OrthoCelt

Tue Feb 01, 2011

From the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit by St. Photios the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople: In Defense of the Orthodox / Biblical Doctrine of the Procession of the Holy Spirit

1. If the Spirit is indeed simple, but proceeds from the Father and the Son, these two would certainly be considered one hypostasis, and there would be introduced here a Sabellian fusion, or better to say, a semi-Sabellian fusion.

2. If indeed the Holy Spirit does proceed from the Father and the Son, He would be altogether double and composite. If the Holy Spirit is ascribed to two principles, where will the much-hymned monarchy be?

3. If the Father and the Son both originate the Spirit, the Father will be both the direct and indirect originator of the Spirit on account of His proceeding also from the Son.

4. Certainly, if the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father is perfect, then that from the Son is superfluous.

5. If the Son has the property of originating the Spirit like the Father, the property of origination will be common to both. But how will the property be shared in common? If by opposition, will not one destroy the other? For contraries are destructive of one another. If by divergence, then part of the Spirit will proceed in one way and part in another, and He will be composed of unequal parts.

6. If, indeed, both the Son and the Spirit have come forth from one cause, namely the Father, and the Son again originates the Spirit, then the Spirit should also originate the Son. For the Father and Originator brought forth both with equal honour.

7. If, indeed, the Son does share with the Father in originating the Holy Spirit, then the Holy Spirit will also share in it, for all that the Father has in common with the Son, He also has in common with the Holy Spirit. Hence He will be at the same time cause and caused, which thing is more monstrous than the fables of the [pagan] Greeks.

8. If the Son has the power of origination, but the Spirit is denied it, He is inferior in power to the Son, which was the insanity of Macedonius.

9. They allege as an excuse, however, that Ambrose wrote thus in his treatises concerning the subject, as did also Augustine and Jerome. One must say in defence of these men that perhaps the Pneumatomachians corrupted their writings, or perhaps they spoke according to the tactics used by the great Basil, who for a time refrained from preaching the divinity of the All-Holy Spirit, or perhaps they, since they were only human, had been led astray from sound theology; for many great men, like Dionysius of Alexandria, Methodius of Patara and Pierios, Pamphilius, Theognostus, and Irenaeus of Lyons with his disciple Hippolytus, have suffered so in certain things. For we do not accept some of their statements though we greatly admire the rest.

10. So Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome, said what the Latins claim; but the hierarchs of the Seven Synods did not. All the synods in succession confirmed the definition of our faith. The leaders and lights of the Church of Old Rome agreed with them without any contradiction and decreed that it was not permitted to add or subtract anything from the aforesaid definition of the faith, and that he who dared to do so should absolutely be cast out of the Church.

11. Divine Gregory the Dialogist, who flourished not long after the Sixth Synod, preached and wrote in Latin that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. Zacharias, 165 years later, translated the Dialogues into Greek and said, the Paraclete Spirit, proceeds from the Father and abides in the Son; for he had been taught this by the Forerunner, who saw the Spirit descending like a dove and abiding upon Him.

12. Leo and Benedict, great hierarchs of Old Rome in later times, decreed that the Symbol of Faith be recited in Greek at the mystical rites in Old Rome and in the other churches subject to her, lest the inadequacy of Latin furnish an occasion for blasphemy. This Leo, when he had opened the treasury of the Apostolic Church of Old Rome, brought forth two shields which had been preserved among the other sacred heirlooms and which were engraved with the pious exposition of the Faith in Greek letters and words [St Photius was mistaken; the words were engraved in Greek and Latin], and which he ordered to be read before all the people of Old Rome. Up to the time of the pious patriarch of New Rome Sergius, the hierarchs of Old Rome sent confirmatory letters of their belief at the beginning of their high priesthood to all the patriarchal sees, and in these letters they inscribed the Symbol of Faith without any variation.

13. But what need is there to say much? The Son and Master reveals that the Spirit proceeds from the Father; and likewise the great Paul declares, saying, But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you other than that which we have preached unto you, let him be anathema. And who will ask for another teacher unless he be plainly insane?

From another portion of the same work from a different manuscript:

9. When David said, By the Spirit of His mouth, he taught also that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, since he applies the phrase of His mouth to the Father, not to the Son, in order that he might destroy by anticipation the blasphemy of those who hold the Spirit proceeds also from the Son.

10. In all other cases, procession denotes simple egress, as when it is said in the Psalms, He went forth and spoke in a like manner. [Psalm 40:6] But the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father does not signify simply egress, which is accidental, coming to pass and then ceasing, but it is an essential and natural procession, signifying the mode of being and declaring the subsistence of the Holy Spirit, Who is not by generation, as is the Son, but by procession, in His own proper manner. For the characteristic property of the Son is to be begotten by nature from the Father, but the characteristic property of the Holy Spirit is to proceed by nature from the Father. They differ from each other only thus, namely, in the characteristic property of subsistence, while in other respects they are one in essence, in nature, in dignity, in power, and, to put it simply, one in everything else, both with the Father and with each other. How then do you say the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son? If as cause, then there are two causes and two principles (Father and Son), and you are advocating a dyarchy rather than a monarchy; but it is not our task to speak about the many absurdities following from this belief. However, if the Spirit proceeds in another way, as if from the mutual linking by reason of their reciprocal indwelling and interchange of the other properties, and, to speak simply, proceeds as if being sent, then you are sound in your understanding. For just as the Father sends the Son, so does the Son send the Spirit. The Son says, But when the Paraclete is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, the Spirit of truth which proceeds from the Father, He shall witness of Me. Nevertheless, you err in another respect: first, in changing and falsifying through this addition the exposition of faith confirmed by the Seven Synods -- and no one but you has done it! -- and secondly, that which you interpolate between the two phrases and which we are accustomed to call a conjunction, implies the meaning of equal procession from both the Father and the Son, even though you might understand the procession from the Son in another way, just as we said above. One ought, however, not only to think correctly, but also not to scandalise others. For if he who gives scandal to one person has been judged worthy of a fearful punishment, according to the Gospels, what punishment will they deserve who have scandalised almost the entire world?

11. When God the Son was speaking concerning the Holy Spirit, He said not once, but twice in the course of the same speech that the Holy Spirit is from the Father. Why did He not say, and from Me? Our opponents reply that he was speaking humbly as a man; but we, answering quickly, convict them at once of a lie. The words, Whom I will send unto you, were not spoken as man, but rather as God; for a man does not send God, if the Holy Spirit is indeed God. Therefore, twice He said from the Father in order to confirm such a sublime utterance and to stop the mouths of those who in the future would say that the Spirit proceeds from the Son. This argument was propounded by the acumen of the very wise emperor, for he used it when he disputed with the bishop of Milan. [A note in the Latin text indicates the emperor was Alexius Comnenos and the bishop of Milan was Peter, the year 1116.]

Feast Day of Patriarch Photios: Sunday, February 6

http://www.unexpectedjoy.org/Confessions/06Filioque/0867-EncylicalPhotius.html

Posted by: Fr. Costa on Feb 01, 11 | 7:27 am | Profile

[11] comments (4502 views) 

Tue Jan 25, 2011

Synaxis of The Three Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom (January 30)

“This common feast of these three teachers was instituted a little before the year 1100, during the reign of the Emperor Alexis I Comnenus, because of a dispute and strife that arose among the notable and virtuous men of that time. Some of them preferred Basil, while others preferred Gregory, and yet others preferred John Chrysostom, quarreling among themselves over which of the three was the greatest. Furthermore, each party, in order to distinguish itself from the others, assumed the name of its preferred Saint; hence, they called themselves Basilians, Gregorians, or Johannites. Desiring to bring an end to the contention, the three Saints appeared together to the saintly John Mavropous, a monk who had been ordained Bishop of Euchaita, a city of Asia Minor, they revealed to him that the glory they have at the throne of God is equal, and told him to compose a common service for the three of them, which he did with great skill and beauty. Saint John of Euchaita (celebrated Oct. 5) is also the composer of the Canon to the Guardian Angel, the Protector of a Man's Life. In his old age, he retired from his episcopal see and again took up the monastic life in a monastery in Constantinople. He reposed during the reign of the aforementioned Emperor Alexis Comnenus (1081-1118).”


Taken with gratitude from the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

http://goarch.org/chapel/saints_view?contentid=408

Posted by: Fr. Costa on Jan 25, 11 | 8:13 am | Profile

[7] comments (3452 views) 

Mon Jan 17, 2011

On Repentance and Great Lent 2011

“The Lenten worship is...a school of repentance. It teaches us what is repentance and how to acquire the spirit of repentance. It prepares us for and leads us to the spiritual regeneration without which ‘absolution’ remains meaningless. It is, in short, both teaching about repentance and the way of repentance. And since there can be no real Christian life without repentance, without this constant ‘re-evaluation’ of life, the Lenten worship is an essential part of the liturgical tradition of the Church.”

[Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann]

Posted by: Fr. Costa on Jan 17, 11 | 7:36 pm | Profile

[8] comments (5594 views) 

Mon Jan 10, 2011

The Ecclesiastical Rank of Bishop

An office of the major orders of the clergy. A bishop (from the Greek episkopos, 'overseer') is the highest order of clergy in the Church, successor to the apostles in the charism of governing the Christian faithful. In present practice, bishops are always drawn from the ranks of the monastics, and thus are never married. All bishops in the Church are canonically equal, but there are distinctions of administrative rank among them. These are:

1. Ruling bishops (i.e. those who govern a diocese or territory).

a. Diocesan Bishop: The normal rank of bishop, in charge of a diocese.

b. Archbishop & Metropolitan: A title granted to a bishop in charge of a large or senior see; or at times as an honorific for long-serving bishops. In the older practice, preserved in the Slavic and Antiochian traditions, the rank of Metropolitan is higher than that of Archbishop; in the Greek practice this order is reversed.

c. Patriarch: A title reserved for the primates of certain autocephalous churches.

2. Non-ruling bishops (i.e. a bishop who does not rule his own diocese):

a. Patriarchal vicar: A bishop appointed by a patriarch for a specific task.

b. Auxuliary bishop: A bishop serving in a diocese or territory as assistant to the diocesan bishop.

3. Titular bishops / two types:

a. A bishop named for an ancient but no-longer-extant see, in order to serve in a territory where it is not possible to consecrate a bishop of locale title (e.g. the ruling diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Sourozh, Great Britain, is normally title 'Bishop of Sourozh', rather than 'Bishop of London').

b. A bishop given a titular rank in order to serve in a specific auxiliary capacity.


[Taken from ]http://monachos.net/content/liturgics/liturgical-studies/481-orthodox-dictionary-glossary]

Posted by: Fr. Costa on Jan 10, 11 | 6:07 pm | Profile

[16] comments (5049 views) 

Tue Jan 04, 2011

Discourse On the Day of the Baptism of Christ by St John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople

We shall now say something about the present feast.

Many celebrate the feast days and know their designations, but the cause for which they were established they know not. Thus concerning this, that the present feast is called Theophany -- everyone knows; but what this is -- Theophany, and whether it be one thing or another, they know not. And this is shameful -- every year to celebrate the feast day and not know its reason.

First of all therefore, it is necessary to say that there is not one Theophany, but two: the one actual, which already has occurred, and the second in future, which will happen with glory at the end of the world. About this one and about the other you will hear today from Paul, who in conversing with Titus, speaks thus about the present: "The grace of God hath revealed itself, having saved all mankind, decreeing, that we reject iniquity and worldly desires, and dwell in the present age in prudence and in righteousness and piety" -- and about the future: "awaiting the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (Tit 2:11-13). And a prophet speaks thus about this latter: "the sun shalt turn to darkness, and the moon to blood at first, then shalt come the great and illuminating Day of the Lord" (Joel 2:31). Why is not that day, on which the Lord was born, considered Theophany -- but rather this day on which He was baptized? This present day it is, on which He was baptized and sanctified the nature of water. Because on this day all, having obtained the waters, do carry it home and keep it all year, since today the waters are sanctified; and an obvious phenomenon occurs: these waters in their essence do not spoil with the passage of time, but obtained today, for one whole year and often for two or three years, they remain unharmed and fresh, and afterwards for a long time do not stop being water, just as that obtained from the fountains.

Why then is this day called Theophany? Because Christ made Himself known to all -- not then when He was born -- but then when He was baptized. Until this time He was not known to the people. And that the people did not know Him, Who He was, listen about this to John the Baptist, who says: "Amidst you standeth, Him Whom ye know not of" (Jn.1:26). And is it surprising that others did not know Him, when even the Baptist did not know Him until that day? "And I -- said he -- knew Him not: but He that did send me to baptize with water, about This One did tell unto me: over Him that shalt see the Spirit descending and abiding upon Him, This One it is Who baptizeth in the Holy Spirit" (Jn. 1:33). Thus from this it is evident, that -- there are two Theophanies, and why Christ comes at baptism and on whichever baptism He comes, about this it is necessary to say: it is therefore necessary to know both the one and equally the other. And first it is necessary to speak your love about the latter, so that we might learn about the former. There was a Jewish baptism, which cleansed from bodily impurities, but not to remove sins. Thus, whoever committed adultery, or decided on thievery, or who did some other kind of misdeed, it did not free him from guilt. But whoever touched the bones of the dead, whoever tasted food forbidden by the law, whoever approached from contamination, whoever consorted with lepers -- that one washed, and until evening was impure, and then cleansed. "Let one wash his body in pure water -- it says in the Scriptures, -- and he will be unclean until evening, and then he will be clean" (Lev 15:5, 22:4). This was not truly of sins or impurities, but since the Jews lacked perfection, then God, accomplishing it by means of this greater piety, prepared them by their beginnings for a precise observance of important things.

Thus, Jewish cleansings did not free from sins, but only from bodily impurities. Not so with ours: it is far more sublime and it manifests a great grace, whereby it sets free from sin, it cleanses the spirit and bestows the gifts of the Spirit. And the baptism of John was far more sublime than the Jewish, but less so than ours: it was like a bridge between both baptisms, leading across itself from the first to the last. Wherefore John did not give guidance for observance of bodily purifications, but together with them he exhorted and advised to be converted from vice to good deeds and to trust in the hope of salvation and the accomplishing of good deeds, rather than in different washings and purifications by water. John did not say: wash your clothes, wash your body, and ye will be pure, but what? -- "bear ye fruits worthy of repentance" (Mt 3:8). Since it was more than of the Jews, but less than ours: the baptism of John did not impart the Holy Spirit and it did not grant forgiveness by grace: it gave the commandment to repent, but it was powerless to absolve sins. Wherefore John did also say: "I baptize you with water...That One however will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Mt 3:11). Obviously, he did not baptize with the Spirit. But what does this mean: "with the Holy Spirit and with fire?" Call to mind that day, on which for the Apostles "there appeared disparate tongues like fire, and sat over each one of them" (Acts 2:3). And that the baptism of John did not impart the Spirit and remission of sins is evident from the following: Paul "found certain disciples, and said to them: received ye the Holy Spirit since ye have believed? They said to him: but furthermore whether it be of the Holy Spirit, we shall hear. He said to them: into what were ye baptized? They answered: into the baptism of John. Paul then said: John indeed baptized with the baptism of repentance," -- repentance, but not remission of sins; for whom did he baptize? "Having proclaimed to the people, that they should believe in the One coming after him, namely, Christ Jesus. Having heard this, they were baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus: and Paul laying his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them" (Acts 19:1-6). Do you see, how incomplete was the baptism of John? If the one were not incomplete, would then Paul have baptized them again, and placed his hands on them; having performed also the second, he shew the superiority of the apostolic Baptism and that the baptism of John was far less than his. Thus, from this we recognize the difference of the baptisms.

Now it is necessary to say, for whom was Christ baptized and by which baptism? Neither the former the Jewish, nor the last -- ours. Whence hath He need for remission of sins, how is this possible for Him, Who hath not any sins? "Of sin, -- it says in the Scriptures, -- worked He not, nor was there deceit found in His mouth" (1 Pet 2:22); and further, "who of you convicted Me of Sin?" (Jn 8:46). And His flesh was privy to the Holy Spirit; how might this be possible, when it in the beginning was fashioned by the Holy Spirit? And so, if His flesh was privy to the Holy Spirit, and He was not subject to sins, then for whom was He baptized? But first of all it is necessary for us to recognize, by which baptism He was baptized, and then it will be clear for us. By which baptism indeed was He baptized? -- Not the Jewish, nor ours, nor John's. For whom, since thou from thine own aspect of baptism dost perceive, that He was baptized not by reason of sin and not having need of the gift of the Spirit; therefore, as we have demonstrated, this baptism was alien to the one and to the other. Hence it is evident, that He came to Jordan not for the forgiveness of sins and not for receiving the gifts of the Spirit. But so that some from those present then should not think, that He came for repentance like others, listen to how John precluded this. What he then spoke to the others then was: "Bear ye fruits worthy of repentance"; but listen what he said to Him: "I have need to be baptized of Thee, and Thou art come to me?" (Mt 3:8, 14). With these words he demonstrated, that Christ came to him not through that need with which people came, and that He was so far from the need to be baptized for this reason -- so much more sublime and perfectly purer than Baptism itself. For whom was He baptized, if this was done not for repentance, nor for the remission of sins, nor for receiving the gifts of the Spirit? Through the other two reasons, of which about the one the disciple speaks, and about the other He Himself spoke to John. Which reason of this baptism did John declare? Namely, that Christ should become known to the people, as Paul also mentions: "John therefore baptized with the baptism of repentance, so that through him they should believe on Him that cometh" (Acts 19:4); this was the consequence of the baptism. If John had gone to the home of each and, standing at the door, had spoken out for Christ and said: "He is the Son of God," such a testimony would have been suspicious, and this deed would have been extremely perplexing. So too, if he in advocating Christ had gone into the synagogues and witnessed to Him, this testimony of his might be suspiciously fabricated. But when all the people thronged out from all the cities to Jordan and remained on the banks of the river, and when He Himself came to be baptized and received the testimony of the Father by a voice from above and by the coming-upon of the Spirit in the form of a dove, then the testimony of John about Him was made beyond all questioning. And since he said: "and I knew Him not" (Jn 1:31), his testimony put forth is trustworthy. They were kindred after the flesh between themselves "wherefore Elizabeth, thy kinswoman, hath also conceived a son" -- said the Angel to Mary about the mother of John (Lk. 1: 36); if however the mothers were relatives, then obviously so also were the children. Thus, since they were kinsmen -- in order that it should not seem that John would testify concerning Christ because of kinship, the grace of the Spirit organized it such, that John spent all his early years in the wilderness, so that it should not seem that John had declared his testimony out of friendship or some similar reason. But John, as he was instructed of God, thus also announced about Him, wherein also he did say: "and I knew Him not." From whence didst thou find out? "He having sent me that sayeth to baptize with water, That One did tell me" What did He tell thee? "Over Him thou shalt see the Spirit descending, like to a dove, and abiding over Him, That One is baptized by the Holy Spirit" (Jn 1:32-33). Dost thou see, that the Holy Spirit did not descend as in a first time then coming down upon Him, but in order to point out that preached by His inspiration -- as though by a finger, it pointed Him out to all. For this reason He came to baptism.

And there is a second reason, about which He Himself spoke -- what exactly is it? When John said: "I have need to be baptized of Thee, and Thou art come to me?" -- He answered thus: "stay now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill every righteousness" (Mt 3:14-15). Dost thou see the meekness of the servant? Dost thou see the humility of the Master? What does He mean: "to fulfill every righteousness?" By righteousness is meant the fulfillment of all the commandments, as is said: "both were righteous, walking faultlessly in the commandments of the Lord" (Lk 1:6). Since fulfilling this righteousness was necessary for all people -- but no one of them kept it or fulfilled it -- Christ came then and fulfilled this righteousness.

And what righteousness is there, someone will say, in being baptized? Obedience for a prophet was righteous. As Christ was circumcised, offered sacrifice, kept the Sabbath and observed the Jewish feasts, so also He added this remaining thing, that He was obedient to having been baptized by a prophet. It was the will of God then, that all should be baptized -- about which listen, as John speaks: "He having sent me to baptize with water" (Jn 1:33); so also Christ: "the publicans and the people do justify God, having been baptized with the baptism of John; the Pharisees and the lawyers reject the counsel of God concerning themselves, not having been baptized by him" (Lk 7:29-30). Thus, if obedience to God constitutes righteousness, and God sent John to baptize the nation, then Christ has also fulfilled this along with all the other commandments.

Consider, that the commandments of the law is the main point of the two denarii: this -- debt, which our race has needed to pay; but we did not pay it, and we, falling under such an accusation, are embraced by death. Christ came, and finding us afflicted by it -- He paid the debt, fulfilled the necessary and seized from it those, who were not able to pay. Wherefore He does not say: "it is necessary for us to do this or that," but rather "to fulfill every righteousness." "It is for Me, being the Master, -- says He, -- proper to make payment for the needy." Such was the reason for His baptism -- wherefore they should see, that He had fulfilled all the law -- both this reason and also that, about which was spoken of before. Wherefore also the Spirit did descend as a dove: because where there is reconciliation with God -- there also is the dove. So also in the ark of Noah the dove did bring the branch of olive -- a sign of God's love of mankind and of the cessation of the flood. And now in the form of a dove, and not in a body -- this particularly deserves to be noted -- the Spirit descended, announcing the universal mercy of God and showing with it, that the spiritual man needs to be gentle, simple and innocent, as Christ also says: "Except ye be converted and become as children, ye shalt not enter into the Heavenly Kingdom" (Mt 18:3). But that ark, after the cessation of the flood, remained upon the earth; this ark, after the cessation of wrath, is taken to heaven, and now this Immaculate and Imperishable Body is situated at the right hand of the Father.

Having made mention about the Body of the Lord, I shall also say a little about this, and then the conclusion of the talk. Many now will approach the Holy Table on the occasion of the feast. But some approach not with trembling, but shoving, hitting others, blazing with anger, shouting, cursing, roughing it up with their fellows with great confusion. What, tell me, art thou troubled by, my fellow? What disturbed thee? Do urgent affairs, for certain, summon thee? At this hour art thou particularly aware, that these affairs of thine that thou particularly remembers, that thou art situated upon the earth, and dost thou think to mix about with people? But is it not with a soul of stone naturally to think, that in such a time thou stand upon the earth, and not exult with the Angels with whom to raise up victorious song to God? For this Christ also did describe us with eagles, saying: "where the corpse is, there are the eagles gathered" (Mt 24:28) -- so that we might have risen to heaven and soared to the heights, having ascended on the wings of the spirit; but we, like snakes, crawl upon the earth and eat dirt. Having been invited to supper, thou, although satiated before others, would not dare to leave before others while others are still reclining. But here, when the sacred doings are going on, thou at the very middle would pass by everything and leave? Is it for a worthy excuse? What excuse might it be? Judas, having communed that last evening on that final night, left hastily then as all the others were still reclining. Here these also are in imitation of him, who leave before the final blessing! If he had not gone, then he would not have made the betrayal; if he did not leave his co-disciples, then he would not have perished; if he had not removed himself from the flock, then the wolf would not have seized and devoured him alone; if he had separated himself from the Pastor, then he would not have made himself the prey of wild beasts. Wherefore he (Judas) was with the Jews, and those (the apostles) went out with the Lord. Dost thou see, by what manner the final prayer after the offering of the sacrifice is accomplished? We should, beloved, stand forth for this, we should ponder this, fearful of the coming judgment for this. We should approach the Holy Sacrifice with great decorum, with proper piety, so as to merit us more of God's benevolence, to cleanse one's soul and to receive eternal blessings, of which may we all be worthy by the grace and love for mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ, to with Whom the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, power, and worship now and ever and unto ages of ages. + Amen.

Posted by: Fr. Costa on Jan 04, 11 | 8:09 pm | Profile

[7] comments (3328 views) 

Mon Dec 27, 2010

St. Gregory Nazianzus Oration 39: On the Feast of Lights (Epiphany or Theophany)

I. Again My Jesus, and again a mystery; not deceitful nor disorderly, nor belonging to Greek error or drunkenness (for so I call their solemnities, and so I think will every man of sound sense); but a mystery lofty and divine, and allied to the Glory above. For the Holy Day of the Lights, to which we have come, and which we are celebrating today, has for its origin the Baptism of my Christ, the True Light That lightens every man that comes into the world, John 1:9 and effects my purification, and assists that light which we received from the beginning from Him from above, but which we darkened and confused by sin.

II. Therefore listen to the Voice of God, which sounds so exceeding clearly to me, who am both disciple and master of these mysteries, as would to God it may sound to you; I Am The Light Of The World. John 8:12 Therefore approach ye to Him and be enlightened, and let not your faces be ashamed, being signed with the true Light. It is a season of new birth, John 3:3 let us be born again. It is a time of reformation, let us receive again the first Adam. Let us not remain what we are, but let us become what we once were. The Light Shines In Darkness, in this life and in the flesh, and is chased by the darkness, but is not overtaken by it:— I mean the adverse power leaping up in its shamelessness against the visible Adam, but encountering God and being defeated—in order that we, putting away the darkness, may draw near to the Light, and may then become perfect Light, the children of perfect Light. See the grace of this Day; see the power of this mystery. Are you not lifted up from the earth? Are you not clearly placed on high, being exalted by our voice and meditation? And you will be placed much higher when the Word shall have prospered the course of my words.

III. Is there any such among the shadowy purifications of the Law, aiding as it did with temporary sprinklings, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean; or do the gentiles celebrate any such thing in their mysteries, every ceremony and mystery of which to me is nonsense, and a dark invention of demons, and a figment of an unhappy mind, aided by time, and hidden by fable? For what they worship as true, they veil as mythical. But if these things are true, they ought not to be called myths, but to be proved not to be shameful; Hebrews 7:13 and if they are false, they ought not to be objects of wonder; nor ought people so inconsiderately to hold the most contrary opinions about the same thing, as if they were playing in the market-place with boys or really ill-disposed men, not engaged in discussion with men of sense, and worshippers of the Word, though despisers of this artificial plausibility.

IV. We are not concerned in these mysteries with birth of Zeus and thefts of the Cretan Tyrant (though the Greeks may be displeased at such a title for him), nor with the name of Curetes, and the armed dances, which were to hide the wailings of a weeping god, that he might escape from his father's hate. For indeed it would be a strange thing that he who was swallowed as a stone should be made to weep as a child. Nor are we concerned with Phrygian mutilations and flutes and Corybantes, and all the ravings of men concerning Rhea, consecrating people to the mother of the gods, and being initiated into such ceremonies as befit the mother of such gods as these. Nor have we any carrying away of the Maiden, nor wandering of Demeter, nor her intimacy with Celei and Triptolemi and Dragons; nor her doings and sufferings...for I am ashamed to bring into daylight that ceremony of the night, and to make a sacred mystery of obscenity. Eleusis knows these things, and so do those who are eyewitnesses of what is there guarded by silence, and well worthy of it. Nor is our commemoration one of Dionysus, and the thigh that travailed with an incomplete birth, as before a head had travailed with another; nor of the hermaphrodite god, nor a chorus of the drunken and enervated host; nor of the folly of the Thebans which honours him; nor the thunderbolt of Semele which they adore. Nor is it the harlot mysteries of Aphrodite, who, as they themselves admit, was basely born and basely honoured; nor have we here Phalli and Ithyphalli, shameful both in form and action; nor Taurian massacres of strangers; nor blood of Laconian youths shed upon the altars, as they scourged themselves with the whips; and in this case alone use their courage badly, who honour a goddess, and her a virgin. For these same people both honour effeminacy, and worship boldness.

V. And where will you place the butchery of Pelops, which feasted hungry gods, that bitter and inhuman hospitality? Where the horrible and dark spectres of Hecate, and the underground puerilities and sorceries of Trophonius, or the babblings of the Dodonæan Oak, or the trickeries of the Delphian tripod, or the prophetic draught of Castalia, which could prophesy anything, except their own being brought to silence? Nor is it the sacrificial art of Magi, and their entrail forebodings, nor the Chaldæan astronomy and horoscopes, comparing our lives with the movements of the heavenly bodies, which cannot know even what they are themselves, or shall be. Nor are these Thracian orgies, from which the word Worship (θρησκεία) is said to be derived; nor rites and mysteries of Orpheus, whom the Greeks admired so much for his wisdom that they devised for him a lyre which draws all things by its music. Nor the tortures of Mithras which it is just that those who can endure to be initiated into such things should suffer; nor the manglings of Osiris, another calamity honoured by the Egyptians; nor the ill-fortunes of Isis and the goats more venerable than the Mendesians, and the stall of Apis, the calf that luxuriated in the folly of the Memphites, nor all those honours with which they outrage the Nile, while themselves proclaiming it in song to be the Giver of fruits and grain, and the measurer of happiness by its cubits.

VI. I pass over the honours they pay to reptiles, and their worship of vile things, each of which has its peculiar cultus and festival, and all share in a common devilishness; so that, if they were absolutely bound to be ungodly, and to fall away from honouring God, and to be led astray to idols and works of art and things made with hands, men of sense could not imprecate anything worse upon themselves than that they might worship just such things, and honour them in just such a way; that, as Paul says, they might receive in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet, Romans 1:27 in the very objects of their worship; not so much honouring them as suffering dishonour by them; abominable because of their error, and yet more abominable from the vileness of the objects of their adoration and worship; so that they should be even more without understanding than the objects of their worship; being as excessively foolish as the latter are vile.

VII. Well, let these things be the amusement of the children of the Greeks and of the demons to whom their folly is due, who turn aside the honour of God to themselves, and divide men in various ways in pursuit of shameful thoughts and fancies, ever since they drove us away from the Tree of Life, by means of the Tree of Knowledge unseasonably and improperly imparted to us, and then assailed us as now weaker than before; carrying clean away the mind, which is the ruling power in us, and opening a door to the passions. For, being of a nature envious and man-hating, or rather having become so by their own wickedness, they could neither endure that we who were below should attain to that which is above, having themselves fallen from above upon the earth; nor that such a change in their glory and their first natures should have taken place. This is the meaning of their persecution of the creature. For this God's Image was outraged; and as we did not like to keep the Commandments, we were given over to the independence of our error. And as we erred we were disgraced by the objects of our worship. For there was not only this calamity, that we who were made for good works to the glory and praise of our Maker, and to imitate God as far as might be, were turned into a den of all sorts of passions, which cruelly devour and consume the inner man; but there was this further evil, that man actually made gods the advocates of his passions, so that sin might be reckoned not only irresponsible, but even divine, taking refuge in the objects of his worship as his apology.

VIII. But since to us grace has been given to flee from superstitious error and to be joined to the truth and to serve the living and true God, and to rise above creation, passing by all that is subject to time and to first motion; let us look at and reason upon God and things divine in a manner corresponding to this Grace given us. But let us begin our discussion of them from the most fitting point. And the most fitting is, as Solomon laid down for us; us; The beginning of wisdom, he says, is to get wisdom. Proverbs 4:7 And what this is he tells us; the beginning of wisdom is fear. For we must not begin with contemplation and leave off with fear (for an unbridled contemplation would perhaps push us over a precipice), but we must be grounded and purified and so to say made light by fear, and thus be raised to the height. For where fear is there is keeping of commandments; and where there is keeping of commandments there is purifying of the flesh, that cloud which covers the soul and suffers it not to see the Divine Ray. And where there is purifying there is Illumination; and Illumination is the satisfying of desire to those who long for the greatest things, or the Greatest Thing, or That Which surpasses all greatness.

IX. Wherefore we must purify ourselves first, and then approach this converse with the Pure; unless we would have the same experience as Israel, Exodus 34:30 who could not endure the glory of the face of Moses, and therefore asked for a veil; 2 Corinthians 3:7 or else would feel and say with Manoah We are undone O wife, we have seen God, Judges 13:23 although it was God only in his fancy; or like Peter would send Jesus out of the boat, Luke 5:8 as being ourselves unworthy of such a visit; and when I say Peter, I am speaking of the man who walked upon the waves; Matthew 14:29 or like Paul would be stricken in eyes, Acts 9:3-8 as he was before he was cleansed from the guilt of his persecution, when he conversed with Him Whom he was persecuting— or rather with a short flash of That great Light; or like the Centurion Matthew 8:8 would seek for healing, but would not, through a praiseworthy fear, receive the Healer into his house. Let each one of us also speak so, as long as he is still uncleansed, and is a Centurion still, commanding many in wickedness, and serving in the army of Cæsar, the World-ruler of those who are being dragged down; I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. But when he shall have looked upon Jesus, though he be little of stature like Zaccheus Luke 19:3 of old, and climb up on the top of the sycamore tree by mortifying his members which are upon the earth, Colossians 3:5 and having risen above the body of humiliation, then he shall receive the Word, and it shall be said to him, This day is salvation come to this house. Luke 19:9 Then let him lay hold on the salvation, and bring forth fruit more perfectly, scattering and pouring forth rightly that which as a publican he wrongly gathered.

X. For the same Word is on the one hand terrible through its nature to those who are unworthy, and on the other through its loving kindness can be received by those who are thus prepared, who have driven out the unclean and worldly spirit from their souls, and have swept and adorned their own souls by self-examination, and have not left them idle or without employment, so as again to be occupied with greater armament by the seven spirits of wickedness...the same number as are reckoned of virtue (for that which is hardest to fight against calls for the sternest efforts)...but besides fleeing from evil, practise virtue, making Christ entirely, or at any rate to the greatest extent possible, to dwell within them, so that the power of evil cannot meet with any empty place to fill it again with himself, and make the last state of that man worse than the first, by the greater energy of his assault, and the greater strength and impregnability of the fortress. But when, having guarded our soul with every care, and having appointed goings up in our heart, and broken up our fallow ground, Jeremiah 4:3 and sown unto righteousness, Proverbs 11:18 as David and Solomon and Jeremiah bid us, let us enlighten ourselves with the light of knowledge, and then let us speak of the Wisdom of God that has been hid in a mystery, 2 Corinthians 2:6 and enlighten others. Meanwhile let us purify ourselves, and receive the elementary initiation of the Word, that we may do ourselves the utmost good, making ourselves godlike, and receiving the Word at His coming; and not only so, but holding Him fast and showing Him to others.

XI. And now, having purified the theatre by what has been said, let us discourse a little about the Festival, and join in celebrating this Feast with festal and pious souls. And, since the chief point of the Festival is the remembrance of God, let us call God to mind. For I think that the sound of those who keep Festival There, where is the dwelling of all the Blissful, is nothing else than this, the hymns and praises of God, sung by all who are counted worthy of that City. Let none be astonished if what I have to say contains some things that I have said before; for not only will I utter the same words, but I shall speak of the same subjects, trembling both in tongue and mind and thought when I speak of God for you too, that you may share this laudable and blessed feeling. And when I speak of God you must be illumined at once by one flash of light and by three. Three in Individualities or Hypostases, if any prefer so to call them, or persons, for we will not quarrel about names so long as the syllables amount to the same meaning; but One in respect of the Substance— that is, the Godhead. For they are divided without division, if I may so say; and they are united in division. For the Godhead is one in three, and the three are one, in whom the Godhead is, or to speak more accurately, Who are the Godhead. Excesses and defects we will omit, neither making the Unity a confusion, nor the division a separation. We would keep equally far from the confusion of Sabellius and from the division of Arius, which are evils diametrically opposed, yet equal in their wickedness. For what need is there heretically to fuse God together, or to cut Him up into inequality?

XII. For to us there is but One God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and One Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom are all things; and One Holy Ghost, in Whom are all things; 2 Corinthians 8:6 yet these words, of, by, in, whom, do not denote a difference of nature (for if this were the case, the three prepositions, or the order of the three names would never be altered), but they characterize the personalities of a nature which is one and unconfused. And this is proved by the fact that They are again collected into one, if you will read— not carelessly— this other passage of the same Apostle, Of Him and through Him and to Him are all things; to Him be glory forever, Amen. Romans 11:36 The Father is Father, and is Unoriginate, for He is of no one; the Son is Son, and is not unoriginate, for He is of the Father. But if you take the word Origin in a temporal sense, He too is Unoriginate, for He is the Maker of Time, and is not subject to Time. The Holy Ghost is truly Spirit, coming forth from the Father indeed, but not after the manner of the Son, for it is not by Generation but by Procession (since I must coin a word for the sake of clearness ); for neither did the Father cease to be Unbegotten because of His begetting something, nor the Son to be begotten because He is of the Unbegotten (how could that be?), nor is the Spirit changed into Father or Son because He proceeds, or because He is God— though the ungodly do not believe it. For Personality is unchangeable; else how could Personality remain, if it were changeable, and could be removed from one to another? But they who make Unbegotten and Begotten natures of equivocal gods would perhaps make Adam and Seth differ in nature, since the former was not born of flesh (for he was created), but the latter was born of Adam and Eve. There is then One God in Three, and These Three are One, as we have said.

XIII. Since then these things are so, or rather since This is so; and His Adoration ought not to be rendered only by Beings above, but there ought to be also worshippers on earth, that all things may be filled with the glory of God (forasmuch as they are filled with God Himself); therefore man was created and honored with the hand and Image of God. But to despise man, when by the envy of the Devil and the bitter taste of sin he was pitiably severed from God his Maker— this was not in the Nature of God. What then was done, and what is the great Mystery that concerns us? An innovation is made upon nature, and God is made Man. He that rides upon the Heaven of Heavens in the East of His own glory and Majesty, is glorified in the West of our meanness and lowliness. And the Son of God deigns to become and to be called Son of Man; not changing what He was (for It is unchangeable); but assuming what He was not (for He is full of love to man), that the Incomprehensible might be comprehended, conversing with us through the mediation of the Flesh as through a veil; since it was not possible for that nature which is subject to birth and decay to endure His unveiled Godhead. Therefore the Unmingled is mingled; and not only is God mingled with birth and Spirit with flesh, and the Eternal with time, and the Uncircumscribed with measure; but also Generation with Virginity, and dishonour with Him who is higher than all honour; He who is impassible with Suffering, and the Immortal with the corruptible. For since that Deceiver thought that he was unconquerable in his malice, after he had cheated us with the hope of becoming gods, he was himself cheated by God's assumption of our nature; so that in attacking Adam as he thought, he should really meet with God, and thus the new Adam should save the old, and the condemnation of the flesh should be abolished, death being slain by flesh.

XIV. At His birth we duly kept Festival, both I, the leader of the Feast, and you, and all that is in the world and above the world. With the Star we ran, and with the Magi we worshipped, and with the Shepherds we were illuminated, and with the Angels we glorified Him, and with Simeon we took Him up in our arms, and with Anna the aged and chaste we made our responsive confession. And thanks be to Him who came to His own in the guise of a stranger, because He glorified the stranger. Now, we come to another action of Christ, and another mystery. I cannot restrain my pleasure; I am rapt into God. Almost like John I proclaim good tidings; for though I be not a Forerunner, yet am I from the desert. Christ is illumined, let us shine forth with Him. Christ is baptized, let us descend with Him that we may also ascend with Him. Jesus is baptized; but we must attentively consider not only this but also some other points. Who is He, and by whom is He baptized, and at what time? He is the All-pure; and He is baptized by John; and the time is the beginning of His miracles. What are we to learn and to be taught by this? To purify ourselves first; to be lowly minded; and to preach only in maturity both of spiritual and bodily stature. The first has a word especially for those who rush to Baptism off hand, and without due preparation, or providing for the stability of the Baptismal Grace by the disposition of their minds to good. For since Grace contains remission of the past (for it is a grace), it is on that account more worthy of reverence, that we return not to the same vomit again. The second speaks to those who rebel against the Stewards of this Mystery, if they are their superiors in rank. The third is for those who are confident in their youth, and think that any time is the right one to teach or to preside. Jesus is purified, and do you despise purification?...and by John, and do you rise up against your herald?...and at thirty years of age, and do you before your beard has grown presume to teach the aged, or believe that you teach them, though thou be not reverend on account of your age, or even perhaps for your character? But here it may be said, Daniel, and this or that other, were judges in their youth, and examples are on your tongues; for every wrongdoer is prepared to defend himself. But I reply that that which is rare is not the law of the Church. For one swallow does not make a summer, nor one line a geometrician, nor one voyage a sailor.

XV. But John baptizes, Jesus comes to Him Matthew 3:14 ...perhaps to sanctify the Baptist himself, but certainly to bury the whole of the old Adam in the water; and before this and for the sake of this, to sanctify Jordan; for as He is Spirit and Flesh, so He consecrates us by Spirit and water. John 5:35 John will not receive Him; Jesus contends. I have need to be baptized by You Matthew 3:17 says the Voice to the Word, the Friend to the Bridegroom; John 3:39 he that is above all among them that are born of women, Matthew 11:11 to Him Who is the Firstborn of every creature; Colossians 1:5 he that leaped in the womb, Luke 1:41 to Him Who was adored in the womb; he who was and is to be the Forerunner to Him Who was and is to be manifested. I have need to be baptized by You; add to this and for You; for he knew that he would be baptized by Martyrdom, or, like Peter, that he would be cleansed not only as to his feet. John 13:9 And You come to me? This also was prophetic; for he knew that after Herod would come the madness of Pilate, and so that when he had gone before Christ would follow him. But what says Jesus? Allow it to be so now, for this is the time of His Incarnation; for He knew that yet a little while and He should baptize the Baptist. And what is the Fan? The Purification. And what is the Fire? The consuming of the chaff, and the heat of the Spirit. And what the Axe? The excision of the soul which is incurable even after the dung. Luke 13:8 And what the Sword? The cutting of the Word, which separates the worse from the better, Hebrews 4:12 and makes a division between the faithful and the unbeliever; Matthew 10:35 and stirs up the son and the daughter and the bride against the father and the mother and the mother in law, Micah 7:6 the young and fresh against the old and shadowy. And what is the Latchet of the shoe, which thou John who baptizest Jesus may not loose? John 1:27 thou who art of the desert, and hast no food, the new Elias, Luke 7:26 the more than Prophet, inasmuch as you saw Him of Whom you prophesied, thou Mediator of the Old and New Testaments. What is this? Perhaps the Message of the Advent, and the Incarnation, of which not the least point may be loosed, I say not by those who are yet carnal and babes in Christ, but not even by those who are like John in spirit.

XVI. But further— Jesus goes up out of the water...for with Himself He carries up the world...and sees the heaven opened which Adam had shut against himself and all his posterity, Genesis 3:24 as the gates of Paradise by the flaming sword. And the Spirit bears witness to His Godhead, for he descends upon One that is like Him, as does the Voice from Heaven (for He to Whom the witness is borne came from thence), and like a Dove, for He honours the Body (for this also was God, through its union with God) by being seen in a bodily form; and moreover, the Dove has from distant ages been wont to proclaim the end of the Deluge. But if you are to judge of Godhead by bulk and weight, and the Spirit seems to you a small thing because He came in the form of a Dove, O man of contemptible littleness of thought concerning the greatest of things, you must also to be consistent despise the Kingdom of Heaven, because it is compared to a grain of mustard seed; Matthew 13:31 and you must exalt the adversary above the Majesty of Jesus, because he is called a great Mountain, Zechariah 4:7 and Leviathan and King of that which lives in the water, whereas Christ is called the Lamb, Isaiah 53:7 and the Pearl, Matthew 13:46 and the Drop and similar names.

XVII. Now, since our Festival is of Baptism, and we must endure a little hardness with Him Who for our sake took form, and was baptized, and was crucified; let us speak about the different kinds of Baptism, that we may come out thence purified. Moses baptized Leviticus xi but it was in water, and before that in the cloud and in the sea. 1 Corinthians 10:2 This was typical as Paul says; the Sea of the water, and the Cloud of the Spirit; the Manna, of the Bread of Life; the Drink, of the Divine Drink. John also baptized; but this was not like the baptism of the Jews, for it was not only in water, but also unto repentance. Still it was not wholly spiritual, for he does not add And in the Spirit. Jesus also baptized, but in the Spirit. This is the perfect Baptism. And how is He not God, if I may digress a little, by whom you too are made God? I know also a Fourth Baptism— that by Martyrdom and blood, which also Christ himself underwent:— and this one is far more august than all the others, inasmuch as it cannot be defiled by after-stains. Yes, and I know of a Fifth also, which is that of tears, and is much more laborious, received by him who washes his bed every night and his couch with tears; whose bruises stink through his wickedness; and who goes mourning and of a sad countenance; who imitates the repentance of Manasseh Ninevites Jonah 3:7-10 upon which God had mercy; who utters the words of the Publican in the Temple, and is justified rather than the stiff-necked Pharisee; Luke 18:13 who like the Canaanite woman bends down and asks for mercy and crumbs, the food of a dog that is very hungry. Matthew 15:27

XVIII. I, however, for I confess myself to be a man—that is to say, an animal shifty and of a changeable nature,— both eagerly receive this Baptism, and worship Him Who has given it me, and impart it to others; and by showing mercy make provision for mercy. For I know that I too am compassed with infirmity, Hebrews 5:2 and that with what measure I mete it shall be measured to me again. Matthew 7:2 But what do you say, O new Pharisee pure in title but not in intention, who dischargest upon us the sentiments of Novatus, though you share the same infirmities? Will you not give any place to weeping? Will you shed no tear? May you not meet with a Judge like yourself? Are you not ashamed by the mercy of Jesus, Who took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses; Matthew 8:17 Who came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; Who will have mercy rather than sacrifice; who forgives sins till seventy times seven. How blessed would your exaltation be if it really were purity, not pride, making laws above the reach of men, and destroying improvement by despair. For both are alike evil, indulgence not regulated by prudence, and condemnation that will never forgive; the one because it relaxes all reins, the other because it strangles by its severity. Show me your purity, and I will approve your boldness. But as it is, I fear that being full of sores you will render them incurable. Will you not admit even David's repentance, to whom his penitence preserved even the gift of prophecy? Nor the great Peter himself, who fell into human weakness at the Passion of our Saviour? Yet Jesus received him, and by the threefold question and confession healed the threefold denial. Or will you even refuse to admit that he was made perfect by blood (for your folly goes even as far as that)? Or the transgressor at Corinth? But Paul confirmed love towards him when he saw his amendment, and gives the reason, that such an one be not swallowed up by overmuch sorrow, 2 Corinthians 2:7 being overwhelmed by the excess of the punishment. And will you refuse to grant liberty of marriage to young widows on account of the liability of their age to fall? Paul ventured to do so; but of course you can teach him; for you have been caught up to the Fourth heaven, and to another Paradise, and have heard words more unspeakable, and comprehend a larger circle in your Gospel.

XIX. But these sins were not after Baptism, you will say. Where is your proof? Either prove it— or refrain from condemning; and if there be any doubt, let charity prevail. But Novatus, you say, would not receive those who lapsed in the persecution. What do you mean by this? If they were unrepentant he was right; I too would refuse to receive those who either would not stoop at all or not sufficiently, and who would refuse to make their amendment counterbalance their sin; and when I do receive them, I will assign them their proper place; but if he refused those who wore themselves away with weeping, I will not imitate him. And why should Novatus's want of charity be a rule for me? He never punished covetousness, which is a second idolatry; but he condemned fornication as though he himself were not flesh and body. What say you? Are we convincing you by these words? Come and stand here on our side, that is, on the side of humanity. Let us magnify the Lord together. Let none of you, even though he has much confidence in himself, dare to say, Touch me not for I am pure, and who is so pure as I? Give us too a share in your brightness. But perhaps we are not convincing you? Then we will weep for you. Let these men then if they will, follow our way, which is Christ's way; but if they will not, let them go their own. Perhaps in it they will be baptized with Fire, in that last Baptism which is more painful and longer, which devours wood like grass, 1 Corinthians 3:12-19 and consumes the stubble of every evil.

XX. But let us venerate today the Baptism of Christ; and let us keep the feast well, not in pampering the belly, but rejoicing in spirit. And how shall we luxuriate? Wash you, make you clean. Isaiah 1:17-18 If you be scarlet with sin and less bloody, be made white as snow; if you be red, and men bathed in blood, yet be ye brought to the whiteness of wool. Anyhow be purified, and you shall be clean (for God rejoices in nothing so much as in the amendment and salvation of man, on whose behalf is every discourse and every Sacrament), that you may be like lights in the world, a quickening force to all other men; that you may stand as perfect lights beside That great Light, and may learn the mystery of the illumination of Heaven, enlightened by the Trinity more purely and clearly, of Which even now you are receiving in a measure the One Ray from the One Godhead in Christ Jesus our Lord; to Whom be the glory and the might for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted by: Fr. Costa on Dec 27, 10 | 8:42 am | Profile

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Tue Dec 21, 2010

Homily on the Nativity of the Lord

I behold a new and wondrous mystery! My ears resound to the Shepherd's song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn.

The Angels sing!
The Archangels blend their voices in harmony!
The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise!
The Seraphim exalt His glory!


All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side the Sun of Justice.

And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed, he had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things move in obedience to God.

This day He Who Is, is Born; and He Who Is becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became he God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassibility, remaining unchanged.

And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.

Yet He has not forsaken His angels, nor left them deprived of His care, nor because of His Incarnation has he departed from the Godhead.

And behold,
Kings have come, that they might adore the heavenly King of glory;
Soldiers, that they might serve the Leader of the Hosts of Heaven;
Women, that they might adore Him Who was born of a woman so that He might change the pains of child-birth into joy;
Virgins, to the Son of the Virgin, beholding with joy, that He Who is the Giver of milk, Who has decreed that the fountains of the breast pour forth in ready streams, receives from a Virgin Mother the food of infancy;
Infants, that they may adore Him Who became a little child, so that out of the mouth of infants and sucklings, He might perfect praise;
Children, to the Child Who raised up martyrs through the rage of Herod;
Men, to Him Who became man, that He might heal the miseries of His servants;
Shepherds, to the Good Shepherd Who has laid down His life for His sheep;
Priests, to Him Who has become a High Priest according to the order of Melchisedech;
Servants, to Him Who took upon Himself the form of a servant that He might bless our servitude with the reward of freedom;
Fishermen, to Him Who from amongst fishermen chose catchers of men;
Publicans, to Him Who from amongst them named a chosen Evangelist;
Sinful women, to Him Who exposed His feet to the tears of the repentant;


And that I may embrace them all together, all sinners have come, that they may look upon the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world.

Since therefore all rejoice, I too desire to rejoice. I too wish to share the choral dance, to celebrate the festival. But I take my part, not plucking the harp, not shaking the Thyrsian staff, not with the music of pipes, nor holding a torch, but holding in my arms the cradle of Christ. For this is all my hope, this my life, this my salvation, this my pipe, my harp. And bearing it I come, and having from its power received the gift of speech, I too, with the angels, sing: Glory to God in the Highest;
and with the shepherds: and on earth peace to men of good will.

[St John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople]




Posted by: Fr. Costa on Dec 21, 10 | 8:58 am | Profile

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Tue Dec 14, 2010

The Incarnation was needed because man became absorbed in material things.

“Thus then, as we have said, the Creator fashioned the race of men, and thus meant it to remain. But men, making light of better things, and holding back from apprehending them, began to seek in preference things nearer to themselves. But nearer to themselves were the body and its senses; so that while removing their mind from the things perceived by thought, they began to regard themselves; and so doing, and holding to the body and the other things of sense, and deceived as it were in their own surroundings, they fell into lust of themselves, preferring what was their own to the contemplation of what belonged to God. Having then made themselves at home in these things, and not being willing to leave what was so near to them, they entangled their soul with bodily pleasures, vexed and turbid with all kind of lusts, while they wholly forgot the power they originally had from God. But the truth of this one may see from the man who was first made, according to what the holy Scriptures tell us of him. For he also, as long as he kept his mind to God, and the contemplation of God, turned away from the contemplation of the body. But when, by counsel of the serpent, he departed from the consideration of God, and began to regard himself, then they not only fell to bodily lust, but knew that they were naked, and knowing, were ashamed. But they knew that they were naked, not so much of clothing as that they had become stripped of the contemplation of divine things, and had transferred their understanding to the contraries. For having departed from the consideration of the one and the true, namely, God, and from desire of Him, they had thenceforward embarked in various lusts and in those of the several bodily senses. Next, as is apt to happen, having formed a desire for each and sundry, they began to be habituated to these desires, so that they were even afraid to leave them: whence the soul became subject to cowardice and alarms, and pleasures and thoughts of mortality. For not being willing to leave her lusts, she fears death and her separation from the body. But again, from lusting, and not meeting with gratification, she learned to commit murder and wrong. We are then led naturally to show, as best we can, how she does this.” [St. Athanasius of Alexandria, Against the Heathen]

Posted by: Fr. Costa on Dec 14, 10 | 6:47 am | Profile

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Tue Dec 07, 2010

Patristic Statement of Faith on the Feast of Christ’s Nativity or Christmas

“God, Father Almighty, maker of all things both visible and invisible, that has His being from Himself. And in one Only-begotten Word, Wisdom, Son, begotten of the Father without beginning and eternally; word not pronounced nor mental, nor an effluence of the Perfect, nor a dividing of the impassible Essence, nor an issue; but absolutely perfect Son, living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12), the true Image of the Father, equal in honor and glory. For this, he says, ‘is the will of the Father, that as they honor the Father, so they may honor the Son also’ (John 5:23): very God of very God, as John says in his general Epistles, ‘And we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ: this is the true God and everlasting life’ (1 John 5:20): Almighty of Almighty. For all things which the Father rules and sways, the Son rules and sways likewise: wholly from the Whole, being like the Father as the Lord says, ‘he that has seen Me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9). But He was begotten ineffably and incomprehensibly, for ‘who shall declare his generation?’ (Isaiah 53:8), in other words, no one can. Who, when at the consummation of the ages (Hebrews 9:26), He had descended from the bosom of the Father, took from the undefiled Virgin Mary our humanity (ἄíèñùðïí), Christ Jesus, whom He delivered of His own will to suffer for us, as the Lord said: ‘No man takes My life from Me. I have power to lay it down, and have power to take it again’ (John 10:18). In which humanity He was crucified and died for us, and rose from the dead, and was taken up into the heavens, having been created as the beginning of ways for us (Proverbs 8:22), when on earth He showed us light from out of darkness, salvation from error, life from the dead, an entrance to paradise, from which Adam was cast out, and into which he again entered by means of the thief, as the Lord said, ‘This day shall you be with Me in paradise’ (Luke 23:43), into which Paul also once entered. [He showed us] also a way up to the heavens, whither the humanity of the Lord, in which He will judge the quick and the dead, entered as precursor for us. We believe, likewise, also in the Holy Spirit that searches all things, even the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10), and we anathematize doctrines contrary to this.”

[St. Athanasius of Alexandria, The Statement of Faith]

Posted by: Fr. Costa on Dec 07, 10 | 7:19 am | Profile

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Tue Nov 30, 2010

The Incarnation of Christ Makes Man Immortal

“You are wondering, perhaps, for what possible reason, having proposed to speak of the Incarnation of the Word, we are at present treating of the origin of mankind. But this, too, properly belongs to the aim of our treatise. For in speaking of the appearance of the Savior among us, we must needs speak also of the origin of men, that you may know that the reason of His coming down was because of us, and that our transgression called forth the loving-kindness of the Word, that the Lord should both make haste to help us and appear among men. For of His becoming Incarnate we were the object, and for our salvation He dealt so lovingly as to appear and be born even in a human body. Thus, then, God has made man, and willed that he should abide in incorruption; but men, having despised and rejected the contemplation of God, and devised and contrived evil for themselves (as was said in the former treatise), received the condemnation of death with which they had been threatened; and from thenceforth no longer remained as they were made, but were being corrupted according to their devices; and death had the mastery over them as king (Romans 5:14). For transgression of the commandment was turning them back to their natural state, so that just as they have had their being out of nothing, so also, as might be expected, they might look for corruption into nothing in the course of time. For if, out of a former normal state of non-existence, they were called into being by the Presence and loving-kindness of the Word, it followed naturally that when men were bereft of the knowledge of God and were turned back to what was not (for what is evil is not, but what is good is), they should, since they derive their being from God who IS, be everlastingly bereft even of being; in other words, that they should be disintegrated and abide in death and corruption. For man is by nature mortal, inasmuch as he is made out of what is not; but by reason of his likeness to Him that is (and if he still preserved this likeness by keeping Him in his knowledge) he would stay his natural corruption, and remain incorrupt; as Wisdom 6:18 says: ‘The taking heed to His laws is the assurance of immortality’; but being incorrupt, he would live henceforth as God, to which I suppose the divine Scripture refers, when it says: ‘I have said you are gods, and you are all sons of the most Highest; but you die like men, and fall as one of the princes.’”

[St. Athanasius of Alexandria, On the Incarnation of the Word]

Posted by: Fr. Costa on Nov 30, 10 | 5:23 pm | Profile

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