All flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Lk 3:6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

And all flesh did see the salvation of God, even of the Father: for He sent the Son to be our Saviour. And in these words by “flesh,” man generally is to be understood, that is, the whole human race. For thus all flesh shall see the salvation of God: no longer Israel only, but all flesh. For the gentleness of the Saviour and Lord of all is not limited, nor did He save one nation merely, but rather embraced within His net the whole world, and has illuminated all who were in darkness. And this is what was celebrated by the Psalmist’s lyre, “All the nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord.” While at the same time the remnant of the Israelites is saved, as the great Moses also long ago declared, saying, “Rejoice ye nations with His people.”

St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 6.

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A Healthy Soul

VII.xl.1. A brother had a question for the holy Antony:
“God promises a healthy soul as a return for study of the Scriptures; how is it then that the soul does not make up its mind to stay healthy, but falls off into short-lived pleasures, second rate satisfactions and even evil?”
He replied, “The Psalmist answers this by saying ‘If I have entertained wickedness in my heart God will nor hear me’ (Ps. 66:18). You don’t seem to be aware that when the belly is full of food, great vices flourish, as our Saviour foretold in the Gospels: ‘It is not what goes into anyone which causes defilement to the soul but it is what comes out of the heart that drags people to destruction.’ (Matt 15:18). See what he says next – ‘evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, theft, false witness and blasphemies.’ So if anyone has not tasted the sweetness of heaven and is not following God with a whole heart he will turn back to evil things. Who is it who can truly say, ‘I am become as a beast of burden before you, and I am always with you.’?” (Ps. 73:22)

De Vitis Patrum, Book 7, chapter 40

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Prepare ye the ways of the Lord

Prepare ye the ways of the Lord, make His paths straight. LK 3:4

John, being chosen for the Apostleship, was also the last of the holy prophets: for which reason, as the Lord was not yet come, he says, Prepare ye the way of the Lord. And what is the meaning of “Prepare ye the way of the Lord?” It is put for, Make ready for the reception of whatever Christ may wish to enact: withdraw your hearts from the shadow of the law: cease from the types: think no more perversely. “Make the paths of our God straight.” For every path that leadeth unto good is straight and smooth and easy: but the other is crooked that leadeth down to wickedness them that walk therein. For of such it is written, “Whose paths are crooked, and the tracks of their wheels awry.” Straightforwardness therefore of the mind is as it were a straight path, having no crookedness. Such was the divine Psalmist’s character, who thus sings, “A crooked heart hath not cleaved unto me.” And Jesus, the son of Nun, in exhorting the people, said, “Make straight your hearts unto the God of Israel:” while John cries, “Make straight your ways.” And this means, that the soul must be straight, displaying its natural intuition as it was created: and it was created beautiful and very straight. But when it turns aside, and its natural state is perverted, this is called vice, and the perversion of the soul.

The matter therefore is not very difficult: for if we continue as we are made, we shall be virtuous.But when someone, as it were, exclaims against us, saying, How shall we prepare the way of the Lord? or how make His paths straight? for there are many impediments in the way of those that will live well,—-Satan, who hates all that is beautiful, the unholy throng of wicked spirits, the law of sin itself that is in our fleshly members, and which arms itself against the inclinations of the mind to what is good, and many other passions besides, that have mastery over the mind of man:—-what then shall we do, with so great difficulty pressing upon us? The word of prophecy meets these objections, saying, “Every valley shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low: and the crooked way shall become straight, and the rough ways shall become smooth: and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 6.

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Healed in the desert

VII.xxxv.2. Blessed Antony was accustomed to say, “The ancient fathers went into the desert, and having been healed became healers. They then came back and healed others. There are those among us nowadays who go into the desert and try to heal others without first being healed, and thus do weaknesses come back among us and our last state is worse than the first. For this reason it was said to us, ‘Physician first heal thyself'” (Luke 4:23).

De Vitis Patrum, Book 7, chapter 35.

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MY DEAR CHILDREN

A letter from Alban Bulter’s mother before her death:

“MY DEAR CHILDREN. “Since it pleases Almighty God to take me out of this world, as no doubt wisely foreseeing I am no longer a useful parent to you, (for no person ought to be thought necessary in this world when God thinks proper to take them out;) so I hope you will offer the loss of me with a resignation suitable to the religion you are of, and offer  yourselves.
He who makes you orphans so young, without a parent to take care of you, will take you into his protection and fatherly care, if you do love and serve him who is the author of all goodness. Above all things, prepare yourselves while you are young to offer patiently what afflictions he shall think proper to lay upon you, for it is by this he trieth his best servants.
In the first place, give him thanks for your education in the true faith, (which many thousands want;) and then I beg of you earnestly to petition his direction what state of life you shall undertake, whether be for religion, or to get your livings in the world. No doubt but you may be saved either way, if you do your duty to God, your neighbor, and yourselves.
And I beg of you to make constant resolutions rather to die a thousand times, if possible, than quit your faith; and always have in your thoughts what you would think of were you as nigh death as I now think myself.
There is no preparation for a good death but a good life. Do not omit your prayers, and to make an act of contrition and examen of conscience every night, and frequent the blessed sacraments of the church. I am so weak I can say no more to you, but I pray God bless and direct you, and your friends to take care of you. Lastly, I beg of you never to forget to pray for your poor father and mother when they are not capable of helping themselves: so I take leave of you, hoping to meet you in heaven, to be happy for all eternity.

“Your affectionate mother,
“ANN BUTLER.”

From the life of Alban Bulter, Butler’s Lives of the Saints, Preface, p. 177

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Writings of the Fathers

Whenever human consciousness begins to be alive to the questions Who am I? Whence do I come? Whither do I go ? then there arises the possibility of taking and following the narrow, long, blessed path to wisdom. By and by circumstances show that our individual capacities are quite insufficient, and Supreme Help is vitally needed. The obstacles that arise are numberless and multiform, such as will lead us, if possible, in a false direction and make us lose sight even of the ultimate goal.
These writings of the Fathers, who were inspired, define most of the difficulties and tell us how to vanquish and master them. To facilitate the training in preparation, the Fathers gave guiding instructions and helpful advice. The two principal Commandments include the absolute necessity, the duty, of Love, which for those practising the Prayer is more than essential. If the Path is taken and followed in the spirit of genuine Love, irrevocable self-denial and humility, there is a great chance of successful attainments in this life leading imperceptibly to the farthest future. These holy Fathers were of the Christian Church of the first millennium and their teachings, instructions and help are accessible only in the light of genuine, primordial Christianity, devoid of any human considerations, additions and alterations, in its integrity and purity of the times of the holy Apostles.

Writings from the Philokalia, Introduction, Mount Athos, P. 19

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The Paradoxes in Jonah’s Life

Saint Ephraim the Syrian speaks of the paradoxes in the Prophet’ s life, saying, “Jonas, with silver, bought a watery drowning.” And, ” God sent him to land; he fled to sea. He sent him to Nineveh; he boarded a ship. To Nineveh He sent him to awaken the peoples. He slept on the ship; the peoples awakened him! Instead of assuaging the sins on land, he went to awaken the waves on the sea. He abandoned silencing the iniquity of the city. He went to stir up a storm of the sea. Instead of sanctifying the wicked city, he went to overturn a ship of the sea. Instead of keeping watch on land and putting wickedness to sleep, he went to sleep at sea and awakened the water. One who was quiet on the ship made the water cry out.”

The Lives of the Holy Prophets, Holy Apostles Convent, Colorado, USA, p. 37.

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Perfection according to St. Anthony

And so I remember that while I was still a boy, in the region of Thebaid, where the blessed Antony lived, the elders came to him to inquire about perfection: and though the conference lasted from evening till morning, the greatest part of the night was taken up with this question.

For it was discussed at great length what virtue or observance could preserve a monk always unharmed by the snares and deceits of the devil, and carry him forward on a sure and right path, and with firm step to the heights of perfection.

And when each one gave his opinion according to the bent of his own mind, and some made it consist in zeal in fasting and vigils, …. others in despising all things, … others thought that withdrawal from the world was the thing needful, … others laid down that the duties of charity, i.e., of kindness should be practiced, … and when in this fashion they declared that by means of different virtues a more certain approach to God could be secured, …. then at last the blessed Antony spoke and said:

All these things which you have mentioned are indeed needful, and helpful to those who are thirsting for God, and desirous to approach Him. But countless accidents and the experience of many people will not allow us to make the most important of gifts consist in them.

For often when men are most strict in fasting or in vigils, and nobly withdraw into solitude, and aim at depriving themselves of all their goods so absolutely that they do not suffer even a day’s allowance of food or a single penny to remain to them, and when they fulfill all the duties of kindness with the utmost devotion, yet still we have seen them suddenly deceived, so that they could not bring the work they had entered upon to a suitable close, but brought their exalted fervor and praiseworthy manner of life to a terrible end.

Wherefore we shall be able clearly to recognize what it is which mainly leads to God, if we trace out with greater care the reason of their downfall and deception. For when the works of the above mentioned virtues were abounding in them, discretion alone was wanting, and allowed them not to continue even to the end.

Nor can any other reason for their falling off be discovered except that as they were not sufficiently instructed by their elders they could not obtain judgment and discretion, which passing by excess on either side, teaches a monk always to walk along the royal road, and does not suffer him to be puffed up on the right hand of virtue, i.e., from excess of zeal to transgress the bounds of due moderation in foolish presumption, nor allows him to be enamored of slackness and turn aside to the vices on the left hand, i.e., under pretext of controlling the body, to grow slack with the opposite spirit of lukewarmness.

For this is discretion, which is termed in the gospel the “eye,” “and light of the body,” according to the Savior’s saying: “The light of thy body is thine eye: but if thine eye be single, thy whole body will be full of light, but if thine eye be evil, thy whole body will be full of darkness:” (Mat 6:22,23) because as it discerns all the thoughts and actions of men, it sees and overlooks all things which should be done. But if in any man this is “evil,” i.e., not fortified by sound judgment and knowledge, or deceived by some error and presumption, it will make our whole body “full of darkness,” i.e., it will darken all our mental vision and our actions, as they will be involved in the darkness of vices and the gloom of disturbances.

For, says He, “if the light which is in thee be darkness, how great will that darkness be!” For no one can doubt that when the judgment of our heart goes wrong, and is overwhelmed by the night of ignorance, our thoughts and deeds, which are the result of deliberation and discretion, must be involved in the darkness of still greater sins.

Cassian’s Conferences, 2nd Conference of Abbot Moses, Chapter 2, NPNF 2nd series, Vol.11, p.308.

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Spiritual Perception

“No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light.” Luke 11:33
For a lamp, He says, is always elevated, and put upon a stand, to be of use to those who see. And let us consider the inference which follows from this. Before then the coining of our Saviour, the father of darkness, even Satan, had made the world dark, and blackened all things with an intellectual gloom; but in this state the Father gave us the Son, to be as it were a lamp to the world, to irradiate us with divine light, and rescue us from Satanic darkness. But, O Jew, if you blame the lamp, because it is not hidden, but on the contrary, being set on high on a stand, gives its light to those who see, then blame Christ for not wishing to be concealed, but on the contrary to be seen of all, illuminating those in darkness, and shedding on them the light of the true knowledge of God.

He did not therefore fulfil His miracles so much in order to be wondered at, nor seek by them to become famous, as that we might rather believe, that whereas He is God by nature, yet He became man for our sakes, but without ceasing to be what He was. And upon the holy church as a lamp-stand, shining by the doctrine He proclaims, He gives light to the minds of all by filling them with divine knowledge.

St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 82.

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Five Types of Baptism

There ought to be also worshippers on earth, that all things may be filled with the glory
of God…. Therefore, man was created and honored with the hand and Image of God….
Christ is illumined, let us shine forth with Him. Christ is baptized, let us descend with Him that we may also ascend with Him. Jesus is baptized; but we must attentively consider not only this but also some other points. Who is He, and by whom is He baptized, and at what time? He is the All-pure; and He is baptized by John; and the time is the beginning of His miracles.

What are we to learn and to be taught by this? To purify ourselves first; to be lowly minded; and to preach only in maturity both of spiritual and bodily stature. Jesus is purified, and dost thou despise purification?… Moses baptized but it was in water … John also baptized; but this was not like the baptism of the Jews, for it was not only in water, but also “unto repentance.” Still it was not wholly spiritual, for he does not add “And in the Spirit.” Jesus also baptized, but in the Spirit. This is the perfect Baptism …

I know also a Fourth Baptism — that by Martyrdom and blood, which also Christ himself underwent: — and this one is far more august than all the others, inasmuch as it cannot be defiled by after-stains. Yes, and I know of a Fifth also, which is that of tears, and is much more laborious, received by him who washes his bed every night and his couch with tears; whose bruises stink through his wickedness; and who goeth mourning and of a sad countenance; who imitates the repentance of Manasseh and the humiliation of the Ninevites upon which God had mercy; who utters the words of the Publican in the Temple, and is justified rather than the stiff-necked Pharisee; who like the Canaanite woman bends down and asks for mercy and crumbs, the food of a dog that is very hungry.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration on the Holy Lights, NPNF2.7, pp. 355-358, para. 10-16

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