Charles Wesley: An Interest in the Saviour’s Blood Friday, Apr 18 2014 

Charles_wesleyAnd can it be, that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain?
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

‘Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine!
‘Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel-minds inquire no more.

He left his Father’s throne above,
(So free, so infinite his grace!)
Emptied himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

No condemnation now I dread,
Jesus, and all in him, is mine!
Alive in him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Charles Wesley (1701-1778; Church of England): Hymns, 201.

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.

Theophylact of Ohrid: The Rebellion of the Prodigal Son Tuesday, Mar 4 2014 

Theophylact_the_Bulgarian (1)On Luke 15:11-32 (the Parable of the Prodigal Son).

Of old, from the beginning, righteousness belonged to human nature, which is why the older son (born at the beginning) does not become estranged from the father.

But sin is an evil thing which was born later.

This is why it is the younger son who alienates himself from the father, for the latter-born son grew up together with sin which had insinuated itself into man at a later time.

The sinner is also called the younger son because the sinner is an innovator, a revolutionary, and a rebel, who defies his Father’s will. Father, give me the portion of the property (ousia) that falleth to me.

The essential property of man is his rational mind, his logos, always accompanied by his free will (autexousia), for all that is rational is inherently self-governing.

The Lord gives us logos for us to use, according to our free will, as our own essential property.

He gives to all alike, so that all alike are rational, and all alike are self-governing.

But some of us use this generous gift rationally, in accordance with logos, while others of us squander the divine gift.

Moreover, everything which the Lord has given us might be called our property, that is, the sky, the earth, the whole creation, the law and the prophets.

But the later sinful generation, the younger son, saw the sky and made it a god, and saw the earth and worshipped it, and did not want to walk in the way of God’s law, and did evil to the prophets.

On the other hand, the elder son, the righteous, used all these things for the glory of God.

Therefore, having given all an equal share of logos and self-determination, God permits us to make our way according to our own will and compels no one to serve Him who is unwilling.

If He had wanted to compel us, He would not have created us with logos and a free will.

But the younger son completely spent this inheritance. Why? Because he had gone into a far country.

When a man rebels against God and places himself far away from the fear of God, then he squanders all the divine gifts.

But when we are near to God, we do not do such deeds that merit our destruction. As it is written, I beheld the Lord ever before me, for He is at my right hand, that I might not be shaken (Ps. 15:8).

But when we are far from God and become rebellious, we both do, and suffer, the worst things, as it is written, Behold, they that remove themselves from Thee shall perish (Ps. 72:25).

Theophylact of Ohrid (1055-1107): Explanation of the Gospel of St Luke, on Luke 15:11-32 (Sunday of the Prodigal Son) @ Chrysostom Press.

Gregory Palamas: “Two Men Went Up Into the Temple to Pray” Wednesday, Feb 12 2014 

Gregory_PalamasOn Luke 18:9-14 (the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee).

The Publican, as a publican, dwells in the depths of sin.

All he has in common with those who live virtuously is one short utterance, but he finds relief, is lifted up and rises above every evil.

He is numbered with the company of the righteous, justified by the impartial Judge Himself.

If the Pharisee is condemned by his speech, it is because, as a Pharisee, he thinks himself somebody, although he is not really righteous, and utters many arrogant words which provoke God’s anger with their every syllable.

Why does humility lead up to the heights of righteousness, whereas self-conceit leads down to the depths of sin?

Because anybody who thinks he is something great, even before God, is rightly abandoned by God, as one who thinks that he does not need His help.

Anybody who despises himself, on the other hand, and relies on mercy from above, wins God’s sympathy, help and grace. As it says, “The Lord resisteth the proud: but he giveth grace unto the lowly” (Prov. 3:34 LXX).

The Lord demonstrates this in a parable, saying. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican” (Luke 18:10).

Wanting to set clearly before us the gain that comes from humility and the loss from pride, he divided into two groups all who went to the Temple, or, rather, those who went up into the Temple, who are the ones who go there to pray.

This is the nature of prayer, it brings a man up from the earth into heaven and, rising above every heavenly name, height and honor, sets him before the God Who is over all (cf. Rom. 9:5).

The ancient Temple was set in a high place, on a hill above the city. Once when a deadly epidemic was destroying Jerusalem, David saw the Angel of Death on this hill, stretching out his sword against the city.

He went up there and built an altar to the Lord, on which he offered a sacrifice to God, and the destruction ceased (2 Sam. 24:15-25).

All these things are an image of the saving ascent of the spirit during holy prayer and of the forgiveness it brings – for these things all foreshadowed our salvation.

They can also be an image of this holy church of ours, which is indeed set in a high place, in another angelic country above the world, where the great, bloodless sacrifice, acceptable to God, is offered for the forgiveness of the whole world, the destruction of death and abundance of eternal life.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily on the Publican and the Pharisee, 2-4, from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009); full text @ Discerning Thoughts.

Nikolai Velimirovich: Jesus is the Light of Truth, the Light of Righteousness and the Light of Life Saturday, Feb 1 2014 

Nikolai Velimirovich“I am the Light of the world” (St. John 8:12).

Since the beginning of the world and time, no one who was ever born dared to speak these words.

There were men and there are men who say: “I bring light!” But only one dared to say: “I am the Light!”

Only the Lord Jesus could have spoken those words boldly and convincingly.

His short life on earth and His long history, nearly two-thousand years, completely justified these words.

He is the Light of Truth. He is the Light of Righteousness and He is the Light of Life.

He is the Light of Truth because He revealed in Himself the truth of the true nature of God and the true nature of man; and the relationship of man to man and the relationship of man toward God.

Heaven and earth shall pass away and His words will not pass away for heaven and earth both came into existence by His word and His word is from Him and with Him always and will not pass away (cf.  St. Matthew 24:35; St. Mark 13:31.)

He is the Light of Righteousness because He revealed the might of righteousness and the weakness of unrighteousness.

He revealed this in the brightest light – by that which He spoke, by that which He did, and by the way in which He experienced and overcame the unrighteous ones.

He revealed this through His Church in the course of twenty centuries – through His numerous righteous saints, and through those who became martyrs for the sake of righteousness.

Righteousness is from God, and in the long life of history it can never be defeated. Unrighteousness is from beings who are helpless.

Unrighteousness quickly rushes out to the rampart with its triumphant banner but, at the same time, it is quickly overthrown into the grave.

He is the Light of Life. His words illuminate life. His works illuminate life.

His victory illuminates life, especially His resurrection, as the most luminous sun by its bright light illuminates life and disperses death as a weak shadow.

O Lord Jesus, Light Most-Luminous, Sun of Truth, Sun of Righteousness and Sun of Life, illuminate us sinners and unworthy ones!

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956; Orthodox Church): Prologue from Ohrid, January 20th.

Cyril of Jerusalem: In the Jordan Jesus (the Life) Destroyed the Dragon (Death) Thursday, Jan 9 2014 

Cyril-of-JerusalemJesus sanctified Baptism by being Himself baptized.

[…] He was baptized not that He might receive remission of sins, for He was sinless.

Being sinless, He was baptized, that He might give to them that are baptized a divine and excellent grace.

Since the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise partook of the same (Heb. 2:14).

This was so that, having been made partakers of His presence in the flesh we might be made partakers also of His Divine grace.

Thus Jesus was baptized, that thereby we again by our participation might receive both salvation and honour.

According to Job, there was in the waters the dragon that draweth up Jordan into his mouth (Job 40:23).

Since, therefore, it was necessary to break the heads of the dragon in pieces (Ps. 74:14), He went down and bound the strong one in the waters, that we might receive power to tread upon serpents and scorpions (Luke 10:19).

The beast was great and terrible.  No fishing-vessel was able to carry one scale of his tail (Job 40:26 [LXX]). Destruction ran before him (Job 41:13), ravaging all that met him.

The Life encountered him, that the mouth of Death might henceforth be stopped, and all we that are saved might say, O death, where is thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory (1 Cor. 15:55)?

The sting of death is drawn by Baptism. For you go down into the water, bearing your sins, but the invocation of grace, having sealed your soul, does not allow you afterwards to be swallowed up by the terrible dragon.

Having gone down dead in sins, you come up quickened in righteousness.  For if you have been united with the likeness of the Saviour’s death (Rom. 6:5), you shall also be deemed worthy of His Resurrection.

Jesus took upon Him the sins of the world, and died that, by putting sin to death, He might rise again in righteousness.

Similarly, you, by going down into the water, and being in a manner buried in the waters, as He was in the rock, are raised again walking in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).

Moreover, when you have been deemed worthy of the grace, He then gives you strength to wrestle against the adverse powers.

After His Baptism He was tempted forty days (not that He was unable to gain the victory before, but because He wished to do all things in due order and succession.

So you likewise, though not daring before your baptism to wrestle with the adversaries, after you have received the grace and are henceforth confident in the armour of righteousness (2 Cor. 6:7), must then do battle, and preach the Gospel, if you will.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 3, 11-13.

Leo the Great: A Man is Made the Body of Christ, because Christ Also is the Body of a Man Thursday, Dec 19 2013 

leo1Such was the state of all mortals resulting from our first ancestors that…no one would have escaped the punishment of condemnation, had not the Word become flesh and dwelt in us, that is to say, in that nature which belonged to our blood and race.

And accordingly, the Apostle says:  “As by one man’s sin (judgment passed) upon all to condemnation, so also by one man’s righteousness (it) passed upon all to justification of life.

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man’s obedience shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:18, 19);

and again, “For because by man (came) death, by man also (came) the resurrection of the dead.

And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive”  (1 Cor. 15:21, 22).

All they to wit who though they be born in Adam, yet are found reborn in Christ, having a sure testimony both to their justification by grace, and to Christ’s sharing in their nature;

for he who does not believe that God’s only-begotten Son did assume our nature in the womb of the Virgin-daughter of David, is without share in the Mystery of the Christian religion, and, as he neither recognizes the Bridegroom nor knows the Bride, can have no place at the wedding-banquet.

For the flesh of Christ is the veil of the Word, wherewith every one is clothed who confesses Him unreservedly.

[…]  Hence whosoever confesses not the human body in Christ, must know that he is unworthy of the mystery of the Incarnation, and has no share in that sacred union of which the Apostle speaks, saying, “For we are His members, of His flesh and of His bones.

For this cause a man shall leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and there shall be two in one flesh” (Eph. 5:30-32). And explaining what was meant by this, he added, “This mystery is great, but I speak in respect of Christ and the Church.”

Therefore, from the very commencement of the human race, Christ is announced to all men as coming in the flesh.

In which, as was said, “there shall be two in one flesh,” there are undoubtedly two, God and man, Christ and the Church, which issued from the Bridegroom’s flesh, when it received the mystery of redemption and regeneration, water and blood flowing from the side of the Crucified.

For the very condition of a new creature which at baptism puts off not the covering of true flesh but the taint of the old condemnation, is this, that a man is made the body of Christ, because Christ also is the body of a man.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Letter 59, 4.

Justin Popovich: When God Became Man, Divine Life Became Human Life – Everything Which Is God’s Became Man’s Monday, Nov 11 2013 

Justin PopovichWho is a Christian? A Christian is a man who lives by Christ and in Christ.

The commandment of the Holy Gospel of God is divine: “live worthily of God” (Col. 1:10).

God, Who became incarnate and Who as the Godman has in entirety remained in His Church, which lives eternally by Him.

And one lives “worthily of God” when one lives according to the Gospel of Christ.

Therefore, this Divine commandment of the Holy Gospel is also natural: “Live worthily of the Gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27).

Life according to the Gospel, holy life, Divine life, that is the natural and normal life for Christians.

For Christians, according to their vocation, are holy: That good tiding and commandment resounds throughout the whole Gospel of the New Testament.

To become completely holy, both in soul and in body, that is our vocation. This is not a miracle, but rather the norm, the rule of faith.

The commandment of the Holy Gospel is clear and most clear: as the Holy One who has called you is Holy, so be ye holy in all manner of life (1 Peter 1:15).

And that means that according to Christ the Holy One, Who, having been incarnate and become man, showed forth in Himself a completely holy life, and as such commands men: “be ye holy, for I am Holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

He has the right to command this, for having become man He gives men as Himself, the Holy One, all the Divine energies which are necessary for a holy and pious life in this world.

Having united themselves spiritually and by Grace to the Holy One—the Lord Christ—with the help of faith, Christians themselves receive from Him the holy energies that they may lead a holy life.

Living by Christ, the saints can do the works of Christ, for by Him they become not only powerful but all-powerful: “I can do all things in Christ Jesus who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

And in them is clearly realized the truth of the All-True One, that those who believe in Him will do His works and will do greater things than these: “Verily, verily I say unto you: he that believeth in me, the works that I do he shall do also and greater works than these shall he do” (John 14:12).

And truly: the shadow of the Apostle Peter healed; by a word St. Mark the Ascetic moved and stopped a mountain…

When God became man, then Divine life became human life, Divine power became human power, Divine truth became human truth, and Divine righteousness became human righteousness: everything which is God’s became man’s.

Justin Popovich (1894-1979; Orthodox Church): Introduction to the Lives of the Saints.

Pacian of Barcelona: Christ Rose Again in the Flesh, Reconciling it to God, and Restoring it to Immortality Tuesday, Aug 20 2013 

Fathers_of_the_ChurchFollowing on from here…

In all these attacks [the temptation of Christ in the wilderness] the enemy is overcome, and destroyed by the heavenly power. The devil ought now to have yielded.

But nevertheless he does not yet cease. He suborns with his wonted snares, and stimulates with rage the Scribes and Pharisees and all that band of wicked men.

They, after various arts and lying devices of the heart, in which, serpent-like, they thought to deceive the Lord by professions of faithfulness, did not prevail.

At last they attacked Him with open violence and a most cruel kind of suffering.

They did this that, through the indignity of the thing, or the pain of punishment, He might either do or say something unrighteous, and thus destroy the human nature which He bore, and His soul be left in hell, which had one law to retain the sinner.

For the sting of death is sin. Christ therefore endured, and did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, as we have said, not then even when He was led as a victim. 

This was to conquer, to be condemned without sin! For the devil had received over sinners the power which he claimed for himself over the Immaculate One.

And thus he himself was overcome; decreeing that against the Holy One which was not allowed him by the law that he had received.

Whence says the Prophet David to the Lord, That Thou mightest be justified in Thy saying, and clear when Thou art judged. 

And thus, as St Paul says, Having led principalities in triumph, Christ condemned sin in the flesh, nailing it to His Cross and blotting out the hand-writing of death.

Thence it was that God left not His soul in hell, nor suffered His Holy One to see corruption. 

Accordingly, having trodden under-foot the stings of death He rose again on the third day in the flesh, reconciling it to God, and restoring it to immortality, having overcome and blotted out sin.

But if He only conquered, what did He confer on others? Hear briefly. The sin of Adam had passed on the whole race. For by one man (as says St Paul) sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men. 

Therefore also the righteousness of Christ must needs pass over to the whole race; and as Adam by sin destroyed his race, so must Christ by righteousness give life to all His race.

This St Paul urges, saying, For as by the disobedience of one, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life.

Pacian of Barcelona (c.310-391): Discourse on Baptism, 4-6.

Augustine of Hippo: What this Sun is to the Eyes of the Flesh, that is Christ to the Eyes of the Heart Tuesday, Aug 6 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaOn Matthew 17:1-9 (the mystery of the Transfiguration)

The Lord Jesus Himself shone bright as the sun; His raiment became white as the snow; and Moses and Elijah talked with Him.

Jesus Himself indeed shone as the sun, signifying that “He is the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”

What this sun is to the eyes of the flesh, that is He to the eyes of the heart; and what that is to the flesh of men, that is He to their hearts. Now His raiment is His Church.

[…] Of this raiment, Paul was as it were a sort of last border. For he says himself, “I am the least of the Apostles.” […]  Now in a garment the border is the last and least part.

Wherefore as that woman which suffered from an issue of blood, when she had touched the Lord’s border was made whole, so the Church which came from out of the Gentiles, was made whole by the preaching of Paul.

What wonder if the Church is signified by white raiment, when you hear the Prophet Isaiah saying, “Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow”?

Moses and Elijah, that is, the Law and the Prophets, what avail they, except they converse with the Lord? Except they give witness to the Lord, who would read the Law or the Prophets?

Mark how briefly the Apostle expresses this; “For by the Law is the knowledge of sin; but now the righteousness of God without the Law is manifested:” behold the sun; “being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,” behold the shining of the Sun.

As the cloud then overshadowed them, and in a way made one tabernacle for them, “a voice also sounded out of the cloud, which said, This is My beloved Son.”

Moses was there; Elijah was there; yet it was not said, “These are My beloved sons.” For the Only Son is one thing; adopted sons another. He was singled out in whom the Law and the prophets glorified.

“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him!” Because ye have heard Him in the Prophets, and ye have heard Him in the Law. And where have ye not heard Him? “When they heard this, they fell” to the earth. See then in the Church is exhibited to us the Kingdom of God.

Here is the Lord, here the Law and the Prophets; but the Lord as the Lord; the Law in Moses, Prophecy in Elijah; only they as servants and as ministers. They as vessels: He as the fountain: Moses and the Prophets spake, and wrote; but when they poured out, they were filled from Him.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Homilies on St Matthew’s Gospel, 28, 2, 4.

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