Georges Florovsky: Gregory of Nyssa on the Appearance of God to Moses on Mount Sinai Friday, Jan 10 2014 

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

Gregory sees an example of the mystical ascent to God in the figure of Moses the Lawgiver and in the appearance of God on Mount Sinai.

The people were ordered to purify themselves, and the mountain was covered with a cloud and illuminated by fire.

“By the power of God alone and without any other implement the air formed itself into individual words. These words were not only distinct, but they proclaimed the divine commandments.”

The people were afraid to ascend the mountain to listen, and only Moses entered the cloud.

He himself became invisible when he penetrated the ineffable mystery of the Divinity and was in communion with the Invisible One.”

The appearance of God begins with light, and Moses had once seen God in His radiance in the Burning Bush. Now, having become closer to perfection, he saw God in a cloud and, sheltered by a cloud, he participated in eternal life.

In Gregory’s interpretation the first steps away from the path of error are light. A closer examination of that which is hidden leads into a cloud, which replaces visible things.

Finally the soul enters the innermost sanctuary of the knowledge of God “which is enveloped on all sides by the divine cloud. Everything that can be seen and comprehended remains outside, and all that is left for the vision of the soul is that which is invisible and incomprehensible. In this cloud is God.”

The Divinity is “beyond the reach of the understanding.” As man ascends, the “inaccessible nature of Divinity” gradually becomes revealed to him and reason sees God in “the invisible and incomprehensible,” in “a radiant cloud.”

Even when it reaches this cloud the soul realizes that it is as far from perfection as if it had never set out. According to Gregory, it is exactly this that is the highest truth of all.

Our true knowledge is that we do not and cannot know because that which we seek is beyond our cognition. By its very nature the Divinity is higher than knowledge and comprehension.

The first principle of theology must be that God is inaccessible. That which can be contemplated cannot be conceptually expressed.

Whoever claims that God can be known merely shows that he has abandoned the One Who truly exists in favor of something which exists only in the imagination and which does not contain true life, for this life cannot be expressed by concepts.

Georges Florovsky (1893-1979; Eastern Orthodox): “St Gregory of Nyssa” in The Eastern Fathers of the Fourth Century.

Nikolai Velimirovich: “My Son, Give Me Your Heart” Friday, Jun 7 2013 

Nikolai Velimirovich“With closest custody, guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

In the heart is the will, in the heart is love, in the heart is understanding, in the heart is the face of the All-holy and Divine Trinity.

The heart is the home of the Father, the altar of the Son and the workshop of the Holy Spirit.

God wants the heart: “My Son, give me your heart” (Proverbs: 23:26).

Let the mountains be overturned, let the seas dry up,

let your friends abandon you, let your wealth fail you,

let your body be consumed by worms,

let the world pour upon you all the ridicule which it has but be not afraid.

Only guard your heart, guard and affix it to the Lord and give it to the Lord.

From the heart comes life. From where does life in the heart come if the breath of the Lord and Source of Life, God, does not dwell in it?

“A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things” (St. Matthew 12:35).

These are the words of the Lord Who fills the treasury of your heart with His riches.

What is that “good man?” That is the good treasure of the heart.

What is that “evil man?” That is the evil treasure of the heart.

“For out of the heart [of an evil man] proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (St. Matthew 15:19).

And from the good heart proceeds “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Do you see how great a warehouse is the heart of man? Do you see what all can fit in the heart of man?

O brother, God the Holy Spirit Himself, when it pleases Him, can fit in the heart of man.

Not only can He, but He will. He only waits for you to prepare your heart for Him;

to convert it into a temple, for God the Holy Spirit only dwells in a temple.

Just as a serpent protects its head so you, also son, guard your heart.

Above everything that is guarded, son, guard your heart!

For in the heart enters life and from it proceeds life, life which is from the Living God.

O Life-giving Lord, help us to guard our heart for You, for You the Lord!

Nikolai Velimirovich (1880-1956; Orthodox Church): Prologue from Ohrid, June 6th.

Hilary of Poitiers: We Receive the Spirit of Truth so that We can Know the Things of God Saturday, May 18 2013 

St_Hilary_of_Poitiers_cassienOur Lord has described the purpose of the Spirit’s presence in us. Let us listen to his words:

I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. It is to your advantage that I go away; if I go, I will send you the Advocate.

And also: I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth. He will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine.

From among many of our Lord’s sayings, these have been chosen to guide our understanding, for they reveal to us the intention of the giver, the nature of the gift and the condition for its reception.

Since our weak minds cannot comprehend the Father or the Son, we have been given the Holy Spirit as our intermediary and advocate, to shed light on that hard doctrine of our faith, the incarnation of God.

We receive the Spirit of truth so that we can know the things of God. In order to grasp this, consider how useless the faculties of the human body would become if they were denied their exercise.

Our eyes cannot fulfil their task without light, either natural or artificial; our ears cannot react without sound vibrations, and in the absence of any odor our nostrils are ignorant of their function.

Not that these senses would lose their own nature if they were not used; rather, they demand objects of experience in order to function. It is the same with the human soul. Unless it absorbs the gift of the Spirit through faith, the mind has the ability to know God but lacks the light necessary for that knowledge.

This unique gift which is in Christ is offered in its fullness to everyone. It is everywhere available, but it is given to each man in proportion to his readiness to receive it. Its presence is the fuller, the greater a man’s desire to be worthy of it.

This gift will remain with us until the end of the world, and will be our comfort in the time of waiting. By the favors it bestows, it is the pledge of our hope for the future, the light of our minds, and the splendor that irradiates our understanding.

Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-368): De Trinitate 2, 1, 33.35, from the Office of Readings for Friday of the 7th week of Easter @ Crossroads Initiative.

Anselm of Canterbury: With an Unwearying Love Thou Shouldst be Mindful of God Monday, Apr 22 2013 

Anselm_of_Canterbury,_sealAwake, my soul, awake! show thy spirit, arouse thy senses, shake off the sluggishness of that deadly heaviness that is upon thee, begin to take care for thy salvation.

Let the idleness of vain imaginations be put to flight, let go of sloth, hold fast to diligence.

Be instant in holy meditations, cleave to the good things which are of God: leaving that which is temporal, give heed to that which is eternal.

Now in this godly employment of thy mind, to what canst thou turn thy thoughts more wholesomely and profitably than to the sweet contemplations of thy Creator’s immeasurable benefits toward thee.

Consider therefore the greatness and dignity that He bestowed upon thee at the beginning of thy creation; and judge for thyself with what love and reverence He ought to be worshipped.

For when, as He was creating and ordering the whole world of things visible and invisible, He had determined to create the nature of man, He took high counsel concerning the dignity of thy condition, forasmuch as He determined to honour thee more highly than all other creatures that are in the world.

Behold therefore to what greatness thou wast created, and again consider what manner of love thou oughtest to render therefore.

Let Us make man, saith God, in Our image, after Our likeness.

If thou art not aroused by this word of thy Creator, if thou art not at so unspeakable a goodness of condescension in Him towards thee, set all on fire of love towards Him, if thy whole heart is not inflamed with longing after Him, what shall I say? Shall I count thee asleep, or rather dead?

[…] God if, considering that He is good, we study to be good; if, knowing that He is righteous, we endeavour to be righteous; if, beholding His mercy, we give ourselves to mercy.

But how can we be in His image. Hearken. God is mindful of Himself, understandeth Himself, loveth Himself.

And thou too, if thou after thy measure art mindful of God, understandest God, lovest God, then wilt thou be in His image; for thou wilt be striving to do that which God ever doth.

Man ought to make this the end of all his life, to be mindful of the Chief Good, to understand it and to love it; to this should every thought, every motion of the heart be bent, be whetted, be conformed:

that with an unwearying love thou shouldst be mindful of God, understand God, love God, and so for thy health set forth the dignity of thy creation, wherein thou wast created after the image of God.

Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109): Meditations, 1,1. 

Augustine of Hippo: The Incarnate Son of God Makes Sons of Men the Sons of God Saturday, Jan 5 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaBeing rich, he became poor for our sake so that by his poverty we might become rich.

When he assumed our mortality and overcame death he manifested himself in poverty: his poverty was not a sign of riches lost but a promise of riches to come later.

[…] Until what is being prepared arrives, we can understand only in part.

To make us worthy of this perfect gift, he, equal to the Father in the form of God, became like us in the form of a servant, and he re-forms us to be like God.

The only Son of God, having become the son of Man, makes many sons of men the sons of God.

Taking on the form of a servant, he takes those who were born and brought up as servants and gives them the freedom of seeing the face of God.

For we are the children of God, and what we shall become has not yet appeared. We know that, when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

What, then, are those treasures of wisdom and knowledge? What are those divine riches unless they are what is sufficient for us?

What is that multitude of delights unless it is what fills us? Show us the Father and it is sufficient enough for us.

But he and the Father are one, and whoever sees him sees the Father also…; he will show us his face and we shall be saved; we shall be filled, and he will be sufficient for us.

[…] Until this comes to pass, until he gives us the sight of what will completely satisfy us, until we drink our fill of him, the fountain of life — while we wander about, apart from him but strong in faith, while we hunger and thirst for justice, longing with a desire too deep for words for the beautiful vision of God — let us fervently and devotedly celebrate the anniversary of his birth in the form of a servant.

We cannot yet contemplate the fact that he was begotten by the Father before the dawn, so let us hold on to the fact that he was born of the Virgin in the night.

We do not yet understand how his name endures before the sun, so let us acknowledge his tabernacle placed in the sun.

Since we do not, as yet, gaze upon the Only Son inseparably united with His Father, let us remember the Bridegroom coming out of his bride-chamber.

Since we are not yet ready for the banquet of our Father, let us acknowledge the manger of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Sermon 194, 3-4; from the Office of Readings for January 5th @ Universalis.

Ambrose of Milan: The Lord Enlightens His Saints and Makes His Light Shine in the Hearts of the Just Saturday, Mar 17 2012 

Let your face shine on your servant, and teach me your precepts.

The Lord enlightens his saints and makes his light shine in the hearts of the just.

This means that when you see wisdom in anyone you can be sure that the glory of God has come down and flooded that person’s mind with the light of understanding and knowledge of divine truth.

With Moses, God’s glory affected his body also, causing his face to shine.

Indeed, his countenance was so transfigured that…he was obliged to cover his face with a veil so that the children of Israel should not be alarmed at the sight of it.

[…] As long as Moses lived, he wore a veil over his face whenever he spoke to the Jewish people. But after his death Jesus, or Joshua, the son of Nun, spoke to the elders and the people without a veil.

[…] The Holy Spirit signified that when Jesus, the true Joshua, came, he would lift the veil from the heart of anyone who turned to him in willingness to listen, and that person would then see his true Saviour with unveiled face.

So it was that, through the coming of his Son, God the almighty Father made his light shine into the hearts of the Gentiles, bringing them to see his glory in the face of Christ Jesus.

This is clearly stated in the Apostle’s letter, where we find the following written: The God who commanded light to shine out of darkness has made his light shine in our hearts, to enlighten us with the knowledge of God’s glory shining in the face of Christ Jesus.

And so when David says to the Lord Jesus: Let your face shine upon your servant, he is expressing his longing to see the face of Christ, so that his mind may be capable of enlightenment.

These words can be taken as referring to the incarnation, for as the Lord himself declared: Many prophets and righteous men have desired to have this vision.

David was not asking for what had been denied to Moses, namely that he might see the face of the incorporeal God with his bodily eyes.

(And yet if Moses…could ask for this direct, unmediated vision, it was because it is inherent in our human nature for our desire to reach out beyond us.)

There was nothing wrong, therefore, in David’s desire to see the face of the Virgin’s Son who was to come.

He desired it in order that God’s light might shine in his heart, as it shone in the hearts of the disciples who said: Were not our hearts burning within us when he opened up the Scriptures to us?

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Psalm 118, 17:26-29 (CSEL 62:390-392);  from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent, Year 2.

Bonaventure: The Lord’s Prayer and the Gifts of the Spirit Tuesday, Jul 19 2011 

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are touched upon in the Lord’s Prayer.

Those gifts are not had except from the Father of lights. For that reason Christ, wanting to teach us in what manner we can obtain them, teaches us to ask for them in the Lord’s Prayer.

In the first part the gift of fear is asked for, when He says: Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.

Secondly piety is asked for, when He says: May Thy Kingdom come.

Third the gift of knowledge is asked for, when He says: Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Fourth the gift of fortitude is asked for, when He says: Give us this day our daily bread. Bread strengthens the heart of a man.

Fifth the gift of counsel is asked for, when He says: And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.

Sixth the gift of understanding is asked for, when He says: And put us not to the test.

Seventh the gift of wisdom is asked for, when He says: But free us from evil. Amen.

In the first our sanctification is asked for, and this through the gift of fear, when He says, Our Father, who art in Heaven; hallowed be Thy Name.

Isaiah says: Hallow the Lord of Hosts, He is both thy trembling and they fear.

In the second the consummation of human salvation is asked for, which is not had except through the gift of piety; let there be judgment without mercy for him who has not worked mercy.

That gift is touched upon, when He says: Thy Kingdom come.

In the third part the fulfillment of the divine law is asked for through the gift of knowledge, because it teaches how to ask well and avoid evils.

This gift is touched upon, when He says: Thy will be done etc..

In the fourth part the reheating of eternal virtue is asked for, and through this the gift of virtue or of fortitude, when He says: Give us this day our daily bread. For Bread strengthens the heart of a man.

In the fifth the remission of sins is asked for through the gift of counsel, when He says: And forgive us our debts, as etc..

In the sixth petition the warding off of hostile deceit is asked for through the gift of understanding, when He says: And put us not to the test.

In the seventh petition the subjugation of carnal concupiscence is asked for through the gift of wisdom, when He says: But free us from evil. Amen.

It is impossible, that the soul tame its flesh, unless it be filled full with the gift of wisdom.

Bonaventure of Bagnorea (1221-1274): Conferences on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Cap. 2,3-4.

John of the Cross: The Dazzling Power of Desire Saturday, Jul 16 2011 

The soul that is clouded by the desires is darkened in the understanding, and allows neither the sun of natural reason nor that of the supernatural Wisdom of God to shine upon it and illumine it clearly.

[…] And, at this same time, when the soul is darkened in the understanding, it is benumbed also in the will, and the memory becomes dull and disordered in its due operation.

For, as these faculties in their operations depend upon the understanding, it is clear that, when the understanding is impeded, they will become disordered and troubled.

And thus David says: “My soul is sorely troubled”. Which is as much as to say, “disordered in its faculties.”

For, as we say, the understanding has no more capacity for receiving enlightenment from the wisdom of God than has the air, when it is dark, for receiving enlightenment from the sun.

Neither has the will any power to embrace God within itself in pure love, even as the mirror that is clouded with vapour has no power to reflect clearly within itself any visage.

And even less power has the memory, which is clouded by the darkness of desire, to take clearly upon itself the form of the image of God, just as the muddled water cannot show forth clearly the visage of one that looks at himself therein.

Desire blinds and darkens the soul; for desire, as such, is blind, since of itself it has no understanding in itself, the reason being to it always, as it were, a child leading a blind man.

And hence it comes to pass that, whensoever the soul is guided by its desire, it becomes blind; for this is as if one that sees were guided by one that sees not, which is, as it were, for both to be blind.

[…] And even so we may say that one who feeds upon desire is like a fish that is dazzled, upon which the light acts rather as darkness, preventing it from seeing the snares which the fishermen are preparing for it.

[…] And it is this that desire does to the soul, enkindling its concupiscence and dazzling its understanding so that it cannot see its light.

For the cause of its being thus dazzled is that when another light of a different kind is set before the eye, the visual faculty is attracted by that which is interposed so that it sees not the other.

And, as the desire is set so near to the soul as to be within the soul itself, the soul meets this first light and is attracted by it.

And thus it is unable to see the light of clear understanding, neither will see it until the dazzling power of desire is taken away from it.

John of the Cross (1542-1591): Ascent of Mount Carmel, 1, 8, 1-3.

Augustine of Hippo: It is the Work of the Spirit to Implant Love and Charity in Human Hearts Friday, Jun 3 2011 

St Augustine of AfricaAnd this is the commandment of God, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and that we love one another.

[…] Nothing else is enjoined on us except the love of one another – whoever carries out his command­ment abides in God, and God in him.

And we can tell that we are dwelling in him by the Spirit he has given us. Is it not clear that it is the work of the Spirit to implant love and charity in human hearts?

Is it not clear that, in the words of the Apostle Paul, the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us?

[…] If our heart does not reproach us means: if our heart bears witness that love of our brothers is the source of any good work we do.

[…] Whoever carries out his commandment abides in God and God in him. And we can tell that we are dwelling in him by the Spirit he has given us.

If you find charity in yourself, you have the Spirit of God to give you understanding, a thing most necessary.

How can we know whether or not we have received the Holy Spirit? Let each one question his own heart.

If he loves his brothers then the Spirit of God dwells in him. Let him examine and test himself in God’s sight, to discover whether he harbours in his heart a love of peace and unity, a love of the Church as it extends throughout the length and breadth of the world.

Let him not look for love only of the brother who is present, for we have many whom we do not see, but with whom we are united in the Spirit.

There is nothing strange in that. They are not all here with us, but we all belong to the one Body and have a single Head in heaven.

So then, if you would know whether you have received the Spirit, ask your own heart: do you perhaps have the outward sign of the sacrament without the virtue of the sacrament?

Ask your heart: if the love of your brothers is there, you can be at peace.

There can be no love without the Holy Spirit, for Paul cries out to us: The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit he has given us.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): On 1 John 6, 9-10 (SC 75:296-300),  from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday of the Seventh Week of Easter, Year 1.

Macarius the Egyptian: The soul has inherited God in heaven, and He has inherited her upon earth Thursday, Feb 17 2011 

Macarius3When the soul is devoted to the Lord, and the Lord in mercy and love comes to her and is united with her, and when her intention thereafter remains continually in the grace of the Lord, then the soul and the Lord become one spirit, one unity, and one mind.

And though her body is prostrate on the earth, her mind lives wholly in the heavenly Jerusalem, mounting even to the third heaven, where it clings to the Lord and serves Him.

And He, while sitting on the throne of majesty on high, in the heavenly city, is wholly with the soul in her bodily existence.

For He has placed her image above, in Jerusalem, the heavenly city of the saints, and He has placed His own image, the image of the unspeakable light of his Godhead, in her body.

He ministers to her in the city of the body, while she ministers to Him in the heavenly city.

She has inherited Him in heaven, and He has inherited her upon earth.

The Lord becomes the soul’s inheritance, and the soul becomes the inheritance of the Lord.­

In heart and mind, sinners living in darkness can be far from the body, can live at a great distance from it; they can travel in a moment of time to remote lands, so that often, while the body lies stretched out upon the earth, the mind is in another country with its beloved, and sees itself as living there.

If then the soul of a sinner is so light and swift that his mind speeds without let or hindrance to far-away places, how much easier it must be for the soul from whom the veil of darkness has been lifted by the power of the Holy Spirit?

How much easier it must be for the soul whose mental eyes have been illuminated by heavenly light, who has been completely delivered from shameful passions and made pure by grace, to be at once wholly in heaven serving the Lord in Spirit, and wholly in the body serving Him?

The mental faculty of such a soul is so greatly expanded that she is present everywhere, and can serve Christ wherever and whenever she wishes.

[…] The Lord is found and revealed to the soul in knowledge, understanding, love and faith; He has placed in her intelligence, imagination, will, and reason to rule them.

He has given her the ability to come and go in a moment, and to serve Him in thought wherever the Spirit wills.

Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [this homily, like much of the Macarian corpus is generally attributed to the anonymous author known as Pseudo-Macarius]: Macarian Homilies 46.3-6 (PG 34:794-6); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday of the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time, Year I.

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