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.

Anastasius of Sinai: “Forgive Us Our Debts as We Forgive Our Debtors” Wednesday, Mar 26 2014 

Anastasios-of-SinaiForgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors (St. Matthew 6:12).

What are you saying, O man? …

You remember wrongs which you brother has done to you, while you sharpen a knife to use against him, devise mischief against him, and bear malicious poison in your heart, and yet you cry out to God: Forgive me my debts, even as I, too, have forgiven my debtor?

Have you come to…receive Grace, or to draw down His wrath upon yourself? To gain forgiveness of sins, or to add to your sins? To obtain salvation or punishment?

Do you not see that we give each other the kiss of peace at that fearful hour precisely in order that, having rejected every bond of iniquity (Isaiah 58:6) and hard-heartedness, we might draw near to the Master with a pure heart? What are you doing, O man?

The six-winged Angels are ministering and covering the mystical Table, the Cherubim are standing around and exclaiming the Thrice-Holy Hymn with clear voices, the Seraphim are bowing their heads with reverence, the Hierarch is propitiating God on your behalf—all of them concentrating on the proceedings with fear and trembling.

The Lamb of God is being sacrificed, the Holy Spirit is descending from on high, the Angels are running about all the people unseen as they note down and register the souls of the Faithful.

Do you not shudder at the disdain that you show and at the kiss of Judas that you give to your brother, concealing in your heart the recollection of wrongs committed many years ago and the pernicious venom of the serpent against your brother?

How can you not shudder and fall down when you say to Him Who knows the secrets of the heart: Forgive me, even as I, too, have forgiven my brother?

In what way does such a prayer differ from a curse? Why, in saying this, you contradict yourself: If I pardon, pardon me; if I forgive, forgive me; if I show sympathy, show sympathy to me;

if I harbor a grudge against my fellow-servant, harbor one against me; if I am angry, be angry with me; with what measure I measure, let it be measured to me; if I forgive with hypocrisy, may I be shown mercy with hypocrisy.

I shall pronounce the verdict against myself, O Master. For I have heard Thy fearful voice, which says: For with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again (St. Matthew 7:2); and: If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you (St. Matthew 6:15).

Convinced by the assertion of these unerring words of Thine, I have pardoned and forgiven those who have sinned against me. Therefore, O Master, pardon me, just as I, too, have pardoned my fellow-servants.

Anastasius of Sinai (7th Century): A Homily on the Holy Eucharist and on Not Judging Others or Remembering Wrongs, PG 89, 825A-849C @ OCIC.

Gregory Palamas: “Two Men Went Up Into the Temple to Pray” Wednesday, Feb 12 2014 

Gregory_PalamasOn Luke 18:9-14 (the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee).

The Publican, as a publican, dwells in the depths of sin.

All he has in common with those who live virtuously is one short utterance, but he finds relief, is lifted up and rises above every evil.

He is numbered with the company of the righteous, justified by the impartial Judge Himself.

If the Pharisee is condemned by his speech, it is because, as a Pharisee, he thinks himself somebody, although he is not really righteous, and utters many arrogant words which provoke God’s anger with their every syllable.

Why does humility lead up to the heights of righteousness, whereas self-conceit leads down to the depths of sin?

Because anybody who thinks he is something great, even before God, is rightly abandoned by God, as one who thinks that he does not need His help.

Anybody who despises himself, on the other hand, and relies on mercy from above, wins God’s sympathy, help and grace. As it says, “The Lord resisteth the proud: but he giveth grace unto the lowly” (Prov. 3:34 LXX).

The Lord demonstrates this in a parable, saying. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican” (Luke 18:10).

Wanting to set clearly before us the gain that comes from humility and the loss from pride, he divided into two groups all who went to the Temple, or, rather, those who went up into the Temple, who are the ones who go there to pray.

This is the nature of prayer, it brings a man up from the earth into heaven and, rising above every heavenly name, height and honor, sets him before the God Who is over all (cf. Rom. 9:5).

The ancient Temple was set in a high place, on a hill above the city. Once when a deadly epidemic was destroying Jerusalem, David saw the Angel of Death on this hill, stretching out his sword against the city.

He went up there and built an altar to the Lord, on which he offered a sacrifice to God, and the destruction ceased (2 Sam. 24:15-25).

All these things are an image of the saving ascent of the spirit during holy prayer and of the forgiveness it brings – for these things all foreshadowed our salvation.

They can also be an image of this holy church of ours, which is indeed set in a high place, in another angelic country above the world, where the great, bloodless sacrifice, acceptable to God, is offered for the forgiveness of the whole world, the destruction of death and abundance of eternal life.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily on the Publican and the Pharisee, 2-4, from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009); full text @ Discerning Thoughts.

Augustine of Hippo: Jesus Brings to Light Things Hidden in Darkness and Makes Plain the Secrets of the Heart Friday, Nov 29 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaAnd we possess a more certain prophetic word to which you do well to attend, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (1 Peter 2:19).

When our Lord Jesus Christ comes and, as the apostle Paul says, brings to light things hidden in darkness and makes plain the secrets of the heart, so that everyone may receive his commendation from God, then lamps will no longer be needed.

When that day is at hand, the prophet will not be read to us, the book of the Apostle will not be opened, we shall not require the testimony of John, we shall have no need of the Gospel itself.

Therefore all Scriptures will be taken away from us, those Scriptures which in the night of this world burned like lamps so that we might not remain in darkness.

When all these things are removed as no longer necessary for our illumination, and when the men of God by whom they were ministered to us shall themselves together with us behold the true and dear light without such aids, what shall we see?

With what shall our minds be nourished? What will give joy to our gaze? Where will that gladness come from, which eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, which has not even been conceived by the heart of man? What shall we see?

I implore you to love with me and, by believing, to run with me; let us long for our heavenly country, let us sigh for our heavenly home, let us truly feel that here we are strangers.

What shall we then see? Let the gospel tell us: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. You will come to the fountain, with whose dew you have already been sprinkled.

Instead of the ray of light which was sent through slanting and winding ways into the heart of your darkness, you will see the light itself in all its purity and brightness. It is to see and experience this light that you are now being cleansed.

Dearly beloved, John himself says, we are the sons of God, and it has not yet been disclosed what we shall be; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

I feel that your spirits are being raised up with mine to the heavens above; but the body which is corruptible weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind.

I am about to lay aside this book, and you are soon going away, each to his own business. It has been good for us to share the common light, good to have enjoyed ourselves, good to have been glad together. When we part from one another, let us not depart from him.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Commentary on the Gospel of John, Tract. 35, 8-9 (CCL 36, 321-323) from the Roman Office of Readings for Tuesday in the 34th week in Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

Elder Sophrony: Every Divine Liturgy is a Theophany Saturday, Sep 21 2013 

SophronyWe Orthodox live Christ within the Divine Liturgy, or rather Christ lives within us during the Divine Liturgy.

The Divine Liturgy is a work of God. We say: “Time is a creation of the Lord”. Among other things it means now is the time for God to act.

Christ liturgizes, we live with Christ. The Divine Liturgy is the way we know God and the way God becomes known to us.

Christ celebrated the Divine Liturgy once and this passed into eternity.

His divinized human nature came to the Divine Liturgy. We know Christ specifically in the Divine Liturgy.

The Divine Liturgy we celebrate is the same Divine Liturgy which was done by Christ on Great Thursday in the Mystical Supper. The 14th through the 16th chapters of the Gospel according to John is one Divine Liturgy.

So in the Divine Liturgy we understand Holy Scripture. The early Church lived without a New Testament, but not without the Divine Liturgy. The first records, the written hymns, exist in the Divine Liturgy.

In the Divine Liturgy we live Christ and understand His word.

As Christ cleansed His Disciples with his word and said to them: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3) and He washed the feet of His Disciples with water, during the Sacred Washing, so also in the first section of the Divine Liturgy He cleanses us that we might attend later His Table of love.

The purpose of the Divine Liturgy is to convey Christ to us. The Divine Liturgy teaches us an ethos, the ethos of humility. As Christ sacrificed Himself, so also should we sacrifice ourselves. The type of the Divine Liturgy is the type of impoverishment for us.

In the Divine Liturgy we try to be humbled, because we have the sense that there is the humble God. Every Divine Liturgy is a Theophany.

The Body of Christ appears. Every member of the Church is an icon of the Kingdom of God. After the Divine Liturgy we must continue to iconify the Kingdom of God, keeping His commandments.

The glory of Christ is to bear fruit in every member His fruit. This explains His word: “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit” (John 15:8).

Elder Sophrony (1896-1993; Orthodox): Translation by John Sanidopoulos @ Mystagogy from I Knew A Man In Christ: The Life and Times of Elder Sophrony, the Hesychast and Theologian (Οίδα άνθρωπον εν Χριστώ: Βίος και πολιτεία του Γέροντος Σωφρονίου του ησυχαστού και θεολόγου) by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou.

Andrew of Crete: The great mystery Wednesday, Jul 10 2013 

Andrewofcreteτο μεγα μυστηριον.

O the mystery, passing wonder,
When, reclining at the board,
“Eat,” Thou saidst to thy disciples,
“That True Bread with quickening stored:
Drink in faith the healing chalice
From a dying God outpoured.”

Then the glorious upper chamber
A celestial tent was made,
When the bloodless rite was offered,
And the soul’s true service paid,
And the table of the feasters
As an altar stood displayed.

Christ is now our mighty Pascha,
Eaten for our mystic bread:
Take we of his broken body,
Drink we of the blood he shed,
As a lamb led out to slaughter,
And for this world offerèd.

To the Twelve spake Truth eternal,
To the branches spake the Vine:
“Never more from this day forward
Shall I taste again this wine,
Till I drink it in the kingdom
Of my Father, and with mine.”

Thou hast stretched those hands for silver
That had held the immortal food;
With those lips that late had tasted
Of the body and the blood,
Thou hast given the kiss, O Judas;
Thou hast heard the woe bestowed.

Christ to all the world gives banquet
On that most celestial meat:
Him, albeit with lips all earthly,
Yet with holy hearts we greet:
Him, the sacrificial Pascha,
Priest and Victim all complete.

Andrew of Crete (c.650-740[?]): Stichera for Great Thursday, translated by John Mason Neale (1818-1866) in Hymns of the Eastern Church.

Ignatius Brianchaninov: The heavenly Father’s infinite and unspeakable mercy for repentant sinners Sunday, Mar 3 2013 

Ignatius_BrianchaninovWe learn from the Gospel parable [the story of the prodigal son] that for successful and fruitful repentance, a man needs to provide on his part: seeing his own sin, recognizing it, repenting of it, and confession of it.

God sees a person who has made this pledge in heart while he is yet a long way off; He sees him and runs to meet him, embraces and kisses him with His grace.

No sooner had the penitent pronounced his confession of his sin than the merciful Lord commanded the slaves—the servants of the altar and the holy Angels—to clothe him in bright garments of purity;

to place his ring upon his finger as a testimony of his renewed union with the Church both on earth and in heaven;

and to place shoes upon his feet, so that his actions would be protected from spiritual thorns by steadfast ordinances, for that is the meaning of the shoes—Christ’s commandments.

To complete the action of love, a feast of love is held for the returned son, for which a fatted calf is killed.

This feast signifies the Church feast to which the sinner is invited once he has made his peace with God—the spiritual, incorruptible food and drink—Christ—promised long ago to mankind, prepared through the unspeakable mercy of God for fallen man from the very moment of his fall.

[…] What more consoling news could there be for a sinner who stands trembling before the doors of repentance than this news about the Heavenly Father’s infinite and unspeakable mercy for repentant sinners?

This mercy is so great that it amazed the very Angels—the first-born sons of the Heavenly Father, who had never transgressed a single commandment of His.

Their bright, lofty minds could not fathom the unfathomable mercy of God for fallen mankind.

They needed a revelation from on High regarding this subject, and they learned from this revelation that it is meet for them to make merry, and be glad, for their lesser brother—the human race—was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found, through the Redeemer.

There is joy in the presence of the angels of God even over one sinner that repenteth.

[…] May our rejoicing be endless! May it be joined to the rejoicing of the holy Angels of God! May the joy of Angels and men be fulfilled and made perfect through their fulfilling the will of the Heavenly Father!

For, it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones—human beings, deprecated and humiliated by sin—should perish (Mt. 18:14).

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Instruction on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, on Repentance, translated by Nun Cornelia Rees @ Pravoslavie

Germanus of Constantinople: Christ Made Us Communicants of His Death, His Resurrection, and His Glory Monday, Feb 4 2013 

Germanus of ConstantinoplePraying toward the East is handed down by the holy apostles, as is everything else.

This is because the comprehensible sun of righteousness, Christ our God, appeared on earth in those regions of the East where the perceptible sun rises, as the prophet says:

“Orient is his name” (Zech 6:12); and “Bow before the Lord, all the earth, who ascended to the heaven of heavens in the East” (cf Ps 67:34);

and “Let us prostrate ourselves in the place where His feet stood” (cf Ps 67:34); and again, “The feet of the Lord shall stand upon the Mount of Olives in the East” (Zech 14:4).

The prophets also speak thus because of our fervent hope of receiving again the paradise in Eden, as well as the dawn of the brightness of the second coming of Christ our God, from the East.

[…] The priestly stole is the robe of Aaron, which served to cover him down to his feet. It was fiery in appearance, as the prophet says:

“Who makes the winds your messengers and flames of fire your servants” (Ps 103:4); and again…, “Why is your clothing all red, like the garments of one who treads grapes in the vat?” (Is 63:2).

By this the prophet indicates the stole of the flesh of Christ dyed by His undefiled blood on the cross. Or, again, since Christ wore a crimson cloak at His passion, it indicates that the high priests are servants of such a High Priest.

[…] The bread of offering, that is to say, which is purified, signifies the superabundant riches of the goodness of our God, because the Son of God became man and gave Himself as an offering and oblation in ransom and atonement for the life and salvation of the world.

He assumed the entirety of human nature, except for sin. He offered Himself as first-fruits and chosen whole burnt-offering to the God and Father on behalf of the human race, as is written: “I am the bread which came down from heaven,” and “He who eats this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:51).

About this the Prophet Jeremiah says: “Come, let us place a stake in his bread” (11:19 LXX), pointing to the wood of the cross nailed to His body.

[…] The bread and the chalice are really and truly the memorial of the mystical supper at which Christ, having taken the bread and wine, said: “Take, eat, and drink, all of you, this is my body and blood.”

This shows that He made us communicants of His death, His resurrection, and His glory.

Germanus of Constantinople (c.634–c.733): On the Divine Liturgy, 11,14,20,22 (Tr based in part on: J. Meyendorff, St. Germanus of Constantinople on the Divine Liturgy, Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984: 56-106. ) @ Fr Luke Dysinger, OSB.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proclus of Constantinople: O Awesome and Wondrous Mystery! Wednesday, Dec 26 2012 

Proclus_of_ConstantinopleAmong the things celebrated at yesterday’s feast, was there anything which was not miraculous and wondrous, or awesome and glorious?

What was the marvel of yesterday’s feast day?

But first, I beg you, listen with forbearance, for a tongue of clay is trying to convey the mysteries of God.

What, then, was the marvel of yesterday’s feast?

The inexplicable mystery of divinity and humanity; a birth pang without pain; an enfleshment giving form to the one without shape;

an inconceivable birth; a beginning, but not the beginning of the One who was born.

For even though it was the beginning of His humanity, His divinity remained beginningless;

one form assumed another form, but the Trinity did not increase to a quaternity;

for this was a union of two natures, the birth of one Son, and the unconfused union of the Word with the flesh.

He who was born according to the flesh is God from the Father, and man from me. O awesome and wondrous mystery!

Who ever saw a king take on the appearance of a condemned man? Or when did the eye ever take in the sight of the entire sun?

And when was human flesh ever essentially united without change to God, if not yesterday?

When the Virgin was heavy with child, when the Word entered in through her sense of hearing,

when the Holy Spirit fashioned the living temple of the body,

when the Most High emptied Himself into the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7),

when the womb of a virgin contained within herself the mystery of the divine dispensation.

O womb wider than the heavens! O birth that bears salvation! O womb of clay and bridal chamber of the Creator!

O birth, a ransom for the sin of the world! O mystery, the manner of which I am unable to explain!

O birth, not the beginning of God’s existence, not a change of nature, nor a diminishing of power, neither a separation from the beginningless progenitor, but the essential union of God and flesh;

the blessing of birth; the advent of God; the wonder hidden by God from the ages; the indivisible mystery of divine and human natures;

the abolition of the curse; the overturning of the sentence which stood against us; the birth of the one and only Son,

His beginningless existence, His birth in the flesh from the Virgin and veneration by all creation, joyfully announced and freely given to all!

To Him be glory and dominion, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Proclus of Constantinople (d. 446 or 447): On the Incarnation of the Lord; longer extract @ Mystagogy

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