John Chrysostom: Let us not be sad that we are mortal, but rather let us be grateful Sunday, Jun 26 2016 

Chrysostom3Not seven days have passed since we celebrated the holy feast of Pentecost and again we are overtaken by a chorus of martyrs, or better, serried ranks of martyrs, which are in no way lesser than the ranks of the angels seen by the Patriarch Jacob but equal to and of the same worth as them.

Because martyrs and angels differ only as regards the name, whereas in their works they’re united. Angels reside in the heavens, but so, too, do the martyrs. The former are eternal and immortal; the martyrs will become so.

But have the latter assumed a bodiless form? What does it matter? Because the martyrs, even though they have a body, are still immortal, or rather, before immortality, the death of Christ adorns their bodies even more greatly than immortality.

The sky, be it adorned with ever so many stars, is not so bright as the bodies of the martyrs, which are made beautiful by the blood of their wounds. So, because they died for Him, they are, in fact, superior and have been decorated before achieving immortality, since they were crowned from the moment death.

‘You have made them a little lower than the angels, with glory and honour you have crowned them’, said David, regarding the nature of the whole of the human race. But when Christ came, He completed this small amount, because He condemned death by His own death.

That is not what I am saying though. What I mean is that this defect of death became an advantage. If they had not been mortal, they would not have become martyrs. So, had there been no death, there would not have been any crown. Had there been no death, there would not be martyrdom.

Had there been no death, Saint Paul would not have been able to say ‘I affirm by the pride in you that I have in Christ Jesus our Lord: I die every day’. Had there been no death and corruption, the same Apostle would not have been able to say, ‘Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions’.

Therefore let us not be sad that we are mortal, but rather let us be grateful, since the arena of martyrdom has been opened to us by death and, by corruption, we have been given the chance of winning the prize. From now on, we have a reason to strive.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Encomium on All Saints @ Pemptousia [slightly adapted].

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Justin Popovich: By unceasing enactment of the ascetic efforts set forth in the Gospels, Saints gradually fill themselves with the Holy Spirit Wednesday, Apr 13 2016 

JustinThe holiness of the Saints—both the holiness of their souls and of their bodies—derives from their zealous grace-and-virtue-bestowing lives in the Body of the Church of Christ, of the God-Man.

In this sense, holiness completely envelopes the human person—the entire soul and body and all that enters into the mystical composition of the human body.

The holiness of the Saints does not hold forth only in their souls, but it necessarily extends to their bodies; so it is that both the body and the soul of a saint are sanctified.

Thus we, in piously venerating the Saints, also venerate the entire person, in this manner not separating the holy soul from the holy body.

Our pious veneration of the Saints’ relics is a natural part of our pious respect for and prayerful entreaty to the Saints. All of this constitutes one indivisible ascetic act, just as the soul and body constitute the single, indivisible person of the Saint.

Clearly, during his life on the earth, the Saint, by a continuous and singular grace-and virtue-bestowing synergy of soul and body, attains to the sanctification of his person, filling both the soul and body with the grace of the Holy Spirit and so transforming them into vessels of the holy mysteries and holy virtues.

It is completely natural, again, to show pious reverence both to the former and to the latter, both to soul and body, both of them holy vessels of God’s grace.

When the charismatic power of Christ issues forth, it makes Grace-filled all the constituent parts of the human person and the person in his entirety.

By unceasing enactment of the ascetic efforts set forth in the Gospels, Saints gradually fill themselves with the Holy Spirit, so that their sacred bodies, according to the word of the holy Apostle, become temples of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19; 3:17), Christ dwelling by faith in their hearts (Ephesians 3:17) and by fruitful love also fulfilling the commandments of God the Father.

Establishing themselves in the Holy Spirit through grace-bestowing ascetic labors, the Saints participate in the life of the Trinity, becoming sons of the Holy Trinity, temples of the Living God (II Corinthians 6:16); their whole lives thus flow from the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.

By piously venerating the holy relics of the Saints, the Church reveres them as temples of the Holy Spirit, temples of the Living God, in which God dwells by Grace even after the earthly death of the Saints.

And by His most wise and good Will, God creates miracles in and through these relics. Moreover, the miracles which derive from the holy relics witness also to the fact that their pious veneration by the people is pleasing to God.

Justin Popovich (1894-1979): The Place of Holy Relics in the Orthodox Church @ OCIC.

John Chrysostom: The Conversion of St Paul Monday, Jan 25 2016 

Chrysostom3On Acts 9:1-19.

“Saul, Saul,” says He, “why persecutest thou me?”

And He tells him nothing: does not say believe, nor anything whatever of the kind.

He expostulates with him, all but saying, What wrong, great or small, hast thou suffered from Me, that thou doest these things?

“And he said, Who art Thou Lord?” (v. 5), thus in the first place confessing himself His servant.

“And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest”; think not thy warring is with men.

And they which were with him heard the voice of Paul, but saw no person to whom he answered—for the Lord suffered them to be hearers of what was less important….

“But arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (v. 6)….

He does not immediately add all, but first softens his mind…. He gives him good hopes, and intimates that he shall recover his sight also.

“… And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus” (v. 7-8)—the spoils of the devil, “his goods” (Matt. 13:29), as from some city, yea, some metropolis which has been taken.

And the wonder of it is, the enemies and foes themselves brought him in, in the sight of all!

[…] What could equal this? To compensate the discouragement in the matter of Stephen, here is encouragement, in the bringing in of Paul: though that sadness had its consolation in the fact of Stephen’s making such an end, yet it also received this further consolation….

But why did this take place not at the very first, but after these things? That it might be shown that Christ was indeed risen.

This furious assailant of Christ, the man who would not believe in His death and resurrection, the persecutor of His disciples, how should this man have become a believer, had not the power of His resurrection been great indeed?

[…] Why then not immediately after His resurrection? That his hostility might be more clearly shown as open war.

The man who is so frantic as even to shed blood and cast men into prisons, all at once believes!

It was not enough that he had never been in Christ’s company: the believers must be warred upon by him with vehement hostility: he left to none the possibility of going beyond him in fury: none of them all could be so violent.

But when he was blinded, then he saw the proofs of His sovereignty and loving kindness:

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homily 19 on the Acts of the Apostles.

Dimitri of Rostov: A miracle of St Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra Sunday, Dec 6 2015 

Dimitry_rostovsky_17cA ship was once sailing from Egypt to Myra when a violent storm arose, churning up the sea.

The sails were torn, and it seemed that the vessel itself would be crushed by the mighty waves.

The passengers were in despair of their lives when they remembered the great hierarch Nicholas.

Although none of them had ever seen him, they had heard that he was the quick helper of those who call on him in misfortune, so they turned to him in prayer, begging his assistance.

The saint immediately appeared, announcing, “You called for me, and I have come to help you!”

He took the helm and began piloting the ship, calming the storm, as once did the Lord, Who said, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also.

Because he was a faithful servant of God, Nicholas gave commands to the wind and sea and they obeyed him. Sped by a fair wind, the boat reached Myra, and the passengers disembarked, hoping to see the holy Bishop.

They met the saint on his way to church, and recognizing their benefactor, fell at his feet, thanking him.

The wondrous Nicholas did not merely deliver them from danger of physical death, but took thought for the salvation of their souls as well.

Because he was clairvoyant, he perceived that some of the passengers were defiled by fornication, which estranges a man from God and causes him to neglect the Lord’s commandments.

“Children,” he said to them, “I beseech you to correct your hearts and thoughts, so that you may be pleasing to God. Consider that although we may reckon ourselves to be righteous and frequently succeed in deceiving men, we can conceal nothing from God. Let us therefore strive to preserve the holiness of our souls and to guard the purity of our bodies with all fervor.” […]

So saying, the blessed one, like a loving father, let them depart in peace.

Saint Nicholas’ countenance resembled that of an angel, splendid with divine grace. A brilliant ray shone from his face, as from Moses’, so that those who looked at him were astonished.

Whoever was oppressed by some affliction or passion of soul had only to lay eyes on the saint, and his sorrow was eased at once. As for those who conversed with him, they soon found themselves advancing on the path of virtue.

Not only the faithful but unbelievers as well were moved to compunction and directed their steps toward salvation when they heard his sweet lips speak; the evil of unbelief implanted in their hearts since childhood was uprooted, and in its place the word of truth was sown.

Dimitri of Rostov (1651-1709; Russian Orthodox): The Life of Our Father Among the Saints Nicholas the Wonder-worker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia  from The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints, Volume 2: October, compiled by St. Demetrius of Rostov @ Chrysostom Press.

Gregory Palamas: “God is glorious in his saints” Saturday, Nov 14 2015 

Gregory_PalamasLet us call to mind the martyrs’ superhuman struggles, how in the weakness of their flesh they put to shame the evil one’s strength, disregarding pain and wounds…, and keeping the confession of faith in Christ in its integrity – complete, unharmed and unshaken.

As a result there were bestowed on them the incontrovertible wisdom of the Spirit and the power to work miracles.

Let us consider the patience of holy men and women, how they willingly endured long periods of fasting, vigil and various other physical hardships as though they were not in the body, battling to the end against evil passions and all sorts of sin, in the invincible inner warfare against principalities, powers and spiritual wickedness (Eph. 6:12).

They wore away their outer selves and made them useless, but their inner man was renewed and deified by Him from whom they also received gifts of healing and mighty works.

When we think on these matters and understand that they surpass human nature, we are filled with wonder and glorify God who gave them such grace and power. For even if their intentions were good and noble, without God’s strength they could not have gone beyond the bounds of their nature and driven away the bodiless enemy while clothed in their bodies.

That is why, when the psalmist and prophet declared “God is glorious in his saints”, he went on to say, “he giveth strength and power unto his people” (Ps. 68:35 LXX). Carefully consider the force of these prophetic words. Whereas God, according to the psalmist, gives all his people strength and power – for He shows no partiality (cf. Acts 10:34) – He is glorified only in His saints.

The sun pours down its rays abundantly upon all alike, but they are visible only to those with open eyes. Those with clear-sighted, pure eyes benefit from the pure light of the sun, not those whose vision is dimmed because illness, mist or something similar has afflicted their eyes. In the same way, God richly bestows His help on all, for He is the ever-flowing, enlightening and saving fount of mercy and goodness.

But not everyone takes advantage of His grace and power to practise and perfect virtue or show forth miracles – only those with a good intent, who demonstrate their love and faith towards God by good works (cf. Jas. 2:20-26), who turn away completely from everything base, hold fast to God’s commandments and lift up the eyes of their understanding to Christ the Sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2).

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 15, @ Diakonima, from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (2009 and 2014) and On the Saints: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas (2008).

Bede the Venerable: The death of St Aidan Monday, Aug 31 2015 

icon_bede-The feast of St Aidan, Enlightener of Northumbria, August 31st.

Aidan was in the king’s township…at the time when death caused him to quit the body, after he had been bishop sixteen years;

for having a church and a chamber in that place, he was wont often to go and stay there, and to make excursions from it to preach in the country round about, which he likewise did at other of the king’s townships, having nothing of his own besides his church and a few fields about it.

When he was sick they set up a tent for him against the wall at the west end of the church, and so it happened that he breathed his last, leaning against a buttress that was on the outside of the church to strengthen the wall.

[…] His body was. thence presently translated to the isle of Lindisfarne, and buried in the cemetery of the brethren.

Some time after, when a larger church was built there and dedicated in honour of the blessed prince of the Apostles, his bones were translated thither, and laid on the right side of the altar, with the respect due to so great a prelate. […]

It happened some years after, that Penda, king of the Mercians, coming into these parts with a hostile army, destroyed all he could with fire and sword, and the village where the bishop died, along with the church above mentioned, was burnt down;

but it fell out in a wonderful manner that the buttress against which he had been leaning when he died, could not be consumed by the fire which devoured all about it.

This miracle being noised abroad, the church was soon rebuilt in the same place, and that same buttress was set up on the outside, as it had been before, to strengthen the wall.

It happened again, some time after, that the village and likewise the church were carelessly burned down the second time. Then again, the fire could not touch the buttress; and, miraculously, though the fire broke through the very holes of the nails wherewith it was fixed to the building, yet it could do no hurt to the buttress itself.

When therefore the church was built there the third time, they did not, as before, place that buttress on the outside as a support of the building, but within the church, as a memorial of the miracle; where the people coming in might kneel, and implore the Divine mercy.

And it is well known that since then many have found grace and been healed in that same place, as also that by means of splinters cut off from the buttress, and put into water, many more have obtained a remedy for their own infirmities and those of their friends.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 3, 17.

Tikhon of Zadonsk: God is everywhere and in every place, and the doors to Him are always open Wednesday, Jul 15 2015 

Tikhon_of_ZadonskLiving faith is inspired in the human heart by contemplation of the word of God and by the Holy Spirit.

For this reason we should read and heed the word of God and pray that God Himself ignite the lamp of faith in our heart.

The fear of God arises most often from contemplation of the omnipresence of God and His omniscience.

God is in essence everywhere present; and wherever we may be, He is with us; and whatever we may do, say, think, and undertake, we do, say, think, and undertake all before His holy eyes.

And He knows our deeds far better than we do ourselves. Think about this, O Christian, and heed it, and with God’s help the fear of God will be born in you.

[…] Keep God, then, before your spiritual eyes and you will have the fear of God, imitating the Psalmist, “I beheld the Lord ever before me” (Ps. 15:8).

[…] While standing in church attend diligently to the reading and singing. This gives birth to compunction, true prayer, heartfelt singing and thanksgiving.

Avoid, then, standing bodily in church while wandering outside the church in mind, and standing bodily before God while wandering about in spirit in worldly affairs, lest that saying be applied to you, “his people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me” (Mt. 15:8).

While standing bodily in church, then, stand with heart and spirit as you stand before God. When you look upon the icons of the saints, call to mind that One is the Creator that created them and you, and that His purpose was the same for them as it is for you, that is, to save both them and you.

They are glorified, and before you lies the same glory, only imitate their lives and you shall be saved.

Prayer consists not only in standing and bowing before God in body, and in reading written prayers, but even without that it is possible to pray in mind and spirit at all times and in everyplace.

You can do it while walking, sitting, reclining, among people, and in solitude. Raise up your mind and heart to God, and so beg mercy and help from Him.

For God is everywhere and in every place, and the doors to Him are always open, and it is easy to approach Him, not as with man.

And we can approach Him with faith and with our prayer everywhere and at all times, and in every need and circumstance. We can say to Him mentally at any time, “Lord, have mercy, Lord help!” and so on.

Tikhon of Zadonsk (1724-1783; Russian Orthodox): extract @ Kandylaki  from Journey to Heaven: Counsels On the Particular Duties of Every Christian by Our Father Among the Saints, Tikhon of Zadonsk, Bishop of Voronezh and Elets (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2004) .

John of Kronstadt: The frequent deliverance from affliction of heart through the intercession and patronage of the saints Thursday, Jun 25 2015 

john_kronstadtGod’s saints are near to believing hearts and, like the truest and kindest of friends, are ready in a moment to help the faithful and pious who call upon them with faith and love.

We have for the most part to send, and have sometimes to wait long for earthly helpers, whilst we have not to send for nor wait long for spiritual helpers:

the faith of Him who prays can place them close to his very heart in a moment, and he will as speedily receive through faith full spiritual help.

In saying this, I speak by experience;

by this I mean the frequent deliverance from affliction of heart through the intercession and patronage of the saints, and especially through the intercession of Our Lady, the Holy Virgin Mary.

Probably some would say that this is the action of simple and firm faith, and a determined assurance in our deliverance from affliction, and not the intercession of the saints for us before God.

No, it is not so. How can this be proved?

It can be proved by the fact that if I do not call upon the saints known to me in hearty prayer, without making any distinction, if I do not see them with my spiritual vision, then I shall obtain no help, however great assurance I may have felt of being saved without their help.

I recognise, I feel clearly, that I receive help through the names of those saints upon whom I have called, because of my lively faith in them. This happens just as everything happens in the usual order of earthly things.

First, I see my helpers by means of earnest faith; then, seeing them, I pray to them also with my whole heart, invisibly but intelligibly to myself;

after this, having received invisible help in quite an imperceptible manner, but sensibly to my soul, I simultaneously receive a strong conviction that this help has been obtained from them, just as a sick man, cured by a doctor, is convinced that he has been cured precisely by that doctor, and not by anyone else; that his illness has passed away not by itself, but through the help of this particular doctor.

All this comes to pass so simply that it is only necessary to have eyes in order to see. I am a man–and the grace, the truth and the righteousness of God are continually working within me.

It is God Who at one time cherishes and comforts me, and at another punishes and afflicts me with sorrows for any inward motion of the soul adverse to Him.

But the earth is full of men like me. Therefore, in them also God manifests His mercy, truth and righteousness, as in myself. “He worketh all in all.”

John of Kronstadt (1829-1908; Russian Orthodox): My Life in Christ, part 1, pp.31-32.

Basil the Great: “The streams of the river make the city of God joyful” Tuesday, Jun 23 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great‘The streams of the river make the city of God joyful’ (Psalm 45:5).

The briny seawaters, being exceedingly disturbed by the winds, roar and are troubled, but the streams of the river, proceeding noiselessly and flowing in silence to those worthy of receiving them, make the city of God joyful.

And now the just man drinks the living water and later will drink more plentifully, when he has been enrolled as a citizen in the city of God.

Now he drinks through a mirror and in an obscure manner (1 Cor. 13:12) because of his gradual perception of the divine objects of contemplation; but then he will welcome at once the flooded river, which is able to overwhelm all the city of God with joy.

Who could be the river of God except the Holy Spirit, who comes into those worthy because of the faith of the believers in Christ?

‘He who believes in me, as the Scripture says, “From within him there shall flow rivers”’ (John 7:38). And again, ‘If anyone drinks of the water which I give, it will become in him a fountain of water, springing up unto life everlasting’ (John 4:13-14).

This river, accordingly, makes all the city of God at once joyful, that is to say surely, the Church of those who hold to a heavenly manner of life. Or, every creature endowed with intelligence, from celestial powers even to human souls, must be understood as the city made joyful by the inflowing of the Holy Spirit.

Some give the definition that a city is an established community, administered according to law. And, the definition that has been handed down of the city is in harmony with the celestial city, Jerusalem above.

For, there it is a community of the first-born who have been enrolled in heaven (cf Heb. 12:23), and this is established because of the unchanging manner of life of the saints, and it is administered according to the heavenly law.

Therefore, it is not the privilege of human nature to learn the arrangement of that city and all its adornment. Those are the things ‘Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Cor. 2:9),  but there are myriads of angels there, and an assembly of saints, and a Church of the first-born that are enrolled in heaven.

[…] Therefore, having raised the eyes of your soul, seek, in a manner worthy of things above, what pertains to the city of God…which the river of God makes joyful.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 18 (on Psalm 45[46]), 4,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 302-303.

Basil the Great: “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters” Thursday, Jun 11 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great‘The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters’ (Psalm 28[29]:3).

We have learned in the creation of the world that there is water above the heavens, again, water of the deep, and yet again, the gathered waters of the seas.

Who, then, is He who holds together these waters, not allowing them to be borne downward by their physical weight, except the Lord who established Himself upon all things, who holds sway over the waters?

Perhaps, even in a more mystic manner the voice of the Lord was upon the waters, when a voice from above came to Jesus as He was baptized, ‘This is my beloved Son’ (Matt. 3:17).

At that time, truly, the Lord was upon many waters, making the waters holy through baptism; but, the God of majesty thundered from above with a mighty voice of testimony.

And over those to be baptized a voice left behind by the Lord is pronounced: ‘Go, therefore,’ it says, ‘baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matt. 28:19). Therefore, ‘The voice of the Lord is upon the waters’.

[…] It is…possible for you, according to ecclesiastical diction to call by the name of thunder the doctrine which after baptism is in the souls of those already perfect by the eloquence of the Gospel.

That the Gospel is thunder is made evident by the disciples who were given a new name by the Lord and called Sons of Thunder (cf Mark 3:17).

Therefore, the voice of such thunder is not in any chance person, but only in one who is worthy to be called a wheel. ‘The voice of thy thunder’, it says, ‘in a Wheel’ (Psalm 76:19).

That is, whoever is stretching forward, like a wheel, touching the earth with a small part of itself, and really such as that wheel was, about which Ezechiel said: ‘I saw and behold there was one wheel on the earth attached to the four living creatures, and their appearance and their form was as the appearance of Tharsis’ (Ezek. 1:15 LXX).

‘The God of majesty hath thundered, the Lord is upon many waters’. The waters are also the saints, because rivers flow from within them (cf. John 7:38), that is, spiritual teaching which refreshes the souls of the hearers.

Again, they receive water which springs up to eternal life, wherefore, it becomes in those who receive it rightly ‘a fountain of water, springing up unto life everlasting’ (John 4:14).

Upon such waters, then, is the Lord.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 13 (on Psalm 28[29]), 3-4,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 200-202.

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