Join with Me in the Banquet Room of God and Give Him Thanks

“When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.’ Jesus replied: ‘A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’” (Luke 14.15-16)

We are invited to the banquet every day. It is good to enter into the great banquet room of God, the very day He has made. We are invited to rejoice and be glad in this banquet room. While it may not appear to be the banquet room of God’s victory, we do not judge by appearances. We have eyes to see the redemption of all things. It is all the more good and fitting to give thanks to God in concert with the faithful. Join with me at the beginning of each and every day, knowing it to be the banquet room of the Holy One, and take time to extol the greatness of God in our lives.

——————

Psalm 9.1-2
1 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will tell of all thy wonderful deeds.
2 I will be glad and exult in thee,
I will sing praise to thy name, O Most High.

——————-

O Existing One, Master and Lord; O God, the almighty and adorable Father: it is truly proper, right, and befitting the majesty of Your holiness to praise You, to hymn You, to bless You, to worship You, to give thanks to You, to glorify You, the only God Who truly exists, and to offer You this our rational worship with a contrite heart and in a spirit of humility, for You have granted us the knowledge of Your truth. Who can relate your mighty acts? Or make all Your praises known? Who can tell of all Your miracles at all times? O Master of all, Lord of heaven and earth, and of all creation both visible and invisible, You sit upon the throne of glory and behold the depths. You are without beginning, invisible, incomprehensible, indescribable, and immutable. You are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the great God and Savior, our hope. He is the image of Your goodness, the seal of Your equal likeness. In Himself He is expressing You, the Father. He is the living Word, the true God, the eternal Wisdom, the Life, the Sanctification, the Power, the true Light. Through Him was revealed the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth; the Gift of sonship; the Pledge of future inheritance; the First Fruits of eternal blessing; the life-creating Power; the Fountain of sanctification. Through Him every creature of reason and understanding is empowered, worshipping You and sending up to You the eternal hymn of glory, for all things are subject to You. You are praised by angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, principalities, authorities, powers, and the many-eyed Cherubim. Around You stand the Seraphim, one with six wings and the other with six wings; with two they cover their faces, with two they cover their feet, and with two they fly, crying one to another with unceasing voices and ever-resounding praises, singing the triumphant hymn, shouting, proclaiming and saying:

Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord of Sabaoth! Heaven and earth are full of Your glory! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

With these blessed powers, O loving Master, we sinners also cry aloud and say: You are holy, most holy, and there are no bounds to the majesty of Your holiness. You are holy in all Your works, for with righteousness and true judgment You have ordered all things for us. When You created man by taking dust from the earth, honoring him with Your own image, O God, You set him in a paradise of delight, promising him eternal life and the enjoyment of eternal blessings in the observance of Your commandments. But when man disobeyed You, the true God Who had created him, and was misled by the deception of the serpent, he became subject to death through his own transgressions. In Your righteous judgment, O God, You expelled him from paradise into this world, returning him to the earth from which he was taken, yet providing for him the salvation of regeneration in Your Christ Himself. For You, O good One, did not desert forever Your creature whom You had made. Nor did You forget the work of Your hands, but through the tender compassion of Your mercy, You visited him in various ways: You sent prophets. You performed mighty works by Your saints who in every generation were well-pleasing to You. You spoke to us by the mouth of Your servants, the prophets, who foretold to us the salvation which was to come. You gave us the law as a help. You appointed angels as guardians. And when the fullness of time had come, You spoke to us by Your Son Himself, through Whom You also made the ages. He, being the Radiance of Your glory and the Image of Your person, upholding all things by the word of His power, thought it not robbery to be equal to You, the God and Father. He was God before the ages, yet He appeared on earth and lived among men. Becoming incarnate from a holy virgin, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being conformed to the body of our lowliness, that He might conform us to the image of His glory. For since through a man sin entered the world, and through sin death, so it pleased Your only-begotten Son Who was in the bosom of You, the God and Father, born of a woman, the holy Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, born under the law, to condemn sin in His own flesh, so that those who were dead in Adam might be made alive in Himself – Your Christ. He lived in this world and gave us commandments of salvation. Releasing us from the delusions of idolatry, He brought us to knowledge of You, the true God and Father. He obtained us for Himself, to be a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. Having cleansed us in water, and sanctified us with the Holy Spirit, He gave Himself as a ransom to death, in which we were held captive, sold under sin. Descending through the Cross into Hades that He might fill all things with Himself, He destroyed the torments of death. And rising on the third day, He made a path for all flesh to the resurrection from the dead, since it was not possible for the Author of Life to be overcome by corruption. So He became the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep, the First-born of the dead, that He, Himself, might truly be the first in all things. Ascending into heaven, He sat down at the right hand of Your majesty on high, and He will come to render to each man according to his works. (The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great)

——————-

Psalm 145
1 I will extol thee, my God and King,
and bless thy name for ever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless thee,
and praise thy name for ever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
4 One generation shall laud thy works to another,
and shall declare thy mighty acts.
5 On the glorious splendor of thy majesty,
and on thy wondrous works, I will meditate.
6 Men shall proclaim the might of thy terrible acts,
and I will declare thy greatness.
7 They shall pour forth the fame of thy abundant goodness,
and shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
8 The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The Lord is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made.
10 All thy works shall give thanks to thee, O Lord,
and all thy saints shall bless thee!
11 They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom,
and tell of thy power,
12 to make known to the sons of men thy mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of thy kingdom.
13 Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and thy dominion endures throughout all generations.
The Lord is faithful in all his words,
and gracious in all his deeds.
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to thee,
and thou givest them their food in due season.
16 Thou openest thy hand,
thou satisfiest the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is just in all his ways,
and kind in all his doings.
18 The Lord is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
19 He fulfils the desire of all who fear him,
he also hears their cry, and saves them.
20 The Lord preserves all who love him;
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.

——————-

Christ our God, You are the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. You have fulfilled all the dispensation of the Father. Fill our hearts with joy and gladness always, now and forever… For every good and perfect gift is from above, coming from You, the Father of lights. To You we give glory, thanksgiving, and worship, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)

Advertisements

Joy Not Just Happiness

How deep does your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ go? Life forces us to answer the question, “Who do you say and continue to say Jesus is?!”

The epistle readings for today, the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, are, as I am encountered by them, lessons in joy. They remind me that being a Christian isn’t about being happy. It is about being joyful. If my investment in being a Christian is happiness, I will be disappointed. But, if I seek the joyful life, I shall never be disappointed.

Therein lies the struggle. Eternal life can only be gained with effort. Seeking joy rather than settling for happiness. Nothing, in my estimation, defines why the Christian life is an ascetical life than this profound difference.

——————

1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword; 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. 6 The very night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison; 7 and behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your mantle around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him; he did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened to them of its own accord, and they went out and passed on through one street; and immediately the angel left him. 11 And Peter came to himself, and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” (Accts 12.1-11)

——————

6 For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing…14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will requite him for his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense no one took my part; all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the message fully, that all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4.6-8, 14-18)

——————–

Lord knows there are plenty of Good Fridays in our lives – but they will not prevail; Easter will. As we Irish claim, “Life is all about loving, living, and laughing, not about hating, dying, and moaning.”

That’s why a crabby, griping, whining believer is an oxymoron! That’s why we say, “Joy is the infallible sign of God’s presence.”

I saw it in Haiti when I went there with Catholic Relief Services right after the devastating earthquake in January 2010. Crying, horror, death, anguish – you bet, in abundance. But still a resilience and a hope in a people clinging onto faith after centuries of oppression and grind.
–the words of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, from the Foreword of The Fire of Christ’s Love, by Raniero Cantalamesa

——————–

“‘Turn, O my soul, into your rest: for the Lord has been bountiful to you’ (Psalm 114:7). The brave contestant applies to himself the consoling words, very much like to Paul, when he says: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. For the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice.’ These things the prophet also says to himself: Since you have fulfilled sufficiently the course of this life, turn then to your rest, ‘for the Lord has been bountiful to you.’ For, eternal rest lies before those who have struggled through the present life observant of the laws, a rest not given in payment for a debt owed for their works but provided as a grace of the munificent God for those who have hoped in him.” –St. Basil the Great (329-379 A.D.), excerpt from HOMILIES 22)

——————–

And so, my “take away” from this time of meditation, is a prayer for the grace to give my energy and focus to seeking joy and offering joy in each encounter today.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Here is a an edited version of a homily for the Nativity, by St. Basil the Great. I cannot find the full text online. If any of you know a website where it can be found so we may be blessed by the full text, attach the link in the comments section.

Merry Christmas.

God on earth, God amongst us! It is no longer the God who gives the Law amidst lightning and thunder, at the sound of the trumpet on the mountain wrapped in smoke (Ex 19.18), at the heart of a fearful tempest (Ex 19.18), but he who converses gently and kindly with his brethren in a human body. God in our flesh! This is no longer he who only acts at certain times, as with the st basil the greatprophets, but he who assumes human nature completely and who, through the flesh that is our own, raises all humanity to himself.

How is it that light has come into all of us by means of one alone? In what way is divinity present in the flesh? It is like fire in iron…: while still remaining in place, the fire communicates its own proper ardour to the iron. It is not at all made less by this but it wholly fills the iron to which it communicates itself. In the same way God, the Word who “dwelt among us”, did not go out from himself; the Word made flesh underwent no change; heaven was not deprived of him who contained it and earth welcomed him who remains in heaven…

Enter fully into this mystery: God has come in the flesh to put to death the death concealed within it. Just as drugs cure us once they are assimilated by the body, so the darkness of a house is dispersed once the light comes into it, and so, too, the death that kept us in its power has been destroyed by the coming of our God. As ice formed during the night melts under the heat of the sun’s rays, so death has reigned till the coming of Christ. But when the Sun of justice arose (Mal 3.20), “death was swallowed up in victory” (1Cor 15.54); it could not withstand the presence of the true life… Let us sing glory to God with the shepherds, let us dance together with the angels, “for this day in David’s city a Savior has been born to you, the Messiah and Lord” (Lk 2.11)… Let us celebrate the salvation of the world, the birthday of all humanity.
Source: Saint Basil (c.330-379), Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, “Homily for the Nativity of Christ,” 2.6

Participate in His Death to Participate in His Resurrection

From a treatise On the Holy Spirit by Basil the Great

When humankind was estranged by disobedience, God our Saviour 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 children of God by adoption.

To attain holiness, then, we must not only pattern our lives on that of Christ by being gentle, humble and patient, but 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 we are 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. Source: Atwell, Robert (2011-09-08). Celebrating the Seasons (Kindle Locations 4293-4311). Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Spiritual Warfare and the Holy Eucharist

The Divine Liturgy is according to the Holy Tradition both normative and essential to the Christian life. God never sent out a memo, as far as I can tell, that said “if you feel like it” or “if it works for you.” By means of the Divine Liturgy (Holy Eucharist) we appropriately engage in spiritual warfare. This is all pre-schism and pre-reformation. The affirmation is at the heart of the “apostles’ teaching” to quote Acts. Wow…

Today’s gospel (March 30, 2014) is Mark 9:17-31. It is a story about spiritual warfare. Here is a reflection from “Dynamis.” Notice the portion I have highlighted. The author of this reflection is passing on a crucial “given.” He says it as if you, the reader, are already aware of it and he is simply reminding you of it. The author of the reflection uses the term “Holy Mysteries.” Notice that the term is plural. In the Western Church we would say “Sacraments.” So, the long and short of it is that the Sacraments are essential weapons in our spiritual warfare. Wow…

Notice also some of the other weapons – the Word of God, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving – the cardinal disciplines of Great Lent. Just a note: all of these are essential to a healthy participation in the Holy Eucharist.

I have, after the reflection, also included a pre-communion and post-communion prayer that reiterate the spiritual warfare dimension of the Divine Liturgy.

—————–

Basic Weapons: Mark 9:17-31, especially vss. 28-29: “His disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ So He said to them, ‘This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.’” This passage does not simply provide another account of a healing by the Lord Jesus; it constitutes an “action report” from the battlefield of spiritual warfare. A father and his son are overwhelmed by the enemy (vss. 17=18). The disciples skirmish with the unclean spirit, but cannot dislodge it (vs. 18). Finally, the Lord enters and defeats the foe (vss. 19-27).

After the victory, the Commander instructs His trainees as to why certain weapons are crucial in spiritual combat (vss. 28-29). In the concluding verse, the Lord Jesus announces the approach of His great and final battle and His subsequent victory (vs. 31). This Gospel is directed to all of us who are engaged in constant spiritual skirmishes and battles.

It is helpful to begin our approach to these verses with a passage from Ephesians in which the Apostle Paul discusses the basic rules of engagement with the enemy. First and foremost, our strength comes from the Lord (Eph 6:10). We must use the armor He provides (vss. 11, 13) when we are confronted by the wiles and power of our foe (vss. 14-16). In addition, the apostle describes the weapons required to win the spiritual struggle: Holy Scripture, prayer, the holy mysteries, and watchfulness (vss. 10, 17-18). Although Saint Paul does not mention fasting, the Lord reminds us of that weapon in today’s passage.

Addressing the relationship between fasting and prayer, Blessed Theophylact says: “Both are necessary. Good sense dictates that . . . one . . . must not only fast, but also pray; and he must not only pray, but also fast, for true prayer is rendered when it is yoked to fasting” (Explanation of the Gospel According to Saint Mark, p. 77).

Saint John Chrysostom explains the connection: “He that fasts is light, and winged, and prays with wakefulness, and quenches his wicked lusts, and propitiates God, and humbles his soul when lifted up” (“Homily 57 on Matthew,” NPNF First Series, vol. 10, p. 356).

Let us thoughtfully review each of the five essential weapons of spiritual warfare. Holy Scripture – the life-giving words of God – is a must for discerning truth and the will of the Lord in the midst of the myriad attacks we endure. As the core of Orthodox tradition, Scripture provides us with the light to cut through the smokescreen of lies from the enemy.

Prayer is our second essential weapon, and draws directly from Holy Scripture. In fact, we should become adept at using the language of Scripture to form our words of prayer. The Divine Liturgy, which is soaked in Scripture, demonstrates the method we follow.

The holy mysteries are the third weapon for disciples in combat. According to the pre-communion prayer of Saint Basil the Great, they move us to “boldness . . . increase of virtue . . . [and] keeping of [God’s] commandments.” The sacrament of communion shapes and molds our lives, making us resilient in Christ.

Fasting, in the manner prescribed by the Church, sharpens our spiritual awareness of what is happening around and within us. Let us carefully observe the days, seasons, and times of fasting, always following the directions of regular Orthodox practice as our guide.

Finally, watchfulness is the hallmark of Christ’s warrior at all times and in all circumstances. We are especially blessed to have the Jesus Prayer to aid us in the struggle against “the evil imagination, wicked deeds, and work of the devil” that seek to oppose us.

O Lord of mercies, enlighten the eyes of our understanding by Thy Holy Scriptures, enable us by Thy Spirit to pray as we ought to pray, strengthen our wretched souls and bodies through Thy Holy Gifts, help us to subject our flesh by abstinence and blameless fasting, and awaken us to cultivate watchfulness zealously that we may be victors unto the end.

—————-

Pre-Communion Prayer by St. Basil the Great
I know, O Lord, that I have communion unworthily of Thy most pure Body and Thy most precious Blood, that I am guilty and drink condemnation to.myself not discerning Thy Body and Blood, O my Christ and God. But daring upon Thy generous loving-kindness I come to Thee who hast said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.” Be merciful, therefore, O Lord, and do not rebuke me a sinner, but deal with me according to Thy mercy, and let Thy holy things be for my purification and healing, for enlightenment and protection, for the repulsion of every tempting thought and action of the devil which works spiritually in my fleshly members. Let them be for boldness and love for Thee, for the correction and grounding of my life, for the increase of virtue and perfection, for the fulfillment of Thy commandments, for the communion of the Holy Spirit, for the journey of eternal life, for a good and acceptable answer at Thy dread judgment, but not for judgment or condemnation. Amen.

Post-Communion Prayer by St. Simeon Metaphrastes
Freely Thou hast given me Thy Body for my food, O Thou who art a fire consuming the unworthy. Consume me not, O my Creator, but instead enter into my members, my veins, my heart. Consume the thorns of my transgressions. Cleanse my soul and sanctify my reasonings. Make firm my knees and body. Illumine my five senses. Nail me to the fear of Thee. Always protect, guard, and keep me from soul destroying words and deeds. Cleanse me, purify me, and adorn me. Give me understanding and illumination. Show me to be a temple of Thy One Spirit, and not the home of many sins. May every evil thing, every carnal passion, flee from me as from a fire as I become Thy tabernacle through communion. I offer Thee as intercessors all the saints: the leaders of the bodiless hosts, Thy Forerunner, the wise apostles, and Thy pure and blameless Mother. Accept their prayers in Thy love, O my Christ, and make me, Thy servant, a child of light. For Thou art the only Sanctification and Light of our souls, O Good One, and to Thee, our Master and God, we ascribe glory day by day. Amen.

Source for prayers

The Holy Eucharist – Fullness of Life in the Midst of Life

Gratitude — Really?? Am I??

Ecclesiastes 1.12
[12] And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Psalm 116
[12] What shall I render to the LORD
for all his bounty to me?
[13] I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD,
[14] I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
[15] Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
[16] O LORD, I am thy servant;
I am thy servant, the son of thy handmaid.
Thou hast loosed my bonds.
[17] I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the LORD.
[18] I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
[19] in the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD!

I have been blessed over the last several months in my ongoing reflection – ruminatio – on passages from Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. She says, early on, in what proves to be a/the key chapter of the book, “a word to live … and die by”:

“Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning ‘joy.’ Joy. Ah…yes. I might be needing me some of that. That might be what the quest for more is all about, that which Augustine claimed, “Without exception…all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is joy.’ … ‘The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live…. He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything.’ … Eucharisteo – whenever: now. Joy – wherever: here… ‘The only real fall of man is his noneucharistic life in a noneucharistic world.”

Really, the only way to appreciate this all too brief quote is to read the whole chapter and the whole book ! !

Now, of course, I am not going to leave it at that. I must place it in the context of the Church Fathers (and Mothers). Transformation often happens in my life in this way (among others): My independent lines of reading intersect, affect one another, work transformation in my life or the life of someone with whom I share life, and reorient my course and focus in those lines of reading. Well, it just so happens that my reading of the chapter mentioned above coincided with a book of daily readings from the Church Fathers. Here is the text of that reading.

From the Detailed Rules for Monks by Saint Basil the Great
Love of God is not something that we can be taught. We did not learn from someone else how to rejoice in light or want to live, or to love our parents or guardians. It is the same, perhaps even more so, with our love for God: it does not come by another’s teaching. As soon as the living creature (that is, man) comes to be, a power of reason is implanted in us like a seed, containing within it the ability and the need to love. When the school of God’s law admits this power of reason, it cultivates it diligently, skillfully nurtures it, and with God’s help brings it to perfection.

For this reason, as by God’s gift, I find you with the zeal necessary to attain this end, and you on your part help me with your prayers. I will try to fan into flame the spark of divine love that is hidden within you, as far as I am able through the power of the Holy Spirit.

First, let me say that we have already received from God the ability to fulfill all his commands. We have then no reason to resent them, as if something beyond our capacity were being asked of us. We have no reason either to be angry, as if we had to pay back more than we had received. When we use this ability in a right and fitting way, we lead a life of virtue and holiness. But if we misuse it, we fall into sin.
This is the definition of sin: the misuse of powers given us by God for doing good, a use contrary to God’s commandments. On the other hand, the virtue that God asks of us is the use of the same powers based on a good conscience in accordance with God’s command.

Since this is so, we can say the same about love. Since we received a command to love God, we possess from the first moment of our existence and innate power and ability to love. The proof of this is not to be sought outside ourselves, but each one can learn this from himself and in himself. It is natural for us to want things that are good and pleasing to the eye, even though at first different things seem beautiful and good to different people. In the same way, we love what is related to us or near to us, though we have not been taught to do so, and we spontaneously feel well disposed to our benefactors.
What, I ask, is more wonderful than the beauty of God? What thought is more pleasing and satisfying than God’s majesty? What desire is as urgent and overpowering as the desire implanted by God in a soul that is completely purified of sin and cries out in its love: I am wounded by love? The radiance of the divine beauty is altogether beyond the power of words to describe.

… What words can adequately describe God’s gifts? They are so numerous that they defy enumeration. They are so great that any one of them demands our total gratitude in response.

Yet even though we cannot speak of it worthily, there is one gift which no thoughtful man can pass over in silence. God fashioned man in his own image and likeness; he gave him knowledge of himself; he endowed him with the ability to think which raised him above all living creatures; he permitted him to delight in the unimaginable beauties of paradise, and gave him dominion over everything upon earth.

Then, when man was deceived by the serpent and fell into sin, which led to death and to all the sufferings associated with death, God still did not forsake him. He first gave man the law to help him; he set angels over him to guard him; he sent the prophets to denounce vice and to teach virtue; he restrained man’s evil impulses by warnings and roused his desire for virtue by promises. Frequently, by way of warning, God showed him the respective ends of virtue and of vice in the lives of other men. Moreover, when man continued in disobedience even after he had done all this, God did not desert him.

No, we were not abandoned by the goodness of the Lord. Even the insult we offered to our Benefactor by despising his gifts did not destroy his love for us. On the contrary, although we were dead, our Lord Jesus Christ restored us to life again, and in a way even more amazing than the fact itself, for his state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave.

He bore our infirmities and endured our sorrows. He was wounded for our sake so that by his wounds we might be healed. He redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for our sake, and he submitted to the most ignominious death in order to exalt us to the life of glory. Nor was he content merely to summon us back from death to life; he also bestowed on us the dignity of his own divine nature and prepared for us a place of eternal rest where there will be joy so intense as to surpass all human imagination.

How, then, shall we repay the Lord for all his goodness to us? He is so good that he asks no recompense except our love: that is the only payment he desires. To confess my personal feelings, when I reflect on all these blessings I am overcome by a kind of dread and numbness at the very possibility of ceasing to love God and of bringing shame upon Christ because of my lack of recollection and my preoccupation with trivialities.

—————
Do you detect the interplay between these texts ? ! I did… What makes them transformative is not the profundity of the information contained in them, although it is profound. What makes them transformation is meeting and communing with Christ Jesus in and through them. The course of my life has changed because the Lord Jesus Christ, the “One Who has come,” “the One Who is present,” and “the coming One” encountered me and I Him, via these texts.

Fr. Thomas

The Region of Theophany

As we continue our transformative pilgrimage through the province of Christmas toward the province of Theophany, let us hearken to the universal characteristics of the land in which we journey – the Kingdom of God (the land of our pilgrimssalvation).  I have underlined the themes I noted as I reflected on it during my quiet time this morning. Perhaps you will be blessed by what I have noted.

Fr. Thomas

——————————

From a homily by St. Basil the Great

God on earth, God among us! No longer the God who gives his law amid flashes of lightning, to the sound of the trumpet on the smoking mountain, within the darkness of a terrifying storm, but the God who speaks gently and with kindness in a human body to his kindred. God in the flesh! It is no longer the God who acts only at particular instants, as in the prophets, but one who completely assumes our human nature and through his flesh, which is that of our race, lifts all humanity up to him.

BasilHow, then, you will say, did the light come everywhere, through one sole person? In what manner is the Godhead in the flesh? Like fire in iron: not by moving about, but by spreading itself. The fire, indeed, does not thrust itself toward the iron, but, remaining where it is, it distributes its own strength to it. In doing so, the fire is in no way diminished, but it completely fills the iron to which it spreads. In the same manner, God the Word who ‘dwelt among us’ did not go outside himself; the Word which was ‘made flesh’ underwent no change; heaven was not deprived of him who controlled it and the earth received within itself him who is in heaven.

Look deeply into this mystery. God comes in the flesh in order to destroy the death concealed in flesh. In the same way as remedies and medicines triumph over the factors of corruption when they are assimilated into the body, and in the same way as the darkness which reigns in a house is dispelled by the entry of light, so death, which held human nature in its power, was annihilated by the coming of the Godhead. In the same way as ice, when in water, prevails over the liquid element as long as it is night, and darkness covers everything, but is dissolved when the sun comes up through the warmth of its rays: so death reigned till the coming of Christ; but when the saving grace of God appeared and the sun of justice rose, death was swallowed up in this victory, being unable to endure the dwelling of the true life among us. O the depth of the goodness of God and of his love for all of us!

Let us give glory to God with the shepherds, let us dance in choir with the angels, for ‘this day a Saviour has been born to us, the Messiah and Lord.’ He is the Lord who has appeared to us, not in his divine form in order not to terrify us in our weakness, but in the form of a servant, that he might set free what had been reduced to servitude. Who could be so faint-hearted and so ungrateful as not to rejoice and exult in gladness for what is taking place? This is a festival of all creation. (Celebrating the Seasons, pg. 53-54, by Robert Atwell, Canterbury Press, Norwich, 1999)