Gregory of Nyssa: Paradise will be restored, that tree will be restored which is in truth the tree of life Tuesday, Nov 24 2015 

Gregory_of_NyssaWickedness, however, is not so strong as to prevail over the power of good; nor is the folly of our nature more powerful and more abiding than the wisdom of God.

For it is impossible that that which is always mutable and variable should be more firm and more abiding than that which always remains the same and is firmly fixed in goodness.

But it is absolutely certain that the Divine counsel possesses immutability, while the changeableness of our nature does not remain settled even in evil.

Now that which is always in motion, if its progress be to good, will never cease moving onwards to what lies before it, by reason of the infinity of the course to be traversed.

For it will not find any limit of its object such that when it has apprehended it, it will at last cease its motion.

But if its bias be in the opposite direction, when it has finished the course of wickedness and reached the extreme limit of evil, then that which is ever moving, finding no halting point for its impulse natural to itself when it has run through the lengths that can be run in wickedness, of necessity turns its motion towards good.

For as evil does not extend to infinity, but is comprehended by necessary limits, it would appear that good once more follows in succession upon the limit of evil.

And thus, as we have said, the ever-moving character of our nature comes to run its course at the last once more back towards good, being taught the lesson of prudence by the memory of its former misfortunes, to the end that it may never again be in like case.

Our course, then, will once more lie in what is good, by reason of the fact that the nature of evil is bounded by necessary limits.

[…] I think that we ought to understand about ourselves, that on passing the limit of wickedness we shall again have our conversation in light, as the nature of good, when compared with the measure of wickedness, is incalculably superabundant.

Paradise therefore will be restored, that tree will be restored which is in truth the tree of life—there will be restored the grace of the image, and the dignity of rule.

It does not seem to me that our hope is one for those things which are now subjected by God to man for the necessary uses of life, but one for another kingdom, of a description that belongs to unspeakable mysteries.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): On the Making of Man, 21 (slightly adapted).

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Gregory of Nyssa: “God created man, in the image of God created He him” Friday, Jul 3 2015 

Gregory_of_NyssaThe creation of our nature is in a sense twofold: one made like to God, one divided according to this distinction.

For something like this Scripture darkly conveys by its arrangement, where it first says:

“God created man, in the image of God created He him” (Gen.1:27);

and then, adding to what has been said, “male and female created He them”—a thing which is alien from our conceptions of God.

[…] While two natures—the Divine and incorporeal nature, and the irrational life of brutes—are separated from each other as extremes, human nature is the mean between them.

For in the compound nature of man we may behold a part of each of the natures I have mentioned—

—of the Divine, the rational and intelligent element, which does not admit the distinction of male and female;

—of the irrational, our bodily form and structure, divided into male and female.

For each of these elements is certainly to be found in all that partakes of human life.

[…] God is in His own nature all that which our mind can conceive of good—rather, transcending all good that we can conceive or comprehend.

He creates man for no other reason than that He is good.

And, being such, and having this as His reason for entering upon the creation of our nature, He would not exhibit the power of His goodness in an imperfect form, giving our nature some one of the things at His disposal, and grudging it a share in another.

The perfect form of goodness is here to be seen by His both bringing man into being from nothing, and fully supplying him with all good gifts.

Since the list of individual good gifts is a long one, it is out of the question to apprehend it numerically.

The language of Scripture therefore expresses it concisely by a comprehensive phrase, in saying that man was made “in the image of God”.

This is the same as to say that He made human nature participant in all good.

For if the Deity is the fulness of good, and this is His image, then the image finds its resemblance to the Archetype in being filled with all good.

Thus there is in us the principle of all excellence, all virtue and wisdom, and every higher thing that we conceive.

But pre-eminent among all is the fact that we are free from necessity, and not in bondage to any natural power, but have decision in our own power as we please.

For virtue is a voluntary thing, subject to no dominion. That which is the result of compulsion and force cannot be virtue.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): On the Making of Man, 16, 8-11 (slightly adapted).

Nikolai Velimirovich: The Light of the Lord’s Countenance is Etched in Our Hearts Wednesday, Oct 2 2013 

Nikolai VelimirovichThere be many who say, Who will show us any good? (Psalm 4:6).

My brethren, great is God’s goodness. What words can express that goodness? Great is the goodness of the Heavenly Kingdom with its fiery angels, wonderful saints, and the sweetness of Paradise.

Who can describe this goodness? Immortal life, close to God and the angels of God, in the company of the saints and the righteous, is a great good.

Another great good will be our meeting with our kinsmen and friends in the heavenly world; with our parents, our children, and our most beloved ones, who by their departure left us in sadness and grief.

Who will show us all that good? Many asked this in King David’s time, and many ask even today. Who will show it to us, so that we may believe and hope?

That good is shown to us Christians, and we wait for nothing higher, for no one but the Lord Christ – the true Witness to all this good, the true Witness and Lord, brethren, of all this good.

The compassionate Lord showed this good to His chosen prophets even before His coming to earth. That is why David says to God: Lord, lift up the light of Thy countenance upon us (Psalms 4:6).

This is the reply to those who ask: Who will show us any good? God Himself showed us that good. The light of the Lord’s countenance is marked upon us, inscribed and etched in our hearts, and in that light we recognize that good which only heaven can give.

Brethren, is there a cure for those who have heard about the coming of Christ on earth, but nevertheless asked: Who will show us any good?

If Christ had not shown and revealed all that is good by His glorious birth, His glorious miracles, His glorious Resurrection, and His Holy Church, the dark earth would not show it, for it cannot; men would not show it, for they do not know.

However, there is a cure for everyone – even for the most incorrigible unbelievers-up to the moment of death. This cure is in repentance of one’s evil, in the cleansing of one’s heart, and in the fulfilling of Christ’s commandments.

The healthy can see the light of the countenance of the Lord; but not the sick in soul, the impure in heart or the wrong-minded.

O our Lord God, light of angels and men; help us that we not darken the light that Thou hast given us – and by which we see the heavenly good – by the darkness of our sin. Do not deprive us of these good things,

O Most-merciful One. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956; Orthodox Church): Prologue from Ohrid, October 5th.

Catherine of Siena: Let Us Go Out to Receive Our King, Who Comes to Us Humble and Meek Wednesday, Apr 20 2011 

I, Catherine, a useless servant, am in agony with desire as I search the depths of my soul.

I grieve and weep when I see and really understand our foolish apathy, our failure to give our love to God after he has given us such great graces with so much love.

So, dearest brothers, don’t be thankless and unappreciative, because this could easily dry up the fountain of piety within us.

Oh heedless indifferent people! Rouse yourselves from this evil sleep! Let’s go out to receive our King, who comes to us humble and meek.

Oh let us who are proud behold the Master of humility coming to us seated on an ass!

For our Saviour has told us that one of his reasons for com­ing on that beast was to show us what our humanity had become by sin, and to show us how we should treat this ass, our humanity.

Really, there is no difference between us and that good-far-nothing beast! Because of sin, our reason has become an animal!

Oh ancient Truth, you have taught us how we should treat this beast!

I want you…to get on top of this ass; master yourselves; be humble and meek.

And on what feet shall we get up there, sweetest love? On hatred of apathy and love of virtue.

But let’s do this…the channel is open and flowing.

So, since we need to provision the ship of our soul, let’s proceed to provision it there, at that sweetest of channels, the heart and soul and body of Jesus Christ.

We will find that this channel flows with so great a love that we will easily be able to fill our souls

So I say to you: don’t be slow to put your eye to this open window

For I assure you that supreme Goodness has prepared the times and the ways for us to do great deeds for him

This is why I told you to be eager to increase your holy desire, and not to be satisfied with little things, because he wants great things!

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380): Letters; H/T Dom Donald.

Thomas à Kempis: You Must Bring to God a Clean and Open Heart Sunday, Mar 27 2011 

When Jesus is near, all is well and nothing seems difficult.

When He is absent, all is hard.

When Jesus does not speak within, all other comfort is empty.

But if He says only a word, it brings great consolation.

[…] How dry and hard you are without Jesus!

How foolish and vain if you desire anything but Him!

Is it not a greater loss than losing the whole world?

For what, without Jesus, can the world give you?

Life without Him is a relentless hell, but living with Him is a sweet paradise.

If Jesus be with you, no enemy can harm you.

He who finds Jesus finds a rare treasure, indeed, a good above every good, whereas he who loses Him loses more than the whole world.

The man who lives without Jesus is the poorest of the poor, whereas no one is so rich as the man who lives in His grace.

It is a great art to know how to converse with Jesus, and great wisdom to know how to keep Him.

Be humble and peaceful, and Jesus will be with you.

Be devout and calm, and He will remain with you.

[…] You cannot live well without a friend, and if Jesus be not your friend above all else, you will be very sad and desolate.

Thus, you are acting foolishly if you trust or rejoice in any other.

Choose the opposition of the whole world rather than offend Jesus.

Of all those who are dear to you, let Him be your special love.

Let all things be loved for the sake of Jesus, but Jesus for His own sake.

[…] Never wish that anyone’s affection be centered in you, nor let yourself be taken up with the love of anyone, but let Jesus be in you and in every good man.

Be pure and free within, unentangled with any creature.

You must bring to God a clean and open heart if you wish to attend and see how sweet the Lord is.

Truly you will never attain this happiness unless His grace prepares you and draws you on so that you may forsake all things to be united with Him alone.

When the grace of God comes to a man he can do all things, but when it leaves him he becomes poor and weak, abandoned, as it were, to affliction.

Yet, in this condition he should not become dejected or despair.

On the contrary, he should calmly await the will of God and bear whatever befalls him in praise of Jesus Christ.

For after winter comes summer, after night, the day, and after the storm, a great calm.

Thomas à Kempis (c.1380-1471): The Imitation of Christ, 2, 8.

 

Gregory of Nyssa: We shall be Blessed with Clear Vision if we Keep our Eyes Fixed on Christ Tuesday, Feb 22 2011 

We shall be blessed with clear vision if we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, for he, as Paul teaches, is our head, and there is in him no shadow of evil.

Saint Paul himself and all who have reached the same heights of sanctity had their eyes fixed on Christ, and so have all who live and move and have their being in him.

As no darkness can be seen by anyone surrounded by light, so no trivialities can capture the attention of anyone who has his eyes on Christ.

The man who keeps his eyes upon the head and origin of the whole universe has them on virtue in all its perfection.

He has them on truth, on justice, on inorruption and on everything else that is good, for Christ is goodness itself.

The wise man, then, turns his eyes toward the One who is his head, but the fool gropes in darkness.

No one who puts his lamp under a bed instead of on a lamp-stand will receive any light from it.

People are often considered blind and useless when they make the supreme Good their aim and give themselves up to the contemplation of God, but Paul made a boast of this and proclaimed himself a fool for Christ’s sake.

The reason he said, We are fools for Christ’s sake was that his mind was free from all earthly preoccupations.

It was as though he said, “We are blind to the life here below because our eyes are raised toward the One who is our head”.

And so, without board or lodging, he travelled from place to place, destitute, naked, exhausted by hunger and thirst.

When men saw him in captivity, flogged, shipwrecked, led about in chains, they could scarcely help thinking him a pitiable sight.

Nevertheless, even while he suffered all this at the hands of men, he always looked toward the One who is his head and he asked:

What can separate us from the love of Christ, which is in Jesus? Can affliction or distress? Can persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger or death?

In other words, “What can force me to take my eyes from him who is my head and to turn them toward things that are contemptible?”

He bids us follow his example: Seek the things that are above, he says, which is only another way of saying: “Keep your eyes on Christ”.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): Homily on Ecclesiastes, 5, from the Office of Readings for Monday of the 7th week of Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

John Henry Newman: That “Princely Heart of Innocence” in which the Spirit Dwells Sunday, Oct 24 2010 

When we have mastered our hearts in any matter…we no more think of the duty while we obey, than we think how to walk when we walk, or by what rules to exercise any art which we have thoroughly acquired.

Separate acts of faith aid us only while we are unstable. As we get strength, but one extended act of faith (so to call it) influences us all through the day, and our whole day is but one act of obedience also.

Then there is no minute distribution of our faith among our particular deeds. Our will runs parallel to God’s will.

This is the very privilege of confirmed Christians; and it is comparatively but a sordid way of serving God, to be thinking when we do a deed, “if I do not do this, I shall risk my salvation; or, if I do it, I have a chance of being saved”;

comparatively a grovelling way, for it is the best, the only way for sinners such as we are, to begin to serve God in.

Still as we grow in grace, we throw away childish things; then we are able to stand upright like grown men, without the props and aids which our infancy required.

This is the noble manner of serving God, to do good without thinking about it, without any calculation or reasoning, from love of the good, and hatred of the evil;

[…]—so spontaneously as not to know so much that we are doing right, as that we are not doing wrong; I mean, with more of instinctive fear of sinning, than of minute and careful appreciation of the degrees of our obedience.

Hence it is that the best men are ever the most humble; as for other reasons, so especially because they are accustomed to be religious.

They surprise others, but not themselves; they surprise others at their very calmness and freedom from thought about themselves.

This is to have a great mind, to have within us that “princely heart of innocence” of which David speaks.

Common men see God at a distance; in their attempts to be religious they feebly guide themselves as by a distant light, and are obliged to calculate and search about for the path.

But the long practised Christian, who, through God’s mercy, has brought God’s presence near to him, the elect of God, in whom the Blessed Spirit dwells, he does not look out of doors for the traces of God; he is moved by God dwelling in him, and needs not but act on instinct.

I do not say there is any man altogether such, for this is an angelic life; but it is the state of mind to which vigorous prayer and watching tend.

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890): Parochial and Plain Sermons vol. 1, 6: The Spiritual Mind.

Benedict XVI on Angela of Foligno (4): The More You Pray, the More You will be Illumined Thursday, Oct 14 2010 

Continued from previous post

In Angela’s spiritual itinerary the passage from conversion to mystical experience, from what can be expressed to the inexpressible, happens through the crucifix.

And the “suffering God-man,” who becomes her “teacher of perfection.”

Hence, all her mystical experience tends to a perfect “likeness” with him, through ever more profound and radical purifications and transformations.

In such a stupendous enterprise Angela puts her whole self, soul and body, without sparing herself penances and tribulations from the beginning to the end, desiring to die with all the pains suffered by the God-man crucified to be transformed totally in him.

“O children of God,” she recommended, “transform yourselves totally in the suffering God-man, who so loves you that he deigned to die for you the most ignominious and all together ineffably painful death and in the most painful and bitter way. This only for love of you, O man!”.

This identification also means to live what Jesus lived: poverty, contempt, sorrow because, as she affirmed:

“Through temporal poverty the soul will find eternal riches; through contempt and shame it will obtain supreme honor and very great glory; through a little penance, made with pain and sorrow, it will possess with infinite sweetness and consolation of the Supreme God, God eternal”.
From conversion to mystical union with Christ crucified, to the inexpressible. A very lofty way, whose secret is constant prayer:

“The more you pray,” she affirms, “the more you will be illumined; the more you are illumined, the more profoundly and intensely you will see the Supreme Good, the supremely good Being.

“The more profoundly and intensely you see him, the more you will love him; the more you love him, the more he will delight you.

“And the more he delights you, the more you will understand him and become capable of understanding him.

“You will arrive successively to the fullness of light, because you will understand that you cannot understand”.

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): On Medieval Mystic Blessed Angela of Foligno (translation by Zenit).

R. Garrigou-Lagrange: Gifts of the Holy Spirit (7) – Wisdom Sunday, Aug 15 2010 

The gift of wisdom is finally, according to the enumeration of Isaias, the highest of all, as charity, to which it corresponds, is the loftiest of the virtues. Wisdom appears eminently in St. John, St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Thomas.

It leads them to judge all things by relation to God, the first Cause and last End, and to judge them thus, not as acquired theology does, but by that connaturalness or sympathy with divine things which comes from charity.

By His inspiration, the Holy Ghost makes use of this connaturalness to show us the beauty, the sanctity, and the radiating plenitude of the mysteries of salvation, which correspond so well to our deepest and highest aspirations.(22)

[…] The gift of wisdom, the principle of a living contemplation that directs action, enables the soul to taste the goodness of God, to see it manifested in all events, even in the most painful, since God permits evil only for a higher good, which we shall see later and which it is sometimes given us to glimpse on earth.

The gift of wisdom thus makes us judge everything in relation to God; it shows the subordination of causes and ends or, as they say today, the scale of values.

It reminds us that all that glitters is not gold and that, on the contrary, marvels of grace are to be found under the humblest exteriors, as in the person of St. Benedict Joseph Labre or Blessed Anna Maria Taigi.

This gift enables the saints to embrace the plan of Providence with a gaze entirely penetrated with love; darkness does not disconcert them for they discover in it the hidden God.

As the bee knows how to find honey in flowers, the gift of wisdom draws lessons of divine goodness from everything.

Wisdom reminds us, as Cardinal Newman says, that: “A thousand difficulties do not make a doubt” so long as they do not impair the very basis of certitude.

Thus many difficulties which subsist in the interpretation of several books of the Old Testament or of the Apocalypse do not make a doubt as to the divine origin of the religion of Israel or of Christianity.

The gift of wisdom thus gives the supernaturalized soul great peace, that is the tranquillity of the order of things considered from God’s point of view.

Thereby this gift, says St. Augustine, corresponds to the beatitude of the peacemakers, that is to say, of those who remain in peace when many are troubled and who are capable of bringing peace to the discouraged. This is one of the signs of the unitive life.

R. Garrigou-Lagrange OP (1877-1964): The Three Ages of the Interior Life.

Gregory of Nyssa: Thy Kingdom Come Wednesday, Jun 16 2010 

Human nature was deceived and was led astray from the discernment of the good. The inclination of our free will was directed to slavery.

The life of human beings was subjugated by every evil. Death entered nature by a myriad of ways inasmuch as every suggestion of evil turns out to be a form of death against us.

Therefore, because we have been entangled in this kind of tyranny and have been enslaved by death through evil passions which assault us like enemies and executioners, it is good that we pray for God’s Kingdom to come upon us.

For by no other means can we put off the wicked subjugation of corruption except through the substitution of God’s life-giving lordship over us.

If we then ask that God’s Kingdom should come upon us, we fervently entreat God to actualize in us these blessings: to be released from corruption; to be liberated from death, and to be loosed from the bonds of sin.

We pray that the tyranny of wickedness cease its power against us and its war not conquer us, leading us away as captives through sin.

We pray Let Your Kingdom come upon us in order that the evil passions which rule and lord it over us may depart from us, and indeed vanish into nothingness.

For As smoke vanishes, let them vanish; and as wax melts before the fire, so they will perish (Ps 68:2).

When smoke dissolves into the air it leaves no trace of its own nature. Nor can wax endure the fire. Rather it evaporates into the air and its smoke disappears into total nothingness.

Likewise, if God’s Kingdom comes upon us, all those things which dominate us collapse into nothingness. Darkness cannot endure the presence of light. Sickness cannot exist when health returns.

The evil passions are not active when freedom from passions takes hold. When life reigns in our midst and incorruption holds sway, gone is death and vanished is corruption.

Thy Kingdom come. Sweet is the voice by which we bring this petition before God. Let the opposing camp be destroyed. Let the array of the enemy vanish.

Let the warfare of the flesh against the spirit be done away. Let not the body serve as a base for the enemy to fight against the soul.

Let the royal lordship shine upon me, the angelic powers the thousands of the righteous the myriads of those who stand in God’s right hand, in order that the thousands of adversaries arrayed on the opposite side may collapse.

The opponents are many….However, when Your Kingdom appears, sorrow and sighing flee away (Is. 35:10). Life, peace and joy enter instead.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): Third Homily on The Lord’s Prayer @ Orthodox Prayer.

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