Day 22/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – What the saints receive, they pass on without changing; doctrine and tradition- St. Athanasius the Apostolic

 

Oh! My brethren, how shall we admire the loving-kindness of the Saviour? With what power, and with what a trumpet should a man cry out, exalting these His benefits! That not only should we bear His image, but should receive from Him an example and pattern of heavenly conversation; that as He has begun, we should go on, that suffering, we should not threaten, being reviled, we should not revile again, but should bless them that curse, and in everything commit ourselves to God who judges righteously.

For those who are thus disposed, and fashion themselves according to the Gospel, will be partakers of Christ, and imitators of apostolic conversation, on account of which they shall be deemed worthy of that praise from him, with which he praised the Corinthians, when he said, ‘I praise you that in everything you are mindful of me 1 Corinthians 11:2.’ Afterwards, because there were men who used his words, but chose to hear them as suited their lusts, and dared to pervert them, as the followers of Hymenæus and Alexander, and before them the Sadducees, who as he said, ‘having made shipwreck of faith,’ scoffed at the mystery of the resurrection, he immediately proceeded to say, ‘And as I have delivered to you traditions, hold them fast.’ That means, indeed, that we should think not otherwise than as the teacher has delivered.

For not only in outward form did those wicked men dissemble, putting on as the Lord says sheep’s clothing, and appearing like whited sepulchres; but they took those divine words in their mouth, while they inwardly cherished evil intentions. And the first to put on this appearance was the serpent, the inventor of wickedness from the beginning — the devil — who, in disguise, conversed with Eve, and immediately deceived her. But after him and with him are all inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their Matthew 22:29 power.

Therefore Paul justly praises the Corinthians 1 Corinthians 11:2, because their opinions were in accordance with his traditions. And the Lord most righteously reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Wherefore do you also transgress the commandments of God on account of your traditions Matthew 15:3.’ For they changed the commandments they received from God after their own understanding, preferring to observe the traditions of men. And about these, a little after, the blessed Paul again gave directions to the Galatians who were in danger thereof, writing to them, ‘If any man preach to you anything else than that you have received, let him be accursed Galatians 1:9.’

For there is no fellowship whatever between the words of the saints and the fancies of human invention; for the saints are the ministers of the truth, preaching the kingdom of heaven, but those who are borne in the opposite direction have nothing better than to eat, and think their end is that they shall cease to be, and they say, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die Isaiah 22:13.’ Therefore blessed Luke reproves the inventions of men, and hands down the narrations of the saints, saying in the beginning of the Gospel, ‘Since many have presumed to write narrations of those events of which we are assured, as those who from the beginning were witnesses and ministers of the Word have delivered to us; it has seemed good to me also, who have adhered to them all from the first, to write correctly in order to you, O excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things in which you have been instructed Luke 1:1.’

For as each of the saints has received, that they impart without alteration, for the confirmation of the doctrine of the mysteries. Of these the (divine) word would have us disciples, and these should of right be our teachers, and to them only is it necessary to give heed, for of them only is ‘the word faithful and worthy of all acceptation 1 Timothy 1:15;’ these not being disciples because they heard from others, but being eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word, that which they had heard from Him have they handed down.

[St. Athanasius the Great, Festal Letter II, 330 AD] 

Day 21/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Resurrection and the mystery of repentance – Fr. Tadros Yacoub Malaty

Who would be able to understand the events of that unique day, but those who experience the token of resurrection? The heavenly hosts who revere You, stood by in wonder as they witnessed.

The Holy Word of God girded and bent down to wash the feet of the sinful humanity. Your Resurrection revealed the mystery of what You have done, for we will never be washed from our sins, except with the hands of the Savior who is raised from the dead.

Through His Resurrection we understand the mystery of true repentance: Coming back to You that You may wash our hearts, our thoughts and all what is within us. This is a second baptism – Let us put in practice our sonship to God and wash each other’s feet in the spirit of love and humility that You have granted us by dwelling in us.

You offered to us Your crucified body that is raised from the dead, and Your life – giving offered blood instead of the sacrificed animals, which is unable to sanctify the depth of the soul. Your Resurrection distinguished Your offering from all other offerings, for You are the offering and the Heavenly Priest who is offering it. We partake of It by Your mysterious hand that we may rise with You and make us sit with You in the heavens.

In that day, You gave us a new understanding of worship through Your Resurrection; that is: our union with You, so that we may live the risen life; the token of the heavenly.

[Fr. Tadros Yacoub Malaty, The Resurrection of Christ the Lord]

Day 20/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Early morning – Fr. Pishoy Kamel

And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre” (Mark 16:2)

God’s resurrection early in the morning compels us to direct our thoughts and senses, early in the morning, towards the resurrected Lord, who triumphed over death and all the power of the enemy, carrying, with the ladies, a humble portion of essence (perfume).

[Fr. Pishoy Kamel, A Day with the Lord Jesus]

Day 19/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – The world is a sea, let Jesus be your captain – St. Athanasius the Apostolic

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Let us therefore, in the faith of the disciples, hold converse with our Master. For the world is like the sea to us, my brethren, of which it is written, “This is the great and wide sea; there go the ships; the Leviathan, which Thou hast created to play in it” (Ps 104:25-56)

We are carried along then in this, as by the wind, through our own free-will; for every one directs his course according to his will, and either, under the pilotage of the Word, he enters into rest; or, laid hold on by pleasure, he suffers shipwreck, and is in peril by storm. For, as in the ocean, there are tempests and waves, so in the world there are many afflictions and trials. The unbelieving, therefore, “when affliction or persecution ariseth, is offended”, as the Lord said (Mk 4:17).

For being unconfirmed in the faith, and regarding temporal things, he cannot resist the difficulties which arise from afflictions. But as the house, built on the sand by the foolish man (Lk 6:49), so he, since he is without understanding, falls before the assault of temptations, as it were by the winds. But the saints (Heb 5:14), having their senses exercised by reason of practice, and being strong in faith, and understanding the word, do not become faint in trials; but although, from time to time, circumstances of greater trial arise against them, yet they continue faithful; and, awaking the Lord, Who is with them, they are delivered.

So, passing through water and fire, to a place where they can breathe freely, they duly keep the feast, offering up prayers, with thanksgiving, to God Who hath redeemed them. For either, being tempted, they are known, as Abraham; or, suffering, they are approved, as Job ; or, being oppressed and guilefully treated, as Joseph, they patiently endure it; or, being persecuted, they are not overtaken; but, as it is written, through God they “leap over the wall of wickedness” (Ps 18:29), which divideth and separateth between brethren, and turns them from the truth.

After this example, the blessed Paul, when he took pleasure in infirmities, in reproach, in necessities; in persecutions, and in distresses for Christ, rejoiced, and wished all of us to rejoice, saying, “Rejoice always; in every thing give thanks” (1 The 5:18).

[St. Athanasius the Apostolic, Festal Letter XIX, 347AD]

Day 18/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Everyone fears physical death, few spiritual death – St. Augustine

We have, however, read in the Gospel of three dead persons who were raised to life by the Lord, and, let us hope, to some good purpose. For surely the Lord’s deeds are not merely deeds, but signs. And if they are signs, besides their wonderful character, they have some real significance: and to find out this in regard to such deeds is a somewhat harder task than to read or hear of them. We were listening with wonder, as at the sight of some mighty miracle enacted before our eyes, in the reading of the Gospel, how Lazarus was restored to life.

If we turn our thoughts to the still more wonderful works of Christ, every one that believes rises again: if we all consider, and understand that more horrifying kind of death, every one who sins dies. But every man is afraid of the death of the flesh; few, of the death of the soul. In regard to the death of the flesh, which must certainly come some time, all are on their guard against its approach: this is the source of all their labor. Man, destined to die, labors to avert his dying; and yet man, destined to live for ever, labors not to cease from sinning. And when he labors to avoid dying, he labors to no purpose, for its only result will be to put off death for a while, not to escape it; but if he refrain from sinning, his toil will cease, and he shall live forever.

Oh that we could arouse men, and be ourselves aroused along with them, to be as great lovers of the life that abides, as men are of that which passes away! What will a man not do who is placed under the peril of death? When the sword was overhanging their heads, men have given up every means of living they had in reserve. Who is there that has not made an immediate surrender of all, to escape being slain? And, after all, he has perhaps been slain. Who is there that, to save his life, has not been willing at once to lose his means of living, and prefer a life of beggary to a speedy death? Who has had it said to him, Be off to sea if you would escape with your life, and has delayed to do so? Who has had it said to him, Set to work if you would preserve your life, and has continued a sluggard?

It is but little that God requires of us, that we may live for ever: and we neglect to obey Him. God says not to you, Lose all you have, that you may live a little time oppressed with toil; but, Give to the poor of what you have, that you may live always exempt from labor. The lovers of this temporal life, which is theirs, neither when, nor as long as they wish, are our accusers; and we accuse not ourselves in turn, so sluggish are we, so lukewarm about obtaining eternal life, which will be ours if we wish it, and will be imperishable when we have it; but this death which we fear, notwithstanding all our reluctance, will yet be ours in possession.

[St. Augustine of Hippo, Tractate 49 on the Gospel of St. John]

Day 17/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – If then he is not the God of the dead, let us live – St. John Chrysostom

Wherefore he says, “Awake you that sleep and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon you.” (Ephesians 5:14)

By the sleeper and the dead, he means the man that is in sin; for he both exhales noisome odors like the dead, and is inactive like one that is asleep, and like him he sees nothing, but is dreaming, and forming fancies and illusions.

Some indeed read, “And you shall touch Christ”; but others, “And Christ shall shine upon you”; and it is rather this latter. Depart from sin, and you shall be able to behold Christ. For every one that does ill, hates the light, and comes not to the light (John 3:20). He therefore that does it not, comes to the light.

Now he is not saying this with reference to the unbelievers only, for many of the faithful, no less than unbelievers, hold fast by wickedness; no, some far more. Therefore to these also it is necessary to exclaim, “Awake, you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon you.” To these it is fitting to say this also, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matthew 22:32). If then he is not the God of the dead, let us live.

[St. John Chrysostom, Homily 18 on Ephesians] 

Day 16/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Before new life, our previous must end – St. Basil of Caesarea

When mankind was estranged from him by disobedience, God our Saviour made a plan for raising us from our fall and restoring us to friendship with himself. According to this plan Christ came in the flesh, he showed us the gospel way of life, he suffered, died on the cross, was buried and rose from the dead. He did this so that we could be saved by imitation of him, and recover our original status as sons of God by adoption.

To attain holiness, then, we must not only pattern our lives on Christ’s by being gentle, humble and patient, we must also imitate him in his death. Taking Christ for his model, Paul said that he wanted to become like him in his death in the hope that he too would be raised from death to life.

We imitate Christ’s death by being buried with him in baptism. If we ask what this kind of burial means and what benefit we may hope to derive from it, it means first of all making a complete break with our former way of life, and our Lord himself said that this cannot be done unless a man is born again. In other words, we have to begin a new life, and we cannot do so until our previous life has been brought to an end.

When runners reach the turning point on a racecourse, they have to pause briefly before they can go back in the opposite direction. So also when we wish to reverse the direction of our lives there must be a pause, or a death, to mark the end of one life and the beginning of another.

Our descent into hell takes place when we imitate the burial of Christ by our baptism. The bodies of the baptised are in a sense buried in the water as a symbol of their renunciation of the sins of their unregenerate nature. As the Apostle says: The circumcision you have undergone is not an operation performed by human hands, but the complete stripping away of your unregenerate nature.

This is the circumcision that Christ gave us, and it is accomplished by our burial with him in baptism. Baptism cleanses the soul from the pollution of worldly thoughts and inclinations: You will wash me, says the psalmist, and I shall be whiter than snow. We receive this saving baptism only once because there was only one death and one resurrection for the salvation of the world, and baptism is its symbol.

[St. Basil the Great, De Spiritu Sancto] 

Day 15/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Resurrection of the soul – Mar Isaac the Syrian

Question: What is the resurrection of the soul, of which the Apostle speaks, saying, ‘If ye be risen with Christ’?, (Colossians 3:1).

Answer: When the Apostle said, ‘God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts’ (2 Corinthians 4:6) the resurrection, he showed this resurrection to be the exodus from the old state (which in the likeness of Sheol incarcerates a man so that the light of the Gospel will not shine mystically upon him. This is a breath of life through hope in the resurrection, and by it the dawning of divine wisdom shines in his heart), so that a man should become new, having nothing of the old man. This the prophet also says, ‘And I shall give them a new heart and a new spirit’ (Ezekiel 36:26). Then the image of Christ is formed in us through the Spirit of wisdom and the revelation of the knowledge of Him.

[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, Homily 37]

Day 14/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Ⲧⲏⲛ Ⲁⲛⲁⲥⲧⲁⲥⲓⲛ – Coptic Orthodox Hymns

Ⲧⲏⲛ Ⲁⲛⲁⲥⲧⲁⲥⲓⲛ ⲥⲟⲩ Ⲭⲣⲓⲥⲧⲉ Ⲥⲱⲧⲏⲣ: ⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲓ ⲩⲙⲛⲟⲩⲥⲓⲛ ⲉⲛ ⲟⲩⲣⲁⲛⲓⲥ: ⲕⲉ ⲏ̀ⲙⲁⲥ ⲧⲟⲩⲥ ⲉ̀ⲡⲓ ⲅⲏⲥ ⲕⲁⲧⲁⲝⲓⲱⲥⲟⲛ: ⲉⲛ ⲕⲁⲑ ⲁⲣⲁ ⲕⲁⲣⲇⲓⲁ ⲥⲉ ⲇⲟⲝⲁⲍⲓⲛ.

Your Resurrection, Christ Savior, is praised by the angels in heaven; and make us on earth worthy with pure hearts to glorify You.

(Hymn prayed by Cantor Ibrahim Ayad)

[3rd Greek Part for the Resurrection Procession, Liturgy of the Word during the Feast of the Resurrection and Eastertide, Coptic Orthodox Church]

Day 13/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Faith in Resurrection is faith in God’s love for the world [Part 2] – Fr. Matthew the Poor

Now I go back to the first verse: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). When we contemplate this verse, the beginning and the origin, for a moment we are stopped in our tracks before the question: why has God loved the world, or in the English words “so loved” it, and to such a great degree? The Divine love existed before the Son’s sacrifice on the cross. It was in fact the reason for that sacrifice. Why? How? What is its meaning? These questions contain the mystery of the creation of the world and mankind, and even before that.

St. Paul reveals it in unique and promising verses that encompass the whole Gospel. St Paul in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians says:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having pre-destinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved, In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded to ward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself; That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being pre-destinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ” (Eph 1:3-12 KJV).

From this golden sequence of verses we clearly see the following:

1. God blessed us with a spiritual blessing in the heavens before founding the world in Christ.

2. God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.

3. God preceded and adopted us through Christ for Himself in accordance to the pleasure of His will.

4. God planned the salvation of mankind through the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins in accordance to the bounty of His grace.

5. God made known to us the mystery of His will that He had intended in accordance to His pleasure.

6. God had planned that the fulfillment of time on earth will finally end by everything, in the heavens and on earth, being gathering together in Christ.

7. Our inheritance from God, with Christ, had been established beforehand in accordance to His will.

8. Through the prophecies, God had previously established and made manifest all our hopes through Christ.

I will now go over these steps to give a summary of their meaning and interpretation in one, or a few, lines. Though they need a whole book, that would require the reader’s patience and time:

1. Christ is the blessed Son, the Word of the Father, living in Him and with Him as one whole. God created the world and mankind through the Word, i.e. in Christ and through Christ, and He found them good, very good. They therefore inevitably became blessed through Christ.

2. With Christ being the chosen Son before the creation of the world, it follows that having been created in Christ, we became chosen through Christ before the creation of the world.

3. With Christ being chosen as the only beloved Son of God before the foundation of the world, our creation inevitably gained for us the right to adoption by the Father. This without a doubt was in complete accordance to the pleasure of the Father’s will. We are the Father’s sons through adoption: first, by the inevitability of our creation in Christ i.e. our existence in Him and for Him, and second, by the pleasure of the Father’s will. Because it is impossible to gain the Father’s adoption except according to the complete pleasure of the Father’s will.

4. The result of 1+2+3 means that the timing of the Father plan for the redemption and forgiveness of sins was immediately following Adam’s first fall. His fall was considered a step made by creation, crossing from earthly materialism to heavenly spiritualism. This plan sprung from the bounty of the Father’s grace. It transported old mankind from dust, from below zero, to a state above the highest heavens and spirit, the new mankind.

5. Among the most amazing attributes of God is that he joyfully proclaimed the whole mystery of His will, that which He intended especially for Himself according to the verse: “Surely the Lord God does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

6. Working together, the times of salvation are within God’s plan, so that at the end everything will become united in Christ. As St Paul says in his Epistle to the Colossians: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Col 1:15-20 NKJV). The human race will thus end with mankind perfect and complete, fulfilled in Christ: “Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13 NKJV).

7) Our inheritance from God with Christ is a precedent that proves the truth of the authenticity of God’s testament of adoption. As St. Paul says, “And if children then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17 NKJV). For this is the birthright of sons. The Spirit’s expressions and proclamations of God’s works and counsels are so precise! We have Christ’s blessing, then are chosen in Christ, adopted in Christ and given the inheritance with Christ and in Christ. This is the profoundly amazing sequence of paternal love that was completed with the resurrection from the dead!

8) God had previously established hope as a pledge, proclaimed by all the prophets. It resembles the steps of a heavbely staircase for man to climb, looking towards what is coming, so as to hold on to the eternal life he was invited to while on earth: “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Tim 6:12).

[Fr Matta El-Meskeen, Christ is Risen Truly He has Risen]