Georges Florovsky: The Incarnation is the Quickening of Man, the Resurrection of Human Nature Monday, Jan 6 2014 

Florovsky“The Word became flesh:” in this is the ultimate joy of the Christian faith. In this is the fullness of Revelation. The Same Incarnate Lord is both perfect God and perfect man.

The full significance and the ultimate purpose of human existence is revealed and realized in and through the Incarnation.

He came down from Heaven to redeem the earth, to unite man with God for ever. “And became man.” The new age has been initiated. We count now the “anni Domini!”

As St. Irenaeus wrote: “the Son of God became the Son of Man, that man also might become the son of God.”

Not only is the original fullness of human nature restored or re-established in the Incarnation. Not only does human nature return to its once lost communion with God.

The Incarnation is also the new Revelation, the new and further step. The first Adam was a living soul. But the last Adam is the Lord from Heaven (1 Cor. 15:47).

And in the Incarnation of the Word human nature was not merely anointed with a superabundant overflowing of Grace, but was assumed into an intimate and hypostatical unity with the Divinity itself.

In that lifting up of human nature into an everlasting communion with the Divine Life, the Fathers of the early Church unanimously saw the very essence of salvation, the basis of the whole redeeming work of Christ.

“That is saved which is united with God,” says St. Gregory of Nazianzus. And what was not united could not be saved at all.

[…] This was the fundamental motive in the whole of early theology, in St. Irenaeus, St. Athanasius, the Cappadocian Fathers, St. Cyril of Alexandria, and St. Maximus the Confessor.

The whole history of Christological dogma was determined by this fundamental conception: the Incarnation of the Word as Redemption.

In the Incarnation human history is completed. God’s eternal will is accomplished, “the mystery from eternity hidden and to angels unknown.”

The days of expectation are over. The Promised and the Expected has come. And from henceforth, to use the phrase of St. Paul, the life of man “is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

The Incarnation of the Word was an absolute manifestation of God. And above all it was a revelation of Life.

Christ is the Word of Life…, “and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 John 1:1-2).

The Incarnation is the quickening of man, as it were, the resurrection of human nature. But the climax of the Gospel is the Cross, the death of the Incarnate.

Georges Florovsky (1893-1979; Eastern Orthodox): “Incarnation and Redemption” in Theological Articles of Fr George Florovsky, vol. 3.

Charles Wesley: Stupendous Height of Heavenly Love Thursday, Dec 26 2013 

Charles_wesleyStupendous height of heavenly love,
Of pitying tenderness divine!
It brought the Saviour from above,
It caused the springing day to shine;
The Sun of righteousness to appear,
And gild our gloomy hemisphere.

God did in Christ himself reveal,
To chase our darkness by his light,
Our sin and ignorance dispel,
Direct our wandering feet aright,
And bring our souls, with pardon blest,
To realms of everlasting rest.

Come then, O Lord, thy light impart,
The faith that bids our terrors cease,
Into thy love direct our heart,
Into thy way of perfect peace;
And cheer the souls of death afraid,
And guide them through the dreadful shade.

Answer thy mercy’s whole design,
My God incarnated for me;
My spirit make thy radiant shrine,
My light and full salvation be,
And through the shades of death unknown
Conduct me to thy dazzling throne.

Charles Wesley (1701-1778; Church of England): Hymns, 686.

Augustine of Hippo: Jesus Brings to Light Things Hidden in Darkness and Makes Plain the Secrets of the Heart Friday, Nov 29 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaAnd we possess a more certain prophetic word to which you do well to attend, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (1 Peter 2:19).

When our Lord Jesus Christ comes and, as the apostle Paul says, brings to light things hidden in darkness and makes plain the secrets of the heart, so that everyone may receive his commendation from God, then lamps will no longer be needed.

When that day is at hand, the prophet will not be read to us, the book of the Apostle will not be opened, we shall not require the testimony of John, we shall have no need of the Gospel itself.

Therefore all Scriptures will be taken away from us, those Scriptures which in the night of this world burned like lamps so that we might not remain in darkness.

When all these things are removed as no longer necessary for our illumination, and when the men of God by whom they were ministered to us shall themselves together with us behold the true and dear light without such aids, what shall we see?

With what shall our minds be nourished? What will give joy to our gaze? Where will that gladness come from, which eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, which has not even been conceived by the heart of man? What shall we see?

I implore you to love with me and, by believing, to run with me; let us long for our heavenly country, let us sigh for our heavenly home, let us truly feel that here we are strangers.

What shall we then see? Let the gospel tell us: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. You will come to the fountain, with whose dew you have already been sprinkled.

Instead of the ray of light which was sent through slanting and winding ways into the heart of your darkness, you will see the light itself in all its purity and brightness. It is to see and experience this light that you are now being cleansed.

Dearly beloved, John himself says, we are the sons of God, and it has not yet been disclosed what we shall be; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

I feel that your spirits are being raised up with mine to the heavens above; but the body which is corruptible weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind.

I am about to lay aside this book, and you are soon going away, each to his own business. It has been good for us to share the common light, good to have enjoyed ourselves, good to have been glad together. When we part from one another, let us not depart from him.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Commentary on the Gospel of John, Tract. 35, 8-9 (CCL 36, 321-323) from the Roman Office of Readings for Tuesday in the 34th week in Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

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.

Cyril of Jerusalem: I am Attempting to Glorify the Lord, but not to Describe Him Thursday, Sep 26 2013 

Cyril-of-JerusalemSomeone will say: if the Divine substance is incomprehensible, why then do you discourse of these things?

So then, because I cannot drink up all the river, am I not even to take in moderation what is expedient for me?

Because with eyes so constituted as mine I cannot take in all the sun, am I not even to look upon him enough to satisfy my wants?

Or again, because I have entered into a great garden, and cannot eat all the supply of fruits, would you have me go away altogether hungry?

I praise and glorify Him that made us; for it is a divine command which says, Let every breath praise the Lord (Ps. 150:6).

I am attempting now to glorify the Lord, but not to describe Him, knowing nevertheless that I shall fall short of glorifying Him worthily, yet deeming it a work of piety even to attempt it at all.

For the Lord Jesus encourages my weakness, by saying, No man hath seen God at any time (John 1:18).  They are the Evangelist’s own words.

What then, some man will say, is it not written, The little ones’ Angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven (Matt. 18:10)?  Yes, but the Angels see God not as He is, but as far as they themselves are capable.

For it is Jesus Himself who says, Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father (John 6:46).

The Angels therefore behold as much as they can bear, and Archangels as much as they are able; and Thrones and Dominions more than the former, but yet less than His worthiness.

For with the Son the Holy Ghost alone can rightly behold Him:  for He searcheth all things, and knoweth even the deep things of God  (1 Cor. 2:10);  as indeed the Only-begotten Son also, with the Holy Ghost, knows the Father fully.

For neitherknoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him   (Matt. 11:27).

For He fully beholds, and, according as each of us can bear, reveals God through the Spirit, since the Only-begotten Son together with the Holy Ghost is a partaker of the Father’s Godhead. He, who  was begotten knows Him who begat; and He Who begat knows Him who is begotten.

Since Angels then are ignorant (for to each according to his own capacity does the Only-begotten [i.e. the Son] reveal Him [the Father] through the Holy Ghost, as we have said), let no man be ashamed to confess his ignorance.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 6, 5-6.

Gregory of Nyssa: Through the Church the Heavenly Powers Discover the Manifold Wisdom of God Saturday, Aug 24 2013 

Gregory_of_NyssaThat the manifold wisdom of God may be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places through the Church, according to the eternal purpose, which he made, in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him (Ephesians 3:10-12).

It is indeed through the Church that the heavenly powers discover the manifold wisdom of God that accomplished great wonders by contrary means: how life resulted from death, righteousness from sin, a blessing from a curse, glory from disgrace, power from weakness.

In earlier times the heavenly powers were aware only of the simple, unqualified wisdom of God working wonders in a manner appropriate to its nature.

There was nothing complex in what they saw when in its mighty power the Godhead created the universe by a simple act of will, bringing the natural world into being and endowing all things with the great beauty that springs from the source of all beauty.

Now, however, through the Church, they have been clearly shown this manifold kind of wisdom which consists in the combination of opposites.

They have learned how the Word became flesh; how life mingled with death; how Christ healed our wounds by his own bruises; and how by the weakness of the Cross he overcame the power of the adversary.

They have learned how the Invisible was revealed in flesh; how he re­deemed captives, being himself both the Redeemer and the price, since he gave himself up to death to pay our ransom; how he also entered the realm of death without abandoning life, and became a servant without ceasing to be a king.

All these and similar things contained in the manifold and not simple works of Wisdom the friends of the Bridegroom learned through the Church, and were fascinated to perceive in the mystery yet another mark of the divine Wisdom.

Indeed, if it is not too bold a thing to say, perhaps in gazing at the beauty of the Bridegroom reflected in the bride, they beheld with wonder that which is invisible and incomprehensible to all created beings.

For God, whom no one has ever seen, as John says, or can see, as Paul testifies, has made the Church his body, and by the addition of those who are saved he builds it up in love until we all attain full maturity, measured by nothing less than the full stature of Christ.

If then the Church is the body of Christ, and Christ is the body’s head who impresses his own features on its face, this may explain why the friends of the Bridegroom were fascinated to see the Church, since through her they beheld more clearly the invisible Bridegroom.

Just as one cannot look straight at the sun but can see its brilliance reflected on water, so they too see the Sun of Righteousness in the clear mirror of the Church, in which they contemplate him through his reflection.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): On the Song of Songs, 8 (Jaeger, 6:254-7); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Thursday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1.

John Chrysostom: The Grace of the Holy Spirit should be Instead of Books to Our Souls Saturday, Jul 27 2013 

John_ChrysostomIt were indeed meet for us not at all to require the aid of the written Word, but to exhibit a life so pure, that the grace of the Spirit should be instead of books to our souls, and that as these are inscribed with ink, even so should our hearts be with the Spirit.

But, since we have utterly put away from us this grace, come, let us at any rate embrace the second best course.

For that the former was better, God hath made manifest, both by His words, and by His doings. Since unto Noah, and unto Abraham, and unto his offspring, and unto Job, and unto Moses too, He discoursed not by writings, but Himself by Himself, finding their mind pure.

But after the whole people of the Hebrews had fallen into the very pit of wickedness, then and thereafter was a written word, and tables, and the admonition which is given by these.

And this one may perceive was the case, not of the saints in the Old Testament only, but also of those in the New.

For neither to the apostles did God give anything in writing, but instead of written words He promised that He would give them the grace of the Spirit; for “He,” says our Lord, “shall bring all things to your remembrance” (John 14:26).

And that you may learn that this was far better, hear what He says by the Prophet: “I will make a new covenant with you, putting my laws into their mind, and in their heart I will write them,” and, “they shall be all taught of God” (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Isaiah 54:13; Hebrews 8:8-11; John 6:45).

And Paul too, pointing out the same superiority, said, that they had received a law “not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart” (2 Corinthians 3:3).

But since in process of time they made shipwreck, some with regard to doctrines, others as to life and manners, there was again need that they should be put in remembrance by the written word.

Reflect then how great an evil it is for us, who ought to live so purely as not even to need written words, but to yield up our hearts, as books, to the Spirit, now that we have lost that honor, and are come to have need of these, to fail again in duly employing even this second remedy.

For if it be a blame to stand in need of written words, and not to have brought down on ourselves the grace of the Spirit, consider how heavy the charge of not choosing to profit even after this assistance, but rather treating what is written with neglect, as if it were cast forth without purpose, and at random.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on the Gospel According to St Matthew, 1, 1-2.

Irenaeus of Lyons: Christ Poured Out the Spirit of the Father for the Communion of God and Man, Imparting God to Men by the Spirit Sunday, Jul 14 2013 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonIn no other way could we have learned the things of God, unless our Master, existing as the Word, had become man.

For no other being had the power of revealing to us the things of the Father, except His own proper Word.

For what other person “knew the mind of the Lord,” or who else “has become His counsellor?”

Again, we could have learned in no other way than by seeing our Teacher, and hearing His voice with our own ears.

In this way, having become imitators of His works as well as doers of His words, we were to have communion with Him, receiving increase from the perfect One, and from Him who is prior to all creation.

We were but lately created by the only best and good Being, by Him also who has the gift of immortality.

We were formed after His likeness — predestinated, according to the prescience of the Father, that we, who had as yet no existence, might come into being.

We were made the first-fruits of creation—have received, in the times known beforehand, the blessings of salvation according to the ministration of the Word, who is perfect in all things:

the mighty Word, and very man, who, redeeming us by His own blood in a manner consonant to reason, gave Himself as a redemption for those who had been led into captivity.

The apostasy tyrannized over us unjustly, and, though we were by nature the property of the omnipotent God, alienated us contrary to nature, rendering us its own disciples.

The Word of God, powerful in all things, and not defective with regard to His own justice, did righteously turn against that apostasy, and redeem from it His own property.

He did this not by violent means, as the apostasy had done when it obtained dominion over us at the beginning, when it insatiably snatched away what was not its own.

Rather, he did this by means of persuasion, as became a God of counsel, who does not use violent means to obtain what He desires. This was so that neither should justice be infringed upon, nor the ancient handiwork of God go to destruction.

In this way the Lord has redeemed us through His own blood, giving His soul for our souls, and His flesh for our flesh, and has also poured out the Spirit of the Father for the union and communion of God and man.

He has imparted God to men by means of the Spirit…, attaching man to God by His own incarnation, and bestowing upon us at His coming immortality durably and truly, by means of communion with God.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses, 5, 1, 1. (slightly adapted).

Hilary of Poitiers: Philip the Apostle – Knowing the Father by Knowing the Incarnate Son Friday, May 3 2013 

St_Hilary_of_Poitiers_cassienHe sets the facts in their due order thus—If ye know Me, ye know My Father also; and from henceforth ye shall know Him, and have seen Him.

But the novel sound of these words disturbed the Apostle Philip.

A Man is before their eyes. This Man avows Himself the Son of God, and declares that when they have known Him they will know the Father.

He tells them that they have seen the Father, and that, because they have seen Him, they shall know Him hereafter.

This truth is too broad for the grasp of weak humanity; their faith fails in the presence of these paradoxes.

Christ says that the Father has been seen already and shall now be known; and this, although sight, is knowledge.

He says that if the Son has been known, the Father has been known also.

This so even though the Son has imparted knowledge of Himself through the bodily senses of sight and sound, while the Father’s nature, different altogether from that of the visible Man, which they know, could not be learnt from their knowledge of the nature of Him Whom they have seen.

He has also often borne witness that no man has seen the Father. And so Philip broke forth, with the loyalty and confidence of an Apostle, with the request, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

[…] The Lord had said that the Father had been seen already and henceforth should be known; but the Apostle had not understood that He had been seen.

[…] He did not ask that the Father should be unveiled to his bodily gaze, but that he might have such an indication as should enlighten him concerning the Father Who had been seen.

For he had seen the Son under the aspect of Man, but cannot understand how he could thereby have seen the Father.

His adding, And it sufficeth us, to the prayer, Lord, shew us the Father, reveals clearly that it was a mental, not a bodily vision of the Father which he desired.

He did not refuse faith to the Lord’s words, but asked for such enlightenment to his mind as should enable him to believe.

For the fact that the Lord had spoken was conclusive evidence to the Apostle that faith was his duty.

The consideration which moved him to ask that the Father might be shewn, was that the Son had said that He had been seen, and should be known because He had been seen.

There was no presumption in this prayer that He, Who had already been seen, should now be made manifest.

Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-368): De Trinitate 7, 34-35.

Isaac the Syrian: The scourge of Love Friday, Nov 2 2012 

Isaac the Syrian 3In the future age…one will not receive from another the revelation of God’s glory unto the gladness and joy of his soul.

But to each by himself the Master will give according to the measure of his excellence and his worthiness, and he will not receive the gift from his comrade as he does here.

[…] For one is the Giver there, Who gives without mediation to those who receive; and those who win joy, procure it from Him.

For they do not perceive Him through diverse intellections, but by direct revelation of Him, without departing from Him through thoughts.

There the order of those who teach and those who learn ceases, and on One alone hangs the ardent love of all.

I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love.

Nay, what is so bitter and vehement as the torment of love?

I mean that those who have become conscious that they have sinned against love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment.

For the sorrow caused in the heart by sin against love is more poignant than any torment.

It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the love of God.

Love is the offspring of knowledge of the truth which, as is commonly confessed, is given to all.

The power of love works in two ways. It torments sinners, even as happens here when a friend suffers from a friend.

But it becomes a source of joy for those who have observed its duties.

Thus I say that this is the torment of Gehenna: bitter regret.

But love inebriates the souls of the sons of Heaven by its delectability.

Someone was asked, “When will a man know that he has received the remission of his sins?”

He answered, “When in his soul he becomes conscious that he has completely hated them with his whole heart, and when he governs himself in his external actions in a manner opposed to his former way of life.”

Such a man, as having already hated his sin, is confident that he has received remission of his sins by reason of the good witness of his conscience which he has acquired, after the saying of the Apostle, “A conscience uncondemned is a witness of itself” (Cf. Rom. 2:15).

And may we also gain remission of our sins by the grace and love for man of the unoriginate Father with His only‑begotten Son and the Holy Spirit, to Whom be glory unto the ages of ages.

Isaac the Syrian (c. 630-c. 700): Homily 28, from The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian, tr. Dana Miller (Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, Mass. 1984) @ Fr Luke Dysinger, OSB.

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