Cyril of Alexandria: Mary, Theotokos, We Salute You Wednesday, Jan 1 2014 

cyril_alexandriaI see here a joyful company of Christian men met together in ready response to the call of Mary, the holy and ever-virgin Mother of God.

The great grief that weighed upon me is changed into joy by your presence, venerable Fathers.

Now the beautiful saying of David the psalmist: How good and pleasant it is for brothers to live together in unity (Psalm 133) has come true for us.

Therefore, holy and incomprehensible Trinity, we salute you at whose summons we have come together to this church of Mary, the Theotokos [Mother of God].

Mary, Theotokos, we salute you. Precious vessel, worthy of the whole world’s reverence, you are an ever-shining light, the crown of virginity, the symbol of orthodoxy, an indestructible temple, the place that held Him whom no place can contain, mother and virgin.

Because of you the holy gospels could say: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

We salute you, for in your holy womb was confined him who is beyond all limitation.

Because of you the Holy Trinity is glorified and adored; the Cross is called precious and is venerated throughout the world; the heavens exult;

the angels and archangels make merry; demons are put to flight; the devil, that tempter, is thrust down from heaven;

the fallen race of man is taken up on high; all creatures possessed by the madness of idolatry have attained knowledge of the truth;

believers receive holy baptism; the oil of gladness is poured out; the Church is established throughout the world; pagans are brought to repentance.

What more is there to say? Because of you the light of the only-begotten Son of God has shone upon those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death;

prophets pronounced the word of God; the apostles preached salvation to the Gentiles; the dead are raised to life, and kings rule by the power of the Holy Trinity.

Who can put Mary’s high honor into words? She is both mother and virgin. I am overwhelmed by the wonder of this miracle.

Of course no one could be prevented from living in the house he had built for himself, yet who would invite mockery by asking His own servant to become His mother?

Behold then the joy of the whole universe. Let the union of God and man in the Son of the Virgin Mary fill us with awe and adoration.

Let us fear and worship the undivided Trinity as we sing the praise of the ever-virgin Mary, the holy temple of God, and of God Himself, her Son and spotless Bridegroom.

To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Homily given at the Council of Ephesus, 361 @ Orthodox Martyria.

Bernard of Clairvaux: Jesus is a Physician Who Heals the Broken-Hearted and Binds Their Wounds Tuesday, Aug 20 2013 

Heiligenkreuz_Bernard_of_ClervauxThe person who…smarts at the remembrance of past deeds and says to God in bitterness of soul: “Do not condemn me,” or who may still be caught up in the snare of his own evil propensities, still perilously tempted, this person needs a physician, not a bridegroom; hence kisses and embraces are not for him, but only oil and ointments, remedies for his wounds.

Is not this how we too often feel? Is not this our experience at prayer, we who are tempted daily by our passions and filled with remorse for our past sins?

Good Jesus, from what great bitterness have you not freed me by your coming, time after time? When distress has made me weep, when untold sobs and groans have shaken me, have you not anointed my wounded conscience with the ointment of your mercy and poured in the oil of gladness?

How often has not prayer raised me from the brink of despair and made me feel happy in the hope of pardon? All who have had these experiences know well that the Lord Jesus is a physician indeed, “who heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”

And those who cannot lay claim to experience must for that very reason put their trust in him when he says: “The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me, he has sent me to bring good news to the humble, to bind up the broken-hearted.”

And if they should still be in doubt, let them draw near and put it to the test and so learn by inward experience what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”

[…] When men grow weary of studying spiritual doctrine and become lukewarm ~ when their spiritual energies are drained away, then they walk in sadness along the ways of the Lord. T

hey fulfill the tasks enjoined on them with hearts that are tired and arid, they grumble without ceasing, they complain of the long days and the long nights in words like those of Job: “When I lie down I say: ‘When shall I arise?’ And then I shall be waiting for evening.”

If when we are subject to these moods, the compassionate Lord draws near to us on the way we are traveling, and being from heaven begins to talk to us about heavenly truths, sings our favourite air from among the songs of Zion, discourses on the city of God, on the peace of that city, on the eternity of that peace and on the life that is eternal, I assure you that this happy discourse will bear along as in a carriage the man who has grown tired and listless; it drives all trace of aversion from the hearer’s mind and weariness from his body.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermons on the Song of Songs, 32, 3-4.

Ambrose of Milan: The Holy Spirit is the Oil of Gladness and the Ointment of Christ Friday, May 17 2013 

ambrose_of_milanNow many have thought that the Holy Spirit is the ointment of Christ. And well it is said ointment, because He is called the oil of gladness, the joining together of many graces giving a sweet fragrance.

But God the Almighty Father anointed Him [Christ] the Prince of priests, Who was, not like others anointed in a type under the Law, but was both according to the Law anointed in the body, and in truth was full with the virtue of the Holy Spirit from the Father above the Law.

This is the oil of gladness, of which the prophet says: “God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.”

Lastly, Peter says that Jesus was anointed with the Spirit, as you read: “Ye know that word which went through all Judea beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached, even Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is, then, the oil of gladness.

And well did he say oil of gladness, lest you should think Him a creature; for it is the nature of this sort of oil that it will by no means mingle with moisture of another kind. Gladness, too, does not anoint the body, but brightens the inmost heart, as the prophet said: “Thou hast put gladness in my heart.”

[…] And well is that called oil of gladness wherewith Christ was anointed; for neither was usual nor common oil to be sought for Him, wherewith either wounds are dressed or heat assuaged; since the salvation of the world did not seek alleviation for His wounds, nor the eternal might of His wearied Body demand refreshment.

Nor is it wonderful if He have the oil of gladness, Who made those about to die rejoice, put off sadness from the world, destroyed the odour of sorrowful death. And so the Apostle says: “For we are the good odour of Christ to God;” certainly showing that he is speaking of spiritual things.

But when the Son of God Himself says: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me,” He points out the ointment of the Spirit. Therefore the Spirit is the ointment of Christ.

Or since the Name of Jesus is as ointment poured out, if they wish to understand Christ Himself, and not the Spirit of Christ to be expressed under the name of ointment, certainly when the Apostle Peter says that the Lord Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit, it is without doubt plain that the Spirit also is called ointment.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On the Holy Spirit, 1, 10, 100-104.

Symeon the Metaphrast: In Prayer the Saints Experience Communion in the Hidden Energy of God’s Holiness Saturday, Sep 22 2012 

The crown of every good endeavour and the highest of achievements is diligence in prayer.

Through this, God guiding us and lending a helping hand, we come to acquire the other virtues.

It is in prayer that the saints experience communion in the hidden energy of God’s holiness and inner union with it, and their intellect itself is brought through unutterable love into the presence of the Lord.

“Thou hast given gladness to my heart”, wrote the psalmist (Ps. 4:7); and the Lord Himself said that “the kingdom of heaven is within you” (cf Luke 17:21).

And what does the kingdom being within mean except that the heavenly gladness of the Spirit is clearly stamped on the virtuous soul?

For already in this life, through active communion in the Spirit, the virtuous soul receives a foretaste and a prelude of the delight, joy and spiritual gladness which the saints will enjoy in the eternal light of Christ’s kingdom.

This is something that St Paul also affirms: “He consoles us in our afflictions, so that we can console others in every affliction through the consolation with which we ourselves have been consoled by God” (2 Cor. 1:4).

And passages in the Psalms likewise hint at this active gladness and consolation of the Spirit, such as: “My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God” (Ps. 84:2. LXX): and: “My soul will be filled with marrow and fatness” (Ps. 63:5).

[…] Not only does St Paul instruct us to pray without ceasing and to persist in prayer (cf. 1 Thess. 5:17; Rom. 12:12), but so also does the Lord when He says that God will vindicate those who cry out to Him day and night (cf. Luke 18:7) and counsels us to “watch and pray” (Matt. 26 : 41). We must therefore pray always and not lose heart (cf. Luke 18:1).

To put things more succinctly: he who persists in prayer has to struggle greatly and exert himself  relentlessly if he is to overcome the many obstacles with which the devil tries to impede his diligence –

obstacles such as sleep, listlessness, physical torpor, distraction of thought, confusion of intellect, debility, and so on, not to mention afflictions, and also the attacks of the evil spirits that violently fight against us, opposing us and trying to prevent the soul from approaching God when it truly and ceaselessly seeks Him.

Symeon the Metaphrast (10th century?): Paraphrase of the Homilies St Makarios of Egypt, 1,18; 20. Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 3 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979). 

Macarius the Egyptian: Anointed from the Tree of Life, Jesus Christ Sunday, May 6 2012 

Macarius3The Christians, who are come the nearest to the King, are at all times devoted to the cross of Christ. And when they are anointed with the heavenly unction, they commence to be kings and prophets of the heavenly mysteries.

For if the anointing oil that came from an outward plant had so much virtue that the persons anointed with it were constituted kings thereby; how much more do they who are anointed with the sanctifying and cheering oil of gladness, the heavenly and spiritual oil, receive the sign of that incorruptible kingdom, and everlasting power, the earnest of the Spirit, the very spirit of holiness and comfort?

It is called the Comforter, by reason of that comfort and support it bestows upon them that are in afflictions.

These being anointed from the tree of life, Jesus Christ, from the heavenly plant, are thought worthy to come to perfection; to the kingdom, and the adoption, being admitted to the secret councils of the heavenly King, and having free access to the Almighty, entering into his very palace, where are angels, and the spirits of the holy persons, though at the same time they live in this present world.

For though they have not actually received the inheritance prepared for them in that world, they are secure from the earnest of the Spirit, which they have received, as if they were already crowned, and in possession of the kingdom.

Nor does it seem a strange thing to them that they shall reign together with Christ, through the overflowing presence of the Spirit. For what reason? Even because though in the flesh, they have a relish of its sweetness, and that effectual working of his power.

For they that are to reign in the world to come are beforehand acquainted with the mysteries of grace. Indeed, since man transgressed the commandment, the devil has covered the whole soul with a dark veil.

But when grace comes, the veil is thrown off; so that the soul, becoming pure and regaining its proper nature, a creature free from blame or spot, ever after beholds with a clear sight the glory of the true light and the true Sun of Righteousness flashing with his bright beams upon the heart itself.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]; Spiritual Homily 9, 1-2, trans. by the Revd D.R. Jenning; full text, with corrections and editorial, at the Monachos.net Library Project.

Benedict XVI: The Oil of Gladness Thursday, Apr 5 2012 

The Fathers of the Church were fascinated by a phrase from Psalm 45 (44) – traditionally held to be Solomon’s wedding psalm – which was reinterpreted by Christians as the psalm for the marriage of the new Solomon, Jesus Christ, to his Church.

To the King, Christ, it is said: “Your love is for justice; your hatred for evil. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above other kings” (v. 8).

What is this oil of gladness with which the true king, Christ, was anointed?

The Fathers had no doubt in this regard: the oil of gladness is the Holy Spirit himself, who was poured out upon Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit is the gladness that comes from God.

From Jesus this gladness sweeps over us in his Gospel, in the joyful message that God knows us, that he is good and that his goodness is the power above all powers; that we are wanted and loved by him.

Gladness is the fruit of love. The oil of gladness, which was poured out over Christ and comes to us from him, is the Holy Spirit, the gift of Love who makes us glad to be alive.

Since we know Christ, and since in him we know the true God, we know that it is good to be a human being.

It is good to be alive, because we are loved, because truth itself is good.

In the early Church, the consecrated oil was considered a special sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who communicates himself to us as a gift from Christ. He is the oil of gladness.

[…]  The gladness that comes to us from Christ…does indeed make us happy, but it can also perfectly well coexist with suffering.

It gives us the capacity to suffer and, in suffering, to remain nevertheless profoundly glad.

It gives us the capacity to share the suffering of others and thus by placing ourselves at one another’s disposal, to express tangibly the light and the goodness of God.

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): Homily at Chrism Mass, Holy Thursday, 2010.

Hilary of Poitiers: The Oil of Gladness Quenches the Unclean Spirits of the Heart Sunday, Feb 12 2012 

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.

It is good and pleasant for brothers to dwell in unity because when they dwell in unity they are gathered in the community of the Church; when they are called brothers it is because they are of one heart in the charity of a single will.

At the first preaching of the Apostles we read that this was the great precept, summed up in the words, The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul.

It is fitting then, for the people of God to be brothers under one Father, to be one under one Spirit, to enter with one mind under the same roof, under one head to be members ­of one body.

It is good and pleasant when brothers dwell in unity. ­

And the Prophet uses a simile to illustrate that goodness ­and pleasantness, It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes.

By that oil, made up of perfumes, Aaron was anointed to the priesthood. It was God’s pleasure that this be the anointing of his first priest.

And we know that our Lord, too, was invisibly anointed when it is said, Your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness.

That anointing is not a material thing, he was anointed not with a horn of oil as kings are, but with the oil of gladness.

Furthermore, after this anointing Aaron was called according to Law, the Christ, which means the anointed one.

And since wherever it is poured out, this oil quenches the unclean spirits of the heart, so through the anointing of charity we breathe forth to God a sweet odour, as the Apostle says, we are the aroma of Christ.

Just as this oil was pleasing to God in his first priest, so it is good and pleasant for brothers to dwell in unity.

The oil ran down from the head into the beard. Now, a beard is an ornament of adult manhood. For we must not be little children in Christ except, as it is written, we should be babes in evil not in thinking.

The Apostle calls all who have not faith ‘babes’ since they are not strong enough for solid food and still need milk, as he says, I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready.

Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-368): On Psalm 132; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Monday of the 6th  Week in Ordinary Time Year 2.