Tag Archives: Church Fathers

“He was wrapped in swaddling bands” by Gregory of Nazianzus (A.D. 330-390)

“He was begotten (Matt. 1:16)— yet He was already begotten (Ps. 2:7; Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5, 5:5)— of a woman (Gal. 4:4).

And yet she was a virgin (Matt. 1:23; Isa 7:14; Luke 1:34–35; Matt. 1:20). That it was from a woman makes it human, that she was a virgin makes it divine.

On earth He has no father (Matt. 1:20), but in heaven no mother (Ps. 2:7). All this is part of His Godhead.

He was carried in the womb (Luke 1:31), but acknowledged by a prophet as yet unborn himself, who leaped for joy at the presence of the Word for whose sake he had been created (Luke 1:41).

He was wrapped in swaddling bands (Luke 2:7, 12), but at the Resurrection He unloosed the swaddling bands of the grave (John 20:6-7).

He was laid in a manger (Luke 2:7, 16), but was extolled by angels, disclosed by a star and adored by Magi (Matt. 2:2, 7, 9–11).

Why do you take offense at what you see, instead of attending to its spiritual significance?

He was exiled into Egypt (Matt. 2:13-14), but He banished the Egyptian idols (Jude 5).

He had ‘no form or beauty’ for the Jews (Isa. 53:2), but for David He was ‘fairer than the children of men’ (Psalm 45:2) and on the mount He shines forth, becoming more luminous than the Sun (Matt. 17:2), to reveal the future mystery.”

–Gregory of Nazianzus, On God and Christ: The Five Theological Orations and Two Letters to Cledonius, ed. John Behr, trans. Frederick Williams and Lionel Wickham, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002), 86–87.

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“There was no other way” by Cyril of Alexandria (A.D. 370–444)

“There was no other way to shake off the gloomy dominion of death, only by the incarnation of the Only Begotten.

This was why He appeared as we are.”

–Cyril of Alexandria, On the Unity of Christ, ed. John Behr, trans. John Anthony McGuckin, vol. 13, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995), 13: 125.

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“The Saviour’s achievements that follow from His Incarnation” by Athanasius of Alexandria (A.D. 293-373)

“Such and so many are the Saviour’s achievements that follow from His Incarnation, that to try to number them is like gazing at the open sea and trying to count the waves. One cannot see all the waves with one’s eyes, for when one tries to do so those that are following on baffle one’s senses.

Even so, when one wants to take in all the achievements of Christ in the body, one cannot do so, even by reckoning them up, for the things that transcend one’s thoughts are always more than those one thinks that one has grasped.

As we cannot speak adequately about even a part of His work, therefore, it will be better for us not to speak about it as a whole. So we will mention but one thing more, and then leave the whole for you to marvel at.

For, indeed everything about it is marvelous, and wherever a man turns his gaze he sees the Godhead of the Word and is smitten with awe.”

–Athanasius, On the Incarnation 8. 54. (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 373/1993), 93.

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“Help me to devote all my words and thoughts to You” by Hilary of Poitiers (A.D. 315-368)

“I know, O Lord God Almighty, that I owe You, as the chief duty of my life, the devotion of all my words and thoughts to Yourself.

The gift of speech which You have bestowed can bring me no higher reward than the opportunity of service in preaching You and displaying You as You are, as Father and Father of God the Only-begotten, to the world in its blindness and the heretic in his rebellion.

This is, to be sure, only the expression of my will. Besides this, I must pray for the gift of Your help and mercy that You may fill the sails of our faith and profession which have been extended to You with the breath of Your Spirit and direct us along the course of instruction that we have chartered.

The Author of this promise is not unfaithful to us who says: ‘Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.’ (Matthew 7:7)

We, of course, in our helplessness shall pray for those things that we need, and shall apply ourselves with tireless zeal to the study of all the words of Your Prophets and Apostles and shall knock at all the doors of wisdom that are closed to us, but it is for You to grant our prayer, to be present when we seek, to open when we knock.

Because of the laziness and dullness of our nature, we are, as it were, in a trance, and in regard to the understanding of Your attributes we are restricted within the confines of ignorance by the weakness of our intellect.

Zeal for Your doctrine leads us to grasp the knowledge of divine things and the obedience of faith carries us beyond the natural power of comprehension.

And therefore we look to Your support for the first trembling steps of this undertaking, to Your aid that it may gain strength and prosper.

We look to You to give us the fellowship of that Spirit Who guided the Prophets and the Apostles, that we may take their words in the sense in which they spoke and that we may explain the proper meaning of the words in accordance with the realities they signify.

We shall speak of things which they preached in a mystery; of You, O God Eternal, Father of the Eternal and Only-begotten God, Who alone are without birth, and of the One Lord Jesus Christ, born of You from everlasting.

We may not sever Him from Thee, or make Him one of a plurality of Gods, on any plea of difference of nature. We may not say that He is not begotten of You, because You are One.

We must not fail to confess Him as true God, seeing that He is born of You, true God, His Father.

Grant us, therefore, precision of language, soundness of argument, grace of style, loyalty to truth.

And grant that what we believe we may also speak, namely, that, while we recognize You as the only God the Father and the only Lord Jesus Christ from the Prophets and the Apostles, we may now succeed against the denials of the heretics in honoring You as God in such a manner that You are not alone, and proclaiming Him as God in such a manner that He may not be false.”

–Hilary of Poitiers, The Trinity, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari, trans. Stephen McKenna, vol. 25, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1954), 25: 33–34. (1.37-38)

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“The Lord is close to those who have bruised their hearts” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

God is most high, yet near.

I will cry to God Most High. If He is most high, how can He hear your crying?

‘My confidence is born from experience,’ the psalmist replies, ‘because I am praying to God, who has dealt kindly with me. If He dealt kindly with me before I sought Him, will He not hear me now that I am crying out to Him?’

The Lord God dealt kindly with us by sending us our Savior Jesus Christ, to die for our misdeeds and rise for our justification. (Rom. 4:25)

And for what kind of people did God will His Son to die?

For the godless. The godless were not seeking God, but God sought them.

He is “most high” indeed, but in such a way that our wretchedness and our groans are not far from Him, for the Lord is close to those who have bruised their hearts.

I will cry to God Most High, to God who has dealt kindly with me.”

–Augustine of Hippo, Expositions of the Psalms 51–72, trans. Maria Boulding, ed. John E. Rotelle, vol. 17, The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2001), 17: 108–109. Augustine is commenting on Psalm 57:2.

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“Christ has invited you to His own table abounding in all good things” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“Do you wish to be happy? If you wish, I shall show you how you may be happy.

Continue to read that passage: ‘How long will you be dull of heart? why do you love vanity and seek after lying? Know ye—.’ What?—‘that the Lord hath made his holy one wonderful.’ (Psalm 4:3-5)

Christ came to our miseries. He was hungry and thirsty; He was weary and He slept; He worked wonders and He suffered evils; He was scourged, crowned with thorns, covered with spittle, beaten with cudgels, fixed to a cross, wounded with a lance, placed in a tomb.

But He rose again on the third day when His work was finished and death was dead. Lo, keep your eye fixed on His Resurrection, because ‘the Lord hath made his holy one wonderful’ to such a degree that He raised Him from the dead, and bestowed upon Him the honor of sitting at His right hand in heaven.

He showed you what you ought to attend to, if you wish to be happy, for here on earth you cannot be happy. In this life you cannot be happy; no one can.

You seek what is good, but earth is not the source of that which you seek. What are you seeking? A happy life. But it is not available here.

If you were looking for gold in a place where it did not exist, would not he who knew that it was not there say to you: ‘Why are you digging? Why are you plowing up the earth? You are digging a trench to descend into a place where you will find nothing.’ What are you going to answer the one who proffers you this advice? ‘I am looking for gold.’ And he answers: ‘I do not tell you that what you seek is of no importance, but I do say that it is not in the place where you are looking for it.’

Likewise, when you say: ‘I desire to be happy,’ [the answer may be given:] ‘You seek what is good, but it is not in this place.’

If Christ had happiness here, so also will you. But notice what He found in this land of your death. When He came from another region, what did He find here except what abounds here?

With you He ate what is plentiful in the cellar of your wretchedness. He drank vinegar here; He had gall, too. Behold, what He found in your cellar!

However, He has invited you to His own table abounding in all good things, the table of heaven, the table of the angels where He Himself is the bread.

Coming, then, and finding these unpalatable viands in your cellar, He did not disdain such a table as yours, but He promised you His own. And what does He say to us? ‘Believe, just believe that you will come to the good things of My table inasmuch as I did not scorn the poor things of your table.’

He accepted your evil; will He not give you His good? Certainly He will. He promised His life to us; but what He has done is more unbelievable.

He offered His own life to us, as if to say:

‘I invite you to My life where no one dies, where life is truly blessed, where food is not corrupted, where it refreshes and does not fail. Behold the place to which I invite you, to the abode of the angels, to the friendship of the Father and of the Holy Spirit, to the eternal banquet, to My companionship, finally, to Me Myself and to My life do I invite you. Do you not wish to believe that I will give you My life? Take My death as a pledge.’

Now, therefore, while we are living in this corruptible flesh, by changing our ways, let us die with Christ; by loving justice, let us live with Christ.

We shall not gain the happy life unless we shall have come to Him who came to us and unless we shall have begun to live with Him who died for us.”

–Augustine of Hippo, “Sermon 231: On the Resurrection according to St. Mark,” Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons (ed. Hermigild Dressler; trans. Mary Sarah Muldowney; vol. 38; The Fathers of the Church; Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1959), 38: 207-209.

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“Smitten with awe” by Athanasius of Alexandria (A.D. 293-373)

“Such and so many are the Saviour’s achievements that follow from His Incarnation, that to try to number them is like gazing at the open sea and trying to count the waves. One cannot see all the waves with one’s eyes, for when one tries to do so those that are following on baffle one’s senses.

Even so, when one wants to take in all the achievements of Christ in the body, one cannot do so, even by reckoning them up, for the things that transcend one’s thoughts are always more than those one thinks that one has grasped.

As we cannot speak adequately about even a part of His work, therefore, it will be better for us not to speak about it as a whole. So we will mention but one thing more, and then leave the whole for you to marvel at.

For, indeed everything about it is marvelous, and wherever a man turns his gaze he sees the Godhead of the Word and is smitten with awe.”

–Athanasius, On the Incarnation 8. 54. (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 373/1993), 93.

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“To the best of my powers I will persuade all men to worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” by Gregory of Nazianzus

“To the best of my powers I will persuade all men to worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as the single Godhead and power, because to Him belong all glory, honor, and might for ever and ever. Amen.”

–Gregory of Nazianzus, On God and Christ: The Five Theological Orations and Two Letters to Cledonius (ed. John Behr; trans. Frederick Williams and Lionel Wickham; Popular Patristics Series; Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002), 143.

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“He sets our tears in His sight” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“Prayer is to be free of much speaking (Matthew 6:7), but not of much entreaty, if the fervor and attention persist. To speak much in prayer is to transact a necessary piece of business with unnecessary words. But to entreat much of Him whom we entreat is to knock by a long-continued and devout uplifting of the heart (Luke 18:1, 7).

In general, this business of prayer is transacted more by sighs than by speech (Romans 8:26), more by tears than by utterance (Psalm 126:5-6).

But He sets our tears in His sight (Psalm 56:8) and our groaning is not hidden from Him (Psalm 38:9) who created all things by His Word and who does not need human words.”

–Augustine of Hippo, “Letter 130 (A.D. 412)” in Letters, Volume 2 (83-130), Trans. Wilfrid Parsons (Washington, D.C.: CUA Press: 1953/2008), 391.

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“Drink of the torrent of His pleasure” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“Whoever asks that one thing of the Lord (Psalm 27:4) and seeks after it asks with certainty and security, without fear that it will do him harm when he obtains it.

Without this, no other thing which he asks as he ought will do him any good when he obtains it. That one thing is the one true and solely happy life, that we may see forever the delight of the Lord, and made immortal and incorruptible in body and soul.

Other things are sought for the sake of this one thing, and are asked for with propriety. Whoever possesses it will have everything he wishes, and will not be able to wish for anything in that state, because it will not be possible for him to have anything unbecoming.

Truly, the fountain of life is found there (Psalm 34:8-10), which we must now thirst for in our prayers, as long as we live in hope, because we do not see what we hope for (Romans 8:25) under the cover of His wings, before whom is all our desire.

We hope to be inebriated with the plenty of His house, and to drink of the torrent of His pleasure, since with Him is the fountain of life, and in His light we shall see light. (Psalm 36:9)

Then our desire shall be satisfied with good things and there will be nothing more for us to seek by our groaning, since we will possess all things to our joy.”

–Augustine of Hippo, “Letter 130 (A.D. 412)” in Letters, Volume 2 (83-130), Trans. Wilfrid Parsons (Washington, D.C.: CUA Press: 1953/2008), 398-398.

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