Monday, September 30, 2019

Psalm 103 (104) with Commentary of Church Fathers

PSALM 103 (104)

Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, You are magnified exceedingly;
You clothe Yourself with thanksgiving and majesty,
Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment,
Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain;
You are He who covers His upper chambers with waters,
Who makes the clouds His means of approach,
Who walks on the wings of the winds,
Who makes His angels spirits
And His ministers a flame of fire.
He established the earth on its stable foundation;
It shall not be moved unto ages of ages.
The deep like a garment is His covering;
The waters shall stand upon the mountains;
At Your rebuke they shall flee;
At the sound of Your thunder, they shall be afraid.
The mountains rise up, and the plains sink down
To the place You founded for them.
You set a boundary they shall not pass over;
Neither shall they return to cover the earth.
You are He who sends springs into the valley;
The waters shall pass between the mountains;
They shall give drink to all the wild animals of the field;
The wild asses shall quench their thirst;
The birds of heaven shall dwell beside them;
They shall sing from the midst of the rocks.
You are He who waters the mountains from His higher places;
The earth shall be satisfied with the fruit of Your works.
You are He who causes grass to grow for the cattle,
And the green plant for the service of man,
To bring forth bread from the earth;
And wine gladdens the heart of man,
To brighten his face with oil;
And bread strengthens man's heart.
The trees of the plain shall be full of fruit,
The cedars of Lebanon, which You planted;
There the sparrows shall make their nests;
The house of the heron takes the lead among them.
The high mountains are for the deer;
The cliff is a refuge for the rabbits.
He made the moon for seasons;
The sun knows its setting.
You established darkness, and it was night,
Wherein all the wild animals of the forest will prowl about;
The young lions roar and snatch their prey,
And seek their food from God.
The sun arises, and they are gathered together;
And they shall be put to bed in their dens.
Man shall go out to his work
And to his labor until evening.
O Lord, Your works shall be magnified greatly;
You made all things in wisdom;
The earth was filled with Your creation.
There is this great and spacious sea:
The creeping things are there without number;
The living things are there, both small and great;
There the ships pass through;
There is this dragon You formed to play therein.
All things wait upon You,
That You may give them food in due season.
When You give it to them, they shall gather it;
When You open Your hand, all things shall be filled with Your goodness.
But when You turn Your face away, they shall be troubled;
When You take away their breath, they shall die
And return again to their dust.
You shall send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created,
And You shall renew the face of the earth.
Let the glory of the Lord be forever;
The Lord shall be glad in His works;
He looks upon the earth and makes it tremble;
He touches the mountains, and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing to my God as long as I exist;
May my words be pleasing to Him,
And I shall be glad in the Lord.
May sinners cease from the earth,
And the lawless, so as to be no more.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.

The Psalm of Vespers, v30 is used at Pentecost 
THEODORET of Cyrus: The Grace of the All-Holy Spirit offers people not only moral and dogmatic teaching, but also bias precise instruction on the way we ought to sing the praises of the Creator. This was the reason he composed the Psalm.
TEHILLIM: This Psalm tells of the beauty of Creation, describing what was created on each of six days of creation. It proclaims the awesomeness of God, Who sustains it all, from horns of wild ox to eggs of the louse.

1. Bless the Lord, O my soul; O Lord my God,Thou hast been magnified exceedingly. You clothe Yourself with thanksgiving and majesty. 

OSB (Orthodox Study Bible): Opens and closes with “Bless the Lord “. Everything in between give reasons why...He is lover of mankind, angels and creation. His care is for all creation that is filled with His goodness. But man falls into death and decay. He sent forth the Spirit to renew man.
THEODORET: He teaches each student of piety to sing the praises of God the benefactor… “You have  wrapped yourself in praise and glory”: the beneficiaries of your good things are no longer in ignorance of you, nor do they pay reverence due to you to the idols; instead, they sing praises and repay the debt of praise.

2. You cover Yourself with light as with a garment,

THEODORET: The Apostle also said things in harmony with this, "It is He alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light": that light is such that no one dares to come near it, the intensity of the rays turning one's eyes away. After all, if the visible [light of the] sun forces those avidly trying to discern it to do this, who could manage to come to an understanding of the unapproachable light? He is, then, himself true light, and as well he is wrapped in light like a garment, and "dwells in unapproachable light, with cloud and gloom around him,4 and he made darkness his canopy. These things are not inconsistent with one another: the unapproachable light is the same as gloom and darkness to those unable to see it; it is impossible to discern what is in the one and in the other. The one case and the other, of course, indicate the invisible quality of the divine nature. Stretching out heaven like canvas. In this he taught the facility of the Creator: as it is easy for someone to stretch canvas and make a tent, so by employing but a word the God of all spread out the furthest reaches of the heavens.

Who stretch out the heaven like a curtain;

JOHN OF DAMASCUS: Others [unspecified pagan philosophers], however, have imagined the heavens to have the form of a hemisphere, because the inspired David says, “Who stretches out the heaven like a pavilion” which means a tent; and the blessed Isaiah: “He that establishes the heavens like a vault”; and because the sun, the moon and the stars, when they set, go round the earth from west to north and return again to the east. However, whichever way it may be, all things have been made and established by the command of God and have their foundation in the divine will and desire. “For He spoke, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created. He has established them for ever, and for ages of ages; He has made a decree, and it shall not pass away.” ORTHODOX FAITH 2.6.10

3.Who supports His chambers in the waters,
Who appoints the clouds for His ascent, Who walks upon the wings of the winds,

THEODORET: Blessed Moses also taught this, saying God had given the order, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the water; it will separate the water above the firmament from the water below the firmament." Who makes clouds his pavement, who walks on wings of winds. By this he indicated His providence reaching everywhere: He takes his position on winds and clouds, he is saying, He personally controls and guides them, and at the right time confers the benefit stemming from them. He teaches at the same time that the divine nature is present everywhere and surveys all things: since the winds are the fastest of all material things, traveling in a flash from west to east and from east to west, He found no more precise image of speed among material things and so said is carried on winds' wings, indicating by this that He is present everywhere.

4. Who makes His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire,

JOHN OF DAMASCUS: [God] is the maker and creator of the angels. He brought into being and made them after his own image into a bodiless nature, some sort of spirit, as it were, and immaterial fire—as the divine David says: “Who makes his angels spirits and his ministers a burning fire.” And he determined their lightness, fieriness, heat, extreme acuity, their keenness in their desire for God and his service and their being raised up and removed from every material consideration. ORTHODOX FAITH 2.3.25
THEODORET: He presented him as Creator not only of the visible things but also of the invisible; he spoke of them as winds and fire to bring out power and speed in each case: wind is naturally rapid, while fire is strong in its action. The God of all employs angels as assistants both to be of service to the worthy and to punish the opposite—hence the mention of fire, suggesting punitive action.
REARDON: Psalm 103 is likewise one of those psalms for which the New Testament provides at least a partial interpretive key. An early verse of it is quoted in Hebrews with respect to the angels: “Who makes His angels spirits, “And His ministers a flame of fire” (1: 7). This line of the Psalter is interpreted just a few verses later: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (1: 14).
CLEMENT OF ROME: This is the way, dear friends, in which we found our salvation, namely Jesus Christ, the high priest of our offerings, the guardian and helper of our weakness. Through Him let us look steadily into the heights of heaven; through Him we see as in a mirror his faultless and transcendent face; through Him the eyes of our hearts have been opened; through Him our foolish and darkened mind springs up into the light; through Him the Master has willed that we should taste immortal knowledge, for “He, being the radiance of his majesty, is as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent.”19 For so it is written: “He makes his angels winds and his ministers flames of fire.” But of his Son the Master spoke thus: “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of Me, and I will give you the Gentiles for your inheritance and the ends of the earth for your possession.”20 And again He says to him, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”21 Who, then, are these enemies? Those who are wicked and resist His will. 1 CLEMENT 36.22

5. He established the earth on its stable foundation; it shall not be moved unto ages of ages.
THEODORET: Aquila and Symmachus, on the other hand, said, "on its base." It will not be overturned forever: after building it on itself, He gave it immobility, and it will remain in this condition as long as He wishes. [Scripture] says this elsewhere as well, "Hanging earth upon nothing.

6. The deep like a garment is His covering; the waters shall stand upon the mountains;

THEODORET: The divine Scripture gives the name depths to the watery substance; blessed Moses also spoke this way in the beginning of creation, "The earth was invisible and formless, and darkness was upon the depths.” So since the earth is encircled by waters from all sides, and the vast unnavigable oceans are its boundary while many others divide it, he was right to speak of the depths placed on the earth like a garment. Waters will stand on the mountains. They will flee from Your censure, they will be terrified by the sound of Your thunder. They will climb mountains and descend into plains to the place, which You have established for them (v. 6-8). In this he brings out God's providence presiding over creation:
ORIGEN: Now, according to a Hebrew figure of speech, it is said of God in the eighteenth psalm that “He made darkness His secret place,” to signify that those notions that should be worthily entertained of God are invisible and unknowable, because God conceals himself in darkness, as it were, from those who cannot endure the splendors of His knowledge or are incapable of looking at them, partly owing to the pollution of their understanding, which is clothed with the body of mortal lowliness, and partly owing to its feebler power of comprehending God. And in order that it may appear that the knowledge of God has rarely been vouchsafed to people and has been found in very few individuals, Moses is related to have entered into the darkness where God was. And again, with regard to Moses it is said, “Moses alone shall come near the Lord, but the rest shall not come near.” And again, that the prophet may show the depth of the doctrines that relate to God and that are unattainable by those who do not possess the “Spirit that searches all things, even the deep things of God,” he added, “The abyss like a garment is his covering.” No, our Lord and Savior, the Logos of God, manifesting that the greatness of the knowledge of the Father, is appropriately comprehended and known preeminently by him alone, and in the second place by those whose minds are enlightened by the Logos and God, declares, “No one knows the Son but the Father; neither does any one know the Father but the Son, and he to whoever the Son will reveal him.” For no one can worthily know the “uncreated” and firstborn of all created nature like the Father who begat him, nor any one the Father like the living Logos, and his Wisdom and Truth. By sharing in him who takes away from the Father what is called “darkness,” which He “made his secret place,” and “the abyss,” which is called His “covering,” and by unveiling the Father in this way, every one knows the Father who is capable of knowing him. AGAINST CELSUS 6.17.31

7. At Your rebuke they shall flee, at the sound of Your thunder they shall be afraid.
8. The mountains rise up and the plains sink down, to the place You founded  for them.

THEODORET: The sea resembles the mountain peaks in its waves without inundating the dry land; rather, just as we cower down at the thunder, so does it respect the limit placed on it.

9. You set a boundary they shall not pass over; neither shall they return to cover the earth.

THEODORET: The sea feels revulsion at the sand, and though raging to that point, it rears up when halted by the divine limit as though by a bridle, rears up, and turns back.

10. You are He Who sends springs into the valley; the waters shall pass between the mountains;

THEODORET: He give here a glimpse of the benefit from this.

11. They shall give drink to all the wild animals of the field; the wild asses shall quench their thirst.
12. The birds of heaven shall dwell beside them; they shall sing from the midst of the rocks.

THEODORET: This is the greatest index of divine providence, meeting the needs not only of human beings but also of brute beasts. That is the reason He shaped passages with the waters by cutting through the mountains, so that not only human beings but also species of land animals and those that are airborne should have streams from spring in abundance.

13. You are He who waters the mountains from His higher places; the earth shall be satisfied with the fruit of Your works.
14. You are He who causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and green plant for the service of man, to bring forth bread from the earth; 
15. And wine makes gladdens the heart of man. To brighten his face with oil; and bread strengthens man’s heart.

ORIGEN: Let Celsus then say distinctly that the great diversity among the products of the earth is not the work of Providence but that a certain fortuitous concurrence of atoms gave birth to qualities so diverse, and that it was owing to chance that so many kinds of plants and trees and herbs resemble one another, and that no disposing reason gave existence to them, and that they do not derive their origin from an understanding that is beyond all admiration. We Christians, however, who are devoted to the worship of the only God, who created these things, feel grateful for them to Him who made them, because not only for us but also (on our account) for the animals that are subject to us, He has prepared such a home, seeing “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of humans, that they may bring forth food out of the earth and wine that makes glad the heart of people, and oil to make their faces to shine, and bread that strengthens humans’ hearts.” But that He should have provided food even for the most savage animals is not a matter of surprise, for these very animals are said by some who have philosophized [on the subject] to have been created for the purpose of affording exercise to the rational creature. And one of our own wise men says somewhere, “Do not say, What is this? or Wherefore is that? for all things have been made for their uses. And do not say, What is this? or Wherefore is that? for [OT Vol. VIII, p. 231] everything shall be sought out in its season.”33 AGAINST CELSUS 4.75.34
THEODORET: Growing grass for cattle and crops for the service of human beings so that nourishment may spring from the earth and wine cheer the human heart. This is the reason he is saying that the God of all constantly provides rain for the earth, to make fruit of all kinds grow, to strengthen and nourish human nature with bread, with wine to give cheer and to make life more satisfying, and with oil not only to nourish from within but also to make the bodies gluten on the outside.
CYRIL OF JERUSALEM: Having learned these things and been fully assured that what seems to be bread is not bread, though sensible to taste, but the body of Christ; and that what seems to be wine is not wine, though the taste will affirm that it is so, but the blood of Christ; and that of this David sang long ago, saying, “And bread strengthens a person’s heart, to make his face to shine with oil,” “strengthen you your heart,” by partaking of it as spiritual, and “make the face of your soul to shine.” And so having it unveiled with a pure conscience, may you “reflect as a mirror the glory of the Lord” and proceed from glory to glory, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be honor and might and glory for ever and ever.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA: People of true and good sense, who have intellectually gathered that knowledge that gives life, are never jaded by the sacred sciences. Indeed it is written that “humankind shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”37 The word of God is food for the mind and a spiritual “bread that strengthens the heart of humankind,” as the book of Psalms sings. ON THE UNITY OF CHRIST.38

16. The trees of the plain shall be full of fruit, the cedars of Lebanon, which You planted;

THEODORET: After listing the fruit bearing trees, it was necessary for him to mention also those that bear no fruit, providing as they also do necessary help to human beings. This was the the reason for calling them the Lord’s being natural, not the product of human hands but growing in response to the divine word. Hence he added as well the readers of Lebanon, which You planted: it was not simply that certain husbandmen were responsible for their growth; rather the divine word caused the mountain tops to abound with them. By mentioning Lebanon for its fame as will as its cedars, of course, he thereby suggested also other mountains and trees.

17. There will the sparrows shall make their nests; the house of the heron the lead among them.

THEODORET: the tree provides for the needs of human beings and for the differing needs of the birds; some are suitable for making home for people, others accommodate the dwelling of birds. 

18. The high mountains are for the deer, the cliff for the rabbits.

THEODORET: Your providence does not overlook even the test of animals, he is saying; instead, You give the mountain peaks to the deer as a place to live, and the the smaller animals the holes in the rock.

19. He made the moon for seasons; the sun knows its setting. 

THEODORET: After listing everything on earth, showing the creation of the invisible natures and giving a glimpse of the making of heavens, he makes mention of the lights created on the fourth day. He says the creation of the moon happened with a view to teaching the seasons: its phases are responsible for time being measured, as it achieves the measuring of the month by waxing and waning in so many days. The sun not being endowed with life or enjoying the use of reason, but by traveling within divine limits and thus by its appearance bringing about daytime and keeping night at bay; it always has the same course and retains its dimensions.
AMBROSE: Consider that the sun, the moon and the stars, the lights of the sky which, though they shine with brilliant splendor, are yet creatures, and, whether they rise or fall in their daily performance of duty, they serve the will of the eternal Creator, bringing forth the beauty with which they are clothed and shining by day and by night. How often is the sun covered by clouds or taken from the gaze of the earth when the ray of its light is dispelled in the sky or an eclipse occurs, and as Scripture says: “The moon knows its going down.” It knows when it should shine in full light or weakened light. The stars, which are engaged in service to this world’s advantage, disappear when they are covered by clouds, not willingly, surely, but in hope, because they hope for gratitude for their labor from him who made them subject [to him]. Thus, they persevere for his sake, that is, for his will. LETTER 51.3

20. You established darkness, and it was night, wherein all the wild animals  of the forest will go prowl about.
21. The young lions roar and snatch their prey, and seek their food from God.

THEODORET: While night brings rest for humans, it provides a means for the animals to fill their hungry stomachs. Divine providence sees this need for them: asking from God belongs to rational beings whereas searching to irrational ones. Still, God supplies them too with the needed nourishment. 

22. The sun arises, and they are gathered together, and they shall be put to bed in their dens.

CHRYSOSTOM: Then, even if anger boils up, it is easily cooled. If passion flares forth, the flames are readily quenched. If envy consumes us, it is not difficult to drive it away. The same thing happens that the prophet says happens when the sun rises. What did he say? “You made the darkness, and it was night. In it all the wild beasts of the forest will go forth, even young lions roaring for prey and to seek meat for themselves from God. The sun arose, and they were gathered together and shall lie down in their dens.” At sunrise, then, every wild beast is driven off and slinks away to its lair. So, too, when a prayer, like a ray of the sun, arises from our tongue and comes forth from our mouth, our mind is enlightened, all the savage passions that destroy our reason slink away and flee to their own lairs, if only our prayer is diligent, if only it comes from a watchful soul and sober mind.9 Should the devil be on hand when we pray, he is driven off; should a demon be there, he slinks away. AGAINST THE ANOMOEANS 7.59.10

23. Man shall go out to his work, and to his labour until evening.

THEODORET: With the rising of the sun, some creatures retire to their holes, whereas human beings having put behind them the labor of the previous day eagerly pass they again at their business.

24. O Lord, Your works shall be magnified greatly, You made all things In wisdom; The earth was filled with Your creation.

THEODORET: Pondering everything that had been said, and learning of God’s great care, the inspired author uttered the hymn in the middle of he account, saying, All God’s doings are marvelous, quite admirable, and full of wisdom. He found in fact, the night misrepresented by some impious people and extremely valuable, the trees that bear no fruit providing another advantage, and the species of wild animals suited in many respects to human beings.

25. There is this great and spacious sea; the creeping things are without number; the living things are there, both small and great;

THEODORET: Also a sign of divine care, the small species living with the large and in no way being consumed by them.
CYRIL OF JERUSALEM: “This great and wide sea, in it there are creeping things without number.” Who can describe the beauty of the fishes therein? Who can describe the greatness of the whales and the nature of the amphibious animals, how they live on the dry land and in the waters? Who can describe the depth and breadth of the sea or the shock of its tumultuous waves? The sea stays within its confines because of him who said, “This far shall you come but no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stilled!”33 It clearly reveals the decree imposed on it, when running out it leaves on the sands a distinct line marked by its waves, as though to signify to those who see it that it has not transgressed its appointed bounds. CATECHETICAL LECTURES 9.11.34

26. There the ships pass through; there is this dragon, You formed to play therein.

THEODORET: This too is of great utility to human: through the shipbuilder’s art and the steersman’s science, we trade with one another in necessities and in the produce we grow and supply to others, and we receive their produce. By the serpent (dragon) he suggested the large animals which like to dwell in the great oceans…. The sea is so vast, he is saying, that it contains countless species of fish, and the largest animals  safely swim in it. Some people opt for taking the serpent allegorically, on account of the verse found also in Isaiah, “His great sword, holy and strong, moves agains the serpent, the twisting make in the sea”; and we do not depreciate such a meaning, since we find also in Job this creature being played with by the divine angels; and the Lord gave His disciples authority to walk on snakes and scorpions and all the power of the foe.
ATHANASIUS: Let us, therefore, in the faith of the disciples, converse frequently with our Master. For the world is like the sea to us, my brothers, of which it is written, “This is the great and wide sea, there go the ships; the Leviathan, which you have created to play therein.” We float on this sea, as with the wind, through our own free will, for everyone directs his course according to his will, and either, under the pilotage of the Word, he enters into rest, or, laid hold on by pleasure, he suffers shipwreck and is in peril by storm. For as in the ocean there are storms and waves, so in the world there are many afflictions and trials. FESTAL LETTERS 19.7.32
JOHN CASSIAN: And so by the illumination of God himself he mounts to that manifold knowledge of Him and begins to be nourished on more sublime and still more sacred mysteries, in accordance with these words of the prophet: “The high hills are a refuge for the stags, the rocks for the hedgehogs,” which is fairly applied in the sense we have given, because whoever continues in simplicity and innocence is not harmful or offensive to any one, but being content with his own simple condition endeavors simply to defend himself from being harmed by his foes and becomes a sort of spiritual hedgehog, protected by the continual shield of that rock of the gospel. That is, while he is sheltered by the recollection of the Lord’s passion and by ceaseless meditation on the verse given above, he escapes the snares of his enemies. And of these spiritual hedgehogs we read in Proverbs as follows: “And the hedgehogs are a feeble folk, who have made their homes in the rocks.”1 CONFERENCES 10.11.2
ATHANASIUS: Truth witnesses that God is the eternal fountain of his proper wisdom; and, if the Fountain is eternal, the Wisdom also has to be eternal. For in it were all things made, as David says in the psalm, “In wisdom you have made them all”;and Solomon says, “The Lord by wisdom has formed the earth, by understanding he has established the heavens.”12 And this Wisdom is the Word, and by him, as John says, “all things were made,” and “without him not one thing was made.”13 DISCOURSES AGAINST THE ARIANS
AMBROSE: This world is an example of the workings of God, because, while we observe the work, the Worker is brought before us. The arts may be considered in various aspects. There are those that are practical. These relate to the movement of the body or to the sound of the voice. When the movement or the sound has passed away, there is nothing that survives or remains for the spectators or the hearers. Other arts are theoretical. These display the vigor of the mind. There are other arts of such a nature that, even when the processes of operation cease, the handiwork remains visible. As an example of this we have buildings or woven material that, even when the craftsman is silent, still exhibit his skill, so that testimony is presented of the craftsman’s own work. In a similar way, this work is a distinctive mark of divine majesty from which the wisdom of God is made manifest. On beholding this, raising the eyes of his mind at the same time to the things invisible, the psalmist says, “How great are your works, O Lord; you have made all things in wisdom.” SIX DAYS OF CREATION

27. All things wait on You, that You may give their food in due season. 

THEODORET: At your hands, he is saying, everything has its needs met at the right time: the brute beasts search for food without knowing the provider, yet it is from the Creator that they receive it.

28. When You give it to them, they shall gather it; when You open Your hand, all things shall be filled with Your goodness. 

THEODORET: When you provide the  abundance, each of them stands to benefit fro the provisions. ..He indicated in this case of the supply of good things: as it is a simple matter to extend clenched fingers, so it is easy for God to make a gift of all good things in abundance.

29. But when You turn away Your face away they shall be troubled; When You  wilt take their breath, they shall die and return to their dust.

THEODORET: Just as You fill those enjoying the good things with complete satisfaction, granting them in Your benevolence, likewise when You turn away, everything is filled with alarm and dread..When He decides, a separation occurs between soul and body, after which the body is consigned to corruption and dissolves into its original dust.

30. You shall send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth.

GREGORY OF NYSSA: But she said, “I think that we should first run briefly through what is set forth in various places by the divine Scripture concerning this doctrine [the resurrection], so that from there we may approach the conclusion of our discourse. I have heard, indeed, what David sings in his divine odes, when he has made the ordering of the universe the subject of his hymn. Near the end of Psalm 103 [LXX] he says, “You will take away their spirit, and they will die and turn to their dust. You will send out your Spirit, and they will be created, and you will renew the face of the earth.” He is saying that the power of the Spirit, accomplishing everything in everything, both gives life to those whom it enters and removes from life those from whom it departs. He says that the death of the living happens by the departure of the Spirit, and by its presence the renewal of the dead takes place. Because the death of those who are being renewed comes first in the order of the words, we can say that the mystery of the resurrection is being proclaimed to the church, as David has foretold this grace by his spirit of prophecy. ON THE SOUL AND THE RESURRECTION 10.54 
THEODORET: Here he clearly predicted the resurrection and the new life through the all-holy Spirit. Likewise the famous Elijah also breathed three times into the widow’s little son, and though the spiritual grace dwelling within brought him back to life, likewise Elisha also resuscitated the son of the Shunammite woman by use of the spiritual breathing and bringing about life through the life-giving breath. In like manner, after bringing out the activity, he directs the speech of singing that praises of divine power
AMBROSE: So when the Spirit was moving on the water, the creation was without grace; but after this world being created underwent the operation of the Spirit, it gained all the beauty of that grace wherewith the world is illuminated. And that the grace of the universe cannot abide without the Holy Spirit the prophet declared when he said, “You will take away your Spirit, and they will fail and be turned again into their dust. Send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be made, and You will renew all the face of the earth.” Not only, then, did he teach that no creature can stand without the Holy Spirit but also that the Spirit is the Creator of the whole creation. ON THE HOLY SPIRIT
GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS: This Spirit shares with the Son in working both the creation and the resurrection, as you may be shown by this Scripture: “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the power of them by the breath of his mouth”;60 and this, “The Spirit of God that made me, and the breath of the Almighty teaches me”;61 and again, “You shall send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.” And he is the author of spiritual regeneration. ON PENTECOST, ORATION 41.14.62
METHODIUS: But if our opponents say, How then is it, if the universe will not be destroyed, that the Lord says that “heaven and earth shall pass away”;63 and the prophet, that “the heaven shall perish as smoke, and the earth shall grow old as a garment”;64 we answer, because it is usual for the Scriptures to call the change of the world from its present condition to a better and more glorious one, destruction; as its earlier form is lost in the change of all things to a state of greater splendor; for there is no contradiction or absurdity in the holy Scriptures. For not “the world” but the “fashion of this world” passes away, it is said; so it is usual for the Scriptures to call the change from an earlier form to a better and more comely state, destruction; just as when one calls by the name of destruction the change from a childish form into a perfect adult, as the stature of the child is turned into adult size and beauty. We may expect that the creation will pass away, as if it were to perish in the burning, in order that it may be renewed, not however that it will be destroyed, that we who are renewed may dwell in a renewed world without taste of sorrow; according as it is said, “When you let your breath go forth, they shall be made, and you shall renew the face of the earth.” ON THE RESURRECTION 1.9.66
BASIL THE GREAT: But, if we must go on with our discussion and make a deeper study, let us, from this point, contemplate especially the divine power of the Holy Spirit. We find three creations mentioned in the Scripture; the first, the bringing forth from nonexistence into existence; the second, the change from worse to better; and the third, the resurrection of the dead. In these you will find the Holy Spirit co-operating with the Father and the Son. Take, for instance, the calling into existence of the heavens. And what does David say? “By the word of the Lord the heavens were established, and all their power by the spirit of his mouth.” Now, humankind is created a second time through baptism, “for if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature.” And what does the Savior say to the disciples? “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” You see here, also, the Holy Spirit present with the Father and the Son. But what would you say concerning the resurrection of the dead, when we shall have departed and returned into our dust, “for we are dust and to dust we shall return”? “And he will send forth the Holy Spirit, and he will create us, and he shall renew the face of the earth.” For what Paul spoke of as the resurrection, David called renewal. LETTER 8.71
BASIL THE GREAT: Resurrection from the dead is accomplished by the operation of the Spirit: “You send forth your Spirit, and they are created; and you renew the face of the earth.” If “creation” means the conversion of sinners to a better way of life (the Scripture often understands it this way; for example, the words of Paul: “If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation.”74), and the renewal of this earthly life and changing our earthly, passionate life into heavenly citizenship, then we should know that our souls attain such a high degree of exaltation through the Spirit. Understanding all this, how can we be afraid of giving the Spirit too much honor? We should instead fear that even though we ascribe to Him the highest titles we can devise or our tongues pronounce, our ideas about Him might still fall short. ON THE HOLY SPIRIT 19.49.75

31. Let the glory of the Lord be forever; the Lord shall be glad in His works;

THEODORET:It is always right he is saying, for praises to be sung.  In this he prophesied the people’s knowledge of God in the future: when people are freed from the former error and accept the knowledge of God, God will rejoice, not for being worshiped, but for seeing them saved.

32. He looks upon the earth and makes it tremble; He touches the mountains, and they smoke,

THEODORET: It was right for him to add this, teaching the absence of need in the divine nature: it is not out of need that He is pleased to be adored; rather, out of a desire to save He demonstrates the truth. And though capable of punishing, he does not impose the punishment, even if admittedly shaking the earth by His mere appearance and filling the mountain with fire and smoke. He did this also on Mount Sinai: by making his characteristic appearance, he caused the whole mountain to give forth smoke.

33. I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing to my God for as long as I exist;
34. May my words be pleasing to Him, and I shall be glad in the Lord.
35. May sinners from the earth, and the lawless, so as to be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul.

THEODORET: After describing the divine beauty and the untold riches as far as human nature can, he desires that all people share the same knowledge, and begs that the company of sinners disappear completely, not demanding that thy perish but asking that they be changed, and begging that their forces come to a halt once they are redeployed and come to a different mind about divine [truths]. If, on the other hand, you wished to understand these words differently, as the authors subjecting those living a life of impiety to curses, you would find the inspired composition also corresponding to the apostolic teaching: “Let anyone be cursed who does not love the Lord Jesus” (1Cor 16:22) —  a mark of those with ardent affection. So let those who refuse to sing the praises of the one provider of such good things suffer what I have said, where as you, my soul, perpetually sing that praises of your Creator and Savior.
ATHANASIUS: Thus then, being before instructed and taught, they [the people of Israel] learned not to do service to any one but the Lord. They began to know how long the shadow would last and not to forget the time that was at hand, in which no longer should the bullock of the herd be a sacrifice to God, or the ram of the flock or the he goat, but all these things should be fulfilled in a purely spiritual manner and by constant prayer and upright conversation, with godly words; as David sings, “May my meditation be pleasing to him. Let my prayer be set forth before you as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” The Spirit also, who is in him, commands, saying, “Offer to God the sacrifice of praise, and pay to the Lord your vows. Offer the sacrifice of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.” FESTAL LETTERS 19.4.88
CHRYSOSTOM: Prayer is a great good: someone conversing with a virtuous person gains no little advantage from the experience, so how much good will the one communing with God be granted? Prayer, after all, is conversing with God. For proof of this, listen to the words of the inspired author: “Let my meditation be pleasing to God,” that is, may my words seem acceptable to God. I mean, he is able to offer help before we ask for it, isn’t he? Still, he wants so as to take occasion from us for daily bestowing on us providential care from himself. Accordingly, whether we have our requests granted or not, let us persist in asking, and render thanks not only when we gain what we ask but also when we do not. Failure to gain, you see, when that is what God wants, is not worse than succeeding; we do not know what is to our advantage in this regard in the way he does understand. The result is, then, that succeeding or failing we ought to give thanks. HOMILIES ON GENESIS 30.16.89

Understanding the Lord’s Prayer (7): Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

We ask for this because we have the tendency to sin. Even though we have been baptized we still can sin. We need His forgiveness . But The Lord made this request conditional. If we expect God to forgive us we must be willing to forgive others. So we are only asking to be forgiven as we are able to forgive others.

Jesus told us 
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you. But if you do not forgive  men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." [Matt. 6:14-15]
Jesus also tells us that “whoever is angry with his brother without good cause shall be liable for judgment” Mat 5:22.

Jesus gives us this message again in the parable of the unforgiving servant (Mat 18:23-35). It’s very clear that our failure to forgive others is to willfully alienate ourselves from God.

Our petition for mercy is contingent on the mercy we are able to show others. Here we are not asking for any more than what He has told us He is willing to give. We can also think that this request means to help us in our ability to forgive those who trespass against us. We need this help to receive the full mercy of God.

Saint John Cassian writes
Whoever, then, does not from his heart forgive the brother who has offended him, will, by this entreaty, be asking not for pardon but for condemnation for himself, and by his own say-so he will be requesting a harsher judgment for himself when he says: Forgive me as I also have forgiven....If we wish to be judged mercifully, we must ourselves be merciful towards those who have offended us. For we shall be forgiven to the degree that we have forgiven those who have injured us by any wrongdoing whatsoever.9th Conference p344
We are asking to become like God who is all merciful, ever ready to forgive us. We want to imitate Him and follow how He taught His disciples.

Saint Cyril says,
He requires, therefore, His disciples to be gentle (2 Tim. 2: 24) and slow to anger (Jam. 1: 9), so that they may be able to say blamelessly in their prayers, "Forgive us our sins: for we also forgive everyone that is indebted unto us."
God’s mercy is given to all those who are humble. It is given to those who accept God as their Lord, who seek to do .his will, and who search in themselves all the ways they fail to live up to His commandments. The know themselves. But, they are not arrogant thinking themselves superior to others, standing ready to condem others for their sinfulness or refusinfpg to forgive those who have trespassed against them.

Saint Cyril,
For God readily accepts, and has mercy on those who do not forget their offenses, but fall down before Him, and ask of Him forgiveness: but He is severe, and very justly so, upon the stubborn and the proud, and on him who in his great ignorance acquits himself of blame. For He said to one thus disposed, "Behold, I have a suit against you, because you say, I have not sinned" (Jer. 2: 35).
The road then to salvation, and which delivers those who earnestly walk thereon from the wrath of God, is the confession of offenses, and to say in our prayers to Him Who purifies the wicked, "Forgive us our sins."

In addition we can not forget the judgement of God. Those who acknowledge their sins and are merciful to others we be shown mercy at the time of judgment. If we are not willing to face all the ways we miss the mark, and satisfied to continue in our sinful ways, are not worth of His kingdom. Such a person can’t recite this petition..

Saint Cyril,
it is not fitting for those who still continue in wickedness, and wish to do so to the last, to say, "Forgive us our sins," but for those, rather, who have abandoned their former wicked deeds, and now earnestly desire to live fitting of saints.....this is fitting only for those to say, who have chosen a virtuous life, and are practicing without remissness that will of God, which, as Scripture says, is "good and acceptable and perfect" (Rom. 12: 2).....
by thus forgiving the brethren what they do to us, we shall then certainly find Christ, the Savior of all, gentle and ready to show us mercy:

Friday, September 27, 2019

Understanding the Lord’s Prayer (6): Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

When we ask the tho Lord for daily bread we are asking for the necessities for a spiritual life. The Greek word for the kind of bread is “επιουσιον” which implies more than simple bread but that which is necessary to sanctify, it is literally “above the essence” or “supersubstantial.”

The Orthodox Study Bible gives us this explanation.
The expression daily bread indicates not merely bread for this day, taken for sustenance of life; it is bread for the eternal day of the Kingdom of God, for sustenance of our immortal life. It is living, “superessential” bread. This bread prepared by God in the beginning of immortality of our nature, is the Bread of Life which will triumph over death brought about by sin.
We earlier have asked that His kingdom come. Jesus commands us to seek first the Kingdom of God Mat 6:33. Now we are asking for more than physical bread for our physical health, for spiritual bread which gives us eternal life. This can be see as the Living Bread, Christ Himself, that we receive in the sacrament of Holy Communion 

Saint Gregory of Nyssa interprets this as what is necessary for “moderate conduct.” He says it is “being content with little by being free from evil passions, on the same plane as the angelic attribute of lacking nothing.”

He says further,
Your obligation to human nature is only a small thing. To your flesh you owe food, a modest and easily accessible thing, if your purpose is to meet only a need, ask for bread to meet life's needs. You are obligated by nature to the body only in this regard. Bread is for our needs today. The Kingdom is for our blessedness in the future.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria says,
Let us ask of Him what suffices for life — food, that is to say, and clothing, and whatever is sufficient for us -avoiding all wish to be rich, as that which threatens us with destruction. For if this is our will, Christ will accept and bless us;
The idea of daily shows us that our spiritual needs are needed every day. The spiritual life is ongoing day by day. It is not attainable in a single day but necessary every day.

Saint Cassian says,
It warns us that we should pour out this prayer constantly, because there is no day on which it is not necessary for us to strengthen the heart of our inner man by eating this.9th Conference p 343
Saint John Chrysostom says that it says daily so we will not worry about tomorrow. 

Saint Theophylact says,
By the word daily He means what is sufficient for our essence, and our sustenance. He teaches us not to worry about tomorrow. Bread for our essence is also the Body of Christ, of Which we pray we may partake without condemnation.Theophylact on Matthew p 58

Monday, September 23, 2019

Understanding the Lord’s Prayer (5): Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven

Based on what we have understood from what precedes this this petition is quite clear. He wants us to become like our Father, to be with him in His kingdom. To do so we ask that we be able to do what He wills for us, to be like the angels in heaven.
Saint Cassian writes,
Human beings should be like angels and that, just as God’s will is fulfilled by them in heaven, so also all those who are on earth should do not their own will but His will.P 342
Saint Cyril says,
We supplicate, that power may be given to the dwellers upon earth to do the will of God, and imitate the conduct practiced above in heaven by the holy angels. 
Saint Theophylact reminds us that we are asking to be as obedient as the angels. He says,
Just as the angels do Thy will, the Lord says, also grant us to do the same.
Theophylact on Matthew p 58

What is necessary for us to be able to do this? What kind of help are we asking for? First, we need His help to know ourselves more deeply, to help us see what we do that is not according to His will. Then we want to have the strength to condemn this aspect of our life and to make changes, to overcome old habits and establish new ones that conform to His will.

Gregory of Nyssa says,
To say to God, "Thy Will be done also in me," it is entirely necessary first to condemn that manner of conduct which is lived outside the divine will and to fully own up to it in confession.
Saint John Chrysostom tells us that we are to make our life here on earth as in heaven, he says,
He hath bidden us make the earth a heaven and do and say all things, even while we are continuing in it, as having our conversation there; insomuch that these too should be objects of our prayer to the Lord. 

Saint Cyril writes
Those, therefore, who in their prayers ask that the will of God may be done also on earth, should "cleanse [them] selves from every defilement," leap out of the pitfalls of iniquity, and make "perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7: 1), that as Paul also says, even while walking upon earth, their citizenship may be in heaven (cf. Phil. 3: 20).
Therefore, the will of God which we pray may be done upon earth, is not that we should conform to the law, and live according to the grossness of its letter, but that we should endeavor to live by the gospel. And this is effected by a faith correct and free from error, and by a holy life, possessed of the sweet savor of every virtue, and proved by the testimony of good and noble conduct in every thing that is excellent.