Denys the Areopagite: Before Everything, and Especially Theology, We Must Begin with Prayer Sunday, Feb 16 2014 

DionysiosLet us examine the all-perfect Name of Goodness, which is indicative of the whole progressions of Almighty God.

But first let us invoke the supremely good, and super-good Triad – the Name which indicates Its whole best Providences.

For, we must first be raised up to It, as Source of good, by our prayers; and by a nearer approach to It, be initiated as to the all good gifts which are established around It.

For It is indeed present to all, but all are not present to It.

But then, when we have invoked It, by all pure prayers and unpolluted mind, and by our aptitude towards Divine Union, we also are present to It.

For, It is not in a place, so that It should be absent from a particular place, or should pass from one to another.

But even the statement that It is in all existing beings, falls short of Its infinitude (which is) above all, and embracing all.

Let us then elevate our very selves by our prayers to the higher ascent of the Divine and good rays.

For it is as if a luminous chain were suspended from the celestial heights, reaching down hither, and we, by ever clutching this upwards, first with one hand, and then with the other, seem indeed to draw it down.

But, in reality we do not draw it down, it being both above and below, but ourselves are carried upwards to the higher splendours of the luminous rays.

Or it is as if, after we have embarked on a ship, and are holding on to the cables reaching from some rock, such as are given out, as it were, for us to seize, we do not draw the rock to us, but ourselves, in fact, and the ship, to the rock.

Or to take another example, if any one standing on the ship pushes away the rock by the sea shore, he will do nothing to the stationary and unmoved rock, but he separates himself from it, and in proportion as he pushes that away, he is so far hurled from it.

Wherefore, before everything, and especially theology, we must begin with prayer, not as though we ourselves were drawing the power, which is everywhere and nowhere present, but as, by our godly reminiscences and invocations, conducting ourselves to, and making ourselves one with, it.

Denys the Areopagite (late 5th-early 6th century?): On the Divine Names 3, 1.

Cyril of Alexandria: Partakers in the Divine Nature through Communion with the Holy Spirit Thursday, May 9 2013 

cyril_alexandriaThe Son…brought Himself as a Victim and holy Sacrifice to God the Father, reconciling the world unto Himself, and bringing into kinship with Him that which had fallen away, that is, the race of man.

[…] Indeed, our reconciliation to God could not have been accomplished through Christ who saves us except by communion in the Spirit and sanctification.

For that which knits us together, and, as it were, unites us with God, is the Holy Spirit.

If we receive the Spirit, we are proved sharers and partakers in the divine nature, and we admit the Father Himself into our hearts, through the Son and in the Son.

Further, the wise John writes for us concerning Him: Hereby know we that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 

And what does Paul also say? And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 

For if we had chanced to remain without partaking of the Spirit, we could never at all have known that God was in us.

And, if we had not been enriched with the Spirit that puts us into the rank of sons, we should never have been at all the sons of God.

How, then, should we…have been shown to be partakers in divine nature unless God had been in us, and unless we been joined to Him through having been called to communion with the Spirit?

But now are we both partakers and sharers in the divine substance that transcends the universe, and are become temples of God.

For the Only-begotten sanctified Himself for our sins. That is, offered Himself up, and brought Himself as a holy sacrifice for a sweet-smelling savour to God the Father.

He did this in order that, while He as God came between and hedged off and built a wall of partition between human nature and sin.

This was so that nothing might hinder our being able to have access to God, and to have close fellowship with Him through communion – that is, with the Holy Spirit moulding us anew to righteousness and sanctification and the original likeness of man.

For if sin sunders and dissevers man from God, surely righteousness will be a bond of union, and will somehow set us by the side of God Himself, with nothing to part us.

We have been justified through faith in Christ, Who was delivered up for our trespasses, according to the Scripture, and was raised for our justification. 

For in Him, as in the first-fruits of the race, the nature of man was wholly reformed into newness of life, and ascending, as it were, to its own first beginning, was moulded anew into sanctification.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St John’s Gospel, book 11, c.10 [on John 17:18-19].

Gregory of Nyssa: The Kingdom of Heaven Within Us – the Joy which the Spirit Instils into Our Souls Monday, Oct 22 2012 

In speaking about the different virtues, we cannot say that one is better than the rest, or that we should pursue them in order of merit.

For in fact they are of equal importance with one another, and linked together they lead those who practice them to the height of perfection.

Sincerity leads to obedience, obedience in turn to faith, and faith to hope, hope to righteousness, righteousness to service, and service to humility.

From humility we learn gentleness which leads to joy, as joy leads to love, and love to prayer.

Thus bound to one another and binding their zealous follower, the virtues lead him to the very height of his desires, just as the various forms of wickedness lead those attached to them down the oppo­site way to the utmost depths of evil.

But we must above all devote ourselves to prayer; for prayer is like a choir-leader in the choir of virtues, by means of which we ask God for the virtues we still lack.

Devotion to prayer unites the Christian to God in the communion of a mystic sanctity, in a spiritual possession and a disposition of the soul that no words can describe.

With the Spirit then to guide and help him, his love for the Lord like a bright flame, he prays unceasingly in ardent desire, always burning with love for the divine good and refreshing his soul with renewed zeal.

As Scripture says: Those who eat me will hunger for more, and those who drink me will thirst for more; and elsewhere: You have filled my heart with gladness.

So too the Lord says: The kingdom of heaven is within you.

By the kingdom within us he certainly means that joy which the Spirit instils into our souls from above, as an image and a pledge, reflecting the eternal joy which the souls of the faithful possess in the life to come.

So the Lord comforts us in all our afflictions through the working of the Spirit, to keep us safe and to grant us a share of spiritual gifts and of his own special grace.

He comforts us in all our troubles, says the Apostle, so that we may be able to comfort others in their distress.

And the psalmist says: My whole being cries out with joy to the living God; and: My soul is richly feasted, indicating in all such symbolic sayings the joy and comfort that come from the Spirit.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): The Christian Way of Life, II (Jaeger VIII, 77-79); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Wednesday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2

Gregory of Nyssa: The Word Unites Humanity to God Methodically, Step by Step Thursday, Dec 29 2011 

How should we interpret the words, Behold he comes, leaping over the mountains (Song of Songs 2:8)?

Perhaps they foresee the divine plan, spoken of in the Gospel and foretold by the prophets, whereby the Word of God became visible to us by his coming in the flesh.

See, there he stands, looking through the windows, peeping through the lattices (2:9).

The Word unites humanity to God methodically, step by step.

First he enlightens us through the prophets and the precepts of the law; for we take the prophets to be the windows admitting the light and the network of the law’s commands to be the lattice.

Through both of these steals the brilliance of the true light.

Afterward comes the full illumination when by union with our nature the true light shines upon those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

First the light of the ideas contained in the prophets and the law shines upon the soul through windows and lattices apprehended by our minds, filling it with a desire to see the sun in the open air. Then the desire is fulfilled.

Rise up my companion, my fair one, my dove, and come (2:10). How much the Word teaches us in these few words!

We watch him leading the bride to the heights along the ascending path of virtue, as though up a flight of steps.

First he sends her a ray of light through the windows which are the prophets and the lattice which is the precepts of the law, calling her to approach the light and to become beautiful as she takes on in the light the form of a dove.

Then when she has taken on as much of the divine beauty as she can, as though she had not yet received any part in it, he draws her once again from the beginning toward the supreme Beauty in which she is to share.

As a result her desire becomes more intense the further she advances toward what is continually being revealed to her.

Moreover, because of the surpassing greatness of the blessings she is always receiving by his grace who surpasses all, she seems to be making the journey for the first time.

And so, after she has risen the Word again says ‘Rise’ and after she has come he says ‘Come’.

One who has thus risen never lacks the opportunity to rise further and one who is running toward the Lord never reaches the end of the space available for the divine race.

We should always be rising and those whom the race is bringing close to the goal should never stop.

Each time the Word says ‘Rise’ and ‘Come’ he gives the power to ascend to still loftier heights.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): Homily 5 on the Song of Songs (Jaeger 6, 140-159); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for December 31st, Year 2

Symeon the New Theologian: The resurrection of the soul is union with Life Wednesday, May 4 2011 

Let us look and carefully examine what is the mystery of that Resurrection of Christ our God that occurs mystically in us at all times, if we are willing.

Let us examine how Christ is buried in us as in a sepulchre and how He unites Himself to our souls and rises again, raising us with Himself….

Christ our God was suspended on the Cross and, having nailed thereto the sin of the world and having tasted death, He descended into the nethermost depths of Hades.

He returned from Hades into His own immaculate body, from which His Divinity had in no way been separated as He descended thither, and at once He rose from the dead.

Thereafter, He ascended to Heaven with great glory and power.

In just the same way, since we have now come out of the world and entered into the tomb of repentance and humiliation by being assimilated to the sufferings of the Lord, He Himself comes down from Heaven and enters into our body as into a grave.

He unites Himself to our souls and raises them up, though they were avowedly dead, and then vouchsafes to him who has thus been raised with Christ to behold the glory of His mystical Resurrection.

Christ’s Resurrection is thus our resurrection, the resurrection of us who lie prostrate in sin.

He who has never fallen into sin, as it is written, nor suffered any alteration in His own glory, how will He ever be raised up or glorified, since He is always supremely glorified and remains the same, “far above every principality and authority”?

As has been said, Christ’s Resurrection and His glory are our glory, which is accomplished in us, disclosed to us, and beheld by us through His Resurrection.

Once He has appropriated what is ours, that which He works in us He ascribes to Himself.

The resurrection of the soul is union with life.

Just as the body is dead and cannot live or be called alive unless it receives the living soul in itself and is united to it, though without admixture, so also the soul cannot live unless it is ineffably and unconfusedly united to God, Who is truly eternal Life.

Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022 AD) @ Monks and Mermaids.

John Tauler: “When the Spirit Looks Within, to the Spirit of God, from the Ground of the Heart” Saturday, Apr 16 2011 

St Thomas Aquinas says this: “Great external works, however great they may be, inasmuch as they are works, have their own reward.

But when the Spirit looks within, to the Spirit of God, from the ground of the heart,

where man, empty and bare of all works, seeks God only,

far above all thoughts, works and reason,

it is truly a thorough conversion, which will ever be met with a corresponding reward,

and God will be with him.”

Another conversion may take place in an ordinary external way, whenever man turns to God,

thinking wholly and entirely of Him,

and of nothing else but of God for Himself and in Himself.

But the first turning is in an inner, undefined, unknown presence,

in an immaterial entrance of the created spirit into the uncreated Spirit of God.

If a man could only once in his life thus turn to God, it would be well for him.

Those men whose God is so powerful, and Who has been so faithful to them in all their distress, will be answered by God with Himself.

He draws them so mysteriously unto Himself and His own blessedness;

their spirits are so lovingly attracted, while they are at the same time so filled and transfused with the Godhead, that they lose all their diversity in the Unity of the Godhead.

These are they to whom God makes their work here on earth a delight;

so that they have a real foretaste of that which they will enjoy forever.

These are they on whom the Holy Christian Church rests;

and, if they did not form part of Christianity, Christianity could no longer exist;

for their mere existence, what they are, is infinitely worthier and more useful than all the doings of the world.

These are they of whom our Lord has said:

“He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of Mine eye.”

Therefore, take heed that ye do them no wrong. May God help us.

John Tauler (c.1300-1361): Sermon on the Feast of St John the Baptist.

Gregory Palamas: Mystery of the Transfiguration Sunday, Mar 20 2011 

The Evangelist Luke says: “And as He prayed, His countenance was altered” (Lk 9:29); and from the Evangelist Matthew we read: “And His face shone as the sun” (Mt 17:2).

The Evangelist said this…to show that Christ-God, for those living and contemplating by the Spirit, is the same as the sun is for those living in the flesh and contemplating by the senses.

Therefore, some other Light for the knowing the Divinity is not necessary for those who are enriched by Divine gifts.

That same Inscrutable Light shone and was mysteriously manifest to the Apostles and the foremost of the Prophets at that moment, when the Lord was praying.

This shows that what brought forth this blessed sight was prayer, and that the radiance occurred and was manifest by uniting the mind with God.

And it shows that it is granted to all who, with constant exercise in efforts of virtue and prayer, strive with their mind towards God.

True beauty, essentially, can be contemplated only with a purified mind.

To gaze upon its luminance assumes a sort of participation in it, as though some bright ray etches itself upon the face.

Even the face of Moses was illumined by his association with God. Do you not know that Moses was transfigured when he went up the mountain, and there beheld the Glory of God?

Moses did not effect this, but rather he underwent a transfiguration. However, our Lord Jesus Christ possessed that Light Himself….

Christ did not need prayer for His flesh to radiate with the Divine Light; it was but to show from whence that Light descends upon the saints of God, and how to contemplate it.

For it is written that even the saints “will shine forth like the sun” (Mt 13:43), which is to say, entirely permeated by Divine Light as they gaze upon Christ, divinely and inexpressibly shining forth His Radiance, issuing from His Divine Nature.

[…] This Light was the Light of the Divine Nature, and as such, it was Uncreated and Divine.

So also, in the teachings of the Fathers, Jesus Christ was transfigured on the Mount, not taking upon Himself something new nor being changed into something new, nor something which formerly He did not possess.

[…] This Light is not a light of the senses, and those contemplating it do not simply see with sensual eyes, but rather they are changed by the power of the Divine Spirit.

They were transformed, and only in this way did they see the transformation taking place amidst the very assumption of our perishability, with deification through union with the Word of God in place of this.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): extracted from Homilly on the Transfiguration (from the translation at Pravoslavie.ru).

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.

John Damascene: Cleansed and Incorruptible, Partakers of His Divinity Tuesday, Oct 26 2010 

Man, however, being endowed with reason and free will, received the power of continuous union with God through his own choice – if, indeed, he should abide in goodness, that is, in obedience to his Maker.

However, man transgressed the command of his Creator and became liable to death and corruption.

Therefore the Creator and Maker of our race, because of His bowels of compassion, took on our likeness, becoming man in all things but without sin, and was united to our nature (Heb. 2:17).

For since He bestowed on us His own image and His own spirit and we did not keep them safe, He took Himself a share in our poor and weak nature, in order that He might cleanse us and make us incorruptible, and establish us once more as partakers of His divinity.

[…] Through His birth, that is, His incarnation, and baptism and passion and resurrection, He delivered our nature from the sin of our first parent and death and corruption.

He became the first-fruits of the resurrection, and made Himself the way and image and pattern, in order that we, too, following in His footsteps, may become by adoption what He is Himself by nature (Rom. 7:17) – sons and heirs of God and joint heirs with Him.

We who are born of Adam are in his image and are the heirs of the curse and corruption.

Therefore Christ gave us a second birth in order that, being born of Him, we may be in His likeness, and may be heirs of His incorruption and blessing and glory.

[…] The bread itself and the wine are changed into God’s body and blood.

If you enquire how this happens, it is enough for you to learn that it was through the Holy Spirit, just as the Lord took on Himself flesh that subsisted in Him and was born of the holy Mother of God through the Spirit.

And we know nothing further save that the Word of God is true and energises and is omnipotent, but the manner of this cannot be searched out.

[…] The bread of the table and the wine and water are supernaturally changed by the invocation and presence of the Holy Spirit into the body and blood of Christ, and are not two but one and the same.

Wherefore to those who partake worthily with faith, it is for the remission of sins and for life everlasting and for the safeguarding of soul and body. But to those who partake unworthily without faith, it is for chastisement and punishment.

The death of the Lord became to those who believe life and incorruption for the enjoyment of eternal blessedness.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 4, 13.

Gregory of Nyssa: Receiving the Glory of the Spirit Saturday, May 22 2010 

When love has entirely cast out fear, and fear has been transformed into love, then the unity brought us by our Savior will be fully realized, for all men will be united with one another through their union with the one supreme Good.

[…] Our Lord’s words in the gospel bring out the meaning of this text more clearly.

After having conferred all power on his disciples by his blessing, he obtained many other gifts for them by his prayer to the Father.

Among these was included the greatest gift of all, which was that they were no longer to be divided in their judgement of what was right and good, for they were all to be united to the one supreme Good.

As the Apostle says, they were to be bound together with the bonds of peace in the unity that comes from the Holy Spirit.

They were to be made one body and one spirit by the one hope to which they were all called.

We shall do better, however, to quote the sacred words of the gospel itself:

“I pray”, the Lord says, “that they all may be one; that as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, so they also may be one in us”.

Now the bond that creates this unity is glory.

That the Holy Spirit is called glory no one can deny if he thinks carefully about the Lord’s words: The glory you gave to me, I have given to them.

In fact, he gave this glory to his disciples when he said to them: Receive the Holy Spirit.

Although he had always possessed it, even before the world existed, he himself received this glory when he put on human nature.

Then, when his human nature had been glorified by the Spirit, the glory of the Spirit was passed on to all his kin, beginning with his disciples.

This is why he said: “The glory you gave to me, I have given to them, so that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, I want them to be perfectly one”.

Whoever has grown from infancy to manhood and attained to spiritual maturity possesses the mastery over his passions and the purity that makes it possible for him to receive the glory of the Spirit.

He is that perfect dove upon whom the eyes of the bridegroom rest when he says: One alone is my dove, my perfect one.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): Commentary on the Song of Songs 15, from the Office of Readings for Sunday of the Seventh Week of Easter @ Crossroads Initiative.

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