Anastasius of Sinai: Cry Out with the Priest who is Struggling for You Wednesday, Feb 26 2014 

Anastasios-of-SinaiSince the Priest is a mediator between God and man and offers sacrifice to God for the remission of the sins of the multitude, consider how he fortifies everyone in advance and bears witness, as if saying words such as these to the people:

Since you have established me, O my people, as a mediator before God on your behalf at this mystical Table, I implore you, be as zealous as I am.

Refrain from all worldly thoughts. Forsake every bodily care. It is time for fervent prayer, not for idle pursuits.

Hear what the Deacon exclaims to you, when he says: Let us stand well, let us stand with fear.

Let us be attentive to the holy Oblation, let us incline our necks, let us restrain our minds, let us hold our tongues, let us give wings to our minds, and let us ascend to Heaven.

Let us lift up our minds and hearts, let us raise the eye of our soul up to God, let us traverse Heaven, let us go past the Angels, let us go past the Cherubim, and let us run to the very Throne of the Master, let us grasp Christ’s immaculate feet themselves, let us weep, let us, as it were, compel Him to be compassionate, and let us give thanks in the holy, heavenly, and ethereal Sanctuary.

The Priest affirms these things to us when he says: Let us lift up our hearts. What do we then say in response to these words? We lift them up unto the Lord.

What are you saying? What are you doing? Our minds are distracted by corruptible and transient things, and they devote themselves to vanities, possessions, pleasures, and court cases.

And you say: I lift it [my heart] up unto the Lord? Make sure, I beseech you, that you have your heart elevated to the Lord, and not lowered to the devil.

What are you doing, O man? The Priest is offering the bloodless Sacrifice to the Master for your sake, and you view it with disdain?

The Priest is struggling for your sake. Standing before the Altar as if before a dread tribunal, he implores and urges that the Grace of the Holy Spirit might come down to you from on high, and you take no thought for your own salvation?

Do not carry on like this, I beg you. Abandon this evil and vain habit. Cry out with the Priest who is struggling for you, toil with him who prays for you.

Offer yourself for your salvation: The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (St. James 5:16). It will be effectual if you struggle together with the Priest and manifest the fruits of repentance.

Anastasius of Sinai (7th Century): A Homily on the Holy Eucharist and on Not Judging Others or Remembering Wrongs, PG 89, 825A-849C @ OCIC.

Athanasius of Alexandria: As Aaron Took His Robe, so the Word Took Earthly Flesh Monday, Dec 23 2013 

AthanasiusAaron was not born a high-priest….

He became so, not simply, nor as betokened by his ordinary garments, but putting over them the ephod, the breastplate, the robe, which the women wrought at God’s command.

And, going in them into the holy place, he offered the sacrifice for the people; and in them, as it were, mediated between the vision of God and the sacrifices of men.

Thus then the Lord also, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’

But when the Father willed that ransoms should be paid for all and to all, grace should be given, then truly the Word, as Aaron his robe, so did He take earthly flesh, having Mary for the Mother of His Body as if virgin earth.

The Word did this so that, as a High Priest, having He as others an offering, He might offer Himself to the Father, and cleanse us all from sins in His own blood, and might rise from the dead.

For what happened of old was a shadow of this; and what the Saviour did on His coming, this Aaron shadowed out according to the Law.

[…] Aaron…did not change by putting on the high-priestly dress, but remaining the same was only robed, so that, had any one seen him offering, and had said, ‘Lo, Aaron has this day become high-priest,’ he had not implied that he then had been born man.

For Aaron was man even before he became high-priest, but that he had been made high-priest in his ministry, on putting on the garments made and prepared for the high-priesthood.

In the same way it is possible in the Lord’s instance also to understand aright, that He did not become other than Himself on taking the flesh, but, being the same as before, He was robed in it.

And the expressions ‘He became’ and ‘He was made,’ must not be understood as if the Word, considered as the Word, were made, but that the Word, being Framer of all, afterwards was made High Priest, by putting on a body which was originate and made, and such as He can offer for us; wherefore He is said to be made.

[…] As it is proper to the Word to have it said of Him, ‘In the beginning was the Word,’ so it is proper to man to ‘become’ and to be ‘made.’

Who then, on seeing the Lord as a man walking about, and yet appearing to be God from His works, would not have asked, Who made Him man? And who again, on such a question, would not have answered, that the Father made Him man, and sent Him to us as High Priest?

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Against the Arians, 2, 14, 7-8.

Christina Rossetti: The Faithful Witness, the First Begotten of the Dead, the Prince of the Kings of the Earth Sunday, Nov 3 2013 

Christina_Rossetti_3And from Jesus Christ, Who is the faithful Witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth. Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father (Revelation 1:5-6).

St. John, the Apostle of love, becomes here the mouthpiece of very Love.

So that in this Apocalypse not glories only, joys unutterable, perfection, are witnessed to us by Love, but terrors likewise, doom, the Judgment, the opened Books, the lake of fire.

Love reveals to us these things, threatens now that it may spare then, shows us destruction lest we destroy ourselves.

Let us not in all our tremblings forget or doubt that it is Faithful Love which speaketh.

My God, Thyself being Love Thy heart is love,
And love Thy Will and love Thy Word to us,
Whether Thou show us depths calamitous
Or heights and flights of rapturous peace above.
O Christ the Lamb, O Holy Ghost the Dove,

Reveal the Almighty Father unto us;
That we may tread Thy courts felicitous,
Loving Who loves us, for our God is Love.
Lo, if our God be Love through heaven’s long day,

Love is He through our mortal pilgrimage,
Love was He through all aeons that are told.
We change, but Thou remainest; for Thine age
Is, Was, and Is to come, nor new nor old;
We change, but Thou remainest: yea, and yea!

“The Faithful Witness” demands faith: “the First Begotten of the dead “ invites hope: “the Prince of the kings of the earth” challenges obedience.

Now faith may be dead, hope presumptuous, obedience slavish. But “He that loved us” thereby wins our love: and forthwith by virtue of love faith lives, hope is justified, obedience is enfranchised.

[…] “Kings and Priests.” At the least and lowest, each of us king with subject self to rule; priest with leprous self to examine and judge. At one step higher “the King’s face gives grace,” and we edify our brethren. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.”

Another step upward, and we execute our priestly function of intercession, offering up prayers and thanks for all men: and highest of all, we offer up ourselves to God in will and indeed as His reasonable and lively sacrifice, beseeching Him to sanctify and accept our self-oblation.

O Good Lord God, Who uniting us with Thine everlasting King and Priest Jesus Christ, makest us unworthy in Him to be Thy kings and priests, constitute us what Thou requirest, endow us with what Thou desirest.

Give us royal hearts to give back ourselves to Thee Who bestowest all, and priestly hearts to sacrifice ourselves to Thee, and keep back nothing, through the grace of Thine indwelling Holy Spirit, by Whom Christ dwells in His members. We ask this for His sake, for Whose sake we cannot ask too much. Amen.

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894; Anglican): The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse (1893), pp. 15-17.

Gregory the Great: When the Words of Exhortation have Established Truth in Our Minds, the Lord Comes to Live Within Us Friday, Oct 18 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistBeloved brothers, our Lord and Saviour sometimes gives us instruction by words and sometimes by actions.

His very deeds are our commands; and whenever he acts silently he is teaching us what we should do.

For example, he sends his disciples out to preach two by two, because the precept of charity is twofold-love of God and of one’s neighbour.

The Lord sends his disciples out to preach in two’s in order to teach us silently that whoever fails in charity toward his neighbour should by no means take upon himself the office of preaching.

Rightly is it said that he sent them ahead of him into every city and place where he himself was to go.

For the Lord follows after the preachers, because preaching goes ahead to prepare the way, and then when the words of exhortation have gone ahead and established truth in our minds, the Lord comes to live within us.

To those who preach Isaiah says: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God. And the psalmist tells them: Make a way for him who rises above the sunset.

The Lord rises above the sunset because from that very place where he slept in death, he rose again and manifested a greater glory. He rises above the sunset because in his resurrection he trampled underfoot the death which he endured.

Therefore, we make a way for him who rises above the sunset when we preach his glory to you, so that when he himself follows after us, he may illumine you with his love.

Let us listen now to his words as he sends his preachers forth: The harvest is great but the labourers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest.

That the harvest is good but the labourers are few cannot be said without a heavy heart, for although there are many to hear the good news there are only a few to preach it.

Indeed, see how full the world is of priests, but yet in God’s harvest a true labourer is rarely to be found; although we have accepted the priestly office we do not fulfil its demands.

Think over, my beloved brothers, think over his words: Pray the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest. Pray for us so that we may be able to labour worthily on your behalf, that our tongue may not grow weary of exhortation, that after we have taken up the office of preaching our silence may not bring us condemnation from the just judge.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Homily 17, 1-3, from the Office of Readings for the Feast of St Luke @ Universalis.  

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Who is the most supremely divine Mind and superessential,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and reverently gazing upon whatever we are permitted to see,

and illuminated with the knowledge of the visions,

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

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

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

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.

Cyril of Alexandria: Christ Offered Himself for Us, and of His Own Free Will Submitted to Death, Confounding the Destroyer Friday, Mar 8 2013 

Cyril_of_AlexandriaWhen Christ saw the human race being destroyed by death he became our advocate with the Father.

He offered himself for us and of his own free will submitted to death, confounding the destroyer by saying the sin was his.

This does not mean that he himself had committed it, but that as the Scriptures say: He bore our sins and suffered for our sake, and he was taken for a criminal. 

He was innocent, but for our sake he became accursed. 

David said the shepherd ought to suffer rather than the sheep, and Christ like a good shepherd laid down his life for his sheep.

In obedience to God’s command blessed David set up an altar in the place where he had seen the angel of destruction stop, and he offered God holocausts and peace offerings.

By this place, which was a threshing floor, you must understand the Church, for it is there that death was halted and overcome, there that the destroyer stayed his once terrible and devastating hand.

For the Church is the dwelling place of him who is life by his very nature – that is, of Christ.

By way of simile or comparison we call the Church a threshing floor, because there are gathered, like sheaves of wheat, those cut off from the life of this world by the word of holy reapers, that is, of the apostles and evangelists.

Then, when all useless and unnecessary thoughts and actions, which may be thought of as chaff, have been removed, they are to be carried up like winnowed grain into the courts above in the heavenly Jerusalem, into what we may call the granary of the Lord.

Christ asked his holy apostles…: The harvest is plentiful, but the la borers are few. You must therefore beg the Lord of the harvest to send people out to reap it.

Now as I understand it, the harvest Christ spoke of is a spiritual one, namely, the great multitude of those who would one day believe in him.

The holy reapers are those who have in their minds and on their tongues the word of God, which is living and active, and cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword, piercing to the meeting place of soul and spirit, to the innermost recesses of our being.

Christ purchased the spiritual threshing floor which is the Church for fifty shekels: in other words, he paid for it dearly.

He gave himself for the Church, he set up an altar within it, and since he was both the priest and the sacrifice, he offered himself as though he were the beast that treads out the grain, and he became a holocaust and a peace offering.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): The Adoration and Worship of God in Spirit and in Truth, Bk. 8 (PG 68:269-292); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the 3rd Week in Lent  @ Dom Donald’s Blog.

Germanus of Constantinople: Christ Made Us Communicants of His Death, His Resurrection, and His Glory Monday, Feb 4 2013 

Germanus of ConstantinoplePraying toward the East is handed down by the holy apostles, as is everything else.

This is because the comprehensible sun of righteousness, Christ our God, appeared on earth in those regions of the East where the perceptible sun rises, as the prophet says:

“Orient is his name” (Zech 6:12); and “Bow before the Lord, all the earth, who ascended to the heaven of heavens in the East” (cf Ps 67:34);

and “Let us prostrate ourselves in the place where His feet stood” (cf Ps 67:34); and again, “The feet of the Lord shall stand upon the Mount of Olives in the East” (Zech 14:4).

The prophets also speak thus because of our fervent hope of receiving again the paradise in Eden, as well as the dawn of the brightness of the second coming of Christ our God, from the East.

[…] The priestly stole is the robe of Aaron, which served to cover him down to his feet. It was fiery in appearance, as the prophet says:

“Who makes the winds your messengers and flames of fire your servants” (Ps 103:4); and again…, “Why is your clothing all red, like the garments of one who treads grapes in the vat?” (Is 63:2).

By this the prophet indicates the stole of the flesh of Christ dyed by His undefiled blood on the cross. Or, again, since Christ wore a crimson cloak at His passion, it indicates that the high priests are servants of such a High Priest.

[…] The bread of offering, that is to say, which is purified, signifies the superabundant riches of the goodness of our God, because the Son of God became man and gave Himself as an offering and oblation in ransom and atonement for the life and salvation of the world.

He assumed the entirety of human nature, except for sin. He offered Himself as first-fruits and chosen whole burnt-offering to the God and Father on behalf of the human race, as is written: “I am the bread which came down from heaven,” and “He who eats this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:51).

About this the Prophet Jeremiah says: “Come, let us place a stake in his bread” (11:19 LXX), pointing to the wood of the cross nailed to His body.

[…] The bread and the chalice are really and truly the memorial of the mystical supper at which Christ, having taken the bread and wine, said: “Take, eat, and drink, all of you, this is my body and blood.”

This shows that He made us communicants of His death, His resurrection, and His glory.

Germanus of Constantinople (c.634–c.733): On the Divine Liturgy, 11,14,20,22 (Tr based in part on: J. Meyendorff, St. Germanus of Constantinople on the Divine Liturgy, Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984: 56-106. ) @ Fr Luke Dysinger, OSB.

John Chrysostom: The Compassion and Sympathy of Christ Wednesday, Jan 16 2013 

John_Chrysostom“For verily He taketh not hold of Angels, but of the seed of Abraham” (Hebrews 2:16).

Why did he not say, “He took on Him,” but used this expression, “He takes hold of”?

It is derived from the figure of persons pursuing those who turn away from them, and doing everything to overtake them as they flee, and to take hold of them as they are bounding away.

For when human nature was fleeing from Him, and fleeing far away (for we “were far off”— Eph. 2:13 ), He pursued after and overtook us.

He showed that He has done this only out of kindness, and love, and tender care.

[…] “Wherefore it behooved Him in all things to be made like unto His brethren” (2:16-17).

What is this, “in all things”? He was born, was brought up, grew, suffered all things necessary, at last He died. This is, “in all things to be made like unto His brethren.”

[…] And consider…how St Paul represents Him as having great zeal “to be made like unto us”: which was a sign of much care.

[…] For this cause did He leave the angels and the other powers, and come down to us, and took hold of us, and wrought innumerable good things.

He destroyed Death, He cast out the devil from his tyranny, He freed us from bondage: not by brotherhood alone did He honour us, but also in other ways beyond number.

For He was willing also to become our High Priest with the Father: for he adds, “That He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God.”

For this cause…He took on Him our flesh, only for Love to man, that He might have mercy upon us. For neither is there any other cause of the economy, but this alone.

For He saw us, cast on the ground, perishing, tyrannized over by Death, and He had compassion on us.

[…] We were become altogether enemies to God…;  condemned, degraded, there was none who should offer sacrifice for us.

He saw us in this condition, and had compassion on us, not appointing a High Priest for us, but Himself becoming a High Priest…“to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. That He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest.”

[…] In order then that He might offer a sacrifice able to purify us, for this cause He has become man.

[…] He went through the very experience of the things which we have suffered…; He suffered much, He knows how to sympathize.

[…] He knows what tribulation is; He knows what temptation is, not less than we who have suffered, for He Himself also has suffered…. He will stretch forth His hand with great eagerness, He will be sympathizing.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homily 5, 1-2 on the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Germanus of Constantinople: The Church is an Earthly Heaven… Tuesday, Jan 15 2013 

Germanus of ConstantinopleThe church is the temple of God, a holy place, a house of prayer, the assembly of the people, the body of Christ.

It is called the bride of Christ. It is cleansed by the water of His baptism, sprinkled by His blood, clothed in bridal garments, and sealed with the ointment of the Holy Spirit, according to the prophetic saying:

“Your name is oil poured out” (Cant 1:3), and “We run after the fragrance of your myrrh” (Cant 1:4), which is “Like the precious oil, running down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron” (Ps 132:2 LXX).

The church is an earthly heaven in which the super-celestial God dwells and walks about.

It represents the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Christ: it is glorified more than the tabernacle of the witness of Moses, in which are the mercy-seat and the Holy of Holies.

[…] The apse corresponds to the cave in Bethlehem where Christ was born, as well as the cave in which he was buried, as the evangelist Mark says: “There was a cave hewn out of rock; there they placed Jesus” (cf Mk 15:46).’

The holy table corresponds to the spot in the tomb where Christ was placed. On it lies the true and heavenly bread, the mystical and unbloody sacrifice.

[…] This table was pre-figured by the table of the Old Law upon which the manna, which was Christ, descended from heaven.

[…] The altar corresponds to the holy tomb of Christ.

On it Christ brought Himself as a sacrifice to [His] God and Father through the offering of His body as a sacrificial lamb, and as high priest and Son of Man, offering and being offered as a mystical bloodless sacrifice, and appointing for the faithful reasonable worship, through which we have become sharers in eternal and immortal life.

This lamb Moses prefigured in Egypt “towards evening” when its blood turned back the destroyer so that he would not kill the people (cf Ex 12:7-13).

The expression “towards evening” signifies that towards evening the true lamb is sacrificed, the One who takes away the sin of the world on his cross, “For Christ, our Pascha, has been sacrificed for us” (cf I Cor 5:7).

The altar is and is called the heavenly and spiritual altar, where the earthly and material priests who always assist and serve the Lord represent the spiritual, serving, and hierarchical powers of the immaterial and celestial Powers, for they also must be as a burning fire.

For the Son of God and Judge of all ordained the laws and established the services of both the heavenly and the earthly powers.

Germanus of Constantinople (c.634–c.733): On the Divine Liturgy, 1-6 (Tr based in part on: J. Meyendorff, St. Germanus of Constantinople on the Divine Liturgy Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984: 56-106. ) @ Fr Luke Dysinger, OSB.

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