Cyril of Jerusalem: A treasure of life has now been committed to you Saturday, Nov 5 2016 

Cyril-of-JerusalemIn learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that only, which is now delivered to thee by the Church, and which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures.

For since all cannot read the Scriptures, some being hindered as to the knowledge of them by want of learning, and others by a want of leisure, in order that the soul may not perish from ignorance, we comprise the whole doctrine of the Faith in a few lines.

This summary I wish you both to commit to memory when I recite it, and to rehearse it with all diligence among yourselves, not writing it out on paper, but engraving it by the memory upon your heart.

[…] I wish you also to keep this as a provision through the whole course of your life, and beside this to receive no other, neither if we ourselves should change and contradict our present teaching, nor if an adverse angel, transformed into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14) should wish to lead you astray.

For though we or an angel from heaven preach to you any other gospel than that ye have received, let him be to you anathema (Gal. 1:8-9).

So for the present listen while I simply say the Creed, and commit it to memory; but at the proper season expect the confirmation out of Holy Scripture of each part of the contents.

For the articles of the Faith were not composed as seemed good to men; but the most important points collected out of all the Scripture make up one complete teaching of the Faith.

And just as the mustard seed in one small grain contains many branches, so also this Faith has embraced in few words all the knowledge of godliness in the Old and New Testaments.

Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which ye now receive, and write them an the table of your heart (Prov. 7:3).

Guard them with reverence, lest per chance the enemy despoil any who have grown slack; or lest some heretic pervert any of the truths delivered to you.

For faith is like putting money into the bank, even as we have now done; but from you God requires the accounts of the deposit.

I charge you, as the Apostle says, before God, who quickens all things, and Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession, that ye keep this faith which is committed to you, without spot, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 5:21; 6:13-14).

A treasure of life has now been committed to you, and the Master demands the deposit at His appearing, which in His own times He shall shew.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 5, 12-13.

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Pete of Damascus: The hidden mysteries to which the divine Scriptures bear witness Monday, May 30 2016 

peter_of_damascusWhenever a person even slightly learned reads the Scriptures or sings psalms he finds in them matter for contemplation and theology, one text supporting another.

But he whose intellect is still unenlightened thinks that the Holy Scriptures are contradictory. Yet there is no contradiction in the Holy Scriptures….

For some texts are confirmed by others, while some were written with reference to a particular time or a particular person.

[…] The person who searches for the meaning of the Scriptures will not put forward his own opinion, bad or good; but, as St Basil the Great and St John Chrysostom have said, he will take as his teacher, not the learning of this world, but Holy Scripture itself.

Then if his heart is pure and God puts something unpremeditated into it, he will accept it, providing he can find confirmation for it in the Scriptures, as St Antony the Great says.

For St Isaac says that the thoughts that enter spontaneously and without premeditation into the intellects of those pursuing a life of stillness are to be accepted; but that to investigate and then to draw one’s own conclusions is an act of self-will and results in material knowledge.

This is especially the case if a person does not approach the Scriptures through the door of humility but, as St John Chrysostom says, climbs up some other way, like a thief (cf John 10:1), and forces them to accord with his allegorizing.

[…] What kind of knowledge can result from adapting the meaning of the Scriptures to suit one’s own likes and from daring to alter their words? The true sage is he who regards the text as authoritative and discovers, through the wisdom of the Spirit, the hidden mysteries to which the divine Scriptures bear witness.

The three great luminaries, St Basil the Great, St Gregory the Theologian and St John Chrysostom, are outstanding examples of this: they base themselves either on the particular text they are considering or on some other passage of Scripture.

Thus no one can contradict them, for they do not adduce external support for what they say, so that it might be claimed that it was merely their own opinion, but refer directly to the text under discussion or to some other scriptural passage that sheds light on it.

And in this they are right; for what they understand and expound comes from the Holy Spirit, of whose inspiration they have been found worthy. No one, therefore, should do or mentally assent to anything if its integrity is in doubt and cannot be attested from Scripture.

Peter of Damascus (?12th Century): A Treasury of Divine Knowledge  Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 3 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 144-145.

John Chrysostom: “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” Friday, May 20 2016 

Chrysostom3On John 5:6-8.

Great is the profit of the divine Scriptures, and all-sufficient is the aid which comes from them.

And Paul declared this when he said, “Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written aforetime for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” ( Rom. 15:4, 1 Cor. 10:11).

For the divine oracles are a treasury of all manner of medicines, so that whether it be needful to quench pride, to lull desire to sleep, to tread under foot the love of money, to despise pain, to inspire confidence, to gain patience, from them one may find abundant resource.

For what man of those who struggle with long poverty or who are nailed to a grievous disease, will not, when he reads the passage before us, receive much comfort?

Since this man who had been paralytic for thirty and eight years, and who saw each year others delivered, and himself bound by his disease, not even so fell back and despaired, though in truth not merely despondency for the past, but also hopelessness for the future, was sufficient to overwhelm him.

Hear now what he says, and learn the greatness of his tragedy. For when Christ had said, “Wilt thou be made whole?” “Yea, Lord,” he says, “but I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool.” What can be more pitiable than these words? What more sad than these circumstances?

Do you see a heart crushed through long sickness? Do you see all violence subdued? He uttered no blasphemous word, nor such as we hear the many use in reverses, he cursed not his day, he was not angry at the question, nor did he say, “Are You come to make a mock and a jest of us, that You ask whether I desire to be made whole?”

But he replied gently, and with great mildness, “Yea, Lord”; yet he knew not who it was that asked him, nor that He would heal him, but still he mildly relates all the circumstances and asks nothing further, as though he were speaking to a physician, and desired merely to tell the story of his sufferings.

Perhaps he hoped that Christ might be so far useful to him as to put him into the water, and desired to attract Him by these words. What then does Jesus say? “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk”

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Homilies on St John’s Gospel, 37 (on John 5:6-8); [slightly adapted].

Tikhon of Zadonsk: The word of God is given by God so that everyone who desires to be saved may receive salvation through it Friday, Aug 21 2015 

Tikhon_of_ZadonskLove the Word of God, that is the Scriptures, handed down to us by the prophets and apostles, as God Himself.

For the word of God is the word of God’s mouth. If you love God, then without fail you will love the word of God also.

For the word of God is God’s epistle or letter to us unworthy ones, and is His supreme gift to us for the sake of our salvation.

If you love the Sender, then also love the letter which is sent from Him to you.

For the word of God is given by God to me, to you, and to everyone, so that everyone who desires to be saved may receive salvation through it.

You love it when an earthly king writes you a letter, and you read it with love and joy. How much more must we read the letter of the Heavenly King with love and joy.

The word of God was not given to you so that it should lay written only on paper, but so that we may use it spiritually, that we may be enlightened and guided in the true way and salvation, that our morals may be corrected, and that we may live according to its rule in this world, and that we may please God.

If you wish, therefore, to be a true Christian, then without fail you must take care to live by its rule.

For the word of God is a heavenly seed. It must, then, yield fruit in us after its kind, that is a holy and heavenly life, otherwise it will accuse us on the day of the fearful Judgement of Christ.

Live, therefore, as the word of God teaches, and then correct yourself. Do not pry idly into the mysteries.

Of the mystery of the All-Holy Trinity, the Most-Holy Eucharist, and other such things that are not revealed to us in the holy word of God, do not inquire idly, lest you fall into the snare of the devil and be tangled in it, and not be able to escape from thence, and so perish.

For that which requires faith alone transcends our reasoning, and it is very dangerous to pry into these things. Keep yourself, then, from prying into things which are above you.

Believe in all things as the Holy Scriptures teach, and as the Holy Church believes and establishes in accordance with it.

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) .

Irenaeus of Lyons: “Those who do understand shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and many of the righteous as the stars forever and ever” Wednesday, Jul 29 2015 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonIf anyone reads the Scriptures with attention, he will find in them an account of Christ, and a foreshadowing of the new calling.

For Christ is the treasure which was hid in the field (Matt. 13:44), that is, in this world – for “the field is the world” (Matt. 13:38).

But the treasure hid in the Scriptures is Christ, since He was pointed out by means of types and parables.

Hence His human nature could not be understood, prior to the consummation of those things which had been predicted, that is, the advent of Christ.

And therefore it was said to Daniel the prophet:

“Shut up the words, and seal the book even to the time of consummation, until many learn, and knowledge be completed. For at that time, when the dispersion shall be accomplished, they shall know all these things” (Dan. 12:4, 7).

Jeremiah also says, “In the last days they shall understand these things” (Jer. 23:20).

For every prophecy, before its fulfilment, is to men full of enigmas and ambiguities. But when the time has arrived, and the prediction has come to pass, then the prophecies have a clear and certain exposition.

[…] When…the law is read to the Jews, it is like a fable; for they do not possess the explanation of all things pertaining to the advent of the Son of God, which took place in human nature.

But when it is read by the Christians, it is a treasure, hid indeed in a field, but brought to light by the Cross of Christ, and explained.

It enriches the understanding of men, showing forth the wisdom of God and declaring His dispensations with regard to man.

It forms the kingdom of Christ beforehand, preaching by anticipation the inheritance of the holy Jerusalem,

It proclaims beforehand that the man who loves God shall arrive at such excellency as even to see God, and hear His word, and from the hearing of His discourse be glorified to such an extent, that others cannot behold the glory of his countenance, as was said by Daniel:

“Those who do understand, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and many of the righteous as the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).

Thus, then, I have shown it to be, if any one read the Scriptures.

For thus it was that the Lord discoursed with the disciples after His resurrection from the dead, proving to them from the Scriptures themselves “that Christ must suffer, and enter into His glory, and that remission of sins should be preached in His name throughout all the world” (Luke 24: 26, 47).

And the disciple will be perfected, and rendered like the householder, “who bringeth forth from his treasure things new and old” (Matt. 13:52).

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses 4,26,1 (slightly adapted)

Aphrahat the Persian: Whatsoever is written is written well, but I have not attained to the understanding of it Saturday, Jul 25 2015 

ephrem-isaac-aphrahatEveryone who reads the sacred scriptures, both former and latter, in both covenants, and reads with persuasion, will learn and teach.

But if he strives about anything that he does not understand, his mind does not receive teaching.

But if he finds words that are too difficult for him, and he does not understand their force, let him say thus:

“Whatsoever is written is written well, but I have not attained to the understanding of it.”

And if he shall ask about the matters that are too hard for him of wise and discerning men who inquire into doctrine, then, when ten wise men shall speak to him in ten different ways about one matter, let him accept that which pleases him.

And if any please not him, let him not scorn the sages; for the word of God is like a pearl, that has a beautiful appearance on whatever side you turn it.

And remember, O disciple, what David said, From all my teachers have I learned (Psalm 118:99).

And the Apostle said: Thou readest every Scripture that is in the Spirit of God.  And prove everything; hold fast that which is good; and flee from every evil thing (1 Thess. 5:21-22; 2 Tim. 3:16).

For if the days of a man should be many as all the days of the world from Adam to the end of the ages, and he should sit and meditate upon the Holy Scriptures, he would not comprehend all the force of the depth of the words.

And man cannot rise up to the wisdom of God; as I have written in the tenth discourse.

But, however, the words of all speakers who do not take from the great treasure, are accursed and to be despised.  For the image of the king (on his coin) is received wherever it goes; but (the coin) in which there is base metal, is rejected and is not received.

[…] I also according to my insignificance have written these things, a man sprung from Adam, and fashioned by the hands of God, a disciple of the Holy Scriptures.

For our Lord said: Every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and for him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matt. 7:8).

And the prophet said: I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh in the last days, and they shall prophesy. (Joel 2:28).

Therefore whoever shall read anything that I have written above, let him read with persuasion, and pray for the author as a brother of the Body, that, through the petition of all the Church of God, his sins may be forgiven.

Aphrahat the Persian (c.270-c.345): Demonstrations, 22 – On Death and the Latter Times (26). (The icon accompanying this extract depicts Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Syrian, and Aphrahat).

Nikolai Velimirovich: When the words of Holy Scripture are continually on our lips… Friday, May 8 2015 

Nikolai VelimirovichMay 8th is the feast of St Arsenios the Great

Glorious Arsenius, whom the world glorified,
Fleeing from glory, to himself he said:

“To men and to the world, consider yourself dead.
Neither wise nor foolish words, do not speak.
For a word, at times, I have repented;
For silence I have never repented.

If my heart, to God I do not bind,
To shake off the passionate life, I am not able.
If my thoughts glorify God only,
External passions will leave me.

Your time, fill with prayer and labor;
Sleep even less and labor all the more.
Arsenius the sinful, why do you stop?
Why to the wilderness did you come, I ask?

Not for the sake of idleness, but for the salvation of the soul;
Not for the sake of sleep, but for the sake of repentance.
Heal yourself quickly, and enliven the soul:
Lord have mercy! Forgive and have mercy!”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

A monk complained to St. Arsenius that while reading Holy Scripture he felt neither the power of the words he read nor gentleness in his heart.

To that the great saint replied to him: “My child, just read! I heard that when snake-charmers cast a spell upon the serpents, these sorcerers utter words which they themselves do not understand, but the serpents, hearing the words spoken, sense their power and become tamed.

An so it is with us, when the words of Holy Scripture are continually on our lips, although we do not feel the power of the words, evil spirits tremble and flee for they are unable to endure the words of the Holy Spirit.”

My child, just read! The Holy Spirit, Who, through inspired men, wrote these divine words, will hear, will understand and will hasten to your assistance.

Likewise, the demons will hear and understand, and will flee from you.

That is: He to Whom you are calling for help will understand, and those whom you wish to drive away from yourself will understand. And both goals will be achieved.

Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956; Orthodox Church): Prologue from Ohrid, May 8th.

Adomnán of Iona: St Columba and the Grace of the Holy Spirit Monday, Jun 9 2014 

St-Columba_Aidan-HartJune 9th is the feast of St Columba.

Four holy founders of monasteries came from Scotia (Ireland), to visit St. Columba, and found him in the Hinba island (Eilean-na-Naoimh)….

They all with one consent agreed that St. Columba should consecrate, in their presence in the church, the holy mysteries of the Eucharist.

The saint complied with their express desire, and entered the church with them on Sunday as usual, after the reading of the Gospel….

There, during the celebration of the solemn offices of the Mass, St. Brenden Mocu Alti saw, as he told Comgell and Cainnech afterwards, a ball of fire like a comet burning very brightly on the head of Columba, while he was standing before the altar, and consecrating the holy oblation.

And thus it continued burning and rising upwards like a column, so long as he continued to be engaged in the same most sacred mysteries….

When the saint was living in the Hinba island (Eilean-na-Naoimh), the grace of the Holy Ghost was communicated to him abundantly and unspeakably, and dwelt with him in a wonderful manner….

For three whole days, and as many nights, without either eating or drinking, he allowed no one to approach him, and remained confined in a house which was filled with heavenly brightness.

Yet out of that house, through the chinks of the doors and keyholes, rays of surpassing brilliancy were seen to issue during the night. Certain spiritual songs also, which had never been heard before, he was heard to sing.

He came to see, as he allowed in the presence of a very few afterwards, many secrets hidden from men since the beginning of the world fully revealed; certain very obscure and difficult parts of sacred Scripture also were made quite plain, and clearer than the light to the eye of his pure heart.

Another night also, one of the brothers…came by chance, while the other brothers were asleep, to the gate of the church, and stood there for some time praying.

Then suddenly he saw the whole church filled with a heavenly light, which more quickly than he could tell, flashed like lightning from his gaze. He did not know that St. Columba was praying at that time in the church, and after this sudden appearance of light, he returned home in great alarm.

On the following day the saint called him aside and rebuked him severely, saying: “Take care of one thing, my child, that you do not attempt to spy out and pry too closely into the nature of that heavenly light which was not granted thee, but rather fled from thee, and that thou do not tell any one during my lifetime what thou hast seen.”

Adomnán of Iona (628-704): Life of St. Columba, Book 3, 18, 19, 21; from Life of Saint Columba, Founder of Hy, Written by Adamnan, Ninth Abbot of that Monastery, ed. William Reeves, (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1874) @ Internet Medieval Source Book; icon of St Columba by Aidan Hart.

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.

Jean Daniélou: The Realities of the Old Testament are Figures of Those of the New Wednesday, May 7 2014 

JeanDanielouSJThat the realities of the Old Testament are figures of those of the New is one of the principles of  biblical theology.

This science of the similitudes between the two Testaments is called typology.

And here we would do well to remind ourselves of its foundation, for this is to be found in the Old Testament itself.

At the time of the Captivity, the prophets announced to the people of Israel that in the future God would perform for their benefit deeds analogous to, and even greater than those He had performed in the past.

So there would be a new Deluge, in which the sinful world would be annihilated, and a few men, a “remnant,” would be preserved to inaugurate a new humanity;

there would be a new Exodus in which, by His power, God would set mankind free from its bondage to idols; there would be a new Paradise into which God would introduce the people He had redeemed.

These prophecies constitute a primary typology that might be called eschatological, for the prophets saw these future events as happening at the end of time.

The New Testament, therefore, did not invent typology, but simply showed that it was fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. With Jesus, in fact, these events of the end, of the fullness of time, are now accomplished.

He is the New Adam with whom the time of the Paradise of the future has begun. In Him is already realized that destruction of the sinful world of which the Flood was the figure. In Him is accomplished the true Exodus which delivers the people of God from the tyranny of the demon.

Typology was used in the preaching of the apostles as an argument to establish the truth of their message, by showing that Christ continues and goes beyond the Old Testament: “Now all these things happened to them as a type and, they were written for our correction” (I Cor. 10, 11). This is what St. Paul calls the consolatio Scripturarum (Rom. 15, 4).

But these eschatological times are not only those of the life of Jesus, but of the Church as well. Consequently, the eschatological typology of the Old Testament is accomplished not only in the person of Christ, but also in the Church.

Besides Christological typology, therefore, there exists a sacramental typology, and we find it in the New Testament. The Gospel of St. John shows us that the manna was a figure of the Eucharist; the first Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians that the crossing of the Red Sea was a figure of Baptism; the first Epistle of St. Peter that the Flood was also a figure of Baptism.

Jean Daniélou, S.J. (1905 – 1974):  The Bible and the Liturgy, Liturgical Studies, 3 (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1956), pp. 1-2.

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