John Damascene: The Tree of Knowledge Friday, Feb 21 2014 

John-of-Damascus_01Now when God was about to fashion man out of the visible and invisible creation in His own image and likeness to reign as king and ruler over all the earth and all that it contains, He first made for him, so to speak, a kingdom in which he should live a life of happiness and prosperity.

And this is the divine paradise, planted in Eden by the hands of God, a very storehouse of joy and gladness of heart (for “Eden” means luxuriousness).

[…] It is flooded with light, and in sensuous freshness and beauty it transcends imagination: in truth the place is divine, a meet home for him who was created in God’s image: no creature lacking reason made its dwelling there but man alone, the work of God’s own hands.

In its midst God planted the tree of life and the tree of knowledge (Gen. 2:9).

The tree of knowledge was for trial, and proof, and exercise of man’s obedience and disobedience: and hence it was named the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or else it was because to those who partook of it was given power to know their own nature.

Now this is a good thing for those who are mature, but an evil thing for the immature and those whose appetites are too strong, being like solid food to tender babes still in need of milk.

For our Creator, God, did not intend us to be burdened with care and troubled about many things, nor to take thought about, or make provision for, our own life.

But this at length was Adam’s fate: for he tasted and knew that he was naked and made a girdle round about him: for he took fig-leaves and girded himself about. But before they took of the fruit, They were both naked, Adam and Eve, and were not ashamed (Gen. 2:25).

For God meant that we should be thus free from passion, and this is indeed the mark of a mind absolutely void of passion.

Yea, He meant us further to be free from care and to have but one work to perform, to sing as do the angels, without ceasing or intermission, the praises of the Creator, and to delight in contemplation of Him and to cast all our care on Him.

[…] So to Martha Christ said, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her (Luke 10:41, 42), meaning, clearly, sitting at His feet and listening to His words.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 2, 11.

Francis de Sales: The Magnet of our Heart Must Continually Point to the Love of God Tuesday, Dec 17 2013 

Franz_von_SalesThe order of God’s Providence maintains a perpetual vicissitude in the material being of this world.

[…] No two days are ever exactly alike. Some are foggy, rainy, some dry or windy; and this endless variety greatly enhances the beauty of the universe.

And even so precisely is it with man (who, as ancient writers have said, is a miniature of the world), for he is never long in any one condition, and his life on earth flows by like the mighty waters, heaving and tossing with an endless variety of motion;

one  raising him on high with hope, another plunging him low in fear; now turning him to the right with rejoicing, then driving him to the left with sorrows; and no single day, no, not even one hour, is entirely the same as any other of his life.

All this is a very weighty warning, and teaches us to aim at an abiding and unchangeable evenness of mind amid so great an uncertainty of events; and, while all around is changing, we must seek to remain immoveable, ever looking to, reaching after and desiring our God.

Let the ship take what tack you will, let her course be eastward or westward, northern or southern, let any wind whatsoever fill her sails, but meanwhile her compass will never cease to point to its one unchanging lodestar.

Let all around us be overthrown, nay more, all within us; I mean let our soul be sad or glad, in bitterness or joy, at peace or troubled, dry and parched, or soft and fruitful, let the sun scorch, or the dew refresh it;

but all the while the magnet of our heart and mind, our superior will, which is our moral compass, must continually point to the Love of God our Creator, our Saviour, our only Sovereign Good.

“Whether we live, we live unto the Lord, or whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord’s. Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ?”

Nay, verily, nothing can ever separate us from that Love;—neither tribulation nor distress, neither death nor life, neither present suffering nor fear of ills to come; neither the deceits of evil spirits nor the heights of satisfaction, nor the depths of sorrow; neither tenderness nor desolation, shall be able to separate us from that Holy Love, whose foundation is in Christ Jesus.

Such a fixed resolution never to forsake God, or let go of His Precious Love, serves as ballast to our souls, and will keep them stedfast amid the endless changes and chances of this our natural life.

Francis de Sales (1567-1622): Introduction to the Devout Life, 4, 13.

Gregory Nazianzen: God Became Man to Raise Our Flesh, Recover His Image, Remodel Man, and Make Us All One in Christ Wednesday, Nov 20 2013 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenThis is my fear, this day and night accompanies me, and will not let me breathe: on one side the glory, on the other the place of correction.

The former I long for till I can say, “My soul fainteth for Thy salvation” (Ps. 119:81). From the latter I shrink back shuddering.

Yet I am not afraid that this body of mine should utterly perish in dissolution and corruption.

Rather, I am afraid that the glorious creature of God (for glorious it is if upright, just as it is dishonourable if sinful) in which is reason, morality, and hope, should be condemned to the same dishonour as the brutes, and be no better after death….

Would that I might mortify my members that are upon the earth (Col. 3:5).

Would that I might spend my all upon the spirit, walking in the way that is narrow and trodden by few, not that which is broad and easy (Matt. 7:13).

For glorious and great are its consequences, and our hope is greater than our desert.

What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? (Ps. 8:5).  What is this new mystery which concerns me?

I am small and great, lowly and exalted, mortal and immortal, earthly and heavenly.

I share one condition with the lower world, the other with God; one with the flesh, the other with the spirit.

I must be buried with Christ, arise with Christ, be joint heir with Christ, become the son of God, yea, God Himself.

See whither our argument has carried us in its progress.  I almost own myself indebted to the disaster which has inspired me with such thoughts, and made me more enamoured of my departure hence.

This is the purpose of the great mystery for us.

This is the purpose for us of God, Who for us was made man and became poor (2 Cor. 8:9), to raise our flesh and recover His image (Luke 15:9; 1 Cor. 15:49), and remodel man (Col. 3:10).

He did this so that we might all be made one in Christ (Gal. 3:28), who was perfectly made in all of us all that He Himself is (1 Cor. 15:28);

that we might no longer be male and female, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free (Col. 3:1), which are badges of the flesh, but might bear in ourselves only the stamp of God.

By Him and for Him we were made (Rom. 11:36), and have so far received our form and model from Him, that we are recognized by it alone.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 7, 22-23 (Panegyric on His Brother S. Cæsarius).

Gregory of Nyssa: Why Man was Brought into the World Last, After the Creation Monday, Aug 12 2013 

Gregory_of_NyssaNot as yet had that great and precious thing, man, come into the world of being; it was not to be looked for that the ruler should appear before the subjects of his rule.

But when his dominion was prepared, the next step was that the king should be manifested.

When, then, the Maker of all had prepared beforehand, as it were, a royal lodging for the future king (and this was the land, and islands, and sea, and the heaven arching like a roof over them),

—and when all kinds of wealth had been stored in this palace (and by wealth I mean the whole creation, all that is in plants and trees, and all that has sense, and breath, and life,

—and, if we are to account materials also as wealth, all that for their beauty are reckoned precious in the eyes of men, as gold and silver, and the substances of your jewels which men delight in,

—having concealed, I say, abundance of all these also in the bosom of the earth as in a royal treasure-house,

—he thus manifests man in the world, to be the beholder of some of the wonders therein, and the lord of others:

that by his enjoyment he might have knowledge of the Giver, and by the beauty and majesty of the things he saw might trace out that power of the Maker which is beyond speech and language.

For this reason man was brought into the world last after the creation, not being rejected to the last as worthless, but as one whom it behoved to be king over his subjects at his very birth.

And as a good host does not bring his guest to his house before the preparation of his feast, but, when he has made all due preparation, and decked with their proper adornments his house, his couches, his table, brings his guest home when things suitable for his refreshment are in readiness,

—in the same manner the rich and munificent Entertainer of our nature, when He had decked the habitation with beauties of every kind, and prepared this great and varied banquet,

—then introduced man, assigning to him as his task not the acquiring of what was not there, but the enjoyment of the things which were there; and for this reason He gives him as foundations the instincts of a twofold organization, blending the Divine with the earthy:

that by means of both he may be naturally and properly disposed to each enjoyment, enjoying God by means of his more divine nature, and the good things of earth by the sense that is akin to them.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): On the Making of Man, 2, 1-2.

Basil the Great: The Glory of Man is to Seek for the Glory of the Lord of Glory Saturday, Aug 10 2013 

St-Basil-the-GreatNo truly prudent man will think himself great because of his own wisdom…, but will attend…to the excellent counsel of…the prophet Jeremias:

Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, and let not the strong man glory in his strength, and let not the rich man glory in his riches (Jer. 9:23).

But in what shall man glory: and in what is man great? Let him that glorieth glory in this, he said, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord. 

This is the grandeur of man, this his glory and greatness, truly to know Him Who is great, to cling to Him, and to seek for the glory of the Lord of glory.

For the Apostle says to us: He that glorieth, may glory in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31) where he declares: But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and justice, and  sanctification, and redemption: That, as it was written: He that glorieth, may glory in the Lord.

This is complete and perfect glorying in God, when a man is uplifted, not because of his own justice, but because he knows he is empty of true glory, and made just only through his faith in Christ.

In this Paul gloried, that he thought nothing of his own justice; that he sought that justice alone which comes through Christ, which is from God, justice in faith (Phil. 3:9); and that he might know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the sharing of His sufferings, and be made like Him in His death, if by any means he might himself attain to the resurrection which is from the dead.

It is here that the whole top-loftiness of arrogance falls down.  Nothing is left to you to glory in, O man; whose true glorying and whose hope is in mortifying yourself in all things, and in seeking for that future life in Christ, of which we have already a foretaste when we live wholly in the love and in the grace of God.

And it is God who worketh in you both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will (Phil. 2:13).  And God has made known to us His own wisdom, through His Spirit, for our glory (1 Cor. 2:7,10).

And in all our efforts it is God who gives us strength.  I have laboured more abundantly than all they, says Paul, yet not I, but the grace of God with me (1 Cor. 15:10).  And God has delivered us from danger, and beyond all human expectation.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 28, 3 @ Lectionary Central.

Gregory the Great: God Transcends All Things by the Incomprehensibility of His Spiritual Nature Thursday, May 30 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistHe is higher than heaven, what canst thou do?  Deeper than hell, what canst thou know?  His measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea (Job 11:8-9).

He is ‘higher than heaven,’ in that He transcends all things by the Incomprehensibility of His spiritual Nature.

He is ‘deeper than hell,’ in that in transcending He sustains beneath.

He is ‘longer than the earth,’ in that He exceeds the measure of created being by the everlasting continuance of His Eternity.

He is ‘broader than the sea,’ in that He so possesses the waves of temporal things in ruling them, that in confining He encompasses them beneath the every way prevailing presence of His Power.

[…] He is ‘higher than the heaven,’ in that the very elect spirits themselves do not perfectly penetrate the vision of His infinite loftiness?

He is ‘deeper than hell,’ in that He judges and condemns the craft of evil spirits with far more searching exactness than they had ever thought.

He is ‘longer than the earth,’ in that He surpasses our long-suffering by the patience of Divine long-suffering, which both bears with us in our sins, and welcomes us when we are turned from them to the rewards of His recompensing.

He is ‘wider than the sea,’ in that he everywhere enters into the doings of sinners by the presence of His retributive power, so that even when He is not seen present by His appearance, He is felt present by His judgment.

Yet all the particulars may be referred to man alone, so that he is himself ‘heaven,’ when now in desire he is attached to things above;

himself ‘hell,’ when he lies grovelling in things below, confounded by the mists of his temptations;

himself ‘earth,’ in that he is made to abound in good works through the fertility of a stedfast hope;

himself ‘the sea,’ for that on some occasions he is shaken with alarm, and agitated by the breath of his feebleness.

But God is ‘higher than heaven,’ in that we are subdued by the mightiness of His power, even when we are lifted above our own selves.

He is ‘deeper than hell,’ in that He goes deeper in judging than the very human mind looks into its own self in the midst of temptations.

He is ‘longer than the earth,’ in that those fruits of our life which He gives at the end, our very hope at the present time comprehends not at all.

He is ‘wider than the sea,’ in that the human mind being tossed to and fro throws out many fancies concerning the things that are coming, but when it now begins to see the things that it had made estimate of, it owns itself to have been too stinted in its reckoning.

Therefore He is made ‘higher than heaven,’ since our contemplation itself fails toward Him.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Moralia on Job, 10, 14-15 (on Job 11:8-9) @ Lectionary Central.

Gregory Nazianzen: The Word Partakes of My Flesh to Save the Image and to Make the Flesh Immortal (1) Thursday, Dec 6 2012 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenThis movement of self-contemplation alone could not satisfy Goodness.

Good must be poured out and go forth beyond Itself to multiply the objects of Its beneficence, for this was essential to the highest Goodness.

So He first conceived the Heavenly and Angelic Powers.  And this conception was a work fulfilled by His Word, and perfected by His Spirit.

[…] Thus…He gave being to the world of thought…. Then, when His first creation was in good order, He conceives a second world, material and visible.

[…] This was to show that He could call into being, not only a Nature akin to Himself, but also one altogether alien to Himself.

[…] Mind, then, and sense, thus distinguished from each other, had remained within their own boundaries, and bore in themselves the magnificence of the Creator-Word, silent praisers and thrilling heralds of His mighty work.

Not yet was there any mingling of both, nor any mixtures of these opposites, tokens of a greater Wisdom and Generosity in the creation of natures; nor as yet were the whole riches of Goodness made known.

Now the Creator-Word, determining…to produce a single living being out of both – the visible and the invisible creations, I mean – fashions Man.

Taking a body from already existing matter, He places in it a Breath taken from Himself which the Word knew to be an intelligent soul and the image of God, as a sort of second world.

He placed him, great in littleness on the earth; a new Angel, a mingled worshipper, fully initiated into the visible creation, but only partially into the intellectual.

Man was king of all upon earth, but subject to the King above; earthly and heavenly; temporal and yet immortal; visible and yet intellectual; half-way between greatness and lowliness.

In one person he combined spirit and flesh; spirit, because of the favour bestowed on him; flesh, because of the height to which he had been raised;

the one that he might continue to live and praise his Benefactor, the other that he might suffer, and by suffering be put in remembrance, and corrected if he became proud of his greatness:

a living creature trained here, and then moved elsewhere; and, to complete the mystery, deified by its inclination to God.

For to this, I think, tends that Light of Truth which we here possess but in measure, that we should both see and experience the Splendour of God, which is worthy of Him Who made us, and will remake us again after a loftier fashion.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 38, 9-11.

Gregory of Nyssa: Archetypal Beauty, the Image of God, Freedom of the Will, and the Sin of Adam Sunday, Nov 18 2012 

This reasoning and intelligent creature, man, was at once the work and the likeness of the Divine and Imperishable Mind.

For so, in the story of the Creation, it is written of him that “God made man in His image”.

This creature, I say, did not in the course of his first production have united to the very essence of his nature the liability to passion and to death.

Indeed, the truth about the image could never have been maintained if the beauty reflected in that image had been in the slightest degree opposed to the Archetypal Beauty.

Passion was introduced afterwards, subsequent to man’s first organization; and it happened in this way.

Being the image and the likeness, as has been said, of the Power which rules all things, man kept also in the matter of a Free-Will this likeness to Him whose Will is over all.

He was enslaved to no outward necessity whatever; his feeling towards that which pleased him depended only on his own private judgment.

He was free to choose whatever he liked; and so he was a free agent, though circumvented with cunning, when he drew upon himself that disaster which now overwhelms humanity.

He became himself the discoverer of evil, but he did not therein discover what God had made.

For God did not make death.

Man became, in fact, himself the fabricator, to a certain extent, and the craftsman of evil.

All who have the faculty of sight may enjoy equally the sunlight; and any one can if he likes put this enjoyment from him by shutting his eyes.

In that case it is not that the sun retires and produces that darkness, but the man himself puts a barrier between his eye and the sunshine.

The faculty of vision cannot indeed, even in the closing of the eyes, remain inactive, and so this operative sight necessarily becomes an operative darkness rising up in the man from his own free act in ceasing to see.

Again, a man in building a house for himself may omit to make in it any way of entrance for the light.

He will necessarily be in darkness, though he cuts himself off from the light voluntarily.

So the first man on the earth, or rather he who generated evil in man, had for choice the Good and the Beautiful lying all around him in the very nature of things.

Yet he wilfully cut out a new way for himself against this nature, and in the act of turning away from virtue, which was his own free act, he created the usage of evil.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): On Virginity, 12.

Origen Adamantius: Transformed in the Likeness of God Tuesday, Oct 16 2012 

It is not said that ‘God made man in his image or likeness’, but that he made him in the image of God.

Sowhat is the other, this distinct image of God, in whose likeness man is made, except our Saviour who is the firstborn of all creatures?

[…] In the likeness of this image, then, was man made and for that very reason our Saviour, who is himself the image of God, was moved by pity for man.

For man had been made in his likeness; and yet he was seen to put off that likeness and put on instead the image of evil.

And so, moved by pity, our Saviour came to him, assuming the likeness of man…, taking the form of a servant, made in the likeness of man; and man he was found to be, through and through, as he humbled himself even unto death.

We who come to him, then, and strive to be made sharers in his image as we can understand it, are by our endeavour and our progress renewed inwardly each day in the image of him who made us; so that we may be made like the body of his radiance, his glory, each of us according to his capacity.

The Apostles remade themselves in his likeness; so much so, that he said of them: I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. For he had prayed to the Father for his disciples, that the original likeness might be restored to them, when he said: Father, grant that just as you and I are one, so they also may be one in us.

Let us therefore contemplate this likeness of God, that we may be remade on that pattern. For if man, having been made in God’s image, can be made, against his nature, to resemble the devil merely by looking on him, how much more, by looking on the likeness of God, in whose image he is made, will he receive through the incarnate Word both the virtue and the likeness, already given him by his nature.

Let no one despair on seeing that he is more like the devil than God: for he is yet able to recover even so his likeness to God. Our Saviour came to call, not the just, but sinners to repentance. Matthew was a publican and indeed resembled the devil; but by coming as he did to the incarnate image of God, our Lord and Saviour, and following him, he has been transformed in the likeness of God.

Origen Adamantius (c.185-254): Homilies on Genesis 1,13, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Thursday of Week 28 of Ordinary Time, Year 2.

Irenaeus of Lyons: The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the Restoration of the Image of God Thursday, Apr 26 2012 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonBy the hands of the Father, that is, by the Son and the Holy Spirit, man, and not merely a part of man, was made in the likeness of God.

Now the soul and the spirit are certainly a part of the man, but certainly not the man; for the perfect man consists in the commingling and the union of the soul receiving the spirit of the Father, and the admixture of that fleshly nature which was moulded after the image of God.

[…] When the spirit here blended with the soul is united to God’s handiwork, the man is rendered spiritual and perfect because of the outpouring of the Spirit, and this is he who was made in the image and likeness of God.

But if the Spirit be wanting to the soul, he who is such is indeed of an animal nature, and being left carnal, shall be an imperfect being, possessing indeed the image of God in his formation, but not receiving the similitude through the Spirit; and thus is this being imperfect.

[…] That flesh which has been moulded is not a perfect man in itself, but the body of a man, and part of a man. Neither is the soul itself, considered apart by itself, the man; but it is the soul of a man, and part of a man. Neither is the spirit a man, for it is called the spirit, and not a man; but the commingling and union of all these constitutes the perfect man.

And for this cause does the apostle, explaining himself, make it clear that the saved man is a complete man as well as a spiritual man; saying thus in the first Epistle to the Thessalonians: “Now the God of peace sanctify you perfect; and may your spirit, and soul, and body be preserved whole without complaint to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now what was his object in praying that these three — that is, soul, body, and spirit — might be preserved to the coming of the Lord, unless he was aware of the [future] reintegration and union of the three, and that they should be heirs of one and the same salvation? For this cause also he declares that those are “the perfect” who present unto the Lord the three component parts without offence.

Those, then, are the perfect who have had the Spirit of God remaining in them, and have preserved their souls and bodies blameless, holding fast the faith of God, that is, that faith which is directed towards God, and maintaining righteous dealings with respect to their neighbours.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses, 5, 6, 1.

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