Cyril of Jerusalem: The swift relenting of a merciful God Tuesday, Oct 27 2015 

Cyril-of-JerusalemGreat as he was, David fell.

After his sleep, walking in the eventide on the housetop, he cast a careless look, and felt a human passion.

His sin was completed, but there died not with it his candour concerning the confession of his fault.

Nathan the Prophet came, a swift accuser, and a healer of the wound.

The Lord is wroth, he says, and thou hast sinned (2 Sam. 12). So spake the subject to the reigning king.

But David the king was not indignant, for he regarded not the speaker, but God who had sent him.

He was not puffed up by the array of soldiers standing round,  for he had seen in thought the angel-host of the Lord, and he trembled as seeing Him who is invisible (Heb. 11:27).

And to the messenger, or rather by him in answer to God who sent him, he said, I have sinned against the Lord (2 Sam. 12:13).

[…] Because he candidly confessed, he received a most speedy cure.  For Nathan the Prophet who had uttered the threat, said immediately, The Lord also hath put away thy sin.

Thou seest the swift relenting of a merciful God.

He says, however, Thou hast greatly provoked the enemies of the Lord.

Though thou hadst many enemies because of thy righteousness, thy self-control protected thee; but now that thou hast surrendered thy strongest armour, thine enemies are risen up, and stand ready against thee.

Thus then did the Prophet comfort him, but the blessed David, for all he heard it said the Lord hath put away thy sin, did not cease from repentance, king though he was, but put on sackcloth instead of purple, and instead of a golden throne, he sat, a king, in ashes on the ground.

He not only sat in ashes, but also had ashes for his food, even as he saith himself, I have eaten ashes as it were bread (Ps. 101:10).

His lustful eye he wasted away with tears saying, Every night will I wash my couch, and water my bed with my tears (Ps. 7:7).  When his officers besought him to eat bread he would not listen.  He prolonged his fast unto seven whole days.

[…] Again, after Absalom’s insurrection, though there were many roads for him to escape, David chose to flee by the Mount of Olives, in thought, as it were, invoking the Redeemer who was to go up thence into the heavens  (2 Sam. 16:10-11).

And when Shimei cursed him bitterly, he said, Let him alone, for he knew that “to him that forgiveth it shall be forgiven.”

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 2, 11-12.

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Ambrose of Milan: “God will not forever cut off His mercy from generation to generation, nor will He forget to be merciful” Friday, Sep 11 2015 

ambrose_of_milan[St Ambrose is addressing the question of those who deny Christ in the face of persecution.]

Although what has been said sufficiently shows how inclined the Lord Jesus is to mercy, let Him further instruct us with His own words…:

“Every one, therefore, who shall confess Me before men, him will I also confess before My Father, Who is in heaven, but he who shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father, Who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32, 33).

Where He says that He will confess, He will confess “everyone.” Where He speaks of denying, He does not speak of denying “everyone.”

For, whereas in the former clause He says “everyone who shall confess Me, him will I confess,” we should expect that in the following clause He would also say “everyone who shall deny Me.”

But in order that He might not appear to deny every one, He concludes: “But he who shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny.”

He promises favour to everyone, but He does not threaten the penalty to everyone. He makes more of that which is merciful. He makes less of what is penal.

[…]  “Everyone,” He says, “who shall confess Me,” that is to say, of whatever age, of whatever condition he may be, who shall confess Me, he shall have Me as the Rewarder of his confession. As the expression is “everyone,” no one who shall confess is excluded from the reward.

But it is not said in like manner, “Everyone who shall deny shall be denied,” for it is possible that a man overcome by torture may deny God in word, and yet worship Him in his heart.

Is the case the same with him who denies voluntarily, and with him whom torture, not his own will, has led to denial? How unfit were it, since with men credit is given for endurance in a struggle, that one should assert that it had no value with God!

For often in this world’s athletic contests the public crown together with the victors even the vanquished whose conduct has been approved, especially if perchance they have seen that they lost the victory by some trick or fraud.

And shall Christ suffer His athletes, whom He has seen to yield for a moment to severe torments, to remain without forgiveness?  Shall not He take account of their toil, Who will not cast off for ever even those whom He casts off? For David says: “God will not cast off forever” (Ps. 76:7).

[…] David says: “God will not forever cut off His mercy from generation to generation, nor will He forget to be merciful” (Ps. 76:8, 9).

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Repentance, book 1, chapter 4, 15-20.

Basil the Great: “The Lord loveth mercy and judgment; the earth is full of the mercy of the Lord” Saturday, Aug 29 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great‘The Lord loveth mercy and judgment; the earth is full of the mercy of the Lord’ (Psalm 32:5).

If the judgment of God, who renders precisely according to our deserts what is due to us for our deeds, should be by itself, what hope would there be?

Who of all mankind would be saved? But, as it is, ‘He loveth mercy and judgment.’

It is as if He had made mercy a coadjutor to Himself, standing before the royal throne of His judgment, and thus He leads each one to judgment.

‘If thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities: Lord, who shall stand it?’ (Psalm 129:3).

Neither is mercy without judgment, nor judgment without mercy. He loves mercy, therefore, before judgment, and after mercy He comes to judgment.

However, these qualities are joined to each other, mercy and judgment, lest either mercy alone should produce presumption, or judgment alone cause despair.

The Judge wishes to have mercy on you and to share His own compassion, but on condition that He finds you humble after sin, contrite, lamenting much for your evil deeds, announcing publicly without shame sins committed secretly, begging the brethren to labor with you in reparation;

in short, if He sees that you are worthy of pity, He provides His mercy for you ungrudgingly.

But, if He sees your heart unrepentant, your mind proud, your disbelief of the future life, and your fearlessness of the judgment, then He desires the judgment for you —

— just as a reasonable and kind doctor tries at first with hot applications and soft poultices to reduce a swelling, but, when he sees that the mass is rigidly and obstinately resisting, casting away the olive oil and the gentle method of treatment, he prefers henceforth the use of the knife.

Therefore, He loves mercy in the case of those repenting, but He also loves judgment in the case of the unyielding.

[…] ‘The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord’. Here [on earth] mercy is separated from judgment. The earth is full of only the mercy of the Lord, since His judgment is stored up for the appointed time.

Here, then, mercy is apart from judgment; indeed, He did not come ‘in order that He might judge the world, but that He might save the world’ (cf. John 3:17).

But there, judgment is not apart from mercy because man could not be found clean from stain, not even if he had lived for only one day (cf. Job 14:4-5 LXX).

[…] While we are on earth, we need mercy…. For, when we were dead by reason of our offenses and sins God, having mercy, brought us to life together with Christ (cf. Eph. 2:5).

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15 (on Psalm 32[33]), 3-4,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 232-234.

Ambrose of Milan: The Lord Jesus refreshes, and does not shut out nor cast off Friday, Jul 10 2015 

ambrose_of_milanIf the highest end of virtue is that which aims at the advancement of most, gentleness is the most lovely of all, which does not hurt even those whom it condemns, and usually renders those whom it condemns worthy of absolution.

Moreover, it is the only virtue which has led to the increase of the Church which the Lord sought at the price of His own Blood, imitating the lovingkindness of heaven, and aiming at the redemption of all, seeks this end with a gentleness which the ears of men can endure, in presence of which their hearts do not sink, nor their spirits quail.

For he who endeavours to amend the faults of human weakness ought to bear this very weakness on his own shoulders, let it weigh upon himself, not cast it off.

For we read that the Shepherd in the Gospel (Luke 15:5) carried the weary sheep, and did not cast it off. And Solomon says: “Be not overmuch righteous” (Eccles. 7:17); for restraint should temper righteousness.

For how shall he offer himself to you for healing whom you despise, who thinks that he will be an object of contempt, not of compassion, to his physician?

Therefore had the Lord Jesus compassion upon us in order to call us to Himself, not frighten us away. He came in meekness, He came in humility, and so He said: “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you” (Matt. 11:28).

So, then, the Lord Jesus refreshes, and does not shut out nor cast off, and fitly chose such disciples as should be interpreters of the Lord’s will, as should gather together and not drive away the people of God.

Whence it is clear that they are [St Ambrose is speaking of the Novatianists] not to be counted amongst the disciples of Christ, who think that harsh and proud opinions should be followed rather than such as are gentle and meek; persons who, while they themselves seek God’s mercy, deny it to others….

What can show more pride than this, since the Scripture says: “No one is free from sin, not even an infant of a day old” (Job 14:4 [LXX]).  And David cries out: “Cleanse me from my sin” (Ps. 50:2).

Are they more holy than David, of whose family Christ vouchsafed to be born in the mystery of the Incarnation, whose descendant is that heavenly Hall which received the world’s Redeemer in her virgin womb?

For what is more harsh than to inflict a penance which they do not relax, and by refusing pardon to take away the incentive to penance and repentance? Now no one can repent to good purpose unless he hopes for mercy.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Repentance, book 1, chapter 1, 1-4.

John Chrysostom: Such is the loving-kindness of God – He never turns his face away from a sincere repentance Monday, Jul 6 2015 

John_ChrysostomSuch is the loving-kindness of God; He never turns his face away from a sincere repentance.

But, if anyone has pushed on to the very extremity of wickedness, and chooses to return thence towards the path of virtue, God accepts and welcomes, and does everything so as to restore him to his former position.

And He does what is yet more merciful; for even should anyone not manifest complete repentance, he does not pass by one which is small and insignificant, but assigns a great reward even to this.

This is evident from what Esaias the prophet says concerning the people of the Jews, speaking on this wise:

“On account of his sin I put him to pain for a little while, and smote him, and turned my face away from him, and he was pained, and walked sorrowfully, and then I healed him, and comforted him” (Isaiah 57;17-18).

[…]  And after this again, Manasses, having…subverted the legal form of worship, and shut up the temple, and caused the deceit of idolatry to flourish, and having become more ungodly than all who were before him, when he afterwards repented, was ranked amongst the friends of God.

Now if, looking to the magnitude of his own iniquities, he had despaired of restoration and repentance, he would have missed all which he afterwards obtained.

But as it was, looking to the boundlessness of God’s tender mercy instead of the enormity of his transgressions, and having broken in sunder the bonds of the devil, he rose up and contended with him, and finished the good course (2 Chron. 33:10-19).

And not only by what was done to these men, but also by the words of the prophet does God destroy the counsels of despair, speaking on this wise: “To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation” (Psalm 94:9).

Now that expression “to-day,” may be uttered at every time of life, even on the verge of old age, if you desire it: for repentance is judged not by quantity of time, but by disposition of the soul.

For the Ninevites did not need many days to blot out their sin, but the short space of one day availed to efface all their iniquity.

And the robber also did not take a long time to effect his entrance into Paradise, but in such a brief moment as one might occupy in uttering a single word, did he wash off all the sins which he had committed in his whole life, and received the prize bestowed by the divine approval even before the Apostles.

And we also see the martyrs obtain glorious crowns for themselves in the course, not of many years, but of a few days, and often in a single day only.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): An exhortation to Theodore after his fall, 1, 6.

Dorotheus of Gaza: No one can say “I am poor and I have nothing to give as alms” Tuesday, Jun 30 2015 

Dorotheos2No one can say, “I am poor and I have nothing to give as alms.”

For if you cannot give as much as those rich men who put their gifts in the treasury, then give the two pennies like that poor widow and God will receive this from you as more than the gifts of those rich men (cf. Mk. 12:42, Lk. 21:2).

And if you do not have even this much you have strength and you can show mercy to your infirm brother by serving him.

You cannot do even this? Then you can comfort you brother by a word. Show him mercy by words, and you will hear what has been said, Lo, is not a word better than a gift? (Sir. 18:17).

And if you cannot help him even by words, then, when your brother becomes angry at you for something you can show him mercy and endure him during the time of his disturbance, seeing that he is tempted by the common enemy, and instead of speaking a word to him that disturbs him all the more, you can remain silent.

By this you will show him mercy, delivering his soul from the enemy. And when your brother sins before you, have mercy on him and forgive him his sin, so that you also might receive forgiveness from God; for it is said, forgive, and ye shall be forgiven (Luke 6:37).

You can show your mercy for the soul of your brother by forgiving him for his sin against you, for God gave us the authority, if we wish, to forgive each other the transgressions which transpire amongst us.

In this way, not having any means to show mercy to his body, you have had mercy on his soul. What mercy or alms could be greater than mercy toward his soul? As the soul is more precious than the body, so mercy shown to the soul is greater than that shown to the body.

Therefore no one can say, “I cannot give alms or show mercy,” for everyone can show mercy according to his strength and the disposition of his soul.

[…] We have said that one who performs virtue sensibly is a skilled artisan who builds his house securely. The Gospel also says (cf. Mt. 7:24, 25), that a wise man builds his dwelling upon a rock, and no opposing force can cause it to fall.

May God the Lover of man grant us to hear and to fulfill what we hear, so that these words will not serve for our judgment on the Day of Judgment. For to Him belongs glory unto the ages. Amen.

Dorotheos of Gaza (505-565 or 620): Conference 14 – On the Building and Construction of the Soul’s House of Virtues @ Pravoslavie.

Cyril of Jerusalem: God is loving to man, and loving in no small measure Saturday, Mar 28 2015 

Cyril-of-JerusalemGod is loving to man, and loving in no small measure.

Say not “I have committed fornication and adultery:  I have done dreadful things, and not once only, but often;  will He forgive?  Will He grant pardon?”

Hear what the Psalmist says:  How great is the multitude of Thy goodness, O Lord!

Thine accumulated offences surpass not the multitude of God’s mercies:  thy wounds surpass not the great Physician’s skill.

Only give thyself up in faith:  tell the Physician thine ailment.

Say thou also, like David:  I said, I will confess me my sin unto the Lord, and the same shall be done in thy case, which he says forthwith:  And thou forgavest the wickedness of my heart.

Wouldest thou see the loving-kindness of God, O thou that art lately come to the catechising?

Wouldest thou see the loving-kindness of God, and the abundance of His long-suffering?

Hear about Adam.  Adam, God’s first-formed man, transgressed:  could He not at once have brought death upon him?

But see what the Lord does, in His great love towards man.

He casts him out from Paradise, for because of sin he was unworthy to live there.

But He puts him to dwell over against Paradise,  so that seeing whence he had fallen, and from what and into what a state he was brought down, he might afterwards be saved by repentance.

Cain the first-born man became his brother’s murderer, the inventor of evils, the first author of murders, and the first envious man.

Yet after slaying his brother to what is he condemned?  Groaning and trembling shalt thou be upon the earth.  How great the offence, the sentence how light! Even this then was truly loving-kindness in God, but little as yet in comparison with what follows.

For consider what happened in the days of Noah.  The giants sinned, and much wickedness was then spread over the earth, and because of this the flood was to come upon them. And in the five hundredth year God utters His threatening; but in the six hundredth He brought the flood upon the earth.

Seest thou the breadth of God’s loving-kindness extending to a hundred years?  Could He not have done immediately what He did then after the hundred years?

But He extended (the time) on purpose, granting a respite for repentance.

Seest thou God’s goodness?  And if the men of that time had repented, they would not have missed the loving-kindness of God.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 2, 6-8.

Irenaeus of Lyons: The Spirit Accomplished the Father’s Will in Men who had Grown Old in Sin Friday, Jun 13 2014 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonWhen the Lord told his disciples to go and teach all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he conferred on them the power of giving men new life in God.

He had promised through the prophets that in these last days he would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would prophesy.

So when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Spirit also descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the human race, to living in men and to inhabiting God’s creation.

The Spirit accomplished the Father’s will in men who had grown old in sin, and gave them new life in Christ.

Luke says that the Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension, with power to open the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant.

So it was that men of every language joined in singing one song of praise to God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the first-fruits of all the nations.

This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God.

Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of broad, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven.

And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a waterless tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above.

Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.

The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of God came down upon the Lord, and the Lord in turn gave this Spirit to his Church, sending the Advocate from heaven into all the world into which, according to his own words, the devil too had been cast down like lightning.

If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we need the dew of God. Since we have our accuser, we need an advocate as well.

And so the Lord in his pity for man, who had fallen into the hands of brigands, having himself bound up his wounds…, entrusted him to the Holy Spirit.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses 3,17,1-3 @ Crossroads Initiative.

 

Nektarios the Wonderworker: The image of those who hope in the God who saves Tuesday, May 13 2014 

St NektariosHow wonderful, how pleasing, how charming is the image of those who hope in the God Who saves

— in God the compassionate, the God of mercy, the good God Who loves mankind.

People who hope in God are truly blessed.

God is their constant helper and they fear no evil, even if others provoke them.

They hope in God and do good.

They have set their every hope on Him and they confess to Him with all their heart.

He is their boast, their God and they call upon Him day and night.

Their mouths direct praise to God; their lips are sweeter than honey and wax when they open them to sing to God; their tongue, full of grace, is moved to glorify God.

Their heart is eager to call upon Him, their mind ready to be elevated towards Him, their soul is committed to God and “His right hand has upheld them”.

“Their souls will boast in the Lord”. They ask and receive from God whatever their heart desires.

They ask and find whatever they seek. They knock and the gates of mercy are opened.

People who hope in God rest upon untroubled waters. And God grants them His rich mercy.

The right hand of God directs their paths and the finger of the Lord guides them on their way.

Those who hope in the Lord do not fail. Their hope never dies. God is their expectation, the furthermost desire of their hearts.

Their hearts sigh before Him all the day long: “Lord, do not delay, arise, hasten, come and remove my soul from every necessity, bring my soul out of prison.

“I will glorify you with my whole heart, Lord. Every word which proceeds from my mouth will be directed to you”.

Those who hope in the Lord bless the Most High, His Redeemer and also sanctify “His holy name”.

They hope, and cry to God from the depths of their hearts: “Lord, when shall I come and appear before Your face”.

Those who hope in the Lord will call upon the Lord and enter into His holy place, in order to see and rejoice in His wonders.

And the Lord will hear the voice of their supplication.

Nektarios of Aegina (Orthodox Church; 1846-1920): from Το γνώθι σαυτόν [To know yourself], Athos publications, pp.101-4 @ Pemptousia.

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.

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