The winter is past, the rain is over and gone

At Vespers for the Feast of St Ephrem the Syrian (January 28). Source.

WHEN thou hadst beheld, as in a mirror (2 Cor 3:18), the beautiful things of Paradise, and delighted abundantly in its unspoiled meadows, thou madest the knowledge of God to blossom in the world; and when we partake of it, through the spiritual disposition of our souls, we bloom again in spirit.

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Fuchsia 'Deep Purple' glistening with raindrops. © Jonathan Billinger, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

Fuchsia ‘Deep Purple’ glistening with raindrops. © Jonathan Billinger, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

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Song of Songs 2:10-13.

MY beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

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Frédéric Chopin, Prelude No. 5 (“Raindrop”).
Played by Hélène Grimaud.

Ask, St John Chrysostom, and it will be given you

I AM the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. … If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

John 15:7-8.

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THRICE-blessed saint, most holy father, good shepherd, and disciple of the chief shepherd Christ (cf. 1 Pet 5:4), who laid down his life for the sheep: do thou thyself, O John Chrysostom, worthy of all praise, ask by thine entreaties that our souls be granted the great mercy.

Source.

St Gregory of Nyssa: The first faith, sweeter than honey

TODAY is the feast day of St Gregory, bishop of Nyssa. Gregory, whose brother was St Basil of Caesarea, stood up courageously for the doctrine of the Trinity, and the bodily resurrection of man.

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HOW sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Ps 118[119]:103

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WALK by the primitive rule of the Faith: and the God of peace shall be with you, and ye shall be strong in mind and body. May God keep you uncorrupted, is our prayer.

St Gregory of Nyssa, Letter XVII. To Eustathia, Ambrosia, and Basilissa.

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An icon of St Gregory of Nyssa. From Wikimedia Commons.

An icon of St Gregory of Nyssa. From Wikimedia Commons.

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HOLY father, most sacred Gregory — a flute filled with the breath of the Comforter (Jn 14:16-17), a most clear speaker* of true religion, a glorious lamp (cf. Mt 5:15) of the divine radiance, a herald of truth, a platform of theology, a fount of lofty doctrine, a winter flood of honeyed teachings, an inspired lyre of songs written by God, gladdening the minds of the faithful — intercede with Christ, importune him who refashioned the world in the running waters of the Jordan, O saint wise in all things, to save our souls.

* γλῶσσα. Literally ‘tongue’, this word is sometimes used for a professional orator, which Gregory was. It could also be used for the reed of a wind instrument.

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The sound of flute and harp (lyre) in a traditional English song, arranged for orchestra.

Fantasia on Greensleeves (1934).
Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Grace was poured out upon thy lips, saint Basil

TODAY is the feast of St Basil the Great (c. 329-379), bishop of Caesarea.

MY heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.

Psalm 44(45):1-2, KJV. The name Basil comes from the word for ‘king’.

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For Saint Basil.

GRACE was poured out upon thy lips, holy father, and thou wast made a shepherd of Christ’s Church, teaching the sheep endowed with spiritual reason to believe in a Trinity consubstantial in one Godhead.

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TODAY is also the feast of the Circumcision of Jesus.

WHEN the Saviour came down to be with the race of men, he accepted the garment of swaddling clothes; he who was but eight days old in regard to his mother, yet without beginning in regard to his Father, did not abhor circumcision of the flesh. Let us faithful ones cry out to him, Thou art our God, have mercy upon us.

WE are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Cor 3:12-18.

WITH thy intense longing for the love of wisdom, O father, thou didst circumcise the veil upon thy soul, and by thy wonders wast revealed unto the world like a sun; and thou didst brightly shine thy godly mind upon the minds of the faithful, O wise Basil, worshipper of the Trinity, and knowing the mysteries of the Theotokos.

Source.

Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven

I SAW in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Daniel 7:13-14.

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An icon of Christ in the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

An icon of Christ in the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

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BUT Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Acts 7:55-56.

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THE Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send out a rod of power for thee out of Sion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. With thee is dominion in the day of thy power, in the splendours of thy saints: I have begotten thee from the womb before the Morning Star.

Psalm 109[110]:1-3 (LXX).

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O THOU that art not contained in any place, how art thou contained in a womb? O thou that lieth in the bosom of the Father, how dost thou lie in the arms of thy mother? This is all as he knoweth, as he hath willed it, as it was well-pleasing to him. And He Who Is [Ex 3:14] hath become he who was not, for our sakes. And without departing from his own nature, he hath partaken of our lump [cf. Rom 11:16]. Christ was born into two natures, wishing to fill the world above.

At Matins on December 27. Source.

The Feast of St Ignatius of Antioch: ‘I will come back and take you to be with me’

“DO not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:1-6.

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The martyrdom of St Ignatius of Antioch.

“O how firm and steely thy soul, Ignatius.” The martyrdom of St Ignatius of Antioch.

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TODAY is the feast day of St Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, who was executed for his Christian faith in about AD 107 or 108.

He had been a disciple of the evangelist St John, and was only the second man to lead the church in Antioch, the place where the term ‘Christian’ was first used (Acts 11:26).

From at least the AD 60s, Christianity was regarded by the Roman government as subversive, and stubborn offenders could be sentenced to death.

One method of execution was to play a part in ‘sporting entertainments’ put on by the state, such as those celebrating Saturnalia on December 17-23 each year, when wild animals were baited with human victims. It was in one of these shows at the Colosseum in Rome that Ignatius was martyred.

In 637 his relics were translated to the Basilica di San Clemente in Rome.

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For the saint. By the Studite.

GLORY be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the holy Spirit.

O HOW firm and steely thy soul, Ignatius, worthy of blessing! For in thy desire for him that loveth thee thou didst not give way, but saidst: ‘There is in me no fire of love for material things, but rather a living water, and it speaketh in me, within me it saith: Come to the Father.’ Therefore, like a fire tended by the divine Spirit, thou didst enflame the wild beasts to separate thee the swifter from this world, and send thee to the Christ thou desirest; intercede with him, that our souls be saved.

Now and forever, and to the ages of ages.

For the forefeast of the Nativity. By Cyprian.

BEHOLD, the time of our salvation is at hand: prepare, O cave, the Virgin is near to birth-giving; Bethlehem of the land of Judah, delight in this and be glad; for our Lord hath sprung forth from thee. Hear ye mountains and hills, ye lands about Judea, Christ cometh to save mankind, which he made, for he loveth mankind.

Source.

A precious cornerstone, a sure foundation

TODAY is the feast day of the Prophet Daniel.

Among his prophecies was a series of kingdoms, the fourth of which would smash the power of the others, and last forever (Dan 2).

This kingdom was symbolised by a stone cut from a mountain, but not by any human hand.

According to the liturgy, the mountain is Mary; from her Jesus is cut, but not by human hands, because she remained a virgin; Christ became the cornerstone of the Church (Eph 2:20); ‘and of his kingdom there shall be no end’.

DANIEL the prophet foresaw in thee, O Word, a stone not cut by hand from the Virgin Theotokos, as he cried out and sang the praises of thy divinity.

Source.

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Rocks on Cefn Ysgolion Duon, near Pen-y-benglog, Conwy, Wales. © Philip Halling, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

Rocks on Cefn Ysgolion Duon, near Pen-y-benglog, Conwy, Wales. © Philip Halling, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

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The Uncut Stone

THE God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people.

It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.

This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands — a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.

Daniel 2:44-45.

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O VIRGIN Theotokos, ungrudgingly dost thou well forth with healing in rivers : for Daniel with clear sight perceived in thee the mountain from which the Saviour was to rise, God unto the ages.

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The Everlasting Kingdom

THE angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.

You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.

The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.

Luke 1:30-33.

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IN the ever-virgin and only immaculate Maiden, most holy Daniel, thou wast accustomed to see the spiritual mountain from which was hewn the Stone which is the head of the corner, which hath shattered every delusion.

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The Precious Cornerstone

SEE, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.

Isaiah 28:16.