Ephrem the Syrian: Through the tree mankind fell into Sheol; upon the tree they passed over into the dwelling of life Wednesday, Apr 15 2015 


The only-begotten…took up His abode in the Virgin; that by a common manner of birth, though only-begotten, He might become the brother of many.

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

For our Lord gave His resurrection as a pledge to mortals, that He would remove them from Sheol, which receives the departed without distinction, to the Kingdom which admits the invited with distinction.

[…] The Father begat Him, and through Him created the creatures.

Flesh bare Him and through Him slew lusts.

Baptism brought him forth, that through Him it might wash away stains.

Sheol brought Him forth, that through Him its treasures might be emptied out.

He came to us from beside His Father by the way of them that are born.

And by the way of them that die, He went forth to go to His Father; so that by His coming through birth, His advent might be seen; and by His returning through resurrection, His departure might be confirmed.

But our Lord was trampled on by Death; and in His turn trod out a way over Death.

This is He Who made Himself subject to and endured death of His own will, that He might cast down death against his will.

For our Lord bare His Cross and went forth according to the will of Death:  but He cried upon the Cross and brought forth the dead from within Sheol against the will of Death.

For in that very thing by which Death had slain Him [i.e., the body], in that as armour He bore off the victory over Death.

But the Godhead concealed itself in the manhood and fought against Death, Death slew and was slain.  Death slew the natural life; and the supernatural life slew Him.

[…] This is the Son of the carpenter, Who skilfully made His Cross a bridge over Sheol that swallows up all, and brought over mankind into the dwelling of life.

And because it was through the tree that mankind had fallen into Sheol, so upon the tree they passed over into the dwelling of life.

Through the tree then wherein bitterness was tasted, through it also sweetness was tasted; that we might learn of Him that amongst the creatures nothing resists Him.

Glory be to Thee, Who didst lay Thy Cross as a bridge over death, that souls might pass over upon it from the dwelling of the dead to the dwelling of life!

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Homily on Our Lord, 1-4.

Ambrose of Milan: Christ found resurrection to restore the heavenly benefit which had been lost by the deceit of the serpent Monday, Apr 6 2015 

ambrose_of_milanIn the beginning our Lord God made man so that, if he had not tasted sin, he would not have died the death.

He contracted sin; he was made subject to death; he was ejected from paradise.

But the Lord, who wished his benefits to endure and to abolish all the snares of the serpent, also to abolish everything that caused harm, first, however, passed, sentence on man:

‘Dust thou art and into dust thou shalt return’ (Cf. Gen. 2:7,15-17; 3:6-24), and He made man subject to death.

It was a divine sentence; it could not be resolved by a human condition.

A remedy was given: that man should die and rise again.

Why? That that also, which before had ceded to a place of damnation, might cede to a place of benefit.

What is this except death? Do you ask how? Because death intervening makes an end to sin (Cf. Heb. 9:15,16). For when we die, surely we have ceased to sin.

The satisfaction of the sentence seemed to be that man, who had been made to live, if he had not sinned, began to die.

But, that the perpetual grace of God might persevere, man died, but Christ found resurrection, that is, to restore the heavenly benefit which had been lost by the deceit of the serpent.

Both, then, are for our good, for death is the end of sins and resurrection is the reformation of nature.

However, lest in this world the deceit and snares of the Devil might prevail, baptism was found.

Hear what Scripture rather, the Son of God says about this baptism, that the Pharisees, who did not wish to be baptized by John’s baptism, despised the council of God (Luke 7:30). Then baptism is the council of God. How great is grace, where there is the council of God!

Listen then: For, that in this world, also, the grip of the Devil might be loosened, there was discovered how man alive might die and alive might rise again.

What is ‘alive’? That is: the living life of the body, when it came to the font, and dipped into the font.

What is water but of earth? So it satisfies the heavenly sentence without the stupor of death. Because you dip, that sentence is resolved: ‘Thou art dust and into dust thou shalt return’ (Gen. 3:19).

When the sentence has been fulfilled, there is opportunity for heavenly benefit and remedy. So water is of earth, but the potentials of our life did not permit that we be covered with earth and rise again from earth.

Then earth does not wash, but water washes. Therefore, the font is as a sepulture.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On the Sacraments, 2,6,17-19 in St Ambrose: Theological and Dogmatic Works, tr. Roy J. Deferrari, Catholic Univeristy of America Press, 1963, pp. 284-286.

Cyril of Alexandria: When we eat the holy flesh of Christ we have life in us Thursday, Apr 2 2015 

cyril_alexandriaIn what manner can man upon earth, clothed as he is with mortality, return to incorruption?

This dying flesh must be made partaker of the life-giving power which comes from God.

But the life-giving power of God the Father is the Only-begotten Word.

And He sent Him to us as a Saviour and Deliverer…: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt in us” (John 1).

[…] He was made in our likeness, and clothed Himself in our flesh, that by raising it from the dead He might prepare a way henceforth, by which the flesh which had been humbled to death might return anew to incorruption.

For we are united to Him just as also we were united to Adam, when he brought upon himself the penalty of death.

And Paul testifies thereunto, thus writing on one occasion, “For because by man is death, by man is also the resurrection of the dead”;

and again upon another, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all live.”

The Word therefore, by having united to Himself that flesh which was subject to death, as being God and Life drove away from it corruption, and made it also to be the source of life: for such must the body of (Him Who is) the Life be.

[…] When you cast a piece of bread into wine or oil, or any other liquid, you find that it becomes charged with the quality of that particular thing.

When iron is brought into contact with fire, it becomes full of its activity; and while it is by nature iron, it exerts the power of fire.

And so the life-giving Word of God, having united Himself to His own flesh in a way known to Himself, endowed it with the power of giving life.

And of this He certifies us Himself, saying, “Verily, I say to you, he that believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life.”

And again  “…Whoever eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He that eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, abides in Me, and I in him.

“…As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father; so He that eats Me shall also live because of Me” (John 6).

When therefore we eat the holy flesh of Christ, the Saviour of us all, and drink His precious blood, we have life in us, being made as it were, one with Him, and abiding in Him, and possessing Him also in us.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, Sermon 142.

Justin Popovich: Man Sentenced God to Death; by His Resurrection, God Sentenced Man to Immortality Saturday, Apr 26 2014 

Justin PopovichMan sentenced God to death; by His Resurrection, He sentenced man to immortality.

In return for a beating, He gives an embrace; for abuse, a blessing; for death, immortality.

Man never showed so much hate for God as when he crucified Him; and God never showed more love for man than when He arose.

Man even wanted to reduce God to a mortal, but God by His Resurrection made man immortal.

The crucified God is Risen and has killed death. Death is no more. Immortality has surrounded man and all the world.

By the Resurrection of the God-Man, human nature has been led irreversibly onto the path of immortality, and has become dreadful to death itself.

For before the Resurrection of Christ, death was dreadful to man, but after the Resurrection of Christ, man has become more dreadful to death.

When man lives by faith in the Risen God-Man, he lives above death, out of its reach; it is a footstool for his feet: “O Death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?” (I Cor. 15:55).

When a man belonging to Christ dies, he simply sets aside his body like clothing, in which he will again be vested on the day of Dread Judgement.

Before the Resurrection of the God-Man, death was the second nature of man: life first, death second.

But by His Resurrection, the Lord has changed everything: immortality has become the second nature of man, it has become natural for man; and death – unnatural.

As before the Resurrection of Christ, it was natural for men to be mortal, so after the Resurrection of Christ, it was natural for men to be immortal.

By sin, man became mortal and transient; by the Resurrection of the God-Man, he became immortal and perpetual. In this is the power, the might, the all-mightiness of the Resurrection of Christ.

[…] Because of the Resurrection of Christ, because of His victory over death, men have become, continue to become, and will continue becoming Christians.

The entire history of Christianity is nothing other than the history of a unique miracle, namely, the Resurrection of Christ, which is unbrokenly threaded through the hearts of Christians form one day to the next, from year to year, across the centuries, until the Dread Judgment.

Man is born, in fact, not when his mother bring him into the world, but when he comes to believe in the Risen Christ, for then he is born to life eternal, whereas a mother bears children for death, for the grave.

The Resurrection of Christ is the mother of us all, all Christians, the mother of immortals. By faith in the Resurrection, man is born anew, born for eternity.

Justin Popovich (1894-1979; Orthodox Church):Paschal Homily @ Pravmir.

Gregory Palamas: Incarnation, Death, Resurrection Saturday, Apr 19 2014 

Gregory_PalamasThe pre-eternal, uncircumscribed and almighty Logos and omnipotent Son of God could clearly have saved man from mortality and servitude to the devil without Himself becoming man.

He upholds all things by the word of His power and everything is subject to His divine authority….

But the incarnation of the Logos of God was the method of deliverance most in keeping with our nature and weakness, and most appropriate for Him who carried it out, for this method had justice on its side, and God does not act without justice….

Man…had voluntarily approached the originator of evil, obeyed him when he treacherously advised the opposite of what God had commanded, and was justly given over to him.

In this way, through the evil one’s envy and the good Lord’s just consent, death became twofold, for he brought about not just physical but also eternal death.

Christ clearly had to make immortal not only the human nature which existed in Him, but the human race, and to guide it towards participating in that true life which in due course procures eternal life for the body as well, just as the soul’s state of death in due course brought about the death of the body too.

That this plan for salvation should be made manifest, and that Christ’s way of life should be put before us to emulate, was highly necessary and beneficial.

At one time God appeared visibly before man and the good angels that they might imitate Him.

Later, when we had cast ourselves down and fallen away from this vision, God came down to us from on high in His surpassing love for mankind, without in any way giving up His divinity, and by living among us set Himself before us as the pattern of the way back to life.

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and love of God! In His wisdom, power and love for mankind God knew how to transform incomparably for the better the falls resulting from our self-willed waywardness.

If the Son of God had not come down from heaven we should have had no hope of going up to heaven. If He had not become incarnate, suffered in the flesh, risen and ascended for our sake, we should not have known God’s surpassing love for us.

If He had not taken flesh and endured the passion while we were still ungodly, we should not have desisted from the pride which so often lifts us up and drags us down.

Now that we have been exalted without contributing anything, we stay humble, and as we regard with understanding the greatness of God’s promise and benevolence we grow in humility, from which comes salvation.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily on Great and Holy Saturday, from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009) @Kandylaki (fuller version).

Cyril of Alexandria: The Raising of Lazarus Sunday, Apr 6 2014 

cyril_alexandriaAnd when He had thus spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes; and his face was bound about with a napkin (John 11:43-44).

Immediately, the dead man started up, and the corpse began to run, being delivered from its corruption and losing its bad smell, and escaping through the gates of death, and without any hindrance to running being caused by the bonds.

And although deprived of sight by the covering which was over his face, the dead man runs without any hindrance towards Him Who had called him, and recognises the masterful voice.

For Christ’s language was God-befitting and His command was kingly, having power to loose from death, and to bring back from corruption, and to exhibit energy beyond expression.

The use of a piercing cry, however, was altogether strange and unwonted in the Saviour Christ. For instance, God the Father somewhere says concerning Him: He shall not strive nor cry aloud, and so on.

For the works of the true Godhead are without noise or tumult of any kind; and this was the case with Christ, for He is in His Nature God of God and Very God.

So then what do we say when we see that He cried aloud in an unusual manner? For surely no one will degrade himself to such a depth of folly as to say that Christ ever went beyond what was fitting or indeed ever erred from absolute perfection.

How then is it to be explained? Certainly the cry has a reason and a purport, which we feel it necessary to state. It was for the good of the hearers.

Christ wrought the miracle upon Lazarus as a sort of type of the general resurrection of the dead, and that which was fulfilled in the case of an individual He set forth as a beautiful image of what will be universal and common to the whole race.

For it is part of our belief that the Lord will come, and we hold that there will be a cry made by the sound of a trumpet, according to the language of Paul, proclaiming the resurrection to those that lie in the earth, although it is manifest that the deed will be effected by the unspeakable power of the Almighty God.

For on this account also the Law given by Moses, when laying down directions concerning the feast of Tabernacles, says: Celebrate it as a memorial of trumpets. 

For when human bodies are about to be set up again, as tabernacles, and every man’s soul is about to take to itself its own bodily habitation in a way as yet unknown, the masterful command will be previously proclaimed, and the signal of the resurrection will sound forth, even the trump of God, as it is said.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on John, book 7 [on John 11].

Sophronius of Jerusalem: Holy City of God, Jerusalem Tuesday, Mar 11 2014 

St.-Sophronios-of-JerusalemMarch 11th is the feast of St Sophronius of Jerusalem.

From the introduction at Monachos: “The following two poems (nos. 19 and 20) from the collection of Anacreontica by Sophronios, Patriarch of Jerusalem (5th/6th c.), are a cry of longing for the holy city of which he was bishop, apparently written during a voyage away from his see…. They describe a course through all the major shrines and sights of the city in the sixth century from the perspective of their caretaker and pastor.”

Lines 1-6: The Holy City of Jerusalem Cf. Psalm 122.2

Holy City of God,
Jerusalem, how I long to stand
even now at your gates,
and go in, rejoicing!

A divine longing for holy Solyma
presses upon me insistently.

Lines 7-22: The Anastasis (Church of the Resurrection) Cf. Matt 27.57-60 (Burial); Matt 28.1-10 (Resurrection)

Let me walk thy pavements
and go inside the Anastasis,
where the King of All rose again,
trampling down the power of death.

I will venerate the sweet floor,
and gaze on the holy Cube,
and the great four <…>
<…like the heavens.>

Through the divine sanctuary
I will penetrate the divine Tomb,
and with deep reverence
will venerate that Rock.

And as I venerate that worthy Tomb,
surrounded by its conches
and columns surmounted by golden lilies,
I shall be overcome with joy.

Lines 23-42: The Tristoon (Portico) and the Rock of the Cross Matt 27.33-37

Let me pass on to the Tristoon,
all covered with pearls and gold,
and go on into the lovely building
of the Place of a Skull.

Ocean of life ever living
and of the true oblivion.
Tomb that gives light!

And prostrate I will venerate
the Navel-point of the earth, that divine Rock
in which was fixed the wood
which undid the curse of the tree.

How great thy glory,
noble Rock, in which was fixed
the Cross, the Redemption of mankind!

Exultant let me go on to the place
where all of us
who belong to the people of God
venerate the glorious Wood of the Cross.

Let me run to bend the knee
before the artist’s picture
representing the Rulers,
to render homage.

Lines 43-54: The Constantinian Basilica (Martyrium)

And let me go rejoicing
to the splendid sanctuary, the place
where the noble Empress Helena
found the divine Wood;

and go up,
my heart overcome with awe,
and see the Upper Room,
the Reed, the Sponge, and the Lance.

Then may I gaze down
upon the fresh beauty of the Basilica
where choirs of monks
sing nightly songs of worship.

Sophronius of Jerusalem (560-638): Anacreontica 20 (selections); text as tr. in J. Wilkinson Jerusalem Pilgrims before the Crusades, 1977; with reference to on-line text of ‘Franciscan Cyberspot’ (1999). Formatting and textual editing by Monachos.net (2006).

Aphrahat the Persian: Christ Perfected Love in Himself and by His Great Love He Saved Us Friday, Feb 28 2014 

ephrem-isaac-aphrahatContinued from here….

And it was thus that our Saviour taught us diligently to manifest love. For first He perfected it in Himself, and then He taught those who heard Him.

And He reconciled our enmity with His Father because He loved us, and He yielded up His innocence in the stead of the debtors, and the Good in place of the evil ones was put to shame.

And the Rich in our behalf was made poor, and the Living died in behalf of the dead, and by His death made alive our death.

And the Son of the Lord of all took for our sake the form of a servant, and He to whom all things were subject subjected Himself that He might release us from the subjection of sin.

And by His great love He gave a blessing to the poor in spirit, and He promised the peace makers they should be called His brothers and sons of God.

And He promised the humble that they should inherit the land of life; and He promised the mourners that by their supplications they would be comforted.

And He promised to the hungry fulness in His kingdom; and to those who weep that they should rejoice in His promise; and He promised to the merciful that they should be shown mercy.

And He promised to these who are pure in heart He said that they should see God; and again He promised to those who are persecuted on account of righteousness that they should go into the kingdom of heaven; and to those who are persecuted on account of His Name He promised a blessing and rest in His kingdom.

And He changed our nature of dust and made us the salt of truth, and He delivered us from being the prey of the serpent, and He called us the light of the world; and He delivered us from the power of death.

And He made us good instead of evil, and pleasing instead of hateful; and He appointed for us mercy instead of hatred; and He imparted to us the perfect man.

And He brought forth good things from His treasures, and delivered us from him who brought forth evil things from the superfluities of his heart.

And because of His overflowing love He healed the plagues of the sick; He healed also the son of the centurion because of his faith; and He silenced the waves of the sea by His power; and because of His favor He drove from us the evil spirits who were legion.

And by His mercy He restored to life the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue; and again He cleansed the woman from the pollution of blood.

Aphrahat the Persian (c.270-c.345): Demonstrations, 2 – On Love (19; 20). (The icon accompanying this extract depicts Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Syrian, and Aphrahat).

Nikolai Velimirovich: Jesus is the Light of Truth, the Light of Righteousness and the Light of Life Saturday, Feb 1 2014 

Nikolai Velimirovich“I am the Light of the world” (St. John 8:12).

Since the beginning of the world and time, no one who was ever born dared to speak these words.

There were men and there are men who say: “I bring light!” But only one dared to say: “I am the Light!”

Only the Lord Jesus could have spoken those words boldly and convincingly.

His short life on earth and His long history, nearly two-thousand years, completely justified these words.

He is the Light of Truth. He is the Light of Righteousness and He is the Light of Life.

He is the Light of Truth because He revealed in Himself the truth of the true nature of God and the true nature of man; and the relationship of man to man and the relationship of man toward God.

Heaven and earth shall pass away and His words will not pass away for heaven and earth both came into existence by His word and His word is from Him and with Him always and will not pass away (cf.  St. Matthew 24:35; St. Mark 13:31.)

He is the Light of Righteousness because He revealed the might of righteousness and the weakness of unrighteousness.

He revealed this in the brightest light – by that which He spoke, by that which He did, and by the way in which He experienced and overcame the unrighteous ones.

He revealed this through His Church in the course of twenty centuries – through His numerous righteous saints, and through those who became martyrs for the sake of righteousness.

Righteousness is from God, and in the long life of history it can never be defeated. Unrighteousness is from beings who are helpless.

Unrighteousness quickly rushes out to the rampart with its triumphant banner but, at the same time, it is quickly overthrown into the grave.

He is the Light of Life. His words illuminate life. His works illuminate life.

His victory illuminates life, especially His resurrection, as the most luminous sun by its bright light illuminates life and disperses death as a weak shadow.

O Lord Jesus, Light Most-Luminous, Sun of Truth, Sun of Righteousness and Sun of Life, illuminate us sinners and unworthy ones!

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956; Orthodox Church): Prologue from Ohrid, January 20th.

Ignatius of Antioch: The Medicine of Immortality, and the Antidote to Prevent Us from Dying Monday, Jan 20 2014 

Ignatius_of_AntiochLet my spirit be counted as nothing for the sake of the cross, which is a stumbling-block to those that do not believe, but to us salvation and life eternal.

“Where is the wise man? where the disputer?” Where is the boasting of those who are styled prudent?

For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost.

He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water.

Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence by God.

How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of Which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment.

And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else in the heavens.

Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life.

And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult, because He meditated the abolition of death.

If Jesus Christ shall graciously permit me through your prayers, and if it be His will, I shall, in a second little work which I will write to you, make further manifest to you the nature of the dispensation of which I have begun to treat, with respect to the new man, Jesus Christ, in His faith and in His love, in His suffering and in His resurrection.

Especially will I do this if the Lord make known to me that you come together in common, man by man, through grace – individually, in one faith, and in Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David according to the flesh, being both the Son of man and the Son of God;

and if you thus obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but which causes that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ.

Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 – c. 107): Letter to the Ephesians, 18-20 @ Crossroads Initiative.

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