John Chrysostom: “A well of water springing up into everlasting life” Friday, May 29 2015 

John_ChrysostomAnd suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting (Acts 2:2).

That wind (πνοὴ) was a very pool of water.

This betokened the copiousness, as the fire did the vehemence.

This nowhere happened in the case of the Prophets: for to uninebriated souls such accesses are not attended with much disturbance.

[…] Those had to deal with only one nation, and with their own people; but these with the whole world, and with men whom they never knew.

Elisha receives the grace through the medium of a mantle (2 Kings 13); another by oil, as David (1 Sam. 16:13); and Moses by fire, as we read of him at the bush (Exod. 3:2).

But in the present case it is not so; for the fire itself sat upon them.

[…] You are not to stop at this, that “there appeared unto them cloven tongues,” but note that they were “of fire.” Such a fire as this is able to kindle infinite fuel.

Also, it is well said, cloven, for they were from one root; that you may learn, that it was an operation sent from the Comforter.

But observe how those men also were first shown to be worthy, and then received the Spirit as worthy.

Thus, for instance, David: what he did among the sheepfolds, the same he did after his victory and trophy; that it might be shown how simple and absolute was his faith.

Again, see Moses despising royalty, and forsaking all, and after forty years taking the lead of the people (Exod. 2:11); and Samuel occupied there in the temple (1 Sam. 3:3); Elisha leaving all (1 Kings 19:21); Ezekiel again, made manifest by what happened thereafter.

In this manner, you see, did these also leave all that they had. They learnt also what human infirmity is, by what they suffered; they learnt that it was not in vain they had done these good works (1 Sam. 9 and 11:6).

[…] But in the same manner as here did none of them receive. Thus Moses was the greatest of the Prophets, yet he, when others were to receive the Spirit, himself suffered diminution.

But here it is not so; but just as fire kindles as many flames as it will, so here the largeness of the Spirit was shown, in that each one received a fountain of the Spirit; as indeed He Himself had foretold, that those who believe in Him, should have “a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

And good reason that it should be so. For they did not go forth to argue with Pharaoh, but to wrestle with the devil.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Homily 4.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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).

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: “Behold, a Virgin shall Conceive and Bear a Son, and His Name shall be Called Emmanuel” Friday, Dec 20 2013 

Heiligenkreuz_Bernard_of_ClervauxIf the infirm cannot go far to meet this great Physician, it is at least becoming they should endeavour to raise their heads and lift themselves a little to greet their Saviour.

For this, O man, you are not required to cross the sea, to penetrate the clouds, to scale the mountain-tops. No lofty way is set before you.

Turn within thyself to meet thy God, for the Word is nigh in thy mouth and in thy heart.

Meet Him by compunction of heart and by confession of mouth, or, at least, go forth from the corruption of a sinful conscience, for it is not becoming that the Author of purity should enter there.

It is delightful to contemplate the manner of  His visible coming, for His “ways are beautiful, and all his paths are peace” (Prov. 3:17).

“Behold,” says the Spouse of the Canticles, “he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills” (Cant. 2:8).

You see Him coming, O beautiful one, but His previous lying down you could not see, for you said : “Shew me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou liest” (Cant. 1:6).

He lay feeding His angels in His endless eternity with the vision of His glorious, unchanging beauty. But know, O beautiful one, that that vision is become wonderful to thee; it is high, and thou canst not reach it.

Nevertheless, behold He hath gone forth from His holy place, and He that had lain feeding His angels hath undertaken to heal us.

We shall see Him coming as our food, Whom we were not able to behold while He was feeding His angels in His repose.

“Behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.” The mountains and hills we may consider to be the Patriarchs and the Prophets, and we may see His leaping and skipping in the book of His genealogy. “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, etc.” (Matt. 1:2).

From the mountains came forth the root of Jesse, as you will find from the Prophet Isaias: “There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root, and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him” (Isa. 11:1-2).

The same prophet speaks yet more plainly: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, which is interpreted, God with us” (Isa. 7:14). He Who is first styled a flower is afterwards called Emmanuel, and in the rod is named the virgin.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermon 1 on the Advent of the Lord, pp. 13-14, from Sermons of St Bernard on Advent and Christmas.

Augustine of Hippo: God Promised Men Divinity, Mortals Immortality, Sinners Justification, Outcasts Glory Thursday, Dec 12 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaGod had a time for making his promises and a time for fulfilling them.

His time for making promises was from the days of the prophets until the coming of John the Baptist.

His time for fulfilling them was from then until the end of the world. God is faithful and he has put himself in our debt, not by receiving anything from us but by promising so much.

Nor was a promise sufficient for him; he even bound himself in writing, giving us as it were a pledge in his own hand.

He wanted us to see from Scripture, when the time for fulfilment came, how he was carrying out his promises one by one.

God promised us eternal salvation, everlasting bliss with the angels, an incorruptible inheritance, endless glory, the joyful vision of his face, his holy dwelling in heaven, and after the resurrection from the dead no further fear of dying.

This is what he holds out to us at the end as the goal of all our striving. When we reach it we shall ask for nothing more. But as to how we are to reach our final goal, he revealed this too by promises and prophecies.

God promised men divinity, mortals immortality, sinners justification, outcasts glory.

But because his promise that we who are mortal, corruptible, weak and of low estate, mere dust and ashes, were to be equal to the angels seemed incredible, God not only made a written covenant with us to win our faith, but he also gave us a mediator of his pledge.

This mediator was not a prince, an angel, or an archangel, but his only Son; through his own Son he meant both to show us and give us the way by which he would lead us to the promised goal.

He was not satisfied with sending his Son to show us the way. He made him the way itself. God’s only Son, then, was to come among us, take our human nature, and in this nature be born as a man.

He was to die, to rise again, to ascend into heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Father, and to fulfil his promises among the nations.

After that he was also to fulfil his promise to come again, to demand what he had previously requested, to separate those deserving his anger from those deserving his mercy, to give the wicked what he had threatened and the just what he had promised.

All this had to be prophesied, foretold, and impressed on us as an event in the future so that we should not be terrified by its happening unexpectedly, but wait for it with faith.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Commentary on Psalm 109, 1-3 (CSEL 40:1601-1603); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Thursday of the 2nd Week in Advent, Year 1.

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.

Jerome: Ignorance of Scripture is Ignorance of Christ Monday, Sep 30 2013 

St.-Jerome-of-StridoniumI interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find. 

Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. 

For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.

Therefore, I will imitate the head of a household who brings out of his storehouse things both new and old, and says to his spouse in the Song of Songs: I have kept for you things new and old, my beloved. 

In this way permit me to explain Isaiah, showing that he was not only a prophet, but an evangelist and an apostle as well.

For he says about himself and the other evangelists: How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news, of those who announce peace. And God speaks to him as if he were an apostle: Whom shall I send, who will go to my people? And he answers: Here I am; send me.

No one should think that I mean to explain the entire subject matter of this great book of Scripture in one brief sermon, since it contains all the mysteries of the Lord.

It prophesies that Emmanuel is to be born of a virgin and accomplish marvellous works and signs. It predicts his death, burial and resurrection from the dead as the Savior of all men.

I need say nothing about the natural sciences, ethics and logic. Whatever is proper to holy Scripture, whatever can be expressed in human language and understood by the human mind, is contained in the book of Isaiah.

Of these mysteries the author himself testifies when he writes: You will be given a vision of all things, like words in a sealed scroll. When they give the writings to a wise man, they will say: Read this. And he will reply: I cannot, for it is sealed. And when the scroll is given to an uneducated man and he is told: Read this, he will reply: I do not know how to read.

[…] It was not the air vibrating with the human voice that reached their ears , but rather it was God speaking within the soul of the prophets, just as another prophet says: It is an angel who spoke in me; and again, Crying out in our hearts, Abba, Father’, and I shall listen to what the Lord God says within me.

Jerome (347-420): Commentary on Isaiah (Nn. 1.2: CCL 73, 1-3) from the Office of Readings for the Feast of St. Jerome, September 30th  @ Crossroads Initiative.

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