the time of repentance, which alone can drive away our sinful passions?

Go, my soul, and imitate the great Moses in the wilderness, that like him you may behold God present in the burning bush.

Think of the staff that Moses stretched over the waters to divide them. It is an image of the Cross of Christ whereby you, my soul, can also accomplish great things.

Aaron’s faithfulness was shown by his offering an acceptable sacrifice to God. But you, my soul, like the priests Hophni and Phineas have offered only your deceitful and selfish life.

[…] The waves of my transgressions have turned back on me, O Saviour, just as once the Red Sea turned back to engulf the Egyptian forces.

Like Israel of old you have an arrogant will, O my soul, preferring gluttony and self gratification to the manna from heaven.

The Canaanites’ wells can be likened to worldly philosophies, from which you, my soul, have preferred to drink rather than from the rock from which when struck by Moses there poured out a river of wisdom, the knowledge of God.

Like the arrogant Israelites in the wilderness, you prefer the comforts of Egypt and unclean food to manna, the food sent from heaven.

Water pouring from the rock when struck by Your servant Moses, prefigured Your life giving side, O Saviour, from which we saw the Water of Life.

Find the Promised Land and explore it secretly as Joshua, son of Nun, once did. See what kind of land it is and settle there, obeying the Law of God.

Andrew of Crete (c.650-740[?]): The Great Canon, Tuesday of the First Week, Odes 5 & 6 @ Pravoslavie.

Andrew of Crete: The night of sin has been to me thick fog and darkness Thursday, Mar 13 2014 

AndrewofcreteI alone have sinned against Thee, sinned above all men.  O Christ my Saviour, spurn me not.

Thou art the good Shepherd; seek me, Thy lamb, and neglect not me who have gone astray (John 10:11-14).

Thou art my sweet Jesus, Thou art my Creator; in Thee, O Saviour, I shall be justified.

I confess to Thee, O Saviour, I have sinned, I have sinned against Thee, but absolve and forgive me in Thy compassion.

[…]  Despise not Thy works and forsake not Thy creation, O just Judge and Lover of men, though I alone have sinned as a man more than any man.

But, being Lord of all, Thou hast power to pardon sins (Mark 2:10).

The end is drawing near, my soul, is drawing near!  But you neither care nor prepare.  The time is growing short.

Rise!  The Judge is near at the very doors.  Like a dream, like a flower, the time of this life passes.

Why do we bustle about in vain? (Matthew 24:33; Psalm 38:7).

Come to your senses, my soul! Consider the deeds you have done, and bring them before your eyes, and pour out the drops of your tears.

Boldly tell your thoughts and deeds to Christ, and be acquitted.

[…] I have passed my life ever in night, for the night of sin has been to me thick fog and darkness; but make me, O Saviour, a son of the day (Ephesians 5:8).

[…] I confess to Thee, O Christ my King: I have sinned, I have sinned, like Joseph’s brothers of old, who sold the fruit of purity and chastity (Genesis 37).

Righteous Joseph was given up by his brothers, that sweet soul was sold into slavery, as a type of the Lord; and you, my soul, have sold yourself completely to your vices (Genesis 37:27-28).

Imitate, wretched and worthless soul, righteous Joseph and his pure mind, and do not be wanton with irrational desires, ever transgressing  (Genesis 39:7-23).

If Joseph of old also occupied a pit, O Sovereign Lord, yet it was as a type of Thy Burial and Rising.  But will I ever offer Thee anything like it? (Genesis 37).

Andrew of Crete (c.650-740[?]): Great Canon of Repentance @ Monachos.net.

Andrew of Crete: Sin stripped me of the garment created for me by God Friday, Mar 7 2014 

AndrewofcreteDeliberately have I imitated blood thirsty Cain, O Lord, enlivening my flesh while murdering my soul by striking it with my evil deeds.

I have not resembled Abel in his righteousness, O Jesus, never having offered to You actions worthy of God, pure gifts, an appropriate sacrifice, an unblemished Life.

Like Cain, O my wretched soul, my offering to the Creator of all has been filthy deeds, a polluted sacrifice, and a worthless Life, and like him I now stand condemned.

You formed my flesh and bones as a Potter, O my Creator, my Redeemer and my Judge, by moulding clay into flesh and infusing in it the breath of Life. Accept me now as I return to You.

O my Saviour, I confess the sins which I have committed, the wounds which murderous thoughts, like thieves within me, have inflicted on my soul and body.

Thought I have sinned, O Saviour, I know that in Your love for mankind Your punishment is merciful and Your compassion profound. Seeing my tears You will run to me as the Father calling His lost son.

[…]  Sin stripped me of the garment created for me by God, leaving me in a coat of skin.

Sensing his shame, Adam dressed himself in fig leaves, and like him I now wear a garment of shame which reveals my many passions.

A soiled garment clothes me, one shamefully stained with blood flowing from a Life of passion and love of fleshly things.

I fell beneath the weight of the passions and the corruption of my flesh, and from that moment has the Enemy had power over me.

Instead of seeking poverty of spirit I prefer a Life of greed and self gratification. Therefore, O Saviour, a heavy weight hangs from my neck.

Joseph’s was a splendid coat of many colours, but mine is one of shameful thoughts, which condemns me even as it covers my flesh.

I persist in caring only for my outer garment, while neglecting the temple within me, one made in the image of God.

The woman searched her house for the lost coin until she found it. Now the beauty of my original image is lost, O Saviour, buried in passion. Come and as she did, search to recover it.

Like the prostitute I cry to You, O Saviour, that I have sinned. I alone have sinned against You! But accept my tears as You did hers when she came to anoint Your feet.

Andrew of Crete (c.650-740[?]): from The Great Canon, Tuesday of the First Week, Odes 1 & 2 @ Pravoslavie.

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