Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Saint Pius V, Pope

From a treatise on John by Saint Augustine, bishop

The Church is founded upon the rock which Peter acknowledged
God never ceases to provide the human race with consolations in misfortune. But in addition to these, in the fullness of time, when he himself knew it should be done, he sent his own only-begotten Son through whom he created all things While remaining God, his Son was to become man and be the mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.
  Those who believed in him through baptism were freed from the guilt of all their sins, freed from eternal damnation to live in faith, hope and love. On their journey among the trials and dangers of this world, they received the consolations of God, both in body and in spirit. They were to walk in his sight, keeping to the path which Christ made for them.
  But even while walking on this path they were not without sin, since it develops subtly out of human weakness. Therefore Christ gave the saving remedy of charity to help them in their prayers, for he taught them to say: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
  Such is the practice which the Church in blessed hope carries out in this life of suffering. Now the apostle Peter, because of the primacy of his apostleship, stood as a symbol of the entire Church.
  In himself he was by nature one man, by grace one Christian, by a more abundant grace an apostle and the chief of the apostles. But Christ said to him: To you I shall give the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatever you will bind upon the earth will be bound also in heaven and whatever you will forgive upon the earth will be forgiven also in heaven. Now these words applied to the entire Church. In this life it is shaken by various trials, as if by rains, floods and tempests, but it does not fall because it is founded upon the rock from which Peter received his name.
  The Lord said: Upon this rock I shall build my Church because Peter has first said: You are Christ, the Son of the living God. The Lord was really saying: I shall build my Church upon the rock which you have acknowledged. For the rock was Christ, and upon this foundation even Peter himself was raised up. Another foundation indeed no one can lay except that which was laid, which is Jesus Christ.
  The Church, which is founded upon Christ, received from him the keys of the kingdom of heaven, that is, the power of binding and forgiving sins, in the person of Peter. Therefore this Church, by loving and following Christ, is set free from evil. But this is even more the case with those who fight in behalf of truth even to the death.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Saint Catherine of Siena, Virgin, Doctor

From the dialogue On Divine Providence by Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor

I tasted and I saw
 Saint Catherine of Siena
Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through his sharing in your divine nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you. But I can never be satisfied; what I receive will ever leave me desiring more. When you fill my soul I have an even greater hunger, and I grow more famished for your light. I desire above all to see you, the true light, as you really are.
  I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation with the light of my understanding. I have clothed myself with your likeness and have seen what I shall be. Eternal Father, you have given me a share in your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as his own, and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love you. You are my Creator, eternal Trinity, and I am your creature. You have made of me a new creation in the blood of your Son, and I know that you are moved with love at the beauty of your creation, for you have enlightened me.
  Eternal Trinity, Godhead, mystery deep as the sea, you could give me no greater gift than the gift of yourself. For you are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being. Yes, you are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light and causes me to know your truth. By this light, reflected as it were in a mirror, I recognise that you are the highest good, one we can neither comprehend nor fathom. And I know that you are beauty and wisdom itself. The food of angels, you gave yourself to man in the fire of your love.
  You are the garment which covers our nakedness, and in our hunger you are a satisfying food, for you are sweetness and in you there is no taste of bitterness, O triune God!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest

From an ancient Easter homily by Pseudo-Chrysostom

The spiritual Passover
The Passover we celebrate brings salvation to the whole human race beginning with the first man, who together with all the others is saved and given life.
  In an imperfect and transitory way, the types and images of the past prefigured the perfect and eternal reality which has now been revealed. The presence of what is represented makes the symbol obsolete: when the king appears in person no one pays reverence to his statue.
  How far the symbol falls short of the reality is seen from the fact that the symbolic Passover celebrated the brief life of the firstborn of the Jews, whereas the real Passover celebrates the eternal life of all mankind. It is a small gain to escape death for a short time, only to die soon afterward; it is a very different thing to escape death altogether as we do through the sacrifice of Christ, our Passover.
  Correctly understood, its very name shows why this is our greatest feast. It is called the Passover because, when he was striking down the firstborn, the destroying angel passed over the houses of the Hebrews, but it is even more true to say that he passes over us, for he does so once and for all when we are raised up by Christ to eternal life.
  If we think only of the true Passover and ask why it is that the time of the Passover and the salvation of the firstborn is taken to be the beginning of the year, the answer must surely be that the sacrifice of the true Passover is for us the beginning of eternal life. Because it revolves in cycles and never comes to an end, the year is a symbol of eternity.
  Christ, the sacrifice that was offered up for us, is the father of the world to come. He puts an end to our former life, and through the regenerating waters of baptism in which we imitate his death and resurrection, he gives us the beginning of a new life. The knowledge that Christ is the Passover lamb who was sacrificed for us should make us regard the moment of his immolation as the beginning of our own lives. As far as we are concerned, Christ’s immolation on our behalf takes place when we become aware of this grace and understand the life conferred on us by this sacrifice. Having once understood it, we should enter upon this new life with all eagerness and never return to the old one, which is now at an end. As Scripture says: We have died to sin – how then can we continue to live in it?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Divine Mercy Sunday

Nazareth Hermitage was begun and remains under the guidance and blessings of Jesus, THE Divine Mercy.

From a sermon by Saint Augustine
A new creation in Christ
I speak to you who have just been reborn in baptism, my little children in Christ, you who are the new offspring of the Church, gift of the Father, proof of Mother Church’s fruitfulness. All of you who stand fast in the Lord are a holy seed, a new colony of bees, the very flower of our ministry and fruit of our toil, my joy and my crown. It is the words of the Apostle that I address to you: Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh and its desires, so that you may be clothed with the life of him whom you have put on in this sacrament. You have all been clothed with Christ by your baptism in him. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor freeman; there is neither male nor female; you are all one in Christ Jesus.
  Such is the power of this sacrament: it is a sacrament of new life which begins here and now with the forgiveness of all past sins, and will be brought to completion in the resurrection of the dead. You have been buried with Christ by baptism into death in order that, as Christ has risen from the dead, you also may walk in newness of life.
  You are walking now by faith, still on pilgrimage in a mortal body away from the Lord; but he to whom your steps are directed is himself the sure and certain way for you: Jesus Christ, who for our sake became man. For all who fear him he has stored up abundant happiness, which he will reveal to those who hope in him, bringing it to completion when we have attained the reality which even now we possess in hope.
  This is the octave day of your new birth. Today is fulfilled in you the sign of faith that was prefigured in the Old Testament by the circumcision of the flesh on the eighth day after birth. When the Lord rose from the dead, he put off the mortality of the flesh; his risen body was still the same body, but it was no longer subject to death. By his resurrection he consecrated Sunday, or the Lord’s day. Though the third after his passion, this day is the eighth after the Sabbath, and thus also the first day of the week.
  And so your own hope of resurrection, though not yet realised, is sure and certain, because you have received the sacrament or sign of this reality, and have been given the pledge of the Spirit. If, then, you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your hearts on heavenly things, not the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Easter Saturday

The bread of Heaven and the cup of salvation
On the night he was betrayed our Lord Jesus Christ took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples and said: “Take, eat: this is my body.” He took the cup, gave thanks and said: “Take, drink: this is my blood.” Since Christ himself has declared the bread to be his body, who can have any further doubt? Since he himself has said quite categorically, This is my blood, who would dare to question it and say that it is not his blood?
  Therefore, it is with complete assurance that we receive the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ. His body is given to us under the symbol of bread, and his blood is given to us under the symbol of wine, in order to make us by receiving them one body and blood with him. Having his body and blood in our members, we become bearers of Christ and sharers, as Saint Peter says, in the divine nature.
  Once, when speaking to the Jews, Christ said: Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you shall have no life in you. This horrified them and they left him. Not understanding his words in a spiritual way, they thought the Savior wished them to practice cannibalism.
  Under the old covenant there was showbread, but it came to an end with the old dispensation to which it belonged. Under the new covenant there is bread from heaven and the cup of salvation. These sanctify both soul and body, the bread being adapted to the sanctification of the body, the Word, to the sanctification of the soul.
  Do not, then, regard the Eucharistic elements as ordinary bread and wine: they are in fact the body and blood of the Lord, as he himself has declared. Whatever your senses may tell you, be strong in faith.
  You have been taught and you are firmly convinced that what looks and tastes like bread and wine is not bread and wine but the body and the blood of Christ. You know also how David referred to this long ago when he sang: Bread gives strength to man’s heart and makes his face shine with the oil of gladness. Strengthen your heart, then, by receiving this bread as spiritual bread, and bring joy to the face of your soul.
  May purity of conscience remove the veil from the face of your soul so that by contemplating the glory of the Lord, as in a mirror, you may be transformed from glory to glory in Christ Jesus our Lord. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Easter Friday

From the Jerusalem Catecheses

The anointing with the Holy Spirit
When we were baptized into Christ and clothed ourselves in him, we were transformed into the likeness of the Son of God. Having destined us to be his adopted sons, God gave us a likeness to Christ in his glory, and living as we do in communion with Christ, God’s anointed, we ourselves are rightly called “the anointed ones.” When he said: Do not touch my anointed ones, God was speaking of us.
  We became “the anointed ones” when we received the sign of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, everything took place in us by means of images, because we ourselves are images of Christ. Christ bathed in the river Jordan, imparting to its waters the fragrance of his divinity, and when he came up from them the Holy Spirit descended upon him, like resting upon like. So we also, after coming up from the sacred waters of baptism, were anointed with chrism, which signifies the Holy Spirit, by whom Christ was anointed and of whom blessed Isaiah prophesied in the name of the Lord: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me. He has sent me to preach good news to the poor.
  Christ’s anointing was not by human hands, nor was it with ordinary oil. On the contrary, having destined him to be the Saviour of the whole world, the Father himself anointed him with the Holy Spirit. The words of Peter bear witness to this: Jesus of Nazareth, whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit. And David the prophet proclaimed: Your throne, O God, shall endure for ever; your royal sceptre is a sceptre of justice. You have loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above all your fellows.
  The oil of gladness with which Christ was anointed was a spiritual oil; it was in fact the Holy Spirit himself, who is called the oil of gladness because he is the source of spiritual joy. But we too have been anointed with oil, and by this anointing we have entered into fellowship with Christ and have received a share in his life. Beware of thinking that this holy oil is simply ordinary oil and nothing else. After the invocation of the Spirit it is no longer ordinary oil but the gift of Christ, and by the presence of his divinity it becomes the instrument through which we receive the Holy Spirit. While symbolically, on our foreheads and senses, our bodies are anointed with this oil that we see, our souls are sanctified by the holy and life-giving Spirit.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easter Thursday

From the Jerusalem Catecheses
Baptism is a symbol of Christ's passion
You were led down to the font of holy baptism just as Christ was taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb which is before your eyes. Each of you was asked, “Do you believe in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?” You made the profession of faith that brings salvation, you were plunged into the water, and three times you rose again. This symbolised the three days Christ spent in the tomb.
  As our Saviour spent three days and three nights in the depths of the earth, so your first rising from the water represented the first day and your first immersion represented the first night. At night a man cannot see, but in the day he walks in the light. So when you were immersed in the water it was like night for you and you could not see, but when you rose again it was like coming into broad daylight. In the same instant you died and were born again; the saving water was both your tomb and your mother.
  Solomon’s phrase in another context is very apposite here. He spoke of a time to give birth, and a time to die. For you, however, it was the reverse: a time to die, and a time to be born, although in fact both events took place at the same time and your birth was simultaneous with your death.
  This is something amazing and unheard of! It was not we who actually died, were buried and rose again. We only did these things symbolically, but we have been saved in actual fact. It is Christ who was crucified, who was buried and who rose again, and all this has been attributed to us. We share in his sufferings symbolically and gain salvation in reality. What boundless love for men! Christ’s undefiled hands were pierced by the nails; he suffered the pain. I experience no pain, no anguish, yet by the share that I have in his sufferings he freely grants me salvation.
  Let no one imagine that baptism consists only in the forgiveness of sins and in the grace of adoption. Our baptism is not like the baptism of John, which conferred only the forgiveness of sins. We know perfectly well that baptism, besides washing away our sins and bringing us the gift of the Holy Spirit, is a symbol of the sufferings of Christ. This is why Paul exclaims: Do you not know that when we were baptized into Christ Jesus we were, by that very action, sharing in his death? By baptism we went with him into the tomb.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter Wednesday

From an Easter homily by an ancient author

Christ the source of resurrection and life
Saint Paul rejoices in the knowledge that spiritual health has been restored to the human race. Death entered the world through Adam, he explains, but life has been given back to the world through Christ. Again he says: The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven and it is heavenly. As we have borne the image of the earthly man, the image of human nature grown old in sin, so let us bear the image of the heavenly man: human nature raised up, redeemed, restored and purified in Christ. We must hold fast to the salvation we have received. Christ was the first fruits’, says the Apostle; he is the source of resurrection and life. ‘Those who belong to Christ will follow him. Modelling their lives on his purity, they will be secure in the hope of his resurrection and of enjoying with him the glory promised in heaven. Our Lord himself said so in the gospel: Whoever follows me will not perish, but will pass from death to life.
  Thus the passion of our Saviour is the salvation of mankind. The reason why he desired to die for us was that he wanted us who believe in him to live for ever. In the fullness of time it was his will to become what we are, so that we might inherit the eternity he promised and live with him for ever.
  Here, then, is the grace conferred by these heavenly mysteries, the gift which Easter brings, the most longed for feast of the year; here are the beginnings of creatures newly formed: children born from the life giving font of holy Church, born anew with the simplicity of little ones, and crying out with the evidence of a clean conscience. Chaste fathers and inviolate mothers accompany this new family, countless in number, born to new life through faith. As they emerge from the grace giving womb of the font, a blaze of candles burns brightly beneath the tree of faith. The Easter festival brings the grace of holiness from heaven to men. Through the repeated celebration of the sacred mysteries they receive the spiritual nourishment of the sacraments. Fostered at the very heart of holy Church, the fellowship of one community worships the one God, adoring the triple name of his essential holiness, and together with the prophet sings the psalm which belongs to this yearly festival: This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. And what is this day? It is the Lord Jesus Christ himself, the author of light, who brings the sunrise and the beginning of life, saying of himself: I am the light of day; whoever walks in daylight does not stumble. That is to say, whoever follows Christ in all things will come by this path to the throne of eternal light.
  Such was the prayer Christ made to the Father while he was still on earth: Father, I desire that where I am they also may be, those who have come to believe in me; and that as you are in me and I in you, so they may abide in us.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter Tuesday

From a discourse by Saint Anastasius of Antioch

It was necessary that Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory
Christ, who has shown by his words and actions that he was truly God and Lord of the universe, said to his disciples as he was about to go up to Jerusalem: We are going up to Jerusalem now, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the Gentiles and the chief priests and scribes to be scourged and mocked and crucified.
  These words bore out the predictions of the prophets, who had foretold the death he was to die in Jerusalem. From the beginning holy Scripture had foretold Christ’s death, the sufferings that would precede it, and what would happen to his body afterwards. Scripture also affirmed that these things were going to happen to the God who is immortal and incapable of suffering.
  How could he have been God? We can learn this by reflecting on the true nature of the Incarnation and finding there the reason why we can believe truly and rightly in both his passion and his impassibility: both that he suffered and that it was not in his nature to suffer – the reason, in other words, why the Word of God, otherwise impassible, came to his passion. In fact, man could have been saved in no other way, as Christ alone knew, and those to whom he revealed it; for he knows all the secrets of the Father, even as the Spirit penetrates the depths of all mysteries.
  It was necessary for Christ to suffer: it was impossible for his passion not to have happened. He said so himself when he called his companions dull and slow to believe because they failed to recognize that he had to suffer and so enter into his glory. Leaving behind him the glory that had been his with the Father before the world was made, he had gone forth to save his people. This salvation, however, could be achieved only by the suffering of the author of our life, as Paul taught when he said that the author of life himself was made perfect through suffering. Because of us he was deprived of his glory for a little while, the glory that was his as the Father’s only-begotten Son, but through the cross this glory is seen to have been restored to him in a certain way in the body that he had assumed. Explaining what water the Saviour referred to when he said: He that has faith in me shall have rivers of living water flowing from within him, John says in his gospel that he was speaking of the Holy Spirit which those who believed in him were to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified. The glorification he meant was his death upon the cross for which the Lord prayed to the Father before undergoing his passion, asking his Father to give him the glory that he had in his presence before the world began.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Monday

From an Easter homily by Melito of Sardis, bishop

The Easter praise of Christ
We should understand, beloved, that the paschal mystery is at once old and new, transitory and eternal, corruptible and incorruptible, mortal and immortal. In terms of the Law it is old, in terms of the Word it is new. In its figure it is passing, in its grace it is eternal. It is corruptible in the sacrifice of the lamb, incorruptible in the eternal life of the Lord. It is mortal in his burial in the earth, immortal in his resurrection from the dead.
  The Law indeed is old, but the Word is new. The type is transitory, but grace is eternal. The lamb was corruptible, but the Lord is incorruptible. He was slain as a lamb; he rose again as God. He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, yet he was not a sheep. He was silent as a lamb, yet he was not a lamb. The type has passed away; the reality has come. The lamb gives place to God, the sheep gives place to a man, and the man is Christ, who fills the whole of creation. The sacrifice of the lamb, the celebration of the Passover, and the prescriptions of the Law have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Under the old Law, and still more under the new dispensation, everything pointed toward him.
  Both the Law and the Word came forth from Zion and Jerusalem, but now the Law has given place to the Word, the old to the new. The commandment has become grace, the type a reality. The lamb has become a Son, the sheep a man, and man, God.
  The Lord, though he was God, became man. He suffered for the sake of those who suffer, he was bound for those in bonds, condemned for the guilty, buried for those who lie in the grave; but he rose from the dead, and cried aloud: Who will contend with me? Let him confront me. I have freed the condemned, brought the dead back to life, raised men from their graves. Who has anything to say against me? I, he said, am the Christ; I have destroyed death, triumphed over the enemy, trampled hell underfoot, bound the strong one, and taken men up to the heights of heaven: I am the Christ.
  Come, then, all you nations of men, receive forgiveness for the sins that defile you. I am your forgiveness. I am the Passover that brings salvation. I am the lamb who was immolated for you. I am your ransom, your life, your resurrection, your light, I am your salvation and your king. I will bring you to the heights of heaven. With my own right hand I will raise you up, and I will show you the eternal Father.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday

Ezekiel 36:16-28 

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: 
‘Son of man, the members of the House of Israel used to live in their own land, but they defiled it by their conduct and actions; to me their conduct was as unclean as a woman’s menstruation. I then discharged my fury at them because of the blood they shed in their land and the idols with which they defiled it. I scattered them among the nations and dispersed them in foreign countries. I sentenced them as their conduct and actions deserved. And now they have profaned my holy name among the nations where they have gone, so that people say of them, “These are the people of the Lord; they have been exiled from his land.” But I have been concerned about my holy name, which the House of Israel has profaned among the nations where they have gone. And so, say to the House of Israel, “The Lord says this: I am not doing this for your sake, House of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I mean to display the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord–it is the Lord who speaks– when I display my holiness for your sake before their eyes.  
Then I am going to take you from among the nations and gather you together from all the foreign countries, and bring you home to your own land. I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your defilement and all your idols. I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws and sincerely respect my observances. You will live in the land which I gave your ancestors. You shall be my people and I will be your God.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Saturday

From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday

The Lord's descent into the underworld
Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
  He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
  I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
  See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
  I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
  Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

From the Catecheses by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop

The power of Christ's blood
If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish,” commanded Moses, “and sprinkle its blood on your doors.” If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.
  If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy Eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.
  “There flowed from his side water and blood.” Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolised baptism and the holy Eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, “the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit,” and from the holy Eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam. Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!” As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.
  Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maunday Thursday

From an Easter homily by Saint Melito of Sardis, bishop

The Lamb that was slain has delivered us from death and given us life
There was much proclaimed by the prophets about the mystery of the Passover: that mystery is Christ, and to him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
  For the sake of suffering humanity he came down from heaven to earth, clothed himself in that humanity in the Virgin’s womb, and was born a man. Having then a body capable of suffering, he took the pain of fallen man upon himself; he triumphed over the diseases of soul and body that were its cause, and by his Spirit, which was incapable of dying, he dealt man’s destroyer, death, a fatal blow.
  He was led forth like a lamb; he was slaughtered like a sheep. He ransomed us from our servitude to the world, as he had ransomed Israel from the hand of Egypt; he freed us from our slavery to the devil, as he had freed Israel from the hand of Pharaoh. He sealed our souls with his own Spirit, and the members of our body with his own blood.
  He is the One who covered death with shame and cast the devil into mourning, as Moses cast Pharaoh into mourning. He is the One who smote sin and robbed iniquity of offspring, as Moses robbed the Egyptians of their offspring. He is the One who brought us out of slavery into freedom, out of darkness into light, out of death into life, out of tyranny into an eternal kingdom; who made us a new priesthood, a people chosen to be his own for ever. He is the Passover that is our salvation.
  It is he who endured every kind of suffering in all those who foreshadowed him. In Abel he was slain, in Isaac bound, in Jacob exiled, in Joseph sold, in Moses exposed to die. He was sacrificed in the Passover lamb, persecuted in David, dishonored in the prophets.
  It is he who was made man of the Virgin, he who was hung on the tree; it is he who was buried in the earth, raised from the dead, and taken up to the heights of heaven. He is the mute lamb, the slain lamb, the lamb born of Mary, the fair ewe. He was seized from the flock, dragged off to be slaughtered, sacrificed in the evening, and buried at night. On the tree no bone of his was broken; in the earth his body knew no decay. He is the One who rose from the dead, and who raised man from the depths of the tomb.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday of Holy week

From a treatise on John by Saint Augustine, bishop

The perfection of love
Dear brethren, the Lord has marked out for us the fullness of love that we ought to have for each other. He tells us: No one has greater love than the man who lays down his life for his friends. In these words, the Lord tells us what the perfect love we should have for one another involves. John, the evangelist who recorded them, draws the conclusion in one of his letters: As Christ laid down his life for us, so we too ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. We should indeed love one another as he loved us, he who laid down his life for us.
  This is surely what we read in the Proverbs of Solomon: If you sit down to eat at the table of a ruler, observe carefully what is set before you; then stretch out your hand, knowing that you must provide the same kind of meal yourself. What is this ruler’s table if not the one at which we receive the body and blood of him who laid down his life for us? What does it mean to sit at this table if not to approach it with humility? What does it mean to observe carefully what is set before you if not to meditate devoutly on so great a gift? What does it mean to stretch out one’s hand, knowing that one must provide the same kind of meal oneself, if not what I have just said: as Christ laid down his life for us, so we in our turn ought to lay down our lives for our brothers? This is what the apostle Paul said: Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we might follow in his footsteps.
  This is what is meant by providing “the same kind of meal.” This is what the blessed martyrs did with such burning love. If we are to give true meaning to our celebration of their memorials, to our approaching the Lord’s table in the very banquet at which they were fed, we must, like them, provide “the same kind of meal.”
  At this table of the Lord we do not commemorate the martyrs in the same way as we commemorate others who rest in peace. We do not pray for the martyrs as we pray for those others, rather, they pray for us, that we may follow in his footsteps. They practiced the perfect love of which the Lord said there could be none greater. They provided “the same kind of meal” as they had themselves received at the Lord’s table.
  This must not be understood as saying that we can be the Lord’s equals by bearing witness to him to the extent of shedding our blood. He had the power of laying down his life; we by contrast cannot choose the length of our lives, and we die even if it is against our will. He, by dying, destroyed death in himself; we are freed from death only in his death. His body did not see corruption; our body will see corruption and only then be clothed through him in incorruption at the end of the world. He needed no help from us in saving us; without him we can do nothing. He gave himself to us as the vine to the branches; apart from him we cannot have life.
  Finally, even if brothers die for brothers, yet no martyr by shedding his blood brings forgiveness for the sins of his brothers, as Christ brought forgiveness to us. In this he gave us, not an example to imitate but a reason for rejoicing. Inasmuch, then, as they shed their blood for their brothers, the martyrs provided “the same kind of meal” as they had received at the Lord’s table. Let us then love one another as Christ also loved us and gave himself up for us.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday of Holy week

From the book On the Holy Spirit by Saint Basil, bishop

By one death and resurrection 
the world was saved
When mankind was estranged from him by disobedience, God our Savior made a plan for raising us from our fall and restoring us to friendship with himself. According to this plan Christ came in the flesh, he showed us the gospel way of life, he suffered, died on the cross, was buried and rose from the dead. He did this so that we could be saved by imitation of him, and recover our original status as sons of God by adoption.
  To attain holiness, then, we must not only pattern our lives on Christ’s by being gentle, humble and patient, we must also imitate him in his death. Taking Christ for his model, Paul said that he wanted to become like him in his death in the hope that he too would be raised from death to life.
  We imitate Christ’s death by being buried with him in baptism. If we ask what this kind of burial means and what benefit we may hope to derive from it, it means first of all making a complete break with our former way of life, and our Lord himself said that this cannot be done unless a man is born again. In other words, we have to begin a new life, and we cannot do so until our previous life has been brought to an end. When runners reach the turning point on a racecourse, they have to pause briefly before they can go back in the opposite direction. So also when we wish to reverse the direction of our lives there must be a pause, or a death, to mark the end of one life and the beginning of another.
  Our descent into hell takes place when we imitate the burial of Christ by our baptism. The bodies of the baptized are in a sense buried in the water as a symbol of their renunciation of the sins of their unregenerate nature. As the Apostle says: The circumcision you have undergone is not an operation performed by human hands, but the complete stripping away of your unregenerate nature. This is the circumcision that Christ gave us, and it is accomplished by our burial with him in baptism. Baptism cleanses the soul from the pollution of worldly thoughts and inclinations: You will wash me, says the psalmist, and I shall be whiter than snow. We receive this saving baptism only once because there was only one death and one resurrection for the salvation of the world, and baptism is its symbol.