Augustine of Hippo: He came to infirm minds, to wounded hearts, to the gaze of dim-eyed souls Wednesday, Dec 9 2015 

St Augustine of AfricaHe was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (John 1:8-9).

Wherefore then did he [St John the Baptist] come? “But that he might bear witness concerning the light.”

Why so? “That all might believe through him.” And concerning what light was he to bear witness? “That was the true light.”

Wherefore is it added true? Because an enlightened man is also called a light; but the true light is that which enlightens.

For even our eyes are called lights; and nevertheless, unless either during the night a lamp is lighted, or during the day the sun goes forth, these lights are open in vain.

Thus, therefore, John was a light, but not the true light; because, if not enlightened, he would have been darkness; but, by enlightenment, he became a light.

For unless he had been enlightened he would have been darkness, as all those once impious men, to whom, as believers, the apostle said, “Ye were sometimes darkness.”

But now, because they had believed, what?—“but now are ye light,” he says, “in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8).

[…]  And thus “he was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of the light.” But where is that light? “He was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”

If every man that cometh, then also John. The true light, therefore, enlightened him by whom He desired Himself to be pointed out.

Understand, beloved, for He came to infirm minds, to wounded hearts, to the gaze of dim-eyed souls. For this purpose had He come.

And whence was the soul able to see that which perfectly is? Even as it commonly happens, that by means of some illuminated body, the sun, which we cannot see with the eyes, is known to have arisen.

Because even those who have wounded eyes are able to see a wall illuminated and enlightened by the sun, or a mountain, or a tree, or anything of that sort; and, by means of another body illuminated, that arising is shown to those who are not as yet able to gaze on it.

Thus, therefore all those to whom Christ came were not fit to see Him: upon John He shed the beams of His light; and by means of him confessing himself to have been irradiated and enlightened, not claiming to be one who irradiates and enlightens, He is known who enlightens, He is known who illuminates, He is known who fills.

And who is it? “He who lighteth every man,” he says, “who cometh into the world.” For if man had not receded from that light, he would not have required to be illuminated; but for this reason has he to be illuminated here, because he departed from that light by which man might always have been illuminated.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Homilies on St John’s Gospel, Tractate 2, 6-7.

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Symeon the New Theologian: The revelation of His divinity becomes a judgment for those to whom it is revealed Saturday, Aug 1 2015 

SYMEON-iconIt is not called Day of the Lord as being the last of these present days, nor because it is on this day that He is going to come again in the same way that we say for feast days of the present time.

[…] Neither is it called Day of Judgment because it is on this day that judgment is going to take place, since the day when this occurs is not other than the Lord who will come on it, but it is called this because He Himself, the God and Master of all, will at that time shine with the glory of His own divinity.

[…] And He alone will be at once “Day” and God. He Who is now invisible to all and dwells in light will then be revealed to all as He is, and will fill all things with His light, and will be without evening, without end, a day of everlasting joy, but absolutely unapproachable and unseen for those who, like me, are lazy and sinners.

Because this did not happen while they yet lived, because they lacked zeal to see the light of His glory and, through purification, to have Him completely indwelling in themselves, He will also naturally be unapproachable for them in the future.

[…] The revelation of His divinity becomes in fact a judgment for those to whom it is revealed. No flesh could have endured the glory of His divinity as manifested naked of its joining and inexpressible union with the God-man. All creation would instead have been utterly destroyed both in body and soul, since at that time all were possessed by unbelief.

For the divinity, which is to say the grace of the all-Holy Spirit, has never appeared to anyone who is without faith; and, if it were to appear by some paradox among men, it would show itself as fearful and dreadful, as not illumining but burning, not as giving life but as punishing dreadfully.

And this is clear from the things which the blessed Paul, the vessel of election suffered. In the encounter with the radiance of the unapproachable light which flashed around him like lightning, his vision was wounded, and rather than being illumined he was darkened. He could not see, and lost even his natural faculty of sight.

These things happened to him who would later become the great teacher of Christ’s Church! That man who was so great, the same man who later said: ‘The God Who said “Let light shine out of darkness” has shone in our hearts,’ and a little later: ‘We have this treasure’ — i.e., of illumination — ‘in our hearts’ could not at that time see even the least glimmer of the light.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD): Tenth Ethical Discourse @ Eclectic Orthodoxy.

Basil the Great: Early on the morning of the Resurrection God gained the victory through death Sunday, Apr 19 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great(On Psalm 45/46). ‘The most High hath sanctified his own tabernacle’ (Psalm 45:5).

Perhaps he is saying that the God-bearing flesh is sanctified through the union with God.

From this you will understand that the tabernacle of the most High is the manifestation of God through the flesh.

‘God is in the midst thereof, it shall not be moved: God will help it in the morning early’ (Psalm 45:6).

Since God is in the midst of the city, He will give it stability, providing assistance for it at the first break of dawn.

Therefore, the word, ‘of the city’ will fit either Jerusalem above or the Church below, ‘The most High hath sanctified his own tabernacle’ in it.

And through this tabernacle, in which God dwelt, He was in the midst of it, giving it stability.

Moreover, God is in the midst of the city, sending out equal rays of His providence from all sides to the limits of the world.

Thus, the justice of God is preserved, as He apportions the same measure of goodness to all.

‘God will help it in the morning early’.

Now, the perceptible sun produces among us the early morning when it rises above the horizon opposite us, and the Sun of justice (cf. Malachi 4:2) produces the early morning in our soul by the rising of the spiritual light, making day in him who admits it.

‘At night’ means we men are in this time of ignorance. Therefore, having opened wide our mind, let us receive ‘the brightness of his glory’ and let us be brightly illumined by the everlasting Light.

When we have become children of light, and ‘the night is far advanced for us, and the day is at hand’ (Romans 13:12) then we shall become worthy of the help of God.

Therefore, God helps the city, producing in it early morning by His own rising and coming. ‘Behold a man’ it is said, ‘the Orient is his name’ (Zech. 6:12).

For those upon whom the spiritual light will rise, when the darkness which comes from ignorance and wickedness is destroyed, early morning will be at hand.

Since, then, light has come into the world in order that he who walks about in it may not stumble, His help is able to cause the early morning.

Or perhaps, since the Resurrection was in the dim morning twilight, God will help the city in the morning early, who on the third day, early on the morning of the Resurrection gained the victory through death.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 17 (on Psalm 45[46]), 4-5,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 303-304.

Adomnán of Iona: St Columba and the Grace of the Holy Spirit Monday, Jun 9 2014 

St-Columba_Aidan-HartJune 9th is the feast of St Columba.

Four holy founders of monasteries came from Scotia (Ireland), to visit St. Columba, and found him in the Hinba island (Eilean-na-Naoimh)….

They all with one consent agreed that St. Columba should consecrate, in their presence in the church, the holy mysteries of the Eucharist.

The saint complied with their express desire, and entered the church with them on Sunday as usual, after the reading of the Gospel….

There, during the celebration of the solemn offices of the Mass, St. Brenden Mocu Alti saw, as he told Comgell and Cainnech afterwards, a ball of fire like a comet burning very brightly on the head of Columba, while he was standing before the altar, and consecrating the holy oblation.

And thus it continued burning and rising upwards like a column, so long as he continued to be engaged in the same most sacred mysteries….

When the saint was living in the Hinba island (Eilean-na-Naoimh), the grace of the Holy Ghost was communicated to him abundantly and unspeakably, and dwelt with him in a wonderful manner….

For three whole days, and as many nights, without either eating or drinking, he allowed no one to approach him, and remained confined in a house which was filled with heavenly brightness.

Yet out of that house, through the chinks of the doors and keyholes, rays of surpassing brilliancy were seen to issue during the night. Certain spiritual songs also, which had never been heard before, he was heard to sing.

He came to see, as he allowed in the presence of a very few afterwards, many secrets hidden from men since the beginning of the world fully revealed; certain very obscure and difficult parts of sacred Scripture also were made quite plain, and clearer than the light to the eye of his pure heart.

Another night also, one of the brothers…came by chance, while the other brothers were asleep, to the gate of the church, and stood there for some time praying.

Then suddenly he saw the whole church filled with a heavenly light, which more quickly than he could tell, flashed like lightning from his gaze. He did not know that St. Columba was praying at that time in the church, and after this sudden appearance of light, he returned home in great alarm.

On the following day the saint called him aside and rebuked him severely, saying: “Take care of one thing, my child, that you do not attempt to spy out and pry too closely into the nature of that heavenly light which was not granted thee, but rather fled from thee, and that thou do not tell any one during my lifetime what thou hast seen.”

Adomnán of Iona (628-704): Life of St. Columba, Book 3, 18, 19, 21; from Life of Saint Columba, Founder of Hy, Written by Adamnan, Ninth Abbot of that Monastery, ed. William Reeves, (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1874) @ Internet Medieval Source Book; icon of St Columba by Aidan Hart.

Seraphim of Sarov: In the Fullness of the Spirit of God Sunday, Jun 8 2014 

Seraphim_SarovskyThen Father Seraphim took me very firmly by the shoulders and said: “We are both in the Spirit of God now, my son. Why don’t you look at me?”

I replied: “I cannot look, Father, because your eyes are flashing like lightning. Your face has become brighter than the sun, and my eyes ache with pain.”

Father Seraphim said: “Don’t be alarmed, your Godliness! Now you yourself have become as bright as I am. You are now in the fullness of the Spirit of God yourself; otherwise you would not be able to see me as I am.”

Then, bending his head towards me, he whispered softly in my ear: “Thank the Lord God for His unutterable mercy to us!

“You saw that I did not even cross myself; and only in my heart I prayed mentally to the Lord God and said within myself:

“‘Lord, grant him to see clearly with his bodily eyes that descent of Thy Spirit which Thou grantest to Thy servants when Thou art pleased to appear in the light of Thy magnificent glory.’

“And you see, my son, the Lord instantly fulfilled the humble prayer of poor Seraphim. How then shall we not thank Him for this unspeakable gift to us both?

“Even to the greatest hermits, my son, the Lord God does not always show His mercy in this way.

“This grace of God, like a loving mother, has been pleased to comfort your contrite heart at the intercession of the Mother of God herself.

“But why, my son, do you not look me in the eyes? Just look, and don’t be afraid! The Lord is with us!”

After these words I glanced at his face and there came over me an even greater reverent awe.

Imagine in the center of the sun, in the dazzling light of its midday rays, the face of a man talking to you.

You see the movement of his lips and the changing expression of his eyes, you hear his voice, you feel someone holding your shoulders;

yet you do not see his hands, you do not even see yourself or his figure, but only a blinding light spreading far around for several yards and illumining with its glaring sheen both the snow-blanket which covered the forest glade and the snow-flakes which besprinkled me and the great Elder.

You can imagine the state I was in!

“How do you feel now?” Father Seraphim asked me.

“Extraordinarily well,” I said.

“But in what way? How exactly do you feel well?”

I answered: “I feel such calmness and peace in my soul that no words can express it.”

Seraphim of Sarov (Orthodox Church; 1759-1833): On the Acquisition of the Holy Spirit.

Symeon the New Theologian: The Father is Light, the Son is Light, the Holy Spirit is Light Saturday, May 31 2014 

SYMEON-iconThe Father is light, the Son is light, the Holy Spirit is light.
Watch what you say, brother, watch lest you go astray!
For the Three are one light, one, not separated,
but united in three persons without confusion.

For God is wholly undivided by nature
and in essence He is truly beyond all essence.
He is not split in power, nor in form, nor in glory,
nor in appearance, for He is contemplated entirely as simple light.

In these the persons are one, the three hypostases are one.
For the Three are in the one, or rather the Three are one,
the Three are one power, the Three are one glory,
the Three are one nature, one essence, and one divinity.

And these are the one light that illuminates the world,
not the world, perish the thought, not this visible world
—for this visible world has not known Him, nor is it
able to know, nor can the friends of the world,
for the one who loves the world is an enemy of God,

but we call “the world” that which God has made human
according to his image and likeness,
because one is adorned with virtues, one rules terrestrial beings;

just as God has authority over the universe,
so also one reigns over the passions according to this image,
and subjugates demons, the craftsmen of evils,
and tramples underfoot the dragon, the primeval, the huge
dragon like a common sparrow. And how? Listen child!

This fallen prince immediately found himself in darkness
because he was deprived of the light; he is now in darkness
with all those who fell with him from heaven;
he reigns in it—certainly in the darkness I say—
over demons and humans who are held in the darkness.

Every soul who does not see the light of life shining
both in the day and night is punished by the prince of darkness:
wounded, subdued, dragged, and enchained,
and stabbed daily by the darts of pleasure.

Even if the soul seems to resist, even if she seems not to fall,
but still she always has an irreconcilable war with him
in much sweat, toil, trouble, and hardship.

But every soul who contemplates the divine light,
from whence the evil prince has fallen, despises the evil one,
and once enlightened by the unapproachable light itself,
then the soul tramples underfoot the prince of darkness like a leaf
fallen on the ground from a high tree.

For she is in darkness where he has power and authority,
but in the light he becomes an utterly dead corpse.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD): from Hymn 33.

John Maximovitch: Seeing the Light of the Risen Christ with the Eyes of the Heart Wednesday, Apr 23 2014 

Saint John Maximovich Tobolsk editedLet us cleanse our senses and see through the gleaming, unapproachable light of Christ’s Resurrection.

Now is everything filled-full with light — the heavens, the earth, and the underworld.

All is presently bathed in light: Christ is risen from the dead.

The heavens make merry, the earth rejoiceth, the underworld exulteth.

The Angels in Heaven hymn Thy Resurrection, O Christ-Saviour. Do Thou make us, on earth, also worthy to glorify Thee with a pure heart.

The Angelic Choir, horrified at seeing Its Creator and Master dead, doth now, in joyous song, glorify Him resurrected.

Today doth Adam exult, and Eve rejoiceth; and with them do the Prophets and Patriarchs sing worthy songs to the Creator of all and to our Deliverer, Who did descend into the underworld for our sake.

The Giver of Life doth lead men out of hell this day, and up-lifteth them to Heaven; He layeth low the powers of the enemy and breaketh down the gates of hell by the Divine power of His authority.

On earth, the Angels announce the gladsome tidings to men and declare Christ’s Resurrection. Attired in gleaming white robes, the Angels ask the Myrrh-bearing Women:

“Why seek ye the Living One amongst the dead? He is risen; He is not here! Come, see the place where the Lord did lie.”

The Myrrh-bearing women rush to the Apostles, bearing to them the joyous news. And through the Apostles and the Gospel is Christ’s Resurrection preached unto all the world today.

Not all the Apostles immediately saw the risen Christ through spiritual eyes. Two disciples travelling to Emmaus did see Jesus walking with them, but did not recognize Him till such time as He had warmed their saddened hearts; and then were their spiritual eyes opened.

Mary Magdalene conversed with Christ in the garden, but neither recognized Him nor was cognizant of the mystery of the Resurrection, until the voice of her beloved Teacher touched her heart and illumined her soul, which had been given to thinking in worldly fashion.

It was the beloved disciple John, whose heart was pure and undimmed by, timidity, who before all others descried the light of the risen Christ through spiritual eyes; and with his bodily eyes did he behold the manifested Lord.

Scattering and dispersing the dark and gloomy tempest of sin, Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, shone forth, gleaming not in the hearts and souls of the Apostles only, but in those of all who draw near to Him with faith, salvation seeking.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed,” Christ sayeth; “blessed are those who have perceived Me not with bodily eyes, but with the eyes of the heart.”

John Maximovitch (John of Shanghai and san Francisco; Orthodox Church; 1896-1966): A Paschal Epistle of Archbishop John to the Western European and East Asian Flock and to All His Spiritual Children, 1956, Paris, Translated into English by G. Spruksts, “Orthodox Rus”, No. 7, 1996, p.5.

John Paul II: “Heaven is Wedded to Earth and Man is Reconciled to God!” Monday, Apr 21 2014 

jp2“God said: ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Gen 1:3).

An explosion of light, which God’s word brought forth from nothing, rent asunder the first night, the night of Creation.

The Apostle John will write: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). God did not create darkness but light!

And the Book of Wisdom, clearly revealing that God’s work has always had a positive purpose, puts it thus:

“He created all things that they might exist; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them; and the dominion of Hades is not on earth” (Wis 1:14).

In that first night, the night of Creation, is rooted the Paschal Mystery which, following the tragedy of sin, represents the restoration and the crowning of that first beginning.

The divine Word called into existence all things and, in Jesus, became flesh for our salvation.

And if the destiny of the first Adam was to return to the earth from which he had been made (cf. Gen 3:19), the last Adam has come down from heaven in order to return there in victory, the first-fruits of the new humanity (cf. Jn 3:13; 1 Cor 15:47).

Another night constitutes the fundamental event of the history of Israel: it is the wondrous Exodus from Egypt, the story of which is read each year at the solemn Easter Vigil.

[…] This is the second night, the night of the Exodus.

[…] In his Passover, as the new Moses, Christ has made us pass from the slavery of sin to the freedom of the children of God. Having died with Jesus, with him we rise to new life, thanks to the power of his Spirit. His Baptism has become our baptism.

[…]  This is the third night, the night of the Resurrection.

“Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!”. We sang these words in the Easter Proclamation at the beginning of this solemn Vigil, the Mother of all Vigils.

After the tragic night of Good Friday, when “the power of darkness” (Lk 22:53) seemed to have prevailed over the One who is “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12),

after the great silence of Holy Saturday, in which Christ, having completed his work on earth, found rest in the mystery of the Father and took his message of life into the pit of death,

behold at last the night which precedes “the third day”, on which, in accordance with the Scriptures, the Messiah would rise, as he himself had often foretold to his disciples.

“Night truly blessed, when heaven is wedded to earth and man is reconciled to God!” (Easter Proclamation).

John Paul II (1920-2005): Homily at the Easter Vigil, March 30th, 2002.

 

Charles Wesley: An Interest in the Saviour’s Blood Friday, Apr 18 2014 

Charles_wesleyAnd can it be, that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain?
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

‘Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine!
‘Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel-minds inquire no more.

He left his Father’s throne above,
(So free, so infinite his grace!)
Emptied himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

No condemnation now I dread,
Jesus, and all in him, is mine!
Alive in him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Charles Wesley (1701-1778; Church of England): Hymns, 201.

Cyril of Alexandria: The Healing of the Man Born Blind Sunday, Mar 30 2014 

cyril_alexandria“When He had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and with the clay thereof anointed his eyes, and said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, which means ‘Sent’…. He went away therefore, and washed, and came seeing” (John 9:6-7).

Why, although able to set all things right easily by a word, does He mix up clay from the spittle, and anoint the eyes of the sufferer, and seem to prescribe a sort of operation; for He says, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam? 

Surely I deem that some deep meaning is buried beneath these words, for the Saviour accomplishes nothing without a purpose.

[…] It was not otherwise possible for the Gentiles to thrust off the blindness which affected them, and to behold the Divine and holy light, that is, to receive the knowledge of the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, except by being made partakers of His Holy Body, and washing away their gloom-producing sin, and renouncing the authority of the devil, namely in Holy Baptism.

And when the Saviour stamped on the blind man the typical mark which was anticipative of the mystery, He meanwhile fully exhibited the power of such participation by the anointing with His spittle.

And as an image of Holy Baptism He commands the man to run and wash in Siloam, a name whose interpretation, the Evangelist, being very wise and Divinely-inspired, felt it necessary to give.

For we conclude that the One Sent is no other than God the Only-Begotten, visiting us and sent from above, even from the Father, to destroy sin and the rapacity of the devil.

And, recognising Him as floating invisibly on the waters of the sacred pool, we by faith are washed, not for the putting away of the filth of the flesh, as it is written, but as it were washing away a sort of defilement and uncleanness of the eyes of the understanding, in order that for the future, being purified, we may be able in pureness to behold the Divine beauty.

As therefore we believe the Body of Christ to be life-giving, since it is the temple and abode of the Word of the Living God, possessing all His energy, so we declare it to be also a Patron of light; for it is the Body of Him Who is by nature the True Light.

And as, when He raised from death the only son of the widow, He was not satisfied with merely commanding and saying: Young man, I say unto thee, Arise; although accustomed to accomplish all things, whatsoever He wished, by a word; but also touched the bier with His hand, showing that even His Body possesses a life-giving power.

So in this case, also, He anoints with His spittle, teaching that His Body is also a Patron of light, even by so slight a touch. For it is the Body of the True Light, as we said above.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on John, book 6 [on John 9].

 

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