Leo the Great: Our Lord Jesus Christ made in Himself the beginning of a new creation Monday, Jan 2 2017 

Saint_Leo_of_RomeThe bodily Nativity therefore of the Son of God took nothing from and added nothing to His Majesty because His unchangeable substance could be neither diminished nor increased.

For that “the Word became flesh” does not signify that the nature of God was changed into flesh, but that the Word took the flesh into the unity of His Person.

And therein undoubtedly the whole man was received, with which within the Virgin’s womb fecundated by the Holy Spirit, whose virginity was destined never to be lost, the Son of God was so inseparably united that He who was born without time of the Father’s essence was Himself in time born of the Virgin’s womb.

For we could not otherwise be released from the chains of eternal death but by Him becoming humble in our nature, Who remained Almighty in His own.

And so our Lord Jesus Christ, being at birth true man though He never ceased to be true God, made in Himself the beginning of a new creation, and in the “form” of His birth started the spiritual life of mankind afresh, that to abolish the taint of our birth according to the flesh there might be a possibility of regeneration without our sinful seed for those of whom it is said, “Who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).

What mind can grasp this mystery, what tongue can express this gracious act?  Sinfulness returns to guiltlessness and the old nature becomes new; strangers receive adoption and outsiders enter upon an inheritance.  The ungodly begin to be righteous, the miserly benevolent, the incontinent chaste, the earthly heavenly.

And whence comes this change, save by the right hand of the Most High?  For the Son of God came to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8), and has so united Himself with us and us with Him that the descent of God to man’s estate became the exaltation of man to God’s.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 27, 2.

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Gregory Palamas: The genealogy of Christ Wednesday, Dec 21 2016 

Gregory_PalamasMatthew…begins with those born first, and makes no mention of anyone born before Abraham.

He traces the line down from Abraham until he reaches Joseph to whom, by divine dispensation, the Virgin Mother of God was betrothed (Matt. 1:1-16), being of the same tribe and homeland as him, that her own stock may be shown from this to be in no way inferior.

Luke, by contrast, begins not with the earliest forebears but the most recent, and working his way back from Joseph the Betrothed, does not stop at Abraham, nor, having included Abraham’s predecessors, does he end with Adam, but lists God among Christ’s human forebears (Lk. 3:23-38);

wishing to show, in my opinion, that from the beginning man was not just a creation of God, but also a son in the Spirit, which was given to him at the same time as his soul, through God’s quickening breath (Gen. 2:7).

It was granted to him as a pledge that, if, waiting patiently for it, he kept the commandment, he would be able to share through the same Spirit in a more perfect union with God, by which he would live forever with Him and obtain immortality.

By heeding the evil counsel of the pernicious angel, man transgressed the divine commandments, was shown to be unworthy, forfeited the pledge, and interrupted God’s plan.

God’s grace, however, is unalterable and His purpose cannot prove false, so some of man’s offspring were chosen, that, from among many, a suitable receptacle for this divine adoption and grace might be found, who would serve God’s will perfectly, and would be revealed as a vessel worthy to unite divine and human nature in one person, not just exalting our nature, but restoring the human race.

The holy Maid and Virgin Mother of God was this vessel, so she was proclaimed by the Archangel Gabriel as full of grace (Lk. 1:28), being the chosen one among the chosen, blameless, undefiled and worthy to contain the person of the God-Man and to collaborate with Him.

Therefore God pre-ordained her before all ages, chose her from among all that had ever lived, and deemed her worthy of more grace than anyone else, making her the holiest of saints, even before her mysterious childbearing.

For that reason, He graciously willed that she should make her home in the Holy of Holies, and accepted her as His companion to share His dwelling from her childhood.

He did not simply choose her from the masses, but from the elect of all time, who were admired and renowned for their piety and wisdom, and for their character, words and deeds, which pleased God and brought benefit to all.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily on the Old Testament Saints. From Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009).

Ambrose of Milan: Jonah and Christ Monday, Sep 12 2016 

ambrose_of_milanJust as Jonah was plunged into a deep sleep within the ship, without a thought of being woken up, so did our Lord Jesus Christ, who in the mystery of his death provided the antitype of that Old Testament figure, sleep soundly during his lifetime, as the gospel tells us, in a boat.

And just as Jonah passed three days and nights in the belly of a whale, so did the Son of Man spend three days in the heart of the earth after his death. But after he had raised himself from the dead and roused his body from its sleep for the salvation of all, he visited his disciples.

Christ, then, is the true Jonah, who gave his life for our redemp­tion. For this reason he was taken up on deck and cast overboard into the sea in order to be swallowed up by the whale.

Job had this to say about the whale: He holds in captivity a huge sea monster. And what kind of beast is this meant to be? You will know when you read that our Lord Jesus Christ took captivity captive. Once our adversary and bitter enemy had been subdued, we, who had been under his dominion, began to enjoy our liberty, thanks to Christ.

The prayer itself of holy Jonah throws some light upon the mystery of the Lord’s passion, for he said, I have cried out to the Lord in my affliction, and my voice has reached him from the depths of Sheol – not, you will notice, from the depths of the whale’s belly. For it was into Hades that the Lord went down, not in any whale, so that he might loose those who were detained there from their everlasting bonds.

Now, who was it that offered to the Lord God his sacrifice with praise and thanksgiving if not our great High Priest himself, who made his vows and paid them on behalf of all of us? For he alone could make his sacrifice effective.

Just as Jonah, by being cast into the sea, was able to allay its fury, so did our Lord Jesus Christ, by coming into the world, win it for himself, and through his blood he established it everywhere – in heaven and on earth.

By his coming he redeemed all men and women, and by his deeds he brought them all to love and worship God; he raised the dead and healed the sick, implanting in people’s souls a reverence for God. He it was who offered to the Father a sacrifice of atonement on our behalf, presenting God with an oblation capable of justifying us. He it was who slept and woke again.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Psalm 43, 83-85 (PL 14:1183-1184, 1129-1139);  from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2.

John Damascene: Hail! O Christ, the Word and Wisdom and Power of God, and God omnipotent! Friday, Jun 3 2016 

John-of-Damascus_01Continued from here….

The worship of demons then has ceased;

creation has been sanctified by the divine blood;

altars and temples of idols have been overthrown;

the knowledge of God has been implanted in men’s minds;

the co-essential Trinity, the uncreate divinity, one true God, Creator and Lord of all receives men’s service;

virtues are cultivated, the hope of resurrection has been granted through the resurrection of Christ;

the demons shudder at those men who of old were under their subjection.

And the marvel, indeed, is that all this has been successfully brought about through His Cross and passion and death.

Throughout all the earth the Gospel of the knowledge of God has been preached; no wars or weapons or armies being used to rout the enemy, but only a few, naked, poor, illiterate, persecuted and tormented men.

With their lives in their hands, they preached Him Who was crucified in the flesh and died, and who became victors over the wise and powerful.

For the omnipotent power of the Cross accompanied them.

Death itself, which once was man’s chiefest terror, has been overthrown, and now that which was once the object of hate and loathing is preferred to life.

These are the achievements of Christ’s presence: these are the tokens of His power.

For it was not one people that He saved, as when through Moses He divided the sea and delivered Israel out of Egypt and the bondage of Pharaoh (Ex. 14:16);

nay, rather He rescued all mankind from the corruption of death and the bitter tyranny of sin: not leading them by force to virtue, not overwhelming them with earth or burning them with fire, or ordering the sinners to be stoned, but persuading men by gentleness and long-suffering to choose virtue and vie with one another, and find pleasure in the struggle to attain it.

For, formerly, it was sinners who were persecuted, and yet they clung all the closer to sin, and sin was looked upon by them as their God. But now for the sake of piety and virtue men choose persecutions and crucifixions and death.

Hail! O Christ, the Word and Wisdom and Power of God, and God omnipotent! What can we helpless ones give Thee in return for all these good gifts?

For all are Thine, and Thou askest naught from us save our salvation, Thou Who Thyself art the Giver of this, and yet art grateful to those who receive it, through Thy unspeakable goodness.

Thanks be to Thee Who gave us life, and granted us the grace of a happy life, and restored us to that, when we had gone astray, through Thy unspeakable condescension.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 4,4 [slightly adapted].

John Damascene: After He had placed man in communion with Himself, He led him up through communion with Himself to incorruption Wednesday, Apr 20 2016 

John-of-Damascus_01The Father is Father and not Son.

The Son is Son and not Father.

The Holy Spirit is Spirit and not Father or Son.

For the individuality is unchangeable. How, indeed, could individuality continue to exist at all if it were ever changing and altering?

Wherefore the Son of God became Son of Man in order that His individuality might endure.

For since He was the Son of God, He became Son of Man, being made flesh of the holy Virgin and not losing the individuality of Sonship.

Further, the Son of God became man in order that He might again bestow on man that favour for the sake of which He created him.

For He created him after His own image, endowed with intellect and free-will, and after His own likeness, that is to say, perfect in all virtue so far as it is possible for man’s nature to attain perfection.

For the following properties are, so to speak, marks of the divine nature: viz. absence of care and distraction and guile, goodness, wisdom, justice, freedom from all vice.

He placed man in communion with Himself – for having made him for incorruption (Wisd. 2:23), He led him up through communion with Himself to incorruption.

Through the transgression of the command we confused and obliterated the marks of the divine image, and, having become evil, we were stripped of our communion with God – for what communion hath light with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14)?

And, having been shut out from life we became subject to the corruption of death.

After all this, since He gave us to share in the better part, and we did not keep it secure, He shares in the inferior part, I mean our own nature.

He does this in order that – through Himself and in Himself – He might renew that which was made after His image and likeness;

and that He might teach us, too, the conduct of a virtuous life, making through Himself the way thither easy for us;

and that He might by the communication of life deliver us from corruption, becoming Himself the firstfruits of our resurrection;

that He might renovate the useless and worn vessel calling us to the knowledge of God;

and that He might redeem us from the tyranny of the devil, and might strengthen and teach us how to overthrow the tyrant through patience and humility.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 4,4 [slightly adapted].

Cyril of Alexandria: When God’s life-giving Word came to dwell in human flesh, he remade it for its good, that is, for its life Saturday, Apr 16 2016 

cyril_alexandria“I am dying”, said the Lord, “for all men, so that through me all may have life.

“By my flesh I have redeemed the flesh of all men.

“For in my death, death will die, and fallen human nature will rise again with me.

“In this way l have become, like you, a man descended from Abraham, so that I may be made like my brethren in every respect.”

Saint Paul understood this well when he said:

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.

There was never any other way to destroy the one who had the power of death, and therefore death itself.

Christ had to give himself up for us; the one had to be the ransom for all, for he was the head of all.

Accordingly, he said in another place, namely in the psalms, when he offered himself to God his Father as a spotless sacrifice on your behalf:

You wanted no sacrifice or oblation, but you prepared a body for me. You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin. Then I said, “Here I am.”

He was crucified on behalf of us all and for the sake of us all, so that, when one had died instead of all, we all might live in him.

For it was impossible that he should be defeated by death or that one who is life by its very nature should yield to corruption.

Indeed, Christ’s own words prove to us that he offered his flesh for the life of the world:  Holy Father, keep them. And again: For their sake I make myself holy.

He said, I make myself holy, meaning “I consecrate and offer myself as a spotless sacrifice with a sweet savour.”

For what was offered on the altar was made holy or called holy according to the Law. Therefore Christ gave his body or the life of all, and through his body planted life among us again.

How this came about I shall explain as best I can. When God’s life-giving Word came to dwell in human flesh, he remade it for its good, that is, for its life.

Being linked with flesh in this unique form of union, he made it a source of life, just as he is by his own nature, a source of life.

Thus the body of Christ gives life to those who share with him. By being among those who are liable to death, his body drives death out; by bringing forth in itself a principle capable of utterly destroying corruption, his body expels corruption.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St John’s Gospel 4, 2; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Thursday of the Fourth Week in Eastertide, Year 1.

Leo the Great: No one, however weak, is denied a share in the victory of the Cross Thursday, Mar 10 2016 

leo1No one, however weak, is denied a share in the victory of the Cross, nor is anyone beyond the help of the prayer of Christ.

Even his many tormentors received the benefit of Christ’s prayer; all the more powerfully will it avail those who turn to him in repentance.

Ignorance has been dispelled, ill-will restrained, and the flaming sword barring the way to the land of the living extinguished by the sacred blood of Christ.

The dark night of the past has yielded to the true light of day.

Christian people are now invited to enjoy the treasures of Paradise, and the way to their lost fatherland is open once more to all who have been reborn.

Provided they do not close off for themselves that way which could be opened by the faith of a thief.

As we celebrate the wonderful mystery of this Paschal Feast, dearly beloved, we must not allow the affairs of this present life to consume us with anxiety or pride, and so prevent us from striving with our whole heart to be like our Redeemer and to follow his example, since the sole aim of everything he did and suffered was our salvation, and the communication to his members of the power that belongs to him as Head.

Was anyone, from the very first, excluded from the mercy shown to the human race when God assumed our nature, when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us? None but the unbeliever. Who, accepting Christ as the incarnate Word, does not share a common nature with him and is not born again of the same Spirit by which Christ himself was conceived?

Again, is there anyone whose own weakness is not recognizable in Christ’s? Surely in one who needed food and sleep, who was troubled and sorrowful and could be moved to tears, we can see the condition of our own servitude.

Because that nature of ours cried for the healing of its age-old wounds and the cleansing of its sinful stains, God’s only Son became the Son of Man, lacking neither the full reality of our humanity nor the plenitude of his Godhead.

The body that lay lifeless in the tomb was ours; the body that rose again on the third day was ours; the body that ascended above the heavens to the right hand of the Father’s majesty was ours.

If, then, we walk in the way of Christ’s commandments and are not ashamed to confess the price he paid for our salvation in bodily humiliation, we too shall be brought into the company of his glory.

Then all creation will see his promise fulfilled: Everyone who acknowledges me in the presence of men will be acknowledged by me in the presence of my heavenly Father.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 66, 3-4; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Tuesday of the Third Week in Lent, Year 1.

Athanasius of Alexandria: The destruction of death and the resurrection of life Sunday, Feb 7 2016 

AthanasiusContinued from here….

And of this one may be assured at the hands of the Saviour’s own inspired writers, if one happen upon their writings, where they say:

“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then all died, and He died for all that we should no longer live unto ourselves, but unto Him Who for our sakes died and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:14), our Lord Jesus Christ.

And, again: “But we behold Him, Who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, that by the grace of God He should taste of death for every man” (Heb. 2:9f).

Then He also points out the reason why it was necessary for none other than God the Word Himself to become incarnate; as follows:

“For it became Him, for Whom are all things, and through Whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

By these words He means that it belonged to none other to bring man back from the corruption which had begun than the Word of God, Who had also made them from the beginning.

It was in order to be a sacrifice for bodies such as His own that the Word Himself also assumed a body, as these words show:

“forasmuch then as the children are the sharers in blood and flesh, He also Himself in like manner partook of the same, that through death He might bring to naught Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14ff).

For by the sacrifice of His own body, He both put an end to the law which was against us, and made a new beginning of life for us, by the hope of resurrection which He has given us.

For since from man it was that death prevailed over men, for this cause conversely, by the Word of God being made man has come about the destruction of death and the resurrection of life…:

“for since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21).

For no longer now do we die as subject to condemnation; but as men who rise from the dead we await the general resurrection of all, “which.in its own times He shall show” (1 Tim. 6:15), even God, Who has also wrought it, and bestowed it upon us.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): On the Incarnation of the Word, 10 [slightly adapted].

Cyril of Alexandria: “The acceptable year of the Lord” Monday, Feb 1 2016 

cyril_alexandriaThe Father says…unto the Son Himself:

“I have given Thee for a covenant of kindred, for a light of the Gentiles, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out the prisoners from their bonds, and from the guard-house those that sit in darkness, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord”

(cf. Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 42:6-7; Isaiah 61:1-2).

For the Only-begotten came into this world and gave a new covenant to His kindred, the Israelites, of whom He was sprung according to the flesh, even the covenant long before announced by the voice of the prophets.

But the divine and heavenly light shone also upon the Gentiles: and He went and preached to the spirits in Hades, and showed Himself to those who were shut up in the guard-house, and freed all from their bonds and violence.

And how do not these things plainly prove that Christ is both God, and of God by nature? And what means the sending away the broken in freedom? It is the letting those go free whom Satan had broken by the rod of spiritual violence.

And what means the preaching the acceptable year of the Lord? It signifies the joyful tidings of His own advent, that the time of the Lord, even the Son, had arrived.

For that was the acceptable year in which Christ was crucified in our behalf, because we then were made acceptable unto God the Father, as the fruit borne by Him.

Wherefore He said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men unto Myself.” And verily He returned to life the third day, having trampled upon the power of death: after which He said to His disciples, “All power has been given Me….”

That too is in every respect an acceptable year in which, being received into His family, we were admitted unto Him, having washed away sin by holy baptism, and been made partakers of His divine nature by the communion of the Holy Ghost.

That too is an acceptable year, in which He manifested His glory by ineffable miracles: for with joy have we accepted the season of His salvation, which also the very wise Paul referred to, saying, “Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation.”

This is the day, when the poor who formerly were sick by the absence of every blessing, having no hope and being without God in the world, such as were the gentiles, were made rich by faith in Him, gaining the divine and heavenly treasure of the Gospel message of salvation.

By this they have been made partakers of the kingdom of heaven, co-partners with the saints, and heirs of blessings such as neither the mind can conceive nor language tell.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on Luke, Sermon 12 (on Luke 4:18-19) [slightly adapted].

Irenaeus of Lyons: It was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality Saturday, Jan 23 2016 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonContinued from here….

Our Lord took that same original formation as (His) entry into flesh, so that He might draw near and contend on behalf of the fathers, and conquer by Adam that which by Adam had stricken us down.

Whence then is the substance of the first-formed (man)? From the Will and the Wisdom of God, and from the virgin earth.

For God had not sent rain, the Scripture says, upon the earth, before man was made; and there was no man to till the earth (Gen. 2:5).

From this, then, whilst it was still virgin, God took dust of the earth and formed the man, the beginning of mankind.

So then the Lord, summing up afresh this man, took the same dispensation of entry into flesh, being born from the Virgin by the Will and the Wisdom of God; that He also should show forth the likeness of Adam’s entry into flesh, and there should be that which was written in the beginning, man after the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26).

And just as through a disobedient virgin man was stricken down and fell into death, so through the Virgin who was obedient to the Word of God man was reanimated and received life. 

For the Lord came to seek again the sheep that was lost; and man it was that was lost: and for this cause there was not made some other formation, but in that same which had its descent from Adam He preserved the likeness of the (first) formation.

For it was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality; and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away the disobedience of a virgin (1 Cor. 15:53).

And the trespass which came by the tree was undone by the tree of obedience, when, hearkening unto God, the Son of man was nailed to the tree; thereby putting away the knowledge of evil and bringing in and establishing the knowledge of good: now evil it is to disobey God, even as hearkening unto God is good.

And for this cause the Word spake by Isaiah the prophet, announcing beforehand that which was to come…. By him then spake the Word thus:  I refuse not, nor gainsay: I gave my back to scourging, and my cheeks to smiting; and my face I turned not away from the shame of spitting (Isaiah 50:5).

So then by the obedience wherewith He obeyed even unto death, (Phil. 2;8) hanging on the tree, He put away the old disobedience which was wrought in the tree.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 31-34.

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