Justin Popovich: The Word of God has a Wonder-Working and Life-Giving Effect Tuesday, May 27 2014 

JustinEvery word of God is full of God’s Truth, which sanctifies the soul for all eternity once it enters it.

Thus does the Saviour turn to His heavenly Father in prayer: “Father! Sanctify them with Thy Truth; Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).

If you do not accept the word of Christ as the word of God, as the word of the Truth, then falsehood and the father of lies within you is rebelling against it.

In every word of the Saviour there is much that is supernatural and full of grace, and this is what sheds grace on the soul of man when the word of Christ visits it.

Therefore the Holy Apostle calls the whole structure of the house of salvation “the word of the grace of God” (Acts 20:32).

Like a living grace-filled power, the word of God has a wonder-working and life-giving effect on a man, so long as he hears it with faith and receives it with faith (1 Thess. 2:13).

Everything is defiled by sin, but everything is cleansed by the word of God and prayer – everything – all creation from man on down to a worm (1 Tim. 4:5).

By the Truth which it carries in itself and by the Power which it has in itself, the word of God is “sharper than any sword and pierces to the point of dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Nothing remains secret before it or for it.

Because every word of God contains the eternal Word of God – the Logos – it has the power to give birth and regenerate men. And when a man is born of the Word, he is born of the Truth.

For this reason St. James the Apostle writes to the Christians that God the Father has brought them forth “by the word of truth” (1:18); and St. Peter tells them that they “have been born anew…by the word of the living God, which abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23).

All the words of God, which God has spoken to men, come from the Eternal Word – the Logos, who is the Word of life and bestows Life eternal.

By living for the Word, a man brings himself from death to life. By filling himself with eternal life, a man becomes a conqueror of death and “a partaker of the Divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), and of his blessedness there shall be no end.

The main and most important point of all this is faith and feeling love towards Christ the Lord, because the mystery of every word of God is opened beneath the warmth of that feeling, just as the petals of a fragrant flower are opened beneath the warmth of the sun’s rays. Amen

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

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John of Kronstadt: The Son of God became the Son of Man in order to make us sons of God Tuesday, Dec 24 2013 

john_kronstadtWe are approaching…the world-saving feast of the birth in the flesh of our Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

For several days before the feast, the holy Church will celebrate this wondrous mystery in the spiritual hymns of her daily services.

These hymns remind us of our divine birthright, and the squandering of our sonship through sin; of its restoration through repentance of our common spiritual kinship and of the spirit of love and care for one another.

[…] God became man to save His people from their sin (Mt 1:21). For this reason He is called Jesus, which means Saviour.

And so, it was for our salvation that the Lord came to earth and became man, for the regeneration in us of the image of God which had fallen.

The Son of God became the Son of Man in order to make us sons of God who were the children of wrath and eternal damnation; in the words of the Holy Apostle John the Theologian: that we should be called the sons of God (I Jn 3:1).

Now God became man, that He may make Adam a god (Stichera for lauds of Annunciation). O the unutterable love of God! O the unspeakable compassion of the Lord! And He, the Most Holy, did this.

He deified mankind in His chosen ones, cleansed them from all evil both of soul and body, sanctified, glorified, led them from corruption to everlasting life, made them worthy to stand in blessedness before the terrible throne of His glory.

And He deified us also, brothers and sisters; He gave us a new birth through water and the Holy Spirit, sanctified us, made us His sons, gave us the promise of eternal life and eternal blessings, surpassing all telling and imagining.

And in confirmation, as a surety of the future blessings, He gave to us, still here on earth, the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts: God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father (Gal 4:6) writes the Apostle.

And so, my brothers, the feast of the Nativity of Christ reminds us that we are born of God, that we are sons of God, that we have been saved from sin and that we must live for God and not sin; not for flesh and blood, not for the whole world which lies in evil and wickedness (1 Jn 5:19), not for earthly corruption.

We must live for an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you (1 Pet 1:4), and for which the Lord Himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, (Isa 7:14).

John of Kronstadt (1829-1908; Russian Orthodox): The Nativity of Christ: The Feast of Renewal from Orthodox Heritage Vol. 11, Issue 11-12 @ ΑΠΑΝΤΑ ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΙΑΣ.

Denys the Areopagite: Looking Upwards to the Blessed and Supremely Divine Self of Jesus Friday, Oct 4 2013 

DionysiosWe must, then, most pious of pious sons, demonstrate from the supermundane and most sacred oracles and traditions,

that ours is a hierarchy of the inspired and divine and deifying science, and of operation, and of consecration,

for those who have been initiated with the initiation of the sacred revelation derived from the hierarchical mysteries.

See, however, that you do not put to scorn things most holy (Holy of Holies);

but rather treat them reverently, and you will honour the things of the hidden God by intellectual and obscure researches,

carefully guarding them from the participation and defilement of the uninitiated,

and reverently sharing holy things with the holy alone, by a holy enlightenment.

For thus, as the Word of God has taught us who feast at His Banquet, even Jesus Himself

– Who is the most supremely divine Mind and superessential,

Who is the Source and Essence, and most supremely Divine Power of every hierarchy and sanctification and divine operation

– illuminates the blessed beings who are superior to us, in a manner more clear, and at the same time more intellectual,

and assimilates them to His own Light, as far as possible;

and by our love of things beautiful elevated to Him, and which elevates us, folds together our many diversities,

and after perfecting into a uniform and divine life and habit and operation, holily bequeaths the power of the divine priesthood;

from which by approaching to the holy exercise of the priestly office, we ourselves become nearer to the beings above us,

by assimilation, according to our power, to their abiding and unchangeable holy steadfastness;

and thus by looking upwards to the blessed and supremely divine self of Jesus,

and reverently gazing upon whatever we are permitted to see,

and illuminated with the knowledge of the visions,

we shall be able to become, as regards the science of divine mysteries, purified and purifiers;

images of Light, and workers, with God, perfected and perfecting.

Denys the Areopagite (late 5th to early 6th century): The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, 1.

John Chrysostom: God on Earth, Man in Heaven; Angels Joined the Choirs of Men, Men had Fellowship with the Angels Saturday, Aug 3 2013 

John_ChrysostomFollowing on from here…

How then was that law given in time past, and when, and where?

After the destruction of the Egyptians, in the wilderness, on Mount Sinai, when smoke and fire were rising up out of the mountain, a trumpet sounding, thunders and lightnings, and Moses entering into the very depth of the cloud.

But in the new covenant not so—neither in a wilderness, nor in a mountain, nor with smoke and darkness and cloud and tempest; but at the beginning of the day, in a house, while all were sitting together, with great quietness, all took place.

For to those, being more unreasonable, and hard to guide, there was need of outward pomp, as of a wilderness, a mountain, a smoke, a sound of trumpet, and the other like things.

But these things were not necessary  to those who were of a higher character, and submissive, and who had risen above mere corporeal imaginations.

For the new covenant was removal of punishment, and remission of sins, and “righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,” and adoption, and an inheritance of Heaven, and a relationship unto the Son of God, which He came declaring unto all: to enemies, to the perverse, to them that were sitting in darkness.

What then could ever be equal to these good tidings?

These good tidings were of God on earth, man in Heaven; and all became mingled together, angels joined the choirs of men, men had fellowship with the angels, and with the other powers above.

And one might see the long war brought to an end, and reconciliation made between God and our nature, the devil brought to shame, demons in flight, death destroyed, Paradise opened, the curse blotted out, sin put out of the way.

One might see error driven off, truth returning, the word of godliness everywhere sown, and flourishing in its growth, the polity of those above planted on the earth, those powers in secure intercourse with us, and on earth angels continually haunting, and hope abundant touching things to come.

Therefore he has called the history good tidings [i.e. “gospel”], forasmuch as all other things surely are words only without substance; as, for instance, plenty of wealth, greatness of power, kingdoms, and glories, and honors, and whatever other things among men are accounted to be good.

But those which are published by the fishermen would be legitimately and properly called good tidings: not only as being sure and immoveable blessings, and beyond our deserts, but also as being given to us with all facility.

For not by laboring and sweating, not by fatigue and suffering, but merely as being beloved of God, we received what we have received.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on the Gospel According to St Matthew, 1, 3.

Athanasius of Alexandria: Christ Provides for Us Exaltation and Resurrection and the Indwelling and Intimacy of the Spirit Wednesday, Jul 31 2013 

AthanasiusThe Psalmist…says Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy Kingdom.

Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity, therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows (Psalm 44:7-8).

Behold, O ye Arians, and acknowledge even hence the truth. The Singer speaks of us all as ‘fellows’ or ‘partakers’ of the Lord.

But were He one of things which come out of nothing and of things originate, He Himself had been one of those who partake.

But, since he hymned Him as the eternal God, saying, ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever,’ and has declared that all other things partake of Him, what conclusion must we draw?

We must conclude that He is distinct from originated things, and He only the Father’s veritable Word, Radiance, and Wisdom, which all things originate partake, being sanctified by Him in the Spirit.

And therefore He is here ‘anointed,’ not that He may become God, for He was so even before; nor that He may become King, for He had the Kingdom eternally, existing as God’s Image, as the sacred oracle shows; but in our behalf is this written, as before.

For the Israelitish kings, upon their being anointed, then became kings, not being so before, as David, as Hezekiah, as Josiah, and the rest.

But the Saviour on the contrary, being God, and ever ruling in the Father’s Kingdom, and being Himself He that supplies the Holy Ghost, nevertheless is here said to be anointed, so that, as before, being said as Man to be anointed with the Spirit, He might provide for us men, not only exaltation and resurrection, but the indwelling and intimacy of the Spirit.

And signifying this the Lord Himself hath said by His own mouth in the Gospel according to John, ‘I have sent them into the world, and for their sakes do I sanctify Myself, that they may be sanctified in the truth.’

In saying this He has shown that He is not the sanctified, but the Sanctifier; for He is not sanctified by other, but Himself sanctifies Himself, that we may be sanctified in the truth.

He who sanctifies Himself is Lord of sanctification. How then does this take place? What does He mean but this? ‘I, being the Father’s Word, I give to Myself, when becoming man, the Spirit; and Myself, become man, do I sanctify in Him, that henceforth in Me, who am Truth (for “Thy Word is Truth”), all may be sanctified.’

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Against the Arians, 1, 12, 46.

John Henry Newman: Justifying Righteousness Consists in the Coming and Presence of the Holy Spirit in Our Hearts Tuesday, Jun 18 2013 

John_Henry_Newman_by_Sir_John_Everett_MillaisThe presence of the Holy Ghost shed abroad in our hearts, the Author both of faith and of renewal, this is really that which makes us righteous, and…our righteousness is the possession of that presence.

Justification actually is ascribed in Scripture to the presence of the Holy Spirit, and that immediately, neither faith nor renewal intervening.

For instance, St. Peter speaks of our being “elect through sanctification,” or consecration “of the Spirit, unto,” that is, in order to, “obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,” that is, the Holy Ghost is given us unto, or in order to, renovation and justification.

Again: we are said by St. Paul to be “washed, sanctified, and justified, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

The same Apostle says, “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”

Again: “The law of the Spirit of life hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Again: Christ says, “It is the Spirit that giveth life,” life being the peculiar attribute or state of “the just,” as St. Paul, and the prophet Habakkuk before him, declare.

These passages taken together…show that justification is wrought by the power of the Spirit, or rather by His presence within us.

And this being the real state of a justified man, faith and renewal are both present also, but as fruits of it;—faith, because it is said, “We through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith;” and renewal, because in another passage, “renewing of the Holy Ghost” is made equivalent to “being justified by His grace.”

[…] Justification may fitly be called an “inspiration of the Spirit of Christ,” or a spiritual presence. Again in the Baptismal Service, in which we pray God that the child to be baptized may “receive remission of his sins,” which surely implies justification, “by spiritual regeneration,” which is as surely the gift of the Spirit.

[…] We are told, by way of comment upon St. Paul’s words, “Who rose again for our justification,” that Christ “rose again to send down His Holy Spirit to rule in our hearts, to endow us with perfect righteousness.

[…] In this way David’s words in the 85th Psalm are fulfilled, “Truth hath sprung out of the earth, and righteousness hath looked down from heaven,” in that “from the earth is the Everlasting Verity, God’s Son, risen to life, and the true righteousness of the Holy Ghost, looking out of heaven, and in most liberal largess dealt upon all the world?”

Justifying righteousness, then, consists in the coming and presence of the Holy Ghost within us.

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890): Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification: Lecture 6, The Gift of Righteousness.

Cyril of Alexandria: Christ’s Vivifying Flesh – the Eucharist as Life-Giving Blessing Thursday, May 30 2013 

cyril_alexandriaVerily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, ye have not life in you (John 6:53).

Let them then, who of their folly have not yet admitted the faith in Christ, hear, Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you. 

For wholly destitute of all share and taste of that life which is in sanctification and bliss, do they abide who do not through the mystical Blessing [i.e. the Eucharist] receive Jesus.

For He is Life by nature, inasmuch as He was begotten of a living Father: no less quickening is His holy Body also, being in a manner gathered and ineffably united with the all-quickening Word.

Wherefore His Body is accounted His, and is conceived of as one with Him. For, since the Incarnation, it is inseparable.

The Word which came from God the Father, and the temple from the Virgin, are not indeed the same in nature (for the Body is not consubstantial with the Word from God), yet are they One by that coming-together and ineffable concurrence.

And since the Flesh of the Saviour hath become life-giving (as being united to that which is by nature Life, the Word from God), when we taste It, then have we life in ourselves, we too united to It, as It to the indwelling Word.

For this cause also, when He raised the dead, the Saviour is found to have operated, not by word only, or God-befitting commands, but He laid a stress on employing His Holy Flesh as a sort of co-operator unto this, that He might shew that It had the power to give life, and was already made one with Him.

For it was in truth His Own Body, and not another’s. And verily when He was raising the little daughter of the chief of the Synagogue saying, Maid, arise, He laid hold of her hand, as it is written, giving life, as God, by His all-powerful command, and again, giving life through the touch of His holy Flesh, He shews that there was one kindred operation through both.

Yea and when He went into the city called Nain, and one was being carried out dead, the only son of his mother, again He touched the bier, saying, Young man, to thee I say, Arise. 

And not only to His Word gives He power to give life to the dead, but that He might shew that His own Body was life-giving (as I have said already), He touches the dead, thereby also infusing life into those already decayed.

And if by the touch alone of His holy Flesh, He gives life to that which is decayed, how shall we not profit yet more richly by the life-giving Blessing when we also taste It? For It will surely transform into Its own good, i. e., immortality, those who partake of It.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St John’s Gospel, book 4, c.12 [on John 6:53].

Cyril of Alexandria: Partakers in the Divine Nature through Communion with the Holy Spirit Thursday, May 9 2013 

cyril_alexandriaThe Son…brought Himself as a Victim and holy Sacrifice to God the Father, reconciling the world unto Himself, and bringing into kinship with Him that which had fallen away, that is, the race of man.

[…] Indeed, our reconciliation to God could not have been accomplished through Christ who saves us except by communion in the Spirit and sanctification.

For that which knits us together, and, as it were, unites us with God, is the Holy Spirit.

If we receive the Spirit, we are proved sharers and partakers in the divine nature, and we admit the Father Himself into our hearts, through the Son and in the Son.

Further, the wise John writes for us concerning Him: Hereby know we that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 

And what does Paul also say? And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 

For if we had chanced to remain without partaking of the Spirit, we could never at all have known that God was in us.

And, if we had not been enriched with the Spirit that puts us into the rank of sons, we should never have been at all the sons of God.

How, then, should we…have been shown to be partakers in divine nature unless God had been in us, and unless we been joined to Him through having been called to communion with the Spirit?

But now are we both partakers and sharers in the divine substance that transcends the universe, and are become temples of God.

For the Only-begotten sanctified Himself for our sins. That is, offered Himself up, and brought Himself as a holy sacrifice for a sweet-smelling savour to God the Father.

He did this in order that, while He as God came between and hedged off and built a wall of partition between human nature and sin.

This was so that nothing might hinder our being able to have access to God, and to have close fellowship with Him through communion – that is, with the Holy Spirit moulding us anew to righteousness and sanctification and the original likeness of man.

For if sin sunders and dissevers man from God, surely righteousness will be a bond of union, and will somehow set us by the side of God Himself, with nothing to part us.

We have been justified through faith in Christ, Who was delivered up for our trespasses, according to the Scripture, and was raised for our justification. 

For in Him, as in the first-fruits of the race, the nature of man was wholly reformed into newness of life, and ascending, as it were, to its own first beginning, was moulded anew into sanctification.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St John’s Gospel, book 11, c.10 [on John 17:18-19].

Gregory of Nyssa: Baptism in the Jordan (1) – The Remembrance of Holy Mysteries, Purifying Man Sunday, Jan 13 2013 

Gregory_of_NyssaThe time, then, has come, and bears in its course the remembrance of holy mysteries, purifying man.

These mysteries purge out from soul and body even that sin which is hard to cleanse away, and they bring us back to that fairness of our first estate which God, the best of artificers, impressed upon us.

[…] I for my part rejoice over…you that are initiated, because you are enriched with a great gift.

And I rejoice over you that are uninitiated, because you have a fair expectation of hope—remission of what is to be accounted for, release from bondage, close relation to God, free boldness of speech, and, in place of servile subjection, equality with the angels.

For these things, and all that follow from them, the grace of baptism secures and conveys to us.

[…] Christ, then, was born as it were a few days ago—He whose generation was before all things, sensible and intellectual.

Today He is baptized by John that He might cleanse him who was defiled, that He might bring the Spirit from above, and exalt man to heaven, that he who had fallen might be raised up and he who had cast him down might be put to shame.

And marvel not if God showed so great earnestness in our cause: for it was with care on the part of him who did us wrong that the plot was laid against us; it is with forethought on the part of our Maker that we are saved.

And he, that evil charmer, framing his new device of sin against our race, drew along his serpent train, a disguise worthy of his own intent, entering in his impurity into what was like himself—dwelling, earthly and mundane as he was in will, in that creeping thing.

But Christ, the repairer of his evil-doing, assumes manhood in its fulness, and saves man, and becomes the type and figure of us all, to sanctify the first-fruits of every action….

Baptism, then, is a purification from sins, a remission of trespasses, a cause of renovation and regeneration.

[…] Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Why are both named…?

Man, as we know full well, is compound, not simple: and therefore the cognate and similar medicines are assigned for healing to him who is twofold and conglomerate.

For his visible body, he is assigned water, the sensible element; for his soul, which we cannot see, the Spirit invisible, invoked by faith, present unspeakably.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): A Sermon for the Day of Lights.

Cyril of Alexandria: “I Shall Pour Out My Spirit On All People” Thursday, Aug 16 2012 

And it will be after this that I shall pour out my Spirit on all people (Joel 3:1).

 Here God clearly promises to give the grace of the Holy Spirit, that is, his abundant help, not to one or two perhaps chosen to be prophets, but to absolutely all who are worthy to receive the Spirit.

We say that this was indeed fulfilled after Christ had risen from the dead and had destroyed the power of death.

For the Spirit was given to Adam originally but did not remain in human nature, because humanity turned towards error and slipped into sin.

But when God’s only Son, though rich, chose to become poor, and being among us as a man received his own Spirit as if acquired, the Spirit remained in him.

As the evangelist John told us, this was so that the Spirit remained in him.

As the evan­gelist John also told us, this was so that the Spirit might dwell in us too from then on, since this time the Spirit remained in the second first-fruit of our human race, that is, Christ, who for that reason was also called the second Adam.

Therefore we must reform to become incomparably better, and to gain complete regeneration through the Spirit.

This is not the same as our original birth, I mean by earthly descent, leading us to corruption and sin (for the mind ruled by the body is death), but a second birth from above, from God through the Spirit.

For it is truly said: And they were born, not of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Therefore those ranked among the children of God had to possess the grace of the Holy Spirit in abundance.

But Christ effected this also in us, as Peter’s words were to confirm:

Being therefore exalted at the right hand of the Father, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you see and hear.

For as man he receives from the Father what is in himself by nature. But he pours out the Spirit richly upon us, because he is God by nature, and became man.

But he also pours out the Spirit on all people. And this means not only on the Jews but on absolutely everyone called by faith, whether small or great, slave or free, non-Greek or Scythian.

For the grace of salvation in Christ is set before people all over the world, because he is the expectation of nations.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on Joel, 25 (PG 71:376-380);  from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Year 2.

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