Cyril of Alexandria: Little by little, we advance toward the ideal we see in Christ Thursday, Mar 17 2016 

cyril_alexandriaThe glory of Christ filled the true Tabernacle, which is the Church, from the very moment it was set up on earth.

This, surely, is what is signified by the cloud that covered the first Tabernacle.

Christ has filled the Church with his glory, and now like a fire, he shines forth to give light to those who live in the darkness of ignorance and error.

He shades and protects those already enlightened by the dawn of his day in their hearts.

He refreshes them with the heavenly dew of his consolations sent down from above through the Spirit.

This is what we should understand by the saying that by night he appeared in the form of fire, and by day in the form of cloud.

Those who were as yet uninstructed in the teaching of Christ required spiritual enlighten­ment to bring them to a knowledge of God;

but the more advanced, whose minds had been illumined by faith, were in need of protection from the scorching heat of the day, and of courage to bear the burdens of this present life.

[…] Whenever the cloud moved forward, the Tabernacle went with it; when the cloud settled, the Tabernacle came to rest with it and the Israelites broke their journey.

Now the meaning of this for us is that wherever Christ leads, the Church, the holy multi­tude of believers, follows him. The faithful are never separated from the Saviour who calls them to himself.

We may not be able to find any special meaning in the constant halts and new depar­tures throughout our spiritual journey under Christ’s guidance. It is the whole journey, following the cloud whether it moves forward or settles, that symbolizes our desire to be with God.

Nevertheless, if we would have a more subtle interpretation, we could perhaps say that our first departure is from unbelief to faith, from ignorance to knowledge, and from having no percep­tion of the true God to clear recognition of the Creator and Lord of the universe.

The second stage, and an essential one, is conversion from sin and licentiousness to a desire for amend­ment both in thought and deed.

But the best and most glorious is the third part of the journey, because in it we leave behind what is deficient and move onward toward what is perfect both in our actions and in our belief.

So, little by little, we advance toward the ideal we see in Christ, to become the perfect man, sharing in the perfection of Christ himself.

This surely is what Saint Paul means by saying: Forgetting what lies behind me and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the goal, the heavenly reward to which God calls me in Christ Jesus.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): The Adoration and Worship of God in Spirit and in Truth, 5 (PG 68:393-396); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Friday of the Fourth Week in Lent, Year 2.

Gregory of Nyssa: The truth of reality is truly a holy thing, a holy of holies Wednesday, Mar 16 2016 

Gregory_of_NyssaWhat then is that tabernacle not made with hands which was shown to Moses on the mountain and to which he was commanded to look as to an archetype so that he might reproduce it in a handmade structure?

God said, See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.

Of what things not made with hands are these an imitation? And what benefit does the material imitation of those things Moses saw there convey to those who look at it?

Taking a hint from what has been said by Paul, who partially uncovered the mystery of these things, we say that Moses was earlier instructed by a type in the in mystery of the tabernacle which encompasses the universe.

This tabernacle would be Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God, who in his own nature was not made with hands, yet capable of being made when it became necessary for this tabernacle to be erected among us.

Thus, the same tabernacle is in a way both unfashioned and fashioned, uncreated in pre-existence but created in having received this material composition.

This one is the Only Begotten God, who encompasses everything in himself but who also pitched his own tabernacle among us.

Whenever the prophet looks to the tabernacle above, he sees the heavenly realities through these symbols. But if one should look at the tabernacle below, since in many places the Church also is called Christ by Paul, he would see the Church.

In this tabernacle both the sacrifice of praise and the incense of prayer are seen offered continually at morning and evening. The great David allows us to perceive these things when he directs the incense of his prayer in an odour of sweetness to God, performing his sacrifice through the lifting up of his hands.  

The skin dyed red and the coverings made of hair, which add to the decoration of the tabernacle, are per­ceived respectively as the mortification of the sinful flesh and the ascetic way of life. By these the tabernacle of the church is especially beautified.

[…] If the interior, which is called the Holy of Holies, is not accessible to the multitude, let us not think that this is at variance with the sequence of what has been perceived. For the truth of reality is truly a holy thing, a holy of holies, and is incomprehensible and inaccessible to the multitude.

Since it is set in the secret and ineffable areas of the tabernacle of mystery, the apprehension of the realities above comprehension should not be meddled with; one should rather believe that they do exist and that they remain in the secret and ineffable areas of the intelligence.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): The Life of Moses 170, 173-175, 184-188; CWS (1978) tr. Malherbe & Ferguson; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Friday of the Third Week in Lent, Year 2.