God’s Creation Vs Science/Cosmology–Part 1

This article has two parts. Part 1 and Part 2 which is shown as two blogs.

creation

The article deals with St. Basil’s homily on Creation (also called as Hexeameron) and the human world of science. In the following paragraphs, the reader gets to understand a comparison about Creation between St. Basil’s homily and science. The major findings of what science has made till today with regards to this subject is also shown to get a clearer understanding about the theology on creation written by St. Basil and how those writings are still relevant today.

The homily is shown in red color and italics; its comparison to science is shown in blue color. The part of the homily which is shown in black, has no comparison to science but is included in the article to keep the original message of the homily as it is. Some notes and sayings of church fathers are given in text boxes.

  Let us go back in time, during the early Byzantine period, the time when St. Basil lived….

On the opposite side of Emperor Julian and of the scholars who practiced astrology during the early Byzantine period, a number of Church Fathers (‘Doctors of the Church’) and bishops flourished and left a legacy in Philosophy and Science without belonging to a school, or representing one. Some of these Church scholars were educated in the neo-Platonic school of Athens and they essentially formulated the Christian dogma, representing Christianity, since the Christian philosophy of that age was shaped on the basis of neo-Platonic and Aristotelian influences.

The main representatives of this current of thought in the early Byzantine period are above all others the three Church Fathers from Cappadocia: Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus and Saint John Chrysostom.

As per the definition in science, Cosmology is the study of the Universe and its components, how it formed, how it has evolved and what its future is. Cosmology is as old as humankind. Once primitive social groups developed language, it was a short step to making their first attempts to understand the world around them.  Modern cosmology grew from ideas recorded in history. Ancient man asked questions such as “What’s going on around me?” which then developed into “How does the Universe work?” the key question that cosmology asks. Many of the earliest recorded scientific observations were about cosmology, and pursue of understanding has continued for over 5000 years. One of the most famous and widely accepted models for the universe’s development is the big bang theory.

About St. Basil:

 St. Basil was born in Neocaesareia, on the Black Sea shore, in the year Constantinople was founded (330). His family was a pious Christian one; his father was Basil, a teacher of Rhetorics and his mother Emmeleia. His grandmother, Macrina, was a daughter of a martyr and she was taught the primal Christian theology by Gregory the Illuminator (c. 257–c. 331), the patron saint of Armenia. After he received an elementary education in Neocaesareia, Basil continued his studies in Caesareia of Cappadocia, in Antioch, in Constantinople (under the gentile orator Livanius) and in the famous neo-Platonic school of Athens, where philosophers Imerius and Proaeresius were teaching. In these student years Basil became a friend of Gregory of Nazianzus, while he also met with Julian, the subsequent Emperor Julian the ‘Renegade’ (Paravates). When he returned in his homeland, Basil followed a monastic life for quite a while. In Caesareia Basil was ordained a deacon, a priest and later on he became a bishop (370-379). After his death he was elevated to the ranks of the saints of the Church; his younger brothers Gregory of Nyssa and Peter of Sebasteia, and sister Macrina, were also sanctified.

During the several years of his studies Basil received a wide classical education. He studied Grammar, Rhetorics, Medicine, Philosophy, Geometry, Mathematics and Astronomy.

About 350 letters are attributed to Saint Basil the Great. Of special interest for those that study Theology, Philosophy and the History and philosophy of the sciences are the Nine Homilies to the Six-Day Creation and the letters, which show his broad and deep knowledge not only in Astronomy but also in Meteorology. This is mentioned by professor Κ.D. Georgoulis: “From a philosophical point of view, of special interest are the ‘Nine Homilies to the Six-Day Creation’. In these Basil has incorporated his views in Physics, Cosmology and Anthropology. He exhibits a love towards nature and he appears to be a keen observer of natural phenomena and events… Nature is esteemed as a creation that was created by God through His wisdom… St. Basil the Great in these Homilies lays the foundations for the new stance of Christianity towards the physical reality.

Let us look into St. Basil’s Homily.    

The Nine Homilies to the Six-Day Creation is a work rich in astronomical information and in the corresponding philosophical approaches of Cosmology. The Nine Homilies were translated for the first time in Latin by the Byzantine scholar and philosopher Ioannis Argyropoulos (1410-1490), who earned the seat of Greek studies at the University of Florence in 1456 and stayed there at least up to 1471.

Homily 1:

In the Beginning God made the Heaven and the Earth.

  1. It is right that any one beginning to narrate the formation of the world should begin with the good order which reigns in visible things.  I am about to speak of the creation of heaven and earth, which was not spontaneous, as some have imagined, but drew its origin from God. 

The big bang theory describes the development of the universe from the time just after it came into existence up to today. Because of the limitations of the laws of science, scientific community couldn’t make any guesses about the instant the universe came into being. This can be known from the statement that ‘A lot happened in that first second of the big bang’, which leads to fact that the existence of the universe was spontaneous. This is what St.Basil mentioned during his time, in the 4th century mentioning in his homily “the creation of heaven and earth, which was not spontaneous, as some have imagined”, showing it is very relevant today also. 

What ear is worthy to hear such a tale?  How earnestly the soul should prepare itself to receive such high lessons!  How pure it should be from carnal affections, how unclouded by worldly disquietudes, how active and ardent in its researches, how eager to find in its surroundings an idea of God which may be worthy of Him! But before weighing the justice of these remarks, before examining all the sense contained in these few words, let us see who addresses them to us.  Because, if the weakness of our intelligence does not allow us to penetrate the depth of the thoughts of the writer, yet we shall be involuntarily drawn to give faith to his words by the force of his authority.  Now it is Moses who has composed this history; Moses, who, when still at the breast, is described as exceeding fair; Moses, whom the daughter of Pharaoh adopted; who received from her a royal education, and who had for his teachers the wise men of Egypt; Moses, who disdained the pomp of royalty, and, to share the humble condition of his compatriots, preferred to be persecuted with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting delights of sin; Moses, who received from nature such a love of justice that, even before the leadership of the people of God was committed to him, he was impelled, by a natural horror of evil, to pursue malefactors even to the point of punishing them by death; Moses, who, banished by those whose benefactor he had been, hastened to escape from the tumults of Egypt and took refuge in Ethiopia, living there far from former pursuits, and passing forty years in the contemplation of nature; Moses, finally, who, at the age of eighty, saw God, as far as it is possible for man to see Him; or rather as it had not previously been granted to man to see Him, according to the testimony of God Himself, “If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.  My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house, with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently and not in dark speeches.” It is this man, whom God judged worthy to behold Him, face to face, like the angels, who imparts to us what he has learnt from God.  Let us listen then to these words of truth written without the help of the “enticing words of man’s wisdom” by the dictation of the Holy Spirit; words destined to produce not the applause of those who hear them, but the salvation of those who are instructed by them.

Below are the writings of church fathers on the writings of Moses.

     Saint Irenaeos (ca. 130-ca. 200), Bishop of Lyons: “The writings of Moses are the words of Christ. Christ Himself declares to the Jews, as John has recorded in the Gospel: ‘For if ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me; for concerning Me that one wrote. But if ye believe not the writings of that one, how shall ye believe My words [Jn. 5:46, 47]?’ He thus indicates in the clearest manner that the writings of Moses are His words. If, then, [this be the case with regard] to Moses, so also, beyond a doubt, the words of the other prophets are His [words]….And again, the Lord Himself exhibits Abraham as having said to the rich man, with reference to all those who were still alive: ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if one should rise from the dead [Lk. 16:31].’”

Saint John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407): “The Lord said to the Jews, ‘Cease thinking that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuseth you—Moses, in whom ye have hoped [Jn. 5:45]. For if ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me; for concerning Me that one wrote. But if ye believe not the writings of that one, how shall ye believe My words [Jn. 5:46, 47]?’ What the Lord is saying is of this kind: ‘It is Moses who has been insulted more than I by your conduct toward Me, for ye have disbelieved him rather than Me.’ See how in every way He has cast them out from all excuse….‘And whence,’ says someone, ‘is it clear that Moses will accuse us, and that Thou art not a boaster? What hast Thou to do with Moses?…And how doth it appear that we shall believe on another who cometh in his own name? All these assertions Thou makest without evidence.’…Yet (Christ would reply) ‘since it is acknowledged that I came from God, both by the works, by the voice of John, and by the testimony of the Father, it is evident that Moses will accuse the Jews.’

“‘But whence doth it appear that they will believe another?’ From their hating Christ, since they who turn aside from Him Who cometh according to the will of God will, it is quite plain, receive the enemy of God….However, since the Scriptures terrified them less than Moses, He brings round His discourse to the very person of Moses, setting over against them their Lawgiver as their accuser, thus rendering the terror more impressive. Observe: they said that they persecuted Jesus through love for God, He showeth that they did so through hating God; they said that they held fast to Moses, He shows that they acted thus because they believed not Moses….If they believed Moses they ought to have done homage to One of Whom Moses prophesied….Therefore, we must cast out all wickedness from our souls, and never more contrive any deceit; for, saith one, ‘To the crooked God sendeth forth crooked paths [Prov. 21:8].’”3

        Again, Patriarch Abraham said to the rich man: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if one should rise from the dead [Lk. 16:31].”Saint Gregory the Great (ca. 540-604) comments: “Abraham’s reply is fulfilled. The Lord rose from the dead, but because the Jews were unwilling to believe Moses, they refused to believe the One Who did rise from the dead.”

Note: We know that Basil studied Astronomy in Athens. Basil ended up as a very prolific author of the Church, a Father who struggled for Orthodoxy and against the heretical views of his period.

We observe that first of all, St.Basil opposes to many views of the ancient Greek philosophy that do not agree with the Christian cosmological model; in addition he strongly opposes to certain Christian heretical views that also express or imply a world model different from that of the Old Testament. For his tireless teaching and writing despite his fragile health, Basil was called by the Church ‘Great’ ecumenical Teacher.

From the science point of view perhaps one of the greatest influences on modern thought are the ideas that arose from Greek philosophy between 600 BC and start of the Roman Empire. The works of scholars from this era will influence philosophers and scientists into the 21st century and many of our modern cosmological frameworks have their root in ancient Greek ideas. While many of our first cosmologies were based on myths and legends, it is the Greek philosophical tradition that introduces an intellectual approach based on evidence, reason and debate. While many of their ideas barely qualify as scientific theories, their reliance on mathematics as a tool to understand the Universe remains to this day.

The homily continues as follows:

  1.  “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” I stop struck with admiration at this thought.  What shall I first say?  Where shall I begin my story?  Shall I show forth the vanity of the Gentiles?  Shall I exalt the truth of our faith? The philosophers of Greece have made much ado to explain nature, and not one of their systems has remained firm and unshaken, each being overturned by its successor.  It is vain to refute them; they are sufficient in themselves to destroy one another.  Those who were too ignorant to rise to a knowledge of God, could not allow that an intelligent cause presided at the birth of the Universe; a primary error that involved them in sad consequences. 
In support to the above homily by St. Basil Saint Paul says: “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived by the things which are made, both His eternal power and divinity, so that they are without excuse, because, having known God, they glorified Him not as God, nor were thankful, but were brought to nought in their reasonings, and their heart, void of understanding, was darkened; asserting to be wise, they became foolish [Rom. 1:20-22].”

Cosmology has exploded in the last 20 years with radically new information about the structure, origin and evolution of the Universe obtained through recent technological advances in telescopes and space observatories and basically has become a search for the understanding of not only what makes up the Universe (the objects within it) but also its overall architecture. In science, the source of truth is observation and experimentation. They spawn scientific hypotheses and theories, suggest models and patterns on the basis of some observations or other, and predict the course of events, which in turn must be tested by experiment. If repeated observations do not concur with the theory’s predictions, the theory will be thrown out and replaced by a new one. Science must be based solely on unquestionable, proven facts. We observe here that St. Basil’s statement as “and not one of their systems has remained firm and unshaken, each being overturned by its successor” is true towards scientific experiments.

Some had recourse to material principles and attributed the origin of the Universe to the elements of the world.  Others imagined that atoms, and indivisible bodies, molecules and ducts, form, by their union, the nature of the visible world.  Atoms reuniting or separating produce births and deaths and the most durable bodies only owe their consistency to the strength of their mutual adhesion:  a true spider’s web woven by these writers who give to heaven, to earth, and to sea so weak an origin and so little consistency! It is because they knew not how to say “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” 

On July 4, 2012, scientists working with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) announced their discovery of a particle that behaves the way the Higgs boson should behave. The results, while published with a high degree of certainty, are still somewhat preliminary. Some researchers are calling the particle “Higgslike” until the findings — and the data — stand up to more scrutiny.

Particle physics usually has a hard time competing with politics and celebrity gossip for headlines, but the Higgs boson has garnered some serious attention. That’s exactly what happened on July 4, 2012, though, when scientists at CERN announced that they’d found a particle that behaved the way they expect the Higgs boson to behave. Maybe the famed boson’s grand and controversial nickname, the “God Particle,” has kept media outlets buzzing. Then again, the intriguing possibility that the Higgs boson is responsible for all the mass in the universe rather captures the imagination, too. Or perhaps we’re simply excited to learn more about our world. To this St. Basil say’s “It is because they knew not how to say “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” 

Deceived by their inherent atheism it appeared to them that nothing governed or ruled the universe, and that was all was given up to chance. To guard us against this error the writer on the creation, from the very first words, enlightens our understanding with the name of God; “In the beginning God created.” 

Peter Higgs is an atheist and holds strong political views.

What a glorious order!  He first establishes a beginning, so that it might not be supposed that the world never had a beginning.  Then he adds “Created” to show that which was made was a very small part of the power of the Creator. In the same way that the potter, after having made with equal pains a great number of vessels, has not exhausted either his art or his talent; thus the Maker of the Universe, whose creative power, far from being bounded by one world, could extend to the infinite, needed only the impulse of His will to bring the immensities of the visible world into being.  If then the world has a beginning, and if it has been created, enquire who gave it this beginning, and who was the Creator:  or rather, in the fear that human reasoning may make you wander from the truth, Moses has anticipated enquiry by engraving in our hearts, as a seal and a safeguard, the awful name of God:  “In the beginning God created”—It is He, beneficent Nature, Goodness without measure, a worthy object of love for all beings endowed with reason, the beauty the most to be desired, the origin of all that exists, the source of life, intellectual light, impenetrable wisdom, it is He who “in the beginning created heaven and earth.”

The big bang theory describes the development of the universe from the time just after it came into existence up to today. It’s one of several scientific models that attempts to explain why the universe is the way it is. The theory makes several predictions, many of which have been proven through observational data. As a result, it’s the most popular and accepted theory regarding our universe’s development.  True to St. Basil’s words, here we see that science does not accept that the world was “Created” and no enquiry is made as to “who gave it this beginning, and who was the Creator”

The article continues with some selected sayings of the church fathers on “The Creator and the creation……..”

https://orthodoxchristianlife.com/2017/05/17/gods-creation-vs-sciencecosmology-part-2/

 

Introduction to Church Fathers

NO ONE AFTER DRINKING OLD WINE DESIRES NEW….. (LUKE 5:39)

That which was from the beginning,

which we have heard,

which we have seen with our eyes,

which we have looked upon and touched with our hands,

concerning the word of life. . . ,

we proclaim also to you,

so that you may have fellowship with us;

and our fellowship is [fellowship]

with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

The above is a reference from 1 John 1:1-4. This relates to the current theme of the blog. In the present theme, we focus on learning orthodoxy by referring to the Holy Father’s of the Church’s early period.

It is not our purpose at all to bring the latest to the reader at the beginning of the twenty-first century, but instead to present, in prayer and humbleness, that which was “delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word”[1] as stated by St. Luke in his opening verses to his Gospel.

Below is a short step wise approach as to how one should strive to remain in fellowship with the group of Saints from the beginning ( first from Christ and the Apostles), who are always standing in presence of God and who had have lived their earthly life Christ-like. These Holy Fathers have shown us the time tested ‘Way’. We follow this fellowship so that in our efforts to reach that Christ-like stage (Theosis) and to obtain a place to be with Christ, we don’t get diverted on our ‘Way’, and correctly accomplish His purpose in our life.

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Resorting constantly to “that which was from the beginning” requires some justification in an age when people like to regard the novelty of a thing as a standard of its value. Why this high esteem for “what was handed down” and this unique rank that is accorded to the “beginning”?

“That which was from the beginning” (1 John 1:1)

The sayings of the Holy Fathers has its basis in the nature and meaning of what the oldest witnesses from apostolic times, call “tradition” (The word “tradition” as mentioned from The Holy Scripture itself). This is the reason we turn to for assistance to the sayings of holy Fathers. The term “tradition” has several meanings, and hence the attitude of Christians towards “traditions” is ambivalent or uncertain. The value of a “tradition” —in the realm of revealed truth—essentially depends on its “origin” and on its relation to this origin. There are merely human “traditions”, of which God is not the “origin”, even though they may in a sense correct in their claim to rely on him—as in case of divorce sanctioned by the Mosaic Law “. . . But from the beginning it was not so”,[2] since God had originally joined man and woman in an inseparable unity.[3] Christ rejects such “human traditions”, since they keep man from the actual will of God [4] and the Lord came after all, “to do his will”, [5] namely that genuine will of the Father which was “from the beginning”, which has been obscured only because of sin and the Fall, with all of their consequences. It is in fact the distinguishing mark of the disciple of Christ that he does not abide by the “traditions of elder” (see Mt 15:2-“Why do your disciples transgress the traditions of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread”).

What is tradition and why is tradition important?

It is an entirely different matter with the traditions about “what was from the beginning”, namely, the “old commandment which you had from the beginning”, [6] ever since Christ gave it to his disciples. It was reliably “delivered to us by those who from the beginning were the eyewitnesses and ministers of the word”, [7] that is, by the apostles, who from “the beginning of the gospel”, [8] that is, the baptism of John [9] and the corresponding manifestation of Jesus as the Christ, “have been with [him].” [10]

These are the “traditions which you were taught” and which we are to “hold” [11] if we are not to lose our association with the “beginning” itself. Therefore, even if it were brought by “an angel from heaven”, there cannot be “another gospel” [12] besides the one that was preached to us from the beginning, because it would not be the Evangelium Christi.

By its very nature, genuine tradition means having and preserving fellowship with the “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” and through them, with him about whom they testify.

How does this genuine tradition give a definition to “The Church”?

This “fellowship” of believers among themselves and with God is what the Scripture calls “Church” and “Body of Church”. It embraces all “members” of this Body, the living and also those who have already “died in the Lord”. For the members are bound to one another and to the Body so closely that those who have died are not “dead members”, since “all live to God”.[13]

Whoever wants to have “fellowship with God”, therefore, can never disregard those before him who were made worthy of this fellowship! In his response of faith to their “proclamation”, the one who was born afterward enters into that selfsame fellowship of which those “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” were “from the beginning” and forever remain a living part. Hence only that church is genuinely “Christ’s Church” which stands in an unbroken, living fellowship with the apostles, upon whom the Lord, indeed, founded his Church.[14]

What has to be considered when looking at tradition?

What is said here about holding fast to “the good thing committed to thy trust”,[15]that is, the apostolic tradition as it is set down in the writings of the apostles, is also true in an analogous way of those “original, unwritten traditions” as explained by our church father Evagrius, which, though not contained explicitly in these apostolic testimonies, are still no less apostolic in their origins. For whether they are “written” or “unwritten”, “with regard to piety, both have the same force” as quoted by St. Basil the great.

Both forms of apostolic tradition possess what one could call the “grace of the origin”, since it was in them that the deposit entrusted to us at the beginning took shape.

How Church Fathers understood their faithfulness with regard to the “origin”?

The same attitude that Basil the Great exhibits toward the Church’s tradition is to be found in his disciple Evagarius Ponticus with regard to the spiritual tradition of monasticism. This is how he writes to the monk Eulogios, for whom he wishes to explain several questions about the spiritual life:

“Not because of deeds done by us in righteousness”[16] did we attain this, but rather because we have “the pattern of sound words”[17] which we have heard from the Fathers, and because we have become witnesses to some of their deeds.

Everything, though, is a grace from above, which points out even to sinners the schemes of the tempter, and which also says for our safety, “What have you, then, that you did not receive?”—in order that, in receiving, might thank the Giver, so as not to give ourselves the praise and the honor and thus deny the gift.

Therefore grace says: “If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift? Already you have become rich,” it says, you who dispense with works; already you, who have begun to teach, “are filled.”[18]

   Hence an initial reason not to put oneself forward as a “teacher” is the humble acknowledgment of the elementary fact that we are all receivers. The “Fathers” whom Evagarius refers to here are, among others, his own masters and teachers, Macarius the Great and his namesake from Alexandria, through whom he was connected with the “first of the anchorites”, Anthony the Great, and thus with the origin of monastism itself. In another passage Evagarius elaborates further on the thought.

It is also necessary to ask about the ways of those monks who went before us in an upright manner, and to be guided by them. For we find much that was beautifully said and done by them.

The “pattern of sound words” of the Fathers and their “splendid deeds” are thus an example —by which one must be guided! This is precisely the reason why the “words and deeds of the Fathers” were not only gathered very early on, but were also quoted again and again.

Thus for a Christian, the study of the holy Fathers can never remain merely an academic patrology, which does not necessarily influence the life of the one who is studying. The example of the holy Fathers, their words, and deeds are rather a model that obliges one to imitate them. Evagarius is not remiss in providing us with a justification for this statement.

It is fitting for those who want to walk along the “way” of him who said: “I am the way and the life,”[19] that they learn from those who previously walked along it, and converse with them about what is useful, and hear from them what is helpful, so as not to introduce anything that is foreign to our course.

Not to be guided by the example of the holy Fathers and to go one’s own way, therefore involves the danger of “introducing something that is foreign to our course”, that is, things “that are absolutely alien to monastic life” because they have not been “tested” and found to be “good” by the “brothers” “who went before us in an upright manner”. Whoever has strayed thus from that “way” of the Fathers runs the risk of becoming himself “a stranger to our Savior’s ways” and thereby of estranging himself from the “Way” par excellence!

The reference to what “the brothers have proved to be best of all” already makes clear that by no means everything the Fathers did needs to be imitated, no matter how “splendid” it might be, and even if the Father in question were Anthony the Great himself. Let no one dare to imitate in every detail his extreme form of anchorite life, for instance, unless he wants to become the laughing-stock of the demons. The Fathers themselves could distinguish very well between a “personal charism” and “tradition”.

The meaning and purpose of preserving tradition?

The meaning and purpose of preserving the “tradition” is, then, for the Fathers, just as it was for the first “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word”, not an unthinking adherence to what has been handed down, but the preservation of a living fellowship. Whoever wants to have fellowship with the Father can attain this only by “way” of the Son. One reaches the Son, though, only by way of “those who walked before us along the way” and thereby became themselves a living part of the “Way”. These are, first of all, the apostles as the immediate “eyewitnesses of the Word”. John writes very definitely, “So that you may have fellowship with us”, and Evagarius aptly calls that “way” of praktike (ascetic struggle), which he has received from the Fathers, precisely “the apostolic way”. Hence all those Fathers in faith “who went before us in an upright manner” are “Way”. Only the one who follows in their “footsteps” himself may go to reach the destination of this way, as they did.

It is therefore not enough just to call upon the “spirit of the Fathers”—which is difficult to define—or merely to “speak with pleasure about their deeds” at every opportunity, while leaving everything at the status quo. One must also strive to accomplish these deeds, even “amid great labors”, if one wants to have part in their fellowship.

Only in light of this does the title “first of the anchorites”, which Evagarius bestows on the “righteous Anthony” acquire its full significance. Anthony the Great is of course temporally the first anchorite, but that would mean nothing further were he not also the “first fruit”. For the “first fruit”, being “holy”, “makes the entire lump holy”, just as the “holy root makes the branches holy”[20]—as long as they remain in living fellowship with it. The “beginning”, because it is determined by the Lord himself, possesses in fact a special grace, namely, the “grace of the origin”, of the “principle”, which does not merely stand at the beginning temporally, but rather stamps with the seal of authenticity everything that remains in living fellowship with it.

How does this work practically in the present/today’s times?

By adhering to the living fellowship with “what was from the beginning”, man who is bound to space and time, enters into the mystery of the One who, free from these limitations, “is the same yesterday, today and forever”,[21] that is, of the Son, who himself “in the beginning”[22] in the absolute sense. Beyond space and time, this fellowship creates continuity and identity in the midst of the world that is subject to constant change.

This remaining identically the same is something that neither individual believers nor the Church as a whole could ever accomplish on their own. Guarding “the good thing committed to our trust” is always the fruit of the working of “the Holy Spirit who dwells in us”[23] and there “bear(s) witness”[24] to the Son. He it is, also, who does not only “guide [us] into all truth”[25] but also for ages to come causes the testimony of the Master himself to be recognized in the testimony of the disciples.[26]

Blessed is the monk who keeps the commandments of the Lord, and holy is he who observes the words of his fathers.

P.S: The word monk mentioned by Evagrius gives an impression that Evagrius wrote mostly for anchorites, and thus for monks who, like himself, lived alone and occasionally came together with other brethren and visitors. His descriptions take into consideration the particular life circumstances of his readers.

Well and good, one may object, but what does that have to do with us? Indeed, we are neither anchorites nor cenobites but Christians who live in the midst of world! The objection stems from the fatal misunderstanding mentioned at the beginning of the paragraph, that there is a particular world of monks and anchorites, whose problems basically do not affect “normal” Christians. An essential truth is thereby overlooked: the vices which plague humankind are the same from time immemorial and everywhere; only their concrete forms vary according to people’s particular conditions of life.

A short note on Evagrius Pontus:

Born around 345 to a country bishop in the region of Pontus in the region of Pontus in Asia Minor, Evagrius showed religious and intellectual promise even as a teenager and was ordained a reader by St. Basil the Great, the then Bishop of Caesarea. He then became the protégé of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, serving as St. Gregory’s archdeacon when he became bishop of Constantinople in the late 370s and assisting him in his efforts in behalf of Nicene theology. Evagrius discipleship under St. Gregory came to an end when St. Gregory had to resign his episcopal seat and Evagrius fled to Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem Evagrius suffered an emotional and physical breakdown, and the ascetic leader Melania the Elder persuaded him to take up monastic life in Egypt. In the deserts of Nitria and Kellia, Evagrius apprenticed himself to monks such as Ammonius and the two Macarii— St. Macarius the Great (disciple of St. Antony the Great) and St. Macarius the Alexandrian. Evagrius soon emerged as an authoritative teacher in his own right. Evagrius counseled the monks who visited him and with whom he gathered weekly for worship and fellowship, and he produced a large number of literary works of great variety, not only practical treatises on the monastic life, but also works of biblical exegesis and of advanced theology. Even the latter works , however, support Evagrius vision of monasticism in which bodily discipline, demonic conflict, prayer and psalmody, biblical study, and speculation on higher theological questions all played important roles in forming the monk into a “Gnostic,” a knower of God.

This article is written by taking extracts from the book “Earthen Vessels” written by Elder Gabriel Bunge, a priest and schemamonk of the Russian Orthodox Church. He possesses a thorough knowledge of patristic literature, and is known worldwide for his writings on contemplative prayer.

 

[1][1] Cf. Lk 1:2-Just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the world delivered them to us.

[2][2] Mt 19:8-He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

[3] Gen 2:24-For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.

[4] Mt 15:1-20

[5] Cf. Jn 4:34- Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.

[6] Cf. 1 Jn 2:7-Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.

[7] Lk 1:2- Just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the world delivered them to us.

 

[8] Mk 1:1-The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

[9] Acts 1:2if.-until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen,

[10] Jn 15:27-“And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

[11] 2 Thess 2:15-Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. ; cf . 1 Cor 11:2-Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.

[12] Gal 1:6ff-I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,

[13] Lk 20:38-For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.

[14] Eph 2:20-having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,

[15] 2 Tim 1:14That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

[16] Tit 3:5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,

[17] 2 Tim 1:13 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

[18] 1 Cor 4:7-8 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? You are already full! You are already rich! Yu have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!

[19] Jn 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

[20] Rom 11:16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

[21] Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

[22] Jn 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

[23] 2 Tim 1:14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

[24] Jn 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, He will testify Me.

[25] Jn 16:13 However when He, the Spirit of truth, has come He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

[26] Lk 10:16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fol; them aso I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Introduction to Cappadocian Fathers

Together with St. Gregory of Nazianzus (“the Theologian,” c. 329-389) and St. Gregory of Nyssa (c.330-395), St. Basil the Great is of one of the Cappadocian Fathers, namely the famous fourth-century theologians from Cappadocia (now central Turkey), who are best known for developing and perfecting the Trinitarian theology of St. Athanasius the Great (c. 295-373). Their collective theological endeavors established the foundations of Orthodox Christian Trinitarian theology. To understand Orthodox Christian Trinitarians fully, one must grasp the teachings of the Cappadocian Fathers.

Basil the Great :

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Of the three, only St. Basil of Caesarea has earned the cognomen, “the Great.” Among the three fathers, St. Basil was the best all-rounder. He was a theologian and intellectual of the first order, but was also a consummate ecclesiastical statesman, organizer and liturgist. He was not only the second Athanasius in defense of Orthodox theology, but a founder of monasteries, hospices, hospitals, and so forth. St. Basil of Caesarea has earned the cognomen, “the Great,” not only for his teachings, but for his actions and life as well.

Basil was born about 330 at Caesarea in Cappadocia. He came from a wealthy and pious family which gave a number of saints, including his mother Saint Emily (also styled Emilia or Emmelia), grandmother Saint Macrina the Elder, sister Saint Macrina the Younger and brothers Saints Gregory of Nyssa and Peter of Sebaste.

While still a child, the family moved to Pontus; but he soon returned to Cappadocia to live with his mother’s relations, and seems to have been brought up by his grandmother Macrina. Eager to learn, he went to Constantinople and spent four or five years there and at Athens, where he had the future emperor Julian for a fellow student and became friends with Gregory the Theologian. It was at Athens that he seriously began to think of religion, and resolved to seek out the most famous hermit saints in Syria and Arabia, in order to learn from them how to attain enthusiastic piety and how to keep his body under submission by asceticism.

After this we find him at the head of a convent near Arnesi in Pontus, in which his mother Emily, now a widow, his sister Macrina and several other ladies, gave themselves to a pious life of prayer and charitable works. He was ordained presbyter of the Church at Caesarea in 365. In 370 Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, died, and Basil was chosen to succeed him. It was then that his great powers were called into action. With all his might he resisted the emperor Valens, who strove to introduce Arianism into his diocese, and impressed the emperor so strongly that, although inclined to banish the intractable bishop, he left him unmolested.

He did not live to see the end of the unhappy factional disturbances and the complete success of his continued exertions in behalf of Rome and the East. He suffered from liver illness and his excessive asceticism seems to have hastened him to an early death.

Writings

The principal theological writings of Basil are his Treatise on the Holy Spirit (Lat. De Spiritu Sancto), a lucid and edifying appeal to Scripture and early Christian tradition to prove the divinity of the Holy Spirit, and his Refutation of the Apology of the Impious Eunomius, written in 363 or 364, three books against Eunomius of Cyzicus, the chief exponent of Anomoian Arianism. The first three books of the Refutation are also his work.

He was a famous preacher, and many of his homilies, including a series of Lenten lectures on The Six Days of Creation (Gr. Hexaëmeron), and an exposition of the psalter, have been preserved.

It is in the ethical manuals and moral sermons that the practical aspects of his theoretical theology are illustrated. So, for example, it is in his Sermon to the Lazicans that we find Basil explaining how it is our common nature that obliges us to treat our neighbor’s natural needs (e.g., hunger, thirst) as our own, even though he is a separate individual. His principal efforts as a reformer were directed towards the improvement of the liturgy, and the reformation of the monastic orders of the East.

Gregory the Theologian :

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Our father among the saints Gregory the Theologian, also known as Gregory of Nazianzus (though that name more appropriately refers to his father), was a great father and teacher of the Church.

Life

He was born in 329 in Arianzus, a village of the second district of Cappadocia, not far from Nazianzus. His father, who later became Bishop of Nazianzus, was named Gregory and his mother was named Nonna both are among the saints, and so are his brother Caesarius and his sister Gorgonia.

At first he studied in Caesarea of Palestine, then in Alexandria, and finally in Athens. As he was sailing from Alexandria to Athens, a violent sea storm put in peril not only his life but also his salvation, since he had not yet been baptized. With tears and fervor he besought God to spare him, vowing to dedicate his whole self to Him, and the tempest gave way to calm. At Athens St. Gregory was later joined by St. Basil the Great, whom he already knew, but now their acquaintanceship grew into a lifelong brotherly love. Another fellow student of theirs in Athens was the young Prince Julian, who later as emperor was called the Apostate because he denied Christ and did all in his power to restore paganism.

After their studies at Athens, Gregory became Basil’s fellow ascetic, living the monastic life together with him for a time in the hermitages of Pontus. His father ordained him presbyter of the Church of Nazianzus, and St. Basil consecrated him Bishop of Sasima (or Zansima), which was in the archdiocese of Caesarea.

About the year 379, St. Gregory came to the assistance of the Church of Constantinople, which had already been troubled for forty years by the Arians; by his supremely wise words and many labors he freed it from the corruption of heresy. He was elected archbishop of that city by the Second Ecumenical Council, which assembled there in 381, and condemned Macedonius, Archbishop of Constantinople, as an enemy of the Holy Spirit. When St. Gregory came to Constantinople, the Arians had taken all the churches, and he was forced to serve in a house chapel dedicated to St. Anastasia the Martyr. From there he began to preach his famous five sermons on the Trinity, called the Triadica. When he left Constantinople two years later, the Arians did not have one church left to them in the city. St. Meletius of Antioch, who was presiding over the Second Ecumenical Council, died in the course of it, and St. Gregory was chosen in his stead; there he distinguished himself in his expositions of dogmatic theology.

Having governed the Church until 382, he delivered his farewell speech-the Syntacterion, in which he demonstrated the Divinity of the Son—before 150 bishops and the Emperor Theodosius the Great. Also in this speech he requested, and received from all, permission to retire from the See of Constantinople. He returned to Nazianzus, where he lived to the end of his life. He reposed in the Lord in 391, having lived some sixty-two years.

His extant writings, both prose and poems in every type of meter, demonstrate his lofty eloquence and his wondrous breadth of learning. In the beauty of his writings, he is considered to have surpassed the Greek writers of antiquity, and because of his God-inspired theological thought, he received the surname “Theologian.” Although he is sometimes called Gregory of Nazianzus, this title belongs properly to his father; he himself is known by the Church only as Gregory the Theologian. He is especially called “Trinitarian Theologian,” since in virtually every homily he refers to the Trinity and the one essence and nature of the Godhead.

Gregory of Nyssa :

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Our father among the saints Gregory of Nyssa (ca. A.D. 335 – after 384) was bishop of Nyssa and a prominent theologian of the fourth century. He was the younger brother of Basil the Great and friend of Gregory the Theologian.

Life

Gregory and Basil both spent much effort defending the Faith against the attacks of the Arians. He was twice deposed from his see because of false accusations made by heretics. He was finally restored in 378.

The next year, 379, his brother Basil the Great died. As the two were extremely close, Gregory was very grieved at his loss. To honor his brother, Gregory wrote his funeral oration and then completed Basil’s Hexaemeron (“Six Days”), a series of nine sermons, delivered during Great Lent, which described and elaborated upon the Genesis account of the world’s creation in six days. The following year, Gregory’s sister Macrina also died, and Gregory wrote a hagiography detailing her life.

About this time Gregory attended the Council of Antioch, a local synod, in which he zealously defended Orthodoxy. The council was called to refute a heresy which denied the perpetual virginity of the Theotokos (St. Mary). The council also forbade worship of her as God or part of the Godhead. Gregory was simultaneously continuing to fight Arianism. He also attended the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople, which added the final section concerning the Holy Spirit to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

For the rest of his life, Gregory continued to attend church councils, discuss doctrinal matters, and combat various heresies. He reached old age and finally reposed in the Lord near the end of the fourth century.

Gregory was greatly influenced by his elder brother Basil. When writing to his younger brother Peter, Gregory referred to Basil as being their “common father and teacher”. (On the Making of Man) Even though he didn’t have the extensive “secular” training that Basil did, he was far more influenced by his own reading of the classical Greek fathers, especially Plato, who came before him

THE CAPPADOCIAN FATHERS: ON THEOLOGICAL FORMULAE

These three Cappadocian Fathers contributed to the development of patristic theology ‘a full-scale doctrine of the Trinity, in which both the unity and the diversity could be precisely formulated within a systematic theory and with a technical terminology adequate to obviate misunderstanding or equivocation’.

To appreciate this accomplishment, we need to consider the terminological problems that they faced. The divinity of the Father was accepted already and, in the council of Nicaea asserted the divinity of the Son. But the place of the Spirit was still unclear. Saint Athanasius had also claimed that the Spirit must be God because the Spirit does what only God can do (namely, save humans). But several basic questions about the Holy Spirit still awaited a satisfactory answer.

The problem could not be resolved by appeal to scriptures; to turn again to an observation from Gregory of Nazianzus: ‘The Old Testament proclaimed the Father openly, and the Son more obscurely; the New Testament manifested the Son, and suggested the divinity of the Spirit.’

The Bible does not spell out the truth about the Spirit; instead, as Gregory continues, ‘Now the Spirit himself dwells among us, and supplies us with a clearer demonstration of himself.’

Gregory thus explains the progressive disclosure of the Trinity as the revelation of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the midst of Christians. St. Basil offers this significant description of what happens as a result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit: “Just as when a sunbeam falls on bright and transparent bodies, they themselves become brilliant too, and shed forth a fresh brightness from themselves, so souls wherein the Spirit dwells, illuminated by the Spirit, themselves become spiritual, and send forth their grace to others. Hence comes foresight of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of what is hidden, distribution of good gifts, the heavenly citizenship, a place in the chorus of angels, joy without end, abiding in God, the being made like to God, and, highest of all, the being made God.”

Here, St. Basil links deification (‘being made God’) to the economic activity of the Holy Spirit, which can be contrasted to Athanasius’s connection of deification to the Incarnation. But the contrast is superficial, since Basil’s claim is in line with Athanasius’s teaching (e.g., in his letters to Serapion) that the transforming effects of the Holy Spirit are evidence that the Spirit is fully divine. These effects are demonstrated in greater understanding of God, to be sure, but it is precisely the same activity of the Holy Spirit that is manifest in care for the poor, service within the Christian community and other forms of pastoral involvement – and in all of these areas,

Basil’s contributions were renowned. But offering a systematic account of the divinity of the Spirit was difficult, because of the lack of conventional theological language. Actually, Athanasius had treated essence (ousia) and subsistence (hypostasis) as synonyms, and others carried forward this usage in a way that made it difficult to talk about the essential oneness of God. So the Cappadocians roughed out terminological distinctions, which when subsequently refined would become landmarks of patristic doctrine. For instance, the hypostasis is that which is peculiar, rather than ‘the indefinite conception of ousia’. The distinctiveness of the Son and the Holy Spirit is further described using another technical expression ‘mode of existence’ – that points to the different way in which each originates from the Father. The expression is found occasionally in Basil the Great’s writings (e.g. On the Holy Spirit), but its refinement is to be credited to Gregory of Nyssa’s. Gregory further contributed to the discussion by offering illustrations of their Relation-in-distinctiveness in his letter to Ablabius entitled ‘That there are not three gods’. There, he advances what is sometimes called, unsatisfactorily, the ‘social model’ of the Trinity by explaining how a single nature can be manifest in three (or, in the case of humans, a plurality of) persons. His main point is less social than grammatical: Gregory is defining a proper grammar for theology. Hence, he concludes the letter by writing that, since ‘the divine nature is held by every conception as unchangeable and undivided, we properly declare the Godhead to be one, and God to be one, and employ in the singular all other names which express divine attributes’.

Perhaps the most famous theological formula associated with the Cappadocian Fathers is ‘one nature, three hypostases’ (or ‘persons’): that is, the three divine persons are one in nature. That catch-phrase is exceedingly rare in their writings, but it neatly expresses the direction of their combined influence on the development of Trinitarian theology.

Essence or Nature or Ousia: In Greek, the word for “essence” (ousia) is derived from the feminine participle of the verb “to be”. But in the case of God we cannot speak about participation in being, but about Being itself, the fullness of every possibility for existence and life. Therefore the apophatic formulation “Being beyond all being” which the Fathers often use is closer to the expression of the truth of the God of the Church. Essence exists only “in persons”; persons are the mode of existence of essence.

The Person or Hypostasis (Hypostases- plural): God is a personal existence; three specific personal existences of whose personal difference the Church has direct historical experience. We all understand that what differentiates personal existence from every other form of existence is self-consciousness and otherness. We call the awareness of our own existence “self consciousness”, the certainty that I have that I exist, and that it is I who exist, a being with identity, an identity which differentiates me from every other being. And this differentiation is an absolute otherness, a unique, distinct, and unrepeatable character which defines my existence. Self-consciousness is something much more than an intellectual certainty; it has “substrata” which are explored by a whole science, depth psychology, and which are called subconscious, unconscious, ego, superego. On Mt. Horeb, Moses asks God himself to reveal his personal identity to his people by declaring his Name (Ex 3.13-14). “I am the One who is”, answers God, and Moses announces to the people that Yahweh (the “I am”) sends him and calls the Israelites to worship “He who is”. The divine Name is not a noun which would classify God among beings, nor an adjective which would attribute a characteristic feature. It is a verb; it is the echo on the lips of people of the Word by which God defines himself as existent.

Natural Energies or the mode of existence: But what exactly do we designate with the word energies? We designate those potentials of nature or essence to make known the hypostasis and its existence, to make it known and participable. This definition will be clearer if we again use an example from our immediate experience, if we speak about the energies of human nature or our essence. Every man has understanding, reason, will, desire, imagination; every man works, loves, creates. All these capacities, and still others analogous to them, are common to all people and there ore we say that they belong to the human nature or essence. They are natural capacities or energies which differentiate man from every other being.

But these natural energies, while they are common to every man, are disclosed and actualized by each man in a unique way, distinct and unrepeatable. All men have understanding, will, desire, imagination; but every particular man thinks, wills, desires, imagines in a manner absolutely different. Therefore we say that the natural energies not only differentiate man from every other being, but also are manifested in a way that differentiates every man from all his fellow men. The natural energies are the way in which the otherness of each human hypostasis, that is of every human person, is revealed and disclosed.

There is no other way for us to know the personal otherness of man, than by the manifestation of natural energies. The natural energies permit us to know the otherness of the person by sharing in the way or in the how of their manifestation.
CONCLUSION

The Cappadocian Fathers worked in the course of the fourth century to formulate a theological language and to establish the meaning of precise terms that would permit Christians on one hand to distinguish the unity of the Three in essence, or shared substance, and, on the other, to express the mystery of each of the three persons by using the philosophical term ‘hypostasis’. This term settled the Trinitarian debate more conclusively than did the term ‘person’, which had been introduced by Tertullian in the early third century, by emphasizing the unfathomable depth of personal being of each member of the Trinity.

The language of theology, in which the Church gives an account of its faith, hope and knowledge of the Trinitarian God, reflects the position of the Church and of theology at the frontier between God and the world. This language is ‘capable of God’, yet at the same time always inadequate. Language itself must undergo a baptism of fire; it must die to human wisdom and be reborn in ‘God’s folly’ (1Cor. 1:25).

Excerpt from the Sermon on Transfiguration

 246-EphremSyrian-ppa-55-800St. Ephrem the Syrian (Excerpt from the Sermon on Transfiguration)

” The facts themselves bear witness and his divine acts of power teach those who doubt that he is true God, and his sufferings show that he is true man. And if those who are feeble in understanding are not fully assured, they will pay the penalty on his dread day.

If he was not flesh, why was Mary introduced at all? And if he was not God, whom was Gabriel calling Lord?

If he was not flesh, who was lying in the manger? And if he was not God, whom did the Angels come down and glorify?

If he was not flesh, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes? And if he was not God, whom did the shepherds worship?

If he was not flesh, whom did Joseph circumcise? And if he was not God, in whose honour did the star speed through the heavens?

If he was not flesh, whom did Mary suckle? And if he was not God, to whom did the Magi offer gifts?

If he was not flesh, whom did Symeon carry in his arms? And if he was not God, to whom did he say, “Let me depart in peace”?

If he was not flesh, whom did Joseph take and flee into Egypt? And if he was not God, in whom were words “Out of Egypt I have called my Son” fulfilled?

If he was not flesh, whom did John baptise? And if he was not God, to whom did the Father from heaven say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased”?

If he was not flesh, who fasted and hungered in the desert? And if he was not God, whom did the Angels come down and serve?

If he was not flesh, who was invited to the wedding in Cana of Galilee? And if he was not God, who turned the water into wine?

If he was not flesh, in whose hands were the loaves? And if he was not God, who satisfied crowds and thousands in the desert, not counting women and children, from five loaves and two fishes?

If he was not flesh, who fell asleep in the boat? And if he was not God, who rebuked the winds and the sea?

If he was not flesh, with whom did Simon the Pharisee eat? And if he was not God, who pardoned the offences of the sinful woman?

If he was not flesh, who sat by the well, worn out by the journey? And if he was not God, who gave living water to the woman of Samaria and reprehended her because she had had five husbands?

If he was not flesh, who wore human garments? And if he was not God, who did acts of power and wonders?

If he was not flesh, who spat on the ground and made clay? And if he was not God, who through the clay compelled the eyes to see?

If he was not flesh, who wept at Lazarus’ grave? And if he was not God, who by his command brought out one four days dead?

If he was not flesh, who sat on the foal? And if he was not God, whom did the crowds go out to meet with glory?

If he was not flesh, whom did the Jews arrest? And if he was not God, who gave an order to the earth and threw them onto their faces.

If he was not flesh, who was struck with a blow? And if he was not God, who cured the ear that had been cut off by Peter and restored it to its place?

If he was not flesh, who received spittings on his face? And if he was not God, who breathed the Holy Spirit into the faces of his Apostles?

If he was not flesh, who stood before Pilate at the judgement seat? And if he was not God, who made Pilate’s wife afraid by a dream?

If he was not flesh, whose garments did the soldiers strip off and divide? And if he was not God, how was the sun darkened at the cross?

If he was not flesh, who was hung on the cross? And if he was not God, who shook the earth from its foundations?

If he was not flesh, whose hands and feet were transfixed by nails? And if he was not God, how was the veil of the temple rent, the rocks broken and the graves opened?

If he was not flesh, who cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me”? And if he was not God, who said “Father, forgive them”?

If he was not flesh, who was hung on a cross with the thieves? And if he was not God, how did he say to the thief, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”?

If he was not flesh, to whom did they offer vinegar and gall? And if he was not God, on hearing whose voice did Hades tremble?

If he was not flesh, whose side did the lance pierce, and blood and water came out?And if he was not God, who smashed to gates of Hades and tear apart it bonds? And at whose command did the imprisoned dead come out?

If he was not flesh, whom did the Apostles see in the upper room? And if he was not God, how did he enter when the doors were shut?

If he was not flesh, the marks of the nails and the lance in whose hands and side did Thomas handle? And if he was not God, to whom did he cry out, “My Lord and my God”?

If he was not flesh, who ate by the sea of Tiberias? And if he was not God, at whose command was the net filled?

If he was not flesh, whom did the Apostles and Angels see being taken up into heaven? And if he was not God, to whom was heaven opened, whom did the Powers worship in fear and whom did the Father invite to “Sit at my right hand”. As David said, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, etc.”

If he was not God and man, our salvation is a lie, and the words of the Prophets are lies.  But the Prophets spoke the truth, and their testimonies were not lies. The Holy Spirit spoke through them what they had been commanded”

Patristic Homily on Mother Of God

Homily by St. Severus of Antioch– (Patriarch of Antioch from 512 – 518)

mothermarysyriacPreached in memory of the holy Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary.

It is fitting and just that we should offer praise composed of words to all the saints: and let us honour them with laudatory sermons and with festivals as those who have truly served their Lord and have contributed faithfully towards the dispensation of our redemption. And let us on the one hand praise the prophets as those who by their own excellence appeared sufficient to preach in advance the great mystery of piety (1 Tim 3:16); and on the other hand, let us praise the apostles as those who proclaimed this (mystery); then the martyrs as those who affirmed the prophecies of the former and the proclamation of the latter with their own blood—hence they also have received this title because of their affirmation, for it is the custom to call witnesses ‘martyrs’, those who by their voice give credibility to things which are not demonstrable or which otherwise are in some way or other not credible.

Now the voice of Christ’s martyrs is the shedding of their blood which followed the first and divine outpouring of blood which the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29) shed for us, he who has borne witness of himself before these others. For in truth he was not at all in need of anything—he who witnessed a noble confession before Pontius Pilate (1 Tim 6:13) (as the Apostle Paul said)—and very justly so: for of what other witness who might be more faithful than He should have need, who is Himself the truth ( Jn 14:16)? But since He accepts the devotion of the will of His own servants, He makes them partakers in this title which is His, and makes them to be called martyrs.

Now how shall any one not honour the Mother of God and the truly holy and ever-virgin Mary as prophetess, and as apostle, and as martyr?

As prophetess—in accordance with Isaiah’s prophecy, which says about her: ‘And I came to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son, And the Lord said to me: “Call his name ‘Swiftly-plunder-and-suddenly-pillage”, because before the child knows how to call “father!” and “mother!”, he will take the might of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria before the king of the Assyrians’ (Is 8:3).

But who is the prophetess spoken of in the holy Scriptures, who has given birth to a son who is called ‘Swiftly-plunder-and-suddenly-pillage’, who immediately on being born, and before he knows how to call ‘father!’ or ‘mother!’ plunders the warriors and pillages them, if it is not the Mother of God, the virgin who has given birth to Emmanuel who, from the beginning of his birth in the flesh, overthrew the Slanderer by taking the might of Damascus and carrying off the spoils of Samaria?

Now these words represent figuratively by a kind of antonomasia (the use of a proper name to express a general idea), the worship of idols: for, on the one hand, Damascus is to be interpreted as ‘bloody’, while, on the other, Samaria is the one who forged the calves of gold and removed from among them the true service and the worship of the one who alone is God (1 Kgs 12:26–28). Now it is known to all men that in these two things especially the worship of idols is to be recognized: by the fact that we name and worship as gods things made by hands, and by the fact that we offer sacrifices with blood and holocausts (slaughter on a mass scale). Therefore Emmanuel took the plunder from this as soon as He was born in flesh, first when He was leading the Magi to worship in swaddling-clothes the age of His infancy, and next when He was going to Egypt on account of the slaughter of the children by Herod and shook His idols (Is 19:1), just as Isaiah prophesies. And he was doing this and was taking this plunder before the king of the Assyrians—for the prophecy calls the Slanderer the king of Assyria in many places, and that he is so named one can discover in general, so to speak, everywhere among the prophets (Is 10:12).

Such is the child that Mary the prophetess has borne for us: he who from his infancy and straightaway from his birth has torn down the fortress of the Slanderer’s tyranny: and, says Isaiah the prophet: ‘Do not marvel’ (Is 8:4), for this child was himself ‘the mighty God, the angel of mighty counsel’, as one who in himself makes known and signifies as it were the living Word, the Father who is the Mind that is over all things. He was himself the marvellous counsellor (Is 9:6) as the one who, together with the Father, made the intelligible world and this visible world, and who heard (as being his counsellor and his equal in glory): ‘Let us make man in our image and in our likeness’ (Gen 1:26). He was himself the prince (Is 9- 6) as the one who is the power of the invisible Father, for Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24); and again he was the one who rightly heard: ‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of integrity is the sceptre of your kingdom (Ps 44:7). He was himself the prince of peace (Is 9:6) as the one who has joined together the earthly things with the heavenly, and has pacified everything by the blood of his cross, as Paul says (Eph 1:10; Col. 1:20). He was himself the ‘father of the world to come’ as the beginning and as the one who was broadcasting the seed of the life which is to be and of eternal endless hopes, that is to say, the kingdom of heaven which He was preaching.

Because of this, the virgin and mother, as one who gave birth to a child such as this (who is at the same time both Lord of the prophets and Lord in his own right) was prophesying after Elizabeth’s salutation when she says: ‘For behold, from henceforth all generations shall ascribe blessedness to me, because the one who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy, to every generation, is for those who fear him’ (Lk 1:48–50).

But one may truly call her apostle and, one might rightly say, higher than all the apostles: for from the first she herself was even counted together with the apostles, as the Book of Acts also records when it says: ‘These were assembled together and continuing in prayer with Mary the mother of Jesus’ (Acts 1:14). Besides, if what they heard from our Lord as ‘Go, teach all nations’ (Matt 28:19) is what constituted them apostles, what nation is there that this woman has not taught and brought to the knowledge of God, and that, moreover, when she was silent, through her giving birth in such a renowned, exceptional and sensational manner, and through her celebrated conception which made her the mother and origin of the Gospel proclamation?

Furthermore (one should not be reluctant to say it) she is in many respects a martyr: as when she bravely bore Joseph’s opinion of her when he was under the impression that her conception had taken place as a result of adultery, before he knew the mystery of the birth as a result of the angel’s revelation (Matt 1:19); and also when (because of Herod’s senseless rage) she fled to Egypt (Matt 2:13); and again when (through fear of Archelaus) she returned from Egypt and departed to Nazareth (Matt 2:21–23); and when she was passing every day with Jewish murderers, and was living a life which was close to death.

How, then, shall we not deservedly honour this woman, whom the spirits of the righteous honour at this time? On the one hand, the patriarchs honour her as the one who fulfilled for them the hope expectation which was awaited from time long past, and who brought the blessing of Abraham’s seed who is Christ, which has passed over to all the peoples and all the uttermost parts (of the earth). On the other hand, the prophets honour her as the one who enlightened their prophecies, and who has given birth to the Sun of Righteousness (Mal 4:2) who has revealed hidden things, both secrets and things not known. Again, the apostles honour her as the one whom they recognized as the beginning of their proclamation. The martyrs honour her as the one who was the first to bring to them the exemplar of their own struggles and victories. Then the Doctors of the church and the shepherds of Christ’s rational flock honour her as the one who has stopped up the mouth of heresy and who has poured forth for us, in the likeness of a drinkable and pure spring, the rushing tides of orthodoxy and—foremost and absolutely the best of all things—has expelled the darkness of the various heresies that sprang up.

For God the Word did not obtain the beginning of his divinity from Mary, since He was without beginning and the maker of every age and time. But when He chose to become incarnate and to be made man, that is, to unite to himself hypostatically the flesh which is consubstantial with ours inspirited by a rational and intelligible soul, the virgin supplied at the same time those things arising from her own created nature, all those things which are the property of a woman, so that at one and the same time there entered into him what was of her nature. And the Holy Spirit—since there had not been intercourse with a man—acted effectually and brought the birth to completion. Thus God the Word himself, when he had been conceived and born in the flesh, showed Mary the Mother of God to be the one who had given birth to the Word endued with a body; and it was in accord with what is better and wonderful that she was named, since the mystery itself consisted in this—namely, the kingship of what is better, and the lifting up of our race from this place, and its transformation into something better.

Therefore the one who was born was also named Emmanuel, since he is one indivisible and without confusion, out of two natures, both divinity and humanity. This one who, since he possesses all the unique and indivisible qualities, namely, his incorporeal generation from the Father and the very same divinity (for he alone was begotten of the only one, even God from God) and his birth from the virgin (for he alone was born in the flesh of a woman not joined in marriage and the only one of her kind), did not violate his mother’s virginity. Because of this, he has also called us, who were separated from God, to one-ness and to peace, since he is the mediator of God and men (1 Tim 2:5).

This is why we honour also the holy Mother of God and evervirgin Mary with honours which are surpassing great, inasmuch as she is the one who is able, more than all the other saints, to offer up supplications on our behalf, and since we too make our boast of her as having acquired her as the adornment of our race—the rational earth from whom the second Adam, who is neither fashioned nor made, fashioned himself in flesh (cf. 1 Cor 15:44, 45)—the plant of virginity from which Christ the heavenly ladder was prepared in flesh by the Spirit, so that we ourselves might be able to ascend to heaven when we fix our footsteps firmly upon it (Is 9:36); the intelligible Mount Sinai which is not covered in smoke, but which shines with the Sun of Righteousness and which bestows not only the Law of the Ten Commandments, but the lawgiver himself when he was seen on earth and held converse with human beings, and gave instruction in the Gospel and with persuasion captured not one people Israel, but every people and race.

What honour, therefore, shall we render to the Mother of God, or rather to God who was incarnate of her for the redemption of our souls? For it is there that he finds honour and sacrifice and whole burnt offering. For how is it not a good thing that through his advent in the body the earth should become heaven, such that even the angels might dwell on it, as he himself also said in the Gospel: ‘Amen, I say to you, that from now on you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending’ (Jn 1:51)?

But we ourselves—we who are obliged to demonstrate a way of life which is worthy of heaven—do we not even do those things which are fitting for earth, but are suitable for Sheol and the pit of destruction? And since it was right for us to occupy ourselves with virginity and to observe it because of God who was born of a virgin, do we not even in chaste marriage bridle the lusts which the cross of Christ has blunted and made easy to overthrow, because the cross has blunted the sin which is the sting of death (1 Cor 15:56)? Rather, we dishonour the temple of God by fornication, and become ‘stallions lusting after mares’, as the prophet says (Jer 5:8).

But I beseech and earnestly entreat you: do not let us make this brief pleasure, which as soon as it is fulfilled passes away and brings distress, into a flame which cannot be quenched and a torment without end. But ‘let each one of us possess his vessel in holiness and honour’, as says Paul (1 Thess 4:4) who is wise in all things, so that we may be esteemed worthy of those good things of eternity through the grace and philanthropy of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom is due praise with the Father and the holy Spirit to the ages of ages. Amen.

The end of Homily XIV.