On the Necessity of the Incarnation — Irenaeus

31.So then He united man with God, and established a community of union 88 between God and man; since we could not in any other way participate in incorruption, save by His coming among us. For so long as incorruption was invisible and unrevealed, it helped us not at all: therefore it became visible,89 that in all respects we might participate in the reception of incorruption. And, because in the original formation of Adam all of us were tied and bound up with death through his disobedience, it was right that through the obedience of Him who was made man for us we should be released from death: and because death reigned over the flesh, it was right that through the flesh it should lose its force and let man go free from its oppression. So the Word was made flesh,90 that, through that very flesh which sin had ruled and dominated, it should lose its force and be no longer in us. And therefore our Lord took that same original formation as (His) entry into flesh, so that He might draw near and contend on behalf of the fathers, and conquer by Adam that which by Adam had stricken us down.

32.Whence then is the substance of the first-formed (man)? From the Will and the Wisdom |99of God, and from the virgin earth.91 For God had not sent rain, the Scripture says, upon the earth, before man was made; and there was no man to till the earth.92 From this, then, whilst it was still virgin, God took dust of the earth and formed the man, the beginning of mankind. So then the Lord, summing up afresh this man, took the same dispensation of entry into flesh, being born from the Virgin by the Will and the Wisdom of God; that He also should show forth the likeness of Adam’s entry into flesh,and there should be that which was written in the beginning, man after the image and likeness of God.93

33.And just as through a disobedient virgin man was stricken down and fell into death, so through the Virgin who was obedient to the Word of God man was reanimated and received life.94 For the Lord came to seek again the sheep that was lost;95 and man it was that was lost: and for this cause there was not made some other formation, but in that same which had its descent from Adam He preserved the likeness of the (first) formation.96 For it was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality; and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away the disobedience of a virgin.97

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  1. For this double rendering see above c. 6.
  2. Cf. 2 Tim. i. 10: …
  3. John i. 14.
  4. Almost the same words are here used as in III, xxx. I.: … Cf. III, xix. 6: also Ephraim’s Commentary on the Diatessaron (Moesinger, p. 21): “In Virginis conceptione disce quod qui sine conjugio Adamum ex virginea terra protulit, is etiam Adamum secundum in utero virginis formaverit.” Cf. also Tertullian, De carne Christi, 17; Firmicus Maternus, De errore prof. relig., 25.
  5. Gen. ii. 5.
  6. Gen. i. 26.
  7. The same parallel is worked out in III, xxxii. 1, and V, xix. 1. It is found earlier in Justin Martyr (Dial. 100), and later in Tertullian (De carne Chr. 17).
  8. Irenaeus is fond of referring to the sheep that was lost: see III, xx. 3, xxxii. 2, xxxvii. I; V, xii. 3, xv. 2.
  9. See above, c. 32.
  10. Cf. I Cor. xv. 53.

“Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching,” 31-33, by Irenaeus

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The Redemption of ALL Things in Christ Jesus

I start my day with prayer. Specifically, the Eastern Orthodox morning prayers. Among them is the “Prayer of the Optina Elders.” It is one of my favorites:

Grant unto me, O Lord, that with peace of mind I may face all that this new day is to bring. Grant unto me to dedicate myself completely to Thy Holy Will. For every hour of this day, instruct and support me in all things. Whatsoever tidings I may receive during the day, do Thou teach me to accept tranquilly, in the firm conviction that all eventualities fulfill Thy Holy Will. Govern Thou my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say. When things unforeseen occur, let me not forget that all cometh down from Thee. Teach me to behave sincerely and rationally toward every member of my family, that I may bring confusion and sorrow to none. Bestow upon me, my Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day, and to bear my part in all its passing events. Guide Thou my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love. Amen.

It reminds me and prepares me to enter the day with the conviction that ALL circumstances and events have been laid hold of by God in the incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and second-coming of Christ Jesus. The invitation God is offering me is to enter this day and everything in it in this spirit and participate in synergistic union with the Holy Spirit in all it holds. This is not something that MIGHT happen in the future. It is what is ALREADY the case.

This essential aspect of the gospel is crucial for us to accept and adopt as our matrix for viewing and responding to EVERYTHING and EVERYONE.

I am, by virtue of the way things appear in comparison with the way I believe they “should be,” notable to accept the radical proclamation that at the heart of the gospel is the redemption of ALL things. God is choosing, as He sees fit, to change some circumstances and not others. We still die, for example. All of us will die. But, the prayer says, referencing the gospel, death has been defeated and abolished not by removing it but by transforming it. God now uses death to serve His purpose not the one the enemy previously used it to accomplish.

The presupposition of the prayer is appearances, and my preconceived notions and emotions are not reliable for authentically conceiving of what is real and the meaning of events. They are in need of purification so I may participate in the Kingdom which is in our midst not just one that will coming some day.

I invite you to read the Bible with this presupposition and listen. Be prepared. The message will leap off the page at you ! ! Passages that seemed symbolic and metaphorical at best will seem to be mystically and deeply true without the need to rationalize their truth with qualifications.

Take, for example, the book of Job. Job holds out for the confirmation that his circumstances are not simply what they appear to be and result in an inevitable choice between two alternatives. He refuses to be put in the “either/or” position. He refuses to believe that praying harder or being morally perfect is the key to making things “all better” or convincing God to do so. What is more, he refuses to believe that God is impotent and that resignation to meaninglessness is the answer. He persists in desiring a “one-on-one” with God. He seeks the truth. What he gets is THIS truth. God redeems and saves by victoriously laying hold of his circumstance and transforming them without necessarily having to change its appearance. In other words, ALL things are laid hold of by God and consecrated – made Eucharistic. Most especially death and sin.

There is a time when all ask for one reason or another, “Can anything good come of this?” or “Who will show us any good?” (Psalm 4.6)

The Good News is “Yes!” This “Yes” is a Mystery in form and content as well as the means by which it exists. This Mystery is the dwelling place of the Psalmist on sooo many occasions. Here is an example.

Psalm 23.4-6
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff,
they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil,
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
for ever.

However, this core principle of the gospel, for those who seek to embrace and live in it, has a price. You can’t go back to reading the Bible and relating in the old way. There is no going back. It changes everything (pun intended).

Salvation as Ongoing Conversion

An underlying presupposition that often defines, or begins to color, our understanding of salvation is that it is transactional or contractual. To put a blunt point on it, we basically think of it as a deal we make with God no matter how we dress it up. That runs counter to the Scriptural narrative in spite of our fancy theologizing about “covenant.”

The disturbing realization I, and other “Western Christians” I hang out with, is that the unconscious paradigm we are using to conceptualize (hear and receive and live out) our faith in Christ Jesus is essentially one of “exchange” and “transcation” and “progress,” and “measurement.”

But, once again, the overarching Scriptural narrative does not confirm such a paradigm. It confirms one that is just about as different from that one as you can get.

(I would add, parenthetically, that our unconscious “this world” paradigm also influences how we view marriage. Hmm… The subject for a future post…)

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“when Jesus tells us that there is more joy in heaven over the conversion of one sinner who has strayed than over ninety-nine others who seemingly have no need of repentance, he is not affirming that God loves sinners more deeply than righteous persons. For Jesus, speaking in this specific context, there are no righteous persons. There are only sinners (people who feel their need for conversion) and self-righteous persons (people who are sinners and have not yet acknowledged their need for repentance).

Conversion, at least in this particular context, is not a precondition to the Christian life. It is the Christian life. There are no righteous persons, only sinners, and the Christian journey is always a journey of conversion, a returning to the fold. We open ourselves to receive the love of God whenever we are conscious of that.  God does favor sinners, but that includes all of us.”
Ronald Rolheiser

Who Then Can Be Saved?!

Who Can Be Saved?!

Salvation is an awe-filled moment/life/journey. The reality of it brings the potential for absolute joy and absolute despair.

For, in truth, when the reality of it hits me. When I allow it to really encounter me, I cry out in the moment, “Who then can be saved?! Save me!!” I do so for once again I am undone. Once again I am naked. Once again I am without excuse and strength. And yet, I am filled with an abiding desperate desire for salvation that is completely beyond me. Again and again…

My body and soul cry out, “Lord have mercy.” I lean. I step. I trust over against the potential despair. Into not away from. It is all I can do – it is all I have. Meager and stumbling. It is enough if it is my all. I remember, “Keep your mind in hell and despair not.”

Grace is synergy with such as this is enough.

Ravished by the Love of God. Ravishing the Love of God. Embracing and being embraced. Loved and daring to love.

Lord have mercy. Lord surround me and fill me with your mercy. Thanks be to God.

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23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many that are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10.23-31)

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We already know by experience what the Truth promised to whoever forsakes everything and follows him: “he will receive a hundred times more now… and eternal life in the age to come” (Mk 10,30). Indeed, the gift of a hundred times more sustains us on the journey and possession of eternal life will be our joy for ever in our heavenly homeland.

But what does this hundred times more mean? Briefly, the consolations of the Spirit, sweet as honey, his visits and his firstfruits. It is the witness of our conscience, the happy and joyful expectation of the righteous; it is the remembrance of God’s overwhelming goodness and, in truth, the greatness of his sweetness. Those who have had experience of these gifts have no need for anyone to tell them about them. And as for those who do not have it, who could describe it in plain words? St. Peter Damian (1007-1072), Sermon 9

How great are the benefits conferred on man through the advent of Christ

Even though we have become disciples of Christ Jesus, it is important to continue to heed the exhortation that spurred us to die with Christ and be raised with Him. We need to continue to be spurred on to faith and good works.

Let the exhortations of St. Clement of Alexandria accomplish this purpose…

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“Sweet is the Word that gives us light, precious above gold and gems; it is to be desired above honey and the honey-comb.”

For how can it be other than desirable, since it has filled with light the mind which had been buried in darkness, and given keenness to the “light-bringing eyes” of the soul? For just as, had the sun not been in existence, night would have brooded over the universe notwithstanding the other luminaries of heaven; so, had we nor known the Word, and been illuminated by Him; we should have been nowise different from fowls that are being fed, fattened in darkness, and nourished for death. Let us then admit the light, that we may admit God; let us admit the light, and become disciples to the Lord. This, too, He has been promised to the Father: “I will declare Thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the Church will I praise Thee.”

Praise and declare to me Thy Father God; Thy utterances save; Thy hymn teaches that hitherto I have wandered in error, seeking God. But since Thou leadest me to the light, O Lord, and I find God through Thee, and receive the Father from Thee, I become “Thy fellow-heir,” since Thou “weft not ashamed of me as Thy brother.” Let us put away, then, let us put away oblivion of the truth, viz., ignorance; and removing the darkness which obstructs, as dimness of sight, let us contemplate the only true God, first raising our voice in this hymn of praise: Hail, O light! For in us, buried in darkness, shut up in the shadow of death, light has shone forth from heaven, purer than the sun, sweeter than life here below. That light is eternal life; and whatever partakes of it lives. But night fears the light, and hiding itself in terror, gives place to the day of the Lord. Sleepless light is now over all, and the west has given credence to the east. For this was the end of the new creation. For “the Sun of Righteousness,” who drives His chariot over all, pervades equally all humanity, like “His Father, who makes His sun to rise on all men,” and distils on them the dew of the truth. He hath changed sunset into sunrise, and through the cross brought death to life; and having wrenched man from destruction, He hath raised him to the skies, transplanting mortality into immortality, and translating earth to heaven–He, the husbandman of God, “Pointing out the favourable signs and rousing the nations To good works, putting them in mind of the true sustenance;” having bestowed on us the truly great, divine, and inalienable inheritance of the Father, deifying man by heavenly teaching, putting His laws into our minds, and writing them on our hearts. What laws does He inscribe? “That all shall know God, from small to great;” and, “I will be merciful to them,” says God, “and will not remember their sins.” Let us receive the laws of life, let us comply with God’s expostulations; let us become acquainted with Him, that He may be gracious. And though God needs nothing let us render to Him the grateful recompense of a thankful heart and of piety, as a kind of house-rent for our dwelling here below.

…it has been God’s fixed and constant purpose to save the flock of men: for this end the good God sent the good Shepherd. And the Word, having unfolded the truth, showed to men the height of salvation, that either repenting they might be saved, or refusing to obey, they might be judged. This is the proclamation of righteousness: to those that obey, glad tidings; to those that disobey, judgment. The loud trumpet, when sounded, collects the soldiers, and proclaims war. And shall not Christ, breathing a strain of peace to the ends of the earth, gather together His own soldiers, the soldiers of peace? Well, by His blood, and by the word, He has gathered the bloodless host of peace, and assigned to them the kingdom of heaven. The trumpet of Christ is His Gospel. He hath blown it, and we have heard. “Let us array ourselves in the armour of peace, putting on the breastplate of righteousness, and taking the shield of faith, and binding our brows with the helmet, of salvation; and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” let us sharpen. So the apostle in the spirit of peace commands. These are our invulnerable weapons: armed with these, let us face the evil one; “the fiery darts of the evil one” let us quench with the sword-points dipped in water, that, have been baptized by the Word, returning grateful thanks for the benefits we have received, and honouring God through the Divine Word. “For while thou art yet speaking,” it is said, “He will say, Behold, I am beside thee.” O this holy and blessed power, by which God has fellowship with men! Better far, then, is it to become at once the imitator and the servant of the best of all beings; for only by holy service will any one be able to imitate God, and to serve and worship Him only by imitating Him. The heavenly and truly divine love comes to men thus, when in the soul itself the spark of true goodness, kindled in the soul by the Divine Word, is able to burst forth into flame; and, what is of the highest importance, salvation runs parallel with sincere willingness–choice and life being, so to speak, yoked together. Wherefore this exhortation of the truth alone, like the most faithful of our friends, abides with us till our last breath, and is to the whole and perfect spirit of the soul the kind attendant on our ascent to heaven. What, then, is the exhortation I give you? I urge you to be saved. This Christ desires. In one word. He freely bestows life on you. And who is He? Briefly learn. The Word of truth, the Word of incorruption, that regenerates man by bringing him back to the truth–the goad that urges to salvation t He who expels destruction and pursues death–He who builds up the temple of God in men, that He may cause God to take up His abode in men.

Cleanse the temple; and pleasures and amusements abandon to the winds and the fire, as a fading flower; but wisely cultivate the fruits of self-command, and present thyself to God as an offering of first-fruits, that there may be not the work alone, but also the grace of God; and both are requisite, that the friend of Christ may be rendered worthy of the kingdom, and be counted worthy of the kingdom.

Excerpted from The Exhortation to the Heathen, Chapter 11, by St. Clement of Alexandria (150 – 215)

Wow, This is Messy Business

Well, we are half way through the first week of Lent. Have you reached the bitter end of you??!! Have you come to realize just how deep your supposed maturity in Christ really goes??!! I have. The realization of the power of the various forms that self-gratification still operative in my life is shocking. It is disillusioning. Wonderfully disillusioning. I am struggling and failing and succeeding and crying out. I am desiring to remain in this messy holy of holies — the pulsating point of heaven and hell — and soberly/painfully rejoice.

Wow, this salvation journey is messy business if we approach it from a different paradigm than learning how to be “well behaved.” If we approach via the paradigm of “right being,” the whole enterprise is different. The words are the same but we realize they mean something much (infinitely) deeper and significant.

We must press on, press in. Go the distance. In our weakness we cry out to God for grace to do the impossible because we realize and own the fact that it is, after all, impossible to live an authentically Christian life. And yet, it is exactly that impossible life we are invited and commanded to live. Do we know how to receive grace/mercy without leaving this space of “impossible possibility”?

Learning how to open ourselves to the powerful mercy of God in the moment/hour of our agony without making it possible somehow or giving up IS THE POINT. Stay in the garden of agony and cry out. Be weak and be strong in so doing. I reiterate: The great learning is, in practical terms, to receive the mercy so the impossible becomes possible without ceasing to be the impossible. St. Paul’s famous “I and yet not I.” We think we know how to do that. We think we have been doing that. And, to some degree, we have. However, it needs to be more than “to some degree.” It needs to be “all.” That is the edge.

Psalms 86(85):1-2.3-4.5-6
Incline your ear, O LORD; answer me,
for I am afflicted and poor.
Keep my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God.

Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading.

And so, with the Psalmist and St. Paul and they with us, together, we “press on.”

Christ, The True Me by Grace – The Icon of God

Salvation is not, primarily, about morality. It is, essentially, about identity.

True self and false self. The me I truly am is not the me I insist on being but rather Christ Jesus by grace. Not Christ Jesus instead of me. Not me mimicking Christ Jesus who is “over there,” separate from me in my independent existence; or even in an intimate relationship with me. Rather, me as me by Him living in me, and in so doing, giving me the only authentic life I can define as life. God living in me and through me that is me living a true, substantial, life in authentic human personhood. Without separation and without confusion. So, God dwells in me, giving me life, and God unites Himself to the truly alive me as One Who is completely other than me. Wow… Now THAT is Mystery with a capital “M”.

If the evil one can confuse and delude us regarding identity he wins a victory. If the evil one can convince us that salvation is primarily about “being good” he wins a victory. If the evil one can convince us that letting go of what we are convinced is our “irreducible self” without which we will slip into non-existence instead of the reception of our authentic self and the beginning of our true life from God, he has won a victory.

The realization that all of this just might be the case; that there might be a chance that what we have so deeply held as true is, in fact, delusion, is the beginning of our salvation. Indeed, is it a place we visit over and over to further the work of consummating our salvation. It is the work of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth. The Illumining One.

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18And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” 19They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.” 20And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” 21But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, 22saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” 23And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25“For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9.18-26)

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As a preliminary to detaching him from the Enemy, you wanted to detach him from himself… Of course I know that the Enemy also wants to detach men from themselves, but in a different way. Remember always, that He really likes the little vermin, and sets an absurd value on the distinctness of every one of them. When He talks of their losing their selves, He only means abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever. Hence, while He is delighted to see them sacrificing even their innocent wills to His, He hates to see them drifting away from their own nature for any other reason. And we should always encourage them to do so. The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 13, by C.S. Lewis

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“It is not humility to insist on being someone that you are not. It is as much as saying that you know better than God who you are and who you ought to be. How do you expect to arrive at the end of your own journey if you take the road to another man’s city? How do you expect to reach your own perfection by leading somebody else’s life?: His sanctity will never be yours; you must have the humility to work out your own salvation in a darkness where you are absolutely alone… And so it takes heroic humility to be yourself and to be nobody but the man, or the artist, that God intended you to be. You will be made to feel that your honesty is only pride. This is a serious temptation because you can never be sure whether you are being true to your true self or only building up a defense for the false personality that is the creature of your own appetite for esteem. But the greatest humility can be learned from the anguish of keeping your balance in such a position: of continuing to be yourself without getting tough about it and asserting your false self against the false selves of other people.” The New Seeds of Contemplation,  pg. 100-101, by Thomas Merton

The Son of Man draws His glory from the cross. Do I/we?

From who or what do we draw our strength to meet the challenges of everyday life? What do we use as the paradigm for the meaning of what is occurring and our right response and/or participation?

Jesus testifies and the apostles amplify the testimony that it was His passion and death – His cross.

If that is the case then it should be our testimony too. Not a testimony that “gets us saved” but one that informs how we live every moment of every day; and how we respond to every event and situation. It is a testimony that is characteristic of our “journey of salvation.” It is a permanent testimony not just one that gets us started in the Christian life and is then filed away. No. The Christian life is the cross-shaped life. At first it is perhaps vaguely cross-shaped. How and why is this so? Well, as I understand it, every event and circumstance, no matter how pleasant is considered and participated in by us in a cross-shaped manner.

That last statement should touch something of the wrong-headed impression we have of the cross and taking it up. We, at least I am, tempted to continue to think of it in grime ways, as an unfortunate necessity. We think that cross-shaped events are ones that have gone wrong and become cross-shaped.

Well, there you have it. It is this presupposition that robs us of the joy of the cross, albeit a painful joy. It is this presupposition St. Paul opposes and rejects on so many occasions in his letters.

So, as we grow/mature into the likeness of Christ the shape becomes more and more defined – permanently. We GLORY in the cross, not from a distance. We glory in the cross by having our life become a living cross by the grace of God.

In the Divine Liturgy, the priest articulates the many facets of God’s saving work. The cross is one of them. Here is the prayer.

May He Who rose from the dead, Christ our true God, a good, loving, and merciful God, have mercy upon us and save us, through the intercessions of His most pure and holy Mother; the power of the precious and life-giving Cross; the protection of the honorable, bodiless powers of heaven; the supplications of the honorable, glorious, prophet, and forerunner John the Baptist; the holy, glorious, and praiseworthy apostles; the holy, glorious, and triumphant martyrs; our holy and God-bearing Father (name); the holy and righteous ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna; Saint (of the day) whose memory we commemorate today, and all the saints. May the blessing of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and His mercy come upon you through His divine grace and love now and ever and to the ages of ages.  Amen.

Please understand that I in no way can proclaim my own life to stand up to this test. I struggle on, “press on” by the grace of God, to become victorious over all the passions that war against the desire to become the living cross by grace. The living testimony of the victorious power of self-giving love. Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.

Here is what St. Thomas Aquinas says:

Some people draw glory from their knowledge, but the apostle Paul finds supreme knowledge in the cross. “No, he says, I desired to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ crucified” (1Cor 2,2). Is not the cross the fulfilment of the whole law and art of living well? To those who glory in their own power, Paul can answer that he draws matchless power from the cross: “The language of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1Cor 1,18). Do you draw glory from the freedom you have gained? Paul draws his from the cross: “Our old self was crucified with him… that we might no longer be in slavery to sin” (Rm 6.6).

Yet others draw their glory from being chosen as members of some famous group or other; but as for us, through Christ’s cross we are invited to the congregation of heaven. “Reconciling all things, whether those on earth or those in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1.20). And finally, some people glory in the insignia of victory bestowed on the victorious, but the cross is the triumphal standard of Christ’s victory over demons: “He destroyed Principalities and Powers, making a public spectacle of them, leading them away in his triumphal procession” (Col 2,15)…

What is it that the apostle Paul wants to glory in above all else ? In that which can unite him to Christ. What he desires is to be with Christ.  Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), “Commentary on the Letter to the Galatians, Chapter 6”

God is Able

“Even if you are not what you should be, you should not despair. It is bad enough that you have sinned; why in addition do you wrong God by regarding him in your ignorance as powerless? Is he, who for your sake created the great universe that you behold, incapable of saving your soul? And if you say that this fact, as well as his incarnation, only makes your condemnation worse, then repent; and he will receive your repentance, as he accepted that of the prodigal son (Luke 15:20) and the prostitute (Luke 7:37-50). But if repentance is too much for you, and you sin out of habit even when you do not want to, show humility like the publican (Luke 18:13): this is enough to ensure your salvation. For he who sins without repenting, yet does not despair, must of necessity regard himself as the lowest of creatures, and will not dare to judge or censure anyone. Rather, he will marvel at God’s compassion.” St. Peter of Damaskos, A Treasury of Divine Knowledge

Salvation: Relational not Formulaic

“I have often heard people saying, ‘Alas, how will I be saved? I lack the strength to fast, I’m no good at keeping a vigil, I’m unable to be chaste, I can’t leave the world, so how is it possible to be saved? How? I’ll tell you. Reprieve and you will be given reprieve, forgive and you will be forgiven. That’s the short road to salvation. And I’ll show you a second way. What? Don’t judge and you won’t be judged. Here’s yet another road without fasts, vigils, and effort. Don’t judge your brother even if you see him sinning with your own eyes”.​ St. Anastasios the Sinaite (700), Discourse on the Holy Synaxis, PG 89, 845A​