Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday of the 8th week in ordinary time

The Moral Reflections on Job by Pope St Gregory the Great
If we receive good from the hand of God, why should we not also receive evil?

Paul saw the riches of wisdom within himself though he himself was outwardly a corruptible body, which is why he says We have this treasure in earthen vessels. In Job, then, the earthenware vessel felt his gaping sores externally; while this interior treasure remained unchanged. Outwardly he had gaping wounds but that did not stop the treasure of wisdom within him from welling up and uttering these holy and instructive words: If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil? By the good he means the good things given by God, both temporal and eternal; by evil he means the blows he is suffering from in the present. Of those evils the Lord says, through the prophet Isaiah,
I am the Lord, unrivalled,
I form the light and create the dark.
I make good fortune and create calamity,
it is I, the Lord, who do all this.
I form the light, and create the dark, because when the darkness of pain is created by blows from without, the light of the mind is kindled by instruction within.
I make good fortune and create calamity, because when we wrongly covet things which it was right for God to create, they are turned into scourges and we see them as evil. We have been alienated from God by sin, and it is fitting that we should be brought back to peace with him by the scourge. As every being, which was created good, turns to pain for us, the mind of the chastened man may, in its humbled state, be made new in peace with the Creator.
We should especially notice the skilful turn of reflection he uses when he gathers himself up to meet the persuading of his wife, when he says If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil? It is a great consolation to us if, when we suffer afflictions, we recall to remembrance our Maker’s gifts to us. Painful things will not depress us if we quickly remember also the gifts that we have been given. As Scripture says, In the day of prosperity do not forget affliction, and in the day of affliction, do not forget prosperity.
Whoever, in the moment of receiving God’s gifts but forgets to fear possible affliction, will be brought low by his presumption. Equally, whoever in the moment of suffering fails to take comfort from the gifts which it has been his lot to receive, is thrown down from the steadfastness of his mind and despairs.
The two must be united so that each may always have the other’s support, so that both remembrance of the gift may moderate the pain of the blow and fear of the blow may moderate exuberance at receiving the gift. Thus the holy man, to soothe the depression of his mind amidst his wounds, weighs the sweetness of the gifts against the pains of affliction, saying If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

8th Sunday in ordinary time

The Moral Reflections on Job by Pope St Gregory the Great
An upright and honest man who feared God and shunned evil.
Some people are so simple that they do not know what uprightness is. Theirs is not the true simplicity of the innocent: they are as far from that as they are far from rising to the virtue of uprightness. As long as they do not know how to guard their steps by walking in uprightness, they can never remain innocent merely by walking in simplicity. This is why St Paul warns his disciples I hope that you are also wise in what is good, and innocent of what is bad but also Brothers, you are not to be childish in your outlook, though you can be babies as far as wickedness is concerned. Thus Christ our Truth enjoins his disciples with the words Be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves. In giving them this admonition, he had to join the two together, so that both the simplicity of the dove might be instructed by the craftiness of the serpent, and the craftiness of the serpent might be attempered by the simplicity of the dove.
  That is why the Holy Spirit has manifested his presence to mankind, not only in the form of a dove but also in the form of fire. For by the dove simplicity is indicated, and by fire, zeal. So he is manifested in a dove and in fire, because those who are full of the Spirit have the mildness of simplicity, but catch fire with zeal of uprightness against the offences of sinners.
  An upright and honest man who feared God and shunned evil. Undoubtedly whoever longs for the eternal country lives sincerely and uprightly: perfect in practice, and right in faith, sincere in the good that he does in this lower state, right in the high truths which he minds in his inner self. For there are some who are not sincere in the good actions that they do, looking not to be rewarded within themselves but to win favour from others. Hence it is well said by a certain wise man, Woe to the sinner who follows two ways. A sinner goes two ways when an action he performs belongs to God but what he aims at in his thought belongs to the world.
  It is well said, who feared God and shunned evil, for the holy Church of the elect starts on the path of simplicity and of uprightness from fear but completes that path in charity. When, from the love of God, she feels an unwillingness to sin, then she may shun evil. But when she is still doing good deeds from fear then she is not entirely shunning evil: the fact is that she would have sinned if she could have sinned without being punished.
  So then: when Job is said to have feared God, it is rightly related that he also shunned evil. Fear comes first and charity follows later; and when that has happened, the offence which is left behind in the mind is trodden underfoot by the desires of the heart.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

From the Explanation on Ecclesiastes by St Gregory of Agrigentum

Come to the Lord and receive enlightenment

Light is sweet, says Ecclesiastes, at the sight of the sun the eyes are glad. Take away light, and the world is without beauty. Take away light, and life itself is without life. Moses, a man who saw God, says God saw the light and said it was good. So it is right for us to contemplate the great, the true, the eternal light that enlightens every man that comes into the world – that is, Christ the saviour and redeemer of the world, who was made man and lived the human condition to its very end. Of him the prophet David says in the Psalms,
Sing to the Lord and celebrate his name!
Make a road for him who rides upon the clouds –
“The Lord” is his name.
Rejoice in his sight!
He called the light sweet and foretold that it would be good to see with his own eyes the Sun of glory, he who as God-in-man said I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark: he will have the light of life. And again: This is the judgement, that light has come into the world. In this way he used the light of the sun, which we perceive with our eyes, as a prefiguration of the coming of the Sun of justice. That Sun was sweet indeed for those who were found worthy to be taught by him and to see him with their own eyes just like any other man. He was not just any man, he was also the true God, and this is why he made the blind see, the lame walk and the deaf hear, this is why he cleansed people afflicted with leprosy and by his sole command called the dead back to life.

Moreover, even now , in the present, it is a most sweet activity to look on him with the eyes of the spirit, to contemplate his divine beauty and ponder it in our hearts. Thus through communion and togetherness we are enlightened and adorned, our spirits filled with sweetness and we ourselves wrapped in holiness as in a cloak. We attain understanding and finally we are filled with exultation in God which will last all the days of this our present life. As the wise preacher Ecclesiastes said, However great the number of years that a man may live, let him enjoy them all. Obviously the Sun of justice makes all who gaze on him rejoice. As the prophet David says:

The righteous are glad and exult in God’s sight;
they rejoice in their gladness.
Rejoice in the Lord, you just: it is good for the upright to praise him.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday of Week 7 in ordinary time

From the Explanation on Ecclesiastes by St Gregory of Agrigentum
My soul, rejoice in the Lord!
Come, eat your bread with joy
and drink your wine with a glad heart;
for what you do, God has approved beforehand.
This exhortation of Ecclesiastes is very proper if you take its words in their ordinary everyday sense. If we embrace a simple rule of life and let our beliefs be inspired by a sincere faith in God, we should eat our bread with joy and drink our wine with a glad heart. We should not fall into slanderous speech or devote ourselves to devious stratagems; rather, we should direct our thoughts on straight paths and (as far as is practicable) help the poor and destitute with compassion and generosity – that is, dedicate ourselves to the activities that please God himself.
But the same text can be given a spiritual meaning that leads us to higher thoughts. It speaks of the heavenly and mystical bread, which has come down from heaven, bringing life to the world, and to drink a spiritual wine with a cheerful heart, that wine which flowed from the side of the True Vine at the moment of his saving passion. Of this, the Gospel of our salvation says: When Jesus had taken bread and blessed it, he said to his holy disciples and apostles, Take, eat; this is my body which is being broken for you for the forgiveness of sins. In the same way he took the cup and said, Drink from this, all of you: this is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, which will be shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. For whoever eats this bread and drinks this mystical wine enjoys true happiness and rejoices, exclaiming: You have put joy into our hearts.
Moreover, I think this is the bread and this is the wine that is referred to in the book of Proverbs by God’s self-subsistent Wisdom (that is, Christ our Saviour): Come, eat my bread and drink the wine I have mixed for you. Thus he refers to our mystical sharing in the Word. For those worthy to receive this are forever clothed in garments (that is, the works of light) shining as bright as light itself. As the Lord says in the Gospel, Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. And, indeed, oil will be seen flowing eternally over their heads – the oil that is the Spirit of truth, guarding and preserving them from all the harm of sin.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday of week 7 in ordinary time

From the Instructions of St Columbanus, abbot
The immeasurable depths of God
God is everywhere. He is immeasurably vast and yet everywhere he is close at hand, as he himself bears witness: I am a God close at hand, and not a God who is distant. It is not a God who is far away that we are seeking, since (if we deserve it) he is within us. For he lives in us as the soul lives in the body – if only we are healthy limbs of his, if we are dead to sin. Then indeed he lives within us, he who has said: And I will live in them and walk among them. If we are worthy for him to be in us then in truth he gives us life, makes us his living limbs. As St Paul says, In him we live and move and have our being.
  Given his indescribable and incomprehensible essence, who will explore the Most High? Who can examine the depths of God? Who will take pride in knowing the infinite God who fills all things and surrounds all things, who pervades all things and transcends all things, who takes possession of all things but is not himself possessed by any thing? The infinite God whom no-one has seen as he is? Therefore let no-one try to penetrate the secrets of God, what he was, how he was, who he was. These things cannot be described, examined, explored. Simply – simply but strongly – believe that God is as God was, that God will be as God has always been, for God cannot be changed.
  So who is God? God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God. Do not demand to know more of God. Those who want to see into the depths must first consider the natural world, for knowledge of the Trinity is rightly compared to knowledge of the depths of the sea: as Ecclesiastes says, And the great depths, who shall fathom them? Just as the depths of the sea are invisible to human sight, so the godhead of the Trinity is beyond human sense and understanding. Thus, I say, if anyone wants to know what he should believe, let him not think that he will understand better through speech than through belief: if he does that, the wisdom of God will be further from him than before.
  Therefore, seek the highest knowledge not by words and arguments but by perfect and right action. Not with the tongue, gathering arguments from God-free theories, but by faith, which proceeds from purity and simplicity of heart. If you seek the ineffable by means of argument, it will be further from you than it was before; if you seek it by faith, wisdom will be in her proper place at the gateway to knowledge, and you will see her there, at least in part. Wisdom is in a certain sense attained when you believe in the invisible without first demanding to understand it. God must be believed in as he is, that is, as being invisible; even though he can be partly seen by a pure heart.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Saint Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr

From a letter on the martyrdom of Saint Polycarp by the Church of Smyrna
A rich and pleasing sacrifice
When the pyre was ready, Polycarp took off all his clothes and loosened his under-garment. He made an effort also to remove his shoes, though he had been unaccustomed to this, for the faithful always vied with each other in their haste to touch his body. Even before his martyrdom he had received every mark of honour in tribute to his holiness of life.
  There and then he was surrounded by the material for the pyre. When they tried to fasten him also with nails, he said: “Leave me as I am. The one who gives me strength to endure the fire will also give me strength to stay quite still on the pyre, even without the precaution of your nails.” So they did not fix him to the pyre with nails but only fastened him instead. Bound as he was, with hands behind his back, he stood like a mighty ram, chosen out for sacrifice from a great flock, a worthy victim made ready to be offered to God.
  Looking up to heaven, he said: “Lord, almighty God, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have come to the knowledge of yourself, God of angels, of powers, of all creation, of all the race of saints who live in your sight, I bless you for judging me worthy of this day, this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ, your anointed one, and so rise again to eternal life in soul and body, immortal through the power of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among the martyrs in your presence today as a rich and pleasing sacrifice. God of truth, stranger to falsehood, you have prepared this and revealed it to me and now you have fulfilled your promise.
  “I praise you for all things, I bless you, I glorify you through the eternal priest of heaven, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. Through him be glory to you, together with him and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.”
  When he had said “Amen” and finished the prayer, the officials at the pyre lit it. But, when a great flame burst out, those of us privileged to see it witnessed a strange and wonderful thing. Indeed, we have been spared in order to tell the story to others. Like a ship’s sail swelling in the wind, the flame became as it were a dome encircling the martyr’s body. Surrounded by the fire, his body was like bread that is baked, or gold and silver white-hot in a furnace, not like flesh that has been burnt. So sweet a fragrance came to us that it was like that of burning incense or some other costly and sweet-smelling gum.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Saint Peter's Chair

From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope
The Church of Christ rises on the firm foundation of Peter's faith
Out of the whole world one man, Peter, is chosen to preside at the calling of all nations, and to be set over all the apostles and all the fathers of the Church. Though there are in God’s people many shepherds, Peter is thus appointed to rule in his own person those whom Christ also rules as the original ruler. Beloved, how great and wonderful is this sharing of his power that God in his goodness has given to this man. Whatever Christ has willed to be shared in common by Peter and the other leaders of the Church, it is only through Peter that he has given to others what he has not refused to bestow on them.
  The Lord now asks the apostles as a whole what men think of him. As long as they are recounting the uncertainty born of human ignorance, their reply is always the same.
After the denial
  But when he presses the disciples to say what they think themselves, the first to confess his faith in the Lord is the one who is first in rank among the apostles.
  Peter says: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replies: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” You are blessed, he means, because my Father has taught you. You have not been deceived by earthly opinion, but have been enlightened by inspiration from heaven. It was not flesh and blood that pointed me out to you, but the one whose only-begotten Son I am.
  He continues: And I say to you. In other words, as my Father has revealed to you my godhead, so I in my turn make known to you your pre-eminence. You are Peter: though I am the inviolable rock, the cornerstone that makes both one, the foundation apart from which no one can lay any other, yet you also are a rock, for you are given solidity by my strength, so that which is my very own because of my power is common between us through your participation.
  And upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. On this strong foundation, he says, I will build an everlasting temple. The great height of my Church, which is to penetrate the heavens, shall rise on the firm foundation of this faith.
  The gates of hell shall not silence this confession of faith; the chains of death shall not bind it. Its words are the words of life. As they lift up to heaven those who profess them, so they send down to hell those who contradict them.
crucifixion of Saint Peter
  Blessed Peter is therefore told: To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is also bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven.
  The authority vested in this power passed also to the other apostles, and the institution established by this decree has been continued in all the leaders of the Church. But it is not without good reason that what is bestowed on all is entrusted to one. For Peter received it separately in trust because he is the prototype set before all the rulers of the Church.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A sermon on Ecclesiastes by St Gregory of Nyssa
Christ is our head, and the wise man keeps his eyes upon him
We shall be blessed with clear vision if we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, for he, as Paul teaches, is our head, and there is in him no shadow of evil. Saint Paul himself and all who have reached the same heights of sanctity had their eyes fixed on Christ, and so have all who live and move and have their being in him.
  As no darkness can be seen by anyone surrounded by light, so no trivialities can capture the attention of anyone who has his eyes on Christ. The man who keeps his eyes upon the head and origin of the whole universe has them on virtue in all its perfection; he has them on truth, on justice, on immortality and on everything else that is good, for Christ is goodness itself.
  The wise man, then, turns his eyes toward the One who is his head, but the fool gropes in darkness. No one who puts his lamp under a bed instead of on a lamp-stand will receive any light from it. People are often considered blind and useless when they make the supreme Good their aim and give themselves up to the contemplation of God, but Paul made a boast of this and proclaimed himself a fool for Christ’s sake. The reason he said, We are fools for Christ’s sake was that his mind was free from all earthly preoccupations. It was as though he said, “We are blind to the life here below because our eyes are raised toward the One who is our head.”
  And so, without board or lodging, he travelled from place to place, destitute, naked, exhausted by hunger and thirst. When men saw him in captivity, flogged, shipwrecked, led about in chains, they could scarcely help thinking him a pitiable sight. Nevertheless, even while he suffered all this at the hands of men, he always looked toward the One who is his head and he asked: What can separate us from the love of Christ, which is in Jesus? Can affliction or distress? Can persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger or death? In other words, “What can force me to take my eyes from him who is my head and to turn them toward things that are contemptible?”
  He bids us follow his example: Seek the things that are above, he says, which is only another way of saying: “Keep your eyes on Christ.”

Saturday, February 19, 2011

saturday of week 6 in ordinary time

An address by Pope Pius XII to newly married couples
The wife - the radiant sun of the family
The family is illuminated by its own radiant sun, which is the wife. Of her Scripture says, with feeling:
The grace of a wife will charm her husband,
her accomplishments will make him the stronger.
A silent wife is a gift from the Lord,
no price can be put on a well-trained character.
A modest wife is a boon twice over,
a chaste character cannot be weighed on scales.
Like the sun rising over the mountains of the Lord
is the beauty of a good wife in a well-kept house.
The wife and mother is indeed like the sun shining in the family. She shines by her generosity and the way she gives herself to others. She shines by her alertness and watchfulness and by her wise and gentle providing of all that can give joy to her husband and children. She radiates light and warmth.
A marriage will prosper if each partner goes into it not for his own happiness but the other’s happiness – but although it belongs to both partners, this emotion, this goal is particularly a quality of the woman. Her very nature as a mother entails it. Her wisdom and prudence mean that even if she encounters troubles she will respond to them with joy; if she is belittled, she will respond with unaltered dignity and respect. She is like the sun that brightens a cloudy morning with the dawn; the sun that illuminates the shower-clouds at dusk.
The wife is like the sun shining in the family with the brightness of her glance and the ardour of her speech. Her looks and words enter into the souls of her family, softening them, touching them, raising them up from the tumult of emotion. They recall her husband to joy in good things and delight in family life after his uninterrupted and often heavy work of the day, whether in an office, in the fields, in trade or in industry.
The wife is like the sun shining in the family by her unforced, transparent sincerity, by her simple dignity, by her decent Christian behaviour; by her inward thoughts and her upright heart; and also by the appropriateness of her dress and bearing, adorned by her open and honest way of life. Subtle signs of feeling, shades of expression, silences and unmalicious smiles, little nods of approval – all these give her the grace of an exquisite but simple flower opening its petals to reflect the colours of sunlight.
If only you could know the full depth of the feelings of love and gratitude that such a perfect wife and mother inspires in her husband and children!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday of week 6 in ordinary time

From the Tractates on the first letter of John by Saint Augustine, bishop

Our heart longs for God
We have been promised that we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. By these words, the tongue has done its best; now we must apply the meditation of the heart. Although they are the words of Saint John, what are they in comparison with the divine reality? And how can we, so greatly inferior to John in merit, add anything of our own? Yet we have received, as John has told us, an anointing by the Holy One which teaches us inwardly more than our tongue can speak. Let us turn to this source of knowledge, and because at present you cannot see, make it your business to desire the divine vision.
  The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire. You do not yet see what you long for, but the very act of desiring prepares you, so that when he comes you may see and be utterly satisfied.
  Suppose you are going to fill some holder or container, and you know you will be given a large amount. Then you set about stretching your sack or wineskin or whatever it is. Why? Because you know the quantity you will have to put in it and your eyes tell you there is not enough room. By stretching it, therefore, you increase the capacity of the sack, and this is how God deals with us. Simply by making us wait he increases our desire, which in turn enlarges the capacity of our soul, making it able to receive what is to be given to us.
  So, my brethren, let us continue to desire, for we shall be filled. Take note of Saint Paul stretching as it were his ability to receive what is to come: Not that I have already obtained this, he said, or am made perfect. Brethren, I do not consider that I have already obtained it. We might ask him, “If you have not yet obtained it, what are you doing in this life?” This one thing I do, answers Paul, forgetting what lies behind, and stretching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the prize to which I am called in the life above. Not only did Paul say he stretched forward, but he also declared that he pressed on toward a chosen goal. He realised in fact that he was still short of receiving what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived.
  Such is our Christian life. By desiring heaven we exercise the powers of our soul. Now this exercise will be effective only to the extent that we free ourselves from desires leading to infatuation with this world. Let me return to the example I have already used, of filling an empty container. God means to fill each of you with what is good; so cast out what is bad! If he wishes to fill you with honey and you are full of sour wine, where is the honey to go? The vessel must be emptied of its contents and then be cleansed. Yes, it must be cleansed even if you have to work hard and scour it. It must be made fit for the new thing, whatever it may be.
  We may go on speaking figuratively of honey, gold or wine – but whatever we say we cannot express the reality we are to receive. The name of that reality is God. But who will claim that in that one syllable we utter the full expanse of our heart’s desire? Therefore, whatever we say is necessarily less than the full truth. We must extend ourselves toward the measure of Christ so that when he comes he may fill us with his presence. Then we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday of week 6 in ordinary time (also The Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order)

From the Explanations of the Psalms by Saint Ambrose, bishop

Open your lips, and let God's word be heard
We must always meditate on God’s wisdom, keeping it in our hearts and on our lips. Your tongue must speak justice, the law of God must be in your heart. Hence Scripture tells you: You shall speak of these commandments when you sit in your house, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down, and when you get up. Let us then speak of the Lord Jesus, for he is wisdom, he is the word, the Word indeed of God.
  It is also written: Open your lips, and let God’s word be heard. God’s word is uttered by those who repeat Christ’s teaching and meditate on his sayings. Let us always speak this word. When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.
  Open your lips, says Scripture, and let God’s word be heard. It is for you to open, it is for him to be heard. So David said: I shall hear what the Lord says in me. The very Son of God says: Open your lips, and I will fill them. Not all can attain to the perfection of wisdom as Solomon or Daniel did, but the spirit of wisdom is poured out on all according to their capacity, that is, on all the faithful. If you believe, you have the spirit of wisdom.
  Meditate, then, at all times on the things of God, and speak the things of God, when you sit in your house. By house we can understand the Church, or the secret place within us, so that we are to speak within ourselves. Speak with prudence, so as to avoid falling into sin, as by excess of talking. When you sit in your house, speak to yourself as if you were a judge. When you walk along the way, speak, so as never to be idle. You speak along the way if you speak in Christ, for Christ is the way. When you walk along the way, speak to yourself, speak to Christ. Hear him say to you: I desire that in every place men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling. When you lie down, speak so that the sleep of death may not steal upon you. Listen and learn how you are to speak as you lie down; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.
  When you get up or rise again, speak of Christ, so as to fulfil what you are commanded. Listen and learn how Christ is to awaken you from sleep. Your soul says: I hear my brother knocking at the door. Then Christ says to you: Open the door to me, my sister, my spouse. Listen and learn how you are to awaken Christ. Your soul says: I charge you, daughters of Jerusalem, awaken or reawaken the love of my heart. Christ is that love.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday of week 6 in ordinary time

The commentary on Proverbs by Procopius of Gaza
The Wisdom of God has mixed wine for us and set up a feast
Wisdom has built herself a house. God the Father’s Power, himself a person, has fashioned as his dwelling-place the whole world, in which he lives by his activity; and has fashioned man also, who was created to resemble God’s own image and likeness and has a nature which is partly seen and partly hidden from our eyes.
  And she has set up seven pillars. To man, who was made in the image of Christ when the rest of creation was completed, Wisdom gave the seven gifts of the Spirit to enable him to believe in Christ and to keep his commandments. By means of these gifts, strength is stimulated by knowledge and knowledge is reflected in strength until the spiritual man is brought to completion, solidly founded on firm faith and on the supernatural graces in which he shares.
  His nature is made more glorious by strength, by good counsel, and by prudence. Strength brings a desire to seek out all manifestations of the divine will through which all things were made. Good counsel distinguishes what is God’s will from what is not and leads him to ponder, to proclaim and to fulfil the will of God. Prudence, finally, leads him to turn towards the will of God and not to other things.
  She has mingled her wine in a bowl and spread her table. Because the Word of God has mingled in man, as in a bowl, a spiritual and a physical nature and has given him a knowledge both of creation and of himself as the Creator, it is natural for the things of God to have on man’s mind the inebriating effect of wine. Christ himself, the bread from heaven, is his nourishment enabling him to grow in virtue, and it is Christ who quenches his thirst and gladdens him with his teaching. For all who desire to share in it, he has prepared this rich banquet, this spiritual feast.
  She has sent forth her servants with the sublime message that all are to come to the bowl and drink. Christ has sent forth his apostles, the servants of his divine will, to proclaim the message of the Gospel which, because it comes from the Spirit, transcends both the natural and the written law. By this he calls us to himself: in him, as in a bowl, there was brought about by the mystery of the incarnation a marvelous mingling of the divine and human natures, although each still remains distinct. And through the apostles he cries out: Is anyone foolish? Let him turn to me. If anyone is so foolish as to think in his heart that there is no God, let him renounce his disbelief and turn to me by faith. Let him know that I am the maker of all things and their Lord.
  And to those who lack wisdom he says: Come, eat my bread and drink the wine that I have prepared for you. To those who still lack the works of faith and the higher knowledge which inspires them he says ‘Come, eat my body, the bread that is the nourishment of virtue, and drink my blood, the wine that cheers you with the joy of true knowledge and makes you divine. For I have miraculously mingled my divinity with my blood for your salvation.’

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday of week 6 in ordinary time

From the Discourses against the Arians by Saint Athanasius, bishop
We know the Father through creative and incarnate wisdom
The only-begotten Son, the Wisdom of God, created the entire universe. Scripture says: You have made all things by your wisdom, and the earth is full of your creatures. Yet simply to be was not enough: God also wanted his creatures to be good. That is why he was pleased that his own wisdom should descend to their level and impress upon each of them singly and upon all of them together a certain resemblance to their Model. It would then be manifest that God’s creatures shared in his wisdom and that all his works were worthy of him.
  For as the word we speak is an image of the Word who is God’s Son, so also is the wisdom implanted in us an image of the Wisdom who is God’s Son. It gives us the ability to know and understand and so makes us capable of receiving him who is the all-creative Wisdom, through whom we can come to know the Father. Whoever has the Son has the Father also, Scripture says, and Whoever receives me receives the One who sent me. And so, since this image of the Wisdom of God has been produced in us and in all creatures, the true and creative Wisdom rightly takes to himself what applies to his image and says: The Lord created me in his works.
  But because the World was not wise enough to recognise God in his wisdom, as we have explained it, God determined to save those who believe by means of the “foolishness” of the message that we preach. Not wishing to be known any longer, as in former times, through the mere image and shadow of his wisdom existing in creatures, he caused the true Wisdom himself to take flesh, to become man, and to suffer death on the cross so that all who believed in him might be saved by faith.
  Yet this was the same Wisdom of God who had in the beginning revealed himself and his Father through himself by means of his image in creatures (which is why Wisdom too is said to be created). Later, as John declares, that Wisdom, who is also the Word, became flesh, and after destroying the power of death and saving our race, he revealed himself and his Father through himself with greater clarity. Grant, he prayed, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
  So now the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of God, since it is one and the same thing to know the Father through the Son, and to know the Son who comes from the Father. The Father rejoices in his Son, and with the same joy the Son delights in the Father and says: I was his joy; every day I took delight in his presence.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saints Cyril, monk, and Methodius, Bishop, Monday of week 6

From an Old Slavonic Life of Constantine

Build up your church and gather all into unity

Constantine, already burdened by many hardships, became ill. At one point during his extended illness, he experienced a vision of God and began to sing this verse: “My spirit rejoiced and my heart exulted because they told me we shall go into the house of the Lord.”

Afterward he remained dressed in the vestments that were to be venerated later, and rejoiced for an entire day, saying: “From now on, I am not the servant of the emperor or of any man on earth, but of almighty God alone. Before, I was dead, now I am alive and I shall live for ever. Amen.”

The following day, he assumed the monastic habit and took the religious name Cyril. He lived the life of a monk for fifty days.

When the time came for him to set out from this world to the peace of his heavenly homeland, he prayed to God with his hands outstretched and his eyes filled with tears: “O Lord, my God, you have created the choirs of angels and spiritual powers; you have stretched forth the heavens and established the earth, creating all that exists from nothing. You hear those who obey your will and keep your commands in holy fear. Hear my prayer and protect your faithful people, for you have established me as their unsuitable and unworthy servant.

“Keep them free from harm and the worldly cunning of those who blaspheme you. Build up your Church and gather all into unity. Make your people known for the unity and profession of their faith. Inspire the hearts of your people with your word and your teaching. You called us to preach the Gospel of your Christ and to encourage them to lives and works pleasing to you.

“I now return to you, your people, your gift to me. Direct them with your powerful right hand, and protect them under the shadow of your wings. May all praise and glorify your name, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Once he had exchanged the gift of peace with everyone, he said: “Blessed be God, who did not hand us over to our invisible enemy, but freed us from his snare and delivered us from perdition.” He then fell asleep in the Lord at the age of forty-two.

The Patriarch commanded all those in Rome, both the Greeks and Romans, to gather for his funeral. They were to chant over him together and carry candles; they were to celebrate his funeral as if he had been a pope. This they did.


These brothers, the Apostles of the Slavs, were born in Thessalonica, in 827 and 826 respectively. Though belonging to a senatorial family they renounced secular honours and became priests. They were living in a monastery on the Bosphorous, when the Khazars sent to Constantinople for a Christian teacher. Cyril was selected and was accompanied by his brother. They learned the Khazar language and converted many of the people. Soon after the Khazar mission there was a request from the Moravians for a preacher of the Gospel. German missionaries had already laboured among them, but without success. The Moravians wished a teacher who could instruct them and conduct Divine service in the Slavonic tongue. On account of their acquaintance with the language, Cyril and Methodius were chosen for their work. In preparation for it Cyril invented an alphabet and, with the help of Methodius, translated the Gospels and the necessary liturgical books into Slavonic. They went to Moravia in 863, and laboured for four and a half years. Despite their success, they were regarded by the Germans with distrust, first because they had come from Constantinople where schism was rife, and again because they held the Church services in the Slavonic language. On this account the brothers were summoned to Rome by Nicholas I, who died, however, before their arrival. His successor, Adrian II, received them kindly. Convinced of their orthodoxy, he commended their missionary activity, sanctioned the Slavonic Liturgy, and ordained Cyril and Methodius bishops. Cyril, however, was not to return to Moravia. He died in Rome, 4 Feb., 869.
At the request of the Moravian princes, Rastislav and Svatopluk, and the Slav Prince Kocel of Pannonia, Adrian II formed an Archdiocese of Moravia and Pannonia, made it independent of the German Church, and appointed Methodius archbishop. In 870 King Louis and the German bishops summoned Methodius to a synod at Ratisbon. Here he was deposed and condemned to prison. After three years he was liberated at the command of Pope John VIII and reinstated as Archbishop of Moravia. He zealously endeavoured to spread the Faith among the Bohemians, and also among the Poles in Northern Moravia. Soon, however, he was summoned to Rome again in consequence of the allegations of the German priest Wiching, who impugned his orthodoxy, and objected to the use of Slavonic in the liturgy. But John VIII, after an inquiry, sanctioned the Slavonic Liturgy, decreeing, however, that in the Mass the Gospel should be read first in Latin and then in Slavonic. Wiching, in the meantime, had been nominated one of the suffragan bishops of Methodius. He continued to oppose his metropolitan, going so far as to produce spurious papal letters. The pope, however, assured Methodius that they were false. Methodius went to Constantinople about this time, and with the assistance of several priests, he completed the translation of the Holy Scriptures, with the exception of the Books of Machabees. He translated also the "Nomocanon", i.e. the Greek ecclesiastico-civil law. The enemies of Methodius did not cease to antagonize him. His health was worn out from the long struggle, and he died 6 April, 885, recommending as his successor Gorazd, a Moravian Slav who had been his disciple.
Formerly the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius was celebrated in Bohemia and Moravia on 9 March; but Pius IX changed the date to 5 July. Leo XIII, by his Encyclical "Grande Munus" of 30 September, 1880, extended the feast to the universal Church. [Note: The feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius is currently celebrated on February 14 in the Latin Church.]

Sunday, February 13, 2011

6th Sunday of the year

From a commentary on the Diatessaron by Saint Ephrem, deacon
God's word is an inexhaustible spring of life
Lord, who can comprehend even one of your words? We lose more of it than we grasp, like those who drink from a living spring. For God’s word offers different facets according to the capacity of the listener, and the Lord has portrayed his message in many colours, so that whoever gazes upon it can see in it what suits him. Within it he has buried manifold treasures, so that each of us might grow rich in seeking them out.
  The word of God is a tree of life that offers us blessed fruit from each of its branches. It is like that rock which was struck open in the wilderness, from which all were offered spiritual drink. As the Apostle says: They ate spiritual food and they drank spiritual drink.
  And so 
whenever anyone discovers some part of the treasure, he should not think that he has exhausted God’s word. Instead he should feel that this is all that he was able to find of the wealth contained in it. Nor should he say that the word is weak and sterile or look down on it simply because this portion was all that he happened to find. But precisely because he could not capture it all he should give thanks for its riches.
  Be glad then that you are overwhelmed, and do not be saddened because he has overcome you. A thirsty man is happy when he is drinking, and he is not depressed because he cannot exhaust the spring. So let this spring quench your thirst, and not your thirst the spring. For if you can satisfy your thirst without exhausting the spring, then when you thirst again you can drink from it once more; but if when your thirst is sated the spring is also dried up, then your victory would turn to harm.
  Be thankful then for what you have received, and do not be saddened at all that such an abundance still remains. What you have received and attained is your present share, while what is left will be your heritage. For what you could not take at one time because of your weakness, you will be able to grasp at another if you only persevere. So do not foolishly try to drain in one draught what cannot be consumed all at once, and do not cease out of faintheartedness from what you will be able to absorb as time goes on.