The radiance of the Father has come to make us bright

WHAT saves a man is, again, not what man does in his helplessness, but what the word of God does dwelling in us. …

Even in the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments, God says to man: “Be holy, because I am holy!” He does not say “be holy because it is good, it is nice”. “Because I am holy!”

It is God speaking that word by Moses. To Moses he revealed that “I AM.” God is He Who Is. And he wants to bring man to the same state of being. He shared something of this in the beginning; and to the degree that man allows himself to share in this word of God, he finds in that word of God the vigour of life.

Fr Rafail Noica. Source. (My translation.)

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St Paul's Jarrow, Chancel

The chancel of St Paul’s Church in Jarrow, originally the 7th century monastery chapel. This was where St Bede attended the liturgy, with icons (so he tells us) on the walls and stretching across from wall to wall in front of the altar.

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IN a sermon on the Nativity, St Bede (+735), a monk of Jarrow in what is now the North East of England, drew lessons from the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to be assessed for tax.

NOW, the holy church is our citizenship (Phil 3:20-21), which in part wanders here in the earth, absent from the Lord (2 Cor 5:6), and in part reigns now with the Lord in heaven; and after the end of this age, will reign together with him, perfect for evermore.

So we ought all of us to walk in this citizenship, nothing should excuse us from such a wholesome journey.

We must all pay a tax debt to the King who was born: that is, we must comply with the divine commands in the unity of this present church, and by a tireless course of good works, make haste towards our entry into our heavenly homeland.

Now, in enrolling for the tax a denarius amounting to ten silver pennies was handed over, bearing the image of Caesar and his name (cf. Mt 22:15-22). This is something we should imitate spiritually.

For we render our denarius to our king, when we make it our business to fulfil the ten commandments of his law.

We bear the name of our king inscribed on the denarius, when in all our actions we remember that we are named Christians from Christ (cf. Acts 11:26), and so take care to keep the honour of his name unsullied in ourselves.

Onto this denarius of our good manner of life we should also stamp his image, and that image only, as he himself taught, saying “Be ye holy, because I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2 Vulg.). This is that same image of God, for which we were made in the first man (Gen 1:26), so that we might be holy by an endless sharing in divine holiness (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). For on this subject the Psalmist said: The light of thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us (Ps 4:6 Vulg.).

But because man lost this light of the divine countenance by sin, it pleased God to clothe himself in the countenance of a man by being born in flesh, by which he taught us that we must be reborn in the Spirit. It pleased him to appear in the likeness of sinful flesh, yet without sin (Heb 4:15), so that he could wash us clean from every sin, and retrace the clean brightness of his image in us.

St Bede, Homily 44 (Christmas Eve). My translation.

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THY kingdom, O Christ God, is a kingdom of all the ages, and thy rule is in generation and generation. Thou who wast incarnate of the holy Spirit, and made man from the ever-Virgin Mary, hast shined light upon us, O Christ God, by thy presence, light from light, the radiance of the Father, making all creation bright and clean. Everything that hath breath praiseth thee (Ps 150:6), the expression of the Father’s glory (Heb 1:3; Wisd 7:24-26). Thou who art I AM, and I AM before all,* and didst shine out as God from the Virgin, have mercy upon us.

* Ὁ ὢν καὶ προών. See Ex 3:14.

At Vespers for December 31. Source.

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O GLADSOME light, O grace
Of God the Father’s face,
The eternal splendour wearing;
Celestial, holy, blest,
Our Saviour Jesus Christ,
Joyful in thine appearing.

Now, ere day fadeth quite,
We see the evening light,
Our wonted hymn outpouring;
Father of might unknown,
Thee, his incarnate Son,
And Holy Spirit adoring.

To thee of right belongs
All praise of holy songs,
O Son of God, Lifegiver;
Thee, therefore, O Most High,
The world doth glorify,
And shall exalt forever.

Translation by Robert Bridges (1844-1930)

On the altar of the heart

BY faith didst thou justify the Forefathers (cf. Heb 11), a betrothal beforehand of the Church gathered from the nations. Let the saints in glory boast, for from their seed there is a glorious fruit, she that bare thee without seed. At their intercessions, O Christ God, save our souls.

Apolytikion at Vespers for the Sunday of the Forefathers. Source.

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TODAY is the Feast of the Forefathers, the saints of Israel before and after the giving of the Law of Moses, but before the birth of Christ.

This seems an appropriate day for St Bede’s reflections on the ways in which the Jewish Temple prefigured the Christian’s life of prayer.

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THE altar of gold signifies the hearts of the perfect who are justified, resplendent in the light of purity and inward brightness.

Even the position of that altar is well suited for signifying their elevated state.

It stood in front of the gate of the holy of holies, as we clearly read in the account of the making of the tabernacle.

On this altar, it seems, they burned sacrifices not of blood, or first-fruits, but of incense, whose smoke rising on high would envelop the Ark, and fill the Mercy Seat with the odour of sweetness.

In this is expressed a symbol of the faithful.

An altar and priest in an Orthodox church

“With the temporal world forgotten, they seek after heavenly things with absolute concentration, just as if they were standing in the precincts of the Mercy Seat.”

With the preoccupations of the temporal world forgotten, they seek after heavenly things with absolute concentration, just as if they were standing in the precincts of the Mercy Seat, and not far from the curtain by which the holy of holies was divided from the temple.

They inhabit the earth bodily, but for the other part, which relates to the whole inner man, they have their converse in the heavens.

And from this altar there ascends into the holy of holies, where the Ark is kept, a smoke of incense, as the prayers of the saints, fanned by the flames of charity, reach up to heaven, where Christ sits at the right hand of the Father.

It is not sacrifices of blood which are burned on this altar, but rather of incense, because what such men offer, like so many priests, in praise to God on the altar of their hearts are not works of flesh and blood.

They offer to him pledges of tears and prayer, for the sake of their longing for the heavenly kingdom.

St Bede, monk of Jarrow (+735). On The Temple of Solomon, chapter 22. My translation.

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THE myrrh-bearing women offered unto thee, O Lord, a morning hymn of tears. For bearing scented herbs of sweet perfume, they made haste to gather at thy grave, there to anoint thine immaculate body. But an angel was seated upon the stone, and unto them gave these glad tidings: Why do you seek the living among the dead? For being God he is risen, trampling down death, pouring out on all the great mercy.

AN ANGEL, lightning-bright, upon thy life-giving tomb said unto the myrrh-bearing women: The Redeemer hath emptied the grave, he hath despoiled hades, and risen on the third day, for he alone is God, and all-powerful.

MARY Magdalen sought thee out, coming to thy tomb on the first day of the week. When she found thee not, she broke into lamentation and cried out with weeping, Alas my Saviour, how canst thou be stolen away, King of all? But two life-bearing angels there within the tomb cried: Why art thou weeping, O woman? I am weeping, said she, because they have taken my Lord from the tomb, and I do not know where they have laid him. But she turned round, and she saw thee, and straightway cried out: My Lord and my God, glory be to thee!

THE Hebrews shut life in the tomb, but the robber opened paradise upon his tongue, crying out and saying: He who was crucified beside me was crucified on my account, he hanged with me upon a tree, and appeared unto me upon his throne, seated with the Father: for he is Christ our God, who hath the great mercy in his gift.

At the Liturgy on Sundays of the Third Tone. Source.

St Bede: Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also

“IF I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I do go, I will send him to you.”

He does not say this in the sense that he could not, while being on earth, give the Spirit to the disciples, since it is plainly there to read that when he appeared to them after his resurrection he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.

Rather it was because, while he was on earth and living among them bodily, they were not strong enough by themselves to raise their minds to the gifts of heavenly grace for which we should thirst.

When he had ascended into heaven, however, they transferred their every desire onto him just as much there, very much as they had heard in another place: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.

So being now made fit for the Spirit, they were not saddened by his death, but gladdened by the gift of his promise, with Luke bearing witness to it in saying:

“And so it was that as he blessed them, he departed from them, and was carried into the heavens. And they returned to Jerusalem worshipping, with great joy, and were always to found in the Temple, praising and blessing God.”

St Bede, Homily for the Third Sunday after Easter. (My translation.)

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Priest: Let us lift up our hearts!
People: We lift them up unto the Lord.

We praise thee, we bless thee,
we give thanks unto thee, O Lord.

From the Anaphora in the Divine Liturgy.

The Lord will see us again

A LITTLE while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.

And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

John 16:16, 22.

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An icon of the Panagia in Jerusalem

An icon of the Panagia in Jerusalem. Elder Paisios said that in the visions of Mary he received, she had looked like this icon.

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From a Homily by St Bede (c. 673-735).

THE cheerful promises of our Lord and Saviour, dearest brethren, we ought to receive with a cheerful attentiveness of heart, and if we are to deserve to attain to them, we ought to continue with a steady purpose to receive them so.

For what is there that deserves to be heard more cheerfully, than the possibility of reaching to that joy that will never be taken away? […]

IF, dearest brethren, we are now experiencing unhappy times for our benefit, if (as the Apostle urges [Rom 12:9-15]) we prove patient in troubles while rejoicing in hope, if we weep for our errors, for the miseries of our neighbours, with such expressions of grief as they deserve, then the Lord will see us again.

That is to say, in the time to come he shall  show himself for us to see — he who once condescended to see you, to lavish upon you that same knowledge by faith.

He shall see us for the purpose of crowning us, who once saw us for the purpose of calling us.

“Remember me, when thou comest in thy kingdom.”

He shall see us, and our hearts will rejoice, and no one shall take our joy away from us, because it is the true and incomparable reward of those who share with God in sadness — to rejoice in the unending sight of him.

This reward he himself promised in the highest form when he said, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

It is something the Psalmist longed for fervently, when he said: My soul hath thirsted after the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God?

St Bede. Homily for the Second Sunday after Easter (On John 16). This is my own translation.

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VIRGIN wholly light, who gave birth to God, the Giver of light, illuminate the eyes of my heart with the light of the knowledge of God, that I may chant, ‘All you his works bless the Lord, praise and highly exalt him to all the ages’.

Source.

For more on Elder Paisios and this icon of the Panagia, see Mystagogy.

The promise of the light of life

CHRIST is that morning star who, when the night of this world is past, brings to his saints the promise of the light of life, and opens everlasting day.

St Bede, Commentary on the Apocalypse. This text is written over his shrine in Durham Cathedral.

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Cormorants in the sunrise over Croome River, Croome Park, Worcestershire. © Philip Halling, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

Cormorants in the sunrise over Croome River, Croome Park, Worcestershire. © Philip Halling, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

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IN the night of life the darkness of the passions hath laid hold on me, Christ God; it is good, then, that thou art Light without evening: flood me then with rays of repentance, save me, O thou that lovest mankind, that I may glorify thee.

Glory be to thee, our God, glory be to thee.

Matins on Mondays, Tone 4. Source.

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HAIL, heavenly beam,* brightest of angels thou,
sent unto men upon this middle-earth;
Thou art the true refulgence of the Sun,
radiant above the stars, and from thyself
illuminest for ever all the tides of time.
And as thou, God indeed begotten of God,
thou Son of the true Father, wast from aye,
without beginning, in the heaven’s glory,
so now thy handiwork in its sore need
prayeth thee boldly that thou send to us
the radiant sun, and that thou come thyself
to enlighten those who for so long a time
were wrapt around with darkness, and here in gloom
have sat the livelong night, shrouded in sin;
death’s dark shadow had they to endure.

HOPEFUL now, we trust in the salvation
brought to the hosts of men through Gods own word,
which was in the beginning co-eternal
with God, the Almighty Father, and is now
flesh void of blemish, that the maiden bare
to help the wretched. God was seen ‘mong us
in all His sinlessness; together they dwelt,
the Creator’s mighty Son and the son of man,
in peace on earth. Wherefore, as it is meet,
we may well thank the Lord of triumph aye,
that He vouchsafed to send to us Himself.

Cynewulf, “Christ”. Translated by Israel Gollancz. There was a Cynewulf who was bishop of Lindisfarne from 740 to 780.

* The Anglo-Saxon word here is actually Eärendel, the Morning Star.

Let us be joined with Christ the Bridegroom

COME, ye that are wounded by the sweetest divine love, let us all in the mystery of this bridal chamber be joined together with Christ the Bridegroom, as we cry out: Blessed art thou, the Lord of glory.

On the Feast of the Dedication of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. Source.

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[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9ssfjLvysE&w=450%5D

Bless the Lord, O My Soul
(Sergei Rachmaninov)

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CHRIST, then, is the bridegroom, and the Church is his bride; the wedding guests are the individual believers. The wedding celebrations celebrate the time when Christ joined the holy Church to himself through the mystery of the Incarnation.

St Bede, priest-monk of Jarrow (d. 735). Homily 18, For the Second Sunday after Epiphany. My translation.

St Tuda of Lindisfarne: a good and religious man

St Tuda, Bishop of Lindisfarne, was in his See for only a year before he was carried off by the plague, reposing in the Lord in 664.

Today was at one time his feast day.

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The Northumbrian coast from Longstone lighthouse, among the Farne Islands. © William Stafford, Geograph. Used under licence. Click for original.

The Northumbrian coast from Longstone lighthouse, among the Farne Islands. © William Stafford, Geograph. Used under licence. Click for original.

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Originally from southern Scotland, St Tuda was appointed to the See after St Colman resigned it, unable to accept the decisions of the Synod of Whitby which had elected to follow Roman rather than Irish practice in some areas.

WHEN Colman had gone back into his own country, Tuda, the servant of Christ, was made bishop of the Northumbrians in his place, having been instructed and ordained bishop among the Southern Scots, having also the crown of the ecclesiastical tonsure, according to the custom of that province, and observing the Catholic rule with regard to the time of Easter.

He was a good and religious man, but he governed the church a very short time; he had come from Scotland whilst Colman was yet bishop, and, both by word and deed, diligently taught all men those things that appertain to the faith and truth.

St Bede, “Ecclesiastical History”, III.26. Source.

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As with most things, it is not a case of A is good and B is bad.

Some Celtic traditions, such as their eccentric date for Easter, really did need to be set aside in favour of Byzantine practice. The Rule of St Benedict also brought a welcome order, relative moderation, and stability into the cenobitic religious life.

On the other hand, Abbots and Abbesses lost their pre-eminent place to Bishops, and (as always) the institutionalism and centralisation meant that something of the wild romance and burning love for God which drove St Aidan and St Colman began to fade. In time, monasteries as the ‘lighthouses’ of the Christian life were gradually dimmed.

Like St Cuthbert, Tuda had experience of both cultures, and might be felt to represent a harmony between Irish and Roman practice which brought out the best in each – a harmony which was, unfortunately, broken all too soon.

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LEADING a life like unto that of thy Master, in both word and deed fulfilling thy days in spiritual works, thou, O Father, didst repose and pass over into the heavenly heights.

Theotokion

FREED from the first curse by thy birth-giving, O most blessed God-greeted Maiden, we send up unto thee the greeting of Gabriel: Rejoice thou, the cause of the salvation of all.

From the Slavonic General Menaion. Source.