Leo the Great: Our Lord Jesus Christ made in Himself the beginning of a new creation Monday, Jan 2 2017 

Saint_Leo_of_RomeThe bodily Nativity therefore of the Son of God took nothing from and added nothing to His Majesty because His unchangeable substance could be neither diminished nor increased.

For that “the Word became flesh” does not signify that the nature of God was changed into flesh, but that the Word took the flesh into the unity of His Person.

And therein undoubtedly the whole man was received, with which within the Virgin’s womb fecundated by the Holy Spirit, whose virginity was destined never to be lost, the Son of God was so inseparably united that He who was born without time of the Father’s essence was Himself in time born of the Virgin’s womb.

For we could not otherwise be released from the chains of eternal death but by Him becoming humble in our nature, Who remained Almighty in His own.

And so our Lord Jesus Christ, being at birth true man though He never ceased to be true God, made in Himself the beginning of a new creation, and in the “form” of His birth started the spiritual life of mankind afresh, that to abolish the taint of our birth according to the flesh there might be a possibility of regeneration without our sinful seed for those of whom it is said, “Who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).

What mind can grasp this mystery, what tongue can express this gracious act?  Sinfulness returns to guiltlessness and the old nature becomes new; strangers receive adoption and outsiders enter upon an inheritance.  The ungodly begin to be righteous, the miserly benevolent, the incontinent chaste, the earthly heavenly.

And whence comes this change, save by the right hand of the Most High?  For the Son of God came to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8), and has so united Himself with us and us with Him that the descent of God to man’s estate became the exaltation of man to God’s.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 27, 2.

Gregory of Nyssa: He crosses over into human life, not by boat or by chariot, but through the incorruption of a Virgin Tuesday, Dec 29 2015 

Gregory_of_Nyssa“Sound the trumpet at the new moon,” says David, “even in the notable day of your feast” (Psalm 80:3).

The commandments of Divinely-inspired teaching are assuredly a law for those who hear them.

Therefore, since the notable day of our feast is at hand, let us, too, fulfill the law and become heralds of the solemnity.

The trumpet of the law, as the Apostle bids us understand, is the word.

[…] So let us produce a clear and audible sound, brethren, one that is no less noble than that of the trumpet.

For the Law, prefiguring the truth in the shadowy types, enjoined the sounding of the trumpet at the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Leviticus 23:24).

Now, the theme of the present Feast is the mystery of the true Tabernacle.

For on this day did He Who vested Himself with humanity for our sake pitch His human tabernacle; on this day our tabernacles, which had disintegrated through death, are reconstituted by Him Who constructed our habitation from the very beginning.

Let us utter the words of the Psalm, joining in chorus with the loud-voiced David: “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Psalm 117:26).

How does He come? He crosses over into human life, not by boat or by chariot, but through the incorruption of a Virgin.

This is our God, this is our Lord, Who appeared to us to ordain a Feast with thick branches, even unto the horns of the altar (Psalm 117:27).

We are assuredly not unaware, brethren, of the mystery contained in these words: that all of creation is a single temple of the Master of creation.

But since, when sin intervened, the mouths of those overcome by evil were stopped, the voice of rejoicing fell silent and the harmony of those who keep festival was interrupted, as human creation no longer celebrated with celestial Angel-kind, for this reason there came the trumpets of the Prophets and the Apostles, whom the Law calls horns, because they are formed from the true Unicorn (cf. Numbers 23:22).

By the power of the Spirit they made the word of truth resound with piercing clarity, so that the ears of those who had been made deaf by sin might be opened up and so that there might be one harmonious celebration, echoing in unison through the thick covering of the tabernacle of the lower creation with the sublime and preëminent Hosts that stand around the Heavenly Altar.

For the horns of the noetic Altar are the sublime and preëminent Powers of the noetic nature, the Principalities, Authorities, Thrones, and Dominions, to which human nature is joined by participation in the Feast through its resurrected tabernacle, which is “thickly covered” by the renewal of our bodies.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): Homily on the Nativity of Christ (translation at HSIR from Patrologia Græca, Vol. XLVI, cols. 1128A-1149C).

Gregory Palamas: This great mystery of our re-creation and restoration Saturday, Dec 26 2015 

Gregory_PalamasGod who sits upon the cherubim (Psalm 99:1) is set before us as a babe on earth.

He upon whom the six-winged seraphim cannot look, being unable to gaze intently not only at His nature but even at the radiance of His glory, and therefore covering their eyes with their wings (Isaiah 6:2), having become flesh, appears to our senses and can be seen by bodily eyes.

He who defines all things and is limited by none is contained in a small, makeshift manger. He who holds the universe and grasps it in the hollow of His hand is wrapped in narrow swaddling bands and fastened into ordinary clothes.

He who possesses the riches of inexhaustible treasures submits Himself voluntarily to such great poverty that He does not even have a place at the inn; and so He enters into a cave at the time of His birth, who was brought forth by God timelessly and impassibly and without beginning.

[…] Anyone who has been vouchsafed understanding and grasped the honour which our nature received from God through being formed by His hands in His own image, will run towards Him, having come to a realization of His love for mankind, and will obey Him and learn His commandments. But how much more so if he comprehends, as far as is possible, this great mystery of our re-creation and restoration.

God formed human nature out of the earth with His own hand and breathed His own life into man (Genesis 2.7; 1 Thessalonians 5.23), whereas everything else He brought into being by His word alone. He then allowed man to be governed by his own thoughts and follow his own initiative, because he was a rational creature with a sovereign will.

Left alone, deceived by the evil one’s counsel and unable to withstand his assault, man did not keep to what was in accordance with his nature, but slid towards what was unnatural to it. So now God not only forms human nature anew by His own hand in a mysterious way, but also keeps it near Him.

Not only does He assume this nature and raise it up from the fall, but He inexpressibly clothes Himself in it and unites Himself inseparably with it and was born as both God and man: from a woman, in the first instance, that He might take upon Himself the same nature which He formed in our forefathers; and from a woman who was a virgin, in the second, so that He might make man new.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 58, on the Holy Nativity of the Lord. From Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009) @ Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension, Oakland, California.

Basil the Great: “But the counsel of the Lord standeth for ever; the thoughts of his heart to all generations” Saturday, Nov 7 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great‘The Lord bringeth to nought the counsels of nations; and he rejecteth the devices of people’ (Psalm 32:10).

God created those who believe in Him in consequence of His bringing to nought the foolish counsels which the people held about idolatry and all vanity, and in consequence of His rejection of the counsels of princes.

And it is possible to refer these things to the time of His passion when they thought that they were crucifying the King of Glory, but He through the economy of the Cross was renewing humanity.

For, in the Resurrection, the counsel of nations, of Pilate and his soldiers, and of whoever was active in the matter of the Cross, was brought to nought; the counsels of the princes were rejected, and also those of the high priests and scribes and kings of the people.

In fact, the Resurrection destroyed their every device. If you will read the things in each history which God did to the faithless nations, you will find that the statement has much force even according to our corporeal intelligence.

[…] ‘But the counsel of the Lord standeth for ever: the thoughts of his heart to all generations’ (Psalm 3:11).

Do you not see the teachings of the nations, this empty philosophy, how subtle and farfetched they are concerning the inventions of their teachings, both in the rational speculations and in the moral injunctions, and in certain natural sciences and the other so-called esoteric teachings?

How all things have been scattered and rendered useless, and the truths of the Gospel alone now hold place in the world?

For, many are the counsels in the hearts of men, but the counsel of the Lord has prevailed. And it is necessary, at least if the counsel from God is to remain in our souls firm and steadfast, for the human thoughts which we formerly held, first to be rejected.

Just as he who intends to write on wax, first smooths it down and thus puts on whatever forms he wishes, so also the heart which is to admit clearly the divine words must be made clean of the opposite thoughts.

‘The thoughts of his heart to all generations’. Since, then, there are two chosen peoples, and two testaments were given to them according to the saying ‘The thoughts of his heart to all generations (eis genean kai genein),’ since ‘generation’ is named twice, there can be understood also two thoughts, the one, according to which we received the previous testament, but the second, bestowing upon us the new and saving teaching of Christ.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15 (on Psalm 32[33]), 6-7,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 239-241.

Andrew of Crete: The Redeemer of the human race willed to arrange a new birth and re-creation of mankind Tuesday, Sep 8 2015 

AndrewofcreteThe first creation of mankind occurred from the pure and unsullied earth;

but their nature darkened its innate worthiness, they were deprived of grace through the sin of disobedience;

for this we were cast out of the land of life and, in place of the delights of Paradise, we received temporal life as our inheritance by birth, and with it the death and corruption of our race.

All started to prefer earth to heaven, so that there remained no hope for salvation, beyond the utmost help.

Neither the natural nor the written law, nor the fiery reconciliative sayings of the prophets had power to heal the sickness.

No one knew how to rectify human nature and by what means it would be most suitable to raise it up to its former worthiness, so long as God the author of all did not deign to reveal to us another arranged and newly-constituted world, where the pervasive form of the old poison of sin is annihilated, and granting us a wondrous, free and perfectly dispassionate life, through our re-creation in the baptism of divine birth.

But how would this great and most glorious blessing be imparted to us, so in accord with the divine commands, if God were not to be manifest to us in the flesh, not subject to the laws of nature, nor deign to dwell with us in a manner known to Him?

And how could all this be accomplished, if first there did not serve the mystery a pure and inviolate Virgin, Who contained the Uncontainable, in accord with the law, yet beyond the laws of nature?

And could some other virgin have done this besides she alone, who was chosen before all others by the creator of nature? This Virgin is the Theotokos, Mary, the most glorious of God, from whose womb the Most Divine came forth in the flesh, and by whom He Himself arranged a wondrous temple for Himself. She conceived without seed and gave birth without corruption, since her Son was God, though also He was born in the flesh, without mingling and without travail.

[…] The Redeemer of the human race, as I said, willed to arrange a new birth and re-creation of mankind: just as the first creation, taking dust from the virginal and pure earth, where He formed the first Adam, so also now, having arranged His incarnation upon the earth, and so to speak, in place of dust He chooses out of all the creation this pure and immaculate Virgin and, having re-created mankind in His chosen one from among mankind, the creator of Adam is made the New Adam, in order to save the old.

Andrew of Crete (c.650-740[?]): Oration 1 – Homily on the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God; translation of complete homily @ St George Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

Cyril of Alexandria: The Holy Spirit impresses the Saviour’s Image on the hearts of those who receive Him Saturday, Jun 27 2015 

cyril_alexandriaAnd when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them: 

“Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them; whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained” (John 20:22-23).

He proclaimed that He would send down to us from heaven the Comforter, when He was ascended to God the Father.

And this, indeed, He did, when He had gone away to the Father, and vouchsafed to shed forth the Spirit abundantly upon all who were willing to receive it.

For any man could receive it, through faith, that is, and Holy Baptism.

And then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the voice of the Prophet: I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh.

[…] For God the Father, at the beginning, by His own Word, took of the dust of the ground, as is written, and fashioned the animal, that is man, and endowed him with a soul, according to His Will.

And He illuminated him with a share of His own Spirit; for He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, as is written.

And when it came to pass that through disobedience man fell under the power of death, and lost his ancient honour, God the Father built him up and restored him to newness of life, through the Son, as at the beginning.

And how did the Son restore him? By the death of His own Flesh He slew death, and brought the race of man back again into incorruption; for Christ rose again for us.

In order, then, that we might learn that He it was Who at the beginning created our nature, and sealed us with the Holy Spirit, our Saviour again grants the Spirit, through the outward sign of His Breath, to the holy disciples, as being the firstfruits of renewed nature.

For Moses writes concerning our creation of old, that God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life.

As, then, at the beginning, man was formed and came into being, so likewise is he renewed.

And as he was then formed in the Image of his Creator, so likewise now, by participation in the Spirit, is he transformed into the Likeness of his Maker.

For that the Spirit impresses the Saviour’s Image on the hearts of those who receive Him surely does not admit of question.

For Paul plainly exhorts those who had fallen through weakness into observance of the Law, in the words: My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you. 

For he says that Christ will not be formed in them save by partaking of the Holy Spirit, and living according to the law of the Gospel.

Therefore, as in the firstfruits of creation, which is made regenerate into incorruption and glory and into the Image of God, Christ establishes anew His own Spirit in His disciples.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on John, Book 12 (on John 20:22-23) [slightly adapted].

Cyril of Alexandria: The Encounter with the Risen Jesus on the Road to Emmaus Tuesday, May 6 2014 

cyril_alexandriaAnd beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27).

In this discourse the Lord shows that the law was necessary to make ready the way, and the ministry of the prophets to prepare men for faith in this marvellous act.

The law and the prophets were necessary in order that, when the resurrection really took place, those who were troubled at its greatness might remember what was said of old, and be induced to believe.

Christ brings forward therefore Moses and the prophets, interpreting their hidden meaning, and making plain to the worthy what to the unworthy was obscure.

In this way he settles in them that ancient and hereditary faith taught them by the sacred books which they possessed.

For nothing which comes from God is without its use, but all and several of them have their appointed place and service.

In their due place servants were sent before to make ready for the presence of the Master, by bringing in beforehand prophecy as the necessary preparative for faith.

This happened so that, like some royal treasure, what had been foretold might in due season be brought forward from the concealment of its former obscurity, being unveiled and made plain by the clearness of the interpretation.

Having thus then stirred up their minds by the writings of the law and the prophets, He afterwards more plainly sets Himself before them.

For, having consented to their request to go with them to the village, He took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and divided it among them.

“For their eyes, it says, “were held that they might not know Him,” until namely the word had entered stirring up their heart to faith, and then, rendering what they had before heard and believed visible, He offered them the sight seasonably after the hearing.

He does not, however, continue with them, for “He vanished, it says, out of their sight.”

For our Lord’s relation to men after His resurrection does not continue the same as before, for they too have need of renovation, and a second life in Christ, that the renewed may associate with the renewed, and the incorruptible approach the incorruptible.

For which reason, as John tells us, He did not permit Mary to touch Him, until He should go away and return again.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel (slightly adapted).

Georges Florovsky: St Athanasius on the Incarnation of the Logos Friday, May 2 2014 

FlorovskySt. Athanasius writes that the Logos [Word] became man, similar to us in all respects.

[…]  By virtue of its union with the Logos, “because of the Logos, which was in a body,” the body was freed from its weakness and subjection to decay.

[…] The Logos was not bound by the body but freed the body from its limitedness and its inclination to sin.

By the strength of the unchanging Logos, the mutable human nature in Christ became immutably good, and all delusions were powerless over it.

“The works proper to the Logos were achieved through the body.” The flesh was deified by serving the works of God, and the humanity in Christ was without sin.

The Lord “became our brother through the likeness of the body,” and his flesh “was saved and liberated before the others.”

Since we “share in his body,” we also are saved, and our life is renewed “because our flesh is no longer earthly but has been made identical with the Logos by the Divine Logos himself, who became flesh for our sakes.”

[…] St. Athanasius clearly emphasizes both the unity of Christ the God-Man and his unmerging two natures. Christ has a divine nature by, which he is consubstantial with the Father and also a human nature by, which he is similar and related to us.

For this reason he is the Saviour, the Logos, and the Second Adam all at once. The Logos became man so that we could “become divine,” “in order to deify us in himself.”

Deification is adoption by God, and “human sons have become the sons of God.” We are “received by the Logos and are deified through his flesh” by virtue of the Incarnation.

Born from the Virgin, the Logos was not united with only one man, but with the whole of human nature. Therefore, everything that was achieved in the human nature of Christ is immediately extended to all men because they have a body in common with him.

There is no coercion involved here. Men are more than similar to Christ — they are truly participants in the human nature of the Logos.

Christ is a vine and we are the branches, “united with him by our humanity.” In the same way that the tendrils, which grow from a grapevine are consubstantial with it, so are our bodies consubstantial with the body of the Lord, and we receive what he has accomplished.

His body is the “root of our resurrection and salvation.” Everyone is renewed, anointed, healed, and exalted in Christ, for “he has taken everyone on himself.”

Georges Florovsky (1893-1979; Eastern Orthodox): “St Athanasius” in The Byzantine Fathers of the Fifth Century.

Nicholas Cabasilas: The words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary Tuesday, Mar 25 2014 

nicholas_cabasilasEven if she had been a Cherub or a Seraph, or some other creature much purer than these Angelic beings, how could she [the Virgin Mary] have endured these words?

How could she have supposed that she would be able to fulfill these promises? How could she have furnished strength that would be commensurate with the magnitude of the work?

John, “a greater” than whom, according to the judgment of the Savior Himself, “there hath not risen”(Matthew 11:11), did not consider himself worthy even to touch His shoes, and that, when the Lord was leading a life of poverty.

The All-Blameless Virgin was bold enough to carry in her womb the Word Himself, the very Hypostasis of God.

“Who am I, and what is the house of my father?” (2 Kings 7:18). “Even in me, O Lord, shalt Thou save Israel?” (cf. Judges 6:36). Such things are to be heard from righteous men who were called to perform deeds accomplished by many persons and at many times.

But the Blessed Virgin was induced to undertake something unwonted and in no way congruent with human nature, something surpassing all rational understanding—for what else was she doing than elevating the earth to Heaven and through herself changing and transforming all things?—; and she was not shaken in her mind, nor did she perceive her soul to be inferior to this task.

But, just as we are not at all bothered if someone tells us that light is going to strike our eyes, and it is not strange for someone to state that when the sun rises it brings day, so also the Virgin, on learning that she would be capable of conceiving and bearing God Himself, Who is not contained in any place, was not at all surprised.

And she did not leave the words addressed to her unexamined, nor did she experience any light-mindedness, nor was she carried away by the great loftiness of the Angelic laudation, but she restrained herself and focused her attention on the salutation; she inquired into the manner of her conceiving and sought to learn about other matters related to this.

She did not go on to ask whether she was adequate and suited to the great magnitude of this ministry, or whether she had properly purified her body and her soul; rather, concerning what pertained to nature, she was puzzled, whereas she passed over what pertained to the readiness of her soul.

She requested an explanation of the former from Gabriel, but the latter she knew from herself. She had confidence and boldness before God from within, as John says, since her heart was an advocate for her (cf. 1 John 3:21).

Nicholas Cabasilas (1319/1323–after 1391): On the Occasion of the Feast of the Annunciation, 5, Translated from the Greek text in “Homélies Mariales Byzantines (II),” ed. M. Jugie, in Patrologia Orientalis, Vol. XIX, pp. 484-495@ Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Greece.

Hilarion Troitsky: In the New Humanity, Built upon the Foundation of the Incarnation, the Unity of Our Human Nature is Restored Sunday, Feb 9 2014 

Hilarion_TroitskyThe Sunday nearest February 9th (Julian calendar) is the feast (Russian Orthodox Church) of the Holy New Martyrs of Russia, one of whom was St Hilarion Troitsky.

Continued from here….

St. Irenaeus of Lyons…points out that the purpose and the essence of Christ’s coming is not in a new teaching.

He writes: “…What new thing then did the Lord bring to us by His advent? Know ye that He brought all [possible] novelty, by bringing Himself Who had been announced.

“For this very thing was proclaimed beforehand, that a novelty should come to renew and quicken mankind.”

The renewal of humanity is therefore the fruit of the very advent, the very Incarnation of the Son of God.

St. Irenaeus expressed this idea especially clearly in his recently discovered work, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching:

“Others do not ascribe any significance to the descent of the Son of God and the dispensation of His Incarnation, which the Apostles proclaimed and the prophets foretold, that by it must be accomplished the perfection of our humanity.… And such men should be counted among those who are lacking in faith.”

Thus the perfection of our humanity, according to the teaching of St. Irenaeus, must be brought to pass by the dispensation of the Incarnation of the Son of God, not by any kind of doctrine, not by the writing of any book.

By taking flesh and becoming man, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, made men partakers of the Divine nature. 

Assuming human nature in the unity of His Hypostasis, the Son of God by taking flesh became the New Adam, the Progenitor of the new humanity.

“Beholding him that was in God’s image and likeness fallen through the transgression, Jesus bowed the heavens and came down, and without changing He took up His dwelling in a Virgin womb: that thereby He might fashion corrupt Adam anew.”

St. Irenaeus says that the Son of the Most High became the Son of man in order to make man a son of God.

In the new humanity, built upon the foundation of the Incarnation of the Son of God, the unity of our human nature, broken by sin, is restored. Christ Himself named this new humanity the Church.

[…] We read how the Apostle Peter on behalf of all the Apostles confessed the truth of the Incarnation of the Only-begotten Son of God. And Christ responded to him: Upon this rock (upon the Incarnation, upon the fact that He is the Son of the Living God) I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:16–18).

When Christ parted with and said farewell to His disciples, He promised to send them another Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Who would instruct them, would guide them into all truth, and Who would abide with them forever (cf. John 14:16–17; 15:26; 16:13).

Hilarion Troitsky (1886-1929; Russian Orthodox): Holy Scripture and the Church (1914), translated by Igor Radev in The Orthodox Word № 264-265 @ Pravoslavie.

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