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Author: Kellen Funk (page 1 of 2)

Origen

The Ante-Nicene Fathers series included works by Origen earlier in our reading. But since we have returned to Origen for the remainder of the liturgical year, we are reposting our introduction to Origen.

origen

Icon of Origen

From the Latin West we now return to the Greek-speaking East and begin reading from one of the most influential fathers of Alexandrian school, Origen, who lived from around 185 to 255. Origen was a skilled textual scholar and prolific writer of theology and biblical commentary. Though some of his theological speculations garnered criticism in later ages, Origen’s ideas—and his style of interpreting scripture allegorically—strongly influenced many of the other fathers of the third and fourth centuries.

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Lectures for Holy Week: The Fifth Mystagogical Catechesis of Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril is frequently depicted expounding the mysteries of the sacraments through catechism.

Our normal reading calendar does not necessarily align thematically with the liturgical calendar. As we did last year, we would like to offer a set of additional readings for those wishing to reflect on Holy Week with the fathers. This year we will be posting the procatechesis and five catecheses of Cyril of Jerusalem. These lectures were first delivered in the mid-fourth century during Holy Week to catechumens (candidates for baptism), instructing them in the meaning of the sacraments. After this instruction, catechumens would then accept baptism on Easter Sunday. This translation comes from the NPNF series 2. A nice parallel Greek-English edition is available from St. Vladimir’s press, with translation by R.W. Church.

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Lectures for Holy Week: The Fourth Mystagogical Catechesis of Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril is frequently depicted expounding the mysteries of the sacraments through catechism.

Our normal reading calendar does not necessarily align thematically with the liturgical calendar. As we did last year, we would like to offer a set of additional readings for those wishing to reflect on Holy Week with the fathers. This year we will be posting the procatechesis and five catecheses of Cyril of Jerusalem. These lectures were first delivered in the mid-fourth century during Holy Week to catechumens (candidates for baptism), instructing them in the meaning of the sacraments. After this instruction, catechumens would then accept baptism on Easter Sunday. This translation comes from the NPNF series 2. A nice parallel Greek-English edition is available from St. Vladimir’s press, with translation by R.W. Church.

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Lectures for Holy Week: The Third Mystagogical Catechesis of Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril is frequently depicted expounding the mysteries of the sacraments through catechism.

Our normal reading calendar does not necessarily align thematically with the liturgical calendar. As we did last year, we would like to offer a set of additional readings for those wishing to reflect on Holy Week with the fathers. This year we will be posting the procatechesis and five catecheses of Cyril of Jerusalem. These lectures were first delivered in the mid-fourth century during Holy Week to catechumens (candidates for baptism), instructing them in the meaning of the sacraments. After this instruction, catechumens would then accept baptism on Easter Sunday. This translation comes from the NPNF series 2. A nice parallel Greek-English edition is available from St. Vladimir’s press, with translation by R.W. Church.

Continue reading

Lectures for Holy Week: The Second Mystagogical Catechesis of Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril is frequently depicted expounding the mysteries of the sacraments through catechism.

Our normal reading calendar does not necessarily align thematically with the liturgical calendar. As we did last year, we would like to offer a set of additional readings for those wishing to reflect on Holy Week with the fathers. This year we will be posting the procatechesis and five catecheses of Cyril of Jerusalem. These lectures were first delivered in the mid-fourth century during Holy Week to catechumens (candidates for baptism), instructing them in the meaning of the sacraments. After this instruction, catechumens would then accept baptism on Easter Sunday. This translation comes from the NPNF series 2. A nice parallel Greek-English edition is available from St. Vladimir’s press, with translation by R.W. Church.

Continue reading

Lectures for Holy Week: The First Mystagogical Catechesis of Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril is frequently depicted expounding the mysteries of the sacraments through catechism.

Our normal reading calendar does not necessarily align thematically with the liturgical calendar. As we did last year, we would like to offer a set of additional readings for those wishing to reflect on Holy Week with the fathers. This year we will be posting the procatechesis and five catecheses of Cyril of Jerusalem. These lectures were first delivered in the mid-fourth century during Holy Week to catechumens (candidates for baptism), instructing them in the meaning of the sacraments. After this instruction, catechumens would then accept baptism on Easter Sunday. This translation comes from the NPNF series 2. A nice parallel Greek-English edition is available from St. Vladimir’s press, with translation by R.W. Church.

First Lecture on the Mysteries

With a Lesson from the First General Epistle of Peter, beginning at Be sober, be vigilant, to the end of the Epistle.

1. I have long been wishing, O true-born and dearly beloved children of the Church, to discourse to you concerning these spiritual and heavenly Mysteries; but since I well knew that seeing is far more persuasive than hearing, I waited for the present season; that finding you more open to the influence of my words from your present experience, I might lead you by the hand into the brighter and more fragrant meadow of the Paradise before us; especially as you have been made fit to receive the more sacred Mysteries, after having been found worthy of divine and life-giving Baptism. Since therefore it remains to set before you a table of the more perfect instructions, let us now teach you these things exactly, that you may know the effect wrought upon you on that evening of your baptism.

2. First ye entered into the vestibule of the Baptistery, and there facing towards the West ye listened to the command to stretch forth your hand, and as in the presence of Satan ye renounced him. Now ye must know that this figure is found in ancient history. For when Pharaoh, that most bitter and cruel tyrant, was oppressing the free and high-born people of the Hebrews, God sent Moses to bring them out of the evil bondage of the Egyptians. Then the door posts were anointed with the blood of a lamb, that the destroyer might flee from the houses which had the sign of the blood; and the Hebrew people was marvellously delivered. The enemy, however, after their rescue, pursued after them, and saw the sea wondrously parted for them; nevertheless he went on, following close in their footsteps, and was all at once overwhelmed and engulphed in the Red Sea.

3. Now turn from the old to the new, from the figure to the reality. There we have Moses sent from God to Egypt; here, Christ, sent forth from His Father into the world: there, that Moses might lead forth an afflicted people out of Egypt; here, that Christ might rescue those who are oppressed in the world under sin: there, the blood of a lamb was the spell against the destroyer; here, the blood of the Lamb without blemish Jesus Christ is made the charm to scare evil spirits: there, the tyrant was pursuing that ancient people even to the sea; and here the daring and shameless spirit, the author of evil, was following you even to the very streams of salvation. The tyrant of old was drowned in the sea; and this present one disappears in the water of salvation.

4. But nevertheless you are bidden to say, with arm outstretched towards him as though he were present, I renounce you, Satan. I wish also to say wherefore ye stand facing to the West; for it is necessary. Since the West is the region of sensible darkness, and he being darkness has his dominion also in darkness, therefore, looking with a symbolic meaning towards the West, you renounce that dark and gloomy potentate. What then did each of you stand up and say? I renounce you, Satan,— you wicked and most cruel tyrant! Meaning, I fear your might no longer; for that Christ has overthrown, having partaken with me of flesh and blood, that through these He might by death destroy death, that I might not be made subject to bondage for ever. I renounce you,— you crafty and most subtle serpent. I renounce you,— plotter as you are, who under the guise of friendship contrived all disobedience, and work apostasy in our first parents. I renounce you, Satan,— the artificer and abettor of all wickedness.

5. Then in a second sentence you are taught to say, and all your works. Now the works of Satan are all sin, which also you must renounce—just as one who has escaped a tyrant has surely escaped his weapons also. All sin therefore, of every kind, is included in the works of the devil. Only know this; that all that you say, especially at that most thrilling hour, is written in God’s books; when therefore you do any thing contrary to these promises, you shall be judged as a transgressor. You renounce therefore the works of Satan; I mean, all deeds and thoughts which are contrary to reason.

6. Then you say, And all his pomp.  Now the pomp of the devil is the madness of theatres, and horse-races, and hunting, and all such vanity: from which that holy man praying to be delivered says unto God, Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity. Be not interested in the madness of the theatre, where you will behold the wanton gestures of the players , carried on with mockeries and all unseemliness, and the frantic dancing of effeminate men —nor in the madness of them who in hunts expose themselves to wild beasts, that they may pamper their miserable appetite; who, to serve their belly with meats, become themselves in reality meat for the belly of untamed beasts; and to speak justly, for the sake of their own god, their belly, they cast away their life headlong in single combats. Shun also horse-races, that frantic and soul-subverting spectacle. For all these are the pomp of the devil.

7. Moreover, the things which are hung up at idol festivals, either meat or bread, or other such things polluted by the invocation of the unclean spirits, are reckoned in the pomp of the devil. For as the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist before the invocation of the Holy and Adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, while after the invocation the Bread becomes the Body of Christ, and the Wine the Blood of Christ, so in like manner such meats belonging to the pomp of Satan, though in their own nature simple, become profane by the invocation of the evil spirit.

8. After this you say, and all your service.  Now the service of the devil is prayer in idol temples; things done in honour of lifeless idols; the lighting of lamps , or burning of incense by fountains or rivers , as some persons cheated by dreams or by evil spirits do [resort to this ], thinking to find a cure even for their bodily ailments. Go not after such things. The watching of birds, divination, omens, or amulets, or charms written on leaves, sorceries, or other evil arts, and all such things, are services of the devil; therefore shun them. For if after renouncing Satan and associating yourself with Christ , thou fall under their influence, you shall find the tyrant more bitter; perchance, because he treated you of old as his own, and relieved you from his hard bondage, but has now been greatly exasperated by you; so you will be bereaved of Christ, and have experience of the other. Have you not heard the old history which tells us of Lot and his daughters? Was not he himself saved with his daughters, when he had gained the mountain, while his wife became a pillar of salt, set up as a monument for ever, in remembrance of her depraved will and her turning back. Take heed therefore to yourself, and turn not again to what is behind , having put your hand to the plough, and then turning back to the salt savour of this life’s doings; but escape to the mountain, to Jesus Christ, that stone hewn without hands, which has filled the world.

9. When therefore you renounce Satan, utterly breaking all your covenant with him, that ancient league with hell, there is opened to you the paradise of God, which He planted towards the East, whence for his transgression our first father was banished; and a symbol of this was your turning from West to East, the place of light. Then you were told to say, I believe in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost, and in one Baptism of repentance.  Of which things we spoke to you at length in the former Lectures, as God’s grace allowed us.

10. Guarded therefore by these discourses, be sober. For our adversary the devil, as was just now read, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour. But though in former times death was mighty and devoured, at the holy Laver of regeneration God has wiped away every tear from off all faces. For you shall no more mourn, now that you have put off the old man; but you shall keep holy-day, clothed in the garment of salvation Isaiah, even Jesus Christ.

11. And these things were done in the outer chamber. But if God will, when in the succeeding lectures on the Mysteries we have entered into the Holy of Holies, we shall there know the symbolic meaning of the things which are there performed. Now to God the Father, with the Son and the Holy Ghost, be glory, and power, and majesty, forever and ever. Amen.

Lectures for Holy Week: The Procatechesis of Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril of Jerusalem, frequently depicted expounding the mystery of the sacraments.

Our normal reading calendar does not necessarily align thematically with the liturgical calendar. As we did last year, we would like to offer a set of additional readings for those wishing to reflect on Holy Week with the fathers. This year we will be posting the procatechesis and five catecheses of Cyril of Jerusalem. These lectures were first delivered in the mid-fourth century during Holy Week to catechumens (candidates for baptism), instructing them in the meaning of the sacraments. After this instruction, catechumens would then accept baptism on Easter Sunday. This translation comes from the NPNF series 2. A nice parallel Greek-English edition is available from St. Vladimir’s press, with translation by R.W. Church.

Procatechesis

1. Already there is an odour of blessedness upon you, O you who are soon to be enlightened : already you are gathering the spiritual flowers, to weave heavenly crowns: already the fragrance of the Holy Spirit has breathed upon you: already you have gathered round the vestibule of the King’s palace ; may you be led in also by the King! For blossoms now have appeared upon the trees ; may the fruit also be found perfect! Thus far there has been an inscription of your names , and a call to service, and torches of the bridal train, and a longing for heavenly citizenship, and a good purpose, and hope attendant thereon. For he lies not who said, that to them that love God all things work together for good. God is lavish in beneficence, yet He waits for each man’s genuine will: therefore the Apostle added and said, to them that are called according to a purpose. The honesty of purpose makes you called: for if your body be here but not your mind, it profits you nothing.

2. Even Simon Magus once came to the Laver : he was baptized, but was not enlightened; and though he dipped his body in water, he enlightened not his heart with the Spirit: his body went down and came up, but his soul was not buried with Christ, nor raised with Him. Now I mention the statements of (men’s) falls, that you may not fall: for these things happened to them by way of example, and they are written for the admonition of those who to this day draw near. Let none of you be found tempting His grace, lest any root of bitterness spring up and trouble you. Let none of you enter saying, Let us see what the faithful are doing: let me go in and see, that I may learn what is being done. Do you expect to see, and not expect to be seen? And thinkest thou, that whilst you are searching out what is going on, God is not searching your heart?

3. A certain man in the Gospels once pried into the marriage feast , and took an unbecoming garment, and came in, sat down, and ate: for the bridegroom permitted it. But when he saw them all clad in white , he ought to have assumed a garment of the same kind himself: whereas he partook of the like food, but was unlike them in fashion and in purpose. The bridegroom, however, though bountiful, was not undiscerning: and in going round to each of the guests and observing them (for his care was not for their eating, but for their seemly behaviour), he saw a stranger not having on a wedding garment, and said to him, Friend, how did you get in here? In what a colour! With what a conscience! What though the door-keeper forbade you not, because of the bountifulness of the entertainer? What though you were ignorant in what fashion you should come in to the banquet? — you came in, and saw the glittering fashions of the guests: should you not have been taught even by what was before your eyes? Should you not have retired in good season, that you might enter in good season again? But now you have come in unseasonably, to be unseasonably cast out. So he commands the servants, Bind his feet, which daringly intruded:bind his hands, which knew not how to put a bright garment around him: and cast him into the outer darkness; for he is unworthy of the wedding torches.You see what happened to that man: make your own condition safe.

4. For we, the ministers of Christ, have admitted every one, and occupying, as it were, the place of door-keepers we left the door open: and possibly thou entered with your soul bemired with sins, and with a will defiled. You entered, and were allowed: your name was inscribed. Tell me, do you behold this venerable constitution of the Church? Do you view her order and discipline , the reading of Scriptures , the presence of the ordained , the course of instruction? Be abashed at the place, and be taught by what you see. Go out opportunely now, and enter most opportunely tomorrow. If the fashion of your soul is avarice, put on another fashion and come in. Put off your former fashion, cloke it not up. Put off, I pray you, fornication and uncleanness, and put on the brightest robe of chastity. This charge I give you, before Jesus the Bridegroom of souls come in and see their fashions. A long notice is allowed you; you have forty days for repentance: you have full opportunity both to put off, and wash, and to put on and enter. But if you persist in an evil purpose, the speaker is blameless, but you must not look for the grace: for the water will receive, but the Spirit will not accept you. If any one is conscious of his wound, let him take the salve; if any has fallen, let him arise. Let there be no Simon among you, no hypocrisy, no idle curiosity about the matter.

5. Possibly too you have come on another pretext. It is possible that a man is wishing to pay court to a woman, and came hither on that account. The remark applies in like manner to women also in their turn. A slave also perhaps wishes to please his master, and a friend his friend. I accept this bait for the hook, and welcome you, though you came with an evil purpose, yet as one to be saved by a good hope. Perhaps you knew not whither you were coming, nor in what kind of net you are taken. You have come within the Church’s nets : be taken alive, flee not: for Jesus is angling for you, not in order to kill, but by killing to make alive: for you must die and rise again. For you have heard the Apostle say, Dead indeed unto sin, but living unto righteousness . Die to your sins, and live to righteousness, live from this very day.

6. See, I pray you, how great a dignity Jesus bestows on you. You were called a Catechumen, while the word echoed round you from without; hearing of hope, and knowing it not; hearing mysteries, and not understanding them; hearing Scriptures, and not knowing their depth. The echo is no longer around you, but within you; for the indwelling Spirit henceforth makes your mind a house of God. When you shall have heard what is written concerning the mysteries, then will you understand things which thou knew not. And think not that you receive a small thing: though a miserable man, you receive one of God’s titles. Hear St. Paul saying, God is faithful . Hear another Scripture saying, God is faithful and just . Foreseeing this, the Psalmist, because men are to receive a title of God, spoke thus in the person of God: I said, You are Gods, and are all sons of the Most High. But beware lest thou have the title of faithful, but the will of the faithless. You have entered into a contest, toil on through the race: another such opportunity you cannot have. Were it your wedding day before you, would you not have disregarded all else, and set about the preparation for the feast? And on the eve of consecrating your soul to the heavenly Bridegroom, will you not cease from carnal things, that you may win spiritual?

7. We may not receive Baptism twice or thrice; else it might be said, Though I have failed once, I shall set it right a second time: whereas if you fail once, the thing cannot be set right; for there is one Lord, and one faith, and one baptism : for only the heretics are re-baptized , because the former was no baptism.

8. For God seeks nothing else from us, save a good purpose. Say not, How are my sins blotted out? I tell you, By willing, by believing. What can be shorter than this? But if, while your lips declare you willing, your heart be silent, He knows the heart, who judges you. Cease from this day from every evil deed. Let not your tongue speak unseemly words, let your eye abstain from sin, and from roving after things unprofitable.

9. Let your feet hasten to the catechisings; receive with earnestness the exorcisms : whether thou be breathed upon or exorcised, the act is to you salvation. Suppose you have gold unwrought and alloyed, mixed with various substances, copper, and tin, and iron, and lead: we seek to have the gold alone; can gold be purified from the foreign substances without fire? Even so without exorcisms the soul cannot be purified; and these exorcisms are divine, having been collected out of the divine Scriptures. Your face has been veiled , that your mind may henceforward be free, lest the eye by roving make the heart rove also. But when your eyes are veiled, your ears are not hindered from receiving the means of salvation. For in like manner as those who are skilled in the goldsmith’s craft throw in their breath upon the fire through certain delicate instruments, and blowing up the gold which is hidden in the crucible stir the flame which surrounds it, and so find what they are seeking; even so when the exorcists inspire terror by the Spirit of God, and set the soul, as it were, on fire in the crucible of the body, the hostile demon flees away, and there abide salvation and the hope of eternal life, and the soul henceforth is cleansed from its sins and has salvation. Let us then, brethren, abide in hope, and surrender ourselves, and hope, in order that the God of all may see our purpose, and cleanse us from our sins, and impart to us good hopes of our estate, and grant us repentance that brings salvation. God has called, and His call is to you.

10. Attend closely to the catechisings, and though we should prolong our discourse, let not your mind be wearied out. For you are receiving armour against the adverse power, armour against heresies, against Jews, and Samaritans , and Gentiles. You have many enemies; take to you many darts, for you have many to hurl them at: and you have need to learn how to strike down the Greek, how to contend against heretic, against Jew and Samaritan. And the armour is ready, and most ready the sword of the Spirit : but thou also must stretch forth your right hand with good resolution, that you may war the Lord’s warfare, and overcome adverse powers, and become invincible against every heretical attempt.

11. Let me give you this charge also. Study our teachings and keep them for ever. Think not that they are the ordinary homilies ; for though they also are good and trustworthy, yet if we should neglect them today we may study them tomorrow. But if the teaching concerning the laver of regeneration delivered in a consecutive course be neglected today, when shall it be made right? Suppose it is the season for planting trees: if we do not dig, and dig deep, when else can that be planted rightly which has once been planted ill? Suppose, pray, that the Catechising is a kind of building: if we do not bind the house together by regular bonds in the building, lest some gap be found, and the building become unsound, even our former labour is of no use. But stone must follow stone by course, and corner match with corner, and by our smoothing off inequalities the building must thus rise evenly. In like manner we are bringing to you stones, as it were, of knowledge. You must hear concerning the living God, you must hear of Judgment, must hear of Christ, and of the Resurrection. And many things there are to be discussed in succession, which though now dropped one by one are afterwards to be presented in harmonious connection. But unless thou fit them together in the one whole, and remember what is first, and what is second, the builder may build, but you will find the building unsound.

12. When, therefore, the Lecture is delivered, if a Catechumen ask you what the teachers have said, tell nothing to him that is without. For we deliver to you a mystery, and a hope of the life to come. Guard the mystery for Him who gives the reward. Let none ever say to you, What harm to you, if I also know it? So too the sick ask for wine; but if it be given at a wrong time it causes delirium, and two evils arise; the sick man dies, and the physician is blamed. Thus is it also with the Catechumen, if he hear anything from the believer: both the Catechumen becomes delirious (for he understands not what he has heard, and finds fault with the thing, and scoffs at what is said), and the believer is condemned as a traitor. But you are now standing on the border: take heed, pray, to tell nothing out; not that the things spoken are not worthy to be told, but because his ear is unworthy to receive. You were once yourself a Catechumen, and I described not what lay before you. When by experience you have learned how high are the matters of our teaching, then you will know that the Catechumens are not worthy to hear them.

13. You who have been enrolled have become sons and daughters of one Mother. When you have come in before the hour of the exorcisms, let each one of you speak things tending to godliness: and if any of your number be not present, seek for him. If you were called to a banquet, would you not wait for your fellow guest? If you had a brother, would you not seek your brother’s good? Afterwards busy not yourself about unprofitable matters: neither, what the city has done, nor the village, nor the King , nor the Bishop, nor the Presbyter. Look upward; that is what your present hour needs. Be still , and know that I am God. If you see the believers ministering, and showing no care, they enjoy security, they know what they have received, they are in possession of grace. But you stand just now in the turn of the scale, to be received or not: copy not those who have freedom from anxiety, but cherish fear.

14. And when the Exorcism has been done, until the others who are being exorcised have come , let men be with men, and women with women. For now I need the example of Noah’s ark: in which were Noah and his sons, and his wife and his sons’ wives. For though the ark was one, and the door was shut, yet had things been suitably arranged. If the Church is shut, and you are all inside, yet let there be a separation, men with men, and women with women : lest the pretext of salvation become an occasion of destruction. Even if there be a fair pretext for sitting near each other, let passions be put away. Further, let the men when sitting have a useful book; and let one read, and another listen: and if there be no book, let one pray, and another speak something useful. And again let the party of young women sit together in like manner, either singing or reading quietly, so that their lips speak, but others’ ears catch not the sound: for I suffer not a woman to speak in the Church. And let the married woman also follow the same example, and pray; and let her lips move, but her voice be unheard, that a Samuel may come, and your barren soul give birth to the salvation of God who has heard your prayer; for this is the interpretation of the name Samuel.

15. I shall observe each man’s earnestness, each woman’s reverence. Let your mind be refined as by fire unto reverence; let your soul be forged as metal: let the stubbornness of unbelief be hammered out: let the superfluous scales of the iron drop off, and what is pure remain; let the rust of the iron be rubbed off, and the true metal remain. May God sometime show you that night, the darkness which shines like the day, concerning which it is said, The darkness shall not be hidden from you, and the night shall shine as the day. Then may the gate of Paradise be opened to every man and every woman among you. Then may you enjoy the Christ-bearing waters in their fragrance. Then may you receive the name of Christ , and the power of things divine. Even now, I beseech you, lift up the eye of the mind: even now imagine the choirs of Angels, and God the Lord of all there sitting, and His Only-begotten Son sitting with Him on His right hand, and the Spirit present with them; and Thrones and Dominions doing service, and every man of you and every woman receiving salvation. Even now let your ears ring, as it were, with that glorious sound, when over your salvation the angels shall chant, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered: when like stars of the Church you shall enter in, bright in the body and radiant in the soul.

16. Great is the Baptism that lies before you: a ransom to captives; a remission of offenses; a death of sin; a new-birth of the soul; a garment of light; a holy indissoluble seal; a chariot to heaven; the delight of Paradise; a welcome into the kingdom; the gift of adoption! But there is a serpent by the wayside watching those who pass by: beware lest he bite you with unbelief. He sees so many receiving salvation, and is seeking whom he may devour. You are coming in unto the Father of Spirits, but you are going past that serpent. How then may you pass him? Have your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace ; that even if he bite, he may not hurt you. Have faith in-dwelling, stedfast hope, a strong sandal, that you may pass the enemy, and enter the presence of your Lord. Prepare your own heart for reception of doctrine, for fellowship in holy mysteries. Pray more frequently, that God may make you worthy of the heavenly and immortal mysteries. Cease not day nor night: but when sleep is banished from your eyes, then let your mind be free for prayer. And if you find any shameful thought rise up in your mind, turn to meditation upon Judgment to remind you of Salvation. Give your mind wholly to study, that it may forget base things. If you find any one saying to you, Are you then going in, to descend into the water? Has the city just now no baths? Take notice that it is the dragon of the sea who is laying these plots against you. Attend not to the lips of the talker, but to God who works in you. Guard your own soul, that thou be not ensnared, to the end that abiding in hope you may become an heir of everlasting salvation.

17. We for our part as men charge and teach you thus: but make not our building hay and stubble and chaff, lest we suffer loss, from our work being burnt up: but make our work gold, and silver, and precious stones! For it lies in me to speak, but in you to set your mind upon it, and in God to make perfect. Let us nerve our minds, and brace up our souls, and prepare our hearts. The race is for our soul: our hope is of things eternal: and God, who knows your hearts, and observes who is sincere, and who is a hypocrite, is able both to guard the sincere, and to give faith to the hypocrite: for even to the unbeliever, if only he give his heart, God is able to give faith. So may He blot out the handwriting that is against you , and grant you forgiveness of your former trespasses; may He plant you into His Church, and enlist you in His own service, and put on you the armour of righteousness: may He fill you with the heavenly things of the New Covenant, and give you the seal of the Holy Spirit indelible throughout all ages, in Christ Jesus Our Lord: to whom be the glory for ever and ever! Amen.

(To the Reader. ) These Catechetical Lectures for those who are to be enlightened you may lend to candidates for Baptism, and to believers who are already baptized, to read, but give not at all , neither to Catechumens, nor to any others who are not Christians, as you shall answer to the Lord. And if you make a copy, write this in the beginning, as in the sight of the Lord.

Year Two, Beginning the First Sunday in Advent

Whether you have been reading along from the beginning or have just recently joined (or re-joined) us, we hope you are excited to enter the second year with Read the Fathers. By reading seven pages a day, we are steadily moving through the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, which we will finish this year. Year Three will commence with the Nicene Fathers in Advent, 2014.

This past year we have read from some of the most significant figures in early Christianity, including Irenaeus, Tertullian, and the Alexandrians, Clement and Origen. This year, with the exception of the highly influential Cyprian of Carthage, we will be reading from lesser known figures, many of whom our readers will no doubt be encountering for the first time.

Not only will we be meeting some new writers, we will also be encountering a much greater variety of writing. To this point we have read mostly apologetic works that have focused (sometimes in great detail) on the same heresies, such as Valentinian Gnosticism, or striven to counter the same types of anti-Christian slander. This year we will be continually jumping from epistles, to sermons and liturgy, to systematic theologies, and to the earliest known harmonies of the gospels.

As always, we invite both casual and disciplined readers to join us at any time. There is, of course, value to reading through the fathers from the beginning, gaining a sense of how patristic teaching develops and how later writers built on the foundations laid by earlier ones. But one need not read from the beginning to start deriving the benefits of learning from other Christians who confessed their faith to a world by ways similar to and disturbingly different from our own.

If you would like to share your experiences of reading through the fathers this past year—whether devotional, academic, or passingly curious—we would love to hear from you. Write to us at info@readthefathers.org and share your story.

Origen

origen

Icon of Origen

From the Latin West we now return to the Greek-speaking East and begin reading from one of the most influential fathers of Alexandrian school, Origen, who lived from around 185 to 255. Origen was a skilled textual scholar and prolific writer of theology and biblical commentary. Though some of his theological speculations garnered criticism in later ages, Origen’s ideas—and his style of interpreting scripture allegorically—strongly influenced many of the other fathers of the third and fourth centuries.

Biography

Origen was born to Christian parents, and his father was likely killed in the same wave of persecution that led to Clement’s martyrdom. Origen was well-education and well-traveled, and after Clement’s death he established a catechetical school in Alexandria similar to the one Clement had run. Origen’s fame as a teacher attracted the attention of the wealthy courtier Ambrose of Alexandria, who under Origen’s guidance gave up his Valentinian faith and joined the orthodox fold. Ambrose became life-long friends with Origen and financed the copying and distribution of Origen’s works. We thus have Ambrose to thank for many of our readings. After falling out with the bishop of Alexandria, who objected to an irregularity in Origen’s ordination, Origen relocated to Caesarea of Palestine in 232 and re-established his school there. Though Origen persevered unscathed through the major persecutions of Severus (192–203) and Maximus Thrax (235–38), he was caught and tortured during the Decian persecution (249–53) and died a couple years later from his wounds.

Perhaps owing to his notoriety and the theological and ecclesiastical controversies he provoked, a number of colorful stories circulated about Origen during his life. Eusebius, for instance, reports the story that Origen would willingly have gone out to suffer persecution along with his father in 202, but could not leave the house because his mother hid all of his clothes. Eusebius also reports that as part of his rigidly ascetic personal discipline, Origen castrated himself. Scholars are divided on whether the great proponent of allegorical interpretation would have actually taken a passage like Matthew 19:12 so literally, or whether the rumor came from Origen’s detractors in Alexandria.

Works

"Origenes," in Numeros Homilia XXVII, Schäftlarn Monastery (ca. 1160)

“Origenes,” in Numeros Homilia XXVII, Schäftlarn Monastery (ca. 1160)

We will return to some of Origen’s exegetical writings at the end of Year 2. For now we will be reading the dogmatic work On First Principles (De Principiis) and the apologetic work Against Celsus. The De Principiis, written at Alexandria, is an early instance of Christian systematic theology—that is, it aims to lay out the foundation of the Christian faith, not to attack any particular heresy or defend any particular disputed point of orthodoxy. It proceeds in its four books to treat on the doctrine of God, the material world, man and free will, and scripture and methods of interpretation.

Against Celsus, written towards the end of Origen’s life, is—like similar apologetics from Justin, Irenaeus, and Tertullian—a careful, point-by-point refutation of the writings of Celsus, a scornful Platonic philosopher. Whereas the other apologists often combated apostates and heretics, to argue against an unbeliever Origen liberally included references to Greek literature and Platonic thought, which provided a rational grounding to Christian faith.

Theology

Origen’s theology is grounded in a high regard for both scripture and ecclesiastical tradition. Though Origen has been justly criticized for resorting to allegorical interpretation too often in his exegesis, he nevertheless was a skilled grammarian and textual critic, whose regard for the inspiration and authority of scripture made him one of the most brilliant early scholars of scripture. His famous Hexapla replicated Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible side by side for comparison, and Origen’s views on the New Testament canon largely accorded with the list of twenty-seven books that would be established in the fourth century. The De Principiis opens with the affirmation that “as the teaching of the Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the apostles, and remaining in the Churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolical tradition. Origen followed this rule closely in his writings, frequently citing scripture or apostolic tradition.

A fragment of Origen's Hexapla

A fragment of Origen’s Hexapla

Three strands of Origen’s thought were gradually enlarged upon by Origen’s closest students and condemned as the Origenist System at the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 554, though Origen himself was not anathematized by the Church. First was the principle of allegorical interpretation. While the rules of interpretation—essentially that scripture must be interpreted in a manner worthy of God—may have been unobjectionable, in the application made by Origen and his later followers, a number of Old Testament passages that offended Greek culture in late antiquity were interpreted beyond recognition.

As Origen was one of the earliest Greek thinkers to tackle the subject of the Trinity in his theological writings, his language was occasionally less precise than what fourth-century orthodoxy would demand. In later years both Athanasius and the Cappodocian Fathers (Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory Nazianzus) would defend Origen’s orthodoxy, but Origen’s terminology was nevertheless employed by some who insisted on an essential difference between the Father and the Son.

The most controversial view—and one clearly entertained by Origen in the De Principiis-–concerns the origin and destiny of rational souls. Origen postulated that though God created everything, he created from eternity. In other words, there was no fixed moment of time at which God began creating. This eternal creation included all rational souls, some of which became angels and some demons, while the rest of the pre-existent souls waited to be born into fleshly bodies. On the other side of eternity, Origen, like Clement before him, affirmed a belief in apokatastasis, a final restoration of all in Christ, including the unregenerate. How strongly Origen held these views is unclear: many of his exegetical writings contradict his musings from the De Principiis, and Origen later flatly denied that he believed the devil would be ultimately restored.

Alternate Editions and Further Reading

Readers hoping to understand Origen without the encumbrances of nineteenth-century translation may wish to consult G. W. Butterworth’s translation of On First Principles and Henry Chadwick’s Contra Celsum. The Paulist Press has produced an anthology translated by Rowan Greer that includes the fourth volume of De Principiis.

Those interested in the details of Origen’s theology may be interested in Han Urs van Balthasar’s systematically anthologized edition of Origen’s writings, Spirit and Fire, translated from Bathasar’s German by Robert J. Daly.

For further reading on Origen’s life and thought, see Joseph Trigg’s study or Ronald Heine’s Scholarship in the Service of the ChurchA particularly nuanced study of Origen’s allegorical method of interpreting scripture is History and Spirit by Henri de Lubac, S.J.

Peri Pascha: Easter Sunday Sermon

We hope you have enjoyed our sermon series for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. For our culminating sermon on Easter Sunday, we will be reading from a sermon by Melito of Sardis known as Peri Pascha, a meditation on the Easter feast and its connection to the Passover tradition. Melito, a contemporary of Irenaeus and Clement, was a highly respected bishop of Sardis, but few of his writings have survived. Peri Pascha was not discovered and translated until 1940, so we will not otherwise encounter it in the ANF series. Those who wish to read the full sermon may find the version by Northwest Theological Seminary the most accessible.

anastasis

Icon of the Anastasis (Harrowing of Hell)–Christ’s triumph over death and hell; mosaic from the Hosios Loukas, a monastery in Phocis, Greece.

 First of all, the Scripture about the Hebrew Exodus has been read and the words of the mystery have been explained as to how the sheep was sacrificed and the people were saved. Therefore, understand this, O beloved: The mystery of the passover is new and old, eternal and temporal, corruptible and incorruptible, mortal and immortal in this fashion: It is old insofar as it concerns the law, but new insofar as it concerns the gospel; temporal insofar as it concerns the type, eternal because of grace; corruptible because of the sacrifice of the sheep, incorruptible because of the life of the Lord; mortal because of his burial in the earth, immortal because of his resurrection from the dead. The law is old, but the gospel is new; the type was for a time, but grace is forever. The sheep was corruptible, but the Lord is incorruptible, who was crushed as a lamb, but who was resurrected as God.

For although he was led to sacrifice as a sheep, yet he was not a sheep; and although he was as a lamb without voice, yet indeed he was not a lamb. The one was the model; the other was found to be the finished product. For God replaced the lamb, and a man the sheep; but in the man was Christ, who contains all things. Hence, the sacrifice of the sheep, and the sending of the lamb to slaughter, and the writing of the law–each led to and issued in Christ, for whose sake everything happened in the ancient law, and even more so in the new gospel. For indeed the law issued in the gospel–the old in the new, both coming forth together from Zion and Jerusalem; and the commandment issued in grace, and the type in the finished product, and the lamb in the Son, and the sheep in a man, and the man in God. For the one who was born as Son, and led to slaughter as a lamb, and sacrificed as a sheep, and buried as a man, rose up from the dead as God, since he is by nature both God and man.

He is everything: in that he judges he is law, in that he teaches he is gospel, in that he saves he is grace, in that he begets he is Father, in that he is begotten he is Son, in that he suffers he is sheep, in that he is buried he is man, in that he comes to life again he is God. Such is Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen.

. . .

What was this extraordinary mystery? It was Egypt struck to destruction but Israel kept for salvation. Listen to the meaning of this mystery: Beloved, no speech or event takes place without a pattern or design; every event and speech involves a pattern–that which is spoken, a pattern, and that which happens, a prefiguration–in order that as the event is disclosed through the prefiguration, so also the speech may be brought to expression through its outline.

Without the model, no work of art arises. Is not that which is to come into existence seen through the model which typifies it? For this reason a pattern of that which is to be is made either out of wax, or out of clay, or out of wood, in order that by the smallness of the model, destined to be destroyed, might be seen that thing which is to arise from it–higher than it in size, and mightier than it in power, and more beautiful than it in appearance, and more elaborate than it in ornamentation.

So whenever the thing arises for which the model was made, then that which carried the image of that future thing is destroyed as no longer of use, since it has transmitted its resemblance to that which is by nature true. Therefore, that which once was valuable, is now without value because that which is truly valuable has appeared. For each thing has its own time: there is a distinct time for the type, there is a distinct time for the material, and there is a distinct time for the truth. You construct the model. You want this, because you see in it the image of the future work. You procure the material for the model. You want this, on account of that which is going to arise because of it. You complete the work and cherish it alone, for only in it do you see both type and the truth.

Therefore, if it was like this with models of perishable objects, so indeed will it also be with those of imperishable objects. If it was like this with earthly things, so indeed also will it be with heavenly things. For even the Lord’s salvation and his truth were prefigured in the people, and the teaching of the gospel was proclaimed in advance by the law. The people, therefore, became the model for the church, and the law a parabolic sketch. But the gospel became the explanation of the law and its fulfillment, while the church became the storehouse of truth.

Therefore, the type had value prior to its realization, and the parable was wonderful prior to its interpretation. This is to say that the people had value before the church came on the scene, and the law was wonderful before the gospel was brought to light. But when the church came on the scene, and the gospel was set forth, the type lost its value by surrendering its significance to the truth, and the law was fulfilled by surrendering its significance to the gospel. Just as the type lost its significance by surrendering its image to that which is true by nature, and as the parable lost its significance by being illumined through the interpretation, so indeed also the law was fulfilled when the gospel was brought to light, and the people lost their significance when the church came on the scene, and the type was destroyed when the Lord appeared. Therefore, those things which once had value are today without value, because the things which have true value have appeared.

For at one time the sacrifice to the sheep was valuable, but now it is without value because of the life of the Lord. The death of the sheep once was valuable, but now it is without value because of the salvation of the Lord. The blood of the sheep once was valuable, but now it is without value because of the Spirit of the Lord. The silent lamb once was valuable, but now it has no value because of the blameless Son. The temple here below once was valuable, but now it is without value because of the Christ from above. The Jerusalem here below once had value, but now it is without value because of the Jerusalem from above. The meager inheritance once had value; now it is without value because of the abundant grace. For not in one place alone, nor yet in narrow confines, has the glory of God been established, but his grace has been poured out upon the uttermost parts of the inhabited world, and there the almighty God has taken up his dwelling place through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever. Amen.

Now that you have heard the explanation of the type and of that which corresponds to it, hear also what goes into making up the mystery. What is the passover? Indeed its name is derived from that event–”to celebrate the passover” (to paschein) is derived from “to suffer” (tou pathein). Therefore, learn who the sufferer is and who he is who suffers along with the sufferer. Why indeed was the Lord present upon the earth? In order that having clothed himself with the one who suffers, he might lift him up to the heights of heaven.

. . .

Indeed, the Lord prearranged his own sufferings in the patriarchs, and in the prophets, and in the whole people of God, giving his sanction to them through the law and the prophets. For that which was to exist in a new and grandiose fashion was pre-planned long in advance, in order that when it should come into existence one might attain to faith, just because it had been predicted long in advance. So indeed also the suffering of the Lord, predicted long in advance by means of types, but seen today, has brought about faith, just because it has taken place as predicted. And yet men have taken it as something completely new. Well, the truth of the matter is the mystery of the Lord is both old and new–old insofar as it involved the type, but new insofar as it concerns grace. And what is more, if you pay close attention to this type you will see the real thing through its fulfillment.

Accordingly, if you desire to see the mystery of the Lord, pay close attention to Abel who likewise was put to death, to Isaac who likewise was bound hand and foot, to Joseph who likewise was sold, to Moses who likewise was exposed, to David who likewise was hunted down, to the prophets who likewise suffered because they were the Lord’s anointed. Pay close attention also to the one who was sacrificed as a sheep in the land of Egypt, to the one who smote Egypt and who saved Israel by his blood. For it was through the voice of prophecy that the mystery of the Lord was proclaimed. Moses, indeed, said to his people: Surely you will see your life suspended before your eyes night and day, but you surely will not believe on your Life. And David said: Why were the nations haughty and the people concerned about nothing? The kings of the earth presented themselves and the princes assembled themselves together against the Lord and against his anointed. And Jeremiah: I am as an innocent lamb being led away to be sacrificed. They plotted evil against me and said: Come! let us throw him a tree for his food, and let us exterminate him from the land of the living, so that his name will never be recalled. And Isaiah: He was led as a sheep to slaughter, and, as a lamb is silent in the presence of the one who shears it, he did not open his mouth. Therefore who will tell his offspring? And indeed there were many other things proclaimed by numerous prophets concerning the mystery of the passover, which is Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen.

When this one came from heaven to earth for the sake of the one who suffers, and had clothed himself with that very one through the womb of a virgin, and having come forth as man, he accepted the sufferings of the sufferer through his body which was capable of suffering. And he destroyed those human sufferings by his spirit which was incapable of dying. He killed death which had put man to death. For this one, who was led away as a lamb, and who was sacrificed as a sheep, by himself delivered us from servitude to the world as from the land of Egypt, and released us from bondage to the devil as from the hand of Pharaoh, and sealed our souls by his own spirit and the members of our bodies by his own blood.

This is the one who covered death with shame and who plunged the devil into mourning as Moses did Pharaoh. This is the one who smote lawlessness and deprived injustice of its offspring, as Moses deprived Egypt. This is the one who delivered us from slavery into freedom, from darkness into light, from death into life, from tyranny into an eternal kingdom, and who made us a new priesthood, and a special people forever. This one is the passover of our salvation. This is the one who patiently endured many things in many people: This is the one who was murdered in Abel, and bound as a sacrifice in Isaac, and exiled in Jacob, and sold in Joseph, and exposed in Moses, and sacrificed in the lamb, and hunted down in David, and dishonored in the prophets. This is the one who became human in a virgin, who was hanged on the tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from among the dead, and who raised mankind up out of the grave below to the heights of heaven. This is the lamb that was slain. This is the lamb that was silent. This is the one who was born of Mary, that beautiful ewe-lamb. This is the one who was taken from the flock, and was dragged to sacrifice, and was killed in the evening, and was buried at night; the one who was not broken while on the tree, who did not see dissolution while in the earth, who rose up from the dead, and who raised up mankind from the grave below.

. . .

But he arose from the dead and mounted up to the heights of heaven. When the Lord had clothed himself with humanity, and had suffered for the sake of the sufferer, and had been bound for the sake of the imprisoned, and had been judged for the sake of the condemned, and buried for the sake of the one who was buried, he rose up from the dead, and cried aloud with this voice: Who is he who contends with me? Let him stand in opposition to me. I set the condemned man free; I gave the dead man life; I raised up the one who had been entombed. Who is my opponent? I, he says, am the Christ. I am the one who destroyed death, and triumphed over the enemy, and trampled Hades under foot, and bound the strong one, and carried off man to the heights of heaven, I, he says, am the Christ.

Therefore, come, all families of men, you who have been befouled with sins, and receive forgiveness for your sins. I am your forgiveness, I am the passover of your salvation, I am the lamb which was sacrificed for you, I am your ransom, I am your light, I am your saviour, I am your resurrection, I am your king, I am leading you up to the heights of heaven, I will show you the eternal Father, I will raise you up by my right hand.

This is the one who made the heavens and the earth, and who in the beginning created man, who was proclaimed through the law and prophets, who became human via the virgin, who was hanged upon a tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from the dead, and who ascended to the heights of heaven, who sits at the right hand of the Father, who has authority to judge and to save everything, through whom the Father created everything from the beginning of the world to the end of the age. This is the alpha and the omega. This is the beginning and the end–an indescribable beginning and an incomprehensible end. This is the Christ. This is the king. This is Jesus. This is the general. This is the Lord. This is the one who rose up from the dead. This is the one who sits at the right hand of the Father. He bears the Father and is borne by the Father, to whom be the glory and the power forever. Amen.

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