December 2010


Repentance is the renewal of baptism. Repentance is a contract with God for a second life. A penitent is a buyer of humility. Repentance is constant distrust of bodily comfort…. Repentance is the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair…. Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins. Repentance is purification of conscience. Repentance is the voluntary endurance of all afflictions…

Do not be surprised that you fall every day; do not give up, but stand your ground courageously. And assuredly the angel who guards you will honour your patience, While a wound is still fresh and warm it is easy to heal, but old, neglected and festering ones are hard to cure, and require for their care much treatment, cutting, plastering and cauterization. Many from long neglect become incurable. But with God all things are possible…

We must carefully consider whether our conscience has ceased to accuse us, not because we are good, but because it is immersed in evil. A sign of deliverance from our falls is the continual acknowledgment of our indebtedness.

Nothing equals or excels God’s mercies. Therefore the one who despairs is committing suicide. A sign of true repentance is the acknowledgment that we deserve all the troubles, visible and invisible, that come to us, and even greater ones. Moses, after seeing God in the bush, returned again to Egypt, that is, to darkness and to the brick-making of Pharaoh, symbolical of the spiritual Pharaoh. But he went back again to the bush, and not only to the bush but also up the mountain. Whoever has known contemplation will never despair of himself. Job became a beggar, but he became twice as rich again.

The forgetting of wrongs is a sign of true repentance. But those who dwell on them and think that they are repenting are like a man who dreams he is running while he is actually asleep….

 

– St. John Climacus

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“Whatever we do without prayer and without hope in God turns out afterwards to be harmful and defective.”

– St. Mark the Ascetic


“[Christmas] night bestowed peace on the whole world; so, let no one threaten. this is the night of the Most Gentle One – let no one be cruel. This is the night of the most Humble One – let no one be proud. Now is the day of joy – let us not revenge. Now is the day of good will – let us not be mean. In this day of peace let us not be conquered by anger. Today the Bountiful impoverished Himself for our sake; so, the rich one, invite the poor to your table. Today we received a gift, for which we did not ask; so let us give alms to those who implore us and beg. This present day cast open the heavenly door to our prayers: let us open our doors to those who ask our forgiveness. Now the Divine Being took upon Himself the seal of humanity, in order for humanity to be decorated by the seal of Divinity.”

– St. Isaac the Syrian

The priest must in the first place acquire, through God’s grace, evangelical love; he needs this love every minute, every second…  But he needs this love especially during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy which is wholly the mystery of infinite, divine love for the human race.  In this sacrament, the sacrament of the Eucharist or the giving of Christ’s Body and Blood, the divine love manifests itself in its entire immortality:  when the Lord Jesus Christ drains Himself to the uttermost in order to save us, giving Himself to us as food and drink…  During the Liturgy the priest must be filled with love for God and men – men who are redeemed, redeemed all together through Christ’s Blood.

In the priest there must not be even a shadow of anger or grievance, wounded feelings towards anyone, or predilection for anything terrestrial – food, clothing, adornment, official distinction, or for any person.

– St. John of Kronstadt

 

“Christ is born, glorify Him! Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him. Christ on earth; be exalted. Sing unto the Lord all the whole earth; and that I may join both in one word, Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him Who is. of heaven and then of earth. Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope. Christ of a Virgin; O you Matrons live as Virgins, that you may be Mothers of Christ. Who does not worship Him, That is from the beginning? Who does not glorify Him, That is the Last?”

Read all of St. Gregory the Theologian’s Nativity sermon here.

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

The Angels sing!

The Archangels blend their voices in harmony!

The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise!

The Seraphim exalt His glory!

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

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

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

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

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

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

And behold,

Kings have come, that they might adore the heavenly King of glory;

Soldiers, that they might serve the Leader of the Hosts of Heaven;

Women, that they might adore Him Who was born of a woman so that He might change the pains of child-birth into joy;

Virgins, to the Son of the Virgin, beholding with joy, that He Who is the Giver of milk, Who has decreed that the fountains of the breast pour forth in ready streams, receives from a Virgin Mother the food of infancy;

Infants, that they may adore Him Who became a little child, so that out of the mouth of infants and sucklings, He might perfect praise;

Children, to the Child Who raised up martyrs through the rage of Herod;

Men, to Him Who became man, that He might heal the miseries of His servants;

Shepherds, to the Good Shepherd Who has laid down His life for His sheep;

Priests, to Him Who has become a High Priest according to the order of Melchisedech;

Servants, to Him Who took upon Himself the form of a servant that He might bless our servitude with the reward of freedom;

Fishermen, to Him Who from amongst fishermen chose catchers of men;

Publicans, to Him Who from amongst them named a chosen Evangelist;

Sinful women, to Him Who exposed His feet to the tears of the repentant;

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

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

“What, then, is the dwelling place that the Logos inhabited? Listen to the prophet who says, ‘I will raise up the dwelling place of David that had fallen.’ (Amos 9:11). Our nature had truly fallen, and had fallen with an incurable fall, and our nature needed only that powerful hand. For the only way to raise it up was for the one who had shaped it in the beginning to stretch out a hand to it and shape it perfectly all over again through the rebirth of water and the Spirit. And here is the awesome and hidden mystery: the Logos inhabits his dwelling forever, for the Logos put on our flesh, never to lay our flesh down again but to have our flesh with him for ever. If this were not so, the Logos would not have judged our nature worthy of the royal throne, nor would the Logos, while wearing our nature, have been worshiped by the whole army above, angels, archangels, thrones, principalities, dominions and powers. What words can express such glory, what thought can express this great honour, so truly marvellous and awe- inspiring, that was bestowed on our human race? What angel or archangel could express it? No one anywhere, in heaven or on earth, could do it. For God’s works are great, and God’s kindnesses are so mighty and marvellous that an accurate description of them is beyond not only the human tongue but even an angel’s power. We too, therefore, shall stop talking for a while and be silent. For all of this let us give thanks to the God who loves humanity, nor only through our words but much more through our actions, so that we might obtain the good of the future life.”

– St. John Chrysostom, Homily 11:15-16 on the Gospel of John

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