Gregory Nazianzen: The Holy Day of the Lights, to which we have come… Monday, Jan 4 2016 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenThe Holy Day of the Lights,

to which we have come,

and which we are celebrating today,

has for its origin the Baptism of my Christ,

the True Light That lightens every man that comes into the world (John 1:9)

and effects my purification,

and assists that light which we received from the beginning from Him from above,

but which we darkened and confused by sin.

Therefore listen to the Voice of God, which sounds so exceeding clearly to me, who am both disciple and master of these mysteries, as would to God it may sound to you; I Am the Light of the World (John 8:12).

Therefore approach ye to Him and be enlightened, and let not your faces be ashamed, being signed with the true Light.

It is a season of new birth (John 3:3); let us be born again.

It is a time of reformation; let us receive again the first Adam.

Let us not remain what we are, but let us become what we once were.

The Light shines in darkness, in this life and in the flesh, and is chased by the darkness, but is not overtaken by it (John 1:5)—

—I mean the adverse power leaping up in its shamelessness against the visible Adam, but encountering God and being defeated—

—in order that we, putting away the darkness, may draw near to the Light, and may then become perfect Light, the children of perfect Light.

See the grace of this Day; see the power of this mystery.

[…] To us grace has been given to flee from superstitious error and to be joined to the truth and to serve the living and true God, and to rise above creation, passing by all that is subject to time and to first motion.

So let us look at and reason upon God and things divine in a manner corresponding to this Grace given us.

But let us begin our discussion of them from the most fitting point. And the most fitting is, as Solomon laid down for us; us; The beginning of wisdom, he says, is to get wisdom (Proverbs 4:7).

And what this is he tells us; the beginning of wisdom is fear.

For we must not begin with contemplation and leave off with fear (for an unbridled contemplation would perhaps push us over a precipice), but we must be grounded and purified and so to say made light by fear, and thus be raised to the height.

For where fear is there is keeping of commandments;

and where there is keeping of commandments there is purifying of the flesh, that cloud which covers the soul and suffers it not to see the Divine Ray.

And where there is purifying there is Illumination;

and Illumination is the satisfying of desire to those who long for the greatest things, or the Greatest Thing, or That Which surpasses all greatness.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 39 (On the Holy Lights), 1, 2, 8.

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Gregory the Great: The sick are to be admonished that they feel themselves to be sons of God Thursday, Dec 3 2015 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistThe sick are to be admonished that they feel themselves to be sons of God in that the scourge of discipline chastises them.

For, unless He purposed to give them an inheritance after correction, He would not have a care to educate them by afflictions.

For hence the Lord says to John by the angel, Whom I love I rebuke and chasten (Rev. 3:19; Prov. 3:11).

Hence again it is written, My son despise not thou the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him.  For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth (Heb. 12:5, 6).

Hence the Psalmist says, Many are the tribulations of the righteous, and out of all these hath the Lord delivered them (Ps. 32:20).

[…] The sick are to be told that, if they believe the heavenly country to be their own, they must needs endure labours in this as in a strange land.

For hence it was that the stones were hammered outside, that they might be laid without sound of hammer in the building of the temple of the Lord.

Bbecause, that is, we are now hammered with scourges without, that we may be afterwards set in our places within, without stroke of discipline, in the temple of God; to the end that strokes may now cut away whatever is superfluous in us, and then the concord of charity alone bind us together in the building.

The sick are to be admonished to consider what severe scourges of discipline chastise our sons after the flesh for attaining earthly inheritances.

What pain, then, of divine correction is hard upon us, by which both a never-to-be-lost inheritance is attained, and punishments which shall endure for ever are avoided?

For hence Paul says, We have had fathers of our flesh as our educators, and we gave them reverence:  shall we not much more be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live?  And they indeed for a few days educated us after their own will; but He for our profit in the receiving of His sanctification (Heb. 12:9, 10).

The sick are to be admonished to consider how great health of the heart is in bodily affliction, which recalls the mind to knowledge of itself, and renews the memory of infirmity which health for the most part casts away, so that the spirit, which is carried out of itself into elation, may be reminded by the smitten flesh from which it suffers to what condition it is subject.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Pastoral Rule, 3, 12.

Symeon the New Theologian: Grace becomes itself the day of divine judgment by which he who is purified is continually illumined Tuesday, Aug 25 2015 

SYMEON-iconContinued from here….

Grace, on the one hand, is unapproachable and invisible to those who are still possessed by unbelief and the passions, and is seen, on the other hand, and revealed to those who with faith and in fear and trembling do the commandments and give evidence of a worthy repentance.

This same grace of itself incontestably brings the future judgment to pass in them.

Rather, indeed, it becomes itself the day of divine judgment by which he who is purified is continually illumined, sees himself as he is in truth and in every detail, and all his works for what they are, whether done by the body or acted on by the soul.

Nor this alone, but he is as well judged and examined by the divine fire, and, thus enriched by the water of his tears, his whole body is moistened and he is baptized entire, little by little, by the divine fire and Spirit, and becomes wholly purified, altogether immaculate, a son of the light and of the day, and from that point on no longer a child of mortal man.

It is quite for this reason, too, that such a man is not judged at the judgment and justice to come, for he has already been judged. Neither is he reproved by that light, for he has been illumined beforehand.

Nor is he put to the test and burned on entering this fire, for he has been tried already. Neither does he understand the Day of the Lord as appearing sometime “then,” because, by virtue of his converse and union with God, he has become wholly a bright and shining day.

[…] As many therefore as are children of the light also become sons of the Day which is to come, and are enabled to walk decently as in the day, The Day of the Lord will never come upend them, because they are already in it forever and continually.

The Day of the Lord, in effect, is not going to be revealed suddenly to those who are ever illumined by the divine light, but for those who are in the darkness of the passions and spend their lives in the world hungering for the things of the world, for them it will be fearful and they will experience it as unbearable fire.

However, this fire which is God will not appear in an entirely spiritual manner but, one might say, as bodilessly embodied, in the same way as, according to the Evangelist, Christ of old was seen by the Apostles after having risen from the dead.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD): Tenth Ethical Discourse @ Eclectic Orthodoxy.

Symeon the New Theologian: The revelation of His divinity becomes a judgment for those to whom it is revealed Saturday, Aug 1 2015 

SYMEON-iconIt is not called Day of the Lord as being the last of these present days, nor because it is on this day that He is going to come again in the same way that we say for feast days of the present time.

[…] Neither is it called Day of Judgment because it is on this day that judgment is going to take place, since the day when this occurs is not other than the Lord who will come on it, but it is called this because He Himself, the God and Master of all, will at that time shine with the glory of His own divinity.

[…] And He alone will be at once “Day” and God. He Who is now invisible to all and dwells in light will then be revealed to all as He is, and will fill all things with His light, and will be without evening, without end, a day of everlasting joy, but absolutely unapproachable and unseen for those who, like me, are lazy and sinners.

Because this did not happen while they yet lived, because they lacked zeal to see the light of His glory and, through purification, to have Him completely indwelling in themselves, He will also naturally be unapproachable for them in the future.

[…] The revelation of His divinity becomes in fact a judgment for those to whom it is revealed. No flesh could have endured the glory of His divinity as manifested naked of its joining and inexpressible union with the God-man. All creation would instead have been utterly destroyed both in body and soul, since at that time all were possessed by unbelief.

For the divinity, which is to say the grace of the all-Holy Spirit, has never appeared to anyone who is without faith; and, if it were to appear by some paradox among men, it would show itself as fearful and dreadful, as not illumining but burning, not as giving life but as punishing dreadfully.

And this is clear from the things which the blessed Paul, the vessel of election suffered. In the encounter with the radiance of the unapproachable light which flashed around him like lightning, his vision was wounded, and rather than being illumined he was darkened. He could not see, and lost even his natural faculty of sight.

These things happened to him who would later become the great teacher of Christ’s Church! That man who was so great, the same man who later said: ‘The God Who said “Let light shine out of darkness” has shone in our hearts,’ and a little later: ‘We have this treasure’ — i.e., of illumination — ‘in our hearts’ could not at that time see even the least glimmer of the light.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD): Tenth Ethical Discourse @ Eclectic Orthodoxy.

Cyril of Jerusalem: The Descent of the Holy Spirit Wednesday, Jun 11 2014 

Cyril-of-JerusalemHe came down to clothe the Apostles with power, and to baptize them.

For the Lord says, ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence (Acts 1:5).

This grace was not in part, but His power was in full perfection.

For as he who plunges into the waters and is baptized is encompassed on all sides by the waters, so were they also baptized completely by the Holy Ghost.

The water however flows round the outside only, but the Spirit baptizes also the soul within, and that completely.

And wherefore wonderest thou?  Take an example from matter; poor indeed and common, yet useful for the simpler sort.

The fire passing in through the mass of the iron makes the whole of it fire, so that what was cold becomes burning and what was black is made bright.

If fire which is a body thus penetrates and works without hindrance in iron which is also a body, why wonder that the Holy Ghost enters into the very inmost recesses of the soul?

And lest men should be ignorant of the greatness of the mighty gift coming down to them, there sounded as it were a heavenly trumpet.

For suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind (Acts 2:2), signifying the presence of Him who was to grant power unto men to seize with violence the kingdom of God; that both their eyes might see the fiery tongues, and their ears hear the sound.  

And it filled all the house where they were sitting; for the house became the vessel of the spiritual water; as the disciples sat within, the whole house was filled.

Thus they were entirely baptized according to the promise, and invested soul and body with a divine garment of salvation.  

And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.

They partook of fire, not of burning but of saving fire; of fire which consumes the thorns of sins, but gives lustre to the soul.

This is now coming upon you also, and that to strip away and consume your sins which are like thorns, and to brighten yet more that precious possession of your souls, and to give you grace; for He gave it then to the Apostles.

And He sat upon them in the form of fiery tongues, that they might crown themselves with new and spiritual diadems by fiery tongues upon their heads.  A fiery sword barred of old the gates of Paradise; a fiery tongue which brought salvation restored the gift.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 17, 14-15.

Athanasius of Alexandria: Preparing to Eat the Passover Saturday, Apr 5 2014 

AthanasiusWho then will lead us to such a company of angels as this?

[…] ‘Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord?’

‘Who shall stand in His holy place, but he that hath clean hands, and a pure heart, who hath not devoted his soul to vanity, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbour.’

‘For he,’ as the Psalmist adds, when he goes up, ‘shall receive a blessing from the Lord’ (Ps. 24:3).

Now this clearly also refers to what the Lord gives to them at the right hand, saying, ‘Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you’ (Matt. 25:34).

But the deceitful, and he that is not pure of heart, and possesses nothing that is pure…shall assuredly, being a stranger, and of a different race from the saints, be accounted unworthy to eat the Passover, for ‘a foreigner shall not eat of it’ (Exod. 12:43).

[…] Wherefore let us not celebrate the feast after an earthly manner, but as keeping festival in heaven with the angels.

Let us glorify the Lord, by chastity, by righteousness, and other virtues. And let us rejoice, not in ourselves, but in the Lord, that we may be inheritors with the saints.

Let us keep the feast then, as Moses. Let us watch like David who rose seven times, and in the middle of the night gave thanks for the righteous judgments of God.

Let us be early, as he said, ‘In the morning I will stand before Thee, and Thou wilt look upon me: in the morning Thou wilt hear my voice’ (Ps. 5:3).

Let us fast like Daniel; let us pray without ceasing, as Paul commanded; all of us recognising the season of prayer…, so that having borne witness to these things, and thus having kept the feast, we may be able to enter into the joy of Christ in the kingdom of heaven.

Israel, when going up to Jerusalem, was first purified in the wilderness, being trained to forget the customs of Egypt, the Word by this typifying to us the holy fast of forty days.

So also let us first be purified and freed from defilement, so that when we depart hence, having been careful of fasting, we may be able to ascend to the upper chamber (cf. Luke 14:15) with the Lord, to sup with Him; and may be partakers of the joy which is in heaven.

In no other manner is it possible to go up to Jerusalem, and to eat the Passover, except by observing the fast of forty days.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Sixth Festal Letter, 11-12.

Cyril of Alexandria: The Healing of the Man Born Blind Sunday, Mar 30 2014 

cyril_alexandria“When He had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and with the clay thereof anointed his eyes, and said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, which means ‘Sent’…. He went away therefore, and washed, and came seeing” (John 9:6-7).

Why, although able to set all things right easily by a word, does He mix up clay from the spittle, and anoint the eyes of the sufferer, and seem to prescribe a sort of operation; for He says, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam? 

Surely I deem that some deep meaning is buried beneath these words, for the Saviour accomplishes nothing without a purpose.

[…] It was not otherwise possible for the Gentiles to thrust off the blindness which affected them, and to behold the Divine and holy light, that is, to receive the knowledge of the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, except by being made partakers of His Holy Body, and washing away their gloom-producing sin, and renouncing the authority of the devil, namely in Holy Baptism.

And when the Saviour stamped on the blind man the typical mark which was anticipative of the mystery, He meanwhile fully exhibited the power of such participation by the anointing with His spittle.

And as an image of Holy Baptism He commands the man to run and wash in Siloam, a name whose interpretation, the Evangelist, being very wise and Divinely-inspired, felt it necessary to give.

For we conclude that the One Sent is no other than God the Only-Begotten, visiting us and sent from above, even from the Father, to destroy sin and the rapacity of the devil.

And, recognising Him as floating invisibly on the waters of the sacred pool, we by faith are washed, not for the putting away of the filth of the flesh, as it is written, but as it were washing away a sort of defilement and uncleanness of the eyes of the understanding, in order that for the future, being purified, we may be able in pureness to behold the Divine beauty.

As therefore we believe the Body of Christ to be life-giving, since it is the temple and abode of the Word of the Living God, possessing all His energy, so we declare it to be also a Patron of light; for it is the Body of Him Who is by nature the True Light.

And as, when He raised from death the only son of the widow, He was not satisfied with merely commanding and saying: Young man, I say unto thee, Arise; although accustomed to accomplish all things, whatsoever He wished, by a word; but also touched the bier with His hand, showing that even His Body possesses a life-giving power.

So in this case, also, He anoints with His spittle, teaching that His Body is also a Patron of light, even by so slight a touch. For it is the Body of the True Light, as we said above.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on John, book 6 [on John 9].

 

Cyril of Jerusalem: “Wash Yourselves, Make Yourselves Clean, Put Away Your Iniquities From Before My Eyes” Tuesday, Mar 18 2014 

Cyril-of-JerusalemMarch 18th is the feast of St Cyril of Jerusalem….

Disciples of the New Testament and partakers of the mysteries of Christ, as yet by calling only, but ere long by grace also, make you a new heart and a new spirit (Ezek. 18:31), that there may be gladness among the inhabitants of heaven.

For if over one sinner that repenteth there is joy, according to the Gospel (Luke 15:7), how much more shall the salvation of so many souls move the inhabitants of heaven to gladness.

As ye have entered upon a good and most glorious path, run with reverence the race of godliness.

For the Only-begotten Son of God is present here most ready to redeem you, saying, Come unto Me all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28).

Ye that are clothed with the rough garment of your offences, who are holden with the cords of your own sins, hear the voice of the Prophet saying, Wash you, make you clean, put away your iniquities from before Mine eyes (Isaiah 1:16):  that the choir of Angels may chant over you, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered (Ps. 32:1).

Ye who have just lighted the torches of faith, guard them carefully in your hands unquenched; that He, who erewhile on this all-holy Golgotha opened Paradise to the robber on account of his faith, may grant to you to sing the bridal song.

If any here is a slave of sin, let him promptly prepare himself through faith for the new birth into freedom and adoption; and having put off the miserable bondage of his sins, and taken on him the most blessed bondage of the Lord, so may he be counted worthy to inherit the kingdom of heaven.

Put off, by confession, the old man, which waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit, that ye may put on the new man, which is renewed according to knowledge of Him that created him (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:10).

Get you the earnest of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22) through faith, that ye may be able to be received into the everlasting habitations (Luke 16:9).

Come for the mystical Seal, that ye may be easily recognised by the Master; be ye numbered among the holy and spiritual flock of Christ, to be set apart on His right hand, and inherit the life prepared for you.

For they to whom the rough garment of their sins still clings are found on the left hand, because they came not to the grace of God which is given through Christ at the new birth of Baptism:  new birth I mean not of bodies, but the spiritual new birth of the soul.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 1, 1-2.

Justin Popovich: In the Saviour’s Words there is a Certain Elixir of Immortality Friday, Feb 7 2014 

Justin PopovichLearning and fulfilling the words of God makes a person a relative of the Lord Jesus.

He Himself revealed this when He said: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and carry it out” (Luke 8:21).

This means that if you hear and read the word of God, you are a half-brother of Christ.

If you carry it out, you are a full brother of Christ. And that is a joy and privilege greater than that of the angels.

In learning from the Bible, a certain blessedness floods the soul which resembles nothing on earth.

The Saviour spoke about this when He said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28).

Great is the mystery of the word–so great that the second Person of the Holy Trinity, Christ the Lord, is called “the Word” or “the Logos” in the Bible.

God is the Word (John 1:1). All those words which come from the eternal and absolute Word are full of God, Divine Truth, Eternity, and Righteousness.

If you listen to them, you are listening to God. If you read them, you are reading the direct words of God.

God the Word became flesh, became man (John 1:14), and mute, stuttering man began to proclaim the words of the eternal truth and righteousness of God.

In the Saviour’s words there is a certain elixir of immortality, which drips drop by drop into the soul of the man who reads His words and brings his soul from death to life, from impermanence to permanence.

The Saviour indicated this when He said: “Truly, truly I say unto you, whoever listens to my word and believes in the One who sent me has eternal life …and has passed over from death to life” (John 5:24).

Thus the Saviour makes the crucial assertion: “Truly, truly I say unto you, whoever keeps my words will never see death” (John 8:51).

Every word of Christ is full of God. Thus, when it enters a man’s soul it cleanses it from every defilement. From each of His words comes a power that cleanses us from sin.

Hence at the Mystical Supper the Saviour told His disciples, who used to listen to His word without ceasing: “You have already been cleansed by the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

Christ the Lord and His Apostles call everything that is written in the Bible the word of God, the word of the Lord (John 17:14; Acts 6:2, 13:46, 16:32, 19:20; II Cor. 2:17; Col. 1:15, II Thess. 3:1), and unless you read it and receive it as such, you will remain in the mute, stuttering words of men, vain and idle.

Justin Popovich (1894-1979; Orthodox Church): How to Read the Bible and Why.

Anastasius of Sinai: The Church of God is a Surgery Thursday, Feb 6 2014 

Anastasios-of-SinaiDo you not know that the Church of God is a surgery and a harbor?

Now, if you remain in a surgery ailing and unhealed, when, henceforth, will you be cured?

And if you are tempest-tossed in a harbor, where, hereafter, will you find rest?

Stand with reverence, I implore you.

Stand with awe at the fearful hour of the Anaphora; for with whatever attitude and thoughts each of you attends at that hour, such also is the frame of mind in which he offers worship to the Master.

The oblation is called the Anaphora because it is offered up to God. Therefore, stand before God in silence and compunction.

Confess your sins to God through the Priests. Condemn your actions and do not be ashamed; for, there is a shame that bringeth sin, and there is a shame which is glory and grace (Ecclesiasticus 4:2 1).

Condemn yourself before men, so that the Judge may justify you before Angels and the whole world.

Seek mercy, seek forgiveness, seek remission of past sins and deliverance from future sins, so that you may approach the Mysteries worthily, so that you may partake of the Body and Blood with a pure conscience, and so that it may be for you unto purification and not unto condemnation.

Hear what the Divine Paul says: Let each man examine himself, and so let him eat of that Bread, and drink of that Cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s Body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep (I Corinthians 11:27-30).

Do you notice that illness and death result, for the most part, from approaching the Divine Mysteries unworthily? But perhaps you will say: And who is worthy? I, too, am aware of this.

However, you will become worthy, if only you desire it. Recognize that you are a sinner. Cut yourself off from sin. Desist from sin, wickedness, and anger. Display the works of repentance; endue yourself with prudence, meekness, and forbearance.

Show compassion from the fruits of righteousness for those in need, and you will have become worthy. Beseech God with a contrite heart, and He will fulfill your petitions; for, if you do not do this, you will be wasting the time that you spend in church.

[…] And why, someone will object, because I have evil deeds, should I not pray? Why should I not spend time in the Church of God?

This is not what I am saying, nor do I even countenance it. But I beseech you to pray as you ought, so that when we draw near to God in our prayers, we may stand before Him in a way that befits Him

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

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