My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
By Saint Cyril of Jerusalem
Pass from the old to the new, from the figure to the reality. There Moses was sent by God to Egypt; here Christ is sent from the Father into the world. Moses' mission was to lead a persecuted people out of Egypt; Christ's to rescue all the people of the world who were under the tyranny of sin. There the blood of the lamb was the charm against the destroyer; here, the blood of the unspotted Lamb, Jesus Christ, is appointed your inviolable sanctuary against demons. Pharaoh pursued that people of old right into the sea; this outrageous spirit [i.e., Satan], the impudent author of all evil, followed each of you up to the very verge of the saving streams [i.e., your baptisms]. That other tyrant is engulfed and drowned in the Red Sea; this one is destroyed in the saving water. (1:3)
[Regarding baptism:] You were asked, one by one, whether you believed in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; you made that saving confession, and then you dipped three times under the water and three times rose up again, therein mystically signifying Christ's three day's burial. (2:4)
The strange, the extraordinary, thing, is that we did not really die, nor were we really buried or really crucified; nor did we really rise again; this was figurative and symbolic; yet our salvation was real. Christ's crucifixion was real, His burial was real, and His Resurrection was real; and all these He has freely made ours, so that by sharing His sufferings in a symbolic enactment we may really and truly gain salvation. (2:5)
[Regarding the Eucharist:] Once at Cana in Galilee He changed water into wine by His sovereign will; is it not credible, then, that He changed wine into blood? If as a guest at a physical marriage He performed this stupendous miracle, shall He not far more readily be confessed to have bestowed on the friends of the Bridegroom [St. Matthew 9:15] the fruition of His own body and blood?
With perfect confidence, then, we partake as of the body and blood of Christ. For in the figure of bread His Body is given to you, and in the figure of wine His Blood, that by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ you may become of one body and blood with Him. For when His Body and Blood become the tissue of our members, we become Christ-bearers and, as the blessed Peter said, "partakers of the Divine Nature" [2 Peter 1:4; 4:2-3).
Do not then think of the elements as bare bread and wine; they are, according to the Lord's declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ. Though sense suggests the contrary, let faith be your stay. Instead of judging the matter by taste, let faith give you an unwavering confidence that you have been privileged to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. (4:6)
"Our Father in heaven": O, the greatness of the mercy of God! To those who had revolted from Him and been reduced to the direst straits He has granted so liberal a pardon for their crimes, He has been so prodigal of His favor, that they may even call Him "Father." (5:11)
"Hallowed be Your name": God's name is by nature holy, whether we call it so or not. But because it is sometimes profaned among sinners (according to the words, 'The name of God is blasphemed among the nations because of you' [Romans 2:24], we pray that the name of God may be hallowed in us: not that from not being holy it becomes holy, but because it becomes holy "in us" when we are sanctified [i.e., "hallowed"] and our actions correspond to our holy profession. (5:12)
"Your will be cone on earth as it is in heaven": God's heavenly, blessed Angels do the will of God. So, what you mean by this petition is, "As Your will is done in the Angels, so on earth may it be done in me, O Lord." (5:14)
"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors": Bearing in mind the disproportion of this quid pro quo, let us not delay or put off forgiving one another. The offenses committed against us are small, paltry and easily settled; but the offenses we have committed against God are great--too great for any mercy except His. Beware, then, lest, on account of slight and trifling transgressions against you, you debar yourself from God's forgiveness of your grievous sins. (5:16)
[Regarding receiving the Eucharist:] "O taste and see that the Lord is good" [Psalm 34:8]. Entrust not the judgment to your bodily palate, but unwavering faith. For in tasting you taste, not bread and wine, but the Body and Blood of Christ. (5:20)
THE BEATITUDES (MAKARISMOI)
By Saint Gregory of Nyssa
The goal of the life of virtue is to become like God. [Sermon 1]
The same thing by which the devil had caused his own downfall to earth caused the miserable human race to fling itself down with him into a common ruin. There is no other evil so harmful to our nature as that which is caused by pride. (Sermon 1)
How can one best show the emptiness of pride? How, indeed, but by showing nature as it is?...Even if one would flatter our condition and greatly vaunt the human nobility, he will have to trace the pedigree of our nature to clay, and so the high dignity of the proud is related to bricks. (Sermon 1)
The Beatitudes are arranged in order like so many steps, so as to facilitate the ascent from one to the other. (Sermon 2)
The Logos/Word, Who came down to us because we were unable to rise up to Him, adapts Himself to the lowliness of our understanding. Therefore He communicates the divine Mysteries (Sacraments) by words and names that are intelligible to us and uses such expressions as are within the range of human life and circumstances. (Sermon 2)
It was impossible that those good things that are above the sense experience and knowledge of human beings should be revealed to them by their proper names. (Sermon 2)
The inspired book teaches us in metaphors. (Sermon 2)
What human thought can search out the nature of what we seek? What names or expressions can we invent to produce in us a worthy conception of the Light beyond? How shall I name the invisible, how describe the immaterial? How shall I show what cannot be seen, or comprehend what has neither size nor quantity, neither quality nor form? How can I grasp what is neither in place nor in time, which eludes all limitation and every form of definition? (Sermon 3)
It is impossible that such a thing should come within the scope of our comprehension. We have, however, gained one advantage from our examination: we have succeeded in forming an idea of the greatness of what we have sought by the very fact of having been unable to perceive it. (Sermon 3)
He who was ordained to rule has been enslaved...He who lived in the delights of Paradise has migrated to this place of toil and sickness...He who was once independent and self-determining is now ruled by so many tremendous evils that it is hard for us even to count our masters...Each of our impulses, when it takes control, becomes the master and we the slave. (Sermon 3)
When desire goes beyond the limits of lawful need, what else is this than the counsel of the devil? (Sermon 4)
We need an unceasing desire for higher things, which is not content to acquiesce in past achievements; we ought to count it a loss if we fail to progress further. (Sermon 5)
To incline towards the good is one of the inherent characteristics of human nature...If evil was presented to our life in its nakedness, unadorned with some semblance of good, mortals would surely not fly to it so easily. (Sermon 5)
The conception of the Divine is by nature inherent in all humans; but ignorance of the True God is responsible for the gross errors in regard to the object of worship. (Sermon 5)
The divine nature, whatever it may be in itself, surpasses every mental concept. It is altogether inaccessible to reasoning and conjecture, nor has there been found any human faculty capable of perceiving the incomprehensible; for we cannot devise a means of understanding inconceivable things. (Sermon 6)
Let us not be sorrowful, then, if we are persecuted, but rather let us rejoice, because by being chased away from earthly honors, we are driven towards the heavenly good. For this He has promised, that those who have been persecuted for His sake shall be blessed, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory and power forever and ever. (Sermon 8) [Source: A Patristic Treasury: Early Church Wisdom for Today by James R. Payton, Jr.)
FROM THE LITURGY OF THE PRESANCTIFIED GIFTS
The Prayers Before Communion
I believe, Lord, and confess that You are truly the Christ, Son of the Living God, Who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the greatest. I also believe that this is truly Your spotless Body, and that this is truly Your precious Blood. Wherefore I pray to You: have mercy on me and forgive my offenses, whether intended or not, whether committed in word or in deed, knowingly or unknowingly; and count me worthy to share without judgment in Your pure Mysteries, for remission of sins and for everlasting life. Amen.
You have beguiled me with yearning, O Christ, and by love divine transformed me. Consume my sins in ethereal flame, and let me be filled with the sheer delight of You, O Gracious Lord, that leaping for joy, I may magnify both Your Advents.
How shall I, so unworthy, come into the splendor of Your Saints? If I make bold to enter the bridal feast, my clothing will reproach me since it is not a wedding garment. Then I shall be bound and cast out by the Angels. In Your love, Lord, purge my soul and save me.
Loving Master, Lord Jesus Christ my God, let not these Holy Gifts become a judgment against me because of my unworthiness, but for the cleansing and sanctification of both soul and body, and as a pledge of the future life and the Kingdom. It is good for me to cling to God, to place in Him my hope for salvation.
Receive me today, Son of God, as a partaker of your Mystical Supper; for I will not reveal the Mystery to Your enemies, nor give You a kiss as did Judas. But as the thief I confess You: Lord, remember me in Your Kingdom.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God