Symeon the New Theologian: We receive the Word and the Spirit in our hearts Saturday, Jun 14 2014 

SYMEON-iconEveryone of us believes in him who is the Son of God and son of Mary, ever-virgin and mother of God.

And as believers we faithfully welcome his gospel into our hearts, confessing in words our belief, and repenting with all our soul of our past sins.

Then immediately, just as God the Word of the Father entered the Virgin’s womb, so also in ourselves the word which we receive in learning right belief appears like a seed.

You should be amazed when you hear of such an awe-inspiring mystery, and because the word is reliable you should receive it with full conviction and faith.

In fact we receive him not bodily, as the Virgin and Mother of God received him, but both spiritually and substantially.

And the very one whom the chaste Virgin also received, we hold in our own hearts, as Saint Paul says: It is God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shown in our hearts to reveal the knowledge of his Son. 

In other words: he has become wholly substantial in us. And that he actually meant this, he made clear in the next verse: But we contain this treasure in earthenware pots, calling the Holy Spirit a treasure.

But elsewhere he also calls the Lord Spirit: The Lord is the Spirit, he says. And he tells us this so that if you hear the words the Son of God, you should think of and hear the words the Spirit at the same time.

Again, if you hear the Spirit mentioned you should join the Father to the Spirit in thought, because con­cerning the Father too it is said: God is Spirit. 

You are constantly taught that the Holy Trinity is inseparable and of the same substance, and that where the Son is the Father is also, and where the Father is the Spirit is also, and where the Holy Spirit is the whole of the deity in three persons is, the one God and Father with Son and Spirit of the same substance, “who is praised for ever. Amen.”

So if we wholeheartedly believe and ardently repent, we receive the Word of God in our hearts, as has been said, like the Virgin, if of course we bring with us our own souls chaste and pure.

And just as the fire of the deity did not consume the Virgin since she was supremely pure, so neither does it consume us if we bring with us chaste and pure hearts; on the contrary it becomes in us the dew from heaven, a spring of water, and a stream of immortal life.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD): Traites Theologiques et Ethiques J, 10: se 122, 252-254 @ Dom Donald’s Blog.

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Irenaeus of Lyons: The Spirit Accomplished the Father’s Will in Men who had Grown Old in Sin Friday, Jun 13 2014 

st-irenaeus-of-lyonWhen the Lord told his disciples to go and teach all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he conferred on them the power of giving men new life in God.

He had promised through the prophets that in these last days he would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would prophesy.

So when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Spirit also descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the human race, to living in men and to inhabiting God’s creation.

The Spirit accomplished the Father’s will in men who had grown old in sin, and gave them new life in Christ.

Luke says that the Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension, with power to open the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant.

So it was that men of every language joined in singing one song of praise to God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the first-fruits of all the nations.

This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God.

Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of broad, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven.

And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a waterless tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above.

Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.

The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of God came down upon the Lord, and the Lord in turn gave this Spirit to his Church, sending the Advocate from heaven into all the world into which, according to his own words, the devil too had been cast down like lightning.

If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we need the dew of God. Since we have our accuser, we need an advocate as well.

And so the Lord in his pity for man, who had fallen into the hands of brigands, having himself bound up his wounds…, entrusted him to the Holy Spirit.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses 3,17,1-3 @ Crossroads Initiative.

 

Denys the Areopagite: Religiously Pursuing an Upward Course to the More Perfect Mysteries of the Godhead Monday, Nov 18 2013 

DionysiosHe who has well looked upon his own proper condition with unbiassed eyes, will depart from the gloomy recesses of ignorance.

Being imperfect, he will not, of his own accord, at once desire the most perfect union and participation of God.

Little by little, he will be carried orderly and reverently through things present to things more forward, and through these to things foremost, and when perfected, to the supremely Divine summit.

[…] The Divine Blessedness receives the man, thus conducted, into communion with Itself, and imparts to him the proper light as a kind of sign, making him godly and sharer of the inheritance of the godly, and sacred ordering.

Of these things the Hierarch’s seal given to the proselyte and the saving enrolment of the priests are a sacred symbol, registering him amongst those who are being saved, and placing in the sacred memorials.

[…] Yet it is not possible to hold, conjointly, qualities thoroughly opposed, nor that a man who has had a certain fellowship with the One should have divided lives, if he clings to the firm participation in the One.

Rather, he must be resistless and resolute, as regards all separations from the uniform.

This the teaching of the symbols reverently and enigmatically intimates, by stripping the proselyte, as it were, of his former life, and discarding to the very utmost the habits within that life.

It makes him stand naked and barefoot, looking away towards the west, whilst he spurns, by the aversion of his hands, the participations in the gloomy baseness.

The proselyte breathes out, as it were, the habit of dissimilarity which he had acquired, and professes the entire renunciation of everything contrary to the Divine likeness.

When the man has thus become invincible and separate from evil, the teaching of the symbols turns him towards the east, declaring clearly that his position and recovery will be purely in the Divine Light, in the complete separation from baseness.

And it receives his sacred promises of entire consort with the One, since he has become uniform through love of the truth.

[…] Things intellectual acquire the unchangeableness of the Godlike habit, by continuous and persistent struggles towards one thing, and by the entire destruction and annihilation of  things contrary.

For it is necessary that a man should not only depart from every kind of baseness, but he must be also bravely obdurate and ever fearless against the baneful submission to it.

Nor must he, at any time, become remiss in his sacred love of the truth, but with all his power persistently and perpetually be elevated towards it, always religiously pursuing his upward course, to the more perfect mysteries of the Godhead.

Denys the Areopagite (late 5th to early 6th century): The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, 2,3.

Silouan the Athonite: With the Holy Spirit the saints glorify God, and with the Holy Spirit the Lord glorifies the saints Thursday, Nov 14 2013 

Silouan the Athonite“I love them who love Me, and I will glorify them who glorify Me,” says the Lord (cf. Prov. 8:17 & 1 Kg. 2:30).

God is glorified by His Saints, and, in turn, the Saints are glorified by God.

The glory that God gives to the Saints is so great, that if people were to see a saint as he truly is, they would fall to the ground on account of reverence and fear, because physical man cannot endure the glory of such a heavenly appearance.

Do not marvel at this. The Lord loved man, whom He created, to such an extent that He poured the Holy Spirit abundantly upon man, and through this Holy Spirit man became like unto God.

The Lord gave His grace to the Saints, and they loved Him and completely devoted themselves to Him, because the sweetness of God’s love surpasses the love for the world and its beauty.

And if things are so here on the earth, then in Heaven the saints are even more closely united with the Lord through love.

God is love, and the Holy Spirit is love for the saints. With the Holy Spirit the Lord becomes known. With the Holy Spirit, the Lord is magnified in the heavens.

With the Holy Spirit the Saints glorify God, and with the Holy Spirit the Lord glorifies the Saints—and this glory has no end.

To many people it seems as though the Saints are far away from us. In reality, they are far from those people who have distanced themselves from the Saints;

whereas, they are very close to the people who keep Christ’s commandments and who have the grace of the Holy Spirit.

In Heaven, everything lives and moves in the Holy Spirit. But even on the earth, we have the same Holy Spirit.

This Holy Spirit lives in our Church. The Holy Spirit unites everyone, and for this reason the Saints are close to us.

And when we pray to them, they hear our prayers through the Holy Spirit, and our souls sense and feel their intercessions for us.

The Saints live in another world where they behold, through the Holy Spirit, the divine glory and beauty of the Lord’s face.

Through this same Holy Spirit they also see our lives and our deeds. They are familiar with our sorrows, and they hear our fervent prayers.

While on the earth, they were taught the love of God by the Holy Spirit. And whoever has acquired love on the earth proceeds with it to the eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven, where this love increases until it becomes perfect.

And if on the earth love cannot forget about its fellow man, then even more so the Saints in Heaven do not forget about us, and they pray for us.

Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938; Eastern Orthodox) @ Discerning Thoughts and St Nektarios Monastery.

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.

Denys the Areopagite: God, Being Compassionate, Deigned to Come to Us with Outstretched Arms Friday, Oct 11 2013 

DionysiosThe Hierarch, then, wishing that all men whatsoever should be saved by their assimilation towards God, and come to recognition of truth, proclaims to all the veritable Good News:

that God, being compassionate towards those upon earth, out of His own proper and innate goodness, deigned Himself to come to us with outstretched arms, by reason of loving-kindness towards men;

and, by the union with Him, to assimilate, like as by fire, things that have been made one, in proportion to their aptitude for deification.

“For as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become children of God to those who believe on His Name, who were begotten, not of bloods, nor of will of flesh, but of God” (John 1:12).

He, who has felt a religious longing to participate in these truly supermundane gifts, comes to some one of the initiated, and persuades him to act as his conductor to the Hierarch.

He then professes wholly to follow the teaching that shall be given to him, and prays him to undertake the superintendence of his introduction, and of all his after life.

Now he, though religiously longing for his salvation, when he measures human infirmity against the loftiness of the undertaking, is suddenly seized with a shivering and sense of incapacity, nevertheless, at last, he agrees, with a good grace, to do what is requested, and takes and leads him to the chief Hierarch.

He, then, when with joy he has received, as the sheep upon his shoulders, the two men, and has first worshipped, glorifies with a mental thanksgiving and bodily prostration the One beneficent Source, from Which, those who are being called, are called, and those who are being saved, are saved.

Then collecting a full religious assembly into the sacred place, for co-operation, and common rejoicing over the man’s salvation, and for thanksgiving for the Divine Goodness, he first chants a certain hymn, found in the Oracles, accompanied by the whole body of the Church; and after this, when he has kissed the holy table, he advances to the man before him, and demands of him, what has brought him here?

When the man, out of love to God, has confessed, according to the instruction of his sponsor, his ungodliness, his ignorance of the really beautiful, his insufficiency for the life in God, and prays, through his holy mediation, to attain to God and Divine things, he (the Hierarch) testifies to him, that his approach ought to be entire, as to God Who is All Perfect, and without blemish.

Denys the Areopagite (late 5th to early 6th century): The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, 2,2.

Basil the Great: The Glory of Man is to Seek for the Glory of the Lord of Glory Saturday, Aug 10 2013 

St-Basil-the-GreatNo truly prudent man will think himself great because of his own wisdom…, but will attend…to the excellent counsel of…the prophet Jeremias:

Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, and let not the strong man glory in his strength, and let not the rich man glory in his riches (Jer. 9:23).

But in what shall man glory: and in what is man great? Let him that glorieth glory in this, he said, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord. 

This is the grandeur of man, this his glory and greatness, truly to know Him Who is great, to cling to Him, and to seek for the glory of the Lord of glory.

For the Apostle says to us: He that glorieth, may glory in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31) where he declares: But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and justice, and  sanctification, and redemption: That, as it was written: He that glorieth, may glory in the Lord.

This is complete and perfect glorying in God, when a man is uplifted, not because of his own justice, but because he knows he is empty of true glory, and made just only through his faith in Christ.

In this Paul gloried, that he thought nothing of his own justice; that he sought that justice alone which comes through Christ, which is from God, justice in faith (Phil. 3:9); and that he might know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the sharing of His sufferings, and be made like Him in His death, if by any means he might himself attain to the resurrection which is from the dead.

It is here that the whole top-loftiness of arrogance falls down.  Nothing is left to you to glory in, O man; whose true glorying and whose hope is in mortifying yourself in all things, and in seeking for that future life in Christ, of which we have already a foretaste when we live wholly in the love and in the grace of God.

And it is God who worketh in you both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will (Phil. 2:13).  And God has made known to us His own wisdom, through His Spirit, for our glory (1 Cor. 2:7,10).

And in all our efforts it is God who gives us strength.  I have laboured more abundantly than all they, says Paul, yet not I, but the grace of God with me (1 Cor. 15:10).  And God has delivered us from danger, and beyond all human expectation.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 28, 3 @ Lectionary Central.

John Damascene: We Celebrate the Death of Death, the Destruction of Hell, the Beginning of Eternal Life Sunday, Apr 21 2013 

John-of-Damascus_01He Who delivered the children from the furnace, and became man and suffered as a mortal, through His suffering, He clothes mortality with the grace of incorruption, He is the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.

The godly wise women came to Thee with myrrh. But Him Whom they sought with tears as dead, they joyfully adored as the living God. And they told to Thy disciples, O Christ, the glad tidings of the mystical Pascha.

We celebrate the death of death, the destruction of hell, the beginning of eternal life. And leaping for joy, we celebrate the Cause, the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.

For a truly holy and a supreme feast is this saving night radiant with Light, the harbinger of the bright day of Resurrection, on which the Eternal Light shone bodily from the grave upon all.

This is the chosen and Holy Day, the first of Sabbaths, the Sovereign and Queen, the Feast of Feasts, and Triumph of Triumphs, on which let us bless Christ forever.

O come, let us partake of the fruit of the new vine of divine joy on the auspicious Day of the Resurrection and Kingdom of Christ, praising Him as God forever.

Cast thine eyes about thee, O Zion, and behold! For lo! Thy children have assembled unto thee from the West and from the North and from the South and from the East, as divinely radiant luminaries, Blessing Christ unto the ages.

Father, Almighty, the Word, and the Spirit, one Nature in three Persons united, transcending essence supremely Divine! In Thee we have been baptized, and Thee will bless us throughout all ages.

Magnify, O my soul, Him Whom suffered willingly and was buried and rose from the grave on the third day.

Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee. Now dance for joy and be glad, O Zion! And thou, pure Mother of God, rejoice in the rising of Him Whom thou didst bear.

Magnify, O my soul, Christ the life-giver, Who rose from the grave on the third day.

Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee. Now dance for joy and be glad, O Zion! And thou, pure Mother of God, rejoice in the rising of Him Whom thou didst bear.

Christ is the New Pascha, the living sacrificial Victim, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.

John Damascene (c.675-749): The Paschal Canon, Odes 7,8,9; trans. Archimandrite Ephrem  Pravoslavie.

Leo the Great: “They that Live Should Henceforth not Live to Themselves but to Him Who Died for All and Rose Again” Friday, Mar 29 2013 

leo1(Following on from here…)

Let us, then, dearly-beloved, confess what the blessed teacher of the nations, the Apostle Paul, confessed, saying:

“Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

For God’s mercy towards us is the more wonderful that Christ died not for the righteous nor for the holy, but for the unrighteous and wicked.

And though the nature of the Godhead could not sustain the sting of death, yet at His birth He took from us that which He might offer for us.

For of old He threatened our death with the power of His death, saying by the mouth of Hosea the prophet, “O death, I will be thy death, and I will be thy destruction, O hell.”

For by dying He underwent the laws of hell, but by rising again He broke them, and so destroyed the continuity of death as to make it temporal instead of eternal.

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

And so, dearly-beloved, let that come to pass of which S. Paul speaks, “that they that live, should henceforth not live to themselves but to Him who died for all and rose again.”

And because the old things have passed away and all things are become new, let none remain in his old carnal life, but let us all be renewed by daily progress and growth in piety.

For however much a man be justified, yet so long as he remains in this life, he can always be more approved and better.

And he that is not advancing is going back, and he that is gaining nothing is losing something.

Let us run, then, with the steps of faith, by the works of mercy, in the love of righteousness, that keeping the day of our redemption spiritually, “not in the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,” we may deserve to be partakers of Christ’s resurrection.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 59, 8.

Ignatius Brianchaninov: The words of the gospels are spirit and life Wednesday, Jan 9 2013 

Ignatius_BrianchaninovThis is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him (Matthew 3:17; 17:5).

Thus did the voice of the pre-eternal God the Father speak to people about the pre-eternal God the Son, when the Son, at the behest of the Father, through the action of the Spirit, became incarnate of the Virgin and wrought the salvation of perishing mankind.

Brothers! Let us show obedience to the Son of God, as God desires of us, that Divine good will might abide with us.

Perhaps someone might say, “I would like to obey the Son of God; but how can this be done, when two thousand years have passed since our Lord Jesus Christ dwelt on earth in the flesh and preached His all-holy teaching?”

It is very easy for us to be continually with Christ, to ceaselessly hear His sweet voice, and to nourish ourselves with His life-giving teaching; for the Lord Jesus Christ still abides with us.

He abides with us in His Holy Gospels, through the Holy Mysteries of the Church; He abides through His omnipresence and omnipotence—bountifully, as befits the boundless, all-perfect God.

That the Lord abides with us is plainly proved by souls freed from the captivity of sin, the bestowal of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and by many signs and wonders.

Those who wish to approach the Lord and unite with Him in blessed union forever should begin this sacred work with scrupulous study of God’s words; they should begin by studying the Gospels, where Christ can be found, and from which Christ speaks and acts.

The words of the Gospels are spirit, and they are life (Jn. 6:63). They turn a fleshly man into a spiritual man, and revitalize a soul deadened by sin and the cares of life.

They are spirit, and they are life—beware of trying to explain the great word of the Spirit with your reason, which crawls upon the earth.

Beware of attempts to explain words filled with awesome Divine power in ways that might seem simpler to your deadened soul, deadened heart, and deadened mind.

A word spoken by the Holy Spirit can only be explained through the Holy Spirit.

Those who wish to approach the Lord in order to hear His Divine teaching, to be enlivened and saved by Him—come and stand before the Lord with utmost reverence and holy fear, as do the bright Angels, His Cherubim and Seraphim.

Your humility will turn the earth upon which you stand into heaven. The Lord will speak to you from His Holy Gospels as to His beloved disciples!

May the holy fathers who expound the Holy Gospels through the gift of the Holy Spirit be your guides to an exact and unmistaken understanding of the Holy Gospels.

Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867; Russian Orthodox): Spiritual Instruction on the Feast of the Theophany translated by Nun Cornelia Rees @ Pravoslavie.

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