Archive - Weekly Sayings 2012

December

St Gregory of Sinai, Philokalia

There are several signs that the energy of the Holy Spirit is beginning to be active ... In some it appears as awe arising in the heart, in other as a tremulous sense of jubilation, in others as joy, in others as joy mingled with awe, or as tremulousness mingled with joy, and sometimes it manifests itself as tears and awe. For the soul is joyous at God's visitation and mercy, but at the same time is in awe and trepidation at His presence because it is guilty of so many sins.

St John Chrysostom, Homily on the statutes

Fasting is a medicine. But like all medicines, though it be very profitable to the person who knows how to use it, it frequently becomes useless (and even harmful) in the hands of him who is unskillfull in its use.

For the honour of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices, since he who limits his fasting only to abstinence from meats is one who especially disparages fasting.

Do you fast? Give me prood of it by your works.

Abba Poemen, Saying of the desert fathers

Abba Joseph asked Abba Poemen: "How should we fast?" And Abba Poemen said: "I myself think it's good to eat every day a little at a time so as not to get full." Abba Joseph said: " Well, when you were young, didn't you used to fast for two days at a time?" And the old man said: "Believe me, indeed I did, for three days, and even a week. But the great elders tried all of this, and found that it is good to eat every day a little less each time. In this way, they showed us the royal highway, for it is light easy."

St Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John

... the assertion that the Word dwelt in us is a useful one because it also reveals to us a very deep mystery. For we are all in Christ. The common element of humanity is summed up in His passion, which is also why He was called the last Adam: He enriched our common nature with everything conducive to joy and glory just as the first Adam impoverished it with everything bringing corruption and gloom. This is precisely why the Word dwelt in all of us by dwelling in a single human being, so that through that one being who was 'designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness' (Rom 1:4) the whole of humanity might be raised up to His status so that the verse, "I said, you are gods and all of you sons of the Most High" (Ps 82:6) might through applying to one of us come to apply to us all.

November

St Basil, On Fasting

Beware of limiting the good of fasting to mere abstinence from meats. Real fasting is alienation from evil. "Loose the bands of wickedness." Forgive your neighbour the mischief he has done you. Forgive him his trespasses against you. Do not "fast for strife and debate." You do not devour flesh, but you devour your brother. You abstain from wine, but you indulge in outrages. You wait for evening before you take food, but your spend the day in the law courts.

Let us fast an acceptable and very pleasing fast to the Lord. True fast is the estrangement from evil, temperance of tongue, abstinence from anger, separation from desires, slander, falsehood and perjury. Privation of these is true fasting.

Fasting gives birth to prophets and strengthens the powerful; fasting makes lawgivers wise. Fasting is a good safeguard for the soul, a steadfast companion for the body, a weapon for the valiant, and a gymnasium for athletes. Fasting repels temptations, anoints unto piety; it is the comrade of watchfulness and the artificer of chastity. In war it fights bravely, in peace it teaches stillness.

St Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John

... anyone who receives the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and drinks His precious blood, as He Himself say, comes to be one with Him, mixed and mingled with Him, as it were, through partaking of Him, so that he come to be in Christ, as Christ in turn is in him. This is rather similar to what Christ taught us in the Gospel according to Matthew, where He says, 'The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened' (Matt 13:33).

St Gregory the theologian, Orations

To Whom was that Blood offered that was shed for us, and why was It shed? I mean the precious and famous Blood of our God and High priest and Sacrifice. We were detained in bondage by the Evil One, sold under sin, and receiving pleasure in exchange for wickedness. Now, since a ransom belongs only to him who holds in bondage, I ask to whom was this offered, and for what cause? If to the Evil One, fie upon the outrage! If the robber receives ransom, not only from God, but a ransom which consists of God Himself, and has such an illustrious payment for his tyranny, a payment for whose sake it would have been right for him to have left us alone altogether. But if to the Father, I ask first, how? For it was not by Him that we were being oppressed; and next, On what principle did the Blood of His Only begotten Son delight the Father, Who would not receive even Isaac, when he was being offered by his Father, but changed the sacrifice, putting a ram in the place of the human victim? Is it not evident that the Father accepts Him, but neither asked for Him nor demanded Him; but on account of the Incarnation, and because Humanity must be sanctified by the Humanity of God, that He might deliver us Himself, and overcome the tyrant, and draw us to Himself by the mediation of His Son, Who also arranged this to the honour of the Father, Whom it is manifest that He obeys in all things? So much we have said of Christ; the greater part of what we might say shall be reverenced with silence. But that brazen serpent Numbers 21:9 was hung up as a remedy for the biting serpents, not as a type of Him that suffered for us, but as a contrast; and it saved those that looked upon it, not because they believed it to live, but because it was killed, and killed with it the powers that were subject to it, being destroyed as it deserved. And what is the fitting epitaph for it from us? O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? You are overthrown by the Cross; you are slain by Him who is the Giver of life; you are without breath, dead, without motion, even though you keep the form of a serpent lifted up on high on a pole.

St John Chrysostom, Homily on Eutropius

Do not hold aloof from the Church; for nothing is stronger than the Church. The Church is your hope, your salvation, your refuge.

October

John Climacus, Ladder of divine ascent

When you hear that your neighbour or your friend has denounced you behind your back or indeed in your presence, show him love and try to compliment him... It is not the self-critical who revels his humility (for does not everyone have somehow to put with himself?) Rather it is the man who continues to love the person who has criticized him.

St Basil the great, On fasting

Let us fast an acceptable and very pleasing fast to the Lord. True fast is the estrangement from evil, temperance of tongue, abstinence from anger, separation from desires, slander, falsehood and perjury. Privation of these is true fasting.

Fasting gives birth to prophets and strengthens the powerful; fasting makes lawgivers wise. Fasting is a good safeguard for the soul, a steadfast companion for the body, a weapon for the valiant, and a gymnasium for athletes. Fasting repels temptations, anoints unto piety; it is the comrade of watchfulness and the artificer of chastity. In war it fights bravely, in peace it teaches stillness.

St Athanasius, On the incarnation of the Word

Whence, lest this should be so, being good. He gives them a share in His own Image, our Lord Jesus Christ, and makes them after His own Image and after His likeness: so that by such grace perceiving the Image, that is, the Word of the Father, they may be able through Him to get an idea of the Father, and knowing their Maker, live the happy and truly blessed life.

St Basil the great, First epistle to the Amphilaochios

If you want to be saved, do not ask for anything else here, in the world, but love.

St John Chrysostom, Homily on Hebrews

Let us bear all things thankfully, be it poverty, be it disease, be it anything else whatever; for He alone knows the things expedient for us. Let us have fellowship with Christ in His sufferings. Let us bear His reproach. Affliction is a great good. This brings us near to God. Are we in poverty? Let us give thanks. Are we in sickness? Let us give thanks. Are we falsely accused? Let us give thanks. When we suffer affliction, let us give thanks.

September

St Ignatius, Letter to the Smyrneans

It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does in reality serve the devil.

St Cyril of Alexandria, The Unity of Christ

Just as “he made him who knew no sin into sin for our sake that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (for the nature of man has been justified in him), so in the same way he caused him who knew not death (since the Word is life and life-giver) to suffer in the flesh. But insofar as he is considered as God he remained outside suffering in order that we might live through him and in him. For this reason the suffering of Christ has been called “the likeness of death”. So it is written: “If we become one being with him in the likeness of his death, so shall we be of his resurrection” (Rom 6:5). The Word was alive even when his holy flesh was tasting death, so that when death was beaten and corruption trodden underfoot the power of the resurrection might come upon the whole human race. It is a fact that “just as in Adam all men die, so all men shall be made alive in Christ” (1 Cor 15:22). How else should we say that the mystery of the economy of the Only Begotten in the flesh brought help to the nature of man, except that he who is above all creation brought himself down into a self- emptying and lowered himself in our condition? How else could it be except that the body which lay under corruption became a body of life so as to become beyond death and corruption?

St John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles

We shall be witnesses to Christ: for not those only are “martyrs,” (or witnesses, whom we so call), but ourselves also. This is why they are called martyrs, because when bidden to abjure (the faith), they endure all things, that they may speak the truth: and we, when we are bidden by our passions to abjure, let us not be overcome.

St Athanasius, Letters

But the Holy Spirit cries against them, 'The wicked be turned into hell, even all the nations that forget God...' Now we say that the wicked are dead, but in an ascetic life opposed to sin; nor do they, like the saints, bear about dying in their bodies. But it is the soul which they bury in sins and follies, drawing near to the dead, and satisfying it with dead nourishment.

St Basil, Letter

The Christian ought not to grudge another's reputation, nor rejoice over any man's fault; he ought in Christ's love to grieve and be afflicted at his brother's faults, and rejoice over his brother's good deeds. He ought not to be indifferent or silent before sinners. He who shows another to be wrong ought to do so with all tenderness, in the fear of God, and with the object of converting the sinner. He who is proved wrong or rebuked ought to take it willingly, recognizing his own gain in being set right... The sun ought not go down upon a brother's wrath, lest haply night come between brother and brother, and make the charge stand in the day of judgment.

August

St Ireaneus, Against Heresies

Just as Eve, wife of Adam, yet still a virgin, became by her disobedience the cause of death for herself and the whole human race, so Mary, too, espoused yet a Virgin, became by her disobedience the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race... And so it was that the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by Mary's obedience. For what the virgin Eve bound fast by her refusal to believe, this the Virgin Mary unbound by her belief.

St Athanasius, Letters

In order that while He might become a sacrifice for us all, we, nourished up in the words of truth, and partaking of His living doctrine, might be able with the saints to receive also the joy of Heaven. For there, as He called the disciples to the upper chamber, so does the Word call us with them to the divine and incorruptible banquet; having suffered for us here, but there, preparing the heavenly tabernacles for those who most readily hearken to the summons, and unceasingly, and [gazing] at the goal, pursue the prize of their high calling; where for them who come to the banquet, and strive with those who hinder them, there is laid up both a crown, and incorruptible joy. For even though, humanly speaking, the labour of such a journey is great, yet the Saviour Himself has rendered even it light and kindley.

St Cyprian of Carthage, Epistle to the Corinthians

We also, being called through God's will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves, neither through our own wisdom or understanding, or piety, or works which we have done in holiness or heart, but through faith.

St Jerome, Letter to Nepotian

Keep your tongue from cavilling and watch over your words. Know that in judging others you are passing sentence on yourself and that you are yourself guilty of the faults which you blame in them.

July

St John Damascus, An exposition of the Orthodox faith

Man, then, was thus snared by the assault of the arch-fiend, and broke his Creator's command, and was stripped of grace and put off his confidence with God, and covered himself with the asperities of a toilsome life (for this is the meaning of the fig-leaves ); and was clothed about with death, that is, mortality and the grossness of flesh (for this is what the garment of skins signifies); and was banished from Paradise by God's just judgment, and condemned to death, and made subject to corruption.

St Basil the great, Canon 84

I write all this with a view to testing the fruits of repentance. I do not decide such matters absolutely by time, but I give heed to the manner of penance. If men are in a state in which they find it hard to be weaned from their own ways and choose rather to serve the pleasures of the flesh than to serve the Lord, and refuse to accept the Gospel life, there is no common ground between me and them. In the midst of a disobedient and gain-saying people I have been taught to hear the words Save your own soul. Do not then let us consent to perish together with such sinners. Let us fear the awful judgment. Let us keep before our eyes the terrible day of the retribution of the Lord. Let us not consent to perish in other men's sins, for if the terrors of the Lord have not taught us, if so great calamities have not brought us to feel that it is because of our iniquity that the Lord has abandoned us, and given us into the hands of barbarians, that the people have been led captive before our foes and given over to dispersion, because the bearers of Christ's name have dared such deeds; if they have not known nor understood that it is for these reasons that the wrath of God has come upon us, what common ground of argument have I with them?

But we ought to testify to them day and night, alike in public and in private. Let us not consent to be drawn away with them in their wickedness. Let us above all pray that we may do them good, and rescue them from the snare of the evil one. If we cannot do this, let us at all events do our best to save our own souls from everlasting damnation.

St Isaac the Syrian, Ascetic practices

Just as it is not possible for someone to cross the great sea without a ship, so someone cannot reach love without fear. We can cross the tempestuous sea placed between us and the spiritual paradise only with the ship of repentance, borne by the oarsmen of fear. If these oarsmen of fear do not handle the ship of repentance well, by which we cross the sea of this world toward God, we will be drowned in it. Repentance is the ship, fear is the rudder, love the divine harbour. So fear puts us in the ship of repentance, and we cross the tempestuous sea and it guides us to the divine harbour, which is love where all those who labour and have been enlightened by repentance arrive. And when we have reached love, we have reached God. And our journey has ended and we have reached the island which is beyond this world.

St Basil the Great, On Fasting

Beware of limiting the good of fasting to mere abstinence from meats. Real fasting is alienation from evil. “Loose the bands of wickedness.” Forgive your neighbour the mischief he has done you. Forgive him his trespasses against you. Do not “fast for strife and debate.” You do not devour flesh, but you devour your brother. You abstain from wine, but you indulge in outrages. You wait for evening before you take food, but you spend the day in the law courts.

June

St Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle

Wherefore it is fitting that you should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which thing also you do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Therefore in your concord and harmonious love, Jesus Christ is sung. And man by man, become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, you may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that you are indeed the members of His Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus you may always enjoy communion with God.

Abba Poeman, Saying of the desert fathers

Abba Joseph asked Abba Poemen: "How should we fast?" And Abba Poemen said: "I myself think it's good to eat every day a little at a time so as not to get full." Abba Joseph said: "Well, when you were young, didn't you used to fast for two days at a time?" And the old man said: "Believe me, indeed I did, for three days, and even a week. But the great elders tried all of this, and found that it is good to eat every day a little less each time. In this way, they showed us the royal highway, for it is light and easy."

May

St Athanasius, Letter to Serapion

Even the gifts that the Spirit dispenses to individuals are given by the Father through the Word. For all that belongs to the Father belongs also to the Son, and so the graces given by the Son in the Spirit are true gifts of the Father. Similarly, when the Spirit dwells in us, the Word who bestows the Spirit is in us too, and the Father is present in the Word. This is the meaning of the text: My Father and I will come to him and make our home with him. For where the light is, there also is the radiance; and where the radiance is, there too are its power and its resplendent grace.

This is also Paul’s teaching in his second letter to the Corinthians (13:13): The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. For grace and the gift of the Trinity are given by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Just as grace is given from the Father through the Son, so there could be no communication of the gift to us except in the Holy Spirit. But when we share in the Spirit, we posses the love of the Father, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Spirit himself.

St Macarius the great, Homilies

Let us pray that the Spirit may teach us true prayer which now we are unable to accomplish even through our earnest striving. He will teach us how to accomplish, with hearts of compassion, kindness and all the other commandments of the Lord truly without any trouble and force since the Spirit himself knows how to fill us with his fruit. And so we fulfil the commandments of God through his Spirit, who alone knows the will of the Lord. The Spirit has perfected us in himself and He is perfected in us as we are purified from all defilement and stain of sin, as he presents us as beautiful brides, pure and spotless, to Christ. We rest in God, in his kingdom, and God rests in us for all ages unending. Glory to his tender compassion and mercy and love that he has deigned to bestow such honour and glory to the human race and to deign to make them sons of the heavenly Father and has called them his own brothers.

St Basil the great, On the Holy Spirit

You expect to be glorified together with Christ; (if so be that we suffer with him that we may be also glorified together; Romans 8:17) but you do not glorify the Spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4) together with Christ, as though He were not worthy to receive equal honour even with you. You hope to reign with (2 Timothy 2:12) Christ; but you do despite unto the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29) by assigning Him the rank of a slave and a subordinate. And I say this not to demonstrate that so much is due to the Spirit in the ascription of glory, but to prove the unfairness of those who will not ever give so much as this, and shrink from the fellowship of the Spirit with Son and Father as from impiety. Who could touch on these things without a sigh? Is it not so plain as to be within the perception even of a child that this present state of things preludes the threatened eclipse of the faith? The undeniable has become the uncertain. We profess belief in the Spirit, and then we quarrel with our own confessions. We are baptized, and begin to fight again. We call upon Him as the Prince of Life, and then despise Him as a slave like ourselves. We received Him with the Father and the Son, and we dishonour Him as a part of creation. Those who know not what they ought to pray for, (Romans 8:26) even though they be induced to utter a word of the Spirit with awe, as though coming near His dignity, yet prune down all that exceeds the exact proportion of their speech. They ought rather to bewail their weakness, in that we are powerless to express in words our gratitude for the benefits which we are actually receiving; for He passes all understanding, (Philippines 4:7) and convicts speech of its natural inability even to approach His dignity in the least degree; as it is written in the Book of Wisdom, Exalt Him as much as you can, for even yet will He far exceed; and when you exalt Him put forth all your strength, and be not weary, for you can never go far enough. Verily terrible is the account to be given for words of this kind by you who have heard from God who cannot lie that for blasphemy against the Holy Ghost there is no forgiveness. (Luke 12:10)

St Cyril of Alexandria, On the Holy Spirit

Does this not show that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell and alters the whole pattern of their lives? With the Spirit within them it is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely other-worldly in outlook, and for cowards to become men of great courage. There can be no doubt that this is what happened to the disciples. The strength they received from the Spirit enabled them to hold firmly to the love of Christ, facing the violence of their persecutors unafraid. Very true, then, was our Saviour’s saying that it was to their advantage for him to return to heaven: his return was the time appointed for the descent of the Holy Spirit.

April

St Gregory the Theologian, Orations

And if He ascend up into Heaven, ascend with Him. Be one of those angels who escort Him, or one of those who receive Him. Bid the gates be lifted up, or be made higher, that they may receive Him, exalted after His Passion. Answer to those who are in doubt because He bears up with Him His body and the tokens of His Passion, which He had not when He came down, and who therefore inquire, Who is this King of Glory? that it is the Lord strong and mighty, as in all things that He has done from time to time and does, so now in His battle and triumph for the sake of Mankind. And give to the doubting of the question the twofold answer. And if they marvel and say as in Isaiah's drama Who is this that comes from Edom and from the things of earth? Or How are the garments red of Him that is without blood or body, as of one that treads in the full wine-press? set forth the beauty of the array of the Body that suffered, adorned by the Passion, and made splendid by the Godhead, than which nothing can be more lovely or more beautiful.

St John Chrysostom, Paschal Homily

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival. If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord. If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now receive recompense. If anyone has laboured from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.

For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has laboured from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one He gives, and to the other He is gracious. He both honours the work and praises the intention.

St Cyril of Alexandria Homily on John

“I am dying for all men”, says the Lord. “I am dying to give them life through myself and to redeem the whole human race through my humanity. In my death, death itself will die and man’s fallen nature will rise again with me. I wanted to be like my brothers in every respect, so I became a man like you, a descendant of Abraham”. Understanding this well Saint Paul says: As the children of a family share the same flesh and blood, he too shared our human nature so that by his death he could destroy the power of the devil, the prince of death. Death itself and the prince of death could be destroyed only by Christ, who is above all, giving himself up as a ransom for all.

And so, speaking as a spotless victim offering himself for us to God the Father, Christ says in one of the psalms:

You desired no sacrifices or offerings, but you have prepared a body for me. You took no pleasure in holocausts or sin offerings. Then I said, “Behold, I am coming”. He was crucified for all, desiring his one death for all to give all of us life in him. It was impossible for him to be conquered by death; nor could he who by his very nature is life be subject to corruption. Yet we know that Christ offered his flesh for the life of the world from his own prayer, Holy Father, protect them, and from his words, For their sake I consecrate myself. By saying that he consecrates himself he means that he offers himself to God as a spotless and sweet-smelling sacrifice. According to the law, anything offered upon the altar was consecrated and considered holy. So Christ gave his own body for the life of all, and makes it the channel through which life flows once more into us. How he does this I will explain to the best of my ability.

When the life-giving Word of God dwelt in human flesh, he changed it into that good thing which is distinctively his, namely, life; and by being wholly united to the flesh in a a way beyond our comprehension, he gave it the life-giving power which he has by his very nature. Therefore, the body of Christ gives life to those who receive it. Its presence in mortal men expels death and drives away corruption because it contains within itself in his entirety the Word who totally abolishes corruption.

St John Chrysostom, Homily on John (The blind man)

That you may learn that there also it was Christ who healed him. As Paul says, They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). As then Christ was the spiritual Rock, so also was He the spiritual Siloam. To me also the sudden coming in of the water seems to hint an ineffable mystery. What is that? The unlooked for (nature) of His appearance, beyond all expectation.

But observe the mind of the blind man, obedient in everything. He said not, If it is really the clay or the spittle which gives me eyes, what need of Siloam? Or if there be need of Siloam, what need of the clay? Why did he anoint me? Why bid me wash? But he entertained no such thoughts, he held himself prepared for one thing only, to obey in all things Him who gave the command, and nothing that was done offended him.

March

St John Chrysostom, Homily on John (The paralysed man)

Let us be ashamed then, beloved, let us be ashamed, and groan over our excessive sloth. Thirty and eight years had that man been waiting without obtaining what he desired, and withdrew not. And he had failed not through any carelessness of his own, but through being oppressed and suffering violence from others, and not even thus did he grow dull; while we if we have persisted for ten days to pray for anything and have not obtained it, are too slothful afterwards to employ the same zeal. And on men we wait for so long a time, warring and enduring hardships and performing servile ministrations, and often at last failing in our expectation, but on our Master, from whom we are sure to obtain a recompense greater than our labours, (for, says the Apostle, Hope makes not ashamed Romans 5:5) on Him we endure not to wait with becoming diligence. What chastisement does this deserve! For even though we could receive nothing from Him, ought we not to deem the very conversing with Him continually the cause of ten thousand blessings? But continual prayer is a laborious thing. And what that belongs to virtue is not laborious? In truth, says some one, this very point is full of great difficulty, that pleasure is annexed to vice, and labour to virtue.

St John Chrysostom, On death and funerals

Be ashamed of your manner of burial. The singing of psalms, the prayers, the assembling of the [spiritual] fathers and brethren—all this is not that you may weep and lament and afflict yourselves, but that you may render thanks to Him who has taken the departed. For as when men are called to some high office multitudes with praises on their lips assemble to escort them at their departure to their stations, so do all with abundant praise join to send forward, as to greater honour, those of the pious who have departed.

Death is rest; a deliverance from the exhausting labours and cares of this world.

St Cyril of Alexandria, On the prodigal son

For some there are who live a perfectly honourable and consistent life, practising every kind of virtuous action, and abstaining from every thing disapproved by the law of God, and crowning themselves with perfect praises in the sight of God and of men: while another is perhaps weak and trodden down, and humbled unto every kind of wickedness, guilty of base deeds, loving impurity, given to covetousness, and stained with all evil. And yet such a one often in old age turns unto God, and asks the forgiveness of his former offences: he prays for mercy, and putting away from him his readiness to fall into sin, sets his affection on virtuous deeds. Or even perhaps when about to close his mortal life, he is admitted to divine baptism, and puts away his offences, God being merciful unto him. And perhaps sometimes persons are indignant at this, and even say, 'This man, who has been guilty of such and such actions, and has spoken such and such words, has not paid unto the judge the retribution of his conduct, but has been counted worthy of a grace thus noble and admirable: he has been inscribed among the sons of God, and honoured with the glory of the saints.' Such complaints men sometimes give utterance too from an empty narrowness of mind, not conforming to the purpose of the universal Father. For He greatly rejoices when He sees those who were lost obtaining salvation, and raises them up again to that which they were in the beginning, giving them the dress of freedom, and adorning them with the chief robe, and putting a ring upon their hand, even the orderly behaviour which is pleasing to God and suitable to the free.

It is our duty, therefore, to conform ourselves to that which God wills: for He heals those who are sick; He raises those who are fallen; He gives a helping hand to those who have stumbled; He brings back him who has wandered; He forms anew unto a praiseworthy and blameless life those who were wallowing in the mire of sin; He seeks those who were lost; He raises as from the dead those who had suffered the spiritual death. Let us also rejoice: let us, in company with the holy angels, praise Him as being good, and loving unto men; as gentle, and not remembering evil. For if such is our state of mind, Christ will receive us, by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen.

St Gregory the Wonderworker, Twelve topics on the faith

Wherefore, when it is said that He was troubled in spirit, that He was sorrowful in soul, that He was wounded in body, He places before us designations of susceptibilities proper to our constitution, in order to show that He was made man in the world, and had His conversation with men, yet without sin. For He was born in Bethlehem according to the flesh, in a manner meet for Deity, the angels of heaven recognising Him as their Lord, and hymning as their God Him who was then wrapped in swaddling-clothes in a manger, and exclaiming, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will among men. He was brought up in Nazareth; but in divine fashion He sat among the doctors, and astonished them by a wisdom beyond His years, in respect of the capacities of His bodily life, as is recorded in the Gospel narrative. He was baptized in Jordan, not as receiving any sanctification for Himself, but as gifting a participation in sanctification to others. He was tempted in the wilderness, not as giving way, however, to temptation, but as putting our temptations before Himself on the challenge of the tempter, in order to show the powerlessness of the tempter.

John Cassian, Institutes

For it is not an external enemy whom we have to dread. Our foe is shut up within ourselves: an internal warfare is daily waged by us: and if we are victorious in this, all external things will be made weak, and everything will be made peaceful and subdued for the soldier of Christ. We shall have no external enemy to fear, if what is within is overcome and subdued to the spirit. And let us not believe that that external fast from visible food alone can possibly be sufficient for perfection of heart and purity of body unless with it there has also been united a fast of the soul.

February

St Gregory the theologian, Orations

God demands the following three virtues from every man who is baptized: for the soul, true faith; for the body, chastity; for the tongue, truth.... It is more essential to remember God than to breathe... you must think of God more often than you breathe.

St Gregory of Nyssa, On Virginity

But our view of marriage is this; that, while the pursuit of heavenly things should be a man's first care, yet if he can use the advantages of marriage with sobriety and moderation, he need not despise this way of serving the state. An example might be found in the patriarch Isaac. He married Rebecca when he was past the flower of his age and his prime was nearly spent, so that his marriage was not the deed of passion, but because of God's blessing that should be upon his seed. He cohabited with her till the birth of her only children , and then, closing the channels of the senses, lived wholly for the Unseen; for this is what seems to be meant by the mention in his history of the dimness of the Patriarch's eyes. But let that be as those think who are skilled in reading these meanings, and let us proceed with the continuity of our discourse. What then, were we saying? That in the cases where it is possible at once to be true to the diviner love, and to embrace wedlock, there is no reason for setting aside this dispensation of nature and misrepresenting as abominable that which is honourable... In the same way, if (as life does need a mutual succession) a man so treats this need as to give spiritual things the first thought, and because of the shortness of the time indulges but sparingly the sexual passion and keeps it under restraint, that man would realize the character of the prudent husband man to which the Apostle exhorts us. About the details of paying these trifling debts of nature he will not be over-calculating, but the long hours of his prayers will secure the purity which is the key-note of his life. He will always fear lest by this kind of indulgence he may become nothing but flesh and blood; for in them God's Spirit does not dwell. He who is of so weak a character that he cannot make a manful stand against nature's impulse had better keep himself very far away from such temptations, rather than descend into a combat which is above his strength. There is no small danger for him lest, cajoled in the valuation of pleasure, he should think that there exists no other good but that which is enjoyed along with some sensual emotion, and, turning altogether from the love of immaterial delights, should become entirely of the flesh, seeking always his pleasure only there, so that his character will be a Pleasure- lover, not a God-lover. It is not every man's gift, owing to weakness of nature, to hit the due proportion in these matters; there is a danger of being carried far beyond it, and sticking fast in the deep mire , to use the Psalmist's words. It would therefore be for our interest, as our discourse has been suggesting, to pass through life without a trial of these temptations, lest under cover of the excuse of lawful indulgence passion should gain an entrance into the citadel of the soul.

St John Chrysostom, Homilies on Colossians

Shall I tell how marriage is also a mystery of the Church? As Christ came into the Church, and she was made of him, and he united with her in a spiritual intercourse, for, says one, I have espoused you to one husband, a pure virgin. 2 Corinthians 11:2 And that we are of Him, he says, of His members, and of His flesh. Thinking then on all these things, let us not cast shame upon so great a mystery. Marriage is a type of the presence of Christ, and are you drunken at it? Tell me; if you saw an image of the king, would you dishonor it? By no means.

St Gregory of Nyssa, Homily on the beatitudes

...the man who purifies the eye of his soul will enjoy an immediate vision of God... it is the same lesson taught by the Word (i.e. Christ) when He said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21) This teaches us that the man who purifies his heart of every passionate impulse will see the image of the divine nature in his own beauty.

You must then wash away, by a life of virtue, the dirt which has clung to your heart like plaster, and then your divine beauty will once again shine forth.

January

St Gregory the theologian, Oration on the Holy Lights

But John baptizes, Jesus comes to him ...probably 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.

St Ephraim the Syrian, Hymn 3 on the Epiphany

Descend my sealed brethren, put on our Lord,— and be rejoined to His lineage, for He is son of a great lineage,— as He has said in His Word

St Gregory the theologian, Orations

Our Head, which is Christ, to this end has willed us to be His members, that through His large charity and faithfulness He might make us one body in Himself, to whom it befits us so to cling that, since without Him we can do nothing, through Him we may be enabled to be what we are called. From the citadel of the Head let nothing divide us, lest, if we refuse to be His members, we be deserted of Him, and wither as branches cast off from the vine. That we may be counted worthy, then, to be the habitation of our Redeemer, let us abide with the whole desire of our heart in His love. For he says, He that loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will make our abode with him.

St Augustine of Hippo, Exposition on the Psalms

You shall bless the crown of the year of Your goodness (Psalm 64:11). Seed is now sowing, that which is sown is growing, there will be the harvest too. And now over the seed the enemy has sown tares; and there have risen up evil ones among the good, false Christians, having like leaf, but not like fruit. For those are properly called tares, which spring up in the manner of wheat, for instance darnel, for instance wild oats, and all such as have the first leaf the same. Therefore of the sowing of the tares thus says the Lord: There has come an enemy, and has sown over them tares; (Matthew 13:25) but what has he done to the grain? The wheat is not choked by the tares, nay, through endurance of the tares the fruit of the wheat is increased. For the Lord Himself said to certain workmen desiring to root up the tares, Suffer ye both to grow unto the harvest. (Matthew 13:30) ...Conquer the devil, and you will have a crown. You shall bless the crown of the year of Your goodness. Again he makes reference to the goodness of God, lest any one boast of his own merits. Your plains shall be filled with abundance.