Gregory of Nyssa: Moses and the Burning Bush Monday, Mar 10 2014 

Gregory_of_Nyssa[When]…we are living at peace, the truth will shine upon us and its radiance will illuminate the eyes of our soul.

Now this truth is God. Once in an ineffable and mysterious vision it manifested itself to Moses, and it is not without significance for us that the flame from which the soul of the Prophet was illuminated was kindled from a thorn-bush.

If truth is God and if it is also light – two of the sublime and sacred epithets by which the Gospel describes the God who manifested himself to us in the flesh – it follows that a virtuous life will lead us to a knowledge of that light which descended to the level of our human nature.

It is not from some luminary set among the stars that it sheds its radiance, which might then be thought to have a material origin, but from a bush on the earth, although it outshines the stars of heaven.

This also symbolizes the mystery of the Virgin, from whom came the divine light that shone upon the world without damaging the bush from which it emanated or allowing the virgin shoot to wither.

This light teaches us what we must do to stand in the rays of the true light, and that it is impossible with our feet in shackles to run toward the mountain where the light of truth appears.

We have first to free the feet of our soul from the covering of dead skins in which our nature was clad in the beginning when it disobeyed God’s will and was left naked.

To know that which is, we must purify our minds of assumptions regarding things which are not. In my opinion the definition of truth is an unerring comprehension of that which is.

He who is immutable, who does not increase or diminish, who is subject to no change for better or worse, but is perfectly self-sufficient; he who alone is desirable, in whom all else par­ticipates without causing in him any diminution, he indeed is that which truly is, and to comprehend him is to know the truth.

It is he whom Moses approached and whom today all approach who like Moses free themselves from their earthly coverings and look toward the light coming from the bramble bush, at the ray shining on us from the thorns, which stand for the flesh, for as the Gospel says, that ray is the real light and the truth.

Then such people will also be able to help others find salvation. They will be capable of destroying the forces of evil and of restoring those enslaved by them to liberty.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): The Life of Moses, 2.17-26 (SC 1:36-39); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Tuesday of the First Week in Lent, Year 2

Nikolai Velimirovich: Jesus is the Light of Truth, the Light of Righteousness and the Light of Life Saturday, Feb 1 2014 

Nikolai Velimirovich“I am the Light of the world” (St. John 8:12).

Since the beginning of the world and time, no one who was ever born dared to speak these words.

There were men and there are men who say: “I bring light!” But only one dared to say: “I am the Light!”

Only the Lord Jesus could have spoken those words boldly and convincingly.

His short life on earth and His long history, nearly two-thousand years, completely justified these words.

He is the Light of Truth. He is the Light of Righteousness and He is the Light of Life.

He is the Light of Truth because He revealed in Himself the truth of the true nature of God and the true nature of man; and the relationship of man to man and the relationship of man toward God.

Heaven and earth shall pass away and His words will not pass away for heaven and earth both came into existence by His word and His word is from Him and with Him always and will not pass away (cf.  St. Matthew 24:35; St. Mark 13:31.)

He is the Light of Righteousness because He revealed the might of righteousness and the weakness of unrighteousness.

He revealed this in the brightest light – by that which He spoke, by that which He did, and by the way in which He experienced and overcame the unrighteous ones.

He revealed this through His Church in the course of twenty centuries – through His numerous righteous saints, and through those who became martyrs for the sake of righteousness.

Righteousness is from God, and in the long life of history it can never be defeated. Unrighteousness is from beings who are helpless.

Unrighteousness quickly rushes out to the rampart with its triumphant banner but, at the same time, it is quickly overthrown into the grave.

He is the Light of Life. His words illuminate life. His works illuminate life.

His victory illuminates life, especially His resurrection, as the most luminous sun by its bright light illuminates life and disperses death as a weak shadow.

O Lord Jesus, Light Most-Luminous, Sun of Truth, Sun of Righteousness and Sun of Life, illuminate us sinners and unworthy ones!

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956; Orthodox Church): Prologue from Ohrid, January 20th.

Hilarion Troitsky: It was the Incarnation of the Son of God that was Necessary for the Salvation of Mankind, and not a Book Sunday, Jan 26 2014 

Hilarion_TroitskyThe Sunday nearest January 25th (new calendar) is the feast of the Holy New Martyrs of Russia, one of whom was Hilarion Troitsky.

In the Church there are no stone tablets with letters inscribed by a Divine finger.

The Church has the Holy Scriptures, but He Who established the Church wrote nothing.

[…] And yet the Church has Scripture, which is called by her Holy and Divine. Christ did not write anything.

It seems that if one reflects enough on this fact, one can somewhat understand the very essence of the work of Christ.

As a rule, other religious leaders of humanity, founders of various philosophical schools, have written readily and in abundance, and yet Christ wrote nothing at all.

Does not this mean that in its essence the work of Christ has nothing in common with the work of any of the philosophers, teachers, or leading representatives of the intellectual life of mankind?

Furthermore, has the Church herself ever viewed her Founder as one of the teachers of mankind? Has she ever considered His teachings as the essence of His work?

No, with the utmost exertion of her theological strength, the Christian Church has defended as the greatest religious truth that Christ is the Only-begotten Son of God, One in essence with God the Father, Who became incarnate on earth.

For that truth, the greatest Fathers of the Church labored to the point of blood. They were unbending in the battle for this truth.

They did not yield a single inch to their adversaries, literarlly not even a single iota, which in the Greek language differentiates homoiousion, ”of similar essence,” from homoousion, “coessential.”

“Those who call these men [i.e., Arians] Christians are in great and grievous error,” writes St. Athanasius the Great.

Thus did this adamant of Orthodoxy argue definitively about the impossibility of being a Christian while denying the Incarnation of the Son of God, Who is coessential with God the Father. 

But was the Incarnation of the Only-begotten Son of God necessary only in order to write a book and entrust it to mankind?

Was it absolutely essential for Him to be the Only-begotten Son of God just to write a book?

If the Church insisted with such determination on the Divine dignity of her Founder, then obviously she did not regard writing to be the essence of His work.

It was the Incarnation of the Son of God that was necessary for the salvation of mankind, and not a book.

No book is able, nor could it ever have been able to save mankind. Christ is not the Teacher but precisely the Savior of mankind.

It was necessary to regenerate human nature, which had become decayed through sin, and the beginning of this regeneration was laid by the very Incarnation of the Son of God—not by His teaching, not by the books of the New Testament.

Hilarion Troitsky (1886-1929; Russian Orthodox): Holy Scripture and the Church (1914), translated by Igor Radev in The Orthodox Word № 264-265 @ Pravoslavie.

Philoxenus of Mabbug: Experiencing the Love of Christ and Tasting the Sweetness of Truth Wednesday, Jan 22 2014 

philoxenos_of_mabbugIt is good and fitting for the truth to be declared openly, because truth is like unto light in the type of its manifestation which is for all.

For, as light has been made to shine on everything so also truth has been revealed in the world to enlighten every man, according to the words of Him Who is Truth, and Who has given the truth:

“That which I tell I tell you in the dark, speak ye in the light; and that which you hear in your ears, preach ye upon the house-tops” (Matt. 10:27).

[…] And, in the public confession before persecutors, He exhorts and urges us by His promises to declare the faith which He has delivered unto us, saying:

“Every one that shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father Who is in heaven, and before His angels…” (Matt. 10:32-33).

Such is the openness, therefore, with which Jesus Our God commands us to declare our truth, and not to be ashamed, and not to blush, and not to be acceptors of persons in authority, and not to seek to please those men who are the adversaries of truth; for he who wishes to please men cannot be a servant of Christ.

But as for him who has experienced the love of Christ, and tasted the sweetness of truth, nothing shall ever be able to diminish the ardour of his pursuit in search of the truth which he loves.

For truth is agreeable and sweet above all things; and it inflames every soul, that has tasted it rightly, to seek after it. Like the divine Apostles and the holy Martyrs, everyone who has experienced this pleasure seeks it with an unspeakable ardour.

Nothing was able to diminish the ardour of their love in the pursuit of truth:

neither fire, nor beasts, nor swords, nor the combs of executioners, nor exile from country to country, nor close confinement in dungeons, nor the insults of enemies, nor calumnies, nor injustices,

nor the inconstancy of friends, nor the defection of acquaintances, nor separation from family, nor the opposition of the whole world,

nor the onslaught of visible and invisible enemies, nor anything above or below, can separate from the love of Christ those who have tasted and perceived the truth, as St. Paul, in the ardour of this love, speaking for all those like himself, declared, saying:

“For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor powers, nor virtues, nor height, nor depth, nor things present, nor things to come, shall be able to separate me from the love of Christ (our) God” (Rom. 8:38-39).

Philoxenus of Mabbug (d. 523): Letter to the Monks.

Gregory of Nyssa: The Real Beauty and the Illusion of Beauty Friday, Jan 10 2014 

Gregory_of_NyssaJanuary 10th is the feast of St Gregory of Nyssa (OrthooxWiki here; Pope Benedixt XVI here and here; Georges Florovsky here).

Man was fashioned in imitation of the Divine nature, preserving his resemblance to the Deity as well in other excellences as in possession of freedom of the will, yet being of necessity of a nature subject to change.

For it was not possible that a being who derived his origin from an alteration should be altogether free from this liability.

For the passing from a state of non-existence into that of existence is a kind of alteration – when being that is by the exercise of Divine power takes the place of nonentity.

In the following special respect, too, alteration is necessarily observable in man.

For man was an imitation of the Divine nature, and unless some distinctive difference had been occasioned, the imitating subject would be entirely the same as that which it resembles.

In this instance, it is to be observed, there is a difference between that which “was made in the image” and its pattern; namely this:

that the one [God] is not subject to change, while the other [man] is (for, as has been described, it has come into existence through an alteration), and, being thus subject to alteration, does not always continue in its existing state.

For alteration is a kind of movement ever advancing from the present state to another; and there are two forms of this movement:

the first is ever towards what is good, and in this the advance has no check, because no goal of the course to be traversed can be reached;

the other is in the direction of the contrary, and of it this is the essence, that it has no subsistence.

As has been before stated, the contrary state to goodness conveys some such notion of opposition, as when we say, for instance, that that which is is logically opposed to that which is not, and that existence is so opposed to non-existence.

By reason of this impulse and movement of changeful alteration, it is not possible that the nature of the subject of this change should remain self-centred and unmoved, but there is always something towards which the will is tending.

The appetency for moral beauty naturally draws the will on to movement. But this beauty is in one instance genuinely beautiful in its nature, and in another instance it is not so, only blossoming with an illusive appearance of beauty.

And the criterion of these two kinds is the mind that dwells within us.

Under these circumstances it is a matter of risk whether we happen to choose the real beauty, or whether we are diverted from its choice by some deception arising from appearance, and thus drift away to the opposite.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): The Great Catechism, 21 (adapted).

Leo the Great: The Wise Men Saw and Adored the Child of the Tribe of Judah Sunday, Jan 5 2014 

leo1Led then, dearly beloved, into Bethlehem by obeying the guidance of the star, the wise men “rejoiced with very great joy,” as the evangelist has told us:

“And entering the house, they found the child with Mary, His mother; and falling down they worshipped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Matt. 2:10, 11).

What wondrous faith of perfect knowledge, which was taught them not by earthly wisdom, but by the instruction of the Holy Spirit!

Whence came it that these men, who had quitted their country without having seen Jesus, and had not noticed anything in His looks to enforce such systematic adoration, observed this method in offering their gifts?

Besides the appearance of the star which attracted their bodily eyes, the more refulgent rays of truth taught their hearts:

that, before they started on their toilsome road, they must understand that He was signified to Whom was owed in gold royal honour, in incense Divine adoration, in myrrh the acknowledgment of mortality.

Such a belief and understanding no doubt, as far as the enlightenment of their faith went, might have been sufficient in themselves and have prevented their using their bodily eyes in inquiring into that which they had beheld with their mind’s fullest gaze.

Their sagacious diligence, persevering till they found the child, did good service for future peoples and for the men of our own time.

Thus, as it profited us all that the apostle Thomas, after the Lord’s resurrection, handled the traces of the wounds in His flesh, so it was of advantage to us that His infancy should be attested by the visit of the wise men.

And so the wise men saw and adored the Child of the tribe of Judah, “of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3), “made from a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4), which He had come “not to destroy but to fulfil” (Matt. 5:17).

They saw and adored the Child, small in size, powerless to help others, incapable of speech, and in nought different to the generality of human children.

Because, as the testimonies were trustworthy which asserted in Him the majesty of invisible Godhead, so it ought to be impossible to doubt that “the Word became flesh,” and the eternal essence of the Son of God took man’s true nature.

Neither the inexpressible marvels of his acts which were to follow nor the infliction of sufferings which He had to bear should be permitted to overthrow the mystery of our Faith by their inconsistency.

For no one at all can be justified save those who believe the Lord Jesus to be both true God and true Man.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 34, 3.

Leo the Great: The Nativity of the Saviour Gives Joy to Sound Hearts Saturday, Dec 28 2013 

leo1As yonder visible light affords pleasure to eyes that are unimpaired, so to sound hearts does the Saviour’s nativity give eternal joy.

And we must not keep silent about it, though we cannot treat of it as we ought.

For we believe that what Isaiah says, “who shall declare his generation?” (Isaiah 53:8) applies not only to that mystery, whereby the Son of God is co-eternal with the Father, but also to this birth whereby “the Word became flesh.”

God, the Son of God, equal and of the same nature from the Father and with the Father, Creator and Lord of the Universe, is completely present everywhere, and completely exceeds all things.

In the due course of time, which runs by His own disposal, He chose for Himself this day on which to be born of the blessed virgin Mary for the salvation of the world, without loss of the mother’s honour.

Her virginity was violated neither at the conception nor at the birth:  “that it might be fulfilled,” as the Evangelist says, “which was spoken by the Lord through Isaiah the prophet, saying, behold the virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which is interpreted, God with us” (Matt. 1:22, 23).

This wondrous child-bearing of the holy Virgin produced in her offspring one person which was truly human and truly Divine.

[…] Thus in the whole and perfect nature of true man was true God born, complete in what was His own, complete in what was ours.  And by “ours” we mean what the Creator formed in us from the beginning, and what He undertook to repair.

For what the deceiver brought in, and man deceived committed, had no trace in the Saviour; nor because He partook of man’s weaknesses, did He therefore share our faults.

He took the form of a slave without stain of sin, increasing the human and not diminishing the divine. For that “emptying of Himself,” whereby the Invisible made Himself visible, was the bending down of pity, not the failing of power.

In order therefore that we might be called to eternal bliss from our original bond and from earthly errors, He came down Himself to us to Whom we could not ascend.

Although there was in many the love of truth, yet the variety of our shifting opinions was deceived by the craft of misleading demons.

[…] To remove this mockery, whereby men’s minds were taken captive to serve the arrogant devil, the teaching of the Law was not sufficient, nor could our nature be restored merely by the Prophets’ exhortations.

But the reality of redemption had to be added to moral injunctions, and our fundamentally corrupt origin had to be re-born afresh.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 23, 1-3.

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.

John of Kronstadt: We must bring every word of the prayer down to our heart Sunday, Sep 29 2013 

john_kronstadtGod is an all-seeing Eye, a spiritual Sun, standing above the world, penetrating with His spiritual eyes into the thoughts and hearts of men, enlightening every creature.

Our soul is an eye from the Eye, sight from the Sight, light from the Light. But now, since our fall into sin, our eye, our soul, is diseased through sins.

Take the cataract off your eye, and you will see the spiritual Sun, the everlasting Eye, ten thousand times brighter than the material sun.

How often it happens in life that a man has one thing in his heart and another upon his lips, and wears two faces at one and the same time!

It is thus also during prayer, before God Himself, Who knows the secrets of the heart; a man also frequently wears two faces, saying one thing and having another in his heart and thoughts.

If, which happens still oftener, when saying a prayer, although he understands it and thinks about it, he does not sympathise in his heart with that which he is saying—being dead, and thus throwing the words to the air—then he deceives himself if he believes that he can please God by such a prayer.

This is strange, sinful duplicity! It is a bitter fruit and evidence of our fall into sin. It seems habitual to our heart to lie in prayer and in our intercourse with other men. The heart is a pillar of falsehood. “All men are liars” (Psalm cxvi:10).

The Christian must make use of every means in order to eradicate every falsehood from his heart, and to implant pure truth within it.

We must begin with prayer, as with a matter in which truth is indispensable before everything, in accordance with the Lord’s own words: “Worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Speak the truth from your heart (Psalm 15:2).

When we have learnt to speak the truth from our heart during prayer, we shall not allow ourselves to lie in our everyday life: sincere, true prayer, having cleansed our heart from falsehood, will protect it against falsehood in our relations with other men in worldly matters.

How can we teach ourselves to speak the truth from our heart during prayer? We must bring every word of the prayer down to our heart, lay it to heart, feel its truth in our heart, be convinced of all our need of that for which we ask God in prayer, or of the need of hearty gratitude for His great and innumerable benefits to us, and of most heartfelt praise for His great, most wise works in His creation.

John of Kronstadt (1829-1908; Russian Orthodox): My Life in Christ.

Hilary of Poitiers: The Triumph of Truth and the Perfect Sacrifice Wednesday, Sep 11 2013 

St_Hilary_of_Poitiers_cassienHe shall reward evil unto mine enemies: cut them off in thy truth. I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O LORD; for it is good. (Psalm 53[54]:5-6).

Destroy them by Thy truth. Truth confounds falsehood, and lying is destroyed by truth.

We have shewn that the whole of the foregoing prayer is the utterance of that human nature in which the Son of God was born; so here it is the voice of human nature calling upon God the Father to destroy His enemies in His truth.

What this truth is, stands beyond doubt; it is of course He Who said: I am the Life, the Way, the Truth (John 14:6).

And the enemies were destroyed by the truth when, for all their attempts to win Christ’s condemnation by false witness, they heard that He was risen from the dead and had to admit that He had resumed His glory in all the reality of Godhead.

[…] They condemned the Lord of Life to death, and paid no heed to God’s truth displayed in Him through His glorious works.

And thus the Truth of God destroyed them when He rose again to resume the majesty of His Father’s Glory, and gave proof of the truth of that perfect Divinity which He possessed.

[…] I will sacrifice unto Thee freely. The sacrifices of the Law, which consisted of whole burnt-offerings and oblations of goats and of bulls, did not involve an expression of free will, because the sentence of a curse was pronounced on all who broke the Law.

Whoever failed to sacrifice laid himself open to the curse. And it was always necessary to go through the whole sacrificial action because the addition of a curse to the commandment forbad any trifling with the obligation of offering.

It was from this curse that our Lord Jesus Christ redeemed us, when, as the Apostle says: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made curse for us, for it is written: cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (Gal. 3:13).

Thus He offered Himself to the death of the accursed that He might break the curse of the Law, offering Himself voluntarily a victim to God the Father, in order that by means of a voluntary victim the curse which attended the discontinuance of the regular victim might be removed.

Now of this sacrifice mention is made in another passage of the Psalms: Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared for Me (Ps. 39/40:7); that is, by offering to God the Father, Who refused the legal sacrifices, the acceptable offering of the body which He received.

Of which offering the holy Apostle thus speaks: For this He did once for all when He offered Himself up (Heb. 7:27), securing complete salvation for the human race by the offering of this holy, perfect victim.

Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-368): Homily on Psalm 53 [54], 11;13.

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