Augustine of Hippo: God Promised Men Divinity, Mortals Immortality, Sinners Justification, Outcasts Glory Thursday, Dec 12 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaGod had a time for making his promises and a time for fulfilling them.

His time for making promises was from the days of the prophets until the coming of John the Baptist.

His time for fulfilling them was from then until the end of the world. God is faithful and he has put himself in our debt, not by receiving anything from us but by promising so much.

Nor was a promise sufficient for him; he even bound himself in writing, giving us as it were a pledge in his own hand.

He wanted us to see from Scripture, when the time for fulfilment came, how he was carrying out his promises one by one.

God promised us eternal salvation, everlasting bliss with the angels, an incorruptible inheritance, endless glory, the joyful vision of his face, his holy dwelling in heaven, and after the resurrection from the dead no further fear of dying.

This is what he holds out to us at the end as the goal of all our striving. When we reach it we shall ask for nothing more. But as to how we are to reach our final goal, he revealed this too by promises and prophecies.

God promised men divinity, mortals immortality, sinners justification, outcasts glory.

But because his promise that we who are mortal, corruptible, weak and of low estate, mere dust and ashes, were to be equal to the angels seemed incredible, God not only made a written covenant with us to win our faith, but he also gave us a mediator of his pledge.

This mediator was not a prince, an angel, or an archangel, but his only Son; through his own Son he meant both to show us and give us the way by which he would lead us to the promised goal.

He was not satisfied with sending his Son to show us the way. He made him the way itself. God’s only Son, then, was to come among us, take our human nature, and in this nature be born as a man.

He was to die, to rise again, to ascend into heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Father, and to fulfil his promises among the nations.

After that he was also to fulfil his promise to come again, to demand what he had previously requested, to separate those deserving his anger from those deserving his mercy, to give the wicked what he had threatened and the just what he had promised.

All this had to be prophesied, foretold, and impressed on us as an event in the future so that we should not be terrified by its happening unexpectedly, but wait for it with faith.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Commentary on Psalm 109, 1-3 (CSEL 40:1601-1603); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Thursday of the 2nd Week in Advent, Year 1.

Cyril of Alexandria: Prayer – Conversing with God as Sons with a Father Sunday, Oct 20 2013 

cyril_alexandriaOn Luke 18:1-8

For it is, I affirm, the duty of those who set apart their lives for His service, not to be sluggish in their prayers, nor again to consider it as a hard and laborious duty: but rather to rejoice, because of the freedom of access granted them by God; for He would have us converse with Him as sons with a father.

Is not this then a privilege worthy of being valued by us most highly? For suppose that some one of those possessed of great earthly power were easy of access to us, and were to permit us to converse with him with full license, should we not consider it as a reason for extraordinary rejoicing?

What possible doubt can there be of this? When therefore God permits us each one to offer our addresses unto Him for whatever we wish, and has set before those who fear Him an honour so truly great and worthy of their gaining, let all slothfulness cease that would lead men to an injurious silence therein;

and rather let us draw near with praises, and rejoicing that we have been commanded to converse with the Lord and God of all, having Christ as our Mediator, who with God the Father grants us the accomplishment of our supplications.

For the blessed Paul somewhere writes, “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.” And He somewhere Himself said to the holy apostles, “Hitherto you have asked nothing in My Name: ask, and it shall be given unto you.”

For He is our Mediator, our Expiation, our Comforter, and the Bestower of every request, and it is our duty therefore to “pray without ceasing,” according to the words of the blessed Paul, as well knowing, and being thoroughly assured, that He Whom we supplicate is able to accomplish all things.

“For let a man, it says, ask in faith, in nothing divided. For he who is divided is like a wave of the sea, troubled and blown about by the wind. Such a man should not think that he will receive anything of the Lord.”

For he that is divided is really guilty of mockery: for if you do not believe that He will incline unto you, and gladden you, and fulfil your request, do not draw near to Him at all, lest you be found an accuser of the Almighty, in that you foolishly art divided. We must avoid therefore so base a malady.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, Sermon 119.

Augustine of Hippo: Christ and the Church – Head and Body, Bridegroom and Bride Sunday, Aug 25 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaSometimes in the Scriptures Christ is presented as the Word equal to the Father.

Sometimes he is presented as the Mediator, since the Word became flesh to dwell amongst us, taking the form of a servant and becoming obedient unto death, even death on the cross.

Sometimes, however, he is presented in such a way that you are to understand the head and the body together, as when the Apostle expounds what was said about husband and wife in Genesis: they shall be two in one flesh.

Notice his exposition, for I don’t want to give the impression of saying something I made up myself: for they shall be two in one flesh. And he adds, this is a great sacrament.

Now just in case anyone should still think this is about a husband and wife according to the natural joining of the sexes and their bodily coming together, he goes on, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church.

And just as with bridegroom and bride, so also head and body, because the head of the woman is the man. So, whether I say head and body, or whether I say bridegroom and bride, you must understand the same thing.

And that’s why the same Apostle, while he was still Saul, heard the words, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?; because the body is joined to the head.

So present yourselves to such a head as a body worthy of him, to such a bridegroom as a worthy bride. To present himself, it says, with a glorious Church, without stain or wrinkle or any such thing.

This is the bride of Christ, without stain or wrinkle. Do you wish to have no stain? Do what is written, wash yourselves, be clean, remove the wicked schemes from your heart.

Do you wish to have no wrinkle? Stretch yourself on the cross. You see, you don’t only need to be washed, but also to be stretched, in order to be without stain or wrinkle; because by the washing sins are removed, while by the stretching a desire is created for the future life, which is what Christ was crucified for.

Listen to Paul himself, once he was washed: he has saved us by the washing of rebirth; and listen to him as he is stretched: forgetting what lies behind, and stretching forward to what lies ahead I press on towards the goal for the prize of God’s calling from above in Christ Jesus.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Sermon 341, 12-13; from The Works of Saint Augustine, a Translation for the 21st Century: Sermons 341-400 (III/10) (on the Liturgical Seasons), translated by Edmund Hill, O.P. and the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Cyril of Alexandria: “I Am in My Father, and You in Me, and I in You” Wednesday, May 1 2013 

cyril_alexandriaIn that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you (John 14:20).

After the creature [man]…had attained unto the propriety of its perfect nature by means of both soul and body…, then like a stamp of His own Nature the Creator impressed on it the Holy Spirit – the Breath of Life.

Thus the creature became moulded unto the archetypal Beauty, and completed after the image of Him that created it, enabled unto every form of excellence, by virtue of the Spirit given to dwell in it.

Having free will, and entrusted with the reins of its own purposes – for this also is an element in the image, forasmuch as God has power over His own purposes – the creature turned and has fallen.

God the Father both determined and took in hand to gather together once more in Christ the nature of man unto its ancient estate, and, willing it, He accomplished it.

[…] It was not otherwise possible for man, forasmuch as he was of a nature that was perishing, to escape death, save by recovering that ancient grace, and partaking once more in God.

For God holds all things together in being and preserves them in life through the Son in the Spirit.

Therefore He has become partaker of blood and flesh. He has become man, being by nature Life, and begotten of the Life that is by nature, of God the Father.

He is the Father’s Only-begotten Word, Who became man in order that, uniting Himself with the flesh that by the law of its own nature was perishing, He might bring it back unto His own Life and make it through Himself partaker of God the Father.

For He is Mediator between God and men, according as it is written, knit unto God the Father naturally as God and of Him, and again unto men as man; and withal having in Himself the Father and being Himself in the Father.

For He is the impress and effulgence of His Person, and not distinct from the Essence, whereof He is impress and wherefrom He proceeds as effulgence.

[…] And He wears our nature, remoulding it unto His own Life. And He is also Himself in us; for we have all been made partakers of Him, and have Him in ourselves through the Spirit.

Thus we have Both, being made partakers of the Divine Nature, and are entitled sons, in this way having in us also the Father Himself through the Son.

And Paul will testify hereof where he says: Because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St John’s Gospel, book 9 [on John 14:20].

Gregory the Great: The Scriptures Afford Warmth To Hearts Thursday, Jul 7 2011 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistMy dear brethren, I urge you to meditate seriously on the word of God, and not to think lightly of the writings which your Creator has bequeathed to us.

Beyond all doubt they afford warmth to hearts which would otherwise be numb with cold because of our sins.

When we read of the heroic deeds of our saintly forefathers, their holy example inspires us and gives us the courage to do whatever is right.

Are we trying to avoid sin and endure humbly even when we are injured by someone in our own family?

Let us remember Abel. Scripture says that his brother killed him, but we read nothing about Abel offering any resistance.

Are we striving to put God’s commands before our own imme­diate advantage? Let us think of Noah.

At the command of almighty God he put aside his own domestic concerns and spent a hundred years building the Ark.

Are we endeavouring to acquire the virtue of obedience? We should look at Abraham.

He left his home, kindred, and native land out of obedience to the command to go to a land which he was to receive as an inheritance, and he set out not knowing where he was going.

He was ready to kill the beloved heir he had received for the sake of an eternal inheritance; and because he did not hesitate to offer his only son to the Lord, he received the whole multitude of nations as his offspring.

Remember Joseph. When tempted by his master’s wife he was determined to preserve his chastity even at the risk of his life.

And so, since he knew how to rule his body well, he was made ruler of all Egypt.

Do we seek to acquire gentleness and patience? Let us call Moses to mind, the ruler of six hundred thousand armed men, as well as their women and children.

He is described as the most gentle person living on the whole face of the earth.

Do we long to rid ourselves of animosity and become large-­hearted and kind? Let us think of Samuel.

When the people who ousted him from the leadership asked him to pray to the Lord for them, he answered: Far be it from me to sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.

The holy man really thought he would be committing a sin if he did not show kindness and goodwill by praying for those whose opposition he had endured even to the point of being deposed by them.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Homilies on Ezekiel, 2.3.18-21 (CCL 142:250-3) from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Thursday of the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time, Year I.

Ambrose of Milan: You Fill both Morning and Evening with Joy Wednesday, Dec 1 2010 

See, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him.

[…] He wants now to test your zeal and devotion. In time of persecution he may take the initiative; where all is tranquil, he wants you to be ready and waiting for him.

Be on the watch before the sun is visible in the sky. Awake, sleeper, and rise from the dead, so that Christ may shine on you.

If you are vigilant you will receive Christ’s light before sunrise. Before daybreak he will shine into the depth of your heart.

Even as you say: My spirit watches for you in the night, Christ will make the light of morning illuminate your nocturnal meditation on the word of God.

As you meditate, light will dawn. Seeing the light – not of the day but of grace – you will exclaim: Your commandments are my light!

When day finds you meditating on God’s word and the pleasant task of prayer and psalmody delights your mind, you will once more say to the Lord Jesus: You fill both morning and evening with joy.

In obedience to their master Moses, the Jewish people have the sacred Scripture recited continuously, night and day, by elders appointed for this purpose.

[…] With the Jewish elders there is no worldly conversation: Scripture alone is their occupation; voice follows voice in turn so that the holy sound of God’s commandments knows no holiday.

How then can you, a Christian, with Christ as your master, take your sleep without fear of having it said to you: This people does not even honour me with its lips.

The Jewish people do so, but you do not. What a length of time you are sunk in sleep, in secular affairs, in the cares of this life, in things of earth!

At least divide your time between God and the world. When you cannot carry out the business of this world in public and are hindered from pursuing it by the darkness of night, give time to God, give yourself to prayer.

To keep yourself from dropping off to sleep, recite a psalm, cheat sleep with holy guile.

In the morning hurry off to church, offer the first fruits of your prayers, and after that, if the world and its needs call you, you will be able to say: My eyes are watchful in the morning, to meditate on your words.

Then you can attend to your affairs with a serene mind.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): from Commentary on Psalm 118,  from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Tuesday of the First Week of Advent Year I.

 

Thomas à Kempis: “The Kingdom of God is Within You” Monday, Oct 25 2010 

“The kingdom of God is within you”, says the Lord (Luke 17:21).

Turn, then, to God with all your heart. Forsake this wretched world and your soul shall find rest.

Learn to despise external things, to devote yourself to those that are within, and you will see the kingdom of God come unto you, that kingdom which is peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, gifts not given to the impious.

Christ will come to you offering His consolation, if you prepare a fit dwelling for Him in your heart, whose beauty and glory, wherein He takes delight, are all from within.

His visits with the inward man are frequent, His communion sweet and full of consolation, His peace great, and His intimacy wonderful indeed.

Therefore, faithful soul, prepare your heart for this Bridegroom that He may come and dwell within you.

He Himself says: “If any one love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make Our abode with him”. (John 14:23).

Give place, then, to Christ, but deny entrance to all others, for when you have Christ you are rich and He is sufficient for you. He will provide for you.

He will supply your every want, so that you need not trust in frail, changeable men. Christ remains forever, standing firmly with us to the end.

[…] Place all your trust in God; let Him be your fear and your love. He will answer for you; He will do what is best for you.

You have here no lasting home. You are a stranger and a pilgrim wherever you may be, and you shall have no rest until you are wholly united with Christ.

Why do you look about here when this is not the place of your repose? Dwell rather upon heaven and give but a passing glance to all earthly things. They all pass away, and you together with them.

Take care, then, that you do not cling to them lest you be entrapped and perish. Fix your mind on the Most High, and pray unceasingly to Christ.

If you do not know how to meditate on heavenly things, direct your thoughts to Christ’s passion and willingly behold His sacred wounds.

If you turn devoutly to the wounds and precious stigmata of Christ, you will find great comfort in suffering, you will mind but little the scorn of men, and you will easily bear their slanderous talk.

Thomas à Kempis (c.1380-1471): The Imitation of Christ, 2, 1.

Columbanus: I Hope He will Set Me on Fire with the Flame of His Divine Love Tuesday, Oct 12 2010 

How happy, how lucky are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes!

How blessed it is to be wakeful and watching for God, who created all things, who fills them with being and exceeds all of them in greatness!

I am a lowly creature but I am still his servant, and I hope that he will choose to wake me from slumber.

I hope that he will set me on fire with the flame of his divine love, the flame that burns above the stars, so that I am filled with desire for his love and his fire burns always within me!

I hope that I may deserve this, that my little lamp should burn all night in the temple of the Lord and shine on all who enter the house of God!

Lord, I beg you in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son and my God, give me a love that cannot stumble so that my lamp can be lit but can never go out: let it burn in me and give light to others.

And you, Christ, our gentle Savior, in your kindness light our lamps so that they shine for ever in your temple and lighten our darkness and dispel the shadows of the world.

I beg you, my Jesus, fill my lamp with your light. By its light let me see the holiest of holy places, your own temple where you enter as the eternal High Priest of the eternal mysteries.

Let me see you, watch you, desire you. Let me love you as I see you, and before you let my lamp always shine, always burn.

Beloved Savior, show yourself to us who beg a glimpse of you.

Let us know you, let us love you, let us love only you, let us desire you alone, let us spend our days and nights meditating on you alone, let us always be thinking of you.

Fill us with love of you, let us love you with all the love that is your right as our God.

Let that love fill us and possess us, let it overwhelm our senses until we can love nothing but you, for you are eternal.

Give us that love that all the waters of the sea, the earth, the sky cannot extinguish: as it is written, love that no flood can quench, no torrents drown.

What is said in the Song of Songs can become true in us (at least in part) if you, our Lord Jesus Christ, give us that grace. To you be glory for ever and for ever. Amen.

Columbanus (540-615): Instr. De compunctione, 12, 2-3, from the Roman Office of Readings for Tuesday of the 28th week in Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

Benedict XVI: Dialogue with God, with His Word, is a Presence of Heaven Thursday, Sep 30 2010 

Jerome emphasized the joy and importance of being familiar with biblical texts:

“Does one not seem to dwell, already here on earth, in the Kingdom of Heaven when one lives with these texts, when one meditates on them, when one does not know or seek anything else?” (Ep. 53, 10).

In reality, to dialogue with God, with his Word, is in a certain sense a presence of Heaven, a presence of God.

To draw near to the biblical texts, above all the New Testament, is essential for the believer, because “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”….

Truly “in love” with the Word of God, he asked himself: “How could one live without the knowledge of Scripture, through which one learns to know Christ himself, who is the life of believers?” (Ep. 30, 7).

The Bible, an instrument “by which God speaks every day to the faithful” (Ep. 133, 13), thus becomes a stimulus and source of Christian life for all situations and for each person.

To read Scripture is to converse with God: “If you pray”, he writes to a young Roman noblewoman, “you speak with the Spouse; if you read, it is he who speaks to you” (Ep. 22, 25).

[…] Jerome recommends…: “Read the divine Scriptures frequently; rather, may your hands never set the Holy Book down. Learn here what you must teach” (Ep. 52, 7).

To the Roman matron Leta he gave this counsel for the Christian education of her daughter: “Ensure that each day she studies some Scripture passage…. After prayer, reading should follow, and after reading, prayer…. Instead of jewels and silk clothing, may she love the divine Books” (Ep. 107, 9, 12).

Through meditation on and knowledge of the Scriptures, one “maintains the equilibrium of the soul” (Ad Eph., Prol.).

Only a profound spirit of prayer and the Holy Spirit’s help can introduce us to understanding the Bible: “In the interpretation of Sacred Scripture we always need the help of the Holy Spirit” (In Mich. 1, 1, 10, 15).

A passionate love for Scripture therefore pervaded Jerome’s whole life, a love that he always sought to deepen in the faithful, too.

He recommends to one of his spiritual daughters: “Love Sacred Scripture and wisdom will love you; love it tenderly, and it will protect you; honour it and you will receive its caresses. May it be for you as your necklaces and your earrings” (Ep. 130, 20).

And again: “Love the science of Scripture, and you will not love the vices of the flesh” (Ep. 125, 11).

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): Love Sacred Scripture and Scripture Shall Love You (translation by Zenit).

Ambrose of Milan: “Daughters of Jerusalem, Awaken the Love of My Heart” Tuesday, Apr 27 2010 

We must always meditate on God’s wisdom, keeping it in our hearts and on our lips.

Your tongue must speak justice, the law of God must be in your heart.

Hence Scripture tells you: You shall speak of these commandments when you sit in your house, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down, and when you get up.

Let us then speak of the Lord Jesus, for he is Wisdom, he is the Word, the Word indeed of God.

It is also written: Open your lips, and let God’s word be heard. God’s word is uttered by those who repeat Christ’s teaching and meditate on his sayings.

Let us always speak this word. When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ.

When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.

Open your lips, says Scripture, and let God’s word be heard. It is for you to open, it is for him to be heard. So David said: I shall hear what the Lord says in me.

[…] Not all can attain to the perfection of wisdom as Solomon or Daniel did, but the Spirit of Wisdom is poured out on all according to their capacity, that is, on all the faithful. If you believe, you have the Spirit of Wisdom.

Meditate, then, at all times on the things of God, and speak the things of God, when you sit in your house.

By house we can understand the Church, or the secret place within us, so that we are to speak within ourselves.

[…] Your soul says: I hear my brother knocking at the door. Then Christ says to you: Open the door to me, my sister, my spouse.

Listen and learn how you are to awaken Christ. Your soul says: I charge you, daughters of Jerusalem, awaken or reawaken the love of my heart. Christ is that love.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): Explanations of the Psalms, Ps. 36, 65-66; from the Office of Readings for Thursday in the 6th week of Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

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