John Damascene: Hail! O Christ, the Word and Wisdom and Power of God, and God omnipotent! Friday, Jun 3 2016 

John-of-Damascus_01Continued from here….

The worship of demons then has ceased;

creation has been sanctified by the divine blood;

altars and temples of idols have been overthrown;

the knowledge of God has been implanted in men’s minds;

the co-essential Trinity, the uncreate divinity, one true God, Creator and Lord of all receives men’s service;

virtues are cultivated, the hope of resurrection has been granted through the resurrection of Christ;

the demons shudder at those men who of old were under their subjection.

And the marvel, indeed, is that all this has been successfully brought about through His Cross and passion and death.

Throughout all the earth the Gospel of the knowledge of God has been preached; no wars or weapons or armies being used to rout the enemy, but only a few, naked, poor, illiterate, persecuted and tormented men.

With their lives in their hands, they preached Him Who was crucified in the flesh and died, and who became victors over the wise and powerful.

For the omnipotent power of the Cross accompanied them.

Death itself, which once was man’s chiefest terror, has been overthrown, and now that which was once the object of hate and loathing is preferred to life.

These are the achievements of Christ’s presence: these are the tokens of His power.

For it was not one people that He saved, as when through Moses He divided the sea and delivered Israel out of Egypt and the bondage of Pharaoh (Ex. 14:16);

nay, rather He rescued all mankind from the corruption of death and the bitter tyranny of sin: not leading them by force to virtue, not overwhelming them with earth or burning them with fire, or ordering the sinners to be stoned, but persuading men by gentleness and long-suffering to choose virtue and vie with one another, and find pleasure in the struggle to attain it.

For, formerly, it was sinners who were persecuted, and yet they clung all the closer to sin, and sin was looked upon by them as their God. But now for the sake of piety and virtue men choose persecutions and crucifixions and death.

Hail! O Christ, the Word and Wisdom and Power of God, and God omnipotent! What can we helpless ones give Thee in return for all these good gifts?

For all are Thine, and Thou askest naught from us save our salvation, Thou Who Thyself art the Giver of this, and yet art grateful to those who receive it, through Thy unspeakable goodness.

Thanks be to Thee Who gave us life, and granted us the grace of a happy life, and restored us to that, when we had gone astray, through Thy unspeakable condescension.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 4,4 [slightly adapted].

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Gregory of Nyssa: Now the mystery of Christ’s death is fulfilled, victory is won, and the Cross, the sign of triumph, is raised on high Saturday, May 7 2016 

Gregory_of_NyssaOn Psalm 23 [24].

The Gospel describes the Lord’s life upon earth and his return to heaven.

But the sublime prophet David, as though unencum­bered by the weight of his body, rose above himself to mingle with the heavenly powers and record for us their words as they accompanied the Master when he came down from heaven.

Ordering the angels on earth entrusted with the care of human life to raise the gates, they cried: Lift up your gates, you princes; be lifted up you everlasting doors. Let the King of glory enter.

But because wherever he is, he who contains all things in himself makes himself like those who receive him, not only becoming a man among men, but also when among angels conforming his nature to theirs, the gatekeepers asked: Who is this King of glory?

He is the strong one, they were told, mighty in battle, the one who is to grapple with and overthrow the captor of the human race who has the power of death. When this last enemy has been destroyed, he will restore us to freedom and peace.

Now the mystery of Christ’s death is fulfilled, victory is won, and the Cross, the sign of triumph, is raised on high. He who gives us the noble gifts of life and a kingdom has ascended into heaven, leading captivity captive.

Therefore the same command is repeated. Once more the gates of heaven must open for him. Our guardian angels, who have now become his escorts, order them to be flung wide so that he may enter and regain his former glory.

But he is not recognized in the soiled garments of our life, in clothes reddened by the winepress of human sin. Again the escorting angels are asked: Who is this King of glory?

The answer is no longer, The strong one, mighty in battle, but, The lord of hosts, he who has gained power over the whole universe, who has recapitulated all things in himself who is above all things, who has restored all creation to its former state: He is the King of glory.

You see how much David has added to our joy in this feast and contributed to the gladness of the Church.

Therefore as far as we can let us imitate the prophet by our love for God, by gentleness and by patience with those who hate us. Let the prophet’s teaching help us to live in a way pleasing to God in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): On the Ascension (Jaeger 9.1.323-327); ); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Eastertide, Year 2.

Venantius Fortunatus: Sing, my tongue, of warfare ended Friday, Mar 25 2016 

Venantius_Fortunatus

Sing, my tongue, of warfare ended
Of the Victor’s laurelled crown;
Let the Cross, his trophy splendid,
Be the theme of high renown;
How a broken world was mended:
Life restored by life laid down.

God for man’s rebellion grieving,
When the world his hands had made
Perished by a fruit’s deceiving,
In that hour his counsel laid,
By a tree the race reprieving
Whom a tree long since betrayed.

Man’s eternal health contriving
Wrought he with unfailing art –
Wisdom ’gainst the wisdom striving
Of the tempter’s guileful heart;
From that source the balm deriving
Whence the foe had steeped his dart.

Therefore, when that hallowed hour
Time to its fulfillment brought,
From his Father’s heavenly tower
Came he, whom the worlds had wrought,
From his Mother’s secret bower,
Clothed in flesh, and welcome sought.

See a helpless Infant crying,
Whom a manger doth enfold;
See his Virgin Mother tying
Rags about him in the cold;
Bound both hand and feet, and lying
Mid the beasts, your God behold!

Now, his years of life perfected,
Our atonement’s price to be,
By the doom long since elected,
Bound and nailed to set us free,
Christ, our Victim, hangs rejected
On the Cross of Calvary.

Gall he drinks; his strength subduing,
Reed and thorn and nail and spear
Plot his gentle frame’s undoing;
Blood and water thence appear,
With their cleansing tide renewing
Earth and sea and starry sphere.

Hail, true Cross, of beauty rarest,
King of all the forest trees;
Leaf and flower and fruit thou barest,
Medicine for a world’s disease;
Fairest wood and fairest iron –
Yet more fair, Who hung on thee!

Bend thy branches down to meet him,
Bend that stubborn heart of thine;
Let thy native force, to greet him,
All its ruggedness resign;
Gently let thy wood entreat him,
Royal sufferer, and divine.

Victim of our race, he deignèd
On thy arms to lay his head;
Thou the ark, whose refuge gainèd,
Sinful man no more may dread;
Ark, whose planks are deeply stainèd
With the Blood the Lamb has shed.

Honor, glory, might and merit
To the eternal Trinity,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Throned in heaven co-equally;
All that doth the world inherit,
Praise one God in Persons Three.

Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus (c.530–c.600/609) Pange lingua gloriosi proelium certaminis  trans. Mons. Ronald Knox.

 

Cyril of Jerusalem: “I fear your power no longer, for Christ has overthrown it” Friday, Mar 18 2016 

Cyril-of-JerusalemOn that evening of your baptism you entered into the outer hall of the Baptistry, and there facing toward the west you heard the command to stretch forth your hand, and as in the presence of Satan, you renounced him.

This figure is found in ancient history. For when Pharaoh, that most cruel and ruthless tyrant, oppressed the free and royal people of the Hebrews, God sent Moses to bring them out of the evil grip of the Egyptians.

Then the doorposts were anointed with the blood of the lamb that the destroyer might flee from the houses which had the sign of the blood. And the Hebrew people were marvellously delivered.

The enemy, however, after their rescue, pursued them, and saw the sea wondrously parted for them. Nevertheless he went on, following in their footsteps and was all at once overwhelmed and engulfed in the Red Sea.

Now turn from the ancient to the recent, from the figure to the reality. There, we have Moses sent from God to Egypt; here, Christ sent by his Father into the world.

There, that Moses might lead forth an oppressed people out of Egypt; here, that Christ might rescue mankind who is over­whelmed with sins.

There, the blood of a lamb was the spell against the destroyer; here, the blood of the unblemished Lamb Jesus Christ is made the charm to scare evil spirits.

There, the tyrant pursued even to the sea that ancient people; and in like manner this daring and shameless spirit, the author of evil, followed you, even to the very streams of sal­vation. The tyrant of old was drowned in the sea; and this present one disappears in the saving water.

What then did each of you standing up say? “I renounce Satan”, meaning “I fear your power no longer, for Christ has overthrown it, having partaken with me of flesh and blood, that through these he might by death destroy death that I might not for ever be subject to bondage.

“I renounce you, you crafty and most subtle serpent. I renounce you, plotter as you are, who under the guise of friendship brought about disobe­dience and the apostasy of our first parents. I renounce you, Satan, the source of all wickedness.”

When you renounced Satan, utterly breaking all covenants with him, that ancient connection with hell, there is opened to you the paradise of God, which he planted toward the east, where for his transgression our first father was exiled.

Symbolic of this was your turning from the west to the east, the place of light. Then you were told to say: I believe in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit, and in one baptism ­of repentance.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechesis 19, On the Mysteries 1:1-4.9; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Monday of the Second Week in Lent, Year 2.

Gregory of Nyssa: The goal of our hope is that nothing contrary to the good is left, but the divine life permeates everything Saturday, Dec 12 2015 

Gregory_of_NyssaWhen all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).

What therefore does Paul teach us? It consists in saying that evil will come to nought and will be completely destroyed.

The divine, pure goodness will contain in itself every nature endowed with reason.

Nothing made by God is excluded from his kingdom once everything mixed with some elements of base material has been consumed by refinement in fire.

[…] Paul says…that the pure and undefiled divinity of the Only-Begotten Son assumed man’s mortal and perishable nature.

However, from the entirety of human nature to which the divinity is mixed, the man constituted according to Christ is a kind of first fruits of the common dough.

It is through this (divinized) man that all mankind is joined to the divinity.

Since every evil was obliterated in Christ – for he did not make sin – the prophet says, “No deceit was found in his mouth” (Is 53.9).

Evil was destroyed along with sin, as well as the death which resulted; for death is simply the result of sin.

Christ assumed from death both the beginning of evil’s destruction and the dissolution of death.

[…] After the man in Christ, who became the first fruits of our human nature, received in himself the divinity, He became the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep and the first horn from the dead once the pangs of death have been loosened.

So then, after this person has completely separated himself from sin and has utterly denied in himself the power of death and destroyed its lordship and authority and might…if anyone like Paul may be found who became a mighty imitator of Christ in his rejection of evil…such a person will fall in behind the first fruits at Christ’s coming (parousia).

[…] The goal of our hope is that nothing contrary to the good is left, but the divine life permeates everything. It completely destroys death, having earlier removed sin which, as it is said, held dominion over all mankind.

Therefore, every wicked authority and domination has been destroyed in us. No longer do any of our passions rule our (human) nature, since it is necessary that none of them dominate – all are subjected to the one who rules over all.

Subjection to God is complete alienation from evil. When we are removed from evil in imitation of the first fruits (Christ), our entire nature is mixed with this selfsame fruits.

One body has been formed with the good as predominant; our body’s entire nature is united to the divine, pure nature.

This is what we mean by the Son’s subjection – when, in his body, Christ rightly has the subjection – when, in his body, Christ rightly has the subjection brought to him, and he effects in us the grace of subjection.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): A Treatise on 1 Corinthians 15:28.

Basil the Great: “Sing unto Him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise” Wednesday, Aug 12 2015 

St-Basil-the-Great[Following on from here….]

‘Sing to the Lord a new canticle’ (Psalm 32:3). That is, not in the antiquity of written word, but in the newness of the spirit serve God.

He who understands the law not in a corporeal sense, but who becomes acquainted with its spiritual meaning is the one who sings the new canticle.

For, the ancient aged testament has passed and the new renewed canticle of the teaching of the Lord has succeeded, which revives our youth like an eagle, when we destroy the exterior man and are renewed day by day.

But, he who ‘strains forward to what is before’ (Phil. 3:13) always becomes newer than he was formerly. Therefore, becoming always newer than he was, he sings a newer canticle to God.

But according to custom, that is said to be newer which is admirable or which has recently come into existence. If, then, you relate the wondrous manner and the whole surpassing nature of the Incarnation of the Lord, you will sing a newer and an unusual canticle;

and, if you go on through the regeneration and renewal of the whole world which had grown old under its sin, and proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection, you thus sing a canticle both new and recent.

‘Sing well unto him with a loud noise’ (Ps. 32:3). Hear the command. ‘Sing well’ with unwavering mind, with sincere affection. ‘Sing with a loud noise.’

Like certain brave soldiers, after the victory against the enemy, pour forth hymns to the Author of the victory. ‘Take courage’ it is said, ‘I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).

What man is capable of fighting against the evil one, unless, fleeing to the protection of the power of our Commander in chief, by our faith in Him we smite our enemy and shoot him with arrows? Therefore, ‘sing well with a loud noise.’

But, the loud noise is a certain inarticulate sound, when those who are fighting side by side in a war shout out in unison with each other. Sing, then, in harmony and in agreement and in union through charity.

Now, what should those say who are singing? ‘That the word of the Lord is Right’ (Ps. 32:4).

Therefore, he first summons the righteous to praise, since the Word of the Lord is righteous and is destined to be glorified, who ‘was in the beginning with God and was God’ (John 1:1).  The Father, then, is righteous; the Son is righteous; the Holy Spirit is righteous.

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily 15 (on Psalm 32[33]), 2-3,  from Saint Basil: Exegetic Homilies, translated by Agnes Clare Way, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 46), pp. 230-231.

Cyril of Alexandria: “When He had called the twelve Apostles, He gave them power and authority over all the devils, and to heal sicknesses” Tuesday, Aug 4 2015 

cyril_alexandriaAnd when He had called the twelve Apostles, He gave them power and authority over all the devils, and to heal sicknesses (Luke 9:1).

Behold the Apostles, highly distinguished, and crowned with more than human glory, by this fresh gift bestowed by Christ.

“For He gave them,” it says, “power and authority over all the devils, and to heal sicknesses.”

Observe again, I pray, that the Incarnate Word of God exceeds the measure of humanity, and is radiant with the dignities of the Godhead.

For it transcends the limits of human nature, to give authority over unclean spirits to whomsoever He will: as does also the enabling them to deliver from sicknesses such as were afflicted with them.

For God, indeed, bestows on whom He will powers of this kind; and on His decree alone it depends that any are able, according to His good pleasure, to work divine miracles, and act as ministers of the grace that is from above: but to impart to others the gift bestowed on them, is altogether an impossibility.

For the majesty and glory of the supreme nature is found existing essentially in nothing that has being, except in Itself, and It only.

Be it, therefore, angel or archangel, that any one mentions, or thrones and dominions, or the seraphim, which again are higher in dignity, let him wisely understand this: that they indeed possess pre-eminent authority by the powers given them from above, such as language cannot describe, nor nature bestow; but reason altogether forbids the supposition of their imparting these powers to others.

But Christ bestows them, as being God therefore, and as out of His own fulness: for He is Himself the Lord of glory and of powers.

The grace then bestowed upon the holy Apostles is worthy of all admiration; but the bountifulness of the Giver surpasses all praise and admiration: for He gives them, as I said, His own glory.

Man receives authority over the evil spirits, and reduces unto nothingness the pride that was so high exalted, and arrogant, even that of the devil: his wickedness he renders ineffectual, and, by the might and efficacy of the Holy Ghost, burning him as with fire, he makes him come forth with groans and weeping from those whom he had possessed.

And yet in old time he [the devil] had said: “I will hold the whole world in my hand as a nest, and will take it as eggs that are left: and there is no one that shall escape from me, or speak against me.”

He missed, then, the truth, and fell from his hope, proud and audacious though he was, and vaunting himself over the infirmity of mankind. For the Lord of powers marshalled against him the ministers of the sacred proclamations.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on Luke, Sermon 47 (on Luke9:1ff).

Athanasius of Alexandria: Let us then sing unto the Lord a song of victory Sunday, Apr 26 2015 

AthanasiusThe patriarch [Abraham] was tried, through Isaac.

However it was not Isaac who was sacrificed (Gen. 22), but He who was pointed out in Isaiah:

‘He shall be led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers he shall be speechless’ (Is. 53:7).

[…] The death of Isaac did not procure freedom to the world, but that of our Saviour alone, by whose stripes we all are healed’ (Is. 53:5).

For He raised up the falling, healed the sick, satisfied those who were hungry, and filled the poor, and, what is more wonderful, raised us all from the dead.

Having abolished death, He has brought us from affliction and sighing to the rest and gladness of this feast, a joy which reaches even to heaven.

For not we alone are affected by this, but because of it, even the heavens rejoice with us, and the whole church of the firstborn, written in heaven (Heb. 12:23), is made glad together, as the prophet proclaims, saying:

‘Rejoice, ye heavens, for the Lord hath had mercy upon Israel. Shout, ye foundations of the earth. Cry out with joy, ye mountains, ye high places, and all the trees which are in them, for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and Israel hath been glorified’ (Is. 44:23).

And again; ‘Rejoice, and be glad, ye heavens; let the hills melt into gladness, for the Lord hath had mercy on His people, and comforted the oppressed of the people’ (Is. 49:13).

The whole creation keeps a feast, my brethren, and everything that hath breath praises the Lord’ (Ps. 150:6), as the Psalmist says, on account of the destruction of the enemies, and on account of our salvation.

And justly indeed; for if there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth (Luke 15:7), what should there not be over the abolition of sin, and the resurrection of the dead?

Oh what a feast and how great the gladness in heaven! how must all its hosts joy and exult, as they rejoice and watch in our assemblies, those that are held continually, and especially those at Easter?

For they look on sinners while they repent; on those who have turned away their faces, when they become converted; on those who formerly persisted in lusts and excess, but who now humble themselves by fastings and temperance; and, finally, on the enemy who lies weakened, lifeless, bound hand and foot, so that we may mock at him:

‘Where is thy victory, O Death? where is thy sting, O Grave’ (1 Cor. 15:55). Let us then sing unto the Lord a song of victory.

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): Sixth Festal Letter, 8-10 (slightly adapted).

Ephrem the Syrian: Through the tree mankind fell into Sheol; upon the tree they passed over into the dwelling of life Wednesday, Apr 15 2015 

Mor_Ephrem_icon

The only-begotten…took up His abode in the Virgin; that by a common manner of birth, though only-begotten, He might become the brother of many.

And He departed from Sheol and took up His abode in the Kingdom; that He might seek out a path from Sheol which oppresses all, to the Kingdom which requites all.

For our Lord gave His resurrection as a pledge to mortals, that He would remove them from Sheol, which receives the departed without distinction, to the Kingdom which admits the invited with distinction.

[…] The Father begat Him, and through Him created the creatures.

Flesh bare Him and through Him slew lusts.

Baptism brought him forth, that through Him it might wash away stains.

Sheol brought Him forth, that through Him its treasures might be emptied out.

He came to us from beside His Father by the way of them that are born.

And by the way of them that die, He went forth to go to His Father; so that by His coming through birth, His advent might be seen; and by His returning through resurrection, His departure might be confirmed.

But our Lord was trampled on by Death; and in His turn trod out a way over Death.

This is He Who made Himself subject to and endured death of His own will, that He might cast down death against his will.

For our Lord bare His Cross and went forth according to the will of Death:  but He cried upon the Cross and brought forth the dead from within Sheol against the will of Death.

For in that very thing by which Death had slain Him [i.e., the body], in that as armour He bore off the victory over Death.

But the Godhead concealed itself in the manhood and fought against Death, Death slew and was slain.  Death slew the natural life; and the supernatural life slew Him.

[…] This is the Son of the carpenter, Who skilfully made His Cross a bridge over Sheol that swallows up all, and brought over mankind into the dwelling of life.

And because it was through the tree that mankind had fallen into Sheol, so upon the tree they passed over into the dwelling of life.

Through the tree then wherein bitterness was tasted, through it also sweetness was tasted; that we might learn of Him that amongst the creatures nothing resists Him.

Glory be to Thee, Who didst lay Thy Cross as a bridge over death, that souls might pass over upon it from the dwelling of the dead to the dwelling of life!

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Homily on Our Lord, 1-4.

Hilary of Poitiers: We are subjected to the glory of His body, that we may share that splendour with which He reigns in the body Tuesday, Apr 7 2015 

St_Hilary_of_Poitiers_cassienBut we must not forget what follows the subjection, namely, Last of all is death conquered by Him (1 Cor. 15:26).

This victory over death is nothing else than the resurrection from the dead.

For when the corruption of death is stayed, the quickened and now heavenly nature is made eternal, as it is written,

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

But when this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in strife. O death, where is thy sting? O death, where is thy strife (1 Cor. 53-55).

In the subjection of His enemies death is conquered; and, death conquered, life immortal follows.

The Apostle tells us also of the special reward attained by this subjection which is made perfect by the subjection of belief:

Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory, according to the works of His power, whereby He is able to subject all things to Himself (Phil. 3:21).

There is then another subjection, which consists in a transition from one nature to another, for our nature ceases, so far as its present character is concerned, and is subjected to Him, into Whose form it passes.

But by ‘ceasing’ is implied not an end of being, but a promotion into something higher. Thus our nature by being merged into the image of the other nature which it receives, becomes subjected through the imposition of a new form.

Hence the Apostle, to make his explanation of this Mystery complete, after saying that death is the last enemy to be conquered, adds:

But when He saith, All things are put in subjection except Him, Who did subject all things to Him, then must He be subjected to Him, that did subject all things to Him, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:27,28).

The first step of the Mystery is that all things are subjected to Him: then He is subjected to Him, Who subjects all things to Himself.

As we are subjected to the glory of the rule of His body, so He also, reigning in the glory of His body, is by the same Mystery in turn subjected to Him, Who subjects all things to Himself.

And we are subjected to the glory of His body, that we may share that splendour with which He reigns in the body, since we shall be conformed to His body.

Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-368): On the Trinity, 11, 35-36.

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