Macarius the Egyptian: The grace of God writes the laws of the Spirit and the mysteries of Heaven on the tables of the heart Sunday, Jan 19 2014 

Macarius3January 19th is the feast of St Macarius the Egyptian (eastern calendar).

When the rich men of the earth have brought much fruit into their garners, they set to work again every day to get more, in order to have plenty, and not run short.

If they presume upon the wealth laid up in the garners, and take things easily and add no more, but use up what they have stored already, they soon sink into want and poverty.

So they have to labour and add, enlarging their intake, that they may not get behindhand.

In Christianity, to taste of the grace of God is like that. Taste, it says, and see how gracious the Lord is (Psalm 35:8).

This tasting is an effectual power of the Spirit in full certainty, ministering in the heart.

As many as are the sons of light, and of the ministry of the New Covenant in the Holy Ghost, these have nothing to learn from men; they are taught of God (1 Thess. 4:9).

Grace itself writes upon their hearts the laws of the Spirit.

They ought not therefore to rest their assurance only upon the scriptures that are written in ink; the grace of God writes the laws of the Spirit and the mysteries of heaven upon the tables of the heart as well (2 Cor. 3:2).

For the heart governs and reigns over the whole bodily organism; and when grace possesses the ranges of the heart, it reigns over all the members and the thoughts.

For there, in the heart, is the mind, and all the faculties of the soul, and its expectation; therefore grace penetrates also to all the members of the body.

On the other hand, as many as are sons of darkness, sin reigns over their heart, and penetrates to all their members, for out of their hearts proceed evil thoughts (Matt. 15:19), and thus diffused puts the man in darkness.

Those who say that evil is not born and bred in man, may have no anxiety about tomorrow, nor any desire either.

For a certain length of time, evil ceases to cause trouble in them by suggesting some object of desire, so that a man will affirm on oath, “Such a passion no longer assails me.”

After a short while he is consumed with the desire, so that he is found guilty of perjury into the bargain.

As water runs through a pipe, so does sin through the heart and thoughts.

As many as will not have this notion, are refuted and mocked by sin itself, even if sin did not wish to triumph; for evil endeavours to escape notice and to be hidden in the mind of man.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]: Spiritual Homily 15, 20-21, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.

Cyril of Alexandria: The Baptism in the Jordan and the Communication of the Holy Spirit Tuesday, Jan 7 2014 

cyril_alexandriaAnd it came to pass that when all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized, and prayed (Luke 3:21).

Was He too then in need of holy baptism? But what benefit could accrue to Him from it?

The Only-begotten Word of God is Holy of the Holy: so the Seraphim name Him in their praises.

[…] “There is one Lord Jesus Christ,” as it is written….

He [i.e. Christ in His humanity] was not separate from Him [the Word], and by Himself when baptized and made partaker of the Holy Ghost.

For we know, both that He is God, and without stain, and Holy of the Holy. For we confess that “of His fulness have all we received.”

For the Holy Spirit indeed proceeds from God the Father, but belongs also to the Son.

It is even often called the Spirit of Christ, though proceeding from God the Father.

And to this Paul will testify, saying, at one time, “They that are in the flesh cannot please God: but ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any one have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.”

And again, “But because ye are sons, God hath sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Father, our Father.”

The Holy Spirit therefore proceeds indeed as I said from God the Father, but His Only-begotten Word, as being both by nature and verily Son, and resplendent with the Father’s dignities, ministers It to the creation, and bestows It on those that are worthy.

Truly He said, “All things that the Father hath are mine.” … But how then…was He baptized, and received also the Spirit?

[…] He had no need of holy baptism, being wholly pure and spotless, and holy of the holy. Nor had He need of the Holy Ghost: for the Spirit That proceeds from God the Father is of Him, and equal to Him in substance.

We must now therefore at length hear what is the explanation of the economy. God in his love to man provided for us a way of salvation and of life.

For believing in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and making this confession before many witnesses, we wash away all the filth of sin, and are enriched by the communication of the Holy Spirit, and made partakers of the divine nature, and gain the grace of adoption.

It was necessary therefore that the Word of the Father, when He humbled Himself unto emptiness, and deigned to assume our likeness, should become for our sakes the pattern and way of every good work.

[…] In order therefore that we may learn both the power itself of holy baptism, and how much we gain by approaching so great a grace, He commences the work Himself.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, Sermon 11.

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).

Denys the Areopagite: God, Being Compassionate, Deigned to Come to Us with Outstretched Arms Friday, Oct 11 2013 

DionysiosThe Hierarch, then, wishing that all men whatsoever should be saved by their assimilation towards God, and come to recognition of truth, proclaims to all the veritable Good News:

that God, being compassionate towards those upon earth, out of His own proper and innate goodness, deigned Himself to come to us with outstretched arms, by reason of loving-kindness towards men;

and, by the union with Him, to assimilate, like as by fire, things that have been made one, in proportion to their aptitude for deification.

“For as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become children of God to those who believe on His Name, who were begotten, not of bloods, nor of will of flesh, but of God” (John 1:12).

He, who has felt a religious longing to participate in these truly supermundane gifts, comes to some one of the initiated, and persuades him to act as his conductor to the Hierarch.

He then professes wholly to follow the teaching that shall be given to him, and prays him to undertake the superintendence of his introduction, and of all his after life.

Now he, though religiously longing for his salvation, when he measures human infirmity against the loftiness of the undertaking, is suddenly seized with a shivering and sense of incapacity, nevertheless, at last, he agrees, with a good grace, to do what is requested, and takes and leads him to the chief Hierarch.

He, then, when with joy he has received, as the sheep upon his shoulders, the two men, and has first worshipped, glorifies with a mental thanksgiving and bodily prostration the One beneficent Source, from Which, those who are being called, are called, and those who are being saved, are saved.

Then collecting a full religious assembly into the sacred place, for co-operation, and common rejoicing over the man’s salvation, and for thanksgiving for the Divine Goodness, he first chants a certain hymn, found in the Oracles, accompanied by the whole body of the Church; and after this, when he has kissed the holy table, he advances to the man before him, and demands of him, what has brought him here?

When the man, out of love to God, has confessed, according to the instruction of his sponsor, his ungodliness, his ignorance of the really beautiful, his insufficiency for the life in God, and prays, through his holy mediation, to attain to God and Divine things, he (the Hierarch) testifies to him, that his approach ought to be entire, as to God Who is All Perfect, and without blemish.

Denys the Areopagite (late 5th to early 6th century): The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, 2,2.

Denys the Areopagite: Looking Upwards to the Blessed and Supremely Divine Self of Jesus Friday, Oct 4 2013 

DionysiosWe must, then, most pious of pious sons, demonstrate from the supermundane and most sacred oracles and traditions,

that ours is a hierarchy of the inspired and divine and deifying science, and of operation, and of consecration,

for those who have been initiated with the initiation of the sacred revelation derived from the hierarchical mysteries.

See, however, that you do not put to scorn things most holy (Holy of Holies);

but rather treat them reverently, and you will honour the things of the hidden God by intellectual and obscure researches,

carefully guarding them from the participation and defilement of the uninitiated,

and reverently sharing holy things with the holy alone, by a holy enlightenment.

For thus, as the Word of God has taught us who feast at His Banquet, even Jesus Himself

– Who is the most supremely divine Mind and superessential,

Who is the Source and Essence, and most supremely Divine Power of every hierarchy and sanctification and divine operation

– illuminates the blessed beings who are superior to us, in a manner more clear, and at the same time more intellectual,

and assimilates them to His own Light, as far as possible;

and by our love of things beautiful elevated to Him, and which elevates us, folds together our many diversities,

and after perfecting into a uniform and divine life and habit and operation, holily bequeaths the power of the divine priesthood;

from which by approaching to the holy exercise of the priestly office, we ourselves become nearer to the beings above us,

by assimilation, according to our power, to their abiding and unchangeable holy steadfastness;

and thus by looking upwards to the blessed and supremely divine self of Jesus,

and reverently gazing upon whatever we are permitted to see,

and illuminated with the knowledge of the visions,

we shall be able to become, as regards the science of divine mysteries, purified and purifiers;

images of Light, and workers, with God, perfected and perfecting.

Denys the Areopagite (late 5th to early 6th century): The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, 1.

Gregory of Nyssa: Baptism in the Jordan (1) – The Remembrance of Holy Mysteries, Purifying Man Sunday, Jan 13 2013 

Gregory_of_NyssaThe time, then, has come, and bears in its course the remembrance of holy mysteries, purifying man.

These mysteries purge out from soul and body even that sin which is hard to cleanse away, and they bring us back to that fairness of our first estate which God, the best of artificers, impressed upon us.

[…] I for my part rejoice over…you that are initiated, because you are enriched with a great gift.

And I rejoice over you that are uninitiated, because you have a fair expectation of hope—remission of what is to be accounted for, release from bondage, close relation to God, free boldness of speech, and, in place of servile subjection, equality with the angels.

For these things, and all that follow from them, the grace of baptism secures and conveys to us.

[…] Christ, then, was born as it were a few days ago—He whose generation was before all things, sensible and intellectual.

Today He is baptized by John that He might cleanse him who was defiled, that He might bring the Spirit from above, and exalt man to heaven, that he who had fallen might be raised up and he who had cast him down might be put to shame.

And marvel not if God showed so great earnestness in our cause: for it was with care on the part of him who did us wrong that the plot was laid against us; it is with forethought on the part of our Maker that we are saved.

And he, that evil charmer, framing his new device of sin against our race, drew along his serpent train, a disguise worthy of his own intent, entering in his impurity into what was like himself—dwelling, earthly and mundane as he was in will, in that creeping thing.

But Christ, the repairer of his evil-doing, assumes manhood in its fulness, and saves man, and becomes the type and figure of us all, to sanctify the first-fruits of every action….

Baptism, then, is a purification from sins, a remission of trespasses, a cause of renovation and regeneration.

[…] Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Why are both named…?

Man, as we know full well, is compound, not simple: and therefore the cognate and similar medicines are assigned for healing to him who is twofold and conglomerate.

For his visible body, he is assigned water, the sensible element; for his soul, which we cannot see, the Spirit invisible, invoked by faith, present unspeakably.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): A Sermon for the Day of Lights.

Maximus of Turin: In the Feast of His Baptism the Lord is Reborn Sacramentally Thursday, Jan 10 2013 

Maximus_TurinThis feast of the Lord’s baptism, which I think could be called the feast of his birthday, should follow soon after the Lord’s birthday, during the same season, even though many years intervened between the two events.

At Christmas he was born a man; today he is reborn sacramentally. Then he was born from the Virgin; today he is born in mystery.

When he was born a man, his mother Mary held him close to her heart; when he is born in mystery, God the Father embraces him with his voice when he says: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased: listen to him.

The mother caresses the tender baby on her lap; the Father serves his Son by his loving testimony.

The mother holds the child for the Magi to adore; the Father reveals that his Son is to be worshiped by all the nations.

That is why the Lord Jesus went to the river for baptism, that is why he wanted his holy body to be washed with Jordan’s water.

Someone might ask, “Why would a holy man desire baptism?” Listen to the answer: Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by his cleansing to purify the waters which he touched.

For the consecration of Christ involves a more significant consecration of the water.

For when the Saviour is washed all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages.

Christ is the first to be baptized, then, so that Christians will follow after him with confidence.

I understand the mystery as this. The column of fire went before the sons of Israel through the Red Sea so they could follow on their brave journey; the column went first through the waters to prepare a path for those who followed.

As the apostle Paul said, what was accomplished then was the mystery of baptism. Clearly it was baptism in a certain sense when the cloud was covering the people and bringing them through the water.

 But Christ the Lord does all these things: in the column of fire he went through the sea before the sons of Israel; so now, in the column of his body, he goes through baptism before the Christian people.

At the time of the Exodus the column provided light for the people who followed; now it give light to the hearts of believers.

Then it made a firm pathway through the waters; now it strengthens the footsteps of faith in the bath of baptism.

Maximus of Turin (d. between 408 and 423):  Sermon 100, 1, 3 (CCL 23, 398-400) from the Office of Readings for the Friday between the Feasts of the Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord @ Crossroads Initiative.

Gregory the Great: The Human Eye does not Suffice to Penetrate the Mystery of the Incarnation Sunday, Dec 23 2012 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistJohn answered them, saying: … The same is he that shall come after me, who is preferred before me: the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose (John 1:26-27).

What reverence is due to Him he then teaches us by his own humility; going on to say: the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose…!

[…] Who does not know that sandals are made from the skins of dead animals?  The Lord, in becoming Incarnate, appears among men, as though shod; because over His Divinity, he has put on as it were the mortal covering of our corruptibility.

Hence also the prophet says: Into Edom will I stretch out my shoe (Ps. 15:10).  The Gentiles are signified by Edom; His assumed mortality by the shoe.

The Lord therefore declares that He extends His shoe into Edom, because through the flesh He became known to the Gentiles; as if the Divinity had come to us with feet shod.

But the human eye does not suffice to penetrate the mystery of this incarnation. For in no way may we search out how the Word became embodied; how the Supreme Life-Giving Spirit, was quickened within the womb of a mother; how That Which has no beginning was both conceived and came into existence.

The latchets of His shoe are therefore the seals of a mystery.  John was not worthy to loose His shoe, because he was unable to search into the mystery of His Incarnation.

What then does he mean when he says, the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose, except openly and humbly to confess his ignorance?

It is as though he were to say: what wonder that He is preferred before me, Whom I know to be born after me, but the Mystery of Whose Birth I am unable to comprehend.

Behold John, filled with the Spirit of prophecy, shining with knowledge, yet he plainly declares that as to this mystery he knows nothing.

In this connection, Dearest Brethren, we should note and ponder with careful thought, how holy men of God, in order to safeguard themselves in humility, when they know many things well, endeavour to keep before their minds that which they do not know.

Thus on the one hand, they remind themselves of their own limitations, and on the other, they are not raised above themselves because of those things in which their mind is accomplished.

Knowledge indeed is virtue, but humility is the guardian of virtue.  For the future then, let you be humble in your minds with regard to whatever you may know, lest what the virtue of knowledge has stored, the wind of vanity may carry off.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Homilies on the Gospels, @ Lectionary Central.

Henry Suso: This Can No Tongue Express, Nor Any Mind Conceive Sunday, Sep 30 2012 

Eternal Wisdom: Answer Me now a question. What is that of all lovely things which is most agreeable to a loving heart?

The Servant: Lord, to my understanding nothing is so agreeable to a loving heart as the beloved Himself and His sweet presence.

Eternal Wisdom: Even so. On this account, that nothing which belongs to true love might be wanting to those who love Me, did My unfathomable love, as soon as I had resolved to depart by death out of this world to My Father, compel Me to give Myself and My loving presence at the table of the last supper to My dear disciples, and in all future times to My elect, because I knew beforehand the misery which many a languishing heart would suffer for My sake.

The Servant: Oh, dearest Lord, and art Thou Thyself, Thy very Self, really here?

Eternal Wisdom: Thou hast Me in the sacrament, before thee and with thee, as truly and really God and Man, according to soul and body, with flesh and blood, as truly as My pure Mother carried Me in her arms, and as truly as I am in heaven in My perfect glory.

The Servant: […] Tender Lord, it is a marvel to me (if I may venture to say so) how the beautiful, the delightful and glorified body of my Lord in all its greatness, in all its divinity, can thus essentially conceal itself under the little shape of the bread which, relatively considered, is so out of all relation. […]

Eternal Wisdom: In what manner My glorified body and My soul, according to the whole truth, are in the Sacrament, this can no tongue express, nor any mind conceive, for it is a work of My omnipotence. Therefore oughtest thou to believe it in all simplicity, and not pry much into it.

[…] Why shouldst thou wish…to understand what surpasses all the earth, all the heavens, and all the senses? Or why wilt thou needs inquire into it?

Behold, all such wondering and prying thoughts proceed alone from grossness of sense, which takes divine and supernatural things after the likeness of things earthly and natural, and such is not the case.

If a woman were to give birth to a child in a dark tower, and it were to be brought up there, and its mother were to tell it of the sun and the stars, the child would marvel greatly, and would think it all against reason and incredible, which its mother, nevertheless, knows so well to be true.

Henry Suso (c. 1296 – 1366):The Little Book of Divine Wisdom, 2,23.

Bede the Venerable: Let Us Seek His Face Always Friday, May 25 2012 

icon_bede-When Elijah was raised up to the heavens, he let the cloak with which he had been clothed fall to Elisha.

When our Lord ascended into heaven, he left the mysteries of the humanity he had assumed to his disciples, to the entire Church in fact, so that it could be sanctified by them, and warmed by the power of his love.

Elisha took up Elijah’s cloak and struck the waters of the river Jordan with it; and when he called upon the God of Elijah, the waters were divided and he crossed over.

The apostles and the entire Church took up the sacraments of their Redeemer that had been instituted through the apostles, so that, spiritually guided by them, and cleansed and consecrated by them, they too learned to overcome death’s assault by calling upon the name of God the Father, and to cross over to undying life, spurning the obstacle of death.

Let us the, with all devotion, dearly beloved brothers, venerate this glory of the Lord’s ascension, which was first expressed by the words and deeds of the prophets, and was afterward brought to fulfilment in our Mediator himself.

And that we ourselves may become worthy of following in his footsteps and ascending to heaven, let us in the meantime become humble on earth for our own good, always mindful that, as Solomon says, Humiliation follows the proud, and honor follows the humble in spirit (Prov. 29:23).

Behold we have learned in our Redeemer’s ascension whither all our effort should be directed; behold we have recognized that the entry to the heavenly fatherland has been opened up to human beings by the ascension into heaven of the Mediator between god and human beings.

Let us hurry, with all eagerness, to the perpetual bliss of this fatherland; since we are not yet able to be there in our bodies, let us at least always dwell there by the desire of our minds.

In accord with the words of the great preacher, let us seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God; let us savor the things that are above and not those that are upon the earth (Col. 3:1-2).

Let us seek him and be strengthened; let us seek him by works of charity, and be strengthened by the hope of finding him.

Let us seek his face always, so that when he who ascended peacefully returns terrifying, he may find us prepared, and take us with him into the feasts of the city on high.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Homilies on the Gospels, 2:8 (Easter), Homilies on the Gospels, Book Two, Lent to the Dedication of the Church, trans. Lawrence T. Martin and David Hurst OSB (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1991).

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