Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Advent Through the Centuries – the fifth century

Monday, December 5
The fifth century of the Church

Scripture:

Isaiah 35:1-10

Let the desert and the dry lands be glad, let the wasteland rejoice and bloom; like the asphodel, let it burst into flower, let it rejoice and sing for joy. The glory of Lebanon is bestowed on it, the splendour of Carmel and Sharon; then they will see the glory of Yahweh, the splendour of our God.

Strengthen all weary hands, steady all trembling knees and say to the faint-hearted, ‘Be strong! Do not be afraid. Here is your God, vengeance is coming, divine retribution; he is coming to save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame will leap like a deer and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy; for water will gush in the desert and streams in the wastelands, the parched ground will become a marsh and the thirsty land springs of water; the lairs where the jackals used to live will become plots of reed and papyrus. And through it will run a road for them and a highway which will be called the Sacred Way; the unclean will not be allowed to use it; He will be the one to use this road, the fool will not stray along it.

No lion will be there, no ferocious beast set foot on it, nothing of the sort be found; it will be used by the redeemed. For those whom Yahweh has ransomed will return, they will come to Zion shouting for joy, their heads crowned with joy unending; rejoicing and gladness will escort them and sorrow and sighing will take flight. 

Reading: 
Augustine, reflection on Psalm 109, c.400-430. Full text here.

He promised us eternal salvation and an unending life of blessedness with the angels, and an imperishable inheritance, the joy of seeing his face, a dwelling-place with him in heaven, and the fear of death removed from us through the resurrection. This is, if you like, his ultimate promise. We look forward to it, and when we reach it, we will want nothing more. But as to how this final end is to be reached, he has also told us in promises and prophecies.

He has promised to men that they will be like God; to mortals he has promised immortality; to sinners, righteousness; to the lowly, glory.

Indeed, brethren, because what God promised seemed incredible to men – that from mortality, decay, weakness, lowliness, dust and ashes they should become equals of the angels of God – he did not only sign a contract with them to convince them. He sent, not just any prince, not just any angel or archangel, but his only Son. The road by which he was to lead us to the end he had promised us – through his Son he would show us that road.

Even so, it was not enough for God to send his Son to point out the way – he made his Son the way itself, so that we can go on our journey guided by him as he walks along his own way.

So the only Son of God was to come to men, to take on humanity, and thus to die, to ascend to heaven and sit at the right hand of the father, and so to fulfil what he had promised among the nations. After that promise to the nations had been fulfilled, he would fulfil his other promise, to come, to demand the return of what he had given, to separate the vessels of anger from the vessels of mercy, to give the wicked what he had threatened and the righteous what he had promised.

All this had to be prophesied and foretold. It had to have its coming announced. It could not come suddenly and unexpectedly, causing terror and alarm: people had to be awaiting it with faith.

Apse from the Santa Pundenziana in Rome, fifth century.
Apse from the Santa Pundenziana in Rome, fifth century.

Prayer:
Attributed to St. Patrick, c. 450-490

Christ be beside me,
Christ be before me,
Christ be behind me,
King of my heart.

Christ be within me,

Christ be below me,

Christ be above me,

never to part.

Christ on my right hand,

Christ on my left hand,

Christ all around me,

shield in the strife.

Christ in my sleeping,

Christ in my sitting,

Christ in my rising,

light of my life.

Christ be in all hearts thinking about me;

Christ be on all tongues telling of me;

Christ be the vision in eyes that see me;

in ears that hear me, Christ ever be.

Advent Through the Centuries – the fourth century

I missed yesterday! here is the update for the 3rd and 4th centuries of the Church. Enjoy.

Saturday, December 3
The third century of the Church

Scripture:
Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26

Yes, people of Zion living in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious to you when your cry for help rings out; as soon as he hears it, he will answer you.

When the Lord has given you the bread of suffering and the water of distress, he who is your teacher will hide no longer, and you will see your teacher with your own eyes.

Your ears will hear these words behind you, ‘This is the way, keep to it,’ whether you turn to the right or the left.

He will send rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the bread that the ground provides will be rich and nourishing. That day, your cattle will graze in wide pastures.

Oxen and donkeys that work the land will eat for fodder wild sorrel, spread by the shovel-load and fork-load.

On every lofty mountain, on every high hill there will be streams and water-courses, on the day of the great slaughter when the strongholds fall.

Then moonlight will be bright as sunlight and sunlight itself be seven times brighter — like the light of seven days in one — on the day Yahweh dresses his people’s wound and heals the scars of the blows they have received.

Reading: 
Origen, Homily on Luke. Full text not online – expanded text here.

Now let us turn to that part of the prophecy which also concerns the coming of Christ and see whether this too has been fulfilled. The text continues: Every crooked way shall be straightened. Each one of us was once crooked; if we are no longer so, it is entirely due to the grace of Christ. Through his coming to our souls all our crooked ways have been straightened out.

If Christ did not come to your soul, of what use would his historical coming in the flesh be to you? Let us pray that each day we may experience his coming and be able to say: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Jesus my Lord has come, then. He has smoothed out your rough places and changed your disorderly ways into level paths, making in you an even unimpeded road, a road that is absolutely clear, so that God the Father may walk in you and Christ the Lord make his dwelling in you and say: My Father and I will come and make our home in them.

One of the earliest Christian inscriptions, dating to the 3rd century.

One of the earliest Christian inscriptions, dating to the 3rd century.

Prayer:
Attributed to Cyprian of Carthage, c.200-258

Most gracious Father, bless with Thy special care all penitentiaries and homes of refuge. Look with pity upon those who are housed there. Guide and protect those who have returned to the world. Grant all of them true contrition for past sins, and strengthen them in their good resolutions. Lead them along from grace to grace so that by the help of the Holy Ghost they may persevere in the ways of obedience and humility, and in the struggle against evil thoughts and desires. Grant the Holy Spirit to those engaged in teaching and training them, that they might have a right judgment with respect to those entrusted to them. May they labor for love of Thee with deep humility and singleness of purpose, purity of heart and life, and true zeal for Thy glory and the salvation of souls. Give them faith and love to sustain them in disappointment, love and patience toward those under them, and in Thine own good time crown their work with an eternal recompense. This we ask in the name of Thine only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

 

Sunday, December 4
The fourth century of the Church

Scripture:
John 1:1-5

Matthew 3:1-12

In due course John the Baptist appeared; he proclaimed this message in the desert of Judaea,’Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.’

This was the man spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said: A voice of one that cries in the desert, ‘Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.’
This man John wore a garment made of camel-hair with a leather loin-cloth round his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.

Then Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. But when he saw a number of Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming retribution? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance, and do not presume to tell yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father,” because, I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones.

Even now the axe is being laid to the root of the trees, so that any tree failing to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire. I baptise you in water for repentance, but the one who comes after me is more powerful than I, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing-floor and gather his wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’

Reading: 
Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 45, c.380 AD. Full text here.

And that was that the Word of God Himself, Who is before all worlds, the Invisible, the Incomprehensible, the Bodiless, the Beginning of beginning, the Light of Light, the Source of Life and Immortality, the Image of the Archetype, the Immovable Seal, the Unchangeable Image, the Father’s Definition and Word, came to His own Image, and took on Him Flesh for the sake of our flesh, and mingled Himself with an intelligent soul for my soul’s sake, purifying like by like; and in all points except sin was made Man; conceived by the Virgin, who first in body and soul was purified by the Holy Ghost, for it was needful both That Child-bearing should be honoured and that Virginity should receive a higher honour.

He came forth then, as God, with That which He had assumed; one Person in two natures, flesh and Spirit, of which the latter deified the former. O new commingling; O strange conjunction! The Self-existent comes into Being, the Uncreated is created, That which cannot be contained is contained by the intervention of an intellectual soul mediating between the Deity and the corporeity of the flesh. And He who gives riches becomes poor; for He assumes the poverty of my flesh, that I may assume the riches of His Godhead. He that is full empties Himself; for He empties Himself of His Glory for a short while, that I may have a share in His Fulness.

art of the healing of the bleeding woman, from the fourth century.

Art of the healing of the bleeding woman, from the fourth century.

Prayer:
Basil of Caesarea, 329-379

Arising from sleep I thank you, O Holy Trinity,
that, for the sake of your great kindness and long-suffering,
you have not had indignation against me,
for I am slothful and sinful,
neither have you destroyed me in my transgressions:
but you have shown your customary love towards man,
and have raised me up as I lay in heedlessness,
that I might sing my morning hymn and glorify your sovereignty.

Do now enlighten the eyes of my understanding,
open my ears to receive your words
and teach me your commandments.

Help me to do your will,
to sing to you,
to confess you from my heart,
and to extol your All-holy name,
of Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
now and for ever,
and unto the ages of ages.

Amen.

Advent through the centuries: the tenth century

Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The tenth century of the Church

Scripture:
Psalms 43:3-5

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

Reading:
Symeon the Metaphrast, The Life of Nicholas, c. 10th century

At about the hour of Matins our estimable Nicholas, impelled by the Holy Spirit, came to the church. In its vestibule the man deemed worthy of the vision received him. “What do people call you, my son?” he earnestly inquired. “Nicholas the sinner,” he simply and unaffectedly answered, “and I am the servant of Your Sanctity.”

At these humble and courteous words of our exemplary man, to be sure partly because of the name of Nicholas which had been foretold when it appeared, but partly also because of the extraordinary, unmistakable modesty [for the holy man knew the saying, “Whom does God look to here below, except the meek and the peaceable?”], he knew that this was the man whom God was signifying.

At that, joy suffused him, just as if he had stumbled on some precious treasure. He thought of this disclosure as pure wealth. “Follow me, son,” he directed. Taking him by the hand, he led him to the bishops, who recognized at once what had already been foretold to them by their colleague. They, too, filled with holy joy, recognized that the virtue of the man was in accord with the will of God.

Then they immediately conducted the saint to the sanctuary of the temple. When news of this affair had spread about [for it is natural for news to circulate in such important matters and to employ swift wings], uncounted masses poured in the church. In a loud voice the bishops proclaimed: “Accept, our sons, this man as your shepherd, whom the Holy Spirit has anointed for you and to whom he has submitted your souls for guidance and instruction. He has been made our leader not by human but by divine determination. He whom we have been longing for we have: whom we were seeking for, now we receive. As long as we may truly be shepherded and protected by him, we need not lack hope that in the day of the Coming and the Revelation we may stand firm as a people beloved of God.”

To these words the people added their own expression of gratitude, and addressed God those jubilees which cannot be expressed in words. Then the holy synod of bishops together with the clergy, at once invested him with what belonged to the office by law and what by custom. They appointed him Pontiff, though he was slow and hesitant to accept that pontifical honor. Because of a truly praiseworthy sense of constraint, he could hardly ascend the bishop’s throne to assume the prefecture and presidency of Myra, the proper dissemination of the Word of Truth and Piety adherence to orthodoxy, and the right teaching of it.


Symeon was a Hagiographer – he recorded the lives of saints. Here he writes about St. Nicholas, who would, over time, eventually be connected with Christmas in the form of Santa Claus. This is an excerpt; you can read more here.

Tenth Century manuscript showing the consecration of the Cluniac monastery.
Tenth Century manuscript showing the consecration of the Cluniac monastery.

Prayer:

Hymn 25, from Symeon the New Theologian

But, Oh, what intoxication of light, Oh, what movements of fire!
Oh, what swirlings of the flame in me, miserable one that I am,
coming from You and Your glory!
The glory I know it and I say it is your Holy Spirit,
who has the same nature with You, and the same honor, O word;
He is of the same race, the same glory,
of the same essence, He alone with your Father,
and with you, O Christ, O God of the universe!
I fall down in adoration before You.
I thank You that You have made me worthy to know, however little it may be,
the power of Your divinity.

Advent through the centuries: The eighth century

Sunday, December 8, 2013
The eighth century of the Church

Scripture:
Romans 15:4-13

For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope. Now may the God of endurance and comfort give you unity with one another in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Receive one another, then, just as Christ also received you, to God’s glory. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and thus the Gentiles glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Because of this I will confess you among the Gentilesand I will sing praises to your name.” And again it says: “RejoiceO Gentileswith his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord all you Gentilesand let all the peoples praise him.” And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will comeand the one who rises to rule over the Gentilesin him will the Gentiles hope.” Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Reading:

The Venerable Bede, homily 1.4, 673-735.

She [Elizabeth] cried out and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb‘. ‘Blessed are you among women’ — not only blessed among women, but specially distinguished among blessed women by a greater blessing. ‘Blessed the fruit of your womb’ — not that he was blessed in a general way of saints, but, as the Apostle [Rom 9:5] says, To them belong the patriarchs, [and] from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who above all, God blessed for ages.

Of the origin of this fruit, the psalmist bears witness in a mystical utterance, saying, For indeed the Lord will give his generosity, and our earth will gives its fruit. [Ps 85:12] The Lord indeed gave of his generosity in that he arranged to liberate the human race from the crime of its transgression through his only-begotten Son. He gave of his generosity because with the grace of the Holy Spirit he consecrated for his entry the temple of a virginal womb. And our earth gave its fruit because the same virgin who had her body from the earth bore a son who was coequal to God the Father in his divinity, but by the reality of [his] flesh consubstantial with her. Concerning this, Isaiah [4:2] also, looking toward the time of human redemption, said,On that day the bud of the Lord will be in magnificence and in glory, and the fruit of the earth will be sublime. The bud of the Lord was in magnificence and glory when the undying Son of God, appearing temporally in the flesh as a bright light, poured out upon the world the greatness of his heavenly virtues. The fruit of the earth became sublime when the mortal flesh which God received from our nature, already rendered immortal in virtue of the resurrection, was raised up to heaven.

bas-relief made by the Lombards in the 8th century, depicting kings coming before the infant Jesus.
bas-relief made by the Lombards in the 8th century, depicting kings coming before the infant Jesus.

Prayer:
Hymn for Advent, 8th century

Come, Sun and Savior, to embrace
Our gloomy world, its weary race,
As groom to bride, as bride to groom:
The wedding chamber, Mary’s womb.
At your great Name, O Jesus, now
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
All things on earth with one accord,
Like those in heaven, shall call you Lord.
Come in your holy might, we pray,
Redeem us for eternal day;
Defend us while we dwell below,
From all assaults of our dread foe.

Advent Through the Centuries – the seventh century

Saturday, December 7
The seventh century of the Church

Scripture:
Isaiah 60:19-22

The sun shall be no more
your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon
give you light;
but the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
Your sun shall no more go down,
nor your moon withdraw itself;
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your days of mourning shall be ended.
Your people shall all be righteous;
they shall possess the land forever,
the branch of my planting, the work of my hands,
that I might be glorified.
The least one shall become a clan,
and the smallest one a mighty nation;
I am the Lord;
in its time I will hasten it.

Reading:
The Jesus Sutras, c.
635AD.
Today is a bit of a different reading. It comes to us from China, where there was a growing Christian population in the 7th century. This Christianity was influenced by Nestorianism (which taught that Jesus had two ‘persons’ contained in his body – one divine and one human), and various Chinese beliefs, including Daoism and Buddhism. Christianity was brought to China by a persian monk named Aluoben, and a monastery still stands in China on the site of the monastery that they built. It’s fascinating to think of what Christianity would look like today if it had taken root in the East rather than the West. More can be read about the Jesus Sutras here. without further ado, a reading (and Chinese representation of Jesus) from the Jesus Sutras:

Then He spoke to the assembled crowd and said:
This Sutra is profound and unimaginable.
All the gods and gurus agree on this, and acknowledge
This Way that is the essences of connection and return.
To move you need light to see by — this teaching provides it
Just as the sun slants out, so you can see what is in front of you,
This Sutra offers understanding, and by its light
You can know the Way of Peace and Happiness in your heart.


If anyone wants to share these teachings with friends or family
Of course they can. Honor them, sing and pray together —
And this will bless you and your family into the next generation.
Every generation is united in this communion —
From goodness in past lives, people come to this religion
And through the faith they have they find Happiness.
It’s like the spring rain that refreshes everything —
If you have roots, you will flourish in its coming.

Prayer:

Attributed to St. Fursey of Ireland, c.584-650

The arms of God be around my shoulders,
The touch of the Holy Spirit upon my head,
The sign of Christ’s cross upon my forehead,
The sound of the Holy Spirit in my ears,
The fragrance of the Holy Spirit in my nostrils,
The vision of heaven’s company in my eyes,
The conversation of heaven’s company on my lips,
The work of God’s Church in my hands,
The service of God and the neighbour in my feet,
A home for God in my heart,
And to God, the Father of all, my entire being.
Amen.

Advent Through the Centuries – the third century

Every day during advent (December 1 to December 24) I’ll be posting a scripture reading, a short passage by a pastor, theologian, or church father, and a prayer. Each day will follow one century of church history, so today will be 200-300. Tomorrow will be 300-400, and so on. Some days will be more closely related to advent than others, depending on the availability of texts.

Tuesday, December 3
The third century of the Church

Scripture:
Mark 13:33-37

Watch out! Stay alert! For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey. He left his house and put his slaves in charge, assigning to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to stay alert. Stay alert, then, because you do not know when the owner of the house will return—whether during evening, at midnight, when the rooster crows, or at dawn—or else he might find you asleep when he returns suddenly. What I say to you I say to everyone: Stay alert!”

Reading: 
Origen, Homily on Luke. Full text not online – expanded text here.

Now let us turn to that part of the prophecy which also concerns the coming of Christ and see whether this too has been fulfilled. The text continues: Every crooked way shall be straightened. Each one of us was once crooked; if we are no longer so, it is entirely due to the grace of Christ. Through his coming to our souls all our crooked ways have been straightened out.

If Christ did not come to your soul, of what use would his historical coming in the flesh be to you? Let us pray that each day we may experience his coming and be able to say: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Jesus my Lord has come, then. He has smoothed out your rough places and changed your disorderly ways into level paths, making in you an even unimpeded road, a road that is absolutely clear, so that God the Father may walk in you and Christ the Lord make his dwelling in you and say: My Father and I will come and make our home in them.

One of the earliest Christian inscriptions, dating to the 3rd century. One of the earliest Christian inscriptions, dating to the 3rd century.

Prayer:
Attributed to Cyprian of Carthage, c.200-258

Most gracious Father, bless with Thy special care all penitentiaries and homes of refuge. Look with pity upon those who are housed there. Guide and protect those who have returned to the world. Grant all of them true contrition for past sins, and strengthen them in their good resolutions. Lead them along from grace to grace so that by the help of the Holy Ghost they may persevere in the ways of obedience and humility, and in the struggle against evil thoughts and desires. Grant the Holy Spirit to those engaged in teaching and training them, that they might have a right judgment with respect to those entrusted to them. May they labor for love of Thee with deep humility and singleness of purpose, purity of heart and life, and true zeal for Thy glory and the salvation of souls. Give them faith and love to sustain them in disappointment, love and patience toward those under them, and in Thine own good time crown their work with an eternal recompense. This we ask in the name of Thine only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.