Words of the Fathers

The cross is Christ’s glory and triumph

From a discourse by Saint Andrew of Crete, Bishop.

We are celebrating the feast of the cross which drove away darkness and brought in the light. As we keep this feast, we are lifted up with the crucified Christ, leaving behind us earth and sin so that we may gain the things above. So great and outstanding a possession is the cross that he who wins it has won a treasure. Rightly could I call this treasure the fairest of all fair things and the costliest, in fact as well as in name, for on it and through it and for its sake the riches of salvation that had been lost were restored to us.

Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be cancelled, we should not have attained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.

Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honorable. It is great because through the cross the many noble acts of Christ found their consummation—very many indeed, for both his miracles and his sufferings were fully rewarded with victory. The cross is honorable because it is both the sign of God’s suffering and the trophy of his victory. It stands for his suffering because on it he freely suffered unto death. But it is also his trophy because it was the means by which the devil was wounded and death conquered; the barred gates of hell were smashed, and the cross became the one common salvation of the whole world.

The cross is called Christ’s glory; it is saluted as his triumph. We recognize it as the cup he longed to drink and the climax of the sufferings he endured for our sake. As to the cross being Christ’s glory, listen to his words: Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in him God is glorified, and God will glorify him at once. And again: Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world came to be. And once more: Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came from heaven: I have glorified it and I will glorify it again. Here he speaks of the glory that would accrue to him through the cross. And if you would understand that the cross is Christ’s triumph, hear what he himself also said: When I am lifted up, then I will draw all men to myself. Now you can see that the cross is Christ’s glory and triumph.

Office of Readings, Feast of Exaltation of the Cross, Sept. 14.

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Words of the Fathers

John Mary Vianney

Prayer is a foretaste of heaven, an overflowing of heaven. It never leaves us without sweetness; it is like honey, it descends into the soul and sweetens everything. In a prayer well made, troubles vanish like snow under the rays of the sun –St. John Mary Vianney
Risultati immagini per st john mary vianney
Consider, children, a Christian’s treasure is not on earth, it is in heaven. Well then, our thoughts should turn to where our treasure is.
  Man has a noble task: that of prayer and love. To pray and to love, that is the happiness of man on earth.
  Prayer is nothing else than union with God. When the heart is pure and united with God it is consoled and filled with sweetness; it is dazzled by a marvellous light. In this intimate union God and the soul are like two pieces of wax moulded into one; they cannot any more be separated. It is a very wonderful thing, this union of God with his insignificant creature, a happiness passing all understanding.
  We had deserved to be left incapable of praying; but God in his goodness has permitted us to speak to him. Our prayer is an incense that is delightful to God.
  My children, your hearts are small, but prayer enlarges them and renders them capable of loving God. Prayer is a foretaste of heaven, an overflowing of heaven. It never leaves us without sweetness; it is like honey, it descends into the soul and sweetens everything. In a prayer well made, troubles vanish like snow under the rays of the sun.
  Prayer makes time seem to pass quickly, and so pleasantly that one fails to notice how long it is. When I was parish priest of Bresse, once almost all my colleagues were ill, and as I made long journeys I used to pray to God, and, I assure you, the time did not seem long to me. There are those who lose themselves in prayer, like a fish in water, because they are absorbed in God. There is no division in their hearts. How I love those noble souls! Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Colette saw our Lord and spoke to him as we speak to one another.
  As for ourselves, how often do we come to church without thinking what we are going to do or for what we are going to ask.
  And yet, when we go to call upon someone, we have no difficulty in remembering why it was we came. Some appear as if they were about to say to God: ‘I am just going to say a couple of words, so I can get away quickly.’ I often think that when we come to adore our Lord we should get all we ask if we asked for it with a lively faith and a pure heart.
Office of Readings, Memoria of St. John Mary Vianney, Patron of Priests – August 4.
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Let us spread ourselves, not quite our palms

Words of the FathersSo it is ourselves that we must spread under Christ’s feet, not coats or lifeless branches or shoots of trees, matter which wastes away and delights the eye only for a few brief hours.  But we have clothed ourselves with Christ’s grace, or with the whole Christ … so let us spread ourselves like coats under his feet … let us offer not palm branches but the prizes of victory to the conqueror of death.  Today let us too give voice to that sacred chant, as we wave the spiritual branches of our soul: ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!

cf. 2nd Reading, Office of Readings for Palm Sunday. St. Andrew of Crete.

*Nigerians, like many elsewhere, are sure undergoing some passion with the Lord right now. May we resurrect.

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Words of the Fathers

Words of the Fathers: Power of Silence

Words of the FathersA man who has truly mastered the utterances of Jesus will also be able to apprehend His silence, and thus reach full spiritual maturity, so that his own words have the force of actions and his silences the significance of speech.

-St Ignatius of Antioch, Office of Reading, Monday Week 2.

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Words of the Fathers

Serving the poor is to be preferred above all things

Words of the Fathers

Even though the poor are often rough and unrefined, we must not judge them from external appearances nor from the mental gifts they seem to have received. On the contrary, if you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you will observe that they are taking the place of the Son of God who chose to be poor.
Although in his passion he almost lost the appearance of a man and was considered a fool by the Gentiles and a stumbling block by the Jews, he showed them that his mission was to preach to the poor: He sent me to preach the good news to the poor. We also ought to have this same spirit and imitate Christ’s actions, that is, we must take care of the poor, console them, help them, support their cause.
Since Christ willed to be born poor, he chose for himself disciples who were poor. He made himself the servant of the poor and shared their poverty. He went so far as to say that he would consider every deed which either helps or harms the poor as done for or against himself. Since God surely loves the poor, he also loves those who love the poor. For when one person holds another dear, he also includes in his affection anyone who loves or serves the one he loves. That is why we hope that God will love us for the sake of the poor. So when we visit the poor and needy, we try to understand the poor and weak. We sympathise with them so fully that we can echo Paul’s words: I have become all things to all men. Therefore, we must try to be stirred by our neighbours’ worries and distress. We must beg God to pour into our hearts sentiments of pity and compassion and to fill them again and again with these dispositions.
It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible. If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer. Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of God’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out. So when you leave prayer to serve some poor person, remember that this very service is performed for God. Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity. Since she is a noble mistress, we must do whatever she commands. With renewed devotion, then, we must serve the poor, especially outcasts and beggars. They have been given to us as our masters and patrons.

Memoria of St. Vincent de Paul, Office of Readings, September 27.

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Words of the Fathers

The forgiving Christ and his Church

Words of the Fathers

“The Church can forgive nothing without Christ, and it is Christ’s will to forgive nothing except with the Church”

-From a sermon by Blessed Isaac of Stella, abbot

 There are two things that are God’s and God’s alone: the honour of receiving confession and the power of granting forgiveness. Confession is what we must make to him, and forgiveness is what we must hope to receive from him. The power to forgive sins belongs only to God, and this is why we must confess them to him.

  But God has taken a bride. The Almighty has taken the feeble one, the Most High has taken the lowly one – out of a servant he has made a queen. She was behind and beneath him and he raised her to be at his side. From out of his wounded side she came, and he took her to be his bride.

  Just as all that the Father has is the Son’s, so too what the Son has is the Father’s, since they share the same undivided nature. In just the same way the bridegroom gave all that was his to the bride and shared all that she had, making her one with himself and the Father. Hear the Son making his plea to the Father for his bride: I desire that just as you and I are one, so these should be one with us.

  The bridegroom is one with the Father and one with his bride. Whatever in her was foreign to her nature he took away from her and nailed to the cross. He carried her sins with him onto the tree and by the tree he took them away from her. Whatever was natural and proper to her he took on and clothed himself in it. Whatever was divine and proper to him, he bestowed on her. He took away what was diabolical, took on what was human, conferred what was divine, so that all that the bride possessed should be the bridegroom’s also. Thus it is that he who has committed no sin, on whose lips is no deceit, can say Take pity on me, Lord, for I am weak – for he who shares in his bride’s weakness must share in her lament, and thus all that is the bridegroom’s is the bride’s also. Here is where the honour of confession comes from, and the power of forgiveness, so that it can truly be said: Go and show yourself to the priest!

  The Church can forgive nothing without Christ, and it is Christ’s will to forgive nothing except with the Church. The Church can forgive no-one except the penitent – that is, one who has been touched by Christ – and Christ does not wish to forgive anyone who does not value the Church. What God has united, man must not divide,says Christ, and Paul adds, I am saying that this great mystery applies to Christ and the Church.

  Do not sever the head from the body so that Christ is whole no longer. For Christ is not whole without the Church, nor is the Church whole without Christ. This is why he says No-one has gone up to heaven except the Son of Man who is in heaven. He is the only man who can forgive sins.

Friday, Week 23, Office of Readings.

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Words of the Fathers

Words of the Fathers

Words of the Fathers

You provide silver chains for the lamps, but you cannot bear even to look at him as he lies chained in prison… Do not, therefore, adorn the church and ignore your afflicted brother, for he is the most precious temple of all.”          -John Chrysostom

With these words of John Chrysostom, popularly known as John of the golden mouth, we launch “Words of the Fathers”,  a series of  profound and illumining thoughts of the Fathers and early saints under Rooting for Change. May their words shed even more light on our contemplation of the eternal Word.

Full text

Do you want to honour Christ’s body? Then do not scorn him in his nakedness, nor honour him here in the church with silken garments while neglecting him outside where he is cold and naked. For he who said: This is my body, and made it so by his words, also said: You saw me hungry and did not feed me, and inasmuch as you did not do it for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did not do it for me. What we do here in the church requires a pure heart, not special garments; what we do outside requires great dedication.

  Let us learn, therefore, to be men of wisdom and to honour Christ as he desires. For a person being honoured finds greatest pleasure in the honour he desires, not in the honour we think best. Peter thought he was honouring Christ when he refused to let him wash his feet; but what Peter wanted was not truly an honour, quite the opposite! Give him the honour prescribed in his law by giving your riches to the poor. For God does not want golden vessels but golden hearts.

  Now, in saying this I am not forbidding you to make such gifts; I am only demanding that along with such gifts and before them you give alms. He accepts the former, but he is much more pleased with the latter. In the former, only the giver profits; in the latter, the recipient does too. A gift to the church may be taken as a form of ostentation, but an alms is pure kindness. Of what use is it to weigh down Christ’s table with golden cups, when he himself is dying of hunger? First, fill him when he is hungry; then use the means you have left to adorn his table. Will you have a golden cup made but not give a cup of water? What is the use of providing the table with cloths woven of gold thread, and not providing Christ himself with the clothes he needs? What profit is there in that? Tell me: If you were to see him lacking the necessary food but were to leave him in that state and merely surround his table with gold would he be grateful to you or rather would he not be angry? What if you were to see him clad in worn-out rags and stiff from the cold, and were to forget about clothing him and instead were to set up golden columns for him, saying that you were doing it in his honour? Would he not think he was being mocked and greatly insulted?

  Apply this also to Christ when he comes along the roads as a pilgrim, looking for shelter. You do not take him in as your guest, but you decorate floor and walls and the capitals of the pillars. You provide silver chains for the lamps, but you cannot bear even to look at him as he lies chained in prison. Once again, I am not forbidding you to supply these adornments; I am urging you to provide these other things as well, and indeed to provide them first. No one has ever been accused for not providing ornaments, but for those who neglect their neighbour a hell awaits with an inextinguishable fire and torment in the company of the demons. Do not, therefore, adorn the church and ignore your afflicted brother, for he is the most precious temple of all.

 Saturday Week 21, Office of Readings.

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