Cyril of Alexandria: “For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs” Tuesday, Mar 1 2016 

cyril_alexandriaIn Egypt the Israelites sacrificed a lamb at the bidding of Moses, who told them to eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

For seven days, says Scripture, you shall eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

Must we then continue to observe customs that are only types and symbols?

Remember the words of Paul, for he was truly learned in the Law and very wise.

He says: We know that the Law is spiritual. Can anyone doubt that he who had Christ within him spoke the plain truth and did not deceive?

Moreover, Christ himself said clearly: Do not imagine that 1 have come to do away with the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to fulfil them.

 I assure you that the Law will not lose a single dot or stroke until its purpose is achieved. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

In what way then must we also fulfil the ancient law?

For us who have been called to live a life of holiness through faith the true lamb has been sacrificed, the lamb that takes away the sin of the world.

To this sacrifice we must add a food that is spiritual, wholly good and truly sacred, a food typified in the Law by the unleavened bread, which we now understand in a spiri­tual way.

In the divinely inspired Scriptures yeast always signifies wickedness and sin. Our Lord Jesus Christ, warning his holy disciples to be on their guard, said: Beware of the yeast of the scribes and Pharisees.

And Paul in his great wisdom wrote that those who have once been sanctified should put far from them the yeast of impurity that corrupts mind and heart.

Purify yourselves of the old yeast, he urged, and become a fresh batch of bread, since you really are unleavened.

This urgent plea prompted by concern for our well-being shows that spiritual communion with Christ the Saviour of us all is not only a benefit to us but also a real need.

It also shows how important it is for us to keep our minds pure by refraining from sin and washing away every stain.

In a word, we must avoid everything that defiled us in the past, for it is then, when no fault of ours bars the way and we are wholly free from reproach, that we shall open the way to this communion with Christ.

But we also have to eat bitter herbs. These stand for the bitter sufferings we must undergo, and we should greatly value the endurance they demand.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Paschal Homilies 19.2 (PG 77:824-825); 392); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Saturday of the First Week in Lent, Year 2.

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Irenaeus of Lyons: These blessings made man glorious, giving him what he lacked – friendship with God Friday, Feb 26 2016 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonIn Deuteronomy Moses says to the people, The Lord Your God made a covenant with you in Horeb, not with your fathers did the Lord make this covenant but with you.

Why did the Lord not make the covenant with your fathers? Because The Law is not laid down for the just.

Your fathers lived just lives because they had the meaning of the decalogue implanted in their hearts and minds – ­that is, they loved God, who made them, and they did their neighbour no injury.

So they did not need to be warned by written prohibitions; for they had the righteous­ness of the Law in their hearts.

When, however, in Egypt this righteousness and this love towards God were forgotten and became extinct, God was compelled by his deep love towards men to reveal himself by a voice.

With power he led his people out of Egypt, so that man again might become the disciple of God and follow him. So that they might not despise their creator, he punished those who were disobedient. He fed them with manna so that they might have spiritual food.

[…] He taught them to love God, and instilled in them that righteousness which is towards their neighbour. By the Decalogue he instructed men to be friends with himself and in harmony with their neighbour.

Man is greatly helped by these things. God, however, stands in need of nothing from man.These blessings made man glorious, giving him what he lacked: friendship with God. They bestowed nothing on God, for God did not stand in need of man’s love.

Man did not have the glory of God. The only way that man could receive this glory was by obeying God. There­fore Moses said, Choose life that you and your descend­ants may live, loving the Lord your God and obeying his voice and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days.

To prepare man for this life, God himself spoke the words of the Decalogue, to all men alike. And so these words remain with us too.

[…] By the new covenant of liberty God cancelled those provisions which he had given to his people to enslave them and serve the purpose of a sign. At the same time the laws, which are natural and appropriate to free men and are applicable to all without distinction, were amplified and widened.

Out of the abundance of his love, without grudging, God adopted men as his sons, and granted that they might know God as Father and love him with all their heart, and follow his Word without turning aside.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses 4.16.2-5); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Year 1.

John Chrysostom: “For I through the Law died unto the Law” Thursday, Feb 18 2016 

Chrysostom3“For I through the Law died unto the Law” (Gal. 2:19).

This may be viewed in two ways; it is either the law of grace of which he speaks.

For he is wont to call this a law, as in the words, “For the law of the Spirit of life made me free.” (Rom. 8:2).

Or it is the old Law, of which he says, that by the Law itself he has become dead to the Law.

That is to say, the Law itself has taught me no longer to obey itself, and therefore if I do so, I shall be transgressing even its teaching.

How, in what way has it so taught? Moses says, speaking of Christ, “The Lord God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him shall ye hearken” (Deut. 18:15).

Therefore they who do not obey Him, transgress the Law.

Again, the expression, “I through the Law died unto the Law,” may be understood in another sense.

The Law commands all its precepts to be performed, and punishes the transgressor; therefore we are all dead to it, for no man has fulfilled it.

Here observe how guardedly he assails it; he says not, “the Law is dead to me,” but, “I am dead to the Law.”

The meaning of this is, that, as it is impossible for a dead corpse to obey the commands of the Law, so also is it for me who have perished by its curse, for by its word am I slain.

Let it not therefore lay commands on the dead, dead by its own act, dead not in body only, but in soul, which has involved the death of the body.

This he shows in what follows: “That I might live unto God, I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:19-20).

Having said, “I am dead,” lest it should be objected how “then dost thou live?” he adds the cause of his living, and shows that when alive the Law slew him, but that when dead Christ through death restored him to life.

He shows the wonder to be twofold; that by Christ both the dead was begotten into life, and that this happened by means of death.

He here means the immortal life, for this is the meaning of the words, “That I might live unto God I am crucified with Christ.”

How, it is asked, can a man now living and breathing have been crucified? That Christ hath been crucified is manifest, but how can you have been crucified, and yet live? He explains it thus: “Yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me.”

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Commentary on St Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, (on Galatians 2:19-20); slightly adapted).

Cyril of Alexandria: The Mind of Christ and the Advent of the Holy Spirit Tuesday, Jun 10 2014 

cyril_alexandria“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall guide you into all the truth:

for He shall not speak from Himself; but what things soever He shall hear, these shall He speak;

and He shall declare unto you the things that are to come” (John 16;12-13).

The new instruction of the Gospel message belongs not to those who are not yet moulded by the Spirit into newness of life and knowledge, and they cannot as yet contain the mysteries of the Holy Trinity.

The exposition then of the deeper mysteries of the faith is suitably reserved for the spiritual renovation that was to proceed from the Spirit when the mind of those who believed on Christ would no longer allow them to remain in the obsolete letter of the Law but rather induce their conversion to new doctrines and implant in them thoughts enabling them to see a fair vision of the truth.

And that before the Resurrection of our Saviour Christ from the dead, and before partaking of His Spirit, the disciples were…clinging to the legal dispensation, even though the mystery of Christ was clearly superior to it, one might very readily perceive.

[…] When, by being enriched with the grace that is from above and from heaven, they had their strength renewed, according to the Scripture, and had attained to a better knowledge than before, then we hear them boldly saying: But we have the mind of Christ.

By the Mind of Christ they mean nothing else but the advent of the Holy Spirit into their hearts, revealing unto them in due measure all things whatsoever they ought to know and learn.

When then “He,” that is the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He shall guide you into all the truth. See how free from extravagance the expression is: note the soberness of the phrase. For having told them that the Comforter would come unto them, He called Him the Spirit of Truth, that is, His own Spirit. For He is the Truth.

[…] The Spirit of Truth then, He says, will lead you to complete knowledge of the truth. For as having perfect knowledge of the truth, of which He is also the Spirit, He will make no partial revelation of it to those who worship Him, but will rather engraft in their hearts the mystery concerning it in its entirety.

For even if now we know in part, as Paul says, still, though our knowledge be limited, the fair vision of the truth has gleamed upon us entire and undefiled.

As then no man knoweth the things of a man, according to the Scripture, save the spirit of the man which is in him, in the same way, I think, to use the words of Paul, none knoweth the things of God save the Spirit of God which is in Him.

Since He is My Spirit [says Jesus], and as it were My Mind, He will surely speak to you of the things concerning Me.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on John, Book 10 [on John 16:12-13].

Dorotheus of Gaza: “This is the day of Resurrection! Let us offer ourselves as a sacrifice” Wednesday, May 14 2014 

Dorotheos2In antiquity the sons of Israel, on the feast-days or triumphs, offered to God gifts according to the Law, that is sacrifices, whole-burnt offerings, first-fruits and the like.

Therefore St. Gregory [Nazianzen] teaches us also (like them) to make celebration unto the Lord, as they did, and inspires us, saying, “The day of Resurrection,” in place of the “The day of the holy feast, the day of the Divine solemnity, the day of the Pascha of Christ.”

And what does the Pascha of Christ mean? The sons of Israel performed the Pascha, Passover when they departed from Egypt; and now Pascha, the celebration of which St. Gregory is encouraging us to keep, is performed by the soul which departs from the mental Egypt, that is, sin.

For when the soul passes over from sin to virtue, that is when it celebrates the Pascha of the Lord as Evagrius has said; the Pascha of the Lord is the passing over from evil to good.

And thus now today is the Pascha of the Lord, the Day of the Bright Festival, the Day of the Resurrection of Christ Who has crucified sin, Who has died for us and arisen.

Let us also offer to the Lord gifts, sacrifices, whole-burnt offerings–not of irrational animals, which Christ does not wish, for sacrifice and offering hast thou not desired. Whole burnt offerings and oblations for sin hast Thou not demanded (Ps. 39:9, 10). And Isaiah says, of what value to me is the abundance of your sacrifices? saith the Lord (Is. 1:11)….

The Lamb of God was killed for us, according to the words of the Apostle who said For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us (I Cor. 5:7).

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us –  for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (Gal. 3:13, Deut. 21:23) –  to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons (Gal. 4:5); and so we also should offer Him a certain God-pleasing gift.

And what kind of gift or what kind of sacrifice is it that we should offer to Christ on the day of the Resurrection…? The same Saint [Gregory] instructs us again in this, for having said, “The day of Resurrection” he adds, “Let us offer ourselves.”

Thus also the Apostle says, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Rom. 12:1). And how should we offer our bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice? By no longer fulfilling the will of our flesh and our thoughts (Eph. 2:3), but acting in the Spirit.

Dorotheos of Gaza (505-565 or 620):  Conference 21 – An Explanation of Certain Expressions of St Gregory the Theologian which are Sung together with the Troparia on Holy Pascha @ Pravoslavie.

 

Jean Daniélou: The Realities of the Old Testament are Figures of Those of the New Wednesday, May 7 2014 

JeanDanielouSJThat the realities of the Old Testament are figures of those of the New is one of the principles of  biblical theology.

This science of the similitudes between the two Testaments is called typology.

And here we would do well to remind ourselves of its foundation, for this is to be found in the Old Testament itself.

At the time of the Captivity, the prophets announced to the people of Israel that in the future God would perform for their benefit deeds analogous to, and even greater than those He had performed in the past.

So there would be a new Deluge, in which the sinful world would be annihilated, and a few men, a “remnant,” would be preserved to inaugurate a new humanity;

there would be a new Exodus in which, by His power, God would set mankind free from its bondage to idols; there would be a new Paradise into which God would introduce the people He had redeemed.

These prophecies constitute a primary typology that might be called eschatological, for the prophets saw these future events as happening at the end of time.

The New Testament, therefore, did not invent typology, but simply showed that it was fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. With Jesus, in fact, these events of the end, of the fullness of time, are now accomplished.

He is the New Adam with whom the time of the Paradise of the future has begun. In Him is already realized that destruction of the sinful world of which the Flood was the figure. In Him is accomplished the true Exodus which delivers the people of God from the tyranny of the demon.

Typology was used in the preaching of the apostles as an argument to establish the truth of their message, by showing that Christ continues and goes beyond the Old Testament: “Now all these things happened to them as a type and, they were written for our correction” (I Cor. 10, 11). This is what St. Paul calls the consolatio Scripturarum (Rom. 15, 4).

But these eschatological times are not only those of the life of Jesus, but of the Church as well. Consequently, the eschatological typology of the Old Testament is accomplished not only in the person of Christ, but also in the Church.

Besides Christological typology, therefore, there exists a sacramental typology, and we find it in the New Testament. The Gospel of St. John shows us that the manna was a figure of the Eucharist; the first Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians that the crossing of the Red Sea was a figure of Baptism; the first Epistle of St. Peter that the Flood was also a figure of Baptism.

Jean Daniélou, S.J. (1905 – 1974):  The Bible and the Liturgy, Liturgical Studies, 3 (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1956), pp. 1-2.

Basil of Seleucia: Your Baptism is the Promise of the Life of Heaven Friday, Apr 25 2014 

Fathers_of_the_ChurchChrist descended into hell to liberate its captives.

In one instant he destroyed all record of our ancient debt incurred under the Law, in order to lead us to heaven where there is no death but only eternal life and righteousness.

By the Baptism which you, the newly-enlightened, have just received, you now share in these blessings.

Your initiation into the life of grace is the pledge of your resurrection.

Your Baptism is the promise of the life of heaven.

By your immersion you imitated the burial of the Lord, but when you came out of the water you were conscious only of the reality of the Resurrection.

Believe in this reality, of which previously you saw only the outward signs.

Accept the assurance of Paul when he says: If we have been united to Christ in a death like his, we shall be united to him also in a resurrection like his.

Baptism is the planting of the seed of immortality, a planting which takes place in the font and bears fruit in heaven.

The grace of the Spirit works in a mysterious way in the font, and the outward appearance must not obscure the wonder of it.

Although water serves as the instrument, it is grace which gives rebirth. Grace transforms all who are placed in the font just as the seed is transformed in the womb.

It refashions all who go down into the water as metal is recast in a furnace. It reveals to them the mysteries of immortality; it seals them with the pledge of resurrection

These wonderful mysteries are symbolized for you, the newly-enlightened, even in the garments you wear. See how you are clothed in the outward signs of these blessings.

The radiant brightness of your robe stands for incorruptibility. The white band encircling your head like a diadem proclaims your liberty.

In your hand you hold the sign of your victory over the devil. Christ is showing you that you have risen from the dead.

He does this now in a symbolic way, but soon he will reveal the full reality if we keep the garment of faith undefiled and do not let sin extinguish the lamp of grace.

If we preserve the crown of the Spirit, the Lord will call from heaven in a voice of tremendous majesty, yet full of tenderness: Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdomprepared for you since the beginning of the world.

To him be glory and power forever, through endless ages. Amen.

Basil of Seleucia (d. 458-460): Paschal Homily (PG 28:1079-1082); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Low Sunday, Year 2

Dorotheus of Gaza: The light of conscience Saturday, Mar 22 2014 

Dorotheos2When God created man He sowed in him something divine, a certain thought which has in itself, like a spark, both light and warmth; a thought which enlightens the mind and indicates to it what is good and what is evil—this is called conscience, and it is a natural law.

This is that well which, as the Holy Fathers interpret it, Isaac dug and the Philistines covered up (Gen. 26:18). Following this law, that is, conscience, the Patriarchs and all the saints pleased God before the written Law.

But when men through the fall of sin buried and trampled upon it, then the written Law became necessary, the Holy Prophets became necessary, the very Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ became necessary in order to reveal and move it (the conscience)—in order that this buried spark might again be ignited by the keeping of His Holy Commandments.

Now it is in our power either to again bury it or to allow it to shine in us and illuminate us, if we shall submit to it. For when our conscience tells us to do something and we disdain it, and when it again speaks, and we do not do what it says, but rather continue to trample upon it, then we bury it and it can no longer speak clearly to us from the weight that lies upon it.

But like a lamp which hangs behind a curtain, it begins to show us things more darkly. And just as no one can recognize his own face in water that is obscured by many weeds, so after the transgression, we also do not understand what our conscience tells us—so that it seems to us that we have no conscience at all.

However, there is no man who has no conscience, for it is, as we have already said, something divine and never perishes. It always reminds us of what is profitable, but we do not feel it because, as has already been said, we disdain it and trample upon it.

Wherefore the Prophet laments over Ephraim and says (Hosea 5:11) Ephraim altogether prevailed against his adversary, he trod judgment under foot. By adversary was meant the conscience. […] But why is the conscience called the adversary?

It is called adversary because it always opposes our evil will and reminds us what we must do but do not do; and again, what we should not do but do, and for this it judges us, which is why the Lord calls it the adversary and commands us saying, Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him (Matt. 25:26). The way, as St. Basil the Great says, is this world.

Dorotheos of Gaza (505-565 or 620): Conference 3 – On the Conscience @ Pravoslavie.

Aphrahat the Persian: When Our Life-Giver Came He Showed the Eagerness of Love Tuesday, Jan 21 2014 

ephrem-isaac-aphrahatSurely, beloved, all the law and the prophets depend upon the two commandments, as our Saviour said:

“The law and the prophets are too little to convince him who will not be persuaded.”

Therefore our Saviour said: “On these two commandments hang the law and the prophets,” that is:

“A man shall love the Lord His God with all his soul, and with all his might, and with all his substance”; and that a man also “shall love his neighbor as himself.”

[…] In what was said before in my earlier discourse concerning faith, I have shown that this covenant in which we are established is founded upon faith.

Now in this second discourse…I have reminded you that all the law and the prophets depend upon two commandments – those which our Saviour spoke – and in these two commandments are included all the law and the prophets.

And in the law faith is included, and by faith true love is established, which is from those two commandments, that after a man loves the Lord his God he shall cherish his neighbor as himself.

Now hear, beloved, concerning the love which is produced from those two commandments.

For when our Life-giver came He showed the eagerness of love, for He said to His disciples: “This is My commandment that ye love one another.”

And again He said to them: “A new commandment I give you, that ye love one another.”

And again, when making clear concerning love, thus He warned them: “Love your enemies, and bless him who curses you; pray for those who deal hardly with you and persecute you.”

And this again He said to them: “If ye love him who loves you what is your reward? For if thou lovest him who loves thee thus also do the Gentiles, who loves them they love him.”

Again our Life-giver said: “If ye do good to him who does good unto you what is your reward? thus also do the publicans and sinners. But ye, because ye are called sons of God who is in heaven, be ye like Him who showeth mercy also upon those who renounce goodness.”

Again our Saviour said: “Forgive, and it shall be forgiven you; loose, and ye shall loosed; give, and it shall be given you.”

Again He spoke and put fear in us: “Unless ye forgive men who sin against you their sins, neither will the Father forgive you.”

For thus He warned and said: “If thy brother shall sin against thee, forgive him; and even if he shall sin against thee seven times in one day, forgive him.”

Aphrahat the Persian (c.270-c.345): Demonstrations, 2 – On Love (1; 11; 12). (The icon accompanying this extract depicts Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Syrian, and Aphrahat).

Antony the Great: The Only-Begotten, the Very Mind of the Father and His Image, the Great Physician Friday, Jan 17 2014 

saints_101_anthonyJanuary 17th is the feast of St Antony the Great.

Truly, my beloved in the Lord, not at one time only did God visit His creatures; but from the foundation of the world, whenever any have come to the Creator of all by the law of His covenant implanted in them, God is present with each one of these in His bounty and grace by His Spirit.

But in the case of those rational natures in which that covenant grew cold, and their intellectual perception died, so that they were no longer able to know themselves according to their first condition; concerning them I say that they became altogether irrational, and worshipped the creation rather than the Creator.

But the Creator of all in His great bounty visited us by the implanted law of the covenant. For He is immortal substance.

And as many as became worthy of God and grew by His implanted law, and were taught by His Holy Spirit and received the Spirit of Adoption, these were able to worship their Creator as they ought: of whom Paul says that “they received not the promise” on account of us. (Heb. 11:39).

And the Creator of All, who repents not of His love, desiring to visit our sickness and confusion, raised up Moses the Lawgiver, who gave us the law in writing, and founded for us the House of Truth, which is the Catholic Church, that makes us one in God; for He desires that we should be brought back to our first beginning.

Moses built the house, yet did not complete it, but left it and went away. Then again God raised up the choir of the Prophets by His Spirit. And they also built on the foundation of Moses, but could not complete the house, and likewise left it and went away.

And all of them , being clothed with the Spirit, saw that the wound was incurable, and that none of the creatures was able to heal it, but only the Only-begotten, who is the very Mind of the Father and His Image, who after the pattern of His Image made every rational creature.

For these knew that the Saviour is the great physician; and they assembled all together, and offered prayer for their members, that is, for us, crying out and saying, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” (Jer. 8:22) “We would have healed her, but she is not healed: now therefore let us forsake her and go away.” (Jer.51:9)

Antony the Great (c.251-356): Letter 2 (trans. Derwas J. Chitty).

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