Monday, 30 July 2012

On the Sanctity of Marriage

By St. Cyril of Jerusalem
[The] Holy Spirit wrought in Elisabeth; for He has in knowledge not virgins only, but acknowledges married women also, so that their marriage may be lawful. 
[If you are] observing chastity, be not puffed up against those who choose the humbler path of wedlock. For marriage is honourable, and the bed undefiled, as the Apostle says. [Heb. 13:4] Were not you who keep your purity born of married persons? Do not, because you have a possession of gold, set at nought the silver. But let also those who are married and use marriage lawfully be of good cheer; those who subject their marriage to laws, not making it wanton by unbounded license; who observe the seasons of abstinence, that they may give themselves unto prayer; [1 Cor. 7:5] who with pure garments bring their bodies also pure to the assemblies of the Church; who have entered into the state of matrimony, not for indulgence, but that they may have a home. And let not those who have been married only once set at nought them who have involved themselves in a second marriage. Continence is indeed a noble thing and admirable; yet we should make allowance for a second marriage, that the weak may not commit fornication. It is good for them if they abide even as I, says the Apostle; but if they cannot contain, let them marry; it is better to marry than to burn. [1 Cor. 7:8-9] But let everything else be put far away from you - fornication, adultery, and every form of incontinence - and let the body be kept for the Lord, that the Lord also may look upon the body. And let the body be nourished with meats, that it may live, and serve without hindrance; but not that it may be given up to indulgence.
Catechetical Lectures 17:7 & 4:25-26

Again?! Yet another fast is upon us

Cell at Katounakia, Mount Athos
Falling only shortly after the two lengthy fasting periods of Great Lent and the Apostles' Fast, the Dormition Fast beginning on the 1st of August is often met with grumbling. This is hardly a surprising reaction when we continuously present fasting as something burdensome, tiring, and difficult. A time of don't's rather than do's. But is it?

I remember the first time I visited the Holy Mountain. I had spent a night at St. Ephraim's Skete at Katounakia, a small gathering of cells situated on steep hills at the very edge of the peninsula, and was making my way back down to the port after the morning services and breakfast. When I had made it about half way down the seemingly endless steps, a tiny old monk from one of the other sketes, to whom I had briefly been introduced the day before, came running towards me shouting "Norwegian! Norwegian!". He wanted to remind me that the day after next was one of the feasts of our Lord. "Tomorrow," he said with a big smile, "you must remember to fast strictly, and only eat bread and water at the evening meal so that you'll be ready for the Feast the following day!" While what he was telling me was certainly strict by any measure - exceeding even the akrivia of the Church's fasting rules - his words contained no trace of prescriptiveness, but were said with an infectious joy and enthusiasm. He was simply excited about the Feast and wanted to let me know so that I didn't miss out on anything. I wonder if we shouldn't also imagine the Church Fathers as having had the same radient faces when they wrote the words that to us in the 21st century often sound harsh and overly demanding. 

Perhaps if we observed the fasts and discussed the topic of fasting with the same excitement, enthusiasm, and love for Christ as this simple monk, those around us might come to understand that fasting is not a burdensome obligation, but a privilege and opportunity to be longed for and greeted with joy not reluctance. 

Sunday, 29 July 2012

St. Cyril of Jerusalem on Church Politics

This particular quote refers specifically to the doctrinal divisions that took place in the Church in St. Cyril's day - primarily the battle of the Orthodox against Arianism - but I feel his words are in many ways applicable to those of us who take an often unhealthy interest in Church politics and spend more time worrying about which patriarchs are fighting over jurisdiction in a particular area, or different figures who clash over opposing ideologies, etc. than we do about our own sinfulness and relationship with Christ.
"If you shall hear that bishops advance against bishops, and clergy against clergy, and people against people even unto blood, be not troubled; for it has been written before. Take no notice of the things now happening, but the things which are written. Even if I who am teaching you am to die, you do not die with me. No, a hearer may even become better than his teacher, and he who came last might be first, since the Master receives even those of the eleventh hour . If among the Apostles there was found treason, are you surprised that even among bishops there is found hatred of the brethren? But the sign concerns not only rulers, but the people also; for He says, And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. Will any then among those present boast that he entertains sincere friendship towards his neighbour? Do not the lips often kiss, and the face smile, and the eyes brighten truthfully, while the heart is planing guile, and plotting mischief with words of peace?" 
Catechetical Lectures 15:7

Happy Olsok!

The Holy Passion-bearer Olaf, 
Eternal King of Norway - 29th of July
Apolytikion in Tone V
Desiring the supernal glory of God, thou didst toil for Him to the end of thine earthly life; and, having laboured well, thou didst increase the talant He entrusted to thy care, being faithful to Him even to the shedding of thy blood. Wherefore, as a martyr thou hast received a crown for thy pangs from the right hand of Christ our God, Whom do thou earnestly entreat, that we be saved who hymn thee, O glorious King Olaf.
Kontakion in Tone VIII
With the faithful of Norway let us praise the divinely wise king as is meet, for he was a most excellent champion of piety and an undaunted martyr for the Truth of Christ. As he hath boldness before the Lord our God, let us beseech him to ask mercy for us who glorify him, that with gladness we may cry aloud: Rejoice, O ever-memorable Olaf!

St. Olaf was born in 995, the son of a Norwegian lord named Harald Grenske, the great grandson of Harald Fairhair, and Asta Gudbransdatter. Olaf grew up in the household of his stepfather, Sigurd Byr of Ringarike. From the age of 12, he went on expeditions to the Baltic coast, Denmark and the Netherlands. Between 1009 and 1013 he fought under Thorkell the Tall against the English at London, Ringmere and Canterbury. For a time he was a captain of mercenaries for Duke Richard of Normandy, and in 1013 or 1014 he was converted to the Faith of Christ and baptized in Rouen. Then he entered the service of the exiled English King Ethelred and followed him back to England, where he fought on the English side at the taking of London Bridge. When the Danish King Canute conquered England, Olaf joined his service.

According to The Saga of St. Olaf, the two men were at first great friends. However, King Canute then became jealous of the younger man. Moreover, the Saga continues, "the bishop [St. Sigfrid, enlightener of Sweden] always waited for Olaf at Divine service, but not for Canute, and the bishop called Olaf king, and this Canute could not bear to hear, and spoke to the bishop about it in such strong words that the latter had to desist, because of the king's authority, for the king's heart was filled to overflowing with pride and ambition, because of his power and place. So things went on until it came to Lent. Then Canute began to speak to Sigfrid: 'Is it true that you called Olaf by the title of king this winter? Now how do you defend your words, when he has no settled country nor wears a crown?'

"'It is true, my lord,' said the bishop, 'that he has no land here, and he wears no crown of gold or silver. Nay, rather is he chosen and crowned by the highest Lord and Ruler, the King of all kings, the one almighty God, to rule and govern that kingdom to which he is born, and this special destiny awaits him, to rule a kingdom for the comfort and profit of the people, and to yield to God the fitting fruit of his coming into his kingdom. All the people in Norway and the lands tributary to it, and not these parts only, but no less the whole of the region of the north as well, shall have reason to remember and keep in mind this pillar and support of God's Christendom, who will root out all brambles and weeds from God's field and vineyard, and sow in their stead the noble seed of God's holy words. All these words will flourish and come to perfect growth, and every man who accepts them will himself be acceptable to the highest King of heaven, world without end.'

"King Canute said: 'You cannot be said to have made good the words which we are told you have spoken, my lord Bishop, declaring that he outshines us in miraculous virtues, above all if you make so great a distinction between us, that you declare that we show no virtues at all.'

"'You have heard rightly concerning these words of ours,' said the bishop.

"King Canute said: 'It avails me little, then, to chastise myself more than King Olaf, if I am bound to fall short of him in some respect, for now, since Lent has begun, I wear a linen and not a silken shirt, a scarlet kirtle, and not one of velvet or purple. I drink also ale and not mead. But Olaf wears a shirt of silk and a kirtle of velvet. He has the choicest foods prepared for him, and a vessel of wine stands on his table.'

"The bishop said: 'It is true, my lord, that Olaf wears a shirt of silk, but he wears a hair-cloth under the shirt, and a belt about his body so broad that it reaches from hip to shoulder-blade, and iron extending from it in front. You will always see that when King Olaf takes his seat and the choicest foods are brought before him, there is a mound in the place where he is wont to sit. There is hidden a cripple, and it is he that eats the dainties, but Olaf eats salt and bread. There is also a vessel of water, and this Olaf drinks, and has no more to drink than that, but it is the cripple that drinks out of the wine-cup.'

"Then King Canute was so enraged against Bishop Sigfrid, that King Olaf could not stay there because of the jealousy of King Canute, and a little later it went the same way with Bishop Sigfrid."

In 1015 Olaf and Sigfrid went to Norway, where Olaf succeeded in seizing the kingdom in spite of much opposition. First, by distributing money, and with the support of his kinsmen on the Opplands, he gained control of Ostland. Then, on Palm Sunday, March 25th, 1016, he conquered the country's principal chieftains, Sven Hakonsson Jarl, Einar Tambarskjelve, and Erling Skjalgsson, in the sea battle at Nesjar (between Larviksfjord and Lengesundsfjord). In the same year he was accepted as King at the Oreting in Trondelag.

He had a comparatively peaceful reign for almost 10 years, and during this period considerably advanced the unification of Norway. Olaf's work of unification assumed concrete form as territorial dominion over a kingdom which extended from Gautelven in the south up to Finnmark in the north, from the Vesterhav islands in the west to the forests toward the realm of the Swedes in the east. Olaf was the first high king who secured real control over the inland areas of Trondelag and Opplandene. Moreover, he gained a foothold for the Norwegian national kingdom on the Orkney islands and Hjaltland.

Olaf also laid the foundation for nationwide local government and introduced a certain division of labor among the royal housecarls. He installed sheriffs recruited from the nobility and the landed gentry throughout the country and tried by means of his year-men to keep control of the political activities of the sheriffs. According to Snorre a division of labor seems to have occurred in the King's household into actual housecarls (military functions), guests (police functions), house chaplains, and churls (duties within the palace). Moreover, several titles of the masters of the King's court are known from this time: standard-bearer, King's Marshal, House Bishop.

With the aid of his English missionaries he succeeded in making Norway Christian. At the meeting of the Ting (Parliament) At Moster, Bomlo in Sunnhordland (1024), Norway acquired a nationwide ecclesiastical organization with churches and priests, a Christian legal system and a first organization of the Church's finances. Gwyn Jones writes: "The Christian law formulated at Moster was of prime authority; it was read out at the different Things, and there are confirmatory references to it in the oldest Gulathing Law." The king established peace and security for his people, remaking old laws and insisting on their execution, unaffected by bribes or threats. He built many churches, including one dedicated to St. Clement at the capital, Nidaros (Trondheim). All other faiths except Christianity were outlawed.

At the beginning of his reign St. Olaf did not enjoy good relations with Sweden; for the Swedish King Olof Skotkonung had seized a portion of Norway in about the year 1000. However, through the mediation of St. Anna, King Olof's daughter, it was agreed that St. Olaf should marry his other daughter Astrid, and relations between the two Christian kings were restored. In this way the foundations were laid for the Christianization of the whole of Scandinavia.

After the death of the King Olof in 1022, St. Olaf made an alliance with his son Anund Jacob against Canute of England and Denmark. For Canute's hatred had not been extinguished; and the jealousy of this Cain was destined both to open a fruitful mission-field and to provide a martyr's crown for the latter day Abel. But in 1026 the allies were defeated by Canute at Helgean in Skane, Sweden.

Then, as Florence of Worcester writes, "since it was intimated to Canute, king of the English and Danes, that the Norwegians greatly despised their king, Olaf, for his simplicity and gentleness, his justice and piety, he sent a large sum of gold and silver to certain of them, requesting them with many entreaties to reject and desert Olaf, and submit to him and let him reign over them. And when they had accepted with great avidity the things which he had sent, they sent a message back to him that they would be ready to receive him whenever he pleased to come." So the next year (1028), "Canute, king of the English and Danes, sailed to Norway with 50 great ships, and drove out King Olaf and subjected it to himself," appointing the Danish earl Hakon, son of Eirik Jarl, whom Olaf had banished in 1015, as his viceroy.

Olaf decided to flee to Sweden and thence to the court of his kinsman, Yaroslav of Kiev, whose father, the famous St. Vladimir, had given shelter to Olaf Tryggvason in his youth. And it was the same Olaf Tryggvason who appeared to his successor and namesake one night and said:

"Are you sick at heart over which plan to take up? It seems strange to me that you are pondering so much, and similarly that you are thinking of laying down the kingdom which God has given you, and moreover that you are thinking of staying here and taking a kingdom [Bulgaria] from kings who are foreign and strangers to you. Rather go back to your kingdom which you have taken as your inheritance and have long ruled over with the strength God has given you, and do not let your underlings make you afraid. It is to a king's honor to win victories over his foes, and an honorable death to fall in battle with his men. Or are you not sure whether you have the right in this struggle? You will not act so as to deny your true right. You can boldly strive for the land, for God will bear you witness that it is your own possession."

In 1029 Hakon died in a shipwreck in the Pentland Firth on his way home to Norway. This gave Olaf his opportunity. Early in 1030 he set off for Norway over the frozen Russian rivers. When the sea-ice broke, he sailed to Gotland with 240 men. King Anund of Sweden gave him 480 more, but when he faced Canute's army at Stikrlarstadir, he had no more than 3600 men (Swedes, Jamtlanders from Northern Sweden, Icelanders and his Norwegian companions) against a peasant army 14,400 mrn - the largest army ever assembled in Norway.

Then, like Gideon, the saint decided to reduce his numbers by choosing only Christians to fight in his army. So he was eventually opposed by overwhelmingly larger forces. And as the sun went into total eclipse on July 29, 1030 (July 30, according to modern astronomers), his army was defeated and he himself was killed, as had been revealed to him in a vision just before the battle.

But immediately a great fear fell on the soldiers of Canute's army. And then miracles began to be manifested at St. Olaf's body: a light was seen over it at night; a blind man recovered his sight on pressing his fingers, dipped in the saint's blood, to his eyes; springs of water with healing properties flowed from his grave; and then, to the chagrin of Canute's first wife, Elgiva, and her son King Swein of Denmark, his body was found to be incorrupt. Soon the penitent Norwegians expelled the Danes, and recalled Olaf's son Magnus from Russia to be their king.

The incorruption of Olaf's body was certified by his loyal Bishop Grimkel, whose see was Nidaros (Trondheim). As we read in St. Olaf's Saga: "Bishop Grimkel went to meet Einar Tambarskelver, who greeted the bishop gladly. They afterwards talked about many things and especially about the great events which had taken place in the land. They were agreed among themselves on all matters. The bishop then went into the market and the whole crowd greeted him. He asked carefully about the miracles which were related of King Olaf and learned a great deal from this questioning. Then the bishop sent word to Torgils and his son Grim at Stiklastad, calling them to meet him in the town. Torgils and his son did not delay their journey, and they went to meet the bishop in the town. Then they told him all the remarkable things which they knew and also the place where they had hidden the king's body. The bishop then sent word to Einar Tambarskelver, and Einar came to the town. Einar and the bishop then had a talk with the king and Elgiva and asked the king to allow them to take up King Olaf's body from the earth. The king gave permission, and told the bishop to do it as he wished. Then a great crowd assembled in the town. The bishop and Einar then went with some men to the place where the king's body was buried and had it dug up. The coffin had by this time almost risen out of the earth. In accordance with the advice of many, the bishop had the king buried in the ground beside St. Clement's church. It was twelve months and five days from the death of the king to the day his holy relics were taken up, the coffin having risen out of the earth and looking as new as if it had just been planned. Bishop Grimkel then went to the opened coffin of King Olaf, from which there proceeded a precious fragrance. The bishop then uncovered the king's face, and it was completely unchanged: the cheeks were red as if he had just fallen asleep. Those who had seen King Olaf when he fell noticed a great difference in that his hair and nails had grown almost as much as they would have done if he had been alive in this world all the time since his fall. King Swein and all the chiefs who were there then went to see King Olaf's body.

"Then Elgiva said: 'A body rots very slowly in sand; it would not have been so if he had lain in mould.'

"The bishop then took a pair of scissors and cut off some of the king's hair and also some of his beard (he had a long beard, as was the custom at that time). Then the bishop said to the king and Elgiva:

"'Now the king's hair and beard are as long as when he died, and since then they have grown as much as you now see shorn off.'

"Then Elgiva answered: 'This hair will be a holy relic to me if it does not burn in the fire; we have often seen the hair of men who have lain longer in the earth than this man whole and unscathed.'

"The bishop then had fire brought in on a censer. He made the sign of the cross over it and put incense in it. Then he laid King Olaf's hair in the fire. And when all the incense had burned the bishop took up the hair from the fire and it was not burned. The bishop let the king and the other chiefs see it. Then Elgiva ordered them to lay the hair in unhallowed fire. But Einar Tambarskelver ordered her to be silent and said many hard words to her. Then the bishop declared, and the king agreed, and the people deemed, that King Olaf was truly holy. The king's body was then borne into St. Clement's church and placed over the high altar. The coffin was wrapped in a pall and over it was placed a beautiful cover. And then many miracles took place at the holy relics of King Olaf."

King Canute made no opposition to the veneration of St. Olaf, and churches dedicated to the saint were soon being built throughout the Viking world, from Dublin to the Orkneys to Novgorod. Forty ancient churches were dedicated to St. Olaf in Britain, and his feast occurs on several English calendars.

It was in connection with a miracle attributed to St. Olaf that a chapel was dedicated to him in Constantinople. Thus Bishop Ambrose von Sievers writes: "From other sources I have established that the Panagia Varangiotissa was situated by the western facade of Hagia Sophia, almost touching it. In about the reign of Alexis Comnenus (or a little earlier) St. Olaf was included among the saints of Constantinople and in the church of the Varangian Mother of God a side-chapel was built in honor of St. Olaf, while the old church itself was transformed into a church to which a women's monastery was attached."

According to the medieval Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, in 1066 as St. Olaf's half-brother, King Harald of Norway was preparing to invade England, he dreamed that he was in Trondheim and met St. Olaf there. Olaf told him that he had won many victories and died in holiness because he had stayed in Norway. But now he feared that he, Harald, would meet his death, "and wolves will rend your body; God is not to blame." Snorri wrote that "many other dreams and portents were reported at the time, and most of them were ominous." Harald was killed, in accordance with the prophecy of St. Olaf, at the Battles of Stamford Bridge in England.


Saturday, 28 July 2012

How did the early Church view nationalism?

"For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric way of life…But while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship. They live in their own countries, but only as nonresidents; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their food but not their wives. They are in the flesh, but they do not live according to the flesh. They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. [Emphasis mine] They obey the established laws; indeed in their private lives they transcend the laws. They love everyone, and by everyone they are persecuted. They are unknown, yet they are condemned; they are put to death, yet they are brought to life. They are poor, yet they make many rich; they are in need of everything, yet they abound in everything. They are dishonoured, yet they are glorified in their dishonour; they are slandered, yet they are vindicated. They are cursed, yet they bless; they are insulted, yet they offer respect. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; when they are punished, they rejoice as though brought to life. By the Jews they are assaulted as foreigners, and by the Greeks they are persecuted, yet those who hate them are unable to give a reason for their hostility.
In a word, what the soul is to the body, Christians are to the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians throughout the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but is not out of the body; likewise Christians dwell in the world, but are not of the world. The soul, which is invisible, is confined in the body; which is visible; in the same way, Christians are recognized as being in the world, and yet their religion remains invisible."
Letter to Diognetus 5:1-6:4
in Holmes, Michael W. (ed. trans), The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and 
English Translation (3rd ed.), Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2007, pp.701-5

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Commentary on the Creed

The articles of the Orthodox Symbol of Faith accompanied
by a selection of passages from the works of St. Cyril of Jerusalem

I believe
“For God seeks nothing else from us, save a good purpose. Say not, ‘How are my sins blotted out?’ I tell you, from willing, from believing; what is shorter than this? But if your lips declare your willingness, but your heart is silent, the one who judges you knows the heart.” [Protocatechesis 8]

“Just as a writing-reed or a dart has need of one to use it, so does grace require believing minds.” [Catechetical Lectures 1:3]

in one God
“Lay then in your souls as a sure foundation the doctrine concerning God: That God is only one, unbegotten, unoriginated, unchangeable, unalterable: neither by another begotten nor having another to succeed Him in His being: who neither began in time to be, nor shall ever have an end.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:4]

“We explain not what God is; but we honestly confess that we have no exact knowledge of Him; for on the subject of God, it is great knowledge to confess our want of knowledge…It suffices us for devotion, to know that we have a God; a God who is One, a God who is, is always; always like unto Himself; and has no Father, none mightier than Himself, no successor to dispossess Him of His kingdom: manifold in name, all-powerful, in substance uniform.” [Catechetical Lectures 6:2,7]

“Fly from the error of many gods; fly from all heresy.” [Catechetical Lectures 8:8]

First Ecumenical Council in Nicea
“It is not enough to believe in One God: we must receive with reverence this also, that He is the Father of the Only-begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ. For thus our view of religion will rise above the Jewish. For the Jews receive indeed the doctrine of One God…but they deny that He is also the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…For the name of the Father, in its very utterance implies the Son: as in like manner to name the Son, is at once to imply the Father also. For if He is a Father, plainly the Father of a Son; and if a Son, plainly the Son of a Father…God then, though He is in an improper sense the Father of many things, yet by nature and in truth is Father of One only, the Only-begotten Son our Lord, Jesus Christ: not becoming so in course of time, but being from everlasting the Father of the Only-begotten; not first without Son, and then becoming a Father, by a change of purpose; but before all substance, and all intelligence, before times and all ages, God has the prerogative of Father; and more honoured is this than in all the rest. A father, not by passion, not by union, not in ignorance, not by effluence, not by diminution, not by alteration.” [Catechetical Lectures 7:1-2,4-5]

“By belief ‘in one God,’ we utterly eradicate the mis-belief in many gods, using it as a weapon against the Greeks, and every opposing power of heretics: and by adding, ‘in one God the Father,’ we oppose those of the circumcision, who deny the Only-begotten Son of God…Now we add to this, that He is also ‘Almighty;’ and that, because of the Jews and Greeks together, and all heretics. For some of the Greeks have said that God is the soul of the world. Others again, that His power reaches only to heaven, but not to earth as well…And heretics again…acknowledge not One Almighty God. For He is Almighty, whose might is over all things, who has power over all things. But they who say that there is one God, the Lord of the soul, and another the Lord of the body, make neither of them perfect, because each lacks what the other has…But according to Holy Scripture, and the doctrines of truth, there is but One God, who has dominion over all things by His power, and suffers many things of His will. For He has dominion even over the idolaters, but He suffers them of His forbearance; and over even the heretics who deny Him, but He suffers them in His patience; over the devil too, but He suffers with him, of His patience, not from want of power, as if foiled…Nothing then is excepted from the range of God’s power.” [Catechetical Lectures 8:1-5]

“The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is not confined to any place…He is in and around all things…He foresees the future: He is mightier than all things: He knows all things, and does what He wills; not subjected to antecedents or consequents, or to nativities, or chance, or fate; in all things prefect, and possessing in Himself the absolute form of every excellence; neither waning, nor increasing, but in mode and circumstance ever the same; who has prepared chastisement for the sinners, and a crown for the righteous.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:5]

Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible
“There is then only one God, the Maker of both souls and bodies: there is one the Artificer of heavens and earth, the Maker both of Angels and Archangels, - the Creator of many things, but the Father of One only before the worlds, even of His Only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom He made all things, visible and invisible.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:4]

“Heretics have dared to say that say, that there are two Gods, a source of good, and a source of evil, and that both of these are unoriginate…At one time they say, that as to the world’s creation the evil god has nothing in common with the good God…They say that the good God is the Father of Christ…and the world, according to them, was made by the evil god. [Catechetical Lectures 6:13]

“The Divine Nature then with the eyes of the flesh we cannot see, but from the Divine works we may obtain some idea of His power…[W]e say, ‘We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;’ that we may remember that the same is both the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Maker of heaven and earth, and thus secure ourselves against the bye paths of ungodly heretics, who have dared to speak evil of the All-wise Artificer of this world…No one must tolerate such as say, that the Maker of light is different from the Maker of darkness.” [Catechetical Lectures 9:4,7]

And in one Lord, Jesus Christ
“They who have been taught to believe in One God, the Father Almighty, ought also to believe in His Only-begotten Son; for whosoever denies the Son, the same has not the Father [1 John 2:23]…If then a man wishes to be religious towards God, let him worship the Son; since otherwise the Father accepts not his service…Be not inveigled by the Jews, who craftily say, ‘There is only One God;’ but together with the knowledge that God is one, know also that God has an Only-begotten Son…We say One Lord Jesus Christ, to signify that God’s Son is Only-begotten; we say, ‘One,’ lest you should suppose another.” [Catechetical Lectures 10:1-3]

“He is called Christ, the Anointed; not anointed by human hands, but having eternally from the Father an unction to be High-Priest over man…He has two names, Jesus Christ; Jesus, because He saves, - Christ, because of His priesthood…Jesus then means among the Hebrews, ‘a Saviour,’ but in the Greek tongue, ‘a Healer:’ seeing that He is Physician of souls and bodies, and curer of spirits…Kings among men have a royal style, which they keep to themselves; but Jesus Christ being the Son of God, has counted us worthy to be called ‘Christians.’ You are called Christians; be tender of that Name; let not our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, be blasphemed through you, but rather let your good deeds shine before men; that they who see them may, in our Lord Jesus Christ, glorify the Father who is in heaven.”  [Catechetical Lectures 10:4,13,16,20]

the only-begotten Son of God
“We must not simply believe in Jesus Christ, nor receive Him, as if one of the many, improperly called christs. For they were figurative christs, but He is the true Christ, not raised by advancement from among men to the Priesthood, but having this dignity eternally from the Father. And for this cause the Faith guarding us beforehand, lest we should suppose Him to be one of the ordinary christs, adds to the profession of the Faith, that we believe ‘in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God.’ And again, when you hear of the Son, think Him not an adopted Son, but a Son naturally, a Son Only-begotten, having no other for His brother; for therefore is He called Only-begotten, because in the dignity of the Godhead, and in His generation of the Father, He has no brother. But we call Him the Son of God, not of ourselves, but because the Father Himself named Christ His Son; and that name is true which is given to children by their fathers…Our Lord Jesus Christ then became man; but by the many He was not known. Wishing, therefore, to teach that which was not known, He assembled His disciples, and asked them, Whom say men, that I, the Son of Man, am? Not from vain-glory, but wishing to show them the truth, lest dwelling with God, the Only-begotten of God, they should think lightly of Him as if He were a mere man…Again, I say, when you hear of the Son, hear of Him as a Son, not merely in an improper sense, but in a true sense, as a Son by nature, unoriginate; not as having come from bondage into the higher state of adoption, but as a Son eternally begotten, by an inscrutable and incomprehensible generation. And in like manner, when you hear of the First-born, think not that this is according to men; for the first-born among men have other brothers also.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:1-4]

begotten from the Father before all ages
“He was not begotten to be other than He was before, but was begotten from the beginning, the Son of the Father, being above all beginning and all ages…He is then the Son of God by nature, and not by adoption, begotten of the Father…But when you hear of God’s begetting, fall not upon bodily things: think not of corruptible generation, lest you be profane. God is a Spirit: [John 4:24] spiritual is His generation: for bodies beget bodies, and need that time should intervene; but time intervenes not in the generation of the Son from the Father. And in the one case what is begotten, is begotten imperfect; but the Son of God was begotten perfect; for what He is now, that is He from the beginning, being begotten without beginning. And we are begotten, so as to pass from infantine ignorance to a state of reason; your generation, O man, is imperfect, for your increase is progressive. But think not that it is thus with Him, nor impute defect in power to Him who begat: for if that which He begat was imperfect, and in time received perfection, you impute defect in power to Him who begat; since that which time afterwards bestowed, this, according to you, the Father from beginning did not bestow. Think not, therefore, that this generation is human, as Abraham begat Isaac. For when Abraham begat Isaac, he begat, not whom he wanted, but whom another bestowed on him. But in God the Father’s begetting, there is no ignorance nor intermediate deliberation. For to say that He knew not what was begotten is the greatest impiety; and it is as great to say that after deliberation held in time, He afterwards became a Father. For God was not before without a Son, and afterwards in time became a Father; but He has the Son eternally, having begotten Him, not as men beget men, but as only He knows, who begat Him before all ages, True God.” [The Catechetical Lectures 11:4-8]

“The Father begat the Son, not as among men mind begets thought. For the mind in us is something subsisting; but our thought, when uttered, is scattered abroad in the air and comes to an end. But we know Christ to be begotten, not as a word sent forth, but a Word subsisting and living; not spoken by the lips, and dispersed, but eternally and ineffably begotten of the Father and in a Person…Nor did He first resolve, and afterwards begat Him; but He begat Him eternally, and far more quickly than our words or thoughts; for we speaking in time, take up time; but in the case of the Divine Power, the generation is apart from time…Allow not any who say, that the beginning of the Son is in time; but acknowledge the Father, as that Beginning apart from time; for the Father is the Beginning of the Son, timeless, incomprehensible, without beginning; the Father is the fountain of the river of righteousness, even of the Only-begotten; who begat Him as only He knows. And would you know, that our Lord Jesus Christ is likewise King Eternal? Listen again to Him when He says, Your father Abraham rejoiced greatly to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad. [John 8:56] Then, when the Jews received this hardly, He says again to them something yet harder; Before Abraham was, I am. [v.58] And again, He says to the Father, And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was; [John 17:5] for He has plainly said, ‘before the world was, I had glory with Thee.’ And again, when He says, for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world, [v.24] He evidently declares, ‘I have eternal glory with Thee’.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:10,14,20]

Light from Light, true God from true God
“The Son of the Father [is] in all things like to Him who begat Him, eternal of an eternal Father, Life of Life begotten, and Light of Light, and Truth of Truth, and Wisdom of Wisdom, and a King of a King, and God of God, and Power of Power…He is then the Son of God by nature, and not by adoption, begotten of the Father…For the Father being true God, begat the Son like to Himself, true God. Not as teachers beget disciples, as Paul says to some, In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel. [1 Cor. 4:15] For in this case he who was not a son by nature, became a son by discipleship; but in the case before us, He is a son naturally, a son truly…for at the time of His baptism [the Father] addressing Him with the words, ‘This is My Son,’ He said not, ‘This is now become My Son,’ but, ‘This is  My Son:’ that He might make manifest, that even before the operation of baptism, He was a Son.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:4,7,9]

begotten not made
“He did not bring the Son from nothing into being, nor take him who was not into sonship; but the Father, being Eternal, eternally and ineffably begat One Only Son, who has no brother. Nor are there two first principles; but the Father is the head of the Son; [1 Cor 11:3] One is the beginning.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:14]

“[The Son is] Himself God of all things, yet styling the Father, His own God; for He is not ashamed to say, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God. [John 20:17] But let you should think that He is the Father of the Son and of the creatures in a like sense, He has in what follows signified a difference. For He said not, ‘I ascend to our Father,’ lest the creatures should be made fellows of the Only-begotten: but He said, ‘My Father, and your Father;’ in one way Mine, by nature, - in another yours, by adoption. And again, ‘to My God, and your God;’ in one way Mine, as His True and Only-begotten Son; in another yours, as being His workmanship. The Son of God then is True God, ineffably begotten before all ages.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:18-19]

consubstantial with the Father
“Believe [that] Our Lord Jesus Christ [is] like in all things to Him that begat Him: [He] began not His existence in time, but was before all ages eternally and incomprehensibly begotten of the Father and is God’s Wisdom and Power, and Righteousness personally subsisting…together with the Father reigning…wanting nothing to the dignity of Godhead, and knowing His Father, even as He is known by His Father…And neither should you separate the Son from the Father, nor by confusing them together believe that the Son is the Father. But believe that of One God is One Only-begotten Son, who was before all ages, God the Word: the Word, not uttered externally and dispersed abroad in the air, nor like to words impersonal, but the Word, the Son, the Maker of all who have the Word, the Word who hears the Father and Himself speak.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:8]

“He said in the Gospel, The Father is in Me and I am in the Father. [John 14:11] He said not, I am the Father, but, the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father. And again, He said not, I and the Father am one, but, I and the Father are one; that we should neither separate them, nor so confound them, as to make the Son the Father. One they are, in respect of the attributes which belong to Godhead, since God has begotten God. One, from consideration of their kingdom; for the Father does not reign over these, and the Son over those…but that kingdom which the Father has, the same has the Son likewise. One they are, because there is no disagreement or division between them; for the will of the Father is not one, and that of the Son another. One, because the works of Christ are not one, and the Father’s other…The Son then is Very God, having the Father in Himself, not changed into the Father; for the Father was not made man, but the Son…The Father suffered not for us; but the Father sent Him who should suffer for us. Neither let us ever say, ‘There was a time, when the Son was not’; nor let us admit that the Son is the Father. But let us walk in the king’s highway; let us turn aside neither to the right-hand nor to the left. Neither let us, thinking to honour the Son, call Him the Father; nor, supposing to honour the Father, imagine the Son to be some of the creatures. But let the One Father through the One Son be worshipped, and let not their worship be separated…Let us neither make a separation nor confusion between the Father and the Son; and neither should you ever say, that the Son is foreign to the Father, nor give way to them who say, that the Father is at one time the Father, at another, the Son; for these things are strange and impious, and not the doctrines of the Church. But the Father, having begotten the Son, remains the Father, and is not changed. He begat Wisdom, yet retained Wisdom Himself; and begat Power, yet became not weak; He begat God, He lost not His Godhead; and neither has He Himself lost anything, by diminution or change, nor has He who was begotten any thing wanting. Perfect is He who begat, perfect is That which was begotten; He who begat, is God, He who was begotten, is God.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:16-18]

through Him all things were made
“When the Father proposed to form all things, the Son at the will of the Father, created all things, that the act of willing might secure origination to the Father, and the Son in turn might be sovereign over His own workmanship, - the Father not separated from lordship over His own works, and the Son reigning over things created not by others, but by Himself. For, as I have said, neither did the Angels create the world, but the Only-begotten Son, who was begotten, as I have said, before all ages; by whom all things were made, nothing being excepted from His creation.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:22]

“Christ made all things, whether you speak of Angels or Archangels, Dominions or Thrones. Not that the Father availed not to create the works Himself; but He willed the Son to reign over His own workmanship, Himself giving to Him the design of the things to be made…And this may we most certainly know from the Old and New Testaments. For when He said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, [Genesis 1:26] it is manifest that He addressed some one present. But most decisive of all are the words of the Psalmist, He spake, and they were made: He commanded, and they were created; [Psalm 148:5] as if the Father bade and spoke, and the Son created all things at His will…He who through His loving-kindness descended into hades, at the first created man out of clay. Christ then is the Only-begotten Son of God, and the Maker of the world…Not only of the things which appear, but also of the things which appear not, is Christ the Maker, at the will of the Father.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:23-24]

For our sake and for our salvation, He came down from heaven
“The Lord heard the prayer of the Prophets. The Father did not overlook our race which was perishing; He sent His own Son, the Lord from heaven, to be our Physician.” [Catechetical Lectures 12:8]

and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
The Annunciation
“Believe that He, the Only-begotten Son of God, for our sins came down from heaven to the earth, having taken a manhood of like feelings with us, and being born of the Holy Virgin and the Holy Spirit, not in appearance or imagination, but in truth: nor did He pass through the Virgin as through a channel; but truly took flesh of her, and of her was truly nourished with milk, and truly ate as we do, and truly drank as we do: for if the Incarnation was a phantom, salvation likewise is a phantom.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:9]

“We receive God the Word, who was truly made man, not of the will of man and woman, as the heretics say, but made man of the Virgin and the Holy Spirit according to the Gospel, not in appearance, but in reality…Heretics go wrong on many ways. Some of them altogether deny that He was born of the Virgin; others say that He was born, yet not of a virgin, but of a woman married to a husband. And others say that Christ was not God made man, but that a man was made God; for they have dared to say that it was not the pre-existing Word who became man, but that a certain man by advancement was crowned… Let us loathe them also, who say that the birth of the Saviour was of a man and woman, and who dare to say that it was of Joseph and Mary, because it is written, And he took unto him his wife. [Matthew 1:24] For let us call to mind Jacob, who before he had received Rachel said to Laban, Give me my wife; [Genesis 29:21] for like as she, in virtue of the promise only, was called the wife of Jacob, before the marriage took place, so also Mary, in that she was betrothed, was called the wife of Joseph.” [Catechetical Lectures 12:3,31]

“The Holy Spirit…came upon the Holy Virgin Mary; for since He who was born was Christ the Only-begotten, the power of the Highest overshadowed her, and the Holy Spirit coming upon her, [Luke 1:35] sanctified her, that she might be able to receive Him, by whom all things were made. [John 1:2] I have no need of using many words for you to learn that the birth was without defilement or taint.” [Catechetical Lectures 17:6]

“Since through Eve, a vigin, came death, it was necessary that through a virgin, or rather from a virgin, life should appear; that as the serpent had deceived the one, so to the other Gabriel might bring good tidings.” [Catechetical Lectures 12:15]

“The Archangel Gabriel is His witness, bringing good tidings to many; the Virgin Theotokos is His witness; the blessed manger is His witness.” [Catechetical Lectures 10:19]

and became man
The Nativity of Christ
“The Lord took on Him what man required. For since man sought to be addressed by one of like countenance, the Saviour took on Him a nature of like affections, that men might more readily be taught…Men, having forsaken God, made images in the form of men; since then that which was in the form of man was untruly worshipped, God became truly man, that untruth might be destroyed…By those very weapons then have we been saved, by which the devil was used to vanquished us. The Lord took of us a like nature with us, that He might save human nature. He took a like nature with us, that to that which lacked He might give the larger grace; that sinful humanity might be made partaker of God.” [Catechetical Lectures 12:14-15]

“Christ was twofold, Man in what was seen, God in what was not seen: eating truly as Man like us, (for He had like feelings of the flesh with us,) but feeding with the five loaves the five thousand as God: dying as Man truly, but as God raising him who had been four days dead: sleeping in the ship truly as Man, and walking on the waters as God… Although he was despised of men and beaten as a man, yet He was acknowledged by the creature as God; for the sun, beholding his Lord outraged, hid his light in trembling, not enduring the sight.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:9-10]

“For neither is it religious to worship the mere man, nor is it pious to speak of Him as God only, separate from His manhood. For if Christ, as He truly is, be God, but took not manhood, we are aliens from salvation. Be He then adored as God, but let it be believed that He became man; for neither is there any profit in calling Him man without His Godhead, nor is it salutary, if we confess not His manhood together with His Godhead. Let us confess the presence of the King, and the Physician.” [Catechetical Lectures 12:1]

He was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate
“He was crucified for our sins truly, should you be disposed to deny it, the very place which all can see refutes you, this blessed Golgotha, in which, on account of Him who was crucified on it, we are now assembled: and further, the whole world is filled with the portions of the wood of the Cross.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:10]

“Every deed of Christ is a boast of the Catholic Church, but her boasts of boasts is the Cross; and knowing this, Paul says, But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of Christ. [Galatians 6:14]…Now the glory of the Cross has led into light those who were blind through ignorance, has loosed all who were held fast by sin, and has ransomed the whole world of men. And wonder not that the whole world was ransomed; for it was no mere man, but the only-begotten Son of God, who died on its behalf.” [Catechetical Lectures 13:1]

“He was glorified as God always; but now He was glorified in bearing the Crown of His patience. He gave not up His life by force, nor was He put to death violently, but of His own accord. Hear what He says, I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again; [John 10:18] I yield it of My own choice to My enemies; for unless I chose, this could not be. He came therefore of His own set purpose to His passion, rejoicing in His noble deed, smiling at the crown, cheered by the salvation of men; not ashamed of the Cross, for it saved the world. For it was no common man who suffered, but God in man’s nature, striving for the prize of His patience… Adam by the Tree fell; you by the Tree are brought to Paradise. Fear not the serpent; he shall not cast you out; for he is fallen from heaven. [Luke 10:18]” [Catechetical Lectures 13:6,31]

“These things the Saviour endured, making peace through the Blood of His Cross, for things in heaven and things in earth. [Colossians 1:20] For we were enemies of God through sin, and God had appointed the sinner to die. One of two things therefore had to happen: either that God, keeping His words, should destroy all men, or that in His loving-kindness, He should cancel the sentence. But behold the wisdom of God; He preserved both to His sentence its truth, and to His loving-kindness its exercise. Christ took our sins in His body on the tree, that we being dead to sin, should live to righteousness. [1 Peter 2:24] Of no small account was He who died for us; He was not a literal sheep; He was not a mere man; He was more than an Angel; He was God made man. The transgression of sinners was not so great, as the righteousness of Him who died for them; we have not committed as much sin as He has wrought righteousness who laid down His life for us, - who laid it down when He pleased, and took it again when He pleased.” [Catechetical Lectures 13:33]

“He stretched out His hands on the Cross, that He might encompass the ends of the world; for this Golgotha is the very centre of the earth.” [Catechetical Lectures 13:28]

and suffered
“Jesus then really suffered for all men; for the Cross was no illusion, otherwise our redemption is an illusion also. His death was not in appearance, for then is our salvation also a tale.” [Catechetical Lectures 13:4]

and was buried
“He was laid truly as man in a tomb of rock, but the rocks burst asunder through fear because of Him. He descended to the regions beneath the earth, that from thence also He might redeem the just. For, tell me, could you wish the living only to enjoy His grace, and that, though most of them are unholy; and not wish those who from Adam had for a long while been imprisoned to have now gained their liberty?” [Catechetical Lectures 4:11]

“His body then was made to bait death withal, to the end that the dragon hoping to devour Him, might cast forth those whom he had already devoured.” [Catechetical Lectures 12:15]

He rose again on the third day
“But He who descended to the regions beneath the earth, again ascended from there, and Jesus who was buried, rose again truly on the third day.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:12]

“Now therefore the Dead is risen, - He who was free among the dead, [Psalm 88:5] and the deliverer of the dead. He, whose head was bound, by reason of His patience, was bound in scorn with the crown of thorns, has now, being risen, put on the diadem of His victory over death...Death was struck with dismay on beholding a new visitant descending into Hades, not bound by the chains of that place. Why, o porters of Hades, were you scared when you saw Him? What unwonted fear seized you? Death fled, and his flight betrayed his cowardice. The holy prophets ran unto Him, and Moses the Lawgiver, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; David also, and Samuel, and Esaias, and John the Baptist, who bore witness when he asked, Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another? [Matthew 11:3] All the Just were ransomed, whom death had devoured; for it behooved the King who had been heralded, to become the redeemer of His noble heralds. Then each of the Just said, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? [1 Corinthians 15:55] For the Conqueror has redeemed us.” [Catechetical Lectures 14:1,19]

in accordance with the Scriptures
“For all things concerning Christ are put into writing, and nothing is doubtful, for nothing is without a text. All things are inscribed on the monuments of the Prophets; clearly written not on tablets of stone, but by the hand of the Holy Spirit.” [Catechetical Lectures 13:8]

“For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn side by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell you these things, unless you receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:17]

and ascended into heaven
“And Jesus having finished His race of patience, and having redeemed men from their sins, ascended again into the heaven, a cloud receiving Him: and Angels stood by as He went up, and Apostles gazed.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:13]

“Think not that because He is absent in the flesh, He is therefore absent also in the Spirit. He is here present in the midst of us, listening to what is said of Him, and beholding what is in your mind.” [Catechetical Lectures 14:30]

and is seated at the right hand of the Father
“Concerning the Son’s sitting at the right hand of the Father…let us not curiously pry into what is properly meant by the throne, for it is incomprehensible: nor endure those who falsely say, that it was after His Cross and Resurrection and Ascension into heaven, that the Son began to sit on the right hand of the Father. For the Son gained not His throne by advancement; but from the time that He is, (and He is ever begotten), He also sits together with the Father.” [Catechetical Lectures 14:27]

“Let the One Son be proclaimed, who before the ages sits at the right hand of the Father; partaking in His throne eternally, not by advancement in time, after His passion.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:17]

“For the throne at God’s right hand He received not, as some have thought, because of His patient endurance, being crowned as it were by God after His Passion; but throughout His being – a being by eternal generation – He holds His royal dignity, and shares the Father’s seat.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:7]

He is coming again in glory
“We preach not one advent only of Christ, but a second also, far more glorious than the former. For the former gave to view His patience; but the latter brings with it the crown of the divine kingdom. For all things, to speak generally, are twofold in our Lord Jesus Christ. His generation is twofold: the one, of God, before the worlds; the other, of the Virgin in the end of the world. His descent is twofold: one was in obscurity, like the dew on the fleece; the second is His open coming, which is to be. In His former advent, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes in the manger; in His second, He covereth Himself with light as with a garment. [Psalm 104:2] In His first coming, He endured the Cross, despising the shame; [Hebrews 12:2] in His second, He comes attended by the Angelic host, receiving glory. Let us not then rest in His first advent, but look also for His second.” [Catechetical Lectures 15:1]

“This Jesus Christ, who has ascended, is coming again from heaven, not from earth. And I say, not from earth, because many antichrists are now come from the earth; for, as you have seen, many have already begun to say, I am Christ: [Matthew 24:5,15] and besides there is to come the Abomination of Desolation, usurping the name of Christ. But look for the true Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, who is henceforth to come not from the earth, but from heaven, appearing to all more bright than any lightning or other brilliance.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:15]

to judge the living and the dead
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, then, comes from heaven; and He comes in glory at the end of this world, in the last day. For this world shall have an end, and this created world shall be made new. For since corruption, and theft, and adultery, and every sort of sins, have been poured forth over the earth, and blood has been mingled with blood in the world, therefore, that this wondrous dwelling-place may not remain filled with iniquity, this world shall pass away, that that fairer world may be made manifest…Let us not sorrow, as if we alone died; the stars also shall die; and perhaps rise again. And the Lord shall roll up the heavens, not that He may destroy them, but that He may raise them up again more beautiful…The things then which are seen shall pass away, and there shall come things which are looked for, things fairer than these; but as to the time let no one be curious.” [Catechetical Lectures 15:3-4]

and His kingdom will have no end
“He will reign with a kingdom, heavenly, eternal, and without end…And should you ever hear anyone say that the kingdom of Christ shall have an end, abhor the heresy; it is another head of the dragon…A certain one has dared to affirm, that after the end of the world Christ shall reign no longer; and he has dared to say, that the Word which came forth from the Father shall be again absorbed into the Father, and shall be no more; uttering such blasphemies to his own perdition…For as we may not speak of the ‘beginning of the days’ of Christ, so neither endure anyone who at any time speaks of the end of His kingdom. For it is written, His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. [Daniel 7:27]” [Catechetical Lectures 4:15 & 15:27,32]

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life
“Believe also in the Holy Spirit, and hold concerning Him the same opinion which has been delivered to you to hold concerning the Father and the Son…This Holy Spirit is One, indivisible, of manifold power; working many things, yet Himself without parts…who with the Father and the Son is exalted with the glory of the Godhead.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:16]

“There is One Only Holy Spirit, the Comforter; and as there is One God the Father, and no second Father; - and as there is One Only-begotten Son and Word of God, who has no brother; - so is there One Only Holy Spirit, and no second spirit equal in honour to Him. The Holy Spirit then is Power most mighty, of a divine and unsearchable nature; for He is a living and intelligent Being, and is the sanctifying principle of all things made by God through Christ.” [Catechetical Lectures 16:3]

who proceeds from the Father, who together with
the Father and Son is worshipped and together glorified
“There is not one glory to Father, and another to Son, but one and the same with the Holy Spirit.” [Catechetical Lectures 6:1]

Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
“The Father through the Son, with the Holy Spirit, bestows all things; the gifts of the Father are none other than those of the Son, and those of the Holy Spirit; for there is one Salvation, one Power, one Faith; One God, the Father; One Lord, His only-begotten Son; One Holy Spirit, the Comforter. And it is enough for us to know these things; but enquire not curiously into His nature or substance: for had it been written, we would have spoken of it…for it is sufficient for our salvation to know, that there is Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit.” [Catechetical Lectures 16:24]

“[The Holy Spirit] together with the Father and the Son is honoured, and at the observance of Holy Baptism is included with them in the Holy Trinity. For the Only-begotten Son of God said plainly to the Apostles, Go ye, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. [Matthew 28:19] Our hope is in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We preach not three gods…but we preach One God, by One Son, with the Holy Spirit. The Faith is indivisible; religious worship undistracted. We neither divide the Holy Trinity, like some; nor do we…introduce confusion.” [Catechetical Lectures 16:4]

“The Father through the Son, with the Holy Spirit, bestows all things; the gifts of the Father are none other than those of the Son, and those of the Holy Spirit; for there is one Salvation, one Power, one Faith; One God, the Father; One Lord; His only-begotten Son; One Holy Spirit, the Comforter. And it is enough for us to know these things;  but enquire not curiously into His nature or substance…for it is sufficient for our salvation to know, that there is Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit.” [Catechetical Lectures 16:24]

who spoke through the Prophets
“The Holy Spirit Himself spoke the Scriptures; He has also spoken concerning Himself as much as He pleased...[He] through the Prophets preached of Christ, and when Christ was come, descended, and manifested Him.” [Catechetical Lectures 16:2-3]

In one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
“Now it is called Catholic [from the Greek καθὅλον – ’according to the whole’] because it is throughout the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches catholically and completely one and all the doctrines which out to come to men’s knowledge, concerning both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly; and because it subjugates in order to godliness every class of men, governors and governed, learned and unlearned; and because it catholically treats and heals every sort of sins, which are committed by soul or body, and possesses in itself every form of virtue which is named, both in deeds and words, and in every kind of spiritual gift. And it is rightly named Church [ἐκκλησία from ‘ἐκ καλέω’ – ‘to call out’], because it calls forth and assembles together all men.” [Catechetical Lectures 18:23-24]

“Of old the Psalmist sung, Bless ye God in the Church, even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel. [Psalm 68:26] But since the Jews for their evil designs against the Saviour have been cast away from grace, the Saviour has built out of the Gentiles a second Holy Church, the Church of us Christians…For now that the one Church in Judaea is cast off, the Churches of Christ are increased throughout the world…Concerning this Holy Catholic Church Paul writes to Timothy, That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of truth. [1 Timothy 8:16]. But since the word ‘church’ or ‘assembly’ is applied to different things…and since one might properly and truly say that there is a Church of the evil doers, I mean the meetings of the heretics…the faith has delivered to you by way of security the article, ‘And in One, Holy, Catholic Church;’ that you may avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which you were regenerated. And if you ever come to any city, inquire not simply where the ‘Lord’s House’ is, (for the sects of the profane also make an attempt to call their own dens, the houses of the Lord,) nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Body, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God.” [Catechetical Lectures 18:25-26]

I confess one Baptism
“The bath of Baptism we may not receive twice or thrice; else, it might be said, ‘Though I fail once, I shall go right next time: whereas if you fail once, there is no setting things right, for there is One Lord, and One Faith, and One Baptism: none but the heretics are re-baptised, since their former baptism was not baptism.” [Protocatechesis 7]

for the forgiveness of sins
“Jesus sanctified baptism, being Himself baptized. Since the Son of God was baptized, what religious man can despise Baptism? He, however, was baptized, not to receive forgiveness of sins, for He was sinless: but being sinless, to grant divine grace and dignity to the baptized.” [Catechetical Lectures 3:11]

“Great indeed is the Baptism which is offered you. It is a ransom to captives; the remission of offences; the death of sin; the regeneration of the soul; the garment of light; the holy seal indissoluble; the chariot of heaven; the luxury of paradise; a procuring of the kingdom; the gift of adoption.” [Protocatechesis 16]

“The grace of God which is given through Christ at the new birth of the Holy Bath is a new birth not of bodies, but the spiritual new birth of the soul. For our bodies are born by means of parents who are seen, but our souls are born again by means of faith.” [Catechetical Lectures 1:2]

“Regard the Sacred Laver not as simple water; regard rather the spiritual grace given with the water. For as the sacrifices of the altars, being by nature without meaning, by invocation of the idols become polluted, so contrariwise, plain water, after the invocation of the Holy Spirit, and of Christ, and of the Father, gains a sanctifying power. For whereas man’s nature is twofold, soul and body, twofold also is his cleansing; the spiritual for the spiritual, the material for the body. The water cleanses his body, the Spirit seals his soul: that being by the Spirit sprinkled in heart, and washed in body with pure water, we may draw near to God. [Hebrews 10:22]…consider not the bare element; look for its saving power by the operation of the Holy Spirit; for without the two you cannot be made perfect. This is not my word, but the Lord Jesus Christ’s…He says, Except a man be born again, and he expands, of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [John 3:5] Neither he who is baptized in water, without the privilege of the Spirit, has the entire gift; nor be he ever so virtuous in his deeds, shall he enter into the kingdom of heaven, except with the seal vouchsafed through water.” [Catechetical Lectures 3:3-4]

I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come.
“The root of all good works is the hope of the Resurrection; for the expectation of recompence nerves the soul to good works. He who believes that his body shall remain to be raised again, is careful of his robe, and defiles it not with fornication; but he who disbelieves in the Resurrection, gives himself to fornication, and misuses his own body, as though it were not his own. Faith therefore in the Resurrection of the dead, is a great doctrine and lesson of the Holy Catholic Church.” [Catechetical Lectures 18:1]

“Endure not any of those who say, that the body belongs not to God: for they who hold this, and that the soul dwells in it as in a vessel which belongs not to itself, readily abuse it to fornication…Be tender, I beseech you, of this body; and know that you shall arise from the dead, to be judged with this body…But though the resurrection is common to all men, it is not alike to all; for we all indeed receive everlasting bodies, but not all the same bodies. For the just receive them, that trough eternity, they may join the Choirs of Angels; but the sinners, that they may undergo for everlasting the torment of their sins.”[Catechetical Lectures 4:22,30-31]


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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

On the Sign of the Cross

By St. Cyril of Jerusalem
All kings when they die, have their power extinguished with their life: but Christ after being crucified, is worshipped by the whole world. We proclaim Christ crucified, and the devils tremble; yet many others have in course of time been crucified, but when has the invocation of any one of these scared away the devils? Let us not then be ashamed of the Cross of Christ; but though another hide it, do you openly seal it on your brow: that the devils beholding that princely Sign, may flee far away trembling. But make this Sign, when you eat and drink, sit or lie down, rise up, speak, walk: in a word, on every occasion; for He who was crucified here, is above in the heavens.

Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and in every thing; over the bread we eat, and the cup we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we awake; when we are in the way, and when we are still. Great is that preservative; it is without price, for the poor's sake; without toil, for the sick; since also its grace is from God. It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of devils...for when they see the Cross, they are reminded of the Crucified...Despise not the Seal, because of the freeness of the gift; but for this the rather honour your Benefactor. [Catechetical Lectures 4:13-14 & 13:36]

Monday, 23 July 2012

Isn't that Muslim?

Although my limited language abilities have precluded me from undertaking serious study of it on an academic level (my Latin, Syriac, Armenian, Coptic, Ge’ez, Georgian, and Slavonic are sadly not up to scratch!), I have always been very interested in liturgics. In addition to the very important liturgical elements that form the centre of our spiritual life, such as our understanding of the Eucharistic sacrifice, the study of liturgics also gives attention to smaller details, which, although of seemingly little significance when viewed in isolation, come together to form a rich practical tapestry of words and actions that point us toward Christ.

In this post I wanted specifically to make mention of a few such ancient practices which have partly or wholly fallen out of use among many Orthodox, and have instead come to be viewed, not only by outsiders but even many Orthodox ignorant of their own tradition, as hallmarks of Islamic ritual. It is not my aim here to argue for the importance, or lack thereof, of any of these practices – the subject of a future post perhaps – nor do I intend to undertake any detailed analysis of their significance or history. What follows is just a simple list (by no means exhaustive) of what many mistakenly regard as quintessentially Islamic practices, accompanied by a few explanatory sentences concerning their place in the Orthodox tradition.

Removing ones shoes before entering a church
Most will be familiar with God’s words to Moses as he approached the Burning Bush: “Loose the sandal from your feet! For the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5). Again in the book of Joshua we read that “the commander-in-chief of the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Loosen the sandal from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy.” (5:15) While this practice has all but disappeared from the Eastern Orthodox Church with the exception of a limited number of monasteries and certain Old Believer parishes, it has been in continuous use among many other Eastern Christians, most notably in the Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox churches.

Because Orthodox anthropology understands that man is a psychosomatic being, composed both of body and soul, and that the body exerts great influence over the state of our soul, the body has always played an important role in prayer: standing attentively, lifting up our hands in supplication, bowing reverently, prostrating ourselves to the ground in awe and humility, and so on. We find a beautiful example of all the different postures of prayer in the book of Nehemia (6:8), when "Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground." Prostrations are generally still commonplace in churches following the Slavic tradition, but are much less often seen in Greek and Arab churches. Many even omit the prostrations at the Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian during Lent, replacing them instead with simple bows, despite the fact that earlier rubrics do not even call for a prayer, but specifically for prostrations (in other words, the prayer is there to supplement the prostrations, not the other way around). The most probable explanation for this is the relatively recent introduction of seating into the churches, a borrowing from post-Reformation Europe, which restrict movement and make prostrating a near impossibility. Another reason, this one applicable to the whole Church, is that many attend church only on Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, in honour of which we do not prostrate but remain standing (see canon 20 of the 1st Ecumenical Council, which forbids prayer on “bended knee”) – this is true also of the great feasts. Thus even in parishes where prostrations are the norm, this will not be apparent to someone who attends only once a week.

Ablution before prayer
You have seen then the Deacon who gives to the Priest water to wash, and to the Presbyters who stand round God's altar. He gave it not at all because of bodily defilement; it is not that; for we did not enter the Church at first with defiled bodies. But the washing of hands is a symbol that you ought to be pure from all sinful and unlawful deeds; for since the hands are a symbol of action, by washing them, it is evident, we represent the purity and blamelessness of our conduct. Did you not hear the blessed David opening this very mystery, and saying, “I will wash my hands in innocency, and so will compass Your Altar, O Lord?” The washing therefore of hands is a symbol of immunity from sin. (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 5th Mystagogical Catechesis)
St. Cyril’s description of ablution in the mid-fourth century corresponds more or less exactly to the practice of the Orthodox Church today, even the Psalm verse he cites is the one uttered by our clergy as they wash their hands in the sanctuary. What few realise, though, is that in the early Church this form of ablution was also universally practiced among the laity. The small basins of holy water you will typically see at the entrance to Catholic churches, into which people dip their hands before making the sign of the cross, are vestiges of this practice in the early Church, where large basins of water were placed at the entrance to every church so that the people could perform ablution before entering.

St. John Chrysostom, an important witness given his vehement opposition to the so-called 'judaizers', considers obvious the fact that we “immediately compose ourselves and wash our hands when we wish to pick up the Bible.” (Homily LIII on St. John) Elsewhere he tells us that “as you would not pray without washing your hands, so likewise, you should not pray without giving alms.” (Commentary on 1 Corinthians). Of course, he is careful, like St. Cyril, to point out that what is important is not the physical washing but freedom from sin:
So then, we wash our hands when we go into the Church, but not our hearts? Why, do our hands emit a voice? It is the soul that utters the words: that is what God looks at. Cleanness of the body is of no use, while the soul is defiled. What profit is there if you wipe clean your outward hands, while you have your inward hands impure? For the terrible thing and that which subverts all things is this, that while we are fearful about trivial matters, we disregard important ones. To pray with unwashed hands is morally neutral; but to do so with an unwashed mind, this is the extreme of all evils. (Homily LXXIII on St. John)
St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite attests to the practice still surviving in 18th century Greece:
“It was an ancient custom among Christians that anyone who would go to Church would first wash his hands and then go. This custom prevails even today among some Christians. Now, what does this washing of hands show? It shows that just as one washes his hands of bodily filth, so he should wash his mind and his conscience, which are, as it were, the hands of the soul, of sins, and thus go to Church.” (Christian Morality, p.472)
Prayer mats
Having washed their hands before entering the church, it was obviously important to keep them clean, particularly in the early centuries when believers received the Body of Christ in the hand rather than with a spoon. In order not to sully their hands during prostrations, the Russian Old Believers, whose practices are those of the pre-17th century Russian Orthodox Church, use a small mat (padruchnik), which is placed on the floor before each prostration. Presumably these were originally used in village churches or homes with mud-floors, and I don’t know of any other example of portable ‘prayer mats’. That they would probably not have been needed in churches with proper flooring, provided the practice of removing shoes before entry was kept, might account for their absence elsewhere.

Again, this is a tradition observed more or less universally among the Orthodox churches of Eastern Europe, but which fell out of use among the Greeks and Arabs in the 20th century. While Greeks have come to look on it as an antiquated cultural practice, those in the Arab world have rejected the practice in a conscious effort to distinguish themselves from their Muslim compatriots. Whatever one thinks of its applicability today, that it is a Biblical rather than merely cultural tradition is obvious. St. Paul says in no uncertain terms that “every man praying or prophesying, having anything on his head, putteth to shame his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered putteth to shame her own head.” (1 Corinthians 11:4-5). Returning to the aforementioned passage of St. John Chrysostomos, he adds how a woman who wishes to read the Bible “if she is unveiled, immediately puts on a covering, displaying a token of her inner piety.” (Homily LIII on St. John) “If,” comments St. Nicodemos, “women should be veiled when reading sacred books, how much more so should they be covered when entering into the House of God to pray, since the external covering reveals the inner piety of their souls.” (Christian Morality, p.127.)

Segregation of the sexes
"And though the Church be shut, and all of you within it, yet let there be a distinction, of men with men and women with women." (St. Cyril of Jerualem, Protocatechesis 14). Note that he says "though the Church be shut" - i.e. even if no member of the general public can see you - indicating by this that the practice was not merely a way of conforming to the social norms of that time, but something to be observed regardless of social context. Traditionally, in Orthodox churches, men stand on the right and women on the left. On the iconostasis, the icon of the blessed Mother is always situated on the left - i.e. at the right hand of Christ - based on the words of the Psalmist: "The Queen stood at your right in gold-woven clothing" (Psalm 45:10). On the other side of the iconostasis, at Christ's left hand, we find St. John the Baptist, whom Christ declared to be the greatest man born of women. Thus, in the church, women stand at the right hand of Christ with His Mother - the greatest of all women - and men at the left hand of Christ with St. John - the greatest of all men. Note that we stand side by side with equal dignity, not one behind the other.

"Isn't that Muslim?" No, is the answer.