Leo the Great: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Tuesday, Nov 10 2015 

Leo_MagnusContinued from here…..

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). 

It would perhaps be doubtful what poor He was speaking of, if in saying “blessed are the poor” He had added nothing which would explain the sort of poor:

and then that poverty by itself would appear sufficient to win the kingdom of heaven which many suffer from hard and heavy necessity.

But when He says “blessed are the poor in spirit,” He shows that the kingdom of heaven must be assigned to those who are recommended by the humility of their spirits rather than by the smallness of their means.

Yet it cannot be doubted that this possession of humility is more easily acquired by the poor than the rich:  for submissiveness is the companion of those that want, while loftiness of mind dwells with riches.

Notwithstanding, even in many of the rich is found that spirit which uses its abundance not for the increasing of its pride but on works of kindness, and counts that for the greatest gain which it expends in the relief of others’ hardships.

It is given to every kind and rank of men to share in this virtue, because men may be equal in will, though unequal in fortune:  and it does not matter how different they are in earthly means, who are found equal in spiritual possessions.

Blessed, therefore, is poverty which is not possessed with a love of temporal things, and does not seek to be increased with the riches of the world, but is eager to amass heavenly possessions.

Of this high-souled humility the Apostles first, after the Lord, have given us example. Leaving all that they had without difference at the voice of the heavenly Master, they were turned by a ready change from the catching of fish to be fishers of men, and made many like themselves through the imitation of their faith, when with those first-begotten sons of the Church, “the heart of all was one, and the spirit one, of those that believed” (Acts 4:32).

For, putting away the whole of their things and possessions, they enriched themselves with eternal goods, through the most devoted poverty, and in accordance with the Apostles’ preaching rejoiced to have nothing of the world and possess all things with Christ.

Hence the blessed Apostle Peter, when he was going up into the temple, and was asked for alms by the lame man, said, “Silver and gold is not mine, but what I have that I give thee:  in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk” (Acts 3:6).

What more sublime than this humility? what richer than this poverty?  […] He [Peter] who gave not Cæsar’s image in a coin, restored Christ’s image on the man.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 95, 2-3.

Gregory Palamas: The Light of Thabor Shines in the Hearts of the Faithful and Perfect Thursday, Oct 10 2013 

Gregory_PalamasThe commandments of God also grant knowledge, and not that alone, but deification also.

This we possess in a perfect manner, through the Spirit, seeing in ourselves the glory of God, when it pleases God to lead us to spiritual mysteries, in the manner indicated by St. Isaac….

But let us also hear what certain other saints who preceded him have to say of the glory of God, mysteriously and secretly visible to the initiated alone.

[…] And, first among them, let us listen to their leader Peter, who says, “It is not by following improbable fables that we have come to know the power and presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ, but because we have ourselves become witnesses of His greatness” (2 Pet. 1:16).

And here is another apostolic eyewitness of this glory: “Keeping themselves awake, Peter and his companions beheld the glory of Christ” (Lk. 9:32).

What glory? Another evangelist testifies: “His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white like the light” (Mt. 17:2), showing them that He was Himself the God Who, in the Psalmist’s words, “wraps himself in light as in a mantle” (Ps. 103 [104]:2).

But, after having testified to his vision of Christ’s glory on the holy mountain (2 Pet. 1:18)—of a light which illumines, strange though it may be, the ears themselves (for they contemplated also a luminous cloud from which words reverberated)—Peter goes on to say, “This confirms the prophetic word” (2 Pet. 1:19).

What is this prophetic word which the vision of light confirms for you, O contemplators of God? What if not that verse that God “wraps Himself in light as in a mantle”?

He continues, “You would do well to pay attention to that prophetic word, as to a lamp which shines in a dark place till the day dawns.”  What day, if not that which dawned in Thabor?

“Let the morning star arise!” What star, if not that which illuminated Peter there, and also James and John? And where will that star rise, but “in your hearts”?

Do you not see how this light shines even now in the hearts of the faithful and perfect? Do you not see how it is superior to the light of knowledge?

It has nothing to do with that which comes from Hellenic studies, which is not worthy to be called light, being but deception or confounded with deception, and nearer to darkness than light.

Indeed, this light of contemplation even differs from the light that comes from the holy Scriptures, whose light may be compared to “a lamp that shines in an obscure place”, whereas the light of mystical contemplation is compared to the star of the morning which shines in full daylight, that is to say, to the sun.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): The Triads, D 17-18, in Gregory Palamas: The Triads, ed. John Meyendorff, trans. Nicholas Gendle, Classics of Western Spirituality series, Paulist Press, 1983.

John of Karpathos: You have barbarian cave-dwellers living within you Tuesday, Aug 27 2013 

johnkarpathosDo all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should not fall.

But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest.

Even if you fall a thousand times because of the withdrawal of God’s grace, rise up again each time, and keep on doing so until the day of your death.

For it is written, ‘If a righteous man falls seven times’ — that is, repeatedly throughout his life — seven times shall he rise again’ (Prov. 24:16, LXX).

[…] It is more serious to lose hope than to sin.

The traitor Judas was a defeatist, inexperienced in spiritual warfare; as a result he was reduced to despair by the enemy’s onslaught, and he went and hanged himself.

Peter, on the other hand, was a firm rock: although brought down by a terrible fall, yet because of his experience in spiritual warfare he was not broken by despair, but leaping up he shed bitter tears from a contrite and humiliated heart.

And as soon as our enemy saw them, he recoiled as if his eyes had been burnt by searing flames, and he took to flight howling and lamenting.

[…] There was once a king of Israel who subdued cave-dwellers and other barbarian tribes by using the psalms and music of David.

You, too, have barbarian cave-dwellers living within you: the demons who have gained admittance to your senses and limbs, who torment and inflame your flesh.

Because of them lust is in your eyes when you look at things; as you listen or use your sense of smell, passion dominates you; you indulge in dirty talk; you are full of turmoil inwardly and outwardly, like the city of Babylon.

With great faith, then, and with ‘Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs’ (Eph. 5:19), you too must destroy the cave-dwellers who work evil within you.

The Lord desires one man to be saved through another, and in the same way Satan strives to destroy one man through another. So do not spend your time with somebody who is sloppy, a mischief-maker, not guarding his tongue, lest you be sent with him into punishment.

It is hard enough for one who associates with a good man to attain salvation. If you do not watch yourself, but consort with people of evil character, you will be infected with their leprosy and destroyed.

How can anyone expect pity if he recklessly approaches a poisonous snake? You should avoid those who cannot control their tongue, who are quarrelsome and full of agitation inwardly or outwardly.

John of Karpathos (7th century): For the Encouragement of the Monks in India, 84-88, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, P. Sherrard, and K. Ware, The Philokalia, vol. 1 (Faber and Faber, London & Boston: 1979 @ J B Burnett.

Augustine of Hippo: Peter’s Confession and the Keys of the Kingdom Saturday, Jun 29 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaThe blessed Peter, the first of the Apostles, the ardent lover of Christ, who was found worthy to hear, “And I say to you, that you are Peter” (Matthew 16:13-20).

He himself, you see, had just said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Christ said to him, ”And I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.”

Upon this rock I will build the faith you have just confessed. Upon your words, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” I will build my Church; because you are Peter.

Peter comes from petra, meaning a rock. Peter, “Rocky”, from “rock”; not “rock” from “Rocky”. Peter comes from the word for a rock in exactly the same way as the name Christian comes from Christ.

Before his passion the Lord Jesus, as you know, chose those disciples of his whom he called apostles. Among these it was only Peter who almost everywhere was given the privilege of representing the whole Church.

It was in the person of the whole Church, which he alone represented, that he was privileged to hear, “To you will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” After all, it is not just one man that received these keys, but the Church in its unity.

So this is the reason for Peter’s acknowledged pre-eminence, that he stood for the Church’s universality and unity, when he was told, “To you I am entrusting,” what has in fact been entrusted to all.

To show you that it is the Church which has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, listen to what the Lord says in another place to all his apostles: “Receive the Holy Spirit; and immediately afterwards, Whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven them; whose sins you retain, they will be retained” (John 20:22-23).

Quite rightly, too, did the Lord after his resurrection entrust his sheep to Peter to be fed (Jn. 21: 15-19). It is not, you see, that he alone among the disciples was fit to feed the Lord’s sheep; but when Christ speaks to one man, unity is being commended to us.

And he first speaks to Peter, because Peter is the first among the apostles. Do not be sad, Apostle. Answer once, answer again, answer a third time. Let confession conquer three times with love, because self-assurance was conquered three times by fear.

What you had bound three times must be loosed three times. Loose through love what you had bound through fear. And for all that, the Lord once, and again, and a third time, entrusted his sheep to Peter.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Sermon 295, 1-2, 4, 7-8 (PL 38, 1348-1352); from the Office of Readings for the Solemnity of St Peter and St Paul, June 29th @ Crossroads Initiative.

Gregory Palamas: Feast of St Peter and St Paul (2) – St Paul’s Healing Repentance Saturday, Jun 29 2013 

Gregory_PalamasPaul…was put to death every day, or rather he was always dead, no longer alive himself, as he tells us, but having Christ living in him (Gal. 2:20).

[…] He had zeal for God, and was jealous over us with divine jealousy (2 Cor. 11:2).

The only one to equal him in this was Peter, but hear how humble he is when he says of himself, “I am the least of the Apostles, that am not meet to be called an Apostle” (1 Cor. 15:9).

Given that Paul made the same confession of faith as Peter, and had the same zeal, humility and love, surely they received the same rewards.

[…] That is why the Lord told Peter, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18), whereas He said to Ananias of Paul, “He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings” (Acts 9:15).

Which name? Clearly the name we have been given, the name of Christ’s Church, which rests on the foundation stone of Peter.

Notice that Peter and Paul are equal in prominence and glory, and both hold up the Church. Consequently the Church now bestows one and the same honour on both, and celebrates them together with equal esteem.

As we consider the outcome of their lives, let us imitate how they lived, or at least how they were restored through humility and repentance, even if we cannot attain to their other great and exalted achievements, which are appropriate to great men and fitting for great men to emulate.

[…] Amendment through repentance, however, is more appropriate for us than for the great, since we all sin many times every day, and unless we lay hold of salvation through continuous repentance, we have no hope of it from any other source.

Repentance is preceded by awareness of our sins, which is a strong incentive to mercy. “Have mercy upon me”, said the Psalmist and Prophet to God, “for I acknowledge my transgressions” (Ps. 5 1:1, 3).

Through his recognition of sin he attracted God’s compassion, and through his confession and self-condemnation he obtained complete forgiveness.

“I said”, the Psalmist tells us, “I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my heart” (cf. Ps. 32:5), because acknowledgment of our sins is followed by condemnation of ourselves, which in turn is followed by that sorrow for our sins which Paul calls “godly sorrow” (2 Cor. 7:10).

After godly sorrow confession and prayer to God with a contrite heart come naturally (Ps. 51:17), as does the promise to keep away from evil from now on. This is repentance.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily on the Feast of St Peter and St Paul, 10-12  @ Mystagogy.

Gregory Palamas: Feast of St Peter and St Paul (1) – St Peter’s Healing Repentance Saturday, Jun 29 2013 

Gregory_PalamasThe first traitor, who incited the first man to desert God, saw Him Who had earlier made Adam, the father of the human race, later re-creating Peter as the father of all true worshippers.

He not only saw, but also heard the Creator saying to Peter: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18).

Once the prince of evil found this out…, he tempted Peter, the first leader of God’s faithful people, as he had previously tempted Adam, the founder of the race of men.

Realizing that Peter was endowed with intelligence and afire with love for Christ, he did not dare make a direct attack.

Instead he came upon him from the right flank, cunningly deceiving him into being excessively eager.

At the time of the saving Passion, when the Lord told His disciples, “All ye shall be offended because of me this night” (Matt. 26:31), Peter disobediently contradicted Him.

He also exalted himself above the others, saying that even if everyone else were offended, he would not be (Matt. 26:33).

Because he had been beguiled into arrogance, he fell further than the rest, so that by humbling himself more than them he might eventually appear more radiant.

Unlike Adam who was tempted, vanquished and completely brought down, Peter, having been tempted and led astray a little, overcame the tempter.

How? Through his immediate condemnation of himself, his intense sorrow and repentance, and the medicine which brings forgiveness, tears.

“A broken and contrite heart”, it says, “O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17), and “Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (2 Cor. 7:10), and “They that sow their supplications in tears shall joyfully reap forgiveness” (cf. Ps. 126:5).

Anyone who looks at Peter will see that through repentance and painful grief he not only adequately healed the denial into which he had been drawn, but he also completely rooted out of his soul that passion which had made him fall behind the others.

Wishing to demonstrate this to everyone, the Lord, after His Passion in the flesh for our sake and His rising on the third day, used those words to Peter which we read in today’s Gospel, asking him, “Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou me more than these” (John 21:15), meaning, “more than these disciples of mine”.

But see how much humbler he has become. Whereas before, even without being asked, he set himself above the rest and said that even if all forsook the Lord, he would not; now, on being asked whether he loves Him more than the others do, he affirms that he loves Him, but leaves out the word “more”, saying “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee” (John 21:15, 16, cf. 17).

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily on the Feast of St Peter and St Paul, 5-6 @ Mystagogy.

Leo the Great: “The Sufferings of the Present Time are not Worthy to be Compared with the Future Glory which shall be Revealed in Us” Sunday, Feb 24 2013 

leo1(Following on from here…)

And in this Transfiguration the foremost object was to remove the offence of the cross from the disciple’s heart, and to prevent their faith being disturbed by the humiliation of His voluntary Passion by revealing to them the excellence of His hidden dignity.

But with no less foresight, the foundation was laid of the Holy Church’s hope, that the whole body of Christ might realize the character of the change which it would have to receive, and that the members might promise themselves a share in that honour which had already shone forth in their Head.

About this the Lord had Himself said, when He spoke of the majesty of His coming, “Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in their Father’s Kingdom.”

And the blessed Apostle Paul bears witness to the self-same thing, and says:  “for I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed in us;”

and again, “for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.  For when Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.”

[…] Moses and Elias, that is the Law and the Prophets, appeared talking with the Lord.

[…] St John says, “the law was given through Moses:  but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ,” in Whom is fulfilled both the promise of prophetic figures and the purpose of the legal ordinances.

For He both teaches the truth of prophecy by His presence, and renders the commands possible through grace.

The Apostle Peter…, being excited by the revelation of these mysteries, despising things mundane and scorning things earthly, was seized with a sort of frenzied craving for the things eternal.

Filled with rapture at the whole vision, he desired to make his abode with Jesus in the place where he had been blessed with the manifestation of His glory.

Whence also he says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here:  if thou wilt let us make three tabernacles, one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias.”

But to this proposal the Lord made no answer, signifying that what he wanted was not indeed wicked, but contrary to the Divine order.

For the world could not be saved, except by Christ’s death, and by the Lord’s example the faithful were called upon to believe that, although there ought not to be any doubt about the promises of happiness, yet we should understand that amidst the trials of this life we must ask for the power of endurance rather than the glory, because the joyousness of reigning cannot precede the times of suffering.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 51, 3-5.

Gregory the Great: Letting Go of the Decaying Things of this World Friday, Nov 30 2012 

St-Gregory-the-Dialogist(Feast of St Andrew)

Dearly beloved brethren, you have heard how that Peter and Andrew, having once heard the Lord call them, left their nets, and followed their Saviour.

As yet they had seen none of His miracles, as yet they had received no promise of their exceeding and eternal reward.

Nevertheless, at one word of the Lord they forgot all those things which they seemed to have.

We have seen many of His miracles.

We have received many of His gracious chastening.

Many times has He warned us of the wrath to come.

And yet Christ calls, and we do not follow.

He who calls us to be converted is now enthroned in heaven.

He has broken the necks of the Gentiles to the yoke of the faith.

He hath laid low the glory of the world.

And the wreckage of the world, falling ever more and more to decay, preaches unto us that the coming of that day when He is to be revealed as our Judge is drawing nigh.

And yet, our mind is so stubborn that we will not yet freely abandon those things on which, whether or not we wish to do so, we are in any case daily losing our grip.

Dearly beloved brethren, what shall we answer at His judgment-seat?

No lessons can persuade us.  No punishments can break us away from the love of this present world.

Faced with this question, someone might ask within his heart what Peter or Andrew had to lose by obeying the call of the Lord.

Dearly beloved brethren, we must consider here rather the intention than the loss incurred by their obedience.

He that keeps nothing whatsoever for himself, gives up much. He that sacrifices his all has sacrificed what is to him a great deal.

Beyond doubt, we cling to whatever we have, and what we have least, that we desire most. Peter and Andrew therefore gave up much when they gave up even the desire of possessing anything.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Homilies on the Gospels, 5, from Mattins of the Feast of St Andrew (November 30th).

Leo the Great: Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane Friday, Mar 18 2011 

“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19), and the Creator Himself was wearing the creature which was to be restored to the image of its Creator.

After the divinely-miraculous works had been performed, … Jesus, knowing that the time was now come for the fulfilment of His glorious Passion, said “my soul is sorrowful even unto death”.

And again: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matt. 26:38-39).

And these words, expressing a certain fear, show His desire to heal the affection of our weakness by sharing them, and to check our fear of enduring pain by undergoing it.

In our nature, therefore, the Lord trembled with our fear, that He might fully clothe our weakness and our frailty with the completeness of His own strength.

For He had come into this world a rich and merciful merchant from the skies, and by a wondrous exchange had entered into a bargain of salvation with us, receiving ours and giving His – honour for insults, salvation for pain, life for death.

He, whom more than 12,000 of the angel-hosts might have served (see Matt. 26:53) for the annihilation of His persecutors, preferred to entertain our fears, rather than employ His own power.

And how much this humiliation conferred upon all the faithful, the most blessed Apostle Peter was the first to prove.

After the fierce blast of threatening cruelty had dismayed him, Peter quickly changed, and was restored to vigour, finding remedy from the great pattern, so that the suddenly-shaken member [of Christ’s mystical body] returned to the firmness of the head.

For the bond-servant could not be “greater than the Lord, nor the disciple greater than the master” (Matt. 10:24), and Peter could not have vanquished the trembling of human frailty had not the Vanquisher of death first feared.

The Lord, therefore, “looked back upon Peter” (Luke 22:61), and, amid the calumnies of priests, the falsehoods of witnesses, the injuries of those that scourged and spat upon Him, met His dismayed disciple with those eyes wherewith He had foreseen his dismay.

And the gaze of the Truth entered into Peter, on whose heart correction must be wrought, as if the Lord’s voice were making itself heard there, and saying:

“Where are you going, Peter? Why do you retire upon yourself? Turn to me, put your trust in me, follow me.

This is the time of my Passion; the hour of your suffering is not yet come.  Why do you fear what you, too, shall overcome?

Let not the weakness, in which I share, confound you.  I was fearful on your behalf. You should be confident of me.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 54, 4-5.

Leo the Great: Unblemished Victims on the Altar of One’s Heart Wednesday, Nov 10 2010 

Although the universal Church of God is constituted of distinct orders of members, still, in spite of the many parts of its holy body, the Church subsists as an integral whole, just as the Apostle says: We are all one in Christ.

No difference in office is so great that anyone can be separated, through lowliness, from the head. In the unity of faith and baptism, therefore, our community is undivided.

There is a common dignity, as the apostle Peter says in these words: And you are built up as living stones into spiritual houses, a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

And again: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart.

For all, regenerated in Christ, are made kings by the sign of the cross; they are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy Spirit, so that beyond the special service of our ministry as priests, all spiritual and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and are sharers in the office of the priesthood.

For what is more king-like than to find yourself ruler over your body after having surrendered your soul to God? And what is more priestly than to promise the Lord a pure conscience and to offer him in love unblemished victims on the altar of one’s heart?

Because, through the grace of God, it is a deed accomplished universally on behalf of all, it is altogether praiseworthy and in keeping with a religious attitude for you to rejoice in this our day of consecration, to consider it a day when we are especially honoured.

For indeed one sacramental priesthood is celebrated throughout the entire body of the Church. The oil which consecrates us has richer effects in the higher grades, yet it is not sparingly given in the lower.

Sharing in this office, my dear brethren, we have solid ground for a common rejoicing; yet there will be more genuine and excellent reason for joy if you do not dwell on the thought of our unworthiness.

It is more helpful and more suitable to turn your thoughts to study the glory of the blessed apostle Peter. We should celebrate this day above all in honour of him.

He overflowed with abundant riches from the very source of all graces, yet though he alone received much, nothing was given over to him without his sharing it.

The Word made flesh lived among us, and in redeeming the whole human race, Christ gave himself entirely.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 4, 1-2; taken from the Office of Readings for the memorial of St. Leo on November 10 at Crossroads Initiative.