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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Severus of Al-Ushmunain: How St Mark Healed and Converted a Cobbler in Alexandria Friday, Apr 25 2014 

St.-Mark-the-Apostle

April 25th is the Feast of St Mark the Evangelist.

Mark journeyed to the city of Alexandria; and when he entered in at the gate, the strap of his shoe broke.

And when he saw this, he thought: «Now I know that the Lord has made my way easy».

Then he turned, and saw a cobbler there, and went to him and gave him the shoe that he might mend it.

And when the cobbler received it, and took the awl to work upon it, the awl pierced his hand. So he said: «Heis ho Theos»; the interpretation of which is, «God is One».

And. when the holy Mark heard him mention the name of God, he rejoiced greatly, and turned his face to the East and said: «O my Lord Jesus, it is thou that makest my road easy in every place».

Then he spat on the ground and took from it clay, and put it on the place where the awl had pierced the cobbler’s hand, saying:

«In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, the One living and eternal God, may the hand of this man be healed at this moment, that thy holy name may be glorified».

Then his hand at once became whole.

[…] The cobbler remained astonished at the power of God which descended upon the holy Mark, and said to him: «I pray thee, O man of God, to come to the dwelling of thy servant, to rest and eat bread, for I find that to-day thou hast conferred a benefit upon me».

[…] After they had eaten, the cobbler said to him: «O my father, I beg thee to make known to me who thou art that hast worked this great miracle».

Then the saint answered him: «I serve Jesus Christ, the Son of the ever living God». The cobbler exclaimed: «I would that I could see him».

The holy Mark said to him: «I will cause thee to behold him». Then he began to teach him the gospel of good tidings, and the doctrine of the glory and power and dominion which belong to God from the beginning, and…ended by saying to him:

«The Lord Christ in the last times became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and came into the world, and saved us from our sins». And he explained to him what the prophets prophesied of him, passage by passage.

[…] Then when the cobbler had heard wisdom and the words of the Scriptures from the holy Mark, together with the great miracle which he had seen him work upon his hand, his heart inclined towards him, and he believed in the Lord, and was baptized, he and all the people of his house, and all his neighbours.

Severus of Al-Ushmunain (d. 987): History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria.

The image, found at Pravmir, is a Coptic icon of St Mark, the first of the Coptic Patriarchs of Alexandria in the history written by Severus.

Gregory Palamas: Incarnation, Death, Resurrection Saturday, Apr 19 2014 

Gregory_PalamasThe pre-eternal, uncircumscribed and almighty Logos and omnipotent Son of God could clearly have saved man from mortality and servitude to the devil without Himself becoming man.

He upholds all things by the word of His power and everything is subject to His divine authority….

But the incarnation of the Logos of God was the method of deliverance most in keeping with our nature and weakness, and most appropriate for Him who carried it out, for this method had justice on its side, and God does not act without justice….

Man…had voluntarily approached the originator of evil, obeyed him when he treacherously advised the opposite of what God had commanded, and was justly given over to him.

In this way, through the evil one’s envy and the good Lord’s just consent, death became twofold, for he brought about not just physical but also eternal death.

Christ clearly had to make immortal not only the human nature which existed in Him, but the human race, and to guide it towards participating in that true life which in due course procures eternal life for the body as well, just as the soul’s state of death in due course brought about the death of the body too.

That this plan for salvation should be made manifest, and that Christ’s way of life should be put before us to emulate, was highly necessary and beneficial.

At one time God appeared visibly before man and the good angels that they might imitate Him.

Later, when we had cast ourselves down and fallen away from this vision, God came down to us from on high in His surpassing love for mankind, without in any way giving up His divinity, and by living among us set Himself before us as the pattern of the way back to life.

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and love of God! In His wisdom, power and love for mankind God knew how to transform incomparably for the better the falls resulting from our self-willed waywardness.

If the Son of God had not come down from heaven we should have had no hope of going up to heaven. If He had not become incarnate, suffered in the flesh, risen and ascended for our sake, we should not have known God’s surpassing love for us.

If He had not taken flesh and endured the passion while we were still ungodly, we should not have desisted from the pride which so often lifts us up and drags us down.

Now that we have been exalted without contributing anything, we stay humble, and as we regard with understanding the greatness of God’s promise and benevolence we grow in humility, from which comes salvation.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily on Great and Holy Saturday, from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009) @Kandylaki (fuller version).

Peter of Damascus: “The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom” Monday, Mar 3 2014 

peter_of_damascusAs David says, ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’.

[…] Our Lord Himself began His teaching by speaking of fear: He says, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’, that is, those who quail with fear of God and are inexpressibly contrite in soul.

For the Lord has established this as the fundamental commandment, since He knows that, without this, even living in heaven would be without benefit to us, because we would still be possessed of the same madness through which the devil, Adam, and many others have fallen.

If, then, we wish to observe the first commandment – that is, to possess fear of the Lord – we should think very carefully about the contingencies of life already described and upon God’s immeasurable and unfathomable blessings.

We should consider how much He has done and continues to do for our sake through things visible and invisible, through commandments and dogmas, threats and promises;

how He guards, nourishes and provides for us, giving us life and saving us from seen and unseen enemies;

how through the prayers and intercessions of His saints, He cures the diseases caused by our own indiscipline;

how He is always long-suffering as regards our sins, our irreverence, our delinquency, all those things we have done, are doing, and will do, from which His grace has saved us;

how we have angered Him with our actions, words and thoughts; and how He not only bears with us, but even bestows greater blessings on us, either He Himself, or acting through the angels, the Scriptures, through righteous men and prophets, apostles and martyrs, teachers and holy fathers.

Moreover, we should not only recall the sufferings and struggles of the saints and martyrs, but should also reflect with wonder on the self-abasement of our Lord Jesus Christ:

how He lived in the world, His spotless Passion, the Cross, His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, the advent of the Holy Spirit, His ineffable miracles which are always occurring, every day, paradise, the crowns, the adoption that He has accorded us, and all the things contained in Holy Scripture and so much else.

If we bring all this to mind, we will be overwhelmed at God’s compassion, and with trembling will marvel at His forbearance and patience.

We will grieve because of what our nature has lost – the dispassion of the angels, paradise and all the blessings which we have forfeited – and because of the evils into which we have fallen: demons, passions and sins.

In this way our soul will be filled with contrition, realizing all the evils which have been caused by our wickedness and the cunning of the demons.

Peter of Damascus (?12th Century): A Treasury of Divine Knowledge  @ Pemptousia.

Hilary of Poitiers: The Incarnation and the Creation of the New Man Sunday, Dec 22 2013 

St_Hilary_of_Poitiers_cassienThat blessed and true birth of the flesh conceived within the Virgin the Apostle Paul has named both a creating and a making, for then there was born both the nature and form of our created being.

And without doubt in his view this name belongs to Christ’s true birth as a man, since Paul says:

But when the fulness of the time came, God sent His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, in order that He might redeem those who are under the law, that we might obtain the adoption of sons (Gal. 4:4, 5).

And so He is God’s own Son, Who is made in human form and of human origin; nor is He only made but also created, as it is said:

Even as the truth is in Jesus, that ye put away according to your former manner of life, that old man, which becomes corrupt according to the lusts of deceit.

However, be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put ye on that new man, which is created according to God (Eph. 4:21–24).

So the new man is to be put on Who has been created according to God. For He Who was Son of God was born also Son of Man.

This was not the birth of the divinity, but the creating of the flesh; the new Man taking the title of the race, and being created according to God Who was born before the ages.

And how the new man was created according to God, he explains in what follows, adding, in righteousness, and in holiness, and in truth (Eph. 4:24).

For there was no guile in Him; and He has been made unto us righteousness and sanctification, and is Himself the Truth.

This, then, is the Christ, created a new man according to God, Whom we put on.

Wisdom…while saying that it was created, taught that it was established before the ages, lest we should suppose that the mystery of that created form, so variously and frequently assumed, involved some change in its nature.

For although the firmness with which it was established would not allow of any disturbance that could overthrow it, yet, lest the establishment might seem to mean something less than birth, Wisdom declared itself to be begotten before all things.

If this is so, why is the term ‘creation’ now applied to the birth of that which was both begotten before all things, and also established before the ages?

Because that which was established before the ages was created anew from the commencement of the ages for the beginning of the ways of God and for His works.

Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-368): On the Trinity, 12, 48-49.

John Mason Neale: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, Tuesday, Dec 17 2013 

John_Mason_NealeO come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go. 

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save,
and give them victory over the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times once gave the law
in cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
an ensign of thy people be;
before thee rulers silent fall;
all peoples on thy mercy call.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and be thyself our King of Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Anonymous Latin Author (12th Century[?]): translated from the Latin Veni, Veni, Emmanuel by John Mason Neale (1818-1866) in Mediaeval Hymns (1851).

John Damascene: No One Sees the Father save the Son and the Spirit Wednesday, Dec 4 2013 

John-of-Damascus_01December 4th is the Feast of St John Damascene.

All things are far apart from God, not in place but in nature.

In our case, thoughtfulness, and wisdom, and counsel come to pass and go away as states of being.

Not so in the case of God: for with Him there is no happening or ceasing to be; for He is invariable and unchangeable: and it would not be right to speak of contingency in connection with Him.

For goodness is concomitant with essence. He who longs always after God, he sees Him: for God is in all things.

Existing things are dependent on that which is, and nothing can be unless it is in that which is.

God then is mingled with everything, maintaining their nature: and in His holy flesh the God-Word is made one in subsistence and is mixed with our nature, yet without confusion.

No one sees the Father, save the Son and the Spirit (John 6:46).

The Son is the counsel and wisdom and power of the Father. For one may not speak of quality in connection with God, from fear of implying that He was a compound of essence and quality.

The Son is from the Father, and derives from Him all His properties: hence He cannot do ought of Himself. For He has not energy peculiar to Himself and distinct from the Father.

That God Who is invisible by nature is made visible by His energies, we perceive from the organisation and government of the world.

The Son is the Father’s image, and the Spirit the Son’s, through which Christ dwelling in man makes him after his own image.

The Holy Spirit is God, being between the unbegotten and the begotten, and united to the Father through the Son.

We speak of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the mind of Christ, the Spirit of the Lord, the very Lord, the Spirit of adoption, of truth, of liberty, of wisdom (for He is the creator of all these): filling all things with essence, maintaining all things, filling the universe with essence, while yet the universe is not the measure of His power.

God is everlasting and unchangeable essence, creator of all that is, adored with pious consideration.

God is also Father, being ever unbegotten, for He was born of no one, but hath begotten His co-eternal Son.

God is likewise Son, being always with the Father, born of the Father timelessly, everlastingly, without flux or passion, or separation from Him.

God is also Holy Spirit, being sanctifying power, subsistential, proceeding from the Father without separation, and resting in the Son, identical in essence with Father and Son.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 1, 13.

Dorotheus of Gaza: It is humility alone that may conduct us into the kingdom Friday, Nov 8 2013 

Dorotheos2One of the elders has said: “Before everything else humility of wisdom is needful for us, so that we may be ready to say to every word which we hear, forgive me; for by humility of wisdom all the arrows of the enemy and adversary are broken.”

[…] If without faith it is impossible to please God, and if by means of almsgiving and faith sins are cleansed, if by the fear of the Lord everyone is brought away from evil, and if the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and one who is laboring must be continent in everything, then why did the elder say before everything else that humility of wisdom is needful for us, setting aside everything else which is so needful?

The elder wishes to show us by this that neither the very fear of God, nor almsgiving, nor faith, nor continence, nor any other virtue can be perfected without the humility of wisdom.

This is why he says, “Before everything else, humility of wisdom is needful to us—so as to be ready to say to every word we hear forgive me; for by humility of wisdom are all the arrows of the adversary broken.”

And so you see, brethren, how great is the power of humility of wisdom; you see what force the word  forgive has.

But why is the devil called not only enemy, but also adversary? He is called enemy because he is the hater of mankind, the hater of good, and a slanderer; and he is called adversary because he strives to hinder every good deed.

If one should wish to pray, he opposes and hinders him by means of evil remembrances, by means of captivity of the mind and despondency.

If one wishes to give alms, he hinders by means of the love of money and stinginess. If one wishes to keep vigil, he hinders by means of laziness and carelessness, and in this way he opposes us in every deed when we wish to do something good.

This is why he is called not only enemy, but also adversary. But by humility of wisdom, all the weapons of the enemy and adversary are broken.

For in truth, great is humility of wisdom, and every one of the saints has travelled by this path; by labor they have made short their path, as the Psalmist says, Behold my lowliness and my toil, and forgive all my sins (Ps. 24:18); and I was brought low, and He saved me (Ps. 114:6).

And besides, it is humility alone that may conduct us into the Kingdom, as the elder Abba John has said—but only slowly.

Dorotheos of Gaza (505-565 or 620): Conference 2 – Concerning the Humility of Wisdom @ Pravoslavie.

Justin Popovich: “The Healing Power of Scripture” Saturday, Oct 19 2013 

Justin PopovichBy reading the Bible you are adding yeast to the dough of your soul and body, which gradually expands and fills the soul until it has thoroughly permeated it and makes it rise with the truth and righteousness of the Gospel.

In every instance, the Saviour’s parable about the sower and the seed can be applied to every one of us. The seed of Divine Truth is given to us in the Bible.

By reading it, we sow that seed in our own soul. It falls on the rocky and thorny ground of our soul, but a little also falls on the good soil of our heart — and bears fruit.

And when you catch sight of the fruit and taste it, the sweetness and joy will spur you to clear and plow the rocky and thorny areas of your soul and sow it with the seed of the word of God.

Do you know when a man is wise in the sight of Christ the Lord? When he listens to His word and carries it out. The beginning of wisdom is to listen to God’s word (Matt. 7:24-25).

Every word of the Saviour has the power and the might to heal both physical and spiritual ailments. “Say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matt. 8:8). The Saviour said the word and the centurion’s servant was healed.

Just as He once did, the Lord even now ceaselessly says His words to you, to me, and to all of us. But we must pause, and immerse ourselves in them and receive them – with the centurion’s faith.

And a miracle will happen to us, and our souls will be healed just as the centurion’s servant was healed. For it is related in the Gospel that they brought many possessed people to Him, and He drove out the spirits with a word, and healed all the sick (Matt. 8:16).

He still does this today, because the Lord Jesus “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8)

[…] In each word of the Saviour there is more eternity and permanence than in all of heaven and earth with all their history.

Hence He said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). This means that God and all that is of God is in the Saviour’s words. Therefore they cannot pass away.

If a man accepts them, he is more permanent than heaven and earth, because there is a power in them that immortalizes man and makes him eternal.

Justin Popovich (1894-1979; Orthodox Church): How to Read the Bible and Why.

Jerome: A Soul which Cherishes an Ardent Love of Wisdom is Freely Infilled by the Spirit of God Monday, Oct 7 2013 

St.-Jerome-of-StridoniumOn Daniel 2:19-22

Verse 19. “And Daniel blessed the God of heaven, and spoke, saying….

In contrast to those who occupy themselves with this world and delude the earthly minded with demonic arts and illusions, Daniel blessed the God of heaven. For the gods who did not create heaven and earth will pass away.

Verse 21. […] “He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who acquire learning.” 

This accords with the scripture: “The wise man will hear and increase his wisdom” (Prov. 1:5). “For he who has, to him it shall be given” (Matt. 25:29).

A soul which cherishes an ardent love of wisdom is freely infilled by the Spirit of God. But wisdom will never penetrate a perverse soul (Wisdom 3).

Verse 22. “It is He who reveals deep and hidden things, and He knows what is placed in the darkness, and with Him is the light.” 

A man to whom God makes profound revelations and who can say, “O the depth of the riches of the knowledge and wisdom of God!” (Rom. 11:33), is one who, by the indwelling Spirit, probes even into the deep things of God, and digs the deepest of wells in the depths of his soul.

He is a man who has stirred up the whole earth, which is wont to conceal the deep waters, and he observes the command of God, saying: “Drink water from thy vessels and from the spring of thy wells” (Prov. 5:15).

As for the words which follow, “He knows what is placed in the darkness, and with Him is the light,” the darkness signifies ignorance, and the light signifies knowledge and learning. Therefore as wrong cannot hide God away, so right encompasses and surrounds Him.

Or else we should interpret the words to  mean all the dark mysteries and deep things concerning God, according to what we read in Proverbs: “He understands also the parable and the dark saying.”

This in turn is equivalent to what we read in the Psalms: “Dark waters in the clouds of the sky” (Ps. 17:12).

For one who ascends to the heights and forsakes the things of earth, and like the birds themselves seeks after the most rarified atmosphere and everything ethereal, becomes like a cloud to which the truth of God penetrates and which habitually showers rain upon the saints.

Replete with a plenitude of knowledge, he contains in his breast many dark waters enveloped with deep darkness, a darkness which only Moses can penetrate (Ex. 23) and speak with God face to face, of Whom the Scripture says: “He hath made darkness His hiding-place” (Ps. 17:12).

Jerome (347-420): Commentary on Daniel 2:19-22.

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